dissertations are really long

When making a proposal, consider that committees evaluating PhD dissertation still look for the originality factor. They would want to see to it that you are working on something genuine and also promise great contributions to your field. Your audience has now become professionals with high standards. You are expected to present something that matches or at least comes close to their level of knowledge. This part of taking up the doctoral degree trains you to become a professional researcher yourself  ~ dissertation today

we so totally got this. just start calling us dr. monza and dr. nic.  (aussies do such crazy things with names.)

dr. monza & dr. nic - research can be so grueling

a few months ago, i was having a chat with an australian friend, nicola, about the pros & cons of cadbury creme eggs.  and that got us wondering as to what might be the differences between the ones made in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and those made in “the land down under”.  and from that little conversation we hatched a ph.d. idea that oozes originality and also promises to be a massive contribution to our field – a mostly undefined field, but i’m pretty sure whichever lucky school we decide to bless with this dissertation will appreciate our need to not be tied down to anything too specific.  and, as if acquiring eggs from two countries wasn’t difficult enough, we upped the ante by making a batch ourselves.  for real.  and, yes, it’s as difficult as it sounds.  or maybe not.

as with any good research project we had our fair share of research assistants from both countries and i don’t think any kind of dissertation writer worth their salt would feel good about neglecting to give credit where credit is due.   the following researcher assistants hail from the land of oz (not to be confused with the yellow brick road oz, this one has ‘roos and outbacks – but not the steakhouse, but maybe those, too)  sue t. answered a desperate plea for corn syrup and posted it, enabling us to take on the challenge of homemade creme eggs.  cath p. and beth l. contributed the australian cadbury creme eggs and cheryl chez a. transported them to chiang mai.  in her suitcase.  research assistants from the land of opportunity include michael (my husband), he transported the initial american contribution.  but, being unaware of the huge scale of this project (and possibly the lack of self control of one or two of the doctoral candidates), more were needed.  bonnie c. answered a frantic facebook status update and mailed plenty more eggs – enough that the good ol’ u.s. of a. didn’t end up with egg on her face.  (egg… ha ha).  and our last research assistant was an american living in chiang mai, laura h.  her role was taste tester – she was very good at tasting eggs.  so with the gathering of necessary supplies we were ready to begin.

our initial observations led us to conclude that the eggs were wrapped differently and that the aussie egg was bigger than the american egg.  (for the purposes of this project bigger is a very exact unit of measurement.)  we were both a bit surprised by these findings, but we double checked and confirmed that they were indeed accurate.  after our initial comparisons we got to work on the batch of homemade eggs.


first up was creating the egg innards. i’m not sure if we used the exact technique that cadbury does, but i feel pretty safe guessing that we didn’t.

i’m not up on the exact mechanics of how real chickens go about getting their yellow into the middle of their egg white, but we found it very helpful to have cold hands when it came time to embed (official lingo) the yolk into the white.  luckily, when we’d checked a14 out of the hospital a few months ago we thought to grab her ice pack thing.

time to prep the chocolate.  then coat the eggs.  one thing that we were certain would set the homemade eggs apart from the store bought is the coconut oil we used to help set the chocolate.

we assumed there would be other minor differences, but were optimistic that they might not be too noticeable.  we were working with a handicap – not having molds – but were confident that this was only a slight obstacle, one that we could easily overcome.


after we’d created the best replication of a cadbury creme egg we had to let them firm up.  and, not the kind of gals who just sit on our laurels, we went ahead and did some cleaning up.

well, it looks like only one of us was actually doing the cleaning up. maybe i was just sitting on my laurels.

and now for the heavy duty ph.d. dissertation worthy stuff – complete with supporting evidence.  first, a visual examination of the eggs.

wait, wait, wait…  there’s one missing.

that’s better.  upon close inspection it is obvious that one of these eggs is noticeably different from the others.  that’s right, the one on the far left is obviously bigger.  and if you guessed that’s because it’s the australian egg, then you’re pretty smart.

