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Archive for the ‘Flashback Frenzy’ Category

I don’t handle loss very easily.

Today, I lost an earring.

My first reaction was to press my nose to the ground and sniff loudly, then chase the scent as far as it would go. Well seriously speaking, I mainly retraced my step, furrowed my brows and stared at the ground. It didn’t help knowing I traversed long distances to get to my office, including transferring at two train interchanges and taking a five-minute walk from the train station.

Chances are, the earring is as good as gone.

But do I falter? No. I intend to retrace my steps from office to home. I suppose this is meant to put my mind at further unease… After all, like I said, that accessory could well be retrieved by another owner (“Oooh, pretty green fish earring, I wonder how it’ll fit into my box of lost and found, mismatched earrings!”), washed away by torrential rain (it has been raining relentlessly for the past two days) or gone without a trace.

Wow, this article is becoming whiny and pointless.

What my point really is, that my lack of letting go of loss is due to my reproaching perfectionism. All of life (Well, most accurately after the point where rationalism sets in. Never mind my infantile years.), I’ve been ruled under the thumb of self-defined expectations and reproaching myself whenever I hit anywhere below the goal. Just take this earring incident as an example:

A lost earring prompts to self: this carelessness could have been avoided. If I left my house earlier, didn’t run out of the house in a huff, I would have wore my earring more carefully. I normally think of several blame tactics to play up the trivality of the matter.

“Seriously?!” My mom would probably exclaim. “You could wear a fisherman on the other ear now that one side is missing…” (This was meant as a joke, since the earring I lost was a green fish.)

I was literally getting upset (reduced to tears, almost) over a material possession.

This scarily speaks volumes of my personality.

Do I chase materiality? Do I care so much about face value? Have I came into terms with the way I look?

I have begun to believe these little outbursts of terror, sweating over the small stuff in life is much of a manifestation of insecurity, an insecurity I am keeping supressed and stubbornly refusing to admit.

Well, now that I’ve gotten this thought out in the open… The question remains.

Do I keep looking for the missing earring?

As the world turns, the carousel of dried fruits spin under the twilight, sparkling like gems underneath the dark, dark night…

My dad needed placating. The best way? To bake him a batch of fruitcake.

It started with subtle hints: Rolling the shopping cart by supermarket displays of fruitcake and looking downcast, looking at a bag of dried fruits in the fridge and wonder wherever the last piece of fruitcake from last summer went… Then came the outright pursuit: Elbows my shoulder and goes, “When are you making fruitcake?” or that Supernatural episode when a neighbour came by offering fruitcake or a Foodography (on Food Network Asia) featured Christmas delights and needless to say which delight made a debut.

Soon before long, I saw myself (out of body, almost) gliding along the shelves of Phoon Huat at Bugis, shopping for almond meal, mixed fruits and cinnamon; some of the many ingredients that contribute to dark, rich and pucker-your-lips sweet festive morsel. I was determined and my mom was quick to add: “You sure about this?”

Roughly two days later, I was cooking the mixed fruits in freshly squeezed orange juice and more fairy dust later (to spare you the antagonizing description of two hours worth of preparation) I spooned the batter into 12-hole mini muffin tins (hence the stunted shape) and baked them till they turned deep treacle.

On a random note,  I wish treacle was a recognize colour-word. Like, look at that boy, he has turned treacle! (Please refrain from imagining how a boy could possibly, or logically so, turn treacle. That might turn you blue, dizzy and the hope for permanent memory loss.)

In matters of taste, the cake has a dense consistency thanks to the use of whole wheat flour. The first pleasant shock you’ll receive is from the orange zest. Second, playfulness is laced by a fiery spice blend of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon while being wildly punctuated with sweet and tarty mixed fruits: consisting of dried cherries, sultanas and cranberries. Finally, the addition of almond meal lends a moist and rich feel.

Quite honestly, this is the first time I’m baking them as mini cakes. I usually shovel the batter into a non-stick loaf tin such that the fruitcake is more like a fruit loaf. To which I later slice and serve. However, in true honour of my household which barely lets the cake crumb pass their lips (my mom and brother aren’t dessert aficionados, much less talk about this retiring dessert queen named me…), past efforts to preserve the culture maintain the festive cheer all year round for my dad reached a stalemate. Literally.  I ever had to gingerly slice off a piece of frosted with mold to save myself the heartache of sending it to the bin.

Horror story aside, I hope it serves as a reminder that fruitcake is best left in the fridge to “mature” (if you’re drenched it in alcohol) but only good for a month or so. If you’d still like to put your fruitcake where your mouth is, I suggest you slam-dunk it in the freezer as soon as you stop stealing bites from it after a month. It should stick in the freezer for a good three months or more (muffins can go up to six months, fyi).

Cookies, or scones? Or Sookies? I’d rather think of them as mounds of cookie dough temptation…

Two hours to spare, a pair of restless hands, two mixing bowls… The perfect afternoon fix: Baking for Christmas!

