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Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

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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Last weekend was a nicely packed one for Flo and I in that we were busy enough, yet not so busy to tire ourselves out for the week ahead. We decided to book tickets to a local theatre production – Boeing Boeing. Flo’s never been to watch any of our local theatre productions before and I was a little worried that some jokes might get lost in translation. In addition, knowing that my man is not a big fan of musicals, I wasn’t sure whether Boeing Boeing would be full of music, dance and song galore. So I simply had to keep my fingers and toes crossed that the show would live up to its good reviews.

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We bought ourselves awesome seats along the first row of the second half of the theatre. I’ve not been to Victoria Theatre since it got renovated so I was very impressed with its modern interior that breathed of comfort and great visuals from all corners unlike before, when big pillars would block certain sections causing one to have to crane their neck left and right depending on where the actors were on stage.

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The entire performance was full of energy and not too localised which we very much appreciated. Oon Shu An was perfect as the resident ‘SQ girl’, and I thought that Judee Tan took the cake as a flight attendant from ‘China Air’ with her accent totally on point. In fact, I think the women outshone the men in Boeing Boeing although the men were vital characters to the plot.

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The cast were incredibly sporting and game to pose for all the audience to snap photos of at the end of the show. I have to admit that in recent years, Singapore’s local theatre has been producing more and more performances of substance. Some of them are catered more to locals but still, they are witty, charming, and insightful.

Flo and I walked away gushing about how well Boeing Boeing was performed, and how impressed we were by the production as a whole. No, there was no breaking into song and dance but Flo actually said that even if they did he would still have enjoyed it. So we plan to watch more local theatre and support our local actors!! I always love watching Dim Sum Dollies and Hossan, so hopefully they will put on a show later in the year which Flo and I can attend. They tend to focus more on Singapore current affairs, and are very quick to touch on the political yet so very clever in making it unapparent. That would be nice for Flo to experience especially now that he’s been in Singapore nearly two years now.

Also, this weekend saw me making a Black Double Chocolate Birthday Cake with Gold Drippings. It’s not perfect, and there’re lots of bits I could improve on, but it was a nice challenge to have had.

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I’m not one who encourages the use of lots of food colouring so I recommended that chocolate ganache be used instead of buttercream. I was worried it might not turn out well but thank God somehow everything came together. It was also my first time gold-painting over white chocolate ganache so again, I was glad that the ganache set well for me to paint over although I think it was a little thicker than I’d have liked. Next time I’ll be better set to make an even prettier cake!

We also spent Sunday evening with some of my old high school girlfriends. It went ok but it’s funny how sometimes, gaining the perspective of someone else helps you to see certain things in a new way. I guess we change over time and while we’d like to think that our friends may evolve along with us, that’s not always the case. We tend to hold on to friendships especially the ones that we’ve been part of for years and years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless there are elements within that friendship that may be a little toxic.

Of course, I don’t plan on cutting off ties entirely, just that I won’t be making as much of an effort anymore with them not because I don’t care, but because that care is seldom reciprocated. It took another person to help me realise that even with old friends, there should be respect in how we speak to each other, thoughtfulness in our replies, and patience in our thoughts. Perhaps it’s time to cultivate new ones. 🙂

And just a little snippet of Monday’s dinner to kick off our week…

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It does stretch my brain quite a bit when it comes to thinking about what to cook for dinner these days. I don’t always want to ply Flo with the same foods and the same flavours. I enjoy challenging myself to creating new dishes and for sure there are hits and misses.

This dinner was both a hit and a miss. I tried my hand at making Baked Zucchini-Carrot Rosti (to be healthier) but I failed to squeeze out as much water from the zucchini as I should have so the rosti didn’t crisp up properly. The Grilled Honey-Dijon Chicken Breast was yum-O though – Honey and Dijon Mustard, a dash of Olive Oil, Fresh Minced Rosemary, Salt and Pepper. That’s all there was in the marinade! I tried some of the chicken so I give it my thumbs up, but truth is, I felt like some baked tofu for my choice of protein Monday night so a sprinkle of sea salt and some cayenne pepper on top and it was enough to make me a happy girl!

