Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I made a very big (and costly) mistake Saturday evening.  I have never been happy with the location of our "office".  Our desk, computer, files, etc. are all set up in an open area between the dining room and the family room.  There are so many people in and out of the house all day and we must always make sure not to leave bills or important documents out on the desk or the computer opened to anything personal.  I thought it would be better to have everything located in a room so we could just close the doors if we had company or workmen in the house.  

So, Saturday afternoon, Kevin helped me to relocate everything to the front room (also used as our tv and exercise room).  In re-connecting all of our electronic devices, I inadvertently plugged our computer directly into the wall socket.  I heard two very loud "pops" and saw so much smoke that I went to look for the fire extinguisher.  I literally blew the computer up.  Ugh!  Fortunately, I was able to track down an English-speaking computer whiz who came to the house and picked up the computer yesterday morning.  While he told me the damage to the computer was quite extensive and it couldn't be repaired, he was pretty confident he would be able to recover the data stored on our hard drive.  Keep your fingers crossed!  

I ordered a new computer last night and hope to receive it by the middle of February.  Until we receive the replacement, we are stuck with my 6+ year old laptop.  It is very slow but very reliable and we are lucky to have a backup.  We are continuing with another Dell System.  As much as I want to (and the kids want me to), I just can't make the jump to a Mac yet.  Soon though.  The computer tech told me how technology has improved so much and Apple has changed some of the hardware so everything you can do on a PC, you can now do on a Mac with very little fuss.  

Christopher had his first BBSA (Bangkok Baseball & Softball Association) game Friday night and his team won 10 - 4.  He pitched two innings and played shortstop and first base.  He was two of four at bat with a double and a single.  His team won again on Sunday so they are definitely off to a successful start.  On Sunday, he made his debut at catcher - I think that is the hardest position physically and playing in 90 degree heat with 90% humidity does not help at all.  He did well though and plans to learn some more skills for that position.

Caitlynne's softball team (with Kevin as their head coach) won their first game on Sunday night, 16-6.  Her team is made up of girls from 6th grade all the way through 12th grade so there is a wide range of experience and maturity.  This is the first time Caitlynne has played softball and BBSA's softball rules are very different than baseball so it is definitely a learning experience for Kevin.  

Friday night Christopher participated in a "Habitat for Humanity" fundraiser at school called "Sleep In A Box".  Essentially, each child paid for the privilege to spend the night at ISB and sleep in a box in the mosquito-infested, non-air conditioned gym.  Good times.  

Off to get Caitlynne to softball practice!

Have a great Tuesday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


On two counts... our dinner party last night was fabulous and the NY GIANTS are going to the Superbowl!  More on the football game later but here is the dinner party report...

There were people who RSVP'd and didn't come and there were people who came but didn't RSVP.  I think our final count was about 55.  There was plenty of food and drink for everyone - this is always my biggest concern, especially when there is "meal" involved (not just drinks & desserts or happy hour).  

I had the house straightened and everything for the party organized before PeePorn even arrived.  I didn't want her to have to do anything but the food preparation. She made large bowls of sum tom, pomelo and fruit/cheese/lettuce salads.  I think everyone liked them...by the end of the night, it looked like someone had licked those bowls clean!  

Originally, the caterer (Danielle, my instructor when I took those Thai cooking classes) was going to make two 9"x13" pans of the green chicken curry lasagna.  However, she and I talked it over and agreed for her to make an additional 8"x10" pan as well.  I am so glad we increased the amount because both of the larger pans and about 3/4 of the smaller pan were eaten.  When Danielle first suggested the green chicken curry lasagna, I was a little hesitant about serving it.  I couldn't imagine pairing a pasta/noodle with the green curry - and neither could anyone else when I told people what I was serving.  Not to worry though because it was incredibly delicious!  Everyone LOVED it and people were going back to get seconds before some people even had firsts!  Even Caitlynne and Christopher liked it.  

For dessert, Danielle made a "nest" of phyllo dough, baked it, filled it with either a mango, lemon or raspberry cream and then topped it with a small bit of fruit or cookie for a garnish.  They were so flavorful but very light.  We had two large trays of those (maybe 150 total?) and there were only about 15 left over.  I was happy there wasn't much leftover food because our refrigerator is quite small and it was already full.  

