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So my last post one life before Flo was incredibly wordy so I’m making sure to put add lots of pictures into this one to make up for it! Prepare your eyes for a whole lot of Nat and Flo aka #rennetan so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Picking up where I left off, I actually met Flo when I was in a weird kind of ‘ship’. I had been hanging out with this one guy for quite a few months and somehow couldn’t put my finger on whether we were together or not. Sorry I’m the kind of girl who needs things ‘official’ and said to my face rather than to assume things. Also, I think one big problem we had was that we weren’t communicating in the way that we should have which made it difficult for me to be direct and ask him about our status. In the end, I kind of gave up on things although this later proved to be a mess because apparently, we were in some kind of relationship according to him I later found out. I did share all this with Flo from the beginning and when it was time for me to make a decision, I chose Flo – Why? You’ll find out further down. 🙂

So since I didn’t think the other guy and I were in anything exclusive, I decided to explore a few dating apps, Tinder being one of them. So yes, I swiped my way right into meeting Flo. I know that some of you might cringe at the thought of using social apps to meet new people but the truth is, when you’re working from home, it’s not easy to expand your social circle.

In a country like Singapore, friends don’t usually introduce you to potential partners, or maybe my friends just don’t have good men to introduce to me. I look at it in a practical sense that we’re in an age of technology and there’s no shame in utilising it. And as I’ve learned, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a dating app or meeting guys in real life – there are creeps, assholes and good men wherever and however you meet them. You just need to be discerning and sieve out the good from the bad.

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It was about a week after we’d ‘liked’ each other and started talking a little on chat before Flo invited me to watch a movie after work on Friday. We watched ‘Bad Moms’. We met right before the film started so we didn’t really have much time to talk and it got me thinking that this date probably wasn’t going to turn out great since I half-assumed that with nothing to go by, we might part right after the movie ended.

We didn’t.

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We found ourselves going to The Assembly Ground at Level 1 of The Cathay building and sharing about our lives with each other until the place closed. We then proceeded to walk over to Cathay Cineleisure’s Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe that closed at 2am. And there, we sat sharing even more about everything under the sun while Flo had his late late dinner, before we were told that they were preparing to close.

And so, after being kicked out of an eatery a second time, we walked some more back to where we came from, before finally booking an Uber each to return to our respective homes.

Shortly after parting, Flo texted me to say he wanted to see me again.

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So we did.

Next day, I met him in the afternoon only to end up whiling away a good 1.5-2 hours in his office lounge while he oversaw his team’s moving from one office to another, or something like that. I was smart enough to bring a book along so that helped keep me occupied. We only managed to hang around a short time after because he had a birthday party to attend soon after. But I believe that we shared our first kiss that day.

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Then things started to move a lot more quickly. Within a month, we planned to go on a short trip to Phuket together. Initially, I wondered if it was all too fast too soon – I mean, 4 days with someone you’ve just got to know could mean having a blast of a time, or turn out to be a total fail. Thank GOD it was the former. We were total bums most of the time, hauling ourselves over to the more happening Patong area only to save our stomachs from devouring themselves.

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We indulged in awesome seafood and spicy Thai tom yum soups; we lazed under the sun; we explored some of the nooks around Patong, but mostly, we took it very easy. It was while we were here that we both realised that we had developed very deep feelings for each other.

Within a couple of months, Flo met my parents and when my brother popped down for a couple weeks towards the end of 2016, we all spent a weekend together in Malacca.

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This was when Flo got stuck with my loving, but occasional dysfunctional family (I say that will all the affection in the world). He survived and decided he could put up with our little idiosyncrasies. Phew!

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Shortly after, his beautiful sister Naima came to visit and I got the meet her.

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In January of this year, I moved in to live with Flo. It was quite a big transition for me having never lived out of my family home here in Singapore, and even when I was in the UK, I was living with my grandparents. I shared about this move in one of my blog posts beginning 2017. The main reason for it was because I was craving independence and we thought it might be better for me living away from familiar surroundings in order to also cut myself off from the habits and routine of my eating disorder. Of course, it has by no means been a cure and I’m still working towards the goal of attaining and maintaining a healthy weight as well as a good relationship with food, but I’m getting there with the continual support of Flo, my family and Dr. A.

