Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Grace Notes – Yangzhou Fried Rice and Crispy Shrimp Balls

If you’re one of my in real life or social media friends, today’s grace note will be no surprise to you. I love to cook (I’ve said cooking for others is one of my love languages) and I love Chinese food. As in, if I were stranded on a desert island with only one cuisine, this is what I would pick (actually been asked that before).

My father was an amazing cook, and many of the dishes I grew up eating were either inspired by or handed down to him from his Chinese grandfather. Broccoli chicken, Chicken Tomato, and my favourite – oven baked Chow Mein Noodles. I have a go-to stir fry recipe that I make for my family, but for some reason, have not ventured much beyond that with Chinese cuisine.

Until now.

My sweet husband came home the library one day last week with a new cookbook in tow: Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low. She wasn’t someone I’d heard of before, but she’s got a great website called Rasa Malaysia and the cookbook was downright gorgeous. It was absolutely my kind of cookbook: filled with full-colour images, a little bit of personal history, a little bit of cooking technique, and lots of recipes I wanted to eat immediately.

The truth of the matter is, Bee’s recipes really are easy to make. And delicious? I can’t say enough. It helps that I’m pretty well stocked with the necessary ingredients, but that didn’t stop us from heading out to the
new Asian market to add to our staples.

Chinese food is comfort food for me. The sweet, salty, and umami flavours taste like home, memory, and childhood.

Two that we’ve tried so far that are huge make-again hits are the Yangzhou Fried Rice and the Crispy Shrimp Balls. Because they’re not my own recipes, I want to link you to Rasa Malaysia’s page to get them.

Yangzhou Fried Rice
Crispy Shrimp Balls

But the pictures? This is how the recipes turned out in our home.

I definitely recommend a few things as you consider these recipes:
  • Having a wok makes a huge difference. I’m honestly not sure how these dishes turn out in a skillet because I’ve always had a wok. Even before I was married, I had a small one-person wok from Crate and Barrel (12 in. diameter). It was indispensable. Now that I cook for three (or more), I have a full size one like my father had when I was growing up (20 in. diameter). You need some room for these things – truly. But it’s worth it. Having the space to move the ingredients around and allowing the ingredients to blend well is a must.
  • When you make the fried rice – try to use day old steamed rice. Maybe jasmine. Maybe something you have left over from Chinese takeout. But definitely something glutinous. A word to the wise – Minute Rice is a no-no. I’ve only had it one or two times with family from the south, and it’s a funny story to tell about the little girl from Hawaii who didn’t know why her rice kept falling off the fork.
  • Fried rice is a wonderful mix of whatever is handy. Don’t stick with just the ingredients that are listed. You can add other meats, bamboo shoots, or our family favourite – Lup Cheong (Chinese pork sausage). 
I hope you enjoy these recipes – and others that you’ll find on Rasa Malaysia. We’re adding this cookbook to our permanent collection and look forward to many more tasty, wonderful dishes.

Tuesday Grace Notes are an opportunity for me to share a small bit of harmony amidst the other things I
write about. Truly, they are meant to be shorter than my usual pieces (laugh with me here), and just a little something to add a touch of beauty to my life and yours. One week it might be a wonderful book I’ve read and can’t put down. Maybe it will be one of the movies I love (or its soundtrack). You might find a favourite recipe here. Or the new soap I’ve just discovered. You’ll find that many of them are inspired by my mother and the things she taught me about living a gentle, elegant life. I hope you’ll join me as more things are shared.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Beautiful Struggle of Community

Twenty-four hours ago I was fairly certain about what I’d be writing for my “community” link up. I had encouragement in mind – some mention of the letter writing community – but nothing too intense.

And then things collided, and I realized two things. The conversation about community was a bigger and harder than I had been willing to say out loud. And without realizing it, I had been backing away from community.

When The Word On The Street Makes You Want To Flee Community
Our family has been cable-television-free (all television, really) for several years now, but with social media and the twenty-four-hour news cycle, it’s nearly impossible to escape the happenings around the globe and around the country. Nation against nation. Genocide. Executions because of faith. The outbreak of incurable diseases. These things make us want to bar the door, stock all the shelves, and make a plan to go off the grid.

