Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nellikka pickle FTW

When I first moved here I went to a very specific part of Kowloon to look at the recommended Indian grocers. Since that first trip I have never returned. I literally never go to the Indian store. Like every Hong Konger I know I call my preferred grocery guy with a list and he delivers for cash the next day. 

In 2008, in our pre-Kid days, we went to California on vacation. Our first 3 days were spent with my cousin B. We spent most of our time talking and eating. I kept falling asleep and when I was awake I devoured the dal and rice and nellikka (amla/ gooseberry) pickle in her house like I had not seen food before. I wanted that pickle at every meal I had there - including a meat heavy barbecue. I put it all down to jet lag and exhaustion from a super hectic job (the sleep), desperately missing my aunt (maker of the pickle) and the California air making me hungry (for dal of all things eughh). If that was not a clue I do not not know what was.

A few weeks later I discovered I had been pregnant for a lot of that trip and before - and it all made a bit more sense - craving the odd. The funny thing is I had never liked nellikka pickle before that moment and I still never connected the dots of odd. I don’t think I ever had it again. A few years ago I randomly thought about it and called my aunt whose first instruction was to get the frozen gooseberries from Trader Joes. I have never lived in a country with Trader Joes or it’s equivalent and I never thought to ask my Indian grocer or hunt for them in supermarket aisles. Totally dismissed and blanked it out. 

I forgot all about it and time went on. Till this week when I was calling in my list to my Indian grocer here and I couldn’t think of what other veggies to ask for. I told him to reel off a list of what he had available instead. When he said ‘nellikka’ I had sudden visions of the pickle from yore (haha) and decided to order a small amount and see what it could inspire (not babies, just magnificent pickle haha!)


Today I YouTube’d a recipe (it was too early to call my aunt for her recipe and I was too impatient to wait) and made a small bottle of pickle. It’s now sitting on my kitchen window sill providing me with a feeling of small accomplishment (for I am not a pickle or preserve maker) and a photograph for Instagram. I wonder if it will taste any good or will I have to bin it and start all over again with my next shopping list. 

Monday, January 08, 2018

The first week

Since we got back just after the new year I’ve been pottering around the house at a snails pace. And in a way it’s been good to not go rushing into life because it’s given me pause to reflect on a loss that’s just a year old. The loss of my nani on the 6th of January last year. I’ve been dreading the actual day for about a month but by the end of December I was over the most negative of my thoughts (mainly anger) and had a calm focus on my loveliest memories of her. It made the day bearable and me able to support my mum rather than need her to support me. 

What did however upset our balance this week was the news of loss of a child. An 8 year old, one of twins, to a rare form of leukaemia. Gone within a month of the diagnosis. I’ve never met the parents - but maybe it’s because my child is the same age I have had this awful reaction to this news. Losing a child is against the order of the universe and I can’t imagine it is like any other grief in the world. I imagine it never goes away and that a stabbing pain sits with his parents every moment of every day, especially at this very early stage. I’m heartbroken for them. Literally heartbroken. 


On the other hand I feel like the memories of a lifetime and a loved and lived life makes it so much easier to honour a persons memory. There is no right age or way and death is always sad but when a memory of my Nani comes to me it is with a smile to my lips before tears to my eyes. And in that moment I know that she is Ok and one day we will be too. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

