Saturday, 31 December 2016

My 2016 :)

This year's review will be different from the ones I have written in the last few years. In case you're interested, here are the reviews from 20112012, 20132014 and 2015. (Hadn't quite realised that I have been blogging for so long!) It has been a difficult year and as a result, I haven't blogged nearly as much as I would like so that I wouldn't fill my blog with negativity and sadness - there's enough of that in the world without me adding to it. I am determined that my blog is skewed in favour of positive blessings and so here are three things I feel a thankful for as I come to the end of 2016...

My Mum
I didn't make a public announcement that my mum had cancer: it seemed both inappropriate and completely insensitive. So it may come as a little surprise to some of you that for the last 7 months that my family and I have been working around the clock to ensure that my mum has been well looked after because of a cancer that decided to invade one of her lungs. To cut a horrible story short, my mum is now recovering slowly from chemotherapy with part of her left lung gone. She is a fighter, and even though there have been moments of pure sadness in our house, I can happily report that we are all doing well, and that she is expected to make a full recovery.

So this year I must be thankful for my mum, admire her willingness to survive, and applaud the strength that she and the family have had during most of the year. I'm pleased to say that I will be seeing in the new year with her and Dad and hope that all the sadness and pain will be left behind in 2016.

Here she is, staring at her favourite baked good ever - the home made Jammie Dodger! :)

My Play
I'm not sure if I would have survived the year if it wasn't for my constant desire to play. Even when times get rough, I would make time to do what I wanted, in the way that I wanted for my my reasons only. A lot of you have been following my postcard adventures - that's one of the things I do for play. It serves no real purpose but it makes me feel so happy! Hanging out with friends, baking stuff and just wandering around outside for a few moments every day makes a huge difference to me - it resets my mind and gives me the all important balance I need in a world that isn't always an even keel. Here are some of my favourite playful moments of the year:

I met this goat and it is still the most handsome goat I have ever seen.

I dyed some eggs, and I am still so very happy from the process of making that happen!

I went to Guernsey - such a beautiful place that seems to have captured my heart.

I baked some amazing biscuits, and decorated them with my very own doodles!

I took this photo - my best of 2016, I think!

I made a snow dinosaur - the best one so far!

And I went to Singapore and Hong Kong, all on my own and it was awesome.

My Peeps
Being able to hang out with my peeps this year has been super important to me. My peeps are the people who I consider to be my nearest and dearest - both friends and family. I feel so blessed with their presence in my life, and thankful that they are able to surround me with love whenever I need it. Here are some photos that tries to encapsulate all of them, but I haven't photos of them all - Angel, Fiona and Nadia, as well as all of my photo shy friends - you're all awesome! :)

Here is my immediate family and yes it includes my lovely friends Andy and Lisa who became immediate family when they were chosen to the Godparents to my nephew :)

Here is my extended family in Hong Kong who I got to visit this year - very thankful for that!

Here is my friendship family - my lovely PMs :)

This photo represents my work family - Morgan and Andy whom I have no photos of from this year but this will change next year! 

And for good measure, another photo of my adorable niece - a bubbly lifeline in my life...

....and also a photo of my nephew who reminds me every day that it's okay to be happy.

Eventhough 2016 has been hard for me, I know there's a lot to be thankful for. I will learn the lessons I need to but focus more on the joys that I have been blessed with instead of the sadnesses that can be so overwhelming. I know that 2016 will stay in people's memories and go down as one of the most... crazy of all time, but there are always good stuff in the bad and it is my plan to remember 2016 as the year we all survived. I think that's a good way of looking at it, right? :)

Anyway, I'd like to wish everyone a happy new year. I hope that your 2017 is filled with happy and that you too can find some good things to remember 2016 by. May your 2017 be adventurous, exciting and joyful! See you next year! :)

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Our PM Office Christmas Party

I met with my college friends, the wonderful PMs for another awesome Christmas. This will make it officially 16 years of Christmasses that we have celebrated together which makes it half of my lifetime's worth of Decembers. And that's quite a lot.

This year we gathered at Shazia's place and we themed the food as the PM Office Christmas party. As it turns out, a lot of us have never been to an office Christmas party before: I've never worked in an office and everyone else just managed to avoid them. So here's what we got up to:

Clockwise from the top right - Pass the Parcel (Sprout edition); all our clues for Shazia's treasure hunt; delicious party snacks made by Shazia; me wearing 4 hats; and more delicious PM Office Christmas party snacks.

This is my team during the treasure hunt. We had an amazing time having no clue what was happening.

Here's the other treasure hunt team. They didn't find as many as us, eventhough we were mostly very confused.

Here is the host herself - hoorah for Shazia!

We played Pointless, and despite not knowing any answers, we still won the coveted Pointless Trophy! Hoorah!

