Read. Do. Make. Eat. 25.9.2015

Cooking, Eating Out, Stuff to do, Thoughts

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Read.

The new Mindy Kaling book, Why Not Me? This book has been responsible for all the scream-laughs coming from my bedroom this past week.

Do.

Go Christmas/whatever shopping at Public Garden! This month it is weirdly enough in the Suntec Convention Centre but maybe that’s good because #haze.

Make.

Some blueberry inspired things, like that crumble pictured above or these Clinton St. Baking Co’s blueberry pancakes.

Eat.

Speaking of, there’s a Clinton St. Baking Company in Singapore now. It’s apparently expensive and very hip.

On friends and cheese

Entertaining, Thoughts

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I’ve been meaning to share these wonderful pictures of my birthday spread taken by flatmate and friend, Melissa.

But life got in the way and then procrastination got in the way and then my mood got in the way and yet these pretty pictures remained in my mind and in my blog storage.

The desire to host a wine and cheese night for my birthday came from Pinterest. Specifically here and here. I found that I ultimately had too much cheese (problem) and too much wine (not a problem) but it was a success. A tiring one.

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I’m going to, I think, pare down my entertaining to smaller groups and maybe even the number of people I hang out with, at any given point.

Which is going to be tough because, well… I have always been the kind of person who has multiple groups of friends. You can call it being a social butterfly, but I think I evolved into this creature as a result of social survival. Moving around and meant having to say goodbye and hello and having to fit in. Whenever I settle in a place I start making friends like it’s my job and I don’t ever really stop.

I think it might be my form of insurance, like well, if my group of Masters desi friends decide to move on to greener pastures at least I’ll have my group of permanent NRI desis to hang out with or my newly scavenged Singaporean friends (FYI you guys need to learn how to make friends with randoms better).

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But I’ve been wondering, is having more friends better than having a few? Even if it means keenly feeling their loss when and if they do leave? Making time for all these people I admire and enjoy spending time with is great but it takes away from “me” time and just general processing time. As much as I consider myself to be an extrovert, social burnout might be a possible problem.

And then there’s the other harder reality to face – I feel close to most of my friends and yet can they fill the void that a family/significant other are supposed to fill? According to social convention anyway.

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I shall ponder this and excessive cheese this weekend. Have a good one folks!

Cooking with… PZ – Saatenbrot

Baking, Cooking with Friends, Life

I have been sitting on these brunch with PZ pictures for what… months now? And I don’t know why, I think part of it might have to do with what can you say when you have a friend who comes to your house with a freshly baked loaf of super seedy bread and then helps you prepare brunch except #blessed?

But more seriously, I take my brunch very seriously.

Just this past weekend as I was stumbling out the door on Saturday morning for a waffles and ice-cream brunch, Mel, my apartment mate was all:

Mel: Do you brunch every weekend?
Me: *pause* Yes?
Mel: That’s cool.
Me: *in my head* That’s expensive.

Which is why, when the Singapore Martha Stewart (I need a shortform of this nickname) volunteered to bake bread to anchor Sunday brunch at my place, I + my flatmates + one (one of their boyfriends, that is) were enthusiastic about a) being cheap and b) eating some high quality stuff.

Here is PZ actually arranging the smoked salmon in a pleasing way, so as to enhance the taste.

We, the barbarians that we are, were happy to eat it off the foil it came on. But you know, this was cool too.

PZ aims to not buy bread in the shops anymore and instead wants to shift to only consuming the bread that she makes. I’m not sure why she wants to do this. Could it be because the bread we buy from the shops is full of weird additives that are giving us cancer? Possibly. Could it be because the bread she bakes is ludicrously tasty? More probably.

I prepared a creme fraiche lemon dill dip which you see here and eggs en cocotte. And of course we had lots of coffee and fresh blueberries. These pictures solely exist to torment you.

And remind me of a lazy Sunday that I want to get back to.

Oh! PZ kindly shared the recipe for the bread that she made (adapted from here):

Makes 1 loaf

Soaker
48g whole wheat flour
28g dark rye flour
100g water
1g of salt
64g flaxseed

Starter
7g rye mother starter (100% hydration)
71g dark rye flour
71g water

Final
43g dark rye flour
48g bread flour
62g water
2g instant yeast
4g salt
64g toasted sesame seeds
1 egg white (for the egg wash)
14g of mixed sesame seeds and flaxseeds, for the topping

Prep the soaker and starter a day before you bake the bread.

