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Friday was our last full day in London. The few days we had there just whizzed by too quickly and the evening before, I was lamenting about how sad I was the be leaving Europe this time around. Usually I’m ever the eager beaver to return back to the warmth of Singapore, but I guess the weather had treated me so well that it made me fall that little bit in love with Europe – especially Hamburg. And already I can’t wait to return again to that side of the world next year, hopefully to Italy or Switzerland or another city in Germany.

Friday morning Flo and I made our way back into London but more to the CBD where we met Leena during her lunch hour. It was really sweet of her to sacrifice her precious hour off work just to see us.

We met at To A Tea near Farringdon station, which is this cute little bistro that specialises in teas and they also do healthy lunches – think full salads with lean proteins or veggie options.

I chose a Flowering Tea just because it looked so pretty in the picture. A glass of hot water came and I was like “Whuuuuut?!” before the server dropped a blob of something into it. It took about a minute to slowly unfurl and open up.


Green Tea with Lily and Osmanthus.

Definitely rather girly to look at and perfect for Instagramming. The tea carried a lovely aroma of osmanthus but towards the bottom, it got quite bitter, naturally, as the tea has steeped quite a while by then so it was a little difficult to drink.

It was great catching up with Leena and learning about how the year ahead is going to be quite an exciting one for her, and especially Brian who’s taken over his parents’ restaurant down in Southampton. Lots of things are starting to come together but at the same time, there’re lots of issues to iron out. I hope that all goes well for them!

After tea, Flo and I walked along the River Thames to get to Borough Market.

I love love love Borough Market! Yes yes, it’s full of tourists and food prices aren’t exceptionally cheap but the buzz in the air as you walk through the market is amazing. The delicious smells of food sizzling on the grill, the wide array of pastries, the sweet scent of fresh bread. It’s a feast for the senses!

First thing Flo and I had was an oyster each from this man here.

£2.50 per oyster, with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tabasco, downed in a mere 2.5 seconds. Faster than that in fact!

There were two girls next to us who appeared never to have seen or eaten oysters before and were both keen yet hesitant to try them. After Flo and I had swallowed our delightfully fresh oysters that tasted of the sea, they asked if they were good. I said that they were and Mr. Oyster Man complained that I wasn’t loud enough for him to hear. So I sportingly exclaimed that they were AWESOME!

Paella…

Which we skipped. 

Now Flo and I enjoy good food but we’re not the types to go around and stuff our faces with every appetising thing in sight. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that we both realise that sometimes overeating not only makes you feel sick, it also taints your memory of the food and the place. Instead, we tend to zero in on something we think we’d like and savour it. If we are still hungry after, we might get a small snack or dessert. And the next time we return, we can always try something else. In this case, it might be a while but still…

I more or less zeroed in on Big V.

They specialise in vegan burgers and I opted for the Salad Box that came with two salads and a choice of burger patty. I chose the Spicy Chickpea Sweet Potato Patty. Cost me £7. And it was quite a hefty box which left me very full after.

I loved the Spinach and Broccoli Salad but the Shredded Beetroot Carrot Salad that’s hidden below was a bit too dry and rabbit-food like. Then again, I tend to prefer my veggies on the softer side so yeah… I’m like an old woman in that respect.

I had the salads drizzled with Ume Dressing and they also scooped a generous amount of Beetroot Hummus and Tahini dressing on top as well. Those last two were really yummy. I added Sriracha for the extra kick on my burger. I enjoyed the patty so much I actually returned home and made some for myself! In fact, I made two kinds of veggie burgers so stay tuned for those recipes in a few blog posts’ time!

Flo on the other hand, stayed away from the greens since I had enough for the both of us, and went for the good ol’ British Classic – Fish&Chips from Fish!.

It was ironic because Flo was always drawing flak about how England’s doesn’t have much good food to speak of, and that Fish & Chips are often drowned in oil so why would anyone want to eat them?! I only found out the day that we were at Borough Market that he’d never actually had proper fish and chips before! Tsk! Anyway, he finally decided to give it a go to see if there was some redemption in the English food scene to be found.

And it looks like Fish!, with their £9.95 Cod Fish and Chips managed to impress him after all!

The batter of the piping hot fresh, flakey fish was thin and crisp, while the chips were fat and so very lightly salted. Great with the ketchup although salt and vinegar would have been the more traditional way to go.

Flo said that he was very pleasantly surprised that the fish was fried well and not at all oily. Same with the chips. I’m glad he enjoyed this typical English pub grub especially since this is something the English have definitely got a deft hand in cooking this speciality of theirs. It’s not easy to find Fish & Chips of that same standard in Singapore so having it in London was definitely the right choice.

Happy bellies! We did take a lot of pictures of the food and the food with ourselves. Funny because I think it was in my last post that I was laughing at people taking wefies with the swans at Hyde Park. I guess we all have our little fetishes. Flo’s, and mine, just happens to be food.

So after we filled our bellies, we walked a little more around Borough Market, soaking in the gorgeous sights of beautifully made pastries and desserts.

Giant cookies, German cakes, Dessert slices…

Tarts, Sliced cakes, Chocolate fondants…

Fudge! I’m not really a fudge fan but they’re really popular in the UK.

