Not Wanting to Wait

Most of the time I try to update my blog every other day, but my internet service provider seems to sense when I’m getting ready to upload photos (usually in the evening) and slows my connection down, often cutting off access to Xanga entirely.  It is almost as if True Corporation is deliberately keeping me from posting.  Anyhow, I tricked them today by sneaking in a morning post!

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A month into the pool remodel project, the tile work is almost done.  You will recall that our plans for a poolside Thanksgiving potluck party were interrupted by the announcement last month that the pool renovation would commence the next day.  Thankfully, that worked out okay.

In fact, this picture is four days old.  In the meantime they have laid the rest of the pool tile and grouted the whole thing.  According to the schedule, there is a month left in the project, which leads me to wonder what else needs to happen that would take so long.  Maybe you need to let the tile adhesive and grout cure for a few weeks?  They do need to fix the light fixtures and finishes the edge tile, plus I think the pump system will be replaced, too.

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Yesterday, I had to run an errand to the Silom district.  While descending from the pedestrian walkway I caught sight of this motorbike driver who was trying to keep his load balanced.  “What was he carrying?” I wondered.

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Sure enough, loads and loads of green onions.  Who in the world needs so many green onions delivered all at once?  Or maybe this is a new Community Supported Agriculture initiative in which farmers deliver direct by motorbike?

 

Table incident leaves marble top shattered – planters in ruin

Skype After two years of being on Skype, I finally made contact with my grandfather.  He’s had Skype on his Mac for nearly a year but for some reason he hadn’t been able to accept me as a contact.  Of course, since I was never on my computer at the same time that I was sitting at his (when I was visiting) I hadn’t been able to trouble-shoot the problem.

This morning, though, for some unexplained reason he was on line and had somehow accepted me as a contact.  Out of nowhere, my computer started ringing as he called me.

So that was nice.  A little strange, though, as he doesn’t have an external headset so his voice sounded far away.  Also, perhaps his volume was turned down and he couldn’t hear me, because in the web cam picture, it looked like he was leaning in close to his computer and he said he couldn’t hear me.

Kudos for his efforts at technology.  Hopefully, we’ll get that all squared away and can chat more regularly.

 

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P1050531 Tragedy struck at Raintree Villa this week as our cute marble-top cafe table out on the balcony tumbled over, cracking the marble in two.  A pair of innocent planters were brutally shattered, but truth be told, I didn’t like them all that much anyhow.

The cause is still under investigation but initial inspections point to metal fatigue.  Chris Schultz, armchair expert, had long been critical of the design of the table.  A metal bolt had previously been sheared off when too much torque was created as the table was moved with at least one leg still on the ground.

Right: detail of the break.

P1050534 Investigators are following a lead that the table was damaged on initial delivery.  The construction crew who was delivering the table broke the leg during delivery and placed it back on the truck.  The table was then brought for repair but the nature of the damage and subsequent repair were never disclosed to the table’s owners.

Meanwhile, breakfasts, teas, and dinners on the balcony have been canceled until further notice.

Left: The remains of two bystanders.

Anyone with information about the incident are encouraged to contact Khun Tawn.

 

“Soft Opening” a success

Entertaining friends at your home is not a particularly common feature of Thai living.  Instead, people will meet at a restaurant, bar, karaoke, or bowling alley and socialize there.  Tawn and I really enjoy entertaining and it was an enjoyable part of our life in the United States. 

When we were planning our condo remodel, we made many decisions along the way that would help us maintain this aspect of our lifestyle.  From redesigning the kitchen with a larger refrigerator to setting up the bedrooms so they could be used for socializing, we tried to build a space where we could host friends and family members in comfort. 

After having a small brunch as the first test of our home’s ability as an entertaining environment, we were ready for the next step in the proving trials: dinner for a dozen.  Actually, it ended up being sixteen or seventeen, but who’s counting.  Below: Moments before the first guest arrives, the stage is set.  The condo looks especially nice at night.

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I began prep work for the cooking on Friday evening, while Tawn hosted a small group of his friends.  Originally it was explained to me as, “Eddy and Jack are going to stop by to take a look at the condo.”  It then became, “Eddy and Jack and David are going to stop by to take a look at the condo and maybe have a drink.” 

