Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How can I pray for you? #prayer requests

Photo credit: lalalime.blogspot.com
How can I pray for you? I will try to remember to post this at least once a month so I can pray for you.

Prayer requests can sometimes be private things, so to keep your privacy, I’ve made a form you can fill out that will keep your requests just between you and me. Also please be sure to fill out the form again to update me if you sent me a prayer request in the past. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pixies in a Garden in Kyoto

I suffered a pretty severe writer’s block for the past several months (I think I’m still a bit blocked), and one suggestion was to write short fiction, which I hadn’t done in a long time. Someone on the r/writing subreddit mentioned that if you write a short story a week, it’s impossible to write 52 stories that are ALL bad, at least some of them will be decent. So I decided to give it a shot. I might post some mediocre stories, but hopefully this will help get my creativity juices flowing.

My favorite writing prompts are pictures, so I went onto Reddit and found some really great ones on the r/learnjapanese subreddit.

This one picture spoke to me:
Sogenchi Garden, Tenryu-ji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto - October 2017

[OC] Sogenchi Garden, Tenryu-ji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto - October 2017 [1265x949]


As soon as I saw this photo, I immediately had the idea to write this short fluffy piece. Feel inspired? Write something yourself and post a link in the comments!

Pixies in a Garden in Kyoto

There were pixies in the garden. Since she was in Kyoto, she was certain they were not called pixies, but she didn't know what they would be called in Japanese, and they certainly looked like what she imagined pixies would look like.

They were small, and had wings, and their bodies were faintly humanoid. They were different colors, muted colors and pastels, so that they blended into the greenery in the garden with ease. But there was a faint pearlescent sheen to their skin, not quite a glow or a sparkle, but something that made them look like colored starlight flitting through the trees, dipping their toes in the running stream, hopping from stone to stone. They had dragonfly wings, and the pearlescence of their wings was a little brighter than the pearlescence of their skin.

Their limbs were extra long, and extra thin, with their hands and feet being a little bigger than normal. Their faces were different shapes, with some being around, some pointed, some long and thin while others were wide. Their hair was long, and yet it floated about their body like they were in zero gravity, defying the fact that they were in the garden here on earth. The hair strands were not fine, but rather like thin, uneven strands of seaweed, with kinks and bends, and slightly flattened shape and texture. Their hair color was also muted colors, like their skin, but their hair did not always match their skin color. Sometimes the colors were complementary, like forest green hair and a light moss green skin color. Other times the colors clashed, like yellow and dark purple with orange streaks through their hair.

But despite their unusual color and shape, it was their eyes that captivated her. Their eyes were large, kind of like the eyes of the aliens that she had seen in pictures, almond-shaped and dark. There was a depth to their gaze that pierced her like a spear through the heart. Their eyes were full of emotion, with different emotions in different pixies, and sometimes one pixie would cycle through a range of emotions. But each emotion was sharp and bright and dark and diffuse. Each emotion evoked something in her heart, every time she met the eyes of a pixie.

And taken as a whole, as she watched the pixies in the garden, there was a desperate, deep ache in her chest, like a heavy weight pressing on her. But it wasn't weight, it was a longing, an intangible reaching toward the garden, toward something that she was not, toward something outside of herself. The garden held her transfixed, and yet it also was pulling at her, pulling at her experiences, her memories, her pain and sorrow, at her joy and peace. It was pulling at her, and pulling all these things out of her, so that she felt like the garden was trying to pull her astral projection from her body.

It was a desire for her life to have more meaning, for her motivations to have more purpose. It was an ache for something more in her life, for something beautiful. Like colored starlight.

No one else saw the pixies. They saw the beautiful trees, the mix of blues and greens and moss, gray and white and brown of stone, the black and colorlessness of water. They saw the garden, cool and damp, infused with the peace of skillful landscaping, and the calming effect of running water and stone and trees. But all that was simply a backdrop to her of the fleeting life that darted around and through like graceful streamers in various colors.

She sat on the porch, sheltered by the roof, and breathed in the damp air. She imagined she could smell something fruity and flowery, despite the fact there were no fruit or flowers in the garden. She smelled a solid, metallic tang from the stone, and the earthy, musty smell of moss and mold. She could almost imagine that she could hear the trees whispering words in the midst of the sound of their leaves stirring in the breeze. She could almost imagine hearing words and the occasional groaning of the wood as the trunks swayed. The pixies made no sound, but their mouth moved as if they were speaking and laughing and shouting to each other.

She didn't know why they were there, or what they were doing. She didn't know why they congregated here, in this particular garden. All she knew was that she felt incredibly blessed to have seen them here, and she was fairly certain she would not see them again.