We skipped the cheeses and breads because we knew that we’d be tempted to buy some but there wouldn’t have been much point since we were leaving the next day – me back to Singapore, and Flo to Zurich for a week at head office.

I wanted to take him over to Bermondsey Street to this place called Fuckoffee. It’s this super quirky, hipster, coffee cafe place where the youngsters go to. It’s like an ‘alternative’ cafe that’s a little rough round the edges.

We were a mere few hundred metres off when it began to pour, so Flo and I quickly found shelter at Bermondsey Street Cafe instead which looked a world away from Fuckoffee. It took quite a big space and looked upmarket-industrial. There was a group of hot mamas with their babies there and two Japanese girls who looked to be having a late brunch of delectable looking fluffy pancakes.

Flo had his Cappuccino. I had my Piccolo.

We didn’t make it to Fuckoffee in the end and I think it was kind of a good thing because the more I think about it, the more the place seems a little dank and grungy. That’s just my opinion. 

When the rain finally cleared, the temperature dropped quite a bit and the winds turned a touch icy. Just a touch.

Flo and I continued on towards the Thames…

Where we then wefied with Tower Bridge

And The Shard

Awesome huh? We took pictures with some of the most iconic, world famous buildings in the world!!!

Then we crossed Tower Bridge, which is one of the prettiest bridges ever. I used to think it was the London Bridge just because. But one day, I found out which one was the real London Bridge and felt rather disappointed that it didn’t look as impressive as it sounded. Also, I guess because there was the song about London bridge falling down, I simply assumed it had to be an amazeballs looking bridge.

Flo and I had quite a journey home because we went to Tower Hill station where we had to make a few switches before we got onto the Met line home. Thought we’d be late for family dinner but nope! We had about a good half hour before most of the family started to pile in.

Grandma cooked the perfect amount for 16 of us – there was a bit more food kept aside in the kitchen for the latecomers.

Sambal Squid with Lady’s Fingers, Roast Pork Belly, Curry Prawns, Stir-fried Asparagus with Runner Beans and Pork Ribs. She later took out some of that Spinach Curry from the night before that I love.

T’was a great final dinner in London and it was wonderful being able to catch up with Rachael especially and find out how her wedding plans are coming along. First cousin on Mum’s side to get married!! 

And seeing Suk Gong, as well as Uncle Peter and Aunty Betty. It’s been a while and sometimes, it’s only after not seeing them for a while that I realise just how much they, and my parents too, are getting on. I’m happy though, that they are all blessed with good health and are looking lively and happy.

Saturday morning, I finished packing everything. By packing I actually mean stuffing everything into my check-in bag. I was a little worried that it might burst open while transiting from London to Singapore. Thank God it didn’t.

Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma left quite early to Southampton to catch their two-week cruise around the Baltic. Flo and I managed to say goodbye to them before catching a bit more zees. At 11am, just an hour before their ship was due to depart, Uncle David got a call to say that they’d left their tickets at home! So there was a bit of a panic where Uncle David had to drive fast and furiously to get the tickets to them, while Kor had to dash Sophie to her tuition class in Harrow.

So lunch with Kor at this Japanese place we enjoy was scrapped and Flo and I made a simple lunch at home before Kor dropped us off at the airport.

Flo’s flight to Zurich was at 4.55pm so I managed to send him all the way to his gate before I somehow managed to burn the other 3 hours until my flight was due to leave.

And so, our two week Eurotrip came to a close. Eurotrip isn’t really the right term because we were really only in two places. Hamdon trip? Lonburg? It was a great one though, one that far exceeded my expectations especially spending it with Flo. In fact, I daresay it was my favourite holiday ever. So far. Especially because it was with Flo.

 

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We managed another road trip with my parents on Thursday but this time, we weren’t as ambitious as before. It was a straightforward 40-ish minute drive to Cliveden, an estate now owned by the National Trust.

Cliveden actually means “valley among cliffs” and has been home to dukes, countesses and a Prince of Wales! Amongst others, of course. Its grounds are huge and its gardens are gorgeous. The day we went was another amazingly beautiful day, perfect for all the families who came with their little ones for a picnic and to run around.

The vastness of Cliveden made me wonder just how its past inhabitants used to get around. By horse? Carriage? Walking? And what if they needed to find each other? 

There was also an area where The Dollhouse was situated. They had these little tree stumps together with a big stump that doubled as chairs and a table. Dad got quite excited being able to sit on one of the stumps.

We continued further in to a large fountain also known as The Fountain of Love where the shell supports three females who are being seen to by Cupid. Yes, I actually try to do some kind of research on these things especially for those who are interested.

I’m sure there were a lot more to Cliveden that we missed out on simply because it was so big and we didn’t have enough time to explore every nook and cranny.

From this shell fountain, we walked up the long driveway leading to the mansion that now operates as a 5-star hotel.

We didn’t enter the hotel but we did walk round its terrace which gave us a bird’s eye view of the parterre. At 4 acres, this is possibly one of Europe’s largest formal gardens.

How cool is that?!

After reaching the parterre, we decided to try and loop back to the car as tummies were beginning to growl. We kind of overshot one of the turns but in doing so, we managed to get a nice shot of Flo and I amongst the tall trees with not a person in sight (behind us). We were all wondering actually, why the crowds had thinned out.

