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Archive for the ‘London’ Category

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

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

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

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


Green Tea with Lily and Osmanthus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paella…

Which we skipped. 

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

I more or less zeroed in on Big V.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giant cookies, German cakes, Dessert slices…

Tarts, Sliced cakes, Chocolate fondants…

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

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

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

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

Flo had his Cappuccino. I had my Piccolo.

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

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

Flo and I continued on towards the Thames…

Where we then wefied with Tower Bridge

And The Shard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How cool is that?!

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

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

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwood College. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with a Flake no less!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

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

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, a wefie!

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

And off we went.

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

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

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

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

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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I love making breads… I really really do. There’s something so magical in the art of boulangerie. There’s a therapy surrounding it, almost a kind of rhythm. But most of all, there’s respect – respect for yeast.

All my experiences with breads so far at LCB have been wonderful and successful. Sadly, that streak of bliss had to end sooner or later and thankfully, it did sooner rather than later. That is, as much as I wish it didn’t happen, my relationship with yeast hit a bit of a rough patch on Wednesday and not during the exam.

The upside of Wednesday were the Pain Viennois (Breakfast Bread enriched with Eggs, Butter and Milk), and the Pain Complet (Brown Breads) we made. I ended up leaving a loaf of each with Chef Christophe whose table was loaded with breads, breads and more breads.

With the remaining pain viennois, I made garlic bread with homemade garlic butter for Kor to have with a dinner of Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stew – the one that’s supposed to be his wife’s Jool’s favourite. =) Kor also had it with some brown bread.

I think Kor probably enjoyed his dinner as much as Jool’s would have because he brought the leftovers to work on Thursday for his lunch…

But back to my little spat with yeast.

As part of our exam, we’ll be having to make a Brioche-a-Tete. Well apparently, I managed to murder my yeast so my dough refused to rise and basically ended up looking much like E.T. Chef Christophe said there was a bit too much salt (even after weighing it 3 times) but I reckon it was because it came into contact with the salt while mixing.

Anyway, Chef said that we’ll be doing it again and he was so nice I really wanted to cry. Actually, I was disappointed with how the brioche turned out, and disappointed in myself so much so that I did tear a little. I did say though, better now than in the exam.

Yesterday, we made our brioche dough first thing in the morning, before proceeding to make more bread!

We made Kugelhopf (Alsatian Style Brioche with Rum Soaked Raisins) from the dough we’d prepared on Wednesday which turned out quite beautifully if I do say so myself! And also brought home were Baguettes, one of which I gave to my locker neighbour.

Went with Sam, Rach, Nic and Sherri to Eat where I had a little fruit salad since the soups weren’t ready. We all had a nice little chit-chat cum bonding sesh. I’m really starting to love hanging out with the girls so t’was nice chilling with them over my fruit and their coffee before heading to Melt.

Time flew and before I left, I gave Chika and Eichi the Kugelhopf to share which Eichi was quite intrigued with. Hehe. I hope they did enjoy it since I didn’t get to try it.

This morning, we had our Croissants and Pain au Chocolat prepared yesterday put straight in the oven before we moulded our dough for our Brioche-a-Tete attempt #2. While they proofed, the pastries came out of the oven and we all had breakfasts of croissants, pain au chocolat and coffee for those who wanted some.

I had my baby pain au chocolat and mini croissant although I preferred the former. Hehe. Gave two pain au chocolat to Rachel, some to next door and kept two of each for Kor.

Also from yesterday was the Pain de Seigle (Rye Bread) that was shaped, proofed and baked into what is supposed to be a hedgehog that I’ve aptly named Turtle. Turtle and his big little friends were ready and waiting for us today…

to dissect them, scoop out their innards, make yummy sandwiches from them with whipped butter, pastrami, smoked salmon, roquefort cheese, as well as white ham and pate for those who wanted them. Then we filled them back up and returned their spikes to them.

Turtle Pre-Surgery

Turtle has since been adopted by a certain Mr. “Homeless and Hungry’ who agreed to take him on when I saw him outside Sainsbury’s. I reckon he’ll love Turtle no matter what because he didn’t even look at him before deciding there and then to give him a home. =)

Just before we got our Brioche-a-Tetes in and out of the oven, we made Pain de Campagne (Country Bread) using our super duper amazing oven that Chef Christophe is uber proud of.

This mammoth sized Country Bread went home with Nathan for Uncle Pete and family...

He’s been showing us the awesomeness of the bread oven and all its uber cool features. Sadly, with all its amazeballness, it is also crazy expensive!!

So we rounded our week of breads with our brioche…

Success!

After a quick whisper of prayer before putting it into the proofer, it rose nicely. I was happy that it rose but what’s more, it rose and it baked nicely and both their heads remained quite well centred although the exam sized one was just a little off. Chef said the small one was pretty perfect – right colour, nice and smooth, head nicely centred… and that I could get nearly a 5 in the exam if I did it like that.

To me though, it was more that my second attempt had improved from my first by a gazillion percent that made me happy. To get it almost perfect was the icing and cherry and sprinkles and whipped cream and peanut butter and sugar and spice and all things nice on top!

Our last session of our boulangerie module ended with Chef Christophe pouring white wine with creme de cassis for us, but I didn’t want to drink so he offered me orange juice. Lol. I graciously declined. x) And then Chef Nic and Chef Graeme joined us for alcohol and sandwiches courtesy of Chef Christophe’s hedgehog.

Chef's Creations...

