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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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One of the meals we most anticipated was exactly where every Asian visits whenever they visit London. I’m not kidding. Burger & Lobster probably makes most of its profits off of us because the place is filled with Asian tourists! Not just this one time, but also last year when I went to another of their outlets, and the time before then at another different outlet.

So you know, being Asian, I had to keep up with my flock. And also… LOBSTERRRRR!

Flo wondering if we were actually, really still in London.

While I had to engage in some selfies before the food arrived.

Lobsters in Singapore are not cheap. So when I first went to Burger & Lobster and found that they were selling lobsters along with chips and a side salad for £20, it was like lobster heaven to me!

Somehow, in a span of a year, they’ve rolled out a new menu that’s more expansive than their initial three choices – Lobster, Lobster Roll, and Burger. 

I’m not sure I like their bigger menu. More choices mean more decisions. And I guess Flo and I being at the Harvey Nichols branch meant that they’d kind of omitted some of the smaller sized lobster choices (i.e. cheaper items) so we had to settle for the 1.5lb lobster at £31 each. 

This is how I eat mah lobster!

I love pulling the chunks out of their shell and then, after piling them up, I dig in. The Garlic and Herb Butter that came with it upped the oomph factor and I enjoyed their simple, flavourful salad too.

I’m still a little bitter over the extra £11 we had to spent on the lobsters as compared to before. Gargghhh! I might actually boycott Burger & Lobster next visit to London onwards.

But onto chocolates…

I think this was the part of Harrods Food Hall that captured Flo’s attention the most. We went through the fresh foods section, and the cooked foods section, and the chocolate section, and the patisserie section, then back to the chocolates.

Where Flo suggested we choose a few artisanal chocolates to have for dessert/tea.

From William Curley‘s array of handmade chocolates, we chose two each.

Japanese Black Vinegar and Raspberry & Toscano for Flo. Walnut Feuilletine and Shiso Sudachi for yours truly.

From Harrods, we walked across to Hyde Park to savour our chocolate while bird-watching.

Beautiful skies and my favourite swans! Have you read The Ugly Duckling? Still my favourite story after all these years.

When we entered this area of Hyde Park, Flo and I got quite excited seeing deck chairs parked all along the grass. Until we noticed some men going around collecting money. So we sat ourselves on the grass instead before we spotted an unoccupied bench.

Flo pretty much popped his piece of Japanese Black Vinegar Chocolate into his mouth and declared that it was raspberry. We only figured out later, when he was eating his second piece of chocolate that that was in fact the Raspberry Toscano one.

I had the Walnut Feuilletine Milk Chocolate first but wasn’t really impressed. I expected more crunch and crispness from the nuts and the wafers but it tasted like it may have been out a while so were a little stale.

We spent a while just gazing at the lake and watching people get up close to the swans, ducks and geese to take wefies with them. It was quite entertaining considering that some of them were taking I swear, a few hundred pictures from different angles with the same swan. I laugh, but it’s not like I don’t take wefies or selfies, only usually I take them with people.

Next stop was Attendant at Fitzrovia. It took us a good 40min to walk from Hyde Park but it allowed us to walk through Mayfair and admire the pretty (expensive) shops along their High Street. Also, the old Victorian buildings, many housing embassies, stood proud and tall for us – they had every reason to as well!

It’s a little obscure but if you look out for the fancy black grills, there’s an entrance leading you underground. This used to be an underground public loo that has since been converted, and hopefully sanitised, into the cafe that it now is.

It’s not very big but it was very cosy. At 4.45pm, it was closer to being empty than full. Their menu isn’t exceptionally wide, but they had some baked offerings that looked quite delicious.

And of course, you will notice some of the remnants of the old lavatories, which definitely add character to the place.

I didn’t try but perhaps the hand dryer still works.

There you go! A wefie with the boyfie!

We ordered a cup of coffee each. Cappuccino for him, and a Piccolo for me.

