Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birthday in Cambodia

We got to try a typical Spanish restaurant for my birthday, (not Mexican). By "typical" I mean even the name was Típico. ;) Literally.Of course, my favorite part was the churros!!!
I guess I don't look very happy here, but I was! So many nice people wrote me birthday messages. I think my birthday is one time I really see the myriad of places and people who've touched my life.
The kids loved churros too. Big surprise. 
Even Ben who hardly ever likes chocolate had a few. I think he might've preferred cheese to chocolate on them. 
And my awesome boss got me a birthday cake!
I know that I'm blessed more than I deserve and I appreciate all of the ways my family and friends made my birthday special.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mother's Day: Cajun Food in Cambodia

May is a busy month in the family I grew up in. 5 of us have birthdays in May and all of those 5 are also in mother roles, making it a double celebration month! When abroad, that means I miss everyone in May, though.
As I grew up with a Cajun father, Ben thought it would be great to go to a restaurant that was offering gumbo for Mother's Day only. Alma's Cafe in Phnom Penh was a welcome find when we first arrived in Cambodia from Mexico! The owner's are from Mexico (wife) and New Orleans (husband) so they have quite a range of flavor to offer. In addition, they often partner with ethical NGO's who offer a variety of services and products so you never know what cool thing will be around when you visit. It's a great place to go when we're really missing Spanish and Mexico in general.

Ben and all of the kids took me out for this special meal for Mother's Day. Ezra tore the gumbo up! (As well as some quesadillas...) The Cajun side of my family thinks that he's the most Cajun-looking of my kids, and apparently his taste buds followed that pattern also.
 I'm grateful for my family. I love my husband and all of my children. They have helped me grow in character and added so much love and meaning to my life. I'm thankful to be a mother.
If you like Cajun food, check out these seasonings. If you get any of them, we might get enough to buy half a container of filé... they're delicious, and worth sharing with you regardless.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bananas, Weddings and the Conflict Between Tradition and Progress

Though Cambodians think we're weird to usually have bread (toast) with breakfast, they often enjoy it for a snack. Usually the bakeries around here offer jam and "sweetened condensed beverage creamer" to go on the baguettes. Ben got some for the kids to try.
I have to admit, "beverage creamer" sounds disgusting and I don't think I would ever buy it again. It was super sweet, so the kids enjoyed it of course! Ben is great about trying new things and finding new experiences for the kids to remember a country by.
I think one of the kids, probably Ezra, stuck something in this fan while it was running... the casualty fan blades lie broken in the bottom of the protective screen. We keep trying to flag down the fan guy when he rides through trying to sell replacement fan parts on his motorcycle. He has a pole sticking up on the back of his bike full of fan blades, but he speeds through so quickly, we haven't caught him yet.
I finally caught a sweet smile from this chubby, love bug. She's such a sweet baby. She has learned how to roll, so now we're always holding her or sitting by her on a bed or couch so she doesn't hit the floor. Sometimes I put a blanket on the floor, but there are so many critters I'd hate to have something bite her. One thing that comes in often looks like a big black centipede. They're creepy and the Cambodians say that they have a bad bite. We try to flush them any time we find one and the flusher is working, otherwise we seal them in the trash outside!
For Khmer New Year our neighbors were so kind and gave us tons of bananas and mangoes. With so many bananas, I had to find a way to use them up. These aren't usually the typical Cavendish banana, but a version I've heard called "apple banana" because of their firmer texture and slightly different flavor. I used a normal banana bread recipe from online, but modified it to make it cheaper: using no eggs, less flour and oil. I gave some to all of the neighbors and made Ezra's birthday cake with it. I've made 13 batches of the stuff, just to get rid of all of the bananas! This is the cheaper recipe I've come to use:
3 cups blended bananas with a little bit of oil (we're trying to use them up, right!?)
3/4 cup of brown sugar (white sugar makes it burn on top before it's done in the middle)
1 teaspoon of salt
a dash of cinnamon
a dash of vanilla powder
a teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of flour (If you use rice flour, half that because it absorbs more liquid.) 

The neighbors liked it so much that now any time they have a batch of not-green bananas like they like them, they give them to me to make into banana bread. Some have asked for the recipe and said I should start a bakery. I'm thinking, give them the recipe and when we leave they can buy the toaster oven and begin a bakery themselves. I think I'll be fine not seeing another apple banana in my life if I don't have to. :)

There was a wedding at the end of our neighborhood by a major intersection. Traffic had to divert in honor of tradition. The neighbors with a vehicle were stuck on this end of the neighborhood until the wedding finished. They were nice and pushed the tables and chairs over so I could get to work the next morning.  On the plus side, our street was safer for kids to play on. The people having this wedding decided to take the tent down after one day and have the rest of the celebration in a restaurant. We were relieved because it makes it so much easier to get out of the neighborhood, but it does make me wonder about how Cambodians are coping with the changing times and their traditions. Even on major highways wedding tents are set up covering a good portion of the road and can last for several days. Guests come wearing fancy, embroidered clothing and eat with the bride and grooms family. Each person just sets up a tent in front of where they live. In the past, before cars were available here, this was just a minor inconvenience as the smaller motorcycles and bikes can get through, but as the middle class grows and cars become more and more common along with more and more weddings or funerals or other occasions calling for tents in the road, it gets increasingly difficult to get around. I'm sure it will get sorted out over the next 50 years or so, but until then, we get to explore new roads and ways to get around.