Saturday, June 20, 2015

Homemade Thai Tea

**I first published this post in November 2013. Over the past few months, we've shared this recipe with several people who never knew you could make Thai tea at home and who were very excited to try it out. So, now I share it broadly again to spread the Thai tea love! Recipe is at the bottom of the post.**

A couple of years ago, after our attempts at making milk tea were successful, Michael and I decided to try to make homemade Thai tea. We scoured the internet in search of a recipe, but everyone said to just buy the mix. That's not what we wanted. We wanted to know exactly what ingredients to use to give black tea that orange color and that fragrant aroma.

In December 2011, we were visiting Michael's Thai aunt who lives about an hour outside of Bangkok. She spends her days cooking in her outdoor kitchen and tending fruits and vegetables grown all over her large property. Thailand has some of the best food in the world and the best food we had in Thailand came out of her kitchen. If anyone knew how to make Thai tea from scratch it would be her.

Via my mother-in-law's translation, we asked her, "How do you make Thai tea?" She answered, "You buy the mix." Oh, the disappointment!

Our disappointment was eased when we found out that Thai tea "mix" is actually Thai tea leaves brewed properly and mixed with the right amount of sweetened condensed milk. Without further ado, here is how to make a large pitcher of Thai tea, restaurant style, at home.

Thai Tea (ชาเย็น, "cha-yen," literally: "cold tea")

1) Buy a bag or two of these Thai tea leaves and a can of sweetened condensed milk.
2) Brew 9 tablespoons of the tea leaves in 8 cups of boiling hot water. Let the leaves steep for a very long time to get the tea nice and strong.
3) Mix in 2/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk. Stir thoroughly as it tends to settle on the bottom.
4) Let it cool. Put it in the fridge for a few hours.
5) Drink!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Home - Part Six


We are moving to Thailand. Just writing that makes my heart flutter, mostly from nerves. (You're supposed to go on your globe-trotting adventures before you have kids. Not now!) But, there's a good amount of excitement mixed in too. Scratch that. A lot of excitement. I've been ready for this my whole life. Bangkok, we are coming.

When I think of Bangkok, I think of pink taxis, fish sauce, gigantic shopping malls, canals, temples, constant sweating, sweet pineapple, 7-Elevens on every street, orchids growing on trees, the most jumbled power lines I have ever seen, and last, but certainly not least, super spicy, super salty, super cheap street food.

As I look back on my life lived in four distinct, diverse places, and as I look forward to living in another new, totally different place, two thoughts come to mind.

First, I am really excited to raise kids who are global nomads. I hope it doesn't mess them up too much. I hope it causes them to become empathetic adults who are able to connect to people who are different than them and who are savvy at relating to others cross culturally.

Second, the price of being a global nomad is the loss of a sense of "home." This is no small price tag for me and my girls. When I look at my life, I feel like a homeless, nomadic wanderer. But, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost." That's right. I'm not lost. I know exactly where I'm headed. In the end, I will arrive at my final home - the beautiful, tearless, painless new earth that I hope in so deeply. I will kick off my shoes, settle down, and know that I am finally home.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Home - Part Five


I've lived over a third of my life in California. This is the longest I've ever lived in one place on the globe. I am too close to these years to really know what memories and impressions will last, but when I think of my eleven years in Southern California, I think of...

Palm trees, Joshua trees, wildfires, smog, mediocre beaches, rosemary bushes, citrus trees, tarantulas, lizards, and cockroaches.

Flying in and out of LAX and Ontario airports. Over and over and over.

Cheering on my team with tens of thousands of other fans all decked out in cardinal and gold.

Running every single step of the LA marathon.

Eating Red Vines while studying the gospel of Mark with people who have turned out to be lifelong friends -- including my husband.

Inhaling the strong smell of old urine and receiving greetings from homeless faces I recognized as I walked to my teaching job on skid row.

Marrying my best friend on an unusually warm spring afternoon.

Riding the Metrolink to law school while reading big old books with exciting titles like "Civil Procedure."

Bringing home an eight pound bundle of Grace from the hospital and then, eighteen months later, bringing home a six pound bundle of Cora.