With a side of Shiso and Sudachi Dark Chocolate. I had to check up what a ‘sudachi’ is and it looks very much like our Calamansi, which is essentially like a small lime with a lot more zing.

The Shiso was a little muted but I could definitely taste the refreshing tartness of the citrus fruit. It was good against the slightly bitter chocolate but I would have liked the shiso to have been a bit stronger.

And the Piccolo was nice as well with the chocolate. Again, I’m really no coffee expert so as long as I can down it, it’s good coffee to me!

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

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

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

Northwood College. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with a Flake no less!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

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

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, a wefie!

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

And off we went.

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

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

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

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

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

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

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

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

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

wp-image-1102128744

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

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

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

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

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Note: This is an epic long post. It’s more a long short summary of what God has done for me in the 9 months I’ve been here and how He has enabled me to grow in His love. Read this all the way through, in parts, or skip it altogether – it’s up to you. I’m writing this so that I can remind myself of His glory in one blogpost should I ever need a reminder. =)

Tonight, Mum and I will be on our flight back home to Singapore. I keep looking back at the last 9 months and I cannot help but be amazed at the transformation that I have undergone by God’s grace.

In this post, I just want to trace my journey, and remember all the things I have learned, embrace all the things I have gained, and give glory to God for His faithfulness.

As much as I wish I could erase some part of my past, they have made me who I am; led me to where I am; and have taught me to be who I am. My past has made me me, but it is not my future.

When I left to come here in June 2011, I was not in the best state of health or mind. I knew that I wanted to join LCB and make patisserie my life, but I wasn’t sure if I could really take it. I wasn’t sure if I could take going to school and working with sugar, flour, butter(!!) full time. I don’t think Mum and Dad were confident that I would be ok by myself, but they trusted in God and He kept me safe.

I wanted so much to tear away from the past and allow London to introduce to me a new life, a clean slate, a fresh start. At the same time, I wanted very much to hold on to the tangible sense of (false) security that punishing my body and depriving it of nutrition gave me. My body was weak, and yet, denying it of its needs made me feel strong. In a way, I was a predator to myself.

I knew what I was doing to myself… only, I felt unable to make any positive changes to my life. My universe centred around food. Or the lack of. And it also centred around me. I simply thought I could carry on with life at my low weight, and just maintain it and everything would be ok.

God thought different. 

I stepped straight onto London soil and binged that day. A few weeks after, I had to face going to Devon with Mum and Dad and face a kind of spontaneity with consuming food I had long turned away from.

Scones. Grilled mushrooms. Vegetarian Chilli. They scared me but somehow, God gave me the strength to overcome those few days.

I hated myself for enjoying the familiar pleasure of eating and tasting a whole spectrum of flavours I had long forgotten existed. I hated the taunting my own mind threw at me after trying something new, something forbidden… something ‘sinfully’ tasty.

However, the ground I had been set on was opening up my eyes to a world I had shut off for too long. And finally, I was beginning to see once more how much more alluring life can be compared to the shadows that blighted me.

Then the whirlwind started – LCB.

I remember the crazy jitters I had before my first practical class. I remember going into the kitchen and feeling so flustered at not knowing what to do. And to think, all we had to make was an infused simply syrup and cut fruits to make a fruit salad.

I left class feeling somewhat shaken, traumatised, and oddly, mighty proud of having accomplished the task we had been set out to do.

I did wonder how well suited I was for the course, and I questioned whether applying for the entire diploma was a smart choice at all. My doubts and lack of confidence plagued me on and off through basic. With every good practical, I came out renewed and feeling that I had made the right decision. With every practical I thought was a flop, I beat myself up.

During this time, I was still trying half-heartedly to eat better. A part of me knew that with the back-breaking work we were doing in class – physically whisking eggs to ribbon stage, whipping cream, running around the kitchen in search for ingredients, I knew I could afford to eat that little bit more. And yet, I still wanted badly to hang on.

God said it was time to let go.

During Basic, I fell into a binge/purge cycle, not unlike the one I’ve been going through recently. I hated what I was doing to my body, but I didn’t have the strength to face the guilt ED tormented me with and so, with every binge, I’d purge.

