a little bit of silliness....click on the picture to create a fly for it to eat....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Koto's christmas party....

Tonight was the xmas party at Koto.  Each member of staff was given the name of a trainee to buy a gift for...limited to 100,000vd value.  I took up the challenge with great relish and shopped around to find as many bits as I could.  Eventually I decided on a pair of diamonte hair slides, a cute pink hair band and a pair of snuggly' Fendi' gloves...and the wee girl who got the gift seemed very happy with it all.
The party started with xmas carols and a bit of a talent show.  As it was obviously all in Vietnamese I had no idea what was going on so I think I'll just post the photos and you can draw your own conclusions....

Appreciative audience...

Mr Doan and the gorgeous wee daughter of Ms Hung.

Mr Hai in his scarf...all the trainees made scarves for the staff.

The tree decorated with the cards the trainees made for the staff.

Some of the kids put on little shows...I have no idea about what but it went down well...

This little mite thought it was hilarious...

More playacting...
Our very own Vietnamese santa...
 We had to make all the desserts, we made a trio of Buche de Noels, carrot cakes, mudcakes and tropical trifles with tropical fruit and a huge gingerbread house display.
Our interpretation of Buche de Noel

Carrot cakes...

Mr Doan finishing the mudcakes...

Doan's mince tarts...

My Vietnamese gingerbread house display...bit rough but it did the job...

We had to have a cafe on the side...

 ...and of course there had to be a scooter....
So now xmas is over and things can settle down a bit...well, I hope they can.  Next post I will show you some of the photos of the Dream Bottle ceremony; a moving and important step for the new group of trainees.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More random stuff....

In the shopping center I go to is a play area for kids...the parents pay a fee and the kids are looked after by amiable young women for the duration.  I chanced upon this group of wee poppets the other day...wearing their santa hats they just looked too cute for words.
Couldn't you just eat them all up?
 I was saving so hard for this trip that I hadn't had a hair cut for the whole of 2010 so decided to take my chances and check out a Vietnamese hairdresser.  I did a bit of research on The New Hanoian's website and found Mr Dinh.  He's trained by some whizkid stylist and speaks excellent English.  For the grand sum of 200,000vd (about $10) he gave me a smashing do.  He cut in some subtle layers and trimed off all the dead dry ends.  The heavenly head massage the shampoo girl gave me was pretty incredible too.

Pretty good eh? 

Hoan Kiem lake in the middle of Hanoi is a favourite with residents and has quickly become a favourite place of mine too.  As you stroll round you find little surprises, like the lotus sculptures in an earlier blog, and today I found these.  I'm not sure if they are meant to be deer but that's what they look like to me.

I think this one needs a bit of a haircut too...
I liked this display inside a shopping center in town too...there were actually small fish swimming around in amongst the rubbish and plastic plants.

A pond and a half!

It's hard to believe that anything could live for long in here...

Well, that's it for now, it's 6pm on Boxing Day and I'm about to chow down on some super sweet watermelon (have to do something to make up for all the fried stuff this morning!) and watch some of the dvds I picked up today....Harry Potter here I come.  To anyone reading this I hope your Xmas day was restful and relaxing and that you have a fantastic New Years.

Boxing day....

 I spent Xmas day at the home of Tracy and Andreas, with their pals and a few hyper excited kids.  It was a lovely day once I actually found the place...Vietnamese number the alleys front and back so I managed to get totally lost - twice.  It took a couple of pathetic phone calls to Tracy and for her to leave her guests and come looking for me...just in time as the rather large and unfriendly looking dog was beginning to growl at me...not fun!  Anyhoo, I got there and within seconds a glass of bubbles was placed in my slightly sweaty hand and the day began in earnest with a pedicure from a 5 year old!!!
Everyone had to have their nails done by Tracy's 5 year old...Franke


What a lovely bunch of people and what a lovely meal.  We enjoyed a cold collation of some German salads - herring and potato - courtesy of Andreas, Tracy's beautiful cured salmon and dips, prawns, yummy cold meats and some of the nicest cheeses I've had in ages...all followed by a melt in the mouth duck cassoulet.  At that point I could have quite happily curled up my toes and died...life seldom gets much better!
Ulrika, me and Rosemary after setting the world to rights over a few glasses of bubbles.

Ours eye's would meet over the table and I sensed a certain attraction burgeoning.

Then there was an hilarious Kris Kringle game where everyone who bought a present could pick one from the box...or steal one from someone else...it got quite confusing but very funny as the shenanigans got into full flow.
Cynthia picked some gorgeous porcelain bowls.

Which were quickly 'stolen' by Rebecca
Ulrika and Peter Fritz

Peter Fritz was pretty happy with his Mum's choice, and strangely enough no-one wanted to 'steal' them????
Andreas (flanked by Zorran and Pedro) kept encouraging 'theft' to continue the game.
Rosemary was more than happy with her calender.

Before I knew it the party was over and we staggered off into the evening, Cynthia, Rebecca and Rosemary dropped me off on their way home and I fell into bed and pretty much passed out...Merry Christmas!