When Racial Strife Makes You Want To Flee Community
This is a hard one and a topic that I have not wanted to jump in to. The racial struggles in our country frustrate me beyond belief. I grew up in Hawaii where my friends and I were about as racially blended as you could get. Everyone was five or six different things – and we just called it “mixed plate” or “chop suey.” Everyone was just “local” and the differences that people noticed fell more to education or socioeconomic status. It wasn’t until I moved to the mainland – to the Pacific Northwest, that I became more cognizant of dividing racial lines. It was here that acquaintances looked at pictures of my family and then hard at me; commenting how interesting it must have been growing up in a mixed race family. My blank look puzzled them and they would press for more details. I didn’t always give them. I didn’t always know what to say. So I wouldn’t say anything at all. And after a time, no one asked anymore.

When Personal Struggles Make You Want To Flee Community
There are times when I feel like the last decade has been nothing but struggle. Struggle with family relationships that take years to restore. Financial struggles that push you to the breaking point. The struggle with physical illness and autoimmune disease. There is nothing like the fine balancing act of feeling as if you need to appear “okay” when you in the midst of a hot, dry, relentless desert time to make you want to run away and eschew everyone. Even those closest to you. Why is it that we so often feel suffering and struggle should have a definitive end date (wouldn’t that be nice?), and when friends, family, and those around us have been laboring under that struggle for an extended period of time (defined by we’re not sure what), then something must be wrong. Those struggling feel exactly the same way. If you have wrestled with broken relationships, unemployment, a financial black hole, or chronic illness, you want nothing more than for it to be done. You long for closure. You want to move on. What you don’t want to do, is have one more person ask how you’re doing; have to share the same prayer request in small group at church for the nineteenth time; or answer one more kind email or phone call about what you need help with. It’s easier to slowly back away and quietly close down contact in your life with anyone who might ask the questions.

All of these things have been weighing on my heart and mind and culminated with two things. 

A conversation with my sister that started out as just one of those things, but led to the uncomfortable revelation that I had unintentionally been incommunicado enough to cause her worry. We have the kind of relationship that will be around and bound heart in hand forever. You have to understand that. Forever. She is in my heart. She is also not panicky and not flighty. She is not a drama girl. But not hearing from me for a significant amount of time, and having made several attempts to connect with me that I did not respond to, caused a bump. Said bump resolved in about ten minutes (plus the normality of the preceding conversation), but it happened nonetheless. And I had to think about why.

Then there IF Equip and Galatians. I’ve been going through the study with the IF Equip community and have been relishing breaking down the passages into small chunks and digesting them slowly, thoughtfully, and in some cases – with new discoveries after reading this book for years. There is much here about the gospel of grace, the intention of the law, and about encouraging, supporting, and lifting each other up in community. And at the end of each day, we are challenged with this:
If you believe this to be true (what we just read), what does this mean about you, God, and the world.
I read that challenge each day of the study. Today it hit me hard.

If I truly believe that we are no longer under law, but under grace; if I truly believe that there is no differentiation under grace; if I truly believe that we are all Christ and inheritors of the promise, what does that mean?

Here’s what this means to me today:
  • I think the heart of God breaks when his children – believers in his word – look for and focus on the differences that divide us.
  • I think the world is a terribly broken place, but we have the opportunity to actively seek out joy in this place – and that one way joy comes is in being there for each other in community.
  • I believe that community extends beyond those we are in community with, and encompasses the community of a world in need. 
  • I believe that while we are not justified by the law and do not obtain salvation from it, our obedience to the law is an outpouring of the faith that we have been given by grace. 
  • I believe, as I was raised to believe, that race is not something to divide us. But that it does. And that not participating in making it better isn’t an option. 
  • I believe that it’s okay for me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable about the conversation, but that I should still jump in. Because my story is another perspective in that conversation, and it can be important too. 
  • I believe I struggle with the willingness to be vulnerable and truly authentic – because I don’t want to appear weak or in need of help, but that in not admitting to those weaknesses and asking for help, I deprive others from their opportunity to be a blessing in standing in the gap for me – whatever that gap might be.
  • I believe that we were created for community. Living, breathing community. Whether online or in real life – or both. It is our calling. It is necessary.
  • I believe I need to stay and not flee community.
  • And finally, like the quote from Kristen Welch that I have over my desk, I believe that community can change the world. We can change the world. By meeting the needs of another. One person at a time.
Let’s be brave together in community.

