Saturday, March 31, 2012

The big cheese

My fondest memories of my short trip to Portland in January were cooking and/or eating with friends.  One night, exhausted from the day and the cold, wet PDX weather, Mami and I made grilled cheese sandwiches.  We used prosciutto, apple slices, and spinach (or was it basil?) and good ole' Wisconsin  cheddar cheese, bought by Ethan during his quick trip to Wisconsin. 

A grilled cheese sandwich is an easy fix for lazy nights in Phnom Penh.  I swear Ethan makes the best ones. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wardrobe dilemma

via rennes

Moving out of Cambodia to a presently undetermined location provides wardrobe questions.  (Cambodia is a vacuum of casual dress.)  How do you look somewhat polished without screaming "corporate," which itself is not bad, though it can distance communities you are working with, and it is just plain boring! 

Case in point: I have a beautiful Coach attache case that was given to me as a law school graduation gift from V.  I'm not a big Coach girl, but this thing is pretty and polished. I brought it with me to Cambodia, but I've used it maybe once during a high-level meeting. It has no place in my NGO world.

I'm currently using my Trader Joe's canvas bag to tote around documents. What can I say? I have a soft spot for canvas bags.

The next destination will require more structure and dress-up.  This tote fits the bill and yet is playful, but I'm concerned that the cloth would dirty up easily.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Note to Self: On Working in Cambodia, Pt. 2

Can I confess that some days I am just so tired?  Land rights work in Cambodia is taxing. It is such a highly politicized area of law.

I'd like to share an exchange I had with a superstar American lawyer, who has worked on rule of law and land law issues in Cambodia for nearly 10 years, after having been in private practice in the States for a decade before.  Now based in Geneva, he was one of the people who warned me that land issues can be "toxic."  This first warning came about 9 months ago.  And I shrugged it off.  You see, while I certainly  am not an optimistic do-gooder, I did think I was a little tougher than that. 

I ran into him at a dinner party a few months ago.  I confessed to him that when I first met him that I did not listen, but (in the same breath) that 9 months can take a toll on you.  He advised me that it's okay to take a break from this work now and then, to leave the country, to re-energize, and to come back in some shape or form.  "There's no shame in it," he said.  This is a little sad, but it should be indicative of the state of things: we chuckled under our breath when he confessed that his recent work with domestic violence and gender issues in an un-named repressive country was a "nice break" from land law issues in Cambodia.  Seriously?

That's my mindset at the moment.  It has been for a few months.  I've  recently been offered an opportunity to represent refugees before UN bodies for a short period of time starting after my self-imposed summer vacation.  I was warned by the lead attorney that this was no break - that stories of rape and torture are often interwoven in these tales of displacement.  Still, I cannot help but think the experience might re-energize me, if not by allowing me to learn a new field of the law. (I'm not a refugee lawyer.)

But I am getting away from myself again.  The pictures of the women in Odisha!  Amazing, right?  Even when I am bogged down with the weight of Cambodia and land issues, I get really jazzed up about women and land issues, which makes me think that, no matter which path I take in the next few months, I may keep coming back to this work.
I'm looking back, to nearly two years ago when I moved to Cambodia.  It's been an incredible journey.

To be continued. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Breakfast apple granola goodness

What on earth is going on with me?  All of a sudden I love breakfast, even plan ahead for it?  I am baking this now so that I can enjoy it for breakfast tomorrow with yoghurt.  The house smells so good!

Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp

3 pounds* of whatever apples, or mix of apples, you like to bake with, peeled, cored and cut into medium chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup flour
2 cups oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, as you wish; I used unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix apple chunks with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a 9×13-inch baking dish until apples are evenly coated. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the honey. Stir in the flour, oats, almonds, coconut and another pinch of salt until clumps form. Sprinkle evenly over the apple mixture and bake in the oven for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are softened and bubbly. Should the granola brown before you wish it to, cover the baking dish carefully with foil for all but the last few minutes of baking time, when removing the foil will help the granola recrisp. Cool to room temperature and then stash in the fridge to eat with your morning yogurt.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thoughts of Spain

all photos via Lost

Have you been here?  The first and only time I walked inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona I was blown away.  Vic's blog is amazing.

Another Cambodian sunset

Thida took these photos with her phone, while we sat on a pier in Sihanouk Ville and watched the sky grow dim.  I will miss images like this.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

La femme vintage

My oldest friend  and co-conspirator of vintage finds just opened her very own vintage shop in Long Beach, California!  Unfortunately, I'm too far away.  For now, I can only check out her etsy shop.