But she hoped that perhaps one day, in another garden, she might see streaks of colored starlight again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Learning Japanese - having more fun

おはようございます! I’ve been offline lately because I’ve been:
A) working on my book
B) being stuck on my book
C) praying a lot about my book
D) switching to a new book to write to try to jumpstart my creativity again
E) (re)learning Japanese in my spare time

The Japanese part has been inconsistent because, well, it can be boring. But I found a way to make it more fun!

My listening comprehension for my Japanese is not very good, so I watched Japanese anime with English subtitles. Crunchyroll has a ton you can watch with only their free membership.

Lately, to take my listening practice to the next level, I started helping out with a coffee hour gathering put on by the Japanese language congregation at my church once a month. Okay, so Japanese ladies from Japan speak REALLY REALLY FAST! But it’s good practice to learn the actual speed people talk. I don’t understand most of what they say yet … Also, my vocabulary isn’t very large so many times I won’t understand because I don’t know the word or phrase.

But it’s good for me to force myself to speak Japanese even if I’m pretty sure I’m grammatically incorrect. I have to just do it! and ignore my embarrassment or self-consciousness. I tell myself that I don’t have to be perfect. Most of the Japanese ladies realize I’m learning Japanese and they don’t mind my bad grammar, and the important thing is that they can understand what I’m trying to say.

For the past week or two I’ve been experimenting with different online resources to try to make learning Japanese more fun. I joined the LearnJapanese subReddit group but many of the conversations are just too high a level for me yet. However, it’s a good place for me to ask questions (I got a quick answer for my question about how to pronounce the symbols you often see on Japanese novel titles).

What got me really excited was an app I discovered a few days ago, HelloTalk. It’s a social media app specifically for people learning other languages. When you create your profile, you indicate what country you’re living in, what your native language is, what language you’re trying to learn, and your proficiency level in that language, and those four stats are all shown on your profile in HelloTalk.

Then the app specifically filters the social media posts so that you can choose to see (a) people who speak the language you’re trying to learn (for me, Japanese speakers), or (b) people like you who are trying to learn the new language you’ve indicated (for me, English speakers learning Japanese). The posts from (a) are sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English or another language that the users are trying to learn.

As an English speaker, I can help other users because the app allows you to actually correct someone’s English in their post. Likewise, Japanese speakers can correct the Japanese in my posts.

You can also randomly send a message (through the app) to other users to do a foreign language exchange chat and get to know them. I haven’t done that yet, and I probably would only do that with women users and not men users, just to feel safe. Some aspects and etiquette of foreign language exchange chatting are explained in this Youtube video.

So far, I’ve been trying to read the posts from Japanese users. Sometimes the posts use more vocabulary and kanji than I understand, but sometimes they’re readable and I only have to look up a few words. HelloTalk also has a really nice feature where you can tap on a word and it’ll translate it for you in the app, but the free accounts are only limited to a few translations a day. You can instead look up unfamiliar words in a free online dictionary like Jisho.org but if you don’t know the pronounciation of the kanji, then you have to try to look it up by radicals.

You can also follow users you interact with and choose to see only the posts of the people you follow. It’s been a nice way to get to know other users through their posts.

I was pretty burned out on Facebook and I haven’t been on social media at all for the past year, but HelloTalk suddenly made me excited to be on social media again! I forced myself to respond to posts in Japanese, and to comment on other users’ posts in Japanese when I could. The nice thing is that I can stop and look up a vocabulary word before typing it in. I’ve used a lot more Japanese in the past few days than I have in several months of learning it. It really helps to be forced to recall the grammar I’ve learned and figure out what to use.

If you’re on HelloTalk, please email me to let me know! I’ll send you my HelloTalk ID.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Cold Brew Adagio Iced Teas

A couple months ago, Adagio.com gave me a gift certificate in exchange for some social media love about their teas. I already like their teas, but I took the opportunity to order some teas I hadn’t tried yet.

TL;DR—Jasmine Silver Needle was the favorite, cold-brewed at 2 heaping tablespoons per 2 quarts of water, and my second favorite was White Peach (loose-leaf, not iced tea pouches), cold-brewed at 2 heaping tablespoons per 2 quarts of water.

Adagio sells loose leaf teas as well as teabags, but I bought some of their Iced Tea pouches. Basically, it’s their loose leaf teas pre-measured in a pouch that you can use to cold- or hot-brew iced tea.

I first tried their White Blueberry Iced Tea pouches. There’s approximately 3 tablespoons of tea in each pouch, and the instructions say that one pouch is for about 1 quart of iced tea. I cold-brewed the tea—I steeped a pouch in a quart of water in the fridge overnight. However, I found that the resulting tea was a bit strong for my taste, so I diluted it with 1 quart of water to make 2 quarts of tea.

The white tea in the pouch is really nice when cold-brewed—smooth and sweet. However I wasn’t nuts about the blueberry flavor until I added the juice of one lemon to the iced tea. Then suddenly the blueberry flavor seemed to really perk up. It reminded me of the lemon blueberry muffins I love to snarf on.

