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31 December 2012

Yule celebrations expat style, then and now

By yule, I mean the 'period extending from December 24th to January 6th.' Or January 2nd for me as I'm back to reality, a.k.a. work before all the hang-over is over.  This is the first yule in five years that I stayed put in Bangkok. No crazy wrestling of crowds at airports, no time-limited tours around exotic places in neighboring countries, just good old apartment with films, little hearty meals, music, a few international dials to communicate with family beyond the South China Sea
 
and well, one shopping that got a bit out of control. But things happen and there's always a first so while I was at one I thought I'd just forgive myself, and go feel the joys of the season. Before I tried putting up a book Christmas tree after seeing the idea from Book Riot on Facebook, yule began with routine visa and work permit renewals at Government House -

which was accomplished smoothly last year, but a bit complicated this year with a tiny irregularity spotted on a document- something between the Thai government and my employer and was quickly sorted which meant I could get on with the holidays without worrying whatever was happening to my immigration status. I kicked off celebrations with a trip to this 11000-seating capacity arena


for a night of memories induced by Candle in the Wind among many others, and sweet longing to give the kiddo a tight hug when his fave Lion King emanated from the grand

How time expands many things. And how I wish it spared the waistline

Horror of horrors: expansion is ongoing. I tried to temper that by welcoming the nephew's turn to be grounded on the piano, and coming, albeit late, to his recital. The niece, a guest performer, pleasantly shocked me with her weed-like growth. I probably should see them more often.

Meanwhile at work, there were finals to invigilate. We make do with this view from the 5th floor window - beginning stages of an offshore company party


and then to the heart of the celebrations

Disclaimer: good girls stay sober throughout yule. Countdown 2013 was as clear as these carolers resemble those in Frances May's Tuscan Christmas

The star of Siam shines on


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!


24 December 2012

Xtemass in Buddha land

You might like this so I thought I would share. Eternal Encouragement is a magazine filled with yes, encouragement exactly, and of course many other practical tips and advice on living an abundant Christian life, with a special reference to the Christmas season.

Click here to read your first issue. Go on, it's absolutely free.
***
There is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees.We should not be anxious about baseless arguments against Christmas decorations. Rather, we should be focused on the Christ of Christmas and giving all diligence to remembering the real reason for the season. ~ John Macarthur

Bangkok does not lack Christmas decors in December, especially around malls. You look around and for a moment you would think you're not in a Buddhist country. Last year as I went about my normal Christmas shopping, the sight around made me think 'oh, this is just like home.'

Of course this could mainly be about the commercial side of things. But when you're far from home without family nostalgia sets in and you are grateful you have at least familiar visuals during this most wonderful time of the year.

Like the many previous Christmases, I'm alone which is not something new anymore. What's new to me is finding how and why Xmas is spelled as such. And I'm putting a few points on this post from the ever helpful Wikipedia so I do not forget:
  • it's a common abbreviation, and Xtemass, a variant, is a handwriting abbreviation. I won't be using Xtemass in writing by hand. It's more effort and more time-consuming. See it's longer.
  • the 'mas' part is an Old English word for mass 
  • "the "X" comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as "Christ".
  • "that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas[3] by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas" is a common misconception
 
~ Photo ~

What history says about the use of "Xmas," I just love the ancient feel of these years:
ca. 1755 - publication year of Bernard Ward's History of St. Edmund's college, Old Hall which used "Xmas" in it's issue
ca. 1100 - the term was written as "Xp̄es mæsse" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 
1551 - an earlier version, "X'temmas" was found
1753
- "Xmas" was found in a letter from George Woodward
1811 - Lord Byron used the term
1801 - Samuel Coleridge did too
1864 - Lewis Carroll's turn

From the not-so distant past:
1923 - America's Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. used the term in a letter. And "since at least the late 19th century, Wikipedia reports that "'Xmas' has been in use in various other English-language nations. Quotations with the word can be found in texts written in Canada, and the word has been used in Australia, and in the Caribbean."

Having served time at Bangkok U's gradschool (CommArts) where we did considerable theory, analysis and the usual paper work on Advertising, I would say Thailand may relate to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage statement that "modern use of the term is largely limited to advertisements, headlines and banners, where its conciseness is valued."


