Chapter 11: Déjà Vu

Image

I wave Lynn goodbye when she steps out the back door and she reminds me that I can get over to her place whenever I am ready. I already let her know that I have to go back home with Silva to get his set of keys back. Too bad for him that involves staying behind for a little longer than usual. As I go through my paperwork, sitting down at my small desk, Silva finishes cleaning up the kitchen, rearranging anything he can find that isn’t standing straight enough. The main cleanup has already been done, but since he knows he has about half an hour more than on a regular day, I guess he tries to make the most out of it. The rest of the place is quiet aside from his walking back and forth behind me, and my paper ruffling on my desk. I am not behind, but I always have something else to catch up to, with the daily orders and so on. Well, you know the drill.. Or maybe you don’t. Anyway, I would usually simply take it back to my place instead of staying in a bit longer, but since I am invited to eat over at Lynn’s place, I will not have a moment to myself tonight until I go back home to slip into my bed.

                While I was still away this morning, some customer made an order for a Halloween party happening one week before the 31st of October. I can’t remember when I ever got an order for a Halloween party… Christmas, Valentine ’s Day, Easter and so on, yeah. But Halloween, surprisingly, the quick and cheap candies always take the spotlight over the cakes. Or at least, the one that usually shines on the fancier types of pastries. But this time, I am happy to read that some rich kid requested for an all out freaky and sweet party that will feature my own pastries. I am sure the girls will be thrilled to be taking care of that party. Nothing more fun than playing around in the kitchen to make themed party desserts.

                As I finish up on checking out the different files and forms, and filling up the schedule for the new upcoming events, I feel Silva’s presence behind my back. I turn around and see him standing right behind me, arms crossed, looking over my shoulder in curiosity.

                “Do you always have so much paper to go through after work?

                -Not really. This is not much. I just have to catch up on what I missed this morning.

                -Oh yah. Late.

                -But basically, it’s simply putting down the upcoming orders into the schedule and checking out for any other important matters that need to be taken care of soon.

                -Is it hard?

                -It’s not hard. You just need to pay good attention and be consistent in your work. Have you ever had a job that required you to keep track of numbers, or something like that? Like an inventory?

                -Nah. Most of my jobs were more about stacking groceries into bags, folding clothes and making sandwiches.

                -Well if you are interested, I could show you the ropes some day. Just so you get an idea.

                -Cool! I would like that, yeah.

                -Maybe you will prove to be worth more than just a coffee maker and pastry seller.

                -You don’t want me at the front of the house anymore?

                -Oh no! This is not what I meant. I just mean that it will add up to your resume. You will have more skills. Also, I have been contemplating promoting one of you guys as Manager. I don’t plan on choosing according to just friendship or something. Or for the added up months in the company. I just plan on making a choice depending on skills and such.

                -Yaah, I don’t think I can picture myself in a managerial position yet.

                -You don’t know that. Don’t assume just yet.

                -Well, whatever. Maybe one day. Are you done?

                -Yeah, I am. Let me just stack these forms properly.

                -Do you need me to pick anything up for you before we leave?

                -No, it should be fine. I have everything with me.”

                I get up, pick up my oversized purse and check around one last time in the kitchen before joining Silva standing at the back door. I don’t have to go back to the front of the house because I know I already double checked it before starting any of my paperwork. Silva opens the door, steps out and I walk after him. With his tall legs, he gets to my car much faster than me. I unlock the doors, he gets in the passenger’s side and I sit in the driver’s seat. As I fasten my seat belt, I look into the rearview mirror and notice my bad hair once again. It will be a good thing to stop by the house before heading to Lynn’s place. It will give me a moment to fix myself up. I wouldn’t want Thomas to believe that his wife works with a sloppy woman.

                The drive is quick and almost silent, with only a few comments here and there as we pass by certain buildings or special looking pedestrians. I am just lost in my thoughts, still crunching numbers and making plans for the upcoming days to make every one of them run as smoothly as possible. Silva doesn’t seem to mind much, just looking out his window and nodding to the music on the radio. I park in the underground parking lot at my apartment building and we get out of my car. Our footsteps echo under the low ceiling, and are suddenly broken by the sound of Silva’s voice.

                “This feels so weird, it will be my first time going to your place.

                -Yeah, that’s right.

                -I feel like I will discover some mysteries about Jamie Voclain.                                        

                -Don’t get your hopes up, big guy. I am not some sort of spy working for Mother Russia, passing for a pastry chef.

                -Dang! I had actually hoped more for some sort of ninja in hiding.

                -Pffft. Unbelievable.”

                I walk up the stairs to the first floor where I get to the main stairs to reach the third floor, mine. Silva follows me, with his hands in the rear pockets of his jeans, taking one stride while I take two. I am not short but Silva has got some seriously long legs. When I get to my door, I hear a muffled chuckle coming from him.

                “Really? You live in 3D? Does it come with the glasses?

                -Whaa—Oh… that again. You are not the first one to make a joke about my apartment number. I have to admit that 3D is an interesting one. Well, sorry to disappoint. I am not a ninja and I don’t live in another dimension or anything.”

                I put the keys in the lock and turn the knob to open the door. I immediately put my keys back into my bag and as I am looking down inside it, Silva steps inside my apartment. I go straight to check for his keys by the table next to the entrance.

                “I didn’t know you had company.

                -What are you talking about? I am living alone in this place. If you mean you think the worn out shoes at the door are someone else’s, you’re wrong. I wear these for dirty jobs.

                -I was referring to the size 10 next to those worn out shoes.”

                My head shoots right away to the big sized shoes sitting carelessly on my floor and my throat suddenly feels tight in anger and shock. I throw my purse on the table and step in the direction to my room but before I make one more step, a figure walks out the hallway casually, rubbing a towel on his wet hair. The guy brings the towel down and shows a look of surprise when he notices the presence of two other people in the room with him.

                “Who is that guy?

                -Keith Lingerson!! What the FREAK are you doing here??!

                -Whoa Jay, no need to go crazy about it.

                -Can I put into the loop here? Who are you man?

                -Well I was wondering the same thing. I didn’t know Jay brought back young men home on a regular basis.

                -Shut up Keith!”

                Yesterday I was annoyed that Keith has made his way into my apartment without my knowledge but today I am furious. I can feel the heat creep up to my cheeks, but this time it isn’t because I am blushing. I clench my hands into fists and make sure I don’t step any closer to Keith. I don’t trust myself in a state of shock like that. How the hell did he come back in here when I know very well that he gave me his set of keys. Oh no…. don’t tell me..

                “Well I came here so that Jamie could give me back my keys. What are you doing here man?

                -Oh so the pretty boy comes here often?”

                Silva gets up quickly and takes a few steps towards Keith, standing much taller than him. Silva looks at him straight, a tilt to his head and a frown to his eyes.

                “Okay, I don’t know exactly who you are, and what you are doing here. But I can sense you are not really welcome here. Oh, and don’t call me “pretty boy” would you?

                -Oh oh oh. Pocahontas is getting protective now?

                -Okay, that’s it!!

                -STOP!”

                My shout stops both men in their motion towards each other, as they were about to get physical. I take a few steps towards them and stop right behind Silva. I put my right hand on his shoulder and pull him back so that I can stand between him and Keith. The latter looks at me with a carelessness that makes my fingers tingle in the need for a good slap. I control myself not to make a move, but I make sure that my eyes translate my feelings to him.

                “You have no right to break into my house, AGAIN, and insult my friends.

                -I didn’t truly break in. I had the keys.

                -You gave me your keys this morning!

                -I had another spare.

                -You are unbelievable!! And how many spares do you hide in your secret stash? How many times will I bump into you in my own apartment?

                -Well—

                -Can it! I don’t even want to listen to you anymore. Get out of my house. Get out now! And you better give me those keys too!!

                -Wait Jamie. I just wanted to talk about yesterday.

                -We are not going to talk about anything. I made a mistake, I should have kicked you out of my house yesterday.

                -But I thought—

                -You thought what?! You think that talking to you one time is going to fix everything?”

                I grab Keith by his elbow and pull him along with me all the way to the door. In the motion, he throws his used towel at Silva for him to catch. The latter follows us to the exit. Keith pulls free of my grip in annoyance and backs up a step.

                “I will not leave until this guy leaves too.

                -This guy has a name by the way. My name is Silva.

                -Yah, whatever Pocahontas.

                -Don’t you—

                -It’s okay Silva. Don’t let him get to you. He wants to provoke you so that you become the bad guy.

                -Why is he staying here with you?

                -This is none of your business! Now get out of my house and more importantly, give me those keys! All of them!

                -Whatever.”

                Keith fishes in his jeans pocket and takes out a ring with two keys. He puts them in my open palm and grabs the door knob in a rapid motion. Before storming out the open door, he gratifies us with a glare that was meant to make us fear his wrath. Yah right. I don’t get why he’s all pissed now. I am the one that has been invaded in her privacy, TWICE! Keith slams the door behind him and leaves Silva and I in a complete quiet awkwardness.

                Silva is the first to move again, getting in front of me, putting his both hands on my shoulder, waiting for me to look up at him. His eyes seem to ask if everything is alright with me. I can still feel the anger tensing me up all over, my hands still clenching into fists at the thought of what just happened. Looking into Silva’s dark green eyes makes me melt down a bit. I take his hands and pull them away from my shoulders. I walk away to my living room where I let myself slump into the sofa. Silva follows me and sits next to me. He breaks the silence.

                “Okay, may I ask what this was all about, or it’s too personal?

                -I think Keith has made sure that you heard enough to make it less personal. Might as well..”

                I twist myself on the sofa to face him and bring my knees up to my chest.

                “This guy is my ex boyfriend. We parted in unfinished business. For over a year I didn’t see him. And then yesterday he popped into my apartment without my knowledge. I am speaking here about coming back home and seeing him making himself at home. Well, just like you witnessed just there.

                -The guy has some serious guts.

                -Yes. This is how he is. He believes rules don’t apply to him.

                -When he spoke about yesterday… did he mean..?

                -Oh nooo, no. nothing like that. I just let him stay over for dinner. We watched a movie. This is the reason why I came late to work this morning.

                -Why exactly?

                -I fell asleep on the sofa and the guy never bothered to wake me up or anything. I woke up this morning on that same sofa and he was acting like a good housewife, making me breakfast.

                -Well, that’s actually kind of nice of him.

                -That’s the problem. He believes that me letting him staying over and him being all sweet made me change my mind about him.

                -And he believes that would give him a chance to get back together?

                -I guess… maybe. This is twisted. He is the one that left me hanging back then.

                -I guess I don’t even have to ask you how you feel about it. You seemed to make it pretty clear to me he wasn’t welcome.

                -Exactly.

                -And Keith clearly didn’t get the message. Man, did that guy really have two spare sets of keys to your apartment?

                -I know right. Freaky.

                -How can you know he doesn’t have any other hidden somewhere? This actually worries me Jay. You cannot have that guy come back here another time. What if he has some psycho ideas?

                -I don’t believe he would go that far. But I admit, I also worry he could come back again.

                -What are you going to do about it? Will you change your locks? I think that would be the best thing to do.

                -Yeah.. Maybe.

                -Well, do whatever makes you feel safer about it.

                -How about I do what we came here for? I should let you go back to your own place and enjoy your evening. Plus, I have Lynn and her family waiting for me for dinner tonight.

                -Oh yeah? Cool, cool. Okay then. Did you find my keys?

                -Actually, yes. I found them on the table right when Keith came into the picture. Here.”

                I stand up and go back to the entrance where I left the key on the table. I grab them and thrown them in Silva’s direction as he stands up to catch them. He walks up to me and pats me gently on the back.

                “Don’t worry too much about this tonight. The guy is out, and so will you be unless you go get ready for it.

                -You’re right. Okay then. Well, I don’t have to show you the way. Unless, wait. Would you like me to drive you to your car?

                -Oh no, don’t worry about me. I can walk to it. It’s a 10mins ride right?

                -Yeah, but I insist. Here, stay in the living room. I won’t be long. I just need to change my clothes and fix my hair.               

                -You look fine to me girl.

                -Don’t go all sweet talking to me now. I don’t look fine. I need to fix that. Oh and if you need anything to drink, help yourself in the fridge. I’m afraid I don’t have more than fruit juices, soy milk and water though.

                -It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Just do you thing.

                -Okay, thanks Sil. Go, go sit on the sofa. Turn on the TV if you need.

                -Just go Jay! Hahaha, I will be fine here.”

                After hesitating again a few moments, thinking of other details to make sure with Silva, I skip my way to my bedroom where I go straight to the closet to pick out a new change of clothes. After putting fresh pants and a new top on, I rush to the bathroom where I brush my hair a few times to take away the messy puffiness of my mane of thick brown hair. I decide to tame it into a quick thick braid to prevent from any further messy look. I give my face a quick wash with my melaleuca face wash then pat it dry with a towel. I look at myself in the mirror and feel so much better now. The stress of the run to work, my tardiness, my unexpected re-visit of Keith, it’s all gone. I feel ready for a nice casual dinner with friends, enjoying life one minute at a time. I get out the bathroom and tell Silva we are ready to take off.

 

****

 

                Before I even press on the bell at Lynn’s house’s door, the door opens on a tiny little boy wearing nothing for a pair of puffy yellow shorts. His hair is a thick bowl cut of pale blond hair and he has something red smeared on his cheeks. If little Jimmy is opening the door for me, the parents must not be very far. Just as I form the thought in my mind, a medium height and medium build man comes into the frame of the open door. He bends down and takes the little boy into his arms.

                “Hi Jamie, good to see you. Sorry about that. Jimmy is trying to escape from his bath.

                -Hello Thomas. It’s been a long time.

                -Now if you will excuse me, I have a frog to wash up.”

                As he says it, he squeezes Jimmy chubby cheek where there isn’t too much smeared stain. Thomas opens the door wider and motions me for to step in. After closing the door behind me, he points behind him where the kitchen is.

                “Lynn is still preparing dinner in the kitchen. You can go and join her, I will be right with you ladies when I am done with Jimmy’s bath.

                -Okay, thanks.”

                I watch Thomas walk away with his son bouncing in his arms. Just like his son, Thomas has short blond hair, although now closer to sandy blond with some white streaks by his temples. That makes one big family of blond heads. I walk through the living room and reach the kitchen where Lynn is showing me her back as she is putting a dish in the oven.

                “Is there anything I can help you with?

                -Oh! Jay! I didn’t know you were there already! I didn’t hear the bell.

                -That’s because I didn’t have time to ring it that a little booger opened the door for me.

                -Oh Jimmy. His father has been having trouble with the little one to keep him in his seat as he fed him. As you can see by his seat, he spread more food around him than he actually ate.”

                Lynn grabs a wet clothe by the sink and proceeds to start wiping the mess on Jimmy’s high chair.

                “Are you thirsty? Is there anything I can serve you? We were about to open a bottle of white wine after putting Jimmy to bed. Would you like some?

                -Oh, sure. That would be great. Here, let me get my glass.”

                I walk across the kitchen and go to the cupboard where I know their keep all their glasses and cups. I pick out three wine glasses and set them on the counter.

                “If you want, I can even take care of opening that bottle for you. Did you leave it in the fridge?

                -Yeah. It’s in the door. Just don’t mind the mess in there. We Thomas just bought the groceries today and the fridge is overflowing with food. There could be something falling off when you open the door.”

                And she isn’t wrong. I open the door of the refrigerator and a bag of celery stalks falls off on my feet. I am relieved it wasn’t something like a jar of jam or a gallon of milk. Now that would have been a pain. I take out the bottle of white wine in the door, put the celery back in place and close the fridge. I am about to go look for a bottle opener but I notice that bottle is a twist cap. Saves a lot of time and effort. I crack the seal open and twist the cap, then start pouring some cold wine into two glasses. I would pour a third one for Thomas right away, but he has his hands full already. I take one glass and hold it up in front of Lynn that stops scrubbing the floor around the high chair to pick it up. I take my own glass and hold it forward so that Lynn can clink her glass with mine in cheers. We both take a small sip and stay silent as we enjoy the feeling of the cold sweet-tart liquid going down our throat. I am about to pull myself a chair at the kitchen table when I remember I wanted to help Lynn with the dinner.

                “Are you sure there isn’t anything I can help you with?