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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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Being misunderstood especially towards the end of my adolescence is something I found difficult to contend with. Even now, I sometimes struggle to understand why. I remember at the beginning of University when we had Orientation Camp, my peers would comment that I looked like a clubber. Nothing wrong with clubbing only they made me seem like some wild child who started their day with a shot of vodka and chain-smoked after brushing my teeth. Funny thing is that on ‘clubbing night’, they were the ones gyrating to the music while I awkwardly spun myself around and headed out the door because I felt so uncomfortable. One guy who later decided he liked me said that he thought I looked quite ‘bitchy’ at first and was surprised to find out how easy to talk to I was when he got to know me.

I did actually find myself getting on with my camp mates but once Uni commenced, the girls in my group broke off into a little clique of their own without me, and the boys would hang out with me only for so long as they thought they had a slither of a chance to end up as my boyfriend. Not all. Some. That’s not to say I didn’t have any friends whatsoever. I had a few and perhaps on my part, I never felt a desire to develop them much further than at surface level because I decided that they would never last post-graduation anyway.

Perhaps it’s the case of resting bitch face, or perhaps I may seem like quite a tough cookie on the outside, but the fact is, I’m really quite a softie on the inside – just like these Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake bars.

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At first glance, it’s easy to mistake these bars as a little naughty because OOoOoohhh… there’re chocolate chips in there! And Oh. Em. Gee. Cookies are little bites of sin that make your pants a little tighter. But sink your teeth in and you reach the creamy, gooey cheesecake middle that will make you think, well… looks like there’s more to this bar that meets the eye. Sure, it’s no angel but it’s worth getting to know because there’s a richness inside that I wouldn’t have thought was there to begin with!

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And as you continue on your journey munching through these bars, you’ll get inflections of vanilla studded with dark chocolate chips, titillating butteriness that sinks into luxurious creaminess, and small bursts of caramel undertones from the brown sugar to keep you from getting bored. It’s no one dimensional cookie bar, that’s for sure!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars (9×9″ Square):

Cookie Layer:
170g Butter, melted and cooled
250g Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
Vanilla
250g Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
50g Chocolate Chips (or more!)

Cheesecake Layer:
250g Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
40g Sugar
1 Egg
Vanilla

For Cookie Layer:

  1. Whisk melted butter with sugar.
  2. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Incorporate flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Place half the mixture into prepared baking tin and level out as evenly as possible.

For Cheesecake Layer:

  1. Beat cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add sugar and cream together.
  3. Add egg and vanilla. Blend until mixture is smooth.
  4. Spread cheesecake mixture on top of the cookie layer.
  5. Spoon the rest of the cookie batter on top of the cheesecake layer. Don’t worry if not all the cheesecake is covered.
  6. Bake for 25-30min or until the cookie layer on top is a nice golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then chill in fridge for 4 hours (or overnight) before slicing.

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So have I made peace with the fact that I’m special and full of goodness on the inside whether people see it or not? On the whole, I believe so but there are moments where I would be sharing with Flo about my thoughts and my past only to have my emotions surface.

In a way though, my ED has enabled me to cherish the friends that have stood steadfastly next to me through all my ups and downs and in part, I have to blame myself as well for not wanting to nurture some friendships that I did have in Uni because growing up and constantly moving schools/countries made me feel that most friendships, no matter how strong they appear to be, are fleeting. These days, I make more of an effort to stay in touch and meet up with friends.

Perhaps in some way too, I may have haphazardly appeared nonchalant towards opening up to deeper friendships without realising it. Regardless, it’s not the quantity but the quality of friendship that counts and while like all relationships, maintaining friendships is hard work too especially as we get older and have partners and start our own family, the ones that continue to stand the test of time are truly friends who are worth having!

 

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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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I. Am. Happy.

