When All Else Fails

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Photo from Sketcher Kee

It’s been 2 months. Exactly 60 days since the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong broke out. I don’t talk about it much with my friends here, unless someone asks. But there has not been a single day that I did not think about it. I make sure I read the latest news on the movement, every morning on my commute to work and every night before I go to bed. It’s become my daily ritual.

At times, I’m saddened by the fact that I’m not fighting the fight with the people in Hong Kong. Other times, I feel very fortunate that I live in a place where democracy and freedom of speech is my civil rights.

During the first few days after police dispersed tear gas to the crowd for the first time, it was impossible for me to talk about it without having tears in my eyes. I still remember on the morning of September 28th, I woke up and sat down in the kitchen to check my Facebook page while waiting for the water to boil, so I can make some tea for myself and some hot chocolate for my kids. As images of the protests flashed on my iPhone, I started crying uncontrollably, as if there was a spear piercing through my heart. No, it was worst. It was a pain beyond the physical. It was like I just lost a friend or a family member.

When my older son, who just turned eleven last month, walked down the stairs and saw me crying, he came hugged me and asked me why I was crying. I explained to him, between sobs, that the police used unnecessary violence on peaceful protesters and that a lot of people got hurt. Some of them were not much older than him.

Before this, I had talked to him briefly about the student class boycott in Hong Kong. So he had some understanding of what was going on in my hometown. Previously at school, he had also learned about civil rights and some of the civil rights heroes in the U.S., such as, Martin Luther King and Rosa Park. It helped him put the protests in Hong Kong in perspective.

When I finally finished, I felt much better and calmer. He gave me another hug and told me not to be too sad. I kissed him on the forehead and held him in my arms. It was just what I needed at the time. That even if the world fell apart, I would still have my loved ones.

I try to keep my boys updated about the movement and explained a little bit more in depth each time we talked about it. The little one is too young to understand much. But I hope by talking about it, they get to learn more about their mother through the incredible city she came from. If all else fails, at least the legacy of this great city would get passed on.

No-fail Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Cookies are one of the few things you can easily make with kids at pretty much any age. For the very little ones, you can let them measure and mix ingredients. Older kids can help break the eggs, whisk, and do other more sophisticated tasks.

The kids and I have been making quite a handful of cookies in the last few months. Our favorite is the chocolate chip oat cookie. I adapted the recipe from The Great Big Cookie Book (Hermes House, 1999), which I bought years ago when I was still in Hong Kong. It’s a humble-looking book and not written by any famous chef or food writer. But I found most of the recipes very reliable. While you won’t find any groundbreaking ideas, the basic, easy-to-follow recipes have become my go-to resource when I simply want to make some cookies with the boys.

I like the idea of adding the oats to the cookies, which gives it more crunch. I called it no-fail because the steps are really easy. I normally don’t use an electric mixer, especially when I’m making these with the kids. For them, a big part of the fun is being able to mix things together with their own hands —  well, we actually use a fork or a whisk🙂

Below is the original recipe from the book. I listed the adaptations I made in the notes that follow.

Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Makes 60*

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine*
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar*
  • generous 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 3-4 baking sheets*.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer*, cream together the butter or margarine and the sugars. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until thoroughly blended. Stir in the rolled oats and chocolate chips. The dough should be crumbly. Drop heaped teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the dough about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until just firm around the edge but still soft to the touch in the center. With a slotted spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool.

*Notes

  1. Every time we follow this recipe, we make about 2 dozen cookies, not 60 as suggested. I think if you do use an electric mixer, the dough would be fluffier and could yield more. Nonetheless, I would say our version still taste really good.
  2. Because of health and nutritional issues, I never use margarine, and I don’t recommend using margarine in any kind of cooking. It’s proven not to be the healthiest oil afterall.
  3. I normally cut down the amount of sugar by about 1/4 to 1/3 in most recipes, simply because I don’t like overly sweet sweets. I guess even after a decade of living here, I still manage to keep my Asian palette. For this recipe, I use a total of about 3/4 cups of sugars. You can adjust the amount according to your taste.
  4. I usually line my baking sheets with parchment paper, instead of greasing them.
  5. As I mentioned earlier, I only use a fork or a whisk to cream the butter and mix the ingredients. An electric mixer would probably work better.

Happy baking, everyone, and have a fabulous weekend!