I wanted it all to stop. To end sometimes.

Then God sent me Barbara. She worked with me and helped enable me to develop new frames of mind; to position destructive thoughts into more positive, life-giving ones. She didn’t provide answers to my fears or problems, instead, she guided me in finding them myself.

Where in the past, I was so shut off to the world, my first three months in London, in LCB, forced me to open up. And because I had had my first sweet taste of friendship, of hope, of food, I was hooked. As much as I wanted to close my eyes to the light now streaming into my very being, I could no longer ignore its existence as hard as I tried.

In addition, God blessed me with Aunty S and Aunty Ay Lin, whose constant prayers and regular emails enabled me to recall God’s presence in my life, and that with His strength, I can overcome.

This first trimester of my time in the UK taught me to let go that little bit of the reins of my life I so tightly held in my hands, yet had little ability to keep in control.

I learned that once I’d stopped purging, the bingeing would cease too as my body absorbed the nutrients it so badly craved for.

I learned that mistakes made in the kitchen were avenues for me to learn, and for me to grow from, to mature from.

I learned that I still had Natalie buried within me, but she was still alive and still fighting to return, to defeat anorexia – cultivating my friendships in LCB reminded me of who I used to be, and who I still am.

I learned that I cannot go it on my own; that I need to rely on God for strength and wisdom. At this point, I had learned to let go some. I thought I’d let go a lot, but in hindsight, it was just enough for an apprehensive step forward towards God, not enough to leap into His arms and let Him take the wheel.

I learned that when I put my heart into something I am passionate about, I can achieve it only because I have God as my anchor.

I returned to Singapore for a two-week break between Basic and Intermediate, not fully recovered, but better than I was when I’d left. I thought I’d done well, that I’d done enough, that I could now maintain my weight and be at peace with my body…

But God wasn’t finished.

Returning to London at the end of September, I was again, filled with pre-Intermediate jitters. I knew I’d fallen in love with patisserie, I just lacked the personal knowledge that I could succeed as long as I trusted in God. While I did believe it to some extent, there was a kind of barrier that hindered me from really clutching on to that promise. I wanted to break through it. I just didn’t know how.

When I stepped back into LCB for my second term, my fears and anxieties dissipated and it was like returning home again. Over the course of my first term, I had unknowingly developed a greater confidence in handling myself within the kitchen. Skills that I had picked up were being used so fluidly that I was astounded at how far I had actually come from 3 months before.

In addition, God had allowed my path to cross with Pam’s – another Singaporean student a term ahead of me. She served as great encouragement to me and she often helped allay some of the nerves I had when facing challenges – the exam pieces in particular.

I also had a good relationship with Celine, who was my partner throughout Basic and Intermediate. Her calm sense in the kitchen worked well with me and I was able to learn a lot from her in terms of techniques and certain things to look out for.

I was growing more comfortable amidst my surroundings, but I was also struggling a lot more in being comfortable with myself. The sunny disposition I put on within the four walls of LCB was a contrast to the intermittent periods of depression I was suffering at home. Kor, unfortunately, bore the brunt of a lot of my upset. Mum and Dad didn’t fare particularly well either when we skyped.

I was becoming fixated again on wanting to stay on the safe plateau I was on. I had put on enough weight in my opinion and I didn’t think I needed to do more. The effort I’d put into eating a more colourful diet regressed back to a cycle of consuming the same foods on an almost everyday basis.

I still had this insane want to be the one conducting my life’s trajectories. I was retreating back into my shell, avoiding social gatherings to some degree, only pushing myself to go out once or twice the entire term. I continued to put down a lot of my accomplishments – as Barbara put it, I had a lot of “unfathomed potential” that I was choosing the ignore.

I was losing sight of God again.

It was timely then, that Dad came to London for my impending graduation. His presence ensured that we went to church each Sunday and the simple act of doing so gave me the reassurance I needed to forge ahead with the exam, knowing that I would not be alone as I did my practical.