It further progressed to, “… and maybe I’ll order some Italian food if we get hungry.”  Finally, it turned out as Eddy, Jack, David, Sa, Job, Mon and Ton came over for several hours, drank numerous bottles of wine, ordered pizza, pasta and salad from Pizza Mania, and kept me from getting all the prep work done I had hoped to.

But that’s okay… it was nice to see them and I continued working while people floated into the kitchen to visit for a while, then floated back to the living room.  The only things I couldn’t do involved sauteeing onions and garlic, which I thought might annoy the guests a bit.

When I lived in San Francisco, before Tawn and I moved in together, I lived in a 90-year old Edwardian house on Eureka Street, just above the Castro in a section of town known by longer-term residents as Eureka Valley.  I had two roommates, Anita and Colleen (although both Holly and Nina lived there at various times, too), and we would have parties quite frequently.  Usually, if they involved dinner they were smaller affairs – 8-10 people at the most.  If they were just drinks and appetizers, the numbers would get larger.

I recall these parties as being pretty uncomplicated.  Tidy up the house a bit, light some candles, turn on some Miles Davis or Morcheeba, and wrap a round of brie in some filo dough and pop it in the over. 

Somehow, when Tawn and I host gatherings, it becomes quite complicated. 

Some of it is the food, although we’ve been learning and applying lessons and the food we prepare is increasingly prepared in advance, requiring little work during the party itself.  In fact, by the time the first guest arrived Saturday night, the cooking was done.

Some of the complication comes from the decoration.  I think we put a lot of effort into arranging the house, decorating it, and making it like something out of a magazine.  I’m sure the guests appreciate these thoughtful touches, but I suspect they wouldn’t mind or even notice if they were missing. 

P1030392 For example, we provided party favors for our guests last night: pairs of macarons from the Erawan Hotel bakery, neatly wrapped in a cellophane bag with a festive bow.  Really cute and very thoughtful, but it meant a trip to the hotel, waiting for them to wrap everything, and then an hour Saturday morning tying the bows.

After our parties, Tawn and I debrief and try to see what we can learn to make our lives easier next time.  Hopefully we’ll get a bit better at applying the lessons and not just learning them again and again, because we really like entertaining and want it to be an enjoyable experience for us, too.

 

With that said, let me now regale you with all the cooking that was done!  It was a pot luck dinner but I wasn’t sure how effectively that would work.  First of all, many of our friends have small or nonexistent kitchens.  Second, I’m not sure if a pot luck is really a very “Thai” thing to do.

P1030412 As a result, I over prepared and created two side dishes and extra appetizers in addition to the main course that I had promised to provide.  That’s okay as I wanted to try the recipes and they were pretty easy to prepare.  The menu provided by me included:

      • crudités with homemade basil and sundried tomato dressing
      • baked artichoke-spinach dip
      • Australian brie en croûte
      • mango-cucumber salad dressed with a green curry and rice wine vinaigrette
      • roasted eggplant and zucchini medley
      • lasagna two ways: hearty meat and mushroom-spinach

Right: Chopping roasted artichoke hearts for the dip.

Our guests provided many wonderful accompaniments: a large mixed green salad, fried turnip cakes, a spicy Thai-style sausage salad, and desserts and beverages.  Pot luck is a successful concept here so that means less cooking for me in the future.

 

Below: Lasagna in three easy steps.

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Above: The egglpant-zucchini medley.  Below: The table is set with the appetizers.

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We ended up with a nice mix of people.  In addition to the usual suspects of the American expats and their partners, Roka, Prawit and Kobfa, Tawn’s cousin Paul and his wife Nicha made a visit.  Tawn’s friend and ballet instructor Mae stopped by with her Danish friend, Daniel. 

Vic also brought a volleyball friend of his, Kook, who recognized me and Tawn – it turns out that he works in the same building as Tawn for an advertising company that is under the same corporate umbrella as Tawn’s employer.  Kook had seen us before at the Thailand Cultural Centre, and he and Tawn saw each other in the elevators at work but had never met.

Furthering the coincidences, we discovered that Ken’s partner Suchai knows Kook’s brother.  Small, small world.