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Living together with Flo has been quite a journey. We’ve continued travelling together to neighbouring countries for short getaways from our little island. We try to meet with my parents for dinner every one to two weeks although I also see them more often during the week.

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Summer of this year, we both went to Europe. First to Hamburg for me to meet his family…

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As well as his friends…

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I was very touched by how warm they all were to me and how much they tried to speak to me in English, which has since spurred me on to get on with some basic German classes.

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It was also amazing for me to experience the gorgeous sights of Hamburg and surprisingly delicious fare, all made even better by the perfect weather!

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We then went on to London where we spent time with my maternal family, all of whom Flo finally got to meet.

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We spent time with my parents as well with short day trips out of London and came home nearly every evening to Grandma’s soul-hugging home-cooked meals.

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Our summer visits certainly brought us closer together in the sense that I managed to see more of Flo through his interactions with his nearest and dearest, and vice versa. I enjoyed it very much and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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It was quite funny because the other day, I remembered thinking that we’ve been living together for a larger proportion of the time that we’ve been a couple. Admittedly, a lot of things in our relationship happened quite quickly but we’ve been blessed that they have worked out well for us. And in the time that I’ve been living with Flo, I’ve learned so much!

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I’ve learned how to iron much better, and I try to keep our home as clean and tidy as possible. I know that I’m a far better baker than a cleaner but I try my best with the vacuuming and the mopping and the scrubbing.

I also try to cook more often during the week. Simple things and when I’m feeling brave, I try new recipes. Recent ones for Flo include Pork Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes

Steak and Wedges…

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Sliced Potatoes

Of course, our relationship, like every other, is not perfect. We suffer from the occasional blip which both of us hate going through, but I choose to see them as learning curves where we learn more about ourselves as individuals, and as a couple, so that we can continue to grow together.

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What I love about our relationship is that I feel able to communicate with Flo more often than not. I feel able to share with him my thoughts, hopes and dreams openly. In areas where I used to feel vulnerable, he has slowly enabled me to trust and not be afraid. I enjoy that we can cuddle up to each other and say nothing at all, but at the same time, we can also talk about anything at all.

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With Flo, I feel that I have become a better, stronger woman. I am becoming more confident in myself, and Flo never fails to tell me how attractive he thinks I am. I have learned to become less of a fiery little chilli padi, to be more patient, and to listen more. I have learned not to give up so easily, to work harder at our relationship, and to love with a bigger heart. It is not always easy, but with Flo, I want to make it work. So far, we have been making it work. And I pray that we will continue to grow in love for years and years to come!

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So this is our little story as of right now. It’s always easy to share about the wonderful snippets that go on within our relationship but I promise you that we go through periods where we want to tear each other’s hair out. At the end of the day, we are two different individuals, who have grown up in different environments and raised on different values and beliefs. But we have similar goals in life and for sure, we share some of the same values that point us towards a similar direction. And we have love. And so, we learn to accommodate our differences, and to give and take.

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In the time I’ve been with Flo, I’ve come to believe that aside from love, there has to be communication and trust in a relationship. 100%! If there’s no trust, or if you trust even only 99% of the time, then there is no grounds for a relationship because you have to trust your partner wholeheartedly. Communication is also a must. And it is when you feel least like communicating, that’s when you HAVE to.

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Flo is my best friend, my confidante, my travel mate, my dance partner, my plus one, my shoulder to cry on, my pillar of strength. And while I know that there is no perfect man, I believe that he is quite perfect for me. I don’t know where our story will continue, but I hope that it will continue a long long while more. Perhaps. Maybe. Even. For the rest of our lives!

 

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BUT FIRST.

Recently, littlesunbear sweetly requested that I share about how Flo and I met. It’s not a story I am shy to share since it is, after all, our little story. But first, I thought it’d be best to give a bit of an introduction to how things were before I met Flo. Then you might better understand why I think he is the awesome man that he is and is perfect for me.

In a big nutshell, I started dating quite early in life. I guess I felt very much an ugly duckling growing up and when boys started paying attention to me, I felt that sense of validation. Of course, I knew I was loved very much at home, but my insecurities, I suppose, led me to seek love from other places – a kind of love that was conditional and based more on the person you are.