I remember praying to God and asking Him to let me have the Fraisier for my exam. I wanted it so badly I could have cried. I begged to have it even if it meant suffering with 5 days’ worth of constipation. But God had His plans and His was for me to do the Opera.

I remember coming home feeling downcast. I didn’t think I did well. I didn’t like that the genoise sponge wasn’t particularly even. I didn’t like that my buttercream may have been messed up because I couldn’t get a good reading on my thermometer before I poured the syrup into the yolks.

I remember saying that if I even managed a credit again, the work that I put in for my exam would not be mine at all, but that of God’s. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that anything more than I was expecting, would not be through my own effort. Not purely.

My God stayed faithful. Even when I strayed.

Intermediate term quickly started and quickly ended. Although I struggled a lot foodwise, I had a blast every practical in LCB. I enjoyed the strengthening friendships I was making, and I felt that I was making headway in finding my identity. I was beginning to feel like I had a purpose and the flickering bit of hope I had at the end of Basic, was growing.

I hadn’t binged or purged the whole term (I think) and I had kind of accepted the slightly more filled-out body I had cultivated over my half year in London. Again, I felt safe and I believed that perhaps, I was at a good place; that even though I hadn’t fully recovered weight-wise, I could deal with staying where I was and feeling happy with it.

As usual, my mortal mind was still clouded by mortal wants. God’s way was and is not my way.

Christmas back in Singapore was a time of renewal for me, a good reminder of Jesus’s birth and life as a living sacrifice for my sins. I was reminded of the important things in my life – God, family, friends, me.

The fleetingness of life was impressed upon me as I looked at the faces of my loved ones with new eyes. New lines etched on their faces, young lives blossoming, fresh chapters unfolding.

I wanted this trip home to be one that saw me stepping out of the shackles anorexia had locked around me. Jesus came and died for me, and by His blood, I am saved. I have been set free – I always knew that in theory, I just didn’t feel it. With the taste of freedom spreading through my being, I wanted more.

Rather than confine myself to home, I tried to go out more, to spend time with friends and to have occasional meals out with the people who mean a lot to me. I wanted them to know that I was going to be ok. I wanted them to see that anorexia no longer controlled me.

My 3 weeks home were amazing and re-energised me. However, the comforts of home felt more difficult to leave behind as I embarked on my final trimester of life at LCB. The word ‘Superior’ made me quake in my shoes. It seemed to imply such flair and pizzazz, qualities I didn’t think I possessed.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Superior term started off a little rough with me burning sugar, hating pulled sugar ribbons and flowers, and then messing up my brioche by killing the yeast for some reason.

We were in a new building, a beautiful one. The kitchen was filled with equipment many patissiers dream of. I felt lost, but for the first time in a long time, I wanted to meet the challenge. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to stop being afraid.

I decided to take up an internship at Melt after having Pam refer me to them. I learned so much even though I couldn’t work for them as much as I’d have liked to. I developed a love for chocolate work, and began to appreciate chocolate for all that it is – the different personality and character each type encompasses and brings to the table.

My time at Melt showed me that I am capable of committing to something I enjoy. I always thought I could not keep to anything that required commitment for long, but this experience uncovered a new quality that London has cultivated in me.

Again, God’s blessing was revealed to me in that I would never have got the internship had I not bumped into Pamela back in basic in the locker room. To extend it further, I recognised Pam from the blog she was writing, and still writes, so to have had the opportunity to bump into her was really a Godsend.

I began to go out again and build upon friendships I had made in LCB. I learned again the importance of social interactions around meals. And again, I was reminded that the significance of such meetings is not so much the meal itself, but the conversation, the laughter, the bonding.

I also had friends, well, friends I thought were friends, who suddenly turned their backs on me for reasons I am still unable to fathom. I did question whether it was something I did unknowingly to them, but have since let go of the desire to get answers.

