Bannock: the bun that just keeps on baking

Well, I can’t say that I was expecting to have to write the last post on being overdue, but I reeeally wasn’t expecting to write this one. At nine days overdue, my little rib-stomper is still frolicking to her heart’s content inside my innards. I know that wombs are generally warm and soothing environments, but mine must really be providing the ultimate resort experience.

To distract herself from the fact that she still has no grandchild, my mother has started a new hobby which involves taking horrific photographs of me:

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That may or may not be a knife in my hand…

Much as I enjoy cracking jokes, the past two weeks have been a psychologically difficult time. Every day has felt like a bit of an emotional roller coaster – at times, I have coped pretty well, but at other times, I have been a full-on basket case. It’s like being a kid again and waiting for Christmas morning, but Christmas morning keeps getting indefinitely delayed. I know in my (semi) rational brain that Christmas WILL come, but at times, I forget. (To make a truly accurate analogy, I guess the eventual Christmas morning would need to begin with a few sledgehammer blows to the uterus before opening presents from Santa).

And another one of my mother’s gems:

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Making the pedicurist nervous that I am about to give birth in the foot bath.

We managed to waddle our way over to church yesterday, and were reminded that it is the first Sunday of the Advent season. On the way there, we were debating what the first Advent candle symbolized (different faith traditions follow different patterns). Turns out that at our church in Bangkok, it symbolizes waiting. One line from the bulletin jumped out at me: “Waiting is difficult. But when the object of our waiting is a treasure of great value, the waiting is worth it; the waiting is rewarded.” While the message was referring to the world waiting for a Messiah, I also felt like God was reminding me that He holds Bannock, the little over-baked bun, in His hands, and that I can trust Him with this whole crazy experience. She’ll arrive at the right time.

And one final photo from my mother:100_2494

Todd and Zach prepare themselves for labour…

 

The due date that came and went

Well, it is three days past my official due date, and Bannock is not showing any interest in making an appearance on this terrestrial sphere. I knew before I hit the 40 week mark that it is quite common for first pregnancies to run over term, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the psychological toll this would exact. It’s kind of like running a marathon, and then having “someone” (*ahem* Bannock) tack on an extra mile at the end. Instead of a mini-me, I’ve been hanging out with this ugly dude:

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Only a mother could love this face…

Also my more-human, but less toothy Momalot, who arrived last Tuesday. Since she has no baby to cuddle, she has been forced to fill her time by cooking butter beef, and buying me ice cream. This is healthy pregnancy eating at its finest.

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Not quite sure how I ever fit in her torso

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Todd and I spent my due date at the hospital. My doctor wanted to make sure that everything was still looking normal, so he prescribed a non-stress test for Bannock. Basically, I had a couple of monitors strapped to my impossibly large mid-section in an effort to determine whether Bannock was still moving normally. While I appreciated the diligence, I could have answered that question on my own: Bannock and her best friend Placenta are throwing a rager.

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Only in Thailand do the birthing rooms and nurses look like they belong in a soothing spa.

I took the test in the room that I will most likely be giving birth in. It was nice to get a feel for it in advance, but also an annoying reminder that we weren’t there for the actual event. So I made Todd placate me with more ice cream.

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If you haven’t tried Haagen Dazs’s salted caramel flavour yet, do yourself a favour and buy some immediately. It may be trendy, but you won’t care once it’s in your mouth.

The rest of my recent pre-child days have been filled with bad photo shoots, bouncing on my birthing ball, and giving Bannock lectures about the importance of respecting other people’s schedules.

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In the battle of the bulge, Bannock is clearly dominating.

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Ok. That’s probably enough whining, and more than enough revolting photographs of me. I’ll try to enjoy these last, fleeting moments of butter beef bliss, and start preparing the ultimate sermon on punctuality that I will preach to Bannock throughout her life.

Bannock goes to camp

I’ve been back in Bangkok for almost 2 weeks now, but I hope you’ll humour me by reading one last post about Canada: I have some pictures of a miniature horse that I’ve been dying to share. After spending a few weeks in Calgary and Edmonton, I decided it was time to introduce Bannock to the joys of summer camp. My family has been volunteering at Pioneer Ranch Camp for a few generations,* and I usually get lured in at some point during the summer months. Plus, Bannock’s Auntie Sarah was directing camp, and she clearly needed our support. I never offer much in the way of practical support, but MAN am I good at planting myself on a couch and offering a little of the moral variety.

Meet Sarah. If you read my previous post, you may have wondered if every member of my family is overpoweringly unphotogenic. You would be correct, with one notable exception: Sarah somehow managed to absorb (by osmosis, or some other dirty trick) our entire family’s portion of photogenicness, leaving utter ruin in her wake. Here is an example:

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Both of us giving the camera a little “attitude,” with mixed results

For an additional comparison, here is the woman who gave birth to Sarah:

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I rest my case.

