Category Archives: holiday

Great Gifts………….

I am usually done by now – with Christmas shopping that is. Yep, I am one of those somewhat annoying organized people who used to make my own Christmas cards and have all my shopping pretty much done before Black Friday.

No More.

I am scrambling with the rest of the planet. Augh. Which is great because it’s 10 degrees here with the wind chill and the parking lots are full. I wish the economists would spend five minutes trying to find a parking spot at any mall in northern Virginia before they give their next economic outlook report. There’s a lot of spending going on.

Fortunately, at least our Christmas cards are sent out – I can say Christmas cards not holiday cards because I also sent out Hanukkah cards. So please don’t think I am insensitive. I bought all the cards at the store rather than making them (and not even a fancy card store) and forced allowed my youngest to help me put stamps on the envelopes.

And, woe is me, I hate giving gift cards because I think they are the easy way out. The perfect gift is out there for everyone – I just have to find it.

For my new writing gig at the Examiner.com, I wrote about the gift of forgiveness. And I am giving that this year too – hopefully I will be getting some too – but I also needs me a few things that fit under the tree and aren’t so symbolic.

This year I found a couple of things that I think are pretty cool – so I thought I would share them with you in case you are scrambling too.

The first one is for me. Yeah me! Yes, I am guilty of the “one for you, one for me” modus operandis of Christmas gift shopping.

It is this pitcher from Free Spirit Studio. I love this pitcher for a number of reasons. First of all it’s gorgeous! And the artist grows her own plants that she uses to embellish the pottery and  creates all of the pottery pieces herself.

I also love this piece because I know the artist. She is the mother of a very good friend of mine from junior high and high school. She even used to take me to craft shows with her when she was a vendor. My friend and I would spend the weekend “helping” and shopping. Mrs. Hooten definitely lit a creative spark in me.

The next one is from Uncommon Goods. It is a recycled windshield wine decanter from Colombia. Try saying that 5 times fast.

It’s tres cool because it is so uncommon (duh). Please know that this is not for your Waterford-preferring friends – it is tinted green (like a windshield might be to block out the sun) and it has bubbles and blemishes. It is also not for your friends who don’t prefer wine. Although – if they don’t prefer wine, you might want to seriously reconsider why they are your friends. 😉 It also has a little pocket to hold ice so that your wine stays cool but does not get watered down. Brilliant.

 

The only downside of these decanters is that they are kind of tallish. So they may not be great for someone with limited cabinet space. But if they drink enough wine, maybe they won’t notice that it’s kind of tallish. See, there is always an up side.

This next one is simple. Jewelry. Yeah! Jewelry doesn’t really require an explanation does it?

Just in case – it’s from Kohl’s and it’s called an inspiration bracelet. It is sterling silver and had the words “hope”, “peace”, “believe”, and “love” inscribed on the links. I am getting this for two of my dearest friends who have always encouraged me to hope, believe, and love. And they are a “peace” of me.

The last gift is for my Dad. He grew up in a teeny, tiny little town called Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The last time I was there only about 300 people lived in Fort Laramie. Even so, it has a rich history and someone took the time to write about it.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that a book about Fort Laramie would be perfect for anyone on your gift list – it’s just the idea of it. For those people who are hard to find a present for, a book about a place or time that is important to them might be just the gift that would make Santa proud.

So that’s it for now. Four down – four hundred to go. Wish me luck – I am off to find a parking space.

 

Boo To You………….

There is a spooky goblin in our neighborhood who is playing tricks with treats. He’s “booing” people left and right.

I had never heard of this little Halloween Boofest until we moved into our neighborhood and had kids old enough to play with other kids. But it is tons o’ fun.

It’s a delightful, frightful treat to hear your doorbell ring, followed by laughter, and then followed by the sound of really fast running feet. Yep, this might just be the only time it’s okay to ding dong ditch.

Then you find something like this on your doorstep….and you try to spy the goblin. They are quick little boogers though.

A “Boo” sign magically appears taped to your door – so others know that you have been “Boo’ed”.

Inside your basket of boo treats is this note…..

Happy Halloween!!

