Friday, August 29, 2008

Bed and Breakfast - An Alternative to Motels and Hotels

I discovered my first bed and breakfast, Ashton Gate in Tasmania, Australia. I loved it! So did my mum. She still remembers the delicious breakfast! Since then, whenever I travel, I try to look out for bed and breakfasts to stay in.The best way to find a B&B is to check out the local B&B directory (which Frommers will normally provide). And as I've mentioned in my Top 3 Travel Guide post, check out reviews in Trip Advisor. I also like to view pictures of the B&B so that I know what to expect.

How do you know if you would enjoy staying at a bed and breakfast?
  • You love meeting new people. Apart from meeting the host, usually, you would have breakfast together with other guests at the dining table. At the end of breakfast, you'll be amazed at how much you've learnt about the other guests.
  • You appreciate old houses. Most B&Bs are restored old homes and lovingly furnished with antiques.

Inn at Stony Creek, Warwick, New York

  • You cherish the personal touch. Each room is unique. The better B&Bs will also provide chocolates and toiletries.
  • Hillcrest Inn - Niagara Falls, New York

  • You want to go local. The hosts are more than happy to recommend local places to visit and local restaurants for dining. We have not been dissapointed by the recommendations!

Sheldrake Point Lakeside Bistro, Finger Lakes, New York

  • You don't mind walking up stairs with your luggage (or if you're lazy like us, leave your suitcases in the car and just bring up a small overnight bag).

  • You relish a good cooked breakfast. When we were in New York, we really enjoyed the cooked breakfasts served in the B&Bs. (The complimentary bagel and cream cheese served in some motels pales in comparison. Some hotels don't even provide complimentary breakfast)
  • Breakfast Menu - Inn at Stony Creek, Warwick, New York

B&Bs are not for those who:

  • Require room service.
  • Want to sleep in or leave early (Most B&Bs serve breakfast between 8.30-9.00am).
  • Want to party all night.
  • Prefer to keep to themselves.
  • Must have a television. Not all B&Bs have television and cable. So, if you're a TV die-hard fan, check first.
After one bad experience in Victoria, Canada, we try to avoid B&Bs with too many rooms. Sometimes the host may not be able to cope with too many guests. We actually missed our tour as the host could not get breakfast ready in time. Other than that, we've totally enjoyed our stays in the B&Bs and our interactions with the hosts and other guests. It is an eye-opener experience. After all, one of the best thing about travelling is to learn about other people and cultures. What better way to do so than to talk to people?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chinese Stir Fried Beef with Ginger and Spring Onion

It's been a while since I did a recipe post. Since Kess's blog had a post entitled Ginger and Beef (if you're wondering why a dog blog has this heading, click and check it out), this ties in nicely with that. This dish is comfort food for me. Simple and delicious.


  • 400 gm beef steak
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soya
  • 2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2-3 stalks of spring onion (scallion)
  • A few small pieces of ginger
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Slice the beef into thin slices.

  2. Marinate the beef with sugar, soy sauce, wine and corn flour for about 30 minutes.

  3. Cut the spring onion into short sections. Slice the ginger into thin slices.

  4. Heat the oil and stir fry the ginger until golden. Add the beef and stir fry until the colour changes.

  5. Add the oyster sauce and spring onion. Blend well and serve.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A reflection on life

Niagara Falls, New York
Today, I am thankful for the life God has given me.

Psalm 139: 1-18

"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because

I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together
in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,

they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you. "

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you" Rick Warren

Everyone goes through life with problems. Yet, not everyone faces life's challenges the same way. Some become bitter. Some become better. The real battle is really within us. Someone hurts us. Do we choose to harbour bitterness against the person or do we choose to forgive? Tragedy occurs. Do we grieve for a moment and then choose to go on with life or do we dwell in grief?

Joni Eareckson Tada is an inspirational figure. She became a quadriplegic after a diving accident in 1967. After two years of rehabilitation, Joni re-entered the community with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. “My church made a huge difference in my family’s life as they demonstrated the love of God in practical ways,” says Joni. Joni founded Joni and Friends, an organization accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community.

What a difference God can make in our lives! With God's strength, we can overcome.

Isaiah 61:3 "and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Simple Pleasures of Life

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex. Oscar Wilde

In the midst of crazy schedules, gridlock traffic, increasing prices (for everything!) and the general madness of life, it is good for the soul to take time to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. Yesterday, I was blessed to experience two simple pleasures of life.

