Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New definitions of Fast Food

Rory eating Pho Bo in a bag

This post is dedicated to my observations of food transportation. It's amazing to see how clever people are when it comes to wrapping an article of food to sell or just simply keeping it clean. Such as wrapping rice goo of different sorts into a banana leaf (just like a tamale). The leaf is also used regularly on top of a plate with the food on top of it, it's nice visually but I think its more for cleanliness. Considering everyone washes their dishes on the street in the gutter with what type of water? Definitely not hot and soapy water, in this case it seems safer to me. I noticed in Ethiopia they commonly serve a slice of lime with your silverware for the same reason, for you to sanitize your fork with.
I love watching how the merchants master the art of bagging your produce or take out lunch or better yet your drink. Rubberbands bound around little bags with small amounts of soy sauce or honey for dipping, Drinks ballooned in a baggie also rubberbanded around the straw. Sometime you just hold the bag handles in your fingers drinking from the straw, we saw this a lot in Thailand on the train.
It's also common to see thin bamboo strips (like string) used to bind herbs in bunches or flowers or even bowed on top of the banana leaf tamale things. Every possible thing is transported on motor bikes and the same methods of  binding is used to strap everything onto the back of the bike, it's amazing to see what people are daring enough to carry. We live near a flower market and I'm constantly passed on the road by mountains of fresh flowers or herbs windburned and covered in exhaust on the back of a bike. I'm reminded of how important it is to bleach everything first before consuming. Just this week me Rory and City sadly witnessed roasted dog in the marketplace riding past on my bike.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Flavors full of Yin and Yang

You've heard about the amazing flavors of Vietnamese cuisine and I can attest they are all true, oh how I love the street food here. Honestly I am more cautious than I remember being in other countries but even still, these are the yummy dishes I've tried so far.
First: my favorite Bun bo Nam bo somewhat like pad thai. Rice noodles flash soaked in broth then topped with sprouts, peanuts, jerky stuff, a few crunchy things (probably crushed fried bugs or something), chili, vinegar, sugar, fish oil etc. Yum!
Second: Bun cha (Rich's fave) BBQed pork with a bowl of fish sauce broth to dip in served with a pile of fresh herbs that we don't even recognize.
Third: Hot Pots. We ate this on a boat on our lake, served piping hot with a few ingredients and a bunch more ingredients (raw chicken etc.) on the side for you to add as you like, also with a pile of fresh yummy herbs on the side.
Fourth: Pho a national favorite, served breakfast lunch and dinner. Broth with rice noodles and meat with fresh herbs on top, eaten with chopsticks. Rich just thinks its glorified ramen noodles. I love it!
Fifth: Spring rolls usually served as piles of ingredients such as prawns, slivers of cucumber, pineapple, green mango, bamboo shoots, peppers, herbs, and of course noodles. After rolled in thin rice paper you dip into fish sauce. The idea here is to capture every possible flavor sensation in every bite, making you the master of taste.
Sixth: BBQ everywhere, we went to a place where you do it yourself. A bit challenging with the babies, but super yummy and of course burning hot off the grill. (pictured above)

Really all of these dishes combine rich combinations of salt/sweet crunchy/soft  sour/spicy hot/cold etc. I suppose it's the yin and yang right? Well I'm convinced that my family would love this aspect of Vietnam because I often reflect back on my childhood. I hear my dad's voice telling me to butter every little edge of the toast, or to take the perfect sip of milk just after putting the salty side down buttered saltine cracker in my mouth. Going out to the buffet wasn't about eating until we stuffed ourselves but about enjoying a wide range of textures and flavors.  Well Grampa McClellan you pegged me, I'm realizing I really am a texture person and even a picky eater. :o)

Friday, July 18, 2014


Dad would be so proud, That's what I think about while I'm maneuvering the traffic with grocery bags in my lap and in between my legs, or just before I shout back to the girls to hold onto my waste tightly, or put my foot down to the ground sliding to do a tight turn on my motorbike. Yep Rich and I have become bikers, well not in the sense that we ride around on Harley Hogs with Leather gear and the whole getup. But to and from everywhere here in Hanoi on our Mo ped (Yamaha Nauvoos). Its the most exhilarating thing and best of all very very common here, its really the ideal way to get around. I've spent the last two weeks renting bike after bike to find the right one, not sure if I have yet but it's fine for now. I have yet to go find a baby seat for Rexy to sit more comfortably. Yes I said Comfortably not safely. You'd think my main priority of getting a seat would be safety not comfort right? Well unfortunately that's not really an option here in Vietnam, see what I mean?

When travelling with precious cargo though, I use precaution and go no more than about 20-25 mph. I pray every time I go out with the kids that we don't have an accident. And so far so good.
I really have to admit something about traffic here, though its chaotic and very congested I am amazed to see how well people get around and safely too. Click here to see what I mean

Crazy traffic in Hanoi

The key we have found is to be predictable and move moderately slowly. This video is very accurate and when I see it I can't imagine myself in it, but out there on the road its really easy as pie.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lack of Fourth

Well I'd like to say that we spent our fourth of July in front of a big blue sky full of amazing Asian fireworks, I mean Hey isn't that where we buy them from anyways? I'd like to brag about our fourth picinicking at the Lake before touring Ho Chi Minh Museum or the Pagodas in the Old City. Heck I'd even settle for the excuse of catching a movie or something basic, but we didn't. Actually it was about 8:30 pm before we even remembered that it was our American Independence day, no radio commercials every five minutes in the car to remind me about the latest Holiday. Heck if it wasn't for the commercials in between all my errand running right before the move I'd have missed Fathers day.
And even this being our first time forgetting an American Holiday while abroad my sweet girls didn't even fuss, no begging for us to take them out, or whining poor me I missed the Fourth of July. Our life has been full of shopping, unpacking, and moving furniture. Although a little time eating out a bit and even going to the community pool (yes there is one, actually two that I've found.) I guess you could say we're not tourists yet. Just trying to get used to everything in our new residence. So unromantic!!!! Oh well, maybe my kids feel like we made up for it yesterday with some American friends coming over for our burrito bar, such a nice and refreshing night (entertaining ourselves with card games and great conversation.)