As a Christian I'm just glad it's Christmas. It's my favorite time of the year whether I'm alone or with someone like the year before.  No matter how Buddhist Thailand is, I'm grateful for what I see when I go out of my nook and see Miss Teapot, Miss Tutti Fruity and Miss Crookshanks all resplendent in their Christmas garb -

Times are changing indeed in the kingdom. December 2000 I had to be at work. Two years and a decade later, that is no longer the case and I can't tell you how happy and grateful I am for this reversal of fortune. Christmas it is! Buddha land transforms into Xtemass Wonderland!





18 December 2012

Whittard of Chelsea


Whittard of Chelsea is one of Bangkok's many tea rooms. Walter Whittard founded Whittard of Chelsea in 1886. The first Whittard shop is said to have opened in London and then moved to Chelsea. That's probably how of Chelsea came to be part of the full name. They have several branches in Thailand. Life Center lists seven in Bangkok. I'm not sure if there might be a few more in cities where tourists flock like Pattaya, Huahin, Chiangmai or Phuket.  This branch a friend and I went to is in Siam Paragon. We didn't plan on relaxing here. It just happened to be right in front of us when we felt like having tea so in we went. Now I remember how comfy being seated in here was compared to that place I recently went to.


Ah, here comes the Waitress of Whittard -


I didn't keep track of who ordered what. My best guess is that the praline and Moroccan mint are mine, while my friend had banana and carrot cupcake. She probably paired it with peppermint. We talked about approaching 40 and how fun aging beautifully could be. We tease each other 'old maid.' Now it looks like the title can be official. Old Maid, i.e. can't remember what we ate and drank.

But I do remember I loved the ambience.

17 December 2012

Chocolate mint ice cream

When I ordered ice cream at a big lunch I hosted in 2004 for (m/l) 300 family and friends at my father's funeral reception, I also wondered how it was made. I like to have an idea of how something I'm eating came to be. The recipe I'm sharing comes from Rita on Food: Home of the Home Cook.

She says her son likes chocolate mint ice cream and she made this for his birthday. In the meantime I can only buy scoops for my son and for a slightly different reason - to bribe him to eat veggies. The plan though is to try this recipe myself when things at work calm down.

Ingredients:
2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder, approximately 1/2 cup
3 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
9 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons pure mint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Place the cocoa powder along with 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine.

Add the remaining half-and-half and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the sugar and whisk to combine.

Temper the cream mixture by stirring cream into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about third of the cream mixture has been added. Whisk in the remainder and return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 to 175 degrees F. Pour the mixture into a container and allow to sit at room temperature to cool for 30 minutes. Stir in the mint extract and vanilla extract. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and once it is cool enough not to form condensation on the lid, Cover and store for 4 to 8 hours or until the temperature reaches 40 degrees F or below.

Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions. This should take approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Serve as is for soft serve or freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow the ice cream to harden.

Rewind to (circa) 1989
Miss Rallos, a vintage, fat old maid, very strict you don't want to cross her, was the manager of the dormitory I lived in when I was in boarding college.  My  roommates and  I would queue up for her signature on our clearance slips before we could take final exams.  Once my turn was about five girls ahead; I made use of the time observing things in her lair...err...kitchen. On the wall near the bathroom there was this picture poster of a mommy koala and her baby looking cheeky. I still memorize what it said, and I'm using the words nowadays to make a little story of how the kiddo is so difficult to feed. 


Fast forward to 2008
This chocolate mint ice cream was actually my choice, not the kiddo's. At first he was timid about it. I introduced him to some of life's sweetest things by telling him a story about how that pretty nun Mommy saw in Dalby Forest (England) ate an ice cream just like this one. This was also his reward for trying to eat salad during lunch earlier. By the time he finished eating, the melting ice cream had dripped from his little fingers down to his elbow and soaked his shirt, and I found out I had no more Kleenex in my purse so we rushed home by taking the sky train.

12 December 2012

Vintage Passion



It's been awhile since I decided to love vintage. And awhile since I've been reading about it comparing definitions, descriptions and illustrations as I know I most likely will not know how to distinguish vintage from antique just by looking. The first definition I read of vintage refers to wine, and as an adjective that means high quality, as in vintage claret. The Urban Dictionary defines vintage as "too old to be considered modern, but not old enough to be considered antique." There's vintage clothing which, according to Wikipedia, "is a generic term for new or second hand garments originating from a previous era." There's also vintage fashion which is "clothing and accessories that are at least 25 years old, and as, according to ATELIER-MAYER, "vintage fashion is now coveted the world over, it can be as little as two season's ago." There is also vintage furniture which is "furniture between 30 and 100 years old."

