Reading: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (library e-book); The Red Chamber by Pauline A Chen
Watching: The Good Wife and Iron Chef America via Amazon video
Drinking: Longan and red date tea. This being my ‘confinement’ month, I’m supposed to be drinking and eating confinement foods that help regain strength, improve breastmilk supply etc. So this ‘tea’ made from dried longans, red dates and rock sugar is a daily drink for me, as is chicken or fish soup with ginger.
Eating: things I’m probably not really supposed to eat as it’s not exactly confinement foods like sashimi and a divine key lime tart and a cilantro lime sorbetto!
Also: nursing the baby every 2-3 hours, changing plenty of diapers, trying to spend time with Wee Reader, napping or just lying in bed whenever I can
Ah so that’s life with a newborn. I had nearly forgotten.
The feeds every two hours (or less!!), the struggle to emerge from sleep in the early hours, the initial pains of breastfeeding, the many diaper changes, the tiredness, the tiredness, the tiredness.
But unlike two years ago, I now have a new midnight fees companion – my kindle paperwhite! And it’s been such a good friend, letting me make my way through e-books of all kinds. Ok so my other best friend is my iPhone on which I watch Netflix – I’ve been watching Mad Men and foodie documentaries – cos sometimes the only thing that helps prevent those eyelids from closing is a good TV show.
But here’s what I’ve read recently:
Musicophilia – Oliver Sacks
Another fascinating read from Sacks. Parts of which were a little too much for a sleep-addled brain. Lighter fare next time!
Travels with Charley in search of America – John Steinbeck
Loved this travelogue. The last time I read Steinbeck was too long ago and I’m looking forward to reading more now.
Swamplandia! – Karen Russell
Weird and so wonderful. Reminded me of Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.
The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
A fun enough read but I’m not sure that I’ll continue with this series.
And I’m currently reading:
Fear of flying – Erica Jong
Prince of tides – Pat Conroy
And here’s the reason why I was in bed before 9 and up again at 11 (and also why there aren’t nice images of book covers on this post) with proud (or unsure of what to make of him) big brother:
That itty-bitty thing we brought home from the hospital in 2011 is now a little boy. How did that happen?
I don’t talk much about my family on this blog but I am going to make an exception today and devote this post to my son.
Because someone is two! And that is a fantastic milestone.
So much has happened in the past year. He learnt to walk! He learnt to talk! He beat his eczema (well most of it)! He’s thrown a tantrum! He’s eaten his first wheat products! He’s become a pro at the playground! He’s become so much more confident in whatever he does. And yet still has that ability to amaze me everyday.
We had a little party at home on Saturday with some friends and grandma who flew in from Singapore on Thursday to celebrate!
There was shepherd’s pie, fried vegetarian beehoon (vermicelli), spinach and strawberry salad, barbecued sausages and corn, samosas and spring rolls. And some car-shaped agar-agar (jelly), cupcakes from an egg-nut-wheat-dairy-free box mix (much as I hate mixes, I still haven’t figured out egg-free cakes) and an egg-free, nut-free train chocolate banana cake from our favourite bakery (they say it’s nut-free but their other cakes do contain nuts so I was still hesitant about feeding this to wee reader. Turns out he didn’t really like it, except for the fondant!). The kids had fun with his new water table, the weather held up well and a good time was had!
Grandma made him an apron! He received so many awesome gifts, including some fun books!
A jar of my mother-in-law’s homemade pineapple tarts, handcarried from Singapore in December. They are rather delicate, thus the crumbs.
It’s not the Lunar New Year without something sweet in the house! In Singapore, we’d have all our favourites like kueh bangkit, pineapple tarts (ok so we do actually have these since the in-laws brought them from Singapore in December), bak kwa (a kind of barbecued pork jerky).
And so while it’s not exactly a traditional Chinese cookie, I made oatmeal raisin cookies (via the Rachel Allen cook book Bake! – someone has put up the recipe here – I did reduce the sugar to about 180g and added some cinnamon) and some banana bread as I had three too ripe bananas sitting in my freezer and I hate turning my oven on for just that one thing (recipe via Smitten Kitchen – but minus some of the spices which I didn’t have).
Great with a glass of milk!
One of my favourite Lunar New Year treats is nian gao (年糕) a steamed sweet glutinous rice cake (recipe here). I’ve never made it myself before as there are plenty of varieties available in the Asian supermarkets here (such as brown sugar, coconut). Here’s what I like to do with it: slice it, dip in an egg batter and pan-fry for a crispy sweet eggy breakfast! Nian gao, which can literally be translated as ‘year cake’ is traditionally offered to the Kitchen God to stick his lips together so that nothing bad will be said!
