color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – Lofthouse Cookies

You’re probably wondering what in the world a Lofthouse cookie is, aren’t you?

If you’ve ever been to WalMart, Kroger, or whatever your local grocery store is in the States, it is likely that you have encountered (and possibly overdosed on) these.

Look familiar?  Super soft, fluffy, almost bendy, brightly frosted sugar cookies.  They are thicker and softer than your average cut out or drop cookie, which is the only kind I’d ever made before.  I think they taste and feel like a sugar cookie that meets white cake and the outside of a marshmallow.  If that makes no sense to you at all, then you’ve obviously never eaten them, and you need to do so right away.

Alone, I don’t think the cookies taste like much – so if you’re not into really sweet or flavorful things, a plain one just might be right up your alley.  (Brook prefers his plain with just a sprinkle of sugar on top.)  However, once you add some frosting, boy do they become decadent.

Brook’s grandmother makes old-fashioned sugar cookies very much like these every Christmas, and they are his favorite thing in the world.  I’ve been trying for a few years now to replicate hers (as there is no written recipe, since she has been trying to perfect it for many years as well), and this is about the closest I’ve ever gotten.  How do I know this?  Brook, the one not known for eating sweets at all, ate 7 of them over the course of a couple days.  That’s my proof right there.

So, here’s the recipe.  And, let me say this now – DO NOT eat these fresh from the oven, or even right after they’ve finally cooled, or you will be severely disappointed.  They won’t taste bad at all, but they will not have reached the proper texture yet.  Coming from one who is known for burning herself by nibbling straight from the hot box, the patience required for these cookies is totally vital and more than worth it.  If you can, once cooled and frosted (or not, if that’s your thing), put them in an air-tight container and wait until tomorrow…. or at least 6-7 hours if you really can’t stand it.  Seriously, just trust me – I tried them both ways, and the wait makes the difference between night and day.

As you can see, buttercream gets metly pretty quick in our climate. Better reason to eat these babies fast!

Lofthouse Cookies
via Runs With Spatulas

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups flour, divided

  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and granulated sugar until light in color and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  (**Sara’s note: I only had 1 cup of sour cream, so I used a half cup of soured milk to round it out and it worked just fine.)
  • In a medium bowl, stir together 5 cups flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Slowly add in flour mixture, beating until all the flour is fully hydrated. Dough needs to obtain the right consistency for rolling, so add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until this is achieved (up to 1 cup more flour). Dough will still be a bit on the sticky side. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1 1/2 inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, set aside.
  • Generously flour a work area and rolling pin. Remove one section of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on your work area. Roll dough out until 1/4 inch thick. Dough will be very sticky, so continue to dust with flour as you need it. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (or an equivalent juice glass dipped in flour, as I did), cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. (If choosing not to frost the cookies, go ahead and sprinkle some granulated sugar on top of them at this point.) Bake for 7-8 minutes, until set – bottom of cookies should be a very pale golden brown. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough, storing any extra in the fridge while not in use.

Meanwhile, prepare either your favorite buttercream frosting recipe, or use the one below.

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons milk
Several drops food coloring

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar.
  • Once smooth and creamy, add in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. Frosting should be easy to spread, but not runny. Add in the food coloring, if desired.

Once cookies have cooled, frost and add sprinkles, if you like. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors and proper texture to develop.

Makes: about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Food, Just for Fun, Tasty Tuesdays | 2 Comments

Mother’s Day

Back in the States, today is Mother’s Day.

The above picture was taken nearly two years ago, about a week before Brook and I moved to Thailand.  We had so much going on, and so many things to get taken care of, that I drove out to visit with family on my own while he stayed back in Indiana to continue wrapping up the life we’d built there.  He knew it was important for me to see them once more before we met for the last time at the airport, as over the previous 3 and a half years my time with them had already been limited due to distance.

And, I’m so glad I did.