While roaming Central World, I was happily drawn to a store called Vintage Passion. Items for sale there are my kind of things to furnish a house with. Now I'm not really keen on the age as long as the look looks vintage to me - fine by me as this earring is, which I never wear but once.


Girls checking out guys, vintage style. If there is such a thing as vintage behavior.


05 December 2012

Red glasses at the White House



The can't-shut-up version: Two friends were seated in front of us. We were waiting for the little guy's dinner to arrive, in a colonial-looking restaurant called White House. I've forgotten what I ordered for him but it was most likely chicken as it's his favorite dish morning, noon, and night. We were on a weekend holiday in Lopburi, a charming historical town about an hour by bus from Bangkok. I love ruins and history museums and this was one of those trips.

Umbel

Umbel is "a mass of flowers springing from a single center." (The Phrontistery) The Science Dictionary defines it as "a flat or rounded indeterminate inflorescence in which the individual flower stalks (called pedicels) arise from about the same point on the stem at the tip of the peduncle." Umbel is a new-to-me word. I'm marking a few things I learned about it:

  • the flowers at the center of inflorescence are the youngest
  • the lower of outer flowers bloom first
  • geranium, milkweed and onion have umbels
  • umbels come from latin umbella, meaning a sunshade (does 'umbrella' come to mind?)

I thought I would skip this week's U word, until I looked around to find examples of umbels and found a photo to show. As lantanas mature they change color "resulting in inflorescences (group or cluster of flowers on a stem) that are two- or three-colored." I found these lantanas along a pavement in a memorial park; I was visiting my father's grave in the Philippines
 

And these are lantanas along a pavement too, in Bangkok. I noticed them on my way to work one morning.

28 November 2012

That hormonal mama dolphin



The can't-shut-up version: This was a day of touring an island city resort. We're back from a show where the main star, a pregnant dolphin, refused to come out at exactly action time. Management apologized. We then headed to a nearby restaurant where I took care of CJ's food that he couldn't consume.  With the heavy safety hat that he was forced to wear earlier and the dolphin show that never was, what kid wouldn't look like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders?

27 November 2012

Titanic artifact exhibition

The Titanic has always fascinated me. I read every story I could find, watch every available documentary about it. It's the very first film I saw during my first year abroad and I drowned in it for several weeks. Over the years I switched to occasional scholarly articles as the emotional side was too overwhelming. Unlike theme songs of other films I love playing on the piano, I hid the sheet music of My Heart Will Go On.


This year marks The Titanic's 100-year anniversary, and I was delighted that my neighborhood is one venue of an artifact exhibition which ran from June to September 2012 on the 8th floor of Central World.


They have some of the most familiar images at the entrance


It was such a wonderful travel back in time


When I checked in I was given a packet that in the excitement with history I forgot to give a look at until last night when I took photos of it.


I didn't realize that on the back of this boarding pass was a ticket replica of the youngest passenger on board - Elizabeth Gladys 'Millvina' Dean. Wikipedia shows her signing autographs at a Titanic Convention in Southampton in 1999 -


As cameras were off limits inside I just took notes of as many objects on display as I could in a temperature that curdled my Southeast Asian blood. Viewers were treated to a great finale.  We walked on 'glass' where underneath we could see those dining plates neatly stacked and other objects as they were found on the ocean floor. Outside was a large poster of the crew for a parting image.


26 November 2012

Screwdriver


This is my screwdriver during a birthday dinner with a girl friend. We ate at a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms.

    MellowYellowBadge


    21 November 2012

    The cake that cost me an overseas holiday


    Links:
    Wordless Wednesday HQ, Rednesday, Create With JoyMomspective, 5 Minutes for Mom, A Mother's RamblingsMama to 4 Blessings,

    The Can't-Shut-Up version: It was the kiddo's 5th birthday. I was busy at work and didn't have time to look for a cake that was not as girly as this. I feared he wouldn't like it and he didn't. He was then on a tantrum-at-every-turn phase. When he saw this cake he gave me an appalled look. What? no Ultraman, Mom?  He cried. I felt so sorry for him. Guilt was written on my forehead while tantrum was looming on the MacDonald's horizon. The guests have arrived and in a snap I promised him all the heroes on his next cake and bribed him with Hong Kong Disneyland if he would not make a scene at his party. He managed to show enough decent behavior the whole time. The next year we flew Air Asia to Macau and ferried our butts to Hong Kong. Boys!   

