Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Back to Blogging

I have finally forced myself to sit in front of the computer to update this long neglected blog.

It is really unusual for me not to post anything for more than 3 weeks. Yet, I am glad to know that I am able to live without blogging for so such a long time. It gets to show that I am no longer so attached to it. Although I still make it a point to answer any questions posted by my readers, I no longer feel 'obliged' to update it on a regular basis. If not for a good friend, who took the time to SMS me to ask whether anything is fine, I would probably prolong writing this post indefinitely.

I have not been baking for the past few weeks as I had gone for a trip to Beijing during the recent one week school holiday. Although it was a last minute arrangement, I managed to cover most of the places as planned.

Once out of the airport building, I took a look at the gloomy, foggy sky, it didn't give a very good impression, especially since it was the very first time I have set foot in China. After taking a deep breath of the cool night air, I was immediately greeted with this busy scene of a non-stop flow of taxis coming in to pick up passengers. I was glad that I was not the one tasked to speak to the driver...with his strong accent, I really couldn't make up the content of his speech. I rode the next 15 minutes of journey with a stomach full of butterflies. We were very quiet during the entire journey, partly because I was tired from the flight, and all I could do was to hold on firmly to my younger child. It was only the next morning that he joked about the taxi ride...he made this funny comment that the driver's driving skill was equivalent to his...ie his skill at playing Burnout Legends, a PSP game which allows gamers to drive vehicles with blistering speed and intensity so as to deliver the fastest, adrenaline-inducing driving experience. The driver of our second taxi ride didn't disappoint him either. He zipped through the street 7am in the morning with a breeze...it didn't help to lighten the stone in my heart when we saw a terrible road accident along the way, and as if that was not enough, at that moment, the news from the radio was about the court hearing of a drunk taxi driver who got his passengers killed in an accident. Although Beijing's streets are awash with thousands of taxi which can be found at every single corner of the city, whenever possible, I chose to take the subway and buses to get around the city. Even the low cab fares fails to attract me.


On our first morning in Beijing, we went to WangFuJing (王府井), one of the city's most famous shopping streets. I didn't plan to go shopping though, we were there just so to get a calling card for my mobile phone. While waiting for the store to open, we walked over to the night market. Since it was early in the morning, only a few stores were opened. Yet, I got to see the famous snacks sold at this snack street.


I have heard about deep fried scorpions, but I was really taken aback when I noticed that they were still alive and kicking on those skewers! The hawker will only fry them upon your order.


video
Click on to the "Play" button if you want to find out how those scorpions got themselves hooked to the skewers.


Besides seahorses (extreme left on the above photo), scorpions and insects, there were also star fish. Of course we didn't try any of these...but I told myself I would probably give the deep fried star fish a go on our next visit to the city ;)


The following day, we went to the Great Wall. Instead of the popular section at Badaling, we went to another section at 慕田峪 (Mutianyu).


The scenery was magnificent and best of all it was not crowded. While we were standing at the lower section of the wall, we thought we would be able to climb all the way up to the top where the words "忠于毛主席" (loyalty to Chairman Mao). It turned up that we could only make it half-way up as the rest of the section further up is off-limits. The last section was fairly steep (the almost vertical long flight of steps on the right hand side of the above photo).


After the initial 20 to 30 steps, I had to stop every 10 steps just to catch my breath. As it was a continuous flight of steps with no 'breaks' or landings in between, I could only lean against the wall to rest. From the tiny figure of me in the photo, you could imagine how far I was lagging behind ;')

I was almost on all fours when we climbed up the last few steps to get to the last tower. It was well worth the effort as the view up there was awesome. We took our time to enjoy the tranquility before making our way down. After the hike, my younger son and I both developed a temporary phobia of staircase, we didn't recover until it was almost time go home!


The rest of the week was spent sightseeing at the must-see places in Beijing, Tiananmen, Imperial Palace...


Temple of Heaven...


waiting for the subway to get to...


the Olympic Green....


to visit the the unique Bird Nest...


and to take a picture of the Water Cube...


and finally to the zoo...to see the symbol of China...the giant panda!


