Homemade Yogurt

Over October break, I travelled to Pai. I met a Swedish guy there who owns a bakery/sandwich shop. I was telling him how I used to make my own bread, hummus, and things. He gave me a great idea, make your own yogurt! The yogurt here is delicious, but like Jade said recently, it’s because it’s full of sugar. He has been making some of his own yogurt lately, but this method is just a but different.

Use 1/2 of a yogurt cup.

I would buy plain, 0% fat, reduced sugar yogurt. If you can find no sugar at all, all the better. The brand Yolida is sugar-free and it is sold at Tops in Central. The dark blue Bulgaria is a reduced sugar version and it’s sold at most of the chain stores.

1 liter of milk.

I’ve seen some good quality milk in Tops, Tesco, and Family Mart. Again, the less fat in your milk, the less fat in your yogurt.

Bring the milk to 82 degrees Celsius. Use a thermometer.

Be careful not to burn the milk by doing this very slowly. I would suggest using a double boil method. Use a base pot to heat water, and a metal bowl on top of the water to hold the milk. Stir constantly.

Turn off the heat. Cool to 46 degrees Celsius.

This should take two to three hours. If it’s not particularly warm outside when you are making this, you might need to wrap the container in a towel to keep the temperature from declining too quickly.

Add yogurt and stir.

1/2 cup will be plenty.

Bottle and cool.

You can use the liter milk container to put this mixture into. Let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. Check the firmness frequently by tilting the bottle. Be careful not to let it sit out for too long, as it can spoil in this stage. Always do a smell or small taste test before enjoying.


Put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or until the whole bottle has cooled.

Save a bit of this yogurt.

You can continue making your own yogurt with the yogurt you just made! You only need to buy some more milk to do the whole thing all over again.

Say cheese.

I’m not sure where cheesecloth is available, but you can go even farther and make cheese. Squeeze your yogurt through a cheesecloth and store the curd in the refrigerator overnight. Stir it from time to time so it does not harden on the outside.

Music Collections

I know many of you bought a laptop when you came here. If you didn’t bring a hard drive with your vault of tunes, might I suggest a tedious yet worthwhile venture. It’s nice to have music in case WiFi isn’t available. You might also want a song to play for your students, with most classrooms lacking WiFi.

Find the song you want on YouTube. Copy and paste the URL into this nifty website. http://www.youtube-mp3.org/

Save it to your computer. In iTunes or your respective music organizing software, upload the file. Done! This particular website, favored by me because of its reliability, only allows you to convert a video that is less than 20 minutes in length.

I’m sure there are a plethora of others, some which might let you do the full album, though that means you can’t separate the tracks without skimming through. Some converters will even let you convert to mp4. All those “full” compilations and movies on YouTube seem even more appealing now.

Health Benefits of Fruit Found in Thailand

There is no shortage of fruit in Thailand, and each have numerous health benefits. You might be missing bread, cheese, wine, and salsa but you can (try to) trade in those cravings for something much, much better for you. These are my top 5. I love fruit. I love Thailand.

Papaya was called “the fruit of angels” by Christopher Columbus. He might not have got all things right, but I’m on his side on this one. Papaya is also known for having papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. It’s strongest when the fruit is unripe. Som Tom with marinated pork or barbequed chicken… Genius.

Mangoes are said to be great for clearing skin, helping with digestion, boosting the immune system, and lowering your cholesterol. They are a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Also, if you juice a green mango, drinking it with water and a sweetener, you can apparently remedy heat stroke. I would argue that eating it with sweet sticky rice makes it a little less than half as healthy.

Bananas – Do you teach Anuban? Do you need a seratonin booster? Eat some bananas. Are you hitting the gym after school? Need energy before and muscle cramp relief after? Eat some bananas. Got the runs? Did I just say that? Eat some bananas.

Mangosteens, the Queen of Fruits. Get these things while they’re hot. I’m not sure what that yellow stuff growing on them is all about, though. She’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries, containing some of the most potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds in nature.

Coconuts can kill you if one decides to fall on your head. We should all remember this. Coconuts can also save you from being dehydrated as well as help you take the Cosby kids to the pool.

Little Library

If anyone is getting tired of their Kindle or other such device, I have quite a few books in print. I have not read all of them, so I might ask for the book back when you finish it, but I’m happy to play library.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven – Sherman Alexie

Finding George Orwell in Burma – Emma Larkin

All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann

The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Shining – Stephen King

Bodily Harm – Margaret Atwood

The Help – Catherine Stockett

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence – Robert M. Pirsig

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Wild Ducks Fly Backwards – Tom Robbins

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe

East, West – Salman Rushdie

The Madonna of Excelsior – Zakes Mda

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

I Drink For a Reason – David Cross

The Irish Way – Robert Emmett Ginna

Hell’s Angels – Hunter S. Thompson

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama

I also have a variety of travel books on Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.