In many ways, it was a blessing in disguise because I learned that I can hold my own in the kitchen and produce pastries from the skill set I had garnered from my previous two terms. My confidence grew further and my grip on wanting to get everything right and perfect all the time loosened – it is ok to mess up, but it’s not ok to give up.

God further blessed me with more friends from Singapore – WX, Estelle and Mel Woo. I was making friends who had a fervent love for God and who helped guide me along, giving me support whenever I needed it, and setting me back on track whenever I strayed.

I’m looking forward to seeing the girls when they return to Singapore after their masters/time at LCB. And when I return home, I’m itching to meet up with Pam and Kim.

It’s funny how things work out. I never thought I’d make as many wonderful friendships as I have in the last 9 months. And deep down, I know that these friendships were all part of God’s plans for me. The more I let go, the more He blesses me. While I often feel a sense of guilt at His boundless love, I am grateful for all He has given.

Kong, Stef, Sam, Sherry, Orn, Nicole… My friendship with each of my groupmates have matured – most of them have. x) They have each left lasting prints in my life and I know that realistically, I may not see some of them ever again. Some, I may see once every few years, others I may see more regularly.

The last few weeks of Superior were tough and even after with another round of binge/purging. I wish I could have put it down to stress, but again, my heart told me what I already knew: my body still wasn’t satisfied. I still needed to hit a healthy weight as much as I thought otherwise.

I allowed myself to listen to my body and what it wanted, needed. I wanted to make sure that Grandma and Grandpa could have the reassurance that I was going to return to Singapore well. I forced myself to hammer away at the chains that held me in bondage. I was already on the brink of freedom, only I feared what freedom would bring.

God made preparations. He blessed me with a job at the hotel I was pining to work at as if to give me a glimpse of a bit of what freedom encompasses – a life. A life doing what I love. How many people can say that?  How many can have the good fortune to do what they love, have the people they love be supportive of them, and to have God facilitating everything such they they need not worry?

Even before I knew my final Superior exam results, God gave me the job. How wonderful, how marvellous?!

While I still had the b/p issues to contend with, I had to learn once more that if I stopped the purging, the bingeing would stop to. It was tough and I still think it’s tough, but I think I am back on the right path.

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By graduation, I had filled out and my curves returned… or mostly. My feminine figure I think I quite like, but at the same time, the leap away from the extended girlhood the ED forced upon me made me a little uncomfortable as well. It was almost a bittersweet moment.

At the same time though, the development in my physical body has also transformed my mind. The weight gain has brought a greater amount of clarity to me psychologically, and a stronger determination to forge ahead with the goals I now have and want to achieve.

There are things I loathe about myself when I look into the mirror. I don’t like my chunky thighs, neither do I like my triceps or the insect bites that make up my chest region (lol).

Sometimes, I feel the urge still to run back and retreat into the shadowy existence anorexia brought but then God nudges me and reminds me that I am who I am, and I do not need to conform to a beauty ideal that society has enforced upon me. I also do not need to resort to having an unhealthy relationship with food and control because God is my constant helper, my guide and my saviour. He will lift me up when I fall, and He is always, always in control no matter what life throws at me.

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I came here a child and I am leaving here a woman. With God’s constant protection, love and wisdom; with my Earth Angel Barbara; with amazing friendships forged; with the unconditional support of family; with the prayers and thoughts of dear aunties and awesome friends back home, I have managed to move forward towards a life that is filled with potential. It is shining bright, brighter than I have ever thought possible.

I am anxious about starting work and being a real adult, taking on more responsibilities, but surprisingly, I am excited about the challenges that lay ahead. I can’t wait to step into F’s pastry kitchen no matter how old, how run down, how ill-equipped it may potentially be.

I can’t wait for my braces to come off so that I can be my vain old self and step back into the world of dating. Haha. I pray that God will bless me with a godly man. My life right now, is as perfect as perfect can be. A nice, patient man would be the icing on my cake. Well, that and a closer, more intimate walk with my Father in heaven.

To all of you who have taken this journey with me, supporting me directly or indirectly; to all those of you who have followed this blog even if only to read about life in LCB; to all those who love me through thick and thin, Thank you, Thank YOU, THANK YOU!