We Did Not Forget*

There is a Chinese saying
That snow will fall
Even in the early days of Summer
When there is injustice in our land

And snow it did
In the capital of this thriving country
On the very day that innocent youths
With nothing but a truly patriotic heart
Were greeted by unimaginable violence
Twenty four dark years ago

For some of us
Living in the margins
Of the corrupted and the truth
In the shadows and the light
We never forget
And never will

The unexpected downpour
As if to say
We’re touched by your souls
Makes a theatrical backdrop
To the performance
Not approved by the few

With a heavy heart we shout
Let our voices be heard
Let our heroes sacrifice not in vain
Let the wrong come to an end

8964
Is not just a string of numbers
It encapsulates the spirit of this enduring fight

A fight we shall ne’er forget

*This was originally posted on my Facebook timeline. I made a few adjustments to the language and re-posted here.

**This poem is my own reflection on the tragic events happened on June 4, 1989, called “Tiananmen Incident,” or more precisely, but less desirably to some, “Tiananmen Massacre.”

夏想

加州的州花是金黃色的罌粟花,Golden Poppies。每年五、六月期間(視乎那一年的夏天早熱還是遲熱),便會罌粟處處,紅的紫的黃的橙的,浩浩蕩蕩的公告天下:夏天由現在開始!

攝於史丹福校園一隅

看到罌粟盛開,我便知道快有枇杷果吃了!我家屋前種有一棵不大不少的枇杷果樹,初夏期間,總是果實累累的。今年收成比往年更好,差不多整整兩個月都有果實源源供應。

屋前的枇杷果樹

微酸又多汁的枇杷果不但清甜可口,而且據說還有潤肺清熱之效。我們一家五口都愛吃,就連Rohan這小子每次路過,都懂得指着枇杷果樹大叫:「More!More!」

Genghis正吃得起勁

自從由德州搬回加州以後,我們每年的七月四日國慶都會在沙灘渡過。在美國,一般人都會在後園開燒烤派對來慶祝這節日;我們怕熱,情願帶備糧餉到海灘玩沙玩水兼野餐。

Genghis今年七歲,我們也放心讓他獨個兒往海邊玩水,只要遠遠的看着他便可以了

不過北加州的海灘就是在盛夏,水溫也很冷,玩玩水還可以,一般都不會真正的游泳,就是要滑浪或進行其他水上活動的,大都會穿上wet suit才下水。雖然如此,但七月的海灘還是挺熱鬧的。我愛坐在大毛巾上,聞着海水的氣息,看着他們父子四人玩得起勁,然後嘴角便會不由自主的往上彎起來。

當天風大,海邊只有十多度,所以Rohan要穿上小小浴袍來擋風

我從來都是屬於夏天的,現在有幾名頑童繞在身邊,我便更愛夏日的無限。

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更多夏想

最深刻一次

因為想不到題材,本來打算這一次的字游式我是不會參與的了,但剛讀了另一位網友的這篇,加上今天心情無緣無故的非常鬱悶,於是決定寫點傷感的來發洩一下。

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我不清楚是因為我膽小、愚昧,還是太「入世」的關係,自小我便很懼怕死亡。我清楚記得,在幼稚園的那三年間,有時候夜裡睡不着,不知怎的我會想到死亡這概念,然後一股莫名的恐懼便會湧上心頭,讓我更難以入睡。

當時只有幾歲的我,連生命是甚麼也不大理解,更何況是死亡這深奧的課題。那時的我,只會想像死亡應該會帶來一點生理上的痛,而且永遠也不能和家人及朋友見面了。每當想到這一點,我便會很傷心,然後往往要在黑暗中安慰自己,「我還只是個小孩子,大概不會這麼快便歸西的!不要太擔心吧!」想着想着,便迷迷糊糊的睡倒了。

第一次正面接觸死亡,是我六歲的時候。嫲嫲在那一年離開了我們。

我清楚記得是那一年,因為妹妹還未上幼稚園,沒有白色的鞋子。當知道消息後,媽媽還要忙着為妹妹買一雙「白飯魚」奔喪。

我們跟嫲嫲並不親密,一來是因為她跟大伯一家同住新界,而我們則住在港島南區,所以見面的次數不多,加上我出生的時候,嫲嫲經已年邁,行動不太方便。每次探訪她,她只會摸摸我的頭,然後遠遠的坐在一旁。

媽媽告訴我嫲嫲經已離開的時候,我只是「哦」的應了一聲。有少許的傷感,但沒有太大的震撼。舉行喪禮當天,我上午還是要上學的。同學問我:「你會哭嗎?」我答道:「應該不會。」

儀式舉行之前,我們三兄妹還跟堂兄堂姊在靈堂嬉戲。長輩們也任由我們,因為嫲嫲年紀不輕,加上離開的時候也沒有受甚麼苦頭,也算是笑喪了。所以縱使難過,只要不是太過份,大家也就不跟我們這班小鬼計較了。

