Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life as it is now (Charis takes on a serious note)

I've been in the Land of Smiles for two months now and truthfully, it has absolutely felt longer than that! Don't get me wrong, not having to follow a strict schedule as required by a 9-5 job sounds and is heavenly. Just the thought of late mornings and late nights without having to care for deadlines, sales targets and office politics appeals to me more than I can explain. But. And it's a big BUT. What am I to do with all the time??

Although I have a lot of time, I don't have as much time as these guys!

Finding a job (within my requirements) here is hard. One has to learn the language and the culture. Besides, Thais are hard-pressed for jobs enough not to require foreigners to come and share the pie. There are ample needs here, English teachers for one are highly sought-after, and volunteers from all over the world come to Thailand to fulfill educational needs, physical needs, spiritual needs even. Industry is rife here, you can't walk more than a metre and not stumble into a street peddlar or a food stall. Goods are also cheap, and most foreigners take advantage of this fact during vacations. But I still have yet to see where I fit in in all of this.

So what have I been using my time for? I'm a serial multi-tasker, so I can do a lot in a single day and yet can be so lazy as to lie in bed all day with a good book especially when the day is hot. Each day I wake up I vow to do something useful and productive, so I've taken up a few hobbies and interests.

You know I've taken a liking to cooking. Chinese, Italian, Thai, American style, cooking pasta, pastry, or poultry. I've also taken up photography after redeeming my camera back from my sister who's been using it for her course. Before long, I will be able to post up some test shots I've been taking with my Canon EOS 500D. With such variety and "scope for imagination" (as Anne of Green Gables would have said of Bangkok), my subjects are endless. I've also taken to blogging, as you can see of my posts of late. And I've also made observing a hobby.

From my trips to and back from Thai lessons, excursions and shopping trips, I've observed what many have commented before, the disparity of the have and have-nots is huge. Beggars with all forms of deformities line the streets, some with babies, imploring the compassion of a mainly Buddhist nation. Personally I don't condone begging especially if they have the use of limbs to make a living. But talk is cheap. So it was quite a relief (sometimes we need that for our conscience's sake) to hear about Helping Hands's cooking class, an "employment initiative from the Klong Toey community... to support the residents of the slum, the biggest in the city."

But that's on another less serious post.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making the World Cup fun for both of us (Sam speaks)

Here's how it is done -

We each pick a team that we support then we make the wager.

The Wager:
So far it's been free massage (for Sam) and cleaning toilets and washing dishes (for Charis).

The rules:
The number of goals makes it more intense. Each goal that Sam's team scores will be equals to 10mins of massage. Each goal that Charis' team scores will be equals to the number of days that Sam will wash the dishes and clean the toilet.

Today, Germany won 4-1 to England.

Germany was Sam's team.


Monday, June 21, 2010

All about food!

Sam and I just got back from a weekend trip to Singapore for a friend's wedding. The groom was Sam's friend from childhood and both families knew each other rather well so Sam's parents were there too. The first thing our family remarked about was how much weight we have gained (Sam more than me, I'm glad to say!). So to honour that statement, here is a collection of pictures of food, both homemade and on our excursions, along with some relevant commentaries.

What's cookin', honey?

One of the joys I've found in this new life of mine was cooking. When I was single and living alone, my idea of de-stressing, besides retail therapy, was cooking. There is a certain calming effect to chopping onions and garlic and eating something cooked to your idea of perfection. I don't profess to be a good cook but I think I do cook okay. But with all the time I have now, I pore over online recipes and try out different cooking methods and ingredients I would have otherwise dismiss as "too-much-time". My favourite site so far is So one day both hubs and I thought we've had too much meat lately (we just had burgers from Iron Fairies - pics below), so we decided on going green.  Menu of the day: Garden fresh greens tossed with French salad dressing with a toss of oregano and dried parsley flakes with tomato & cheese bruschetta at the side. KFC spicy chicken slices for topping (ok, so I cheated a little!).
Another time I tried to emulate the meats of our favourite backyard barbecues. I got the marinade right (Sam does all the marinating for the barbeques, I'm only "allowed" to do the veggies, sides and chicken) but we were lacking good meat. The ribeyes sold in the nearby supermarket were scarcely an inch thick and dry but it'll have to do. These were marinated overnight and grilled over an electric grill. Still trying to get the grilling tactic right, with the grill patterns and all while trying to keep the meat moist and tender. Still learning!  I paired the meat with stir-fry long beans fried with onions and garlic and a dash of oregano (I just love oregano!) and mashed potatoes. I left the skin on the potatoes and purposely cooked it one level before soft to get the "mounds". Cheddar cheese and butter-melted with a sprinkle of paprika and dried parsley flakes. 

