Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow White

My arrival was sweet and made me feel loved and welcomed.  My mom met me at the airport armed with a down jacket and cashmere scarf for me.  I don't know which I was happier to see, my mom or the warm goods, as I was freezing before even walking outside!  We went immediately to Starbucks where my dad, fresh from a root canal, met us for coffee.  After catching up and laughing for an hour, we decided to go pick up some DVDs from the library in preparation for the imminent snowstorm and then go see a matinee.  "Avatar" was the choice, surprisingly, since my parents are usually into more high-brow films.  In fact, I'm not sure if they (ok, just my mom--she's the naysayer) have ever seen a movie that's received a lot of press mostly because of its special effects.  Though it was a bit on the long side, we all loved it and my folks especially got a kick out of the fact that it was 3D.  And the special effect were amazing.

I arrived hours before the storm hit and, this morning, awoke to a winter wonderland.

I am relieved to not be too jet-lagged.  I managed to sleep all night and only woke up at 8:30 when I heard my dad walking around outside my room.  The morning was ideal with a run on the treadmill, looking out onto the snowy backyard, and coffee, matzos brie, and light conversation while reading the Sunday Times.  Sunday mornings are what I miss most living so far away.

Later, we all met my sister, J, at King Sauna where we proceeded to have a delightfully lazy and relaxing afternoon, walking around naked with other women in the "wet room" (sounds gross, I know) where there were showers, hot tubs of various temperature, a steam room, and a few beds for getting scrubs and massages.
J and I got scrubs.  Whoa!  These beefy, bathing suit clad Korean ladies scoured every last inch of our bodies until little gray pearls of dead skin were covering us and the plastic-sheeted bed.  Then, the ladies dumped bucks of hot water on us, spun us around and shampooed our hair.  And I thought Thailand was good!

The next few hours, the four of us met up and ducked into various saunas (amethyst, carbon, ice, etc.) promising everything from healing toothaches, to stopping skin from itching, to curing depression.  We worked up quite a hunger with all of the temperature changes and sweating, so we headed to the cafe and shared bibimbop and dumplings.

It was an excellent way to spend the afternoon.

The day was topped off with traditional Sunday night aperatifs (aka "Drinky-Winky Time").  Vodka martinis or "brown stuff" (whiskey or scotch) with a plate of cheese and crackers and pate, olives and nuts.  I was in heaven.
The offerings at Drinky-Winky Time are usually so good that I often ruin my appetite for dinner.  And so was the case tonight.  Too bad since my mom had made a delicious vegetable soup (as usual on Sunday nights) and J made some cornbread.
A perfect day

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Abscess Makes the Fart Go Honda

6.5 hours down, 15+ to go.  I am sitting in the ANA lounge in Tokyo awaiting boarding of the next and final leg of my trip back to the U.S.  I am beyond tired.  That kind of fatigue reminiscent of college all-nighters.  Slow-sticky thought processes, dry mouth, strange combo of nausea and hunger, etc.  

The past few days have been chock full of activity and preparations.  T's birthday as on Thursday, so to celebrate his final hours of 31-hood, I took him out for dinner at Water Library.  The place is an interesting concept with a two- page menu of imported waters and a swanky feel with dark lighting, white linens, and big windows.  The centtral feature of the place was the floor-to-ceiling tower of water bottles.

Though the atmosphere was date-y, sexy, romantic (even though the picture windows looked out on the highway and the restaurant is housed in a mall), the chef tried far too hard to be creative with the food.  The dishes ended up being too busy, visually and for my palate. 

    Pork loin with various accoutrement, including cabbage-beet slaw, baby 
peas, apples and apple sauce, and something they claimed was sweet
potato gnocchi, but really just tasted like little balls of Parmesan. 

Mixed berries that ended up being served like this. Looks like a mess!  
White balsamic reduction, merlot sorbet, and raspberry gel along with
a few other additions.  Far less appealing that T's molten chocolate cake.

 Nevertheless, we had a nice evening without distraction.

