Category Archives: Meme

To Learn Something New

201406 Dark chocolate and sea salt caramel tart

I know, I know. I have gone way off the baking and cooking radar for the longest time, since late 2011, I reckon. You know my excuses. I’ve moved across three countries. I got pregnant. And before I know it, my hands were full with a newborn, then a baby, and now a toddler. These days, I write less about my culinary adventures (or rather, lack thereof) and more about the ups and downs in motherhood. Some of you have left, some of you have stuck around to see what I’m up to, some of you have joined me in this new and permanent part of my journey. But I am still here, and I suspect that I might always be.

You see, this blog is not just another website. Not to me, at least. It chronicles my everything, and everything about me (well, almost). It documents challenges I have faced in life, be it  graduate school a few couple of years ago, my new then-life in a foreign land, and yes, food too. I remember the first time I bought my very own set of baking equipment. We had just moved to London in 2007, and I was keen to pick up baking again since the kitchen was all ours. I bagged the cheapest of the basics I could find, including a very noisy handheld mixer from Tesco which cost me only £3.99. It served me well, taking me from basic cupcakes, to layered cakes, chiffon and even macarons.

Each time I learnt something new, I was absolutely delighted, but not without feeling utterly deflated at my failed first attempts. I was amazed at how basic ingredients could yield all sorts of tasty morsels, and how every quantity, step and trick made the world of a difference. It was particularly rewarding, when I stumbled upon random tricks on my own; baking is almost magical to me, save for the fact that its roots actually lie in the heart of science.

201406 Lemon curd tartAfter leaving London, I barely had the opportunity to learn new recipes. My repertoire was old and tired, and it was mostly executed to feed my husband and daughter, or for special occasions. I have very, very loyal fans though. Most people are always happy to have a slice of my signature chiffon cake or that soft cookie or the grand old dame of a red velvet cake, and I am truly thankful that they still appreciate what I do. But that isn’t enough for me. Soon, I got bored of my own creations. Sad, but true.

I have been pushing myself to try out new recipes, to conquer new pastries and master new dishes. It’s not working out too well, as all this takes far too much time, something that I am in desperate need of. But I’ve stolen pockets of it, when F sleeps (thank goodness we insisted on early bedtime), when M is finally free from crazy shifts to help me with her. A month or two ago, I was really happy to have nailed the tart (the pastry, not a person), and filled them with lemon curd (also a first in my culinary adventure, I know…I’m real slow), or dark chocolate ganache and sea salted caramel. They were, IMHO, absolutely spot-on! I was on cloud nine when I learnt that the tarts were well-received…that buzzzzz, that joy I get when I know my bakes have made someone very happy…

I wish I have more opportunities at some point to challenge myself. I could use with feeling a little more accomplished than just doing what I have been doing thus far. I miss dreaming up exciting flavours in my sleep, and jumping out of bed to get cracking in the kitchen. I miss scribbling ideas on random scraps of paper, and hopping into the pantry in the middle of the night to whip something up. Those days were absolutely glorious, utterly inspired and undeniably pleasurable…and those days couldn’t come sooner.

Be Kind, Always

“Unkindness is inspired by hatred, anger fuels it into action in which there is no great joy; it would take sadism to turn it into something pleasurable; unkind people imagine themselves to be inflicting pain on someone equally unkind.”

- Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way

Raise your hands, all of you who have been victims of unkindness. Oh yes, I’m sure we have all been trampled on by someone at one point, some of us getting it worse and/or more often than others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because I am a mother now, and I have been asking myself how I would like to raise F. Most of my life, I have been there, eating dust, meek, smiling as I (figuratively) get slapped in the face because it was not in my nature to retaliate, especially if the unkind were elders. It was only in my late twenties that I started learning fair ways of standing up for myself and the people I love, without being noxious to the perpetrators. Sometimes, it works; at other times, it doesn’t. Sometimes, I keep my cool; sometimes, I lose my cool. But above all, I’ve learnt that there is a reason why people can be unkind, and if we can remember that, then we would not and need not feel sorry for ourselves.

Ahhh, yes. It may not look it, given that I have been airing my thoughts publicly for a decade now, but I have felt victimised before by various forms of unkindness, ranging from outright bullying to malignant criticism to being cruelly ridiculed and cornered for that innocuous seed of information that would be miraculously spun into a mossy tangle of rumours. I used to blame myself, and think that people must have a good reason for doing this to me, but as I grew older and learnt the ropes of life, I realised that these, being unprovoked, were done (mostly by the same group of people) to bring me down. But I fought, not to hurt them back because that would mean stooping to a new low, much like the perpetrators, but to stand up tall with a clear conscience, and be happy regardless.

