Tails and Tales of Thailand: Animals

Happy Friday! Let’s ditch weight loss, health and fitness for today, mmmk? (Just on the blog! It’s an everyday commitment for me!) Thailand is home to millions of exotic animals – from gigantic spiders that I thankfully never saw to regal Asian tigers. This is another photo heavy post, but I hope you enjoy the tails and tales of Thailand!

Tigertummy

Matt and I visited the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For around $75 total, we spent 30 minutes (15 minutes each) with a “small” tiger and a “big” tiger and had a photographer follow us around taking pictures. Here we are with the small tiger – who loved getting his belly rubbed! His hair was more coarse than a house cat but not rough, kind of like a dog with wiry hair.

Tigerbaby

I was missing my kitty girl, so when the trainer told me to lay on the tiger I was like, SURE, why not!? Nevermind that even this baby tiger has paws about as big as my head… He was very sweet and docile and seemed totally accustomed to tourists laying their bodies all over him. Cute lil’ guy! I could nap on him all day!

Tigerbig-bg

This is one of my favorite pictures from our trip. Look at how beautiful this tiger is – the way her eyes glow gold, the exact symmetry of the black stripes across her face, the wonderful white patches around her eyes. She is absolutely stunning! This girl was about 18-months old and more feisty. Our trainer used a simple bamboo stick to warn her if she was getting too close. At one point our eyes locked and she grew a little fidgety – which is when the trainer gave her a gentle nose tap to distract her. Good thing, too, cuz I almost had a little accident in my pants. Locking eyes with a gigantic, powerful tiger is an intense moment!

Tigerorar

Coolest picture ever, right?! Just so you don’t forget what you’re seeing. This is a real tiger… eyes, ears, claws and TEETH! Roar!

cat

One day when I have oodles of money and time, I will start a “Spay Thailand” initiative. We saw HUNDREDS of wild cats and dogs on our trip, and most of them were very friendly but obviously in need of health care, nourishment, etc. This little beauty was very curious about us at a temple. We bought a pouch of Whiskas cat food and fed a bunch of the stray cats – causing this well-fed dog to sneak up, scare away the cats, and eat the rest. Then, he tipped over a container of milk someone had bought for the cats and ate that, too. See below – Brat. (Notice the cigarette butts? While Thailand is a beautiful country, the litter is horrendous. I regularly saw people just throw their cigarette butts and food wrappers onto the streets.)

grossdog

Fish feet

Recognize the Running Jewess? One of the things I had to do in Thailand was the “fish spa”. Tiny fish named “garra fish” eat the dead skin off of your feet. It’s not an unpleasant sensation, but I definitely had the heebejeebes at first. My feet were super soft, though! Matt described it as “Wearing fish boots”.

Centipede

This centipede was nearly the creepiest thing we saw in Thailand, even creepier than the small black snake we saw as we hiked through the jungle. (The snake was kinda cute – it zigzagged in a spiral pattern!) Look at this nasty milipede! Yuck!

Butterfly

Not all insects are gross, see?! This beauty was captured at the Chiang Mai Orchid Farm.

Bewaremonkeys

Monkeys are vicious beasts! Stay away! (Right?)

Monkeybeach┬áNobody paid attention to that sign, as you can see. These little guys were not at all afraid of people, and would often tug on your shirt or purse to see if you’d hook it up with a snack. I fed a monkey at a temple and he was … odd. He gripped my arm with his little hand and gave me this sad look like “You haz more food?”. I did not.

Oxen

Before we rode elephants, we rode oxen! I felt bad for these guys because they were constantly dripping snot and boogers, and their yoke did not look comfortable. Made for a cool photo, though. We bought them some sugar cane half way through as a sweet treat.

Standingele

Even though my elephant riding experience was ruined, I love these photos. When else will you get to ride a giant elephant? We had ethical concerns about riding an elephant because of the damage to the elephant’s health and the stress it places on their back, but we ended up doing it anyways. Not the most shining example of humanity, but it was an amazing experience.