The weekend in review

via Ermie

While it is admittedly awesome to be able to hop on a bus and/or plane to Bangkok for a weekend, it also tends to throw my schedule off kilter.  This weekend was the first in weeks that felt normal and lazy.  It's so funny how not being able to cook a full breakfast, bake something, read, and  dawdle in my home on a Saturday or Sunday can throw me off balance.   I must be more a creature of ritual than I imagined.

I love weekends that are open and not riddled with appointments, meetings, or tasks that require  my immediate attention.  Yesterday, I had brunch with some lovely women at the new gastrobar in town, Botanico.  It was a good way to catch up with people I haven't seen in a while - J is back from Baltimore to work on women's health rights  and I hadn't seen F since fall last year.   We talked about life developments, about working in Burma, about travel and life in India (F previously lived in Bangalore), and friends' planned trip to Sri Lanka this fall.

Other than that brunch, I declined other invitations.  Instead, I stayed home.  I baked this and cooked, and fed the ornery brown and black spotted feral kitten, "Cookie," which has taken over my terrace.

April brings with it another Khmer holiday, then there's May with another holiday, and then it's June, my last month at work.  I started my application for the Indian visa and with that, I allowed myself to daydream about the trip.  I've also become aware that the pace of life may pick up again for a while until the respite in July and August.

Oh yes, before I forget:  I finally ordered the Ermie shirt above, and what service!  Jennifer ordered more material for me in the Talitha print (which was out), offered to pre-wash the silk for me (because  I don't have a dry cleaner in Cambodia), and is currently having the shirt made with my measurements.  I'm not a big fan of fast fashion these days, particularly given all the garment factory finds in the local markets, but this type of service alone reminds me why I would rather spend my money to support the work of artisans like Jennifer. I am super excited to own one of her pieces.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bangkok Street Style

first via Namtanw; second via Style Anywhere

As you walk the streets of Bangkok, you encounter street vendor upon street vendor of clothes and shoes - many not so great, but some quite tempting - in addition to the shiny malls and the small boutiques. I cannot even begin to describe the difference between Phnom Penh and Bangkok, two cities that are connected by a cheap one hour flight on Air Asia. It boggles my mind every time I step foot across the border.  Geographically and even ethnically, the two cities are not so disparate, but they are years and years apart in modernity and infrastructure, in order and offerings.

I'm always amused by the uniform I see in Bangkok, which shifts with each visit.  This visit, I could not stop seeing scallop-edged tap shorts with blouses tucked in, amongst the long dresses and skirts I saw  late last year.  At Chatuchak Market, where I spent a good part of Saturday, I saw vintage silk button-down blouses over and over again, all with their sleeves rolled up, which made me think of this uniform.

The city is heating up.  One day, I was just overwhelmed by the swarm of people on BTS, Bangkok's sky train and by the traffic jams below on the streets.  I had a flashback to my first visit to London (over 10 years ago!!), when I was going opposite the work rush on the Tube, a wall of people moving in unison.

Bangkok, again

I'm battling a cold after having spent 4 days in Bangkok.  On this visit, we did the usual - ate too much, walked in the heat, visited one of our favorite Japanese restaurants with a killer lunch special on Silom Road and had delicious Isaan food.  We also met a few folks and talked work-stuff.  It's so nice to visit a big city.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good morning, Cambodia

Toasted four grain cereal recipe, taken from 101 Cookbooks - except I could only find two kinds of grains in Cambodia.  For my morning mix, I throw almonds, raisins, honey and maybe a little cream on top. Done.  

Four grain cereal blend:
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled oats
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled rye
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled barley
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled spelt
Make a jar of four grain cereal blend, to keep on hand, by combining the rolled oats, rye, barley, and spelt. Store in an airtight container. Makes four batches.
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 2/3 cup / 560 ml water, plus more to your preference

The night before you want to enjoy your cereal, melt the butter over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add 1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g of the four grain cereal mixture, and stir well to coat. Add the salt and continue to cook, stirring often, until the grains have really toasted and are quite fragrant - roughly 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, add the water, and leave overnight.

The next morning, heat the cereal over medium-high until it comes to a simmer. Leave it for about 10 minutes, or until the cereal is cooked through. Here's the thing - the cereal will thicken more the longer it simmers, so timing is truly a judgement call here. If you prefer a thinner cereal, feel free to adjust with more water. When the consistency seems right, taste, and add more salt if needed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lunch meetings

Lunch meetings in Sihanouk Ville can be so tough ...

Friday, March 2, 2012

An afternoon in a wat

A wat is a monastery temple.  In Cambodia, they often take the place of community halls. One has to be mindful of clearing out when it is lunchtime for the resident monks.
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