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I think we leave a little bit of ourselves behind, wherever we’ve made a home.

I didn’t love living in Singapore, yet when I think about the city-state, many memories and distinctive places come flooding back. I can paint such vivid images in my head that I feel as though I must be walking through as a ghost, right there this minute.

I think about that little curve up Craig Road, and the first cafe I set foot in by myself on an early weekend morning in search of some familiarity, some sustenance, and some company. It’s now closed, but at that time, I learned it was one of the first cafes offering some of the fares I craved (avocado toast, maybe?). Next to it, the junk/treasure antique shop owned by the cantankerous old man who took a liking to me and saved me the pair of chairs I bought, even though another person had ‘reserved’ them.

Mostly, these images I conjure up have a feeling of loneliness attached to them. It was a time in my life where I didn’t have anyone close to me in the same city, let alone time zone, and I was struggling to figure out who I was going to be and what I was going to accomplish, while waking up every morning alone in a strange land without having anyone to say anything to, for hours, until maybe at some point in my co-working space, a polite “good morning” or “excuse me.”

And I think about the many footprints I’ve left behind in Thomson Medical Centre. How I came across my obstetrician in December 2016 in the middle of a miscarriage, and subsequently became so intimately familiar with the routine of visiting the corner office on the third floor. The images that I can immediately think of are the awkward lock on the bathroom doors, the strangely low row of sofas that are soft and worn, the loop of news on ChannelNews Asia in the waiting area, the framed newspaper clipping next to the examination chair/table that I would rest my eyes on every time, and the familiar nurses’ faces . Even though I’m horrible with recognising faces, I bet I’d be able to pick out the ones who were so good with blood work no matter where I see them next.

Those images are tinged with a period of uncertainty, transition, tiredness, and hope. It was this very pink hospital (pink gowns, pink sheets maybe?, warm lighting everywhere…it just feels pink?) that gave me the very first ultrasounds and dopplers showing and hearing a heartbeat growing inside me, saw me through a very long and a very short labour, put me in charge of two humans I now worry about constantly, and in a way, rebuilt me as a person. I arrived in Singapore pumped with adrenaline about work and what I was going to make of a business with my bare hands. I departed full of breastmilk, knowledgeable about Calpol dosages and the effects of amoxicillin and growth charts and percentiles, very early in my journey of reconciling what it means to have a career and be a mom.

I think about the countless taxi and Uber rides we took in Singapore (blue and yellow taxis were the favourite, red ones not so much. Other colours generally only used when desperate). How it felt like a luxury at first – like sneaking a bite of chocolate when nobody’s looking, because how did we get so lucky to have such affordable cab fares to ferry us around? It was an indulgence, and it only took us on important missions like midnight airport trips for flights back to London, business meetings in new and unexplored areas of Singapore. Gradually, they became the norm and I remember piling into taxis with our visiting friends, proclaiming “it’s too hot” for any other mode of transportation. Then, as I descended into pregnancy vomit-phase, a lifeline where I would sit limply in the seat, sucking on a hard candy or a dried sour plum, silently and mentally preparing for my next client meeting without being able to make conversation en route. Once Ellie arrived, taxis were leveraged for convenience. She started off in our arms, then in carriers strapped to us, then restrained in our laps clambering to look curiously out the window. But I remember the most those trips to the doctor’s office when she was ill, and would slump listlessly against my body during the ride, how different it felt from those times when she wouldn’t sit still. At work, taxis also became more frequent as I found myself meeting more clients and pitching more new business. At that time, it was just something I did. Now, I think about the significance of that subtle transition in my role and how I achieved my goals.

If there was one taxi uncle who drove me around throughout my time in Singapore, he’d probably be able to tell me the changes he saw in me in my four years. As it were, taxis showed how much my life transformed, and how my priorities shifted, and how I matured as a person – all in Singapore, all in four years.

The next time I set foot in Changi Airport, I look forward to stepping from the air-conditioned arrival hall into the humid air, to be assigned to a taxi from the incredibly efficient taxi rank. I wonder which corners of the city will stir up memories as I travel the island, that I’ll be able to share with whoever I’m with at that time, and if they’ll even care or know what I’m talking about. Like it or not, I’ve left a piece of me in Singapore.

