Photo of The Day #61

Homes of Hope Project

Homes of Hope Project

 

 

This past May two of my sons and I volunteered with Homes of Hope. We helped build a home for this family in Tijuana Mexico. I was more than surprised by the way that this project effected me and it was one of the most emotional and pleasing efforts that I have completed in my life. There is nothing in the world that could match this family’s smiles and gratitude, after we gave them the keys to their new home.

 

 

To construct the habitat with my two sons touched me more than I ever imagined. Volunteer work is the most rewarding undertaking I Have participated in and I would encourage everyone to join in and volunteer abroad when possible.

Photo of The Day #60

One of the things that struck me as unusual in my recent trip to Thailand and Malaysia, was the amount of monkeys everywhere we went near forests or jungles. I am not used to that in Texas. We experienced more monkeys though, at locations where Buddhas were present and I am guessing it is a natural instinct to adapt to people feeding you and having excessive trash near. Its kind of a guaranteed system of meals for these primates.

 

This photo is from the Batu Caves and we were sternly warned that feeding the monkeys at this temple could cause a lose of a finger or an attack. Neither was something I desired. The monkeys were sitting above the entrance to the restrooms at the shrine and I for one was just a little nervous that they might not like another bearded primate invading their space. Take a close look at the one on the right and tell me you don’t agree!

 

 

Monkeys Watching the Toilet at The Batu Caves

Monkeys Watching Over the Toilet at The Batu Caves

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

Photo of The Day #59

I have stayed with many a hotel in my traveling history, ranging from low end budget types to 5-star luxury hotels. One of the ways I judge a hotel is the bathroom facilities and size. Obviously cleanliness is paramount to receive a favorable review from me.

 

As I entered the bathroom at the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, I was taken back by the size of the shower and the various heads available. The view below is as you enter. It reflects a shower head with hose and a bench behind the door with room for at minimum, two people on the bench.

 

 

Right Side of Shower as You Enter

Right Side of Shower as You Enter

 

The next photo is of the left side and shows that you have a choice of shower heads if you opt for this side. Overhead is a magnificent Rain head with sufficient power. I find that most of the Rain heads only allow a light spray. This one had a great blast and was extremely invigorating.

 

On the wall is a double headed spray that lifts up and allows you the benefit of two full Massage heads. They are fantastic after a long day of traveling. I assessed the area in the shower and thought to myself one could have a party and six or eight people would not be crowded, if that was the case. It was unbelievable in size and facility. I do not think I have ever encountered such a large and useful shower in my life.

 

 

Left Side of Shower as You Enter With Two More Heads

Left Side of Shower as You Enter, With a Rain Head and Fold Out Double Head Massage Shower

 

After the fabulous shower I sauntered outside to see what the beach held and found this view. I was overwhelmed and could have stayed there all evening watching the sun set, but alas we had dinner arrangements and I had to leave! If you are ever in Penang Malaysia you have to stay at this hotel.

 

It is one of my top five hotels of all time. A more detailed blog post is forthcoming. While I showered at home this morning, I yearned for this gigantic refuge, as I continually bumped into the sides of my small shower stall at home. #Bummer!!!

 

 

Wonderful Beach Setting in the Late Afternoon

Wonderful Beach Setting in the Late Afternoon

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 6, What Do You Get When You Mix….Copper, Antimony and Tin???

We pulled into the parking lot of the Royal Selangor Factory in the mid morning and the Malaysian heat and humidity were intense. As we left the tour bus I spied this huge tankard at the entrance to the factory. It made me think immediately of how good a cold beer would taste just now, while the perspiration dribbled down my brow. The only issue is, since my heart attack ten years ago, I can’t really partake of any alcohol without waking up with the world’s biggest hangover the next morning. Oh well a man can dream can’t he?