Mum, I think, was getting tired, so was a little annoyed that we had to walk the extra way to get onto the right path back to the car where lunch was waiting for us.

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

Hopping back into the car, we continued on in search for what is allegedly the oldest freehouse in England. Mum and Dad were brought there by a good friend of theirs before and it wasn’t far off from Cliveden. Only… it’s located in a rather remote area so finding its exact location required some trial and error, before resorting to some old-fashioned help, before getting confirmation from Googlemaps which decided to come through for us only after we’d already asked for directions.

Rickety, uneven floors and a low ceiling greeted us at their entrance.

And the interior did feel quite dated with all the random paraphernalia seemingly gathered over the years, decades, centuries?

The place did look old, but whether or not its as old as the over 900 years that they claim to be, I’m not so sure.

Age aside, it still looked sturdy as a rock and while the boys had their pints in hand to cool them down in the afternoon sun, Mum and I settled for coffee.

We decided to have our drinks out in the warm sunshine even though the inside looked very cosy and intimate.

We managed to make it home much earlier this time around which was nice. Our day felt quite relaxed and it was great being able to spend more time out in the fresh air. Being home early also meant that dinner was served hot and fresh out of their pots and pans.

Grandma made my favourite Spinach Curry!! And Mum’s favourite Braised Chicken with Lily Bulbs and Shitake Mushrooms.

I know, I keep saying that Grandma made my favourite this and favourite that. That’s because they’re all my favourite and just as the flavour of Mum’s cooking is unique to herself, so is Grandma’s. Replicating the taste of her cooking would be a near impossible feat!

Also, on many previous trips, owing to my ED, I refrained from eating Grandma’s food what with the oil and salt and blah blah blah. I would buy my own food and cook them to my liking. So I think that being back this time around and allowing myself to enjoy grandma’s food also made her so much the happier. And there were times after dinner where I’d feel as though I’d overindulged but at the end of the day, it was a real treat being able to eat her familiar cooking so f*ck ED because it was worth it.

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Our first morning in London – Northwood to be exact, the town where my family resides when we’re there. It was a soggy day, quite typical of the UK, and it was a bit of a bummer because I felt like Hamburg had totally impressed me with its weather and while I was hoping that London would do the same, it felt like a lame effort on her part.

I guess London being London, it just had to keep to its ‘usual’ default, predictable self. And that, I suppose, can be quite endearing.

After a nice breakfast at home, Flo and I went for a walk around the area. I just showed him our small little high street, and Waitrose – because we love supermarkets!! And just around the corner, was my old school where I did my A level’s.

Northwood College. 

The sign’s been changed and looks rather stiff and boring now. I mean, it didn’t look that much fancier before but it used to state the headmistress’s name as well and somehow it looked prettier.

Flo and I had a rough idea how we were going to plan our days in London so since we didn’t have much time there, we decided to take the family out for lunch first thing. Grandma and Grandpa chose to go for dim sum and I have to admit, I’ve had dim sum at their ‘usual’ before and wasn’t too impressed. We went there anyway, and whaddya know? Looks like they’ve upped their game. The dim sums were more refined and the only dish that disappointed us badly was the pork and century egg congee. That was just mehhh…

I kind of over-ordered not realising that grandma was adding on quite a few noodle dishes but all of us managed to polish everything off in the end. I helped quite a bit too although I did feel quite bad after. And even then, I hankered after a bit of dessert but decided to wait till later…

Because the fam-bam decided we would go visit Windsor Castle while grandma and grandpa went shopping at the Chinese Supermarket.

We used to visit Windsor every year when my brother and I were little. And every year we’d take a photo on their wooden benches by the castle. We” as in my family, and/or just my brother and I, and/or my parents and my brother, and/or my parents and me. You get the idea.

This time, we managed to get one with all of us including Flo. This lovely lady, she sounded Welsh, who was with her young family, gamely offered to help us take a photo. And she did a great job of it too!

Then after a bit of wandering along the Windsor high street, Flo and I decided to have some ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream. A softee! 

Again, this is something from my childhood that I haven’t had in years!

And with a Flake no less!

I remember Kor and I running up to the Mr. Softee van to buy a cone each whenever we were there in summer.

This time though, there wasn’t a van. Just a quaint little shop by Windsor Castle. A quaint little shop that sold these softees for £2.50 each!! Well, 50p extra for the Flake.

That pretty much summed up our Monday. We went home in time for grandma’s dinner. Mind you, we had dinner at home every day while we were in London because grandma kept enticing me by cooking all the food that she knows are my favourites. Also, she was very flattered that Flo enjoyed her cooking and that spurred her on to make sure she cooked at her highest level each evening. That’s what Chinese families are like – we show our love through food. The more we feed you, the more we love you. 

Tuesday morning, we left home at 10am, and went all old-school with the map to go to Stratford-upon Avon.

It took us a while because we decided to go through Oxford. Bad idea. Oxford had really heavy traffic getting back onto the motorway and just before we reached Stratford, Flo and I were dying for a pee.

We stopped by this super cute little town just before Marlborough, and found a pub that generously allowed us to use their restrooms. I loved how they had their walls embellished with these words/phrases of affirmation.

