Raw Berry and Lemon Slice + Expectations

IMG_3319 (640x427)It has been a journey of self acceptance with my weight gain and loss journey. From time to time, there will be circumstances that would make me question if I’m doing the right thing or should I be “achieving more”. 

Walking out of an appointment recently, it was suggested that the judgement of self was too high. A general checkup with a kind and warm doctor suggests that perhaps I have too much on my plate. I laughed. In case you are wondering, my physical health is great! Doc was more concerned about the level of expectations I have. IMG_3321 (640x427)

I laughed because deep down I have a fighter voice that query  “is it enough” and “what could be better”. There is a certain drive that carries me. As a child, I was taught that it is the effort and self- discovery that counts more so than the results. 

As a parent, I wondered if I carry that towards Ash. Did I suggest that he should know more because there is always something more to learn? Or have I provided a “I recognise the effort and I am proud” vibe? 

As a wife, did I ever come across as always wanting more? Have I pushed my husband more than what he is ready for OR is it because of MY own expectations, but not recognising where he wants to be and what he wants? IMG_3323 (640x427)

As someone who loves good, health and fitness, what is the point of being on the quest of “being better” because it is endless. Still, not wanting to fall into the trap of being “getting by”. 

Improvement I think is never enough. It is however a fine line between the intention of improving and competition with self. At the end of the day, there is no finishing line. It is about what we do best in God’s plan for us. 

I love this refreshing slice. It’s a raw slice that I have attempted 2 variations (in my quest to “perfect” this). A raspberry and a blueberry version. Personally, I like the blueberry version better. Asher thinks it is “Ice cream cake” as it is creamy and filled with natural sweetness from the berries. IMG_3324 (640x427)

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Pumpkin Nourish Bowl with Apple Pie (Paleo, Gluten Free) + Connection

IMG_3275 (640x427)Connection. 

The hardest bit about being married is to remain connected spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Hubby and I are great team players. We operate our household in sync. From meals, to budget to even parenting- we are the A team. 

As life responsibilities increase (or perceived increase?), it is so easy to fall into the trap of talking about the everyday stuff or coordinating our time table. We became so tired that when we do talk, it is usually about something we have to do. Not how we are, or what we need… but the doingIMG_3277 (640x427)

 At home, I known to say it the way it is without mincing my words. Perhaps too harsh at times. On reflection, it is the way I speak to myself and it is a learning curve on how not to do that- because I never intend to have that sort of harshness to my husband and son. When I become tired though, those tolerances become lower. 

Oddly, sitting and talking is hard for me just as it would hard for my hubby. There is a feeling of being drained. Like every piece of me has been taken away and it is much harder for me to connect emotionally to anyone. There would be some changes soon which I’m looking forward to.

1) We are starting to fall in love with the hills. From gorgeous fruit farms to our favourite cider place… not to mention its only 30 minutes. Even the drive up feels like we are going away somewhere

2) I resigned from one job. In August, I would just focus on having 1 job. That is a relief as it takes up quite bit of my mental head space

3) In July, I’m having a day off each week! What a luxury!

4) Hubby and I are trying to put time aside to just be with each other. Sometimes we don’t have to talk. Just presence is lovely. The other day, I found a cute little card with a love message from him. What a surprise! That used to happen heaps when we were dating so it is nice to feel that there are little touches, rather than us co-existing as life partners. 

5) Every alternate Sunday, Hubby gets the morning to run while I handle breakfasts. I’m recognising how he benefit from alone time too.

So 5 little changes in our household in hope for a more peaceful and loving one. Talk about a mid year review! 

So this little pumpkin nourish bowl was made when I had left over roasted pumpkin. Honestly it’s so easy to eat for breakfast. Top with some apple pie filling, it is warm and comforting as the cold 4C mornings set in. IMG_3278 (640x427)

 

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Happy 7th Year Wedding Anniversary + Persistence + Super Fudgy Brownies

pre weddingThis weekend mark our 7th year wedding anniversary. It is such a cliche, but 7 years seem to have fly  by quickly. 