It must have been the weather and the sun, but I felt so happy being in Hamburg. I think it’s one thing to go about doing touristy things in a city/country, and it’s another be immersed into another culture by being with locals. I love discovering new places as a tourist, but being part of German life even for a week, made me feel more connected to the country.

On the Friday that I was there, Flo had some errands to run. So he dropped me off at Cafe May where I was hankering after yoghurt for breakfast. Alas, they only had yoghurt available for their buffet breakfast so I settled for a Sesambrötchen with Nutella and Sour Cherry Compote for €3.60. It came with coffee.

I know it’s a little silly but this seemingly plain breakfast tasted so good. I swear the air in Europe makes food taste better. Or perhaps it’s the quality of flour that makes their bread taste so much richer, more aromatic, more hearty. And yes, we get Nutella here but the Sour Cherries compote was something different. It was delightful! Sweet, but not too sweet. Tart, but not too tart.

Just before I took the picture above, the place was buzzing with people grabbing a quick breakfast before dashing off to work or school. There was a homeliness about the cafe and their large, rustic cakes looked just like the ones grandma would make, filling the air with the sweet scent of fresh bakes. Uhm.. by grandma I mean the kind of grandma who spends her days making magic in the kitchen, patiently coating layers of sponge with light lashings of cream. My grandma bakes too but more Asian cakes – Pandan chiffon cakes and butter cakes. Less of the cream ones.

After a leisurely breakfast, I crossed over to the park that was abound with parents watching their children having the time of their lives. It was a really big park by Singapore standards and it was so peaceful as I made my way further in. I tried not to wander too far or make too many turns lest I got lost. I’m quite prone to getting lost and without wifi or data, that wouldn’t have been ideal.

Clear blue skies and green green trees.

I found a bench where I sat myself on to bask under the sunshine. Then I got a little restless and decided to walk slowly back to the station. Flo was still settling some stuff so I went over to Penny, this convenience store across the road where I had a good poke around.

Call me a noob but I found these large blocks of Ritter Sport!! They only have the smaller squares here so these looked really novel to me! I restrained myself and didn’t buy any. Just got myself a Coke Zero and a packet of fruit and nut mix in case I got peckish.

I managed to find a small green area where I chilled for a bit before receiving a text from Flo to say he was done and would meet me at the station.

Fun Fact: In Germany, glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminium cans are often placed beside the bin for the homeless to pick up. They then bring it for recycling where they can get some money back. 

I wasn’t sure where to put my finished tin of coke so I put it inside the bin because I was afraid it might get blown away. Not more than 10min later was it fished out by an elderly woman. So I guess I was supposed to leave it beside the bin but no matter, because it was found anyway. 🙂

Our plan for the afternoon was to visit Flo’s aunty Sangeeta and her family. But first. LUNCH!

This time, we tried the Matjesbrötchen and the Bratheringbrötchen.

Apparently, Matjes herring is skinned and filleted before being cured in a marinade. Usually young herrings are used to make matjes herring. Bismarck is lightly salted and pickled while Brathering, it is fried, marinated herring.

The matjes herring reminded me a lot of smoked salmon with saltiness being its most dominant flavour, while the brathering was more plain. My preference is still 100% for the bismarck herring!

We didn’t have too much time to dwell on the brötchens as we were running a little late getting to Sangeeta’s. When we finally reached, it was just about tea time so after introductions were made, we made for their back patio where Sangeeta laid out her stunning Rhabarberkuchen (Rhubarb Cake).

As well as these gorgeous looking Erdbeertörtchen (Strawberry Cakelets).

I’ve never tried a rhubarb cake in my life so this was a first. The nutty ground almonds in the cake base held up a generous layer of delicately tangy rhubarb, while the soft meringue on top carried that bit of sweetness needed to balance the flavours off perfectly.

Flo’s 14-years-old and growing cousin, Nilai, managed to down slice after slice of Rhubarb Cake as well as a fair number of Strawberry Cakelets. And he still had room later for dinner. I was in awe!

