color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

My Birthday Boys!

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Today marks the birthday of two very important boys in my life, and seeing as I can only be with one of them today, I thought I’d write a special blog post about them.  We’ll start with the youngest, my nephew Carson, because he’s the one I won’t be able to see today.

Carson name

I remember when Carson was born 6 whole years ago on October 28!  I made sure I was home in Illinois that weekend, since I was studying at Huntington University in north-central Indiana at that time.  He was born a little early since he was such a big boy, and since his birth was scheduled, I knew I couldn’t miss it!  That made me happy.  Even neater was the fact that I knew he and his Uncle Brook would always share a birthday from then on out.

Anyways, I remember the time getting closer and closer to when I had to leave the hospital and head back to school, but we still couldn’t see him yet.  Waiting, waiting, waiting… looking at the incredible little baby boy through the nursery window, wondering when or if I’d even be able to touch him before I had to go.  You can imagine how worried I was that I wouldn’t get to meet this little boy that I had just only seen for the first time… But, then, my brother, the new proud father, announced I would be the first one to hold him (other than his new parents of course!) after he had been brought to their room.  Before the grandparents, before the friends, before the other family!  I seriously broke down crying when Tim put him in my arms.  Who knew you could instantly love someone so very much?

12845_299263535244_565315244_9556355_1271372_nIt’s been wonderful to see Carson grow up into such a fine young man.  He is very smart, loves to draw, is kind, conversational, has a good imagination, is handsome, and just an all-around great kid.  He was the ring bearer in Brook & I’s wedding just over 3 years ago, and I’ll never forget that squeaky hamburger he carried down the aisle with him.  (I hope that makes you laugh, Carson!)  He loves to fish and go canoeing with his dad, my brother Tim.  He is always interested in new things, and I can see him doing great things as he grows even more.

I wish Uncle Brook & I could be there to give you big birthday hugs and eat cake & ice cream with you!  I wish you all the best things in this next year, and I pray that God would keep you safe, teach you more, and let you keep becoming the wonderful boy that you are!  I love you, Carson!

Brook name

The other birthday boy, is of course, my husband Brook.  Brook and I first met October 4th, 2002 at Huntington University.  Yes, I’m a female, and I am allowed to remember things like that.  I had made a commitment between myself and God not to date anyone during high school, rather to focus on academics and service from those 4 years through the first semester of college.  Then, there he was, visiting a mutual friend on campus (he attended elsewhere at that point), and we hit it off right away.  I couldn’t believe this guy I’d met… We didn’t see each other again for exactly 2 weeks, and I couldn’t get him off my mind in the meantime, so all I could do was pray.  Had God honored my previous commitment, and brought me someone at just the right time?  It appeared so, and the story only goes on from there.

We’ve been through life together for the last 7 years, married for just over 3, and I am thankful for every one of them.  Brook’s passion for music and anything that has to do with it was the first thing that brought us together.  I still enjoy singing with him, or simply listening to him play his guitar (especially when he doesn’t even know I’m listening).  He has this drive, this determination, to learn new things and do them well.  He has this ability to go out and meet new people, unafraid.  He has become a good teacher, preacher, and friend to others.  He makes an impact wherever he goes.  He tries very hard at whatever he does, and if he doesn’t succeed at first, he tries even harder the second time.  He is my best friend, and my companion on this journey in life (cheesy, I know, but true), and I wouldn’t want to face Thailand without him.

I love you, Brook.  And I pray that this next year you would flourish here in Thailand, that God would continue to bless our marriage to one another, that we would only continue to grow together and love one another as much as one can.  I thank God for you, for your determination, your love of life, your passion for this work in Thailand, and most of all that you are mine.  🙂

How blessed I am for these 2 boys being a part of my life!  Happy Birthday!!!!

*For outtakes of our birthday photos among 13th century temple ruins, visit my Facebook page (will be uploaded as soon as the internet allows!)*

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October 28, 2009 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tasty Tuesdays goes Japanese

This past weekend, Brook & I were able to spend some time with fellow Indiana ex-pats and friends Jason & April Ruggles. While in their neck of the woods in Bangkok, they took us to a restaurant we’d only ever heard about, and had never visited – Oishi. We were told that the word Oishi actually means “delicious” in Japanese, so it only seemed fitting as the name of this unique restaurant. Wait, Sara, did you just say unique? Now you’re curious… What makes Oishi so unique is that they charge a flat rate for all-you-can-eat in 1 hour 15 minutes, as well as the manner in which you receive your food…

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… it travels right past your table on a conveyor belt! Wait, what?!