The 7 years have been filled with adventures. There were moments of stillness, but mostly, we stood side by side each other. 

pre wedding 2The low lights

  • Managing through cancer in the family
  • Stumbling through my grandmother’s health and death
  • Dealing with infertility
  • Work issues
  • Finding out feet as a couple, learning about our values 
  • Learning how to live with each other and working out how to manage our differencestea ceremony

Then we have our high lights

  • Celebrating pregnancy and birth of our son
  • Travelling
  • Learning and embracing our identity as a couple
  • Building and moving into our home 
  • Learning how to be a couple againpregnancy

I’m sure we have more in both lists πŸ™‚ 

The last point about learning how to be a couple though rings so true to us right now. Being a parent certainly adds to a different dimension of being a couple for sure. So far this year, we have decided to change a few things to enjoy tine being parents but also to have time being together as a couple. We are definitely finding that hard as whatever little time we have together is filled with conversation about everything else. 

Yet 7 years of marriage has taught me one big thing. Persistence. That’s the beauty of marriage. While there needs to be an element of urgency (if not, we would be pushing our marriage to the back burner!), it is the persistence and the vow of commitment that stood out clearly. The “ok, that didn’t work out too well, let’s try again..and again..and again..and again” with the most important thing reviewing and trying. thomas family

Here is to even MORE years of being us and loving being us!IMG_3084 (640x427)

I would return soon with our celebration cake but HEY nothing spells celebration than chocolate right? This uses tahini, coconut butter and almond butter. It was so good that I cannot stop licking the spoon! Best of all, it is raw so it really takes seconds to whip up. IMG_3082 (640x427)

Happy 7th Year Wedding Anniversary πŸ™‚ 

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Mango Bread (Paleo, gluten free, dairy free) + Murky Roles

IMG_2866 (640x427)Is being a father/mother = to being a good husband/wife? 

The other day hubby and I had a conversation about roles in parent hood. While it may seem clear cut on what our roles are, it can often be more murky than what it seems. IMG_2869 (427x640)

First up, it does depends on your definition of what a husband or wife should be. For some people, it is about being a partner in life. We uplift each other, we give honest thoughts, we pray. Perhaps we enjoy checking out cafes and coffee. We have heart to heart conversations, have similar thoughts on current affairs. We may share a love for musicals. We do housework together and is there for each other when the going gets tough.We have a good laugh. Most of all we like each other.

Then we have definition of what a parent is like. The usual routine, caring for a child, playing. We may think that providing financially is also one of our roles. IMG_2866 (640x427)

Gently, we teased out the differences. Being a mother/father may contribute being a partner in a relationship but it does not define it. I love seeing hubby being a dad. It gives me great joy when I see hubby plays with Asher or teaching him a skill that I did not even think of teaching. I love seeing how Asher looks up to his dad with those eyes that says “daddy is his hero”. It makes me warm and fuzzy. It fills me with love. Yet I also long for those days and luxuries when I have hubby’s undivided attention. Flowers and gifts. Notes in my lunch box and sweet words. Hubby too realises that he misses being the centre of my attention where I am more flexible in my scheduling, more spontaneous in checking out food places and perhaps less snappiness when I’m tired. He misses my messages on why I love him, and why I respect him. He cares for those evenings when we do not have to rushed to finish getting ready for the next day but just enjoy each other’s company. He would like our conversation to be round us and our dreams/goals- and not just be around what we need to do and need each other to do.

Being a parent is hard work. Being in a marriage and a parent = triple the hard work. The unspoken is that it takes a lot of effort to keep a family together. I certainly appreciate having this conversation to keep me in check, but in reflection of our day to day actions as a couple. IMG_2867 (640x427)

This is one of hubby’s favourite breakfast in summer. The sweetness and creaminess of mango means the bread does not need any other sweeter. Asher for some reason does not like mangos. I think it is the texture (I’m sure he will come around though). Sometimes I may not make something (in order to maximise amount of return for the energy output to make it) because Asher doesn’t eat it as much- but this time, it is for hubby because he likes it. 

