Monday, April 29, 2013

Gorgeous Summer Day

It was hot and humid today but the sky was a beautiful blue with a few puffy white clouds and the Royal Poinciana trees looked magnificent against that backdrop.
A cluster of flowers on a bougainvillea bush.
I found this blossom by our neighborhood pool. I have no idea what kind of a plant it is growing on. It looks very similar to a banana blossom but, in addition to being a different color, it was growing up and not down. 
Saturday night, I went with a group of friends to The Wine Loft (for those in Bangkok - the one on Sukhumvit Soi 31). Last November (!), our group won a voucher from The Wine Loft for being the best dressed table at the Melbourne Cup luncheon and Saturday night was our night to celebrate. 

We had a private room upstairs.

We had a very nice time. The wine (Merlot & Cabernet from Italy and Chardonnay & Sauvignon  Blanc from Australia) and the food (tapas and fruit & cheese plates) were excellent. 

The two red wines...

 The two white wines.

Unfortunately, the service was also impeccable (we had a server dedicated to our group) and I didn't see the bottom of my wine glass the entire evening. Which I paid for dearly yesterday!

I began this week pretty stressed out and it doesn't look like it is going to ease. Caitlynne had some 8th grade girl drama at the end of last week and over the weekend which wasn't fun to hear about & deal with. I will never understand how some of these girls can act so horribly and say such mean, hurtful things to their "friends" at such a young age. Then again, I see how their mothers behave and realize that the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree. Fortunately, Caitlynne is a strong and confident girl and doesn't dwell too much on what the "mean girls" say and do. In fact, sometimes I think it upsets me more than her (as evidenced by this rant!). 

Thankfully, Kevin returns late Thursday night and that always seem to make everything better. Or, at least puts it all in perspective. I have the movers coming Thursday afternoon to do the survey for our move so Pee and I have been sorting and organizing and getting rid of tons of stuff. She is taking a lot of it - I think she turns around and sells it on the street but I really don't care at this point. I just want it out of my house! 

Have a great Monday!

Friday, April 26, 2013

One Five Double Zero

This morning, I reached 1,500 miles in my transcontinental run! 

I only had six miles to run to get to 1,500 and, although it took me almost three hours to get them in, I did it. Christopher needed to be at ISB this morning at 6:20 to catch the bus to his volleyball tournament so I had to work my run around that. At 5 a.m., I ran 2.5 miles with Sponder, brought him back to the house, ran another 1.5 on my own, took Christopher to school, went back home to inhale a protein shake and then went out to run the final two miles. Whew! Thank goodness I did it and I can now sleep in tomorrow. I am going downtown with some friends this evening to a wine & tapas bar and it will be nice to have a glass or two of wine and not worry about getting up to run in the morning. 

It was an entirely different world running later in the morning. I saw so many people that I knew and there were a lot of kids going to school for the various sports tournaments. Not as quiet and peaceful as my earlier morning runs but certainly more to distract me and make the time go by faster. 

Here is where I am at 1500.0 mi - "0.48 mi to Ash Grove, MO", Greene County
"Section: 9 Map Name: Ash Grove, 103"

I am still In Missouri but pretty close to Kansas.
Unfortunately, I am still not yet halfway across the country.
My short-term goal is to run out of Missouri and into Kansas before we move from Thailand. I can't figure out what that exact mileage is but, based on the distance shown on the map above and barring any injury, that should be easy for me to do. My long-term goal is to reach the halfway point (2031.50 miles) of this transcontinental run by the end of the year. In order to accomplish that, I will need to run 531.50 miles (about 67 per month) by December 31st which should definitely be doable for me. If I reach the halfway point by the end of the year, it will have taken me two years (!!!) to have gotten there... so another two years of running and I will be at the Pacific Ocean. 

I wish I had thought to keep track of the miles that Sonder has run with me. I begin almost all of my runs with him and we go about 3-4 miles together before I bring him back to the house and continue for another 2-3 miles on my own. When it isn't too hot and humid, he is fine with that distance. I do keep an eye on him when it is warm and make sure we stop at a couple of places where he can get some water and rest a minute or two. He is going to be 7 years old in July so it might be time to start reducing his mileage as well. 

