Tuesday, November 13, 2018

marked with suffering

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful 
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name
Every blessing You pour out, I'll 
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering 
Though there's pain in the offering 
Blessed be Your name
This was a song that was played at a lot of Christian weddings in my twenties. I think I attended at least three weddings where this was the song chosen to play while the the newly married couple walked down the aisle together. It was meant to be a promise? I think? That whatever came, they would bless the name of the Lord.
Now, ten years on, I wonder...I've seen so much in the last ten years. If they had known of financial hardship, miscarriages, fertility struggles, work troubles, sickness, bitterness etc to come -  would they have sung the words "as the darkness closes in..." quite so easily? Would they have been so glib with their promises, so cheerful when talking about "the wilderness"? 
It's hard to articulate this without divulging too much... 
There is a road marked with suffering, and when you have walked it, you will have an understanding of the hardness of life. This road ...it has broken me and made more sympathetic, more understanding, when in the past, I might have been more judgmental and arrogant. It has helped me understand hope and bitterness in equal measure. 
It's a long road.
But every day, I continue to live and breathe and take things moment by moment...and hope for better things and better times. 
And everyday, I think God has sustained me and kept me. 
the song ends with this verse:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wishes for William

Wishes for William by W.M. Letts (1882 – 1972)

These things I wish you for our friendship’s sake –
A sunburnt thatch, a door to face the sun
At westering, the noise of homing rooks;
A kind, old lazy chair, a courtly cat
To rub against your knees;
Shelves of well-chosen books;
I wish you these.
I wish you friends whose wisdom makes them kind,
Well-leisured friends to share your evening’s peace,
Friends who can season knowledge with a laugh;
A hedge of lavender, a patch of thyme,
With sage and marjoram and rosemary,
A damask rosebush and a hive of bees,
And cabbages that hold the morning dew,
A blackbird in the orchard boughs – all these
And – God bless you.
Children, no matter whose, to watch for you
With flower faces at your garden gate,
And one to watch the clock with eager eyes,
Saying: “He’s late – he’s late.”


I thought of posting a pair of poems - this and another, titled "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith. But in the end, I decided on just this - partly because this poem has been so forgotten - it was by chance that I came across it in a comment thread. 

What I would hope - for myself, for my children, my husband, anyone - all of these. Particularly, I would hope for kind friends because I understand now that kindness is everything. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bursting forth

 Just now, I nursed baby S to sleep and as I looked down as his sleeping face - his perfect sleeping baby face - it occurred to me that I had never written about either of my babies. They were perfect - are perfect - but I somehow could not put that into words. Everything I wanted to say seemed trite - how do I describe the perfection in the curve of my baby's eyes without sounding like a love blinded fool?

Instead I wrote about sad things: about my grandfather's death, about the winter solstice and about illness. Although, come to think of it, maybe all of it was about my grandfather's death because the winter solstice was always at his house and we ate dumplings and of course, all that is now gone.


Today I hunted up the link to Donald Hall's Letter in Autumn because sometimes, you need to read something like that. 


The thought of perfection has been haunting me lately. I have been watching videos of competitive skaters and wince at every fall, every bobbled landing. Can I be like that? How can I work like that? I want to write again and somehow in this place in time, I am not able to do that.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

waltz for debby

It's been nearly ten years since I heard Waltz for Debby. Is it silly? To celebrate song anniversaries?

A jazz loving friend of mine sent it to me - the mp3 of the great Bill Evans version. Try it, he said. You'll like it.

I listened and liked it in a vague, well ok it's nice kind of way. But I wasn't blown away. I didn't have the capacity to really understand it then.

That was in 2006-7? It's now 2016 and yesterday I had a sudden hankering for Bill Evans again. I listened to the Tony Bennett/Bill Evans album and was struck by... everything. The wistfulness, the alchemy, the sadness and longing.

I was going to post a video of Waltz for Debby but in light of the current snowstorm, this one seems more appropriate.

"So in a world of snow,
Of things that come and go,
Where what you think you know,
You can't be certain of,
You must believe in spring and love."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Banana Bread Part 1: The sugar free one

Earlier this year, I discovered to my dismay that one of my favourite Singaporean baking blogs had shut down entirely. The blogger didn't just stop blogging; she took down all her archived recipes as well. I was so annoyed. So I've decided to be more diligent at clipping/reproducing recipes I've discovered online.

I never met a banana bread/cake/muffin recipe I didn't want to try. There's just something about banana baked goods that I love. I've tried and "collected" quite a number of keepers over the years so I'm going to do a series of posts on just banana bread.

This was a recipe I got via Karen Cheng - a Perth based family and fashion blogger. Like her, I swap some of the flour for almond meal and it makes for a crumbly, more bread like texture. The great thing about this recipe is that there is a sugar free option which makes it a good snack for my toddler. I currently bake a batch of this almost every week.