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Overdue recipe- Christmas Dark Chocolate Panforte Slice + Dads’ struggles

IMG_2860 (640x427)hello MARCH! Are you sure we are fast approaching and finishing quarter of the year? I absolutely cannot wait to just have a few weeks off. 

I’m not sure what’s going on but January and February seems full on. Clearly our bodies are exhausted. We are starting to have minor colds- which we don’t usually have. We get cranky at each other and we forget things. 

I read somewhere that mums have to learn how to look after themselves- because at the end of the year, if we fall into a heap, EVERYTHING falls into a heap. IMG_2855 (640x427)

So true.

As I read that article though, I feel a tinge of unfairness for dads. Yes, we mums have to look out for each other and for ourselves. We also have it harder on many different levels. Sacrificing income, career advancement, adult conversation, sleep, hobbies, fitness, our bodies,… I remember someone asked me before “so what do you do at mothers group? drink tea?”. I nearly fell off my chair with the audacity of that statement. I thought and still tell my friends that even if we do that, we have earned it. IMG_2862 (640x427)

It is however unfair for dads too. I reflected on some things that fathers may struggle with

  • For some jobs, being a male means it is harder to ask for part time hours (despite policies). Kinda like a bro code where it is unspoken but cannot be broken
  • Awkwardness in parents room sometimes when there are just chairs for breastfeeding mums., and they walk straight in. Almost like they have to learn how to just look straight ahead and see that as no difference to a mum breastfeeding in public/ restaurants.
  • Public restrooms when they are by themselves, and no parents room in sight with a child the opposite sex. 
  • Taking time off to care for children. Hubby’s work place is great but he said there are some work places where it is still expected for mums to take time off when child is sick and less so for dad
  • Dads needing to look after their own mental health or health too. There are dads who golf and go out for drinks, but there are also dads who are exhausted from working and helping out at home. 
  • Bringing out memories of how they were parented and how different they are trying to be. 

The list might be short but I think at times I fall into the trap of forgetting it is tough being a dad too. Panforte

Today’s recipe is quite late but I thought I might document this anyway. I call it a Christmas Panforte slice. I wasn’t planning on writing it up as I did it on a whim last Christmas. It was such a hit and I received lovely comments that I thought I should write it down here for anyone who wants the recipe. We do not often have dried fruits in the house but it was Christmas afteralll. I love the combination of fruits, nuts and spices.It does not require baking- and come to think of it, makes a nice gift any time of the year! And no, it has absolute no relevance to the above post except that when I’m a little tired, it shows how all over the place my thoughts are!IMG_2852 (640x427)

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We have arrived in 2016! Happy New Year!

Did you have a relaxing Christmas and New Year break? We worked through but certainly enjoyed the public holidays. We had a pretty chilled Christmas with us attending an awesome lunch with extended family members. On Boxing day, we hosted a lunch for some close friends. IMG_9237

Lunch with family- what a feast!!!

 

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We hosted lunch at our place on Boxing day! Friends brought over delicious food. Another round of feast- Healthy food with Prawn and avocado salad, broccoli and goats cheese salad, my christmas cookie tree, ham, japanese potato salad and turkey.

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Asher is now 2 years 5 months. He is growing to be a sociable child who loves a good laughs, anything with wheels and books. He is enjoying the outdoors and pretend play. His language is growing and he is actually negotiating (Insert horror face!). 

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Early in the year, we said that we want to chill more and really go back to basics. I felt that it was just yesterday that I wrote that resolution. I wanted to build upon existing relationships. I wanted to learn how to not sweat the small stuff, and also, have a bigger respect for functionality of the body- learning and re establishing my relationship with myself, food and fitness. 