Day 1
In the morning, stir the soaker ingredients, cover and let it sit at room temperature till evening. Repeat with the starter ingredients in a separate bowl.

In the evening, mix the soaker and starter together with the final dough’s ingredients.

Knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Knead more vigorously for 4 minutes, and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Knead 1 more minute, and the dough should be somewhat sticky.

Place it in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and keep it in the fridge overnight.

Day 2
Take out the dough and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Stretch and fold the dough to shape it, and place the dough seam-side down.

Brush the exterior with egg white and roll the dough in the mixed seeds for topping.

Transfer the dough into the loaf pan and spray some olive oil on it. Cover and let it proof for 45 to 60 minutes, till it’s 150% in size.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240C.

Place a ramekin of water on the bottom of the oven and position the rack in the middle.

When the dough is ready after proofing, bake at 240C for 10 minutes, then 220C for another 10 minutes, and 180C for the last 10 minutes. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

*Not pictured: An impromptu blueberry crisp we made out of leftover blueberries which we served with vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice-cream. The pictures were too ugly to share and I didn’t really want to mess with the beauty above.

Read. Do. Make. Eat. 28.8.2015

Cooking, Eating Out, Stuff to do, Thoughts

Eat some ice-cream. Here.

Eat some ice-cream. Here.

Read.

SO cute AND helpful. This writer followed her Mom around Costco and this is what she learned.

Good looking people share the contents of their fridge. What? Why? Because they’re good looking and that makes me care.

Do.

It’s the last weekend of the Singapore Night Festival – gotta love it when people try to marry the (supposed) mundanity of museums with the novelty of staying out past your bedtime.

Practice your (insert language here).

Make.

Banh MI. BANH Mi. BANH MI.

Eat.

This chocolate bar.

The SGD18++ six-plate degustation pasta with wine at Bottura. Can you say value for money?

A parting thought – what do you guys think about cookbooks? I think they’re beautiful but I never use them – I either find recipes on the Interweb, make something up or call my Mom.

Blocked and Loaded

Thoughts, Wisdom

On the cusp of... texting

On the cusp of… texting

HI!

So I haven’t been writing because I… just don’t feel like it.

I am / my phone is full of pictures, stories, reviews and more and I… just want to not deal with ANY of it.

I think, my friends, this is what you call a rut. I’m in a creative rut and rather than work it out by myself I have decided to air out my not-so-dirty laundry here.

1. I’m in a rut because after a truly exciting and fun birthday (I dragged out celebrations for about one week because #imworthit) a return to normalcy feels a little too normal. Where is my 10th birthday cake? Why aren’t people randomly hugging me anymore? Does this mean I get no more free wine?

2. I’m a rut because a close friend moved away for her PhD – and I miss her. I used to be able to completely deal with saying goodbye to a friend, especially having moved so much as a kid, but the older I get the more I realize I am not the Tin Man. Which is super annoying.

3. I’m in a rut because I have SO many projects to start on – that I don’t know where to start. Do I re-start my failed scrap booking project? Do I start reading about and implementing the terrifying KonMarie method? Do I finally keep the promise I made to myself and readers to amp up the blog with better photography – using the gazillion props my friends have gifted me over my past two brithdays (IGETTHEHINT).

I feel like I am on the cusp of doing some great stuff and yet something, specifically my mind, is holding me back.

Still I know the only solution to this rut, and to most other problems – imaginary or real – that I might have, is to get my head out of my ass and get on with it.

Actually after writing this, I’m already feeling a little less blocked. Excuse the imagery.

Weighed, measured, and found AWESOME

Life, Thoughts, Wisdom, Work

This post is the first time I have gotten a request to write about something specific.

In this case a friend asked me “So when’s your next blog post?”

“I dunno – tomorrow?” (This was yesterday)

“Cool.”

“What do you want it to be about?”

“Overcoming crippling feelings of inadequacy?”

As I mulled that over I was all – shit how am I going to write about that? I don’t feel inadequate – like EVER. Remember, I’ve said before that I suffer from hubris?

But then I started thinking – maybe it’s not that I don’t feel inadequate. Maybe it’s that I just don’t think about it enough and I don’t let whatever feelings I have, prevent me from doing anything.