Yes. “Shine bright like a diamond”. We all know that song, but how often do we remember to shine like a diamond?

Also, this town seemed very into crafts and even the little barricades(?) by the roadside were adorned with knitted ‘hats’.

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

When we finally reached Stratford, it was right about lunch time. So we quickly found a cafe where we could sit al fresco and order some hot drinks to go along with our homemade sandwiches.

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

With cream cheese and stuffed with salad greens and smoked salmon. Yummers!

Mum and Dad decided they wanted to continue with their sit-down so Flo and I took a walk around the street where Shakespeare used to trod on.

Right at the head of the street they have a statue of a Jester.

And to the side sits Shakespeare’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode.

A picture of me taking a picture of Mum and Dad.

And of course, a wefie!

We were contemplating going to the lake round the corner and were actually walking towards it when Mum informed us that if we wanted to visit Bath or Avebury, that it might be smarter to leave sooner rather than later. So we turned back towards the carpark where we set off towards Avebury since we ascertained that it’d be nicer to walk around the area than to visit a single site. Also, Flo had seen Roman baths in Italy before so we might as well go somewhere new.

And off we went.

Again, the journey took quite a while from Stratford and by the time we got there, it was already about 4pm.

We didn’t manage to spend too much time walking around the huge stones. The area actually consists of three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe. They’re much like the ones set in Stonehenge only the nice thing about here is that you can still go up to the rocks and touch them.

Till today, when summer solstice arrives, so does a crowd of campers who might participate in meditation activities together or to simply enjoy the soundscape concert.

Perhaps some might be there for the sheep. Mum was a little reluctant to trod on the grass because of sheep poop pretty much everywhere. It’s not too bad as long as you watch where you’re stepping, or if you’re like Flo, you might not care at all and go chasing after the sheep.

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

We were off not long after we arrived. I think we were a bit too ambitious this time taking a road trip to two places that were not very close to each other. Stratford was a bit of a drive away and we would have probably done better spending the day there rather than try to stop over at Avebury. It felt as though we’d spent more time sitting in the car than enjoying the fresh cool air of England and as we’re all not getting younger, you can imagine a lot of backache and leg cramp action going on the longer we sat in the car.

Oh. I also tried this Vanilla Coke Zero. It ended up being the only one I had because I couldn’t find it any place else.

I thought I’d struck gold when I picked up another bottle at our Northwood Newsagents’, only for Flo to point out that it was Vanilla Coke, no Zero. Boo! This was an absolute gem of a drink. It taste incredibly creamy and luscious. ’tis a pity it’s not available as widely as it should be!

Also, at the very place I found my Vanilla Coke Zero, I picked up a packet of this popcorn.

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I wasn’t expecting much from it but it was so good! It really tasted like peanut butter even though they really just used peanut flour and ground almonds to flavour the popcorn. And a bit of sugar.

It blew my mind! On the way back I bought a packet of their Fiery Worcester Sauce & Sun-dried Tomato flavour but that was a bit of a let down. I’ll stick to the Peanut & Almond one.

Grandma cooked my favourites for dinner! I know it doesn’t look like much but Chinese home-cooking is a lot healthier and tastier than the salty, greasy stuff often found at Chinese takeaways.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts. And Glass Noodles stir-fried with Sweet Cabbage and Dried Shrimp. Aaaaand my favourite, comforting bowl of Lotus Root Soup on the side, unpictured, brewed with lots of patience, and love!

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It’s been quite a crazy few days but such is life.

Flo and I were treated to some of Mum’s lovely Chicken Curry last week. I made some Spinach with Garlic to go with the Brown Basmati Rice I cooked as well. Flo’s quarter-Indian blood clearly shone when he ladled spoonful after spoonful of curry over his rice, almost drowning it. The only ‘ang moh’ (Caucasian) thing that got me quite tickled was that he wasn’t used to having bones in the chicken. Still, he quickly picked up the art of eating chicken off the bone using a fork and a spoon.

I’ve not had Mum’s chicken curry in so long because of the ED and I hesitated even wanting to have it. But diving into Mum’s lovingly cooked food filled me with flavours of nostalgia. They were familiar to me in the way only Mum’s cooking can be, and even with an infinite number of curries all over the world that many might say is the best, to me, Mum’s ranks as #1. No contest!

Last Monday being Labour Day or May Day, I had another day of Flo with me! We had a really good weekend that consisted of rest and activity in equal measure – sleeping in, shopping, binge watching Scrubs, comedy night… So when Monday came around, Flo wanted to stay in and play his Game of the Moment – Horizon? I think that’s what it’s called.

We were thinking of popping downstairs to get lunch but in the end, I mentally scanned through the bits and pieces of food we had in the fridge and decided that he could play a little longer while I fixed something up.

I made a quick Shakshuka with Prawns thrown in, Avocados on top as well as some crumbled Blue Cheese, served with sliced, toasted Rye Bread. Nothing fancy but still quite delicious if I do say so myself!

Just yesterday, I received a call from my gynae’s clinic regarding my pap smear results. Apparently I have some abnormal cell changes that require a week’s treatment followed by another pap smear in 3 months’ time.