Starting my own business (law firm) with a friend and serving on a nonprofit board.

My eleven years in Los Angeles have been ripe and full. It's hard to think that I'll be saying goodbye soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Home - Part Four


When I think of my 8th through 12th grade years in Colorado, I think of summer afternoon thunderstorms; late spring hail; early fall snowfall followed by 80 degree weather; and mild, brown winters. I remember taking way too many AP classes in my high school that bore an uncanny resemblance to a prison. I remember Saturday marching band practices on hot asphalt and I remember getting all dressed up for show choir performances. I remember youth group trips to the mountains for camps and day trips.

For the most part, I have lost my connection to Portugal and Illinois. But, since I still go to Colorado a couple of times every year to visit family, it still feels like I can call it home and sort of get away with it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Home - Part Three


Illinois was the land of my elementary and middle school years. When I think of Carol Stream, I can almost smell my elementary school -- a comfy, musty combo of crayons and scratchy brown paper towels. The school had little, artificially created green hills in front presumably to add a little interest to the pancake flat Midwest landscape.

I remember church potlucks on our First Baptist Church's lawn. ("Don't eat the potato salad. The mayo has been out in the sun all afternoon. You'll get sick.") I remember playing capture the flag on the lawn and getting purple stains on my feet from berries dropped by a tree. 

I remember playing kickball in my cul-de-sac in the summer. In the winter, snowplows pushed all the snow on our street into huge piles at the end of the cul-de-sac; perfect construction material for the most amazing forts. When discarded Christmas trees went out on the curb in January, we "planted" them way up high on the snow forts as if they were Neil Armstrong's flag on the moon.

Compared to the other three places I've lived, there wasn't as much beauty, diversity, or things to do -- but the people. I loved the people.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Home - Part Two


If I want to make my heart ache, all I have to do is type "Alcobaça" into a Google images search. Most of the images are of the thousand year old monastery in town, which makes me ache more. How can I find pictures of my preschool, the Igreja Baptista that we attended, the cafes we most frequented for pastries and espresso?

Even though my life began in Portugal, I have pretty much said "goodbye." I've forgotten the language and culture. Every time I move, I put a few hundred (or thousand) more miles between me and my birthplace. But, if I had a three month sabbatical where I could hunker down in any corner of the world, Portugal, would be it. I'd get a muffin top from gorging on the food and pastries. I'd visit the beaches and monasteries. I'd re-learn Portuguese.

Home - Part One

Shortly after college, or maybe it was in college, I don't remember, I got into a conversation with someone that turned to the Dreaded Question:

"Where are you from?" 

Up to that point, my answer varied all the time. This time I responded,

"I don't know."

He was incredulous. "What do you mean you don't know?"

"I just don't know where I'm from."

So he sought out to find the answer. "Well, where were you born?"

"Portugal. My life began in Portugal. Though, my parents are American so when we moved to the U.S. when I was six, I forgot the language and culture."

"Where in the U.S. did you live?"

"Seven years in a Chicago suburb. Five years in the Denver area. Then, I came to Southern California for college and haven't left. Yet."

By this point, he was starting to see my dilemma.

"Ok. Where are your parents from?"

"My dad was born and raised on the east coast. My mom was born in California and grew up mostly in Argentina and a little bit in Illinois. Really, I don't know where I'm from. I'm from all over."

He silently nodded his head finally understanding where I was coming from. (Pun intended.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Encourage Someone

I've recently been on the receiving end of three genuine compliments.

One: "You look pretty today."

Two: "I love your blog. You're a really good writer. When I read your stuff, I feel like I'm right there."

Three: "You're a really good, really chill mom."

I usually go through my days without reflecting too much on how I look, how I write, or how I parent. And if you asked me how I feel about each of these things, I'd probably say that I think I look nice, I write pretty well, and I am a good mom. But, when I heard these encouraging words, I internally reacted with an "Oh really? Are you sure?" My reaction revealed that there's at least a little bit of insecurity in me over how I look, how I write, and how I parent. And it felt really, really good to be affirmed. There's a new spring in my step and wind in my sails.

And since it felt so good, I wonder... Who do I admire? How can I give encouragement to them today?

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