As soon as our sell-everything-but-a-few-boxes-of-stuff yard sale was over on Saturday afternoon, I hopped in my little green car (also, for the last time) and made the 3 hour drive out to my Mom’s.  We spent the evening talking, looking at photo albums, eating amazing stuffed pizza, spinach fettuccine alfredo, salad, garlic bread… I had to get in as much good food as possible, ya know?!  Just the two of us, and all the puppies.  It was nice.

The next day, we spent the afternoon at my brother’s house with his family and one of my cousins who was in town.  We grilled out for lunch, played games with my niece and nephew, took what seemed like a million photos and videos in photobooth here on my trusty Mac, did a few family portraits in the yard, and had an all around wonderful day together.  Since we still had a few more speaking engagements and other responsibilities to take care of in that final week (seriously, we were travelling and speaking up until 2 days before we left… talk about craziness), I ended up needing to drive back to Indiana from my brother’s house.  That was a tough drive, as I knew the next (and last) time I would see them would be at O’Hare, right before boarding a plane to Thailand – for what we had thought at that time would be a 4 year stint before returning to see them again…

You see, my parents were missionaries for several years before I came into the world.  My big brother, Tim, was born out on the field.  They lived in a pretty remote fishing village in southern Alaska, a place where you needed to order your groceries 6 months at a time from a catalog.  Because of this, my mom has been even more of a help to me as Brook and I have begun building our life over here in Asia.  Sure, Alaska and Thailand are nothing alike – but, it’s still far away, still a world totally foreign to us, we get lonely, we miss home, we have to deal with raising support and everything that entails, we face all kinds of ridiculous challenges each day… and she gets it.  We all count on our moms for advice, encouragement, friendship, love, and the fact that my mom can actually relate to what I’m going through over here just sends her that much higher in the awesome category.  We chat via phone or Skype every couple of weeks, and there have been times where I only begin to tell her something and she already knows what I’m going to say, because she’s been there, too.  It’s really kinda neat how that works, and I’m so grateful for it.

So, you can only imagine how fun it was for me to call my mom, totally out of the blue, on what just so happened to be Halloween night, and ask her what kind of cookies we were going to make together for Christmas this year.  I took great joy in her confused pause and accompanying “wait, what?”, followed by repeating my question until she realized what I was really saying to her.  We weren’t supposed to be home for 4 whole years, and when the opportunity to fly home at only 1 and a half arose, we jumped on attacked it.

Ever wonder where my love of food, cooking, and hosting comes from?  Yeah, my mom.  You have no idea how fun it was for me to just hang out in the kitchen with her baking, making candies, and just enjoying one another’s company.  Sure, we weren’t home for very long, and it was super busy, but I wouldn’t trade the time we had for anything in the world.  We cooked together, baked together, hugged, looked at old family slides (yes, I’m the annoying little nerd who begs for the old projector and carousels of photos to be drug out whenever I’m home), wrapped Christmas presents, hugged, went grocery shopping, talked about the baby, ate Spumoni ice cream, hugged, and I did mention how many times I hugged my mom yet?

I love my momma.

It stinks to know that it’ll be another 2 and a half years before I get to fly home to see her again.  It’s hard to deal with the fact that she won’t be here to hold my first baby as soon as it arrives.  It’s tough not being able to know I can just hop in the car, and within a few hours be there to hand her a big bunch of flowers today.  But, it’s okay.  I know my mom always loves me, and is always thinking about me, no matter where I am, and that’s a wonderful thing…

Happy Mother’s day, momma.  Thanks for helping me become who I am.  Love you!

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 1 Comment

I learned something new!

What is that something new, you ask?  I learned how to evaluate, choose, remove from the tree, open, de-seed, and prepare a new fruit for eating – Jackfruit!  Do you remember this post way back at the end of June talking about Jackfruit?  Well, the tree I told you about is finally bearing its GIANT fruit, and had one ready to pick today.

Our friend and neighbor, Phii Mee, looked after my flowers and garden while we were away in the States for a month, and she enjoyed a few of the fruits that had ripened in the meantime.  Upon going to visit her this morning, she said she thought there should be another ready today, and offered to come by this afternoon to check on it – if it was ready, then she would also stay and teach me how to open it.