It kind of sucks visiting the gynae’s clinic more often than most people and perhaps part of it may have been my own fault because of my poor eating habits thereby creating a lower immune system. Perhaps as healthy as I may appear externally, in the sense that I don’t often fall sick, I may not be quite so strong internally.

The results aren’t particularly anything to worry about but for sure, it would have been a lot nicer to have had good results without any complications. Needless to say, I didn’t have the biggest smile on my face leaving the clinic after picking up my course of medication, but one thing that did manage to put that smile back on were these Brondies I made. I dubbed them Brondies because they’re a hybrid of Blondies and Brownies. Perfect for days when you cannot decide which one to go for!

I did quite a bit of honey for sugar substitution, and decided to incorporate some Earl Grey Tea into the blondie. The result, I am happy to say, was a beautiful blend of floral aromats just strong enough to hold its own against its rich, chocolatey counterpart. The toasty Walnuts on top did their job of providing some texturally contrast as well as imparting a lovely nutty flavour to the brondie.

Brondies (Yields 1 x 8×8″ Square or 12 pcs)

Earl Grey Almond Blondie Layer:
75g Butter, melted
45g Brown Sugar
45g Honey
1 Egg
60g Almond Flour
60g Plain Flour
1 Sachet Earl Grey Tea 

Brownie Layer: 
75g Butter
90g Dark Chocolate Chips
50g Brown Sugar
50g Honey
1 Egg
30g Cocoa Powder
40g Plain Flour

Chopped Walnuts (Optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C and line an 8×8″ baking tin.
  2. Prepare blondie layer:
    Melt butter and stir in sugar and honey. 
    Whisk in egg.
    Incorporate almond flour, flour and earl grey tea into wet mixture until just combined. 
    Set aside.
  3. Prepare Brownie layer:
    Melt butter with chocolate and stir in brown sugar and honey. 
    Whisk in egg. 
    Incorporate cocoa powder and flour into wet mixture until just combined. 
  4. Spread blondie layer into the base of prepared in. 
  5. Pour brownie batter on top and try to spread over blondie layer as evenly as possible.
  6. Top with chopped walnuts and bake for 18-22min until just set. 
  7. Let cool before slicing. 

As with most of my recipes, these are easy to play around with. You may omit the earl grey tea from the blondie layer and choose instead to add in white chocolate chips. You could put in a caramel layer in between the blondie and the brownie. Candied almonds would go really well in this recipe as well or you might even want to throw in some Rolos just for the fun of it.

We don’t always know what life is going to throw at us but I always believe that whatever happens, everything will always turn out well. We just have to have a little faith and trust that rainbows will come after we’ve weathered the storms. And if there’s anything I’ve learnt through baking, it’s that wherever there’s cake, or brondies for that matter, there are always happy smiles! 

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To most, being asked to gain weight would be a cause for celebration. For me, and probably the majority of those suffering from ED, it can create a lot of anxiety and fear. A lot of my ED days especially in the early years involved planning meals to a tee. And I would plan around those mealtimes so that I would be distracted from the thought of eating and ignore any whimper of hunger that my stomach might be sending to my brain.

When I started to get treatment, eating out made me highly anxious.

What was on the menu?
What if there’s nothing I want ED wants to eat?
What if everything there is calorie-laden?
What if they eat too early? Too late?

And those thoughts would turn into

Hmm.. Maybe I won’t go. I’ll just stay at home to eat. Or maybe I’ll meet my friends, say I have something one and come home for dinner. Or maybe I’ll eat then meet my friends. Or maybe I’ll just tell my friends I’ve eaten, and tell Mum and Dad I’m eating out, and then not eat at all!

As I went through phases of recovery, I would push myself to go out for meals with friends or family. It wasn’t easy and often, I would back out. Over time though, I realised that there would always be something on the menu for me that I felt comfortable with. That didn’t mean that I had got rid of ED. It just meant that ED gave me ‘allowances’ and I constantly opted for safe foods while marvelling at how my beautiful friends could eat such ‘sinful‘ food, clean their plates, and still be far from overweight.

Funnily enough, that’s how I used to eat too, before ED. But over the years, ED blinded me to what normal, healthy, balanced eating is, and pulled me into its deception that I was different, that I was better because I could resist temptation, that I was strong because I was not greedy, that I needed less to be more.

The last week or so have been challenging but also rewarding. Flo has been pushing me to finish my food, carbs included, and while it doesn’t make me ED feel good, I know that it is only to my benefit.

Last Friday, I had a lunch date with Mum and I was hankering after Japanese! So Sushi Tei it was. Usually, I’d order my usual seafood soup and Mum would go for a main, and we would share a mini roll. While a part of me was pulled towards sticking to what’s usual and comfortable, I found myself swerving away from that lure and suggesting that we order a few dishes to share instead.

We had a Vegetable Miso Soup which came piping hot and wrapped itself around us in a lovely warm hug.

We also shared a Shirasu and Kani Tappuri SaladBaby Sardines, Crab Flakes, Seaweed and an Onsen Egg on a bed of fresh Salad Greens with Sushi Tei’s house dressing on the side, and a Mini Golden Roll. The sweet mango and fried jumbo prawn combo never fails to delight, nor make me feel guilty. But it was so good!

