Of chasing neither, and choosing me.

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Perhaps you sometimes wonder if “all I’ve been doing is stalling because I am afraid of what would happen if I really did just focus on what I want”. I certainly feel that way. How do you move away from the guilt of wanting something else, something more but not knowing exactly how to get there?

Everywhere we look, people are hustling. On the other hand, people are telling you and I to slow down. There seems to be this tension between rushing around and taking life one moment at a time. Pendulums are the way of the world, so I choose to try to chase neither.

When people talk about mindfulness and meditation, maybe you, like me, can immediately sense, in your gut, “No, that does NOT apply to me. I have an imagination. I have tried breathing and just being, it is too much.”

The scariest thing is starting, even if it is starting small. So here’s what I’m going to try to do. Even if you and I choose to have only a  few minutes to listen to ourselves,  let’s do that. 

Maybe you’re a crafter, like me. If your hands help you centre yourself, it could be taking the time to tidy your desk. Put on one song, just one. And tidy for the duration of the song. Or write out three sentences. Or give yourself a hand massage. I’ve heard people do this in the mornings, timing themselves to get out the door by the time their playlist is done.

Maybe this can help you and I not get too caught up in the world. I find I can get emotional if I give myself time, especially when I’m overwhelmed. That’s usually a cue for me to take a walk, to drink a whole glass of water, and to get away from the centre of the bustle. Resets are important. Never think you don’t deserve one, okay? 

Maybe you want to explore being more centred in a realistic way, not ways that need you to get away from your life. I found that this post helped me imagine these actual little things. It helped to begin to think about taking my first step towards being okay with where I am right now. Once you’re there, you might find that you can look towards what you want to build – without feeling like you’re being pulled back by yourself. Hence what I said up there, “It can take years to learn to get out of your own way.”

The image up top is a desktop wallpaper for you. I love exploring Unsplash for these pictures, which make me feel free and like life is full.

If you like, you can right click and download. Photograph by Teddy Kelley.

Ginger Spice Takes Malaysia

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This palm sugar ginger cake turned out beautifully.
Last week, 3-4 days after I made it, I pierced through it with a toothpick in a grid configuration, and poured an apple juice – cognac mixture over it. Will do this again next month. Hopefully by Christmas this will taste as amazing as it smells.

This is a moist, dense cake. Don’t expect it to be docile, my ducks. Things that are worth it seldom are.

Image : hwayoungjung

Recipe is inspired by Delia’s Jamaica Ginger Cake, and well, I miss McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger Cake a lot. Had it loads for tea in Wales.

Says McVitie’s:

“There’s no mystery as to why our Jamaica Ginger Cake is so popular however. Rich, moist, and expertly baked, it’s the delicious blend of secret spices and ginger, which makes for such a distinctive flavour. Its sticky texture means you may fight over who gets to scrape the paper liner but it’s brought slices of happiness to generation after generation!”

Re: Jamaica, let’s not talk about how I secretly want to live on an island. Forever.

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Let’s start by explaining that I used fresh ginger. In the British style, and in most gingerbread/cake recipés, they use ginger powder. I’m thinking, hello, TTDI market helps me out in this department with the tumbuk rempah aunty filling RM1, 2, 3 tupperwares with any aromatic you can think of.

IMG_8045Butter and dust a 9-inch round baking tin with flour. Preheat your oven for 180C.

IMG_2215I didnt want to use sugar, treacle or golden syrup. So, get your hands on some good gula melaka. You know it’s good when it’s a little fudgy at room temp. Not rock hard. Like Fauziah Abdul Karim‘s (whose story begins in the dodol industry and is v.interesting!).

A

  • Sift 175g cake flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 3 tsps (1 tbsp) cinammon powder together. Your butter is salted, right? If it isn’t, add a pinch of salt now to the dry ingredients.

B

  • Measure out 225g gula melaka, melt with 3 tbsp water in a saucepan, low heat.
  • Add 75g butter to the pan. (I hope you used the wrapper to grease the baking tin).
  • Turn off heat, add 1 heaped tbsp raw ginger. Stir in. You’ll smell a toasty ginger smell bordering on savoury. Don’t worry. This isn’t the only ginger flavour profile we’re playing with.

