Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Beginning?

I have been bad about posting this week. I started a new job and it's been full on --in a good way! My hormones normalized and I've started noticing the sunshine again. Life has returned to being good.  

Tomorrow morning, T and I are off to the beach for the long weekend (Monday is a Buddhist holiday). I think we're both hoping that this romantic getaway will help us find each other again.

When I return, I will post photos of and the recipe for the beautiful mini chocolate cupcakes I made for a work friend's birthday. They were a hit and a lot of fun to make.

sunset from bed

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Listening for Quiet

I feel most at ease, introspective, and alive when in nature.  It's been too long since I last felt that peace, heard only the wind against my ears, blinked my eyes in the sun, seen no sign of man, and knew myself fully.

Other ways I find the calm is through yoga and good deeds.  I need to do more of both.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yiddish Tuesday: Hockin A Chainik

Hockin a chainik (hockin ä chi:'nik): v. to talk nonsense; to talk for the sake of talking; to carry on about something in a boring, long winded manner.  (Literally, 'to bang on a teakettle')
"I get it.  You didn't like your soup.  Now, stop hockin a chainik!"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ginger Dreams

I love the sweet, sad words of this song and the clever visuals of the video.  Oh, and the color of her hair!  Striking.  I've always wondered how my life would be different if I were a redhead.

Oren Lavie - Her morning elegance from Mimì on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Animal Unknown to Science

I love this 1969 Soviet stop-motion film clip:

P.S. Cheburashka has been the mascot for the Russian Olympic Team since Summer 2004.

Toothpaste Love

This morning, T left early to play golf.  When I awoke hours later, I found this:

Blue Velvet

Last night I went out for a rare, but much needed girls' night with my friend, K.  She's somebody I can imagine being better friends with because she's smart, funny, snarky, and an easy conversationalist.  But there's an unfortunate twist that prevents me from totally opening up to her and that is that she works with T.  Nevertheless, we can have a great time together, as we did last night.
We went for dinner and drinks to a relatively new hi-so (a commonly used term here that's short for high-society) hangout called Blue Velvet.  Both the exterior and interior are really interesting.  It looks like a miniature castle (or dungeon, depending on your mood) with a wooden drawbridge over the stinky klong (Thai for canal).  
Inside, the ceilings are low, the lighting is warm and dim, and the velvet chairs are comfortable.  While the juxtaposition of medieval with rustic country home is a bit strange, it works.
Perhaps the most clever component of the unique interior is the ceiling above the bar area, which is covered with light bulbs.
The menu has a variety of seafood and meat dishes with a fusion flair. K and I shared the scallops Florentine, which were served in little clams shells, and the chef's recommended tuna and octopus salad, which was a bit mayonnaisey and unimaginative.  We both had dory parcels for our mains; while the presentation of the fish left much to be desired (brought to the table in the parchment paper in which it was cooked), the flavors were delicate and perfectly balanced.  Combined with excellent service and delightfully strong martinis, it was a great dining experience.  I'm looking forward to going back with T to try the sirloin burger. 

(unless noted, all photos are from here)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chin Up and Soldier On

This morning, when walking out to go to work, I saw this right outside our gate and I felt that everything would be OK:
happiness and good omens in the form of a colorful wagon of flowers

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dewey Decimal


I want a card catalog like this.  I think it would remind me to read more.

I Surrender

I hadn't anticipated feeling so awful.  I thought I was so driven that nothing could get in my way.  But then love did and the prospect of losing T was just too painful.  I try to live my life to avoid regrets and, while I will regret not going back to school soon and not being near my family for the time being, I think I would regret leaving T more.  Of course, I keep second guessing myself and wondering if the decision, which I made under duress, to put my needs on the back-burner, was a quick fix to make the hurting stop.  Sure, it did the trick,  but has it created a false sense of security?  Will resentment and regret come seeping in?  And, if so, how long can I last in this charade?

To lead a fulfilling life, Freud said all we need is love and work.  Someone later added "play" to the equation, creating an image of a three-legged stool, which is perfectly balanced when all three components are present and strong.  Though my job may not be perfect, all three legs of the stool in my life are there, propping me up. 

Be glad of life because it gives you a chance to love, and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.
  ~Henry Vandyke

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

For Love or Money


If a modern woman doesn't have a thoroughly modern man who will make sacrifices, move across the world and support her as she pursues her life calling, how is she to choose between career and love?  

T and I may be on the verge of breaking up because of this predicament.  