Fortunately, the mosquitoes held off long enough so some of the crowd could eat outside.  I added some seating outside with two long folding tables & chairs as well as using our patio furniture.  I think we could have fit everyone in the house to eat but it was much nicer to have a little extra room with the outside seating.  A lot of beer and wine was consumed but we had arranged for buses to transport the guests to and from our home so we didn't have to worry about anyone driving at the end of the evening.  

So, that event is over with and now I can focus on planning our trip back to the U.S. for the summer.  Or, maybe I should plan a get together for the Superbowl?!? Hmmmm.... something to think about.

Okay, so about that football game... I didn't get to watch ONE SINGLE SECOND of it!  

Always the planner, I woke up at 4.30 am to walk the dogs, get the kids off to school, straighten the house, and organize for the party.  I wanted to have everything done for the party so I could run a few quick errands at 9.00 am and be back in time to watch the rest of the game.  Before I left the house to run my errands, I got on-line to check on the Baltimore-New England game...only to see an update of the Giants' game, which was nearing the end of the 3rd quarter!    I almost started to cry.  

I thought the game started at 8.30 pm but it really began at 6.30 pm!  ACK!!!  I absolutely had to run those errands before 9.30 am so there was no way I could watch the game.  Kevin did call me while I was out and told me the last update he heard was that the game was tied 17-17 in overtime and the Giants had just fumbled the ball. (Yes, I agree, he sure does know how to kick me when I am down).  By the time I returned to the house, the game was over.  While I am so happy the Giants won, I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get to see any of the action.  I should take comfort in the fact that I will get another chance to see them play in the Superbowl and that is what is most important!   

Also, for those Redskins fans out there... I told Kevin last night that he should take comfort in San Francisco's season this year.  Last year, the 49'ers were 6-10.  This year, they played in the NFC Championship game.  This just goes to prove that anything is possible and, maybe next year, the Redskins could see a comparable improvement.  My dear husband's response to me?!?  

Two of the Redskins' five wins this season were over the Giants.  Ouch!   

Have a great Tuesday

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Party Prep

Every year in mid-Winter, Kevin hosts a 3-4 day management conference at his work site (wherever we are living at the time).  This year's conference will begin tomorrow (Monday)  and there will be about 40 people flying in to Bangkok from all over the world (mostly from the U.S.) to attend the conference.  

We host a "social" each year at our home for the conference attendees and also invite staff from Kevin's office.  It is nice for me because I get to put a face to a name and it is nice for the attendees as they get a bit of "down" time and can enjoy some social interaction as well as a home cooked meal.  Being in Miami for the last three years, we were very fortunate to have perfect weather at the time of each conference - mild temperatures and no hurricanes, blizzards or flooding to worry about.  I also had a pool/patio area that was absolutely fabulous for entertaining and it was very easy to host 65-75 guests without everyone being too crowded.  However, in our home in Bangkok, space is definitely an issue, especially since we are at the height of mosquito season and outdoor seating will be  questionable until the very last minute (and even then it might require a lot of mosquito repellent).  I was a little nervous because 90 invitations for dinner and drinks at our home were sent out and I wasn't quite sure exactly where I would put that many people!  However, based on RSVPs received to date, I expect to have about 60 people attend and I think can definitely make the evening work without too much squishing.  

I have chosen to go with a Thai menu for the dinner.  PeePorn is making sum tom (green papaya salad)... 

and pomelo (a fruit very similar to a grapefruit) salad 

as well as a fruit/cheese/lettuce salad.
I have a caterer making a green curry chicken lasagna as well as all of the desserts. My "Barbie Bake With Me" oven can barely fit a 9x13" baking pan so preparing an entree in my kitchen for 60 people was out of the question.  We have plenty of red wine (based on past events, this is a red wine loving group!), a few bottles of white wine and beer.  Instead of buying every kind of soda under the sun (coke, diet coke, coke zero, caffeine-free coke, sprite, etc.), I am serving pink lemonade, yellow lemonade and water for those who prefer not to drink alcohol.  