The air is cool, the season is fall
Soon Halloween will come to all
The Spooks are after things to do
A ghoulish one just visited you
BOO! Is your shield from the witching hour
Just hang it up and watch its power
On your front door is where it works
To ward off spooks and scary jerks
This cryptic note comes with a treat
Enjoy them both, they are yours to keep
The power comes when friends like you
Copy this and make it two
We’ll all have smiles upon our faces
No one knows who Boo’ed whose places
Just one short day to work your spell
Or a Zap might just strike your tail
Please join the fun and share the spirit
A great big BOO – come on let’s hear it!

Enjoy your treats!!

1) Place the BOO on your front door
2) Now you have 24 hours to copy this twice, gather two treats, and
secretly deliver them to a neighbor who does not have a BOO sign yet.

The kids love it and I have to say, it’s fun for parents too.

There are a few “rules” you should consider.

First, and most importantly, do not try to out “boo” your friends. Sure the recipient will enjoy the super duper boo basket – but then there’s pressure to out boo you. Then it’s no fun. Keep it simple. Remember in just a few days, everyone will have more candy than they know what to do with.

Then, try not to boo people twice – there will be someone who has not been boo’ed yet – and believe me, they are waiting for it.

Anyone can start booing. In fact, if your neighborhood has not yet begun the Boofest celebration – your boo-ological clock should be ticking. Time’s a wastin’.

Please don’t stress out about how cute your container is. The kids dump it all out and throw the container to the side. In fact, recycle and use the container you received!

And most importantly – don’t consider this a game just for kids. How much would adults with no kids in the house love to be boo’ed with a bottle of wine or some more grown up candy?

Happy Booing.

the Silver Temple in Amritsar………

Nope, that is not a mistake – there is certainly a Golden Temple in Amritsar, India (it is the highest of all Sikh temples and you can read more about it here) – but there is also a Silver Temple in Amritsar. It is a Hindu temple modeled after the Golden Temple – and it looks a lot like the Golden Temple except it is (much) smaller and the lines are (much) shorter. The temple is also known as the Sri Durgiana Temple.

The Silver Temple got its name from the beautiful silver doors that adorn the entrance ways.

I was told this guy is the founder of the temple and he welcomes you outside the gate. Actually he is facing the entrance, so it would be more accurate to say he bids you farewell.

This bell is all full of awesomeness. Many temples have bells. I have been told they serve two purposes – one, to let God (or the gods) know you are there and two, to scare the evils away. Either works for me.

This is one of the prayer books.

There are statues of gods everywhere – by some accounts, Hinduism hails over 1 million gods – this one is Ganesha. He is known as the “remover of obstacles”. He watches over you when you try anything new. He is a good friend to have!

This one is Lord Hanuman – the monkey god and is seemingly the most popular of the Hindu gods.

This guy protects you when you travel. (I cannot remember his name, so if you know it, please share it.) So, we visited with him for a minute and took a picture with him just to make sure we had evidence that he knew we were there.

You can see performances in honor of the Goddess Durga while you are there. Apparently it is quite an honor to be selected for the performance – I think someone forgot to this little one that. 😉

According to Wikipedia, Durga “manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.” Yep, it would be (very) good to have her on your side.

A lot of people in India like to have their picture taken and then they like to see the image on the camera screen. This guy asked me to take his picture. So I did, then I showed it to him. He was very, very excited. So, he asked our tour guide to ask me to mail it to him. Sure, that’s easy enough. He wrote down his number with a big honkin’ smile on his face.

Then he figured if it worked once, maybe he could ask again. You can imagine that once was charming, twice was amusing, but we were quickly approaching “enough already”. I took the second picture and showed it to him and then we wanted to get on our way. But he must have been concerned that we weren’t taking him seriously because he asked us to stop and he pulled out a piece of paper – he wanted us to know for sure that he was legit – so he showed us his medical release papers – from the mental hospital. Fantastic.

I have not mailed the pictures yet – and it isn’t because I misplaced his address – I know right where it is – it’s somewhere in my house. And when I find it I will mail it. 😉

Easter in India……..

Did you know that there are nearly 30 million Christians in India? Me either. Well, make that 30 million and five.

I just assumed that Christianity came to India with the British – but that does not seem to be the case. Apparently, one of the Apostles – St. Judas Thomas – was brought to India around 52 AD to build a temple. While he was there, he converted a few people.

