Mom- and wife-to-be ♥️

Hello, Friends,

It’s been over a year since I’ve last posted here — my soulful corner of the universe. Many sweet happenings have sparked into motion since then.

I wish I could carve out every detail of my memory in writing, and obsessively so, like a neurosurgeon carrying out his finely tuned daily surgical brain procedures with a scalpel fit for a competent touch. But because much time has passed, I’ll do time-sweet-time the honour of letting it just be, and simply scan the surface of my vague and pirouetting thoughts.

A memorable milestone was travelling with my boyfriend (now fiancé) to Spain in October 2018, to visit his family. It was a very emotional and revealing experience for me as an autonomous and growing entity, and for us together. My growth was vast, deep — and tall — like an olive branch steadily peeking its worldly head through dust and debris towards the all-knowing sky.

The good ol' butt poke (Valencia, Spain)
The good ol’ butt poke (Valencia, Spain)

And he proposed to me, at his aunt’s apartment in León where he’d spent a grand majority of his childhood. It was no perfect moment. It was in fact the most imperfect moment we’d experienced as a unit — comically clumsy, too, in retrospect. Yet it was a transient moment of our lives that was most true and raw — that revealed the promise of stars on a gloomy night — and that ultimately revealed the wisdom of profound strength and compassion, and the truth of our hearts. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

No two stories are ever alike. And when I ponder back at that point in time, I feel both tears and a smile overtaking me. This was our story. This was the story of how our yesterdays synchronistically carved the expansive path of today. And how thankful I am for the love of my life, and for us.

El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

I loved walking hand-in-hand with my sweet love at the El Retiro Park in Madrid. The city was alive and bustling with social synergy, drinks and food, and everlasting life. But sometimes, a walk in the park was all it took to rejuvenate my tired spirit. Luckily for us, this park was only a walking distance from B’s parents’ home. It was filled with greenery, colourful leaves (we were reaching autumn at this time of year), and many cats!

El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
Nighttime walk in Madrid
Nighttime walk in Madrid
View from a top part of El Corte Inglés, near Sol metro station (Madrid)
View from a top part of El Corte Inglés, near Sol metro station (Madrid)
La Plaza Mayor de León (León, Spain)
La Plaza Mayor de León (León, Spain)

León, SpainLeón, Spain

Toledo, Spain
Toledo, Spain

Lookout from Parador de Toledo
Lookout from Parador de Toledo
The Aqueduct of Segovia
The Aqueduct of Segovia

Segovia at night
Segovia at night

Our trip to Spain was almost one year ago, and I miss it and B’s family very much. Even if I’d like to return right now or travel and explore unlimited terrains like the freshly grated, citrus-y younger version of me, I can’t, and for good reason: I’m pregnant (and fainting has become my best friend), and we’re getting married next year. Yay!

I look back on my blog since the me who began blogging in December 2013, and I’m astonished and heart-warmed by how much has evolved in my life — from university-days-me to career-woman-and-soon-to-be-mom-and-wife-me. Somehow, and with a graceful touch of serendipity, it’s been my experience that the beautiful always nested itself in unexpected territory.

I indeed still dream of foreign heights and the homey and comforting feeling of transitioning in airports and “what next’s”. But more than ever, my mind and heart have cradled themselves in the joyful comfort of knowing that next year, I’ll be walking down the aisle on the way to marrying the father of my child and husband-to-be, with our little bundle of fluff alongside us.

My heart is elated.

Blueberry cheesecake for a 36th

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My boyfriend turned 36 a few days ago, and for his birthday, I baked him his favourite: blueberry cheesecake. From the moment I learned that cheesecake was his tummy’s go-to (which was during the beginning of our ‘courtship’), I made a note in my agenda reminding myself to surprise him with this delectable and diabolic goodness.

Living together and working similar schedules makes planning surprises a slippery slope. What was intended to be a surprise for him turned out to be somewhat of a team project. We field-tripped to the grocery store together, and with me shyly grabbing cream cheese and graham crackers and hippity-hopping around the aisles looking for blueberries, he knew: I was baking him blueberry cheesecake. (Hello, inevitable!) I must say, kudos to him for being able to withstand not devouring it before the day of celebration, even though it was the ultimate temptress.

This occasion actually marked my first time baking cheesecake, and we were both wildly impressed. My boyfriend even continued having some over the following days for breakfast and dessert. I did overbake it a little though, and overload on the jam which overpowered the fine taste of the cheesecake itself. (Little notes for next time.)