                -Ohhh no. Don’t worry about that. The meal is in the oven, we have about 20 mins before it’s ready to eat. And I already put together a salad that is waiting in the dining room for us. I am just going to whip up a quick dressing and we are good to go.

                -You don’t even need me to set up the table?

                -It’s already done Honey.”

                I always wish to give a hand when I go eat somewhere, but I have to admit it feels good to be sitting down while someone does the rest. I don’t get invited to places that often to be used to the feeling, so every time, it feels wonderful. I take another sip of my white wine and sit back in my chair, taking in the fact that I can relax tonight. Not too much because I still work the next day, but just enough that my previous worries of the day leave my mind while I enjoy my evening with good friends. I listen to all the sounds around me, from Lynn humming a lullaby that is stuck in her head while she finished tidying up her kitchen, from the bathroom where little Jimmy is slashing water all around him, and Thomas laughing genuinely in happiness. This is the kind of feeling that I wouldn’t want to let go of. I am looking forward to the moment it will be me in that position.

 

****

 

                I put my purse down on the floor next to my sofa and I stop moving so that I can listen to any sounds in my apartment. After the freak show that happened earlier that evening with Keith visiting AGAIN, now I want to make sure that he won’t pop out of a room once more. Once I am sure I can’t hear anything else but my own breathing and the hum of the refrigerator, I take off my shoes, turn on the lights in the living room and go straight to my kitchen. I open the refrigerator and take out the pitcher of water. A pick a glass in my cupboard and fill it up, then take a long gulp of the icy cold water. I stay quiet, standing by my counter, looking at my half full glass, playing back the day’s events. I have been on quite the emotional rollercoaster today, from stressed, to shy, to happy, to angry then relaxed and happy again. I can almost hear my bed calling out for me in my room. I feel exhausted, despite the extra hours I got this morning. I take my glass along with me as I go turn off the lights in the living room and walk all the way to my bedroom. The place is quiet and peaceful, my bed looking like a pillow of blissfulness waiting for me to embrace it. I am about to let myself fall into it, but then I remember I better brush my teeth before that. I put my glass on my night table, walk out to my bathroom and take care of my duty. Once I am done and ready for a good rest, I take off my clothes, slip under the cover and marvel at the softness of my mattress. I am sure that no more than five minutes passes before I sink into the other world. Rest was much needed tonight.

 

****

 

                The kitchen is noisy with the clinks and clanks of the pots being washed in the sink. The smell of chocolate cake baking and hazelnuts getting a tan in the oven. The girls are all busy with their different tasks of the day, from putting together a specific order to making the items that will be sold in the front shop. Silva comes and goes from the front to the kitchen to bring back empty trays and pick up new ones full of delicious new cakes or treats. And I am sitting at my desk, making a few calls to customers and distributors, confirming and ordering here and there. I have been holding the phone’s receiver for the past 10 mins, waiting for the dull song on the other side of the line to stop so I can finally speak to a real human again. I really hate being put on hold. It’s even worse when you think that it isn’t a company or a service I am calling. The person that put me on hold is a butler. Yeah, a butler. I am speaking her of a house phone that can put callers on hold because they feel that important. Anyway, all that to say I have been waiting long enough to be bored out of my wits. I am just calling to confirm with a client about their upcoming even this Friday, whether or not we need to add more items to their menu. The butler put me on hold because instead of passing the phone to the client himself, he went all the way to ask him in person so that he can come back and report to me. I would much prefer to speak directly to the customer, but well, Hollywood people will do anything that will make them feel more important.

                Most importantly though, I am mostly thinking of my batches of macarons I need to make once I am done with the phone calls. That one is my last, and it just won’t get to an end. Just as I am about to ask Alex about her order of Danishes for the next morning, I hear a click on the other side of the line letting me know that the dull song is over and the butler is back on the line. His voice is calm and soft, his language clear and polite.

                “Good morning again Madam. I have spoken to the lady of the house and she has informed me that indeed, there will be a necessity to increase the numbers for Friday’s Baby Shower.

                -Okay, this is not a problem. How many more people are we speaking?

                -Instead of 30 guests, there will be a total of 40 guests.

                -I see. And may I ask, did she say if she wanted some new items altogether to increase the amount for the order, or did she just wish for me to increase each ordered item by 10 units?

                -She considered both ideas and came to the conclusion she would be most delighted with new items to the menu.

                -Okay. Now I would like to know if she has already made her decision on the new items. How many more does she want? What kind of cake or pastry are we talking about?

                -The lady spoke of adding two more elements to the menu. She also specified she wishes for Lavender Mousse cakes and Honeysuckle Macarons.

                -I understand she means to keep the Flower theme going.

                -Precisely. The name of the future baby is Daisy after all, Madam.

                -I see. Very well, then. So to confirm with you, we are adding 10 Lavender Mousse Cakes and 10 Honeysuckle Macarons.

                -That is correct.

                -Alright. Thank you very much Sir, and I will see you this Friday with the delivery.

                -Good day to you, Madam.

                -And good day to you too.”

                Phew. Finally. I am glad I kept that call for last, so I wouldn’t have to put that receiver on my ear one more minute after closing this conversation.  I put all my papers in order and away. I open the lower right drawer of my desk and take out my apron rolled up into a log. I stand up, stretch quickly and put on the apron. I sweep the room with a wide look, making sure everyone is busy and focused, and I walk straight to the dry goods. I pick the big container of almond meal and head to my station where I will start my macarons. Which flavors am I supposed to make today? Oh yeah, all of them.

Recipe Post: Tart au Sucre (Sugar Pie) and Rose, Lychee and Raspberry Mousse Cake

Image

So? Has anybody drooled enough yet to need to need a bib while reading? Well, I don’t know for you, but I know I might soon get myself one. It’s something to read a list of delicious desserts, but it’s something else to be the one putting her mind into making that list. Not only does it make me crave for it (and sadly, on my new healthy diet and workout) I cannot indulge myself with such treats. It makes me all sad to think my mind is all pumped up on the idea of cakes, pies and macarons, but my conscience tells me “No no no Joëlle. Stay on the path.”

Life isn’t always fair. But hey, nobody is forcing you to resist! So why don’t you give a try to one of those wonderful recipes I am about to share with you?

The first one is a very traditional recipe from where I come from, Quebec, Canada. Tarte au Sucre. Translate that into Sugar Pie (or Brown Sugar Pie for some). It is one of those desserts that make you understand how we survive up there, in the cold. With all that fat and sugar we ingest all year long, no wonder we withstand those low temperature; we’re like polar bears, with our layer of fat protecting our bodies. Hahaha, I am just kidding. Canadians are not necessarily fat. I guess it is also a mix of guts, dedication and strength that makes us go through the long winters of Quebec. Speaking of which, to whoever is reading, and lives up there, on the East Coast, I support you in your daily struggle with the bad weather. I have news coming from the inside, my family, and I can tell you, it doesn’t look always pretty.

Enough with the weather, we are not the morning news. Let us expand some more on the matter of sweet treats.

The second recipe I am sharing is one of those desserts I would love to put my hands on. I relish at both Lychee flavor and Rose flavor, but have not had yet the opportunity to enjoy both at the same time. It will be about time I give it a try. I have my Rosewater, all I  need is a can of lychee (or fresh ones if I can find any). I know the story speaks of ONLY Rose and Lychee in the Mousse cake, but I couldn’t find such a thing anywhere (because you will have understood by now that I don’t provide my own recipes. I look them up to share other people’s blogs). Raspberry is an element that is often associated with the Rose flavor, so in the end, it isn’t such a big deal. (is it now?)

So enough with all the babbling. Recipe Sharing Initiated:

 Image

Brown. Sugar. Pie.
(a recipe from Granny Frannie!)

3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, melted and slightly cooled
3 eggs, beaten well
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
2 regular 9-inch pie crusts or 1 deep-dish pie crust

Prepare the pie crusts per package instructions, or make up your own favorite dough.
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, and salt. Be sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar. In a smaller bowl, mix together the melted margarine, beaten eggs, vanilla, and milk; beat well. Add this wet mixture to the brown sugar mixture and blend very well with a handheld mixer. Pour into the pie crust(s) and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes for a regular crust, 60-70 minutes for a deep-dish crust, or until set (just a wee bit wobbly) in the middle. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

 

Recipe from: http://asoutherngrace.blogspot.com/

 Image

Rose, Lychee and Raspberry Mousse Cake

Ispahan Mini Cake

(makes 7 of 2 1/4″ diameter round cake)

Rose Joconde
30g almond meal
30g hazelnut meal *or use 100% almond meal*
2g dried rose buds
75g whole eggs
16g flour
12g melted butter
50g egg whites
8g caster sugar

Lychee Gelee
5 g gelatin powder
160g lychee puree
20g sugar
1 tbsp lychee syrup / water

Raspberry Mousse
125g raspberry puree (from frozen raspberry)
25g caster sugar (if using fresh raspberry, add sugar to taste)
7g gelatin powder
250ml cream, whipped to medium peaks

Rose Bavarian Cream
10g gelatin powder
2 egg yolks
20g caster sugar
125ml milk
1 tbsp rose extract (add to taste)
250g cream, whipped to medium peaks

 

Rose imbibage (soaking syrup)
100ml water
50g sugar
few drops of rose extract
few dried rose buds

Decorations
Fresh raspberry
Rose petals

Method

1. Make the gelee. Soak gelatin powder with water or lychee syrup (if using canned lychee) and let it bloom. In a food processor, whizz lychee till it’s like puree. In a saucepan, cook lychee puree and sugar till it bubbles. Remove from heat. Melt gelatin in the microwave for 1 minute. Add gelatin to lychee puree and stir. Pour into a flat surface (I used a 6″ x 6″ size ) The gelee layer should be about 1cm thick. Let it harden in the fridge overnight.

2.Make soaking syrup. Bring everything to boil in a saucepan. Leave to cool while you make the rest.

3. Make joconde. Whizz dried rose buds in a food processor. In a mixing bowl, whisk icing sugar, almond, hazelnut meal, rose and whole eggs till light and almost double in volume. It should be at a ribbon stage. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites till soft peak. add in caster sugar and whisk till medium peak. Set aside. Gently fold in flour into whole eggs batter. Gradually fold in melted butter. Then lastly fold in meringue in 2-3 batches. Pour into a sheet pan lined with Silpat or parchment paper, spread it. Bake at 220 C for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool. Cut the cake base with round cutters. Place them in the cake rings.

4. Make raspberry mousse. Soak gelatin powder with 1 tbsp of water and let it bloom. With a food processor, puree raspberry till smooth. Pour into a small saucepan. Cook with caster sugar till bubbly. Remove from heat. Melt gelatin in the microwave for 1 minute or more. Add into the raspberry mixture and stir. Whip cream till medium peaks. Fold into the raspberry mixture over ice bath to prevent whipped cream from curdling. Fill in a piping bag and pipe evenly out on 7 cake rings making sure the sides are filled.

5. Make rose bavarian cream. Soak gelatin powder with 1 tbsp of water and let it bloom. In a saucepan, heat milk and caster sugar. In another bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks. Gradually pour the warm milk into the egg yolks while whisking at the same time. Then pour back the custard into the pot and consistently whisk it over low heat till the mixture is thick. Melt gelatin in the microwave then stir into the custard mixture. Add in rose essence, the amount depends on which type of essence you use. Fold whipped cream into the custard mixture over ice bath.

6. To assemble, lay a rose joconde and with a brush, dampen it with the rose syrup. Fill the 1/st layer with raspberry cream which is about 3-3.5 cm thick. Then lay a layer of gelee, cut with smaller round cutters ontop of the raspberry cream. Put it in the fridge to chill. Then pour in the rose bavarian cream (this is not piping friendly as it’s quite liquid-y) evenly into 7 rings. Let it chill in the fridge for 3 hours or till it has set.

7. Decorate with rose petal and fresh raspberry.

 

Recipe from: http://thesweetspot.com.my/

 

 

Chapter 10: Girly Time

Image

Now this is going to be embarrassing. I can’t recall a time I was ever late at my own shop. And not that I have scolded employees for being late (to a certain degree of course), but I simply cannot tolerate for myself to be late anywhere. So this one is hitting just the wrong spot. Plus, had it been that I was late because of traffic, or something of the sort, fine. I could live with that. It’s excusable. But being late because you overslept on your couch while your ex is visiting… that doesn’t look so good. Not according to me. Then again, you will tell me that I shouldn’t be so worried about it since I am the boss and I don’t owe any explanation to my employees. This is not entirely true. I don’t want to be portrayed as the boss that does whatever she feels like. I fear I would lose my good relationship with my staff if make myself immune to any rule I establish at work. And this is the last thing I want, to lose that precious close relationship I have with all of them. I love my staff, and I believe they like me too. Let’s keep it that way.

                After I make sure Keith walked away far enough, I skip to the parking lot where my car is waiting for me. On a normal day, I would have opted for walking. Today isn’t a normal day. I will save every minute I can now by driving. Not very ecofriendly you will say, but well. I have other things that matter right this minute. I get on the driver’s seat and turn my key in the ignition. Before driving away, I look at myself quickly in the rearview mirror and notice that my eyes are a bit red and open wider than usual. My stress over this is getting the better of me. I take a few deep breaths then motion the car out of my spot. To prevent myself from over thinking the whole drive long I turn on the radio and put my focus on the music playing. I made a good decision because before I know it, I am parking my car in the employee’s lot behind the Grand Market. I get out of my car, grab my stuff on the passenger’s seat and walk quickly to the back door. Lucky for me, one of the girl must have left it ajar with a piece of wood to let the hot air go out so I don’t have to fish for my keys. When I step into the kitchen, I try to look like it isn’t a big deal, but I am sure I suck at it. Boss or not, I feel like a daughter doing the walk of shame in front of her disapproving mother, walking home early in the morning after staying over at some boy’s house.

                I don’t know if this is supposed to be luck, or more of a concern, but as soon as I walk in, I don’t get a disapproving look from my girls. More like they smile and greet me just like every morning. I have to say that Bunny has more of a smirk. Now why, don’t ask me. This is the question going through my mind. I put down my stuff on my desk and go greet each girl separately at their station. Alex is making a new batch of flaky dough, Vicky is doing touch ups on a few batches of tartlets that are headed to the front and Bunny is taking care of the cake for the order due at noon. When I get to her station, I take a quick look through the notes on the table next to her as she is making the decorations for the cake, and try to act casual.

                “Well keep doing your great job girls, I am going to check on the front now. Everything alright there?

                -Oh yeah, everything is fine. You actually got there at a perfect timing. Lynn needs you.

                -Oh, ok. Good.”

                Just when I head towards the door, I notice an exchange of looks between Bunny and Alex and it makes me curious even more. I will have to ask them what kind of joke they are hiding from me. I step out of the door leading to the front and go straight to Lynn to apologize.

                “Hey Girl, I am so so sorry. You will never believe what happened last night—

                -Oh Jamie, you have a perfect timing. There’s someone I would like you to meet. The man got here a few minutes ago and I told him you would be there shortly to help him with his request.

                -How did you know I was coming soon?

                -A lucky guess… anyway. Here.”

                A tall black haired man turns around from the left of the counter, where he was looking at a picture of my crew put into a frame on the wall. Now when it comes to making good first impression, one will say it is important to look your best. And if you failed at making a first good impression, you might as well look better on your second chance. Well I have to say I failed poorly at both times. It certainly isn’t when I am slightly disheveled and appearing late at work that I look great to the handsome man standing casually in front of me, all soft smiles. Worst is, I make myself even more a fool by standing there, silent, staring at him. Jay! I don’t know, extend a hand, do something. You saw the man two days ago, it should not be that hard to speak to him, right? See?! You took so long to act that now it left him no choice but to act first. Now that is so professional… The man extends his hand for a handshake, keeping his gorgeous smile in place.

                “I believe we didn’t have a chance to be fully introduced last time. If I recall, you are Jamie, right? My name is Emmet, nice to meet you.

                -N-n-nice to meet you too Emmet. So sorry for the silence. My mind just wandered off for a second.

                -Do not worry. I believe you must be pretty busy. I see the business is going well, just like at the Convention.

                -Oh yes, it is going pretty well. Now I heard that your cute little, niece right? Your little niece Emma won one of the prices back there at the Convention.

                -This is exactly the reason we are here today.

                -Oh, Emma is there too? Wow, sorry to point it out to  you, but Emmet and Emma? Is it a family thing?