My first boyfriend came from a broken home. I was still incredibly young then and got sucked into his world. As with most kinds of ‘puppy love’, I thought he was everything and allowed our relationship to determine my emotions. Things slowly came to an end after a lot of things happened in his home, leading him having to go to hospital from a ‘burn out’. I held a lot of bitterness towards him and how he treated me in the second half of our relationship but on hindsight, we were both probably too immature then to handle something that requires more psychological and emotional maturity. We didn’t know any better and were too prideful to look to the more experienced for guidance because we knew they would simply have told us that we were still too young.

I went in and out of relationships quite quickly thereafter, choosing to leave rather than fight for them to succeed whenever things started to get challenging. I guess it was mostly for selfish reasons in wanting to protect myself from getting hurt so badly. Most of my relationships lasted no longer than a year. A few I jumped into too soon only to realise they were big mistakes, and just as quickly, I’d jump right out again.

I dabbled in a lot of careless things, and sometimes acted out of impulse. Looking back now, I can only thank God for His protection in all my folly throughout my adolescent years. The longest time I was without a boyfriend was in my first few years of having the eating disorder. I was far too thin to be attractive, but more than that, I just couldn’t be bothered with love, or boys, or looking pretty. All I cared about was my food schedule, calories, what to eat, what not to eat, how much I weighed, what foods to eat once I lost that next two kilos etc etc…

As I started to toe the line between being healthy and skinny, I was able to go out more, and not make ED as much of a priority. Thereafter, I kissed a few toads, got burnt a couple times, before finding my prince.

What I wanted to highlight here are my last few serious relationships because I think they brought a few hard truths home to me:

  1. I met a boy, we’ll call him L, while I was working at my first job within the hotel industry. He wasn’t much of a looker, but he had a way with words. We couldn’t be from more opposite worlds – me being raised in an English-educated family, and him in a traditional Chinese family. I spoke only English, L spoke mainly Mandarin and broken English. I came from a very comfortable home, while his worked hard to make ends meet. Still, he was raised with good values and was always very thoughtful towards my family and I. After a year or so, we both left the hotel and I felt that it was time for us to go our separate ways as well. It was obvious that communication was becoming a challenge for us with my mediocre Mandarin that was failing to improve and his refusal to speak English with me. I felt that in the long run, it would be tough to carry on and while I cared a lot for him, it was more in the way of a friend.

    L, however, felt differently from me and didn’t feel able to let go. He began following me and waiting around my home. One day, I’d gone out with a guy friend and reached home late. When I got into my home, I just about had the door locked when I felt some resistance. I thought I may have pulled the doormat in by mistake so I opened the door and he pushed his way through, came behind me and covered my mouth. I went still with shock and as it dawned on me what he wanted to do, I thought of Mum in her room, fast asleep, and for some reason, couldn’t bring myself to scream for help. I know now that what I felt was shame and humiliation as he tried to assault me. He didn’t go as far as to rape me, no. But I was assaulted.

    I can understand why some girls don’t scream for help when in such a precarious situation. I used to think I would scream and shout and yell it all out until help came but in that moment, I couldn’t bear to let Mum see what was going on. I felt so dirty thereafter. It was 3, 4am and I went for a shower to wash. I did, in the end tell Mum about it and right after work the next day, I went to make a report. Only, I retracted my statement on the assault because the police said that if they accepted it, it would become a court case and knowing what I know of him and his family, I couldn’t let his future come tumbling down. I chose to believe that L acted on a flash of rashness and heightened emotions from our breakup. Instead, I reported his stalking me and from what I know, the police gave him a warning after which, he stopped. 

  2. My next serious relationship was with a guy who was smart, pretty good-looking, and from a background quite similar to mine. Let’s call him V. He was is a doctor, even though I didn’t know it when we first met. So no, it wasn’t at all because he was a doctor that I went for him. He was well-spoken, and witty, and was close to his family – qualities that stood out to me. Not long after we got together, I had spent the day with him and he was off to cover his night shift at the A&E which was his rotation at the time. I’d just checked my email using his computer and stupidly (or maybe it was a blessing in disguise) forgot to log out of his computer. He actually went and read through my private emails with a close girlfriend of mine who lives in Canada.

