It's December. Snow (or rain) falls incessantly. The temperature drops. We've entered the final month of 2014. It's been a good year, 2014. Not necessarily the best, but a meaningful, memorable year. I've made friends, learnt more about myself and find myself inching towards new discoveries and revelations.
I've got this craving for new knowledge, fresh, fulfilling knowledge of the way of life. I stand by my values, as always, whilst pursing ideas and wisdom.
Christmas is on nigh, when celebrations are celebrated for the sake of celebrating, for bringing smiles, for respecting tradition. We live in uncertain times, in times where there's turmoil, where conflict rages on, but most of us being safe and sound in our beds. That's something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is over, I am aware, but that doesn't mean that we can't bear that thought in our heads and toast to this good year.
and repurposed 10-minute flower garland
I believe that story-writing is a skill that all children are gifted with.
I think that it is embedded in their bones, coursing through their veins, weaving in and out of their minds like the imagination that they have. It's magic, it truly is. Even in their waking dreams, they believe, believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, so wholeheartedly with the hopefulness glimmering in their eyes and roseate cheeks, that even you begin to be convinced too.
I believe that they snatch these wisps of stories from their air with chubby fists, spinning them into tales richly laden with creativity, with fantasies beyond anyone's wildest dreams. They concoct these tales, prescribing smiles for everyone. They bring much joy.
But the innocence and naivety of childhood is not eternal. It fades, either slowly and gradually, or vanishes with celerity, without a trace to be left behind. Slowly, as we grow, that gold in our bones simmers down and is whisked away, into places no-one knows of. It disappears as we grow, replaced by worries and the depressingly blank wall we face as we slowly, but surely, age. Colour, we see on more, as well as the spices of life. Magic which once bewitched us turns into legerdemain, mere tricks and sleight of deceiving hands. We do not capture the essence of beauty in everyday life, with mind brimming with worries and frustrations.
I stand (or rather, sit) here today, neither child nor adult, teetering on the edge of both worlds, one filled with enchantment, the other dull, defined. I'm unsure, not knowing of what to do, of which path to take. I do not wish to let that beauty of childhood escape, but already, I feel it seeping away. There's nothing to do but wait; wait for time to make her move.
Orange-Rum Gingerbread Pancakes
And whilst being soaked in the childhood spirit - why not have a flower garland - mess-free! I don't believe in letting things go to waste, hence repurposing these 5-minute paper roses into a garland.
5 + 5 equals 10. Just ten minutes of your time for a fancy garland. Worth it, eh?
Tape roses onto a metre or so long piece of yarn with tape and hang. Enjoy.
with balloon toppers and walnut candles!
It's hard to believe that I've reached this point in life, this milestone of turning fourteen. My mind whirls with the thought- me, just playing pretend like it was yesterday, being fourteen today. I've been a recipient of well-wishes and kind messages throughout the day, from a multitude of people I know and not-know-so-well. I've gotten those words, happy birthday, from unexpected parties, from someone who celebrated with me yet forgot it was my birthday, and from my classmates, friends, and friends' parents. And for that, I'm thankful. I'm thankful to know that there are those who remember one of the days which I hold dear in my heart, thankful to know that they do remember, be it in the form of a call, a simple happy birthday!, or a long text message from a close friend.
The memories come rushing back, like they were summoned just by the clock which times my life. I can see myself, perched upon a stool, playing pretend with my friends, all innocent and naïve in the dawn of childhood. I was so, so young, wide-eyed and curious. I asked questions, more often than not receiving disappointing answers, or earning a shush. I would dream too. I'd dream of being a princess, or a mermaid, or some other fairy tale creature conjured by the likes of Disney. I'd fantasize, and imagine, my eyes staring to a non-existent point in the distance.
And I grew.
I grew to be tall-er (being the tallest in class since birth), smarter, and slightly wiser. I learned new things, my inquisitive edge blunted by all that shushing, but still an imaginative one. I still dreamt in the sunshine-filled days of my tweens, now stronger than ever, as I really could drift off for hours on end, nothing but a mere cord binding my mind to me. I would imagine less of myself, but of the world I'd live in, be it a small, cozy kitchen in a forest, a glamorous suite in the heart of a metropolis, or a pilgrim in a caravan (though I'm pretty sure that was from excessively reading Roald Dahl).
I would read too. Books of all sorts seemed to be filling the house, mostly of the non-fiction genre, with my favourites to read beneath the desk in school (during class) being Enid Blython, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis... Looking at the bookshelf of mine that, despite many packing and re-packings, is stuffed full, I realise that few books from then remain, save the most memorable ones. For that, I have to thank my mother, she who was always there for me; and despite the looks of fake displeasure she gave me when forking over money for a new novel, they carved a way for my interest in language, my love for dramatics and anything literature. (I'm happy that my horrible eyesight was a unfortunate side-effect of book-reading, and not television-junking)
And I grew.
