Shabby Background

Monday, December 31

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


Monday, December 24

Mango daiquiri

That looks like a misplaced pineapple.  I ordered mango daiquiri, and I didn't know what that pineapple was up to clinging on the glass.  But it did taste mango daiquiri; the restaurant was filled to the brim, everybody's busy with their holiday food so I did not make a fuss and just proceeded to confirm this was exactly what I pointed on the menu to the waiter.

This recipe is by Annette Forrest on the December 2005 issue of Super Food Ideas, posted under Classic Christmas by
  • 6 mangoes, peeled, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white rum
  • 1 1/2 cups vodka
  • 6 lemons, juiced
  • 1 cup sugar syrup (see note)
  • 6 cups crushed ice 
Combine half the mango, half the rum, half the vodka, 3/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth, Add half the crushed ice. Blend until just combined. Pout into 6 coctail glasses and serve immediately.

Repeat using remaining ingredients.

Thursday, December 20

Christmas presents

In this post: Booking Through Thursday and Thursday Thirteen

"Any books you’re particularly hoping to be gifted this year? Any that you’re giving as presents this holiday season?"
Perhaps any book about Christmas that I have never read before like Angels at the Table: a Shirley, Goodness and Mercy Christmas Story by Debbie Macomber. I have never been gifted any book, let alone a Christmas book, as an adult. It seems I'm the one giving books, but I don't mind that. I can always go down a bookstore and buy myself something and it will be fun. What I really want to present the kiddo with is The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado. In a previous BTT post, I mentioned that one of my books, Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, was missing. The culprit was a niece and last time I checked via phone call (I have no qualms losing money on an expensive overseas call for my treasures) she hasn't returned it. If she still does not return it by Christmas day, the book is hers as a Christmas present.

Thursday 13: Christmas books I have never read and would like to read

~ Go left to right, top to bottom for info. Snippets are from Goodreads ~

1. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote 
"Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!"
2. The Christmas Hope by Donna VanLiere 
"a story of love in the face of loss, joy when all seems hopeless, and how light can shine into the darkest places."
3. A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, Trina Schart Hyman 
Included in this book are five Dylan Thomas poems-- "Fern Hill, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, In the White Giants Thigh, Ballad of the Long-legged Bait, and Ceremony After a Fire Raid."
4. Christmas Letters by Debbie Macomber
 "love means accepting your differences."
5. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum 
"Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of it when I was a child..."
6. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey  
"a moving tale of the spirit and generosity all people hold in their hearts, especially during the holidays."
7. A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas  
"a trip to Victorian London, under the mistletoe, and on a journey of the heart."
8. The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere 
 "a story about how a promise from one person to another shows us the true meaning of faith, remembrance, and love."
9. O Little Town: A Novel by Don Reid 
"Spanning three generations, O Little Town is a tender tale of love and redemption, and a lonely gravesite where roses mysteriously appear every Christmas."
10. The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson 
 "a timely yet gentle reminder that God can work miracles through something as seemingly insignificant as a little brown dog."
11. A Simple Amish Christmas by Vanetta Chapman 
 "She returns home and finds herself face-to-face with a budding romance with an Amish farmer and important choices to make."
12. A Christmas Wedding by James Patterson 
 "a fresh look at family and the magic of the season."
13. Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh 
"the little bookstore and its quirky patrons--as well as the lovely young woman who works at his side each day--work their magic on him, revealing to Rick the truth about his family, his own life, and the true meaning of Christmas."

Tuesday, December 18

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.

Monday, December 17

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.

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


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 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.

Thursday, December 6


In this post: Booking Through Thursday and Thursday Thirteen

"Do you keep a list of the books you’ve read? How? In a journal? Through one of the online services? If so, WHY? To keep good records for future reference? To make sure you don’t accidentally reread? If not, why not? Too eager to move on to the next book? Too lazy? Never thought to bother?"

I try. It's not just books I've read that I want to keep a record of but all that I have collected.  State of the Shelf is a page I made to keep track of my books and reading. Since then I have been to bookstores many times and bought a lot of books. The page needs updating.When I flew home this summer I found out one of my books is missing. My eyebrows clashed. I mean touch my designer shoes, NOT MY BOOKS. The theft made me decide to really get serious with a list. And I will.

Thursday 13:Books I recently bought and why

1. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (John Gray) "it's the highest ranked work of non-fiction in the 90s," according to CNN on Wikipedia, and I'm the only one who has not read it
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum) for the kiddo, and I want to read J.T. Barbarese's introduction and notes
3. Postcards from Kitchens Abroad (Diane Holouige) because it talks about some of my favorite things to do - eat and travel
4. The Rule of Four (Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason) I want to see if I still have brains. Blurb says, "The Da Vinci Code for people with brains"
5. The Heart Garden (Janine Burke) the title interests me
6. Honour Among Thieves because I've never read a Jeffrey Archer
7. Secrets of the Code (Dan Burstein, ed.) interviews of scholars galore! and I want to compare what I learned from Bible classes with the thoughts and claims of experts. It keeps me saying, 'what?!' 'no...' 'you're kidding...' 
8. And Even Now I love old things; my copy is 1920
9. The Lincoln Lawyer I want to know what a "crime-writing genius" has to offer
10. Eating People is Wrong (Malcolm Bradbury) the title intrigues me and once again my love for old things - it's 1959
11. The Complete Book of Cookery (Anne Marshall, ed.) I can't resist a yummy cover
12. Timeline I've never read a Michael Crichton
13 The Richest Man in Babylon classic financial advice

Wednesday, December 5

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.
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