Happy Lunar New Year 2017 – More Than Just Food

happycny2017

Even though this year I am again unable to make the trip back home for the reunion dinner, reliving some of the taste of home certainly brings me back to the fragrance of our late grandma’s table and the merry chit-chat of three generations’ folks around it.

Growing up in a close knitted family and having a tradition to remember is indeed a blessed thing. I hope our two girls, too, will grow up with a table and family tradition to cherish. Because a shared meal means so much more than just happy tummies. As the saying goes, the family that eats together stays together.

Wishing all of you a warm reunion and blessed Lunar new year!

P. S.
Sharing with you our favorite pork belly family recipe so that I will not be the only one coming out with belly excess this CNY 😉

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Fragrant Fried Pork Belly

This dish was a regular on my late grandma’s table during the Chinese New Year. With good food and good company of loved ones, there’s no way to not look forward to savoring this tasty pork belly together around the family’s table.

Serves: 4
Preparation: 10 minutes
Active cooking time: 45-60 minutes

Ingredients:
400 grams pork belly (cut into 4 long strips, each about 2 cm thick)
1 bulb garlic, bruised
8 cloves shallot, bruised
1.5 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
Dashes of pepper
Cooking oil
Water

Cooking steps:
1. Heat oil in the wok and stir fry the garlic and shallot until fragrant.
2. Add in the pork belly, sugar, salt and pepper, and stir fry for one minute.
3. Stir in the oyster sauce and add water to cover the pork.
4. Simmer the pork belly with lid on the wok for one hour or until the meat is tender and the sauce dries up, add extra water whenever necessary.
5. When the pork belly is tender and the sauce dries up, remove from heat and set aside.
6. Heat oil in wok and deep fry the strips until it browns (I am using the Airfryer for this final step, 4 minutes each side on 180C, to spare me the oil splashes caused by the pork’s skin when fried. Alternatively you may remove the skin in the beginning, or slightly coat the strips with corn starch prior to deep frying.)
7. Cut the strips into bite size and enjoy this fragrant dish with warm rice, and while doing so, you may forget about your own belly.

Spring Cleaning and Decluttering A la KonMari

Chinese New Year

It’s the time of the year for family reunion, angpaos, festive feasts and delightful cookies, and of course not forgetting, it’s the time for massive cleaning and decluttering of the house.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, it is traditionally considered auspicious to thoroughly clean the house in order to rid the bad luck and make way for the incoming good one.

I am sharing with you in this post some useful tips from Marie Kondo, author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Because, auspiciousness aside, it is always good to usher in the new year with a fresher and tidier house.

Decluttering and Discarding

The KonMari method advised discarding as the first step towards an uncluttered and tidy house. Some of us are hoarders by nature (think about those piles of stuff we stored away for years thinking ‘I might need it someday’ but never even knew if they still exist today, somewhere in the keeping), so discarding comes naturally hard on us. That’s why it’s the first on the list. And here are some more principles to help make discarding fast and, hopefully, less painful:

1. Choose what I really want to keep, not what I want to get rid of.
Because deciding what to discard is harder, we might end up with no significant less stuff. Scan each item with the “Do I really still need/want this?” question, keep the ‘yes’, and keep the ‘maybe’ to a minimum. Discard the rest. Do consider donating things that are still useful and in good condition, and recycling the recyclables.
*Someone did a great job compiling recipients of used but USEFUL goods donation here at http://honeykidsasia.com/charity-singapore-donation/

2. Do it by category not by location.
Done this way, we keep the focus and avoid having to sort similar items twice or more. *See below for help with item categorizing.

3. Sort in this sequence: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, mementos.
Start from the least-emotion-involving items (mementos invoke nostalgia and deep emotions) and items of the largest amount (usually clothes and books).

4. Let the things that have ‘fulfilled’ their purpose go.
Apart from special mementos, there are items which lie somewhere between ‘not really needed’ and ‘not really wanted’, yet are not easy to part with. Items like these are usually gifts we received, or souvenirs we impulsively purchased. Marie Kondo shared in her book that such items have fulfilled their purpose and it is appropriate to ‘thank’ them and let them go.

*Item Categorizing:

1.Clothing/apparels:

  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Clothes that should be hung
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Bags
  • Accessories
  • Clothes for specific events
  • Shoes

2. Papers:

  • Paper that needs attention (bill, mail to be answered, etc.); to be discarded immediately once done.
  • Important papers (contract, legal papers, etc.)
  • Paper needs keeping (warranties, insurance policies, etc.)