    Misunderstandings quickly arose when he accused me of ‘cheating’ on him with another guy I had gone on a few meaningless dates with before meeting V. The guy had casually invited me to go visit a country with him and I’d emailed my girlfriend lightly saying I may consider it. But it was all in good humour and obviously after getting serious with this guy, I wouldn’t have gone ahead. Anyway, Dad sweetly rushed me over to the hospital just to iron things out with him because I was so upset. At the same time, Dad did warn me that a guy who looks through your personal things has trust issues. I pooh-poohed that thought away and thought that V couldn’t be like that. How can someone like him, with all that he’d been blessed with, be that insecure?

    Over time though, I started to see what kind of person he was. He would keep texts from stupid whatsapp arguments and bring up all our past arguments whenever we had a misunderstanding. I, with the memory of a flea, tend to forget arguments almost right after they’re over so you can imagine how frustrating it was for me to listen to him haul up the past when I could hardly recall them. He also insisted that I ‘report’ to him any male who had spoken or texted to me in the day, no matter how friendly it was, because he was convinced that they all had an ulterior motive.

    I began to dread meeting him and became so emotionally drained as he told me day after day that he was the best I’d ever have and I would never find anyone better; That if I dared leave him, then there must be something wrong with me, and seeing that I’ve had a string of broken relationships, there had to be. He would twist my words to make it such that I was always the one in the wrong, and he would make me feel so very small. Some days, I felt as though he would say certain things just to watch me hurt.

    My parents warned me to be careful if I wanted to continue with our relationship, especially as we actually considered settling down together, even getting a flat together. Mum said she worried that in the case V decide to return to his home country, I would find myself trapped into an emotionally abusive situation with nowhere to run, and no friends to help me. He had already told me not to confide in my friends and even my Mum because ‘you don’t air dirty laundry in public’. It sounded ridiculous, still does now to think of it all as ‘abusive’ and a future together might have led to worse behaviour, but I guess sometimes you can never be too sure. 

    Things came to a head when we went on a short trip to Bangkok and he once again, went through my phone behind my back even after I had password-locked it. I  actually think he has a photographic memory and somehow managed to sneak a peek at me keying my 8-digit code into my phone the previous day. I found out, we had a huge flare up, and I immediately booked a plane ticket home. We let the flat go and lost our first $2k deposit (thankfully we hadn’t yet paid for the second one) but it was over and I had never felt so emotionally relieved. I could breathe once more.

As with most girls in their late 20’s or early 30’s – I was about 28 then, breaking up with V while liberating, also struck fear in me that I was destined to live alone for the rest of my life. I think this fear is heightened especially in Asia where there is still some pressure to settle down and have babies, especially once you’re in your late 20’s.

I would look through Instagram, Facebook, and see friends getting engaged, friends getting married one after another, friends popping out babies one after another after another, some moving on to have their second. And I was nowhere near any of that. On the one hand, I was afraid of being alone forever especially because I have always wanted to be a wife and mother (seriously ever since I was a little girl). On the other hand, I told myself that I would be ok even if I didn’t meet anyone because I would rather be by myself and make peace with that, than to be in a miserable marriage that I felt stifled in. And it’s true. I don’t think I could ever allow myself to be married to someone so controlling, possessive and manipulative.

Now, I’m not trying to make myself look the victim here. I’m no angel I’ll be the first to admit to that. I used to be reckless and I used to think of dating as a game. It was only in the last 5 years I believe, that I started to acknowledge that feelings get hurt in the dating process and that it’s important to tell a person if you don’t think the relationship has potential to grow further; that mutual respect towards each other is important not just in front of others, but behind close doors too; and that you should never believe that a person will change based on what they say, but only based on what they do.

I learned that it’s ok to be single whatever age you are and that each one of us are different and so, have different life trajectories as well. It’s not a competition. Sure, the clock is ticking in some aspects such as having children, well, mainly having children, but it’s more important having them with the right person, not simply because you feel like it’s time. I did date a number of really nice, good-natured men after V, but I didn’t feel attracted to them the way I hoped to be attracted to a possible life partner. Some are still friends, and some have disappeared from my life. I realised that I enjoyed being single even though sure, there were pangs of loneliness from time to time. So yes, I did start to think that I would be fine and happy even, without a man.

But!