64 dishes and a New Year

  1. Back from another whirlwind India trip. Not sure why I am a glutton for punishment and just push through telling myself ‘it will be fine, it will be fun’ like some mantra. It did turn out fine and mostly fun but of course 5 cities in 2 weeks with wedding festivities, family and friends, tourism and New Years celebrations is exhausting. I’m spending this last week of no school napping and making small forays to the local market but nothing more strenuous. In fact Kid slept 15 hours that first night back - catching up from all his late nights and the excitement of his cousin. V, he never ever stops.
  2. In December we hosted what is becoming a larger and larger holiday party each year. This year we invited 80 people and 68 or 72 (depending on who is doing the counting) showed up. We had a big and heaving drinks bar and a lot of snacks. So many snacks in fact that we are still eating down our freezer. Convenient but vaguely annoying. I’m up to my eye balls with spring rolls.
  3. All the paper products I ordered for the party failed to arrive on time. So in a last minute scramble my friend and I dashed to the wholesalers in Shanghai Street. Got entirely side tracked by a wholesale restaurant supplier and ended up buying 64 (yes you read that right multiple times) pieces of crockery. It was hilarious considering all I wanted was 100 paper plates. I was like a child in a toy store with a blank cheque. It’s not all one set but will work eclectically to dress our table when we need it. Can’t wait to be able to open it all - my restaurant quality hard wearing glazed ceramics that I am so so in love with it. I can safely say necklaces, earrings and ceramics are my weak spots. Ceramics more than anything. 
  4. As Murphy’s Law would have it all the paper products arrived shortly after the party and have now been stored away for next (no wait, this) year. 
  5. We need to purchase a sideboard for our crockery. We were running out of space anyway and this new sets of stuff has made a vague decision a firm one. We have the supplier and a few designs in mind but V and I must sit and decide which piece suits us. 
  6. Meanwhile, a Happy New Year my clutch of readers. May it snow or be sunny or whatever weather you are wishing for. I’m aiming to write 52 posts this year (so 1 a week) or more. Hold me to it. 
  7. Be kind. Be the kindest person in the room, in your group, in your family, in your city. Be kind.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mumsy me

It’s been an awesome few months of keeping myself occupied doing not very much. Not sure how to explain that other than to say I’ve been busy as a bee but have no financial output to show for my time. I do have some great memories of events and people and moments of sheer joy to hold and sometimes that is exactly what one needs to feel good about their place in the world.

So quick updates for posterity and my 1.3 readers:
1. School stuff: I’m the boring mum that is at school all the time, that many a working mother detests because they think we are smarmy and trying to be an earth goddess - I’m nothing of the sort - just a mum with time on her hands and the point of view that time is speeding by and there is no one right answer. I’ve been volunteering at the library, working on some boards and events and generally enjoying the company of other mums. Having all this to do makes my days seem busy and I’ve stopped apologising for not having what many call a ‘proper job’. 
2. I think I’ve said before that we do a ‘Countdown to Christmas’ in place of an advent calendar. This year we did a mix of books, T-shirts and vouchers. For each book and T-shirt that he gets he must find one he has outgrown for the give away pile - this is less altruistic than you’d imagine; it’s the only way my mini hoarder is able to give things away. The vouchers are all homemade and redeemable good deeds and free feel good experiences (an hour later bedtime on a school night is his one request for a voucher!). This year I went for kraft brown paper and reusable labels. And since we don’t have an Elf for the shelf we hide each days present around the house with hot and cold clues. I can see the moment this excitement disappears- the future seems so close with the speed of growing that these children do. 
3. I have a hilarious crockery story to tell but this is not the time to tell it. Also I still can’t get blogger to accept my photographs and without them the story is a bit bland. In the new year I intend to get my head around it. 
4. Prepping to head off on a visit to India. Super hectic, 5 cities in 2 weeks - we never seem to learn from our mistakes where this will end in exhaustion. A wedding, a reunions, family (most excited about my gundu bajji nephew whose cheeks are all mine!), friends and an attempt at some downtime....
5. And finally we threw our annual holiday party last Friday - this has certainly scaled up from this old days of 14 people on a New Years Eve in London. Last year we had 30 people over for dinner but this year we had so many more people we wanted to celebrate with that we had 70+ people drop by for drinks and snacks.  There have been years we have skipped this for one reason or another but it seems to now be better established in our heads and I mostly enjoy all the planning that goes into making each year it’s own special experience. Beside a heaving bar this years snacks were:
Homemade: galouti kebabs, spring rolls, devilled eggs, garlic bread, taquitos, hummus, salsa, guacamole, vegetables with spinach dip
Purchased: samosas, tortilla chips, smoked salmon, capers and bagels with spread, mini quiches, meat platters with artichokes, peppers and olives, dark chocolate tart.
We had way too much food - we will be eating our way through the freezer for weeks to come....
It was a wonderful evening and it was so wonderful to be surrounded by people who are our everyday Hong Kong family. All that chatter and laughter was just music to my ears. 

