YoungLife Thailand

We have become good friends with the Vechprasit family in the last couple of years. They also happen to be the folks heading up YoungLife Thailand. And they’re our neighbors, too! How random, right 😉 Well, in acknowledging just how too well things have aligned themselves for us to be more intentional in the relationships we make while here, our family has entered this new (school) year with the commitment to be as supportive and involved as possible with the literally down-the-street YL crew.

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What does that mean? It means as much as we are trying to assimilate to life abroad we are also more fully embracing being native-English speakers and engaging with the youth in this language area they themselves are learning at school and in anticipation of their future work opportunities. It means baking monthly birthday cakes. It means baking cookies in this humidity and heat. It means going on camps and day trips. It means really trying to learn who we are as individuals, as a couple and as a family — and using both the strengths and weaknesses tools for love and generosity and hospitality. It means stepping out of our respective comfort zones and being challenged to grow in ways we could have never concocted ourselves. It’s been tiring and beautiful and always always always worth it.

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Recently Dan went on a one-day trip to Ratchaburi with a looooooot of high school students who he has never met before from a school he has never stepped foot in and proudly wore the awkward badge of farang. To say I was and am proud of this man of mine is quite the understatement.

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And, really, if you know my more introverted people-watching better half who prefers not being in the limelight on a personal level, you can definitely understand just how outside of his comfort zone this trip was. But you can also probably imagine how much he rose to the occasion and gave it all he got. What a guy!

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We just celebrated our four year anniversary…and where we are now versus where we were all those years ago when we were in the “technically not dating but kind of seeing each other but are just friends and maybe more but not that but yeah maybe that and I don’t know” stage is so much better. We really have no idea what we are doing 68% of the time, but it’s so much nicer being bewildered and still committed to whatever may come together.

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Life on Pichayanan | A Neighborhood Tour

We live at the very end of a side street of a bigger side street off the main road, kind of like a cul de sac except not in a development. (It really doesn’t make much sense until you see it in person.) During the day, to get a bit of exercise and to get out of the house, we go on walks. One of the joys of having a toddler is that he is always ready to go outside. And one of the downsides of a having a toddler is that he is always ready to go outside…regardless of the time of day and the temperature of the day.

Favorite times outside in this wonderful country of heat and humidity? Before lunch and before dinner…when, you know, it’s cool and there’s a breeze [eyeroll]. But I love the boy, and despite all the sweating involved, I also love the feel of the sun on my skin. And Estelle? She is our wonderful youngest child who doesn’t get much say at this point. So please enjoy this compilation of a mini tour, as guided by Louis ตะวัน (and note that you don’t see any neighbors because they, in their great wisdom, stay inside when it’s this hot outside):

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Most of these walks end up in a neighbor’s house. As in, we walk onto another person’s private property and are welcomed because…why not? We’ve much to learn about hospitality from this country we currently call home. Anyway this is just our little corner. There are many other walking routes in and around many other neighbors’ homes. And many many many little critters and creatures along the way. Sigh.

 

Life on Pichayanan | Mini Tour (round 1)

Ahhh…our daughter is going to join us earth side in less than a week! Her big brother is over a year and a half old now. Dan is scurrying and prepping and planning like a mad scientist for end of semester activities and getting things set up for paternity leave. I am…heavily pregnant. Just so heavily pregnant. Swollen with child. I get it. I got that phrase with the first kid, but man do I get that phrase with this second kid.

Louis is napping. I should also in theory be taking advantage of this time and napping as well. Or resting. Or whatever. I happen to be housing a very exuberant little girl who has been trying to join her family way too early for the last 10 weeks. She is not down with resting or napping at this point. So I finally dusted off my laptop and uploaded pictures from “the big camera” of our home. Well, the downstairs portion of our home. The next two floors will have to wait because I’m pretty selective of how often I go up and down those stairs these days.

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I love our downstairs. It’s where most of the partying happens. It’s where life is lived: where books are read, where goodies are baked, where meals are shared, where friendships grow and where kids run wild. There are challenges, obviously, in adjusting to things outside the comfort and convenience of the school gates. (Dan has an interesting walking “commute” that he’ll have to document and share — in short, he is crash learning/using Thai a lot and is the only farang in our neighborhood…so no pressure about first and second and nonstop impressions, right? I am being challenged with preconceived notions of my identity/worth in my current role as a quasi-work at home mom and could wax philosophical about that for ages.) But we are loving our home and are coming to embrace life on Pichayanan more and more.

 

Siam Ocean World

We went to Siam Ocean World in November one weekend; it may have been because we were having a staycation in Bangkok. (I can’t remember. It was like four months ago.) It had been on our list of “oh that would be neat to check out” since we first moved here, and timing + location finally seemed to have worked out for this to happen. Plus, Louis was of an age where he wouldn’t be asleep or just staring at his fingers the whole time.

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2 out of 3 of us liked the sharks. The one “no, thank you” vote echoed rather loudly in the tunnel, so there was quite the dash through to get back into bright lights. Dan’s theory: dim lights mean bedtime and the kid wanted us to know that he was NOT going to sleep.

Harris Family Adventures | Panary Cafe Dutch Baby Pancake

One of our favorite random finds on Ari Soi 4 is Panary Cafe Dutch Baby Pancake. The ambience was very relaxed and the decor quirkily fun.