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Every table is outfitted with a recessed hot plate on which a split pot sits. You may choose from 3 different types of broth – clear, spicy, or whichever meat broth they have that night (chicken or pork). You then use this broth to cook whatever you would like to eat. As you sit at your table, there is a conveyor belt that passes by, filled with options for your meal. Some plates contain a portion of meat – chicken, pork, beef, bacon, liver, shrimp, squid, etc. Others have veggies like cabbage, leafy greens, or mushrooms. There’s even tofu, dumplings, fish patties, and eggs to poach. All you do is reach over, grab a dish, deposit its contents into the broth and wait. After a few minutes, you use your strainer to lift out the food, place it in your bowl, and enjoy! It really is quite fun!

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Along with what is available right at your table, the restaurant also features a walk-up sushi bar, tempura station (with potstickers – my favorite!), fresh fruit, and hard-scoop ice cream for dessert. I know some of you may be thinking… sushi? Well, I personally can’t bring myself to eat anything that is raw, so I stick to the items that contain vegetables, cooked egg, and rice. I especially like the cucumber rolls – a paper-thin slice of cucumber, wrapped several times around a small bunch of rice, egg, vegetables, and topped with a mild horseradish cream. Yum! Oh, and of course, you can’t forget the dipping sauces. Each person receives a small bowl of darkly colored smoky-spicy sauce, and another containing a lighter sauce that tasted like toasted sesame. Every table also had the traditional soy sauce, lemon juice and my favorite bright green condiment – wasabi.

It really was quite an experience, and a meal filled with fun! And, of course, no matter what you’re eating, it’s always better shared with friends.

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** BONUS ** Here’s proof that we do know how to use chopsticks!

B and S chopstickys

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Newsletter Time!

We finally have the e-version of our newsletter finished up and posted here for all to enjoy!  If you haven’t been receiving these newsletters either via postal mail or email, and would like to, please sign-up for our newsletter here!

To download the newsletter, just click the image below!

Sarver-September-Newsletter-webThanks for all of the support over the past few months.  It has been exciting, trying, fulfilling, tiring and fun nearly all at the same time…and all the time!  Your continued prayers are more than appreciated!

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Newsletters, Thailand | | Leave a comment

Tasty Tuesdays – Taco night

You got it, it’s time for another Tasty Tuesday – this week, we’re talking tacos.  Tacos?  In Thailand?  Why is this anything to write about?  This sort of meal is a cinch to whip up back home in the States, but let me tell you, preparing this dinner here was like being in a pressure cooker for an hour.  Yes, it took me an hour to make tacos tonight (not counting all the chopping and running around I did earlier this afternoon).

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Since we now live in Southeast Asia, in the country of Thailand, the availability of food ingredients that are common in the States wanes quite a bit.  Let me explain – since beef is not common in Thailand, I ended up making our tacos with ground pork (which took 2 different trips, to 2 different stores, in 2 different parts of town to find).  Cheese is also rare and expensive, so when we see it, we evaluate the price for our budget, buy it, freeze it, and use it sparingly.  Sour cream is one of those things that is sometimes there, sometimes not – tonight was a “not” night, so I improvised with another sort of creamy dressing.  Veggies are plentiful, so no trouble with the onion, tomato, or lettuce.  Salsa, when you can find it, is expensive, so we use that sparingly as well.  But, tortillas… well, there aren’t any.  Anywhere.  This is the sort of situation that forces me to use my creativity (and the internet!) in the kitchen and figure out how to make this dinner work.  So… I made tortillas.  Yep, from scratch, with my own two hands.

tortillas smI have to say, it really is sort of fun, and it isn’t all that difficult to make them once you get going, either.  They’re just flour, shortening, salt, and a little bit of warm water.  Flatten them, pop ’em in a hot pan for 30 seconds per side, and voila!  You have fresh flour tortillas, ready to fill.

