April 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

This week has been a long ride. There were undeniably questions of how long can one trust the process, how honest are we to ourselves and etc. Well, it shouldn’t be that doubtful but the energiser bunny’s battery level was depleting.

I had spent an insatiable amount of time with food (more than the average joe). I eat it, I write about it, I research it, I plan other people’s meals, I cook/bake/alter etc. I could go on until the cows come home. After a while I start viewing it not as a mean but either a form of art or business/passion. One could have a bad relationship, just like spending too much time with one person and you could end up wanting space. The roles are mixed up and somehow along the way, the respect or trust can be lost.

There was a time where I wasn’t very proud of myself and the relationship with food turned sour. I lost all interest with eating/cooking. I was frail, insecure about my decisions and was pretty low. Tired of feeling so exhausted all the time, I took the step to take responsibly of my own well-being. It started with preparing meals at home, buying groceries, salads, making sandwiches, changing white rice to brown rice and eating less processed/refined junk. I brought food wherever I went. There was really no excuse of “oh I can’t find healthy food”,because I was prepared. It was then I realised that if you could take ownership of your own health then why can’t you do the same with the other aspects of your life? We often victimise ourselves into bad situations but don’t we all fall short to see that the situation is negative, because we allow ourselves to let it be.

So my friends can have a bowl of deep-fried tofu/fishballs in chicken stock curry egg noodles while I have mixed rice, sautéed vegetable with fresh salad leaves. They can make fun of the diet, they can decide not to hang out, they have chosen to order more vegetables, they have taken notice of their own diets and some have even wrote to me how I’ve changed theirs. Somehow I am thankful for those that have been more aware of themselves. As much I would love to say, you are what you eat, you truly are, how you eat. If you are the sort that eat chicken breast and can’t run a mile, you are that piece of meat as it is. If you are the sort that takes time to enjoy marinating the piece of meat and have it with brown rice sautéed in garlic or oriental greens, perhaps you would learn to appreciate a different side of life. After all, people who love to eat are always the best people.
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Soba noodles with ceylon spinach: Veggie Stack, replicated from an original tofu veg stack made by a best friend from Canada who loves his bacon way too much for his own good

 

With the people who loves food, comes with different sort. Eating is an intimate activity. Perhaps this is why there are people we constantly declined to be on the same table with and those who are always there when we have our daily staples.

I came home late last evening after hours in the kitchen, just in time for dinner and enough time to bake for the next morning. I reflected on these thoughts of how food has altered my way of lives and those around me. I thought of how small I am in making a change and how much more I want to be. More change soon to come but for now, here is a vegan, gluten-free banana bread made with chia seeds, walnut powder, sorghum flour and coconut oil. I am leaving out the recipe for another day.

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April 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

perhaps this was lunch or breakfast, whatever the time was, a bowl of oatmeal with coconut flesh, mango, fresh berries and ground cinnamon chia seeds
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There are many reasons why I put up with the long hours, the kitchen bullshit, the shenanigans crew and irregular produce or perhaps nature. There are many reasons why day after day I go back to the station, lay a wet towel, a chopping board, and sharpen the knife before cooking. There are many reasons to stay in this spot, but with different cooking styles and a change of crew; yet feeling the familiarity of creating something together. Watching all the little actions, discipline attitudes, loud laughters with tired eyes and knowing somehow when everything comes to one, we are doing something good. There are no reasons to why I will ever stop doing this because deep down, it’s to feed people honest food and simply see the smiles on their faces.

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I want to be honest in everywhere.

I had Indian vegetarian dinner with a chef friend sometime last week. While we decide over what dishes to share, I took a chance to question his hospitality experiences. We had worked in mutual establishments but at different times and with different crew. Nevertheless, we had gained a somewhat passionate drive and indebted deed for these places for we were young and were just starting out our service journeys. There is something we couldn’t point out that drawn us here, but we realised that at some moments, the chefs/owners had made us feel like “nothing”.

Yes, nothing. Nada. Empty.

They made us feel like we didn’t belong there or simply didn’t care to be there even when we put in 60-80 hours a week/dedicated our hearts to the space. Why? Well perhaps it was their egos that we didn’t feed or they couldn’t accept that we challenged their mottos. I often hear stories of crew saying they “fit in” or “left out”. How come we always want to be part of something when we couldn’t even accept ourselves or even discover ourselves yet? Why are we always seeking from approval from others while we couldn’t even approve of our own doings/feelings? More so allow others to do so?

