Iceland Goes Before Istanbul

Last fall, my husband and I left our home in the sunny warmth of the Texas heat to begin a 2 1/2 month adventure! The plan was to start in Iceland, travel across Western Europe and fly back from Istanbul.



We headed to “The Land of Fire and Ice”, also known as Iceland, Island (pronounced “istlant”) and the Republic of Iceland. It has other, older names that I can’t pronounce. One that I can, is the Kingdom of Iceland. Yes, kingdom, and with their own coat of arms!

Wait! I can’t go on about our trip without giving props to Iceland’s amazing football team’s performance during the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament! With a bit over 330,000 Icelanders on 40,000 scenic square miles, it’s the most sparsely populated nation in Europe. And yet, it’s national football (soccer) team beat England … ENGLAND!!!

Do you know that joke? “A Swedish coach, a part-time dentist and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson walk onto a field …”

It was just awesome when 27,000 Icelanders (about 8% of the country) flew to France and vigorously supported their team.  Heard they were model fans. They stayed out of trouble, unlike the rowdy, brawling British and Russian fans! And for the team to arrive home to a sea of people carpeting the field near the harbor and singing the “Viking War Chant” in unison, so cool! (Thanks, RT global news!)

Well, we arrive in Reykjavik to no such glorious welcome. It’s overcast and a bit dreary-looking, with a constant misty drizzle. We booked an AirBnB, just a five minute walk to the downtown shops and restaurants. It’s a one bedroom apartment with a decent sized kitchen/living room in a residential area.

CityWalk tour with Marteinn

Oh, the stories Marteinn can tell you!




We go on a free CityWalk tour with energetic Marteinn. The drizzle lets up and I get some photos. Marteinn is the walk’s founder and he’s very informative.




Reykjavik City Hall

We walked along Lake Tjornin and right into Reykjavik’s City Hall!


We visit City Hall, the building on the left at the end of this path along the lake. There is a restaurant in the building where the lake’s fish swim by the window. Tip: There’s also a giant map of Iceland and clean public restrooms!


Funny thing. Even though it’s called Iceland and has glaciers, you won’t see ice floating in the water, not even in winter.

Another funny thing. Their telephone book is alphabetized by first name, then surname, occupation and address. The exception, people like singer/composer Björk. She’s so famous only her first name is needed!

Hallgrimskirkja church interior

Inside Hallgrimskirkja church is uncluttered simplicity.

We roamed the city, stopping at the local main landmark. The magnificent image of Hallgrimskirkja church belies the sleekly designed interior. It was nice. We went up to view the city from the church’s observation tower.

Hallgrimskirkja church observation tower

Harbor view from the observation tower of Hallgrimskirkja church.







Lunch found us at a local restaurant that served Icelandic food. I enjoyed my lamb soup and sandwich! At dinner one night, my husband ordered whale. Ugh!!! I couldn’t watch him eat it, even though he said it was similar to steak.

Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre

Can you just feel the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre’s space?!?

Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre view of the old harbor, Reykjavik, Iceland

Enjoy this view now, as the old harbor will eventually be blocked by tall buildings in the name of commercialism!






One of the more interesting halls I’ve been to is the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre. It’s honeycomb-like framework and great expanses of space are beautifully open to gazing out. Sunrises and sunsets must be spectacular when viewed from its upper floors!

Icelandic waterfall

Another of Iceland’s scenic views.

We also booked a Golden Circle tour. Tip: Don’t wait and book it the day before like we did. Book well in advance as all the better companies will be super busy when the cruise ships arrive! We wanted to go on the small group tour that pulls over and lets you take photos with Icelandic horses. We wound up with a tour company whose guide said little about the surroundings on the way to each destination. It seemed she was just there to ensure that everyone got back on the bus. Good thing we read up about Iceland’s natural beauty and history!