French missionaries began arriving in the 1300s. And then around 1500, the Portuguese arrived in India and started trying to convert Indians to Christianity under the Pope’s edict to baptize people all around the world.

The British surely had their own influences too when they arrived in the 1600s but really did not begin their missionary work until the 1800s.

I got a few emails from friends asking me how in the heck we celebrated Easter in India.

Let me start by saying, if you are moving to India and you plan to celebrate Easter in India, bring some of those plastic eggs with you. Bring extra in case you have a friend or two who did not bring them. You’ll be the belle of the ball, I promise.

The hardest thing about Easter in Delhi is that there is no family in Delhi – that and the fact that they simply do not sell those little plastic eggs here. But the rest is pretty much the same.

We woke up delighted that the Easter Bunny found us so far away from home. And we got dressed for church – there is a lovely international church that is Christian but non-demoninational. And someone – I cannot imagine who – thought it would be best to attend the 9:30am service so that the rest of the day was pretty wide open – only that someone – again, I cannot imagine who – got the times messed up. It seems that there was a breakfast at 9:30am and the service actually did not begin until 11am. Ooops.

So, the hubby and the kids were dressed in their most uncomfortable finest shoes and clothes for an extra hour and a half. Ooops.

It turned out okay though because we just hopped over to the American club and enjoyed a very quiet early brunch. We literally had the whole restaurant to ourselves – because everyone else checked the schedule and knew just what time the Easter service started. Ooops.

Then we came home and lazed around. We ended the day with a proper Easter meal at the Hard Rock Cafe and a call to our families.

Holi Colors Batman…………..

According to my family, the Indian holiday Holi is a chance to get dirty. It’s a free pass to make a big arse mess. It is the holiday of throwing colors and squirting everyone you see with a water gun without fear of consequences – yes, even your siblings (but not necessarily your mom  😉 ).

It is my understanding that when you throw colors on someone, it clears the air of any animosity that might have existed between you. Yes, that is all kinds of loverly!

Of course there is more to the story than simply permission to make a mess – According to Wikipedia, “In Vaishnava Theology, Hiranyakashipu is the king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed “during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or on sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra“. Consequently, he grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him.

Despite this, Hiranyakashipu’s own son, (Prahlada), was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu’s attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on a pyre on the lap of his sister, Holika, who could not die by fire by virtue of a shawl which would prevent fire affecting the person wearing it. Prahlada readily accepted his father’s orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew from Holika, who then was burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed, after the shawl moved to cover him. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.

Radha and the Gopis celebrating Holi, with accompaniment of music instruments

Later Lord Vishnu came in the form of a Narasimha (who is half-man and half-lion) and killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth) and mauling him with his claws (which are neither astra nor shastra).

In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna). Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopis here. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark skin complexion and Radha’s (Shakti or energy that drives the world) fair skin complexion. Krishna’s mother decided to apply colour to Radha’s face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.

There is alternate story detailing the origin of Holi. This story is about Kamadeva, a god of love. Kama’s body was destroyed when he shot his weapon at Shiva in order to disrupt his meditation and help Parvati to marry Shiva. Shiva then opened his third eye, the gaze of which was so powerful that Kama’s body was reduced to ashes. For the sake of Kama’s wife Rati (passion), Shiva restored him, but only as a mental image, representing the true emotional and spiritual state of love rather than physical lust. The Holi bonfire is believed to be celebrated in commemoration of this event.

Holi is a festival of radiance (Teja) in the universe. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colours that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.

Tastes like chicken…………

We don’t eat a lot of any street food in Delhi, so I was very surprised when my husband went all “game on” over the street food in Thailand. There seems to be more of it in Thailand, especially Bangkok, and he wanted to try some new things. I offered to take pictures – giving me the “oh, I would love to, but I don’t want to get anything on the camera” excuse. He did not eat all of the things you will see pictured, but he did eat chicken butt. I cannot find the picture of that. But here is one of hubby eating “canal” food. A lady on a boat will pull up to your boat and sell you some bbq chicken. And you will suspend your reality and believe it is chicken. Fascinating.

Number one hubby also ate crocodile – at the crocodile show.