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Homemade brioche doughnuts

Homemade brioche doughnuts

The idea came like this: I got the Stella Parks Brave Tart book some time in early April, and it has a complicated doughnut recipe that involves mashing up a potato. I thought I might try it. Then one day I was browsing through Half Baked Harvest’s blog and came across some brioche doughnuts she made with a pretty strawberry glaze. That reminded me that all my favourite store-bought doughnuts are brioche doughnuts. To be safe, though, I googled some more brioche doughnut recipes and came across the winner – Justin Gellatly from Bread Ahead Bakery in London, whose doughnuts I have definitely eaten in Borough Market, has a recipe! Also, it’s from the recipe book I have been eyeing forever but still haven’t bought!

So of course I gave this recipe a try. And then I made it again because it’s SO GOOD. I halved the recipe each time, so really, I only made one batch?

The end result is so fluffy and light, that the first time we ate it, we inhaled 7 doughnuts between 3 adults, 1 toddler and 1 baby in one sitting. Then I double-checked the ingredient list and even measured out the oil I used up in frying the second time around, to do a quick calorie calculation. It turns out, each doughnut is only about 116 calories (before glazing/sugaring)! Considering that some weight loss programmes have 100-calorie snacks, I’d say these are not looking too indulgent, but they are so much more delicious than cardboard-esque granola bars and “sugar-free” desserts.

The recipe is very easy to put together but does take time. You’ll need to let the dough rise in the fridge overnight for a second proofing, so manage your time accordingly!

Brioche Doughnut Ingredients (you can easily double the recipe as it was originally double and I halved it to tame the glutton in me)

  • 250g flour (I used all-purpose, but if you have bread flour, it’s recommended)
  • 30g sugar
  • 3g salt
  • 3g instant yeast (or 7.5g fresh yeast if you can find it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 75g water (room temperature/tepid is okay, doesn’t have to be warm)
  • 62.5g butter, softened
  1. Roughly whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and instant yeast so it’s mixed together evenly. Then put everything but the butter in your mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, beat for 8 minutes on medium high speed.
  2. The mixture is ready for the next step when it forms a dough that pulls away from the sides completely without much interference. (I stop the mixer once or twice to scrape it down because I’m not using my own KitchenAid with the scrape paddle these days.) Let the dough rest for a minute or two before the next step.
    Homemade brioche doughnuts
  3. Beat in the butter in 2 – 3 additions, then continue to beat on high until the dough is super elastic, shiny, and tacky but doesn’t stick to surfaces and your hands hopelessly.
    Homemade brioche doughnuts
  4. The dough is now ready to rise at room temperature for 2 – 3 hours, until at least double. I made a mistake the first time and let it more than double, and the end result was so good that I decided to let it rise like that again the second time.
    Homemade brioche doughnuts Homemade brioche doughnuts
  5. Punch down once it’s doubled – and you can punch really well here, I sort of just pushed it down and that didn’t help with the frying process later, so if I were doing it again I’d be more thorough about this. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. When you’re ready to make the doughnuts, remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 20 balls of 25g each. You could make your life easier by making them 10 balls of 50g each, like the original recipe suggested.
  7. Here’s how to shape a brioche dough ball properly: Lightly flour yoru work surface. Flatten the dough ball to about 1cm thick or less, then fold the edges all in towards the middle (kind of like pinching it closed?) so that there’s a smooth top and a bottom where the edges all join. Cupping your hand, put the dough ball with the seam side down on the work surface and sort of bounce it around within your cupped hand. Swoosh, swoosh…and you’ll have a nice round shape with a flat bottom.
  8. Let the formed dough balls rest on a floured tray, keeping them about 5cm apart. Cover with cling film, then a tea towel overtop. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size.
    Homemade brioche doughnuts Homemade brioche doughnuts
  9. You’re ready to fry! Heat canola or other good quality high-temperature frying oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Gently remove what feels like light little pillows from the tray. Drop in two balls at a time. Fry for about 1 – 2 minutes on each side until just golden / lightly browned. You should have a ring of dough in the middle that isn’t able to get colour – that’s normal. If you didn’t punch down the dough well enough earlier, you might get huge air bubbles that prevent you from flipping the doughnuts around, that’s okay. Just do the best you can.
  10. Cool on a cooling rack lined with paper towels. Roll in sugar when it’s still warm (but not hot) if you’d like. Or, try the glaze below.
    Homemade brioche doughnuts Homemade brioche doughnuts
Homemade brioche doughnuts