This resilience comes from a having a relatively rough childhood – when you combine doting parents, gullibility and pudginess – you get a combo that bullies cannot resist. For most of my pre-pubescent life I was ridiculed for my weight, was no where close to the cool kids’ table and was generally a try-hard. But in school I did really well. My grades were high, I kissed-ass like no other and the feedback from teachers was nothing short of glowing. I continued in this vein till now, sometimes succeeding in school, sometimes succeeding socially and now I’ve kind of got a place at work and with friends that I really like.

Still sometimes, when I’m faced with a peer who makes more than me or friends in long-standing, stable relationships – I begin to wonder, what’s wrong with me?

I think it might be that very question, that holds me back. If I’m wondering about what’s wrong with me, or as the Internet defines inadequacy – what’s lacking in quality about me or insufficient or wanting, how can I perform or be present and do whatever it is I need to do? If I constantly think I’m not up to the task or not worthy of something – how will I ever achieve it? That’s self-fulfilling prophecies for you – the eternal annoying as hell chicken and egg situation.

So there isn’t any real solution to overcoming feelings of inadequacy. BUT I think it’s important not to let feelings or perceptions of inadequacy cripple you, especially when you need to perform. I have three suggestions for overcoming this:

1. Be confident in yourself and your abilities by doing the work that is needed to be confident. Basically over prepare. This isn’t my advice, this is from Mindy Kaling.

2. I’m not going to go on this you’re totally adequate and you can do anything rant, because if you were able to convince yourself of that you wouldn’t need this. Instead it’s always helpful to me to imagine that most people are like me and also go through bouts of feeling inadequate and are still generally able to make it in their career, love and life. So you don’t have to beat anyone. You just have to join them.

3. Just do whatever it is that you need to do because what’s the worst thing that could happen? If you’re suffering from nerves before a first day or work or need to make a presentation or need courage to text someone, but think you’re not qualified or a shitty public speaker or not hot enough (OH THE STRUGGLE!), let me just ask, “What’s the worse thing that could happen?” In all these scenarios, you could stumble and mess up and be embarrassed as HELL and it really won’t matter – in the grand scheme of things. So get over yourself and get on with it.

29 and counting

Life, Thoughts, Wisdom
Five years old and surrounded by Barbie Dolls #blessed

Five years old and surrounded by Barbie Dolls #blessed

I am turning 29 pretty soon (TOMORROW!).

29 feels older, not old, but definitely older.

I don’t know what it is but I don’t feel as frenetic as before. I know I would like to change certain things about my behavior/personality but I know that it will take time. I know I’ve got to work on my career but again, time, luck and a little/a lot of hard work, should get me there. I know I want to continue to cultivate the relationships I have with friends and family but I also know that time will change the nature of these relationships and that’s okay too.

So this year, I have a few birthday resolutions but it’s with an in-breath and an out-breath that I genuinely know that these are aspirations for the next year and yeah I’ll probably do them all. But I should be kind to myself in the process. Can you tell I’ve been doing yoga?

So let’s look at last year’s birthday resolutions and I’ve gotta say I did it all except the volunteering bit. Which is pretty shit. But you know at least I can sleep now and I’m quite bendy – which takes me into my resolutions for this year.

1. Build on my YOGA practice

One of my resolutions last year was to start doing yoga regularly and I cannot tell you how CRAZY different my body and mind are before and after I started. It’s not like I’ve suddenly turned into a crazy hot yogi (not that I would mind looking like her) but I’m much stronger physically, sitting-at-the-computer-related pain is a thing of the past and I’m much more positive about my body image. I haven’t achieved a state of zen either but I am able to sleep better and I can let stuff go. If you know me – you know that’s crazy. So, maybe yoga didn’t take away my anxiety but it helps me channel it or deal with it better. Whatever it is, yoga has changed my life and I want to keep building on my practice and making it a daily part of my life.

2. Curb excessive-ness

I wrote a post last week about how I wanted to let go of excessive shopping this coming year and I realized it’s more than that. I want to let go of excessive-ness and it’s not that I want to go minimalist either – coz that sure as hell didn’t work for me. Instead, this next year I want to work on a) curbing the amount of superfluous shopping I do b) curbing the amount of excessive eating I do and c) curbing the amount of over-exercising that I do. Superfluous shopping is hard on my wallet, my sanity and the planet. Excessive eating, especially when it’s fried or unhealthy food is just well, unnecessary. And over-exercising has led me to feel terrible and also look terrible from exhaustion. It’s time I took a breath and was more mindful about what I buy, eat and do.