Honestly, I don’t celebrate Christmas or in that matter, I don’t celebrate any holiday. By celebrate I mean pompous merry-making with confetti and reindeer sweatshirts and festive eggnog. I suppose most families go for simplistic merriment these days (Confetti. Seriously?!) but I hardly take time off to buy a Christmas pine and actually string lights on it.

With that said, lightly spiced cookies spotted with dried, plump cranberries and cheeky white, milky chocolate chips peeking out from the shroud of flour and oats. The flour, the first in my baking record, was all-purpose, mainly a submission to curiosity on how the texture differs if I were to stick to the refined white dust. The result? An unmistakably soft (slightly dense thanks to the rolled oats) cookie which gave the white chocolate chips a pronounced sweetness.

Now the white chocolate addition (to which is also my first in my entire baking record) triumphs a milk chocolate variety. Why? Because I stay away from using butter (instead I use either olive or rice oil), the white chocolate lent such a creamy and buttery flavour, paired with the tangy berries, expect an overall surprise twist to the taste. This is the cookie you want to miss dinner for!

Ok. Maybe I’ve been a little too harsh with dealing with meal replacement. Kids, stick to your three square meals. Surely you wouldn’t want your mom to hit you on the back of a wooden ladle while chasing you to finish your green peas and brussel sprouts.

Also, since I’ve been a far too complacent with my blogging habits and only decidedly finish this post today (four days after Christmas, haha), I guess this cookie is better off joining of the twelve cookie bakes for Christmas in 2012. Till then, cheers to a new year, new resolution and ample resolute to accomplish whatever your heart desires.

Run like the wind Bullseye!

I lost weight, ate healthier and even romanced the low humidity of the sunny state. Boy, I had a fling with San Francisco.

It all started with the battle of sleep and fervour. Could my overwhelming enthusiasm  settle my hurried heart and set my soul to rest in a 15-hour flight from Singapore to Taipei then Taipei to San Francisco? Apparently, I’ve decided to become a raucous beaver and brave the flight by only catching an average of 45 minutes of sleep. I kid you not. Also, I was armed with the determination to finish a 400-page textbook on the geography of California; titled “An Island Called California”.

Approximately fifteen hours and one arduous march to the transfer lounge, I finally breathed in the life of non-frizzy, non-clammy hair: San Francisco, I’m here to stay. The first gust of dry and chill wind threatened to form a crust on my lips. Seriously, the prospect of applying lip balm every 2 hours kind of excited me.

The bus ride out of the airport and into the city then into Atherton where Menlo College was was no more than an hour. Along the way, there was something about art murals and gleaming windows of corporate giants that juxtaposed quite beautifully.  It was as if industrialization never really defined the modern landscape.

Hugs, kisses and greetings: We were at Menlo College! Everyone was welcoming and I immediately felt home. I could also go on forever about the people I’ve met at the college, the timeless nights my 21 tireless friends stood up against, and how boundless and resounding the belief our 2 lovely chaperons had of us. I guess that was truly, if not a trying summary of what took place at the college. Again, words will admittedly fail to describe all emotions and I’m sure our gratitude and mine is better felt throughout and after the trip. Let’s keep it going guys!

On more lighthearted matters,  I spent the remaining days, four to be exact, just absorbing the lights and sounds of the city and its outskirts. The farms, the road trips, Yosemite Park… It reminded me of the school trip I had in Korea, but prolonged and experienced more fruitfully.

The farms were an interesting measure. Rows and rows of pastures, cows, goats and horses. Being born in a concrete jungle, I do bear the yearning of living next to neighs and deep-throated calls (do goats sound like that?! Or was I better describing a toad?). Somehow, life at a farm seems simple, quiet and slow. Ok, maybe bug infestations and the threat of slithering snakes might linger… But hey! Who said life was perfect? It can only be as ideal as one defines so. Why, don’t I sound like a 50-year old planning her retreat? Hmmm.

The road trips were sprinkled with pop hits, intermittent sleep and maybe some rustling of  plastic. That, you’ll know someone is clawing into a bag of chips or sharing M&M Peanuts with an army of dewy eyes, fresh from the depths of sleep. Somehow, 3 hours or even 4 hours was never defeating. We soldiered on and lent quiet support that our destination was not too far off.

The best road trip food I had (or only had, haha!) was a 3 ounce box of vegetable chips. I’ll speak about that in detail sometime.

Yosemite Park… Now how can words conjure the majestic beauty of its valleys and waterfalls? There, I hiked with a persistent bunch of seven and made it to the top of Vernal Fall! The trek might have been dangerous, but all our words of caution cushioned every step of the way. It was also a monumental end at the park with our team being caught in the first rainfall since June! It also taught me that warm soups and hot chocolates were invented for a reason.

The final day arrived and none of us, evidently, wanted to leave. Catching a glimpse of the final sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge, some teared while others yearned. Will we ever return?

My friends: Although we spent 2 weeks together, it sure seemed like we knew each other for eternity. I never once was part of a group who looked out of each other unconditionally and laughed at each others antics without being offended. (HAHA Sorority sisters!). Interestingly, we pioneered a couple of ideas and left our own legacies behind. Let’s never forget each other and continue to love others with the same passion.