My case: I'm done with Bangkok.  I have a good job, but find it limited and limiting.  I have many acquaintances and activity partners, but no true friends.  I miss my family.  And I want to go back to school in order to put myself on track for a fulfilling career.  I have put the effort in, looked for a new job, gone on numerous "dates" with potential friends, and Skyped more with my family, but it just isn't doing the trick.  

T's case: T has begun to like his job more than he use to (when he told me he didn't want to stay in Thailand for much longer) and, coming up on his four-year mark, he feels more like a permanent member of the company than ever before.  He also places huge importance on money and lifestyle, which goes a long way in Thailand.  Though he doesn't have many friends here, he says he doesn't need them the way I do.  And, g-chatting and once/year visits with friends in U.S. is sufficient for him.  

The long and the short of it is that after making a lot of sacrifices by moving across the world and putting in an effort to enjoy life in Bangkok, I want to move back to the U.S. and T doesn't.  

After three hours of tears and a restless sleep last night, I am beginning to wonder if maybe I should back down and decide that I love him more than my need for an inspiring career.  Is it worth throwing away a three-year relationship for the possibility of a new career?  But then, I backpedal and tell myself that that would be unfair to me and I ask myself if I really want a life with a man who believes his needs trump mine and money is more important than love.  And I wonder if I could live the life that T's mother, his role model, the trailing spouse-turned-late-in-life-career woman has led.  Would I get bored?  Would I be resentful?  Would I have regrets?  Are love, marriage, babies, and a job that pays enough to fulfill me?

I recognize that this is out of context and, despite the picture I paint in the midst of this turmoil, T really is a wonderful, sweet, caring man.  And that's the reason I don't want to lose him.  

I just keep reminding myself that no matter how it all pans out, everything happens for a reason and good things will come my way.  Eventually.  Because they always do. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hug Me

Smart thinking, Dr. Pillow Reinventor!  As corny/creepy as this is, I kind of want one.  (Unfortunately, the bulk pack of two is sold out.  Shoot.)

According to Overstock, the Hug Me Pillow is "the perfect snuggling companion", providing "comfort as well as peace of mind."

Code Yellow

(Note: Don't let this post, a rare entre into politics, alienate you!)

With the Thai political situation about to get messy again, I decided to beef up and get up to speed on the current state of things.  I have been quite bad about staying abreast of politics here since they seem so illogical and irrational sometimes and I find it difficult to remain interested.  I do end up feeling pretty dumb when someone asks me about what's happening here and I bumble my way through an answer, hoping that the little bit I know if volumes more than the questioner knows.  

So, join me for a brief crash course on what's happening right now.  Learn a bit about what's happening in this far-away kingdom under the facade of sunny beaches, smiling people, and delicious food.  Dig a bit deeper, impress your friends with your obscure knowledge of Thai politics, and be ahead of the curve because breaking news is just 10 days away!  Information below is just a sliver of the big picture, but I hope it will provide us with a solid foundation -- enough of one so that I won't look stupid the next time a visitor asks me about the state of affairs here.
This post is all about the chaos created by this man, Thaksin Shinawatra. 

Thaksin (pronounced TACK-sin) Shinawatra, the business man/former Prime Minister/one of the richest people in Thailand, is due to stand trial next week.  He was deposed in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and he and his family were subsequently charged with corruption on various accounts (nepotism, conflict of interest, tax evasion, muzzling the media, etc.).

Thaksin's fall from power rapidly divided the country and led to a number of mass protests by the Red Shirts (supporters of Thaksin and the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship) and the Yellow Shirts (anti-Thaksin, People's Alliance for Democracy--aka PAD--supporters who were responsible for the famously disruptive take-over of the Thailand's main international airport in Bangkok in November 2008).  (These color alliances have left non-political Thailand residents with two fewer hues to wear so as to avoid being caught in the fray.)

While Thaksin's political legacy is vast and includes attempts to alleviate rural poverty; the founding of the Thai Rak Thai ("Thais who love Thais") populist party, to represent the "common man"; the settling up of Thailand's first universal healthcare system; waging a war against drugs, and providing addicts with treatment programs, he is also known to be responsible for human rights violations, election fraud, and the questionable acquisition of great wealth while in office.