                -Yeaahh..no. You would have to ask my big brother for that.

                -What am I saying?! This is none of my concerns. Here, please, take a seat at that table. I will be right back with the paperwork for your prize.

                -Alright. I will go get Emma then.

                -Okay. I will make it quick.”

                Now escape Jamie. Go run. Go and gloom about how stupid you looked and sounded just now. Why in the hell would you bring up this thing about his name and his niece’s name? Are you trying to make yourself sound awkward? Jeez, good job really. It only takes one good looking man to make you act wrong. First your ex, now this handsome stranger. When I step back in the kitchen, my eyes lock with Bunny who is gives me a quick wink. Oh I get it now. She knew that Emmet was there all along, and she was looking forward to me meeting him again. I can still remember her comments about him when first saw him back at the Convention. I agreed with her on them. Emmet is very handsome. Tall, short dark hair groomed gentleman style, sharp jaw and cheekbones lines and a short groomed layer of stubble. Oh and since I need to say it again, Emmet is Asian (Chinese?) so he’s blessed with a pair of beautifully up tilted eyes, shaped by long curved lines around dark pupils and irises. He doesn’t have the dark mean look that usual comes with black eyes though. More like dark, calm and peaceful eyes. I personally wouldn’t mind staring into them for a while. However I feel like it could make things pretty awkward between us, wouldn’t it? Heheh. And his mouth.. gah. A set of lips shaped into a constant semi pucker making them look kissable at all times. Okay, am I getting off the path here? I think I am getting lost in my mind right now. Instead of daydreaming like a teenage girl, I should get back to business and walk back to the front with my papers and deal with him like the business woman that I am. Enough with the inside giggles. If I don’t control myself, I will say something out loud that I will regret.

                When I step back out of the kitchen, I see the Emma sitting on Emmet’s lap like a beautiful Chinese doll (there is no pun intended here folks) and all girly thoughts about the gorgeous man she is sitting on vanish for a little bit. That precious little girl could easily model for magazines. So delicate and pretty. Her face lights up with a smile when she notices me and I can’t help but smile back at her. I also can’t help but extend my hand to her for a tiny handshake to ensue.

                “Well hello again Emma. So good to see you again. I hear you were the big winner last Saturday at my station?

                -Yes.

                -And tell me, what did you win?

                -I don’t know. What did I win Uncle?

                -I believe you won a nice evening of cooking classes with Jamie here. You will be making some delicious cakes , right?”

                When my eyes move up from Emma’s pretty face and meet with Emmet’s stare in my direction, they almost immediately jump back to the little girl’s. This is way too hard for me. I feel like I went back to my High School years and couldn’t look into a boy’s eyes for too long because I could feel the blood creep up into my cheeks. When you are 14 years old, I can understand being shy that way. But at 26 years old, really? I have seen my share of pretty boy walk into my shop and despite my eventual giggles with the girls, I still managed to keep my professionalism and go on with my job. But this time, I just feel like my mind doesn’t want me to keep my cool. So instead I try to keep all my focus on the tiny little Emma with her wide black eyes staring at me, like Bambi. Not leaving my eyes off her, I sit down at the table next to her uncle and put down the papers I need to fill out for the set up of the cooking evening. I take a quick look through the pages and then turn my attention to Emmet who is playing with Emma’s long black hair by twisting her locks between his fingers. I have to admit, I would love to stroke her shiny black hair myself. So lustrous and perfectly straight.

                “So basically, before going any further into the planning of the amazing 3 hour evening I have in store for you Emma, I will need your uncle to help me out with some basic information about you. For a start, could you fill out this section here that tells me everything about her: name, address, specific instructions for health problems if any, allergies. Things of the sort.”

                After pointing out the many blanks that need to be filled, I hand out the sheet to Emma’s uncle along with a pen so he can proceed to write down the information.

                “Under the info about Emma, I will need the info about a legal guardian that will have to be present at well. Had she been older, I believe it would have been alright to let her stay alone with us, but since she is under the age of 10 years old, we have no choice but to have another adult with her. I guess you can understand that.

                -I see. So any adult can come along with her, along as his or her information is written down here?

                -That’s right. I can be a parent, a sibling, a parent’s friend that is approved by the parents of course. I just need to make sure that Emma here will be in the presence of someone of legal age that she knows and trusts.

                -I understand. I need to fill out this section for the adult?

                -Yes, that one just underneath Emma’s info. Basically, along with the legal side to this, it’s also some measures we need to take in case of emergency. Not that we believe anything bad could really happen, but it is a kitchen after all. We are dealing with fire, ovens and other instruments that can be dangerous, whether it’s a kid of an adult. We need someone that can take responsibility for damage and also be available to take care of her in case of a problem. Is she allergic to anything?

                -Not that I have ever heard of. I think she has got that one covered.

                -Good. It makes it much easier to figure out what can be the pastries we will make. Tell me Emma, is there something you would really like to make with me?

                -I really liked the Swan puff I ate Saturday.

                -Oh so you like Cream Puffs, I see. This is a good start. Do you want to make some with me?

                -Yes, I want that.

                -Tell me Emma, what is your favorite fruit?

                -I don’t know. I love strawberries, and blueberries. I also love mango. Can we make mango cream puffs?

                -Maybe! If that is what you really want, we can try. What do you think?”

                The look of happiness in Emma’s face gives me an amazing feeling. I have worked in different kinds of kitchens, but I have never worked along with a kid. This is going to be a new experience for me. I can tell she is really excited about the whole idea of making desserts by the way she claps her small hands together and jump up on Emmet’s lap. Her uncle gives her another of his warm smiles and turns me back to me as he slides the papers back in my direction.

                “Is there already a date set up for that cooking night?

                -Oh no, we need to discuss that too. The only thing we know for sure is that it is in the evening. It can be a week day or in the week end. Basically, whatever fits in the little one’s schedule along with the guardian.

                -Well since Emma’s parents are still out of the country for another week and a half, we can either wait for them to come back and have her father go along with her or we can—

                -I don’t want to wait another week Uncle. I want to do it tonight!

                -Oh Emma, I am sorry but this cannot happen tonight. It is too soon for me, I need to prepare my kitchen to have you come in.

                -Is there any time this week that can be good for you then?

                -I am certain of that, yes. So let me see, if we take away Thursday because I will be out for business, it leaves us with Wednesday or Friday. Tomorrow would still be too early for me, but the two other days would work just fine.

                -Well, let me see. Wednesday I have an important meeting so I guess that leaves us with Friday only. With her parents away, that leaves me as her guardian for the time being. I already put my information in your documents.

                -Oh great! Thanks. And about the time, considering it is a 3 hour long cooking night, may I suggest somewhere around 5h30 or 6h00? Whatever works better for the both of you.

                -I believe 6h00 will be fine.

                -Alright. Six o’clock, Friday night, Emma and Emmet in the kitchen.

                -That seems about right.

                -It almost sounds like a cooking show, hehe.”

                Okay Jamie, you are at it again with the lame comments. You are getting too excited again because you know Emmet is going to be there again on Friday. Calm down now, would you? After all, all this is for Emma, not for you. I have to admit though that knowing a handsome man will watch over my shoulder makes me blush a little. I better hide that quickly before someone starts asking questions. My girls won’t miss a chance like that. Even less Bunny, when I know that she was the first to ask questions about “the hot father” like she put it back then, Saturday. I put my focus back on my papers and make sure nothing has been left blank without a reason and then double check before handing the sheets so that Emmet can sign his name in the designated area. I feel like I am closing the biggest deal of my week, even though I am actually not going to make a single dime out of that scheduled evening. I can only put my hopes in that Emma likes my Cream puffs enough to ask to come back for more. Speaking of which, I should offer them something before they take off.

                Once the paperwork has been completed and signed properly, I stand up. Emma jumps off her uncle’s lap and the latter proceeds to stand up and is quickly pulled to the counter where all the pastries are displayed, as Emma pulled him by the hand to the location. With her both hands spread flat on the glass surface, she sweeps the whole fridge display with a few long looks, a wide smile spread on her delicate face. Her uncle squats next to her and putting his arm around her shoulder asks her to point out what she likes the most in the whole display. I don’t even need to listen to understand that she cannot make up her mind on what she likes the most. The multitude of colors and shapes of the different pastries I put in my display are meant to appeal to the eyes along with the stomach. Numbers of kids I have seen smash their face with excitement into the glass to stare into this heavenly display of sweet treats. Oh, I have seen some adults do just the same too, believe me. Even I did that myself in quite a few places, and I am not speaking of my childhood days. I have no shame in drooling over cakes and pastries. I have a strong sweet tooth and it will take me a serious turns of events to make me change that.

                After I put aside the forms behind the counter, I squeeze myself between Lynn and Silva waltzing from the coffee machines to the cash register, passing by the refrigerated display to pick out the customers orders. Mondays are not the busiest days here at Jay V, but since the clock is approaching lunch time, a wave of people is coming in to get their quick snack before going back to work. We don’t make savory treats for lunch time, so it’s not like it gets packed around that time, but surprisingly, a high number of people will trade a sandwich for a croissant or a tartlet. As I am keeping my focus on Emma and her uncle deliberating what to get before leaving, Lynn leans in close to me and whispers into my ear.

                “I have not seen you act like that in a long time Jay. Do I sense a little attraction towards mister here?

                -Shush Lynn! Please, don’t make it harder than it already is.

                -Alright, alright.. I was just pointing out. I mean, he is pretty good looking, I admit.

                -Hey, you’re a married woman, remember?

                -And what? It doesn’t allow me to point out the eye candy anymore? I may be in my forties with a child, Jamie, I can still enjoy looking at other handsome men. And this one…

                -Yah, yah. This one… We will speak about that later, okay?

                -As you wish. They seem to be ready to put an order.”

                Getting out of my whispered conversation with Lynn, I get back closer to the counter where, on the other side, Emmet takes Emma in his arms and points out towards the fridge.

                “Before leaving you, I would like to purchase a few little treats from you.

                -Sounds good. Do you know how many that will be?

                -Make it four items.

                -Okay.”

                I pick up a small cardboard box that I fold and shape up to receive the selected items. Looking straight at Emmet to listen to his selection, I try not to stare too much because I can still feel the blush creep up into my cheeks. This has definitely got to stop, or I will have a very hard time on Friday when we will spend a full 3 hours together. As he points out the pastries he desires, I put on a loose plastic glove and start picking up the small treats and put them into the small box. No secret, there are two cream puffs out of the four items. The other two are a blackberry and mint tartlet and a raspberry Sacher. I fold the lid on the box and seal it with a piece of tape before taking off the glove and working the buttons on the cash register.

                “That will be a total of 13$.

                -Here, a twenty.”

                When I reach to grab the twenty dollar bill, I make sure to avoid any skin contact because knowing how I reacted earlier, if anything like that happens, I don’t even want to think too much about what could happen. When I give Emmet back his change, I still make sure to show him a big smile to compensate for the way I look today, or in other words, a bit like a mess. Now I will definitely have to make sure that I look much better than that on Friday when he comes along with Emma. I wouldn’t want to make him think that… Really? Okay, now this is getting out of hand. Am I really so concerned about how a stranger I barely met would think of me if I showed up looking like a mess. Something tells me that seeing Keith again brought up something that needed to stay put deep inside. And this is called my emotions. Not that I don’t like have emotions or anything. I enjoy it very much. But I just fear that getting too emotional about anything like trying to impress a man might make me lose my focus at work. I mean, if you think about it, isn’t the episode with Keith enough of an example? I spend one night in the company of an ex and end up late at work. What would it be if things had been, you know, personal? No, I don’t even want to picture myself ruining anything. And now, how about I stop staring and waving Emma and Emmet goodbye? They are, after all, already out the door and walking away. Phasing out again, Jamie… You are unbelievable.

                I turn around, grab my papers and head for the kitchen but Lynn gets in my way right before I reach the door. There is this smirk on her face that tells me she is about to get back to the conversation she started as whispers earlier. And it is not that I don’t want to have a girly moment with Lynn but right now is not exactly the right moment. Being late and all that will make you reconsider your priorities.

                “Now how about you tell me what this was all about?

                -Lynn, I am so sorry. How about you give that a rain check? Not that it is a good excuse, but because I got here late, I have to catch up on some work before putting my hands into some pastry making.

                -Oh, okay, I understand. I just, well, you know… It was just so funny to see you like that.

                -Like what?

                -Girly.

                -Girly…

                -I never saw you act nervous and giggly in front of a customer.

                -Okay, that’s it. If we get started right now it will never end. I’m telling you, rain check.

                -How about you come over for dinner tonight? It will make it different for you, instead of being alone at home. And it will allow us to catch up on the girl talk we haven’t had in a long time.

                -Well, that sounds good. Yeah, okay, thanks!

                -Great. Oh I’m happy! I will have to call Thomas to let him know we are having company tonight.

                -Good, good. Okay Lynn, enough with the small talk now. I believe the lady there is waiting for her Mocha.

                -Oh! Yah.”

                Stepping back into the kitchen, I cross path with Alex who is covered from head to toe with flour. The only dark thing on her is her glare, as she’s holding the broomstick and walking back to her station. I hold back a chuckle and get to my desk, not letting my eyes off her as she sweeps the pile of flour on the floor. As I shuffle through my papers and take out the weekly schedule, let myself down on my chair and turn around to face in Alex’s direction. This time, I don’t hold my chuckle.

                “What happened to you Alexus?”

                Before she can actually answer me, Bunny walks out of the walk-in fridge with a bowl of strawberries and gives me the answer I was expecting.

                “Little lady here dropped her rolling pin on the floor and as she reached down, she knocked off her bowl of dusting flour and it fell right on her head. I don’t need to say more now, do I?

                -This is not funny Bunny. Now not only are my clothes covered with flour, INSIDE my uniform, I also have flour in my ears. This will be so much fun to clean off in the shower, when it will become glue.

                -Ohh, don’t be a whiner Alex. Jay, you should have seen the look on her face when she got back up after it fell on her head.

                -Oh Bunny, stop teasing her. Here, do you need help Alex?

                -No, it’s okay Jay. Thanks anyway.

                -No, really. Let me take care of the mess on the floor and go take care of dusting yourself off in the bathroom.

                -Really? Okay. Well, here.”

                She hands me the broom and the dust collector, takes her apron off and heads out the kitchen. As I sweep the flour into the collector, I look up to where Vicky is working and enjoy seeing her so focused on her work despite the little incident. Now that she is finished with the last touches to the Pear and Caramel Mousse Cakes, she takes the tray and heads outside where she will put them in the display. On her way out, she meets with Silva who walks into the kitchen and heads straight to where I stand.

                “Oh hey Jay. I never got a chance to say hi earlier, with you being busy right away with the customer.

                -Hi Sil. Wassup? Is anything wrong?

                -Oh no, I just wanted to make sure you brought my keys with you… I never took a moment to come and pick them up yesterday, I would really like my car back.

                -Well, hold on. Let me throw that away and I will check right away.”

                I dispose of the flour into the trash and put away the broom and dust collector in the area where we keep the cleaning agents and things of the sort. I walk back to my desk where Silva is standing casually, waiting for me. I pick up my purse and start going through it, but for some reason, I cannot find Silva’s set of keys. Not that it can make sense, since there was no reason for me to take them out of my purse in the first place. But now is not the time to try to figure out why I took them out (hoping I actually took them out and they are waiting for me on the table next to my front door), I have to let Silva know. I have a feeling he won’t be too thrilled. I turn to face him, and try to give him my most apologetic look. Silva’s raising of eyebrows, followed by a squinting of his eyes tells me he already understands what I am about to tell him.

                “I am so sorry Silva. I don’t know why, I must have taken them out of my bag when I got home. I am sure they are right next to my door.

                -Oh because you don’t even know?!

                -No! I am sure they are there. There is no other explanation.                                          

                -And what am I supposed to do now Jay? I don’t really wish to take public transportation again tonight and tomorrow to go to work. Is there any way I can get my hands on them today?

                -Oh I know. How about you ride along with me when we leave work today. I will give you your keys back right then and everything will be just fine.

                -Oh, okay. Sounds good. But believe me when I say this: I will not trust you with my car keys anymore.

                -Well I better not catch you again driving your car when you know you will be drinking.

                -Jeez Jay, alright.