As for the mix ins, if you read the original post, you'll see that she says that she just throws in whatever is in her pantry: choc chips, nuts, seeds, raisins etc. I haven't tried all that but this is a pretty flexible recipe; I'd say almost any thing you toss in ought to be alright as long as you don't exceed the 100g stipulated.


75 g butter (unsalted)
2 medium eggs at room temperature
450 g ripe bananas, weighed with skin on
1-2 tablespoons or maple syrup or honey (you can omit this altogether. I usually add about 1 tablespoon of maple syrup just to counter the bitterness from the nuts)
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
100 g chopped walnuts (her recipes says 100g but I usually don't bother measuring this out. I just grab about a handful)
1.5 cups (or 225 g) self raising flour*
A handful of sunflower seeds (optional)

*If you don't have self raising flour, you can make your own by sifting together 1 cup of flour, 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of fine salt. You can also swap out some of the flour for almond meal. I typically use 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup almond meal.


1. Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a loaf pan and line the base with baking paper.

2. Melt the butter and let it cool.

3. While the butter is cooling, mash the bananas

4. Mix the honey/maple syrup into the cooled butter

5. Add eggs and combine well. Then add mashed bananas and chopped nuts and stir well.

6. Sift in flour, baking soda and pinch of salt. Stir until just combined.

7. Pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle with sunflower seeds if using.

8. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.  Leave to stand for a few minutes then cool on a baking rack.

9. Eat. Delicious with butter and drizzled with maple syrup. Good on its own too!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Five spice stir fried chicken with cashews: A riff on a Nigel Slater recipe

It started as a Nigel Slater recipe for stir fried chicken with cashews and broccoli. But I hadn't any broccoli. I did have an enormous jar of unsalted cashews that my parents left behind when they came to visit though, so I decided to make the dish anyway.

Along the way, I added and tweaked quite a number of things and I'm afraid that it no longer resembles Slater's original recipe. But the important thing is, it tasted very good. Good enough for Mr Grey to express a hope that I would remember what I'd done.

Very roughly, here it is.

You need about 400g of chicken - the chicken I had today was taken from 3 rather large chicken drumsticks. Marinate with a tablespoon of light soy sauce, a minced garlic clove and a tablespoon of Chinese five spice powder.*

Chop a thumb size piece of ginger into smallish pieces. Heat about two tablespoons of oil in a wok or a deep pan, then add the ginger. Stir fry the ginger until golden brown and fragrant, then add the chicken. Stir fry the chicken for about 2 minutes then add:

1 more tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine
1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with water
1/4 cup of chicken stock
A bit of salt - 1/4 tsp perhaps?
1/3 cup of cashews

Stir fry for a bit longer then add the cashews. Finally add a little extra water and cover with a lid. Allow the chicken to cook for about 5 more minutes. During this time, chop a spring onion into 2 inch lengths. When the chicken is nearly done, stir through the spring onion until wilted.

Serve with steamed rice.

*Slater's original didn't have soy sauce. In fact his original recipe did not call for any seasoning at all  but the cashews he used were salted ones. But as I said earlier, all I had were unsalted cashews. The above is the result of just adding whatever I happened to have in my kitchen.

* In general though, I find that ginger goes well with 5 spice and spring onions go well with ginger so there you have it. As for the seasoning, it's hard to go wrong with the classic chinese trifecta of soy sauce, sesame oil and Chinese cooking wine. The corn starch was just to thicken the sauce - it may be omitted if one prefers the gravy to be thinner. The chicken stock was habit. I have, at all times, a bag of frozen cubes of home made chicken stock in my freezer. I find that it adds an umami-ness and depth of flavour to sauces and gravies.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Starting young

About 6 years ago, I went to the hospital to visit a friend who'd just given birth. Another friend L, who I hadn't seen since high school was there too. I don't remember how it happened but L, who was also married with children, wound up giving me unwanted advice in a wagging finger tone about how I should think about having kids young "because it's better".  I was single at the time and was smarting from a recent breakup so...well, I immediately lost my cool. Ahem.

(I'm mildly horrified thinking about it now, but I think the friend who'd just given birth had to intervene and calm me down.*)

That was 6 years ago. Now that I'm married with a baby myself, I look back and realised that it's true. It is better to start young. But I would never say that to any of my single friends. I'd say it to married friends wanting to put off having children. But I would never ever say it to my single friends. I've been there and it really hurts to hear it.

But back to starting young. People may not like to hear this but parenthood is a young person's game, it really is. It takes energy, actual physical flexibility and a strong back. Plus, okay even if you argue that "it will keep you young" and "you feel fit and young", chances are, your eggs and sperm aren't actually young. Lots of very young looking people wind up having trouble conceiving because even if they look 25, their ovaries and eggs are still 40. There are lots of things you can run away from, but I've learnt that it's really hard to run away from your own biology.

Now I look at my friends who married in their twenties and had kids with a certain amount of envy. They have older children to help with the younger ones, plus they're done with childbearing whereas I'm only just getting started (I hope!).

*I have really wonderful and understanding friends.