The first stop was just outside of Reykjavik in Þingvellir (Assembly Plains), site of Alþingi (General Assembly), Iceland’s first national parliment. To be standing where chieftains gathered to form the country’s very first national parliament was pretty amazing to me!

Althing, Iceland

Alþingi, Iceland’s first national parliament was formed in 930.


Next stop, the roaring Hvítá river where the two waterfalls of Gullfoss (golden falls) guide the rushing, teeming water straight down into a 105 ft. gorge!

My husband took the photo at just the right moment.

Gullfoss rainbow, Iceland

A rainbow arches over Gullfoss’ two waterfalls at  river.


We enter Haukadalur valley. The valley is known for the Strokkur and Geysir geysers and various mudholes and fumaroles. Yes, the name geyser came from Geysir. We didn’t have to wait very long for Strokkur to erupt. It happened every 8-10 minutes.

Strokkur Geysir steam

Strokkur geyser blew, mudholes bubbled and gaseous steam filled the area!


On the way back, I spot a group of men standing by a river. When asked, the guide explainsit was a rescue party. Someone is in trouble further up the river and it looks that they are deciding how to handle it. The rescuers are volunteers and they put their own lives at risk each time they go out. So, please exercise good judgment when crossing streams and such when travelling this magnificent, wild country.

Rescue party by the mighty river

The rushing, powerful waters make the rescue party (on the left bank) seem quite insignificant.


Iceland is presumed to have been formed from volcanic lava and is sitting atop two of the earth’s shifting plates, Eurasian and North American, causing earthquakes and geysers and volcanoes to erupt. Speaking of volcanoes, Iceland has more than 200 of them. There are 30 active systems running through the island. They put out so much heat that Icelanders harnessed it to supply the entire island with hot water and energy. Careful, you can drink the cold tap water, but the hot tap water is not drinkable!

Remember Eyjafjallajökull, the 2010 volcano that no newscaster could pronounce? It erupted and caused flight delays in Europe and its lava created two new mountains!

Now, if you want to really view a volcano from the inside, that would be Þríhnúkagígur. It’s the only volcano in the whole world you can actually go down, deep inside!

We were so happy to have experienced a little bit of the island’s natural beauty. I created a flipagram of our time in Iceland.

If you want to read more about the culture and history of Iceland, Katharina Hauptmann shares some interesting articles about Iceland. I researched online at wikipediaVisit Iceland and several sites that I’ve forgotten already. Just google Iceland and you will see lots to educate you on this amazing nation and its storied history!

Do You Like Chinese Dumplings?

Well, I DO!!! Growing up, my mother would make dishes from “the old country”. One of my favorites is Fahn-Soa Tay. It is also my daughter’s favorite dumpling. My mother-in-law had many friends who would make delicacies such as those dumplings and doong (like a Chinese rice tamale) and share them with her. In turn, she would divide them and share with all her children.

I just started another YouTube channel, “AChineseLife”, to keep my Chinese traditions alive. It will highlight videos of authentic Chinese dishes, how-to’s on Chinese culture and things like interviews with Chinese that I find interesting.

This is the first video I created with a friend of my mother-in-law’s who was kind enough to show a group of ABCs (American Born Chinese) and a few foreign born Chinese how to make a basic dumpling from the area of Toi-San, China. My parents were from a village there and many of the senior Chinese ladies at my church are from that region.

Our language is considered similar to Cantonese, as both are in the same branch of Chinese spoken in southern China. Some of the words are very close in sound, but Cantonese is quite different to me. I grew up pronouncing “Toi-San” as “Hoi-San”, but it’s more commonly referred to as “Toi-San” or “Tai-Shan”, the Cantonese way. As I’ve gathered from Wikipedia and other sources, Hoi-san is one of four original districts in the Guangdong Province. It’s said that over 75% of overseas born North American Chinese were from Hoi-San, and I believe it! We have visited many Chinatowns in the U.S. and Canada over the years and could usually find a Hoi-San speaker. Nowadays, they are predominately Cantonese speaking. There is one Chinese restaurant near southwest Houston’s “Chinatown” that has a Hoi-San speaking owner. We always enjoy our conversations with Michelle at Golden Dim Sum!