                -I am serious Sil. I cannot control whatever you do when I am not around, but I could not live with myself if something happened to you under my watch. “

                Silva spreads his long arms and wraps them into a hug around me.

                “Oh Jamie. What would I do without you. You’re like the big sister I never had.

                -Thanks. I like that better than being called a mother. I am only 26 years old after all.

                -Oh, I could also just call you my little sister because you are shorter. Hehe

                -No. I would take mother over little sister…”

                Silva lets go of me and heads back to the door leading to the front. Before exiting, he turns around.

                “By the way, I think the lady for the Cheesecake is already there. “

                I turn to look at Bunny who is cleaning up her station. I had not even noticed she was already done. Or is she?

                “Is the cake ready to be taken away yet Bunny?

                -Oh yeah. I guess it’s good I finished it earlier than necessary.

                -That’s very good girl, very good. It’s going to make a happy customer. Let me go check on her. If you could put it into a box ready to go, that would be fantastic.

                -Already on it Boss.

                -Thanks.”

                I walk out the kitchen and see for myself that indeed the lady for the order for a custom cheesecake is already there. I go straight to her as she is looking around the place. I greet her and reach out for a handshake she gives back with no hesitation. The lady has a genuine smile on her face and seems in a good mood. I motion for her to get to the counter where the last details will be taken care of before she can leave with her cake. She waves me off politely as she leans in towards my display and stares at the items available.

                “I just want to take a quick look at what else you have in store. I only ordered the cheesecake to make sure I would have one fresh just for me, but I was hoping I could also get some other pastries along with that.

                -Oh! Sure Mrs. Donner. Take all the time you need to make your decision. Your cheesecake is being wrapped up conveniently for you in the back.

                -Oh, superb. May I take a look at it before the box is sealed?

                -Of course. I will go and get it for you.”

                Just when I am about to step to my kitchen, Bunny steps out and hands me the open box with the beautiful cheesecake, decorated with a collection of white chocolate covered strawberries, fresh blueberries and a few clusters of red currants. There is also a delicate writing on it, made out of dark chocolate, saying “Welcome back Cecily”. When Miss Donner get her eyes on the piece, her face lights up into an even brighter smile and she puts her hand on her chest into a moment of emotion. Typical polite emotions from a 60 something years old lady. Very sweet though.

                “Is it up to your liking Mrs. Donner?

                -Oh it’s fabulous Darling. You did a wonderful job.

                -Don’t thank me. My talented Bunny here took great care of making this cake for you.”

                Bunny comes to stand next to me and gives a subtle bow like the Japanese girl that she is despite all the years of American life she has been through.  Mrs. Donner goes forward to Bunny and reaches for her hands, holding them both in her own, giving them a gentle shake.

                “My friend is going to be so delighted when she will set her eyes on this beautiful cake you made for her. You have talent, young one. Don’t stop doing what you are best at.

                -Thank you Mrs. Donner.

                -Oh please, call me Stella. Now how about you young ladies tell me what would go best with this wonderful cheesecake?

                -With pleasure Stella. Oh and Bunny, it’s okay now. You can go back to your prep in the back. I will take it from here. Thank you for the cake.”

                Bunny nods at me, then at Stella, and steps back to the kitchen. I turn to the old lady and putting my hand on her shoulder, I walk her to the front of the display where we can both have a perfect view of what’s in store to choose from.

                “Could you tell me how many people will be there at your reception?

                -Hmm, let me see. If I also count all the butlers and staff, we are speaking of around 30 people.

                -I see you are having a big party today.

                -Hehehe. Not quite like those Cecily and I used to host back in the 60s. My sister and I would invite the whole neighborhood along with their close friends and anybody that wanted to come along. Those nights were precious.

                -Oh I see, Cecily is your sister. Where is she coming back from? If I may ask.

                -Oh dear, of course you can ask. Cecily was at the hospital. Nothing very serious. Just a bad fall. The problem with old age is that you are kept in bed much longer than young ones like you darling. She was away from home for about a month.

                -Whoa. This is a long time for a bad fall. Well, I assume she is much better today, now that she is discharged.

                -She will be most delighted to have her own little party for her. Cheesecake is her favorite dessert.

                -Is there any other dessert she also like that you see in the display?

                -Well, I see these beautiful colors all around, but I cannot quite make sense of what the desserts are. Would you mind telling me?

                -Of course not Stella. It will be my pleasure. If we start from the top left, we have an assortment of macarons and next to it, three flavors of giant macarons: Chocolate, Raspberry and Salted Caramel. If you desire, I can list the flavors for the smaller macarons.

                -Maybe after. Oh this sounds delicious. I’ll keep these in mind. Keep going.

                -Next, we have the mousse cakes: Mango and Lime, Lychee and Rose, Pear and Caramel and Bitter Chocolate and Sour Cherries. Next to the mousses, we have the cream puffs. You can choose between regular vanilla whipped cream or chocolate whipped cream.

                -Oh, cream puffs are so delicious. But go on, Honey, tell me more.

                -Okay. On the middle row are all the tartlets. There are 6 different ones there: Coconut cream, Lemon and Meringue, Passion Fruit and Chocolate ganache, Blueberries and Frangipane, Blackberry and Mint,  and finally a classic from where I come: Sugar Pie.

                -Ohh, and where do you come from dear?

                -Quebec, Canada.

                -And the Sugar Pie is a classic there? I like that. I will want some of these, I need to try it.

                -Great. I like to hear that. Do you still wish for me to list down what’s there?

                -Let me see. Some of these delicious looking pastries are not a mystery to me, but I would like you to tell me what these beautiful cakes in the bottom are.

                -Sure. These are the Chocolate and Blackcurrant Truffle cakes.

                -Oh I see. Very well. I know there are much more, but I believe I have made my decision. “

                Leaving her where she stands, I walk to the other side of the counter and lean down to reach for the boxes.     

                “Do you have an approximate of the number of items you would like to select?     

                -Let me think. I know there is a number of guests that cannot eat anything sweet, but I also know very well how others have got a serious sweet tooth. How about I select around a dozen. This will allow my friends to share from a great variety.

                -Alright. Very good idea. So what will be your selections Stella?

                -So I’ve got 12 to choose. I will take two of each kind I want. It will make it easier for you.

                -Got it.

                -Give me Sugar Pie, Chocolate and Blackcurrant Truffle cake, Salted Caramel Macaron, Bitter Chocolate and Sour Cherry Mousse Cake, Blueberry and Frangipane Tartlet and finally, Cream Puff.

                -Will that be the regular vanilla whipped cream or the chocolate one?

                -Make it regular.”

                I put together the dozen of pastries into the boxes and tape them shut before safely putting them into a tough plastic bag. I then reach for the box with the cheesecake and also put it into a plastic bag. I go around the counter and hand over the bags to Stella.

                “You have been most kind with me Sweetheart. Now, how much do I owe you?”

                I go to the cash register and start punching buttons.

                “For the Cheesecake and the dozen of pastries, that will be… a total of 55$

                -Let me get my wallet.”

                The old lady opens her purse and fishes out her small claps with all her personal cards. She takes out her credit card and hands it to me. I complete the transaction and ask her to sign her copy of the receipt. Once everything is done, she blows me a kiss and waves goodbye. I watch her walk slowly out of the shop to head towards the exit.  Now that was a pleasant customer. Not that the regular kind of people is not nice to us or anything. But this old lady was so sweet and affectionate. I wish to become that kind of old lady in the future. Hopefully though, I would live with a nice and loving husband too. And children with their own kids. A big whole loving family. Okay, I think I am being very romantic today. There must have been something in that bacon that Keith cooked for me. 

Recipe Post: Popovers and Mantou

Image

Good Morning Guys! Well, whatever hour of the day it is, it must be morning somewhere, right? Just like people saying it must be 5o’clock somewhere when they want to excuse their drinking at unholy hours…            

Well my reason here is because I decided to go for breakfast recipes for this post. Anyway, I had no other choice but to pick up something that wasn’t part of the story (yet!) because I noticed that my last recipe post consisted of one of the food item mentioned in the following chapter. I travelled into the future on that one, hehe.

So yeah! Breakfast food! Okay, don’t get too excited.. or maybe yes! Do! Please.
I may not be writing anything about bacon or eggs on that one, but what I will share with you is just some of the most morning comfort food.

Skip the toasts and PBJ tomorrow, or any other day you wish to throw yourself in some cooking time.

If you have enough time, say, 2 to 3 hours before it is time for breakfast, then go ahead and give a try to homemade Mantou. You will not regret it! Better yet, once these little pillows of goodness are ready for the cooking time, why don’t you just freeze them on a plate, or on a square of wax paper? You will thank me for that.

If you are more into the quick fix for a great fancy breakfast on the go, try out the Popovers. I kid you not, I am one of those cooks that enjoy mixing everything with my own elbow oil (although purchasing my KitchenAid Standmixer was a great idea to prevent some early arthritis), but seriously, the instructions for Popovers are the simplest. You throw everything in the blender, pour into the muffin tin (if you don’t happen to have a popover mold) and Tada!!! Count 35mins, cooking time included.

So now that we got that straight, who’s in for some recipes?

I will start with the quicky: everybody likes the fast alternative for unexpected guests, right? (hahah, yeah, pun intended with the last chapter)

But either way, I dare you, I DOUBLE dare you to give a try to homemade Mantou. It’s worth a shot.

 Image

How to Make Popovers

Makes 6 large or 12 small popovers
Recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking

What You Need

Ingredients

1 cup (8 ounces) whole or 2% milk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Equipment

Blender or food processor
OR
Whisk and a bowl

Popover pan
OR 
Muffin tin

Instructions

1. Make the Popover Batter: In a food processer or blender, or with a whisk and a bowl, blend the milk, eggs, and one tablespoon melted butter until completely combined. Add the flour and the salt. Blend until frothy and bubbly.

2. Heat the Oven: Heat the oven to 450°F. Let the popover batter rest while the oven heats. This gives the flour time to absorb the liquid and gives the popovers a better texture.

3. Pour the Batter into the Pans: Put the popover tin or muffin pan in the oven for 2 minutes to warm. Remove from the oven and divide the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter between the cups. Whiz (or whisk) the batter one more time to froth it up again and then fill each cup halfway.

4. Bake the Popovers for 15 Minutes: Place the pan back into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door during baking (this causes the popovers to deflate).

5. Reduce the Heat and Continue Baking: Still without opening the oven, reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 15 minutes. Now you can open the oven door and check the popovers. Finished popovers will be golden-brown, feel dry to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped.

6. Prick with a Knife, Cool, and Eat!: Turn the popovers out onto a drying rack. Pierce the bottoms with a knife to allow steam to escape. Cool just enough so they can be handled and then eat immediately.

Additional Notes:

• Making Popovers Ahead: Popovers are the best when they’re fresh from the oven. But if you need to make them ahead, just warm them in a 350°F oven until warm and crispy again, about 5 minutes.

• Freezing Popovers: Freeze baked popovers in an airtight bag or container for up to three months. To re-heat, place the popovers directly from the freezer into a 350° oven and bake until warm and crispy, about 8 minutes.

• Other Ways to Make Popovers: While you should keep the ratio of milk, eggs, and flour about the same, you can add other flavoring ingredients to the batter. Try a few tablespoons of sugar for sweet popovers or a few teaspoons of herbs and spices for savory ones. Or you can really treat yourself and make cheesy popovers.

 

Recipe from: http://www.thekitchn.com/

 Image

Mantou (Chinese Steamed Bun)

Rating: 5

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 8 buns

Chinese Steamed Bun is one of the most basic staples in Chinese cuisine. This step by step recipe will guide to through the process in making these soft buns at home.

Ingredients

  • 400g All purpose flour
  • 1 tbs instant yeast
  • 30ml lukewarm water
  • 200ml milk or water +/- 10ml
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp cooking oil
  • 40g sugar
  • 2g salt
  • 1/10 tsp baking soda (optional)

 

Substitute Oil with Avocados from Mexico

 

Instructions

  1. Activate the yeast by combining the yeast with lukewarm water for about 5 minutes. The mixture will become milky and bubbly.
  2. In a bread machine or stand mixer, add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Turn on the bread machine / stand mixer, and slowly add the activated yeast and milk/water.
  3. When adding the milk/water, do it slowly and in batches. Also slowly add the cooking oil. Continue to knead for about 10 to 15 minutes as a dough ball is formed. Pay close attention to the texture of the dough. If it’s hard, add a little more water/milk. If it’s too wet or the surface is sticky, add a little more flour. At the end you should see a smooth, soft, but non-sticky dough ball.
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and side aside to rest. Depending on the room temperature, let the dough rest for 45 – 60 minutes or until the dough doubles the size. If the dough smells very sour, add a tiny portion of baking soda to reduce the sourness. Turn on the bread machine/ stand mixer once again and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth dough is formed.
  5. Place the dough on a flour-covered work station, cut the dough into two halves.
  6. Roll each half of the dough into a long log about 1.5 inch in diameter. Flatten the log using a rolling pin.
  7. Lightly brush some water on the flat dough. Starting from one side of the flat dough, roll the dough towards the other end to form a log.
  8. Remove the ends of the log and cut the remaining log into 4 equal pieces or the size of your choice. Repeat the previous 3 steps for the half of the dough. Place each piece in a wax-paper-covered steamer.
  9. Do not steam the dough right away. Loosely cover the dough with a damped towel and let the dough rest and rise for about 30 minutes. The dough should become 1.5x the original size. Finally steam the dough over boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes. After you turn off the heat keep the lid on for extra five minutes to prevent the buns from becoming saggy.

Notes

Use milk instead of water if you want the buns to appear white

 Recipe from: http://yireservation.com/

 

 

Chapter 9: Unexpected Company

Image

How is a girl supposed to be red hot mad at a man when he is painfully gorgeous. Intense pale blue eyes with a dark outline around the iris, dark brown medium length tousled hair and strong square jaw with sharp dimples on both cheeks; Keith will never fail to make me feel like a high school girl inside. He isn’t much taller than me, at 5’11, and he isn’t of strong bulging build, but he has just the right amount in the right places so that he doesn’t look too skinny. When I met the guy the first time 2 years ago, I was at the farmers’ market, looking for the perfect apples in a stall that had nothing but that. I can take an eternity to make my choice when it comes to buying fresh fruits and veggies. You will see me smell them, knock them (why do we do that already?) weight them. I had finally made my decision on the basket I would pick and once I had paid for it, I see a hand stretch and pick one of my apples and that hand directs it straight to this outstandingly handsome guy’s mouth. The stranger was looking straight at me as he took a big crunchy bite. I didn’t know what to think of it on the spot. I was a bit upset that the guy had just stolen something of mine right in my face, but I also couldn’t stop staring, speechless, as he kept eating my apple. Before I managed to utter anything, the model-like guy standing in front of me stretched his other hand and introduced himself.

                I can still see myself taking much longer than I wished to introduce myself back to Keith on that moment. He definitely thought it was funny, because he knew all too well  that I was instantly under his spell. On that same day, we had what could be considered our first date, walking around the farmers’ market together, talking about just anything. I was charmed and intrigued. Keith managed to get my complete attention and admiration by acting like a total jock. I still don’t understand how we, women, fall quickly for these men that act like total tools. Is it this side of ourselves that hope to make them a better person, or is it our underestimation of our worth? In my case, I believed it was just because he had acted bold and it had caught my attention.

                So that “first date” led to other more regular dates, staying simple and traditional with the dinner and movie. And then when those few dates got us to be more intimate, he started offering more daring options: skinny dipping in strangers’ pool in the middle of the night, cliff diving in the ocean, test driving a motorcycle just for the rush of it, or even get ourselves high on MJ and go to video games arcades. We spent some great time together. It felt like the passion he put in everything he did was never faltering; I fed on it and clung to the zest it brought to my life. Our growing love was electrifying and the sex was intoxicating. I had had other relationships before him, but the one I had with Keith felt like the most invigorating I could ever get. Of course, people will say this is how everyone feels when they are young. It is true, but after all, I was 24 years old and he was 27. We were both just passed this stage of youth where you don’t put much thought in anything you do. I believed, deep down in my heart, that Keith might have been the one guy for me. He made me feel beautiful, desirable, full of energy. We would speak of trips we should make, spots in the world where we wanted to be together, achievements we wanted to fulfill hand in hand. We would picture ourselves on top of the pyramids, shouting profanities at the dead Pharaohs just to see what would happen. Keith would share his own daring episodes in his past trips in other countries, where he would tease tigers, swim with sharks and tightrope walk over deep canyons. The guy was simply the most extraordinary person I had ever met. Okay, you will tell me he could have made all of that up just to impress me. But I believed him. It wasn’t just the pictures he showed me that proved him right. It was his bottomless passion and never ending thirst for more. His eyes always sparkled when he would tell me his stories, his hands moving in wide gestures, mimicking his movements and actions, dancing around in the room while making me feel like I was there myself.