Happy holidays, all!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sequence

It is so very interesting that after that post about cutting someone out a bunch of people have got in touch. Actually more than a bunch - more than a dozen even. Some called, some FaceTimed, some emailed and some messaged.

This gives me some ideas and thoughts:  
1. People may not leave comments but at least some people are reading this. 
2. A few of the persons from that group I was talking about got in touch. I did not admit it was them or our common friend at all. I’m not chicken but I feel like I don’t want to be talked back into something deeper that  can only end the same way months/ years down the line.
3. Un-surprising-ly the person I am cutting off did not get in touch any which way but I assume word will reach them soon enough. And then I expect a call/ fireworks/ silence.
4. I am so calm and collected about this I have surprised myself. 
5. I know I am in the right. For once I am sure sure sure about my position. And immovable about my opinion. Not even an apology (which will never come) is going to help me feel better. But as I said we move in similar circles and some of the people in it and I are so intertwined that I will be seeing them next year for sure. And I will be cool and calm and collected, not a bubbly jam mess. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On sunrises and sunsets

I’ve been awake since 4am with my stuffy nose so took myself and a box of tissues to the guest room with its fluffy pillows and big windows. I read and dozed and read and waited somewhat patiently for sunrise. Ok I sighed a lot. The sunrise, it did not disappoint. 

As I lay here watching the bay glisten my phone pings and it’s my London pal. I’ve been waiting for someone to say something about this post of mine - ‘Been there, done with that’ -  the one where I am dithering over cutting off some people because you, my blog people, and most people who know me in real life know that if I am close enough to you I will say what’s on my mind and moving people from friend to acquaintance and back is a life job I take seriously. I pride myself in being a realist and not taking much s#*t. And here it is, that ping from a women who is always honest with me. And her comment - This always surprises me because you've always been so forthright with me.

True that. Although I will admit that with age it feels like I have mellowed a wee bit so even if it feels that I should say something immediately I tend to hold my tongue a lot more now and measure my words before doling them out. But invariably the thought chews at my brain and I always find a way, delicate or otherwise, to make my opinion/ thoughts come across. And this makes me often less popular but it’s a life choice I can live with. And so yes you are right to be surprised that I have held back this long and that I am not sharing my opinion with this friend of mine. 

The difference lies with this group of people - the person I’m sort of letting go, we have a history that runs just a decade or so deep - but some of the others in the group it’s DecadeS. With a capital D and a capital S. I guess it’s the history of some of our ties - it’s too deep and complex and complicated to explain but I assure you it’s intangible in many ways that mean they are the very few people that I end up holding my words/ taking shit from. I will be sad to lose them or rather loosen those ties but needs must for sanity and all that. We will still see each other for our lives are intertwined too close to not see them but I know what I am holding back is not imperceptible. It feels like a sunset, inevitable. It is an immeasurable loss - mine, all mine. And yet there is no turning back. I can only wait for another sunrise.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

When Saturday is pretty rubbish

Woke up with a vile cold and a light fever. And of course my aching knees. Look and feel pretty wretched. Falling apart at 42; I thought I’d have a few more years. Does not help that I am annoyed with someone and so my head is full of floating, unkind thoughts - have also given myself a headache. 

Going to have a cup of tea and put myself to bed and hope that Sunday turns out to be a bit less miserable than Saturday. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

5ive

Last 5 days of the month. That’s 5 more days of writing for this blog. It’s been good setting myself the challenge and seeing if I could keep to it. Sometimes I surprise myself.

Today, 5 random things:
1. Stuck at home for 3 days with ice packs on my knees. Some relief from my Physio. This is what happens when entirely unfit people use the gym and then follow small children around a camp in the countryside for 2 days. Note to self: don’t go to the gym, eat chocolate instead.

2. Baking a strawberry shortcake this morning for a play date and a long and indoor weekend.

3. Planning on a farewell. Figuring out what a good gift is, organising lunch - that’s venue food and drinks, getting 25 people to RSVP. Brings to the fore why I am not an Event Planner.

