Monday, April 28, 2014

In the Kitchen with Kak Joe

Hmm.... This title has a nice ring to it. Maybe I should start a new blog dedicated to only my culinary achievements. But then again, I suddenly remember someone having a 'food blog' with his 'friend' and I decided that's not what I want to do. Anyway, back to the subject title.

It all began after I was diagnosed with having major depression and acute anxiety. Being a therapist myself, I knew that in order for me to manage my condition, I need to get myself involved in something that is truly engaging... something that will force me to get out of my head and focus in the here and now.

Pinterest sparked some ideas in me. I love how it made any form of information or knowledge regarding almost anything so easily accessible. I created several boards and among them was entitled Fabulous Food. That's where I pinned all the kitchen projects that I want to try. I started out with making chocolates and the easiest I found was making fresh strawberries covered in dark chocolate.

 Followed closely by fresh blueberries covered in milk chocolate.

And then came Peanut Butter Cups and it's twin sister: White Chocolate Cups with Mixed Fruit Swirl.

 One weekend, I walked into Borders at The Curve and found Star Trek chocolate molds and I made these gems, with blue coloured mint fondant filling.

And I also tried out this very delicious recipe for Cream Cheese Truffles.

 After a while, I got tired of handling chocolates in this hot humid weather. I moved on to baking. And the first thing I did was pay homage to my 'hometown': Swansea, by making Welsh Cakes. And these babies sold like... hot cakes! Hahahaa!

Well, this year is full of firsts for me as far as making chocolates and baking are concerned. I became a little more ambitious and made a double layer Moist Chocolate cake for Jazelia's 22nd birthday. This is how it turned out!

 ... and how it looked on the inside.

 And upon request from another birthday girl, I made moist chocolate cupcakes for her. I think Laton and her family loved them.

When I got called in to volunteer for the MH370 mission, I knew immediately that I needed to clear my head and prepare myself for the challenge. So, I made up my mind to handle yeast for the first time by making Nutella Cinnamon Rolls. They turned out gorgeous and delicious that I got the affirmation I needed to know I was ready to go.

 After 105 hours of volunteer work, I then needed to unwind. So I went back into the kitchen to bake my mom her favourite cake: Walnut and dates cake.

But I didn't just stop there. I went on to make my own version of fairy cupcakes.

Pretty soon, I grew tired of making sweet cakes and desserts only. I decided to try making something savoury and I made these Savoury Muffins with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, beef, grated cheese and potatoes in them. They were so delicious! 

 And on the same day, I made hubby's favourite dessert: English Bread and Butter Pudding served with custard.

 Soon after, I was invited to a friend's 40th birthday party and I decided to go the extra mile. I made a 2 layer Mississippi Mud Cake, complete with chocolate ganache frosting. I think I did fairly well decorating it.

 On the next day, still high on the adrenaline of the day before's achievement, I decided to make my late grandma's steamed fruit cake. Another Ace for me!

I even dared to try making Red Velvet Cupcakes!

And yesterday, I made English Shortbread...

 and Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies.

In between, I've also dabbled in several savoury dishes such as Beef stew in the crockpot

 Kefta Tagine

 ... and Chicken Tagine with green olives and lemon.

 So! There you have it! My kitchen expeditions and achievements. I am proud of myself for being able to manage all the above projects. And its good to know this cooking and baking therapy works for me. I'll post more achievements as and when it happens. Meanwhile, please remember: this is NOT a food blog page.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Dilemma of Journaling

I was gifted 2 journals this year; one by my daughter and another by Rina, my pet sister. These gifts  are making me very nervous! The pressure of writing! By hand! With no delete or undo options! And I truly hate whiteouts! Ok. Enough of pressure venting... For now...

I had the idea of using Blog2Print. I had even completed choosing the cover, layouts, etc. But when I keyed in my debit card details, it was rejected simply because it's from Malaysia! That got me very upset, to say the least. So, there goes that option.

Whilst going through the accumulated hoardings stored in drawers all around my home, I stumbled upon several notebooks I had kept as journals before internet was made accessible to me. I decided that maybe its a good idea for me to begin by transferring my past writings into one of my new journals.

I had thought of keeping one journal just on my kitchen expeditions, but it includes pasting photos of my culinary achievements. Alas, I do not own a polaroid camera. Therefore, I am seriously considering going to the photo shop to have my photos printed out just so I can design the layout of my cooking journals as how I envision it in my head.

Fountain pen or Bic ballpoint pen? One of the journals is not lined. I'm not sure I can write in straight lines. Also, I fear my handwriting has been reduced to chicken scratchings, not unlike a doctor's writing. And my anxiety level continues to rise. Time for meds. I hope this will soon turn out to be a therapeutic exercise, as how it's suppose to be.

So... fountain pen or Bic ballpoint pen...?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hoping for a Single Hope

In the morning of Saturday 8th March, 2014, I woke up to the news that Malaysian flight MH370 had disappeared. How can a huge Boeing 777 vanish into thin air? All social medias has gone berserk with news of all sorts; from worried families and friends, rumours, speculations galore. I just didn't know what to think or believe. I tried my best to put it out of my head. But it was simply impossible to do.

On the following Monday, I was called in to volunteer as a counselor for this mission. Families of passengers on board the flight were all accommodated in a local hotel. A family crisis centre was put in place and I was happy I could be useful. I decided to clear all my work schedule and dedicate my full commitment to this mission.

Despite the fact that I was working in a highly tensed and stressful environment, I was calm. I was driven and fully conscious of what needed to get done. I responded accordingly and professionally. I even surprised myself when I realised that my depression and anxiety had flown out the window! Wonderful, right? But my heart still bleeds for the families and friends of those on board the missing flight.

Due to the nature of my work, I am not at liberty to divulge details. All I can say is after 105 hours of volunteering work in the span of a month, I learnt something about myself. I felt like as if I had walked into a storm and come out of it a changed person. I'm no longer the same. I don't know how else to articulate that.

As I'm writing this, its been more than a month since the flight had disappeared. No debris to prove of any crash. So many conspiracy theories circulating around the social media. We still do not know what had happened to it.

The way the human mind works when there's no information or news forthcoming, we tend to go to the next best thing we have, and that is to draw our own conclusion. And we do this in order to survive, to move forward, to let go, to accept that things have changed. We do this to cope. And at our worst, we would form assumptions and conclusions laced with fear of the unknown, uncertainties and anticipation of loss. And for as long as the truth of what had indeed happened eludes us, we have nothing but that: assumptions of the worst. Its our way of preparing ourselves for the worst pain we might have to endure.

My own personal perspective is not exclusive to this option. I find myself assuming the worst when I'm left in the dark where there use to be light. I'm left to keep on standing on my own when there was once a source of support that I could lean on. I'm left dealing with uncertainties in place of a time when promises were made and believed. I am no longer sure where I belong or what grounds I'm standing on. 

I've seen the best and I know it well. I say this with great certainty because I had experienced it personally in multiple occasions, so much so that I've learnt to rely on it being something dependable. Precedence set and carved in stone. But it's no longer there. So, where is the best as promised?

What I now know for sure is that in moments of grief and loss, most people react with  anger. Nothing is ever good enough. Everything is a source of provocation to bring about wrath and you become the punching bag for them to let out their frustrations. But I'm also aware of my own limitations. I cannot see in the dark. I cannot hear what is unspoken. I cannot know what is not told. I am no longer sure where I belong. But its been made clear to me where I don't belong. 

And so, I continue to stand still. Still standing and standing still. Unknowing. Hoping for a single slither of hope. For closure.