                Keith made me dream. But Keith was reckless and didn’t really take things seriously enough. He had a hard time keeping a regular job because he would speak his mind too quickly and get himself fired. Keith tried many times to make me quit my own job to elope with him. He would tell me we could sell everything we owned and buy ourselves a cheap car and go on a road trip, follow the road and let it take us where it wished. Or buy a boat and live in it. That last idea was what made me wake up. My own brother had left everything behind, his family and friends, just to live on a boat with some girl. And the only thing it left him with was himself. He ruined his relationship with his own family. Going on the same path suddenly scared me. From that moment on, Keith’s big plans sounded like danger to me. I felt as if I had been living with something radioactive for long without feeling it, but then started noticing deformities growing on me. I had been so blinded by his passion for life, and his wild ideas, that I had not fully understood how destructive he could be to my future life. I could no picture myself living in a shack in the middle of nowhere, or feeding off bushes in the wilderness. I needed some sort of stability, and Keith was nothing close to it.

                That is when we started fighting. I would try to reason with Keith about his job, or try to tone him down when he would start exponentially plan our future days. He didn’t like it. He would start calling me a coward, blaming my desire for a stable job as a brake put on our relationship. Of course, the makeup sex that ensued our fights was always phenomenal, but it was not the only thing I was looking for. I would ask Keith to try acting like an adult and it only made him act more like a child. And this is when, after months of on and off fights, that I came back from work and found this note on my kitchen table. He had half moved in my apartment for the last months we were together, so suddenly, there was a void in my everyday life when he left me alone.

                I never truly knew where he left to on that day, since we never spoke again. I had my share of suspicions on it though; either a backpacking trip in the Amazonian forests, or a hitchhike through Europe. Who knows. All I know is that I have a feeling that tonight, as the infamous man is standing before me, I will finally get some answers. At least, I don’t hold much of a grudge anymore. I cried myself to sleep so long after he left that I owe him no more tears.  Now I am just curious. And maybe a bit upset that he invaded me in my privacy just now. I have to find a way to put some clothes on without him seeing anymore of me naked. Still hiding in the kitchen, I shout out to him.

                “Well if you would be so kind, go put your face in the living room’s corner so I can get out of the kitchen and get dressed.

                -Oh don’t mind me Jamie. I have seen enough before, you don’t have to put on some clothes.

                -Yah right. Get away would you? I am serious.

                -Alright, alright. As you please.”

                I hear his nonchalant footsteps get away to the back of the living room, so I pop a quick look out of the kitchen before escaping quickly to my room. Keith is diligently facing the wall in the far corner of my living room, so my way is clear. I skip quickly out of my hiding spot and almost jump inside my room where I slam my door shut. I am glad I had taken my choice of clothes already, so that it doesn’t take me too long to get dressed. But then again, after making me wait for more than a year to give some news, I can make him wait for me getting changed. I put on my PJs and go stand in front of my mirror to attempt fixing up my tousled wet hair so I don’t look too bad in front of him. I know I don’t owe him anything, but I still have my own dignity to keep. I wouldn’t want him to believe I can’t look good anymore. Once I believe I look presentable, I put on my slippers again and walk out of the room to meet with Keith in a better light.

                Although I asked him to wait in the corner, he is now sitting carelessly on my sofa, his legs crossed in the wide way, his both arms stretched to his side on the back of the sofa. His eyes just won’t leave my every movement until I am seated on my reading upholstered chair a bit further from him. There is plenty of space on the sofa next to him, but I am not ready just yet to be that close. I am sitting straight, my hands on my knees, looking at him with what I would judge to be my most poker face possible, and he is looking back at me with his typical smirk and smoldering eyes. I have a feeling this is going to be hard. And I thought I was going to relax and watch movies. Who was I kidding.

                “So when you called me and asked that I called you back, you didn’t actually cared if I would call back?! You were planning to come barging in all along weren’t you?

                -Well, to be honest, I was not. I had hoped I could have caught you on the phone yesterday, but I wasn’t very successful. Leaving a message seemed the best thing to do. But then, I thought: why don’t I just pay her a visit?

                -Oh because everybody that leaves someone without notice, not giving a single news for over a year, can just come back in as they wish in someone’s life. Right?

                -When you put it this way, it looks like you disapprove.

                -Because I do!

                -Now, now Jamie. I left you a note before leaving.

                -Yah. Bye. Very explanatory.

                -Oh really? That’s all I left behind? Humm… yeah, okay, that was stupid of me to leave behind so little. Maybe a catch up call the next day would have been helpful.

                -How about a discussion about your departure BEFORE it actually happened? Ever thought of that? You don’t walk out on someone you’ve spent a year with.

                -I thought about it. I—

                -We LIVED together Keith! We were not just roommates, we were partners. You will tell me, we weren’t married or anything. Yah, I get it. But I deserved a lot more than “Bye”.

                -I see you still hurt from my swift move.

                -No, I don’t hurt anymore. I have hurt my share already, a year ago. Now I am just upset to think that this is all I was worth to you.

                -No, you were not of little worth to me Jamie.

                -Oh so this is why I never ever heard of you again from the moment you left? I didn’t deserve a call or a visit?

                -I thought of coming back earlier, but you know me, adventures are always awaiting in every corners of my life.

                -Well you ruined a big adventure that night. That night you left, you also left behind any chance of having a sidekick in all those fantastic journeys. I was scared Keith, I was scared of leaving everything behind. But I was not unresponsive to it. It tempted me, a lot.

                -You could have let me know.

                -And how was I supposed to? Huh? Tell me! How was I supposed to talk about this with you when you never took anything I tried to tell you seriously. I wanted to offer you to go on a regular trip with you. You could have gotten yourself a job, and we would have saved money together, and this trip to Egypt we had always hoped for could have been true. We would have purchased tickets, like normal people do, and we would have booked a hotel, or a youth hotel, if that had made you feel better. We could have given a try to those adventures you promised me, but we didn’t need to leave everything behind for that.

                -You know I don’t like working. Being enclosed in four walls, limited in my movements.

                -Working doesn’t put you in a cage. It gives you the means to get your freedom.

                -I didn’t need the money to travel. You know that very well.

                -Look! I don’t care you had a huge amount of money you inherited from a deceased uncle. That kind of money only disappears. You need to work to make sure you never run out. You didn’t win the lottery for life. You just had enough to sustain many many years. However, you decided to burn it all up in all your great trips.

                -It was a lot of fun.

                -Life isn’t just about having fun Keith, when will you understand this? You need some stability in your life at some point. You cannot just travel around the world, without a house you call home, or at last a country you call your own.

                -This is where you are wrong Jay. I always called California my own. After all, this is where I met love.

                -Oh no no no… you will not play with that card. You lost me, remember? I didn’t stay behind and wait for you patiently, still full of love for you. You hurt me Keith.

                -I didn’t mean to.

                -Don’t even try. You knew very well what you were doing. You may be crazy a little bit, you are not dumb.

                -You are right, I was crazy. Well, I still am. Although my visit with the Dalaï Lama has cleared up some of it.

                -Okay, enough with your travels. Just get to the point now, would you? You called me and came here for a reason, didn’t you? You said on the phone you had something to share with me. Now would be the time.

                -Yeah, about that. I had two things to share with you. The first one would be that.. well… how to put that. You know that big chunk of money I got from my uncle..?

                -Oh no! Don’t tell me. You ate through it, didn’t you?

                -Almost. You see, I still have just enough to live around here for a few weeks or so.

                -Oh you must be proud of yourself now. What did you have in mind to do once you’d be completely dry? Huh?

                -I was hoping you could help me with that.

                -Me? You have to be kidding!?

                -I am not kidding. But don’t get me wrong, I am not asking you to give me money. I will get to that myself. I just need your help for two things.

                -And what would that be!?

                -First I was hoping you could let me crash on your couch for one night. ONE night! I swear.

                -Why would I, give me one good reason!

                -Because you are too good to leave someone out in the cold.

                -Pffft, it isn’t cold at night here, I could leave you out in the streets without flinching.

                -But then you wouldn’t hear what else I have to share with you.

                -Oh yeah, and what would be so important that I wouldn’t want to miss it?

                -I saw your brother Adam.”

                I felt my heart drop low and heavy all the way to my feet. I have not heard even a single speck of news from my big brother in forever. I don’t even know if Keith has good or bad news for me. Just at the thought of that, my heart found its way back high up there, in my throat, making me feel like chocking a bit. I can’t even speak a word. I want to ask Keith what he has to say, but I am scared of what he has for me. I look straight at him in silence, hoping he will understand my eye language telling him to go on and spill the beans. Keith seems completely oblivious to it, and just keeps staring back at me, the smirk now leaving space for a surprisingly serious face. Adam left 12 years ago, and I haven’t seen him in the flesh in about 10 years. The only thing I know about Adam is that he would be 29 years old as we speak. Funny enough, it’s the same age as Keith. Wait, why am I making funny remarks on this right now? This is not the time and place.  Whatever Keith has to share about Adam, I need to hear right now. Letting him sleep on my couch tonight doesn’t sound so high a cost for this. But still, it simply feels weird for me to let him breathe the same air.

                Forcing myself to stand up, I head to my kitchen very quietly. I don’t speak a word or anything, just get to the cupboards and take out two mugs, along with one of my bags of loose leaf tea. I choose my mix of lavender and white tea, to help me calm down. I drop some leaves into my steeper and pour over it steaming water from the dispenser on my counter. After the heated exchange between Keith and I, the silence in my apartment feels good. Of course we didn’t reach to screams, but it was more arguing than I had in a long time. That is also why I prefer to stay in the kitchen while my tea is getting ready, instead of going straight back to the living room where my problems are sitting. Quietly, at that. I never knew Keith could sit somewhere for long without needing to pace around, or throw a joke or witty remark. Maybe his meeting with the Dalaï Lama really did some good. Anyway, it is not like I am trying to find what has changed for the better in him. I am doing him one favor tonight, and that will be all. He doesn’t deserve more from me, not after what he did.

                When I judge the tea is infused enough, I strain some into each cup before going back to the living room with them. I hand out one of them to Keith and hold mine close to me as I sit down on the sofa next to him. For some reason I feel colder, so I might as well steal some warmth from him while he’s there. Not too close though. The last thing I want is for Keith to believe I am feeling vulnerable and in need for physical comfort. I am not that low. I stay quiet for a bit more, pull my knees up to my chin and hold my hot cup of tea with my two hands. I inhale deeply the sweet and soothing smell of my lavender white tea and I can feel it melt me down slightly. I turn my head toward Keith who has now taken his arms down from the back of the sofa. He is now sitting decently, holding his cup in his right hand, while his left hand his slowly rubbing the scruff on his chin. At my first attempt at speaking again, the words get stuck in my throat. I clear my throat and try a second time, after taking a deep breath.

                “Alright, I am going to be fair with you. I am not going to ask questions or anything; I will let you sleep on my couch tonight. But you have to expand on the subject about my brother. What do you mean, you saw him.

                -Thanks Jamie. I certainly owe you a big one on that.

                -Skip it Keith. Please answer my question.

                -Alright, alright. On my way to Vietnam, I stopped at a port in Thailand and sat down at one of the restaurant by the piers. I was surprised to see a white guy preparing the fish for the cooks, and I realized his face rang a bell. But before I could assume who it was, I went to him and started chatting casually, fishing for more info.

                -At the piers in Thailand. My brother works in Thailand?

                -Let me finish.

                -Okay, sorry.

                -After talking to him for about half an hour, I was certain it was your brother. He would tell me of his family back in Canada, his sisters he believed still lived back there with his parents.

                -What did you tell him?

                -I wanted to tell him you were now in California, with a great life, a great job, a future.

                -What?! You didn’t tell him?

                -Not right away. You see, the guy didn’t know who I was. How do you suppose he would have believed me?

                -Yeah.. I suppose you are right.

                -So since I knew I was stationed in Thailand for a few days before taking off to Vietnam, I decided to go back to the restaurant the next day, and the following. I made him warm up to me, enough so that I could let him know I knew one of his sisters.

                -I can’t believe it. My brother works in Thailand. Is he alone there?

                -Well, there seemed to be a woman in his life. I couldn’t know for sure. She just came twice to see him when I was chatting with him.

                -Is there anything important I should know?

                -Not specifically. But I let him know on my last day in Thailand that I knew his sister, whom now lived in California, LA, and worked at opening her own shop downtown. I told him how she thought about him sometimes, how she missed him. At first, he didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. But then after I told him more about you, he seemed to believe me.

                -Did you tell him about you and I?

                -I kept it as a friendship between us. I didn’t want him to know I had left you behind.

                -Oh so you had remorse!? It took you to meet my brother on the other side of the world to feel bad about leaving me!?

                -You don’t have to do this again Jay.

                -Oh but I have all the rights to keep it going Keith. You will not tell me what to do.

                -Whatever works for you. Anyway, before leaving, I gave him your info in Los Angeles. I told him he should try to contact you in some way.

                -Did he say he would?

                -Yeah, he said he would check into it.

                -Oh so I should be expecting a call or something eventually.

                -Well…That was about 6months ago Jamie.

                -Oh..”

                I don’t know what to feel yet. Am I feeling hopeful that Adam could be contacting me anytime, or am I feeling hurt to know that my brother I haven’t seen in about a decade has been given my info, and hasn’t done anything about it. I look down my almost empty cup of cold tea and lean forward to put it down on the low table in front of the sofa. Keith leans forward as well to put down his cup at the same time and takes my hand when I am about to lean back. I stop short on the spot, looking up instantly into his eyes. Keith is looking at me with empathy; a feeling I have never seen on his face before. I stay frozen for a moment before sitting back, my hand still in Keith’s grasp.

                “You don’t seriously believe that you can win me back just by being a nice guy for once, do you?

                -I am not trying anything Jamie. I just feel sorry for you, to know that your brother never checked on you despite my visit.

                -He must have been busy, or maybe he couldn’t reach anyone where he was.

                -Well, believe whatever makes you feel better. I just want you to know that I can be there for you if you need me.”

                I pull my hand quickly from Keith’s hand and move away from him on the sofa. I stand up and grab both cups and head back to the kitchen to put them in the sink. Having Keith here in my apartment is definitely not the best idea right now. Normally, on moments like this, one wants to get a hug or something, but I cannot picture myself getting physical with my ex. But now that I told Keith that I allowed him to sleep on my couch, I cannot get back on my words. I just need to suck it up. Brush it off and go back to that living room. The person there isn’t your biggest monster yet. You can live through it. Before exiting the kitchen, I look up at the clock over the door frame, and notice I am past my usual dinner time. I was planning on fixing something up for myself with leftovers, but now that I have company, I maybe I should look into it a bit more. I step out of the kitchen and see Keith standing in front of my bookshelves, looking closely at my novels. When he hears me back into the room, he turns around and gives me a smile that for once, feels genuine. Something makes me feel like Keith has gone through more than he wants to share, and that it made him a more emotionally reliable person somehow. Not that I am speaking for me though, oh hell no. I am through with him, period. But now I am hungry. Let’s talk about food, okay?

                “Have you eaten yet? Before breaking into my apartment…

                -Well I ate something quickly before coming over, but it wasn’t much. Would you like me to go pick something up outside while you stay here? I don’t believe you feel like putting on real clothes now.

                -You know, this is actually a wonderful idea. You might as well repay yourself for invading my privacy.

                -Okay, you don’t have to make it such a big deal. Is the small sushi place down your street still there?

                -I believe so. I haven’t gone there since… well, since you left I believe.

                -Ohh… all sentimental, aren’t we?

                -Shut up Keith. Go get those sushi!

                -Alrigthy then! Hopefully, it shouldn’t take longer than half an hour. See you later Jay.”