The money earned during Thaksin's time in office came mostly from the sale of Thakin's family's shares of the Shin Corp, a leading Thai telecommunications company, to the investment branch of the Singapore government.  As a result of the sale, on which the family did not pay taxes, Thaksin was accused by some of his countrymen as a sell-out, relinquishing national assets to a foreign government.  The sale of the Shin Corp coupled with Thakin's facilitation of the purchase of prime real estate by his now ex-wife's, led to a review by the Thai Assets Examination Committee.  The AEC decided that Thaksin has abused his authority as PM in order to benefit his business interests and, consequently, the committee froze 76 billion baht ($2.2 billion) of Thakin's assets.   
 Thaksin's ex-wife, along with his three children

Thaksin has managed to keep a relatively low profile due to self-imposed exile and the help of Nicaraguan and  Montenegran passports after the government revoked his Thai passport to restrict his movement.  Nevertheless, rumor has it that he has been engineering and financially supporting the Red Shirt movement from abroad.  Next week, on February 26th, the Thai Supreme Court will rule on his asset-seizure case.  It is not known what the outcome will be, whether protests (there will definitely be some colorful ones) will be peaceful or get out of hand, but the Thai government and police are gearing up for mayhem.

Yiddish Tuesday: Kvell

Kvell: v. to be overcome with pride, to gush

 Definitely a first born.  You can tell because Grandma is kvelling.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jewelry, Repurposed

Tonight, when futilely looking for a long silver chain in my disastrously messy jewelry drawer, I opted to clip together a couple of shorter ones and added an extra charm to hide the clasp: 
The stone is Larimar, found in the Dominican Republic in the 70's.  It was named after the discoverer's daughter, Larissa, and "mar", the Spanish word for sea.  The fist was on a charm bracelet that my grandmother use to wear.  Apparently, it protects the wearer from the evil eye.  (Phew!) 

I've "borrowed" a couple of beautiful brooches from my mom over the years, but haven't really worked out how to wear then without looking dowdy.  Here is my recent fix:
 Antique turquoise and silver brooch pinned to a bra-strap headband.  Love it!


The French macarons turned out better than expected.  Though they were  a bit chewier than intended, a day of refrigeration seemed to firm them up a bit.  After quite a bit of web research, I decided to melded the recipes and advice of the wise chefs at What's for lunch, Honey and Kitchen Musings.  I made a variety of the little almond sandwiches, filling some with chocolate ganache, some with Nutella, and some with lemon curd and presented them this morning to T.  He was quite happy with them, but I don't think he's aware what a feat these cookies were.  A veritable labor of love.
(No, I did not bake these in the toaster oven! That's just my ghetto cooling rack.) 

T, in typical and predictable form, started the day by apologizing for not getting me anything.  He then proceeded to cook me breakfast, humor me by going to listen to the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra in the park (armed with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, his favorite wine, and a baguette), and then cook me a simple but delicious pasta dinner with homemade tomato sauce.  Sadly, I did not document the day's cooking.

All in all, it was a relaxing day and I think we both felt special and loved. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Christmas for Girlfriends

FRIENDS: So, what are you guys doing for Valentine's Day?

ME: (eyebrows raised, looking at T expectantly) Yeah, what are we doing for Valentine's Day?

T: (avoiding eye contact) Since when did Valentine's Day become Christmas for Girlfriends?

The Water's Nice

I stumbled upon Mark Adamson's photography here.  He often uses those new hipster cameras, resulting in washed-out pictures with a retro feel.  His work has a lonely and voyeuristic quality, leaving the viewer with a sense of sadness and curiosity.   

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Smell Your Way to Sex

I just read this interesting article in the New York Times about aphrodisiacs and what the "experts" --nutritionists and smell psychologists (yes, there is a field dedicated solely to the psychology of smell!)-- are saying these days.  Here's the skinny:

*The smell of cherries or grilling meat over charcoals kills the mood for women.

*The combined scent of doughnuts and licorice make men go wild, as does the combo of lavender and pumpkin pie.  

*For women, the smell of baby powder or the combined smells of Good&Plenty candy with cucumbers or with banana nut bread does the trick.

*Chili peppers make your heart beat fast and make you sweat and flush, mimicking arousal.

*Avocado is sensual.  Amy Reily, author of an aphrodisiac cookbook called Fork Me, Spoon Me, suggests guacamole as a love potion because of its color, texture, taste, and aroma.

*Reiley also uses saffron, mint, and vanilla to set the mood. 

*And sadly, chocolate is overrated.  A 130-pound person would have to eat 25 pounds of chocolate or 19.2% of her body weight to feel the euphoric effects.