Yes, you read that right – he ate crocodile at the crocodile show. Maybe it is just me, but I think there is something fundamentally wrong with eating crocodile at the crocodile show right in front of the c.r.o.c.o.d.i.l.e.s. Especially when one of your fellow humans is about to do this. No wonder they say revenge is sweet.

I personally have a v.e.r.y. hard time eating anything that is looking at me.

These were some of the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. In Asia, they are called prawns, which makes perfect sense because there is nothing “shrimpy” about them. And, you are right, they don’t look as appetizing before they are “prepared”.

I don’t know if these are chicken feet or octopus. I am thinking octopus but really, it could go either way. And, nope, did not try.

I am always happy to find something recognizable that is not staring at me. These strawberries looked delish.

These little gems are called Century Eggs. Yes, I completely agree – eggs are not supposed to look like that. No, we did not try them. Because of the way these eggs smell, there is a myth that they are soaked in horse urine. Yeah, that’s about all I need to know about them. This is what century eggs look like in a buffet at a hotel.

And this is what they look like on the street. I am off the school of thought that both of these are a big fat pass.

Not sure what some of these next things are … if you know, please enlighten us all….

(and yes, I am aware that there is a sign in this picture that probably tells me exactly what this is – but I have this little obstacle called “I can’t read Thai” – so I still have no idea what it is – they look like mini lunch bags though)

This is honestly a little more my speed – cucumbers.

We tried this coconut concoction when we were in Singapore. It was not all it was cracked  up to be.

I am so sorry – was that a little corny?

Statues of Thailand………….


I am fast becoming a fan of the various statues around the world – so that means I get to share them with you. I will wait while you count your blessings. 😎

This guy greeted us at the airport. He did not exactly look happy to see us. But maybe he was just tired from standing there all night.

This was actually at a shop. It surprised me to see a statue of an American Indian in Thailand. I am guessing this shop owner is an exporter. I cannot imagine a big need for statues of American-styled cowboys and indians in Asia.

This guys were hanging out at the Tiger zoo. They seem really happy together. That’s a good thing – I think they will be there for a while.

There are a lot of statues in this position – it is an Asian greeting. In India, it’s “Namaste” – I am not sure what the actual greeting is in Thailand but the hands are the same. I want one of these for my American home.

This guy is either getting ready to swim or to pray – or to pray that he can swim. Either that or a plane is flying over his head. He looks a little odd to me – but he caught my attention.

There is lots of seafood in Thailand. This guy was hanging out in front of a restaurant at the night market.

Temples are everywhere. This was a mini temple at the night market. I guess you can pray for good deals or ask forgiveness for buying too much.

This guy said goodbye to us as we left the airport. He is all full of purple awesomeness.

The elephant in the room.

There is a Thai legend about a 5 headed dragon – this is a tribute to that famous battle. It was at the Bangkok airport.

He is protecting the streets in Bangkok.

Everyone is in on the folded hands. And, yes, I made my children stand around Ronald and fold their hands the same way so I could get a really cute picture. No, they were not happy about it. Yes, I realize that 5 million mothers before me have picked the same battle. Some have surely won and more have probably lost the good fight. It seems my children were afraid that someone they know might actually “see” them. Okay. At a rest stop in T.h.a.i.l.a.n.d. – we weren’t even “in town” – a 5-hour flight from Delhi and an entire day away from the U.S. I understand completely. Not.

These are not really statues – but tributes. They are all literally everywhere – all throughout the country. This is the king of Thailand and his lovely bride. I don’t even think Simon Cowell would want to see his face plastered this much and this big all over town. But the Thai people seem to really want to show their respect to him. I feel bad for his wife – I cannot imagine trying to find the perfect outfit for this photo.

Dragons are tres popular here!

This lady was also at a shop. Honestly, I think I found more statues at markets than actually on display.

I’ll get you my pretty.

And your little dog too.

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua …………

Say what? That means “Tiger Temple”. It is about a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. Yes, we went! You had to know we would. It is a Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand run by Buddhist monks. The head of the temple is called the abbott (not sure why you need to know that – but if you ever pull that one out in a game of trivial pursuit you can thank me.) They care for the tigers and give visitors an opportunity of a lifetime.