Bangkok, food and you

There are times we don't feel like cooking so we head out into the colourful streets of Bangkok for the local food. Sometimes we decide to bravely try on recommendations from friends. For this particular one, it came with a "best burger I've ever tasted" tag. And we all know how burgers and Samuel go, so we decided to try it out and see if it's worth all the hype. 

We got the directions right but walked up and down the road for almost half an hour before we found its unassuming entrance.  We must have walked past the entrance several times! However, what the entrance lacked in attractiveness, the interior more than made up for it. You'll have to blink twice to fully appreciate the restaurant, first to get used to the darkness (small cupholders with lights on the tables and two table lamps further in were pretty much the light available) and to take in the surreal surroundings! The Iron Fairies is well-reviewed so I won't go into describing the place. A blacksmith workshop by day and restaurant/pub by night, our "tables" were old, iron safes and our "chairs" were old wooden barrows. There was live music provided by one talented lady (whom we later knew to be a Singaporean) and a jazz band came up at 9pm. Even its "stage" is a narrow walkway linked up by a wooden spiral staircase on an attic. We had a hard time taking pictures but here are some of them anyway: 
These iron fairies, made at that very workshop, are available for sale. 
Samuel with our starter, deep-fried tiger prawns. You can see the spiral staircase behind Samuel which leads to the "stage" where the musicians perform from.
A startled me with our burger. It was juicy and full of flavour and filled generously with condiments. We enjoyed it but think that we're not ready to give it the "best burger in town" tag yet!
Tell-tale signs of it being a blacksmith workshop, for awhile I thought it looked like a animal slaughterhouse! But the music was very calming and befitting its decor. It was also a good place for patrons to come in for burger, a beer and good conversation. Sam and I stayed on till the jazz players played about 3 songs. By then, the place was packed but everyone was okay just standing around.

Finally, a meal in Chinatown

Some of you may remember the last post on our excursion to Bangkok's Chinatown. This time, we were determined to be hungry to try out their "aahaan tale" or seafood which was "aroi maak" or very delicious. I tried remembering the prices but didn't succeed to bring it up again to memory but just know that it was a very affordable meal for two. Here's what we ordered:
For starters, fresh oysters (I don't like them so I only ate half). Sam thought it wasn't that fresh.
Fried rice. We were craving for some Chinese food - this was okay but lacked the flavour and taste of our typical Nasi Goreng Cina (Chinese Fried Rice). 
Stir-fried morning glory with chili which is just "stir-fried kangkung", tasty but preferred it cooked with "sambal belacan"!
Butter and garlic fried calamari. Tasted really good but was deceptive with its serving size as the bottom was filled with cabbage.
Fried glass noodle ("tung fun") with giant prawns. A very Chinese dish and we can also find this at home. However, it has been localized to suit Thais as we think fish sauce was used instead. Tasted good nonetheless!
And how much does it cost? Less than RM60 for two persons! Definitely worth the journey there. Probably the next time round, we will order the grilled shrimps.
Coming to visit us yet? :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Behind The Scenes (Long Post!)

All stories have a beginning. I'm not sure when the beginning started for me, though. Maybe I was 5 or 6 and I was getting married to my cousins. It was just play acting but I must've gotten married a hundred times because I was the only girl. Funny, it always ends with us jumping on our aunt's queen-sized bed. Innocent children indeed!  Anyway, just like Mr Darcy:
 "It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun planning my wedding" (italics mine)
Although not in the same situation, (Mr Darcy was hard-pressed in trying to express when he fell in love with Liz) I think like all girls, we started planning our weddings when we first set eyes on Brad Pitt (for my Twilight-less generation) or Devon Sawa (I was once engaged to him). In this post, I won't be telling you the details of the entire wedding planning but just "behind-the-scenes" pictures of the unsung heroes in the form of family & friends who made this happen. This is a much-delayed tribute to you guys! Cheers!