The truth is unkind people are discontented, deeply unhappy, insecure, and dare I say, jealous. If you think about it, there is absolutely no reason for genuinely happy, contented and loving people to gloat over another’s misfortune, put people down to make themselves feel happier, or be sadistic. Now that I know better, they are the ones I actually feel sorry for, because nothing else makes them more elated than being unkind and watching their victims squirm. How devastating it must be to lead that life, to wake up every morning thinking up ways of bullying people they think they have a right to despise, when everyone else is probably waking up to the joy of being alive so they can love, live, give back, and laugh.

And so, I tell my husband, M, that I do not wish to raise F to be an elitist, one who is revered for how well she does in school, how much money she makes, how well she plays sports, the type of car she drives or the district she lives in. There is absolutely no value in any of that. Instead, I want F to be strong enough to stand up against the unkind and not crumble like her mother once did, because let’s face it, the grotesque nature of Man will always be plain for all to see. It breaks my heart that I will not always be around to shield her from bullying, even at such a tender age (sad to say, I have heard kids pointing at an overweight man crossing the road and yelling, ‘PREGNANT MAN, HAHAHAHAHA’ (and get this) in the presence of their parents, who do NOTHING to correct them). And it breaks my heart that she is going to have to take the fall a few times before learning what I learnt the hard way. But yes, I hope for her to be strong enough one day. Above all, I want F to be as kind and loving as humanly possible, because we could all use another friendly face, don’t we?

Yes, we could. Even those who have been unkind, for I am sure they would want their children and loved ones to be free of bullying.

Kindness begets kindness. Don’t ever forget that.

Mother’s Day Feature: My Interview with The New Age Parents

The editors of the online parenting magazine, The New Age Parents, kindly featured me on the Mother’s Day lineup as one of ‘10 Mummy Bloggers We Love‘. I did an interview with them as well.

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 10.00.38

The questions got me thinking about how I felt when I started penning my thoughts on the blog, and they jolted bittersweet memories that I had of life in London back then. It’s amazing how the blog has evolved with changes in my life, moving back to Singapore, becoming a mother…I don’t think I qualify as a ‘Mummy Blogger’ per se, as the blog is still a mish-mash of things and people who matter very much to me, but yes, my daughter is a large part of my life now, and that invariably means that I yak way too much about her over here (sorry to all the foodies who used to follow me, I don’t cook or bake or photograph food as much now due to the lack of time…and energy).

I’ve also noticed that my writing has taken on a less sprightly (read: YOUTHFUL) tone, and is more reflective and solemn. But one thing remains, I still tell it as it is. I don’t want to get out there and say I LOVE BEING A MOTHER ALL THE TIME, or OH LOOK HOW HAPPY I AM ALL THE TIME, because the truth is there is no such thing as ALL THE TIME. Everything is fleeting – joy, sadness, fights, tender moments, kid not sleeping, kid finally eating – EVERYTHING. So, even though I don’t fill this space with the most beautiful pictures, the most well-written stories, and the most positive of outlooks, I thank all those who have stopped by and said hello, those who didn’t mind the occasional melancholy or sporadic bitchiness, those who have told me that I am not alone in feeling a certain way when something happens. and those who have extended their friendship and invited me into their lives.

Here’s to keeping it real!

Oh! And here’s my interview with the good people of The New Age Parents. Don’t forget to check out the other Mummy Bloggers too!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! x

 

A Letter From Me to You, You and You

Dear {You},

{Papa and Mama}, I know I was a mess in the early months of motherhood. Sometimes, I still am. I cannot even begin to tell you both how thankful I am for you, for someone like me to have you as my dear parents. If not for you, I wouldn’t know what love is. If not for you, I wouldn’t have survived being an absolutely clueless mother to Faith. If not for you, I wouldn’t know what sacrifice means. Both of you are unconditional love personified. I can only wish that I am capable of giving Faith half the love and care that both of you have given me. Thank you for showing me what it takes to be a parent, and more. Faith is infinitely blessed to have Ah Gong and Ah Ma in her life.

{M}, I want to thank you for being such a strong pillar in my life. It’s tough to be the sole breadwinner and yet, you have been completely supportive on my wish to be a stay-at-home-mum. You have not once frowned upon my decision of giving up years of postgraduate education and good salary for this (even when I felt torn apart), and you have never griped about making ends meet on your own. You work so hard to provide the best for Faith and me, to the extent of neglecting your own well-being and giving up little luxuries for yourself, that it pains me to watch you live the consequences of my decision. I’m so, so sorry that I have not said this to you sooner, but you are my hero.

Sometimes, I can’t believe how blessed I am to have fallen in love with you, to be loved by you. I’m far from perfect, as a wife, as a mother, as a human being. But you, you, step in selflessly to make up for what I cannot do, and you have never ever judged me to be a lesser person just because I failed to rise to the occasion. How is it that I deserve such a wonderful man like you? I’ll never know, but I promise you that I’ll try to be better, because you make me want to be better.

Thank you for helping me to be the best mother I can to our child.