The pandas were so adorable that I couldn't help but kept snapping away...


two is just right, and


video
here comes a third one...


and now, three is a crowd!


A panda taking a cat nap high up on a tree. We were wondering how did it make its way up the tree trunk?!


This is my boys favourite bear...a panda taking a siesta under the shade...its huge paw comes in handy as an eye shade...


and hundreds of 'pandas' at the entrance gate?!

It was a good time of the year to visit Beijing, I really enjoyed the nice cool weather. While my elder child spent most of the trip with his other schoolmates on an exchange programme, his brother and I spent many special moments together exploring the city. We learned how to get from one place to another by the forever crowded buses and subways...studying the signage at the bus-stops and finding the right exit to get out of the underground. We also picked up the trick to cross a busy street...if you just follow law and adhere strictly to the traffic rules, you will never ever be able to get across the street! It was a hilarious experience...having to hurry along the streets and yet hear my child making loud remarks that even the traffic wardens were also not following the rules.

I must thank my child for being such a good travel companion. There were no complains from him even when we had to cross the same road twice just to get to the right bus-stop...the long walk from Tiananmen square to Wangfujing...strolling the vast compound of the Temple of Heavens and being squashed in the crowded subway. Sitting under a tree at the park with just a slice of Lim Chee Guan bak kwa sandwiched between two slices of plain bread, was a gourmet lunch to him. During those long walks, he entertained me with his innocent and yet funny comments, remarks on just about anything under the sun. The only thing bad about him was that he refused to let me do any shopping at any of the malls, the only exceptions were the local bookstores. We came back with just a handful of souvenirs but tonnes of photos and fond memories.

Sorry for the super long post, I promise to delivery shorter-and-sweeter ones in future posts, and I think I am almost ready to be back to my usual baking routine.



32 comments:

  1. Hi HHB,
    Welcome back! You are dearly missed :) But it is good to take a break n come back refresh n with added zeal/passion for what you love to do.
    I was just looking at your matcha red bean loaf. May i know where do you buy the red bean paste filling? Is there a particular brand? Do you only use the Ujinotsuyu Matcha Hagoromo? Or can you recommend other good matcha powder? Thks n appreciation for all your dedication to this blog :)))

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  2. Wow ,this is something different besides baking !

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  3. Hi! So glad to see you back in blogging! :) I was wondering what happened to you... So, will you be making mooncakes this year, huh? :D

    BTW, I like the picture on the "Olympic Green". The clouds look spectacular to me! :)

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  4. Hi Happy HomeBaker,
    Glad to "see" you again and happy to know that you had an enjoyable trip at Beijing with your boy.
    I used to stop by your blog and see if you have any new post after your last one on " Baking with Blueberries".
    It has become a habit to view your blog everytime I surf the net.

    Look forward to see next post soon. :)

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  5. Yay! You're back!=] The scorpions look so cool!

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  6. Hi, my name's May and I really enjoy reading your blog, especially your cooking and baking! Really enjoy reading this particular post. I too have a young son who's pretty much attached to me, I should say, he and I share a special bond :). Glad u've enjoyed your trip and I look forward to reading more of your adventures and recipes! Oh Hope u don't mind me linking you in my blog... www.meiamylove.blogspot.com

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  7. Hello! Welcome Back! =) I was recently introduce to your blog and had spent days reading thro your postings! Pls continue to post as I enjoy reading your blog! Needless to say, i've tried out a few of your recipes namely muffin and cookie. Can't wait to read your upcoming postings! Cheers! Joey.

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  8. Hi HHB, so good to hear from you again. Your Beijing trip has brought back some fond memories. I went there more than 15 years ago during Chinese New Year. It was freezing cold and dry. Though in my twenties then, I only managed to climb a small section of the Great Wall, with great difficulties! Coming down was even worst as i have height phobia!
    But it was a good trip and I enjoyed the beautiful scenaries and architectures.

    Hope to hear from you again soon.

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  9. Welcome back!Happy to know about your jorney in Beijing with your family. Hope to see something inspiring soon :)
    cheers
    Martina

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  10. Hi HHB!

    Glad to see you managed to survive and enjoy the trip to Beijing! Look forward to your next wonderful post!