While exploring this topic, we walked around the bustling Little India’s vegetable vendors. The produce seems to be more vibrant and energetic, much like the people and vibes they portrayed. After almost a decade in this industry, we realised that we had to be honest with ourselves. That came with courage and vulnerability, like oil and vinegar whisk together to form a beautiful gentle vinaigrette.

I no longer feel the need to impress customers but to make them happy. I had always been the plain Jane who bakes everyday cake loaves and imagine serving a community that makes my family. I want to be the butter to their breads and cup of daily joe. Following trends and moving forward may seem appealing but there is so much more about history of food and authentic cooking/baking techniques I have yet to master. Hence, ordering the classic aloo gobi masala and paneer with an all-time-favourite soft chapati.

Somewhere down the line, I found happiness in being presently focus on making this philosophy count.

Somewhere through that night, I realised my personal life was taking a shift. I no longer feel the need to change for someone. I no longer feel so upset when they don’t feed themselves well or be responsible of their own health (well I try to). If they can’t help themselves, you can’t help them. The realisations have to come from within. That being said, I am thankful to be surrounded by motivated crossfit ladies/long-distance runners or smoothie nazis/cleaner eating buddies. One step at a time, one step at a time.

Much like this morning’s surprised breakfast (after a too early 8km run) at Woodlands Sourdough. An old regular who got his & his wife’s hands dirty and opened a heartwarming bakery. Long fermented bread dough with patience, homemade almond butter with sea salt/honey and honest coffee. I can only hope for more like-minded people for a good change.

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March 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

Every year, at particularly this time, a sunken feeling falls deep into the heart. Every year, I wonder where I’ll be and what he would think of what I’ve done. In some ways, I’ve looked up to him and in many ways, I still do. Sometimes, I don’t think I know him enough to fully understand who he was or what he has done. But he has left me an enormous amount of knowledge and a good friend, who seems to remind me that we should appreciate every moment and make them count.

I know I always remind my readers to focus on the moment and be thankful. It can be quite tiring for those eyes to read the same lines. But time after time, I find myself falling into selfish hands or filthy mouths or, ugly hearts and getting hurt because I continuously give people chances for them to change.

The truth of the matter is, they don’t change. You have to make the first move. That means planting a good seed and nurturing it from the very beginning with all your heart. Give it time, effort, care and understand it. It’s little branches, the fallen leaves, the innocent buds and how they blossom under your watchful eyes. After all, long-lived trees make roots first.
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Perhaps for those who have been reading this page know this story. But for those who doesn’t, nine years ago, we lost my dear cousin to myocardial infarction. Also known as an heart attack. There were no signs. Just a phone call before breakfast and off we go to the hospital; by sunset, we were planning out his funeral. The next few days were a dazed. I remember her saying to me, it’s as if everything has to continue but for me it stopped.

I stared at blank spaces with tired eyes thinking of the last dinner we had. I watched people went through their routines and wondered if they noticed something different. I definitely did.

It was her birthday. His was the following day.

A man of irony and good wit. A women of unconditional love and forgiveness. They were always the pair we looked forward to hanging out on lazy evenings. It wasn’t easy being together. No matter what couples portray to you, even the happiest one goes through the toughest times. They had their fair share but they gave their word to one another.

And she still does.

Happy Birthday E. Life is still wonderful in many ways.

the start

March 25, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is

no name
no tune
no thoughts
no destination
no space
no second clock
no colour
no taste

– beginning

The start wears the purest form of Mother’s Nature beauty. The air is crisp and clear. The breath carries an innocent whiff and exhale itself into the atmosphere. Bringing truth to a better light.

The prelude bears clarity and serenity. It is simple to feel. It resonates a silence smile a new born carries. It grows like a seed nurture into a tree.  It brings waves to the ocean. It becomes.

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A few weeks ago, I started a new journey. And like all new beginnings, it came with a closure. I ended my short stay in Yangon. The departure was inevitable. The differences seem to match like puzzles pieces, forming an unforeseen picture. Coming back to the island was only natural, and it seems like another new start after another, yet this time, everything seems to be aligned.

But before returning, the yoga community in Yangon invited us for a retreat at a beach town 6/7 hours away from the city. It took no hesitation for me to say yes. So off I went to another short excursion.

Ngwe Saung lies on the west side of Myanmar and has the front row seat to the Bay of Bengal. Since it is the best view, it would almost be a dishonour to hold our practice anywhere else but.