{Faith}, you are the greatest little person to Mama. I haven’t learnt as much from school as I did from you. You taught me to be patient, to be loving, to see the best in the most trying circumstances, to marvel at the tiniest miracles that I took for granted before you came along.

What really astounds me is how strong you are. You have been ill for three weeks. Yesterday, I watched you throw up helplessly and you cried as though you were in pain. I reckon you were frightened, but you stopped crying and started dancing the minute I cleaned you up; it was as if nothing had happened. In that instance, I thought about how I would curl up in bed, overwhelmed with self-pity and lethargy, had I been struck with bouts of high fever, hacking coughs and the vomitting bug. I felt ashamed and inspired at the same time, because you are but 20 months old, yet, you are so much more resilient than Mama. You make me want to be much more than I am, so that I can love you the best way I know how.

Thank you for giving me the privilege of being your mother, to learn from you, to look at the world through your eyes, to share with you, and to watch you grow.

(My brother, sister and friends}, I wouldn’t be a mother, if not for you. Thank you for helping me with Faith when I try to gobble down my lunch. Thank you for wiping away my tears when I feel defeated with the challenges of motherhood. Thank you for taking me out for dinner, even though I turned you down a million times before that because I couldn’t get away from parenting duties or was just too darn tired to head out. Thank you for not being mad at me when I run off to chase my toddler midway through a conversation. Thank you for telling me that it’s okay to not be okay. Thank you for sticking around and keeping my head above the water. Thank you for sharing my joy as a parent, even though I may babble on too much about Faith and annoy the hell out of you. You know who you are.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I can see why they say that now, so…Happy Mother’s Day to one and all, because I don’t think this day is possible without you, you and you.

Love,
Your daughter, wife, sister and friend

201405 Mother's Day Open Letter

The Way I Say I Love You

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 1

I am not one who tends to be all loving and gregarious and warm in person, mostly because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. Often, I fumble for words and end up not telling someone how I feel because I spend too much time thinking about whether I would overwhelm people, or hurt someone, or generally freak people out with my weirdness. So if you have met me in person, you would know that I hardly initiate conversations and I mostly respond to people only when asked to, well, respond. I prefer to sit back and listen, than to fire away and be the life of the party. Yes, I am usually that quiet, aloof oddball, especially in a group of people. (But I have improved substantially since I got to know M, because his confidence in speaking up has rubbed off a little on me, which explains why I am a little less awkward these days, especially when I meet people one-on-one.)

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 2

I do, however, love to write. Feelings can take the form of handwritten letters, emails, post-its, messages, even blog posts, and I word and offer them more freely and unabashedly, than if I were to communicate them in person. I love that I can write my thoughts down without having people scrutinise my facial expressions or my tightly wrung hands. The time alone with my pen and paper, or even the phone, is void of distraction, and that allows me to be…free.

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 3

There are, however, certain things that can, and should only be said to someone when you look at him or her in the eye. A heartfelt letter, or a simple note by the lunch bag works, but shouldn’t we all try to tell that special people in our lives that we love them, in person? I know that I don’t tell people that I love them as often as I should. I don’t say it to my parents, or my siblings, whom I love with all my life. I sneak it in, when my husband and I are all tucked into bed, after we turn out the lights, because I’m too shy to look at him in the eye. I sneak it in, when I gaze at his profile as he watches the telly, because I know in the split second of words tumbling out of my mouth, he would be too distracted to glance at me before I hastily look away in embarrassment. The only person whom I consistently say it to has got to be Faith, who is far too young to be all weirded out by her Mama’s profuse declaration of love for her.

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 4

But I can say it with cake. And I love to say it with cake. It starts with what I know about the likes and dislikes of that special someone, and branches out into ideas on flavours and textures that he or she would love. It then grows with days of labouring over the stove and the oven, hunching over the cake as I try my best to make it look nice, battling with the humidity and often, my daughter who pleads for my attention every two seconds. And then the moment comes, when the birthday song is sung, the candles are blown out and the cake is cut. My special someone tucks in and exclaims, ‘This is amazing!’ and I pretend to be busy with brushing non-existent crumbs from the table. That moment is perfect because I have said I love you in the biggest and smallest way possible, and no one gets weirded out. I get to retreat to my little oddball corner and feel like I have gone all out to say I love you with a slice of homemade cake.

And this was the case for my husband’s birthday this year. I don’t earn a salary, and I don’t do much other than take care of my family’s needs. I didn’t and couldn’t get him a present (it would really come out of his pocket, rather than my own…), and the only thing that I could do was to really think about what he loves, come up with flavours to surprise him, and get down to making him a cake that I hope he would adore. I don’t know if he was just trying to make me happy by saying that he loved the cake, but I was glad that he appreciated my efforts. I was glad that I made it, a Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream. I was glad that he knows that I love him…and that’s all that matters.

201404 Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Italian Meringue Buttercream 5

I love you, darling.