My face is no longer mine. My cheeks have become ever so swollen — so much so, that I could be identified as a chipmunk who’s hiding nuts in its cheeks. Reason being? I ate too much cheesecake, friends.

Ingredients

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/3 cup blueberry jam

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Combine crumbs, 4 tablespoons sugar, and butter. Pat mixture into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan.
2. Mash cream cheese until soft and creamy. Slowly mix in sour cream, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and flour. Beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Pour mix into crumb-lined pan. Bake in oven for 1 hour or until firm.
4. Let cool, then melt blueberry jam over cake and add frozen blueberries.

See original recipe here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/7934/blueberry-cheesecake/

Sweet processions

Nostalgic summer dinners with Mom and Dad, and celebrating a surprise early birthday for Mom; roaming about the city on foot in the summer sun, with the Ottawa Race Weekend and annual community garage sale event for sweet company; returning to my happy place at Jo’s, and enjoying a maple scone at my usual spot by the window, whilst people-watching; and finally, lots and lots of flowers wherever I tread. Happiness, joy, and butterflies like childhood’s excitement and zest for life.

Suddenly, I fell in love with Ottawa — longing to stay, at least for a little longer. It took just the sight of enchanting blooms, the quiet, familial and happy atmosphere of the city, and smiling passersby roaming the streets, basking in the sun with loved ones, to make me wish I could live in my once-upon-a-time-ago city again — absence and fondness playing the Trickster.

What was important became increasingly clear. Daily inhalations and exhalations were wrapped with an unforgiving noose of ‘doings’ and ‘go-gettings’; goals had to be achieved, and a vision for the future awaited its timely fruition. Yet, time and time again, spending time with those I loved most, trumped the most wondrous of worldy possessions and milestones. Now, and only now, with love, appreciation, and gratitude.

April showers

It’s been raining quite a bit these days, which I secretly love and hope for, despite practicality vying for clear skies. Not necessarily sun, just a dry day in which my boots can confidently skip a mile or two towards nipping goals in the bud, which, given my current unruly circumstance, is due time.

But I can’t complain. It’s Friday afternoon, my roommates have scurried at — which, to my sleepyhead,  was — the wake of dawn, and here I am, alone again in the quiet corner of my cozy abode, my coffee black and bitter, with the sound of raindrops pitter-pattering against my window for friendly company — a sure greeting with solace.

I once contemplated the reason underlying my aversion to warm, sunny days, when everyone around me was praying to the cheeky gods of spring blooms, for perky weather fit for sun tan kisses and golden glows. “Euyuck,” I’d squint my eyes in disgust, tongue escaping my mouth for want of culinary freedom, like a sick child who’d just taken a teaspoon of nauseating cough drop syrup.

Yet, somewhere in the nooks and crevices of the person that is me, I understood: It was the discrepancy between the external world and my internal landscape. How far-fetched I was from bright, sunny skies and the sight of children playing hopscotch on sidewalks, ice cream cones in hand, laughing freely and unapologetically. Me, myself, and I — a sure stranger in this matrix, a plethora of sanguine bodies and colourful spirits.

It was on rainy days that my vulnerabilities would peek their newborn head into the room and kiss surrounding furniture with shy, childlike greetings. These were the days that showed promise — that the universe was with me in my moments of darkness, and that somehow the sky had understood, and was holding my hand in unison and silence. Today, I revel in it.

Shoutout to my homegirl, Jo

The battle of blue vanilla scones vs strawberry cheesecake buns
Blue vanilla scones for two

Matcha scones — the biggest scones I ever did meet

A visit to Ottawa, Little Jo Berry’s, March/April 2017

No matter where I am in the world — even after relocating to a different city — I always seem to find my way back to my hometown in Ottawa, to Little Jo Berry’s for Jo’s scrumptious vegan treats. Because maybe, just maybe, home is where the tummy is.

I’d mentioned Jo’s before — everything she bakes at her vegan bakery is sprinkled with funk, dedication, and passion. And while I’m not vegan myself, time and time again I’d somersault a mile for her scones, especially my beloved matcha, and, just recently, the blue vanilla, as she makes the most divine scones in the world — so much so, that I’d choose them over their non-vegan counterparts any day. (I’ve eaten a great many scones in my time; in fact, I’ve become a walking scone with four limbs.) They’re melt-in-your-mouth soft, with a moist crumble on the inside and the ideal level of sweetness.