I continued to blossom, to spread my wings (though more often than not, I found myself having my feathers plucked), and to gain further insight in this tumultuous world. I have developed my dreams, now shifting to the future, something more realistic, but still artistic. The future is still cloaked in this shadow of grey fog, and my mind is indecisive about which fork in the road I should take. I've developed my interests, something I once found unlikely - cooking, as well as maintained and furthered what was once rooted in me, crafts. Here in this space, I've fused them, formed a medley of cooking, crafting, and writing, where I can find the peace within myself.
At this moment, I'm fourteen - and how long a journey it's been! Years of laughter, of wails, of screams, of shrieks, of snorts... The list of sounds I produce can drag on, really. The journey goes on, whether I want it to or not. There are people and places I'm forced to bid farewell to, and life isn't judgemental whether I want it or not. I miss friends, miss places, miss those memories. But the ties of memories forged let me be connected, some way or another. I move on, in body and in mind. One of those things learned is to go with the flow and let life carry you upon the tides.
I may wish to be Peter Pan, be in Neverland and be my parents' little girl forever. But like those dreams I held as a youngling have vanished with time. I know now that being a model isn't realistic (despite all the times it was suggested by teachers), an architect not to my true interests, and a faerie princess plain stupid. I realize that those fanciful thoughts about going overseas with friends at sixteen is just a Hollywood-influenced idea, and that of going to an academy from Harry Potter.
And despite all my air-head-ish thoughts, there are people who I have to thank- those who have empowered me throughout the years and some I've encountered in my various endeavours. I've been blessed, blessed beyond relief, for the opportunities I've been offered over the years, the people I've met, and most importantly, being born in such a privileged family. Without you all, I wouldn't be the person here today, much less have the mind of myself. So, thank you. Thank you all.
But for now, I shall revel in the being of being a teenager (rather reluctantly). I had one of the most amazing days with a friend, having strolled around town for a movie, books, and food. We met at the train station, me being surprisingly late by ten minutes, later having trouble locating a building just down the street, and catching a long-awaited movie (I did say I was a sucker for movies, didn't I?). Books followed, and I got lost in that labyrinth of bookshelves, ogling at the various titles, indecisive of what to choose, and the friend being absorbed in the manga section. We finally emerged two hours later, book-laden and not-hungry-but-wanting-more. Free samples were grabbed, food bought and overall, it was an eventful day.
Before the day even began though, I awoke to a hug from my mother and cake-baking in the early hours as dawn unfolded. I began to bake. And bake I did. I baked a cake, one that was simple, yet had my favourite flavors combined within, one which would tease my tongue and arouse the palate. I baked, and yielded a well-risen cake, one which was nicely crisped and not overly-browned.
I experimented a little here, and remembered that hot air rises, so candles + balloons = pop. But when I sliced the cake up, I knew that it was a success. Soft, warm cake, not sticky, but lightly chewy, with a most pleasing texture. The flavour itself was wonderful - so you'll be seeing it very, very soon in more recipes! It was a good cake, with a pleasing texture and taste, the perfect start to a day.
Sea Salt Cake with Caramel Glaze
1/3 c flour (wholewheat for me)
1/3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon coconut sugar / other sweetener of choice
1/4 c applesauce
1 date + 2-3 tbsp. water
1. Preheat oven to 180c. Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
2. Stir in egg and applesauce until a smooth batter is formed.
3. Pour batter into a greased ramekin / small cake tin. Bake for 25 mins or so, until tester inserted comes out clean.
4. Meanwhile, mash the date with water until a smooth, thin paste is formed.
5. Remove the cake from the oven, change the setting to 140c, and let it cool for a bit.
6. Invert onto a plate, smear 'glaze' over cake, then bake for another 5 mins. Serve, and enjoy.
5 long wooden chopsticks / satay sticky
5 small balloons
5 gift wrap ties
What to do:
1. Inflate balloons, and tie.
2. Attach to blunt end of the stick with cable tie. Make fancy 'streamer' patterns with them, if you wish.
3. Stick into cake. Serve.
For walnut candles, just place walnuts firmly onto cake and light it up with a lighter. The natural oils help them burn. But do not ever try to serve a cake with balloon toppers and candles. The balloons will pop.
and 2-ingredient, 5-min Paper Roses
For the paper roses, see below.
Here’s the end of a chapter, a chapter in a book which will be written for a long time to come (I sincerely hope).
Boarding is nearly over. I can gaze at by now-barren room, with nothing save the sparse furniture and my pencil case and its contents strewn over the table like my scattered thoughts. It’s devoid of adornments and personality, much like what it was weeks ago when I settled in.
My suitcases, neatly propped up against the wall, contain some of my beloved possessions – a shred of my old blanket (a rag, rather), a storybook and sketchbooks. On top are the kettle and filter, for water ought to be clean and leave a slightly sweet aftertaste in the mouth, like water which I’m accustomed to at home. All these hold memories which I shall return to soon, in the warm comfort of home.
There’s much I’ve experienced over the past month or so, some of happiness and reflection, others of trouble and much disgruntlement. I’ve met people, forged bonds, and really, discovered much about the self. I’ve become attuned to waking up in the mornings to have a simple bowl of porridge, occasionally bread, and simultaneously, reading or editing some pictures – what I like doing most.