But wait, if they’re so simple to create, then why did it take an hour to make them tonight?  There are two reasons.  First, I didn’t have any shortening.  I know which stores carry it here in Lopburi, but I also know there are many different flavors that are sold… and since I am just now learning how to read and write the Thai language, I can’t read which package is what flavor yet!  So, I had to improvise instead by freezing a combination of oil and flour into a paste-like substance that blended with the flour beautifully just as shortening would have.  Yes!  I used the freeze time then, to prepare the meat, and by the time everything else was ready, it was time to make the tortillas.  The other reason why it took so long to make these lovely wraps is that when I turn on the gas and light our stove, the small kitchen area instantly fills with heat, and my forearms even begin to sweat.  Between every tortilla, I had to step out into the living room and stand in front of the fan for a minute.  I’m not kidding.  🙂

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This is only my second time making tortillas, and I’m very pleased with how they turned out!  The first time I made them was about a month ago, and I failed to check if my house had been outfitted with a rolling pin before I started the process.  Oops!

I tried my best to flatten the dough with the side of a glass, then stretching and tossing the tortillas like pizza dough, but they turned out a bit more like flatbread.  Looked weird, too thick, but they still tasted good!  This time though, I had all the right equipment.  I since bought a rolling pin, and my mother sent me one of the best kitchen inventions ever – a pastry frame.  Thanks to the frame, my tortillas turned out perfectly!  Super thin, very round, and without alot of excess flour to keep them from sticking to the table as I rolled them out.  I can only imagine the cookies, pie crusts, and other creations that will come now as a result of my pastry frame arriving… Thanks, Mom!

Alright, that’s it for now.  And seriously, you need to try making your own tortillas.  If I can make them in a 110 degree kitchen in Thailand, you can definitely make them in your kitchen in the States.  Have fun!

October 19, 2009 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | , , , , | 4 Comments

Tasty Tuesdays #2 – Market Fare

It’s Tuesday, so we all know what that means… we’re going to talk about food!  Goodness, has it been a week already since my last post?  Wow, did that go by quickly… now, where shall we begin?

One of our favorite things to do here in Lopburi is eat supper in the market.  Not just any market though, we like the Sra Kaew night market only a few minute motorcycle ride from where we live.  This particular market sets up along one side of only one long street, and the only thing they sell is food.  There are carts lined up with portable kitchens and glass cases holding all of their ingredients on display, small folding tables and plastic stools, and all sorts of smells (yes, the yummy kind) floating with you as you find the right place to sit.  They begin setting up around 5 or 5:30pm every day, and most are ready to go by 6:00.

Now, many of you already know my affinity for dining outdoors.  I’ll drop anything for a picnic, eat (almost) anywhere that has tables outside…  So, eating supper as the sun goes down, in a night market already has me happy.  Then, you add the fresh, cooked-on-the-spot, oh so fragrant and delicious food, and you’ve got me hooked.  Since we frequented this market almost daily before we had a house and kitchen of our own, Brook and I have seemed to develop some favorites as far as vendors go and what sort of meals they prepare.  Today, I’m going to introduce you to one of Brook’s meals (which I happen to enjoy as well).

The name for the dish you see below is pronounced as follows –
moo taught, grah-tee-ahm prick Thai.

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Literally translated, this dish is called “pork fried, garlic pepper Thai.”  Now, look back up and say that out loud, exactly how it looks, and you’re speaking Thai (well, minus the tones, of course, but you get the idea)!  So, what exactly is this “moo taught” stuff made of?  Exactly what it says!  You get a plate of warm rice topped with thin, bite-sized pieces of pork that have been stir fried with lots of garlic, black pepper, and a few Thai chilis.  It’s flavorful, juicy, and not real spicy.  It’s just right for those of you who don’t have flame-retardant tongues.

So, what’s with the egg on top?  We’ve learned over the course of our time in Thailand that you can order an egg on top of any dish, pretty much anywhere, and they’ll either serve it sunny-side up or mix it into an omelet that covers the entire plate.  Brook loves his fried egg, and he never eats his garlic pork with out it!  Oh, and for those of you out there that like your yolks runny – you can order your fried egg soft, too, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it tastes to swirl the sweet yolk into the rice and take it with a bite of peppery meat.  Fantastic.

