Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thailand Trip Planning: Germs by Jessica

Am I going to get sick?  About 3 weeks before the vacation, I told Zack “well, it’s time for just lettuce and water pre-vacation diet” and he said “why?  You’re just gonna get sick and lose a ton of weight there anyways” and I said “you think so?” and he said “definitely” so I continued on with my decidedly non lettuce and water diet and didn’t lose a pound beforehand.  Didn’t lose a pound there either -  didn’t get sick once.  Mom felt sick one evening after a long day out on a boat tour.  It could have been something she ate, or a bug but more likely a little too much sun.  

Should I eat from the food carts?  There was definitely times while walking along the street and looking at the food carts that I did not feel comfortable eating from any of them.   So we didn’t.  

Nope.  Didn't eat anything from here:
We only ate from carts where they were making each dish on the spot.  Mikey’s advice was to find a grandma type lady with a wok.  I tended to look at the way the ingredients were laid out: clean and organized with clean mixing bowls.  I also made a comment once that I chose by the cleanliness of their feet, and thought that’s not entirely accurate, I did look at the person.  We never chose the people just sitting on a stool looking bored, picking at their teeth or combing out their companions hair. 

We didn't eat any of these either:

Only once did I think, hmm I hope I don’t get sick from this.  We wanted to try banana pancakes and as we were nearing the end of our trip, I told Mom, “the next banana pancake cart we see, no matter if we’re hungry or not, we have to get it”.  So, one night, walking home from a night market, we ran across a cart.  Banana cart man was totally clean, and there was a line of people waiting for their pancake so it was an approved situation. 

He had clean feet too:
He pinched off a little round of dough (from a clean mixing bowl) and then slapped and smashed the dough around on the top of the cart (clean little area) until it was round, and then cooked it on a sizzling hot little wok griddle. 

This was before is was covered with copious amounts of sweetened condensed milk:

I wouldn’t have thought ANYTHING about it, but Juli had mentioned that her banana cart guy was mushing his dirty fingers in the dough and then THAT was all I could think about.  Were his hands clean?  Did he take money from those hands that were now smashing my banana pancake dough?  Thankfully I was vacationing with my mom, and if I’d said, “eew you think his hands are clean?”  she’d undoubtedly have said “it’s fine”.  This is the woman who, in the back of a taxi in Bangkok, after a morning of traveling to the airport in the back of a crazy man’s taxi and a long flight, was eating some fried bananas and licking her fingers.  I said “mom!” and she looked startled “what?  My hands are sticky”. 

Sticky Fried Bananas:
Okay, what about getting sick from germs?   We did bring wet ones and I was definitely glad at many moments to have them, we used them a lot to wipe DEET off our fingers.  Packets of tissue were helpful too.  Not a lot of toilet paper available.  But as for germs, I didn’t see a lot of sick people.  I sometimes saw people wearing masks and I couldn’t tell if that was because they were sick or if they were afraid of getting sick.  Who knows?  We were in the back of taxis licking off our sticky fingers, so we’re probably not the ones to be discussing germs in Thailand. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thailand Trip Report. Planning.

This won't be my most interesting post ever.  It will help someone who is planning their trip to Thailand.  I hope my friends just skim this, because it gets pretty nitty gritty and dull.  

I feel like Thailand isn’t one of those places you can just “wing it” when you land.  But maybe that’s because I’m a neurotic over-planner.  Not sure.  I read one million Tripadvisor forum posts* and reviews and did enjoy knowing answers to lots of my questions beforehand such as:

How should I take care of my cash situation over there? ATM.  My bank allowed a withdrawl of 20k baht at one time, about $615 USD.  I’m paranoid about overseas ATM transactions, because I’ve been stuck overseas with my ATM card not working a few years back for no apparent reason, but I’m going to assume from now on, that was a fluke and will never happen again.  Contact your bank, let them know where you’re going and you’ll be fine.  We took some cash just in case ($300) but never needed to convert it.  

We did have a duplicate ATM withdrawl occur, which we found out when we went to withdraw some cash and there wasn't enough money in there. I called the bank from Thailand and had them run through the list of transactions, and eventually matched them up with my ATM receipts and was able to identify the duplicate charge.  There wasn’t much to do about it while I was there, so I went to the bank the day after I got home and they reversed the charge the day after that.

ATM in front of our guest house in Phuket.  I don't blame it personally for the fraudulent behavior, but this is where it happened.  