P1030472 Right: Ken and Suchai in a rare display of public affection.  Below: Russ, Bill and Vic fuss over the salad.

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Above: The second bedroom/office makes for a nice separate seating area for guests in the background.  Below: Tawn’s cousin Paul (center) shares a story about his experiences working in China for the Central Group of department stores.  Bill is to the left in the group and Kook is to the right on the sofa. 

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In the end, it was a very good party.  As people left, we sent food with them so that we ended the evening with only a small amount of leftovers.  I think on my next trip to the US I’m going to Costco and buying a big box of those Gladware storage containers.  We sent people home with some of my better quality storage containers and I hope I get them back as they’re kind of expensive!

We had our customary debrief while cleaning up: what went well, what could be better?  Hopefully we’ll apply the lessons we discussed…

 

Things have been slow, socially, the past few days.  A lunch here, a Thai lesson there, but not much that is blogable.  My cousin Kari’s high school friend Sarah arrived from New York with her husband and another couple in tow.  We met them for dinner last night at Cafe de Laos and then drinks on the rooftop Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel.  But the week was pretty unblogable.  Until the bookshelves arrived on Wednesday.

Some of you may recall this sketch I did before the remodel started, showing what I had in mind for the living room.  A pair of pocket doors with traditional Victorian bookshelves built in on each side.  All along, I thought this was the basic design that Tawn and I were working towards.

Modified Living Room

In fact, the design had made a left turn some ways back but it wasn’t apparant to me.  Somewhere along the road, Tawn showed me a picture from an issue of Martha Stewart Living (a woman whose name is starting to haunt me) and asked, “What do you think aobut this design?”  I took it as a question relating to the china cabinet that we want to put near the kitchen and dining table.  Not realizing that it was related instead to the design for the bookshelf, I said that it was okay.

So on Tuesday the cabinet makers arrive with the “bookshelves”.  But as they go to put the top halves up, they discover that the entire piece is physically too tall.  They’ve mis-measured and the ceiling is two inches lower than the height of the bookshelf.  To top it off, they depth and width are both just about a half-inch to an inch too big to fit into the space.  It seems that baseboards and window frames were not taken into consideration when measurements were made.  (And the measurements were not made by us, I’ll point out.)

Below: Tawn discusses the options with the handyman (left) who installed our toilet paper hanger vertically because, he says, I told him to, and the general contractor’s son.  Note the height of the top border on the cabinet.

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The workers left the shelves, drawers, and doors behind and took the top half of the cabinet back to the shop.  They returned on Thursday and installed the new, slightly lower bookshelves.  Width and depth issues have not been resolved but we’ll see about that later on.  Notice that the border on the top of the cabinet is now narrower.

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P1030381 The problem is, because the shelves are still so tall and weren’t built with the correct width and depth, the top corner of the door hits the light fixture when you open it!  (Collective sigh and roll of the eyes.) 

So what do you think of the shelves?

Personally, I think the design is nice for a china cabinet, which is what I thought the design was originally for.  But as a bookshelf?  I don’t know about that.

One of the biggest problems is that the shelves in the top half are made of untempered glass and I’m not convinced they’ll hold the weight of the books.  Especially since they have no supports in the middle.

I also have mixed feelings about the glass doors and sides, which has a diamond pattern etched into them.  If you’re going to have glass shelves, shouldn’t you have doors that allow you to display the contents?  The whole point of glass shelves and doors is to show off your plates, platters and teapots, right?

There is a little pull-out drawer, a feature I really like as it makes for a good side table or console… on a china cabinet.  But not for a book shelf.

Also, I really expected that there would be a gap of about 10 inches between the top of the shelves and the ceiling.  That’s why we installed the little spot lights, to highlight the objets d’art we would display there.  I’m not sure if it is realistic to slice off several inches of the cabinet, maybe all of those small drawers?

Another option, which Tawn isn’t as keen on as he likes the cabinets, would be to try to sell them on Craigslist and use the proceeds to build another pair of bookshelves.  Or, should I say, “to build some bookshelves” as I don’t think these are bookshelves?

So just when things were seeming a bit na beua they became interesting again.