Sonder loves to run with me and, for the most part, he is a good running partner. However, there are days - like this morning - when he seems to push every one of my buttons. A sniff every two feet, a pee on every corner, pulling on the leash to chase after a cat, squirrel, bird, etc. It drives me crazy! 

Have a great Saturday!

In The Kitchen With Honey Boo Boo

A bit of American "culture" (if you can call it that) came to our home last weekend. Christopher asked if he could have some friends over to make "sketti" for lunch. Apparently, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" has somewhat of a cult following among Christopher and his friends and the kids wanted to make a Honey Boo Boo favorite, Sketti, for lunch that day. I did some searching on-line and, believe it or not, found this recipe as well as the following article on Fox News.

"No doubt money is tight, and the Thompson-Shannon clan sure know how to stretch a dollar. Extreme couponing Mama June gets food on the table for a miraculous $80 week.

Honey Boo Boo's eating habits are a sight to behold. We've learned that she has a fondness ribs, chicken, "fat cakes' (packaged snack cakes) -- and that fan favorite: roadkill. And while the nutritional value of these dishes raises more than a few eye brows, they're none-the-less, memorable.  


In the Sept. 12 episode, Mama June and Honey Boo Boo whip up some “sketti,” otherwise known as spaghetti, topped with a sweet sauce of one part ketchup and one part margarine. (Let’s face it, we've all added a little ketchup to our dishes at one time or another.)  The sauce is clearly a family tradition, handed down to Mama June, who proudly proclaims: "I was raised on the ketchup."  

I supervised the preparation and watched the kids as they took their first bites. It didn't look so bad in the serving bowl.

A toast.
Before the first bite.
 Yum. Said no one ever. Except for Honey Boo Boo and her family. 
Let's just say there were no requests for seconds.

I had some time on my hands Wednesday afternoon and put together this arrangement with flowers and greenery from our yard.

 Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beach Reads

Not that I am counting down but...two months from today, we will be flying back to the U.S.! Yippee! We have a lot to do before then but it will all come together as it always does. 

Monday morning, I was up at my usual zero-dark thirty to walk Sonder. Since it was pouring, our walk was postponed and I was able to squeeze out this post before the kids got up to get ready for school. 

These are three of the books I read while at the beach. I loved "The Aviator's Wife", liked "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" and was so-so on "Zelda".
"I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it." 

"For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure."

"In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.
In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.

Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style."

I am currently reading "Family Pictures" by Jane Green, definitely more of a chick-lit story but a good, mindless read.
"From the author of Another Piece of My Heart comes Family Pictures, the gripping story of two women who live on opposite coasts but whose lives are connected in ways they never could have imagined.  Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school.  They're both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than either of them would like.  They are both feeling an emptiness neither had expected.  But when a shocking secret is exposed, their lives are blown apart.  As dark truths from the past reveal themselves, will these two women be able to learn to forgive, for the sake of their children, if not for themselves?"

I am trying to put together a few good books to read when we fly home in June. I can't always sleep on the plane and since I don't have the attention span to watch a movie in-flight, I like to have some magazines and books to keep me occupied. 

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, April 22, 2013

One Year

It is hard to believe that one year ago today our sweet Simpson was killed by a cobra in our yard. I still miss him so much and not a day goes by that I don't think of him. 

Simpson came to us in May 2007 from a breeder in Victoria, Australia. At the time he went by the name "Chino" and we decided to change his name to Simpson, after the Simpson Desert which was near (relatively speaking) to where we lived in Australia. One winter, we had a fantastic time camping in the Simpson Desert with a group of friends so there were a lot of good memories associated with his name.

This is the photo the breeder sent me when I indicated an interest in giving him his forever home. 
These photos were taken the night I picked him up from the airport. 
At the time, Sonder was about 10 months old. Poor thing! He had no clue his world was going to turn upside down!
Simpson was definitely the alpha dog and very quickly established his place in the household.

The day after we got him, I took him to the groomer to get all of that hair shaved off! The groomer said he was so happy to be shaved that he danced around her shop. We didn't recognize him when we picked him up but at least he looked like a proper dog and not like a sheep.
He traveled the world with us. From Australia...
To Miami.
And to Thailand.

You would never guess that Simpson was a former breeding dog and, as such, had never been around children or kept as an inside pet. He settled so quickly into our home and our family and loved being wherever we were. Except in the pool. Unlike Sonder, he HATED swimming.