 

World's Largest Pewter Tankard

World’s Largest Pewter Tankard

 

We entered the factory and thank God the place was air conditioned. We registered and received our passes and listened to an introductory speech in regard to the history of the factory. We learned exactly how a young “Pewtersmith” named Yong Koon left his home in China and settled in Colonial Malayia in 1885. He made the decision to abide in Kuala Lampur, which at the time was a small but expanding mining town. Pewter is an alloy made primarily from tin with small portions of antimony and copper blended in. It is the most precious metal in the world after gold and silver.

 

The Three Ingredients of Pewter

The Three Ingredients of Pewter

 

As we began the tour we came across many glassed in display examples of antique items. We saw original ingots and tools used in the processing of pewter. I am a history buff and enjoy items that represent the past and can only imagine how difficult starting the foundry from scratch was.

 

Old Pewter Ingots

Old Pewter Ingots

 

To see kettles and urns from long ago, along with items that were made more than likely before I was born, is stimulating and rewarding to a history buff. I was in heaven as we sauntered through the cases filled with items from the early days of pewtersmithing.

 

Original Kettle Examples

Original Kettle Examples

 

I then learned how much of the work is still done by hand. I was blown away that these individuals have such a high concentration level and can block out all distractions, to enhance the items with their natural talents. If I were a betting man I would have gone “all in” on a machine making the engraving on the pewter cups, etc.

 

A Great Deal of the Work is Still Done By Hand

A Great Deal of the Work is Still Done By Hand

 

We were led through a walkway that overlooked the foundry and all the various stations that assembled the different components and items. One could see out over the majority of the factory and to my dismay they were all at lunch apparently. I would have loved to see them laboring at their craft.

 

A Workstation at The Royal Selangor Factory

A Workstation at The Royal Selangor Factory

 

We found out at the end of the factory tour that this was an interactive tour and we each would be making our own individual pewter pendant and had to pick from a myriad of designs. Being a type A personality, I immediately chose a heart and decided I would surprise my wife with it upon my return.

 

We had to pour the hot pewter into a mold and let it cool. We then had to clip the extra pieces with snips, that had spilled over from the mold. Then we smoothed and sanded the item with a file and electric buffer. This all from a guy that can’t even hit a nail correctly with a lightweight hammer. It came out good enough to please Kim and that is all that counts!

 

One of the Benifits of the Tour is Making Your Own Pendant

One of the Benefits of the Tour is Making Your Own Pendant

 

From the interactive station we were led into a retail shop that had rows and rows of items for sale. You could spend a dollar or many thousands of dollars. I took photo after photo of the items they had for sale and we roamed the shop for around 45 minutes or so. I was completely in awe of the items on sale and the plethora of pewter items exhibited to whet our appetite for a souvenir.

 

A Champagne Set

A Champagne Set

 

 

Tankards

Tankards 

 

 

And Still Even More Tankards

More Tankards

 

 

Ornate Vases

Ornate Vases

 

 

Teapots Contribute to a Large Portion of The Sales

Teapots Contribute to a Large Portion of The Sales

 

 

Inlaid Plates

Decorative Plates

 

 

Assorted Items

Assorted Items

 

 

A Wonderful Eagle

A Wonderful Eagle

 

 

A Lion or Big Cat of Some Kind

A Lion or Big Cat of Some Kind

 

Royal Selangor acquired Comyns, an English silversmith and many examples were on sale in a different section of the store. All the items in this area were made from silver and I might add were unique and ornate. They were lovely to look at but I certainly could not touch them.

 

They Also Work With Silver

They Also Work With Silver

 

 

More Silver Work

More Silver Work

 

If you visit Kuala Lampur Malaysia I highly recommend you take this factory tour of Royal Selangor. I am positive you will enjoy all the assorted items from the past and current popular pieces handcrafted daily. It only takes a couple of hours and is well worth the tour in my humble opinion.

 

In Case you Forget Where You Were!