Next I cold-brewed the White Peach Iced Tea pouches. As with the Blueberry, there’s about 3 tablespoons of tea per pouch, and I found that one pouch in 1 quart of water is too strong, so I diluted it with 1 quart of water.

The peach flavor is super awesome! The white tea makes the peach flavor very pronounced.

Thirdly, I cold-brewed the White Peony white loose-leaf tea. I used 2 heaping tablespoons per 2 quarts of water. It was a nice white tea, very mild in flavor. I tried using more tea, but it became more bitter rather than more flavorful, so I think the mild flavor is the norm.

Fourth, I cold-brewed the Jasmine Silver Needle white loose-leaf tea. This was by far my favorite out the teas I purchased. The Jasmine flavor was subtle without being too florally, and the white tea was mild and even a little sweet. The Silver Needle white tea was much smoother than the Jasmine Chun Hao green tea that I usually cold-brew. The Jasmine Silver Needle tea was especially refreshing when I added some lemon to it.

(On a side note, I was looking at the Adagio website and noticed a Jasmine Jin Hao green tea that I’ve never tried cold-brewing yet, so I will order that and try that sometime as a cold-brew.

Next, I cold-brewed the two Oolong teas I had ordered.

The Peach Oolong Iced Tea pouch was WAY too strong when I used one pouch in 2 quarts of water and cold-brewed it, so I cut open the pouch. I brewed 2 Tablespoons of the peach oolong tea in 2 quarts of water, and I also tried 1 Tablespoon of tea in 2 quarts of water, and I found that I preferred the more dilute cold-brew.

I’ve had the peach oolong as a hot-brewed tea before, but I tried it again here to compare with the cold-brewed tea. Hot-brewed, the peach oolong has a strong peach flavor and a rich tea flavor, not as malty as a traditional black tea but definitely a stronger tea flavor than a hot-brewed white tea.

Cold-brewed, the peach oolong becomes more floral and slightly malty in flavor, but with the same peach flavor. I think I prefer the cold-brewed white peach tea over the cold-brewed peach oolong tea, but it might also be dependent on my mood. I definitely prefer the hot-brewed peach oolong over the hot-brewed white peach tea.

Lastly, I cold-brewed the Jade Oolong Iced Tea pouch. Like the Peach Oolong, I found that I preferred to cold-brew 1 Tablespoon of tea (I cut open the pouch) in 2 quarts of water. The cold-brewed Oolong flavor was nice, a little malty, and not tannic at all. It especially tasted good when I added some lychee jelly (like the kind they put in boba tea) and a splash of milk.

Whew! That was a lot of tea. It takes me 2-3 days to finish a pitcher of tea, and I had tried different tea/water ratios for several of the teas, which was why it took me so long to write this review. Bottom line: I loved the Jasmine Silver Needle white tea and will definitely be trying that again. However, it was also one of the pricier teas. My second-favorite was the Peach White iced tea (they sell it loose-leaf, which is what I’d use rather than the iced tea pouches).

Monday, June 26, 2017

"10,000 Reasons" in Japanese

It’s been a couple months since then, but I did the worship music for our church’s Good Friday service. The service is a combination of people from both the English-speaking and Japanese-speaking services, so the worship leader has to sing at least a few songs in Japanese.

I could do five songs, but I decided to sing all of them in Japanese while my other singer (in this case, Captain Caffeine) sang the lyrics in English at the same time. It’s a bit confusing, but I wanted the Japanese congregation to feel very included (which they don’t when the songs are in English).

The service went smoothly—well, I didn’t make any mistakes, at least! I had been practicing the songs in Japanese for weeks before the service.

One of the songs my pianist really likes is “10,000 Reasons”, and while it’s not really a Good Friday song, I thought it would be a good upbeat song to end the service with. So I had to search for the Japanese lyrics for the song and came across this version by Lauren Horii. Not only do the Japanese lyrics smoothly match the melody, but she has a really great voice.

The Japanese-speaking members of the congregation seemed to really like this song. One of the Japanese worship leaders even asked me for the link to the page where I got the lyrics and they sang it for the Japanese service a few weeks later.

We’re all used to hearing this song in English, but the Japanese lyrics struck a really strong chord in me (no pun intended). Lately God has been leading me to connect with my heritage more than I ever did when I was younger, and this song is part of that process.

Singing this song in Japanese made me really want to use all that I have to reach the Japanese people for Christ. Less than 1% of the population is Christian, and most have never heard the gospel except maybe in a religions study class. Their polytheistic culture can sometimes be very unforgiving and despairing. I can feel God’s burden for them, and it has become my burden, too.