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And the food was delicious. Baked in a cast iron pan to achieve a crispy edge with a high rise, and then the middle is piled with tasty toppings. Not wanting to be complete gluttons (in public, that is) we stuck with just ordering one savory and one sweet to split with our respective caffeinated beverages of choice. It’s still hard to pinpoint the appropriate words to describe this dish to somebody who has never known the pleasure of a Dutch baby pancake. Leslie, too, was once on that sad sad side but is now on the brighter, more glorious side of knowing. But we’ll give it a try.

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The pancake portion is sweet and fluffy and egg-y. It’s just…you’ve got to try it. And the toppings! Oh, the toppings. We ordered the Salmon & Cream Cheese pancake: nice sized slab of smoked salmon, a rocket salad tossed with balsamic vinegar and an incredible ball of wasabi-infused cream cheese. People! The cream cheese gives the dish that special kick, making it just yum, so do not neglect the crucial step of slathering that cream cheese all over everything. Everything. And then licking the knife.

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After cleaning our palettes with our latte and americano, we delved our way through the Custard Cream & Berry Sauce pancake. The custard was light and smooth with a nice scent of vanilla. (Yes, we smell our food.) And the batch of homemade berry sauce was decadently sweet — if it were a bit more on the tart side, we think there would be more balance in the dish. But what do we know? We shoveled that dish into our mouths quicker than Louis could make a little baby cry.

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As silly farangs in a city that has a lot of unspoken rules and procedures, we really appreciated the simple & straight forward sign that told us to make our order at the front and find our own seat. Thank you, Panary Cafe! The wait staff was very friendly, helpful and accommodating – they gave us space and helped arrange out table when the little fellow was getting a bit antsy. Plus, they were young dudes and acted all sorts of cute when trying to play with Louis.

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This is definitely a restaurant we will revisit, especially when we are in a mood for a “back home” kind of brunch. Looking forward to ordering more off the menu and bringing friends to sample the Dutch babies!

 

Harris Family Adventures | Basilico Pizzeria

After sipping on drinks at the Porcupine Cafe, we were definitely peckish and ready to eat. So off we went! We walked down the street in search of a restaurant to try out. It was hot, so we didn’t walk very far. Is that a pretty lame reason for choosing Basilico Pizzeria for lunch? Yes, it is. But it was hot. And any place with a bathroom and AC or a fan would’ve met our criterion for a “good eats” place at that point. (Really, it was hot. And humid.)

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Since we got there closer to 2pm things were quiet at the restaurant, which would typically make us a bit more on edge because that means more of the waitstaff attention would be turned on us. (Relevant aside: customer service is a big deal in Thailand, especially in the food industry. Upon being seated by the host or hostess, a waiter or waitress will immediately hand you a menu and just stand there…ready to take your order…whenever you’re ready…just standing there…waiting. It can be awkward or overwhelming, sometimes both.) But the crew there had obviously had their fair share of farangs come in, so they gave us a comfy amount of space and time to get things settled with Louis before coming to take our order.

Thumbs up, Basilico, thumbs up.

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Apparently the obvious — and internet recommended — choice would have been to order pizza. We did not do so because (1) we did not research the place ahead of time and (2) we had cold pizza waiting at home in our fridge.We went the typical route with a bread basket and caprese salad. Oh mozzarella…you can never go wrong with mozzarella.

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And then ordered fish for our entrees. I got the lemon sole, and Dan went for the sea bass; each dish had a tasty sauce but also an odd looking green side. Not so aesthetically or taste bud pleasing. Our meals were okay, not the most delicious Italian food, but satisfying enough. It was a neat find in our wanderings, but we weren’t very impressed. Next time (if there is one) we go, we will heed the call of the internet and try a pizza instead.

 

 

 

Harris Family Adventures | Porcupine Cafe

So we’ve decided to carve out a family outing at least twice a month to do the kind of eating and exploring we wanted to last year but maybe couldn’t because one of us was all tired and sick and pregnant. Excuses! Anyway, baby boy is out and now must endure being Baby Bjourn-ed around the streets of Bangkok and plopped onto any bench seating available. He loves it.

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The first targeted neighborhood on our food tour is Ari. It’s a wonderful little area that reminds us so much of Seattle in its decor and vibe that it feels like just a bit at home, which makes these expats happy when a case of the “I miss…” strikes. We had gone to Soi 4 before to eat at Salt, try out Fat Bird and have a few drinks at Aree (all places that will be visited again but with camera in hand) and kept seeing other places tucked away that screamed TRY ME! as we walked or drove by. The obvious first stop was next to Salt and had the most inviting storefront. Plus, the name! Porcupine Cafe.

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We herald from the Pacific Northwest so anything woodsy and green gets an automatic thumbs up from us. Heck, our wedding decor was all about wood rounds, succulents, twigs and burlap with splashes of color — so you know that we would feel at ease in a place that had mismatched chairs and exposed stone surfaces with rustic charm.

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They had a straight forward menu of typical cafe beverages — americano, latte, cappuccino, mocha and so forth — with fresh fruit smoothies and sweet pastries. I think they plan on adding savory dishes? Since we had gone during brunch time, we just ordered caffeinated brews and enjoyed the ambience while trying to keep an almost 3-month old calm in a chill environment. The drinks were strong and not too sweet (just how we like ’em) and I loved the detail of the yarn pom tree at our table.

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I’m going to make a few for our home. Too clever, too cute.