surprise, surprise - the one we made is on the far right

now, we weren’t sure why the australian egg was bigger.  the packaging told us that it weighed 39 grams.  the american egg weighs 34.  but we wanted to know why?  (intelligent types and 2 year olds always want to know why – proof again of our ph.d. worthiness).

again, look at the one on the left!?!  it’s got gobs more chocolate.  we were shocked.  so shocked that we didn’t get out any measuring devices to find out just how much more chocolate it had.  but, for our purposes, gobs is as exact a scientific measurement as bigger.  at this point we noticed that our homemade egg wasn’t an exact replica of either of the others – being the observant lasses that we are.  but we were still feeling like it could hold it’s own.

and now for the results of the taste test.  after some serious deliberation about our personal capabilities we came to the conclusion that for each of us to try to eat an entire one of each of the three different types of egg might prove difficult.  and dangerous.  so we went with eating 1/2 of each of them.  which meant we would be eating 2 whole eggs each.  what?  oh, how did we get that 3 halves make 2 wholes?  well, we added a fourth secret ingredient homemade egg.

that one there on the far right?  it has orange extract in it.  it wasn’t part of the official dissertation.  but rather an opportunity for us to show initiative (i think that’s another ph.d. worthy trait).

so how’d the eggs stack up?


we both agreed that the australian egg was better.  the extra milk chocolate seemed to help cut the overpowering sweetness of the fondant egg innards.  we also agreed that we weren’t exactly sure it was a good thing that milk chocolate was cutting the sweet.  the american egg has 10 fewer calories going for it.  you should never undervalue 10 fewer calories.  our homemade egg had an added coconut flavor, from the coconut oil we added to the milk chocolate.  i found this to be a lovely addition.  my favorite might have been the orange egg.  i’m a sucker for orange/chocolate pairings so it was right up my alley.

but i think the most valuable thing we learned was that what goes up must come down – sugar highs don’t last forever.  and coming in a close second was that we could make some pretty good creme eggs ourselves.

thank God that’s over

this morning – for the last time ever this week – i woke up, dragged drug hauled myself out of bed, roused three kids – one of them a teenager who isn’t keen on rousing – got us all out the door and to the school plenty early for any and all last minute setups required for today’s holiday bible club craft.  holiday bible club is the same thing as vacation bible school – i’m not sure exactly why the difference in names, but replacing the word school with the word club certainly makes it sound more fun.

a12 and s9 attended – it’s a12’s last year.  next year she can be signed up by her mom to willingly volunteer.  c15 would tell her that it’s the best!  since the kids were all involved i figured i might as well be, too.  and since someone asked if i would head up crafts i figured i might as well say, “yes”  and i smiled when i said it.  that yes could have also been caused by the fact that i have difficulties saying no.  even when i’m thinking “no” the word that come out is “yes”.  it doesn’t always work out so well for me.

the church we’re at creates their own holiday bible club from the ground up.  no box kit for them.  a theme is decided on, someone writes a script, actors are procured and rehearsals happen, songs are dug up that fit the theme and interest the kids, a games director comes up with games that can be played inside and out – since it is rainy season, shirts are designed and made, snacks are provided and, of course, crafts are essential.

this year the theme was rock’n’roll roller coaster.  it was about the life of peter and his many ups and downs.  throughout the week tons of material was covered from Jesus calling the disciples through the crucifixion and resurrection.  and my job was to develop 5 crafts for 150 kids ranging in age from 5 – 12 (oh, with the last minute addition of 3 & 4 year olds) each day that would reinforce what they’d learned, entertain them, and keep them busy for 12 hours 45 minutes.  45 minutes is an eternity when it comes to occupying kids with string, beads, paint, paper and glue.  here’s a basic run down of what we did – because i am sort of impressed with how well everything turned out i feel the need to share.