3. Miscellaneous, in this order of sorting:

  • CDs DVDs
  • Skin care products
  • Makeup
  • Accessories
  • Valuables (passport, credit cards, etc.)
  • Electrical equipment and appliances
  • Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
  • Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissue, etc.)
  • Kitchen goods and food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc.)
  • Others (spare change, figurines, etc.)

Home Organizing

Once done with the discarding process, the next step is to put the shortlisted items back to their proper places. Here’s Marie Kondo’s advice on how to efficiently store things, maximize storage and keep items regularly organized:

Fold the clothing and stack it vertically for easy visibility and access.

Fold the clothing and store it vertically for easy visibility and access.

1. Designate a storage place for every single item.
2. Store the same category of things at the same place.
3. Strive for as minimum location for storage as possible, i.e. do not scatter storage places all over the house.
4. Store similar categories of things near each other.
5. Use rectangular boxes instead of funny shaped ones.
6. Keep bath and kitchen sink free of items. It saves you wiping time and from having to wipe the brownish slime under those bottles of soap/detergent/cleaning agent.
7. Coins ALWAYS go into wallet.
8. Don’t pile things, store vertically (like books on bookshelves) if possible. The key is visibility. When piled, items at the bottom may get forgotten over time and end up being unused.
9. Store bags in bag, like the Matryoshka doll.
10. Items that usurp the floor space belong in the closet.
11. Unpack and de-tag new clothes immediately.

There you have it!

I hope the process of cleaning, tidying and decluterring our houses helps us also to appreciate and be thankful for our possessions, and to realize how we can actually be content with few things in life.

Happy spring cleaning and here wishing you a warm and wonderful reunion with your loved ones!

*Disclaimer: If you have little children at home, you will naturally have your kind of all year round spring-cleaning: things keep springing and you keep cleaning. Don’t feel discouraged to see the mess and clutter, see it as a mark of merry home and productiveness. Treasure this moment as the little ones will grow up and the house will be mess-free in no time. 🙂

The things keep springing out and you keep cleaning up.

Our kind of spring-cleaning, where things keep springing out and you keep cleaning up. 🙂

 

5 Years

Honey and Spice; that was our initial expectation of how marriage life would be like. That it would have its sweet-as-honey times, and many unpredictable moments with flavors not necessarily sweet yet rich as the spices. With this idea in mind we produced our own pre-wedding photobook.

Few months into it, we discovered that marriage life was not all that flavorful. It was but mostly tasteless, to our dismay. You know, you don’t buy flowers and chocolate very often (it’s neither good for your wallet nor your waistline), your heart doesn’t always go skipping one beat and you don’t even have that much of a fight; you just go about your days living your ordinary life and not the Korean dramas.

Thankfully, the unrealized expectation led us to a more accurate way of viewing (or tasting) marriage life. It’s not that marriage is not sweet or spicy, but its sweetness and spiciness are to be savored in the consistency of its blandness.

To draw the analogy to our bodily function, what we perceived before the wedding was the adrenaline. Once married, we realized that we are still living primarily on the constant cardiac beat, made exciting by occasional adrenaline moments.

As is the case with plain water and plain rice – things which are our staple needs; it takes perseverance and gratefulness to appreciate how its blandness is what makes a marriage life bearable, and its flavorful moments memorable.

Marriage is not going to change an ordinary life into an extraordinary one. But the fact that our marriage is still intact, that we are still waking up next to our spouse, serves as evidence to how our everyday, though plain as it may be, is graced with blessings from above. Before we knew it, this marriage has become a cherished bond we cannot live without.

Celebrating anniversary while revisiting this album is definitely one of our sweet moments, one that is filled with knowing giggles too. 🙂

(Song: 最重要的決定 by Fan Wei Qi)

P.S.
We were young couple in our twenties, with limited budget, wishing to marry. A DIY pre-wedding photobook was actually a money-saving alternative because getting a professional out there to do it would have cost us a bomb. To compensate for the absence of professional photography skill and fancy gowns, we created a theme with storyline and made do with whatever props we had free access to. The intention was to shift the focus of the album from being a photography artwork to a personal and creative work.
We owed big thanks to two of our friends, Shirleen for the make-up and Michael for the photo taking, this project was made possible only with their helping hands.

That's us! Happily married for 5 years and counting. :)

That’s us! Happily married for 5 years and counting. 🙂