Wait a second, I need to be taught how to open a piece of fruit?  Yes.  Absolutely yes.  This is no ordinary piece of fruit.  Nothing like an apple, a banana, a pear, or a peach.  It’s a completely and entirely different animal.  A scary and defiant animal, if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Why?  Here’s a reminder of what they look like from the outside.

Yep, that's our tree!

As mentioned in my previous jackfruit post, these are one of (if not THE) largest tree-borne fruits in the world.  The one we opened today was about the size of one and a half basketballs – it was just a little guy, though there’s one much larger way up high in our tree right now that needs a couple more weeks to ripen.

Aside from their massive size, another thing that makes these suckers so difficult to open is their sap.  Once removed from their stem, they begin to ooze a thick, white, latex-like substance (think of that fabric & craft glue in the USA, that comes in the gold squeezy bottle – Aleene’s, I think?) from every place imaginable… from the place where the stem came off, from any nicks in its flesh, and from many of the points on the jackfruit skin’s many little bumps.  It is stiiiiiiicky!  Thankfully, my friend told me to slather my knife, my machete, and my hands in vegetable oil before getting to work – that kept everything from getting destroyed and covered with jackfruit glue.

So, how exactly do you open it?  And why on earth would it take two people a full hour to get all of the fruit out?  Take a look at step one of the process.

Use your machete to hack it into quarters lengthwise.

Step two –

Cut out as much of the core as possible, similar to preparing a pineapple.

Step three –

Pull out zillions of little pods, peel off the sticky, spaghetti-like strands covering their flesh, and pop out the marble-sized seed in every single kernel.

Step four –

Put them all in a bowl, and give up counting after 75 or so.

Now, jackfruit is an interesting fruit when it comes to both aroma and flavor.  People usually either like it or they don’t.  I’m one of the strange ones that has conditions that must be met in order for me to down a whole bowl of it – it has to be really, really cold, or served as part of this dessert (which will be featured soon in Tasty Tuesdays, as it is one of my favorite desserts in all of the world, literally!).  Now, when I wrote about it before, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain the jackfruit’s characteristics, as I’d never actually participated in the picking and opening of the fresh fruit before – I’d only ever bought small containers of it already prepared in the market.  Now I can tell you.

One of the biggest giveaways as to knowing when the fruit is ready to be picked is that it gives off a smell when you put your nose right up to it.  And, what is it that I smelled?  Amoxicillin.  Yes, the pink, liquid form of the medicine that I had (and loved the flavor of) as a kid.  I’m sure most of you know exactly what I’m talking about, right?  It had sort of a fruity, bubblegum sort of scent.  Now, based on its smell, would you care to guess then what the fruit actually tasted like?  Right again – amoxicillin!  It’s got that same fruity, bubblegum, not quite ripe banana flavor (which I am told gets sweeter a few days after picking)… and I like it.  Brook doesn’t, though, so I guess that means more for me, eh?

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Food, Just for Fun, Thailand | 4 Comments

Where in the world have we been?!

The United States of America.

I’m not kidding.  We went home.  For realsies.

We knew about it, you didn’t… because we wanted it to be a surprise!  I know there were many of you we didn’t get the chance to see, but for those that we did, we are ever so grateful.  Mere weeks before we left Thailand on December 12th, we had gotten news that my grandfather, my Papa (who was one of the main men in my life when my father became ill, then later passed almost 11 years ago), was not doing very well.  I mean, he is 96 years old, has had quite the full and beautiful life, and has just now begun slowing down in the last year… but, I still wasn’t ready to let him go yet without getting one more chance to spend time together.  Not to mention the fact that after a year and a half away, our families were really wanting to see us as well.

So, thanks to the generosity of family, we flew home.  For a whole, entire, glorious, wonderful, chilly, Christmasy, snow-filled month.