I had opened a separate account just for our vacation and mom and I put our money into it so that we wouldn’t worry about our main checking account.  I would definitely do that again.  Look into what your bank offers regarding foreign transaction fees because the account we opened reversed all our ATM fees.  Nice!

Are the mosquitoes crazy?  Am I going to be one big weepy mosquito bite and end up with dengue fever?  I read somewhere that if you take Vitamin B weeks before you go, the mosquitos won’t bite you.  I religiously took that B vitamin for 6 weeks before the trip.  I don’t know if it helped or not, but I did not get bitten like I thought I would.  That could also be the heavy duty DEET repellant mom brought which we applied whenever we were going to be eating outside for dinner or going somewhere we thought might be mosquito-ey.  
Evening near water = DEET it up

The bites I did get were the kind that swelled up immediately in a big ole welt and then disappeared down to nothing within the hour.  Mom’s were more red and long lasting though.  Neither of us got dengue. Bring a few lightweight cotton scarves to cover your shoulders and neck if you end up at a mosquito ridden place. Okay, enough about mosquitos.  Bring repellant. 

Can I use my phone in Thailand? You need to buy a SIM card in Thailand.  My Samsung Galaxy phone didn’t have a removable SIM card so that phone could not be used.  Zack's Windows phone did.  I called Sprint and had them check to make sure the phone was unlocked.  It wasn’t.  They unlocked it.  I had to shut it off, then enter some code.  Zack showed me where the SIM card was on the phone; he didn’t show me how to take it out, or maybe he did, but I wish I would have paid attention.  You should know how to take the SIM card out of your phone before you get there. 

When I landed in Bangkok I went to the first phone kiosk that we came across at the airport. He worked on the phone for awhile, 10 minutes at least, then said the SIM card wasn't working and to go try another place.  I got frustrated and said, never mind – I don’t know how to work this stupid phone and huffed off to our next flight to Phuket.  Went to the first kiosk in Phuket and the girl got it to work right away.  I thought for sure she was scamming me, that I’d turn the corner and the stupid phone would just implode, so I asked her to show me it worked, to call herself on her cell phone.  And she did.  And it worked.

That's the code you enter in to find out your baht balance.  And there's a little sticker inside so you can tape your home SIM card so you don't lose it.  That's important!

From then on, whenever I was running low on baht, I would run in to 7-11 or Family mart and tell them I needed to top off my SIM card.  And then I’d turn off my phone and take off the back and hand it to them,  they’d take out the SIM card, look at it, enter some code and off I’d go.  Mikey told me later that if you know who your provider is, you tell them that, then how much you want to add to the SIM card, they give you the code and you enter it.  So, obviously they could tell I was a bumbling tourist and took pity on me.

Pick up some great flavored chips while you're getting your SIM card topped off.  

If your phone has GPS and you’ve got a map installed on it, be very happy and use it.  I have no idea how much baht it used or if we were just using baht when I was making calls, but we didn’t spend more than $20 on the SIM card and we weren’t skimpy with using the phone.  

Next Post: Germs in Thailand.

*search for JBR on Tripadvisor.  Took a while for me to figure that out but it stands for Just Back Report.  

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Won ton soup recipe...by Jessica

I've thought about writing a cookbook called the "How to Cook without using a Cookbook, Cookbook" because I think everyone's got it in them to experiment and make it the way you like it.  Besides that I can't measure, or follow directions and I definitely fail at giving directions so that's that.

Therefore, this won ton soup recipe which some of you have asked for, are more like...guidelines.

I say "ish" when I'm not exactly sure how much I put in.

Soup base:
1 lemongrass stalk with two outer leaves removed, pounded and chopped finely
1 3" chunk fresh ginger, grated finely
3 cloves garlic, through garlic press
2 TBS (ish) red curry paste
(Alternatively, I have not chopped the lemongrass, ginger, garlic finely but I will add them whole or in large chunks, and then pull them out after simmering for a few hours.  I usually NEVER use curry paste either so, that's optional.)

Saute these 4 ingredients in 1-2 TBS vegetable oil until very fragrant, then add:
10-12 cups broth (I didn't have any broth so I added a couple ramen noodles seasoning packets).
3 TBS (ish) soy sauce
2 TBS (ish) fish sauce

Let simmer as long as you like.
Taste and add more of whatever!  Sometimes I add a teeny bit of sugar, sometimes I add a tiny bit of seasoned rice vinegar, sometimes I add some Japanese fish base soup stock. You can't go wrong.  If it gets too salty...add some water!

