29 January 2015

Sweet Factory

It's been a while since I did told you about any coffee shops. There are a few new ones I've spotted recently and I'm a bit behind in my research. I spotted one the other day that had a sign saying "cakes 35 baht" so I'd best get myself out to that one.

Part of the reason I'm behind is because of the great sporting events that are on in Australia at the moment. Firstly there's the Australian Open tennis. Because of the time difference, there are matches on from 7am until 8pm everyday. We're up to the semi-finals now and there's been some terrific matches. The other is the Asian Cup soccer / football. Australia has made it through to the final on Saturday at 4pm Thailand time. All very exciting.

But I digress. The Sweet Factory! 
Past Tesco Lotus this lovely little place is set back from the main road and the owners speak good English no wonder my Thai isn't improving. The weather was very mild for here and so we sat outside and weren't bothered by the traffic noise at all. I didn't have my usual latte to get a really good comparison because there'd been a power black out and they weren't able to produce everything on the menu. Mr John & I suspected there'd been some problem as we'd popped into Tesco on the way and not all the shops had lights!

So we enjoyed a pot of jasmine tea and some very, very good crepe cake. I will pop back and check out the latte so that I can do a fair assessment for you but in the meantime, I'd recommend checking this place out.
And if you're not sure where Tesco Lotus is, here's the map!

27 January 2015

Year of the Visitor

Yes, yes, I know that under the Chinese zodiac it's the Year of the Goat funnily enough some websites refer to it as the sheep but in our house it's definitely the Year of the Visitor. I've been waiting on some flight confirmations before telling you all how excited we are about 2015.

Firstly, my sister Anne and her lovely husband Graham are coming to visit. One of the highlights of their trip will be a Thai cooking course and we're looking forward to some time in Bangkok with them. The gorgeous Leon is also going to be back with us for Songkran he has no idea what he's in for and we have a trip to Koh Chang booked. And as if that wasn't enough, Hannah niece 1 is also coming to see us after meeting up with Ross in Hong Kong and we have a trip to Koh Mak booked with her. We can't wait to see everyone.

Sadly, this means I am likely to miss some sessions with my Torturer aka yoga instructor. Yes, I continue to try and master the human pretzel look. Unfortunately, she's still winning at the moment! Seriously though, the girls including the Torturer are just lovely. Very friendly and including. I'd like to say I'm feeling the benefit but for now, getting up from a chair is still a bit of an issue after class!

I was out and about the other day doing some bits and pieces and stopped to go into one of the shops. These cans were on display outside the shop and it caused me to do a double take. I'm assuming "ATM" is the brand name and that these cans of paint are not to be used on ATMs Automatic Telling Machines - you know, cash points!. It did make me chuckle quite a bit though, and gave some evidence to the "This is Thailand" TIT quote that everyone uses here.

My cooking adventures continue and Mr John is still enjoying the flatbread. I thought I ought to let you know about a new cut of meat we tried the other day - Pork Butt I still giggle like a school girl every time I say it. I thought we'd give it a go in curry on the basis that Mr John and I like pork cheek - can't go wrong, right? 

Believe it or not, it was delicious. Perhaps because it was done in the electric frypan aka slow cooker but it was incredibly moist and had more of a lamb texture to it. I know that sounds a bit weird but it didn't taste like chicken, which is usually what people say. Anyway, if you get a chance, try it.

22 January 2015

Flatbread Crazy

Flat bread aka pitta bread is really hard to come by here and I found this great Jamie Oliver recipe that's so simple, I can't believe I've only just discovered it. Have a go, they taste better than any shop bought ones you've ever had and if I can manage to produce them in my limited facilities kitchen - imagine what you can do!

The way I work the recipe, because I don't have any scales here, is to put the yoghurt into a bowl, add the sea salt, baking powder (which is easy to get hold of here) and then just keep adding the flour until the dough feels right.This mostly involves sticking my finger in it don't panic, my hands are clean until the dough stops being "sloppy". The yoghurt pot is about 180 mls so I adjust the other ingredients measurements down accordingly mostly by guesswork but then I have been cooking a long time! Gee I hope everyone can follow these technical instructions!