Oh, and while we were there, internet was not so much available for blogging – that’s why my grand plans for a holiday baking series didn’t quite pan out (and I know the 3 1/2 of you that were eagerly awaiting it are so disappointed ;).  Never fear, here’s a shot of the baking and candy-making that I got to spend an entire day doing with the marvelous woman next to me, my Momma.

There’s dark chocolate-mint truffles, dark chocolate-raspberry truffles, and lemon ones, too.  Raspberry tea cookies, mini apricot-walnut tarts, peppermint bark, chewy chocolate pixies, and Dutch almond Banket.  Mmmmmmmmmm.  Not pictured are the Swedish breads we always make for our Christmas Eve smorgasbord (yes, my family is Swedish and carries on traditions like nobody else!).  It’s amazing I didn’t gain 30 pounds while we were home, ya know?!

The feeling of cold wind in my face was shocking, but nice.  Seeing, touching, and even throwing snow made me excited like a little hyperactive kid.  Eating as much cheese and good bread as humanly possible was gut wrenching, but totally worth it.

But the best part?

The best thing was being with family.  Waking up in the morning (from being snuggled under lots of warm blankets in a nice chilly room), and being able to walk out of our bedroom to see the people we love every single day was more incredible than I could ever describe to you.  Being able to physically hug my own mother and brother… playing dominoes at the kitchen table with the family at Brook’s mom’s house… watching movies together at Brook’s dad’s… enjoying Christmas Eve with my Papa and the rest of the family… meeting our niece that was born a year ago after we had already left… all of those things were such an incredible blessing to us.  A blessing that, when we left a year and a half ago, we didn’t expect to have for a full 4 year term.  What a surprise it was to be able to go home so much sooner!!!

Really, I could go on and on and on about it, but no words that I could write or say could really ever convey the true joy it was to visit our home again.  And even though it was really tough to say goodbye once again, it wasn’t quite so bad this time around.  Why?  Because it didn’t seem as final as the last time.  This trip showed us that it is, in fact, possible to go home, that it is still a real place that we can reach, and that leaving home for Thailand isn’t actually the end.

So there, the mystery has been solved.  And now we’re back.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 3 Comments

กตัญญุตา – Thankfulness

It’s Thanksgiving Day back in the States today… people are hustling and bustling about making pies, getting the turkey in the oven, letting rolls rise on the counter, setting tables, making place cards, cleaning their houses top to bottom, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, laughing with friends, enjoying time with family, and just soaking in a bit more of the Autumn air.

Here in Thailand, it’s a day just like any other.  In fact, I went to the dentist today.  My seventh and final visit in the drama that was my abscess tooth, root canal, crowning, and another filling.  Thankfully, it is now complete and I am once again able eat on both sides of my mouth!  (A luxury I’ve not had for more than a year.)

Last year, while living in Lopburi, we attended a small gathering of Americans in a nearby city on Thanksgiving.  There were maybe 10 of us in all, if I remember correctly.  We all worked hard to recreate something from home as best we could, using what was available to us.  It was great.  This year, however, we are the lone Americans – the nearest still being quite a drive away from us.  We had toyed with the idea of inviting people (other nationalities included, as all of our friends from language school days are from different countries!) over to our home for a big meal, but the timing just didn’t seem to work out for us this year.  Between field meetings, language study, church meetings, dentist appointments, and more, it would have been a bit too much for me right now.  It was a little disappointing, of course, but bearable as the lack of holiday vibe around here makes it easier to just live it like any other day.  That being said, I did end up using some rosemary and garlic on a bit of chicken for our supper tonight – I had to get a little bit of those flavors in at least!  Oh, and tomorrow I’ll be making some pumpkin bread.  Mmmmm…. pumpkin.