During WWII, one-fourth of the Flying Tigers came from Hoi-San. My father was living in the U.S. at the time, and signed up as support crew to the Flying Tigers. He was very proud of his Flying Tiger pin!

More about my father in another post. On to the dumplings! These are the very basic ones as I assume the villagers didn’t have a lot of choice to add shrimp and mushrooms or other wonderful ingredients. Still, we enjoyed these!


Where’s Soo?


The Question

Did you wonder what happened to me this year? Did you think I dropped off the face of the earth??? I admit it. There wasn’t much reaching out this year, but I’m still here. Really. I am.


The Explanation

For one thing, I became more active on Twitter. Quickly posting 140 character tweets, including images, is so freeing. And I learn lots by following amazing people in various fields of interest. I even won an ASUS tablet on Twitter! (Tell you about it in another post.)

The second reason is because we have been traveling quite a bit. Often, in my posts, I try to research places or subjects I mention to give you interesting tidbits and facts. That requires a little more thought and planning, which can be difficult to do when we’re on the go.


The Gratitude

But, let me tell you …

This has been a wonderful year! A blessed year! A year of thanksgiving!

A little one has come into our family and enriched our lives immensely. And to add to that, my husband and I have taken more time to travel our beloved United States and beyond.



DSC06416We visited Ice Land at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas. It was 9° inside! They brought in a team of experienced ice sculptors from Harbin, China. Also known as ‘Ice City’, Harbin is the acknowledged cradle of ice and snow art in China and is famous for its spectacular ice and snow sculptures.  

The Moody Gardens theme was a SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas and went into the first week of 2015. 


Before heading home, we had dinner at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant, the largest fresh fish house along the Gulf coast. With over 100 years of seafood service in Galveston, this is the place we go when we want a view of the water and to be pampered in a lovely setting.DSC06488


Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States and has a large number of Asian residents. Understanding the need to educate Americans about Asia, a group led by former First Lady Barbara Bush and former Ambassador Roy M. Huffington established Asia Society Texas Center in 1979.



I visited the Asia Society Texas Center when there was an exhibit of The Noh Masks of Bidou Yamaguchi. His 2005 mask of Johannes Vemeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was so unexpected! Can you imagine being behind the mask, trying to feel what she was thinking?






Oni Sadobo, 2011, was made of the treacherous monk from a famous Kabuki play. Very meticulous. Even the brown specks on his face replicated the foxing seen on the original woodblock print!







I couldn’t resist trying on a mask! Like it?





The Museum of Fine Arts Houston offers free general admission every Thursday. Lots of wonderful things to see. One of my favorite pieces is by Mary Cassatt. Mary was one of only two women and the lone American to join the Impressionists. Her close friend, Edgar Degas, encouraged her to join and what a gift she has given us! “Susan Comforting the Baby” is such a lovely snapshot of a typical moment in everyday life.IMG_0561


Really like this sculpture by Robert Rauschenberg, born just down the highway from Houston, in Port Arthur, Texas. Only then, he was called Milton. The chairs are really metal, assembled to appear wooden!


Interesting man. In the mid-1940s, Robert had planned to go into medicine, but after serving in the Navy, he enrolled in art school in Kansas. The following year, he went to Paris to study at one of the art Academies.

In the 1950s, Rauschenberg recyled found things like tissue paper and dirt into his art. Throughout the years, he designed costumes, sets and lighting for dance companies. He also founded or co-founded several organizations to help artists.



The Chinese Lunar New Year brought out some beautiful clothes. This shy young boy was kind enough to stop a moment and let me take a picture. (As with any recognizable close-ups of children, I ask their parents or guardians for permission first.)