I still have so much to learn – about myself and about life. This part of my life is now a memory, one that I hold dearly and close to my heart. My return to Singapore will mark a new chapter in my life.

I know that God’s work is still not done. I am still discovering myself, I am still discovering Him.

From this point on, I am free of anorexia. It is no longer who I am. Yes, it is in my history, and it may try to prod me into acknowledging its presence from time to time, but it is not who I am. It’s not that I don’t want to pretend everything never happened – it did. And I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. But I no longer want it to shadow me.

With that, I want to make clear that I will no longer be talking about myself as being eating disordered because I am not. I will not longer associate anorexia with who I am now, because we are no longer related.

Here’s to God, to life, to me, to you. =)

I welcome you to join me as I make my way through new territory, to new roads untravelled, through the twists and turns of life as a healthy, young woman stepping out into the world under the watchful eyes of God.

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Yesterday was a down day… but with every new day comes a fresh start. To quote Pumbaa from the Lion King, you need to ‘Put your past in your behind”… Or if you want to be that tight-arsed about it, then you can quote Timon and say “Put your past behind you”.

So this morning, with the bright sunlight streaming through the windows beckoning me to start the day afresh, I got out of bed, took a nice hot shower, had a leisurely breakfast fit for royalty, and got ready to go with Mum into London.

We went to Holborn and stopped by LCB as I wanted to pass some white chocolate to Mel Woo since I won’t be here much longer and she can use it for her moulded truffles when she practices for her exam. Then Mum and I walked round the corner to Thai Garden Cafe for some lunch.

I’ve been pining after their Som Tum so I couldn’t wait to have some of that. We also ordered Steamed Scallops with Soy Sauce, Garlic and Coriander, Stir-fried Vegetables and upon Mum’s request, Thai Fishcakes. We also ordered a bowl of steamed rice for Mum.

The som tum came with 4 big, sumptuous prawns and as usual, was well-balanced in flavour. The sweet and sour of the shredded baby papaya were partnered with the saltiness of fish sauce and there was a good kick of chilli at the end that made the dish addictively good. All the more so with the creamy, roasted, nuttiness of the cashews. Yum! Mum liked this as well saying that it tasted really authentic and fresh.

The steamed scallops were good but nothing too spectacular. I kind of expected more than 2 scallops but seeing as it was an appetiser, I should be happy that they didn’t serve just one right? Lol. This one was light on the palate and delicate to the tongue.

I thought the fishcakes were nice too, especially when dipped in the sweet chilli sauce with crushed peanuts. I would have liked more of the bitter flavour the beans within usually imparts but compared the what most places serve, the ones here at Thai Garden were above average for sure.

The stir-fried vegetables were well-done. Can’t complain. I think it’s the simplest dishes that tend to be most easy to mess up. To cook them to taste spectacular is also an art in itself. This plate of vegetables were simply home-made goodness.

Mum finished off with a cup of coffee which she said was good but very strong – nothing a cube of brown sugar couldn’t fix though. x)

I enjoyed lunch with Mum and being able to talk to her, woman to woman, heart to heart. We do have our ups and downs, we do get on each others’ nerves from time to time, but when we do get on, we can get on like a house on fire. No matter what, we are who we are and I suppose the most important thing is that we both know how much we love each other, even in the little moments when we don’t.

After lunch, we walked over to Covent Gardens. I’ve not been to Covent Gardens for yonks and was pleasantly surprised by the entertainment that surrounded the area. It exuded so much character and had a light-hearted aura about it that I found extremely attractive.

There was a group of amazeball violinists busking where the diners were seated, even getting all us passers-by who were gawking with pleasure at the sweet music they were playing to join in with some clapping; There was a man outside doing some comedy; There were artists drawing caricatures…

There was the savoury, flavoursome aroma of paella wafting up to fill the sheltered compound… Just as well Mum and I had a good lunch or our noses would no doubt have yanked us right into the line for a bowl of some of that stuff!