                Keith takes a few long strides to my door and exits without saying more. I realize one second later that I didn’t even give him my order. Oh well, anything will do for me right now anyway. I am more hungry than I thought; my stomach is grumbling loudly now. The thought of eating sushi makes my mouth watery. I haven’t had it in a while, and I certainly haven’t had a man go fetch them for me while I wait patiently in my PJs. At least, while I am waiting, I can set up the living room for our dinner. We could simply eat in the kitchen, but it would feel too awkward to be face to face, having to feed a casual conversation I don’t wish to have just yet. Setting ourselves up in front of a movie will allow me to eat in silence and have the time fly by faster. So I better clear up the low table in front of the sofa so we have all the space necessary. And since I have about half an hour before I get company again, I can sit down in my reading cocoon and take a bite into one of my new novels waiting for me there. I will not get very far into it in 30mins, but it will just take my mind off the news I just received.

               

****

 

                I hear a soft knock on the front door and I wonder who that can be. I say that because I wouldn’t believe that Keith would knock, not after getting inside with his own set of keys the first time. I put my book down and get up, walk to the door and take a peek at the peephole. Well I guess I was wrong. It is Keith. I open the door and before treating him with a witty remark about it, I notice he has got his hands full with bags of food. I move aside and let him walk in before closing the door behind him.

                “You can put those boxes down on the table before the sofa. I was thinking we could watch a movie or something while we eat. I had selected a pile of movies I was already planning to watch tonight, so you can just check it out and choose from it if you want.

                -Oh, that sounds good.”

                Keith walks to the living room and puts down the three bags of food from the sushi restaurant. I join him to sit down on the sofa and proceed to take out the boxes from the bags. When I open the first box, I catch a quick whiff of the vinegary rice and my stomach grumbles loud enough for Keith to hear it and give me a mocking look.

                “It sounds like you haven’t eaten in ages girl.

                -That’s about right… It’s my mistake for skipping my snack after gym.

                -Well Jay, you will be happy to see how much I picked up at the Golden Roll.

                -I see you got two orders of my favorite roll! Yay, this is awesome. I am kind of glad that despite everything, you still remember what I like to eat.

                -Well you know, I think we went there too many times together back then. I didn’t even need to take a second look at the menu when I got in. I read it once and I recognized all the items we used to get. Oh and I picked up this new thing too. You should find it in the small box right there.

                -Let me check.”

                I put away the empty first bag and pull the second bag towards me to take out the small box out. When I open I see what seems to be two slices of tempura sweet potatoes, topped bit a mix of shredded crab meat, tempura crunch, tobiko and spicy mayo.

                “What do they call this?

                -I think it was something like Volcano or whatever.

                -Well I already know I will like it. And it smells just wonderful.

                -Let me take care of taking out all the boxes while you set up the movie then.

                -You haven’t even taken a look at the DVDs.

                -Oh it doesn’t matter to me. Just pick up the first one you want. Or look. Here. Let’s watch this one.”

                Keith picks up a random DVD box from the pile and hands it to me. I grab it and get up to walk to the DVD player. As I unwrap the box, I see the cover showing an animation girly movie that would definitely not be Keith’s kind.

                “I hope you are aware of what trouble just got yourself into, Keith.

                -Don’t even tell me. I’d rather you just put it on and I suffer through it.

                -Fine. I won’t tell you what it is. But don’t go complaining after it has started.

                -Alright.”

                Chuckling, I put the DVD in the player and press start. I walk back to the sofa where all the food is spread out, ready for us to pig out. The smell of all of it is intoxicating for my empty demanding stomach. I go first for the Volcano and start munching on it as the first trailers start playing on my TV. Some cute and cheesy music is playing in the background of the kid aimed animation and I keep chuckling until I know for sure that Keith got the hint of what kind of movie he picked out of the pile. I don’t even need to look at him to find it out. I hear him sigh loudly and let out a soft oath before eating away his disappointment by stuffing his mouth with a whole big piece of Dragon Eye roll. As I enjoy my Volcano, I turn my head slightly to spy on Keith’s expression and find myself wondering what would have happened to the both of us if Keith had not taken off on me. Putting aside his bad habits and his reluctance to become a real responsible man, Keith was a lot of fun, and a lot of handsome as well. I still remember how much I enjoyed the expression of girls face when they would see him walking in the streets by my side. Basically, I didn’t even exist. I couldn’t blame them. At some point, nothing and nobody else existed for me when I started dating him. But then the more serious commitment knocked at our door and he never wanted to go open it. All I know now is that no matter how sexy and gorgeous Keith is, I don’t see myself with someone like him again. I see myself in a much more stable lifestyle in the upcoming years, and hopefully I can share it with someone equally stable.

                But now, enough with the serious thoughts; some delicious food is awaiting to be devoured and the movie is about to truly start after all the trailers. I set myself more comfortably in my sofa, make sure I can still reach for the food easily and then I stop using my brain for more than the necessary motions of living. It’s time to relax for real. The night is still young.

 

****

 

                I open my eyes and realize that I am not in my bed. I turn my head to my right and see my coffee table all clear of the boxes of take out. Before getting up, I tune in my ears to understand the noise in my kitchen, and realize it’s a mix of dishes getting themselves cleaned up, and something sizzling in a pan. Keith! He is still there. But what is he doing making more food so late? Late? It can’t be late, I see some light from my windows. Oh crap!! Oh snap!! It’s morning! I shouldn’t be here on my sofa, I should be at work. I sit up on my sofa, and notice I have the soft throw spread on me, and my pillow where my head was. At least, I have to give it to Keith that he didn’t just let me slumber awkwardly on the sofa. But where did he sleep? I notice another pillow on my reading seat and understand that he sacrificed his comfort. I pick up my cell phone from the coffee table and check the time. Owww… this is bad, it’s 9o’clock already. The girls at work are not going to like me for sleeping in on the first day of the week. I understand I am the boss, but I don’t just act however I want. Furthermore, I always try to show the example by showing up earlier than most of them.

                I finally get up and rush to my kitchen to make sure I am not just hallucinating all of this, but sadly, I am not. I see Keith scrubbing a small pan, and I smell a mix of fried eggs and bacon. Actually, that bacon I smell seems to be the culprit for the sizzling sound coming from another pan on the stove. You see, all that would look fantastic if it wasn’t my ex standing there, and most importantly, if I wasn’t late for work. Jeez, what am I going to do?! Okay, first thing first! I have to get that man out of my house. I understand it is my fault for being late and all that, but I believe nothing of that would have happened had Keith not been part of the story. Once I am cleared of him, I need to get ready real quick and take off before it becomes much too late to get to work without looking like a bum. I will have to tell the truth to my girls anyway; it’s not like I am a teenager trying to hide a boyfriend in my bedroom after all. No, that’s right. More like an ex boyfriend in my kitchen. Jamie, do something, now!

                I step further into my kitchen and Keith turns around.

                “There you are sleepy head! I was starting to believe you were never going to get up.

                -Cut it Keith. Why didn’t you just try to wake me up?! I am late for work now.

                -Oh! I didn’t know, I am so sorry. Well, I prepared breakfast for you. You should sit down and eat before leaving.

                -I don’t have time for that right now! I have to leave, and YOU have to leave!

                -You don’t have to get all grumpy on me missy. I will leave when you have eaten.

                -You are kidding right?

                -Nope. You will sit down that pretty ass of yours and eat those eggs and here, that bacon should be ready now.”

                He picks up the pan with the sizzling slices of heaven and with a pair of tongs, grabs the bacon to put it down on a plate covered with absorbing paper. He puts down the pan and tongs and grabs the plates of eggs and  bacon to bring it on the kitchen table where a glass of orange juice is already waiting.

                “Sit down.

                -Keith.

                -I said sit down! I will leave, I promise you. But I will not let you go to work in a hurry without at first eating something.

                -As you say, I AM in a hurry.

                -There is no fire. Eat your breakfast, go get dressed and then we can both head out that door.”

                For some reason, I feel like there is no need for me to even try to fight him more. He is kind of right, after all. I will regret it if I leave for work without eating something. My lunch time will seem to take a millennium before getting there and I might be snappy with my girls. Oh well, at least, there’s bacon. Just that side of crunchy, not too dry, not to jelly. While I chew my eggs, I mentally pick up my clothes for the day to speed up the dressing up process. Once I am finished with my last bites and the last sip of orange juice, I jump off my chair and head straight to my bedroom. I close the door and lock it before getting anything else done. I have been invaded in my privacy a bit too much in the last 24h. I won’t just let it happen again. I fish out my clothes from the closet and the drawers and put everything on at a speed I didn’t know I could reach. I unlock the door and skip to my bathroom where I fix my hair quickly and wash my face. I then brush my teeth and allow myself a quick spray of fragrance mist.

                When I get to my front door, Keith is there, waiting for me with my purse dangling from his hand and my car keys in the other. Before taking them away from him, I make a quick run to my dining room where I know I left some paperwork I need to bring to work. Once I have everything in a pile, I head back to the door, snatch my purse and keys from Keith and hold my hand up in front of me. He looks at me questioningly as I keep it up.

                “Is it for me to hold it?

                -Not really. I would like my keys back.

                -I gave you your car keys already.

                -I mean my house keys. Your double. I am not letting you out of here with them.

                -Oh! Oh… Okay. I see. Fine. Here.”

                Keith fishes down his jeans pockets and take out his keys. He picks out the one for my front door and unhooks it from the ring. He puts it reluctantly in my open palm and stuffs his other keys back in his pocket. I open my front door and extend my arm out to the hallway for Keith to step out. I follow him out of the apartment and lock the door behind us. Now it’s time to go. 

Recipe Post: Butternut Squash Lasagna and Volcano (Spicy Kani Salad over Sweet Potato Tempura)

Image

Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all ^_^

I think it wouldn’t be pushing it to say that my new year’s resolution should be to be more consistent with my blog, haha.

I have been a very bad blogger in the past months. So many things have happened in my life, aside from the actual holidays that took me away from my computer for the past month. (You can’t seriously judge me on that one though, right? Family and friends come first on this time of the year.)

My first bump in the timeline was by the end of November when my sweetie and I finally got married. J It was a wonderful thing, with great weather, great view and great people. I was even the luckiest woman because I had my mother come all the way from Quebec to be with me on my precious day. I love you Mom 😀

Things got hectic from that moment on, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, family parties, Christmas preparations and Christmas shopping.

And then of course: D-Day. Christmas was great. I even had my fun baking cookies the whole day with my newly acquired Kitchen Aid Mixer (Yay Black Friday at 4am haha).

New Year ’s Eve followed and ended with a bang on a yacht in the San Francisco Bay with all our friends. It was magical.

What have the holidays offered you this year? Any new kitchen jewels? Did you make anything delicious for your loved ones, or your significant other?

So anyway, enough with my reasons for being AFK for so long. Now I am there, and it is time to post a well overdue Recipe Post along with the following chapter for the story. (Shame on me: the chapter has been complete a month ago and I just never had the chance to post it since I have to upload a recipe post first… hehe, please don’t throw rocks)

This time I went for the Butternut Squash Lasagna and the Spicy Kani (imitation crab) over Sweet Potato Tempura. The first recipe, I have never tried, but I ache for it. The second, I haven’t had it in forever, but I can still remember the pleasure of the fresh, tangy and spicy creamy mix covering the hot and crunchy slice of sweet potato tempura. It is what is called a Volcano in the story by the way. Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all J

I think it wouldn’t be pushing it to say that my new year’s resolution should be to be more consistent with my blog, haha.

I have been a very bad blogger in the past months. So many things have happened in my life, aside from the actual holidays that took me away from my computer for the past month. (You can’t seriously judge me on that one though, right? Family and friends come first on this time of the year.)

My first bump in the timeline was by the end of November when my sweetie and I finally got married. J It was a wonderful thing, with great weather, great view and great people. I was even the luckiest woman because I had my mother come all the way from Quebec to be with me on my precious day. I love you Mom 😀

Things got hectic from that moment on, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, family parties, Christmas preparations and Christmas shopping.

And then of course: D-Day. Christmas was great. I even had my fun baking cookies the whole day with my newly acquired Kitchen Aid Mixer (Yay Black Friday at 4am haha).

New Year ’s Eve followed and ended with a bang on a yacht in the San Francisco Bay with all our friends. It was magical.

What have the holidays offered you this year? Any new kitchen jewels? Did you make anything delicious for your loved ones, or your significant other?

So anyway, enough with my reasons for being AFK for so long. Now I am there, and it is time to post a well overdue Recipe Post along with the following chapter for the story. (Shame on me: the chapter has been complete a month ago and I just never had the chance to post it since I have to upload a recipe post first… hehe, please don’t throw rocks)

This time I went for the Butternut Squash Lasagna and the Spicy Kani (imitation crab) over Sweet Potato Tempura. The first recipe, I have never tried, but I ache for it. The second, I haven’t had it in forever, but I can still remember the pleasure of the fresh, tangy and spicy creamy mix covering the hot and crunchy slice of sweet potato tempura.

For that last recipe, I had to dig to find separate recipes to match the final product you see over the recipes. Furthermore, in the recipe I found, there isn’t tobiko (flying fish roe), but believe me, this is a great plus. The way those tiny little bubbles of flavor pop under your teeth when you bite, it’s so satisfying.

So off with the personal stories, it’s time for you people to find your happiness in those recipes and eventually share with me your results.

 Image

Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna [vegetarian]

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash (around 1.5kg)
  • 450g chestnut mushrooms
  • 200g young spinach
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 300g goat cheese
  • 12 lasagna sheets
  • 1 liter semi skimmed milk
  • 80g butter
  • 80g plain flour
  • 4 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves (chopped)
  • 75g parmesan
  • nutmeg
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
    • 1.Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6.
    • 2.Peel the butternut squash. Remove seeds and cut in 1 cm dice.
    • 3.Put the butternut squash dice on a large roasting tray. Toss with the chopped rosemary in some olive oil.
    • 4.Roast for 30-40 mins until golden and soft. Once cooked, remove from the oven. Season to taste and leave on the side.
    • 5.In the meantime put some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add crushed garlic and fry for a few minutes. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté until soft .
    • 6.Once the mushrooms are cooked, mix in the spinach and cook until leaves have wilted.
    • 7.Add goat cheese cut in small chunks to the spinach and mushrooms mixture. Blend well and cook until goat cheese has melted slightly. Season to taste. Leave on the side until ready to use.
    • 8.Make the béchamel sauce in a separate saucepan. Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook the mixture for a minute or so. Add the milk little by little stirring well to avoid lumps. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken and become glossy. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Leave on the side until ready to use.
    • 9. Boil some water in a large saucepan and pre cook the lasagna sheets.
    • 10. When ready to assemble the lasagna, put some béchamel sauce at the bottom of a lasagna dish (approx. 33 x 26cm).
    • 11. Add one layer of lasagna sheets topped by 1/3 spinach mixture 1/3 butternut squash and 1/4 béchamel sauce. Repeat layering 2 more times. Finish off with an additional layer of lasagna sheets covered with the rest of the béchamel sauce. Make sure all the pasta is covered so it does not get dry while cooking. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.
    • 12. Cook in the oven at 200C/390F/Gas 6 for 25-30 mins until the top is crisp and brown. Pasta should feel tender when pierced through with a knife.
    • 13. Leave to rest for 5-10 mins on the side before serving.

Recipe from: http://theflexitarian.co.uk/

Image

Volcano Sushi

Image

Sweet Potato Tempura

Main Ingredients

  • 1 lb Korean Sweet Potato
  • ⅔ Cup Frying Mix (Batter)
  • ½ Cup Water
  • ¼ Cup Frying Mix (Coating)
  • 3 Tbsp Potato Starch (or Cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp Sugar (Optional)
  • ⅛ Generous tsp Salt

Directions

Obtain 1 large Korean sweet potato (about 1 lb, 4-5 inches in length). Wash it good and remove any bad parts on the skin. Cut it into ¼-inch slices. You will get about 25 pieces. Korean sweet potatoes have a different taste and texture than American sweet potatoes. They are sweeter and have a firm texture. So please use Korean sweet potatoes for this recipe.

Sprinkle a generous ⅛ tsp of salt evenly on top of the sweet potato slices. Set them aside what you are preparing the batter. This will help boost the sweetness of sweet potato later. Preheat your oil on medium-high.