I’m linking up with one of my favourite people and favourite communities today – Kaitlyn is hosting a link up for friends participating in Round Three of the #fmfpartysnailmail to talk about community. Talk about community! This group that grew out of the Five Minute Fridays shares weekly letters amongst a growing group of women (over one hundred this time!) for an eight week period. The letters help develop the community and encourage and uplift both the sender and the receiver (my experience at any rate).

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Change

On Fridays a bunch of brave writers gather here to all spend five collective minutes writing on a single prompt. It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come visit and read. You will be blessed.

This week: Change


If you know me, you know it’s no secret that I am a fan of personal growth. I am not known for standing still. Often, I will forge ahead (sometimes in painful ways) to get to a breakthrough.

It is my personal belief that if you are not learning, you are moving backwards. I’m not sure I believe in the idea of standing still.

One look at my overflowing stacks of books (that I’m almost embarrassed to share here – because really? All the books?) some read, some waiting in queue, and you’ll see that I am all about growing. Growing means changing, and several of the books I’ve read this year have sucker punched me into looking hard at my ideas of growth and change like I didn’t see coming.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Grace Notes – Joanna Lau Sullivan Chinese Garden at the Honolulu Academy of Arts

I have to tell you a secret.

I think my mother thinks I’m writing these grace notes just for her. I get the best emails every week from her, telling me how much she loves them and what they mean to her. Yeah. After all this time. My mom still does that. Because she’s amazing.

I have to tell you a secret. 

I think in my heart of hearts, I’m writing these grace notes as a gift to my mother. After weeks of sitting down to contemplate the things I consider grace notes in my life, I realize everything on my list – even the ones I haven’t written about yet – are here because of her influence, guidance, and suggestion. Because she’s amazing.

Today’s grace note is no exception.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Calm the Sea

She stepped into the office; so frustrated and upended that she was trembling. I could hear it in her voice – stringent even through my headset – seemingly angry, but the underpinnings of fear and desperation that you become attuned to only when you yourself have backed into a corner with no way out.

I’m not proud to say my first thought was, “no way – not mine – not taking this one.” She’d been in the day before. The same frustration compounded now by aggravation and aggression. I’d seen my co-worker tackle her problem and get nowhere. I wanted nothing to do with her. I immediately jumped back on the phone; making a call I didn’t want to make. Anything to not deal with this anxious woman who seemed like nothing short of storm tossed seas.

Then a reminder caught my eye. Something I’d created to right-side my perspective in moments just like this. A nudge to live in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called. To be patient. Gentle. To bear with one another. This small piece of paper sits on the corner of my third monitor. Right where I can never manage to miss it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Grace Notes – Notebooks (and Making Every Day Special)

There’s no getting around it. I am a collector of particular pretty things. Colourful things. Things that are lovely to look at – that hopefully have a practical purpose as well. My challenge – as I’ve also mentioned before – is learning to and being willing to use these wonderful things on a daily basis.

As in: not just saving them up for a “special occasion.”

Some friends are so very good at this, and to be honest, I’m sometimes a little jealous. The ones who carry the cute pens, smell beautifully of some fabulous new soap, or count graces and thanks in notebooks printed and decorated in bright colours and intricate prints. Now don’t get me wrong, I could be doodling, bathing, and carrying all of the things too. But I have such a hard time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Story – A Light in the Darkness


Our hearts crave it. We are blessed when we share it. The willingness to lift one another up; to reach through the difficult times – when one wavers and wonders, “Can I do this? Am I worth is?” and answer those tremulous whispers with the positive, resounding, “yes!” – is a beautiful thing. We send cards, cook meals, we pause and pray for one another. We stand in the gap for one another.

But do we ever consider that our stories – the unfolding telling of our lives – can also be an encouragement?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Fill

Last week we spoke of beginnings – a perfect prompt for handing the torch off. Today, we celebrate with Kate Motaung in her space for the Five Minute Friday. It’s a milestone, but a good one. A reminder that even when things change, the heart of a community can still remain and carry on. We’re still building relationships and connecting. Lisa Jo is still with us and still writing. Grace covers all of this and I’m so blessed to call these women friends.