  • monday – Jesus called the disciples to be fisher of men.  our craft was creating fishing nets from netting, yarn and beads.  the toothpick idea i mentioned here worked well.  there were a few minor issues, but it turned out okay.
  • tuesday – Jesus helped peter walk on water.  we painted hand towels.  we marble painted the water onto the bottom half of the towel and then stencilled on fish and a boat.
  • wednesday – peter denied Jesus.  Jesus was crucified and resurrected.  pick up your cross and follow me.  we made seed bead safety pin pins.  this one i was worried about.
  • thursday – peter became the rock.  which required rocks to be painted.
  • friday – peter reminisces about his life.  we made scrolls using saa paper.  the kids discussed the week in their groups and then drew pictures or wrote about the week and what they remembered best.

i was very happy that i heard no complaining about the crafts.  no “do i have to do this?” or “this is stupid” type comments.  and i was quite glad to not come across any abandoned crafts as i was leaving each day.  and everyday i came home and practiced saying, “no, i do not want to do that.”  i swear i’ll remember if they ask again next year.

i would love to have had some pictures to share, but our camera is in uganda with michael.  lucky camera.

big chewy ginger cookies

It’s a food post.  With pictures.

I got myself invited to a cookie exchange.  And then I panicked.  I needed a good recipe. Something interesting. Just off the beaten path enough to not be the same cookie everyone else was bringing and at the same time it needed to be just the right amount of unimpressive to make it not look like i was trying too hard.

I ruled out anything with icing right off the bat.  I know my limitations and baking 96 cookies in a toaster oven is enough of a challenge without having to worry about icing them perfectly.  And, because this is Thailand, there were many recipes that could be crossed off the list because the ingredients are unavailable or way, way too expensive.  I ended up going with Big Soft Ginger Cookies.   It helped that someone had just given me a few cups of tar molasses.

And, since I know you have no desire to click on over to the recipe, I’m going to go ahead and post it.  With pictures.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In your very best dry ingredient mixing bowl


Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.   No need to worry if you live in a country where you’ve been unable to find a sifter thing.  They come out great without the sifting.


Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy.


Beat in the egg,


then stir in the water and molasses.  I know, it looks a whole heck of a lot like tar.  But it smelled a whole heck of a lot like molasses.  Yuck.  I hate the smell of molasses.


Gradually, stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture.  The recipe says to stir, but I’m pretty sure it meant to blend or mix or whatever the proper instruction is when using a mixer.  I also made that same assumption in the above step with the smelly molasses.


DO NOT CONTINUE.  If you follow the directions you will have a huge mess and miss out on the secret they don’t tell you.  Trust me – this secret is a secret worth knowing.

Cover the bowl and stick in the refrigerator for about an hour.  It helps immensely.  While the dough is chilling you should chill, too.  Shhhh…. that’s the secret.  It is the only thing that will get you through baking 12 batches of cookies in your toaster oven.

Pour yourself two one of these.


That would be vodka and cranberry juice.  Start with mixing it 1/2 and 1/2.  Adjust to meet your fancy.

After an hour has passed take the dough out of the fridge and…

Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet,


and flatten slightly.


Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes


before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Depending on how much of the secret ingredient you used you might need to arrange for some cookie guards.


Mine are raw silk Santas.  Working hard to protect me from the cookies.  They did a fantastic job and will be moving on to serve as teacher gifts.  They are very talented.

Store cookies in an airtight container.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this post I’m sure you’ll be tickled pink to know that I had the only Big Soft Ginger C0okies at the exchange.

are there language lessons for that?

recently, it’s been brought to my attention that animals speak in different tongues. and i had no idea that one country’s animal onomatopoeia isn’t the same as another.  for example, an american pig goes “oink, oink” while a japanese pig goes, “boo boo”.

this discovery was made when a thai friend was talking to me about a rooster and it’s incessant “ake-e-ake-ake”-ing.  rooster in thai is gài dtua pôo.  and i didn’t know that.  so when she was telling me the gài dtua pôo woke her up going “ake-e-ake-ake” i assumed she was talking about a charlie horse in her leg aching and waking her up.  and what a good laugh she we had once we figured out how silly i am.  i immediately came home to google this and see what was up.  sure enough, roosters around the globe speak many languages.

and because i would hate to think i could have stopped you from the same embarrassing situation, i’m sharing my new found knowledge.  one day, you’ll thank me.

plus, i found this way cool website where you can hear different animal sounds.  but i’m not 100% sure of the accuracy.  i don’t agree with all the sounds they say the animals that are american make.

