Monday, February 2, 2015

squidgy


I've been meaning and meaning to write. But the last few months have been spent moving the contents of my entire apartment into storage, looking after a small baby, looking for a tenant, getting said baby his vaccination, and preparing to move to another country with said baby.

But I stopped by because last night, lying under the covers, I began itching to write something - anything - about this time. Because you see, Baby is now 6 months old and oh, I do not want to forget this time. I want to hang on to it even as it dribbles through my grasping fingers. I now understand why people take time away from work to "be with their children". I used to think this was an excuse. Now I see that when you have a little growing human being, time is a finite and infinitely precious resource.

Baby is 6 months old now and he will never be 6 months old again. He will never again be on the cusp of sitting and crawling. One day - quite soon - he will sit up and not topple over as he does now. Soon, instead of getting on all fours and lunging inexpertly forward or motoring backwards, he will crawl towards his toys.

At 6 months,  he has plump cheeks, firm plump arms and legs and fat little dimpled hands. He is squidgy and squashy and altogether delicious. He has dimples at his elbows and skin like cream.

He is amiable and lovable and smiles readily at anyone, at everyone. When he smiles, he smiles broadly in a way that lights up the room and breaks my heart.

His favourite thing to do in the world is when you pull him to his feet and support him under his arms. Then he looks around the room with wild undisguised delight. He looks exultant, like a king surveying his kingdom. Then  he starts jumping up and down as if to say, 'oh look at this great big exciting world!'

He has turned me into a sap. I now smile at babies, children on the street. I know why strangers stopped me when I was pregnant to smile at me and congratulate me. It's because they knew this time of exhausted sweetness was coming.

A few days ago, I stopped by his cot on my way to work. He was sleeping and I stroked his hair. He opened his eyes sleepily, smiled at me and went back to sleep. It was just devastating. I wanted to put my bag down, sit beside him and not ever leave.

Monday, December 8, 2014

It takes one to know one


Scene: Mr Grey and I are watching baby squawk and kick his legs furiously.

Me: You know dear, I think baby is going to grow up to be such a naughty boy.

Mr Grey: No he's already naughty! He just doesn't have the ability to carry out his naughty schemes yet.

Me:.................

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kittens and cubs


On 23 July 2014, Mr Grey and I became parents to a tiny howling red faced boy. Four months on, he is no longer so tiny but he does still turn red when he howls for food.

He is a real game changer, this little boy. The last four months have been filled with exhaustion, panic, crazy love, happiness, worry and poop. So much poop.

At 4 months, he's a milk drinking, crazy pooping machine. He can't sit up yet but he's nearly there I think. He loves his baths but isn't the greatest napper. He isn't sleeping through the night yet but on good nights, he only wakes me up for one feed around midnight. I wish he had more good nights - but babies be babies and we'll just have to see how things go.

I read an Annie Lamott book on the first year of her son's life and she described his newborn state as "larval and incompetent". When I read that line, I grinned crazily to myself. It's true. New born babies are so helpless, it's scary.

But now! At the relatively advanced age of four months, there is so much he can do. He loves looking at patterns and can lie in his cot staring at random colourful objects while babbling and giggling to himself. Oh and recently he has been able to bat at his toys and grab them too.

Motherhood is this oxymoronic state of sleep deprived happiness.





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

grandfather stories

Here in haste to link to this blog post because it evoked memories of my grandparents.

I was very fortunate to have moved into my apartment with Mr Grey at the same time one of my aunts was moving into a smaller flat. She offloaded much of her crockery and some other odd bits and pieces on us. Most of the plates and bowls she gave me turned out to have been the remnants of my grandparents' collection. Because I eat of their plates and bowls, I am reminded - almost daily - of the breakfasts I used to have with my grandparents.

I don't think about my grandfather as often as I used to but he's always at the back of my mind. He has a kind of confidence and presence and I miss the sense of security he always gave me. He wasn't perfect but he was there.

Life is uncertain and strange at turns and sometimes, you really want to run home to someone who will make everything all better.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Balance



I never thought I'd turn into the kind of person who doesn't know what to do with herself once she stops work. Growing up, I excelled in doing nothing. I spent my school holidays sprawled on my bed reading ... everything, drinking milo and taking the occasional bike ride. I didn't learn an instrument (something I regret now) so I never had to practice anything. On the last day of school, I'd always make this trip to a bookshop or library (sometimes both) and come home staggering under a bag load of books. I'd make milo and settle in for a good long read.

I used to think that having lots of free time was a good thing. But you know something I have learned? I've learned that it's better to spend your time doing and learning things and having some free time in between. That having just endless free time to daydream and read isn't always such a good thing. Or to put it another way, you can really have too much of a good thing.