And here we all are - PM Christmas 2016 photo. Aww. I look so pleased.

It's always so lovely to see my lovely PMs. Only three of the 6 of us still live in Manchester, but we still meet here every year and usually spend at least 50% of it laughing with or at eachother. As always, I feel blessed to have this group of friends and hope that we will continue to meet every Christmas for many years to come. I'm not sure that other office Christmas parties are like this but I definitely enjoyed my very first one - hoorah! Thank you for an amazing evening, peeps! :) Let's do this again next year! :D

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Christmas 2016

This year was the year we realised that none of our houses could possibly accommodate the entire family for Christmas. As the family grows, I guess this problem was bound to happen - it's a happy problem, but a problem nonetheless. True to form, the Law Family dealt with it in style so we rented a big house - actually three houses which were stuck together - to fit 9 adults and 2 busy toddlers for one festive long weekend. Here are some photos:

Here's the group Christmas photo! My sister, dad, brother-in-law, mum, sister's mother-in-law, sister's father-in-law, me, my brother and my sister-in-law

We had a sweet set up there - with a mezzanine floor which overlooked the biggest common area.

Here are the little people, my niece and nephew. They are both super busy little walkers now.
Here's my little nephew. We were enjoying some outside time, running around in the field outside. Lots of laughing and squealing - so much joy in this little person! :)

Here he is, the little sweetie.

Here is my little niece. She really likes her hat. This was 7am and she wanted to wear her hat and take a photo with bunny.

Here she is a little later on for some outside time with Auntie Zan. There's the hat again! :)

One more photo of the two of them. They are such funny little people :)

I had an amazing getaway with the family. Relaxing and spacious, with no real responsibilities apart from to eachother and no real internet connection either! With two little people in our lives, there's so much more joy and laughter too. There's nothing quite like hearing their little voices, and getting a tiny hug filled with happy. I'm really grateful for this chance to gather and feel incredibly blessed. I hope to hang out with everyone again soon! 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

To The Southlands

For a number of very organised reasons which all fell through hours before they were meant to happen, I had to go down south. It was kind of annoying because I wasn't planning on traveling so soon after my Guernsey trip, but since all these meetings were supposed to happen, I thought that I would make a week of it. So rather than attend all these meetings, I hung out with the adorable people in my life.

Here is my little niece during a long morning wander with her Auntie Zan. Autumn is finally setting in and it's the first time she's really seen all the different coloured leaves on the ground. She learned how to gather them up with me and then started offering leaves to passers by. It was possibly one of the cutest things ever.

Here she with me, first thing in the morning. My little niece currently likes to push and pull things. And also runs at the speed of light. I really enjoyed running around with her during this trip.

Here is my little nephew. He and I had some amazing selfies during this trip and this one is my favourite. He remembers me and after spending a few minutes sitting at a distance from me, came to tell me about all of the things in his own words. We had a good laugh together and he sat on my lap a lot. It was very sweet.

Aww, there's the excitable face of an excitable little boy. I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with him this time, but soon my little one! We will have our time together!

Oh and I can't forget to mention my lovely friend Nadia with whom I ate and ate and ate with. She's now back in Oxford probably every time I go to see my niece I will probably see Nadia too. Hahaa. I've always felt so blessed to know this lady.

So I'm back at home and sadly have baby germs (they are more potent than normal germs) but it was totally worth it to see all these lovely people. I had fun hanging out with Fiona and Clem too, watching weird TV and eating fun food. I also had fun painting a bathroom with James and Chris too which is not something you do every day.  Now I appear to have partially painted two rooms in their house which is weird, cos I've not even painted anything in my own house... hmm... anyway. It was a nice trip down south eventhough lots of the other formal stuff didn't work out. I was able to spend more time having little adventures with the important people, so it all worked out in the end :) 

Back to normal now. No trips until Christmas so I can focus on being focused. Haha.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Little Island of Guernsey

My friend Ric lives in Guernsey. He's been there for a few years now and up until now I haven't had the chance to visit. Things eventually aligned and I found myself with a last minute trip to the little island of Guernsey - and what a beautiful island it is! It is a tiny little dot between the south coast of England and France, that's next to the slightly bigger dot of Jersey. Here are some photos:

And here are Ric and his Rach! :) They took a morning off work to give me a whirlwind tour!

It was gloriously sunny on the my first day. Here is the biggest town.

Here is a beach, one of 4 that I visited! It was so warm someone was swimming!

Here is another beach. So very pretty.

Here's another beach I went to visit on my own and had it all to myself! This one was all pebbly

I went for a walk along the coast and noticed that there were always benches in the most beautiful spots. Here is one of the spots.

