Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Children of Thailand

I'm currently in Chiang Mai shooting content and TVCs (Television Commercials) for Five Tastes - and it's going really well. We've had a couple of ripper duos to take on the challenges we've set them. Please do follow it all on the Five Tastes Facebook page - and Like it while you're there.

But a real highlight has been the kids - they're just gorgeous! If I wasn't on HRT I'd seriously be contemplating number five.

Check out this little chicken. Her name is Faaaaaar (probably not, but that's what it sounded like). She was in a restaurant (I use that term loosely) on Soi 38 in Bangkok - where we'd settled ourselves as our duo, Brodie and Ash, manned the street cart over the road. She is looking very apprehensively at me and rightly so because when I said to her mother how gorgeous her daughter is, she jokingly said - via the interpreter - would I like to keep her? Funny for all of us but very disconcerting when you're not yet three. I used to say similar things when my kids were little - but I hope they were clear I was kidding.

Anyway, clearly Faaaaaaar warmed up a bit because she did sit on my knee for a short stint - but as directed by her mum.

Faaaaaaar and me.

And check out these Hmong girls - they are adorable! I posted a picture on Facebook and my friend Toni thought I should bring them home and we could have one each! Made even more appealing because not only are they beautiful, but they were just so friendly and a little bit cheeky as well. We first encountered the Hmong people in Laos about 18 months ago - and you can read all about their crazy courtship customs here.

Hmong girls at the temple in Chiang Mai.

The frogs we've encountered have not been so cute. I don't mind a critter but when Mandy and I tried to wrangle this little guy for a photo, he decided to try and make a leap for it taking us both by surprise. Not pretty - and I'm not talking about the frog!!!!

Mandy and I taken by surprise by the frog I just handed her.

PS: Yes - no proofing again - sorry.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Travel Tips

I've never really considered myself qualified to passing out travel tips - I don't think I'm that good at it - but on this work trip in Thailand, instead of kids and family, it seems I have picked up a few things worth passing on.
  • Pack a power board - that way you only need one local adaptor plug to charge all the electronics we seems unable to live without
  • Ladies, forget the hair dryer. Most hotels have one even if it is a bit crappy - but do pack your hair straightener. Especially essential is Asia in the wet season. Hair spray will also help keep the frizz away - just buy a small can at your destination if you need to look slick
My power board to accommodate my iPod, iPhone, laptop, 2 x iPads, hair straightener, etc

  • Pack some wet wipes, disinfectant gel, a couple of band aids, sunscreen, paw paw ointment and antiseptic cream - ideal if anyone stubs their toe at the pool or on wonky footpaths
  • When travelling in developing nations, grab the shower cap from the hotel bathroom, toss in your wipes, the spare roll of loo paper from the bathroom and if you're travelling with little kids, spare undies. A cheap cloth washer (that you can throw out) is also not a bad idea. You can deal with a runny-bottom incident in the pants with ease!!! Throw the whole pack in your tote and you're ready for anything
  • I don't bother with a handbag - just a tote for the above reason and also for your book, iPad, sunglasses, passport, etc - much easier. A handbag is just another bag to carry
  • For grown ups, I just pack the essentials below - not many temples and wats have loo paper so you have to BYO - or drip dry...

  • Portable DVDs or tablets loaded with entertainment for each kid are ideal. Even if you are flying a fancy airline with individual screens, there are often long van rides to see sites and sometimes even between town, not to mention hanging around at airports and train stations
  • If you have a DVD player or laptop, you can also check the quality of any discs you purchase
  • My brother-in-law packs cables to hook the portable DVD to the hotel TV - so the kids can have some down time in comfort
  • Throw in an in-car charger - also very handy for van trips to charge iThings