Combine ⅔ cup of frying mix, ½ cup of cold (or ice) water, 3 Tbsp of potato starch, and 1 tsp of sugar. Mix everything together. Frying mix is seasoned flour that is good for making batter for deep frying. You can find it in a Korean or Asian grocery store. Cold water is one of the secrets for getting crispy food. You can skip the sugar if you want.

Put ¼ cup of frying mix in a plastic bag and add the sweet potatoes. Shake the bag to coat the sweet potatoes with the frying mix. This will help the batter stick to the sweet potatoes better.

Dip the floured sweet potatoes into the batter. Cover both sides of the sweet potatoes with the batter.

Drop a little bit of batter into the heated oil to check if the oil is hot enough. When the batter floats right away, the oil is ready. Put the battered sweet potatoes into the hot oil. Deep-fry them on medium or medium-high, depending on your stove’s power.

Fry them for 5-6 minutes, or until the sweet potato slices are completely cooked, and the outside is golden brown. The easy way to check if a slice is cooked is to poke the center of it with a folk or chopstick. If your chopstick goes through smoothly, it is done.

Place some paper towels on a tray and put the fried sweet potato slices there to cool and loose some of the grease.

Recipe from: http://aeriskitchen.com/

Image

Spicy Kani Salad

Ingredients:

For the Dressing:
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 Tb. rice vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sriracha (chile sauce)
½ tsp. Paprika
½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
Pinch of salt

For the Salad:
4 kani sticks (1/2 lb. imitation crab)
1 mango, peeled and shredded
1 large (or three baby) cucumbers, peeled and shredded
¾ cup panko bread crumbs

Directions:

Whisk the first seven ingredients together for the dressing. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Shred the crab sticks by hand and place in a large bowl. Shred the cucumber and mango in a food processor (or julienne by hand) and place in the bowl.

Toss with the dressing and top with panko immediately before serving.

Recipe from: http://www.aspicyperspective.com/

 

Chapter 8: Temptation

Image 

                The sunlight hits my eyelids straight and I curse myself for forgetting to close the blinds before going to sleep yesterday. With the speed of a zombie in a no man’s land, I pour myself out of bed and shading the light from my eyes like a burning vampire, get to the blinds and pull them together to stop the torture. I let myself slump down on my bed and start grunting. I turn my stare at the small digital clock by my nightstand and read 9:00am. To most this would look early, but for my usual waking hours, 9:00am is sleeping in a lot. It was just so hard to force myself to wake up, my dream was so great. I had taken off to Miami, Florida to enjoy some time in the sun, not worrying about anything. Before the sun blinded me, I had started a flirtatious conversation with a handsome beach boy and it seemed nothing really mattered. The sun that hit me in the face right now doesn’t scream relaxing beach though; more like “wake up and start your list of self inflicted assignments.” Paired with another unpleased grunt, I push myself up once more and slip my feet in a pair of thick knitted wool socks. When I get to the door, I grab my soft white robe and put it on before leaving the room. I will put real clothes after eating something. But before heading to the kitchen, I make a right turn to get to my bathroom. I wash my face, tame my bed head hair into a quick braid and then answer to the morning call of nature. When I step back out into the short hallway leading to my kitchen, I relish in the quietness of my apartment building on a Sunday morning. All I can hear aside from my soft footsteps on the floorboards is the chanting of the few birds outside my windows and maybe the sound of the cars driving slowly in the residential area. The joys of living on the last floor is the absence of upstairs neighbors to bother you with their daily noises. My apartment is a temple of peace this morning. And boy will I need this peace once I am done with breakfast.

                As I put down on the table my steaming steeper full of one of those awakening mix of tea, I let myself fall on one of the chairs while I wait for my toasts. I take one of my food magazines laying on the table and start looking aimlessly at the pages. Oh yeah, another pile of food magazines, I know, I just can’t stop. What can I say, the girl has got to learn and get inspired all the time. And inspiration there is, in these magazines. Always ahead of the next holiday or celebration coming up, you find yourself in October reading ideas for your Thanksgiving menu, or your big Christmas meal. Not that I truly mind. Actually, I enjoy reading through these recipes and ideas earlier than necessary, because I always want to try something new. I can find some gems sometimes. See, for example, that nice long article about “50 Thanksgiving Side Dishes” is just pure genius! I am not American. I don’t know enough what makes Americans tick when it comes to Thanksgiving food. Certain people seem to enjoy weird mixes of ingredients they like usually separately (green beans with pearl onions, and all that with cream… really?) but at least those magazines take out the best of the best and spread out these inventive and mouth watering ideas that I wish I could try out all in one night. Wouldn’t it just be great, a whole “Thanksgiving Side Dishes Sampling Dinner”? I know I would go. Anyway, I am so veering off here, and I thought I was looking at my magazine aimlessly. All that thinking made me forget my toasts in the toaster.

                I go grab my slices of toasted bread (now all cooled down, sadly) and fish a butter knife in the utensil drawer before going back to the table where my plate is awaiting. I don’t feel like being all healthy this morning, so that is why I opted for Cookie Butter to spread on top of my salted butter. Speculoos, or Biscoff as they have it named here in America, is one of those brought-to-life girl fantasy food. Or at least a majority of them girls. I know I am one of them. Spreadable cookie; peanut butter texture, spiced cookie flavors. It is just Ma-gi-cal. So let me tell you, I am never shy on spreading it on my toasts when I go for it. I take my first bite into my slice and all my worries are gone for an instant. It makes me wonder why I have never prepared any dessert with that spread. Not that I haven’t thought about it ever. I actually have found multiple ideas for different recipes I would flavor with Speculoos, but never have I actually done it. I think it is about time I write down a list of the recipes I want to experiment with, or else I will never get to them.

                I eat my breakfast, drink my tea, and shuffle through my magazines lazily. Before I know it, it is 10:30am and I still haven’t even taken my shower and started my work. I better get to it, or I will certainly not even have a minute to myself today. And I don’t want to skip on that; I have a few movies in mind that I was planning on watching today. Let’s get serious. I skip back to my room to a melody only I can hear, and start digging for fresh casual clothes to wear for the day. Nothing fancy of course. I am not trying to seduce my paperwork. A pair of comfy sweat pants and a tank top will do just fine. After throwing my choices on my undone bed ( I will get to that later fellas, one step at a time okay?) I exit the room to go lock myself up in my bathroom. I switch the ceiling exhaust on and proceed. There is actually no need for me to explain to you how I take my shower. I still desire some privacy you know. Haven’t you noticed how I don’t even tell you when I go pee? There is a good reason. Anyway, I get my things done; I boil myself up in the scalding hot shower and then jump out. After padding my wet hair a bit, I put my robe back on and leave the steamy bathroom. Back in my bedroom, I put my grey sweat pants on, along with my coral tank top, tie my hair up into a thick braid again and take off to the living room where I left all of yesterday’s paperwork.

                Usually, on a Sunday I don’t have too much homework. Of course, that depends on how the week went by at Jay V, but usually it is pretty chill. I go through the sales of the week; I count the cash deposits and write down in my computer the numbers of each type of pastries sold during the week. This gives me a general idea of what sells better, and most importantly, what doesn’t sell so much. Over the past year I have been doing that, it allowed me to take off certain items from my menu that people didn’t seem to desire as much as others. Nothing is worse for a shop than useless items. It’s just a waste of products and money. That’s why I remedied to start writing down all this info about my sales and so, allowing me to have a better idea. I have to admit though, this gives me more work to do, but hey, I will do whatever I have to do if that will help me become a better shop. Maybe, if all goes well, in another couple of years, the shop can move to a bigger spot; if I get enough demand, I will need more hands, therefore, more place. Sometimes, on very busy day, I am truly happy my employees are all good friends enough, because the kitchen feels so small that we don’t have any more personal space. On those busy days, I wish I could lock myself up somewhere else and not have to deal with the tight space.

                I go grab the thick pile of papers and envelopes that I left on the floor next to my sofa and proceed to my dining room slash home office. My laptop is already set up there, along with my all my necessities such as pens and pencils, spiral notebooks, an oversized calculator and a box of saltines. The last one is just to have something to chew on once in a while when it gets too boring. At least it doesn’t make me too full. I go sit down on my favorite chair with the armrests and the added cushion in the back and on the seat. Since I spend quite a long moment on that chair sometimes, it needs to be comfortable. You will ask me of course why I don’t get myself one of those office chairs with an adjustable height and all that. To tell you the truth, I have thought about it, and then I realized that my problem with those chairs is that I end up playing too much when I am sitting on one. Yep, spinning around, going up and down, leaning back until I feel like I will fall; I would spend more time messing around than working. Choosing a comfortable enough chair, yet just stiff enough that you look forward to the moment you leave it, makes me take care of my work faster. The promise of a nice soft sofa is a great incentive in moments like that.

                So I turn on my laptop, put the pile of work on my work station, and sit down. I will first take care of the fun part: counting the cash. It will get my mind going on something easy, and it will make me feel positive. I don’t know for you, but counting cash, no matter the amount, has always made me feel successful. When I was younger, I was the kind to open my piggy bank regularly, take all the coins out and count everything thoroughly. At the end, I would write down on a small piece of paper the amount I had accumulated and I would put everything back into the piggy bank, along with the note with the total of cash. Even though sometimes there was only a difference of a few quarters between each times, it made me feel responsible and in control of my finance. Yeah, I was only a kid and I already felt the need for controlling my finances. I don’t know to what degree that sounds pathetic or smart. All I know is that it allowed me to be used to counting cash quickly and keeping track of my money. This something quite useful when you run you own shop. Anyway, after counting the daily deposits, I will take care of my sales info on my computer, put down my new contracts and orders into my business calendar and then proceed to contact the upcoming events for the week. I still remember one week, when I skipped on that by mistake, and ended up preparing an order for a cake that the customer had actually cancelled without warning me. This was an unwanted waste, such a beautiful cake and so much work put into it. After that, believe me, you never want to skip on checking up with the customers.

                After all those usual steps in my work schedule, I will have to make my calls for my orders. Or I should say leave my messages. No companies are opened on a Sunday, but their voicemail is always available. That is why I leave my orders through their voicemail, listing down clearly every single item I need to purchase along with the exact quantity. The annoying part about this is that I have to call three different companies. Each one of them have their own set of items I purchase from them; if I went with only one company, I would pay much more because certain items are way more expensive at one place than it will be at another. I save on the money, I lose on the time. Anyway, once I will be done with all that, I believe I will be done with my homework. Yay! I still have so many more things to take care of after that, I better get going if I want to take care of the rest when there is still some sun.

 

****

 

                I put down my dirty plate and fork in the sink and wash it right away. I also scrub the square pyrex dish that used to contain the last of my delicious butternut squash and chicken lasagna. Not that I want to sound like I am bragging, but aside from pastries, I can also whip up quite the dishes. After all, I didn’t just study in pastries; I went to culinary school for the whole deal as well. And let me tell you, I enjoy making a savory dish just as much as a cake. I would even say that cooking is sometimes easier than baking, due to the omission of all those chemical reactions that make baking harder. Cooking simply involves a liking for flavors and combinations of ingredients without having to think about whether or not it will rise, foam, whip or bake through. However, all these obstacles are also what make baking such a fun challenge. I find myself baking less at home than I used to though. With my lack of free time, I don’t get to feel like baking as much. I get inspired by plenty of cooking shows, food magazines and Pinterest boards, but I feel like I never get to it. However, certain of these ideas have also inspired me for my shop menu. A pinch of that idea, and a dash of this other one, and Voila! You get yourself an all-new dessert idea that will charm the crowds. There are times when I wish I could spend more time in creation for the shop, but once again, lack of free time. I guess this is going to be my umpteenth item on my list of possible things to do once I get a manager. Girl, stop saying you will pick one up and do it already!

                As I am debating whether I go to Francis’ place before or after my work out,  I pick up my work out clothes to put them on. My gym is pretty close to where I live, so I don’t have to worry about taking a shower on the spot and have to bring a spare change of clothes. Plus, Francis actually lives pretty close to my gym as well, so that gives me the option to go to either one first without wasting time. Something tells me though that I would not truly enjoy walking into someone’s place when I am somewhat sweaty. I may not be smelly when I sweat, it still doesn’t make me appealing. Francis’ place first it is! Furthermore, it will give me a reason not to dwell on his doorstep too long since I have something else to do. I just hope I won’t catch him on a bad time though; I did tell him I would pass by around 4pm and the clock will only strike 2pm by the time I get to his place. You know what? Stop over thinking all these details and get to your stuff would you? I seriously have to cut down on the over analyzing whatever I am about to do and go on with it. No wonder I have a high rate of headaches monthly. So much unnecessary stress I put on myself. I think it isn’t just a manager that I need to pick up; I believe I also need to pick up a couple of days off to put my brain on idle and relax truly. Go to a spa and massage combo, or drive down to the beach and relax under the sun. This all sounds pretty neat.

                I fish for Francis’ keys in my purse and dump them inside my gym bag where I also keep my small towel, my oversized water bottle, my protein snacks for the after workout and my mp3 player. I pull the latter out of the bag and as I lock the door behind me, I put the earphones on and turn the device on. Today I opt for my collection of Infected Mushroom tunes to pump me up. The intense upbeat of their songs is always a good choice for me when it comes to a quick workout. Naturally our body gets to sync with what we listen to, so I end up giving my 200% when I listen to Infected Mushroom. Since I haven’t done my regular dose of workout during the past week, I need to catch up on some of it, so pushing myself a bit harder today will not do me harm.

                I decide to walk along the residential roads to get to Francis’ apartment so that I don’t get to meet with too many cars trying to cut my path on the curb. The weather is nice again today, slightly hotter than yesterday, but with a few clouds here and there that allows me to take shade once in a while. It’s a good thing because I realize I forgot to put my sunscreen on today. I don’t burn easily, but I still wouldn’t want to start frying too much. My few experiences of sun burns have not been pleasant ones; I don’t feel like experiencing the discomfort again. Have you ever had a sun burn on your ear lobes? Believe me, it doesn’t matter how soft your pillow case is, never will the scrapping sensation on raw skin will go away. This is the kind of thing that ruins your sleep a lot. Never have I forgotten to apply the sun screen on my ears ever again. Maybe you should think about it too. Am I speaking to an invisible person again? Take some time off Jamie, you are turning cuckoo.

                The streets in the neighborhood where I am walking are surprisingly busy on this Sunday afternoon. I soon realize that a bunch of families decided to go for a street BBQ party among neighbors when the smell of grilled meat and veggies hits my sense. Although I already ate my lunch, I can feel my mouth watering at the idea of homemade hamburgers and other grilled food at this moment. Maybe I should walk faster before the overly friendly neighbors notice me and believe I am one of their own. They might offer me something to eat or drink and I have a feeling I would not refuse. I don’t know what is up with me these days, but I seem to have a harder time resisting temptation. Or maybe it is just that my body knows I am about to go work out and wants me to veer off the right path. Who am I kidding, it is just my mind being weak in front of food once more. Walk faster Jamie, stare at those steaks right in the eye and tell them to mind their own business. Today is not the day you will give in.

                When I finally step onto the front porch of the small apartment building Francis has described to me to be his home, I take out my cell phone one more time to check for the apartment door number. Just when I am about to press the buzzer for Apt 4, the front door opens and someone stops short right next to me. When I look at the person, I realize it is Francis himself, looking at me with a questioning look.

                “Hey Jay, I didn’t realize you were here already. I thought you said 4pm or so?

                -Hi Franky. Well yeah, I thought so too, and then my homework got finished earlier than planned. Do I come on a bad time? I can come back later if you prefer.

                -Oh no, don’t worry. I was just about to head to the gym quickly. And by the bag you carry and the outfit you are wearing, I assume you were heading there as well.

                -You got it. I thought I’d pass by your place first and give you your keys before. Here, might as well hand them to you right now.”

                I zip open my duffel bag and fish for the set of keys I dumped in it earlier. I hand them to Francis with a smile and he picks them and stuffs them in his shorts pockets.

                “Which gym are you going to, Boss? Mine is the one three blocks away.

                -Next to the Auto Parts shop?

                -Yeah! Exactly! You go there too?

                -That’s right, I go there too. Funny I never noticed you, I have been going there for a while.

                -I have not gone there for so long. I used to work in this hotel where I had free access to the gym, showers and sauna. But now that I don’t work there anymore, I had to find somewhere else that wasn’t too pricy.

                -Yeah, this is what I like about that place too, it isn’t too pricy.