We head north to spend time with relatives. It snowed, which doesn’t happen often in the Houston area. It was lovely!



This is also the month trail riders and wagons start the trek to Houston’s Livestock Show & Rodeo! It can take weeks for some teams. This particular team, Los Vaqueros Rio Grande, drove their five wagons the farthest: 386 miles!  It starts in Reynosa, Mexico, crosses into Hidalgo, Texas and comes right by our community on the three week ride into Houston. They have been riding into the HLSR for 42 years! I have only seen them go by our community THREE times in the 20 years we’ve lived here, so it was a real treat to take a quick shot as they rode by!




I went to Arizona to visit my old roommate. We celebrated Palm Sunday at an inspiring, bonding outdoor mass. (I’m Baptist, but she didn’t know of a Baptist church, and well, we worship the same God.)



Afterward, we walked the Labyrinth at the Franciscan Renewal Center. The labyrinth is a physical representation of the journey of one’s life, including experiences, changes, discoveries and challenges. As you walk the path, you are invited to remember the story of your life. For medieval Christians who couldn’t take the long, hard pilgrimage, labyrinths were the alternative form for prayer. The seven circles are shaped like the Cross and you can walk it any way you like.


This particular labyrinth was designed by Taffy Lanser, a founding member of the international Labyrinth Society.


We also went to a festival in Scottsdale.The theme might have been Spain. They had gorgeous Andalusians (Pure Spanish Horses) walking about, singers and (I think) flamenco dancing. Gorgeous desert blooms!



The only down side of the trip was when I was catching a flight back. I had just found out I had to change my flight and leave a day earlier, which was that day! The flight was moved to two hours before take-off and I rushed to find a taxi to take me to the airport. Compared rates and went with Discount Cabs. BIG mistake! Wished I’d taken the time to research it. I gave location and destination and was given an approximation, give or take a few dollars. The cab was late, it didn’t look like a cab, and the driver was new. I had to get in or miss my flight. When I asked the driver why he was so late, he said he didn’t take his phone in when he had to stop at a store. NOT very professional. The final bill was $17 more than the quote. I lost a few minutes trying to speak with a supervisor about the outrageous overage. Three people later, no refund. So, the moral of the story is to use Yelp or check the Better Business Bureau or Google search (or ALL of them!) when comparing prices. The least expensive may not be such a bargain in the long run. Beware Discount Cabs!!!


Traveling Through Texas?

Christmas and the first day of 2015 have passed, but many travelers are still navigating the roads home. If you’re passing through Texas, I have three suggestions:

Really Clean Restrooms!

Buc-ee's merchandise can be fun!

Buc-ee’s merchandise can be fun!

If you see a Buc-ee’s, pull over for clean, clean restrooms that are open 24/7 all year round! I know what I’m  getting when we spot the toothy beaver billboard. This home-grown group of large, bright, neat-as-a-button convenience stores is full of things travelers need or want. There are lots of fuel pumps, usually around 15 to 20 tiled restroom stalls for the ladies, hot and cold deli foods and snacks like beef jerky and sweet Beaver Nuggets. In addition to outdoor barbeque grills and bags of ice, they have expanded their gifts section and there are lots of kid-friendly products, too! Ah, yes, I do ♥ Buc-ee’s.

A 10¢ Cup of Coffee

Hankerin’ for a little break as you drive through historic downtown Corsicana? This charming city, named for the French island of Corsica, is about 55 miles south of Dallas. If coffee’s on during regular retail hours, the downtown location of Collin Street Bakery on W 7th Avenue sells a simple cup of 10¢ joe you can sip while perusing their tasty treats. They opened several relatively new locations selling more lunch foods like sandwiches and soup, but I think this one has character. Besides cookies, breads and cakes, they’ve been baking their world famous DeLuxe Fruitcake for over a century!