 

The child of a perfectionist

P1020837 I’m the child of a perfectionist.  As many children of perfectionists will tell you, we have to struggle throughout our adult lives to escape our own perfectionism, learning – and learning to believe – the mantra that there are many correct ways to do something. 

That said, I think I’ve come a long way to addressing my perfectionism and have become much more accepting others’ ways of doing things.

I live with someone – have committed to spending my life with that someone, in fact – who is still struggling with his perfectionism.  In his case (I’ll not reveal his name in order to protect his identity, so let’s just call him “B”), I playfully like to call it his obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Emphasis on the word “playfully”, if you’re reading this, B.

Our new condo has a shortage of storage at the moment, because there are two bookshelves and an office armoire that have yet to arrive.  We’d like to install a china cabinet, too, but that’s another matter.  In the meantime we have things stored in boxes and some extra kitchen items stored in a bedroom closet.

It is very important to B that these be organized, regardless of for how short a time they’ll be there.  Which is how we ended up with the organized cabinet that is pictured above.

What’s really neat about it – this is something I just love about B – is the little drawing and inventory he did.  Here it is in more detail:

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Isn’t it cute?

 

You know you’ve really moved in when…

Each person has their own way of defining the moment when they know that they’ve really moved in to a new place.  For me, it is when I first fire up my oven and bake some biscuits.  Always from scratch and, whenever available, from buttermilk.

This morning as Tawn and I waited to the handyman and the contractor’s son to come over and fix some things, I whipped up a batch of biscuits.

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Above, from left: Taken from the balcony looking in, I cut-in the shortening; mixing in the buttermilk just until the dough starts to come together; kneading just a half-dozen times to create flaky layers but not make the dough tough; cutting the biscuits – pushing straight down and not turning the cutter so the sides of the biscuits do not seal and can rise properly.  Below: Ready to go into the convection oven.

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Below: And, just out of the oven…

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Above: Gentle breezes, swaying palms, French-press coffee and hot biscuits with pomelo marmelade from the Oriental Hotel Shop.  Below: We’re still figuring out how we want to arrange the drop-leaf dining table.  Tawn and our designer have proposed putting it in this arrangement but when the leaves are dropped it looks awkward to me.  Also, when the china cabinet is installed behind me, there won’t be room for this arrangements.

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Elsewhere in the news, I stopped by Markus and Tam’s apartment on Friday to borrow their internet connection.  Their unit is on the 24th floor of a building on Sukhumvit Soi 10 and has a good view of both the park and Queen Sirikit Convention Centre as well as the Asoke and Sukhumvit junction.  There was some spectacular light effects when I looked towards the Silom/Sathorn area:

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One more week until DSL is up and running.  In the meantime, I’m becoming fast friends with the staff at the Starbucks on Soi 49 near Sumitivej Hospital, which has multiple power outlets in the store.

 

Coming to you live from Raintree Villa

… and we pick up right where we left off, except 3.5 km to the southeast down Sukhumvit Road.

It is Tuesday evening and I’m using a “borrowed” weak wifi connection that someone has here in the building.  Hopefully DSL will be up and running in the next week or so.  Meanwhile, there is a daily trip to Starbucks for some high-speed internet connection and a latte.

The move was smooth, all things considered.  Sunday night was our first night in the place and other than being woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of a pack of soi dogs barking loudly and sounding very dangerous, it was comfortable.

I’ll tell you the story through pictures taken over the course of the Thursday through Tuesday period:

 

Thursday

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Above: Installing spray foam insulation to fill the gap in the concrete wall where the stove hood vents to the balcony.  Below: The hole, before and after.

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Above: Organizing herbs and spices on the pull-out spice rack drawer.  What seemed like a good use of space may be a little inconvenient in my middle age as I try to bend over and read the fine print on label jars all the way on the bottom shelf!  Below: More storage, this time in the bathroom.  Make note of the not-yet-installed toilet paper dispenser sitting on the marble shelf over the toilet.  More about that in a moment…

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Friday

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Above: A design feature I have not previously shared with you is our faux fireplace.  It will not give off any heat (that’s kind of unnecessary here, really) but will provide a place to hide the DVD player and stereo system and run the wires through the wall in case we put a TV above it.  The handyman pictured here, his face hidden to protect his identity, was responsible for this next fun discovery…

Below: … the incorrectly installed toilet paper dispenser.  This guy has worked with our contractor on many projects and yet even though I specifically showed how I wanted it installed, the dispenser ended up ninety degrees off kilter.