The bottom line:
Foods are often thought of as aphrodisiacs because of their roles in cultures and history (i.e. honey), their luxuriousness (i.e. Champagne), the manner in which they are eaten (i.e. oysters), or their resemblance to genitalia (i.e. figs).  

Basically, it's all subjective.  And, it should be noted that the information in the article regarding smells was garnered from a single study and so cannot be considered conclusive evidence.  Therefore, take what you want from it, play around to discover your own personal aphrodisiac, and have fun!

Though not necessarily an aphrodisiac, I'm planning on making some sexy, fancy French macaroons for V-Day.  I've never attempted them before.  I hope they're a success since T loves them!

pumpkin pie image via

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Hate February

I was walking to the Skytrain yesterday and pondering why I have been feeling so blue lately and then it occurred to me: It's February,

The Month of Misery.  

Since my first year at college I have suffered through Februaries.  Wherever I am in the world, be it the depths of gray wintery doldrums or the creeping oppression of tropical heat, during February I find myself held captive in a constant state of PMS, a month-long funk that will only disappear when the Ides are in sight.  I'm not sure the cause of this state, though I have many hypotheses --none of which really feels suitable: 

*February is No Man's Land Month--it's after the excitement of the holidays and long before another vacation period.  Simply put, there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

*Our primordial selves believe we should be in some state of hibernation during this time, just as our cavemen forefathers did. That means we should be leading low-impact lives; reading, sleeping, watching movies, and hunkering down under comforters next to fires.  But not eating rancid meat.  We have evolved.

*Following  the start of the new year, we feel the pressure to keep the slate clean and stay committed to resolutions made.  After a month of trying to accomplish the lofty goals set, disappointment, frustration, resignation, or some combination sets in.

So, after years of trying to understand and crawl out this February hole, I have resigned myself to just being patient, surfing the waves of frequent mood changes, and waiting it out.  March will come soon enough. 

In the meantime, little things like this make me smile:

Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stylish and Sneaky

I want this.
hardcover BookBook laptop case from Twelve South

Yiddish Tuesday: Kvetch

 Kvetch: n. complainer; v. to complain

"Sorry I've been kvetching so much; this sweater vest is just so itchy!"
(Other uses: "Stop being such a kvetch!" or "All you ever do is kvetch.")

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yawn...How to Shake This 6pm?


After a 6 a.m. wake up, a 6K morning run, 60 minutes of the Super Bowl (with homemade waffles a la T), and a planned 6K evening run, I am definitely feeling like it's 6:30 according to this clockOy.  And it's only Monday!

Make Monday a bit more interesting by entering to win a Fuji Instax Mini Camera or The SLR Sloop Camera Bag at Creature ComfortsContest ends today, so hurry!

Soapbox: Public Sniffles

Photo by Andrew Davidhazy, School of Photo Arts and Sciences/RIT.

I get infuriated when children cough and sneeze without covering.  It's even more infuriating when adults do it.  Riding the Skytrain, walking through malls, making my coffee.  It happens all around me. And I feel personally offended. How dare you subject me to your sickness!  It seems that, in spite the SARS and swine flu epidemics, the germ theory has not been fully integrated into the Thai public's understanding of disease transmission.  If the Thai Ministry of Health doesn't get on the case, I think a guerrilla campaign should be waged. Posters, graffitti, megaphones!

In the meantime, do your part and cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Because, really, how often do your open a door or shake hands using the inside of your elbow?  If you must sneeze in your hand, for the good of all pleasepleaseplease don't hold onto that pole on the Skytrain!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hair Artistry

I want this.

Smart vs. Intellectual

T and I just got into a "discussion" (aka fight) about the difference between smart and intellectual.  Call me snooty, but I resonate with the people we meet who I deem "Intellectuals".  That means they read for pleasure, discuss and debate ideas in a natural and curious ways, and are interested in learning and thinking.  To me, being smart just means that people read, absorb and file away information rather than processing, synthesize, questioning, and discussing it.  Intellect takes work, curiosity, and role modeling.  Smart take discipline and an ability to read for facts coupled with the capacity to remember them.

I come from a family of highly intellectual people, around whom I often felt inferior to when I was growing up.  Now, as an adult, I realize that these types of people are the ones who push me, who encourage me to think, who shake my brain out of its atrophying state.