Won ton filling:
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 can water chestnuts, chopped finely
3 green onions, chopped finely
1" chunk of ginger, grated finely
2 TBS oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
Mix well.  This is where I would say to taste a smidge and see if it's salty enough but I don't want to freak anyone out.

Wrap the won tons.

Chop some veggies.

Get the broth boiling like crazy.  Add wontons (one at a time) and delicately stir.  I've really messed up my wontons by adding them to the broth without the broth being hot enough.  And sometimes the wontons fall apart and I don't know why.

Add veggies to boil briefly.

Top with sliced green onions.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jessica's "Wrap" Contest

Jessica is well on her way to stardom {again} with her mad cooking skills. Our local harvest fair put out an invitation to local amateur cooks to compete in the first annual World Wrapped Cooking Competition. If her video is one of the top 3 voted for she will be a finalist and will compete in a "chopped" style competition live at the Harvest Fair October 6th. We need your help in getting her in the top 3!! If you haven't voted click this {link} and vote 2 times...feel free to log onto other devices and vote from there too. Thank you!!!

{you almost thought this blog no longer existed huh? fooled ya :) }

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Reality Show....by Jessica

This post is for Sue West who commented on a picture of Anya and I on Instagram: Love your family, you're like a clean fun reality show!  

I like a lot about this comment.  Thank you Sue.

It reminded me of a funny story.  

We were taking a walk through town a few months back and we stopped at this empty storefront window.

(Okay, I don't remember it looking so dungeon-esque, but I'm pretty sure this is the same building) -  Anyhow, we looked in there for awhile, then I turned to the kids: 
"I've got something to tell you."

Sometimes they look at me like they're not quite sure what's going to happen.

"Well.  I've signed us up for a new project they're doing in town.  We are going to live in this building.  Our living room is going to be RIGHT there.  And people are going to walk by and stare at us all day long.  How do you feel about that?"

They knew I was kidding.  And then they thought I might not be.  And then they knew I was kidding again.  And then, they thought about it again and thought I might not be.

You gotta keep it interesting.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Meat"balls....by Jessica

This post is for you Mom, who says you miss reading our stories.  I've been meaning to tell you this, but keep forgetting.

This post is also for my children who will one day read all the posts on this blog and will think this is the un-funniest thing you ever read.  Especially you, Ian.

I made these "meat"balls:

Eggplant and Porcini "Meatballs"

I won't give you the whole recipe (here's the link) but obviously the stars of the "meat"balls are eggplant and mushrooms.  Ian's very least favorite vegetables.  

They came inside for dinner and saw me frying those babies up. (Quickly, because they weren't really the right color exactly) "YES!  Meatballs!"  

Dinner table.  
Ian: What's in these meatballs?

Me: Bread crumbs and onion.  Garlic.  Salt and Pepper.  Eggs.  You know, just the normal meatball stuff.

Ian: Hmmm.

And he ate the "meat"balls.

He kinda knew though but I think chose to just not know exactly.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What'cha Doin?....by Justine

Never a dull moment and this morning is no exception.  Here I am vacuuming the inside of my washing machine.

What?  You don't do that?!  Well you know me!  The clean freak.  Oh just kidding.  This is due to the unfortunate mishap of a disposable diaper making it's way into the washing machine.  And you thought the last time you left a tissue in a pocket was bad.  Imagine 5 million times worse.  You're going to have to trust me because late last night when I discovered it I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture of the actual mess.  In case you don't know, diapers are filled with millions of little gelatinous balls that absorb moisture and when a diaper explodes in the washer guess where all the little balls go?  Yes. EVERYWHERE.  Don't even ask if it was a poopy diaper or not. 

Long story short, poor Hubby strung up some line in the garage and shook out the laundry while I tackled the clean up of the actual washer.  Poor guy.  This was after a week of sewer pump malfunctions in our Granny Unit from the improper disposal of something down down the toilet - which he had to fish out...twice. 

Eventually I gave up on my task and decided that cleaning the washer in the morning after the little balls dried would be easier.  Now there is a gritty film of diaper innards stuck to the drum.  Hmmm...maybe not such a great idea after all.

In case you are wondering, I googled how to clean up after diaper/washer disaster and got such varied answers that we were forced to go with our gut.  Throwing the whole kit and kaboodle in the dryer and then cleaning lint filter seemed risky as did just rewashing the load with salt(??)!

Well, off to run a rinse cycle and hope that does the trick.  Let's hope this NEVER happens again!