Fruitcakes are still made from the original 1896 Old-World recipe brought to Corsicana by the bakery’s co-founder, German master baker, Augustus Weidmann. I’m not into fruitcakes, but my husband loves their really moist pineapple ‘cake. Years ago, Mr. Barnum brought his circus through the shop and everyone began ordering fruitcakes to send to family and friends throughout the world! Decades later, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus still places orders.

If you have time, you can drive down the street to get an unexpected view of Moorish Revival architecture at the former Temple Beth-El on South 15th Street. Originally built in 1898, it’s listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

You wouldn’t think from the easy going small town feel that Corsicana is where the first important Texas oil field was discovered and where the Mobil and Texaco companies were founded!

Texas BBQ, anyone?

Rudy's is a casual restaurant, usually visible near a freeway.

Rudy’s is a casual restaurant, usually visible near a freeway.

Since 1989, a string of Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q spots have been keeping Texans and the southwest happy with tender barbeque soused with their special blend of “sause.”  You won’t (sadly, for me) find a crisp lettuce salad here, but you will find lots of meat with a choice of sides. The ribs and (fatty) brisket are full of flavor! People can argue up and down Texas about the best BBQ in the state, from Smitty’s, Black’s and Kreuz in Lockhart (the BBQ Capital of TX) to Franklin’s in Austin and Snow’s in Lexington and on and on. But … for easy access from the freeway and decent gas prices at their pumps, Rudy’s will do.

Happy and safe traveling to you in 2015! 

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:25

To Tell of Santa Claus or Not to Tell

I was reading and liked how Caroline shared Gladys Hunt’s words that I decided to share with you all the conundrum of Santa Claus and Jesus – to tell children about Santa or not to tell.

Posted on December 14, 2014 Christmas by Caroline

A Thought on Santa Claus

My previous article, “From the Mouth of Babes” brought up the discussion of Santa Claus.  I remembered reading this and I agree with Gladys Hunt.  Definitely a subject for each parent to decide what is right for their family, but I am sharing this with some that I was discussing it with or anyone pondering this issue.  Honey For a Child’s Heart is a wonderful read!

Selections quoted from Honey For a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt:

What about fairy tales?  Some parents are troubled by fairy tales. …Others don’t like elves and talking animals.  Some refuse even Santa Claus ….children don’t take life as seriously as adults and read more often for pleasure.  …Children have room in their lives for a great deal of miracles.  “That’s the problem,” someone will say, If you let them believe in fairies and fantasy, how will they distinguish between truth and falsehood?”  I can’t help thinking that since children love make believe, they can easily tell the difference.  ….There is nothing unspiritual about an active imagination, a token of the liberty of childhood.  One of my young friends at three told me about the tiger who lived in her backyard.  I inquired about where she kept him and what she fed him and she told me about the details with great delight.  Then I told her about the tiger who lived in my backyard.  Her eyes danced as I described his strange behavior and that he had purple stripes.  Then she came very close and whispered, “Is your’s a real one?” When I said it wasn’t, she said confidentiality, “Mine isn’t either.”  Was I encouraging her to lie?  I think not.  Both of us were in on the world of pretend, a legitimate adventure.  How quickly we want to quench the fine spirit of childhood.  Imagination is the stuff of which creativity comes.  …”I knew about Santa Claus like I knew about elves and other pretend things.  I never got them mixed up with God because I could tell from the way my parents talked and acted what was true.”

Well, thank you, Ms. Hunt, for your words. There is so much I am grateful for this year. God is good. More sharing about blessings will be coming.

“Happy Birthday, Jesus!”

Thoughtful Acts


Thoughtful Action

In just about a week, Christmas will be here. Excitement and wonders abound! Among the daily news-breaking heartaches will pop up gems of goodness like the cop and the thief.

Thoughtless Action

One such act that will not be widely reported happened to me the other day. I left my purse hanging in a public restroom stall. I KNOW! Dummy! Dummy! Dummy!