Now comes the assembly part. Fun.

Fold about half of A into B. Use a rubber spatula, work in slicing motions, cleaning the sides of the bowl as you go. Don’t go mad stirring. You don’t want the gluten in the flour to activate and go postal on your cake, making it stiff.

C

  • Add 1 egg.
  • Add 2 tbsp of the ginger.

Stir. Gently. Add the rest of A.

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Pour into tin, slide into the oven. Turn the heat down to 150-160C.

Check the cake after 30 minutes. Toothpick clean? No? Check every 10 minutes.

Once your toothpick comes out almost clean, turn off the heat (leave the fan on, if you can) and let the cake cool in the oven.

Remove the cake. Should come out easily, if you’ve dusted properly, and let it cool enough because it pulls back from the sides when it shrinks.

Poke the cake (about 1/2 way through)  in a grid pattern (5mm apart) with a toothpick or skewer, and pour over 3 tbsp cognac + 3 tbsp apple juice (or 6 tbsp cognac neat if you’re nutso and awesome). Wrap the thing in cling, let rest for half a day, then chuck in the fridge.

A month later, let warm to nearly room temp, repeat the poke and pour (on the other side of the cake). Pop back in fridge.

Consumption :

I don’t think one would ever want to eat this cold. Bring to room temp before consumption. Personally, I’d nuke the thing for a minute and have it with a cup of milky tea, maybe Earl Grey (citrus, yey.)

This is what’s in the McVitie’s version, by the way:

Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Wheat Flour, Water, Sugar, Vegetable Fat, Humectant (Sorbitol), Emulsifier (E471), Dried Whey, Colour (Plain Caramel), Milk Protein, Wheat Starch, Raising Agent (Sodium Bicarbonate), Stabiliser (Guar Gum), Dried Whole Egg, Wheat Protein, Salt, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Ginger Flavouring.

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Enjoy, y’alls. And here’s to a rockin’ end of 2013!

x

ash

Tuesday Typists : Five

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These poems are part of Tuesday Typists : Maya Stein does 10-line poems every Tuesday.Tuesday Typists is a wonderful secret writing group which Maya prompts with interesting words. This was my response to “five”.
 
I met Maya and was introduced to her work at Squam Art Workshops, 
New HampshireUSA – Fall 2012.
 

Honeycomb Move

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Move. These pictures, to me, tell a story together, of fear, celebration, destination and freedom.

I found these on Pinterest. Anti-clockwise from the top:

Honeycombing these was a slow and pensive process.
A random btw : did you know that people use bees to honeycomb over a skeletal structure, producing a fancy sculpture? See related articles below

xash

Poem : Halfway

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Halfway

Is it alright to be a halfway geek?
I mean, I love Batman and Spiderman and…
well. I also listen to really old music and…
dream of owning pencils with leads of all hardnesses
and softnesses.
Perhaps we should all stop being so
Halfway hard on ourselves,
halfway empty, halfway full.
Perhaps we should ask
The sky?
– Ashvina Naidu
These poems are part of Tuesday Typists : Maya Stein does 10-line poems every Tuesday. Tuesday Typists is a wonderful secret writing group which Maya prompts with interesting words. This was my response to “halfway”. I met Maya and was introduced to her work at Squam Art Workshops, New Hampshire, USA – Fall 2012. 

Hexquad Soulages

Pierre Soulages, Composition, 1988

Pierre SoulagesOhne Titel, Farblithografie, Auflage: 169/300, 75 x 54 auf 89 x 68 cm

Born in RodezAveyron, in 1919, Soulages also is known as “the painter of black” because of his interest in the colour, “…both a colour and a non-colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens up a mental field all of its own”. He sees light as a matter to work with; striations of the black surface of his paintings enable him to make the light reflect, allowing the black to come out from darkness and into brightness, thereby becoming a luminous colour.