Flo’s paternal grandma, Frau Mathur, was also present. Bless her! I thought she was amazing and really sweet. As was Flo’s cousin sister Shalin whose attempt to do some social work in Bangalore when her gap year starts in September fell through right at the last minute. I have my fingers and toes crossed that she will get to go with another organisation.

Torsen, Sangeeta’s husband, joined us a little while later in time to get some cake before Nilai polished them off. Then Flo flew his drone around a little while and managed to snap a few pictures of all of us.

I was nice being able to relax on their porch and chit-chat with Flo’s family before dinner. Frau Mathur spent a few years in London working, and that was where she met her husband, Flo’s paternal grandpa, Herr Mathur. Sangeeta and Torsen also lived in the States a few years with their kids so communication with them was a breeze.

Flo’s late paternal grandfather was Indian which also explains the little traces of exoticism in his and his cousins, as well as Sangeeta’s features. They all look so damn gorgeous!!

Torsen fired up the barbecue for dinner and the meats! I think I’ve raved so many times to anyone willing to hear that the Germans are awesome at their barbecues. They use good cuts of meat and the sausages are not filled with gristle unlike the ones we get in the UK. They’re proper meat and proper quality.

Sangeeta’s salads were also crazy delicious. I couldn’t help but have a few servings of her salad before daring to ask her what she put into it. Olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, sprinkles. Sprinkles of mixed dried herbs. And so, before we left, she gifted me a box of sprinkles for when I make salads at home. I was so touched!

And the plate above ended up having more food piled onto it. I didn’t just eat the one sausage!

Saturday morning was supposed to be our last full day in Hamburg. One of Jens’ friends bunked over the night before because he was testing out a car that his company had lent to him. Mercedes. He woke up so bright and so early that Flo and I were wondering whether he’d already left to drive back to Munich. We found out not long after that he’d actually gone out to pick up some breakfast.

A ‘typical’ Bavarian breakfast.

Of Pretzels and Weisswursts.

In Germany, you can buy unbaked pretzels frozen and then bake them up at home. Which is what we did. You can’t get any fresher than that! The pretzels were just slightly crisp on the outside and so fluffy on the inside. They were nowhere as dense and bulky as the ones we get in Singapore.

Weisswursts are usually boiled to warm them up, after which you remove their casing and eat the meat with sweet mustard. What I love about these is that the sausage meat is really lean yet so flavourful.

After breakfast, Jens’ friend left for his drive home while we set off to Alster Lake.

It’s not so apparent in my photos but it was bustling with activity. There were people kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, rowing, and even water cycling which was new to me.

Further down where the lake opens up were lots of people windsurfing. I love how the Germans make use of beautiful days to do outdoor activities be it on the water, or simply taking a walk or cycling. It shows how much they appreciate good weather and fresh air.

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Finally, a picture with our wonderful hosts, Jens and Leslie.

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Who managed to put up with the two of us a whole week! 🙂

On our way home, we stopped by their local supermarket to pick up more white asparagus at my request since I don’t think I’ll have any more for quite a while.

White asparagus with ham for starters.

Then we shared the meats that Flo and I failed to bring over to Chris’ place on Thursday. They were still awesome-possum anyway.

We also grilled up some feta cheese sprinkled with dried herbs, salt and pepper, topped with red onions, chopped tomatoes and paprika, and wrapped in foil. Another flavour bomb! I was going to share a picture of it but really, it’s not much of a looker. Trust me though, warm, gooey, melty, salty feta is pure bliss. I actually bought a pack of feta just now! Will wait for Flo to come back and have a BBQ with Amanda and Alex since we plan to swing by Huber’s for some meats. Mmm… I’m already salivating just thinking of it.

Our evening ended on a high because Flo’s team, Dortmund, beat Frankfurt 2-1 to win the German cup. I was very happy because my boyfriend was ecstatic – Happy boyfriend happy life! Only we couldn’t properly celebrate because Leslie’s a die-hard Frankfurt fan. Oops!

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