And as always … On Fridays a bunch of brave writers gather here to all spend five collective minutes writing on a single prompt. It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week. This blessed, beautiful place where we open our hearts and let words and tears and the inner workings of our lives bleed and flow and dance across the virtual pages. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This week: Fill


I’m so glad this Five Minute Friday comes at the end of this day. I’ve been blessed to have had a short day at work (so much so that I was positively giddy as I walked out the door – acting just like my daughter when she’s at her happiest and most excited). I was able to get back to the pool just as my girlie’s swim lessons were finishing up and surprised her with a little slurpee. We carried the fun further and had lunch at our favourite sushi bar – where the staff and chef know us by name and welcome us with hugs and special treats. More fun ensued at two used bookstores and the post office, and I get to end the day chatting online with the wonderful friends in this community before heading off to the kitchen to whip up some tasty bruschetta with toasty bread and cheese for my love and my girl.

And all of this reminds me of something I often forget in the midst of the hustle and bustle and quickfire scurry of my day.

I need to make time for joy.

It seems so simple to say, but I am not an optimist at heart and can so easily become mired in the worry and stress – allowing it to seep into the heart of my being and make me forget – if only for a moment that there is so much more than this plane of existence.

All of these things today – from the grin on my husband’s face as he picked me up; to the neon bright colours shooting into the cup at 7-11; to the tasty bits of rice and fish; to the delight of new-to-me books – reminds me that it’s the details that matter. And cliché or no, God is in the details.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday Grace Notes – Gift From the Sea

As with so many of the grace notes in my life, this one comes from my mother. Like the love of tea I told you about last week, her passion for good books and good writers comes handed down to me entwined in my very make up.

Almost every time we speak, she asks me what I’m reading and has another new discovery to share. Talking about books, the stories people tell, and the wisdom gleaned from between pages is an ever-evolving on-going conversation for us. And while I associate the whole idea of reading with my mother, there are some books that are simply iconic for us both. Gift from the Sea is one of those.

I remember the muted teal cover with its bright pink lettering on the corner of her nightstand near her bed. The bookplate on the inside is slightly faded; a wise owl in the woods. I know the blue of the ink with which her name is written came from her favourite fountain pen. On the following page, her name and date are in the upper right corner – she owned this the year before my little brother was born. Centered on that same page is another inscription – a sweet remembrance twenty years later when she gave her copy to me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Redemption Restitution Restoration

I've been thinking about this a lot recently. Justice. Mercy. The awe-full, awe inspiring heart of God. I want to know more of that mystery. I want to be moved by what is holy. I want to remember that grace comes from love, but also from sacrifice. I want to remember the mercy seat. I don't want to take any of this for granted.

After a conversation with a good friend and at the beginning of a new Bible study I'm getting ready to look in to, I remembered a poem I wrote a few years ago when I was able to participate in the study of Isaiah with Bible Study Fellowship. Those words, shared here, are part of what I want to hold on to. Inspired by the study of Isaiah and Job 19:25.

A cry echoes across the dark expanse.
The heart of the universe is torn apart.
God in heaven looking down towards earth
is besieged with an army of loss 
first led by the bright morning star;
followed too soon by terra's first child.
All howling in prideful abandon, "I will!"
Forgetting the sanctuary of "Thy will."

And now …
My sin.
My pride.
My transgressions 
have torn a hole in the heart of God.

What do I know in my insignificance?
My thoughtlessness 
that tosses around words and ideas
like lie, cheat, and steal.
On this plane 
on the page 
pale in context next to ominous transgressions
like murder, death, kill.
What do I know in my insignificance?
On heaven's plane 
each lapse counts this as the same:
it fails to meet the match of heaven's perfection.

Mercy perfected;
balanced by justice perfected,
demands an answer.
Demands a right-setting restitution.
Demands a sacrifice.

God in heaven looking down towards earth
sees into the holy of holies;
sees his measure unbroken.
A law that cannot change.
A law that will not change.
Sees the mercy seat lying barren and dry.

A cry echoes across the universe.
My transgressions
have torn a hole in the heart of God.

Darkness falls.
Seraphim burn and turn their eyes away.
The host of heaven holds its breath
and shudders at the wrath of God.


A light shines in the darkness
spilling like liquid fire in the holy of holies.
How can I ever know the cost of his blood
as he hung wrapped in my transgressions on the cross?
The heart of God reached down to save me;
blotting out everything I am not
with the awesome power of saving love.
The mercy seat is barren no more.


Any rod that comes to stripe my back
strikes first
my Jesus Christ
who spread himself
as a mantle over me.

Mercy perfected;
balanced by justice perfected
demands an answer.
He is my answer.

Before time knew the memory of my failure 
the heart of God said yes for me
and healed the wound.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!