Of course I didn’t lose all hope. If I did, I wouldn’t have met Flo…

P.S. I could actually write a whole post on my relationship with V and I have thought about it because I know that sometimes, it’s hard to believe that you’re actually in a destructive, abusive relationship. Using the word ‘abusive’ for me even now, is difficult, and all the more so when it is emotional and psychological because you can’t see the bruises so it’s almost as though it all never happened. Let me know perhaps if you’d like me to share more. It’s not about me wanting to paint V in a bad light because he did have his good points for sure. I just feel that there are a lot of girls, guys even, who may be stuck in a life-sucking relationship and maybe my sharing might help? 

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#throwback to last weekend.

I had my fill of poke!

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Prior to this bowl from Aloha Poke at City Link Mall, I’d only had it once before at Alter Ego. And before that I made my own although my flavours skewed more towards Japanese rather than Hawaiian. Anyway, I found myself hankering after a bowl and this certainly hit the spot.

As requested by Flo, I did go for a base of brown rice (I ED would have definitely gone for salad greens) for my Lil Swell, which they topped with lots of greens and complimentary chunks of sweet pineapple as well as finely chopped chives. I opted for jalapeños cos a girl’s gotta have some fireeeee, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds for my superfood topping. The best part of course, was my 75g of beautifully marinated original Salmon Poke.

It was $12.90 for this so… maybe just once in a while although I have big plans to replicate this at home. This time with a more tropical theme.

With my 3rd Aunt still in town since we had the memorial Thursday before for Aunty Judy, we met up with a few other uncles and aunties for lunch at this Vegetarian restaurant called Elemen.

I’d heard rave reviews about it but I know my man needs his meat. Also, after our disappointing experience at Green Dot, we weren’t sure how Elemen would fare. But guess what? It was pretty bloody awesome!

For starters, Mum and I shared this Double-boiled Burdock Root Soup with Monk Fruit. It was delicate and light on the palate, but still so comforting. I’ve been deprived of hot, steaming herbal soups so this tasted especially good!

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We also ordered this Spicy Shiitake with Purple Rice Roll which we happily shared with the rest of our table before ordering yet another.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the crunch of fresh cucumbers and carrots, and the crispiness of tempura within the vinegar-ed purple rice which had more bite than regular sushi rice, and carried a pleasant nuttiness to it. Each piece was topped with chopped shiitake mushrooms marinated in a teriyaki-esque sauce, almost mimicking unagi. Sadly, we couldn’t taste much of the spiciness which we expected from its name. More chilli please!!! 

We also had a couple of other appetisers to share: The Mushroom Salad, and the Watermelon Feta Salad.

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Both were dainty in presentation and while I enjoyed the mushroom salad (I love mushrooms!!), Flo didn’t take to it being served cold. That was quite unexpected I have to admit but served hot or cold, they’re still mushrooms so you can see just how much my love for mushrooms extends to.

The watermelon and feta salad was refreshing and light. I especially liked the watermelon eaten with some fresh mint. The food here in general are a bit on the pricey side so a more generous sprinkle of feta would have been very much welcomed.

Dad zeroed in on the Milano Pizza which ended up being the crowd’s favourite.

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Wafer-thin, crispy base topped with monkeyhead mushroom, sliced red radish, baby cress and of course, cheeeeeese!

Flo had the Edamame Tofu with Black Truffle Wild Rice.

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I managed to try some of his tofu and rice. The rice was lovely – chewy and nutty and still moist. I shall look to make some once I get my hands on wild rice. The tofu was yielding, so smooth and silky, tasty even without the luscious savoury sauce on top. Having it together simply gave it an extra oomph.

I think the entire family enjoyed lunch at Elemen. I especially liked that they highlighted the beauty and versatility of vegetables in all their dishes, using them in various way to create a myriad of textures and flavours. None of that mock meat/konnyaku seafood jibber-jabber that I deplore.

We had a great time surrounded by family and listening to stories from way back in the day. We reminisced about Aunty Judy, and we laughed about the silly antics Ah Gong (my paternal grandpa) used to get up to while driving everybody up the wall. I’m glad Flo was there with me, getting to know my 3rd Aunt, whom I am very close to, a bit better, as well as some of my other uncles. I know that they also appreciated his company very much.

And because…

I cannot leave this post without sharing about some of my kitchen antics, this is what I whipped up for last Monday’s dinner for Flo. He requested Prawns for protein and while I seriously considered making prawn ceviche, I decided I would stick to the traditional fish ceviche and save it to make for another day.