Despite our lack of Turkey Day feasting, or ability to be with family and friends today, I do know that I have a LOT to be thankful for.  I see these things and appreciate many of them even more after all of the troubles, hardships, and illnesses of our first year in Lopburi.  I am blessed.  In the good times, I am blessed.  In the bad times, I am still blessed.  As cheesy as it sounds, there’s really no other, better, way to put it.  On that note, I’m just going to start writing what it is that I am thankful for today, and every day that I am given to live.  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving of your own today, enjoy your time reflecting on the good in your life, and soak in as much as possible as you celebrate with those that you love…

  • My Creator – without whom I would be nothing…
  • My family – a mother who raised me to see the world through compassionate eyes, a big brother who loves me no matter where I am in the world or how long it is between times we get to see each other, a sister-in-law who has become a great friend to me, a niece & nephew who are incredible and growing so fast, grandparents who have stood beside me, loved me, and prayed for me no matter where I go, an aunt & uncle who have always been there for me, and cousins who I love deeply…
  • My husband – who somehow thought it would be a good idea to move to the other side of the world with me, and who takes me at both my best & my worst…
  • 2 of the best families I could have ever married into, and the fact that they’ve loved me as one of their own…
  • Friends and supporters who not only encourage and love us, but give sacrificially so we are able to live this crazy life overseas…
  • Thai friends who help us every time we screw up our language or manners, love us just the same, and work alongside us anyway…
  • The home that we now have, the neighborhood it is in, and how comfortable and ‘at home’ we feel in it…
  • Enough food on our table every single day…
  • A body that, even when I may dislike or criticize it, is able to walk, function, and carry me through what I need to do every single day…
  • And the little things like…

… the masses of birds in our trees that sing all day long, kids that play on our corner in the afternoon, my gardens, a bathtub, my stove/oven, a washing machine, flushing toilets, my dentist, our language helpers, our church, our car, our computers & internet access, discovering new kinds of bugs and lizards in this environment, the fact that we actually do live on the other side of the world and how incredible that is when I really stop and think about it, Toffee at the mission home and Doxy at Shiloh (who are the only dogs I can talk to and pet without getting bit, since the rest are all strays!), Skype, a real mattress…

And so much more.

November 25, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 1 Comment

Camp!

A few weeks ago, Brook and I went to camp.  Camp?  Yes, camp.  For a whole weekend.  With 50 other Thai friends from our church.  And, I’ll bet you a whole bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime (those are like gold over here!) that our camp looked nothing like the camps that you’ve ever been to.  Why?  Because ours was set in the middle of this.

The camp we stayed at was along a small river set far back in an old, no longer harvested, coconut grove about an hour out from Bangkok.  It was beautiful.  There really is nothing like waking up to this sort of view every morning, listening to the animals and birds chattering away through the treetops.  Every time I went for a walk from our cabin to the meeting area, or when we drove our car through the slender, winding paths to get back to the campsite, I marveled at the fact that I was actually in a small jungle, in a tropical and very foreign country, and that it was totally normal… or at least the normal that I’ve come to know over the last year and a half.  But, that’s a post for another day.

Anyways, the church we attend takes a weekend every year to get away with members and friends of the church to recharge, evaluate, get their vision on track, and just have some fun with each other.  After everyone arrived at the campsite (most people carpooled in vans from the church in the city), we headed out for a little “thiaw” – a fun outing – to some local floating markets, where a couple friends of ours took it upon themselves to introduce us to any and every type of snack and treat we had yet to try in Thailand.  (I wrote about this one a couple of weeks go on Tasty Tuesday.)  That night, and the following day, was filled with great times of worship, prayer, teaching, and workshops on refining their vision for outreach and the church’s future.  There also was a barbecue.  (Yes, Thai people love barbecues, too!)  There was lots of talking, lots of playing, and even a group picture… after all, it was camp.

Since the church is completely Thai led, of course everything was in Thai.  And, guess how may people at the camp spoke English.  Two.  Betcha can’t guess who they were, eh?  It sure was a stretching 3 days for us, but, it was sooo worth it.  We had the chance to finally see a lot of people outside the church setting, talk with them for more than 5 minutes over lunch (pretty much all Thai churches have lunch together every single week – nice, huh?), and actually get to know people a bit better.  Granted, we didn’t always understand what people were saying, nor did we always have to words to communicate what we wanted to say… but, the fact that we were there and trying spoke volumes to them, and that has been evident the past couple of Sundays since.