In Case you Forget Where You Were!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #58

Mosaic Above Upstairs Doors

Mosaic Above Upstairs Doors

 

One of my favorite events on my recent FAM tour to Thailand and Malaysia was visiting The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang Malaysia. It is located in the Georgetown section of the city. The house was built in the 19th century and has wonderful brocade wood work along all the staircases and windows.

 

One aspect especially caught my eye and that was the myriad of mosaic structures above the doors and windows of the second story. They were more visible from the balcony overlooking the front yard and stone wall. This one particularly caught my attention with all its intricate detail and design.

Photo of The Day #57

If you know me, you understand that I love Colonial architecture, doors, windows and balconies. I am not sure exactly why I am drawn to that period. The magnificent arches, large doors mainly made from wood and over-sized windows are more than attractive to me. They are magnetic and pull me in. When you add the ornate and intricate balconies I get mesmerized and can never take enough photos.

 

 

I have hundreds and hundreds of photos of old wooden doors from my visits over time to Cuenca Ecuador, along with hundreds of balcony photos. It got to the point on my trip last March with Kim, that she was pointing out doors before I could see them. She began questioning whether I had a photo or not of each specific door.

 

 

 

Old Town Phuket Thailand

Old Town Phuket Thailand

 

 

On my recent FAM trip to Phuket Thailand we stopped in old town and had about an hour to scurry down several streets and capture what we could. I loved this photo and even though it is kind of garish it drew me in. Thank you Thailand for giving me another source of joy!

My Amazing Life-Chapter 5, The Amita Thai Cooking Class Review, Recipes Included

As we approached the dock to enter the Amita Cooking class from the water or Khlong, or as its more commonly called a canal, I saw this friendly and energetic lady waiting to greet us. We each exited the Long Boat. I love to eat. I love to cook. When I travel I go out of my way to participate in cooking classes and learn local ways. Our agenda informed us that our FAM trip would be oriented towards a food and spa theme. I couldn’t have been happier!

 

Tam with an Assistant

Tam with an Assistant 

 

The Amita Thai Cooking Class is hidden in the canals that spring out from the Chao Phraya river in old town Bangkok. The lady that created this wonderful program and class is named Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon. Tam originally received her Bachelor’s degree in Law at Thammasat University, which is Thailand’s second oldest institute of higher learning. Her turn to this area (conducing cooking classes) is an interesting story and can be found on the Amita Thai cooking Class web site.

 

Class Apron

Class Apron

 

Tam’s English is excellent and she began her class with an introduction and tour of her grounds including her spice garden, fruit trees and other various ingredients that she provides with her green and organic approach. She made us feel at home immediately and commented that she lived in the house that occupies a good portion of her lot and has another six or seven family lodgings located adjacent to hers. She employees several family members in her overall operation. Who really knows how big of a Samaritan she is and how many in her family she helps in life. Her personality is magnetic and her training skills are golden. I absolutely loved every minute of her class!

 

Pea Eggplant

Pea Eggplant

 

I had never heard of pea eggplant, but it is used in many Thai preparations and as described before, she literally picks what she needs from her bushes. She conveniently has the spices and other items labeled to help students understand her approach. As you walk among her gardens she defines the many uses of each component and  allows everyone to sample or taste the spice leaves, if they so desire. Being naturally curious I tried each item. When in Rome!

 

 

Pea Eggplant Pods

Pea Eggplant Pods

 

One of the items that I faintly recall in prior cooking discussions was the Kaffir Lime she grows. It has a very heavy lime flavor and you cannot use as much as you would from an ordinary lime. Personally I am a huge fan of limes and use them in place of lemons wherever I can. She told us the leaves would be used in our Curry Chicken Dish. They tasted a little bitter when I sampled them, but I proceeded with an open mind.

 

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir Lime

Cutting the Kaffir Lime

Cutting the Kaffir Lime

 

Thai cooking employs a plethora of various peppers, each with varying degree of heat potency. I think somewhere along the trip each of us accidentally bit off more than we could handle and wound up with a sensation that would not stop flaming, or at least it felt like a fire was actually in our mouth.