We also don't have a griddle pan here but the pan we have is fairly decent and I can't say it's handicapped us in any way. Having made a few batches, here are my top tips

  • Left them cool down before eating them. In our over-excitement of the first catch we tried one straight out of the pan. Whilst there was nothing wrong with it, when we ate the rest later they were much, much nicer.
  • Put in an air-tight container to keep fresh. We had leftovers (once) and I put them in one of those zip-lock plastic bags and it was absolutely fine the next day.
  • Pop them in the toaster if you want to eat them warm. Our toaster has a "reheat" button.
The recipe says you can freeze them but we haven't tried that yet. I've no doubt it would work and I occasionally threaten to go into mass production but that hasn't happened yet either. I just find these are so quick and easy it's nothing to whip some up.

I mentioned our "reheat" button on the toaster and I spoilt Mr John the other day by doing this to warm them through. I then rubbed a cut garlic clove over the bread and made up this olive oil dip without putting garlic powder in it yuk, would always prefer the real thing and spread it over the flat-bread.

If you make the dip in a glass jar you know the type that's held jam or maybe honey, whatever then it doesn't matter if you make too much because you can put the lid on and pop it in the fridge.

20 January 2015

My Own Torturer

Firstly, I can't believe I haven't told you about our night time visitor! Urgh! Just thinking about it creeps me out. Whilst the sting from these is not fatal, it can result in several day pain. I was returning from the bathroom at silly o'clock when I noticed something sticking out the bottom of the bedroom door. 

I first thought it was just a tag off one of our backpacks, then on second look realised that a) none of our backpacks are anywhere near the door and b) it was moving! Funnily enough, the picture is not one we took as this turned into the most epic 10 minutes Mr John and I have had in a long time! 

Because of the hour, I quietly called to Mr John and tapped lightly on the door. He already had his head down but woke up quick smart I can tell you. So he's on the bedroom side of the door and I'm in the hall. He's instructed me to get his boots. They're pretty big and clumpy, so I've got hold of them and kept saying "now what" but he was silent on what I should actually do with them. I could hear a bit of huffing and puffing never a good thing and a repeated instruction to get his boots. 

So there I am in the hall holding his boots, feeling like a bit of an idiot and still not fully understanding what the issue is. So I put said boots on telling him this is what I was doing and was that the right thing to do? Still no real answer! I figured if the "thing" was going to come streaking out of the bedroom there was no way I was going to have bare feet. So regardless, I was safely ensconced in the boots! Next thing I know, he's telling me to open the door and step on it. Uuurgh!!! 

I open the door to find him laying face down with his head over the bottom of the bed. In his hand is a large water bottle that he's pressing down trying to stop the little bugger moving. With him yelling "stamp on it, stamp on it" goodness knows what the neighbour was thinking it took about four goes for the thing to stop wiggling. It was so disgusting, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. 

To give you some idea of what I was going through, take your hand and grasp the index finger of your other hand. Feel it? Yep, that's how it felt under my boot ensconced feet. So now, all the lights are put on when someone has to go to the bathroom and one of the boots is permanently by his side of the bed. Phew!

Anyway, back to today's news. Namely, for the princely sum of 100 baht, I have my own personal torturer. OK, some of you might refer to her as my yoga instructor. I started going last week when my friend Kik told be about it. It's just down the bottom of our street and is at 9am every weekday (except Thursdays). This is a great time and location for me and the girls there are just lovely - even my torturer.

As a result, I pretty much ache all over all day, but I'm sure it's going to be great in the long run. If only I could get into a nice hot bath at the end of it! I thought going would be a good idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, flexibility at any age is a good idea. Secondly, it would get me out of the house and finally, help improve my Thai speaking skills. 

Well, the first point will hopefully come with time. It's definitely improved my disposition getting out and seeing people. However, everyone including the torturer has at least some English and they're so thrilled to practice that nobody speaks to me in Thai! I'm going to have to learn the phrase "please help me speak Thai" and tell them all one of these mornings.

Classes are a hoot. She has us bending this way and that turning ourselves into some sort of human pretzel and then says "relax, relax" or actually sabai, sabai. Yeah right, you try and relax when your ankle is up around your earlobe! Thankfully, a few of the others struggle too so I'm not left feeling like the dunce of the class. And another thing I've found out is that when I have to stand on one leg, I wobble around like an un-set jelly! I cling to the fact that the only way is up.

15 January 2015

Buddha Park

It's the usual "we haven't got a clue what this place is called" but it has a big statue of Buddha in it so there you go! We've been meaning to go here for a long time and finally got round to it this new year. 

To get there, head away from town on the Big C road and after the second intersection, you'll see the entrance. Oh, and you can't miss the statue from the road.