Tastes better than it looks!
One of my other favourite New Year traditions is yu sheng (a raw fish salad) which I’ve previously mentioned here but it is difficult to find in the Bay Area and in the first place, with the pregnancy, raw fish is out for me. So no yu sheng this year!
Sweet treats or not, have a happy Lunar New Year! 新年快乐！万事如意！
There was snow on the mountains as we drove south on the 5, luckily this wasn’t reflective of the weather to come! It was indeed warmer in San Diego and Anaheim than in the Bay Area.
All that sugar was making my hand tremble…. Haha, not really, but these tiramisu pancakes from Cafe 21 (which I shared with the husband as well as a prosciutto omelette) in downtown San Diego was awesome! Sinfully so!
Another sinful treat (not on the same day that is) from Azucar in Ocean Beach, a Cuban-influenced patisserie which we first visited in November and which I was determined to return to, because it was just that good (so is their coffee). This was chocolatey and crunchy and just a delight to savour.
Did you guess it yet? We went to Disneyland! It was wee reader’s first visit and I had been worried. Worried that it would be too much for him, that it would be too crowded, too tiring. I am a worrier.
But it turned out great! The first ride he sat was Dumbo and he loved it so much he didn’t want to get off. He loved pretty much everything that went round and round, like the rocket ride pictured above (he rode it twice), and clapped and laughed during It’s A Small World (which was Christmas-themed!). But his favourite ride was interestingly enough, the train that goes around Disneyland. He sat it three times! Of course he cried when getting off some rides and wanted to be carried when waiting in those long queues. But at least there were none of the tantrums and screaming incidents that we spotted throughout the park.
And since we had grandparents in tow, the husband and I were able to pop over (having first collected FastPasses) to sit the more adult rides like Star Tours (we are big Star Wars fans) and Indiana Jones (we are also big fans). I wasn’t really supposed to sit these rides, since they do say ‘expectant mothers should not ride’, and at 21 weeks I am indeed expecting (due in early May). But these weren’t exactly Six Flags upside-down and head-spinning rides so they were fine, and fun!
It was a great week-long trip, and made for great memories and photos. I don’t expect wee reader to remember much (or any) of this in the future, but I’m sure the rest of us will!
The Christmas presents are wrapped and ready under the tree. The grandparents have settled in, having arrived a week or so ago from Singapore. The butter cookies have been baked (it doesn’t feel Christmassy till the cookie cutters have been used!). The ham is in the fridge, ready for its beer bath later. It will be accompanied simple salad, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and a pear bread pudding with a salted caramel sauce. In case that’s not enough, there’s coconut ice-cream in the freezer. I think we’re almost ready for Christmas. At least for Christmas Eve dinner.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
We hit Santa Cruz and Capitola for two nights for some sea breezes, seafood and sightseeing with the visiting grandparents. And of course this being Northern California, fog.
We had some yummy Italian food at this tiny place in Capitola called Caruso’s, like my spaghetti carbonara with thick chunks of pancetta and homemade pasta. And made sure to stop by Gizdich Ranch for some Very Berry Pie and a slice of Olallieberry. So good.
I brought an couple of different books to read: Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was hoping to do some reading during wee reader’s afternoon naps, but it turns out that he didn’t nap – new environment, strange crib, all that excitement, and those mini naps in the car. Still I managed to finish Wild, with much admiration for Strayed’s determination, sorrow at her past, and hopeful for her future. A must read! I’m still working on Shades of Grey, but it’s been quite fun so far.
Ok so this is a blog post, just not one on books.
I’ve been reading but we’ve also been doing more exciting things like heading up to the city for a foggy morning in the SF Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park followed by a wonderfully sunny lunch on Pier 1.5 at La Mar. Great ceviche, empanadas, yummy plaintain, sweet potato chips, and a fantastically gingery Chilcano de Pisco (I don’t usually drink at lunch – or really, ever – but I figured, who knows when I’ll be back!).
Wee reader is running around the backyard with his grandparents, breaking in his new shoes. And I’m off to join them. Enjoy the photos!
I’m not trying to avoid writing a review.
Oh who am I kidding, I so am.
So here’s my avoiding-a-review post.
Which is full of photos of food!