Raspberry White Chocolate Glaze Ingredients (adapted from this recipe from Half Baked Harvest)

  • 75g raspberries (I used berries from a frozen bag bought from the store, thawed at room temperature)
  • 80g Lindt white chocolate bar, melted
  • dash of salt
  • 30g icing sugar
  1. Mash the thawed and soft/mushy berries through a fine sieve strainer, getting as much juice and fine puree out as possible and leaving behind the seeds.
  2. Mix with the melted white chocolate until smooth, then mix in the icing sugar and stir until no lumps remain.
  3. Stir and use the glaze at room temperature. You may need to stir every so often to ensure a good consistency. If you need to take a break, cover it up and stir it well before using again.
  4. Dip each doughnut in the glaze and top with sprinkles or anything else you might fancy. The glaze keeps well at room temperature and due to the icing sugar, will gently crust and set after a while.

Wow, has it been almost a month since I last updated? I don’t know if it’s because I’m on maternity leave or because we’re on lockdown mode or both, but the days just really meld into one another and I feel like we’re just living in an extra long day/month/year.

I mean, it’s already the beginning of May…but it also feels like 2020 hasn’t really begun.

April was supposed to bring some new activities to our daily mix. A bit more regimen now that Ellie was pretty settled with being at daycare while I went to the gym, and a bunch of new community centre courses for her, and even one for both of them to do together. It’s all come to a screeching halt, and I look at the calendar daily with all my carefully marked activities that are now all cancelled. What a year this is turning out to be.

The weather has thankfully been pretty delightful, so that we’ve been able to do afternoon walks in the trail everyday after lunch. We’ve all gotten stronger as a result: I can now push them through the trail easily with the new dual jogging stroller, and Ellie can walk about half of the trail (just shy of 800m) happily by herself without complaint. We look for whimsically painted rocks which keeps everyone intrigued.

This is the same trail that I’ve walked since…*drumroll*…September 1997. It’s where I befriended one of my good friends who’s still a friend today (I asked her to tie my shoelaces on my Pippen shoes because they were the rounded type that’s super slippery and I couldn’t get them to stay. I wish my story were more nuanced than this…? Or not.)

I’ve foraged on this trail this year too – thought I spotted elderflowers and it turns out I have, although I’m still unsure if they’re “common” elderflowers or a slightly different variety. Anyway, I’ve made elderflower syrup and it’s pretty neat. If we weren’t in lockdown mode I might be tempted to track down citric acid to add to it to make it more authentic.

I’ve made a few new recipes, some successes, so I’ll be documenting that at some point. Highlight would be a raspberry ice cream I had been thinking and dreaming of since February when I first had some raspberry ice cream at Earnest Ice Cream in Vancouver. Ellie was pretty thrilled about the replica until the second time she had it, a seed got stuck in her tooth and since then she’s eyed it suspiciously. We have two pints.

I thought I might finish some of my crafty projects in April – I dug up a bunch of unfinished stuff from years ago during the month – but nothing has been completed so far. I’ve got a quilt and a cross stitch that began around this time in 2017 (before kids!) that I’d love to finish before I begin something new. I’ve also found my fabrics and patterns for a couple of kids clothing items that I could make. I’ve really missed my sewing machine. When I made masks this month with my machine, it made me happy. I didn’t think I would miss sewing but there I was, admiring the little machine that could.

Part of me is anxious to know what will really happen this year. Will I get a job? Will we move to our own house? Or will it be December all of a sudden and we’re all still here, in some sort of social distancing mode still?

I had gotten pretty far with a job and I think it was probably going to be bordering on offer and negotiation phase when everything shut down. I met the team the day before they all began working from home, and shortly thereafter I got the email to say their hiring is now on hold. Their business is dealing with a lot of small businesses who are going to be hardest hit, so I don’t know if it’ll pick back up again in the short term.

Does anyone know when 2020 will resume?

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