 

  • Continue to provide my family with clean and healthy meals. I would like to make more chinese style broths and get back to my roots with more Chinese clean cooking. – We have chinese broth style soups weekly now! I’m learning more and more each month using different herbs and vegetables to make broths. 
  • See beyond the number at the scale. Getting stronger. Doing more drills with full pushups, using heavier weights for thrusters, deadlifts, turkish get ups and squats. I mastered the turkish get up! Definitely doing more full push ups, deadlifting heavier and even managed to do a 150kg leg press. 
  • As a wife, be kinder. I would be the first to admit that I have not been kind throughout the year. It’s something that I struggle with constantly. More on this in another post. 
  • Talk and communicate with my parents more. Weekly a couple of times! 
  • As a mother, to be patient and stay in the moment. Asher is growing too quick. I think I have a few testing parenting moments in 2015….
  • Maintain a gratitude journal.Ok, not doing a good job there. I did maintain one but did not do it consistently or daily. Will aim for 3 times a week rather than daily. 
  • Pray more. I don’t think I do enough of praying and reflection.  I’m praying more and especially with Asher. Never enough.
  • Schedule in rests. Ok, still pretty bad at this. I’m “resting” now. I rest by reading, cooking and doing housework! I guess this is another post by itself on what rest is. 
  • Connecting with friends. Regular meet ups with my mummy girlfriends. Maintaing contact with my close friends through whatsapp, phone conversations and any channels we can think of. Being a better gift giver. Happy with this goal! I can do better with a few friends. I have learned to maintain a few really close friendships but also be realistic on what can be achieved. 
  • Bringing this website to a wider audience ok, not so. Thank you for reading my little space if you are. I have not done any big changes or have a quest to reach a wider audience. I guess I have resigned to the fact that I cannot “not sweat the small stuff”, work on my marriage, relationship on myself AND market a small blog. I’m not even sure if that is a priority anymore! 

 

In 2016, I like to focus on my marriage a lot more. Being more mindful of how our marriage is going, spending time connecting with each other in addition to work and Asher. Saying no and not over scheduling! 

So where to in 2016

  1. Schedule in devotional time daily. Even if it is 5 minutes. 
  2. Learn how to play again. Be mindful and targeted when playing with Asher. 
  3. Utilising more fruits in my baking and snacks with naturally occurring sugar and try not to add any other sweeteners to it. 
  4. In our marriage, start prioritising and setting aside dates regularly. 
  5. Maintain a gratitude diary 3x a week. 
  6. Continue to grow stronger. Working out with heavier weights and focusing on strength
  7. It is ok to do things for myself. 
  8. Start a new hobby- I’m looking at learning about essential oils. 

A new year = new beginnings. Let’s begin!

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Strawberry Crumble Cake (Paleo, Gluten Free, Clean Eating) + Have that choice of eating well

IMG_2312 (640x427)This crumble cake was inspired purely because I had left over Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote left. Yes, we could have just have it for breakfast with our granola, but I thought it would make a wonderful moist filling for mini cakes. Truth is, I love strawberries. I am always finding ways to use them. 

To follow up with my previous post about simple food, I hope that I’m sending a message that healthy is delicious. I want Asher to grow up appreciating food. I hope to share the good news that it is ok to nourish our bodies. It is not hard and it is definitely a choice.  

Sometimes I am asked the question on how does my hubby feel about all these? IMG_2319 (640x427)

We see us as a team. He saw the journey I went through and my battle with obesity. He saw how I battle with PCOS and our struggle with infertility. He watches documentaries. He witnessed his mother battling cancer and autoimmunity issues. He ate the food and he enjoyed it. 

Besides, we eat steaks. We have sweet potato chips. To him, we have not “lost” much if not any. What we had to do though, is to re adjust our food budget. We had to eat out less and cut back on other things to spend more money on vegetables, fruits and meat. On top of that, we love to shop at our local farmers market- which can be a tad pricier but so much fresher. Once hubby tasted the fruits, there was no turning back. 

How about traditional chinese meals? We still have time, just less of the sauces. If we travel overseas, we eat. We recognise that it is a small percentage of our meals overall so as long as it doesn’t make our tummy hurt, we don’t see a problem. IMG_2318 (640x427)

Same goes to eating out. I do think it is much easier to do so here than in Asia countries where there are processed carbohydrates everywhere. Even my own mother brings her lunch to work because she found that there are way too much processed food at foodcourt in the hospital she works in! 