  • We prefer to buy a local SIM and you can text your local number to anyone who needs it - it's much cheaper than travel SIMs from home (here in Thailand, the SIM cost about $10 and the credit goes a long way) 
  • I've been using Skype to talk to Sass, but just pick what you like - some are using Viber, or FaceTime - but they're all free
  • Try and keep toiletries to the minimum - they weigh a tonne and you can usually buy what you need at your destination if you run out
  • We don't usually take much cash - just use ATMs (better to use an ATM card and not a credit card as it may come out of that account and you'll be paying the brutal cash interest rate. Alternatively, top up your credit card before you go). ATMs charge a fee up to about $6 depending on where you are so get a reasonable amount out when you do
  • Don't use the hotel laundry - it's outrageously expensive. Walk out of your hotel and chances are there'll be a laundry service with a block. Here in Chiang Mai, the restaurant over the hotel does laundry for less than $3 a kilo

Do you have any tips? I'd love you to share them...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

One Night (or six) In Bangkok

So, here we are in Bangkok! When I say 'we', I mean Mandy and I on a shoot for Five Tastes (please do follow on Facebook!)

Five Tastes is a range of authentic Asian dishes that you can whip up at home - even on a weeknight. The initial dishes are Pad Thai, Red Curry, Green Curry and Laksa. If you don't normally cook these kind of dishes at home, I suggest you start with the meal kits which have the right measures of many of the ingredients already sorted for you. Or you can use the curry cooking sauces - just adding your own meat and veg, or if you're feeling even more adventurous, choose the pastes and go crazy making up your own version of the dishes.

You can watch the video of the story behind Five Tastes here, which explains that it's the balance of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savoury (or umami as the locals call it) that makes Asian cuisine so unique but also tricky to do from scratch at home.

The idea behind our campaign is to taste test the products here in Asia. We've brought over three duos of regular folk to cook up a storm for the locals to demonstrate how easy it is to do and how authentic the result is. You can follow all the action on Facebook and so far, it has been very funny!!!

Our first duo, Ash and Brodie are just gorgeous in every sense of the word. And tonight they will be cooking Five Tastes Pad Thai from a street cart on Soi 38 - one of the city's busiest strips for street stalls - this should be good!

But as we're here, we thought we should check out a few of the other local authentic snacks - like fried grasshoppers. Curiously, there is no 'squish' - they're all 'crunch' and aren't dissimilar to the tarantula legs we chowed down on in Cambodia. We also tried a silk worm - maybe not the worm - maybe it was just the larvae. They look a little creepy but really, taste like some kind of bland bean - and same texture too.

Anyhow, rest assured that Five Tastes in much more delicious than the snacks!!!

Silk Worm Grubs

Grasshoppers - yuuuum

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

20 Years Ago Tonight

Today is June 11th. Twenty years ago, I was 39 weeks pregnant. It was a Friday in 1993. I had just had my farewell presentation and drinks at Leo Burnett - the agency I was working for. Having been presented with a big cane laundry basket over flowing with baby bits and consumed a couple of Diet Cokes, I went home at about 9pm and started feeling crappy. I had a bath, went into labour, got to the hospital about 12.30am and had George 90 minutes later.

My gorgeous baby boy.

Tomorrow, he would have been 20.

Had he still been with us, I can't imagine life would be going well. We was due for more spinal surgery in October last year - and you might recall, he almost didn't make it through the first operation in February.

He would have finished school and frankly, the options after that weren't great. The day facility I had chosen was due to the energy and philosophy of the woman in charge. When I rang last last year to say George had died, I was told she had left.

Had George not had NPC, I'm sure tomorrow would have been very different again. He would have been at uni, had a girlfriend I'm sure and be hanging out with his mates. But that's not how life turned out, was it. Powder Finger was on my iPod on the treadmill this afternoon; these days turned out nothing like I had planned. I'm not much of planner - but I certainly didn't imagine this day 20 years ago.

My mum knitted this cardi for George's Christening (yes, we are atheists - that's a story for another time)  - it's so tiny, he wore it when he was three months old. Mum also gave me the sapphire ring - blue for a boy.