 

Red Chili Peppers

Red Chili Peppers

 

Thai cooking uses a great deal of coconut milk. I learned that it has an abundant quantity of various essential vitamins, antioxidants and helps fight heart disease. I am all in! I might add that it was cool watching her team make fresh coconut milk. They first ground out the white meat from the husk using a very labor intensive procedure.  They take a half of a coconut and rub it on the tool pictured below until the white meat is extracted as shown in the pan.

 

Tool Used to Grind Coconut Meat

Tool Used to Grind Coconut Meat

 

The white meat is then placed in this wicker basket and heated water is poured over the meat making the milk flow through the basket. Afterwards they take a cloth and push the remaining meat down and the liquid through the basket into the catch pan underneath. The result is fresh coconut milk that can be used immediately for cooking or refrigerated for a brief period.

 

Making Coconut Milk

Making Coconut Milk

 

The process was for Tam to discuss the ingredients, illustrate each dish’s assembly and let us sample what it should be after correct preparation. This took a considerable amount of time and in reality we ate each course after she had finished with discussing the items needed and its mixing, cooking or construction. I had no idea what was in store for us as I was getting full just nibbling on her display dishes.

 

Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Ingredients

Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Ingredients

 

The first course was the Khao Mun Som Tum or Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad.

 

You will need Coconut rice which is 1 cup of long grained rice (jasmine rice) washed, 4 teaspoons of sugar, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup pandanus juice (pound 6 pandanus leaves with 1/2 cup of water, squeeze only juice). 1) Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Add salt and sugar, stir until dissolved. Add panadanus juice 2) Add rice, cook over a low heat for 30 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

 

Second you need Papaya Salad which is 1 cup of grated green papaya, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp, 1 fresh dried red chili, 4-5 cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup of yard long bean cut into 1/4 inch increments.

 

Third is the dressing which is 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar and 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste.

 

1) Combine all dressing ingredients together and set aside 2) Pound garlic, red chili, dried shrimp and yard long bean in a mortar 3) Add grated papaya and cherry tomatoes and slightly pound 4) Pour dressing in and toss well 5) Plate the salad. Topping with toasted peanuts coarsely ground and garnish with lettuce. Makes 1 serving.

 

Khao Mun Som Tum, #Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad

Khao Mun Som Tum,
#Coconut Rice and Papaya Salad Finished Product

 

The second course was Khang Keaw Wan Gai or Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk. The items needed are 120 grams of sliced skinless chicken, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of green curry paste, 1/4 cup pea eggplant, 2 green or red chilies with seeds removed and sliced lengthwise, 3 Kaffir lime leaves torn in half, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup sweet basil leaves for garnish.

 

To make the green curry paste you need 6-8 fresh green chilies, 2 tablespoons chopped lemon grass, 1 tablespoon chopped coriander root, 1 tablespoon chopped shallots, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon galangal, 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, 7 white pepper corns.

 

Toast all the ingredients except the shrimp paste in a wok over low heat. Pound or blend all the ingredients together. Add the shrimp paste and grind to a smooth paste.

 

Khang Keaw Wan Gai, #Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk

Khang Keaw Wan Gai,
#Green Curry Chicken in Coconut Milk

 

1) In a wok heat oil to medium 2) Add green curry paste and stir constantly for 1 minute. Little by little add coconut milk and stir gently. 3) Add chicken, Kaffir lime leaves and stir until cooked. 4) Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and stir constantly until it bubbles. 5) Season with fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir occasionally. Simmer for 5 minutes. 6) Add pea eggplants, chilies and sweet basil leaves. 7) Garnish with sweet basil leaves before serving.