4. It’s Make-o-week for Kid next week. We’ve wasted many weeks talking but doing nothing about it. Now we are at the finish line - we have to choose between shark, pizza or Lego brick. Does not help that I’m not in a very creative mood right now. 

5. I have a friend arriving from London in 10 days. She and I were co-workers for many years and we went to France a few times for the day to stock up on wine and cheese and sightsee. I’m super excited to be showing her Hong Kong! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Been there, done with that

This is not about a bucket list - which I have and has not even been scraped - but about effort.

I find that I’m often at the giving end of the effort stick and the being taken advantage of end of the stick - sometimes these are quite on the same spot on the life dial and one overshadows the joy of the other. In a recent development with a certain friendship it has turned out that I have made a grave misjudgment. I’ve spent nearly 10 years putting a lot of effort into this relationship - always making the first move and the second and often the third. It’s the kind of relationship where it began by obligation - I felt compelled to make an effort because of other people in that circle - but then it turned out I quite liked the person. So we got along, stayed in touch, and I gave way more of my time, effort and money to this. Over time though the sticks began to overlap and although I had an inkling it was happening I willfully chose to ignore it. 

But recently it has become even more evident that I am being taken advantage of. And just in this past week I made peace with the realization that the other  friendships in that circle are bound to dissipate if I let go of this one relationship. And that is a pretty hard thought to wrap my mind around but now yet more essential so I don’t continue to stew in regret and remorse. 

So here we are: me letting this whole planet ring of people afloat. And already some of them are questioning it but unwilling to be tethered to what is sure to be a not pretty discussion. And so like the saying goes I’ve set something/ someone free and I gather it was never mine and will not come back. And yet I can live with that. What a mature mid forties style crisis I am having!!! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Camp de-brief

Another first. Sweet child of mine is back from his first ever camping experience. First ever night without either parent - and I wasn’t in his cabin the previous/ first night either but at least I was in the camp and had seen him all day and sat near him at dinner.

I was in a cabin with 6 girls. One of them was so very homesick - after being fine all day long it was at night that she broke down and she sobbed hysterically for 2 hours before semi-passing our from exhaustion. It took all my words and power of persuasion to help her calm down and understand her Mum would be at the bus stop to collect her on Wednesday and that her mum loved and missed her and that all parents cannot possibly volunteer. When she finally fell asleep I thought I could get some shut eye too but she woke up nearly every hours lol night long  wanting me to sit on the edge of her bed and hold her hand. By 5 am we both gave up trying to sleep. I got to come home by noon and after a quick bite to eat and a shower got a 4 hour deep nap in. 

This afternoon Kid got off the bus and said ‘Hi Mom. I’m ok. I didn’t miss you but I was a bit homesick.’. He looked exhausted, shattered beyond anything I have ever seen so I gave him a solid snack and then got him into a hot bath to soak for a bit. Some mindless TV and a few books later it was dinner time. Halfway through he needed a little cuddle and some calming words. I think it’s all added up: being brave without his folks, sleeping in an unknown bed two nights in a row, the non stop physical activity. At 6pm he has gone to bed. ❤️. I had underestimated how much I would miss him for this one night. I’m so glad he is back. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The complainers

I have recently met or spoken to a few people who seem to be big on complaining. And not about their lot in life. More like, small and eminently changeable things. I’d give you real issues but then those people would crawl through my screen and shoot me so, pass. I can tell you they are the kind of things that they can easily effect change - so for hypothetical example they could move their kids from one school to another or get involved in a way to change the system of their existing school; they could quit complaining about how hard parenting is, count their blessings and fortunes and be kinder to the grandparents and see where that takes them; they could be far less selfish and far more involved in their community - they would be able to find and make friends instead of staying home and moping about how they know no one.

It is this reflection of complaints that has made me think about my own laundry list of them. I, like everyone I know, am flawed. I too complain, often but lately less loudly. I understand the paralysis of fear that keeps us from making a move and making a change. But I also know that a lot of the whining especially about smaller things could be avoided if people stopped to consider their choices. So either you overcome the fear, prioritise and work to make a change or you find a way to make your peace with it, live with the situation as is and quit the complaining. 

