something about good fences

early this year i took this photo of the view from our bedroom window.  such a nice palm tree, lovely mountain – so pleasant and peaceful.

view

i might have taken time to enjoy this view more if i’d known it was going to disappear.  (that’s probably not true, but i like to think it could be.)

shortly after that photo was taken a “wall” was installed to divide the property we live on.  have you heard the one about good fences and good neighbors?  well, this fence pretty much sums up our neighbor situation at the moment.

fence

not that it’s not a perfectly lovely fence.  it almost leaves us a reasonable pathway to get behind the house to our washing machine and i think the weathered look is totally in right now.

soon after the fence went up this happened.

clearinguse

that’s the beginning of the clearing of the other half of the property we live on.  they spent a week or so clearing that out.  nothing to obtrusive.  not too loud and only a few people hard at work.

within a few weeks (maybe 6) we had this going on.

earlydays.jpg

they were getting serious.  that’s like real construction – with machines and everything.  we still had a view of the palm tree, but pollution was hiding the mountain.  the pollution tells me this picture was probably taken in march.  they were maybe 2 months into this project at this time.  they had to wait for the big orange machine to be available and make it’s way here from bangkok.

this picture was probably taken in june and by this time there was a big crew working long hours.

progress

(the absence of workers in this picture probably means it’s midday.  they seem to hate working midday, unless it’s saturday or sunday and we’re home to enjoy it.)  you can still see the palm tree.  this is about the point where they started making steady progress.  and in order to make steady progress they took up residence in the neighborhood.

4families

it’s a little hard to see, but what you’re looking at is the evidence of 4 families living in the warehouse directly behind our house.  this allows them to work from sun-up until sundown everyday of the week.  with tools.  power tools and hammers seem to be their favorite first thing in the morning.  they are not our favorite.

but all that working has gotten them to this point.

moreprogress

that’s the same view as the previous two construction photos and i haven’t zoomed in or edited it to make it look closer.  that is actually how close this new construction is to our bedroom.

and what about the view?

whatview

that picture was taken from the exact same spot in our bedroom as the first picture of the view.  the mountain is no longer obscured by pollution, at least not that i can tell, because it is completely hidden behind the new building.  and again, no zoom.  i think we might be able to play patty cake with our new neighbors once they get moved in – if we are still living here.

 

 

 

again with the food

i’m not a food blogger, and i don’t really have a desire to be one. which might have you asking, “why another post about food?”  i’m attempting a little bit of psychology (or something like that) in order to get my blogging mojo back.  i figure if what i’m cooking is the most interesting thing i have going on in my life right now, then that’s what i’m gonna write about.  (it’s not just interesting, it’s also unusual.  cooking is not my default.)  so i guess i’ll just keep posting about food until i can find the interesting in the rest of my life.  my hope is that i will add a dash of daily life in with the cooking/food stuff and – eventually – it will become more and more daily life and less and less look what’s in my crockpot, but until then…  let’s go ahead and look what’s in my crockpot!

before i could head to the store to check off my grocery list i needed to make a trip to immigration for sam’s 90 day check-in.  it was due aug. 14, but they allow a grace period and i was within that time period.  except i wasn’t.  turns out the slip of paper that had the stamp that read -14 AUG also had a stamp that read -4 AUG. obviously (to all but me), the second one was the correct one.  i tried to explain it to the officer at the desk.  she agreed it had two stamps, but seemed to think i wasn’t too bright for assuming the one that was in the top corner, that showed without me having to unfold the piece of paper that was stapled in sam’s passport, was the correct stamp.  it’s very possible that they told me when they did this.  i tend to be stressed when i’m at immigration.  what with the waiting and the lots of irritated people and the waiting and the crowded room and the waiting…  not to mention the last time i was there for this purpose i was suffering with a wee bit of hip pain.  anyway, it didn’t appear that the officer was going to come around to my way of seeing things and she handed my passport to the officer next to her.  he opened it, saw it was sam’s, asked me if he was my son, and said, “mai pen rai.” (which is basically hakuna matata).  the first immigration officer agreed with him, but did remind me to be more careful in the future.  i was very, very appreciative.  i get to do it again for myself in just a few weeks.

my next stop was the grocery store and, as an added bonus, there was a downpour.  i still managed to get the shopping done.  i also got an umbrella-d escort to my car. once i was home, the first thing i needed to do was get the chickens ready for the best whole chicken in a crockpot. 

chicken

they needed 6 hours to cook, so i got busy making soup.  i might tire of the soup with some protein quick meal eventually, but for now i’m thinking i’m brilliant for coming up with it.  last week it was curried cream of broccoli soup and crockpot sweet potato basil soup.  this week i made a pot of creamy spinach and artichoke soup.