    20 November 2012

    Secret Garden


    There was no other reason why I tried Secret Garden. The name. I first noticed it in a Central World directory; forgot it, remembered it, forgot it again until last week in Siam Paragon while waiting for doors to open for the Twilight premiere. I'm not sure if this is a branch of the one in Sathon that everyone is talking about. As it appeared right in front of me while I wandered, and because I promised myself I would try the place, I got in. I was imagining a garden setting and a secret door.


    Ahhh... too much novel reading. I sorted my order: pomegranate iced tea (which was too sour for my taste), and warm chocolate with vanilla ice cream and strawberry sauce, which I loved.


    Coconut milk was evident in the warm chocolate cake. At least that's what I thought and I did enjoy it.


    The only thing I didn't quite like were the backless chairs. I had to be seated in one as the couches were for four persons or more. Next time I will invite some friends to try the signature restaurant in Sathorn with me. I heard the decoration style is reminiscent of a lovely English tea room.

    19 November 2012

    Cooking Extravaganza - a review

    In time for the most wonderful time of the year is the release of a Gabby Moms product called Cooking Extravaganza.

    This is a special package designed to give you bright ideas to use for something which you and your family and friends will be very much involved in this Christmas season - food, cooking and dining. Author Lorrie Flem has put together 7 e-books and a print book - "What's For Dinner, Mom?" which I reviewed earlier. Here's an overview of the contents:

    Bulk Cooking Tips and Tricks. If you are curious about bulk cooking, this will work well with you. It's loaded with how-to's for those who want to try this style of cooking. There hasn't been a need for me, at least not yet, to do bulk cooking, but the tips and tricks here are something to keep just in case I need to.

    Fill Em Up. Do you have children who talk of snacking only a few minutes after the table has been cleared? This e-book is filled with delicious, cost-saving and even healthy choices for them. I could be speaking for kids who just can not have enough as when I was one I used to want something pretty sweety after Mama has done the dishes. Now I tend to watch out for the son, as well as nieces and nephews (home for the holidays) who may want something more. This I won't deprive them especially during Christmas!

    Lorrie's Favorite Recipes is a fabulous collection of recipes your kids will love. Manicotti, fried chicken, teriyaki, I'm hungry already! We are crazy about fried chicken and certainly trying this out.

    Healthy Sanity-Saving Breakfasts. The most important meal of the day and in our case, considerably  neglected on a regular frequency.  This e-book has go to breakfasts that will keep you fed and sane - a double bonus.

    Pizza Primer. This one puts me on pizza-excited mode because I have always wanted to learn making homemade pizza and this e-book says how. It will be a nice change from buying it which is all I have ever done regarding pizza besides eating it.

    Sensational Salads. They are what they are described - sensational. And it's not just because they are yummy. This e-book tells you how to make your salads more fun. Children who are not fond of salads just might start loving them with the use of salad ideas contained in this e-book.

    The Secret of Chocolate Chip Cookies. The popular treat! And a favorite among many. But do we know how to mix them up and make them even better? Check inside this e-book and you could be hearing 'yummee' from delighted mouths.

    Seven season-appropriate downloadable e-books in a pack make a great Christmas gift, and don't forget it includes a signed copy of What's For Dinner, Mom? You can also have it as your own helping partner in preparing your holiday spread and inspiration during such a busy time in your kitchen. The applicability of the recipes and cooking ideas go beyond Christmas of course. So get your hands on this fabulous bundle of cookbooks for just $19.97. This is a special offer just for you. See how much you are going to save with purchase details here. If you are ordering for Christmas, please do so by December 12th to receive the print book in time. Additionally you can have more info from the Eternal Encouragement Magazine.

    This Gabby Moms product was provided to me free in exchange for my unbiased review.

    Banana optimism



    In my attempts to eat healthy food regularly, I went looking for something nice to read about the banana I was eating. The quote I found was not exactly to my liking so I thought I would tweak a few words to make it work for me -
    When life gives you bananas, you can make smoothie.
    Now there's an inspiration! The smoothie you see is one I had from Piri Piri.


    Here's a banana smoothie recipe I found on BBC Food Recipes by James Tanner from Ready Steady Cook. I was delightfully surprised at how simple, quick and yummy it sounded.

    Ingredients
    • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
    • 1/2 pink milk
    • handful of ice
    • 1-2 tbsp honey
    Preparation Method
    1. Place the banana, milk, ice and honey in a blender and then blend until smooth.
    2. Transfer to a serving glass and serve at once.
    ***
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