And that gorgeous, perfectly cooked onsen egg! With the sweet chunky flakes of crab! This was love.

With my gorgeous Mama! It was a wonderful day out with her as we scoured the malls of Orchard Road looking for something for Aunty Aud’s birthday – we came up empty-handed in the end. But it felt good spending quality time with Mum and then going for tea before we parted ways to head home.

Days like these remind me of how infinitely blessed I am to have a mother as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. Mum’s strong, self-assured, confident and still, she has a heart that is rich in compassion and love. While we do not always see eye to eye on everything, there is a whole lot of love between us!

The same day, I had a long-standing reservation with a quite recently-opened restaurant a short bus ride away from where Flo and I live. Flo and I met at FireBake in the evening where it was already quickly filling up with hungry customers.

We started off with their Bread board which is what FireBake is known for. 4 slices of sourdough bread – Dried Fruit, Rye, Wholemeal and White, alongside fruity Greek extra virgin olive oil and Norwegian Butter.

As any mother would say of her children, they were all special in their own way. The rye sourdough had a lot of character with its intense sour, nutty flavour, while the wholemeal and white were lighter and chewier. As for the sourdough fruit slice, it reminded me a lot of Fruit cake, which isn’t a bad thing for some – almost like dessert.

For mains, I arrowed straight for the Cured Norwegian Salmon with Bread Crust, Dill, Leek and Pickled Onion. The cured salmon was perfectly cooked and not too salty at all. The bread crust had some garlic powder in it I believe and reminded me a lot of something I must have eaten when I was a kid. It was different having the salmon with a breaded crust instead of crispy skin and I found myself missing that.

The vegetables while well-executed were a little on the oily side to me. Honestly, I was tempted to stop eating halfway because I felt like there was too much food on my plate, but with Flo’s encouragement, yes, I did finish everything. ED had regrets for sure. On my part though, I can’t say I had any because the salmon was simply on point.

Flo’s hunger took him to go for the Rangers Alley Stripling 300g which came with Jerusalem Artichokes and Chimchurri Sauce. It came medium rare as requested and was well-seasoned and juicy.

Flo did comment after that it was a little tough to chew on and for some reason, he was lusting after lots of water after the meal. The artichokes though, were an interesting side to the meal – they were earthy and had just a touch of sweet, almost like a cross between a potato and a parsnip.

We were seated at their counter so we had a good view of their open kitchen where all the action happens. I’ve worked in hot kitchens before but I have to say that an open kitchen is probably a lot more pressurising with nosy customers like me watching the cooks’ every move. Moreover, the head chef has to be more calm and controlled in this kind of environment, and the one running this kitchen most definitely was. Kudos to him and his team!

It was an enjoyable meal and while we’re not sure when we’ll head back again – simply because there are too many places around our area to try and also, the crowd here was quite insane, I have my eye on the Pumpkin dish when it happens.

I walked home from FireBake that evening just to get moving and to help digest dinner. Flo took the bus because he was due for his evening run that day. He’s currently beginning training for a half-marathon in August!

On Sunday, I had my first KOI tea other than sugarless green tea.

I finished it! I had a Plum Green Tea and Flo had his usual order of Milk Tea. They used our Chinese Preserved Sour Plum I think so my tea had a nice balance of sweet and tart even with no added sugar.

Still not done with food hurdles, we had dim sum at Imperial Treasure Yi Dian Xin (Paragon) for dinner since we were in town and Flo loves these Salted Egg Custard Buns.

Without a doubt, these are exceedingly guilt-inducing for me with their rich, luscious, molten lava filling, and I can usually do without them. But the boy wants what the boy wants and so we placed an order of these charcoal buns after we had cleared our baskets of the more traditional dumplings.

These were good albeit a little on the sweet side. The dough did a good job in countering the sweetness though and while it wasn’t a big portion, it was still quite indulgent to me. I ED felt bad but it was nice being able to share something Flo enjoys and not have to stick to ordering food that only I am comfortable with.

Sunday, Flo and I went downstairs to Haig Road Food Centre for a local breakfast of Chwee Kueh (Steamed Rice Cakes with Preserved Radish), Old school Siew Mai, and a Red Bean Bao. Kopi O for him. Teh O for me.

 

When Flo saw this stall the day before, he got so excited about this breakfast. Altogether, the food alone cost us $3 in total! He likes chwee kueh and I wanted to order soon kueh but they apparently didn’t have it that day. Hence, the two siew mais and the red bean bao.

These siew mai are a little different from the ones you get at restaurants in taste. It tasted of childhood and nostalgia to me so I wasn’t sure if Flo would like it, but he did! The bao was ok. Not amazing but the filling was hot and molten so yum! Also, the chwee kueh were actually pretty good considering that they’re not like, a famous stall or anything. The preserved radish was not too oily and the kueh was soft with just enough bite and bounce.

We returned to the food centre for lunch again.

Chicken porridge was cleaned out of its bowl.

And for dinner, we headed to Esplanade where Flo had a surprise lined up for me. I couldn’t fathom at all what it was because I was sure no musicals or theatre performances started at 9pm.

Anyway, we had dinner at Alter Ego first. It’s a place I’ve been wanting to try for a while but because I’d never been before, I was always fearful that the food would be too heavy or too generous in portion for me.