 
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Every morning, I arrived sheepishly at the open hallway. We start our day with a short meditation and an hour of vinyasa flow. As we meditate in the quiet, flashes of past memories come flooding their way through. Some were hurtful, some were very joyful and between the both, there were collisions of your own thoughts trying to play tug of war. Where should I fall? Where should you place your emotions? What is the outcome of falling into it? Can i get something out of this?

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 “A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My perception of truth lies in the depths of how honest I am with myself. It wasn’t so difficult to be at peace with myself anymore. Unlike previous struggles, this was different, it was genuinely rediscovering my own strength and knowing where my limitations lie. With that said, the practise has became somewhat easier with a clearer head space. It’s as if I have decluttered my own brain and made way for some physical strength and serious alignments.The lighter one feels the lighter the body is.

“The body is smarter than your brain.” We often outwit ourselves with pushing the limits. Can we stretch the calves an inch further during a downward dog? Can we hold in a three legged dog half a minute longer? Let’s try to extend the arms a little higher but soften the shoulders deeper on a lunge.

There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t want to just ease into a pose. I want to engage each reflexes with poise yet gain the resilience and flow with my heartbeat. The mat has become a place for comforts and challenges simultaneously. The union is like two friends meeting one another, the twilight moon meeting the sun right before it reaches the horizon. An occurrence we fail to witness yet happens everyday.

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The best part about rediscovering yourself is finding same kindled spirits who share the same perception. While we came from all walks of life, no culture, religion, race and gender differentiate us, one way or another, we meet at the mat and breathe the same air. Evenings were spent at cocktail bars laughing over Yangon life. The little inglorious daily activities that make the city unique to its own. Bad traffic, unhygienic manoeuvres, discrepancies and so on. One that seems so foreign to a life I live this moment.

I’m back in the +65 region again, with a new job, but still hanging out with my crazy kitchen crew and exploring a deeper relationship. Somehow everything seems to work out the way it ought to be just as it should, with time.

My current new boss is quite obsessed with fried shallots(eu chang,葱头油) . An asian delicacy and staple to any meal. Fried shallots on steamed fish, nasi lemak, fried shallots on plain rice, shallot oil is also used very frequently in garnishing any salads or finishing off a simple stew to enhance the flavours and brings a crisp texture. It’s something little but goes a long way.

After this morning’s workout, I bought some kale on my way home and immediately thought of tossing some in for a quick lunch salad.

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Kale, cashew cheese, cherry tomatoes, quinoa and fried shallots. Happy weekend folks

 

 

 

 

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February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

There is something special about going back to a vicinity you were born in. A connection of past and present colliding, a series of flashbacks, a solemn quietness and a rejoiced smile for realising the miles you’ve clocked. 
A couple of days ago, my mum and I made our way to KL for her company reunion dinner. They were the pioneer crew for an airline company and made their way to the top in the Asia region, by working hard as a team. The diligent long hours in the office, perseverance to be resilient during bad times, occasional disputes followed by forgiving drinks after, setting goals and achieving them have made the bond so closed. Till 20 years down the road later, they still feel like one.
We had arrived at our first Airbnb (That is another story to tell,she was so skeptical! )and walked into the concrete jungle.

  
Remember how i used to wait for you in the office and we head home together?
Oh look, we used to have drinks over there. Oh geez, that new pub looks terrible. 
Mum, remember we always have those little colourful kueh kueh from the macik there? *pointing to the corner near the traffic light*
Those days, were quite gone but memories have a way of capturing our hearts and make us reminisce. 
  
The small reunion dinner felt the same. Everyone spoke of how they were forced to wear suits and coats in the tropical weather, the surbodinates sabotaging one another with corporate politics and of course, the travels. 
At some point through dinner, I realized why I love traveling and how I feel in love with it. Mum was constantly surrounded by travel agents, and I was constantly surround by them. I was the little photocopy girl in the office tipping toes over the machine buttons. She gave me little projects to tie calendars, stickers, notebooks and flyers together. The words such as “outbound”, “inbound”, “via LAX” were imprinted my head. The world map projected widely on the walls of the office, eventually moved to my bedroom wall. 
Our family holidays were rather ad hoc. An 8 hour drive up to Penang, a 13 hours flight to England, occasional last minute getaway to Hong Kong, a few days hiatus to the Eastern Peninsula Malaysia just so we can get childish feet beneath the brown sands. The wanderlust in me seek for adventures, “in-the-moment” instances, put myself out of the box and eventually formed a free spirited soul. 

