I wonder when this seed was planted. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how unhappy I have been feeling with my life. And I don’t mean it in the aspect of comfort and luxury. I’m grateful for those, sure. I can’t discredit my parents for giving those things to me. But the more time passes, the more I grow anxious: What is going to happen with my life? What about where I’m going? No one has ever attempted to talk to me about this topic. Maybe that’s why I feel a little lost.
I’ve been baking because it removes me from all the fears and apprehension that swirl around in my mind constantly, but that’s only a few precious hours in a week. The rest of the time I feel like I’m stuck in a ditch, frustratedly clawing my way out of the hole I’ve dug myself into in my head. And you know what I realized? I am the only one who can get myself out.
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Things have been crazy around here.
The effects of the flood have not, to put it mildly, been pretty. In fact, looking at the aftermath of it is depressing. We’ve packed a lot of old clothes and shoes for the relief drive, but on a personal level, the damage and loss we have sustained in our own family company is also brutal. Let’s just say we’ve been cleaning for three days non-stop and haven’t even made it to a quarter of the stocks and other things that need to be rescued. The paperwork on my desk is slowly piling up, neglected in favour of other more dire priorities. I reckon it will take about a month to get everything back in their original state, but I hardly feel like I am in a position to complain. I have to be resilient, just like everyone else. Just like those who received a worse beating from this storm.
A more optimistic picture after this horrible flood. I don’t have the heart to document anything else.
It amazes me how two very opposite things can happen in the same week– on the same day even. On Thursday the rains finally heaved its last sigh and it took only a few hours for the flood in our area to disappear completely. In the morning the streets had looked like a lake and come afternoon it was dried out, leaving not even a single sign that there had been a deluge. But it has certainly left something in me at the end of this week: a severe tiredness; and some paranoia with any sound that resembles that of rain. Every time the trees outside my window so much as rustle, I look up to see if it is raining again. Things are not normal yet despite how they may appear; not by a long shot.
But a dash of good cheer: One of the more admirable things about people is their ability to pick up the pieces after the storm is done and move on. That’s always the case isn’t it? You either carry on with your life and do the best you can, or let the negativity weigh you down and carry you off into a bad place. I choose the first option of course, and though it may be tiring at times, no one ever disallowed taking breaks to shake off the weariness.
Today is a Sunday, and in preparation for another long period of cleaning this coming week, all I want to do today is watch The Newsroom, play Rockband 3, visit a bookstore, and write about apple pie. Not necessarily in that order.
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I’ve heard or read somewhere that my country celebrates Christmas the longest here in Asia. As soon as the -ber months come around, the malls and restaurants begin blasting on the Christmas music. I’m sure it has more to do with how they want to put the customers in a spending mood, but nonetheless it makes everyone feel festive. The local celebration of Christmas begins during September and can last until February the next year. I don’t mind this at all. I love Christmas. I love it even more than my birthday, because I love how Christmas is celebrated by the world as a whole and not just privately with friends and family. I love the sense of being part of a ‘world community’, singing the same old holiday songs about red-nosed reindeer and jolly old St. Nicholas. It brings the world together and gives us all a commonality; across race, gender, age, across language and cultural barriers. Christmas is just that kind of phenomenon.
To close out my Christmas Countdown, I have chosen the cookies I fell in love with the instant I saw them. You might think it odd, but something about these cookies gives me the quiet feeling of Christmas morning, waking up to the sunlight pouring through the window on a bright but snowy day. Holding a large mug of steaming hot chocolate in your hands, you look out and just enjoy the simplicity of silence while everyone else is still asleep from the previous night’s festivities. You breathe in all the joy and love that abundantly flows through your home, and you do not mind at all that there are Christmas wrappers strewn all over the floor; half-empty Christmas stockings hanging near the fireplace; and half bitten cookies still hanging on the tree.
But these cookies aren’t just good as stained-glass ornaments, if that’s what you’re thinking. They are actually quite magnificent. The butter cookies themselves are delicious, with just a light sweetness that lends itself to the candy centre. The cookies are slightly crunchy, but the melted candy centres are decisively so. And they are sooooo addicting! It’s impossible to have just one. Impossible, I tell you! I packed a box for my little cousins, and from what my Aunt texted me a few hours later, the cookies disappeared in the blink of an eye. Good thing she managed to keep a piece for herself. It’s such a great feeling for me when I hear about my adorable wittle cousins loving the cute wittle baked goods I send them, but it’s a bonus when I hear that the adults love them too.
When I bought my copy of Martha Stewart’s Cookies back in September, I spent many nights browsing the book from cover to cover, trying to come up with a game-plan or schedule as to when I was going to do one recipe or the other. I began marking the cookie recipes into groups, one of which was Christmas cookies. One of the things I like most about this collection of cookies is that every cookie has a photo, thus making every recipe easy to fall in love with. But there’s this one cookie that caught my attention entirely, the Peppermint Meringue Sandwich Cookies. It had Christmas written all over it, with lovely red streaks that stood out against the whiteness of the meringue reminiscent of a candy cane. With the addition of the chocolate ganache sandwiched between the cookies, it was definitely attention-grabbing for a mint-chocolate combination lover like myself.
There was just one teensy problem: I was terrified of beating egg whites.
Months ago, I asked my friends for suggestions as to what they would like me to bake next. My friend Eri immediately requested something with rosemary. Being that I have never made anything with rosemary, let alone know much about this particular herb, I immediately took it as a challenge. I was fairly excited to follow through with this, but when I began looking around for recipes, I couldn’t find anything that I really really wanted to make for Eri. It’s funny that I’m so concerned, since it’s not as if I’m making these for her for any special occasion. But because I’m sentimental, I still wanted to do it right.
So I kept looking and looking until I stumbled upon a photo of very simple yet elegant-looking cookies as I browsed through the lovely Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook. Then upon reading the introduction to the recipe, I just had to give them a go.
Apparently, rosemaries are a symbol of remembrance, love, and enduring affection, which is why according to Martha, these cookies often make an appearance in Australian and European weddings. It is also quite closely associated with the Virgin Mary (rose of Mary). As simple as these cookies look, I really like what they stood for. Now if only I could find a way to send them to Eri somehow. Or better yet, I hope I can persuade her to make some!
It seems rather inappropriate to call this a face-off– two recipes, each from giants of cookery and baking- but for the purposes of pleasing my obsessive-compulsive tendency to categorize all my blog entries, I will label it as such. However this is more of a look back at my experiences in making both recipes, as well as my thoughts on the results, rather than anything else. There are no winner or loser recipes here, only bread. And lots of it.
That both carry the descriptions “delicious” and “homey” do not even need to be mentioned. They both have their unique set of charms that make them worth a try. But more importantly, making yeast breads to me is always a fun challenge. While you’re in the process of doing it, there’s a certain nervous anticipation of whether or not it will rise and even bake well. That’s why every time I make yeast breads and they end up looking beautiful and perfect fresh from the oven, I like to jump around the kitchen and declare whatever bread I’ve made as “the most beautiful bread you’ve ever seen”, so much so that my Papa started joking about putting them up on a shelf to display rather than eat. That’s the good thing about making your own bread- the immense satisfaction at succeeding. Now I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t mind if I failed. The truth is I do mind (and would probably come dangerously close to throwing a kitchen tantrum ala-Amy Adams from Julie & Julia), but I’ll be damned if I don’t try making bread anyway.