Hi, and thanks for stopping by! In two words this blog is all about cooking and creating (and occasionally some other topics I can't help posting about). I'm passionate about plant-based foods, and making cool stuff! If you think we might have something in common, stop by and say hi!
I’ve found myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a three week conference. With my husband’s new job comes a short course learning about how to live in a different culture, balance work and family, deal with expectations, conflict resolution and a host of other useful topics.
One thing I had determined to do was a Thai cooking course. The deal I found? $30 (1000 baht) for pick up and drop off at your hotel, a tour of a local market, cook 6 different dishes of your choice at an organic farm in the country side, tour of the farm and a cookbook. The distance the dollar goes here is unreal. It was amazing value for an amazing day.
Here’s my day in pictures…
Pick up from hotel.
I arrived at their city centre where I met the other students and chose items from the menu. There were 6 different courses and we were able to chose 1 dish each from each course. They were also too happy to accommodate my vegetarian requirement.
Next was a trip to a market in town. During this time Fong told us about popular ingredients in Thai cooking, how they are made and why you would buy certain ingredients over others. We had a few minutes to walk around the market and take photos before hoping back inside the van for the 20 minute ride to the farm.
Fong was our lovely host, driver and instructor. Here she is explaining different types of noodles. This one she explained feels like an alien. The yellow tofu is coloured using turmeric. It’s not for the flavour, just for looks.
As soon as we arrived at the farm everyone was in love with the peaceful, natural and simply furnished place. We walked past some bamboo hammocks which were enjoyed later, to an open air shelter that was set up for a place to eat, prepared the ingredients and cook the food.
Fong then gave us all hats to wear and we started our tour of the farm. We walked along a cute path and stopped in some shade as Fong told us about the ingredients she had in her basket. Most of the ingredients I already knew of, but I now know what fresh ginseng looks like (also know as Root Fingers).
For the first time I was able to see what rice looked like close up. Much like wheat really, it just grows in water. After the tour we started the cooking course. All of the dishes started with preparation, then cooking on the wok, and then eating.
The flavours were incredible. I can’t recommend this course highly enough. Common comments among the group was that it was so quick, easy and obviously delicious (I’ll add extremely delicious).
To top of the day we were given an well illustrated recipe book full of all the recipes, photos and the story of sisters Gay and Moon who started the school (with no rich millionaire boyfriend to help).
I highly recommend this course! You will come away with a repertoire of Thai recipes to impress your family and friends with, and the confidence to cook it to perfection.
I popped by the markets yesterday and practically squealed when I saw some mamas selling flowers. There were so many to choose from, but I settled on a bunch of lotus flowers. The aroma was distinct, rich and fruity.
Mark asked where I was going to put them (as we’re still living out of a suitcase until our container arrives). I already knew!
Mark found a bombshell in our backyard – most likely dating back to WWII when the US had a base here at Vanuatu. Fortunately for the Ni Vatus, while fighting was fierce in the South Pacific, it didn’t reach the shores of Vanuatu.
I didn’t mention that the bunch of flowers cost $2 – another reason to visit the world’s happiest country!
I was stressed as I walking through Bon Marche (the supermarket near our house). The prices were extortionate to say the least! A 2kg bottle of sun dried tomatoes was about $60. My only hope was that the famous Port Vila markets I had stalked as well as I could on Google before I moved here last Sunday were as good and as cheap as they looked.
We landed on Sunday, the only day the 24-hours markets are closed. Monday was a public holiday. Finally Tuesday came and so did the amazing markets that sent my head into a whirl! Imagine walking into an organic market, with fresh fruits and vegetables and walking out with as much produce as you can carry for less than the cost of a foot-long sub. Imagine no longer – this market is this place!
I didn’t take my camera to the markets, but here’s some of the product that I brought home.