The Proposal

It HAS to start from this right? I remember the conversation with my ex-colleagues, Ivan & Kuan (do you guys remember this?). Ivan had just proposed and we were discussing HIS planning. I remember saying, I'm ready and the ball is ready to roll BUT he has to propose first! So anw, here are some pictures:

Some of you already know how Samuel proposed, so I won't go through that. There were many other times I thought he would propose and he really surprised me on this. After the excitement tapered, I was asked to take it all off quick because he has to put back the things inside his dashboard :P 
 The MMS that I sent to my mum. (Mum, do you remember this? :D) And the first thing she asked was, "How come Samuel didn't ask us first?!". 

The Family Meet-up

Our families have met up before Sam proposed, but it was something "non-official" like our graduation day. So, we decided to have a double-family meet-up to officially announce the engagement and talk about the wedding. I guess since it's happened so long ago and the wedding's taken place, it's okay to come right out with a little secret! :D We didn't know how it was going to go (we should've had more faith!) so we decided to invite them for a Japanese buffet so as to avoid awkward silences that may happen if we were having a round-table Chinese dinner instead! We got a private room with a beautiful view and it turned out really great! Here are some pictures of the day:

The Planning

What are we without friends? With Samuel being away in Bangkok in the 6 months leading to the wedding, we faced an uphill task of actually planning a wedding together. But for the help of these friends, the planning would be rife with frustration & confusion. Samuel is a systematic and Big Picture kinda guy but I am task-oriented, so it naturally fell on Samuel to actually lead the Wedding Committee (yes, we actually had a committee!). We met twice before the wedding and I can safely say they worked their butts off all the way to D-DAY. Here are some pics:

As you can see, all our meetings centered around food. Despite it being a planning session, which is supposed to be serious and all, it was absolute fun. I guess it reflects on the company you keep and I believe it can also be reflected in the wedding itself! Affryll, I hope you have been taking notes! :D

The In-Betweens

Here are the in-betweens, the category of "Others" leading up to the wedding. 

Buying furniture for our bridal room! Thanks to FIL and MIL for sponsoring them! :)

Asher trying out his cute ring bearer's suit which I found in Bangkok. These were the best pics I could get what with him constantly moving despite just having woken up! We decided to ditch the coat because it looked too big on him!  But he really does look handsome here! 

The bridesmaids (Joanne is at the side, not seen in the pics above) helping out with the wedding favors. Did you know that Rainee single-handedly did the flowergirls' hairband and the ribbons on the candles? Girls, you're the bestest!

The Rehearsal

We had a full rehearsal the Thursday before the wedding. It's so heartening to see friends and family coming on a work day, some having to travel just to get to the rehearsal. As always, my nerves were all over during the rehearsal but it went on just fine under the instruction of experienced people! The children were just great and so willing to listen. I think they just had fun just running around the massive hall. Some pics to remember:

The children who were simply marvelous! Aunty Melissa also promised them some goodies if they listened to what she said so that could be the secret! :) As you can see, the girls have started wearing the hairbands Rainee made. 

The rest of the guys who were there. A lot of them were helping out with the decorations outside so they're not here on the pics. Special thanks to Maria, Sube & Mels for making the place look loverly! :)

Going through the whole process with Rev Johnson and the parents. Was already quite nervous here! Suddenly it seemed so real!

And lastly, our favourite pianist and sax player. They were practicing the processional music together before this and I think they sound really well together. Here they must be discussing what to play to suit the bridal entrance. I like the reflection on the baby grand! 

Just getting all the pictures and stories together proved that there was a lot of effort put into this whole wedding. To all of you who have played a part, any part, in our wedding, THANK YOU! You have certainly made this day special for the both of us. Look at the bride, nearly 2 months and she's still talking about it! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The Wedding (as seen by the bride)

There is no denying the flutter of excitement and myriad of emotions that a bride goes through on her special day. I gathered the pictures we got from our talented photographers and wrote down some of the feelings/emotions I experienced and some questions that went through my mind in the 21-hour long event! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did while putting it together!

Note: If you don't hear any audio playback, this is because I am waiting for my dispute to go through under the Youtube copyright infringement law thingy. It should be up soon enough! :) (Update: Audio up!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Wedding Snapshot - Video

It's here - video uploads!!

Video one - "The ladies have their way"
On this day we pledge our love to one another. (But before that happens...the ladies have their way!).

Video two - "The Wedding Singer Singing"
Sam sang this song originally sang by Wayne Brady as Charis walked in into the dining hall. A very nice recap of the entire day. It was good.

Thanks to Joash Chan who took the vids.