During the day, I spent some time with little C, a precocious 3 going on 4-year old. We were hanging out at the children's pool. The wind blew some leaves on to the pool. Now, we adults would either ignore this or be annoyed that the pool was now littered with leaves. But not this little boy. He started a game of collecting the leaves (and even went to the extent of gathering the leaves by the pool deck and spreading them in the water! Not sure if the pool cleaner appreciated that!). We then had a game of hide and seek with the leaves whereby we took turns to "hide" the leaves in the water whilst the other person would have to seek the leaves. Later, we created little fountains with our hands at the mini waterfall in the pool. Aahh...the simple pleasures of life - a little boy and his imagination.

The essence of pleasure is spontaneity. Germaine Greer

My second encounter took place later that night. J & I met up with a family we knew when we lived in Bangkok. The Kohs were one of the first friends we made when we first moved to Bangkok and really helped us settle in the place we called home for 1.5 years. Despite more than 10 years age gap, our friendship bloomed. Conversation flowed over dinner as if we were never apart. With some people, you just pick up where you left off without any effort. We really are blessed to count the Kohs as our friends. The simple pleasures of life - true friends.

A true friend reaches for your hand and touches your heart. ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Top 3 Travel Guides - Don't Leave Home Without It

I've never been a "tour group" type of traveller. Somehow the thought of waking up at an unearthly hour every morning to go on the bus by 7am, long bus journeys with only photo stops at famous sights, meals at tourist-catered restaurants isn't my cup of tea. For people who don't want to worry about planning a holiday, tour groups is the way to go. However, I much prefer a free and easy type of travel which means a lot more preparation for each holiday. Fortunately, with the internet, one can plan an entire holiday from the comfort of home without the aid of a travel agent.

My top 3 travel tools for planning a holiday are as follows:
  1. Frommers
  2. Trip Advisor
  3. Map Quest

Frommers is an excellent starting point for on-line research on a holiday destination. Unlike some other travel guides, Frommers actually has a fairly comprehensive on-line site. So, I could actually plan an entire holiday itinerary without purchasing the guide book. However, I do highly recommend getting the destination book to bring along on the trip as it comes in pretty handy for dining and sightseeing suggestions. I find their "What to do in 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 1 week" very useful for planning my itinerary. Most of their suggestions are spot-on. I also like the discussions on their Travel Forum as I can learn from other people's questions and experience. Frommers will also provide the URL for the official destination website which should also be checked out.

Once I've decided on an itinerary, I use Trip Advisor to evaluate accomodation options. Bear in mind that different people have different opinions and expectations. I find accomodations with more reviews, both good and bad provide a more rounded view. Whilst there is a risk that some reviews may be "engineered", I think that eventually the truth will come out as the person who may have been influenced by a "positive" review will post a negative review if the place did not meet up to their expectations. Again, my own experience with the accomodations reviewed by Trip Advisor have been mostly positive.

Once I've decided on where to go and stay, I use Map Quest to provide specific directions for my driving holidays. Whilst the car rental company will provide a state map, Map Quest has proven to be invaluable again and again for accurate points to point directions. It provides distance and driving times which is useful for planning my itinerary. Together with estimates of petrol/gas prices, this is a usefel tool for budgeting for the fuel expense.

There you have it - my top 3 travel guides which I don't leave home without whenever I travel!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Home Sweet Home

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ~Lin Yutang

What a true saying! Whilst I love to travel, after being away from home for 3 weeks and sleeping on different beds and unfamiliar pillows, it is so good to come home and rest my head on my old familiar pillow. There truly is no place like home (and my own bed)!

Thanks to Blogger's Post Options, I was able to prepare some posts before my trip and schedule it whilst I was away. Cool, huh!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Food for Thought

I received this via email from a friend. Provoking food for thought.

A Message by George Carlin
The paradox of our time in history
is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers,
wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment,
more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired,
read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life.
We've added years to life not life to years.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.
We conquered outer space but not inner space.
We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less.
We plan more, but accomplish less.
We've learned to rush, but not to wait.
We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever,
but we communicate even less

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character,
steep profits and shallow relationships.
These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are the days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands,
overweight bodies, and pills that does everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.
A time when technology can bring this letter to you,
and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones,
because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you,
because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.
Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it.
A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment
for someday that person will not be there again.
Give time to love, give time to speak!
And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. and always remember:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.