One Week To Go

Good Morning!

We are officially one week away from moving into the villa! Woo Hoo’s all around. It’s been a long process and by this time next week we will have moved out of the Portland house exactly 4 months ago. We are really excited to have our “stuff” back. It’s funny, I feel that I’ve definitely learned what I can live without and that we can probably stand to downsize a bit. However, I’m still more than glad to have some of my creature comforts back. It will be nice to be able to cook with some proper equipment. Although I did make a cake without measuring anything and at least it was edible.

We’ve been to the house several times to make our requests and to get the layout. I stopped by the other day to make final requests & there were no less than 20 workers buzzing around doing things.

On our side, we’ve got our furniture on standby ready to be delivered from the various shops. I did splurge and purchase a dishwasher yesterday. When I say splurge, I mean it. I won’t tell you how much a luxury item like a dishwasher cost because it’s a bit embarrassing. I wasn’t going to do it but  after talking to some friends & Tony, I was convinced that it will make life so much easier and we’ll probably be able to sell it when we move.  I know that there will be a lot that has to be purchased & done once we move in. For those things, I’m just making a list and will just pick things up slowly.

I will miss certain things about this apartment but not the crazy elevators that take forever. Sometimes in the morning, you have to give yourself an extra 5 minutes to go from our floor to the lobby.  We’ve definitely made ourselves at home in the apartment and it will take me some time to pack everything back up into the suitcases next week.  I feel a bit bad for Nutmeg as she has one more move to do and doesn’t even realize it. I hope she likes the new house.

I’ve taken some “before” pictures of the house but will post lots more once we’re moved in and things are in place. Keep in mind in most of the pictures, everything’s covered in a layer of dust & dirt.

Our front gate

Our front gate

The living room into the dining room as seen from the front garden doors

The living room into the dining room as seen from the front garden doors

The living room seen from the dining room

The living room seen from the dining room

On the upstairs landing

On the upstairs landing

Enjoy the rest of your week!



Victory in Shopping

Hi All,

This is not a real post, just an excuse to tell you about my victory in shopping yesterday!

So, Tony & Bailey have fallen in love with Cahn Chua Tom (Sour Soup). We learned how to make it in our last cooking class and then had it again at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant last weekend. I decided that I would make it at home since it’s easy, flavorful and healthy. This meets all of my requirements for a do again and again dish.

I knew that finding the ingredients would be easiest at a local market rather than a supermarket.  Since I was heading into District 1 anyway, I decided that a trip to Ben Thanh market was the place to go. Now, this place can be crazy and I’ve never been by myself, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.  After making a plan with Mr. Khoung about how to find him again (remember, this place is huge with multiple entrances), I set out.

I spent a few minutes wandering around just looking at the shops. Since it was a Tuesday morning, it was mostly locals and not a lot of tourists. I had a few “madams” but nothing too crazy. After getting my bearings, I made my way to the vegetable section. I found a stall that was selling the elephant ear stems I needed and started the process of shopping. The stall owner didn’t speak English and my Vietnamese is limited to please & thank you. There was a lot of pointing and head nodding on both parts. I handed her my shopping list that I had written in Vietnamese and she gathered all of my ingredients. I didn’t understand what she was saying when it came time to pay so I whipped out my phone and she punched in the number on my calculator. The total came to a whopping 30,000 Dong (about $1.50). I walked out feeling pretty pumped! I then attempted to find a specific stall to pick up some t-shirts for my friend Leslie (found them). While talking with the stall owner, she commented on my ingredients & knew exactly what I was making by looking in my bag. I’d like to think she was impressed but she was probably just buttering me up so I’d buy just one more t-shirt.

I wasn’t sure how the soup would turn out compared to what we made in class. I’ll say that with just a minor tweak for next time, it was pretty delicious. I know it’s good when Bailey wants to take the leftovers for lunch the next day. Success!!!

If you’re wiling to try it, I’ll include the recipe below. Most of the ingredients you can probably find in your regular market or your local Asian market.

Soup soup Cahn Chua Tom (prawns) or Cahn Chua Ca (fish)  Recipe from Saigon Cooking class

1.5 liters water

140 grams Elephant Ear Stem

120 grams Okra

12 prawns or equivalent of a firm white fish

120 grams bean sprouts

2 Roma tomatoes

1 cup pineapple, cut up into chunks

100 grams Tamarind paste

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nuoc Mam)

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

Rice Paddy herb (Rau Om)

Saw tooth Coriander or regular Cilantro

 *If you can find Elephant Ear, peel and cut on the bias. I’ve also seen recipes that call for mushrooms instead to give the same type of texture.

Cut each tomato into 6 wedges and peel skin if desired

Cut okra on the bias. Cut elephant ear or mushrooms, okra and pineapple into chunks about ½ inch.

Sauté the garlic in a small amount of cooking oil (not olive) until fragrant. Add the water and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, dissolve your tamarind paste into the boiling water. If your paste has seeds, then put the tamarind in a strainer set into the water and stir the tamarind until dissolved then pull out the seeds.

Add in the elephant ear/mushrooms, okra, prawns, bean sprouts, pineapple and tomatoes. Bring back to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes until prawns are cooked.

Season the soup with the fish sauce & sugar. You can add salt to taste but bear in mind that your fish sauce added a salt component so be careful!

Add the herbs to  individual bowls and ladle the hot soup over.


Happy cooking and let me know if you try it.


First Week, Staying Strong

Hey Bailey here! I haven’t written on the blog in forever! I just wanted to give you guys a quick update about how I’m doing in school. On my first day, I was so so nervous. I had gone running that morning and my heart was pounding so hard even after I stopped running. I didn’t really talk at all the first 2 days of school, I didn’t even raise my hand! If you know me, thats quite a shocker. 

I finally opened up a little bit, made some friends, and started to learn my way around the school. So far, my favourite classes are history, science, English, and French (in no particular order).

I made some friends who apparently also live in Xi Apartments, which makes hanging out very convenient. 

I also learned some things in my Vietnamese class at school! (I would type it but there is no accents on the computer that I know of). I am also doing French. Bon jour Je me appelle Bailey. French is lots of fun because I’m only in a class with 6 other kids. I’m in the ‘I don’t know any French so I need to learn as much in 1 year as others would in 2 or 3’ French class. But it’s really individualized so I like it. 

So far, school is very good.


Meow! Nutty typing! I used to see Bailey everyday, but now, she leaves in the morning and comes back at 3:00. What is even going on? I tried to tell them I didn’t like it by meowing profusely, but everyone just thinks I’m hungry, (not that extra food is a bad thing). I rub against Bailey’s legs but she just sits on the couch reading a big book and writing stuff. Silly humans, don’t they know that cats are more important than anything in this house? Oh well, wish me luck on getting attention. 


Till next time, Bailey and Nutmeg