There’s a quiet stillness in the chilly early-morning air which gradually gives way to the warmth of the rising sun, which I occasionally watch, and remind myself of what every day is – a new beginning, where fresh opportunities await.
Certainly, I’ve been given many surprises in these weeks – both negative and positive. But from those occasions where it’s negative, I can’t help but realise that I’ve gathered some experience and knowledge. I’ve found out things about myself I’ve never known (how cheesy!), unveiled these aspects of mine which have laid dormant.
I’ve been a balancing artist, being able to carry the precariously stacked dishware down the corridor to wash and back.
I’ve been an exterminator, from the morbid encounter with the uninvited guest, where we have stuffed the bottom of the door with newspapers and spritzed mosquito repellent like air freshener.
I’ve been an explorer, now familiar with the labyrinth of roads which hides a shortcut home.
There’s much I’ve done too, having had thrown a small birthday celebration/gathering, mini-photo-shoots within the confines of a desk, and my café-hopping voyages, where I finally got to try out an assortment of tarts, cakes, sandwiches and coconuts (which I’ve a hidden passion for). I’ve met new people, other souls which converge upon cosy nooks for various purposes, and a common reason – good, warm food.
Now that boarding is almost over and I can return home, I reminisce. It’s been a journey I haven’t regretted setting foot in, or detested (for it’s compulsory). I don’t admit I liked it, liked the stuffy confines of less than a hundred square feet, or the unpredictable weather in the morning when the chill seeps into thy bones (I’ve been reading Shakespeare, clearly).
I’ve been taught much from this venture of life as well, about how I ought to treasure my parents and home, where the flavour of the dust motes which linger in the air is of a homely taste, and where the ants look more like miniature long-grained rice, rather than the slightly rounder ants here (which resemble short-grained rice).
The semester is over, so fare thee well, boarding! Farewell, for now.
And here, another chapter has ended, and another shall be written in time. For these reasons, I shall be refurbishing and renovating the blog for a bit this weekend, as well as changing the url to www.chockywoky.weebly.com (if you haven’t seen the announcement).
So, for the time-being, sayonara.
The above and following are images from the birthday celebration I held for a good friend the day before at a vegan 'fast food' stop. Good memories were made, and laughter heard.
Cake is best served warm, in my opinion, but there's nothing wrong with chilled cake, especially with the sweet vanilla pudding upon one's lips. Sliced into 3, with one piece double the size of the other, the custard poured into neatly into the cake the night before. As the knife broke the surface and cut through the (slightly hard) cake, the custard dripped down, sliding in an utterly charming gooey manner reminiscent of maple syrup. And, oh my, it adds a whole new layer to the cake (literally and figuratively), for sweet cream met with the solid cake, as a perfect mix as the tongue and mouth indulged in it.
Multiply the recipe and adjust accordingly if making for more, for it's sometimes nice the share cake, and wholesome wholewheat cake nicer. This makes good-sized cake for 2 to 3 to share, or one really hungry person. Enjoy and be sure to celebrate.
Whole-wheat (Mini) Bundt Cake with Custard Filling
1/3 heaping cup of whole wheat flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar / sweetener
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tsp chia seeds + 2 tsp water
1/4 c milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp. custard powder
2-3 tbsp. chilled milk
1. Preheat oven to 180 c. Sift together flour, baking powder, sweetener, cinnamon, and salt.
2. Microwave chia and water for 10 secs or let it sit for 20 mins to thicken. Combine with egg, vanilla and milk. Whisk to combine.
3. Pour into flour mixture and stir well, until a thick drippy batter is formed.
4. Pour into a greased ramekin / mini bundt cake mould and bake for 25 mins, until top is browned and a cake tester or toothpick instated is clean.
5. Once cooled to room temperature, mix custard powder and milk until a paste forms. Pour into middle of bundt, or cut a hole in the middle of the round cake. Let it chill if storing in the fridge, or serve immediately.
Note: If storing, add custard a maximum of 12 hours before serving, otherwise I fear it will become soggy.
These delights were made the night before as well, and I got the idea from the floral movement which is blossoming everywhere. This 'recipe' is one which I was inspired by the swirly party twines (which resemble pigs' tails) and an accidental 'mess up' sometime early in my childhood.
Sometimes, the best things happen by accident.
Two-ingredient, 5-minute Paper Roses
What you need:
Coloured papers (I used A5 - sized)
1. Cut papers into squared-shaped.
2. Trim the edges to get a roughly shaped circle.
3. Cut a spiral in that circle. A spiral with larger borders will have fewer layers (as shown in the pictures), while one with narrower borders will be more delicate.
4. Paste a small mound of blue tack in the middle of the spiral, slightly larger than a thumbtack.
5. Begin to roll the spiral in carefully, following the inner layer. (it needn't be perfect!)
6. Once you have reached the innermost layer and the base has a distinct cone-shape, press it into the base and ensure properly secured. Paste to any desired surface and admire.