I love decorating, but being in Thailand only temporarily makes me wary of purchasing anything too big or too heavy. If it’s your walls, however, that are telling you that they are lonely, I may have a solution for you.

The Mathus crew (khrū, hehe) calls the Pier, the “Beer Pier.” I think we all know where it is, but if not, just sniff out the beer. Alright, Alright, just for the newcomers… Heading away from the bridge on Nam Muang, make a left when the road becomes a one way, aka you cannot go straight without darting in between traffic more than the pros we’ve come to watch out for. At the next intersection, make a right. The pier is on the left past a few fruit stands.

So across the street from this pier, on the right side of Sweet Kitchen if you’re looking at it, there’s a great book store that has a large selection of posters. They also sell school and art supplies. From academic posters to the royal family and more, there is surely something in there that would look handsome in your home. Since mailing substantial weight is expensive, consider mailing your friends or family a fun Thai poster describing all of the Thai herbs… in Thai!

I haven’t been inside, but there is another book store on the corner of Rajutid and Chom Kasem. It would be on the left if you were travelling down Rajutid towards Chon Kasem.

I spotted another gem of a store on Talad Mai, shortly past Wat Pho on the left. They sell real paintings, in a plethora of subjects, advertised for 600 baht. Not sure if that was a sale, or a price for a specific piece or size, but it’s worth a peek!


Up To Brew!

Thai food is renowned as one of the best cuisines in the world. Thai beer… not so much. It would certainly be an understatement to say Thai beer isn’t that great. To be fair, when it’s frigid, it’s drinkable. But Singha, Leo, and worst of all, Chang, are not exactly fantastic lagers to indulge in. So what to do when you need a beer fix?…

You could always take a trip out to Tops at Central and pick up some Weinstephaner brews, a dark Beer Lao, or a Cooper’s Pale Ale. Even a Heineken or a Tiger will be a big step up from the national beers here. The import selection is not actually that bad. But there’s another, even better alternative.

Make your own.

Jade, Dave, and I recently acquired a full set of brewing equipment along with some supplies to get started, thus unofficially establishing the Up To Brew Co. We bought the equipment off another teacher in town who has a wealth of beer knowledge and brewing advice he’s also shared with us. A few months in, and we’ve brewed up a hoppy brown ale, a spiced pumpkin ale, and a peach wheat beer, and we’ve got a recently finished honey chestnut brew ready to drink as well. The wheat beer is the best we’ve brewed up so far, actually a quite fantastic beer. But even the others have been a huge improvement over drinking the Thai stuff. We’re learning quickly and mastering the process, and I fully expect our beers to continue getting even better. Next up we’ll likely brew up a hefeweizen, an Oktoberfest marzen, a pale ale, and/or a coffee porter.

My mouth started watering just typing that. Now I’ve gotta go savor a Peach Wheat and order some ingredients to keep the good stuff flowing.

Black Beans!

The big crockpot from Central is the best investment I’ve made in a while, particularly since I like black beans a lot. Get one, and then follow this recipe:

600 g black beans (2 of the 300g packages from Tops @ Central)
2 – 2.5 liters of water
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin (or more, if you like it)

Dump all of the above in the crockpot and set it to high and let it cook for 6 hours. If you cook it on low, leave it for 8-10 hours. If this is your first time making it, you might want to check it periodically to make sure there’s enough water.

Towards the end, sautee all or part of the following:

2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small carrot, diced
2 small long peppers, sliced (these look like pale green jalapenos, taste them to see how spicy they are)
1 chipotle pepper (if you’re lucky and prudent enough to have a can of these in Surat)

Sautee them lightly and quickly in some olive oil just to start them going. Then dump them in the crockpot along with 2 tbsp white vinegar, 2 tsp salt, and some black pepper. Let them cook for 30 min on high, then they’ll be done. For best results, pack them in tupperware and refrigerate overnight.

You can also add all kinds of good stuff like oregano, cinnamon, birds eye peppers, etc. I like to add some lime and cilantro on top right before I eat them.

Book Review: Half the Sky — by Shelby

I love the feel of a real book, but being abroad, having hundreds of books at your fingertips in the form of a thin, twelve inch screen is phenomenal.  It’s the greatest gift I could have been given.

Recently, my Kindle received an influx of more books than I could possibly even know what they were about.

I had just recently finished yet another book by Paolo Coehlo, who always seems to dazzle and confuse me.  The internet was not working at school, and I decided to go with the book that had the prettiest title, and the least old, stuffy author attached to it.

