Shadow of Angkor

I could use a bit of Diane’s chicken soup, right about now. Facing our last three of 13 days  in Siem Reap and I’m a bit frustrated. Between miles and miles of temples, great restaurants, a river, a lake, and more temples, I feel like I’ve just had time to sample a small bit of it all. For the past week I’ve had a stomach bug and for the past three days it has gotten seriously annoying. I’ll have a visit to the doctor today to get it sorted out. In the meantime, I’m, well, tethered to the hotel room a bit. On the bright side, I watched Nadal win the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

Enough whining, give this girl some luck and peace. IMG_0160Thanks! Continue reading

Domestic Bliss

My traveling co-blogger sister has been carrying the weight of this blog for a while now, as she cruises around Southeast Asia. Meanwhile I have been slacking at home and trying to get back to normal (what’s that?) after the holiday break in routine. Now I feel that not only must I carry my share of the load and post something – but I must post something super domestic in order to balance out all the travel. A little yin to her yang, if you will. So here’s what’s going on at my little house today:windowIt’s a beautiful, sunny, warm day. I did some laundry and folded the clothes outside on the picnic table.P1010054 And I made my own laundry detergent this morning! It was easy and smells really good (I used Dr. Bronner’s scented soap – one rose and one orange – and added essential oils). The laundry looks clean, right? I used this basic recipe. I was surprised at how much cheaper it is to make my own at home.

My chores completed, I meandered about in the garden. I loved this little camellia flower hanging out all by itself in the shade.  It’s the first blossom to bloom on this plant.

camelliaBack inside, I messed around with my paper chain garland project. This is a craft project that I have been meaning to get to for, like, ever. And now it is almost completed. Here’s a tiny preview:craftI also checked in with my cats. They are my stay-at-home version of the wax monks. But a little less creepy.catAnd today I am making chicken stock. When I think about the most homey, cozy, productive, domestic things I can do, making chicken stock might be the golden star at the top of the list. Check out these lovely globules . . .chickenstockI suppose I feel so strongly about chicken stock because it is one of the building blocks of my cooking. Not only do I use it as an ingredient in many dishes, but often it is the main ingredient, to which I just add whatever we have on hand, especially leftovers, to make a quick, delicious, satisfying and healthy supper. That’s all anybody needs, isn’t it? We are fans of soup around here.

I have a basic formula, which I tweak as I feel like it, for my supper soup. I learned this method from How to Cook Without a Book, by Pam Anderson, certainly one of my most favorite and recommended books, especially for beginners.

For each quart of chicken stock, I saute a diced onion in a pot and add:

1 pound cut-up vegetables, like carrots (leftover roasted ones are yummy here), leeks, celery, kale or collards (thinly sliced), zucchini, or frozen peas. Got half a head of romaine lettuce? Chop it up and throw it in.

1 pound meat (like boneless, skinless chicken (precooked or not), precooked sausages (like kielbasa or pre-cooked chicken Italian).

Some starch, like a pound of diced potatoes or pre-cooked pasta or rice or a can or two of cannellini beans. Pasta or rice gets added at the end. Or you could add a sprinkling of corn meal, like in the polentina alla toscana recipe from One Good Dish, by David Tanis. (I expect that you will be hearing more about this book from me in future posts. I love it.)

And sometimes, a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes. And herbs and salt and pepper of course. Have some rind from a hunk of Parmesan cheese? Throw it in! So yummy.

We have had some very tasty combinations like Italian sausage, collards and tomato or chicken with spinach, rice and lemon (oooh I’m hungry now), or the basic chicken, carrots, celery and peas with pasta. Sometimes I skip the meat and just do beans and vegetables. It’s easy to combine all sorts of things in the soup. Often it ends up being more of a stew than a soup, I load so much stuff in there. But it tastes delicious regardless.

No chicken soup tonight, though. It’s too warm! In January! Instead I will strain this stock and pop it in the fridge to cool. Tonight I’m going out on the town for a quick bite with the boy before his fencing lesson. Domesticity party!!

Tomorrow I will de-fat the stock (mostly) and freeze it for a rainy day (here’s hoping for one of those soon – it’s so dry here.) Then who knows what else I’ll get into . . .

That’s the report from NerdHaven West – staying home in L.A. and doing fine. xo

First night

We landed in Chiang Mai after a one-hour flight from Bangkok—a much easier journey than the overnight bus trip I took to reach the northern city back in 1989. The flight was delayed so we landed at rush hour and faced long lines, and a 45-minute wait, for a taxi into town. As we pondered our options, a cabbie approached us and asked if we need a ride! Such luck, and we paid only 50 bhat more than those in the queue. (32 bhat=$1US). Money well spent. Clara took the wait in stride.

imageOur hotel is in a garden in the middle of the old city, sandwiched between two gold-plated temples.


After we checked into our mosquito-ridden yet lovely hotel room, we again walked out of our hotel grounds without any idea where we were on the map. imageThis seems to be John’s style, and it definitely adds a layer of excitement to our excursions. We decided to turn right from our driveway. We snapped a picture of the sign a the end of our alleyway, or soi, and hopped on a motorcycle with a covered seat in the back, called a dtuk dtuk.

An ancient wall, built in 1296, surrounds the old city, and our hotel, Chompor Lanna. A moat-like canal surrounds the wall. At each point of the compass, there is a break in the wall, called a gate. Each gate seems to have a specialty market, featuring either food stalls, flowers, fish or full-blown sell-a-thons that feature everything from fruit to fish, to Hmong handicrafts on certain days of the week. imageWe were hungry so, after some waffling (on my part), we ended at the market at the south gate. We didn’t know it was south at the time; we were just winging it. We walked around the food stalls crammed onto the traffic median, between the road and the canal, until one smelled so so so good, I couldn’t help but order. Pad Thai, as it turns out.

imageNot such an exotic dish, but it was especially delicious when cooked in a wok about two feet from the table. Clara was wide-eyed and still a bit overwhelmed by eating anything after her day two stomach troubles. She shrugged it all off by putting her head down and resting amid the chaos.

imageWe picked up some ramen noodles from the 7-11 across the street, which she ate a few sips of once we arrived back at the hotel. The next day we headed out to explore our surrounds.

Now to be clear, John’s work required him to travel to S.E. Asia. Clara and I are tagging along. But that doesn’t mean there is no time for family fun. On our first full day we oriented ourselves on the map and we took just a short walk from our hotel. Some 50-odd wats populate the city (Good band name, 50-odd Wats), and we visited about five of the temples in a couple of hours.

Here are just a few highlights our favorite, Wat Chiang Man. A lot more temple pictures to come, don’t you worry!



Soup and nuts

Grand Palace Selfie

After nearly 24 hours of sitting upright in 18-inches between the arm rests of  a coach seat while flying over land and sea, John, Clara and I arrived exhausted but without incident in Bangkok at 11:55 p.m., New Year’s Eve.

We cabbed to our Riverside hotel, then wandered around the streets, which were lively because there had been a massive fireworks display Continue reading