T took offense during out discussion.  He thought that I was drawing a line between his friends --with whom we rarely, if ever, have mind-blowing or brain stretching conversations-- and my new friend, by whom I think he feels intimidated even thought they seem to me to be the most non-judgmental and welcoming of people.  Privately, I think T is smart, thought when pushed can put on the intellectual hat.  It just doesn't come naturally to him.

But when he puts on that hat, damn is he sexy.

While I have not allowed our different ways in this regard to interfere with our relationship, I worry that this approach to friends and conversation and life will be a growing problem for us.  Or, are there reasonable and thoughtful ways to push it, again, to the background?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Things of Beauty

Red door in the morning.  Across the street from home.
Birds of peace on the hotel room's wall, Khao Yai.

Dusk in Khao Yai National Park.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

'Tis a Gift to Be Simple

My Dad's birthday is today.  As the kids have grown up, my family has become increasingly lame about material acknowledgments of birthdays.  I have taken to sending thoughtful cards or emails and giving small ,Thai handicraft,  token gifts to the honorees when I next see them.  I have been thinking about my Dad's card for more than a week.  Since he is a fan of Hemingway and spent some formative college and post-college summers in Paris, I created this:

 A graphic designer would have done a much better job.  I know it's not amazing, but it is heartfelt.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Inebriated Poultry

I made dinner last night and I think it was my best effort yet.  By far.  

 I am so proud.  

I followed the recipe at Epicurious for Red Wine Braised Rabbit with Sage Polenta, but substituted chicken thighs for the bunny.  I also made a few more minor adjustments to the recipe, including brining the chicken for a couple of hours (see this helpful page from Cook's Illustrated), adding a carrot with the onion, substituting chicken broth for water in the polenta recipe and adding a little bit of butter to it at the end. 
It was easy to make and required little "active" time since, after preparing all of the ingredients, all you really have to do is throw it all in a pot and let it stew for an hour. 
Since we both like to have salad after our entrees at dinnertime, I threw together some mixed greens with avocado and dried figs.

I'm telling you, this was a five-star meal and anyone you make it for will be putty in your hands. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yiddish Tuesday: Schmutz

Schmutz (Shmoots): n. dirt, filth
"What's that schmutz on your shirt?"

Pocket Pecker

From all accounts I have heard and read, sex toys are illegal in Thailand.  (Though, let it be noted that you can buy giant dildos freely from street vendors who also sell brass knuckles, tasers, and pirated porn.)  So, you can imagine our surprise and the hilarity that ensued when, after lunch in the basement of a shiny, new, and "healthy lifestyle" complex in central Bangkok, we came across a store selling these vibrators transparently masquerading as personal, hand-held shoulder massagers:

 Apparently, Thrive is a Japanese brand of body massagers, promoting "Relaxing Time".   
"Relax muscles temporarily, only for yourself"

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thai Me Up in Guilt and Shame

ฉัน ไม่ พูด ภาษา ไทย.
I don't speak Thai.

I am one of those embarrassing expats.  I admit it.  I can't speak Thai.  When I first moved here, I looked down on people like me.  "How colonialist to live in a country as an expat and not bother learning the language," I'd rant.  I have now lived here for almost four years and my Thai language skills have not progressed beyond the taxi/restaurant competency level.  I took lessons for a few months and made moderate headway, but then life got in the way and the future was up in the air.  My mentality has been: Why invest a lot of time and energy and money in learning a language I find difficult, aurally unpleasant, and rather useless outside of the country if I will be leaving soon?  But I have been thinking that way almost since the beginning.  When it comes down to it, I'd rather study French or Spanish or Italian.

I'd like to rid myself of this constant guilt/inertia surrounding Thai lessons (or lack thereof).  (I know the easy answer would be to start lessons.  I assure you that I have planned on doing so for months now.  No dice.  Yet.)  I'm ready to hit the road and return to a country where the language is accessible, familiar or simply beautiful and where I have an easier time relating to people and have more in common with my peers.  Being closer to my family would be a bonus, too.  

So, with my limited Thai skills and the utter foreignness of tonal languages, I find communicating here a bit like trying to remember a forgotten password.  You know there are only so many variations and you begin trying them all, making singulars into plurals, changing punctuation and numbers, adding capital letters.  When I speak Thai, if my first attempt elicits a blank stare, I embark on trying other permutations --changing to a rising tone or a falling tone, softening some consonants and making others stronger-- until a spark of recognition appears.  I then breath a sigh of relief, grateful that I have broken the code, but, feel a pang of remorse at not having taken the time to learn the native language.   

Yes, I am ashamed. 

Image via
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