I have a small bunch of pictures located on Facebook, so if you’d like to see a little bit more of the camp, the church members, and so on, just click right here.  It’s a public link, so you don’t need to be a Facebook member to view it.  Just click and enjoy!

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Thailand | Leave a comment

Say What?!

The blogging has been lacking around here the past few weeks, I know.  It has been rather exciting here in real life though!  My goal is to write about it in the next week or so, as it should slow down for a few days.  We’ve had visitors, then camp, then studies, gardening, meeting more and new neighbors, another round of houseguests…. and now a few days to get back to normal before it all goes haywire again.  Ahhhh, I really do love life and all that comes along with it.

Today, just for fun, I figured I’d post a couple examples of the “English” we deal with on an every day basis here.  You’ll understand why I put the name of our heart language in quotation marks when you look at the following photos.  I honestly don’t know how this stuff makes it through production and onto the shelves – in mass quantities at that.  Huh.

Check out the features on this childrens’ remote control helicopter box –
At least, despite the atrocious spelling, you can still understand what they are trying to advertise, right?  How about trying this next one on for size…

Continue reading

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Thailand | Leave a comment

Fun Fact #4 – Pachyderm Pals

Have you ever hugged an elephant?

Seriously, have you ever hugged an elephant right around his fat, dry, hairy neck?  Then, gave him a kiss on the nose?

I have.

After I kissed his little trunk, I wrapped my arms right around this baby elephant’s neck and hugged him.  Then, I told him he was cute and that I loved him.  After all, he is an animal, and I love all creatures great and small – as long as they’re not trying to eat me, of course.

Brook didn’t hug the little (BIG) guy, but he did at least pose for a photo.

If you remember back in Fun Fact #3 last March, I told you about the market elephants we saw walking around on a daily basis throughout the city of Lopburi.  Well, we’ve since moved from Lopburi to the North side of Bangkok, and we don’t really get to see them anymore.  *Pouting like a 3 year old who lost his cookie.*  They’re technically illegal in the city and more developed areas, and because of insane traffic, the laws and fines are actually enforced around here.  I suppose it’s all for the better, as I would hate to hear of a poor elephant being injured or hit by a car as a result of them walking the congested, busy, dangerous roads in the city.  But, I do miss seeing them.

So, how is it then, that I got such an opportunity as this to be so close to my giant leathery friends once again?  We took a quick trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya with our guests from the States (did I mention we had 2 visitors last week?  It was a blast!) before they had to head to the airport on their last day.  Ayutthaya is known for its ancient ruins, historic temples, and its elephants.  Our original plan for the day included riding the elephants on a historic tour through the city, but our time was limited.  So, what do you do when you don’t have enough time to ride the elephants, but you’re already there?  You play with them!  And hug them!  And feed them!  And get closer to them than any Zoo in the States would ever let you be!

This sort of practice is yet another thing that sets Thailand apart from the States.  If you want to touch the elephants, you can!

This one walked right toward me and, when told by his trainer to give me a kiss, he proceeded to do so.  He sniffed my head, blew stale trunk air right in my face, “kissed” (tapped) me on the nose with his trunk…

… and then stuck his trunk right down my shirt.  Insert your own clever joke here about how all men are the same, or something like that.  Ha!

See that stuff that looks like just a little smear of dirt that I’m pointing to?  That’s attached to a streak of slime that actually extends a few inches in either direction… and down my shirt.  Elephant kisses can get messy.  Yech.

But…. how many of YOU have ever been kissed by an elephant?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  A little bit o’ slime ain’t no thing.  🙂

Have I mentioned yet how much I love elephants?  They really are magnificent creatures.  So gentle, so majestic, so interesting.  Their skin is unlike anything else I’ve ever touched.  Did you know that they’re actually quite hairy?  They really are very graceful and surprisingly quiet as well.  If you’ve ever watched an elephant’s feet closely as they lumber along, you’ll notice that their feet just seem to float silently up and down as they take each step.  Oh, and, as I’ve come to learn from my Thai friends, tame elephants are actually rather fond of humans.  This just makes me love these creatures even more.