Wikipedia

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Working in an art gallery and all, I thought I may as well tear up an abstract piece for y’all. See, I’m fancy.

And so are you.

xx

ash

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I Don’t Think You’re Ready For This Jelly

Image Credit : Brian Massey

Tee Lin Say is entitled to her own opinion. And that of the newspaper who publishes her work, it would seem. If it had to be published, I just wished they published it very clearly as an opinion piece.

I have three things to say:

(1) Thank you so much, Ms Tee, for kick-starting the discussion on body image in this country. You could not have chosen a better way to have yourself remembered. The young men and women in this country now have a very real idea of what goes on in the heads of people who entertain the stray thoughts of a judgemental world that you neatly put in one stinger of an article. Now we can talk about how to change that.

(2) To the Star. You’ve finally realised your potential. More than ever, you are a game changer. Your distinct ability to polarise views is making us stronger debaters, stronger thinkers, better discussionists. I don’t think I’ve appreciated you from this angle.

(3) To large people. To underweight people. To any people who have to battle opinions about how they look. To those people who look in the mirror and actually think about how much money they need to spend, and how painful it might be to sharpen out that nose, remove that whisper (or shout) of a double chin. You already ‘know’ that the opinions of people who are consistently invested in your well-being are the only opinions that count. I don’t need to tell you that.

All I hope you can do is laugh. Laugh at how much time people spend judging you when they could be reading a good book, playing with their dogs, or designing an awesome website.

Laugh at everything that irritates you.

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Okay, so not like this:

But you get the picture.

Go get ’em, Malaysia.

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Okay. So here’s my perspective about everyone playing the ‘calm down, move on’ card on people ‘attacking’ Ms Tee. The paper printed her opinion. It is her life’s work to write opinions based on her knowledge. It’s her craft, and because the paper is responsible to the public, SHE is responsible to the public. This wasn’t her personal blog. This wasn’t the Verge, or some wide-read website which welcomed and facilitated discourse. This was a newspaper. No need to talk about who is behind said newspaper – unless we’re going to launch into a discussion about the blurred lines between MSM and new media. I believe pretty hard in never misusing a position to say things that count.

I do not think character assassination is the right way to go about this. Noone should be calling her mean names. I hope you’d be able to keep the outer limits of your vocabulary to yourself. This is still a human being. I do admit to making tongue-in-cheek fun of her to make light of the situation. It’s my way of grieving for every other person who was hurt by the article. Darn, I was hurt by the article. So, I wrote the post above the fold.

The key is, talk about it because you want to make sense of it together. Anger is exactly what the article was full of, if you ask me – and why perpetuate that? We take ourselves far too seriously. I honestly think it’s funny now. I’m relieved I can laugh at it.

I’m glad there are people among us who can find ‘sense among the madness’ and dismiss people’s overreactions. If you’re mature enough to not react, that’s good for you. Your need to shepherd the wayward amongst us into non-reaction is noted but guess what? Intellectually, Malaysia is a growing nation. We’re not the Swedes. We still need to fight it out and learn how to get an emotional reaction get out of our systems. We’re learning to be nobler. We’re learning to not let these things get to us.

But listen : we’re learning.

Once,I spoke about rallies to a former superior of mine. This person was from Singapore, and thought that Malaysia didn’t need to be so immature about our need for change. I said we were developing our voice. We needed to stretch our legs and it might be messy now, but it’s neccessary.

He said we were rebelling pointlessly and we should calm down.

This is our coming-of-age story, we are writing it.

If we’re not the best versions of ourselves yet and we’re reacting messily to Ms Tee’s words, deal with it. We’re not very good at facing what upsets us. I’m grateful to Ms Tee for giving us a chance to do just that.

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I Love It (Don’t You?)

Icona Pop’s I Love It really irritates the shiznit outta me. Thank the stars for the everything-you-ever-dreamed-of Robin Thicke and his sweet, sweet souliroferousness.

 

And in case you didn’t already know, he isn’t all nudity-in-bad-taste. #justsayin