  
For the last two weeks, we have been on the road, stayed in a tiny hotel, took a plane to KL and stayed in our first Airbnb; then I took a long bus ride up north, she flew in later, we stayed in multiple relative homes, ubered our way through cities; we parted ways again, and I just got off a 6 hour journey from Malaysian to Yangon. 
Our friends have said they can’t catch up with our lives. Sometimes, I cannot too. We are hardly at home but when we are, we become homebodies. The apartment is our little sanctuary of mindfulness and slowing down. We do not get out for days. 

   

   I have spent the last few years, getting to know the world, learning about partners and building communities but I have failed to learn one very important person. Myself. How much we have grown into the person we are because of our up bringing; what we need in a relationship, career, a home or even ourselves come from fundamentally the people we grow up around. 

  
Life has its own ways of giving you things you want but making you fight for it. Have you ever asked for patience but find yourself in a line for donuts? Have you ever asked quiet but all you hear is noise? Well next time, if you want something ask yourself if you can handle the opposite. Chances are, you are already standing right in front of it. 

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February 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Is it really 12th of Feb already? One would think 43 days is a mere figure but for me this year seems to pass by really quickly. A blink of an eye and I seem to be in a completely different place, phase and head space.

Head space.

A friend of mine said casually to me the other day,

“By the way, I didn’t tell you this but I’m dating someone.”

It might have seem a little out of place to tell me that but he felt the need. Given that we had spent hours talking about relationships, friends and life. I have also seen him get seemingly tipsy with girls and waking up to a dreary morning.

“Well at least we are in the same head space.”

fullsizerenderIt felt good to hear that phrase. They always say, the older one gets, the wiser you are. I am not sure if I am necessary wiser, but I do know that I know myself better. If there is anything more wrong in life is to lie to yourself, if there is anything more than wrong lying to yourself is living in a lie.

The last couple of weeks have been harsh. I spent days deciphering the unhappiness inside me.

“If your core is unhappy, you will draw unhappiness from people; if your core is happy, you will draw joy.”

How true is this? I asked myself again and again what have been missing inside. As you have known, I spent the last year doing odd baking jobs, helping out at various food establishments and travelled, quite a fair amount.

I was just looking for something to put my heart and time into so I could feel contented. So I waited for the potentials, but didn’t happened; jumped into other potentials but didn’t turn out to be right for me. Was I lost? I thought I was. But when I came home this Lunar New Year and hanged out with my old kitchen crew, everything felt so right. Why I pushed school aside for four years, sticked with the restaurant for so long and when I finally gathered the courage to leave, I missed everything about it.

We were drying laundry after service when it suddenly hit me that everything we did, we did it for a reason. We are the sort of people that will fix our own light bulbs, cement our own walls, wipe the glass windows down ourselves and make things from scratch. There goes without saying that our food carries the same philosophy. Handmade pasta, meat burgers, puff pastry, hearty cakes and more. There goes without saying that I share the same sentiments and search for like-minded folks that follow the same passion.

My short stage in a great Hong Kong restaurant had the same vibes. Everyone took turns to check the cleanliness of the toilet through out service. Everyone took turns to fill up the sauces while we wait for family meals. Everyone cared for one another and took care of each other like a family. We caught up while we clean; we sang songs and made jokesTo say that this model, doesn’t work financially is perhaps rather short sighted. They are on to their forth outlet, have their own brewery in Japan and are collaborating with other restaurants, globally.

What is the secret? To find like-minded people who believes in the same philosophy and work hard towards the same goal. For the most part, these people, like me take money rather lightly. It’s not to say we don’t think of it, of course I would love to indulge in the same bottle of champagne every year, a suitor once bought for me on my birthday to match my birth year (thats about almost 3 decades old!) But the sort that thrives in good quality ingredients, understand the length of sheer hard work to achieve finesse in a dish, believe in simplifying the complicated flavours and serve it with some good old fashion warm customer service.

Because that’s the inside, that is the soul of the business and when the inside is beautiful, the outside will take care of itself.

Of course, you need the right marketing tools, the right geography, the right demographics and perhaps even the right time.

fullsizerender-3I realised my large appetite for life. There is this curious innate nature to question about how/why/what things work. At a very young age, there seems to be an adopted nature of dismantling items and putting them together, collecting reads and getting lost in unfamiliar sights.

I realised finding compatible folks in this island is quite exhausting because they truly exist in a different dimension. People here play it safe. People here have their whole education carve out in a singular scope with somewhat narrow peripheral vision. People don’t know what to do when things fall out of plan because they lose their sense of identity. They attached themselves to things and structure that when things don’t go as they think they should. They too, fall out of sorts.