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Below: Our mattress arrived on Friday, a good two weeks before the bed frame will be finished.  Shockingly, this is the deepest mattress (the highest mattress?) that I’ve ever seen.  It is so tall it barely needs a frame.

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Above: Returning to Asoke Place on Friday afternoon after moving some things to Raintree Villa, I was reminded why I’m so happy to be leaving Asoke.  Look at the crazy traffic at 4:00 in the afternoon.  And none of these cars is moving when I took the picture.

 

Saturday

Saturday morning, Tawn waits in the Asoke Place apartment for the movers to arrive.

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Above: During a shopping trip to the housewares section of Central Chidlom department store, I see a special Winnie the Pooh toilet sheet that proclaims – without any trace of irony – that underneath the lid is a “Pooh Splash Zone”.

Below: Halfway through the move on Saturday, Tawn waits for the movers to arrive with more of our things.  The small bedroom was eventually filled halfway with boxes.  By Tuesday evening there are only six boxes left to sort through.

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Sunday

The move has largely taken place and all that is left is the cleaning out of a few items in the old apartment and the official moving in into the condo.  I met Tawn at the condo, waiting outside the front door, just before the appointed auspicious time of 8:30 am.  Tawn was carrying a Buddha image selected for him from his father, along with garlands and incense.

In an interesting mixture of animism, Brahmanism, Hinduism, and Buddhism (and a pinch of plain old superstition), we opened the front door and announced to the spirit of the dwelling that we were asking permission to move in.  Then, holding the Buddha statue, we prayed that by following the teachings and lessons of Buddha we would have a harmonious and happy life in the house.  We entered, then placed the image on the mantle of the fireplace, adding jasmine garlands and lighting incense.

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We then went back to the front of the building where the condo’s spirit house is located.  This is where the spirit (spirits?) of the land that were displaced in the construction of the building live.  We lit incense there and offered garlands to the spirits.  The spirit houses often contain images from Brhamanist and Hindu belief systems.

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Sunday afternoon we took a break from the unpacking and met up with Otto, who was in town from Singapore with his partner Han.  Otto, you may recall, is the teacher at Singapore’s prestigious Raffles Institute prep school who made waves a few months ago when he came out of the closet as a gay man in an open letter to his colleagues.  Needless to say, the last few months have been a roller coaster ride for both him and his partner and it was nice to see them.

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Above: Rather artistic shot as Tawn and Otto ride the escalator at Playground shopping centre on Thong Lor.  Below: Tawn and Otto pose at Starbucks in a picture designed mostly to capture the mirror, which Tawn thinks would look good in the front hallway.

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Below: Sunday evening after several hours of moving the last few items out of the apartment, I’m ready to say goodbye and head out the door.  Lights out!

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Above: Driving back to the new condo on some of the back sois, we passed this lovely compound that has an elaborate front gate.  Thais seem to really like their elaborate metal gates.

Below: Sunday dinner was at Grand Ramen restaurant on Thong Lor (which is Sukhumvit Soi 55, for those of you playing along at home).  This is a very good ramen restaurant that caters to the Japanese expats.  At four tables sat four Japanese salarymen, each at the same corner seat at each table so they looked like schoolboys sitting in a row.  Each read the newspaper, drank beer, are noodles, and watched the football game on the television.  The pork tonkatsu ramen was very tasty!  Oishi des ne!

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Monday Morning

Monday was our first morning in the new place.  Most important of all, the coffee machine was plugged in and I was able to heat milk for the coffee on the new induction stove.  No more microwave here.

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Finally, since it is now just after midnight, I’d like to wish His Majesty King Bhumibol, Rama IX a very happy 80th Birthday.  May this man, who has been an inspiration and source of pride for his subjects, enjoy a long and healthy life.  Below, a mother and daughter sign their birthday wishes in a greeting book at the Sukhumvit subway station, one of hundreds set up at various public points through the Kingdom.

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