Elephants

Going in the water was actually mildly terrifying. Elephants are tall, water is cold, and that rickety wooden basket isn’t too sturdy.

Trunk

Wheeeee!

PaintingEle

Have you ever seen an elephant paint? They get some guidance from their mahout, but they can paint flowers, christmas trees, elephants and other things.

beeeAnd last but not least, a Thai bee on a lotus flower, because y’all know I love bees! That’s it for now – next week I’ll show some of my favorite places, like the hot springs and Tiger Temple. What an amazing trip! I hope you’re having a great day, but for now, what’s next on your travel list? For me, it’s Africa!

***PS – Thank you to everyone who entered the Chike Giveaway! Our winner is Denise S. If you didn’t win, have no fear! In the next month we’re giving away a Kalorie Box, a week of Diet to Go meals, AND a Thailand Souvenier gift pack from yours truly!

Mastering the Art of Thai Cooking

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Thailand was that I’ve always been enchanted by the food. Thai food is a delicate blend of tangy coconut milk, sweet palm sugar, sharp kaffir lime leaves, gently cooked fresh vegetables, and the hot ‘pow’ of chili pepper. The right chicken satay or spicy green curry will change your life. Needless to say, I found it perfectly appropriate to plan a vacation based on what I’d like to eat most; so, our trip to Thailand was born. (Psssst – that means another trip to the deep South is next. You didn’t think I’d lose all this weight and then not gain it back, right?! Kidding… kidding!)

Pad See Ew - Wide noodles with egg, chicken, carrots, chinese Kale, broccoli and chili.

Pad See Ew – Wide noodles with egg, chicken, carrots, chinese Kale, broccoli and chili.

I knew that I absolutely had to take a cooking class while in Thailand, and even contemplated a thai cooking retreat, where I’d spend three or four days studying under a master chef. (Yes, my fantasy of being on Iron Chef might have something to do with this.) We decided a one day course was much more reasonable, and ended up with Ann at Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We opted to do the Organic Farm tour for several reasons – I love knowing where my food comes from, I’m a big nerd for gardening, and I was totally down to gorge myself on tasty thai while relaxing around a beautiful farm.

Vegetables in a Thai market

Vegetables in a Thai market

We started out with a trip to a local market, where Ann showed us common Thai ingredients and how to choose the right amount, type and texture. I loved seeing the rows and rows of vegetables stacked high and the giant bins of rice, from kinds marked “broken” that the Thai feed their pets, to expensive and exotic black grain rice. One of my favorite details was seeing a wild dog sneak up on the meat vendor and try to grab a piece of tripe off the table. The vendor responded (with experience, I’m sure) by flinging a handful of ice cubes at the dog’s back. It wasn’t cruel, but more of one of those, “Oh, just another day at the market” type things that gave me a laugh.

A running jewess and a double chin walk into a bar...

A running jewess and a double chin walk into a bar…

While we listened to Ann talk about Galangal, the Thai pink ginger, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Assuming it was my husband, I swiveled around into a familiar face. “I love your blog!” she said. My mouth dropped open. What? Blog? Thailand? Huh? A stream of discombobulated thoughts ran through my head and then I put it together – it was Michelle from the Running Jewess, whom I had met at Fitbloggin’ several months earlier! The world is truly a small, small place. When Matt and I backpacked Europe straight out of high school, we ran into two of our friends at Stonehenge, and then again at the Louvre. The fact that I ran into Michelle at a tiny, local market in some random part of Thailand blows my mind. We met up later for dinner and drinks and had a grand time discussing the great idiosyncracies of Thai culture.

Thai Long Gourd

Thai Long Gourd

After the market, we headed to the farm where we learned about which plants grow well in Thailand and how to harvest them. One of my favorites was the thai long gourd, which is almost like a type of cucumber. Can you imagine growing these suckers? I think I’d make the neighborhood kids play baseball with them!