I was sat on a very high wall when I took this picture. There's a possibility that one of those island blobs could be another country entirely! :)

It's hard to believe that Guernsey is just a stone's throw away from Manchester. My flight wasn't even an hour and it felt like a completely different world. It's filled with sandy beaches, and breathtaking views, and is a place full of adventure with a much slower pace. I know that I was spoiled with 2 wonderfully warm days, but I think it really helped me to drink in the surroundings: Guernsey is beautiful. 

I had to work when I was in Guernsey, so I didn't have time to see everything. At the same time, I don't think I wanted to do it all in 4 days. I kinda like the fact that I've got more to see and a return visit on the horizon, and more Ric and Rach time to book in too!

I'm so glad that I took this short break. It helped me to relax a little, to see a little more of our glorious world and bask happily in unexpected sunshine. I'm looking forward to going back, but feel much better about being at home. I needed the time away, it seems. Now... back to doing All The Things :)

Friday, 21 October 2016

Bake Off 2016: Patisserie Week

It was patisserie week and there were a lot of French words thrown around noncommittally but I guess we all have to get into the groove somehow. I had a choice between savoury palmiers (like flat twirly puff pastry things), a savarin (groovy cake of epic proportions) and Fondant Fancies (very tiny very slick cakes). I went with the last one thinking - this'll be interesting....

.... and it was! I may have made the least elegant Fondant Fancies to ever grace this earth. Ladies and gentlemen... my Fondant Frightenings:

Hahahaha, look at them! They are terrible, but absolutely brilliantly so! :)

The inside looked okay - I kept it simple and did vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream which is covered in a purple vanilla fondant and decorated with chocolate royal icing.

I honestly have no idea how to get those straight sides. The sponge just likes to crumble away under your fingers. It was a fun mess to make though and my parents thought it was all hilarious for ages. Now I've just invented some patisserie for halloween, I think. Stick some edible eyes on and everything can be a monster, right? :) Very delicious monsters :)

Anyway, more new skills tried out today. Won't be doing more dribbly fondant work in a hurry (side note: the potato masher was in fact very useful!) but it was a fun way to spend an evening. :) Wonder what the last week of Bake Off 2016 will bring me! :)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Curious Little Eyes

The moment I walked into your house, you started crying. This was not a cry of fear, nor a cry of pain. No, this was a territorial cry. What is this lady doing in my house?. I hovered at the doorway for a little while. Look my shoes off and exchanged pleasantries with your mum from as far away as possible. I didn't mind - this is your house after all and I was a new guest, of course you were upset by it. You didn't invite me round: we haven't even met before. Your reservations about me being in your space was completely normal and I apologised for a little while.

You couldn't stop looking at me. Even through the crocodile tears, the curiosity inside of you wouldn't let you stop staring. Who is this lady? What does she want? Why is she in my house? You eventually stopped crying but you were still suspicious. I kept my distance but crept a little closer, all the while talking to your mum. You held your mum tight, and your favourite ball tighter. You didn't want to take away your two most favourite things. And that's okay, I was only there to say hello, to meet you for the first time and to play a little.

Your mum set you down in front of me and you were skeptical. You just stared and stared and stared. I knew that you must have gotten used to me when you passed me your favourite ball and didn't cry. You stared, surprised but not sad. You stared too when I gave it back. I read you a story and you sighed at the end of every page - you seem to love stories but are quite worried about how they end. And with every page you turned to look at me, as if to check that I was still there, eventhough I was sitting right in front of you. Eventually you let me touch you, and move you so you were sitting on my lap. We read some books together and at the end of each page you sighed, and then turned to check that I was still me. I'm glad you checked for me, because I certainly forgot to!

After a little while I think you must have gotten used to me. You let me hold you and had a little giggle and a dance. I picked you up and we went to the window. You waved your arms about and pointed at the ducks outside. You looked so happy for a few moments and seemed check to see if I was smiling too. Even while you were having your milk, you wanted to make sure I was still around, peeking around your milk bottle every few minutes to make eye contact. You are definitely a curious little one.

When you woke up after your nap, you had forgotten that I was there and one single tear seeped out of your left eye. Naps do that sometimes to little people: it's like a restart button. I knew that already so I kept my distance, but it didn't take long for you to warm to me again. You sat in front of me and stared and stared. Sometimes you reacted to my facial expressions and voice, sometimes you were just completely fascinated that I existed. I'll be honest with you, I'm flattered that you find me so interesting!

You waved goodbye when it was time to go, without breaking that gaze of yours. I had a lot of fun and it was lovely to meet you! You are a curious little one and I hope that your desire to find out more about the world will stay with you as you grow up. I look forward to hanging out with you again, little one, so we can stare at eachother again soon!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Tudor Week

This week's options for the Bake Off Bake Along were interesting, all with the theme of Tudor bakes from back in the day. The first was a series of pretty tudor pies, the second was some biscuits called "Jumbles" and the third one was a decorative marzipan centerpiece. I actually wanted to make them all, but I ended up tackling the jumbles for practical eating reasons. 