Bannock and I made ourselves useful at camp by helping to create a spa night for campers who had just returned from their multi-day outtrips (here I am using “spa” in the loosest sense of the word). I decided that mud masks were a necessary spa activity, so I had a bunch of mud dredged from the nasty/mucky/silt-y lake. When the campers asked me where the mud was from, I told them “it’s locally sourced and organic.” Apparently 11 year olds dig buzzwords, because this seemed to satisfy them.

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The very essence of purity

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Sarah applying pure organicness to an unsuspecting camper. The tarp just adds that certain somethin’ extra

After multiple requests, I finally visited the spa’s hair-braiding station, where a ten-year old camper eagerly manhandled my tresses. She asked me which style I wanted, and I told her to surprise me.

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The only surprise is that I’m still awake after my 10 hour styling session

After the rigours of spa night, I decided that Bannock needed a break, so we went off to find Percy the Miniature Horse. I’ve seen some small horses in my day, but I think Percy might win the prize. I like all animals, but I have an almost magnetic attraction to anything resembling dogs (or crocodiles), so Percy had no hope of escape.

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Although he gave it his best shot

We had to carefully plot our approach:

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Camouflaging ourselves behind a clump of daisies…

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Spotting our quarry

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My slouchy posture is carefully calculated to make me appear less threatening

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In Thailand, it would never be acceptable to greet someone by touching their head, but fortunately, Percy is unaware of Thai customs

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Uh… if you’re trying to meet Bannock, you’re aiming about 6 inches too low

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Showing Percy who’s BOSS

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for all of 5 seconds

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Why do my relationships with miniature horses never seem to work out?

Bannock and I also spent time transporting campers, filling water balloons, and playing the role of a pre-pregnant Virgin Mary in a skit. Not quite sure how we were chosen for this last one, but some questions are best left unasked. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Calgary to prepare for another long flight to Bangkok. It’s good to be back in Asia, but there’s definitely a part of me that’s still roaming the Canadian pastures with Percy the Miniature Horse.

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Good-bye camp. Good-bye Canada.

* Friends still remind me that my grandfather’s “prayer for the meal” at my wedding reception somehow morphed into a “soliloquy on the history/joys of camp.” Not sure where that came from, but it was memorable.

Butter Beef and Other Treats

Well, the blog has been a little mother-centric lately, and I’m sure she’s starting to feel just like Todd sometimes does (“why does it feel like YOUR blog is always about ME?”), but I had to do one last post on Momalot. Actually, it’s more about the food that she cooked while she was in Bangkok than it is about the gal herself. Homecookin’ is no mean feat when you are operating in an Elfin Kitchen in a strange land, but she rose to the challenge. Momalot has never been one to let a few minor roadblocks like emergency hospital trips prevent her from feedin’ her chilluns. Here are a few of the gems she produced:

1. Butter Beef

Butter Beef is one of my favourite things in the world. It’s exactly what it sounds like: beef cooked in butter. Momalot learned this handy trick from her Dutch mother-in-law: buy some meat (any kind will do), and huck it in a pan with a bunch of butter. Let it simmer for a few hours, then serve it alongside a pile of carbs. You cannot go wrong. This was one of my favourite dishes growing up, and due to its fat-bomb consistency, Momalot would only make it on birthdays. Remembering the few times that I chose something other than Butter Beef for my birthday supper leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

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First, simmer the butter. Don’t skimp.

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Make sure you’re wearing a cute apron when you add the meat.

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Let it cook…

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And cook some more. 6-10 hours should do it. A Canadian potholder will greatly enhance the flavour

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Momalot wishes to state that the meat shouldn’t be quite this black – our stove didn’t offer a low enough temperature to properly cook it. The blackness tastes amazing, though.

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Get yer carbs ready (Yorkshire pudding in this case)

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And mow down. I apologize for the lack of artistry in this shot, but if you knew how hard it was for me to resist eating while I took a photo, you’d forgive me.

I am salivating as I write this. Fortunately for us, Momalot was not content to rest on her laurels. Once we’d digested the Butter Beef (this took a few days), she got to work baking

2. Bread and Cinnamon Buns

My parents are basically the original hippies, minus the drugs and free love – they had a manual push mower long before it was trendy. When I had to mow the lawn as a child, I wished that they were a little less “progressive,” but now that I have no lawn to speak of, I have fond memories. They also bake their own bread from scratch on a weekly basis. It was no problem at all for Momalot to bake bread in our little oven. She hucked some flour and some yeast into a pot, let it rise in the Bangkok heat, and bob’s your uncle: ready to bake.

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“Are you dissing Uncle Bob again?!”

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And apparently we consumed the finished product so quickly that I didn’t even get a photo. Dang.

Finally, Momalot repeated the steps for making bread dough, but this time she also made her own sauce, lined one of our wire mesh racks with aluminum foil, and voila, cranked out a

3. Pizza

This was probably my second favourite meal as a child (after Butter Beef). Unlike Butter Beef, we would often eat this on weekends, as apparently it was not as rough on the ol’ arteries as fat-drenched animal protein. I often wished that we could order takeout pizza instead, but now that I am an adult and have eaten my share of truly dire pizza topped with mysterious meats, I see the error in my ways. There’s just something about knowing where all the ingredients come from that allows you to stuff your face with far more panache.