But back to Strawberry Crumble Cakes. That’s the reason why I experiment. I want hubby and Asher to know that we can have healthy treats that fuel the body. They make us feel good- all the time. Not just the 5 minutes that will pass our lips. IMG_2321 (640x427)

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Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tart + Reconnection in a Marriage

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut TartHave you ever have those moments in your marriage that you appear to be travelling on the same page, but really you are going in opposite directions? 

A friend attended a wedding recently. In the midst of our happy conversation, I recall moments of our weddings, attendance of friends’ weddings and being part of the bridal party. We are at the age where we have witnessed quite a few of our friends getting hitched. We laughed a lot, danced and even shed a few tears at some of these unions. 

A wedding is not a marriage. Marriage that comes after the celebration is the real test. Marriages go through their developmental stages of changes. Adjusting to being newly weds, negotiating families dynamics, readjusting when a child arrive… Indeed there are so many stressors when a child arrive. IMG_1888 (640x427)

Unfortunately where we have been in happy parties, we are also aware of unions that are at the risk of being dissolved. Tears, anger, frustration and betrayal. They make us realise how vulnerable a marriage is. 

Those moments where hubby and I are travelling in opposite directions often leave warning signs. Exhaustion, one of us being sick, Asher being unwell, a conversation did not involve us or each other but rather the everyday routine. While we can be in synch, we became out of synch. It doesn’t feel like we are in a team anymore, but rather we are just existing in our everyday life. We start to do our own checklist of tasks, but neglect to see what each other needs. IMG_1891 (640x427)

One thing we have learned, is to not leave these not of sync moments for too long. We learned that it is inevitable that moments like that will occur. I will be lying to say we never have those days. The reconnection bit is hard but needed. 

Sometimes, all we need is a good chocolate tart, hot cup of tea and some music. Perhaps a long walk or time set aside to have a proper conversation on what happened. Other times, the build up becomes an argument. Over small things. Another warning sign that shock us into taking action. I needed to calm down, and hubby went out to grab some errands. Then he returned with a coffee cup and suddenly, it all seems better. The act of care. It says “I’m in this” and nothing else but us matters again. IMG_1889 (640x427)

I love how this tart turned out because I finally nailed the pastry! It was easy to remove and has a melt in your mouth texture. Turns out less is more and it worked! Happy moment. Less learnt- simplicity works the best. 

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Ricotta Chives Waffles + Work Life Balance

IMG_1845 (640x427)Balance is such an subjective word. What is balance for you may not be balance for us. A recent conversation with a close girlfriend got me thinking….

Balance is the perceive notion that there is even weight given. Work-Life Balance would suggest that one has managed to figure out how to ensure both are given equal amount of attention and work. Equal. That word lies heavily on me. I would love to say I’m happy with the “balance” on the day in and out basis. Sure I like my job, and I certainly like being at home. Is it balance? I think “balance” means fine tuning takes place on a weekly, if not daily basis. IMG_1849 (640x427)

In reality, I believe that it is what we choose to prioritise. What we choose to concentrate and focus on, and perhaps  even what we choose to let go. Balance is perhaps not the best word for us. Like most people, we have bad and good weeks. We have events that throw us off. Our emotions get better of us. Or perhaps someone falling sick means plans need adjustment. 

Balance perhaps is what you perceive as working for your family. Each family takes it quite differently because most of us have different priorities plus developmental changes What we choose to do depends on that too. Balance for us means we have to accept that at our stage in life, we may not get as much time together as a couple than what we have before. However, we choose to spend time as a family figuring out Asher’s personality, likes/dislikes and how can we develop him in his potential. We chose for me to work which means we have to make do with simple or batch cooking for meals, adequate cleanliness and ironing that sometimes pile up. We choose for hubby to concentrate on his career, which means he looks for opportunities to develop himself. I choose to concentrate on strength and performance at the gym, which means I’m trying to focus less on image but more on development. IMG_1845 (640x427)

Do we want more of something? That’s a big YES! Perhaps it is human nature, but hubby and I love to have more time together. We are still learning how to be a couple again on top of being parents. We like to spend more time doing up parts of the house, and most of all, be able to have more time with both sides of our families. There are times when hubby and I give up going for courses because we have other priorities even though the courses might interest us. 