So, who wants to come visit us next?  If you show up, I just may take you to hug an elephant…

Here’s my album on Facebook if you’d like to see a few more pictures from the day.

October 16, 2010 Posted by | Fun Fact, Just for Fun, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment

Duuuuuh

Sometimes I seriously wonder what the people of Thailand think of us in terms of our intelligence and language ability.  Those two things really do go hand in hand here, at least as far as first impressions go.

I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, the idea that in order to assimilate well into your new host culture, you must first go back to being like a baby.  You’re in new surroundings, don’t know your way around, often have no clue at all what you are eating (and whether or not you should be ingesting it at all in the first place), and can’t understand a flippin thing going on around you.  What language are they speaking?!  Oh, that’s right, it’s Thai.  I speak English.  They’re not the same.

As romantic and whimsical as the idea of going back to being a child seems, I can tell you that the wonder wears off after a while and all you’re stuck with is inabilities, dependence on those who are able, and a feeling of uselessness.  I don’t mean to be a killjoy, a downer, complainer, or whatever else though – it’s these feelings that will [hopefully] help spur you on then to learn about the community, figure out how to live, and strive to speak the language of the locals.  The whole hopelessness thing is a great motivator, and thankfully, Brook and I have been able to use these feelings to our advantage.

However…

No matter how hard we try sometimes, we still fail.  Sometimes miserably, sometimes embarrassingly… and sometimes hilariously!  I really do wonder what the Thai people we (and other foreigners who attempt to speak this confusing tonal language) speak to think of us when we make such silly mistakes and say things that make absolutely no sense at all.

There are times that I know I sound like a complete and utter idiot.

I find that amusing.

There was that one time I was telling the story of Jesus healing a blind man.  Jesus called the man closer to him in order to – as I should have said – touch his eyes.  I told my friend that Jesus wanted to kick the man in the eye.

There was that one morning Brook and I were sitting in a small clinic at 7:00, making small-talk with the doctor while waiting for the blood-drawing station to open.  When asked if I spoke I Thai (as Brook had been doing the chatting up until that point), I politely told the kind doctor that I was, in fact, a chair and that’s why I didn’t speak up.  It took me two minutes to figure out that I needed to go back and tell him that I was actually shy, not an inanimate object that can’t speak.  He was relieved, I’m sure.

Definitely can’t forget that one time I was trying to tell a little girl at our English club that I thought she looked very pretty that day.  I actually told her she was very unlucky – which in a wildly superstitious culture is a BIG no-no.

Oh, and today, at the end of my lessons, I told my tutor that I was going to visit the “dog rain” this afternoon.  Brook, when trying to tell a friend and neighbor about the same plans, said that today he would be taking me to the “sky doctor.”  In reality, I went to the dentist.

Go ahead, laugh!  I am.  It’s a good thing God gave me a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself (and Brook), or else I’m not sure what I’d do.  I like to think of myself as an intelligent person – I always did well in school, have a college degree, have won many awards based on academics, and blahblahblah.  The thing is, nobody here knows any of that.  Neither do they know how well I can speak and convey my thoughts in my own native tongue, because they don’t understand it.  Rather, I speak Thai in simple sentences, using a limited (and often incorrect) vocabulary.  I speak and need to be spoken to in a slower rate than others my own age.

And, as far as they know, I just might believe that I really am going to see the sky doctor.  🙂

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal, Thailand | 2 Comments

Driving in Thailand

How did you feel the first time you ever started up the engine of a car by yourself?  Was is thrilling?  Exciting?  Were you nervous?  Ready?  Or just plain terrified?