I had the Original Poke Shaker consisting of Original Shoyu Salmon on Sushi Rice, served with Lime Avocado, Spiced Roasted Cashews, Pickled Seasonal Veggies and Ikura.

Similar to mine but with the nice, delicate crunch of kale chips. Also, the salmon was bathed in a creamier marinade that boasted a bit of a spicy kick. Just a bit.

With bellies filled, we headed just around the corner to where my surprise was. My sweet boyfriend and got us tickets to watch Harith Iskandar, the funniest man in the world (at the moment), live, as one of the highlights of SG Comedy Fringe!

Never have I ever watched stand-up comedy live before and I was really excited. I was also very impressed with Flo for thinking to come watch this. I loved Sam See, who opened for Harith. He’s Singaporean, gay and very witty, and he engaged the crowd with spontaneous humour which is something not easy to do.

Harith himself was extremely funny. He touched on many topics that Singaporeans and Malaysians alike could identify with and I think it is the fact that we can relate, that we are able to find the humour in his monologue. He was engaging and present, and when the power went out for a bit, Harith was a trooper and we, as the audience felt no lacking as he carried on making us laugh.

It was an awesome night with my awesome boyfriend!

So these food hurdles have been teaching me quite a lot recently. There are times where I feel guilty, greedy, fat, uncomfortable, panicky even, after I clean my plate, but more and more, I am also beginning to care less about how many calories I might have consumed, how much more weight I am going to gain, how much fat I have accumulated.

I am beginning to relax more and enjoy the process, and see the future in a much more positive light.

I am beginning to embrace my womanhood and embrace the fact that my life is so much more, and will be so much more, when I am in good health. Already I can feel the positive effects of recovery on my thinking.

I am beginning to differentiate my voice from the ED voice. In other words, I believe that I, Natalie, am becoming stronger, more in control.

Sure, ED thoughts still try to hold me back. So right now, Flo’s encouragements help give me that extra boost in getting over those food obstacles. But in time, I know that I will have the strength to get over them myself. It will happen. 

This may be a very food-centric post, but every one of these meals was an achievement for me and I’m proud that I have been able to eat more carbohydrates (which act as fuel for the brain!) and finish my food. At the end of the day, I want and need to have a healthy relationship with food and with myself so that when I have children, I can be a good influence to them through my actions, and not just my words.

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Last weekend, while Flo was still away in Phuket, I met Mum and Dad for Dim Sum at one of our favourite restaurants – Taste Paradise.

That morning, I also found myself staring at our kitchen floor, gazing in wonderment at the reflection of the glass creating a rainbow on it. It was so pretty and it made me feel that slither of happiness and hope that everything will be well.

This lunch with Mum and Dad, I ate a whole char siew bao, bun and all. Of course, ED left me feeling guilty for eating it when usually, I eat just the filling. I’d like to say that it felt good, but it didn’t. It did taste good though.

So my appointment with Dr. A most recently ended with her saying to me that I’m doing well and am on the right track to health, not just physically, but also psychologically. We still have more work to do and I have ‘homework’ as well for when I next see her in two weeks’ time.

This session, I shared with her about how distressed the 9-course Omakase meal I had made me feel, especially the morning after. I also shared with her that for some reason, just after Flo had eaten his breakfast that Tuesday morning, I can’t remember what triggered this feeling or thought but I suddenly felt something click in my head – that part of why I’m holding onto ED is because I have a fear of being vulnerable. It feels as though ED has been my armour, and getting healthy means removing that armour and exposing myself to getting hurt.

Dr. A asked what being vulnerable meant to me. I told her that it made me feel a loss of control at the thought of being defenceless, of being exposed to hurt, it made me feel weak and painfully sad.

Why Sad?

And I shared with her of the days when I was little, looking different from my caucasian friends in international school and being chided for having slitty eyes, a flat face, and chubby cheeks. I used to pent up all that hurt and sadness because these were the friends I played with, laughed with, had sleepovers with. A part of me thought that perhaps they were merely joking, and that prevented me from speaking up for myself. I held in all the negativity and sometimes, I’d burst out in anger at my parents even though they had no hand in why I was feeling sensitive and upset.

I guess ED created that shield for me. It made me small enough so that most people looked past me or were afraid to say anything to me.

It made me feel as though I could prevent people from spewing hurtful words against me, especially anything related to looks or weight.

It made me feel like I deserved to take up less space because I was unworthy of more. 

It made me feel almost invisible

The fear of reliving that heavy sense of sadness and hurt makes me hold on to ED. And in a way, I think that not speaking up for myself at the time reinforced this sense of weakness and helplessness.

At the same time, I also think “So what?”. I’ve grown up now and I know that I am much better equipped to handle situations like these, if any. Also, what does it matter how the rest of the world thinks of me when I am surrounded by people who love and care for me so much more!

ED has become cunning in the way it is able to distort my thoughts and make me cling onto assumptions and false truths. And I have come to believe many of them without weighing out the facts.

As I am on this road to recovery though, I find that the further I trod, the more I am able to see better how flawed ED’s arguments are.

I’m not going to be worse-off without it!

My weight is not going to spiral out of control.

One big meal won’t make me fat.

Contrary to popular ED belief, I will not gain weight forever. 