After the farm tour, it was time to cook! We suited up on our stylin’ pink aprons and got to work. I chose to make spring rolls, tom ka gha (coconut soup), green curry, pad see ew, and banana in coconut milk. Coconut soup has always been my unicorn of thai cooking – something mystical and mysterious. But, I think I can safely say I’ve mastered it, and the secret is something some Americans might not like – fish sauce. That’s right – stinky, salty fish sauce – essentially anchovy juice. YUM! But hey – it tastes delicious.

Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 12.37.18 AM

It was fun deep frying the spring rolls because anytime you mix Americans and explosives, things get wild. As the pans bubbled with oil, you could hear the hoots around the table as we all watched our spring rolls bloom from bloated burritos to crispy, golden rolls of goodness. They were actually really simple to make, once you get the hang of folding them. (Think envelope, not burrito!)

We rocked the spring roll frying.

We rocked the spring roll frying.

The item that I had the most difficulty making was green curry. Green curry is the spiciest of all thai curries, because it uses fresh and not dried chilies. We made our own curry paste by pounding chili, coriander, pepper, turmeric and galangal in a mortar and pestle. You have to really pound the pestle up and down to get everything smooth – it’s quite a bit of energy. Our funny teacher Ann asked the class why a thai wife who can make curry paste well is a good wife. Can you figure out why? (Not surprisingly, I was the first person to blurt out the answer. Aren’t you proud, Mom?) Not only was the chili paste a pain to make, but getting the ratio of coconut milk to fish sauce was tough, as there’s no “exact” measurement for either. It all relies on taste, and as someone who prefers my fish red and gummy, I was scared to go all trout-y on my curry. I proceeded with caution and was rewarded with a “delicious!” by the teacher, who then winked and said I was a “good Thai wife.” (PS – The Thai say, “more spicy, more sexy.” So if you want to learn to be a good Thai wife too, just eat some curry.)

Pounding chilies. Image borrowed from eHow.com.

We sampled our meals as we went, and by the time we deep fried our spring rolls, my belly was protesting. We saved the last three courses for the grand feast and eventually sat down with curry, coconut soup and dessert. I wasn’t crazy about the dessert I made, stewed bananas in coconut milk, but Matt rocked my world with homemade mango sticky rice. It was delicccccious. This was one of my favorite days in Thailand, because it combined tons of things I love – food, cooking, gardening, nature, shopping, my husband and lots of chatting. We met people from Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Australia, and by the time we got to the “good wife” jokes, everyone was feeling relaxed and in vacay bliss.

A happy and full Asia Scenic cooking class

A happy and full Asia Scenic cooking class

Now! It wouldn’t be fair to share this experience without sharing it with some of you. I came armed from Thailand with an Asia Scenic cook book, so I’m going to share one of the recipes with you. Please vote for which recipe you’d like to learn, and I’ll re-create it on the blog next week, even with substitution ingredients if you can’t find certain things in your local market. Have an amazing weekend – and let’s get cookin’!

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Random Thursday Thoughts

Hi guys! Um – Tomorrow I’m going to THAILAND! I am so excited it’s not even funny. The past week has been a flurry of packing, cleaning, getting travel shots and little errands here and there. It will be so nice to just relax for two weeks with no thoughts of thesis or work or chores or any of that! That said, I have a line up of amazing guest bloggers for you guys, so please be sure to come back and keep reading the Double Chin Diary while I’m gone. Show them some comment love! I’ll also check in once or twice with some pictures!

So, after a 1 pound gain, my total for the goal of Thailand Twenty is that I lost a total of 10.6 pounds! I’m disappointed it’s not twenty, but realistically, 10 pounds is great! 10 pounds is a lot! I’m not going to “give up” on my trip, but ease up a little bit on what I’m eating – because everybody deserves a vacation. Plus, Matt and I have a lot of activity planned – like hiking ancient temples in Chiang Mai, snorkelling in the crystal waters of Krabi and strolling through the streets of Bangkok. I’ll actually probably be a lot more active on this trip than I am during my usual 8-5.