When it came time for me to learn how to drive (back in the States), I was excited and ready.  I had a good deal of respect for the road, the machine I was in control of, and the others on the road with me – I was prepared to be a good, responsible driver… and I always have been.  Sure, I’ve made goofs every now and then like missing a stop sign on a back country road, going through an occasional yellow light and barely making it across before it turns red, driving a consistent 5 mph over on the highway.  But, I’ve (thank God) never been in an accident, nor had a ticket or traffic violation.  I enjoy driving, and I do so responsibly.

But…

It’s now been more than a year since I’ve driven a motorized vehicle on a road of any sort (other than my own foot-powered bicycle).  At first, I was completely and utterly frustrated by my new found lack of independence – as Brook and I each had our own vehicles back in the States – but, I eventually grew accustomed to it, and came to enjoy the fact that I couldn’t go grocery shopping alone anymore.  Rather, Brook had to drive me and come along for the trip.

A couple of months into our time here in Thailand, we were given a small motorbike (on loan) to use for trips around Lopburi – you know, the kind that are just out of comfortable reach for a bicycle or walking trip.  When we had to give it back this past March, we then went on to buy our own.  Nothing big and fancy, but something suitable for our location and similar to everybody else on the road.

We have Songkran to thank for the dirt all over the bike!

(Click photo to view it larger)

Driving in Thailand isn’t only different because of our change in vehicle, but it is also a drastic change from the laws and regulations that are heavily enforced back home (and in the majority of Western societies).  Traffic law, lines painted on the road, stop signs, one way signs, stop lights… they are all mere suggestions here in Thailand.  Is the 6 lane superhighway just too inconvenient for you?  Go ahead and turn that slim shoulder into lane #7 – no penalty allowed!  Have you come upon a one-way street and going the extra 25 feet down to the next street just too much of a hassle for you?  Go ahead and drive down it anyway (motorcycles, SUV’s, cars, and trucks alike!), just be sure to flip on your hazard lights as you go.

Oh my.

Oh, and not to mention that the correct side of the road to drive on is opposite of home – we go on the left – and the fact that everything is measured in kilometers instead of miles.  Just a little more confusion sprinkled in there for kicks.

Brook is a good driver.  Brook is a confident driver.  Brook knows how to drive both a motorcycle and a car (both stick and automatic).  This means Brook has always been the one to take us places… until now.

Today, I drove in Thailand for the very first time.  I also drove a motorbike for the very first time as well… and I was completely terrified.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the feel of the wind in my hair, blowing across my face, experiencing the wide open world on a motorcycle – but, I’d rather be the one riding on the back.  NOT the one in charge of the machine.  No.  Nope.  Absolutely not.  Brook, however, decided that it’s about time I learn… so, I finally did (after him trying to force me into it since we moved to our new house 2 months ago) today.

There aren’t many things that can scare me to the point of tears, but driving a motorcycle/motorbike/anything 2 wheeled and motor-driven is one of them.  I was on the verge of tears, doing everything I could to keep them in, the entire time.  We started out slow, Brook’s arms around holding onto the bars with me, giving me instructions the whole way.  And, dangit, he was really really nice, too.  (He knows how scared it makes me!)  After about 5 minutes of driving assisted, he backed off and I did it.  I really did it!  I drove maybe another 5 min (seeming like an hour to me) around our neighborhood – which is riddled with super annoying speed bumps every 50 feet – all on my own.

Granted, as soon as I was allowed to turn back onto our own street and go back home (yeah, he kept pushing me to go farther and keep going… apparently I wasn’t too bad at it), I ran inside and bust out in tears.  Supposedly, he’s making me go back out and drive it again in 20 minutes because I have copies to pick up at a shop down the road, but, we’ll see how that goes.

Here’s to a day of firsts!  (And terrified girls crying and shaking so much that their arms, shoulders, legs, and ankles are already sore.)  🙂

*** Several hours later… I ended up making that second trip, and even drove the 2 km to the 7Eleven at the entrance to our community.  And, all without a single tear.  I’m still a bit nervous, but it looks like I may be able to start getting over my fear after all.  Woohoo! ***

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal, Thailand | 1 Comment