I spent most of the weekend getting the house organized and everything set up.  I had extra incentive to get as much preparation done in advance as possible because...
the NY Giants play San Francisco for a trip (2nd time in less than 5 years!!!) to the Superbowl and there is NO WAY I am going to miss THAT game!  The game begins Sunday at 8:30 pm which is 8:30 am Monday in Bangkok so I will be up early to finish a few minor dinner preparations and then it will be football watching for the rest of the morning.  The last time the Giants went to the Superbowl - and WON - I watched by myself (we were living in Australia at the time) and it was so lonely.  This year, I told the kids that if the Giants make it to the Superbowl, they can stay home from school and watch the game with me.  Missing a day of school might be just enough incentive for Christopher (a die-hard Redskins fan) to cheer for the Giants.    

Have a great Sunday and GO GIANTS!!! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Buzz Off!

We are in the midst of a miserable mosquito season.  I don't know if it is worse this year because the flood waters provided additional breeding grounds for them but we are absolutely inundated with mosquitoes!  Christopher and Caitlynne wake up each morning and complain about being bitten throughout the night. Mosquitoes swarm around the outside of all of our doors and it is impossible to get in or out of the house & the car without one or two (or ten or fifteen) sneaking in as well.  

The large numbers of mosquitoes are especially worrisome because there are several diseases that can be transmitted from mosquitoes and two of them, Dengue Fever and Japanese Encephalitis, are pretty common here.  So, in an effort to limit our exposure to them (the p.c. phrase for "eradicate the mosquitoes"), I invested serious money into four "Black Holes"... 
and two "I Don't Know What These Are Called But They Look Like Electric Tennis Rackets"...
We set one black hole outside our back door and it is already full of dead mosquitoes. One black hole will go in each of the kids' bedrooms and the last one will go in our kitchen.  Hopefully, that will help get rid of the mosquitoes that manage to sneak into the house.  Every so often I walk around the exterior of the house with the electric racket and get rid of a fair number that way.  The mosquitoes are like little sparklers going off when they hit the wires on the face of the racket.  

In other news... we are gearing up for the start of the Bangkok Baseball & Softball League.  The teams were selected and began to practice this week.  Opening Day is this Saturday and the season continues through early May.  Each team plays two games a week (only on Friday nights, Saturdays & Sundays) so, with practice time added in, we will be spending a lot of time at the baseball fields.  Christopher continues to practice with the Bangkok baseball team that will be going to Perth, Australia at the end of March.  Fortunately, that team just practices twice a week and does not have any scheduled games until the tournament.  Occasionally they will play a scrimmage game but that is very infrequent.  

I am continuing to log great mileage for my transcontinental run.  Since December 1st, I have run 174 miles from Hampton, VA.  This was my view at the end of my run this morning -  about 4 miles from Rivanna Puritan Lake in Fluvanna County, VA.      
I am slowly but surely heading in the direction of Charlottesville, VA.  My one disappointment with this program is that I can't "see" the distance to be covered to reach the towns/cities ahead of me on the route.  And this matters why?!? Well, my original plan was to pick a "destination"  (town, city, lake, state line) at the beginning of each week and, knowing the mileage it would take to get me there, plan my weekly runs & mileage so on Sunday, I would finish at that destination.  Oh, well... it is what it is.  I do enjoy the program because, having lived in Virginia for so many years, a lot of the towns and landmarks on the route are unfamiliar to me so I learn a little bit about Virginia with each run.  It is also fun to run through a town and have some "connection" to it.  I recently ran through Louisa County, where one of Kevin's fraternity brothers grew up and Mineral, VA, the epicenter of the East Coast earthquake last year.    

Also in running news... Kevin and I signed up to run a 10K race on February 12th.  This is the race I had previously blogged about and was very much on the fence about entering.  It turns out a large contingent from the Embassy (including the Ambassador) will be running so we decided to join in the fun.  I am going to spend some time working on my speed so I can have a fairly respectable finish.  Most mornings I take the dogs with me for a good portion of my runs and my pace has decreased a lot with all of their stops to sniff and pee.  My plan is to just do a 1 or 2 mile warm up run with them, drop them back at the house and continue on my own at a much faster pace.  We shall see how it goes...