I have been fighting this system all my life. This heart is getting quite weary of following these lines and want to live with less.

“There is so much beauty in the simple.” @beurrenoisette, reminded me; as we rejoice in Society, by Eddie Vedder; a song I have quoted many times in this blog.

You think you have to want
More than you need
Until you have it all you won’t be free 

I have voiced out so much about simplicity over the years and how I see a future. These days I spent more time meditating and running, connecting with people and disconnecting with devices (or I try), devoting time to simple events. This head space.

Simple as it is.

Movember

December 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

For the last 30 days, I’ve been on the move with a crew for a cause; well to be specific, men’s health. While others grow a moustache, host an event, donate or go for a ride; I joined my best workout instructor, Jev, to move for a month. He is known to program bootcamps that leaves us sweating or laying face flat on the floor. Every Saturday for the last 6 months, I joined Kilter Crew at Fort Canning for an hour worth of WOD & stairs. I have never felt so motivated to exercise in my life.

So when I heard that Jev is had started a team for Movember, it didn’t take me a second longer to join. I started the month with a stretch on the mat with my partner. He had promised me to try his very best to join me for this movement, despite being overseas.

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I have done yoga for the last 10 years. Somedays, I go through the motion of doing it without second thoughts; it is almost unkindly to not do a stretch or pose at some point in the day. Somewhere along the way, I did stop practicing yoga mentally. My body could move along the poses easily but my mind/heart were not in sync. I was quick to anger and get frustrated with little things. I pushed people and myself away. Through these little notches, I grew increasingly aware of my emotions. Seeking solace in mediations, new yoga classes, and motivated myself to step outside my comfort zone.

I started running a year ago. The first 500m was extremely difficult. I couldn’t even hold my pace and breathe consistently. My feet always kicked higher than they were meant too, leaving me with knee and hip injuries. My ex-boyfriend would ridicule me with my determination to run because I couldn’t even get the basics right. How could one learn how to run before walking right? Needless to say, I threw all the bad habits out of the window (including the asshole) and invested in taking 500m to 800m to 1km. I threw out the old pair of fancy running shoes and got to know my sole better by consulting the local running store; read up about distance running and motivated myself with personal stories.

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Since then, the morning/evening sun I look forward to waking up early or reserving my energy till the evening for a run. 6km/8km seems like a breeze and I am more determine to do a marathon just to check it off my list in this lifetime.

Half way through Movember, I moved to Yangon, Burma. There was work, but more importantly there is someone. And like all change, there come challenges. I lost my workout community. I lost my running routes. I lost the ability to mediate properly. What was it to sit still, close your eyes and focus on the breath? I became somewhat a monster to others and myself. Throwing tempers, feeling anxious, projecting an unconscious self to the world.

The negative state of mind, is an ego.

The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist. – Eckhart Tolle

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It was hard to turn myself into the cell of awareness. It’s a place of vulnerability and truth. No one likes to be told that they are wrong or are something they don’t perceive themselves to be. But at the same time, it is also a place of love and freedom. A place where you dwell your unconsciousness and make sense of your actions. That there is really no where else to be but the present moment; no one else but your own very self that needs to push all the clutter away and make way for pure light.

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I found a local yoga studio, Yangon Yoga House, which became my little sanctuary for quietness. The receptionist and yoga instructors became my little community of joy, vegan foodies and smiles. They have never failed to close a session with great closing lines and encourage me to feel lifted after a tired day.

I have also found a great workout buddy in my partner who keeps me grounded with not pushing myself too much. Our weekly routine to run around kandawgyi lake before a hearty dim sum breakfast meal, has became our thing. I am only hoping that these little steps and habits becomes our lifestyle; also bringing friends together and instilling a sense of well-being for others.

We close Movember at the lake with a short run and 30 pushups, 30 sit ups and 30 burpees.    The Move-mber team came in 7 for the National ranking. We are worlds apart but this has kept us close for the last month. A crew that sweats together, stays together.

 

Here is a lovely quote from my favourite yoga instructor, Jojo, who constantly check in on my practice:

 Give gratitude to this breath and this body, remembering it is the only one we get for this lifetime, so let’s treat it with the love, kindness and care that we would treat any other object we wish to keep for an entire lifetime. Be grateful for these legs and feet for carrying us millions of steps to where you are in this moment, to this breath for carrying us from this lifetime into the next.

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