In love.
On T's actually birthday, there was a Mexican lunch with his co-workers to which he asked me to come and then dinner with his parents at the JW Marriott's New York Steakhouse.  Mmmmmmmmeat!  It was good.

T is a such a gentleman.  He always accompanies me to the airport and hangs out with me until I have to go through immigration.  He carries (or rather, pulls) my bag.  He presses me to buy snacks for the plane even though I know I won't want anything extra.  He sweetly asks the employee at the check-in counter whether I can get upgraded.  And he sneaks kisses on the escalator.  This man is gold.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I am Your Domestic Goddess. Say It.

That's what I said to T when he came home from work last night before we headed out for dinner to an Italian place around the corner.  I was (and still am) so proud of the jars of granola.  Plus, in preparation for a possible post-dinner tea party with a visiting friend, I made dough for the best chocolate chip cookies.  Really.  These are tried and tested and certainly better than Toll House.  The secret is in the sea salt.  The New York Times printed the recipe here last year.  Now, mind you, my prep was last minute and I found myself without cake flour and a bit short on brown sugar, so I simply substituted regular flour and supplemented with white sugar.  And, as far as I could tell, it didn't make much of a difference.  After dinner, I took the dough out of the fridge to bake, though the recipe calls for 24-36 hours in the fridge.  Again, no difference was noticed by T nor the throngs of kvelling co-workers who ate them for breakfast this morning and cursed me for ruining their diets.

One thing I love about living in Thailand is that Thais don't know from baked goods.  Their chocolate desserts are just brown and flavorless.  Their cookies are crunchy and all sugar.  The typical apartment doesn't even have a functioning oven.  So, I feel like a superstar when I bring cookies or cakes or scones or any homemade treat into the office.  People are just FLOORED that something so delicious can be made by a regular person.

My boss had nothing for me to do today, so I left early and am determined to get some packing done before I head out for a run with my friend E and then a pre-birthday (T's) dinner date.  Gogogo!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ho Ho Homemade Granola!

With recipe in hand, this morning, I went scouting for the wholesome goodness that is needed to make my mom's granola.  Success! I found everything except soy nuts, so was pretty happy.  I even managed to find the jars I had my heart set on (and they were only B89)!

   Jane's Granola
  • 6-8 c rolled oats
  • 1 c each: unsalted sunflower seed, soy nuts, sesame seeds, wheat germ, unsweetened coconut, nuts
  • 1 c honey
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c raisins or other dried fruit
  1. Toast oats for 10 minutes at 350 degrees
  2. Mix with dry ingredients
  3. Add honey, oil, and vanilla and mix thoroughly with hands
  4. Roast for 20-25 minutes at 350 in two batches, stir ocassionally 
  5. Remove from oven and add raisins
  6. Spoon into jars and cool with lids off
 I added one cup of chopped dates in addition to the raisins.
The recipe made less than I had hoped, filling only four jars.
Handmade gift cards. B10 each at a street fair.  
Ta da!
On another note, T and I had a talk last night.  He is going to keep his smoking to a bare minimum and try to wear the patch when I'm around.  I felt hopeful when he said he was thinking that when he's ready to quit, he's considering using prescription drugs to help him along.  This is a huge turn around from his previous position of only subscribing to the use of Allen Carr's book on the road to quitting.  (I HATE Allen Carr.)  I know that success is much more likely when medication is used in conjunction with counseling, so this change thrills me.

Whoo.  I'm done with my rant.  I hope Santa brings me a cigarette-free T for Christmas this year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Red in the Face

Wow.  I feel like I can breath for the first time in weeks.  It's been non-stop action between work, parties, and traveling.  T and I got in a doozy of a fight last night.  There were cold, measured monologues that apparently sounded like college theses (me) and blank stares and fake falling asleep (T).  I was so peeved that I attempted to use a tactic I employed when I was sent to my room as a kid: I stood alone in front of a mirror and quietly tensed every muscle in my body until my face began to turn from beet red to a deep purple.