So there you have it.  Your first encounter with market food.  There’s so much more to taste in Sra Kaew, but… you’ll just have to wait until next Tuesday to find out just what there is!

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tasty Tuesdays – 1st Ed.

You got it! It’s Tuesday, and I’ve got something tasty to talk about. Once upon a time, perhaps a year ago, I had this idea of blog posting on the topic of food. I figured I would make it catchy, yet slightly annoying (of course, annoying enough to get stuck in your head, yet not so bad that it turns you away) and make it coincide with a particular day of the week. That’s when Tasty Tuesday was born… but, I shyed away from it thinking nobody would want to read about food that interests me, or about my baking/ cooking adventures, so it never came to life. Well, upon discovering that fellow bloggers/ Americans in Thailand/ friends Jason & April Ruggles have a blog installment called Food Fridays, I became inspired once again to make Tasty Tuesdays come to life.

Anytime you see a post that is part of the Tasty Tuesdays series, you can expect either to be introduced to some form of Thai cuisine or local fare, or I’ll simply be recording one of my triumphs in adapting my knowledge of cooking to what ingredients are available as well as what equipment I can find to use. So, without further adieu, your first Tasty Tuesday has begun.

DSC04967 smHow many of you out there enjoy brownies?  I do.  Especially warm with a bowlful of vanilla bean ice cream.  Well, tomorrow night, our fellowship groups are all combining for a special session, and my group happens to be in charge of supplying dinner for the whole bunch.  Our leader, knowing my affinity for all things made in the oven, asked if I would like to make something to go with ice cream for dessert.  Of course, I reluctantly ( :: read incredibly eagerly :: ) said yes.  And what comes to mind when thinking of what goes well with ice cream?  Brownies.  But, since I can’t just go to the grocery store and pick up a box of Duncan Hines or Pillsbury fudge brownie mix for $1.50, I had to go on a quest for the perfect recipe.  How in the world was I going to re-create that chewy, gooey, fudgy sensation that come from the box?

I put out a plea on Facebook, of course… and, used my spare time after late-night studying to scour the internet for tips and tricks on how to make homemade brownies not taste like cake, be super fudgy, and use only ingredients that I can actually find here in Lopburi.  After much research (reading through recipe after recipe after recipe…), I came up with a decent idea of how to accomplish my task, and tonight I tried it out.  I ended up using a 13″ square pan, making half plain chocolate and swirling a peanut butter batter into the other half (thus, the marbling), and they actually turned out pretty good!  Still not quite the same as the box, but they are rather tasty!  The chocolate flavor is  a bit lighter, but the chips inside help make them gooey.  I think they’ll go great with ice cream!  Perhaps I need to buy some sort of chemicals that I can’t pronounce and add them to the batter though, if I want them to be like the box… after all, isn’t that what the big companies do to make things taste so good?

DSC04971 smI still have a few others to try out, but after spending 2 hours making these things and having the temperature in my kitchen rise to near 100 F, I figured they were worthy of posting.  If only you knew how I had to cleverly rig the oven door in order to regulate the temperature inside the oven… Seriously, do you know how tough it is to bake in Thailand?  🙂  I love it.

For those of you that want to taste them yourselves, here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2 C flour (I used all-purpose this time)
  • 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 T butter or margarine
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 C tiny chocolate chips (yes, I found some today!!!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 8×8 metal baking pan. In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter on low. Remove pan from heat; stir in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture, and tiny chocolate chips.  Spread batter in pan and pop it in the oven!
  3. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick or clean knife in the middle comes out almost clean. Cool brownies completely in pan before cutting, or they will get crumbly

For the peanut butter swirl:

Beat with mixer or blend by hand in a medium bowl –

  • 1 C creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 4 T butter or margarine
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

After placing brownie batter in pan, before baking, either drop peanut butter batter by spoonfuls around pan and swirl with a knife, or pipe the mixture onto the brownie batter in stripes using a pastry bag (or plastic baggie with one corner snipped off, since I didn’t have a pastry bag!), then swirl with a knife.  Either way works fine.

October 6, 2009 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | , | 4 Comments