奇怪的是,當儀式開始,爸媽帶着我們三兄妹瞻仰遺容的時候,我的眼淚便不受控的傾流而出,彷彿壓抑了一整天的情緒終於再也阻擋不住,一時之間便要奪堤而出。

我沒有留意哥哥跟妹妹有沒有哭,我只是感到萬分哀傷,默默的流着淚,同時對於自己情緒的波動感到很疑惑。

我從來沒有跟任何人提起過這件事,甚至連自己也很少會想起這一段兒時記憶。到今天我也不完全明白那天那個幼小的我心中想着甚麼,我只知道,那是我有生以來對死亡的最深刻體驗。

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別人的最深刻一次

六月加州.天晴無雨

朋友早陣子寫了這篇,觸動了我某條神經,所以也要寫點甚麼來抒發一下。

明年五月,是我跟G.的結婚十周年紀念。雖然由始至終都十分肯定我倆是會長長久久的,但當發現原來自己的信念真正成為事實的一刻,也突然有點抺掉了一把汗的感覺。幸而這把汗是熱不是冷,心裡想着的是自己的好彩而非好驚,否則往後的年月,也真不知該如何面對。

婚姻是一種複雜微妙的關係,再加上幾個孩子,情況便更容易失控。

大概是三四年前吧,有一天我們並排而坐,閒話家常,然後他輕輕把手放在我的大腿上,那一刹,彷彿一股電流從他手中傳到我身上。我驀地不能言語,只懂望着他傻笑,暗暗驚歎自己的幸運,竟然在相處六七年以後,還有着如初戀一樣的觸電感覺。

近一兩年,類似的情境好像都沒有再出現了。

是,我不是不知道只是間中澆點水,並不足以確保我們之間的這朶花會拙壯成長的,定期施肥與除雜草這等功夫還是不能省的。

但游走在日常的煩瑣與三個孩子的不同需要之間,有時候顧得將眼前事辦妥,便忽略了我和他之間的點滴。說來也有點不可思議,我和他上一次正式約會,竟然是七年多前Genghis未出世之時!

不過以上這些都不是大障礙,維繫一段關係,最大的敵人往往是明知不該存在的想當然。我常常提醒自己,幸福並不是必然,而是要靠自己努力爭取的;事事take it for granted,最終只會take you nowhere。

就在我坐在辦公室電腦前胡思亂想之際,G.突然來電說:三分鐘後我來你辦公室接你,我們去吃冰淇淋!

於是,就在這平凡的周五,我放下吃了一半的便當,跑出辦公室跟他坐在校園一角,吃着嫩綠色的開心果冰淇淋,享受着加州初夏的和煦陽光。

星期六的早上

過去幾個星期六,不論是晴是雨,一家人出外遊樂,還是待在家中打掃靜養,心裡總是有一點點的失落。

或許我不該說是失落--恍惚夾雜着牽掛似乎更為恰當,不過還是廣東話「囉囉攣」三隻字最能表達我的心情。

記掛的是舖着舊報紙的工作桌上,被我弄得一團糟的顏料碟;按着宣紙提着毛筆時,沒有電腦、沒有挨風、沒有孩子的專注;獨自驅車馳騁在交通無阻的星期六早上的公路之上,車廂中大大聲聲播着自己喜歡的音樂或podcast或有聲書。

我也分不清讓我失落的是那連續八個星期的學習與創作,抑或是那令我可以暫時不做媽媽做回自己的「me time」。

無論如何,我慶幸我報讀了這山水畫班,發掘了自己這方面的興趣。以下是三幅畢業作品,水準只是小學生程度,還望大家不要見笑(尤其是我那手字呢,也真教人汗顏)。我的目標是在未來一年的星期六早上,可多花點時間練習及鑽研,明年再報讀另一國畫班(四君子--梅蘭菊竹),然後再練習,再進修。

我這個不知醜的人,相信還會繼續把新作在此貼堂示眾,不怕眼冤的話,請多多捧場!

我有生以來的第一幅山水畫!

畢業功課,也是我的第二幅正式作品

這幅是我送給Genghis及Rohan的小魚兄弟圖,現已掛在他倆房間

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更多的星期六早上

想給你拍一張坐定定的照片原來是那樣難.

不是你的大頭在搖,便是你的小手在晃.

再不,就是冇用媽媽給你逗得笑至腰亂彎,手猛震.

所以,sorry Rohan,你的近照都是鬆郁矇.