It was a little sad to see it so uncared for but I guess it's slightly further out of town and "the lake" gets all the attention. If you want to have a kick about it's probably the place to go but you will be out in the sun. There's a lack of shade here, though there are some trees dotted about.
So if you fancy something different, you can head here. There's very little in the way of facilities for eating or drinking so probably best to BYO bring your own if you want to do anything other than walk. 

13 January 2015

Children's Day

Universal Children's Day was introduced by the United Nations back in 1954. Thailand celebrated this day last Saturday and in the build up, Mr John's school had a number of activities organised for pupils.

There was an open day last Thursday and so I decided to pop along and check out the activities. Man, the noise level. There were educational games going on all around the hall along with various acts on stage.

Mr John and his co-Grade 6 teacher Yas set up a pop quiz. Coloured balloons represented topics and by throwing a dart at a balloon, you got a question on that topic. If you got the question right, you got a lolly / sweet / candy. Apparently there were some near misses with the darts early on but Mr John commandeered a couple of the more sensible students and trained them in Health & Safety! Thankfully, no child was harmed in the staging of this quiz.

Yas is a creative genius so Mr John considers himself the brains of the outfit not sure that's true!
We were treated to some traditional Thai dancing and one of Mr John's students was the Monkey King. It was very well done and amusing. I don't know who produced the costumes but they deserve a medal.

Yas had also got involved in producing the Year 7 play Cinderella. It was very funny with two boys playing Ugly Sisters. There's definitely a future for them on the stage!

08 January 2015

French Kissin (in the USA)

Remember that song? Well before Christmas I did French Knitting (in Chanthaburi), Doesn't have quite the same ring to it does it?

Mr John reckons that Art is his weakest subject and he definitely has issues with the hands on stuff. I've seen the results of his art lessons though through pictures of some of the kids work and I've seen some amazing artwork. I think that because he knows its his weakness subject he puts more effort into it and actually does a really good job.  I also suspect he used this excuse to get me out of the house.

So Art is a double lesson (100 minutes) on Friday afternoons. Weirdly, we'd been saving the cardboard tubes from out of our toilet paper rolls and it was time to use them. I got all the kids to make a "dolly" and then got them knitting. I even got Mr John's teaching assistant and Thai teacher involved by giving them a ready made dolly each and a ball of wool. I must say they really got into the spirit of the thing and seemed to enjoy themselves.

I've got to say, I was exhausted when we'd finished. I don't know how he does it everyday. There's 39 in the class and it took all four of us "grown ups" to wander round helping them out. Fixing loops that fell off sticks, undoing knots and various other issues that I didn't think were possible! 

I perhaps shouldn't have started with making the "dolly". It took absolutely ages and one young chap has some very thick paper which resulted in Mr John having to salvage the whole thing. There were varying balls of wool both in thickness and colour and when all else failed on finding something positive to say to each child, I resorted to complementing them on their choice of wool.

Although tiring, I did have a lot of fun and it did me the world of good. They're a great bunch of kids and see why Mr John is so happy here (even with the occasional grumble).

Look out for my detailed post on how to French Knit, coming soon.

06 January 2015

Happy New Year

Mr John has given up with wrapping paper!
We had a fabulous Christmas and New Year and are now simply trying to get back into a routine like everyone else.We took a trip to Pattaya just before Christmas and spent all our money on food and drink for the festive period. Well, maybe not all our money but we definitely enjoyed it! For some reason Snoopy was this years theme. I'm a fan but still bewildered as to why?

Our hotel in Pattaya was the Baan Sila (aka Natural Beach Resort). The location was really good, the room clean and priced appropriately but other than that there was not much to write home about. Our shower was rubbish with the water a mere dribble out of the shower head and no visible means to have it anything other than stone cold. I wouldn't rush to go back but, because of the location, I wouldn't dismiss it.

By far the best bit of Pattaya, besides the Indian dinner, was meeting Gordon & Lisa. Mr John and Lisa went to the same high school. We caught up over a coffee and it could not have been easier chatting to these lovely people. Hopefully next time we'll be able to spend more time together.

We were really lucky to receive some great gifts and they have all been put to use. In fear of upsetting people which is not my intention I do have to tell you about the "grown-up" colouring-in in book I received from Abby I nearly said "adult" but I guess that's a whole other colouring in experience!. Mr John is extremely pleased with it too as it keeps me quiet for hours. Honestly, everyone should have one of these in their house. Except maybe "Aunty" Wendy who allegedly got last place for a colouring-in competition when she was little.