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Instead, I baked up some uber-sweet Japanese Beni Haruka Sweet Potatoes, and made Cauliflower-Rice stuffed Red Peppers. I quickly stir-fried the ‘rice’ with some finely chopped haricot beans, king oyster mushrooms, and onions, splashed in a bit of fish sauce and soy – should have added some oyster sauce but I didn’t have any, and seasoned it with some sea salt and black pepper. I didn’t want to overcook the ‘rice’ so I roasted the red pepper halves in the oven beforehand, then filled them after.

For the prawns, I used a simple Gochujang Marinade:
1 Tbs Gochujang
3/4 Tbs Soy Sauce
1/2 Tbs Minced Garlic
1/2 Tbs Minced Ginger
1/4 Tbs Sesame Oil

  1. Mix everything together. Massage prawns gently into the mix and let sit together at least 10-15min. 
  2. Heat pan and sear away!

You can also use this versatile recipe for any other meats although you should probably marinate them for longer in the fridge, about 2 hours or more. You can even use this for vegetables!

Oh funny story before I sign off. After Sunday’s veggie-filled lunch, Mum and Dad headed off to church before coming over to have dinner with Flo and I. Mum had been having a craving for Vietnamese and wanted to go back to Long Phung. Due to the lack of animal meat in their bodies, the two men made sure to have their fill at dinner, Dad especially. Flo had a bowl of Chicken Pho and Dad, Vietnamese Beef Stew with Rice. Then they both shared a plate of Rare Beef cooked in Lemon Juice that Flo loves but haven’t been able to have for quite a while now.

So right at the end, Mum saw that Dad had left a single chunk of tender beef sitting in its bowl while he focused on eating the rare sliced beef, and asked whether he was going to finish it. Before he could answer, I quipped “Of course! He just likes it so much he’s saving it for last! Riiiiiiight?”. To which Dad smiled until his eyes turned into two horizontal lines, gleefully nodding his head in agreement. I know. Because I’m my father’s daughter and can totally read his mind. And because that’s exactly what I do too!

Are you a ‘Save the Best for Last’ kind of person or ‘Have the Best First’ kind of person? Let me know!! I used to think that EVERYONE should save the best for last but I know a few people who like to have the best first so it’d be interesting to know which train of thought you subscribe to. Don’t be shy!!! =P

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I used to be someone who would turn around and run the minute a relationship appeared to be turning sour. That dreaded feeling of failure would well up in the pit of my stomach and the thought of uncertainty scared me. Rather than try and fix things, I would choose to instead give up.

Then I ended up with someone who turned out to be highly intelligent, highly manipulative, and highly (emotionally) abusive. I stayed not because I wanted to, but because he made me feel so weak, so undesirable, and so unworthy of being with anyone better. In his words, he was the best. I stayed because I feared starting all over again. But most of all, I stayed because he told me that my trail of failed relationships that never seemed to last past a year was a sign that there was something wrong with me. I wanted to prove him wrong. And in a scary way almost, I look back and realise now that he knew that all along. (I’ll save this story for one day.)

But see, love isn’t possessive. Neither is love about moulding a person to fit the ideal that’s in your head. For sure, love takes work but mostly, it is a lovely, wonderful thing. No doubt, there are days where Flo and I both feel like strangling each other, but more often than not, I believe that we love each other in a way that makes us want to grow with each other in years, in heart, and in mind.

I think that we have layers and layers of love. Love for strangers that may be born out of compassion. Love for friends that begins with empathy and shared interests. Love for family because we’re stuck with them. Haha. Just kidding. Love for family because a lot of life’s lessons, values and beliefs are taught through our interactions with our family members. Because they never give up on us. Because they’re love is unconditional. Then there’s Love for that special someone that develops from mutual attraction.

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The beauty about having layers and layers of love is that you experience them all differently in different ways. Yet, all forms of love when given and received create a warm buzz that wraps around you like a snug blanket on a cold, wet night.

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This layered cake I made the other day had a Red Azuki Bean layer below, and on top is the Earl Grey layer. The floral notes of the tea gave way to the earthy flavour of the beans below. It tasted comforting yet new, exciting and unexpected. A little of the East mixed with a little of the West, each holding up its own while complementing the other. I’d like to think that Flo’s and my relationship is like this Earl Grey Azuki Bean layered cake. At least, most of the time.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today though, is a little more familiar but just as comforting to the soul. I baked up this Chocolate Cheesecake Loaf the other day and while reminiscent of my Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake bars that I shared only a few days ago, they aren’t the same! As we like to say here in Singapore – They’re ‘Same same but different’.

