Slightly more than a year ago, I was pessimistic, tired and really quite despondent as things on the PhD front were nothing short of a catastrophe. M, being the thoughtful, optimistic and patient husband he is, constantly told me to put my chin up, to remember that life is more than the lack of results in my research. He reminded me that we were in a good place, experiencing life overseas, seeing, tasting and cooking things that we might never have encountered if not for our time in London. He encouraged me to keep a diary of these things we came across, an online diary that is The Pleasure Monger today. And so I did.
On 14 February 2010, we were at home. We just had a home-cooked dinner and I was brainstorming on the name for my blog. Lots of names came up, including Rubs Tummy, Licks Lips etc. But only one represented the broad number of topics that I would like to write about. After deciding on the name, I whipped out a pen and paper and started doodling the logo. I decided to write about food, fashion & beauty, and marriage, each of which are represented by a cupcake, lipstick and a diamond ring that you see on my blog header today. I scanned it in, photoshopped it (that’s why it looks so horrible, because I’m clueless at graphic design…), and put it up. The Pleasure Monger was born with me sitting in my pyjamas, on the floor at the coffee table, in our tiny flat in London. The rest was history.
I became happier after writing. I had an avenue to turn to when I was feeling bogged down. I found a passion in telling my stories to no one in particular (in fact, there were just 15 visits a day on my blog in the first month), and I started paying attention to the good things that I was somehow blinded to prior to all this. In a way, you could say that I was awoken. Suddenly, I realised that I am in a good place. Suddenly, I realised that the small things can make me happy – walking down the streets, chancing upon a beautiful dress, watching the buskers perform, having a delightful pastry in a quaint tearoom. I paid a teeny bit more attention to how I dressed up and took care of my skin. I shared snippets of my life with M. I moaned and laughed at the silly things that happened during my PhD. I ate, I cooked and I baked. I’ve even started dabbling in very amateur food styling and food photography.
It’s the 16th February 2011 today. I just closed a chapter in my life, well, namely the trying chapter known as the PhD. I started on my first job in a completely new line of work. I feel less like a child, and more like an adult. I could write more about fashion & beauty judging from the arsenal of stuff I’ve accumulated since last year. I am getting better in the kitchen. I met quite a few cool bloggers and fostered friendships with them. I am more in love with M than ever before, and I know that our relationship will continue to grow in so many ways. I have seen so much over the last year. I travelled quite a bit. I had an informal interview with two of the greatest chefs in the world. I am taking nicer food photos and inching my way through the world of food styling. My work here has gained so much more exposure that The Pleasure Monger now receives over 20000 hits a month. It has been an incredible journey and I can’t wait to get to the second birthday. There is just so much to learn.
I don’t know how this year is going to pan out. Maybe people will jump on to other blogs and stop reading mine. Maybe more people will identify with what I write here. Hopefully I’ll make more friends and get to know even more amazing people. But one thing’s for sure, it’s been a blast and I love what I do, so I hope to continue doing this.
There are simply so many things I want to say to everyone. There are so many old entries that I want to revisit with you. I had half a mind to do a round-up post but that would be too much because really, all I want to say is thank you for sticking around to read what I have to say and thank you for sharing your life with me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my email exchanges with some readers who have taken the time out to write to me. And really, The Pleasure Monger wouldn’t have turned ONE two days ago without your support.
I shall leave you with one of my favourite photo shoots from last year for my Red/Matcha Velvet Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste and Matcha/Plain Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting. Yes it’s quite a mouthful, but it represents what the last year has been for me. Colourful, pretty, tasty and pretty much damn awesome.
Red/Matcha Velvet Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste and Matcha/Plain Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Red/Matcha Velvet Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste
Makes 12 (adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder (or 10g matcha powder if you want to make Matcha Velvet cupcakes)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
12 teaspoons store-bought adzuki bean paste
1 quantity whipped cream cheese frosting (see below)
12-hole cupcake tray lined with muffin paper cases
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer with paddle attachment or handheld electric whisk on medium speed till light and fluffy and well mixed.
3. On high speed, slowly add egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa powder (or matcha powder), and vanilla extract to make a thick dark paste. Add this to butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. repeat this process until all buttermilk and flour have been added. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat until you have smooth even mixture. On slow speed, add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. beat until well mixed, turn up speed and beat for couple more minutes.
5. Spoon mixture into paper cases until 2/3 full, bake in preheated oven for 18 min or until sponge bounces back when touched. Skewer inserted in centre should come out clean. Leave cupcakes to cool slightly in tray before turning them out onto cooling rack to cool completely, then spoon out some crumbs from the top of the cupcake and fill the well with 1 teaspoon of store-bought adzuki bean paste. Frost the cupcakes with whipped cream cheese frosting.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold
1/2 cup whipping cream
10g matcha powder (if making Matcha frosting)
Edible gold/sherry lustre
1. Beat icing sugar and butter together on medium slow speed until mixture comes together and is well mixed.
2. Add cream cheese all at one go and beat till completely incorporated. Turn mixer up to medium high speed and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, for at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat as it can become runny. Add matcha powder if you would like to make matcha frosting.
3. Whisk whipping cream till light and fluffy in a separate bowl. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture till smooth. Dust with edible lustre if you like.