3. Focus more time AND energy on the blog

I love this blog. I haven’t made money from it but it has enriched my soul and it has been an outlet when I desperately needed one. I love how it has changed the way I view food. I love that it’s brought me closer to people both through the Cooking with column and also just through readership feedback. And I love that it helps me clear my mind. I think it’s time that I devote a little bit more time to the content, look and feel and more than anything else, the pictures that I curate for this blog. Photography isn’t something I’m particularly good at but I know that if I get a decent camera and work on it I can do better. And in this visual day and age, that’s going to count for a lot.

So there you have it – three resolutions for my last year as a twenty-something year old. Wish me luck!

Validation – where do you get it from?

Thoughts

The selfie - the ultimate tool of self-validation

The selfie – the ultimate tool of self-validation

What is validation? The free, online dictionary says it means to make valid; substantiate; confirm.

For me, validation is what I feel when I belong somewhere, have a purpose or when I’m being recognized for doing something well.

Usually, I feel validated as a result of interacting with different people.

In the past (and still) that feeling mostly came from my family, who validated my very existence by telling me I was THEBESTPERSONEVER in different ways. As you can imagine this has led to my somewhat distorted sense of reality and an inflated sense of confidence that has only increased over the years (yes, I know, it’s borderline obnoxious, but you cannot deny that I am also very aware of my faults).

Most of my validation, these days, comes from friends. After I have spent time with a very close friend one-on-one, or a group of like-minded friends, I feel like I belong, that I’ve contributed, that I’ve helped in some way. This is especially true when I’ve given a good bit of advice or we’ve worked through some situation together.

At work – say I write a kick-ass press release, and all the media I invited attend a press conference I arrange and the news is brilliantly covered – I feel validated. This is then bolstered by thank yous and compliments from colleagues, involved parties and of course bosses.

And now, in this weird day and age, I also get my validation from the Internet people. These are real people (like you!) and people I vaguely know from Internet-land. When they interact with me on social media and I get notifications that tell me – I’m doing a really good job at taking staged pictures of my life on Instagram, or that my taste in dining room tables is so good that someone is actually re-pinning it on Pinterest and the ultimate – when my readership spikes for a particular blog post – I feel like I’m on some crazy validation high.

Validation is important and necessary and I think is a way to feel love and belonging and boost my self-esteem.

But what then happens, when I’m alone at night and I’m not working on work and no one has whatsapped and there are no pings. I have to be by myself and with myself.

I’ve been realizing more and more that I don’t want to keep reaching for and relying on that next hit of validation.

I want to know that I am ok as I am, without needing someone to validate me.

Moments of Absolute Clarity

Thoughts, Wisdom

Like a beam from the sky!

Like a beam from the sky!

80% of the time I walk around with about a billion things on my mind.

It’s either work or friends or that next thing I have to do or, or, or…

So when something is really bothering me, I try to find a billion solutions.

I talk to my friends about it.
I talk to myself about it.
I blog about it.
I go see a counselor about it.
I Google my Astrology sign.
I Google somemore.

In the middle of me trying to solve, or resolve, whatever is bothering me, I sometimes fill my head up with so much noise that I don’t ever really find the answer or the peace I am seeking.

And then if I ever find myself about to walk somewhere, a perfect time for reflection, I choose to plug in my earphones and listen to whatever playlist is striking my fancy (right now it’s Latin Dance – yeah you know it’s good) and dance myself to my next destination.

There is little time for me to really just think about observe a situation and come up with any sort of realization. And when trying to address something, I analyze all reason out of it.

But luckily it seems like my mind has figured out a way to help me out.

When I’m half-awake at night stumbling to the bathroom for a middle of the night pee (All you small-bladdered people do this – don’t lie), sometimes I find I am struck by these BLINDING epiphanies about whatever is bothering me.

I kid you not, halfway from my room to the john the voice in my head will go from “Oh, why is there SO much light” to suddenly “How could you have worried about that inane thing, when in reality you’re being ridiculous and need to just take it easy.”

Funnily enough most of my midnight conversations to myself involve telling myself to chill out. And then my other self tells my clarity self, “Yes, yes I know, now let me pee and sleep, I’m very tired.”

In the morning I’m usually struck by this feeling like I’ve spoken to a fairy godmother or something and that they’ve told me something really important.

I guess I’m lucky – to have a fairy godmother AKA myself – who’s got my back. Maybe I just need to trust myself, a little bit more and Google, a little bit less.