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This cake yielded a moist, fluffy, tender crumb. Smack in the middle we have a rich, gooey layer of vanilla cheesecake. I loved how they textures played against each other to create a marriage of sheer decadence. That being said, it didn’t feel too indulgent as the cake was light and the cheesecake wasn’t cloying and heavy.

Chocolate Cheesecake Loaf (Yields 2 small loaves):

Vanilla Layer:
250g Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
45g Sugar

1 Egg
Vanilla

Chocolate Cake Layer:
180g Butter
130g Sugar
3 Eggs
30g Cocoa Powder
120g Flour
5g Baking Powder
Vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C and line baking tins.

For Cheesecake Layer:

  1. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and cream. 
  2. Whisk in the egg and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Set aside. 

For Chocolate Cake:

  1. Cream butter with sugar.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  3. Add vanilla then add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Pour half the chocolate cake batter into the two tins and spread as evenly as you can.
  5. Top with cream cheese layer.
  6. Pour the rest of the chocolate batter on top and level off.
  7. Bake for 35-40min before removing to cool. Let chill 3 hours of overnight before removing the cake from tins. 

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The layers in this cake speak of comfort, tenderness and pleasure. It is the tale of two classic cakes – Chocolate Cake and Cheesecake, each mouthwatering on their own, merging together and learning to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to become one awesome, flavour-packed, loaf of deliciousness. Which, I believe, is exactly what every relationship should aspire to be – two individuals who are stronger together I mean, not so much to gratify gastronomically.

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Not too long ago, I shared about Flo’s and my trip to Borough Market while we were in London. There, I found myself digging into Big V’s Spicy Chickpea Burger Pattyig V’s Spicy Chickpea Burger Patty as it sat gloriously amidst a bed of greens.

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As I stuffed my face with the said patty, I vowed that I was going to make some of my own once we returned to Singapore. I have made veggie patties before, years ago in fact. Then I just… didn’t. I guess a part of me sometimes wonders why, if we are having it between two buns, do we need to fill the patty using more carbs? Rice, oatmeal, flour, potatoes… These are often used in vegetable patties and it didn’t make much sense to me. So in that respect, I decided that I’d rather fill my burgers with lean chicken breasts, grilled prawns, smoked salmon, or 100% lean minced beef.

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SO obviously I don’t know what Big V puts into their burgers but I loved the chunks of sweet potato that I could not only taste, but could also bite into. I enjoyed the Middle Eastern spices as well as the nutty, earthiness of the chickpeas. I decided to have it because I felt like putting something a little cleaner into my belly and if I was going to have the Chickpea burger on a bed of greens, then carbs in my patty is a-OK!

Anyway, over the week that Flo was away, I had some time on my hands one afternoon and decided to whip up some veggie burger patties. I had kidney beans, chickpeas, cauliflower and some extra sweet potatoes I’d cooked for lunch. I decided to make two kinds of patties with what I had so that I wouldn’t have to go through eating so many of one flavour.

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The good thing about these patties is that you can freeze them. Just make sure you have them kept separated with a small sheet of baking paper or they will stick. Whenever you hanker after them, take one or two out and pop them straight into the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I like them in longer because it creates a little crispiness round the edges.

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I also tried to remake the salad from Big V for my Cauliflower and Chickpea Burger as you can see in the picture above. I didn’t have a brown paper box unfortunately, so a white porcelain bowl sufficed. It was a simple Spinach and Broccoli Salad with some Cherry Tomatoes and a side of Sriracha Cottage Cheese.

Myeah… It was a less elaborate version because Big V had some Ume Dressing, Beetroot Hummus and Tahini Yoghurt Dressing – all three I couldn’t really be arsed to make, let alone gather the ingredients required to make them. Still yummy though!!

Cauliflower and Chickpea Burger (Yields 4-5 patties)

240g cooked chickpeas
100g grated cauliflower
50g finely diced red peppers
3 Tbs almond flour
2 Tbs water
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Blend all the ingredients together until they come together.
    I like my patties a bit chunky so if that’s your preference, try not to over blend the mixture.
  2. Make 4-5 balls (each approx 105-130g) and flatten.
  3. Place onto lined baking tray and bake at 180deg C for 30 min, flipping over half way through.

