color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Snickerdoodles

Anyone who knows me, knows my love of the kitchen.  Reason # 564 to love my mother, my grandmother, great-grandmother and so on.  These women have passed down some pretty fierce skills when it comes to cooking, baking, and serving a crowd.  I think some inherent knowledge may have even come just through the blood… who knows?  Whichever way, I love it, I love the kitchen, and what comes out of it has always been a really big part of who I am.  In moving to a much simpler life in Thailand, I have lost a chunk of my identity in that (or at least it has been put on hold, we’ll say), since I can no longer create edible art as easily as I once did.  I currently have no kitchen of my own, and food supplies are harder to come by out here.

But…

I was shown a small baking goods store in a local market by a seasoned missionary in this region.  I was given the keys to a new friend’s home while they are away for the weekend.  Said friend has a kitchen… and an oven.  You can imagine how happy I was to put all of these things together.  Oh yes.  So, tonight, I made Snickerdoodles at the request of my husband, Brook.

DSC04852_smallHere is why I count this as such a victory tonight.  This is the oven I have to use.  It is quite simple and may be considered a bit primitive by those of you in the States.  It has only a knob to turn it on or off, and in between it has a gauge similar to that on the front of a gas grill.  The tank you see to the right is the propane which fuels the range.  Thankfully, I had a small thermometer sitting on the rack inside to help me figure out just how hot it was inside…

The first round came out a wee bit darker than I wanted, but not actually burnt.  Good.  They tasted more like caramelized sugar on the bottom rather than burning.  Good.  Second round came out a wee bit better, golden on the bottom.  Then, the 3rd and 4th round came out perfect.  Same color on the top and bottom of the cookies.  Yes!  Now, some of you may, great she can bake.  But seriously, I had to sit there and watch the cookies, opening the door and closing the door of the oven to adjust the temperature as needed.  The really funny part though, was that I had to stand just outside the kitchen doorway to watch the cookies, with a large fan blowing straight on me since the temp of the house was already around 90 degrees, and a 400 degree oven, of course, will alter temperature a wee bit…  Ha.  I love it.

DSC04854So here’s the finished product.   A few dozen lovely little Snickerdoodles.  Yum.  I only made a small amount since I didn’t know if I would be able to figure out the oven tonight, and didn’t want to waste any dough.  Now I know I can do it.  Now I know I can get a little piece of me back.  And now Brook knows he’s going to get cookies in Thailand after all!

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Food, Personal, Thailand | , , | 4 Comments

the local zoo

We had a “day off” on Monday of this week, and one of the things on our list of things to do on that day off was visit the local zoo here in Lopburi.  I love going to the zoo.  I love animals.  I love talking to them as though they understand me.  I know, I know, I’m 25 years old… but, I just love it!  This zoo was a bit different though…

DSC04813smallFirst of all, the selection of animals was varied a bit from home.  How many of you out there like to see the elephants?  Well, they don’t have any.  Why?  Because elephants are a regular part of everyday life here.  You get to see them walking down the street every day, so there’s no point in putting them in the zoo.  Alright, monkeys anyone?  They had lots of them, but stranger still, was seeing the local monkeys that run free throughout the city coming into the zoo to visit their caged fellows.  We even saw one tiny monkey find a crack in the bottom of a pen, sneak inside, visit the zoo monkeys, then come back out and follow us along a fence!  But, for the most exotic of them all… they had special exhibits for cattle (which you don’t find in Thailand, thus dairy is rare), goats, white-tailed deer, sheep, and… squirrels.  Yes, squirrels.  Believe it or not, those animals we’re used to seeing run rampant all over the Midwest States are quite foreign to Thailand, and so they are on special display in the zoo.

DSC04817smallThe other thing that was different about this zoo is that is it quite primitive compared to the habitats you see in the States for animals in captivity.  I felt so bad for so many of these creatures, as their living conditions were really very poor.  Some didn’t even make much sense to me, as the deer and goats had large habitats in open air for only 5 or 6 of them each, and yet the giant Asiatic Black Bears had a slab cage only big enough to fit perhaps a small car.  Same for the tigers and other large cats, and the various breeds of primates.  I don’t know, I just felt really bad for them.

Either way, I took some shots of our trip to the zoo, and this is just a small selection of them.  The rest can be found on my Facebook page.

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August 13, 2009 Posted by | Thailand | , , | Leave a comment

Fun Fact #1

Ok, so there are little things every day that may seem strange to you, as to myself, but there is usually an explanation for them. That is what these posts are going to be for. There are times when I am a wee bit sad that this is not my first time living in the country of Thailand, as I have forgotten many of things that are indeed strange and unusual at first sight for a Westerner such as myself. Thankfully, I am surrounded by a group of fellow language learners who are going through their first processing of this place, and I can be reminded of what is new and different for them.