When I started work, life got so full and I was surprised at how alive I felt. Sometimes, I think I've only been really alive for the last 5-6 years. I worked and after work, there was stuff like dance, dive lessons and church. Then there was meeting Mr Grey and getting married....  It's been a busy and happy set of years.

It's only in the last month or so that I've started having actual free time and while I didn't know what to do with myself at first, I'm now grateful for this time. Mr Grey and I.. well, we're about to embark on several things that will make us insanely, incredibly tired and busy.

I don't know if I'll keep writing here. I know that I'll probably keep posting recipes because it's just easier to have all my recipes in one place online but I don't know if there will be the wherewithal to write.

So much of life is about finding balance. If I had anything I would want to give my kids, it would be this gift of balance. To have free time to explore things and read and daydream. But to also embark on projects and learning things so that when they're old enough, they have skills and interests aplenty.

It's difficult to put into words where I am at the moment; there is the still and silence but at the same time, there are powerful changes taking place as well. It's funny because I want to grasp this time with both hands, hold it close to my heart and treasure it but at the same time, I  fully embrace what comes next because it is so necessary - for me, for Mr Grey and our marriage.

I wanted to write a little bit of it down because I know that I will never be in this place again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Brown butter blueberry muffins

This is a recipe good enough to have been reproduced on two baking blogs. I used the version from here, primarily because the measurements are British - in grams and cups - thank goodness! Converting a recipe from American measurements to British isn't difficult but if someone has already done the work for you, why reinvent the wheel?

I've tried a couple of blueberry muffin recipes before but this is my favourite so far. It's a bit more trouble than the usual - having to do the crumb topping in Singapore isn't easy unless you have a food processor - but it yields crumbly fragrant muffins liberally studded with jammy fruit.  I promise you, with 250 grams of blueberries in them, you'll get blueberries with every bite. I hate buying "blueberry" muffins from shops only to find that there are maybe two blueberries in the entire muffin. The worst offenders are those that promise blueberries only to give you some kind of reconstituted blueberry jam and flavouring.

The real secret to this recipe is the browned butter. If you've never tried browning butter, please please try it out now. The smell alone makes the whole process worth it. If you don't know how, here is a simple step by step guide with picture. Try it out, because what isn't in the pictures is how it releases this incredibly delicious nutty fragrance that fills the entire house and makes you all happy. Also these muffins keep well too - about 3-4 days in an airtight container?

 Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins

 For the muffin mix:
105g butter
90ml whole milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla essence
175g plain flour
170g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
250g blueberries

 Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Put muffin liners in a muffin tin. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Keep heating it over medium heat until it has foamed up and brown bits have appeared and it smells nutty and delicious. Make sure you keep an eye on it as it happens - it takes a while but can burn quickly. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Whisk the egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla together, then add the brown butter and whisk again. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in another bowl and combine. Pour the liquids into the bowl and fold in until just combined. Fold the blueberries in. Spoon out into the muffin cups.

 For the crumble topping:
45g butter
60g flour
80g golden caster sugar

 Measure out all the ingredients into a small bowl. Rub together until you have a crumbly mixture. OR process in a food processor until you have a crumbly mixture. Divide between the muffins. Put into the oven and bake for around 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack for a bit before eating. (Makes 12)

 Note: I used normal castor sugar for the crumble topping and it was fine. If you don't want to specially buy golden castor sugar for this, you can mix in a few teaspoons of brown sugar with normal castor sugar.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Food writing and cookbooks


After discovering Claudia I looked for cookbooks by people who really knew particular cultures very well. I bought everything she had written, her book of Mediterranean food, her book on Italian food, and then I started on the American writer Paula Wolfert. Paula also immersed herself in food cultures. The first book I bought by her was about Moroccan food. After that it was Marcella Hazan, the goddess of all things Italian.

All these writers brought different things. Paula Wolfert sounded like a greedy anthropologist, Claudia like someone yearning for home, Marcella like a no nonsense but helpful and supremely capable Italian lady who would show you better than anyone else how to make pasta or risotto or ciabatta.


This is a longish piece by Diana Henry, a food writer I have only recently discovered.  It is long but worth a read not only because she writes well but also because she introduces you to so many excellent cookbooks.

Lately though, I've realised a fondness for British food writing. Looking back, I suppose it isn't so surprising. I was weaned on a great deal of British children's literature and somehow every book seemed to have rapturous descriptions of tea! cake! scones! clotted cream! treacle tart! meat pie! grilled kippers! sizzling bacon! buttered toast!

Speaking of treacle tart and children's lit, do have a look at this blogpost: it is a winning combination. It has both a recipe for treacle tart and also a selection of well chosen quotes showing that treacle tart was Harry Potter's favourite dessert.

And now if you will excuse me. I've gone and made myself hungry from reading all those descriptions and I need some milo and biscuits.