This is how I felt on the inside
Then I let go.  Fully.  Took a deep breath.  Felt more relaxed.  But this time, I was punished with a painful muscle spasm in my back when I awoke this morning.

And then there were tears.  Alone in the dark.  Sitting on the couch and watching the blinking lights of the highrises across the way.  Breath in two three.  Breath out two three.

I am a hollow reed...

Now, you're probably wondering what was the catalyst that made our sugary love turn sour, our smooth sailing turn rocky?  It was, sadly, predictable, as the crux of the fight was the same as it's always been: T's cigarette smoking.  I don't want to be with a smoker for so many reasons: I don't want to raise children who become smokers; I subscribe to the belief that your body is a temple and have a hard time understanding why someone would willingly put their health in danger and shorten their time with the people they love; and of course, it smells bad.  I think there's another part, too: I see the addiction as a weakness, a crutch, and I find that so unsexy.

There seems to be no real middle ground with this if we are to continue on our path together.  Either I accept that T is a smoker and just deal with it.  Or he quits.  We've tried both and have failed, so now we find ourselves (again) at an impasse.

It makes me very




And in pain.  My back hurts.

We eventually fell asleep, curled up together even thought we were still both angry and had come to no resolution.  (T is the master at this kind of avoidance/packaging problems up and putting them away.  It can be mind-numbingly infuriating for me.)  There will be further discussion tonight.
oh the joy

Friday, December 11, 2009

Playing Santa

I've been thinking about what to give everyone for Xmas.  I usually very good at getting everything in order before it gets to be last minute, but I realized that I am leaving in less than a week and don't have much time left!  I had planned on making a variety of cookies and giving boxfuls of them to T's folks, work colleagues, and Bangkok friends, but with time ticking, I think I may opt for something a bit less time-consuming: homemade granola.  I figure it's kind of perfect since granola my favorite thing in the whole world to eat.  I am awaiting email receipt of my mom's recipe and can then shop for the rare items, prepare the treat in bulk, and give it away in air tight glass jars like this one:

I'm considering sending copies of this book to my niece (I think my bro and his wife will appreciate it, too) and T's niece and nephews:

You can read the whole book here.  Added value: For every book bought on the Awesome World Foundation website, one copy is donated to a school, library, hospital, etc.  in the U.S. and abroad.

I'm still trying to come up with a good idea for T.  I'm planning to find something in NYC for him, but I don't know what I'm looking for.  He's the kind of guy who has very particular (and expensive) taste and usually buys the things he want when he wants them.  I often have to get creative.  In the past, I have given him a gift certificate for studio time at a ceramics place so that he could revisit a past passion; developed an elaborate treasure hunts around Bangkok; taken him for nice dinners to new restaurants; and bought him an elegant pair of cufflinks.  So, even though I struggle with an idea for a somewhat significant gift, there is one certainty: when I return at the end of the month, T will be enjoying some cinnamon rolls and other items from one of his favorite bakeries:

Monday, December 7, 2009


I have a seriously impairing fear of sharks that usually manages to keep me on the shore and out of dark swimming pools.  I have tried scuba diving and mind-over-matter and have even considered hypnosis, but I think this may be the answer to conquering my phobia:

Sharks with People Teeth

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Easy As Pie?

Two months ago, T and I threw a birthday party for a new friend.  I made an elaborate chocolate berry layer cake that received rave reviews from the guests, many of whom thought we had purchased it from a local bakery.  I was so proud. 

At the party, one of T’s good friends told me that, as a kid, he never liked cake and always requested apple pie on his birthday.  Knowing he had a milestone birthday approaching, I planned to attempt an apple pie.  After much online research and countless recipe reviews that warned of the difficulties of getting pie crust just right, I was scared off, but I still wanted to give our friend a pie, so I did something I am somewhat embarrassed to admit: I bought frozen crust.   
Oh, the shame!  

Coming from a family that honors homemade goodness above store bought foods, buying something mediocre and pre-made was a difficult thing to do.  