All harder than you think but entirely possible.

I won’t be blogging for the next 2 days as I’m off to camp with my 8 year old. I guess I could on Tuesday but I think I need a few days off. Wednesday I be back blog people. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Out

Busiest day of the week - big school festival. Volunteered in various posts from 9-4 including set up and take down. I complain about this being exhausting but I really and truly enjoy it - working with other interesting parents and seeing the delighted faces of little kids is wonderful.

Home and having a quick break before we head to the last Diwali party of the season. I don’t have much energy to chat with anyone but I’ll do my best to dress up and play the part. More new and potentially interesting people to spend a Saturday evening with. Thank goodness it’s a Sunday tomorrow and we have a drop off party in the evening, leaving us with a few hours to socialise with friends. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Diwali fog

So yesterday passed. In a bit of a fog for me. My mum and I shared a little FaceTime cry. I’m not sure we felt better but we certainly felt more together....I’m afraid for both of us we seem surrounded by husbands and siblings and children who either don’t quite show their emotions or did not notice or think to ask how she/ any of us was doing. Such a shame that this is the case, that we can’t talk about this or have our sadness acknowledged. I fear that I don’t have the energy to change any of this even though I am disappointed in particular by some of it.

The day was busy with school related things and then in the afternoon I and Kid made a paper peacock and diyas to put outside our door in place of a kollum/ rangoli. We soaked wicks in oil and filled our tea lights. We polished our silver from our temple and cleaned up as much as we could. Come evening we got dressed and said our prayers. Then we joined 25 Indian families for a well planned  dinner get together at our Clubhouse. The kids (and I!) played tambola. Neither Kid nor I won anything - we do not have Nik’s luck! But we had a grand time chatting with our neighbours and taking pictures of all the dressed up folk. Before we knew it Diwali was over. 

I went to bed and dreamed of my Nani. I love you my darling, she said to me. And we drank a glass of nimbu-pani each. I woke up with a smile on my face. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Diwali deed

Today is Diwali. And I will say only two things:

1. Happy Diwali. May it be bright and bountiful.

2. This is my Diwali lesson: focus on someone beside yourselves. Think about other people. Be kind. Think how you would feel if (or when)  someone treats you poorly. Think about how it would feel if your kids treated you like you treated your folks. If you can honestly say that you treat your folks well, you are gold. If not, pick up a phone, go visit your parents, share a meal, give them hugs and think of the loneliness of old age and pray you will never feel that way. For old age is coming to us all. Be kind. It only has rewards.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Channeling the mind

Tomorrow is Diwali. 

Today I hosted a monthly pot luck group that I am part of. I totally outsourced things because I just don’t have the time to make stuff from scratch at the moment. I had multiple meetings at school for various committees I serve on. We have a big school and community wide festival this Saturday and it is all very busy. I managed to decorate the table with tea lights and a few Indian accents - embroidered runner, block printed napkins, an ashtamangalam. We had lots of last minute drop outs but it was fun. And delicious. 

Tomorrow also has lots of things going on including a diwali dinner with other Indian families in our building. But all I can think about is my Nani. And all I want to do is get under the covers and cry. I feel full of tears and I’m missing her so terribly. I can’t even imagine what my mum and mama are feeling. I suspect we are all holding in our grief and trying so very hard to keep up the good front. After all this year we are so very happy to have a new baby in our family. It’s his first Diwali, his parents first Diwali with him etc. It’s a conundrum, dealing with the grief and happiness all at once. A crazy maze with impossible paths and no way out. I feel like I am barrelling ahead with lots of energy to avoid thinking or talking or crying about losing her. I’m not sure how I will get through tomorrow. Or how any of us will.

Tomorrow is Diwali. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Filler day

If I tell you about my crazy day you will instantly forgive me for this filler and send me a big box of chocolate truffles. 