Once we’d had our little poke around Covent Gardens, we hopped over to the Lyceum Theatre to catch The Lion King – the very reason that lured us out of our cosy home.

We’d booked our tickets last week and already, the matinee show for today was pretty much full. So full that Mum and I had to get the seats right at the front – Seats A-12 and A-13. We thought of watching Matilda as well but I was too curious about the amazing props and costumes The Lion King has managed to gain a reputation for.

Anyway, we couldn’t obviously get the cheapest tickets but the most expensive ones were a little too expensive. So we got the 57 quid ones and to be honest, considering that the conductor’s head was meant to be an obstruction, we didn’t find it at all a hindrance to our awesome view of the stage. In fact, both of us were even more floored by how much work and effort has had to go into the show.

I was captured by the grace and elegance in which the performers had to move in order to reflect the movement of the animals with their costumes. I was super impressed with the intricate fusion of acting and puppetry. And I was in awe of the entire production as a whole – the music working in harmony with the singing and dancing, the scenes and props that were used, the lighting…

The Lion King is undoubtedly my favourite musical of the moment and perhaps forever. Hehe. Oh and of course, to have so many lovely, muscular male eye candy on stage definitely didn’t serve to harm at all! It was 110% money well-spent and I can honestly say that I could watch it again and again and again.

I love the animated movie of Lion King – always have, and this musical truly exceeded my expectations.

Yes, yesterday was a down day, but God is faithful and full of grace because today was spectacular! x)

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I realise that I have become quite fond of the very British past-time – talking about the weather… which is exactly the way I’m kicking off this post. Lol.

The weather’s been absolutely lovely here in good ol’ London and its gray, stoic buildings have come to life with the glow of the warm sunlight reflecting off of them. In a matter of a couple of weeks, it is as if London has come to life together with me.

Mum and I embraced the warm weather by going off to Kensington High Street where Mum wanted to take a look around Whole Foods. We had a quick whizz around and were incredibly tempted to buy a goose egg home but since they hadn’t priced it, we decided the novelty of it was probably not worth buying anyway. Hehe. Or maybe we were simply trying to comfort ourselves.

Anyway, after Whole Foods, we went a-walking to Notting Hill Gate and together, we walked some more to Ledbury Road to visit Melt!

It’s a small little shop but very pretty and quaint. It exuded a lovely warmth that complemented the season of Spring, and the sweet smell of chocolate filled every crevice, luring every passerby in by the nose.

Mum and I shared a cup of Hot Chocolate. Mum went for the milk chocolate although I’d have gone for dark. It was luxuriously thick and had a velvety mouthfeel. I felt it too rich so couldn’t bear more than a mouthful. I think Willy Wonka would have died and gone to heaven though.

We then went about picking some chocolates and Mum also added two mini chocolate bars to the lot. They were beautifully packaged and Cecelia, who was working there today gave me a staff discount which was such a pleasant surprise seeing as I’m really only an intern. ❤ God is so good!

We tried to walk off some of the hot chocolate by walking along Portobello Road’s Portobello Market back towards the Notting Hill Gate station.

There wasn’t too much to see though seeing as the Market tends to wake up on weekends rather than weekdays.

Still, it was nice to simply have a little poke around before heading off to Holborn where Mum had a cuppa at Pret while I popped into school to *cue sad music* clear out my locker and wave goodbye to the memory of this term’s daily challenge to get changed in a locker room where demand for space is high and supply is far too low. x)

Our girly day out culminated with dinner, joined by Grandma, Grandpa and Kor, at Asadal for Korean. It was expectedly crowded by the time 7pm came around but thank goodness I made a reservation for the 5 of us on Monday.

We ordered some sides to share – the Kimchi set (loved the radish kimchi especially!), Pa Jeon “Pancake made with egg, wheat & rice flour with spring onions, oysters, mussels, prawns and squid” which we all thoroughly enjoyed for it crispy exterior and soft, piping hot interior, and Kun Man Du “Handmade dumplings with pork and chives with a light soy sauce” which was pan fried beautifully and perfectly stuffed with juicy, flavourful ground pork.