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  11. I have been following your blog for quite some time, but never leave you any comment, anyway I will start from this post. Thanks for sharing your Beijing trip, I'm thinking to visit this place soon.

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  12. Luckily I did not have your HP, else yr HP will burst with my constant sms .. I am indeed puzzle when I do not see new post as frequent :-) but you are right to get a rest too. I was sick for a long time once, and this time with chicken pox, so I know that I also can live without the PC for a few days. :)

    Happy , really happy to have u bak.

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  13. Welcome back!! The Bird Nest Stadium is beautiful!

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  14. Dear all, thanks for all your lovely comments and well wishes. As a SAHM, I don't have many friends, it warms my heart to know that I have so many friends out there :D


    Hi Cheers, I used this brand of canned red bean paste: MORINAGA YUDE AZUKI (you can see a photo of the can here, the 2nd photo: (http://www.nymtc.com/pl_general/azuki.html)
    I'm assuming you are a local, you can get it from NTUC or cold storage outlets.
    I have always been using Ujinotsuyu Matcha Hagoromo, since I can get it easily (supermart at Isetan Scotts or NTUC @ Junction 8). If you can want really good matcha powder, maybe you can look for it at the Meidi-Ya supermarket.

    Bakeling, hope u enjoyed reading this post ^-^

    Hi MH, yes, I will be making mooncakes, my boys and my niece kept asking when I am going to start making! It was a hot and sunny day when we went to the Olympic Green, we had no choice but to use an umbrella, and I felt really 'aunty'!!

    Thanks Wong for checking out on me ;)

    Agapejen, it must be very tough to go up the Great Wall during the cold winter days!


    Hi May, I am glad that you have finally break your silence :p Thanks for the link, and I will love to hear from you more often :)

    Thanks Joey for reading my old posts :D

    Thanks Martina, by the way have you moved to California?


    Hi CY, thanks! Looks like your two little sous chefs have been baking and cooking up a storm lately ;p

    Hi Sonia, I think you will like the place, besides the major attractions, there are many eating places and huge shopping malls. Getting around is pretty easy and convenient with so many cabs on the streets.

    Hi Sherlyn, 感谢你的关心! Your comment makes me feel so touched :):)

    Hi TINTIN, on hindsight, I should have visited the place in the evening, the Bird Nest and the Water Cube look even more spectular with the lights on.

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  15. Hi HHB

    So glad you are back. I really missed your blog esp your writing, they are so interesting, it helps to improve my English.

    Florence

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  16. Hi Hi, are you staying near Bishan? I'm staying at Bishan.

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  17. HI HHB

    welcome back! have been checking your blog for updates every day ... my heart skipped a beat when i read that your elder son was in an exchange programme to Beijing during the one week holiday. My eldest was also there but we didn't go. I have a funny feeling that the 2 might be in the same programme!?
    regards
    octopusmum

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  18. HHB,

    Welcome back!! I have guessed correctly that you must have gone for a trip since you have not been updating ur blog for such a long time. How I know? i drop by ur blog almost everyday to check for update, haha.

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  19. How sweet you are!!You remember my post!! Actually we are and will be in Ireland. The moving had been delayed for a while, and then another while... at the end, after almost one year and a half of "here we go" we decided to stay here. My husband and I decided the only reason to move would be the weather (over there is better than here), but could someone decided where to live regarding the weather? We are happy, Ireland is a good place to stay and think of growing some kids (time is running out for that!!) and we are nearer to Italy, too. So we can put someone up during the weekend and fly to Italy every now and then! I'm lucky because almost once a year my husband has to visit California, so I can enjoy the sun, have some fun and then come back home to the "green Ireland".
    I don't have many friends either, but now I think I have a new one!!
    Kisses
    Martina

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  20. Noticed clear blue skies in some photos. So Beijing is not so polluted now?

    And it seems that autumn in Beijing is early as the trees behind the pandas seems to have turned orangey red, nice color.

    Its good to visit China during transitional seasons of spring & autumn so as to enjoy the cool weather & avoid the harsh winter or scorching summer.

    Glad you had a fun trip!