So… every time you see a post titled “Fun Fact,” be ready for a short glimpse into something that makes life in Thailand entirely different, entirely interesting, and entirely new! Without further adieu, I present you with your first Fun Fact in History… well, kind of.

2705 Larkin StairsBrook and I were recently at the OMF Home in Bangkok, where we were staying in a room a few floors up. This meant many stairs for us to climb each time we needed to retrieve something from our room. There turned out to be one certain place that Brook would always catch his toe as we went up, and upon closer inspection, we discovered that the first step after the landing was half a tile higher than all the other stairs. Upon mentioning this as a joke to a staff member in the OMF offices, we were surprised to find out that this was, in fact, not a mistake, rather it was quite intentional.

You see, in Thailand, everything is done for a reason. There is a saying “to be Thai is to be Buddhist,” so many everyday practices have some sort of mystical or superstitious background in them. The building of this particular staircase is one such practice. There is much belief in the existence and activity of spirits in Thailand, as well as their ability to dwell among buildings and residences. These stairs were built slightly “off” as means of deterring bad spirits from successfully entering the upper part of the building, a means of throwing them off or confusing them. At the same time, it was not so obvious that a spirit (or the people travelling them each day) would notice it straight away. The same is intended by landings and turning staircases, as anything other than straight could also help deter any unwanted presences in a building. Now, for those of you who may be wondering, our organization did not particularly do this when setting up their offices in this building, rather, it is just simply the way things are built, just the way things are done.

So, if you ever visit Thailand, take note of the stairs upon which you walk. Is there a landing halfway to your destination? Are all of the stairs the exact same height? Could there be one or two tiles that seem out of place in a mosaic pattern? Who knows what wonders you will find when you observe even the smallest of details!

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Fun Fact, Thailand | , , | 4 Comments

a penny & a song

This morning, when going through my purse, I found a penny.  Big deal, you say.  Well, when you’re living in a foreign country the thought may cross your mind as to why you didn’t take advantage of converting that single piece of currency for use in your new home.  Ha!  Well, instead of adding it any sort of exchange pile, I’ve decided to keep it.  This lonely little piece of copper will be one of my small pieces of home that will keep me company in my new country of residence, this place we call Thailand.

Now, how many of you have ever lived overseas?  I’m not talking about a visit, a vacation, a short-term mission trip (not that any of those experiences are any less valuable, I’m just working for conversation sake right now), I’m talking about really living day-to-day in a foreign land.  If you have, then you’ll truly understand what I mean when I say that living in another culture is really quite difficult, and yet so rewarding.  Everyday tasks seem to take much longer.  Every location seems so far away and confusing to get to.  Life just gets… different.  It almost seems as if I am a child again, wandering around listening to the grown-ups talk about certain things, unable to understand them myself, and the only thing I can do is wait until I’ve grown enough to also be a part of the conversation.  I am learning how to live all over again.

But, it’s ok.

Among all the joys and stresses of moving to Thailand, there is one (of a small collection) thing that I am able to hold onto… and that would be music.  I am so grateful to my mom for always singing, playing music, encouraging my brother and I to be creative, for giving us a love and appreciation for all types of music.  As a child, my mom took me to piano lessons, put me in choirs and musicals, and was always there to support me.  Even when I complained about practicing scales, or as my skills developed I drove the teachers nuts with my desire to play by ear rather than the page, she encouraged me to keep going.  I now have this gift I carry around with me that can give me joy at any time, through any trial, and break any bonds of stress I may have.

These past few months have been exhausting.  The first days in Thailand were freeing, yet still a bit stressful as I tried to remember everything I had learned living here before… and then I found it.  There it was, shiny and black, clean and well-tuned (a surprise considering this climate!), waiting in a big open room, surrounded by walls of glass, with a beautiful breeze.  Just for me.  A Yamaha upright piano in the meeting room at the OMF Bangkok Home where we are staying.  Anyone who knows me, also knows that my ideal place to play would be in an open room with lots of open windows and a light echo.  So, of course, I played.  I played for perhaps an hour or so, windows open, music flying through the air all about the compound, and for that hour I played, I felt free.  For the hour I played, I was able to release all my worry and stress through my fingers on the keys.  For that hour I played, I was able to both rejoice in and use the gift I have to bless others.

And for that hour I played, I was happy.  🙂DSC04768

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | , , , , | 2 Comments