The (temporary) retired life of a young expat in Chiang Mai brims with opportunities to participate in hobbies and activities that engage one’s hands and mind in creative and culinary pursuits. Not since my days as a school girl have I been so inclined to delight in colored pens and seriously consider the finer points of nail art tutorials. These days I’m attempting all sorts of things that use my hands, including cottage cheese making, pepper pickling, yogurt straining, guitar learning, balcony gardening, rice cooker baking, and DIY hair cutting and achieving wildly varied results.

I’m going to take you through some of my attempts at, like, doing stuff, rated on a scale of Martha Stewarts, with one Martha bearing very little semblance to anything her Majesty would create and 10 being of a quality that could only be constructed by Martha’s own hands.

 The Part Where I Talk About My Hair

Oh, internet, what a grand and illustrious history I have with cutting my own hair. From pretending to be Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace and shaving off a chunk of hair right on top of my head at age 8 to cutting off my long braids for $20 at 18, I’ve never been able to resist the scissor’s siren song.  I’ve done okay with DIY dye jobs, but every time I take to adjusting my hair’s length myself, I think NEVER AGAIN.

This is my hair at the end of November:

Please ignore the dirt on my mirror and under my iPhone cover; I know it’s gross. 

This is a 5 Martha dip-dye job. It’s not professional, but it’s effective, and it could have been much, much worse. I didn’t get a good picture of it when it looked it’s best, fading from turquoise to blue to purple in all its peacock-inspired glory, but it happened.

This is my hair a week later, touched by a professional, color cut off and bangs shorn new:

 Look at those even, if cow-licked bangs.

This is my hair last week after going months without a bang trim, perfect fodder for something nice and side-swept:

And this is my hair now, after taking to it with eyebrow trimmers:

I was too scared to try to communicate “bang trim” in Thai. I sort of know the words for “me” and “hair” and “cut,” but I have no idea how to say “just the bangs please!” See, I really only like having bangs if my hair is very long; I need soft length to balance blunt bangs, especially with my strong Norse features. That’s right, I’m basically a viking, a viking that is too scared to submit herself to a Thai barber’s chair.

Rating: Just a single Martha, plus a bonus Britney Spears Self-Destructive Grooming Habit Award.

The Part Where I Talk About My Plants

Once upon a time I had a nice little garden with beds I made myself out of scrap wood and soil enhanced with my Dad’s worm poo. My garden produced tomatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro and thyme from plants I started from seeds. I rushed home everyday after work to water my plants and to protect them from the hot Texas sun.

This is my garden now:

It includes four dead plants I inherited, and basil and cilantro seeds contained in muddy dessert cups and ashtrays that will probably never sprout. Yeah, I know how to start seeds the right way, but I was proud enough of myself after procuring a bag of soil from a Thai garden supply store that I got carried away with my dubious methods.

Rating: Two Marthas. One for trying (the results aren’t in) and one for buying soil in Thai, plus a bonus Bein Quirky with Zooey Deschanel Award for the creative repurposing of common household goods.

The Part Where I Talk About My Cobbler

Once upon a time I made a sort of banana upside-down cake in a rice cooker by seriously adapting a recipe for matcha cake written in French. It was a triumphant moment, this cake, a symbol of innovation and hope in an environment devoid of things like ovens and baking powder.

It was so glorious, in fact, that I thought I should give it another shot, this time by adapting a recipe from Novo Nordisk’s own Paula Deen for peach cobbler. It was going to be great. I’d swap out coconut milk for part of dairy milk, sub ripe mango for peaches, and make the syrup with palm sugar instead of the white kind. Oh! How glorious this cake would be, merging things familiarity and new through artful innovation.

Then this happened:

The grossest part is that I ate the whole damn, burned on the outside, runny on the inside thing, including the 8 tablespoons of butter it included. I should have halved the recipe, so that it would have been lighter and more keen to cook evenly. Unfortunately I can’t try again since my binge session on the original failure had me come down with just a hint food coma-induced sloth and I’ve taken to the bed until further notice.

Rating: One and a half Marthas. One for concept and half for trying, plus a six bonus Victoza’s for really going the distance with butter consumption.


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2 Responses to Just a Touch of Diabetes and Other Consequences of DIY Failures

  1. Erica says:

    I’ve totally blogged about killing (2) basil plants too! those suckers are hard to grow!

    You’ve totally inspired me- I’ve been complaining about lack of oven for years. I can’t believe you can bake in a rice cooker! MUST.TRY.

  2. Anna says:

    It seems to me like all your creative encounters have been pretty successful! I have also a big list of creative projects that I’ve always wanted to try out, and that I have, almost simultaneously, hopped into all of them at once. Some of them – like cooking – are still on my list. Just you wait until I get my own kitchen! :)

    by the way : thanks for the follow back on twitter!

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