T helped with the peeling and slicing of the apples (he loves to be my sous-chef).  I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and was a bit disappointed by the lack of cohesion of the filling when the pie was cut.  Perhaps I should have added more flour or some cornstarch since the apples were particularly juicy. It was kind of a mess.  The other problem that pained me was that it was an especially ugly, lumpy excuse for a pie.  

Nevertheless, served with a scoop ice cream, everyone with their champagne-dulled taste buds ate it up.  Most importantly though, the birthday boy was very touched by the effort.  And he had seconds.

In conversation last night, I learned that in the mid-1800’s, during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln received a telegram from the Thai king, Mongkut, offering to deliver working elephants to the U.S.  Lincoln politely declined.  The question that arose over the apple pie was "why?".  As bizarre an offer as it was, wouldn’t acceptance have be a diplomatic gesture?

T and me elephant riding in Chiang Rai, July 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hiding Under the Covers

I have been on a reading kick the past few months.  I attribute it to the acquisition of a bedside table and lamp that now allow me to comfortably read in bed while T watches stupid movies.  Last night, I finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.  It was recommended by so many people and yet I struggled to get through it.  I didn't find the story engaging, as Adiga was transparent in his use of it as a vehicle for a social commentary on modern India.  Further, the characters lacked development and were mere sketches of stereotypical servants and masters.  Though it did convey a picture (though, rather simplified) of class warfare and social hierarchy in India, I'm surprised it won the Man Booker Prize.

I was relieved when I got to the last page, since that meant I could start something new.  I immediately began Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson.  This is far from the kind of book I would choose to read, but a friend lent it to me and assured me that it doesn't read like a history textbook, but rather like a white-knuckle mystery (also, not my favorite genre) that I wouldn't be able to put down.  Who doesn't love reading a book they can't put down?

On another note, I have two more weeks before I am suppose to be on a plane to the US for Xmas with the fam, which I'm excited about.  But, I have yet to get my tickets.  I hate travel planning.  Especially when it's peak season and not easy to do.  I am in avoidance mode.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Blogger Naivete

I realize my posts have been long, rambling, and boring.  From here on out, I vow to stop using this space as a mental-diarrhea depositing spot.

Carrying on...

I hate cigarette smoke.  It makes my hair and clothes smell.  It makes T's breath smell.  It eventually causes long, agonizing deaths.  (OK, I admit it.  I may have succumbed to the indoctrination of the DARE program in 5th grade.)  This anti-smoking campaign ad cracked me up.  LOVE.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And the Pendulum Swings

I am feeling so cranky today.  I have been happy going along, living in the present, which is a feat for me.  But, last night, T brought up a couple of things that have been on his mind and I was suddenly catapulted back into my old ways of life-impairing forward thinking.  He wants to discuss his smoking (I despise the smell of cigarettes and the idea that someone would willfully shorten their life) in relation to our upcoming post-New Years trip to the beach with T's visiting childhood friend and his wife.

That issue is less nerve-wracking than the weightier one T brought up at the same time: my plans for med school and what that means for "us".  I feel like, eventually, I will have to decide whether to choose to pursue a fulfilling career or opt for love (and the possibility of a dead-end professional life).  It just doesn't seem fair.  If T told me he wanted to go to school far far away to further his career, I would be thrilled and supportive and go along with the whole adventure.  That, to me, is true love and true commitment.  But maybe I am being a bit too hard-nosed about this.  Pursuing my dreams would mean a strain on our relationship since med school and residency would be powerful black holes that would eat up eight, long, fertile years of my life.  Plus, T would have to start over somewhere new.  I happen to think such a push would be good for him, since, if he stays here in Bangkok, he will live a status quo life, falling into routine and ultimately not feeling great about his career/life.  A move would require he address the career/work self-evaluation that he is so adept at avoiding.

It all seems to boil down to who is going to either throw in the towel or end up compromising much more.  And, here, I thought things were going so well...

La Victoire by Rene Magritte
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