It’s like I visited Mongolia or something…

Travel, Wisdom
A wider shot than the original - so you can see the BIG BLUE SKY

A wider shot than the original – so you can see the BIG BLUE SKY

As you all know – I went to Mongolia for a vacation, recently, and I took a lot of pretty pictures.

But the thing is I actually took even more than the ones you’ve seen. So voila! Ils sont ici!

This is a photo story combined with random things I think you should know about Mongolia.

Rocks and sky. There's a story behind this rock. Ask me in person. Used a VSCO filter

Rocks and sky. There’s a story behind this rock. Ask me in person. Used a VSCO filter

Lightly edited shot in the countryside

Lightly edited shot in the countryside

Wide shot of the gyrs we stayed in

Wide shot of the gyrs we stayed in

Shot of the gyr! And my Dad looking badass. Used a VSCO filter

Shot of the gyr! And my Dad looking badass. Used a VSCO filter

That sky!

That sky!

Sky, sky, sky!

Sky, sky, sky!

Me and my father-in-law? I don't know what I'm supposed to call him, but father in Mongolian is "Ow" as in ow!

Me and my father-in-law? I don’t know what I’m supposed to call him, but father in Mongolian is “Ow” as in ow!

I took this shot after a 30 minute solitary hike/walk up a hill in the countryside while listening to 90s tunes. I needed to get away and I got great pictures!

I took this shot after a 30 minute solitary hike/walk up a hill in the countryside while listening to 90s tunes. I needed to get away and I got great pictures!

They are famous for their meat and their dairy. I don’t drink milk, but I did eat a lot of sheep, beef and more sheep. It was delicious. Top three things to eat in Mongolia, horshoo (deep fried meat dumpling), horhog (meat and vegetables cooked in a pressure cooker with the heat from freakishly hot pebbles) and barbecue (you know this). Try and get home-cooked versions of this. Like by making friends with locals.

Mongolian currency is Tugguruk – and it’s about USD1 to MGT1,900. Think about it like Korean won (if you’re familiar) and it’s close. Things in Mongolia aren’t that cheap – you’re looking at pricing similar to Singapore for food and clothing.

Parking lot at the Genghis Khan memorial

Parking lot at the Genghis Khan memorial

Genghis Khan - shot from below

Genghis Khan – shot from below

I don't know what I was trying to show. Maybe that the statue is really big?

I don’t know what I was trying to show. Maybe that the statue is really big?

People are really into Adidas. Like REALLY.

Mongolian sounds like a cross between Korean and Russian. It sounds especially Korean to me because of that one time, I lived in Korea…

The city was modeled after Soviet cities. Whatever that means.

View from the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

View from the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

Streets near the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

Streets near the apartment in Ulaanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Downtown Ulanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square - lightly edited

Sukhbaatar Square – lightly edited

Genghis Khan (of course) - processed with a VSCO filter

Genghis Khan (of course) in Sukhbaatar Square – processed with a VSCO filter

Genghis' bodyguards. I used a VSCO filter

Genghis’ bodyguards. I used a VSCO filter

Lightly edited shot from the Sukhbaatar Square. Lot of construction going on in Mongolia

Lightly edited shot from the Sukhbaatar Square. Lot of construction going on in Mongolia

Alcoholism is a problem.

Pick-pockets are everywhere. Keep you money stashed safely on your person and don’t flash your fancy shit around.

Summer doesn’t start till July/August.

Buddha statue and me! I used a VSCO filter

Buddha statue and me! I used a VSCO filter

Soviet WWII War Memorial on what used to be the highest hill in Mongolia. Processed with a VSCO filter

Soviet WWII War Memorial on what used to be the highest hill in Mongolia. Processed with a VSCO filter

The Mongolian alphabet is the Cyrillic alphabet – aka the Russian alphabet.

Good places to eat while in Ulaanbaatar:
Broadway – serves great Western and other food.
Jur Ur – the best chocolate tart I’ve eaten in my life came from this place. There’s either coconut or bits of heaven in the crust.
Korean food is generally great – so you can probably eat that anywhere.

The two best things in Mongolia are it’s BIG BLUE SKY and it’s people. They are straightforward, warm and hospitable.

As we sped to the airport my brother yelled, "Take a picture - that's UB!" This is that picture.

As we sped to the airport my brother yelled, “Take a picture – that’s UB!” This is that picture.