I Love Loy Krathong

I really do. Its such a peaceful and positive holiday. This being our second time celebrating it, we decided to keep it as low-key as possible. Just a quick walk to Benjakiti Park with the boys, a bit of browsing among the pretty flowered krathongs, and then making our wishes and setting our little floats on the water.

In just a few days my parents would arrive for a long visit, so we were already excited.

 Unfortunately, every time we lit the candle on our krathong, the breeze blew it out. So we picked up a third one on our way home and set it in the pool to take our bad deeds away.

According to tradition, that is quite alright.

And We Danced at the Marine Corps Ball 2013

Saturday began like this:

And ended up like this:

We had a blast, attending our second Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I don't know if any future post will ever live up to the bar that has been set by Mission Bangkok. I know that is silly of me, being such a lemons-into-lemonade person, and I will find other things to love about wherever we go. But with almost 500 guests, this event was fabulous. As soon as the music began, the guests abandoned their dinners for the dance floor. I'm so proud of our Marines, and really lucky that Phil wrangled a picture with them again this year-its an honor to be in such great company.

I'm glad we started the day with a run, because it gave us the energy to keep going until almost dawn. After the Ball ended and the room was cleared, we celebrated with the gunny and his wife at Q Bar before heading home.

Now I just look forward to seeing all the photos our State friends share from Marine events all around the world.

And Then We Ran

Here's a little before-and-after action for you.

There is really no great story behind these photos; just the fact that we love to torture our kids.

When we packed up the kids to do a little 5k in the park last weekend, we tried to arrange them so that we all had a nice time. However, a six year old on a bike doesn't go well with crowds of runners, so after one lap around Lumphini I asked Little P to ditch the bike and finish the race on foot. He was happy to try.
For about five minutes. Then he began to whine and wanted to stop, and my normally agile and extremely nimble boy began to flop his feet and flail his arms. When this didn't get the desired response, he whined a bit more, tried to walk, and started in on the "I can't"s. Somehow, during all this drama, he managed to flop past a race photographer, and was caught and immortalized on film. I will show him this photo someday. Perhaps when he is raising kids of his own.
We did manage to finish the run, flailing boy, jogging stroller and all.

This Is My Happy Place

I have to say, it’s not always balls, events, and beach paradise here. My love of Thailand comes and goes in waves, and sometimes comes totally crashing down (just briefly) now and then. I get sick of the traffic, the smell, or the humidity. Sometimes I get tired of being nice about everything, despite things not turning out the way I want.
You really have to get used to receiving a “reasonable facsimile” of things. The food, the clothes, the groceries... That’s why you hear of a lot of people getting deliveries from Target, Walmart, or Amazon every week. I don’t, because I try to enjoy what Bangkok has to offer.
Most of the time I can enjoy “neerios” or having my hair dyed blond-ish, or wearing shoes that looked nice but fell apart in just a few weeks. Sometimes I can’t.
Last weekend I got sick and tired of “same-same.” When it happened I wanted to have a toddler-style tantrum. There was the danger of tears. And it was about soup. Just soup. But the soup I got for lunch was not the soup I ordered, nor the soup in the photo, and that was the last straw. No more same-same, I wanted to go HOME.
It being close to the birthday of the U.S.M.C., there are a lot of unhappy faces walking around the Embassy due to same-same issues as well. Last year I was right there with them, so I totally sympathize. A year later, however, you get used to the fact that the dress you requested from the tailor and the dress you dreamed of in your head are going to be some degree different from the dress you finally get. It’s better to find what you like about your formal dress and focus on that, but when you’re new to this culture it can be a huge disappointment. And you’re not supposed to show displeasure or anger here publicly. It’s a big No-NO.
My advice, however, is to be happy! And if it makes you happy to part with cultural norms and voice your displeasure, decide you don’t want the dress, or send the soup back-do it! Because it’s better to let your feelings out rather than simmer with the frustration of same-same! Grrrrr.
On a more cheerful note, before I was given the soup, we rambled down Sukhumvit Soi 49 so I could find my happy place: the Big Knit Café.
This place is heaven-it’s different from the yarn shops I’m used to, but it’s also cheerier. It invites you to actually sit and stay awhile! You could actually stay a very long while, because they serve coffee, western food, thai food, and pastries. So there you have it. When I get close to another same-same meltdown, just drop me off here for a few hours and problem solved.