I shall leave you with a photo of my latest project.  I have wanted something like this FOREVER! Whenever I was on Pinterest or looking through magazines and saw ANTLERS, I salivated.   Last week, I was downtown and saw this figure (it was snow white then) in the store.  I bought it and, after a few coats of gold spray paint, it was exactly what I wanted!  
Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Never A Dull Moment

Friday afternoon, we received a very unexpected text from the Embassy with a warning about a possible terrorist attack in Bangkok.  Terrorists in Thailand?!? The Land of Smiles?!? Then I remembered the horrible bombings in Bali (a "peaceful" resort island) and got a little more concerned.  However, it was Friday evening of a long holiday weekend, Kevin was already home and, really, why worry about the "what ifs"? 

Saturday morning, I was greatly relieved to read an announcement from the Thai Government that the terrorist attacks had been cancelled, much like school on a snow day.  The announcement also said, "the public should not worry and to leave the rest to the Thai Government which would take care of security".  Now, remember, this is the same Thai Government that had the flood "under control" in early October and was confident that Bangkok would not be affected.  That would be the same flood that devastated Bangkok until the beginning of December.  So, yeah, not too confident in this Thai Government and what it has to say.  

Currently, the Thai Government continues to downplay the threat of terrorism and, in fact, gave an "all clear" this afternoon AFTER the security levels at the airports were increased, wireless communications continue to be scrambled and a huge cache of explosives was found in a warehouse close to Bangkok.  The Thai Government is also upset with the Embassy for releasing the terrorism warning and claims the warning could have created panic and negatively impacted the tourist industry.  As if a terrorist attack wouldn't... Today there was a demonstration outside the Embassy to protest the release of the warning; however, it was poor planning as the Embassy was closed for MLK Day so there probably wasn't much of an audience.  

This situation illustrates one of the aspects of Thai culture that I find very frustrating. Thais never want to tell you something that you don't want to hear or that will make you unhappy.  It doesn't matter how significant or insignificant the matter is, Thais will never say anything negative.  If you ask a Thai a question that can be answered "yes" or "no", he/she will always answer "yes", even if "no" is the very obvious answer.  For example, I wanted to get a haircut this morning.  I walked into the salon (which was packed) at about 11 am and asked the receptionist if she could fit me in for a trim.  She said "yes".  I sat down to wait (RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER DESK).  After about 10 minutes of waiting, something made me ask her, "right now?".  Only then did she tell me to come back at 2 pm.  In her mind, she could upset me by telling me an appointment wasn't available until 2 pm - or, she could make me happy and tell me there was an appointment (and then make me sit there for three hours and wait for it!).  As if I had nothing better to do.  

I don't know if I will ever get used to asking all of the follow up and probing questions necessary to get the "right" and "honest" answer.  Sometimes I feel like I am nagging or that it looks like I don't believe what I am told.  However, in the end, I have found there is always is something more to the initial "yes".  Last week, I went downtown with a friend so she could buy three bar stools.  After 45 minutes of her completing the ordering/payment process (with no less than four Thai salesclerks waiting on her), I told her that I wanted to be at her home when the stools are delivered.  There were too many "yeses" and too much head nodding & smiling going on during the checkout for her to indeed get the three black bar stools that she ordered and paid for.  Ah, such is life here in the Land of Smiles!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cha-Am Wrap Up

Although it was pretty hard to top our experience with the monkeys, Kung knew exactly where to go for us to have a very special treat (one of the benefits of traveling with a native Thai!)...
Mango & sticky rice is, quite possibly, one of the best desserts in the world.  I know Kevin would beg to differ since it does not contain any chocolate (and, in fact, has - GASP - fruit!) but it IS  amazing.  I wasn't exactly sold the first time I had it but it sort of grew on me and now I love it... if made correctly!    

Kung told us the woman in the first photo above has sold mango & sticky rice from her cart in the beach town of Hua Hin for 24 years.  Sticky rice (also called glutinous rice) is different from ordinary rice as it is shorter and becomes "sticky" when cooked. When sticky rice is cooked, it turns from white to translucent, whereas ordinary (long grain) rice does the reverse.  It is quite a time consuming process to make sticky rice.  The rice is soaked in water for several hours (overnight is best), drained and then steamed for twenty minutes or until it becomes translucent. Served warm with chilled fresh mango and a drizzle of a sweet coconut milk sauce, it is absolutely delicious!  In fact, we told Kung how much we liked it and, after we returned to Bangkok, she brought me mango & sticky rice for my lunch (and breakfast) for two days!   