In my bag: 1 bunch of mint, 1 bunch of basil, bag of passionfruit (granadilla), bunch of peanuts, spring onion, galanga, bag of limes, 1 coconut for juice, 1 decent size bag of green beans and 1 pomelo.
Pomelo and passionfruit.
I didn’t really know what kind of coconut I was buying – as in, there are different uses depending on how old they are. This one that I bought for 60c was full of coconut water! I attempted to make some coconut milk by blending the water and flesh, but it didn’t really go milky. Next time I’ll get some older coconut that have the harder thicker flesh and blend it with the coconut water. One of my aims out here is to also concoct an awesome coconut ice cream recipe – so watch this space.
Watering some mint and basil in the hope that some roots will shoot and thus be the beginning of my herb garden.
I have no need to buy any bananas. We have about 6 huge bunches of bananas like these in our backyard.
It’s a strange event when you look out the window and see a cruise boat sailing past. I wonder if it will always be so novel. (I hear prices go up when a cruise boat is in town, so perhaps the novelty will wear off).
p.s. Mark and I moved to Vanuatu last Sunday. We’re here for at least 4 years as he works as country director for ADRA – which is a humanitarian organisation. Out here they specialise in water retention, sanitation and are exploring the implementation of permaculture. I’m looking forward to sharing some of ADRA’s fine work out here.
In keeping with my new years resolution to be more practical this year, I’m sharing one of the best tips for home printing (ever!).
Today’s post doesn’t solve all your printing woes, but boy does this take care of a biggy – the supply and cost of ink.
Imagine having big tanks of ink sitting outside your printer with tubes feeding your cartridges an (almost) endless supply of ink. Sound like printing bliss?? Well that’s what CISS is.
How much is it? Well, for the price of a kit you’re probably looking at the cost of purchasing a set of the original brand cartridges. One website calculated I should expect to save $1200. We actually bought a DIY kit from a store in Thailand for $15 including 5 bottles of ink (about 100ml each). They were hesitant for us to buy it as it was rather tricky to set up, but Mark was insistent that he could – and he did. But it took the better half of the day (he could have saved a lot of time buying a kit that was already set up – and we wished we did).
Before you order a CISS kit, read my tips below to save yourself some time and money:
Make sure you buy a kit that is compatible with your printer. Not all printers can use CISS, so if you’re going to buy a printer for this purpose do your research first.
I strongly encourage you to buy replacement ink cartridges with a compatible chip. It must have a chip otherwise you’re expected to pull if off the chip from your old cartridge and put it on the new one. (Our big mistake starting out was that we used Canon’s cartridges. It works, but the cartridges are too high so the lid doesn’t shut fully (we have shorter cartridges coming in the mail). We also have the problem that the chip is telling us the cartridge is empty – when it’s not. So we had to overwrite this by holding down the cancel button.
Watch Youtube videos with the CISS system being installed on your printer. I have a very handy husband who I could fully trust to do this. With our printer we needed to cut some parts of the plastic inside the printer with a soldering iron – you may also have to do this with yours.
Buy the kit assembled. You will find online lot of gear for CISS now. Buy something where you just need to put the ink in the tubs and put the new cartridges in the printer. If you buy the kit unassembled, like us, you might find there is a small opening at one of the joints which means there isn’t a vacuum anymore and ink will start leaking rapidly from your cartridge (this happened to us). We sealed the tubes using a hot glue gun which was a very tricky experience. (Plus I had no idea what was going on with the vacuum, suction, height on things, I was just an assistant doing what I was told!)
I stumbled across CISS when I was looking for “cheap ink” online. This lead me to a forum where one person mentioned CISS. Now that I’ve been using CISS for four months, I’m completely sold on the idea, and can’t ever see myself going back!
Have you been using the continuous ink supply system? What do you think? Or are you now ready to jump on board?!
☆☆☆☆ Find a CISS system for your printer on Amazonhere ☆☆☆☆
Now that you aren’t stressing about your ink supply, check out some of these awesome printables: