Journey.

So here we are.

12 long months have flown by since I left my job last year in an attempt to seek for more meaningful life. My quest was simple; to be happy and to truly live the life by example for my darling girl.

At first, I felt relieved. I no longer had to drive 45mins long and spend another 30mins trying to find parking space twice a week. There was no more rushing to get to and from, no more anxiety whether I’ll get to the nursery on time, no more guilt if I was doing the right thing by leaving my child in day care when I am not even breaking even and no more restless longing for something better suited and fulfilling.I now had freedom of working for myself.
Finally, the opportunity to dig deep and materialise that long lost dream of designing purposeful clothes was there, right in front of me. (I will tell you more about that another time.)

I was excited, exuberant in fact. With the surge of adrenaline pumping deep and hard, I pushed on with the project. I had no real experience except that I am creative. Sometimes all seemed too easy. Other times I felt completely out of depth. But do it with passion and you will eventually get there, right? So I carried on, desperate to show something. I was quite desperate to be proud of myself for something other than being a mother. Not that being a mother wasn’t enough of accolade itself, but I craved this work thing.
I wanted show myself I still had it in me to do whatever I wanted, like the time when I first came to London at the age of barely 20 with next to non existent English. I was brave, then. No fear, beautiful naivety of youth and driven. I am still quite proud of making this far. But then again, back then, it was all about survival.

But slowly, faced with few challenges along the way, my doubtful mind outweighed my confidence, and came the fear. When the fear takes the control over you, it can become such a powerful darkness. It’s a feeder of all doubts. It felt like the game was over.

The truth is, my approach was little shambolic. Rushed. Not measured enough. Considering I only just managed to get myself out of the thick fog of what I call, post natal identity crisis, to jump into something without having solid foundation, by that I mean mentally, it was always going to crack, at some point.
I had temporarily forgotten this was about self discovery or maybe even a reinvention. And that the answers to who I have become since the birth of Kiki was all in me, somewhere deep inside of me waiting to be uncovered. It was to be explored for the purpose to truly understand what this motherhood has gifted me with.

So I slowed down. Looked no further than me and my surroundings. I wondered if I was feeling the feels. Was I honest of my emotions? Where was my head at right now? I wanted to know me inside out and ground up.

What I realise is that I am often driven by my emotions. Sometimes it takes over everything and I can be blinded and head over heals. I am passionate by nature. I’m a dreamer. I can often be hard on myself, but my glass is always half full. I probably have lived in denial that I was going to shrink back to pre pregnancy weight in a click of fingers. I most definitely didn’t consider drinking couple of glasses of wine every evening since the birth of my child to be a problem. I mean it was just to take the edge off and suitably numb the traumas of relentless mothering and the challenging yet lacklustre daily mundane, if you know what I mean.
But above all, I am not afraid of my emotionally rich soul. And if it needs to be, I can explore the dark place. Suffering to a degree, I think allows me to grow.

You know, knowledge is a power, as they say.
The journey of self discovery has brought me to be fully aware of what was going on and how cluttered my mind was. And I come to conclusion that to be truly happy, I need to accept and surrender to who I am, to nurture my soul and change the bad habits to nourish my body. Self-awareness is a powerful tool that we should all tap into to give ourselves a break; the love and care it deserves.

I now also know, that the vulnerability can be the first positive step towards growth and strength. Baring it all is scary. Truth often speaks so much of painful memories. Over powering emotions are rather consuming. But we are humans. We’re made to feel. We’re complexed. The connection you make with yourself and others, once you’re truly true to yourself is deeply profound and liberating.

So here I am. At last, working everyday to really live the life in the moment, finding joy in small things that every day to day mundane brings me. Fine tuning the art of slow living; the gift that motherhood brought me. The better version of me.

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Korean Fried Chicken
makes 8 pieces

for the marinade 
4 chicken wings, cut into 8 pieces
2tbsp buttermilk
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 mild curry powder (optional)
1tbsp mirin

for the batter
2tbsp cornflour
1tbsp plain flour and extra for dusting
1/2tsp baking powder
some sparkling water

for the spicy sauce
2tbsp tomato ketchup
1/2tbsp  korean chilli paste
1/2tbsp soy sauce
1/2tsp English mustard
1/2tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2-1tbsp maple syrup
1tbsp rice vinegar
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
pinch of Korean chilli powder or crushed chilli (optional)

to garnish
handful of toasted peanuts and pumpkin seeds

Koreans do fried chicken really well. Actually I think no one does it better than Koreans, to tell you the truth. It’s the kind of food that is deeply embedded in Korean culture. From young to old, everyone loves a bit of fried chicken. My grandmother had a food stall selling fried chickens. I grew up having this humble morsels straight out from slightly greased paper takeaway box as a treat. Then over a few beers with friends, later on as an adult, while we put the world right.

When made well, the batter is at its lightest. It is often served with pickled cubed mooli or shredded white cabbage salad. Traditionally, they’re fried twice for extra crispness. I am frying mine only once and then oven bake to keep it on the healthier side.

You could make a meal out of it if you bulk it up with some sweet potato wedges and served it with coleslaw salad and/or some pickles. I do think the sour comes from pickled mooli really cuts through the dish and balances the flavour.

First of all, to marinade chicken, mix all ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag and give them a good massage. Leave them in the fridge preferably over night but couple of hours will also do fine.
Use of buttermilk makes the chicken extra tender and it gets rid of smell. You could use yogurt or milk instead if you wish. I cut the wings in half to make them smaller but you could use any other preferred joints. Just be mindful of cooking time.

When ready to fry, drain the chicken pieces and dust them with little flour. Put them into a large bowl. Coat them well with dry batter ingredients. Add the sparkling water to loosen the mixture ever so slightly. The batter should be still fairly thin but not runny. Add more cornflour or water if necessary to get the right consistency. You could use beer instead if you wish.

Fry the chicken pieces in hot oil and place them on kitchen towel to drain excess fat. The aim is to get the coatings nice and light golden. Be careful while frying as it might splatter or spit.
Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. Line the baking tray with grease proof paper and bake the chicken for 25mins or so until cooked thoroughly, golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, place all spicy sauce ingredients into small sauce pan. Bring it up to boil then gently simmer until slightly sticky. You may want to add a splash of water. Taste and balance the sweet, sour and hot to your liking. It shouldn’t be too hot. Spicy kick with sweet and sour is what I look for.

When chickens are cooked, coat them generously with sauce and chosen garnish.

Hope you enjoy.

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Life truly is a journey, isn’t it?
So I’m going to take it slow and savour this delicious moments I get to create with my tribe.

We grow together.

‘The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.’ – Osho

It is true, you know.

It’s been almost 20 months since Kiki has joined the gang on this earth side. The small baby of ours who used to be so reliant on us round the clock, are now seeking her own freedom.
She’s walking, talking and constantly demonstrates her ability to challenge both of us and her surroundings. She is small but fiery pocket rocket who is not yet understood the ramifications of passionately expressing her feelings in public. She loses all senses when she’s not happy and goes straight on the floor with all burnt out floppy limbs and cries her lungs out like no one’s business. Then again, she does also find humour in silliness. It never fails to make me feel so high when she cackles breathless. She’s an emotionally rich soul with the swagger of her father. She became her own person.
We, somehow, miraculously, created a corker.

I always thought I wasn’t a natural mother. I definitely wouldn’t tick myself as an earthy type, if there was any boxes to tick or cross. I thought I struggled and was the only person perhaps incapable of embracing this what is considered to be a wholesome experience. For the past 20 months, I would often tell people that I am not a natural mother, that I am just trying my best keeping my small human alive. I doubted my ability to mother so tirelessly.

And that small child of mine is alive, thriving in fact. Somehow we have managed to navigate our way through the unknown.
I’ve learnt she’s not as fragile as I fear but fearless and agile, loves a bit of rough and tumbles, doesn’t like being hungry and has strong will and stubbornness of both her mother and father. She also has rather sweaty head and smelly feet. I think it’s the thick curly mops from her father and my easily sweaty chubby feet.
She also probably knows that she has us under her thumb. But I don’t mind. I won’t take her cheeky fake tears away to knock her confidence. I like that she is charming.

The thing is, I finally found motherhood interesting.
It’s not easy, for sure. How could it be easy when you’re the influence of her being though? I used to constantly ask myself questions after questions and google absolutely everything came to my head wondering what other parents would do. But in the end, for me, it was up to me; up to us, Toby and I. It was the collaboration between informations and decisions; my ethos and belief; husband and wife; mother and father; parents and child that mattered, no one else.
And after all those months questioning myself if I was doing the right thing by adopting a ‘no-method-but-go-with-the-flow-within-the-reasonable-boundaries’ free styling, well, it turns out I didn’t do too bad.