Here’s a couple random thoughts I had this week:

photo 2[1]I struggled this week with Holiday eating. When I saw this giant ice cream cone, I had to take a picture because I feel like this week I’ve been a bottomless pit. I saw this and the first thing I thought was “YES. ROCKY ROAD.” I used to be obsessed with icecream, but now I’ll buy a tub and it sits in our freezer for weeks until it’s so freezerburned I have to throw it out. But my sugar cravings this week were through the roof – probably from doing low-carb for a few weeks.

 

Rocking a doggy dalmation print.

Rocking a doggy dalmation print.

I feel like despite my struggles with my weight, I’ve gotten more bold about clothing choices thanks to people like The Curvy Fashionista. Remember a couple months ago I blogged about how I’d love to own this dalmation sweater? Well, I was at Old Navy with pal Sally and I thought, why the heck not?! Here I am rockin’ it, and feeling good. It’s funny that I felt “wild” in something as simple as a dalmation print sweater, but I felt confident in it and was proud I took a step out of my fashion comfort zone.A couple of years ago I would have never worn skinny jeans, calf boots OR a dalmation print sweater. So yes, woohoo for fashion risks!

 

Balance Ball Chair!

Balance Ball Chair!

Santa came early this year because of our trip, and look what Santa (Matt) brought me! Since I work from home I can be a little more unique with my workspace, and I was dying to try one of these balance balls. I feel like I have a weak core, and I know this chair will help make me strong like a tree trunk. Plus, who doesn’t want their very own bouncy ball?! When I get back I’ll give a full report on how my new bubble-butt chair is treating me.

 

Showing off my chike and purple manicure!

Showing off my chike and purple manicure!

And lastly… when I get back, I have a great giveaway coming up from Chike! I recently tried Chike’s chocolate meal replacement shake, and dang, this stuff was good. You know how most powdered drinks have that chalky kind of grainy thing going on? Not this one. I mixed it with some cold milk and it was almost like drinking a milk shake. Works for me! So stay tuned and at the new year we’ll have a great giveaway package from them!

Well guys – I’m out! Thanks so much for reading! It means a lot to me and April to know that we’re not alone on our journey and that you’re out there cheering us on. I hope you have an amazing holiday season!

xoxoxoxox

 

 

Thailand Tuesday, Week 9

I’m so excited I can’t even say Hi first. This week…

I lost 5.2 pounds

Um, YEAH! That’s MAJOR. That’s probably the most weight I’ve ever lost in my life. (Slight hyperbole). But in a week? Definitely up there with the most weight I’ve ever lost in a week. There were some major things that contributed to this major loss, like –

I miss you everyday, Leo!

1) Grief. I was a sad sap from Tuesday through Friday and had to force myself to eat. So, a lot of this is probably water weight, but my calories were greatly reduced.

2) I’m low-carbing it up. Before everyone gets their pitch forks and battering rams ready, I’m not going low-carb for life or even an extended amount of time. I just wanted to see what would happen if I cut out all “junk carbs” in my life like crackers, sugar, certain breads, etc. Evidently this made a major difference. I’ve been eating way more protein which is hard for me because I’m not a big meat eater, but I can feel it because I’m not nearly as snacky or hungry during the day. I’m also focusing more on “good fats” like avocado and olive oil.

So – Wow! I’m a lot closer to my Thailand Tuesday goal today than I thought I would be. Next week’s weigh in will be interesting, because there is a possibility of regain since probably a fair amount of this was just drastic calorie reduction from my lack of eating. (Interesting factoid: A couple of years ago, any extreme emotion I felt – joy, sadness, grief, anger – would lead me to eat. I knew I was changing emotionally when I found those extreme emotions would take away my hunger. Such a big change for me, but one I’d rather have. A bag of chips does not soothe a complicated life, at least not for the long term.)

But – We’ve been feeling better and looking forward to eventually giving a great home to another cat in need, just like we did for Leo. We’re not rushing it and there will certainly never be a replacement, but pets can only bring joy in our family.