The mixture for the jumbles wasn't that difficult, but the recommended decorative shapes were tricky. It took a long while to work out the double knot (not entirely sure why) and I could have done the full Celtic knot better (with more overlaps with the circle). Anyway, here are my finished jumbles:

Ta dah! I think they look quite pretty :)

This one was my favourite I think! :)

I didn't have all the spices for the actual recipe so I just put lemon and orange zest in, as well as some cinnamon. Turned out pretty tasty - crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside. I think I'd like to experiment with more flavours and try this again another time. And I reckon I'll make a marzipan centerpiece for Christmas. More soon!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Dessert Week

I wasn't particularly enthused by this week's Bake Off challenges (despite how much I enjoyed watching the episode - edge-of-my-seat kinda baking!) but that's okay. It gave me a chance to think about what I wanted to do. The options were to bake a sweet roulade, marjolaine (kinda like a meringue based sandwich structure) and many mini mousse cakes. Because of my audience at home, the mousse cakes would have been a waste, and because of my lack of electric whisk, I decided to opt out of hand-whisking 10 egg whites, so I was left with the roulade.

I eventually researched a bit and made up my own recipe (which, incidentally isn't a roulade as I found out half way through my bake but more of a fancy swiss roll). I used a fat-less sponge (so I ended up hand whisking quite a bit anyway) with a lemon and lime curd filling. Feeling like I hadn't challenged myself enough, I decided to then smother the whole thing in meringue (my arms hurt now) and then baked it again.

This is what the inside looked like. Considering the fact that I did a really short roll, I got a nice roll on her. And it has plenty of my delicious filling. Oh my.

Here it is before I cut into her. It was only small, but straight out out of the oven, it was oh so shiney and lovely.

The flavours worked perfectly for this - the lemon and lime curd was deliciously tart, and the meringue was crunchy and sweet. I dunno if I really made a roulade, but it was fun inventing this bake. My parents loved it, and also suggested that I, instead of thinking up a way of storing it overnight, just eat it all. Hahaha. They are funny. I was tempted.

I think all in all, it was a successful bake. My arms have just started giving up on me, so I got a little exercise in there too! It was fun to talk to my friends about the bakes over board games a few days ago. One of them brought their roulade to the party and it was excellent! So grateful to have baking buddies during this time - looking forward to the next challenge!

Monday, 10 October 2016

On Playing Games and Doing Nothing

My friend Ric came to visit from Guernsey, so quite naturally, my college friends and I had to gather and have a giggle. Since it's the middle of Bake Off season, we also brought an abundance of baked goods to share together and it was spectacular. I brought a pie - can you tell what's inside it?

Mary Berry always says to indicate what is inside the pie, on the outside. Is it clear enough? :)

We also played loads of board games and card games. When I say that we played these games, what I actually mean is that I laughed a lot, maybe so much that I cried on several occasions and then also broke out into a fight with someone half way through over a wooden totem (Jungle Speed). It was an awesome night with some amazing people and a bunch of brand new hilarious games. Fantastic.

The next day, Ric and hung out again. It was lovely to be out of the house, computer-free and also carefree for a few hours. We talked, we doodled, we wrote, we wandered... it was nice. I've missed having Ric around, but I'll be going to visit him very soon so that's very exciting! Here we both are, hanging out:

It was a lovely, sunny day to be doing not much else apart from being :) Thanks for a lovely day, Ric! :)

I needed a day like this. It's been a bit full on recently - it seems like September and October are months were a lot more meet ups happen. It was nice to just laugh and be. I feel like I've laughed enough to refill my internal smile jar so I can keep on going. It feels good.

Onwards and upwards... or maybe sideways to another blogpost! :) Bloop!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Botanical Week

I was a bit confused by Botanical Week, which was the theme of this week's Bake Off. Did they just want the bakers to use more fresh ingredients instead of processed ones? It did mean that there was a nice variety of challenges though - from the ordinary citrus meringue pie, to the crazy three tier floral cake. I went with the slightly weird bit perfectly achievable technical challenge - the fougasse. It is essentially a flat, leaf-shaped bread with a crispy crust - here is my finished bake:

Here I am, proudly showing off my loaf. I think it's a good size, right? :)

Here it is, a little closer. This was before I had brushed on olive oil and sprinkled a little salt on top.

In case you were wondering, I went with this recipe but amended it a little because I wouldn't have been able to eat two of these bad boys. Also, I couldn't find any sage, so my herby fougasse only has rosemary and thyme in. It tasted really yummy - crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, and had a buttery flavour to it, despite not having any! I will be making these again! :)

I like all these little baking challenges. Maybe after Bake Off ends, I'll have to just outsource my baking challenges to the general public to keep me baking! :) Interesting idea! :)