Dessert is not going to kill me or make me gain weight overnight. 

It’s ok to feel vulnerable, and hurt, and sad, sometimes. I’ll learn to deal with negative emotions just as we learn to deal with the rain when the grey clouds hide away the sun. It’ll only be temporary.

And on days where the threat of a storm looms over me, I guess there’s always Peanut Butter and Chocolate to turn to. Because peanut butter is love. Chocolate is love.

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Mega Love

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars (Yields 1 x 8×8″ Square or 12 pcs):

113g Butter, Melted
80g Peanut Butter (not the natural kind)
1 Large Egg
90g Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
120g Plain Flour
75g Chocolate Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 175deg C and line an 8×8″ baking tin.
  2. Whisk butter, peanut butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla together.
  3. Incorporate flour.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips
  5. Bake 18-20min and allow to cool completely before slicing.

I drizzled my bars with some leftover chocolate ganache I had at hand although you can simply top these with more chocolate chips before baking.

At the end of the day, I realise the reason I ended up going to Osaka Kitchen to celebrate Alex’s birthday with Flo and Amanda is probably because their friendship means more to me than ED. And as weak and greedy as ED made me feel, the truth is that I was being strong in choosing them over ED and with Flo’s support, I was in control in pushing ED aside and chowing through the various courses.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I sometimes feel a flicker of excitement at the thought of growing back into my curves. I am a woman, and no longer a girl.

I want to create an environment within me that will be healthy and inviting for a precious little one to grow and develop in before coming out into the world.

I want to be able to enjoy foods and not tire my brain out thinking about calories and fat and portions and where to eat and what to eat and what not to eat.

I want to be able to trust my body and what it can do for me, while allowing my body to trust me to look after it too.

I know that in time, the ED voice will lessen and already, I can feel my voice getting louder and stronger. And it’s good to feel that strength, that sense of empowerment that I am taking back control.

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This last Wednesday was a meaningful one for me. I often feel that I don’t make enough effort to be a good friend to my friends, and that I tend to take family for granted. I know that after I was diagnosed with ED in 2008, many people who I regarded as friends drifted away from me. I don’t blame them. They didn’t know how to handle my illness, or to deal with a friend who had a disorder that they couldn’t begin to fathom. As a result, I hold on dearly to the friends who have stuck around and treat me the same way they always have, who treat me as Natalie, even though I probably don’t see them as often as I should.

Late morning on Wednesday, I met up with Sher and Eunice for coffee at this new cafe, Monument Lifestyle. We initially intended on brunch but I didn’t think I could last until 11am without a bite and lunch was a no-go because Sher had to take their dog to the vet. So it ended up being just coffee and chit-chat.

I had a Piccolo Latte and they gave out free samples of their Sourdough Bread topped with Salted Caramel and Sliced Green Apples. Yes, I did take a piece to try. And yes, I finished it, as well as the mini Oreo cookie they served with the coffee. Nat  1 : ED 0.

Sher and I have now known each other just over half our lives! We used to sit next to each other in class, skip the Geography classes we loathed (funny how she now teaches Geography!) in favour of the toilets where we would munch on childhood tidbits or bags of fried wantons thinking we were so cool, or just while away our lesson time SMS-ing on our old Nokia phones hidden beneath our desk back when we typed using the dialpad and didn’t have to even look at it to know what we were texting. I’d like to think we’ve grown up a bunch since then!

We didn’t really keep in close contact during University days but in the last couple of years, we’ve started making time to catch up with each other. We can go for months without hearing from each other and when we finally meet, it’s as though Time never passed – which was exactly how it was when we met up for coffee. I think sometimes, it’s the simple act of making time for each other, no matter how short or long, that shows just how much you mean to the other person.

Eunice and Sher have both been wonderful to me in that when I was going through some bad patches, they would drop me a text to ask if everything’s ok. I appreciate that and I have been trying to do the same with them too because I can see how a small act of caring can mean so much!

With regards to family, I think I tended to take a lot of my frustrations out on them especially when I lived at home. Whenever Grandma and Grandpa visited from London, I didn’t really spend a lot of quality time with them simply because they were around home and I felt that our close proximity was sufficient. Since moving out of home, I have come to value the time I spend with my family.

On Wednesday evening, Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma came over to our place before we went to the mall under our condo for dinner.

We dined at Paradise Dynasty, feasting on Xiao Long Baos and a few other Chinese dishes.


It was nice being able to take Grandma and Grandpa out for dinner before they returned to London the day after.


They were especially touched that Flo treated them (well, all of us) to the sumptuous meal, being running down to buy some fresh Putu Piring (Palm Sugar filled Rice Flour Cakes with Desiccated Coconut) from the famous stall at Haig Road Food Centre for the family to try.


Mum texted me later telling me that Grandma shared with her that she has never seen me happier – back to my old funny and witty self which she loves. Sometimes, being stuck with ED closes me off to the fact that my negative energy may emanate further than I realise. That is, even with Grandma and Grandpa living so far away, they’re able to feel the darkness that ED shrouds around me. It’s not only Mum, Dad and Flo, who feel the brunt of the disorder. Once again, another reminder that ED is selfish and inward-looking, and I am more than that – I am more than ED.

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