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  21. Welcome back, HHB. Seems like you've recharged with the trip. I agree with you, the pandas are very cute, esp the one lying on the branch.

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  22. Hi Florence, thanks for reading my blog, however, my standard English is really no good, I am better in Chinese ;)

    Hi May, no, I am not staying at Bishan, but it is quite convenient now for me to take the train to Bishan since the Central Line is up ;)

    Hi Octopusmum, I am really not surprised, it's a small world here! I once made a tart for my friend and sent it over to her office. She told me one of her colleagues thought that it looked familiar...and asked whether I was HHB, apparently she reads my blog ^_^

    Hi Cook.Bake.Love, 真不好意思让你天天查阅我的网站! I hope to update it more regularly from now. 还有, 恭喜你就快要当妈妈了!

    Hi Martina, good to hear your updates, I don't seems to be able to access your blog from your blogger profile. Although I have not been to Ireland (I had only been to England) I am sure the weather is way better than Singapore, you won't want to live in such a hot and humid place! Thanks for considering me a friend :D

    Hi Anonymous, I was also surprised that it is not as polluted as I expected it to be. In fact, I think the air quality is much better especially when compared to the haze here. No, those trees on the background were not real. It was a painted mural on the wall ;)

    Hi WF, I was glad that I decided to make the trip to the zoo...it turned up better than expected and my boys really enjoyed themselves.

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  23. HI HHB

    It is indeed a small world! too bad i didn't know your son is also going on the same trip as mine in advance or i could have a chance to say "hi" to u and thank you for all the wonderful tips/recipes in person...we could have bumped into each other during the briefing sessions for parents! this is so amazing! i was telling my son how lucky his schoolmate is to have a mum who can bake so well and at the same time, so kind to share her recipes and advice...
    regards
    octopusmum

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  24. Hey HHB!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos from the trip to Beijing! Hope I can visit there someday!

    Lately, I've been unable to keep up with especially blogging! Oh, well ... Flickr'ing is easier though LOL!

    But, really nice of you for dropping by my blog! I'd also been wondering where were you in the past few weeks as your blog hadn't been updated. Glad that you're back!!

    Pei-Lin

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  25. Hi HHB,

    I refer to your Mango Mousse Cake entry... It says "spongecake base (2pieces)"... Do I make 2 spongecake out of the spongecake recipe u used for the Santa Claus Cake or is that recipe enough to yield one spongecake high enough to be cut into 2 pieces of 2cm each?

    Thank you for ur advice =)

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  26. Hi HHB,

    Wow...nice to have you back with your wonderful post on sharing your recent trip experience with us.

    We really miss reading all your posts especially on those baking.

    Do take care and hope to see more updates from you soon :p

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  27. Hi Octopusmum, you are so kind and making my blush with your kind words ^_^'
    I don't think I have contributed much since my knowledge in the area of baking is really limited. There is still so much to learn and discover. I am also not qualified to give any advice since I have not attended any baking class. I could only share my experience and the problems I faced along the way. I'm always keeping my fingers crossed that I do not point to the wrong directions to anyone ;)

    Hi Pei-Lin, I agree Flickring is much easier!

    Huiqi, you only need to make 1 sponge cake and cut it horizontally into 2 pieces. Since I didn't follow the original recipe I didn't measure the height of the sponge layer. I simply slice it into halves. Hope this helps.

    Thanks Ellena!

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  28. While the pandas are so cute & lovable, I feel so sorry for the insects, esp the scorpions!

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  29. welcome back!
    i never thought to travel to china... but i kike yours fotos and explaination.

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  30. I very much enjoyed this post :) You made the trip come alive for all of us, with your candid and humourous account. Great photos!

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  31. Thanks The Little Teochew, I am pleased to hear that you enjoyed reading this post :D

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  32. Hello HHB!
    Your blog is lovely :D This year we were given snowy mooncakes and I absolutely loved them. After mid-autumn fest. I went to see if I could get them on cheap and got the shock of my life, they were retailing at $53.60 New Zealand dollars for a box of 8 little morsels! So now I am hoping to try make some at home, but I hope they have cooked glutinous rice flour is this country...
    Thank you for sharing all your lovely experiences ^___^

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