There are two different types of tours – one is where you go to the park in the afternoon and see the tigers during their quieter time of day – afternoon. I am sure this is fabulous – when else are you going to see that many tigers so close together and get your picture taken with a big arse cat? However, it’s afternoon – the cats are not that active. They have just eaten lunch and it’s hot. (Did I mention that Thailand is super hot? I did not think it was possible to be hotter than India. Wrong.) So I am guessing you do a lot of looking at cats resting after lunch. Of course, if you are going to sit near a big arse cat and have your picture taken, after their lunch is probably a very good time to do it. Otherwise you might become what we call the appetizer – formerly known as my loyal blog reader.

We chose to go to the temple first thing in the morning and spend about 3 hours with the monks and tigers. Holy cat batman, that is the way to go. You might suspect that this is the (much) more expensive option – it is – but it really is a once in a lifetime experience. And our children are earning their bachelors degrees from the school of life, who really needs college anyway? I am quite sure that when their prospective employers read on their resume that they have pet and played with and fed and bathed very large tigers, they will be a shoe in for any job.

Anycat, the day started with us being picked up at our hotel in Bangkok at 5am in the morning. We get in the van and drive, drive, drive and then drive some more. Luckily, it’s early and we are still exhausted, so we slept a good bit of the way. (By the way, the roads in Thailand are very well developed – but they are bumpy – so dramamine is a good idea of you are easily nauseous in the car.) Then we stopped at a mini mart – now if you have been living in India and do not exactly have mini marts, this is a pure slice of junk food and soda heaven. We filled up with c.r.a.p. for us and bought some breakfast items to offer to the monks. It is my understanding that the majority of the food they eat is donated. Our guide told us to buy them Pepsi because they apparently don’t get too much of that. Too funny. Pepsi it is.

So we get to the park and line up behind a table with our offerings. We had to remove our shoes. The monks lined up and walked past us with buckets. We bowed to them. They took the food and Pepsi. It was kind of strange really – but cool enough. If you ever do this, there are about 14 monks at the temple. Each one of them walks by you with a bucket. Make sure you buy at least 14 things. And the volunteers at the temple, get their leftovers – so really stock up.

Okay, I was the only one in my family who actually offered food and bowed. This is all the hard evidence number one hubby needed to prove, once and for all, that I am a dork of the highest magnitude this side of Kanchanaburi. But, I believe that when in Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, you should do as the Wat Pha Luang Ta Buans do.

Then we were asked to sign a waiver. It went something like this. You are an idiot for wanting to play with and feed real tigers – you do know they are wild animals, right – they might attack you – if they attack you, you are not going to be on the winning side of the fight – we are questioning your sanity – oh good, you brought your smallish children – sign here.

Off to the park. We first met the smaller tigers and one adorable tiger cub named Full/New Moon – sorry, I cannot remember the thai translation for that – but she was born on a full moon. She was just about a month old. We fed the tigers bottles and honestly marveled at their beauty and strength. The younger tigers were very soft – but as they age, their fur becomes more wirey.

And I got bitten- for the first time – by a real flippin tiger. In our little intro to the day, they explained that they really weren’t kidding – these are real tigers with real teeth and they really might (try to) bite us. They live in this nice little sanctuary but they are w.i.l.d. animals. If they did bite at us, we were supposed to push their heads away and NOT pull away from them.  It was our responsibility to keep their mouths away from any body parts we wanted to leave with still attached to our own body. The not pulling away part was emphasized – so I made a mental note of it. Do not pull away. Then, I completely forgot that and immediately pulled my leg away (intact) and I did not remember to push the tiger’s head away. Luckily there are trainers with you and they remembered just what to do. The tiger did not even break the skin – but it was a wee bit scary. They immediately rushed to me and asked if I was okay. Leg still there – check. No blood gushing out of my body – check. Children ok – check. More blog material – check. Yeah, I am good. I was left with a small scratch and a bruise – battle scars.

I can now add “I have been bitten by a tiger” to my list of quotes for that silly getting to know you game where you write something down that no one would ever guess about you and then they try to guess who wrote it. It’s good to have something interesting to write down.