Skipping over Oscar Wilde and Hemingway (who I know wasn’t stuffy, but alcoholic misogynist he was…), I landed on Half the Sky.  I originally confused it with a book that I read before traveling to Thailand, entitled, Beyond the Sky and Earth, about a teacher’s experience in Bhutan.  (Also, a great read.)

However, I quickly learned how wrong I was.  If you love to continue educating yourself on topics of the world, this book is something you can’t skip over.  If you love sociology, anthropology, or want to make a difference in this world, this book will change your life.

It’s full of facts about the inequality of women in the world, the sacrifice of female children over male children, and things that I am shocked and appalled by– especially because I felt I should have been aware of much that is in this book as a worldly female. I cried, felt sick, and was moved to make an impact, though I’m not sure how.

The book was written by a husband and wife who are journalists that have traveled the world: India, Ghana, China, Cambodia, etc.  listening to stories of the atrocities that occur there.

Thailand is not left off the list, and you will find out some interesting things about brothels, the police, and the ugliness our world continues to allow.

Male or female, think about picking up this book.

Often times, the solution to the problem is education.  Educate yourself.

Big House Book Review #2 – The Sword of Truth — by Joe

Big House Book Review #2

Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth Series, Books 1-5

#1 Wizard’s First Rule

#2 Stone of Tears

#3 Blood of the Fold

#4 Temple of the Winds

#5 Soul of the Fire

I’ve read the first 5 of 13 novels in this series and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish them all before my time in Thailand is done.  That seemed a bit ridiculous a short couple months ago but these fat and fun books fly by.  In my first few weeks in Surat Thani, I heard Michael and Ryan talking about a series of fantasy books that spawned a television show called Legend of the Seeker. I was fresh off finishing Season 2 of the Game of Thrones HBO masterpiece and wanted some new fantasy literature in my life.  Their combined review was that the action scenes in these books were really riveting and mind blowing but the love story was a bit meh.  From a few conversations, I could tell I was on the same nerd wavelength as my new co-workers so their excitement about these books was contagious.

After my move to the Big House, of the 100 plus books sitting around, Wizard’s First Rule stood out to me more than any of others, I think I started it the first week I lived there; I had no idea how hooked I would get.  I spent most of my free time devouring the story of Richard Cypher saving the world and falling in love with the Mother Confessor. Standard fantasy plotlines but in a brand new world with it’s own magic and fascinating characters. From Dragons and Dominatrix inspired Mord-Sith to ferocious winged Gars that hunt with blood flies, I was on board.

The action scenes were indeed captivating and I often would force myself to slow down and really savor the images that Mr. Goodkind was conjuring up.  He also has a gift for re-upping the stakes every book just after you think Richard can finally chill out and make sweet, sweet love to Kahlan, another crazy scenario is thrown at them. I often laughed out loud but had to read more.  There is always another part of the world we don’t know anything about and a new type of magic that needs to be introduced.

If you like Game of Thrones and you are waiting for Winds of Winter to come out, you will certainly have time to dive into the Sword of Truth series. The first 3 books are at the Big House thanks to Smell E. Day’s parents who shipped them from America. I also have the mobi files for kindle owners.

As soon as Laura finishes The Beach, it’s my turn for the Kindle and Faith of the Fallen is next on my reading list. Time for me and my buddy Terry to spend some more quality time together.

Big House Book Review #1 – Eat, Pray, Love — by Joe

Big House Book Review #1

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love

I was a might bit skeptical about this book before I started it; middle-aged ladies love it and they made a movie starring Julia Roberts.  However, it wasn’t my turn for the kindle so I had to find a big house book for our weekend trip to Koh Phangnan. Plus, she goes to Italy and Bali; a place I love and a place I wanted to know more about. Also, if a book sells as many copies as this one did, it at least has to be readable and compelling (Twilight is a notable exception to this rule.)

I had one false start when I read about her crying about her divorce and I put it down for a week or two but there was nothing on the shelf that was feeling right to me at the moment so I gave it another shot and it was a great read.  I connected with her on her desire to speak Italian just because it sounds beautiful.  I also agreed that ordering food in Italian in Italy is very satisfying.  I am still proud of the time I ordered il meglio cosa da bere con tiramisu in Venice and it was indeed the best thing to drink with my tiramisu.

I learned quite a bit about meditation and Yoga in reading about her spiritual journey and what it meant for her.  As a comparative religion major, I could really sense how her understanding of God fit into my own and it was a great way to learn about other spiritual and religious practices in a very non-academic context.  I appreciated that she didn’t really draw out her love story in Bali and focused so much on the locals that she met there. I found Balinese culture and the methods of the two healers she spent her days with quite interesting.

Her prose, dialogue, characterization, style, and sense of humor really work together well and I heartily recommend this book.  It’s available to be checked out from the Big House library.