Driving down the street, panic ensued! Rushing back, stopping by the Lost & Found counter … no purse. Trying to track through “Find my Phone.” (It’s activated through iCloud, but a message said the phone was offline – frustrating!) Thinking about the calls to make to protect my identity. Praying. Praying.

A security officer! Hope! He takes me to another desk out in the open and “Bingo!” my purse appears!

Thank you, God!!! A woman had noticed it hanging and kindly took the time to go to the desk to report it. She said she noticed it there and that there were other women in the restroom. The woman at the desk must have immediately gone to fetch it. I so thank God for putting a fire under that wonderful woman!

Thoughtful Acts

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a competition on Twitter called 100thoughtfulacts. People were asked to to sign up to do as many as they can of the 100 Acts they had listed. The top “Act-ers” would win an ASUS Transformer Book T100.

SidewalkBut, I have to tell you, it was the warm and fuzzy feelings I got through choosing from the list, that grew and grew with each one I performed! It was fun going through the list, choosing different ways to bless others. Some things we could do: leave an encouraging note on a stranger’s car, drop off anonymous flowers for someone sick in the hospital, write an encouraging message with chalk on the sidewalk, make snowman pancakes for loved ones, pay for the coffee of someone behind you in line, leave the biggest tip you can afford, etc.

Please know ...



The contest is still going on! Please log onto 100thoughtfulacts and enter for the fun of it, as they are in the last two days. Forget the prize – do it for the good feelings you will receive from surprising loved ones or strangers who might have at just that moment, needed a word or deed of encouragement. It’ll do your mind, body and soul good!


And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 

Hebrews 13:16

Freedom & Faithfulness


The Issue

Can’t sleep. I’m up at 4:30am this morning, coughing and thirsty. It’s that time of year when the weather changes and my body protests. Take another allergy pill. Been praying for the headache and coughing to go away. Guess God will take them away in His time as my faith is built up.

More Remedies

* Massaging sinus points on my face

*  Drinking a warm, frothy mug of Vitamin C+

*  A very warm salted water gargle

Ah-h-h, that all helps! While waiting for everything to settle, I turn on the TV.

The Glitch

An old episode of the Danny Thomas Show (1953-1964) is on. Danny’s in court to fight a parking ticket. It’s proven that the parking meter was more than five minutes too fast. (A different situation, but it reminds me of last year, when we visited New Haven Green in New Haven, Connecticut. A local said to return to our parking meter at least five minutes before it expires, as the meter people have a penchant for writing tickets early if they think you’re not coming back in time!)

That fast meter caused Danny to receive a ticket, though he returned within the allotted time.

The Outcome

During closing arguments, the city prosecutor derides Thomas’ profession as an entertainer, saying he’ll probably grandstand and open with a song. Danny Thomas stands up and faces the jury. He says only one song will fit the situation and solemnly quotes, not sings, the first line from the great patriotic anthem, “America.”

“My country ’tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty …”

Thomas went on to point out our freedoms. One being that we have the right to stand and speak up if we feel an injustice is taking place, even if it’s against our own government (which was formed for the people, by the people).

Otherwise, the injustice would continue, affecting more and more people until someone finally stands up to fight it.

Danny won the case.

The Point

He also made a point that is still relevant 60 years later! Our freedoms are not guaranteed to be forever. We must be diligent and protect them when they are threatened.

The Lesson

Well, now I know why I’m up at 4:30am. God has a message for me to share.

If you see an injustice and are in the position to right it, please take action. There are many, many things in this world that we by ourselves can’t change. But, there is one simple thing we can do.

One Last Thought

P r a y.

Pray for guidance and the strength to do the right thing.

Pray for our families.

Pray for friends and others who are hurting and how we can help them.

Pray for our nations’ leaders and the world’s leaders.

Pray for hearts to open up to see other options.

Prayer works wonders.

I just prayed for everyone who reads this.

God bless you.