cookie cookie cookie starts with c

this morning i made the most incredible chocolate chip cookies – evah. i love to bake, but have been hesitant because the closest thing i have to an oven is a toaster/convection oven. the owner’s manual is completely in thai. so i just sort of guess how to use it. but i’ve mastered toast and feel ready for bigger challanges. like the most incredible chocolate chip cookies – evah (miccc-e).

and because i have nothing but time on my hands i thought i would share. the recipe and how to, not the cookies.

it starts at the grocery store. where i found this.

which triggered the miccc – e recipe memory. which meant i had to hunt for the rest of the ingredients. luckily, i’ve memorized the ingredient list for this recipe.

i find these.

which is great progress. i remembered that i had flour, brown sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla and milk at home. so only one thing is left. and i spend forever hunting it. i have the kids hunting for it. and it is finally discovered by a11.

and the reason i had such difficulty finding it is because i wasn’t looking for that. i was looking for this.

i just assumed it only came packaged like this – my horizon’s have been broadened.

and then we go home. where i let the ingredients sit for a few days. and every day a11 asks, “are you gonna make miccc-e today??” and i answer, “maybe tomorrow.” (i have legitimate reasons for not making them. i don’t own a hand mixer. and needed one. well, maybe not need but it sure would make it a lot easier. and last night, while i was at the store, i remembered to look for one. and found one.)

so this morning the stars were aligned correctly and i made the miccc-e.

the first step after the first step of purchasing the correct supplies is to dress properly.

i love this apron. it’s one of the few things i brought with me from my kitchen in the states. michael hates this apron. thinks it’s ugly as sin. (but i have caught him wearing it, so perhaps he doth protest too much.)

and then assemble the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients. put all the wet ingredients together into a big bowl, like this one.

it is the biggest not-really-a-mixing-bowl-but-will-have-to-suffice bowl i have. at this point i realized i might want to actually get the mixer out of it’s box – so i could actually use it. and then i spent a little bit trying to figure out if this warning applied to me.

while my metal capabilities might be questionable i forged on.

in the large bowl – cream together 3/4 c. butter flavored crisco, 1 1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp vanilla. blend until creamy. then blend in one egg.

in another bowl, mix together 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, 1 ts. salt, 3/4 tsp. baking soda.

add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture – gradually. and realize that the bowl the dry ingredients were in is plenty big enough for the cookie dough so transfer from kfc bucket to much more attractive bowl.

next comes the chocolate chips.

stir in 1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips.

then drop by the rounded tablespoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. and place in 375 degree farenheit oven – which my handy, dandy conversion calculator informed me was 190.56 degrees celsius (i bravely rounded that up to 180.)

bake for 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-13 minutes for crispy cookies. if you’re using a convection oven do not take your eyes off of them, because it cooks fast. really, really fast. i was prepared for that and had no cookie fatalities.

when they’re however you like them take them out of the oven and cool.

and, yes, my kitchen facilities do only allow me to bake 1/2 dozen cookies at a time.

michael’s worried that there won’t be any of these left when he returns on thursday. that concern might be justified.

rice krispie treatz


at grocery store
surprised to find marshmallows
cause for happy dance

is it possible
can we find rice krispies, too?
butter we have got

found what we needed
headed for home with a plan
spirits are lifted

googled recipe
found on official website
making the real deal

eyeball the butter
let it melt over low heat
oops, almost burned it

add the marshmallows
none to spare for taste testing
all are required

time for rice krispies
this always worries me some
hope they stir in well

think i could stop now
and eat them straight from the pot
and not mess up pan

already buttered
may as well put it to use
do them up proper

kids are quite happy
a nice reminder of home
but now they’re all gone


i finished the ball band and because i want to share the illness that my perfectionism can be i’m posting a pic. the mistake is glaring. i wanted to rip it all out and start over. it pains me to look at it.

what do you mean you don’t see the mistake. it’s right here.

see, it’s awful. what? you still don’t see it?

it’s so bad i’m not certain i can let it be used to do the dishes.

but these, these are good. not ball bands, but certainly dish worthy.