And here's yet another amazing video my friend Sarah put together for his 18th - a great party! George didn't like seeing video of himself as a younger kid - I think it reminded him of his fading ability - so Sarah skillfully used stills for that part of his life. She cut it to one of his favourite bands, The Killers, Warning to show that regardless of his ability, he didn't hold back.

I'm having trouble embedding it because it does use a Killer's song, so here's the YouTube link.

We'll send up a lantern tomorrow morning to wish George a happy birthday and then I'm off to Thailand for work. More about that to come!

PS I didn't get this one proof read - timing is of the essence - sorry in advance.


My blog is being littered with anonymous comments, all generated by computer I'm sure and flogging strange websites for deep fryers and the like.

Here's an examples - notice anything odd? And no, I don't mean the spelling that rivals mine!

And yet, ironically, you, my friends and valued readers, continue to have issues posting. Ahhhh!!!

So I've tried logging out as me and then posting as 'Sue' using the following steps, and I'd love it if you gave it a shot. My friend Sam has tested this - and it works!!!

1. Click on comment and this box will appear - Comment As. Click Name/URL.

2. Pop your name in the box but leave the URL blank. Click 'Continue'. Write your comment and post.

Looking forward to hearing from everyone now (I hope).

Monday, 10 June 2013

Roast Veg Salad & Easy Fruit Pudding

This one is delicious! Again, sorry about the photo - I've had to crop it from the big one.

  • Roast small cubes of pumpkin and Spanish onions with olive oil until caramelised (you could also add sweet potato, parsnip, beetroot or other faves - just not potato)  add the seeds from the pumpkin too - they're yum roasted
  • Dress some rocket with lemon scented olive oil and black pepper (no salt needed as the feta has plenty). Pile it onto a platter
  • Layer on the veggies, loads of feta and toasted pine nuts (just do them in a heavy pan on the stove top - no need to add oil - just dry roast)
There was none of this salad left.

After the fridge incident, I also found quite a lot of pureed fijoa and banana (a surprisingly delicious combo) so I made a really simple, hot sponge to go the top and served with cream and ice cream.

  • Spread the fruit (you can really use anything - as long as it's cooked and ready to go) in the bottom of a baking dish - make sure it's a good depth (the fruit, not the dish!)
  • Cream 150g butter with a cup of sugar
  • Whisk in 2 eggs (one at a time)
  • Fold in 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 tsps baking powder (probably should sift it if you can be bothered) along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk (alternate milk and flour until all the flour is in and you have a mixture about as thick as wall paper paste)
  • Blob it over the fruit and whack in a preheated over at 180C until it looks like this.....yum!!!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Warm Freekeh Salad

Not the best photo but this salad is yum! Serve warm. And it makes a great lunch on its own. It is a variation on the Ancient Grain Salad, my most popular post ever.

It had:
  • Freekeh (toasted green wheat - you can buy it from some fruit shops, health food stores and sometimes in the supermarket. Just cook according to the instructions. You could substitute brown rice if you want. Or farro or even barley.) This is the one I buy:

  • You cook freekeh like rice - so in the same bowl (I microwave and use the absorption method) I also add some currants and chopped dates and a splash more water - this way they puff up nicely at the same time. I also grate in a bit of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon while I'm at it. Orange is also pretty good
  • Chick peas - I use the organic canned one from the supermarket - just drain
  • Chorizo - cut into small-ish pieces and fried in a pan until crispy (you have to keep a very close eye on this as it seems to be irresistible to anyone in the kitchen who thinks it's okay to pick at it!!)
  • Toasted almond slivers and sesame seeds - just done in a cast iron pan on the stove
  • Loads of cinnamon and ground cumin and a good pinch of sea salt
  • Fresh mint and coriander
  • Diced celery for some fresh crunch
  • Pomegranate for an explosion of sweetness
That's it. Toss together, sprinkle the nuts and seeds on the top and add some extra leaves of fresh herbs.

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...