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The last month of 2015 went by in a total blur. Eunice, my 2nd cousin, arrived from Singapore and we got to spend time together and got to know her a little better. December is filled with traditions and adventures for us. Here are some things that I want to remember as we close out 2015.
1. Making Christmas cookies with little children is something I absolutely love love love doing. So glad I managed to squeeze it in before the year ended. We tried a spelt/almond hybrid that turned out fabulous. Comment below if you'd like the recipe.
2. Road trip to Sedona for Christmas. Beeswax modeling in the car and Kevin takes it super seriously, using his tyre pressure gauge to carve out, what we believe to be, a tiger? Kyan made a swan and a family of alligators. Mine turned out to be Tiptoes Lightly, the forest fairy from Red Downs's endearing book series.
3. We have been skipping decoration in our home since we spend Christmas in Sedona with grandparents. At least that's how we justify it. Next year, I am getting our own tree.
4. The most expensive chilli. Absolutely delicious.
5. It's official. Kyan skis solo.
6. Snow day with our buddies at Arizona Snow Bowl. The key to happy kids in snow - Snacks, warm clothes, lots of patience and positive energy.
7. Christmas eve at Red Rock Crossing with buddies, Sedona AZ.
8. Keeping traditions. Juju (and Eunice) makes Italian sausage and peppers.
9. Kevin passing down his grandmother's Pizzelles making tradition to the little ones.
10. Christmas morning Kyan tiptoed into my room while everyone was still sleeping "Mommy, Santa was here! And he brought me the polar express train and A L O T of presents!" He proceeds to tell Poppy he wants to grow up to be as tall as Santa.
11. Christmas Day tradition - Hike. Long Canyon Trail, Sedona.
12. VIP seating at Kevin's New Year's Eve countdown fireworks show with Eunice. The busiest, craziest day of the year for him and he still remembered to take care of us. Just like he said, it was a BIG-ass finale.
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I'm sitting here at my computer thinking back at the events that unfolded today. Getty photographer BunnyEatsMan and I have been prepping for this photoshoot for weeks. Each night after Kyan went to bed, we talked about what to shoot, recipe research, color coordination, clothes, aprons, textures, linens and all the other minute and seemingly unimportant (to me) but actually very important (to her) details. It was a very steep learning curve for me, but, because I trust her and love a good challenge, especially if I'm working hard for something I believe in, I was all in.
I was instructed to get my food and desserts organized, kitchen de-cluttered and cleaned, my hair and make-up ready by noon.
My dear friend Selam did some last minute shopping for me while I got ready and brought her kids over and helped kept the children busy, fed and entertained. BunnyEatsMan showed up and promptly waved her magic. I started pulling foods out from the fridge and pantry, laying out my mise-en-place, placing them in an aesthetically pleasing manner as the camera lens focused on generally my hands cooking. Continue to prep naturally, but do it slower than you normally would, yes, slower, hold that raspberry right there, ok, resume, yes, you can keep doing what you're doing, stop right there, ok, yes, keep going ... this seemed simple enough for me to follow, right? I can do this.
My confidence was very short-lived. I quickly realized that was the easy part. Within minutes, she started moving the camera up from my hands to my face and that was where the fun began. OK now, keep chopping and look up at me and smile, ok, no, keep your head down and only move your eyes up to me, no, no don't glare at me, just look at me softly, more feminine, pull that glare back 50%, yes yes, that's it, softer, softer, relax your forehead, shoulders down, relax your cheeks, take a deep breath... exhale... and... smile, no, don't smile like a crazy woman, just smile a half smile, no, no, too much teeth, ahh, yes, yes, ok, better, now don't stare at me so fiercely, pull that glare back again....
I cannot stop giggling writing about this now. Of course I wasn't giggling then. I was dead serious trying to get it right as BunnyEatsMan coached me through the first whole hour on how to smile at the camera properly. That confident, yet gentle half smile you see celebrities wear on their faces when they walk down the red carpet. Yes, that smile is a practiced one. Normal human beings don't naturally smile like that.
Working in the kitchen for a photo shoot feels very much like rush hour in the kitchen, except you take quick breaks to change your outfits and aprons to match whatever you're cooking, tidy up your hair and check your make-up. I don't think I went to the toilet once during our 6 hour photoshoot or remembered to drink a glass of water except during a quick break for late lunch where we sat down to eat the Shakshuka I made. (Recipe here!)
In between cleaning and prepping for the next dessert to shoot, BunnyEatsMan would go off and find the kids to shoot. She had a real knack for getting the kids to do whatever she wanted. She made it really interesting, secretive and fun for them. Kyan was as usual a natural around my kitchen and cooperative during the shoot, attentive to instructions and easy to get him to do things, especially when it involved using our KitchenAid mixer. Sometimes, he'll say Can I not look at the camera and just keep doing what I'm doing? He walked into the kitchen one time and said You changed your clothes again. I like that apron on you Mommy. I love my little man.
Towards the end, I was slowly running out of half-smiles and BunnyEatsMan can tell from my pictures. We covered a lot in the short, but, long six hours. I hadn't realized how exhausted I was until I jumped into the shower with Kyan and the fatigue set in. All I wanted to do was to put my feet up and just stare into space.
It was a fun, interesting and enlightening experience today. I learned that we all see ourselves differently. What I think I look like most of the time is often not the same as what others see you most of the time. What looks good to me in real life, may not always look good on camera. This fascinating experience has been an absolute eye-opener for me. I cannot wait to see how the rest of the pictures turned out.
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Fasting and cooking at the same time is not for the faint hearted. I am at Day 5 of my juice fast. The aromas are intensified and your mouth starts salivating. I did not grow up making pancakes back home in Singapore, so making it this morning for Kyan didn't seem to have much effect on me. I was not tempted to eat it, and felt pretty calm. When I threw garlic into my pan for Kyan's dinner, I could smell wafts of childhood and memories of my mom cooking dinner for us every evening came rushing forth. She always started with crisping garlic. Fasting triggers some deep, food related memories for me. I had abit of a struggle cooking the Shrimp Fried Rice and missed my mom's cooking sorely. I know I was not only missing the foods, but more importantly, the warmth of having my mom taking care of me, or my meals, to be specific.
Which foods trigger you the most during your fast? Or what dish do you think you cannot live without? What do you like making for your kids when you are fasting? I would love to know!