How To Spend Chulalongkorn Day

Its such a treat to have an extra round of holidays added to our work schedule, thank you foreign service life! Last year they would catch me totally by surprise, and I wouldn't have a clue until we were dressed and waiting for little P's bus. When it didn't arrive, I would double check the calendar and discover it was some Thai holiday that I couldn't pronounce. This year we are really more cautious, and it helps to be working too, so I'm aware of our breaks from work or school, which don't always collide! But oh well..
So Chulalongkorn Day fell on a wednesday, which made some people groan because they couldn't go away for a long weekend, but that doesn't bother me at all. Between our busy social life and our all-encompassing work life, I'm just grateful for any day at all that we can spend with the boys. Like peddling around a park for a few hours.
We packed up some water and went back to Wenchirabenchatat Park (a.k.a. Rot Fair Park) since the heavy rains have finished, and Bangkok has quickly dried itself off and bloomed anew. We rented two bikes from a young man who reeked of whiskey for 20baht each, and enjoyed the sunshine and gentle breeze.  I like to think of Bangkok as the land of the eternal summer, and even though I was born and raised in multi-seasonal New England, I don't see any sign of myself getting tired of the heat. In fact, I don't ever want to feel cold again-its wonderful to wear light clothes all year, run when you want to, hop in the pool when you want to, or slip on some sandals and run errands when you want to. When I'm ready to bundle up, shovel snow, or rake leaves again I'll let you know.

But don't hold your breath.

After riding bikes, visiting the butterflies, and stopping for a lunch of grilled chicken and sticky rice, we packed up and went home for a break and then planned a family dinner at someplace completely different: Bangkok Seaview Restaurant. I'm still not sure why they call it that, as the trip took us almost 40 minutes outside of Bangkok, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is that this time I picked a winner (unlike the samurai-robot-sushi-bar).

We invited Khun Kookai, because hello, she loves to go on foodie adventures too! And after driving past dozens of roadside seafood restaurants that were beckoning us to stop, we came to the dock for our final destination. Here, you have to buy tickets for their shuttle, as the restaurant is not accessible any other way. Mission accepted!

Then, we hopped on the water shuttle and, as the sun started to set, began a leisurely trip through the waterways where you could see people fishing, living, and relaxing. As the sun hit the water, we arrived. The restaurant was a large stand-alone structure in the middle of nowhere!
So we stepped off the shuttle and selected our table, excited about the meal to come. There were prawns, scallops, mussels, fish, crabs! Fried, steamed, broiled, anyway you like it! No chicken. No pork. No steak. This was strictly seafood. I was in heaven.

But the waitress delivered the devastating news.

They were out of fish.

I know. We glanced over the side of the restaurant, and considered asking for a rod & reel. To come so far, by car then boat...and no fish. At a strictly seafood restaurant. As we grilled (a-ha) the waitress: "Grouper?" no. "Blue fish?" no "Snapper?" no, we could not hide our disbelief, but it was pretty funny too. Then she interjected-they did have a whole deep fried grouper with spicy fish sauce. I almost jumped over the table to tell her we'd take it. The last fish, I repeat, at a seafood restaurant. And it turned out to be so. damn. good. We feasted anyways-on blue crab in a sweet curry sauce, fried rice, grilled prawns, mixed seafood salad, until we couldn't eat anymore and were one of the last tables remaining.

As lighting flashed in the distance, we stumbled back onto the shuttle boat and enjoyed the lights glimmering on the water as we rode home (and got a cute souvenir family photo for just 100 baht!). I definitely can't wait to go back and in just a few weeks my parents will be here, so we can bring them! I just hope next time they don't run out of fish.....


Adventures in Pahurat

You would think after a year in Bangkok it would be hard to find myself surprised, but that's the crazy thin
g about this city- its not. The winding alleyways may always wind a little further. Small unmarked walkways may open into a cluster of fabric shops. Or upon a second glance, the toy store you passed by last week might also specialize in handbags or jewelry in the back. It doesn't always make much sense.

I find it totally frustrating sometimes. Such as my hunt for colored pipecleaners that led me back and forth on Soi Wanit in Chinatown for hours before I could claim victory. The things you need are always there, but your umbrellas may be for sale in a pet shop. Or your flipflops at a sidewalk vendor next to pocketwatches. I can handle it, but only if I have the time. When I don't, I feel a stong homesickness and yearning for the days I could hop in the car to get birthday wrap, and know exactly where to buy it.

But I'm rambling...

Seems legit.