We had a quick Technical Demo thereafter on Modern Entremets I – Duo de Mousses Cassis Vanille, Biscuit Cassis et Croustillant de Chocolat Blanc aux Framboises aka Duo of Blackcurrant and Vanilla Mousses, Blackcurrant Biscuit and White Chocolate and Raspberry Crunch. Chef Graeme didn’t think the Blackcurrant mousse would set so added a bit more gelatine to the second half of it. It did manage to hold up after unmoulding though so pretty pictures were able to be taken before we dug in.

Went with Stef, Sarah, Sachiko, Orn, Kong and Celine to Asadal after class ended because they wanted some lunch. I just wanted to burn some time before meeting Nathan so I just joined them but didn’t have anything.

As planned, we went to the Grayson Perry exhibition “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman” which was intriguing to say the least. And it was very tongue in cheek. I’d never thinking of vising such an exhibition but I’m glad we went to check it out because it was quirky, creative and thought-provoking.

This weekend’s a short one and I plan to try to make a few more entremets because I’m still bouncing a lot of ideas around in my head,  but I’d like to have lots of rest in preparation for the busy busy week next week.

And in case you were wondering, even with our little tiff, I still love bread AND I am even more captivated by it than ever! Maybe I should stop my job search and look instead for an apprenticeship somewhere… like in France? Which means I’ll need to learn French… and Dad’s eyes will probably pop right out at having to support me financially for even longer. Hehe. Which means… maybe not. At least, not right now… x)

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It feels like ages since I last posted an entry here. I guess blogging has become quite a part of my life now and not writing a post does remind me how much I do enjoy writing… even if only about the mundanities of my life. =)

Well, over the last weekend, I’ve taken to a bit more brushing up of my entremet although yesterday, I decided that maybe I’d like to switch it up totally and do something different. And now, my mind’s in overdrive with all the permutations and combinations of flavours I may be able to try out before I decide which I’d like to go with and stick with.

But… there’s only so much time, and ingredients don’t exactly cost peanuts. Plus, I’ll still have to practice some of the other exam pieces so…

Anyway…

I also learned this weekend how much Kor and I really appreciate and love each other. On Sunday, we got into a huge argument(?) kind of and we both got really upset with each other. That episode ended with Kor telling me how much he worries about me every night, how much he wants me to get well and healthy, how he won’t stop worrying about me until I am settled down with a nice man.

He told me that quite a few of his friends have passed away just like that, and he fears that the same will happen to me if I don’t keep moving forward. I think in same way or another, Kor is still haunted by the image of me in 2008 when I came over to the UK for his graduation and he couldn’t recognise me – even questioning Mum as to who I was because of how thin I’d become.

He said that every time I moan about being cold, he wonders if I’ve eaten enough, whether I’m eating properly. And his biggest fear is that he may upset me one day and that I’ll revert back to the ways of the past, that if it happened, he would never be able to live with himself for the rest of his life. He told me that he loves me a lot ( for the first time ever) and reminded me that I am his only sister…

To hear my big brother telling me all these things broke my heart. For the first time, we cried on each others’ shoulders as we hugged and tried to comfort each other.

Yes. I am blessed. Blessed beyond words.

I knew I was blessed before. But now, I know I am even more blessed that I had thought. My wish now is to be able to find the strength to live up to the purpose that God has for me as best I can, while also learning to be happy and healthy for myself as much as for the people who continually love and support me unconditionally.

Even though what happened on Sunday wasn’t the prettiest of events, I think in a way, it has brought my relationship with Kor from one of an assumed taken-for-grantedness, to the reality that we both do appreciate each others’ presence and actions.

I thank God for a brother as sweet and sensitive as Kor. Sure, he has his idiosyncracies about him that can bore into irritation, but who doesn’t? I’m probably more a headache to live with that he.

I thank God that Kor is always game for trying my kitchen experiments, that he eats whatever I cook for him and always says it’s good. I thank God that he looks out for me, and that he tries to take me out on weekends when he knows I’m feeling stressed and need to unwind.

I thank God that he is always a phonecall away when I get lost around London for lack of a 3G phone or whatever kind of phone you need to download a map application. Lol.

I thank God for Kor, for being Kor, for being my one and only brother – my favourite brother. =)

And as my weekend wound down with new knowledge and comfort in my heart, the beauty of the heavy snowfall from the night before reminded me once again that sometimes, we have to endure with the bitter(ly cold) to appreciate the sweet flutters of life.

Ooh and a little update…

I’m job seeking at the moment and have been offered a part-time job in the pastry kitchen at Holiday Inn, Singapore. I’ve also sent my resume to Hilton, Swissotel and Four Seasons although I don’t think there’s much of a chance that they’ll be interested in me. Still, even if chances are slim, there’s still a chance so I shall wait with half-baited breath.

Praline Truffle I brought back for Kor... Hehe. Cos I accidentally cracked the shell a little while removing it from its mould.

I’m also really enjoying working at Melt, so much so that I don’t feel as though I’m working at all. In fact, I wanted to go look at the main retail Melt outlet yesterday after going to Whole Foods. The shop is supposed to be 0.4 miles away from Notting Hill Gate station but I ended up walking 45 minutes to Ladbroke Grove Station and gave up. Found out upon reaching home that I’d made a few wrong turnings and missed it. =( Oh the joys of having no sense of direction!

Well, it’s been an exciting start to my week, and there’s still more days ahead. This week, I believe we’ll be doing boulangerie which I always enjoy doing. Hopefully the next few days won’t change my mind. x) I do sound like a pessimist don’t I? I really need to change that… 

And I really need to spend more time with God…

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