Boxing Day dawned early...too early...with Doan sending me a text at 8.30am asking me what time I wanted to start work?!?  OMG!  'Tomorrow' I responded, 'when my hangover has gone.'  Feeling quite nauseous and with a bit of a headache I remembered why I stopped over indulging in the booze some time ago...not nice.  Only thing for it was to drag my sorry carcass out of bed and head into town for greasy food and fizzy drink!

Amanda had given me the map location of that wee place we'd been to before and I set out to see if I could find it and her DVD shop for some entertainment.  Geographically dyslexic I may be but this time I managed to stay focused and achieved my goals.  I decided to walk into town - for some much needed exercise - fortified myself with a Pappa Roti - the grandfather of all buns (starch and a little sugar - just what the doctor ordered!)  found the DVD shop and bought myself some rip off movies (I know, but when in Rome) and eventually made my way to the Cathedral.  The cafe is set up against the wall of the huge church so easy to find.  I ordered one of everything and tucked in.

A large and small samosa, a spring roll, a bun and a won ton, pickles, salad and pickles and a very cold and much needed coke!  All this for about $2...it's almost criminal.
A little further along the street I saw this entry gate to a temple bedecked with the colourful flags.  Just lovely.

I just love coming across these little havens amid the hustle and bustle of the city.
Fortified with fat and sugar I wandered back towards Hoan Kiem lake to work some of it off.  The Old Quarter is usually uncomfortably packed with tourists, bikes and whatever but today it seemed a little less frenetic.  I was enjoying my stroll when I came across this fabulous display of xmas over zealousness!  I did warn you...
Do you believe this?
It almost made me feel cold!
Just a little bit of xmas cheer?


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Random stuff....

I had a working weekend, making RTR icing with Doan and some xmas mince tarts with Luyen, but my pals David and Amanda were on the prowl round the old quarter and took this cool shot of a very inventive warning sign!  Hole in road!!

It's sitting in the hole it's warning about...clever!

I've been trying to remember to take photos of my meals for you.  This is com rang or fried rice.  It came with a bowl of dressed cucumber, which I may add is nothing like the bitter, watery, nasty stuff I won't eat at home.  It's crunchy with a firmer texture a delicate refreshing flavour and with none of the bitterness at all.  The soup was a delicate chicken broth loaded with fresh coriander and some slivers of tomato.  I love my com rang here, it comes topped with very fine shredded dried pork or beef - yummy and  there are jars of pickled raw garlic and chilli on the tables too so you can add even more flavour if you need to.  The cost?  20,000vd ...about $1.

No one cares about the chipped china when the food tastes so good!
One of the ubiquitous sounds of Hanoi is the cockerel's crow, especially if you happen to be near a chicken restaurant.  The birds are a strange collection of types, some normal (or what we would consider normal) and then there's the 'dinochook'!  The 'dinochook' bears less resemblance to a chicken and more to a T Rex or a raptor of some kind...take a look. These strange looking birds scrounge around in the refuse for food and live right beside one of the busiest roads in Hanoi but I've never seen one wander onto the road...street smart!    However given their diet and environment I haven't been feeling like eating a lot of chicken lately!
Alongside a normal size chook

Part vulture perhaps?
Straight after taking the 'dinochook' shots I looked up to see a veritable swag of Santas coming at me down the laneway...I dont know what it was in aid of but it looks hilarious.

Even the Vietnamese were taking photos as they came...

and came.....

and came!  The third one back had his nose sticking out of the mouth hole of his beard...he looked like a yeti!
The country is gearing up for Tet at the moment, apparently Xmas is looked upon as a fun American thing to do - lots of tinsel 'snow' and funny clothes but Tet is the main holiday.  I passed the water park - which is of course closed for the winter - but saw these gorgeous things on a stage of some kind.  I couldn't get close enough to see exactly what they were but it looked like fabric stretched over a frame...a bit like the lanterns used at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Sydney.
Sorry about the angle I was sticking my camera through wire mesh.

A beautiful crane's behind!
I guess you might want to see some of the work we have been doing of late - when there's been an oven to use and when we've had a kitchen to get into.  We made my yummy xmas mince tart filling with a few minor changes to the fruit content - dependent on what can be found.  Here's a shot of Doan using the cutters donated by Frazer and Hughes in Sydney to create lovely little minis for the restaurant.  Doan is going to be running the pastry section and in that role he will also be training the kids coming through who have an interest in pastry.

Happy in his work.

The other thing we've been doing for Xmas are making one or two gingerbread beach babes... 83 today and another 80 tomorrow...I'll be going into ginger overload soon!

Don't forget your sunnies....

Does it remind you of Bondi?
That's it for now, I'm about to get ready to go to the Xmas party at Donkey Bakery.  I went there yesterday afternoon to help prepare two Buche de Noel for the buffet.  I've never done one before but it's just a Swiss roll slathered in buttercream to make it look like a log...we used some of the RTR I'd made and fashioned holly leaves and berries.  I am going to make some for the Koto Xmas do on 27th so I'll remember to take photos then.