It’s a huge learning process for all us, isn’t it?
Since the birth of our child, Toby and I have been constantly working out how we could function better as a family. In our subconscious minds, we eat, sleep and breathe wondering how we can bring the world we love to her so she can really live her life to full. Since Kiki, I never stopped looking at my own childhood with my tired eyes, desperately hoping not to repeat the same things that I used to dislike. Not to mention my quiet desire of wanting to sneakily expose her to the things that I always wished to do well or be. And I think it’s this very process of delving deep into our own insecurities, allows us to grow.
We adult through our children, perhaps.

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Roasted Tofu and kimchi Spring Rolls
makes around 12

for tofu
1 pack of firm tofu
1tbsp sesame oil
2tbsp tamari soy sauce
1tsp dark soy sauce
2tbsp mirin
1tbsp cider vinegar
3tbsp water
1tsp chiu chow chilli oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1inch ginger, finely grated
pinch of black pepper
sprinkle of brown demerara sugar (optional)

for pickled carrots
2 medium size carrots, julienned
2tbsp rice vinegar
1 fresh lime, juiced
1/2tsp sugar
pinch of salt

for rolls
12 rice paper
12 small young kale leaves (6 cut in half if large), blanched and rubbed in olive oil and lemon juice
fresh coriander and mint leaves
some kimchi (shop bought), finely chopped
handful of peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
crispy onions (shop bought)

Although it can be little fiddly to assemble if you’re not used to making these, this spring rolls offer quite a taste sensation. Roasted tofu itself can be made in advance if you like. You could throw these into rice bowl with some vegetables and enjoy it with some Sriracha or even Korean chilli paste to add extra kick.
Pickled carrots will taste perfectly sweet and sour like the sort you get in banh mi. Addition of kimchi adds depth of flavour and kick.
I used a lot of short cuts to make the prep easy as no one, especially those with small humans have a lot of time.

First of all, place the block of tofu on a plate with another flat tray on top and use something heavy to extract excess moisture. Couple of cans of baked beans will do it. After 30mins, blot it with some kitchen paper, cut them into 12 sticks and put them in a roasting dish. In a separate bowl mix rest of tofu ingredients, pour it over tofu in the roasting dish. Sprinkle sugar if using.
Roast them for 40mins turning once mid process at 180º. When ready, remove it from the tray to cool down.

While tofu is roasting, you can prepare pickled carrots and sort out the rest of bits and pieces so they’re ready to go.
Kales will need to be blanched quickly after removing hard stalks, then rubbed thoroughly with some olive oil and lemon juice to soften.
I would also highlight, although kale in this recipe provides wonderfully deep earthy flavour, it can be quite hard to take a bite if it hasn’t been softened enough. I purposely used young leaves for that reason, but if you’re worried, you can always shred them or opt for baby gem or cos lettuce.

Assembly is simple. Well, relatively.
You need shallow bowl with warm water to soak the rice paper. Each paper should only be dipped for no more than couple of seconds and you do this as you go along, not all at once.
Place wet softened rice paper onto flat surface, place all components onto the top half of the circle, fold over the bottom then tuck one side and roll. This will give you open rolls like mine. If you prefer to have sealed rolls, just place all components in the middle of the rice paper disc, fold over bottom end, tuck both sides and roll.
Once you try few times, you will get the hang of it. If all fails, just get people to wrap theirs themselves which will also be quite fun.
I’m banking on the days I can ask Kiki to make her own and mine, too.

As each components are all well seasoned and sourness from pickles and kimchi provides enough sauce alike, I personally don’t think it requires dipping sauce. But as with anything else, it is up to you.

Hope you enjoy.

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Let me tell you. She still has me in tears and belly laughs all in the same breath. There’re many days that my sanity is being pushed to the knife edge and somedays it’s just plain boring hard for no reason. But I know I am doing the best at staggering on and Kiki knows that she is loved with an inch of our bone and to the death. And I think that really is the truth of motherhood; parenthood. We’re all doing the same, trying and in it together.