Love,

President of the Sorority.

The dark ages are over. The exams are finally out of sight and Friday, 4th March was a whirlwind afternoon of celebrations.

I admittedly, took a longer time to fall asleep than before. Call it excitement or a mild case of insomnia, but the final paper for the week did have me chomping my nails down to its roots. It was a blatant, no-nonsense 2-hour test on Tax but through it all, I know that once it was over, I have successfully leaped off the cliff and survived.

I love the warmth of the sun after being stifled for far too long. It like shedding an old, scaly skin and suddenly, you’re ready to be up against the world.

For one day.

At 11.15am, we set off to catch a movie. Any movie. Though neurotic me would have skimmed the new releases and settled on “I Am Number Four” or “The Adjustment Bureau”. Since I was in a post-Inception mood (and still mentally alive), we sold our souls to “The Adjustment Bureau”.

Only Shanty and I were madly indulgent and fought through a double bill.

More on that later.

In a brief review, The Adjustment Bureau is a surrealist with a mildly elaborate plot in small doses. If it were to measure up with Inception, I say it was merely skipping the waters like a harmless pebble. So go ahead and lose yourself in daydreamin’ for The Adjustment Bureau.

Dissatisfied and determined, Shanty and I ended up watching The Black Swan right after The Adjustment Bureau. The Cathay then Plaza Singapura. Honestly, we would have missed the train of happiness for it. BEST MOVIE EVER.

Portman certainly deserved to wrap every finger around that golden statue.

Basically, The Black Swan revealed much raw insight in a quest to perfection and how fine a line between sanity and insanity is. What I loved about the movie was how it was relational and trust me, we have all been there more than once in our lives. (Self revelation #1: Been there, done that.)

The day ended with an economical dinner of epic (monetary) proportions (food is particularly costly downtown) and a warm hug to wish my friend the best for her internship.

Time, truly flies when you’re having fun.

… That makes me crave it in one moment and flare up in a heartbeat.

Baking.

Make no mistake, I adore baking. Even went crazed enough to bake 2 days in a row. That was before. Anyway, the emotions I experience whilst baking is the interesting bit.

Should anyone ask what is it about baking that I truly adore, I’ll say: Whisking (with an electric beater of course).

Though before I get to that, I must say that the preparation process never fails to leave me moderately frustrated. Something about chopping ingredients, bending over 1m high dining tables to measure out concise portions  in measuring cups and scrambling for missing ingredients during whisking (keeping in mind that’s my favourite part), leaves my flustered.

Somehow, I just hate to be interrupted in the midst of a calming whisk.

Whisking with a handheld electric beater surely beats tumbling ingredient after ingredient into a large mixing bowl (of a cake mixer). With the handheld device, you can actually feel the pull of the batter against the whisks, instantaneous rising clouds of flour puffs upon incorporation, that split-second tear when steel meets yolk… Bliss. I never want to be interrupted. Period.

However, I realised that my tweaking of recipes often leave me scrambling for missing ingredients halfway through whisking, which very much instills a bothersome niggle that my half-whisked mixture is sitting way too long, way too still. That is some serious baker trepidation.


So when I do forget and scramble for the ingredients, my mind would wander to the time when the raw good sits in the oven for a nail-biting 30 minutes. How will it turn out? Will it rise? If it doesn’t, what went wrong? My carelessness in preparation or a misstep in the recipe?

At last, when oven calls out and the baked good is visibly successful through the looking glass, YES! My heart sings in rightfully glee.

Ah, luckily enough, my heart continues to swell in positivity as every one of my first attempts turn out fine.


Cheers, to continuous bake feasts!

I am a woman with no mission. In fact, the very inspiration to attempt this recipe was an idle bottle of Hershey’s Genuine Chocolate Syrup.

Well, that and the other fact of not needing to spend time melting chocolate chips over the stove-top.

Get, set and applause to the easiest brownies recipe I’ve ever attempted (store-bought pre-mixes not considered): Chocolate Syrup Brownies.

I believe brownies smell for themselves and anything with vanilla essence piques one’s tastebuds. Never mind the artificial origin.

One cup of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup later, the mixture turns into a beautiful shade of burgundy-brown. However, once the white flour and cocoa powder mix was encapsulated into the wet batter, an unsettling mud bath developed:

Contrary to the unappealing batter, all it took was 25 minutes of immense trapped heat to set the seemingly simple mixture. (Under 5 ingredients and you got yourself a brownie!)

Well, interestingly enough, I took 2 approaches to arrive at its cooked state: first by paper cups then by a longitudinal Teflon-coated baking tin. The first batch turned out better than expected, even rising with the absence of baking powder and soda! What turned out after the baking tin went into the oven (it sat out for a good 25 minutes in the open) was this:

On dissection, a chocolate baked-mooncake-like-biscotti was born! Truly, when I savoured it the day after, it tasted like a baked mooncake. Dense and deceptively tasty.

Why biscotti? The level it rose was how I expected a biscotti to.

To end this daring first attempt of simple brownies, they made an avid chocolate-loving friend a breakfast she’ll never forget.