These patties were a little more delicate so if you find the mixture too wet, just add a little more almond flour, perhaps a tablespoon at a time until the patties bind together nicely.

As for my other batch of veggie patties, I made with Sweet Potato and Kidney Beans. I loooove kidney beans! As I used the Japanese yellow flesh, purple skinned sweet potato, there’s a very light sweetness akin to chestnuts that balances out the spices. That being said, this variant of sweet potato tends to be a little less moist compared to the orange fleshed ones but go with what you prefer.

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Sweet Potato Kidney Bean Burger (Yields 4-5 Patties)

200g cooked sweet potatoes (I used Japanese sweet potatoes but feel free to use the orange ones which should make for moister patties)
240g cooked kidney beans (1 tin, drained)
2 Tbs cornmeal
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs chopped basil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mash all the ingredients together until they come together.
    Again, I like my patties a bit chunky so if that’s your preference, try not to over process the mixture.
  2. Make 4-5 balls (each approx 105-130g) and flatten.
  3. Place onto lined baking tray and bake at 180deg C for 30 min, flipping over half way through.

I’ve almost finished my stash of both types of patties so I might make more using different combinations of herbs and spices, and different beans and veggies. I always say that cooking is more an art, so play around with whatever you have in your pantry because sometimes, magic happens when you least expect it to.

I realise that recently, trying to make cleaner food choices is making me feel better about myself and my body. I don’t think I can ever be vegetarian what with my love for seafood but I definitely love my greens too so making my patties and eating them makes even my toes wiggle with joy.

Once in a while though, it’s also nice to meet up with friends and be a little naughty with food choices. Last weekend, I met up with my cousin TY, and her top friend Marc who recommended that we visit Nosh at Rochester Park.

It was a terrible day for brunch because of all days, the heavens chose Sunday to rain cats and dogs and horses. But nope, that didn’t stop us from marching over, umbrellas and all, from Star Vista where I’d parked the car.

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It didn’t take me long to decide that I was going to have the Shakshuka. I love Shakshuka and have made it quite a few times already this year. I still enjoy going to try the ones from other cafes and restaurants just to see how mine compares.

Nosh served up a hearty dish of spiced, aromatic, wonderfully simmered-down tomato-based sauce, topped with two eggs that still had their yolks runny, and goat’s cheese. A lovely, crusty, half roll of ciabatta was served alongside. The shakshuka was supposed to have eggplant fritters as well but I requested against having it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the creamy goat’s cheese mixed into the hearty sauce. I broke and stirred one egg yolk into the mix, and kept the other until the end just so that I could greedily shovel it whole into my mouth, let it break and savour all the molten, golden goodness.

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Washed it all down with a cup of Piccolo Latte.

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It was awesome to finally meet Marc whom TY had been wanting to introduce to me for ages because we both have a passion for food. He, like Flo, has a passion for eating, while I just have a passion for baking. Still, I appreciate good food for sure and all the more so when surrounded by great company.

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Over the last week or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about life and family. I have been heartened to see how some of my family (extended) members have such immense love and compassion within them, but I am also saddened to realise that there are ones who don’t walk the talk, nor bother to even try to show they care. I tell myself that as long as I do what’s right, that’s what matters, but it’s tough pretending not to bother when I do.

It also grieves me to see that illness of any kind affects not just the individual, but also everyone around him/her. I mean, this is something I kind of already knew with regards to my ED and how the people dearest to me suffer when I suffer, and rejoice when I rejoice. It’s just that I saw with my own eyes today, the love of a father towards his adult daughter suffering from an illness that seems hopeless to cure, that the doctors are unable to even diagnose, an illness that is crippling her not just physically, but psychologically as well.

Still, this father will go to the ends of the earth for her, hold her up when she needs support, and continue to relentless search for answers to the whys. It grieves me then, that he has to stand helplessly when she seizes up, powerless to do anything but wait for the moment to be over, so that he can help her back up again. I pray she gets better, that she will be well.

It made me cry. And when I video-called with Mum and Dad, I thanked them for their unwavering love and support for me throughout my years. It is the love of a parent that I can never fathom. At least not now. Perhaps one day.

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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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