When living in Ottawa, it was tradition for me to pre-order scones from Jo, enjoy one on site with a cuppa coffee on the morning of pick-up, and then bring the box home to my family. Little moments like these — bringing treats home to loved ones and sharing laughs with my favourite local baristas — have long been associated with feelings of home for me. That’s why, returning to my happy places — my long-time sacred nests of fond memories and solace — when visiting Ottawa, and recreating such moments, is always a heartwarming feat.

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Being back at Little Jo Berry’s recently, where eternal friendships were birthed, and seeing Maja — stunning as always in her casual yet sleek and sophisticated outfit, fit for a powerful feminine woman of the modern era — and her bright blue, oceanic eyes and warm smile that can set any room ablaze, and seeing Jo — her unicorn hair, a sassy palette of dancing shades of blue, pink, and purple — and hearing her roaring lioness laughter, meant that I was once again at my happy place.

As with any other day I find myself back in Ottawa, and at the same old memorable places, I knew and understood: Nothing in life was promising, yet there was the heart’s forever-companion, named Trust, that would always stand at the same street corner, under the same moon, waiting patiently for one’s return. That was home.

Shades of black

I was idiosyncrasies on acid. I lived in a world of saturations and hues, of hithers and tithers, of half moons and peaking sunsets. I didn’t aspire to become the Oxford period. I wanted to become the Oxford comma — the forever-becoming comma that repeatedly selected itself on broken keyboards.

I was mind over matter, both ancient and child, and in between the first and final Shakespearean Acts of life, my faithful master and servant was my will — the will to obliviate and rewrite my character, my life, my destiny. The choice was mine, yet never before have I felt the burden of my own slavery.

How much freedom there was in the abyss between thought, will, and action — the freedom to be the constant artist of one’s destiny on the canvas of no- thing, no- body, no- where. Yet what an illusion, what bittersweet mockery. One can be free from the shackles of tyranny and oppression, but remain a slave to one’s unbending will.

I sought the trickster, dreamt of him — and foolishly so. I was greeted by my own mirror image, the image of my becoming. It had been me all along, a snake chasing its own tail — the all-knowing sage orchestrating its own psychological and spiritual development.

I must will it, there’s no other way.

I was sheepishly existing among dust and debris, among worldly possessions and goals, while celestial bodies were pulling me an astronomical light year away. Home was among wolves that howled at moonlight — a time for sleep and chase, wild and uninhibited.

I run, and I sever my limbs. I can’t will it.

But will it, I must. I stay, and I choose my ultimate destruction.

Ghent, Belgium: Two feet, two wheels

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The port city of Ghent, sitting in the Flemish region comfortably between Brussels and Bruges, was another convenient and endearing day trip I took, being just about a 30-minute train ride away from Brussels.

When I arrived at the main train station in Ghent, I wondered which direction to take: right, left, up, down, diagonal? (I should’ve flipped a coin every time this happened, which, funnily, was often.) But once I spotted the historical centrum sign, I followed the same sign until I arrived at my destination. It took about 30 minutes to walk there, which gave me an opportunity to explore quiet, off-the-beaten tracks and sneak a glimpse of the local way of life in the process.

Once I was greeted by the imposing monuments at the historical centre, however, I was surprised to see many travellers and tourists — even more than in Bruges. I had read that Ghent is Belgium’s best kept secret, so with that in mind, I was expecting to stumble across nary a soul, but I was wrong — the historical centrum was bustling with visitors. It sounds paradoxical and rather comical, but I guess many people are highly aware that Ghent is a gem that not many people know about.

I also noted that there were many locals, young and old, riding bikes in Ghent, which I thought was a charming sight, giving the city an idyllic feel. With my appreciation of the sight of bikes and canals, I realized that I could’ve visited Amsterdam as well, which was also just a short trip away; however, time was short and I didn’t plan my trip as efficiently as I could have. More importantly, for the time being, I had Ghent, and Ghent was all I needed.

Another waffle!
Another waffle!

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Like Bruges, Ghent sits at the top of my list of places that I adore the most. Walking along the streets of its historical centre was a feast for my hungry eyes and inquisitive soul; I felt like I was in another world altogether, with the splendid panoramic views of medieval churches, cathedrals, castles, and merchant shops, which have been so beautifully preserved.

Ghent is also a dream place for people whose favourite mode of transportation are their two feet. I walked to and fro and in numerous circles, losing myself in my immediate surroundings; after all, the port city was big in scope, with many things to do, eat, and see. Still, time wasn’t on my side, and I regret not having had the chance to fully immerse myself in the culture of this gem of a place.