Bangkok is like a crazy head of cabbage, with curly leaves and a million tightly-packed layers. And that's the best analogy I can come up with right now, because when I think of the challenges of delving further and further ino each of Bangkok's distinct neighborhoods, I can tell you it hasn't been easy. You even have to be a bit brave sometimes. Or maybe a bit foolish.
A few weeks ago I went shopping in the area of Little India with a friend, and I made the mistake of thinking I knew the ins and outs of the area. As we wandered down a new alley and then another, we found ourselves surrounded by frangrant incense shops, bakeries, gems and amulets, and wildly colorful decorations. In the interior alleys of the fabric market, one man gestured for us to go up these steps.

I balked. And we pressed on around another corner, only to look up and find scarves and bright lanterns hung above us on the second floor. Rewind! Go back! Where were those stairs?! And a few minutes later we were peeking through dusty shelves of bangle bracelets, trinkets and elephant keychains. A shop that specialized in corduroy fabric. I picked up cheerfully dyed fabric lanterns for 200baht apiece, not quite sure why or for whom. Some wall hangings may have also jumped into my shopping bag from this amazing store of embroidered goodies from kashmir. And a few tubes of henna paste. Satisfied, we wandered into Chinatown for a few more items before hopping the khlong taxiboat back to our neighborhood.

Arriving at home, I felt like I had uncovered a bag of curiosities, albeit some were quite musty and dank smelling. But I savored my silly bag of treasures-a pretty little brass bell with elephants on it; a wrap skirt
embellished with sequins, a pack of party favors for later in the year.

Yet another layer of that cabbage has been peeled, but underneath so many more... 

Tour of the Town

The look BEFORE you tell him he can't ride it.

Would you believe me if I told you we've had nothing exciting to talk about? No, I wouldn't believe me either.
Reclining Buddha photobomb.

So let me share the highlight of our summer: a visit from the in-laws. It was truly the best time. We still had to work, but had plenty of time with them. And they with the boys.
Dropping offerings into the bowls around the temple of the Reclining Buddha.

We also got to take them around the city. And then to the beach. And back to the city again. So it was also an adventure for all of us.

Playing around in front of the gorgeous teak mansion.

My Life Lately in Instagram

In trying to write this post today I am filled with so many emotions; sad because the grandparents that came to visit have gone back to the US, thrilled because I have this clean and pretty new blog, silly as I am looking back on our crazy adventures the past few weeks, and content because once again I feel like I have everything in the world I could ever want.

Waves and sunshine 

A little one who has decided cuddling isn't that bad

And he likes to leap too

Discovering what it is like to have a day where you don't have to do anything

And drinking from a coconut NEVER gets old.

A Tailor-Made Tour of Bangkok

Living in Bangkok has many benefits-excellent domestic help, delicious food, fantastic culture, etc. etc. etc....For men, it has the added benefit of being the center of cheap and beautiful tailoring. In fact, we walk past about eight shops every day just to get to the corner or our street. Yet, my husband had not had a chance to get fitted for anything except a tuxedo.
So, for Father's Day, we decided to change that.
That evening, when he came home from his meetings, I handed him the first of three cards, which directed him on a “tailor-made” tour of Bangkok. Stop 1: Jhasper Fashions, where Pinky and Dave tend a neat and sensible shop with shirt and suiting fabrics exactly to our liking. There, we had the man measured for two top-quality work shirts, discussed having some jackets made, and generally enjoyed their company. Pocketed between tailor shops that frequently have those annoying hawkers trying to pull you in from the street, Jhasper is a cut above. Service was quick and professional, so we left having high hopes for what they would make us.
Next stop, according to the card, was the tried-and-true favorite, Rajawongse. This shop is so popular with the American contingent that we bumped into three acquaintances as soon as we walked in. How can all those people be wrong?
The cozy little shop is stacked corner to corner with great suiting fabrics, from dressy to casual, so we decided on one business shirt and one striped casual shirt. I can see how men find themselves hooked on this place– for a great price you could be sharply dressed in any color or print your heart desires.
At this point we presented the Mr. with our last little card. It was time for a snack break. The kids were still behaving themselves relatively well, so it was clear we could stop for dinner and then push on. After a quick dinner at Bully's Pub the tour continued; we were at the last stop. Empire Tailors.
Empire is THE BEST according to web reviewers-one reviewer raved the shop to be “brilliant” which does not refer to the bright airy space alone, I presume. After dragging two young kids down Sukhumvit, this shop was a welcome break. Instead of being crammed with options, the shop was spacious and the fabrics were select. Sunny greeted us politely and coolly, and while others tried to impress us with their speed and precision of service, he calmly explained our options and gave my husband time to deliberate over what he wanted.
Three shops and six shirt orders later, we planned to return the following week for fittings and the final decision-which shop would be the best? Which shirts would be the most flattering? Which tailor would deliver the closest to what my husband wanted? And my husband, lucky guy, would be the judge.
The Decision:
It turned out to NOT be a simple decision, after all. All shirts from the three shops were the same price, which did help, but were also really close in quality and workmanship. Also, all three shops provided the best service and were sure to have gotten our repeat business if we hadn't also tried two of their competitors! You can't go wrong by ordering shirts from any of these three, and it pained us to try and eliminate our least favorite.
So it boils down simply to which shirts my husband wore first, and which ones made him feel his best. So if you told me there could be only one, my answer is Empire.
Empire Tailors (Sunny)
12-126 Sukhumvit Road (Between Sois 4 & 6)