There was a baby cub there and several adolescent tigers. The larger tigers were chained to posts and we were able to sit with them and pet them and feed them bottles. Interestingly enough, tigers don’t purr like domestic cats do. They do roll and stretch and like to be scratched like pets though.

Next we had breakfast with the monks. Well, the monks had breakfast over there and we ate over here. But they sat and we watched. I stood up to take pictures and was told that a woman cannot be higher than the monks so I had to sit back down. Normally, I would have been all “what’s up with that” but they were letting me pet their tigers, so I took a pass on going Norma Rae on them. Then we got to watch a small chanting/prayer ceremony. That was interesting enough and really quite peaceful.

Then off to walk the tigers. Excuse me? Walk the tigers – as in take them off the posts that they are currently restrained by? Okay. Please remind me exactly what that waiver said. This isn’t safe or a good idea? Am I remembering that correctly?

Sure, I’ll walk the tiger. And I will let my children do it. Why not? Katie Couric isn’t here filming a “what not to do as a parent” episode is she? Because if she is, I need to put on my lipstick.

And if you are wondering if they are as powerful as they seem on the Discovery Channel when they are bringing down a large antelope – the answer would be “absolutely!”

Angel was thinking that maybe she got delivered to the wrong family by the stork. She was hoping for parents that looked out a little better for her safety and well being.

The next stop was an enclosure and where we got to play with them for a good 45 minutes. They were majestic and magnificent and amazing and, dammit, another one bit me.

Don’t even ask, if I remembered the “rules”. You know good and damn well I did not. I pulled my leg back immediately. I did not push his head away. Angel watched it happen and decided that she really liked the tigers – from a distance. Again, no blood. Again, leg still attached. Again, children fine. It’s all good. But I have to say reality set in and I got a little nervous. So I decided Angel should not have to watch from far away all by herself. Like any good mother would, I went and sat with my cub in the shade, far away from the action. And like any good mother would, I left my 12 and 10 year old in the middle of the activity.

After that, we were invited to bathe and feed the tigers. Tremendous. You mean they will eat something besides me? Yeah! So we washed them with soap and rinsed them with a hose and fed them cooked chicken. Yes, right out of our hands.

Tigers in the wild eat raw meat – so they also get supplements to offer them the nutrients that the cooked meat does not have. But they do not want them eating raw meat because they do not want them to taste the blood. No, I did not read that on the waiver. They conveniently left that little tid bit off. But there is also the concern for avian flu – so it is important that the meat is cooked. The tigers had no problem eating the chicken and leaving our hands in tact. So it was  a win-win.

And if you are wondering, my thought bubble is very full of wonders at this point – is this the one that bit me earlier? Do humans really taste like chicken? Remind me again who thought this was a good idea.

Then we were told it was time to go to the canyon with the big cats. They said Angel was too small to be in the canyon because the really big tigers might want to play with her – I think that translated into – we weren’t kidding with the waiver crazy lady – your children should not be here. But they offered to let her go back with the baby cub and play with her for a while. They were so nice and told me that one of the staff members could take her back to the cub and walk her around the park to see the bears and lions they had rescued while we went to the big cat canyon.

Now, I might let her come to the tiger temple and walk and feed tigers – but thank so much – I am not letting a total stranger walk her around solo in the wooded Tiger Temple that is in Thailand. Yep, I went with Angel – Number One Hubby took Bear and Flower to the canyon.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. The temple has rescued a couple of lions and a couple of bears in addition to the tigers they care for. Angel and I got to see these animals because she could not go to the canyon. They are not on the regular tour yet. Their enclosures are being built and I think once they are done, these animals will be available for the public to see.

This bear is folding his paws and giving the traditional Asian bowing greeting. The guide asked if Angel wanted to feed him. I said sure – after all I had already signed the waiver, right? And at least this guy is behind bars.

Meanwhile, the rest of my crew went the the canyon where they watched the big cats frolic and play and were in absolute awe of their strength and agility. For that part of the tour, you are in a small fenced in area while the very large tigers walk and play around you. As you can see, the term fence is used loosely – it was not even waist high.

The staff and volunteers were amazing. They shared their love of these big beasts with us and kept us safe. Most of our pictures are from them – they were so generous with their time and energy and often took our cameras and captured our experience so we could just be fully engaged in our adventure. One thing that is important to know is that flash photography is strictly forbidden. But as you can see, you really don’t need it.