Had an early morning school meeting which began at 8.15 and didn’t finish till 11.45. Rushed home, ate a quick lunch and cooked a chicken curry I had previously marinated. Then I went to meet family friends (of V’s family) visiting from Australia. Gave them lots of tourist like advice, sent some of them off to Tian Tan Buddha and brought home the two elderly’s - a Nani and a Dadi. Got home to supervise Kid’s homework (of which there was way too much today) and listened to ‘today at school stories’ while organizing tea and snacks and conducting small talk with the two ladies. Then dropped Kid off to tennis and stayed for about 10 minutes. Came up and continued the conversation while cooking a side dish (methi-aloo; fenugreek leaves- potatoes) and setting the table. Supervised Kid’s dinner and got through the reading portion of homework before shower and teeth routine. Did our prayers for Dhanteras and tucked him into bed. The rest of the family (and a very late V) all showed up. Got dinner on the table and sat and chatted through it. We didn’t have enough potatoes but hey it is what it is. 

They’ve all left and the house is all tidied up and the dishwasher is loaded up. I’m now watching ‘Better Things’ and eating sweet things (kaju barfi).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Too busy a week


This is one of those weeks when everything is smooshed up against each other; appointments, committee meetings, parties, celebrations, dinners, house guests, after school activities, festivals  and more. I couldn’t be busier if I tried. 

I have so much going on that I have had to resort to paper and mobile lists all at once. Also timers and calendar reminders and post it notes around the house. I feel like I might forget something and that would bring it all crashing down like dominos. It’s all a bit little crazy and I’m really using my meditation app to keep me from going cuckoo! On that note I’m off to bed. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Indoor kind of day

Typhoon 8 signal today has meant a Sunday cooped up at home. One of us went to the gym, the other took the Kid to the playroom for an impromptu play date with other stir crazy children and parents. I’ve taken delivery of Indian groceries, cleaned out one single unloved cupboard, nearly finished my book, cooked lunch and listened to lots of music. 

Drove down to our local plaza which seemed angled away from the strong winds. Local burger joint remains shut and so we got some groceries and headed home to rustle up some dinner. 

I’d have said it was a lovely day but the honest truth is that we all had a version of cabin fever. Everyone wanted different music, no one wanted headphones. No one could agree on what to eat for lunch so it was fraught with a meltdown (that might have been me). This was not alleviated in the evening thanks to the closed burger joint. Some of us had work to do and did it reluctantly. Some of us wanted the balcony door open inspite if the crazy wind. Others wanted the aircon. 

In short I’m glad this day is over....

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I kid you not

Why are small children such absolute gits? 

As a stay at home parent I have the ‘job’ of doing stuff with my kid. This week alone I have collected him from Kung Fu, watched a long hour and a half of tennis, clapped at a 45 minute swim lesson, hosted a play date and multiple times to the playground, made and sat at every post-school snack and dinner, made sure homework is done, asked creatively (thanks supermoms 🙄) about his day at school, read 10,000 books (many for the 10,000th time) and played at least 15 card/ creative/ board games, tucked him into bed every night and supported many other intangible moments. And yes I know, all moms do this, do more, are better than me, I’m no prize, I signed up for this blah blah blah.

Then yesterday when I decide to go out for a meal with a few friends on a Friday night all I hear is the whole ‘why are you going out AGAIN?’ speech and tears combo. I took this as a sign of love and the fact that he would miss me but I went anyway. He was fine (of course - he got screen time), delighted to see dad who waltzed in 3 minutes before his eyes closed later at night.

This morning V has woken up with a sore throat (and displaying all symptoms of man-flu) so I said I would take Kid to Basketball. All I have got is this: ‘Noooooooooo, I want to go only with dad. He is so much fun.’

So now I am sulking and feeling sorry for myself at Basketball. 

Boo.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Avocado obsession

I am obsessed by avocados. You guys have no idea. I’d like avocados in guacamole, on toast, as part of a cucumber salad, on a bagel, with a fried egg, in my salmon sashimi.

I buy them unripe and try and guess when they will be perfectly ripe. I put them a bowl and move them around the house looking for the perfect patch of sunlight to help them ripen. And ‘almost’ everyone in my house loves them as much as I do. The one person who doesn’t, calls them ‘abocados’ and that’s your clue.

This is such a poor showing of a post but I couldn’t think of anything else to write and thought I’d document my deep love for this fruit.

And I have nothing more to add today.