We're getting there.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Harder than it looks

Well after a week and a half of eating out at amazing restaurants and gobbling up delicious street food I felt so inspired to try my own hand at Vietnamese cooking. Started with diced carrots sateyed in garlic and onions, then bokchoy, little weird mushrooms, of course sprouts, fresh squeezed lime juice and fish sauce. Then rolled in rice paper. You'd think i hit the nail on the head!!! Umm no. So yucky that I actually took the initiative to throw everyone's away before they could even have an opinion about it. Ha h , needless to say cooking lessons are desperately needed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Arrival in Hanoi Vietnam

We've been here in Vietnam now for a couple days but still excused for our actions as "jet lag" is still in full force around our house. A couple of times a day we really let the beast out but for the most part we are still quite civil to each other. I could not stay awake past 7:00 pm last night so me and rexy and pyper were wide awake this morning at 2:30 am, we decided to unpack and then play with toys. Rory and city enjoy having the freedom to stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning hanging out so they can get a full nights sleep. Everyone loves the new house, although it's stressful carting groceries and goods down our ally ( not big enough for cars, and we don't have motorbikes yet) to our house, I have to admit that it's quaint and even kinda romantic walking down the path with each house right up close to each other, everyone in each other's living space. It feels a little like some parts of Europe, we've never lived this way before and it's really quite refreshing. I love the view on one side of the house where you look out and see many other houses (my neighbors) each terrace crowded with laundry and music echoing through the ally ways. Although last nights wasn't so cute when I woke up from the dog barking. Such a different life to get used to.  Rich's favorite view is the other side of the house facing the lotus pond, although you really have to go up another level to enjoy it to the fullest. Rory and city have been officially claiming their rooms on the third floor, with the babies down on the second floor with me and Rich. The Mosquitos have also staked their claim but I bought some raid, the battle is on! Maybe it's time to start the malaria mess.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ricky Bobby's coming soon

Well the time is getting closer at hand, baby is due in three weeks. I'm guessing he'll really come about a week later, but we'll see. Rich is still activly job hunting, with a few really great ones in the hat he is feeling very good. Our options could take us to Mumbai, London, Ethiopia, Jo Berg, or Qatar. I'm most excited about the Mumbai option, or London. Two really great areas that we have not really explored yet.
We moved into the Phipps home about a month ago and today moved out onto our own. It's like we are newly weds or something, finally getting a place of our own. Ha Ha.  Well we are close enough to having the baby that we thought it best to just settle in for a couple months even if he does get a job sooner.  We just didn't want to wear out our stay with them. We like our new place, its a hotel apartment near the girl's school, and a couple restaurants and mini market next door to us. Our experience today was quite similar to how it is whenever we visit a new country, its been really fun. Seems like living here in Saudi has not had that fun new and exciting adventure taste because we came and lived on a compound right away etc.  Where as now we are rambling and unstable just like when we go on trips. Last weel was Eid and so the girls had time off from school too, so each day we went out and did something fun and different. Me being so close to my due date has kept us from being able to take a trip :(  but thats ok we made up for it.

So last week we went out to the desert with the Mortensens, and Galis to have a BBQ. We searched for four wheelers everywhere but couldn't find them, they are usually all over. But it seems like the stands were all replaced with large camping areas that everyone was renting for Eid. So finally we just gave up looking for them and found a nice BBQ spot to set up camp. Then after a few minutes of hanging out and setting up we noticed a couple of local guys parked near by on the four wheelers watching us. Being a bit nervous about it I asked Rich to go shew them off but they offered to rent their bikes to us and then a bunch more guys came over too give rent their bikes. It was really cool to have finally found what we were wanting. I guess we stuck out like a sore thumb. About an hour of riding was all we could get in before we noticed the wall of Sand heading strait for us. One we noticed it, we literally had about 7 minutes to grab all our stuff and get into the cars. Wow I had never really seen the wall of sand like that before. Last year there was a bad storm but I didn't see it coming at us. This one didn't get as dark as the one last year but it was still really hard to see as we drove slowly towards the city. Rory and City loved every minute of it. We ended at the Mortensens for dinner and just hung out the rest of the evening.
The next day we went o Salam park (our favorite friday afternoon destination) with the Turno family.
Then later that week we met the Pooleys, Turnos, and a few others to go out to the Wadi Hanifa (a national park type place) its a dry river bed where eveyone goes to picninc. We found a nice spot to hang out and cook our chicken over coals. The kids had fun playing and making up skits. I'm so glad the girls have really gotten a lot of playing with friends in this week. Their main source of social time is just school and friday friends now days. I am surprised that they don't really seem to miss the compound life though, although it was ten times more social. (I'm glad) I am ok with being out of the compound life too.  Our girls seem to be a lot more productive and they get a long with each other better too.
Being exausted a lot lately I'm happy with the amount of my involvment last week, but now my life is about staying mellow and getting ready for our little newcommer. I am a little annoyed that my body hasn't been as active this last part of my pregnancy. Oh well, can't always get what you want right?