Also fantastic and much-appreciated for their help:
Jhasper Fashion (Dave and Pinky)
155/32 Sukhumvit Soi 11 (BTS Nana)
Rajawongse (Jesse and Victor)
130 Sukhumvit Road (Next to Landmark Bldg)

Portraits in the Park

 Every few years I try to get family portraits done by a professional, which used to be quite easy. Expensive, perhaps, but easy because I had a tried and true photographer working close by.

So I would save and save, and every few years we could ensure that we had captured those magical ages of our boys lives, with those innocent smiles or goofy faces.

Someday there will be yearbook photos and team photos. Photos with a cap and gown. Photos with girls. At a first dance. But this stage is so fleeting, gone so fast. Any day now Philip will be smiling a gap-toothed grin. Nate may begin objecting to hats. And then the growing up begins.

As much as a photographer may cost you, I believe they are worth every penny, and here's my proof.

We met up with Gyuri in late April for an outdoor sitting, right before it got way to hot to move, at the park behind the Queen Sirikit Convention Center (my favorite running space.) Now, I have to tell you what a good sport he was, between trying to meet up with me to discuss the theme I had in mind, to listening to my bizarre request. As we sat down to coffee one morning, I told him I wanted something different. While most families want their photos to be cheerful and vivid, their children's eyes to be bright, I wanted something washed-out. Drab, even. We were going to give this feel of another era, something along the lines of a family picnic in the 1940's, and I was trying to decide how far to go with it.

Fast forward a month later, and we were trooping through Bangkok's steamy heat in the park, trying with great care not to get too sweaty. Or grumpy. Gyuri knew time was key-no six year old or two year old would last very long in the heat without eventually unraveling. We quickly shifted from site to site in the park, smoothly laying down a picnic blanket or adjusting a shoe here and there.

And here's the end result. Some of the coolest photos I have ever seen-my little mop-headed boys don't look even mildly bothered by the heat, and I seem to have lost a year or twenty.

There are those cheeks on N that just beg to be smooched. And Little P's way of trying to be helpful. Or run the show, depending on what we are doing.

Oh, and don't forget the quilt my mother made, which has traveled all over the world with us.

Thanks again, Mom.

Now I just have to decide which ones to hang up, and bring them to our super wonderful framer over at the EOB. Love this place!

Photos are by Gyuri at 
Szabo photos
(66) 81 838 6401

One Year Later

I was thinking it was time to write a post about life in Bangkok, when I realized we were coming up on the one year mark. That's right-next week we will have been living in Thailand for one year. One year into our adventures around the world as a family. One year into what may be an amazing story.
One year.
In one year we have moved into a house and totally made it our own. And now it looks like we've lived here forever.
In one year we have had about three barbeques, three birthday parties, two dinner parties, and three neighborhood movie nights at our home. Its been a quiet year.
In one year I have learned the power of the smile, and how it can make a difference to those around you.
In one year we have been to the mountains, the jungle, and the beach.
In one year we were almost toppled and torn apart, but learned to come together.
In one year I learned I was a tough little cookie and was willing to push on after most others gave up.
In one year my children grew up, and found their own voices.
In one year I think we all learned how fortunate we truly are.

Pardon the random photos, but these pictures were taken just a week ago when we were rambling around Khao San Road and the Chao Phraya waterfront. On a whim we decided to finally take a boat tour of the back canals of Bangkok, and it was quite an experience.