On our way back to Cha-Am, we stopped at a temple that has the largest Buddha in Thailand.  
A pair of elaborately carved & decorated elephants flanked the steps leading up to the Buddha.

The kids walking up to the Buddha.
Lighting the incense sticks. 
 Offerings to Buddha.


 Applying gold leaf to a Buddha.

A full view of the Buddha, partially covered with golf leaf.
Another Buddha covered with gold leaf.
Offerings to Buddha.  These very beautiful and colorful floral strands are similar to leis and are sold throughout Thailand to be used as offerings at temples, spirit homes, etc.



  The boys.
The boys and the girl.
Kung told us good luck comes to those who toss coins into the openings above the elephant's tusks so, obviously, we did that!  
I have to say that for two boys who are very good baseball pitchers, there sure were a lot of coins that did not make it to the elephant!  

Random family photos.

 On our drive back to Cha-Am, we passed fields of pineapples...
And tapioca (known as cassava in Thailand).  We thought these were just swamp weeds...
We stopped at a floating market for lunch.  These vendors have their entire operation set up on their boat and just move along the canal or the river to where the business is.  Again, no refrigeration (or running water) but, "When in Rome..."

  Wherever you go in the world, there is always Coca-Cola!
So, those were the highlights of our trip.  Kevin did get a round of golf in at a very nice course with a friend from the Embassy.  We spent a lot of time reading by the pool and exploring Cha-Am.  As the weekend progressed, Cha-Am became very crowded but we never had to wait for a table or in a line.  Trying to navigate through the traffic in town was a nightmare so we walked or waited until the evening after the beach crowds left.  

Have a great Wednesday!  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Monkey Business

Other than in Thailand, I am not sure where else in the world I would need to get my car washed because the monkey sitting in the tree above where it was parked dropped a can of Coke on it!  How is that for a unique experience?!?  

On our second day in Cha-Am, we went with Kung and Kei to an area a bit south of Cha-Am (close to the town of Hua Hin) to visit a village with two claims to fame.  The first claim is the amazing temple perched high above Hua Hin with fabulous views of the coastline and the sea.  The second claim is that the village is completely overrun by monkeys.  

We had to drive up a very steep mountain to get to the village and then you had to climb about 200 stairs to reach the temple.  The views were incredible from being up so high...
Now, about those monkeys...

We pulled into a car park and monkeys were EVERYWHERE!  
At first we were thinking how cute they were...  
The monkey in the photo below seemed to be contemplating something very important.
This little guy loved playing on the telephone and electrical wires.  
At one point (see the photo below), I thought we might end up with a "fried" monkey but, fortunately, he stopped chewing on the wire before any damage was done.
It was sweet watching the mother monkeys taking care of and watch over their little ones.
As we spent more time walking around the village and watching the monkeys, it became obvious the monkeys could be pretty pesky.  I can't imagine if this is how my neighborhood looked all of the time...
Any sort of food or drink not nailed down or hidden well is fair game for the monkeys to steal.  The monkey in the photo below spotted a man eating lunch in his car and kept trying to figure out a way to get into the car.
I bet he is thinking, "Hmm, maybe I can get in this way...".
Somehow, the monkey in the photo below got a hold of someone's water bottle and opened it for a drink.
The poor person who owned the pickup truck in the photo below made the horrible mistake of leaving some groceries in the back.  One monkey made the discovery and within minutes the truck was covered with monkeys eager to get a piece of the "pie".
A woman who lives nearby takes care of any orphaned or injured monkeys and arranges vet care if necessary.  She also accepts donations for food and feeds the monkeys whenever she can.  She offered to let Christopher, Kei and Kung feed them and that is when it got a little freaky.  I don't know where all of the monkeys came from but, as soon as she brought out a few buckets of bananas, dozens of monkeys swarmed around them!  A few even tried to climb up Christopher's legs to get at the bucket of banana pieces that he was holding.  
By this time, Caitlynne and I had enough of the monkeys so we gathered everyone together and headed for the car, only to find it covered in brown goo.  Fortunately, a monk was nearby and told me about the monkey in the tree dropping the Coke on to our car.  While I was annoyed about the mess, I was very happy to hear it was only Coke as I had imagined the substance to be something entirely different!  

Have a great Sunday!