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Momalot also stocked our cupboards and made us numerous salads, but sadly, I did not document this with my camera. If you want more specific instructions on how to make Butter Beef, let me know, or ask any Dutch Oma who lived through the war. Just like Momalot, she’ll probably have some buttery tricks up her sleeve.

A Crazy Mothah of a Month

Uh, oops. Sorry, folks. I know the blogging has been a little patchy in general, but 2 weeks has to be a new low, even for me. It’s been a crazy mothah of a month, mainly because my crazy mothah of a mother was visiting. After she left last Tuesday night, Todd’s dad – AKA Papa Dawg Dave – blew in on the evening breeze for a breezy, very brief 2 night visit. He stayed just long enough to partake in a whirlwind culinary tour of Samut Prakan. Currently, we are feeling like the proverbial fatherless/motherless child(ren), and trying to readjust to life as a twosome. I thought I’d recount one of our more memorable adventures from the past month of parental visits.

Momalot’s trip to the hospital

Momalot is generally a hardy soul. She likes to take the stairs just to make us look lazy for taking the elevator (all right. When you live on the third floor, I guess taking the elevator would qualify as slothful behaviour), and in her heart-of-hearts, I know she wishes that she’d been born in the pioneer era. She’d probably be the person hauling the wagon after the horse dropped dead. She does not, however, deal well with heat. We’re not sure if her health scare on her last weekend in Bangkok was due primarily to the heat, but it definitely didn’t help the situation.

On Friday night, we went to a movie at the mall near our house. Halfway through, Momalot said she didn’t feel well, and went to get some water. When I checked on her a few minutes later, she was feeling nauseous and dizzy, so we took her home. By the time we got there, she was also experiencing tingling sensations in her arms and heart palpitations. We decided it was time to phone an ambulance. The weird/disconcerting thing in Bangkok is that there isn’t a unified 911-type service (or if there is, I haven’t found it yet). Rather, you phone the hospital that you wish to visit, and they send their own ambulance service. We phoned a hospital that we have used in the past – it wasn’t the closest, but we knew it would provide good care. Once we’d given the hospital our address and requested an ambulance, we tried our best to look after Momalot until it arrived.

It was a little disconcerting when the ambulance took almost 40 minutes to reach us. Fortunately, by the time it arrived, Momalot was feeling a little better, but it was sobering to think of what the situation would have been like had she been more seriously ill. The ambulance was equipped with a doctor and several nurses, though, so once it arrived, we felt that she was in good hands. Todd and I rode in the front of the ambulance, and it became clear to us why it took so long for the ambulance to arrive – we were once again reminded that we live in the middle of nowhere. Also, no one yields to ambulances in Bangkok – we even got cut off several times on the way to the hospital. The ambulance also had to stop and pay the tolls on the expressway we were using.

When she got to the hospital, Momalot was thoroughly checked out, and while her pulse was still quite fast and she felt dizzy, the doctors assured us that her heart seemed to be ok. Perhaps the craziest thing for this socialized-healthcare-Canadian was having to deal with insurance paperwork while we were still trying to focus on my mother. One of the hospital’s claims people was even asking my mother (very politely – this is Thailand) to sign documents as she groggily lay on her emergency room bed. I realize that to Americans this probably sounds like standard protocol, but we found it disconcerting.

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Disconcerted.

While Momalot’s heart looked ok, the doctors decided to keep her in the hospital for 2 nights of observation/tests. It turned into an unexpected cultural experience. At this particular hospital (Samitivej), even the most basic rooms are like hotel suites, with fold-out beds for guests, arm chairs, fridges and microwaves. You can order food from a  menu, and cute, tiny nurses with elaborate hairstyles check on you at all hours of the day or night. They like to ask questions like “Madam. You need go pee-pee?” By the second day, Momalot was feeling much better, but she was still under hospital arrest. We took her to the coffee shop in the hospital lobby in her swanky Thai hospital outfit, and tried to entertain her on her forced vacation.

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“Madam. I check pulse.”

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Almost 48 hours after she was admitted, Momalot was released from the hospital. She came away with some random hospital swag including branded water bottles in a branded hospital bag. Nothing substantial showed up on the tests, and we are still a little confused as to what happened to her. On the plus side, she had a bunch of expensive tests done that she would have had to wait months+ for in a socialized system. Her travel insurance really came through (for travelling Canadians – RBC insurance was fantastic), and covered the whole visit. Nothing like a 1000% return on your investment.

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The view from her room’s balcony

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And an outdoor sink in case you want to have a barbecue, or something

All in all, it was a frightening experience for all of us, but I’ll wager that it’s created a cultural memory that Momalot won’t soon forget. I doubt any Canadian nurses will ask her whether Madam needs to pee-pee.

Next up: the food Momalot managed to cook for us when she wasn’t in the hospital.