So here’s the song on YouTube. Please pray for the non-Christians in Japan, that they will find the hope and salvation of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

You are not alone -- "Hills and Valleys"

Lately I was really impacted by a song I happened to hear on Air1 Radio when we were driving to church. The song is “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells. (Man that guy has an awesome voice!) I’m pretty sure I heard the song before Sunday, but this time the song was really catchy and stuck with me, so I bought it on iTunes right away.

The lyrics are simple but so powerful, especially because the one thing I want all my readers to know is that no matter what happens to you, no matter where you’ve gone, Jesus loves you and you are not alone.



I've walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I've felt the pain of heartbreak
And I've seen the brighter days

And I've prayed prayers to Heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I'm standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
And I am not alone


I've watched my dreams get broken
In You, I hope again
No matter what I know
I'm safe inside Your hands

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys
And I am not alone


Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all, You will remain
Over it all

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all, You will remain
Over it all

On the mountains, I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley, I will lift my eyes, yeah

On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there (to the One who set me there)
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there

When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone (I'm not alone)

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (yeah)
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (You're the God of the hills)
And I am not alone

You're God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (yeah)
Hi-hi-hills and valleys
God of the hi-hi-hills and valleys (You're the God of the hills)
And I am not alone (God of the valleys)


And I will choose to say
Blessed be Your Name
And I am not alone

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Camy's Hot and Cold Brew Fruit Iced Tea

At first I thought this was a stupid recipe to post, but then I thought I’d just post it in case someone hadn’t thought of this and was interested in it.

Captain Caffeine has been known to remark that I’m very picky about my tea, although I don’t consider myself a real connoisseur. I don’t like tea that’s been made in a coffee carafe because I can taste the old coffee and it’s nasty, but I will not scoff at using a Lipton tea bag if there’s nothing else available.

However, as the weather has gotten hotter I’ve been searching for the perfect fruit iced tea to drink. I love those fruit flavored black teas like mango or peach or strawberry. However, I notice that in restaurants, especially, many times the tea is bitter because they oversleep it.

However, I’ve found that in order to get a strong fruit flavor, especially when steeping real dried fruit as opposed to just artificial fruit-flavored tea, I need to use hot water and a long steep time. It’s also generally recommended that you hot-steep fruit and herbal infusions to eliminate any possible bacteria since the fruit isn’t always heated during processing (it depends on the company who makes the infusion).

So I decided to combine hot and cold water steeping to create my perfect black iced tea for this summer.

I steep 2 tablespoons of black tea in 1 quart of cold water for at least 4 hours in the fridge. It can go even longer, 24 hours or longer, and still taste fine—I haven’t been able to oversteep a cold black tea yet. I use a mason jar and throw the tea leaves in directly so they have lots of room to float around.

I then steep 2 heaping tablespoons of my favorite fruit blend infusion in 1 quart of near-boiling water (205 degrees F) in a teapot or a tempered glass pitcher made specifically for steeping hot teas. These fruit infusion blends are non-caffeinated—my favorites are Mango Melange, Wild Strawberry, and Berry Blues from Adagio.com. (If you want a $5 gift certificate for Adagio, let me know and I can email it to you or message you on Facebook.)

I let the fruit infusion steep for at least 15 minutes, but usually closer to an hour since I tend to forget about it. (FYI, I’ve tried a quick rinse of boiling water and then a cold brew of fruit teas, but I just don’t get the bold flavor I like when doing a long hot water steep.)

Then I combine the cold brew tea and the fruit infusion in a pitcher. I typically add the juice of one lemon (to promote good kidney health) but that’s optional if you don’t like the flavor. I pour my cold brew tea from the mason jar through a strainer (to catch the loose leaves) into the pitcher. Then I pour the fruit infusion into the pitcher through the tea strainer. I then refrigerate for an hour or so before drinking.

Mango Melange iced tea with roses from my garden
I like this iced tea because the cold brew black tea is sweet and non-bitter, but with that nice tea flavor. And the fruit flavor is also strong and bold from the hot water steep.

Online articles say that the more expensive white and oolong teas are better for cold brewing, but I haven’t yet tried that. Adagio has actually offered me a gift certificate to buy some of their teas and blog about it, so I intend to try some white tea and blog about that later.

I’ve had decent results when I cold-brew David’s organic whole leaf Darjeeling black tea from Amazon. There’s a slight tannic taste to the tea, but it’s more mild than other cheaper black teas.

I like Adagio’s Ooooh Darjeeling (an unusual oolong tea from Darjeeling) as an iced tea also, but I tend to like the oolong flavor better when I instead hot brew that for 3 minutes and then cool it in the fridge, and I don’t drink that with fruit infusions.

A random note: Another cold brew infusion I really like is Mugicha, which is roasted barley. It’s non-caffeinated, and I buy that on Amazon and enjoy that all summer long.