 

Satay (Moo, Gai or Nua) Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

Satay (Moo, Gai or Nua)
Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

 

The third course was Satay Gai or Satay Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce with which you need 150 grams chicken or other meat product, 1/2 teaspoon roasted coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, pinch of salt, 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon palm sugar, 1/4 cup of coconut milk,1 tablespoon vegetable Oil 8-9 Satay sticks, for brushing 2 tablespoons of coconut milk. Make sure and keep a pinch of ground cumin and coriander back for use later.

 

1) Use a mortar and pestle, grind coriander and cumin seeds. Then pound together all ingredients until mixed well. 2) Pour mixed ingredients in a bowl with coconut milk 3) Add meat strips and marinate overnight or at least 3 hours. 4) Thread meat strips with Satay sticks. 5) Grill Satay on charcoal stove over low heat. Turn them regularly and brush them with the remaining marinated sauce and coconut milk while turning. 6) When Satay is cooked serve with spicy peanut sauce and cucumber relish.

 

Spicy Peanut Sauce is 2 tablespoons of roasted (unsalted) peanuts, 1 tablespoon Massa Man curry paste, 6 tablespoons of coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste, 2 teaspoons of palm sugar and a pinch of salt.

 

1) Grind or crush the peanuts to a fairly fine paste and set aside. 2) Pour coconut milk into a pan over medium heat, add Massa Man curry paste and stir time to time until the sauce becomes smooth. 3) Combine them with the remaining ingredients. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or coconut milk.

 

Cucumber Relish is 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, (a pinch of salt, mix well with white vinegar and set aside), 2 tablespoons of sliced cucumbers, 2 shallots sliced and 2 chilies thinly sliced. Mix all ingredients together and pour on top of sliced cucumbers, shallots and chilies in a sauce cup. Makes 8-9 sticks.

 

Khao Niew Ma Muang, #Mango Sticky Rice

Khao Niew Ma Muang,
#Mango Sticky Rice

 

The dessert course was Khao Niew Ma Muang or Sticky Rice and its recipe is 5-6 ripe mangoes peeled and sliced, 2 cups of glutinous rice, soak overnight or 5 to 8 hours and drain, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar. Topping is 6-7 tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt.

 

1) Boil 6-7 tablespoons of coconut milk and a pinch of salt over low heat. Set aside for topping. 2) Wrap the glutinous rice in a clean towel and place in a double boiler steamer. Steam for 25 to 30 minutes. 3) Dissolve the sugar in the coconut milk over a very low heat. Add salt. Stir well. Remove from the heat. Put the cooked glutinous rice in a bowl. Gradually blend in the coconut milk. Stir with a wooden spoon, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Tam added several “Butterfly Pea” flowers to the water to make the water blue and it really made the dish come out attractive. Serve with mangoes.

 

Cooking Stations for the Class

Cooking Stations for the Class

 

We were assigned a work station and each had an assistant help with the preparation of our own dishes. That way I couldn’t fat finger a portion or overcook a course. It was really a hands on class and one that I learned a great deal from.  When we finished we were taken to the veranda and had the chance to eat what we had prepared. It was way too much, but it actually turned out rather good.

 

Finished Meal with Satay (Moo, Gao or Nua), #Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

Finished Meal with Satay (Moo, Gao or Nua),
#Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

 

The class has a media board off to the side that is filled with Tam’s interviews in print and I was blown away by the amount of major magazines that have visited her establishment. I felt honored to attend and thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for including this in our program.

 

Bon Appetite Article on Amita's Cooking Class

Bon Appetite Article on Amita Cooking Class

 

Vogue Article on Amita's Cooking Class

Vogue Article on Amita Cooking Class

 

I have always loved Thai food as I am drawn to spicy foods and learning new areas of cooking. Attending Tam’s class was a highlight of my trip and one I will never forget. If you find yourself in Bangkok and are looking for a fantastic way to pass a half day, than I cannot recommend any thing more satisfying or tasty than the Amita Thai Cooking Class!

 

Tam and The Nomadic Texan

Tam and The Nomadic Texan

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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