On our summer vacation trips to Virginia and New York, the dogs were quite content to be sandwiched between the kids and used as pillows. 
One summer, I drove with the kids from Miami to Virginia to New York to Cape Cod and then back to Miami. I think we calculated that we spent over 55 hours in the car on that trip and the dogs were great. 

These are two of the last photos I have of Simpson at our home in Thailand before he died. 

Christopher was having a sleepover and the sleeping bags we were setting out for the human boys were quickly claimed by the animal boys. 
Simpson always kept watch over our family and I continue to take comfort in the fact that he died protecting us. 
Sonder had a rough few months after Simpson died but he seems to be back to normal and is eating well. I try to let him socialize with other dogs as much as possible - he really enjoys the company. I am looking into "rescuing" another labradoodle when we return to Virginia so his little world is going to get rocked again.
 Have a great Tuesday!


Finishing up on our trip to Hua Hin...

The pool area featured a sandy walk-in "beach" for little ones as well as a lazy river (the nicest I have ever seen) and a 22 meter long (and 7 meter high) slide. The pool, beach and lazy river were all on the edge of the property that bordered the beach. If the boys were in the pool, we (or rather the pool boy) turned our chairs to face the pool. If they were on the beach, our chairs were turned to face the beach. Very convenient.

The walk-in beach was perfect for toddlers and young swimmers.
Near the beginning of the lazy river.

The lazy river emptied into one side of the pool area...
And then continued to wind through the property on the other side of the pool.  

The area in the photo below reminded me of the small creeks and springs in Florida. I almost expected to see an alligator or two float by. 


I don't know how long the lazy river is but I swam it (slowly) a couple of times and it took me a good 20 mins to swim from end to end. After looping around the northern edge of the property, the lazy river dumped back into the pool. 

The boys spent hours on the water slide...
I think this was a wading pool for the younger children.

The boys contemplating their next activity... go on the water slide, swim or ride the "cushion" on the Gulf?
 Or, a nap?
The hotel says that it has 200 meters of beachfront, the longest of all Hua-Hin hotels. The beach was spotless and the sand was nice and soft. There were the usual vendors hawking clothing, rides on horses, jet skis and banana boats but they weren't aggressive if you weren't interested.

Looking out to the beach from the pool area.  
Looking south down the beach.
Although the skies were overcast each day, the rain held off until nighttime and we were able to have a lot of pool and beach time.
I used the "auto adjust" feature on my photo program and ended up with this...

Doing their best to support the local economy (with our money), the boys rode this "cushion" around the Gulf many, many times... 
Ready to go home - just waiting for our driver. 
Why is there such a short time between the good behavior giving way to silliness?!?

The boys and the girl.
As you can see from the photos, the resort was deserted! I thought there would be more people at the hotel and on the beach since it was the Songkran holiday but I was wrong. Not that I am complaining. We never had a problem getting chairs at the pool or a table at a restaurant and the resort was, generally, very quiet. The boys had a great time swimming and Caitlynne, my friend and I caught up on our reading. 

I did take a few photos of food. 

I had this arugula, shrimp and pesto risotto one night for dinner.
And the kids each had this sun-dried tomato and mascarpone risotto. Both dishes were excellent.
For dessert one evening, we had this yummy passion-fruit, white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse. 
The girl back at home with her shadow. 
The last couple of times that we have traveled, I have left Sonder with Khun Jun, the lady that does his grooming. While I liked having him board at the vet, when he stays with Khun Jun, he gets much more socialization with other dogs and people. Most days, she will bring him to her grooming shop for the day and he gets to hang out and see his "friends" from around Nichada. There is a family in Nichada with a beautiful black labradoodle - Sonder and I often see "Sophie" and her dad when we are out in the mornings. Sophie was also boarding with Khun Jun last week and she and Sonder got to have a few days to play together. 

There are only two more "must do" trips on our list before we leave - a visit to Cambodia and a visit to Vietnam. Cambodia can be done in a long weekend and we might try and squeeze that in while Kevin is home in mid-May. We will need about 5 days to see what we want to in Vietnam so that trip will probably need to wait until the kids are out of school and Kevin is back in June. It would be nice to get in another trip to Hua Hin but with just two months left and Kevin not here for most of it, it just might not be possible.

Have a great Monday!