Grandma and Mum shared the Beef Bibimbap as I’d suggested as I thought portions may be a bit big for one. I tried some of their bibimbap and I enjoyed the fact that they were exceptionally generous with the vegetables. It tasted fresh and not overly seasoned.

I asked whether they could substitute the beef for chicken or pork for the bibimbap for Grandpa since he doesn’t like or eat beef but they were quite inflexible about this. So we helped him order the Hae Mool Deop Bap “Mixed Seafood, Vegetables with Rice”. I think Grandpa quite enjoyed it although chicken would probably have suited him better.

Kor ordered the Bokum Myun “Fried Noodles with Mixed Vegetables, Squid and Prawns” which he managed to polish off. Considering it was quite a heap of noodles they served up, it must say something. Lol. He also helped Mum and Grandma with their bibimbap, as well as me with my dish.

I had the Nutritious Stone Bowl Rice “Dates, Chestnuts, Ginseng, Gingyo and Beans”. I’ve seen it before on their menu and expected it to be served like the bibimbap with rice in the middle and the dates and stuff round it. Instead, it was served in a stone bowl and was mixed up quite like fried rice, only not fried I think? Hehe.

For something said to be ‘nutritious’, it was really delicious! The natural sweetness of the dates and chestnuts went really well with the savoury rice and beans. The ginseng was mild in flavour but just enough for that herb-y kick. I shared this out with everyone since I couldn’t finish the lot, but I did make quite a bit of effort to scrape the crispy bits of rice from the base and sides of the bowl – definitely the best part!

As Kor mentioned, it’s been ages since we all went out together for a meal so it was nice for all of us to be able to do that. Grandpa was quite tired by the time dinner ended and dozed off on the train. I’m glad Grandma and Grandpa did make the trip all the way to Holborn to have dinner with us even though it’s not very close to home. =)

While Asadal serves wonderful, homely Korean food, my only gripe is that they’re not very flexible with the menu and they serve quite a lot of beef so there was very little for Grandpa to choose from. Their lunch menu would probably be a bit more suitable for him though since they have chicken with rice and stuff.

Anywayyyy…

We all made the journey home and I couldn’t help but dig into the box of Melt Chocolates we had. I had 2 – the Gianduja Dome and the Salted Caramel Bonbon.

The dome’s the one I usually make at Melt and tend to bring home for Kor so I thought I should finally try it. And it was lovely! The praline and hazelnut combination is very much a match made in heaven so it tasted just as heavenly!

As for the bonbon, I loved the molten caramel, so lightly salted, flowing out like sweet, honey lava as the chocolate shell cracked open.  The coating on my tongue and luxuriant mouthfeel from the sweet-savoury play of flavours made the walk to Ledbury Road extremely worth it.

Now I’ve had my two pieces of chocolates, I’ve been good today and have refrained from more, allowing Mum, Suk Gong (who visited us this afternoon) and Kor to delight in the chocolaty pleasures.

After the last week of b/p-ing, my craving for food is starting to curb, especially after I made myself stop the purging. I’m still struggling to accept how I look now, but I’m happy that I am starting to regain a sense of balance in my eating, while also eating a lot more freely.

Here’s a poem Wen Xiu shared with me last week. I love it because it brings comfort to me and it speaks to me so intimately. =) ❤

We may wait till He explains, 
Because we know that Jesus reigns. 

It puzzles me; but , Lord, You understandest, 
And will one day explain this crooked thing. 
Meanwhile I know that it has worked out Your best —
Its very crookedness taught me to cling. 

You have fenced up my ways, made my paths crooked, 
To keep my wandering eyes fixed on You, 
To make me what I was not, humble, patient; 
To draw my heart from earthly love to You. 

So I will thank and praise You for this puzzle, 
And trust where I cannot understand. 
Rejoicing You do hold me worth such testing, 
I cling the closer to Your guiding hand.

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