crmofspinach

and cream of mushroom soup.

creamofmush  i’ve got some pork from last week and the chicken from this week to mix in with these.

once the chicken was done, i removed the meat and threw the bones and other bits and pieces back into the crockpot.  i added a few vegetables and some water and tonight while i’m sleeping my crockpot will be making overnight chicken stock in the crockpot.

broth

the beginning of the end of an era

today is the first day aly’s last year of high school.  and – if no one in my family changes their mind – it’s also the first day of our family’s last year of traditional school.  i’m finding dealing with both has me feeling all kerfuffle-y.  it hasn’t been all that long since chan went through his last year of high school and i still remember how raw it was.  how all year long the coming change felt so close to the surface.  i’m trying to not protect myself from those feelings this year.  i want to fully experience this whole year with aly (appropriately, of course, i have no plans to go to prom).  i don’t want to fall into a been there done that attitude, either.  this is her experience and while it will have its similarities to chan’s it won’t be the same at all.

aly

at the end of the last first day of high school.

she and michael were in the states this summer and she toured college campuses.  she even found one she wants to apply to.  she also wants to apply to a college in japan.  so much change to come.  so little time to savor and no way to stop the clock.  i wouldn’t really want to.  she’s gonna have an awesome year.

along with her last year of school is our family’s decision to not send sam back to school this year.  over the past few years it has become more and more apparent that traditional school is not the best for sam.  we’re taking the road less traveled (so to speak).  he’ll come out of it with a high school certification and he won’t be shutting any doors he might want to walk through in the future, but for his well being – and the well being of our family – this is the best path we can find.  we are very thankful that the school will allow him to audit drama this year and that they have left the door open should he decide the classroom really is where he wants to be.  it’s scary for me.  i’m a rule follower and this isn’t how high school is supposed to be done.  (this is a little funny because we homeschooled our oldest two for several years, and that’s not how elementary school is supposed to be done.  even better?  it was my choice to do it.)  i also think it’s good that we live abroad as we are making this decision.  not that there aren’t plenty of people who support homeschooling in the states (i think that’s what you would consider what we are doing).  at this age it feels like it’s more sam schooling with a some parental oversight.  many of the non-american westerners around us have been very encouraging of our decision.  they’ve told us it’s not uncommon in their countries for how a kid is educated to change at this age.  it seems only us americans have a one size fits all attitude when it comes to education.

so big changes ahead for us and i’m just holding on to the knowledge that we’ll come out okay on the other side of all this.

feeding frenzy

it’s mother’s day in thailand and i’m celebrating by fully embracing project firm up (that name probably won’t stick.)  i got up and searched the internet for recipes, made a shopping list, went shopping, and cooked.  it wouldn’t be abnormal for me to get stuck at any of those steps.  usually it’s pretty early in the process, like the “i got up” step.  but not today.

as a mother’s day gift i got a parking spot in the actual grocery store parking lot.  in the states the parking lots at the grocery store are generally two or three times the size of the actual grocery store.  this particular grocery store is two or three times – at least – the size of its parking lot.  not sure who came up with that plan, but it’s frustrating.  once i was home i got my julia child on and cooked up a storm.

i had slow cooker kalua pig in crockpot #1.

pork

this is supposed to be pork butt and it’s supposed to cook for 16 hours.  i purchased pork loin so cut the cooking time back to 9 hours.

and there was crockpot sweet potato basil soup in crockpot #2.

sweet

it came out really thick and creamy.  the recipe says you can add more broth to make it soupier, but sam and i both agreed this was nice, we could add meat and it would be great (and i’ve got a lot of kalua pig and not quite as much lemon rosemary lamb in my fridge).  i also think that it would be really good as a gravy at thanksgiving or christmas, but it would be a very thick gravy.   (that would be the immersion blender at work – 2 times in 2 days.  that gift was totally worth it michael!)

i made a batch of sweet potato hash.

hash

this calls for cinnamon.  i don’t like cinnamon in my savory so much.  so i add cumin instead.  i’ve made this before so i know that i also like to soft fry an egg (if i knew how to poach – or wanted to take a minute to learn – that would probably be better) and put it on top.  the runny yolk gravy is awesome.

and i even whipped up some sausage cabbage sauté for today’s lunch.
cabbagechicken

you’re supposed to use chicken apple sausage, but since that’s not readily available to me i just used ground chicken breast and added sausage seasoning.  i also snuck in some ghost chili salt.  this was quick & easy and very tasty.  i was a little doubtful, i was worried that maybe the cabbage would be over powering.

now for the last step in today’s master plan, the step that involves everyone’s commitment.  eat all the food up.  not all of it today.  we’ve got the rest of the week for that.