There are reports that abuse and illegal trafficking and breeding are happening at the temple. There is even speculation that the tigers are drugged to make them calmer. I can tell you that the people we talked with love these animals and treat them with respect and tenderness. The tigers seemed very comfortable and relaxed. We never saw any abuse or signs of abuse. I cannot speak to how the tigers get there or what breeding practices are in place. But I can tell you that the tigers we saw were vibrant and active and simply magnificent and are very much loved.

I will leave you with this – my new friend is about 400 pounds.

A Charlie Brown Christmas……………

About a year ago, I was decorating our house for Christmas and getting ready to move our family around the world. It was an overwhelming time and it felt a little rushed. In many ways, it is mostly a blur. Immediately after Christmas, I literally stuffed all the decorations into boxes, shoved them in the closets, and checked one more thing off my to do list. Christmas – done and undone – check. Then I began really focusing on moving my family to India.

What I didn’t realize is that almost exactly a year later, I would visit Singapore all decorated for Christmas and I would hear Christmas songs in every store. That I would buy candy canes in Singapore just because I could – they just don’t seem to be available in Delhi. And that when I got home I would just stick them in the cabinet. Because we were treeless. I don’t think I have ever been treeless. In fact, we usually put up two tress in the U.S. – one that has decorations the kids made and one that no one is allowed to touch but me. But now, all of our decorations are in the U.S. – except for a few that I bought at a craft show a few weeks ago.

My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, so I often celebrated Christmas twice. My mother’s birthday is Christmas day. It’s always been a wonderful time of year for me. After I got married, we started celebrating Christmas three or four times – just depending on how many different groups of family members were gathering together. Christmas Eve with number one hubby’s family is a wonderful, cherished tradition. Christmas morning with most of my family is magical. Then of course, we have our own party of five celebration. Throw in a few parties and some cookie baking and a white elephant gift exchange and you have yourself a Christmas season.

Well, most of that simply cannot happen when you live around the world from the people you hold most dear. Even putting up decorations seems like just going through the motions. But not being able to put up decorations is really depressing. We will be home for literally 20 hours Christmas day – the rest of the time we will be traipsing around the world. We are counting our blessings and know just how very lucky we are. But, something is missing.

Until last night. Last night, number one hubby brought home this. Now you know how he earns his status. Today after school we are going ornament shopping. We might even make some hot chocolate and sing a few Christmas songs.

Charlie Brown would be very, very proud. (For those of you not familiar with Charlie Brown – he is a cartoon character and one of his stories is about how he finds this little twig of a tree and brings it to life with love and lights. He turns nothing into magic with the spirit of Christmas.)

P.S. Someone is probably curious – so I will go ahead and answer the question now – yes, there are over a million Christians in India and they celebrate Christmas. Lucky for us! There are stores that sell trees and ornaments and decorations. It’s just that the town won’t be all decked out in red and green – it’s a big difference! But it feels better now.

Doctor Fish and Butterflies…………..

Do you know about this? It is called a fish spa. You put your feet in water and these fish eat your dead skin cells. I know it sounds really icky – but it is very relaxing! And you leave with smoother skin – it is a pedicure a la fishies.

The little fish come nibble on your toes and feet and calves. They create a vibration sensation. The spa will serve you tea and you just sit back and relax. It is good to know that the tanks hold different size fish and they all feel a little different. The larger ones were my favorite. It does tickle a little at first, but you get over that quickly.

I am sure it is all hocus pocus jibber jabber – but it was fun to try it once. Here is what they claim…

We did this while we were in Singapore. I understand these spas exist all over the world. I will definitely do it again.

We also went to the Butterfly Park on Sentosa Island. It was magical – very large butterflies flitter and flutter by you and might even land on you.

There were also other creatures like turtles, birds, lizards, and even some snakes (in cages).

There is also a tremendous insect collection inside the park. They are all pinned to boards – which sounds mean – but these are some big arse bugs – you will be v.e.r.y. thankful they are not alive and cannot move. And FYI, if you live in Colombia or Brazil, you might want to invest in some industrial strength bugspray and be very careful where you walk.