How are you doing today? What’s affecting your day? I hope you’re having a great one.

Thailand 20 Tuesday – Week 4

Hello Friends:
I didn’t really know how to approach this week’s weigh in – because while there was a lot I did right this week, it was kind of a weird week. I didn’t go overboard on anything, but I got tied up and didn’t track on MyFitnessPal for two days, and then I exercised and was active but took it down a notch over the weekend because I was sad (my cousin passed away unexpectedly this weekend. Bummer. A reminder for all of us to live our lives with purpose because you really truly never know when your number is going to be called.) So, I’m not altogether surprised that I didn’t hit 2 pounds down, but I’m not devastated either – because I hit 1 pound down. I know what I need to fix for next week – which as usual – is more cardio. I’m behind on my goal but I feel good about keeping consistent with my weigh-ins and definitely making more progress than I was before. I try and think that even if the scale isn’t showing what I want, I’m noticing other things – like more energy from working out, or my jeans feeling a little bit looser. And hey – a pound lost is a pound lost – so that’s great!

Here are some of the weight loss high points from this week:

Cucumber and Tomato Feta Salad

1) I ate TONS of veggies this week. This was a yummy and simple cucumber, tomato and feta salad with some green bell peppers. So good and so filling.

A nice sunset stroll in my snazzy new workout jacket.

On the day we got news of my cousin Josh passing, I didn’t want to work out – but Matt and I took a nice sunset stroll through the park. It was lowkey and we ended up clocking in a 3 mile walk – just enough to make me feel a little bit better and burn up a small sweat.

Very Veggie Pasta


I had a craving for spaghetti on Sunday night but knew that the way we usually make it (ground beef, wine, olive oil) would be too fattening. So I did half the amount of ground beef, a tsp of olive oil, and EIGHT different kinds of vegetables. It came out amazing – super chunky and filling but chock full of veggies, so I needed very few noodles. So good.

This next week is going to be interesting as I’m getting on a plane Friday to head to Josh’s funeral – so I’ll be surrounded by family and food. I’ll need to remember not to eat my emotions! How is your week going?

Thailand 20 Tuesday – Week 3

Hello everybody! Hard to believe my third week of Thailand 20 Tuesday has come and gone. Lately I look at the calendar and think “WHERE DID 2012 GO?!” It’s been pretty wild how time keeps going faster and faster. I’m happy to report this week I lost 1.8 pounds! While it’s not quite my weekly goal of 2, it’s damn close and that’s just fine with me.

Last week I had a couple of things that helped me stay on track – like exercise! Here I am after an hour-long bootcamp class. I wanted to quit so many times, because this class was HARD – cardio, and then intense weight lifting in intervals. But each time I wanted to quit, I reminded myself that everything I’ve accomplished in my life has always been filled with those moments where you just want to stop. But you don’t stop – you keep going, and then eventually, that long, hard battle comes to an end and the victory is even sweeter.

I also ate pretty clean this week. Matt and I enjoyed delicious and rustic meals like grilled chicken breasts and roasted vegetables. I love meals like this because I can eat as many vegetables as I want!

I really focused on the protein this week. A lot of you know I’m not a big meat eater, and I probably eat vegetarian 80% of the week. I really tried to make sure I got protein somehow this week – like tonight, where in addition to three pieces of bacon (yummy), I made an egg white omelet packed with lots of fresh veggies. The egg whites help me get up there in the protein, and because it’s not meat, I don’t have that heavy feeling after. (PS: Breakfast for dinner? WINNER!)

This week I need to kick up the exercise even more, and stay focused on eating clean. There’s a few challenges in my way, like Halloween, but I’m determined to keep this trend moving downwards! Tomorrow, April has a great Halloween post about self-confidence, and then pretty soon we’ve got a chance for you to win a fancy new bra from our friends over at FullBeauty. I’ve also got a great review of my rad new scale from the kind people at EatSmart. Lots going on in Double Chin land! As always, thank you for reading – we wouldn’t be here without you! <3