                -Well, since you were heading out there and I was as well, care if I join you?

                -Sure, I don’t mind the company. “

                Well, I was not expecting that one. It is not like I am used to have a gym buddy or anything. I have always been more of a loner when it comes to get all sweaty and disheveled… Okay, that sounded better in my head when I first thought it. Now the only image I get is not suitable for minors. I wonder if my loneliness is getting the better of me, or if it’s the thought in the backburner about my ex trying to contact me. One thing is for sure, I better watch myself and ask my girls to slap me hard before I do something I would regret.  In the case I do meet with Keith again, despite whatever happened on our breakup, his gorgeous being might coax me to the dark side. The more I think about it, the more I dread the moment I will just talk to him again. But like the girls said, I have to wait a few days first. Or do I really? What if this is important matter he has to share with me? What if contacting him in a few days makes it too late? Jamie, stop! Stop with this entire story-making around something you have no idea about. Take care of yourself first, mind what is truly important and then, only then, allow this creature of the other sex a minute of your life again.

                All this silent reasoning in my head has made me forget that I am walking next to someone else, who is actually staring at me with questioning eyes. I have a feeling my face must have been showing all sorts of emotions, betraying my mental struggle over the “Keith trouble”. I spread my most innocent looking smile on my face and let out a shy giggle as I turn my gaze to Francis. Dang it girl, now he is really going to think you are a funny case.

                “Sorry about that. I got myself lost in my thoughts.

                -Yeah, I kind of had the idea. It seemed to be a fight in there. Do you happen to fall into this state often when you are in public, because that would definitely deserve you a few looks.

                -Yeaahh, I don’t really know. If I ever did that other times, nobody seemed to care enough to let me know. I actually don’t even know if this is a good thing or a bad thing..

                -Well don’t worry too much about it. Just try to stay with me for the rest of the walk would you?

                -Alright, I will focus.”

                Great, now I look like a weirdo that zones out irregularly. Should I be worried that this is a sign of lack of rest? My mind seems to act on its own without my actual consent. If I am not careful enough, who knows, I might even start zoning out in front of customer and get myself in some sort of trouble. Jamie! Stop freaking out and look ahead of you. The gym is right around the corner. Francis and you will go your own separate ways, and you will have all that workout period to lose yourself in your thoughts without being looked at funny. Anyway, you need that time to start thinking about those samples you have to bring to your customers on Thursday, for the wedding cake tasting. Okay, I think I should stop speaking to myself on the 2nd person. This is starting to be creepy.

                After the casual chit chat on the final distance to the gym, Francis wishes me a good day and goes his own way to the men’s lockers while I take off to the opposite side, towards the ladies’ lockers. Down there, I try not to stare too much at all these women, whom are mostly walking around naked, which makes me uncomfortable. I never understood how they could do so. I already have some trouble to get undressed before a man I am intimate with; I don’t get how these women can manage to walk around naked in front of dozens of strangers. Okay, I will give you that at least, the strangers are all female. But that doesn’t make me more comfortable. And there is something about looking their way for a bit too long. Too much eye contact with a naked stranger is not my cup of tea. So anyway, enough with the naked ladies now. I didn’t go to the gym for them. I head straight to the locker where I usually put away my stuff, stuff it with my duffel bag from which I previously grabbed my workout novel, my water bottle and a small towel. Out of the lockers room, I shoot straight to the stationary bicycles where I like to do my warm up slash cardio before going to the apparatuses. This is also where I can enjoy reading my workout novel. I call it that way because the book I carry to the gym, I only read it at the gym. Just like the book I carry in my travelling bag is the one I only read when I am travelling. Makes sense after all. I also have my night table book, my bath book, and my cooking books. Hahah, I had you there. Okay, not so funny.

                Music on my ears, open book in front of me on the stationary bicycle dash, I am ready to forget about the rest for a good 45mins. And I better keep my focus on it, because looking ahead in front of me will push me off track. A bunch of heavy lifting guys just walked in and headed to the free weights, and let me tell you. No matter how brainless some of them can look or sound, their ripped body can still catch my attention. Had I been riding a real bike in the street, I have a feeling I would have met with a lamp pole already. This is another reason why I make sure to have my own music with me. At least the buds in my ears prevent me from hearing too much of what’s happening around me, helping me keep my focus. Right now, I have to turn my entire focus on the open book before me, where a mid thirties werewolf lady is fighting a half demon, alongside her witch girl friend and her sorcerer boyfriend. I know, I know, I am into this whole supernatural litt. I will admit, I have read and watched The Twilight Saga, I liked it, but I got over it. I still don’t understand those thousands of Twihards (this is the name they give themselves) that are still acting like the Saga is still going. It is over. The story has ended and other stories have come out already. Plus, although I liked it very much when I read it, I still believe Twilight is a ridiculous love story, and the supernatural part of it is not that great. Sparkling vampires, really? Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I am judging. I just prefer the gory, bloody and action packed kind of supernatural stories. If you sprinkle some crime scene investigation into it, it is even better. Gives me something to think about even when I am not reading the book. But you know what has been my favorite find in the book department? I found crime scene investigation novels, happening at a bakery. Isn’t it just perfect? I personally think it is. But now, it isn’t about cakes and croissants; my werewolf lady is running away from the evil half demon, so I will get back to that story for now. I am going to escape along with her on my stationary bike.

 

****

 

                After retrieving all my personal belongings from my locker, I don’t waste a moment and head out to exit the place. I am dreading the moment I will start feeling sore from the workout, so I want to take care of everything I needed to do before heading back home and finish my day on my couch, watching movies and snacking on something not too sinful. I had my macho nachos yesterday after all; I cannot cheat two days in a row. Or else, I will just never stop and you will have to call me Jamie the Hutt. Gosh, please kick me hard in the guts before I reach that point would you? I am not a freak about my weight, but I think someone still needs control. Speaking of control, I better not forget to pass by the small retail store next to my apartment. I need to purchase a dry marker board to make sure I keep track of my work and personal tasks. And while I am at it, I will look into whatever baking tools they could have on sale. I never miss an opportunity to get myself more toys for my kitchen. Oh! Speaking of toys for the kitchen, I completely forgot to crush the numbers to check about what new appliance we could get for the bakery with the extra money we made this month. I guess I could check it out quickly once I am home. If I am not too lazy… You can’t really blame me. I did my homework, went for my personal errands. And now I would be expected to get back to more homework, and all that on my day off? You know what? I will skip it for tonight. I will take care of that this week. This will be the first thing to write down on my soon to be hanging dry marker board in my dining room. Or living room? I don’t know yet. I guess it will depend when I actually find one. Maybe with some luck, I can find something adorable. Living in the Japanese neighborhood gives a flavor to everything sold around it. You don’t find cups and plates. You find cute cups and cute plates. Same goes even for dish sponge, door mat, umbrella and even screwdriver. I am not kidding: Japanese people see the world in a whole different color.

                Outside it is still sunny and the air is still warm. I was wishing for more of a fresh weather to cool down after my workout, but I guess I will have to wait for the AC in the retail store. Once more with my music playing from my mp3 player, I walk at a quick pace to reach the store. My legs will definitely be sore tonight (leg day!) but right now, they are still under the rush, and for some reason I feel much lighter, hence the quick pace. I better make good use of it while it’s working. Fast enough, the small retail store I was heading to, appears at the turn. If I am lucky, the old Japanese lady at the cash register will be there and give me a small gift like she usually does. I don’t actually know why she does it. All I can remember is the first time I set foot in that store and purchased some items to use in my apartment, the lady scanned my items and commented on each one of them, explaining how her daughter bought the same for herself. I am not the rude kind, so of course I smiled and went along to chat with her about. Next thing I know, she takes my hand, looks me in the eye with a sweet smile, then walks away in a back room behind her counter and comes back with something wrapped up in a paper. She puts in my bags along with my purchase and wishes me a good day. When I got back home, I quickly looked for the small packaged and found out it was a small box of tea treats, something that looked imported and somewhat pricy. I never got to understand what made her want to reward me with something so nice. All I can say is that every other time I went and she was the one scanning my items, I received the same treatment. Of course, every time we would exchange a little bit, either about the items in my cart, the weather, or even about my work when she got to know what it was. And every time, I would notice a small package of some treat. Once I got a box of senbei, a kind of sweet and salty rice cracker. Another time, it was sweet soft mochi each filled with a fresh strawberry.  When I say it like that, it looks like I just let myself be treated and do nothing about it, but actually, I have put this old lady in my list of people to whom I find a gift for Christmas or any other celebration that deserves a small gift. The lady, Nakamura sama, has always been kind to me, so I am kind to her in return. I am very serious when it comes to karma. I believe that one gets rewarded with what one gave away in the first place.

                I pull the door to the store and a wave of cool air hits me instantly, making me smile. Sadly though, I notice that it isn’t the old lady at the cash register, but a mid forty Japanese man with a balding scalp and dangerously thin body frame. I believe it must be her son, because I recognize the same sort of heartfelt and genuine sweet smile. I nod in his direction before heading between the aisles where I start looking for what I need. Once again though, I need to keep my focus, because walking around in these sorts of store will make me come in with one thing in mind to purchase, but ten items in my shopping bag. I have to remember: I need a dry marker board. That’s all I need. But then, I can allow myself a quick look in the kitchen department. Oh and maybe check out the extremely adorable fox shaped cookie jar right there… Alright, alright. I don’t need that. I don’t even have these many cookies at home to need a cookie jar. I look up for the signs listing what’s available in each aisle and make my way in the school and office supply. After taking a quick glance at stacks of cute binders and colorful spiral subject notebooks, I find the dry marker boards. Lucky for me, not only are they cheap, they also have pink markers available. I pick up a medium sized board and a couple of each pink and blue markers and start walking towards the total back of the store where I know they keep their kitchen stuff.

 

****

 

                Before even closing the door behind me, I toss my keys on the table by the door and dump all my bags on the floor. Without even using my hands or leaning down, I take my shoes off using my other foot to push off the shoe. I don’t even care about anything else right now but to open myself a cold bottle of carbonated water from the fridge. I walk to my kitchen, open my fridge and fish out a small bottle of San Pellegrino that I crack open immediately to take a big gulp from. The instant pleasure of the strong bubbles scrapping the back of my throat and the ice cold sensation of the water makes me moan in an almost indecent way. Okay, I think you all got that I was very thirsty. My water bottle I brought to the gym was empty before I left the retail store and going without water at reach for more than 10mins is torture for me. I put the bottle on the counter and go back to the front door where I left my bags. I pick up my purchase of the day and bring it all back to the kitchen where I put the bags down on my small table. I take out the board and the markers and pile them together a bit further from me. Then I fish for my new mini bunny shaped silicon ice tray, my new 24units mini muffin tin and my fox shaped cookie jar. What? I liked it okay? It doesn’t matter I don’t have cookies, I can bake them.

                Once I have put away all my new treasures, I pick up my duffel bag for the gym and take my empty bottle out to go fill it up again before storing it in the fridge. Then I walk to my small closet by the front door and store my bag on the top shelf until next time. Now that I took care of everything that was on my to-do list for the day, I can start thinking about my real free time. Furthermore, after my workout, I am pretty hungry now, so I also have to figure that out. Might as well tune in my mind on that first task while I go take my shower. While heading to the bathroom, I play around on my cell phone to turn on the music app. I may not have a lot of music in there, a few songs will be just enough to enjoy while I clean myself up. Singing along is just so much more fun when you are in the shower. I believe the majority of people believe they become rock stars or great diva when they step inside steaming water. Or maybe it is because they are usually alone in the bathroom. A little privacy does bring out a side of you sometimes. So as I sing along Katy Perry’s song “Roar”, I start the water running for the shower and proceed to taking off my gym clothes. I throw them straight into the dirty clothes basket in the corner and then close the bathroom door to keep as much steam as possible. Singing like I mean it, I step into the scalding hot shower and start by standing straight under the water and letting the water stream down from my head to toe. There’s no better feeling.

                So what should I do tonight? I have work tomorrow so I cannot go to bed too late, but I can still enjoy my evening a little bit. For my entertainment, I was thinking about sitting myself in front of a movie, or two. I have a pile of DVDs that I purchased a moment ago, but never even bothered to unwrap. I also have some TV series in DVDs that I could enjoy. But no. Tonight will be movie night. As for my dinner, I will definitely have to check up what I have in my fridge or my freezer. I have no idea what I feel like eating, but once I see the food I have, something should quickly pop in my mind. Right now I will just enjoy the hot water melting down the building tension in my muscles from my workout. I didn’t get a chance to get any workout done last week because of my hectic week, so this one today will hurt more. I am not looking forward to tomorrow, back to work with the muscle soreness. Well, what can I do about it… nothing really. Better suck it up and stop whining now.

                I quickly clean myself up, needing not much of a deep scrub since I took a shower this morning already. The playlist on my phone changes to Lady Gaga’s Applause and my singing and dancing goes up a notch. Swinging around and out my shower, I grab my towel and rub it a little in my thick hair before wrapping it around my body. I put on a pair of slippers I always leave in my bathroom so I don’t walk out barefoot, and I head to the shelves where I leave smaller towels. I pick one up and proceed to rub it some more in my hair to take as much wetness out of it before stepping out of the bathroom. I take my phone from the counter, leaving the music playing, and get to the door to exit the bathroom. When I open the door, I can almost see the cloud of steam rushing out the room to spread in the hallway. I walk a few steps and go into my room where I dump my phone on the bed and start looking through my drawers for some PJs to put on. I take out a pair of thick and soft pants along with a funny t-shirt and just thrown both of them on the bed. Since my hair is still very wet, I will wait a little bit before putting on some clothes. I should just go check in the kitchen what I can make for dinner as I  am waiting.

                Humming along the music still playing I manage to hear from my bedroom, I head to my kitchen carelessly, enjoying the freedom of living alone in an apartment. Who cares what you are wearing right? I could even walk around naked if I felt like it. But I don’t know, I guess I am still shy to show the hidden side of the moon to my jars of flour and rice. Right after stepping into my kitchen, I have this funny feeling  I am actually not so alone anymore. Maybe it’s just the fox shaped cookie jar the make it look like some pet is sitting on my kitchen table. Or maybe it’s actually the sound of creaking wood coming from my living room. Funny how a little noise sometimes can make you go from regular heartbeat to stomping in your chest. Half scared and half in disbelief that there could really be someone in my living room, I still grab the first thing I can reach next to me to hold up ready to pounce if truly necessary. A magazine, yeah.. laugh all you want, it was this or my muffin tin. And the latter is brand new, I don’t want to ruin it before even using it once. So I slowly step closer to the doorway so I can first get a quick look into my living room. I don’t see anything or anybody around so I let out a breath I hadn’t noticed I was holding. Stepping out into the living room half laughing, realizing how stupid I must have looked, being spooked by my floors creaking in what must be the wind, my mind is too much in its relax mode again to react fast enough when I see someone step away from a spot I had not paid attention to. I feel my heart jump to my throat and my muscle tense up. The feeling comes so quick to me I don’t even get to scream. My first movement reaction is to bring up my magazine again and prepare to throw it at my intruder. Before my mind understands who I am looking at, my thick Food Network magazine is already flying at a quick speed in the direction of the person’s face, hitting my opponent straight in the forehead. I hear a muffled curse that makes my brain wake up before my eyes make up the face. Half scared of my wits and half deeply upset, I call out to my intruder in rage.

                “What the hell are you doing here Keith!!??

                -Hello to you too Jamie. As for coming in, I still had a double of your keys. I didn’t think you would mind.”

                Always speaking with that cocky smirk that made me melt before, but that now just makes me want to throw at him whatever gets under grasp. I take a few quick steps towards him, tensing my arm muscles, ready to lift it and slap the crap out of Keith, but in the swiftness of the moment, I don’t pay enough attention and the towel wrapped around my body slips off me and falls to the ground, at my feet. Keith gives me a look from head to toe, the smirk transforming into a wider grin. As I manage to make a move to take cover back in the kitchen to avoid a longer embarrassing look, I hear Keith grant me what he believes sounds like a compliment. In the given circumstances, I don’t really care what he has to say.

                “I see you have not changed a bit since last time. Still atrociously desirable.”

                Okay. I know I said I missed to have someone to share my life with, to share my place with and to enjoy my free time with, but seriously?! Having my ex-boyfriend breaking in to my apartment is definitely not what I was hoping for.