and then this evening i lost the plot – project firm up took a major derail.  i’d cooked all day and was hungry.  aly and i chatted about the first day of her last year of high school.  to celebrate this transition i had chocolate and wine.  red wine – which is okay in another 28 days.  but maybe the reeses peanut butter cups, the butterfingers (minis) and the baby ruths (minis) were too much.  and maybe it wasn’t celebration eating.  maybe it was stress eating (it’s aly’s senior year!).  sometimes i think they can be the same thing, right?

here’s to a better day tomorrow.  this is tomorrow’s lunch.

lunch

it’s the crockpot sweet potato basil soup with some kalua pig thrown in for fun.

a new leaf

i don’t think anyone would ever call me a softy, but i’ve definitely gotten pretty fluffy the past three months.  plus i’ve been eating a lot of good food.  (i have now been called a softy, by our mae baan.  actually she called me a fatty.  same same.)  the scale says i’ve only gained 2 pounds, but the way my clothes fit says i’ve traded some muscle for fat, possibly lots of muscle for fat.  i’m not complaining or regretting, but it is time i get a handle on these love handles.  enter paleo.  i’m not a recent convert.  i’ve toyed with eating paleo for years.  i admit to being way off the paleo track right now, but i’m no where near where i was before i started it and it seems a wise decision to turn back since i know it works.

so it started today.  (except for today’s morning coffee.  there were 2 iced lattes sitting in my fridge that i drank this morning.  i’m not feeling guilty because i can’t think of a reason to waste good coffee.)  the good news is that eating smart doesn’t have to mean eating not good food.  (that came of very public service announcement-y, didn’t it?) which is nice because i don’t want to make my family miserable, since they’re getting drug along on this journey with me.  breakfast and lunch will be my biggest challenges.  mainly because i have a tendency to skip breakfast so i’ll need convenience foods or pre-prepped food for this meal.  i tend to eat lunch out.  lunch out here frequently comes with rice.  you can order without rice, but i like rice – my struggles are great.  also there’s the no dairy thing.  it’s really only an issue because i like milk in my coffee.  but i’m gonna try for 30 29 days – no rice, no dairy.  the family will do what the family does during breakfast and lunch.  fend for themselves.  for the kids it means grabbing what’s at home for breakfast (normally cereal and milk) and then lunch at school.  i’m hoping to make use of my brand new, fancy-schmancy, american sized crock pot.  since it’s american sized i’m thinking it will provide me with leftovers that i can call breakfast.  or family members at home can call lunch.  that might be overly optimistic on my part, but a girl can dream.

so in an effort to get off to a good start i made lemon rosemary lamb and curried cream of broccoli soup (hey michael – this called for me to use that immersion blender) for dinner. i do not want to discuss how expensive leg of lamb is here.  and it wasn’t until i got home and reread the recipe that i noticed it could possibly be done with beef – also expensive, but less expensive than lamb.  i’ve never cooked lamb before so i was okay giving it a go and hoping for the best.  both of these were easy, i like easy.  and as a bonus they both turned out well.  we loaded our soup bowls with lamb and covered it with the soup.  that was a good idea and we’ve ended up with leftovers!!

 

 

plan b

the family returns tomorrow morning (aly and michael) so tonight is the last night for our scheduled food blog.  we decided on italian and made our way to boutique della pasta.  it had good reviews on trip advisor so i thought we should give it a try.  i checked out their facebook page, found their hours (we weren’t going to make the mistake of arriving early again) and we made our way there.  when we arrived we discovered they were closed today.  this was not disclosed on their facebook page.  i found that slightly annoying because it seems to me that a quick status update letting folks know you are closed seems sort of an easy thing to do.  but what do i know other than they aren’t the only italian restaurant in the game.  so we headed to pulcinella da stefano.

pulcinella

we went ahead with the appetizer to share routine that we’ve gotten so good at.  we ordered the panzerotti.

app

it was puff pastry, stuffed with cheese and mushrooms and fried.  not sure you could mess that one up.  we both agreed it was good and that it was a pretty substantial appetizer, even when shared.  sam thought it would make a great entree.

for my meal i ordered the gnocchi alla crema di asparagi e ricotta (gnocchi with asparagus mousse and ricotta cheese).

aspar

it was a nice dish.  very much what was described.  it would probably fall in the comfort food category.

sam had the calzone.

calzone

he said it was good, but it was a little heavy on the spinach and mushroom for his liking.  we probably could have made two perfect calzones out of this one.  i would have taken all the spinach and mushroom and he could have had the meats.

i think we would both say this was a good meal from a restaurant that is probably pretty reliable when it comes to serving good food.

i think it’s possible we will continue our food blogging, but we’ll have to see where our commitment levels fall before we know that for sure.