Is balance a series of choices then? 

It’s a really interesting topic because hubby and I never talked about being “balance”. We spoke about how we need to shift things around to make things work. One thing that works to our advantage is that the working hours in Australia is shorter than Asia. That provides the perceive notion that we have a more balance approach to life. Somehow I do agree with that because the shorter hours means there are more option provided to us. I also feel for my family and friends whose life seem to be consume with work. I believe we do work hard here though. I think it is such a myth that being in laid back Australia means there are no hard workers around. Sure we all know of people who slack or we might even question why some individuals are in certain positions. However, I know more people who takes work seriously and commit themselves to it when they are there. Hubby starts work 7ish, and I know that he has already started replying emails and working while on public transport, right down to when he comes back. My part time hours means I generally do not have a break (Yes, I know, probably not legal but I like to make sure my minutes are well accounted for) on some days. I have friends who push themselves and work longer hours than they should. 

Balance perhaps is a cultural option as well. Perhaps we are luckily here because we have the option. That I count us very very lucky.

If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably aware that whenever I can, I like to have breakfasts at any time of the day. On our wedding anniversary, I made some waffles for lunch. It was a real simple savoury one that we enjoyed with some lovely gluten free lamb and rosemary sausages. I did have a small side salad that was not shown in the picture. For these waffles, I attempted to whip the egg whites to give it more of a lift. However, I neglected to note that my waffle maker does thin and crispy waffles. Not the Belgium style type. So…. my waffles turned out crispy anyway! Major DOH moment. IMG_1848 (640x427)

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Carrot and Basil Bread

IMG_1844 (640x427)I see it in his eyes. He is tired. What do you do when one of your favourite person in the world is tired? 

From an encouraging word, to making sure meals are being looked after. Truth is, the rat race isn’t easy. Just like a modern woman battling with the balance of working and home, I can see that the modern man is facing that as well.IMG_1842 (640x427)

My hubby is a hands on father. I remember in the first 6 months that Asher was born, hubby said he felt that he could not do much. In fact, he did. He changed Asher’s first diaper, get peed on, and practiced unconditional love when Asher screamed for 3 hours when he was born in his arms, while I was in theatre. At home, he does the laundry, emptied the bins and water the plants. He make us breakfast once a week. He wakes up in the middle of the night when Asher wakes, even if it is to make me a hot drink or to cuddle Asher while I have a loo break.

IMG_1839 (427x640)These days,  he is even more hands on with Asher. No matter how tired he is when he returns home, he would spend time playing and cuddling him. I know that in the morning, he would leave work a little later just so he can have some time with him. 

With each family, there are challenges. Ours is no different. Sometimes I think hubby faces the same challenges I do in balancing it all. I see it in his face. Choosing work or being at home a few minutes early. Sleeping in an extra few minutes or getting up to empty the dishwasher. Replying that email or reading a book. Having a child also means the focus is a lot on him, and our relationship can get neglected. I cannot put more on him because I know his time is filled. That can be a spiralling cycle where I feel tired from not asking from help. 

I’m grateful though that, those choices he make made us where we are and who we are. 

I make this loaf for a few reasons. The biggest one is that it is a portable snack or breakfast item for hubby. The other, was the celebrate our friends who visited from Singapore a while back. They stayed for breakfast and we had a ball. Nourishing my friends’ tummy resulted in me and Asher feeling nourished with adult company and friendship. Besides, carrot and basil is a combination that can’t go wrong. More veggies in the morning? yes please!Carrot and Basil Loaf

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