Our friends joined us at Tanto in Sunnyvale for an early dinner. We had some really great dishes like a Kurobuta pork pie, Uni Tamagotoji (sea urchin simmered with egg), beef tongue, grilled rice balls with mentaiko (spicy cod roe), clams in broth, sashimi salad… and more! So good.
And finished up with chocolate cake from what is probably my favorite bakery in my neighborhood.
A small cake but quite decadent!
On Sunday, the husband and I decided to finally try out the new-ish Singapore/Malaysia cafe called Kopitiam (which kind of means coffee house ). As it’s not really a full restaurant, there were only a few choices and the husband picked nasi lemak (coconut rice – usually cooked with pandan leaves, fried chicken, some token veg like cucumbers, ikan bilis and a spicy sambal which the owner made sure was replenished with an even larger portion)
I went for the laksa, a coconut-y gravy (made from all kinds of spices like lemongrass, candlenuts, belachan etc – if you’re interested, there are plenty of great examples online, such as this one) with rice noodles (although they used the wrong type of rice noodles), tofu, fish cake and bean sprouts. Oh and a hard-boiled egg. It was incredibly spicy and I quickly gulped down my iced teh tarik (milky tea).
Inspired by the rather Singaporean lunch, we made some fried carrot cake for dinner. I know that when you hear ‘carrot cake’ you’re probably thinking of that sweet dessert, but the Singapore version is actually a steamed radish cake (which I had bought from an Asian supermarket) that we then panfried with garlic, pickled turnip and beaten eggs.
The pickled turnip adds saltiness and a bit of a crunch to the dish. It was a simple but hearty taste of home to end the all-too-short weekend.
It wasn’t really intentional but we had a rather Japan-filled weekend. It started with dinner at our new favourite Japanese restaurant just a ten-minute drive away. Yuki Sushi. A little more pricey than our regular Japanese restaurant but perhaps more authentic? Their grilled Saba was just absolute perfection. The right amount of seasoning, and that wonderful smokey flavor. Absolutely divine. We’ve been to this place twice so far and both times I’ve ordered this dish and both times I’ve been blown away. It was so good I forgot to take a photo. Instead you’ll have to be content with the top two pictures. The left hand corner is the husband’s chirashi. The right photo has the other two-thirds of my ‘combination dinner’: sushi and sashimi. It also came with rice, salad and miso soup.
The next day, we headed to San Jose to have ramen at Santouka, located in the Mitsuwa supermarket food court. And then some grocery shopping at the supermarket – fresh sashimi-grade unsliced pieces of fish (salmon, kanpachi and hamachi) and some fish roe and green tea. Homemade California rolls and some Popeyes fries chicken that a friend brought over rounded up the kind of Japanese dinner. Ok so maybe the fried chicken was not so Japanese!
To top it all off, I finished reading Natsuo Kirino’s Out. It was perhaps the first Japanese novel I’ve read that wasn’t dreamy. Instead it was ugly and nightmarish (but in an everyday way, if that makes sense) and kind of depressing. It’s not just because of the murder (it is crime fiction after all) but because of the lives of Kirino’s characters. At its heart are four women, colleagues in a bento factory. It’s a hard life – night shift, hours of standing in line scooping rice and curry, and rumours of a pervert lurking around the carpark and grabbing women. Life isn’t pleasant at home either. Masako might as well live on her own, as her husband and son both ignore her. Kuniko is heavily in debt and her boyfriend is on the verge of leaving her. Yoshie is a single mother and the caretaker of a bedridden mother-in-law. Yayoi has two young children and a husband who gambles and is besotted with an escort named Anna who works at a club owned by former gangster Satake. It’s not really a spoiler since it’s all over the synopsis but well, I’ll be a bit vague in case you’d like to find out for yourself: someone gets murdered and the body needs to be disposed off. Things get complicated and essentially, lives get turned upside down.
In an interview with Japan Review, Kirino explained that “being a woman in this society is mainly an anonymous existence. I don’t think the fact that the environment is such that women are nameless and overlooked is a good thing. For example, a young man once told me that until he read Out, he “never realized that regular middle aged women actually had a life.” What makes these women special is not that they committed a crime, but the circumstances around these normal women that cornered them into that situation. It’s often merely convenient to depict them as seeking an escape from their life through an act of crime.”
Kirino brings these women, these everyday down-on-their-luck women, and brings their story to light. This is the book’s strong suit – the everyday life of these women in the suburbs of Tokyo. Because sometimes it can head towards too much melodrama, too much gore. But overall, a good, gritty read.