Monthly Archives: October 2013

Here comes the ‘Boo’geyman.

Happy Halloween, fellow circus followers!

It’s that time of the year again when real spiders fail to give you a fright after having tacked numerous fake ones onto sundry decorations, and when you associate ghosts with smiley cherubs instead of sinister creatures. In the spirit of the season we’ve been draping fake webs over our bushes outside and hanging skeleton charms on our door knobs. This year, though, I’ve noticed a shift in the kids’ decorative instincts from the benign to the more malevolent. V at 7 thinks our decorations are too babyish, so maybe next year we’ll have to plan a scarier exhibit. Although for someone who’s still dressing up as Superman instead of a zombie or something, I’m inclined to squeeze in another year of innocence if I can.

Halloween also means class parties at each kid’s school. I usually volunteer to help out, but this year I also (madly) volunteered to make cookies for the celebration. 20 cookies for each classroom meant 40 in total. What? As fun as this new hobby is, it’s also quite time consuming. The decorating is definitely fun, but to get there is a lot of work, too. What was there to do then but get on and do it.

The set of Wilton cutters I have has various ‘ween shapes: a (haunted) house, a witch in profile, bat, ghost and 2 pumpkin sizes.

ImageGuess which ones I chose? 🙂

The mummies were an invention out of necessity. The cookie dough scraps left in the end couldn’t accommodate the bigger shapes so I cut out a few small circles. The first couple I decorated with a ‘Boo!’ but then ran out of icing for flooding. Gasp! What to do?! Inspiration struck, and the mummies were born.

ImageSome of the pumpkins spread grotesquely and ate up too much of the orange flood, hence there is much less use of the vibrant orange than I would’ve liked. It all worked out in the end, I suppose.

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ImageHope you all have a happily scary time this evening. Boo to you!

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Cereal Snack Bars Without Tears.

American parents of elementary school-aged children will know the play on words in the title — “Handwriting without tears” is the name of the workbook that kids use to hone their printing and cursive skills. These workbooks were designed by a teacher who had kids in her class that refused to write because they found the pencil hold too cumbersome. Or something. So she devised these lined workbooks and suddenly the kids stopped weeping.

I wouldn’t exactly say I devised these snack bars, but they are so simple and versatile that there were definitely no tears involved in getting these together. They are inspired by a lot of recipes for “cereal snack bars” Mr. Google threw at me, but I didn’t copy any one recipe’s ingredients or measurements.

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I’ve heard that there are two types of cooks — those that go by the book, collect ingredients before they get down to the recipe, and those that loosely follow the basic constructs of food behaviour, fly by the seat of their pants in the kitchen. I started being the former but have gradually migrated to the other side. These cereal bars are the perfect example — I didn’t have peanut butter so I made some cashew butter of my own to substitute; figs for dates, puffed rice for crispy rice cereal. I had ingredients that were waiting to be used so I eyeballed the rest and ended up with super-easy, beginner no-bake snack bars packed with taste and nutrition. I’m going to provide approximations of amounts that I used, but these seem pretty no-fail, so if you try them, just go with your tastes and you should be fine.

Easy, No-bake Cereal Bars

Yield: About 20 bite-sized squares or 10 large bars

3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup plain puffed rice
1/4 cup honey bunches of oats (or any other slightly sweetened breakfast cereal)
1/4 cup cashew butter/paste (homemade or store-bought)
1/4 cup honey (I used buckwheat)
4-5 dried figlets (figlets are smaller than regular figs, and sweeter)
1/4 cup walnuts
handful almonds (whole or crushed, your choice)

  • Lightly toast oats and puffed rice in the oven. Transfer to a mixing bowl when cool. Add breakfast cereal. Set aside.

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  • Pulse walnuts, figlets and almonds in a blender until coarsely ground. Add to cereal mixture.
  • On a low flame mix honey and cashew paste and stir until it becomes a thick, pourable liquid.
  • Pour liquid into dry mix and lightly toss with a spatula to coat all dry ingredients.
  • Line a shallow baking dish with cling film or parchment paper and press down the bar mixture with hands into a uniform layer about 3/4inch thick.
  • Cover the surface of the dish with cling wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

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  • Cut into bars when cold. Store in the fridge on parchment sheets to prevent sticking to each other.

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These bars are light, moist, lightly sweet and delicious! I just ate an oh-so-yummy square with my evening tea, and I can see how it’s such a convenient grab-and-go breakfast for those rushed mornings.

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Give them a try. They’re fun to make and brag-worthy. Just like you. 😉

An Afghani Saga.

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini is a storyteller. His latest novel makes ordinary stories rise above their monotony and become something true; they own themselves when heard through various people, different perspectives.

The book tracks the lives of Pari and Abdullah through a heartbreaking childhood in 1950s Afghanistan, torn from each other to lead bifurcating existences on different continents. We finally see them reunited at the end of the book, after having been led into the lives of para-relatives and friends and their own individual stories. The strength of the book lies in its lyrical prose interspersed with Afghani folklore. We see Afghanistan as it once was, war-free and open and liberal. We also encounter the Taliban, albeit fleetingly.

A common thread of unshaken guilt, unexpressed remorse and unadorned truth of feelings weaves through the entire novel. The twin feelings of guilt and shame that I reckon all of us expats feel when visiting our origin countries struck home. This emotion is most often expressed as apathy — Hosseini is not afraid to confront it head-on. The perspectives of women aren’t tacky either.

The best part for me, however, was the Afghani folk story the novel begins with. Such poignancy is seldom encountered in a story retold. I read it aloud to V today, on a grey afternoon that begs for a good story to be told snuggled in a warm blanket. We both got a bit teary-eyed, him with the story, me with the idea of our days of such intimacy being short-lived.

The library lent it on a non-renewable, 14-day loan. I’m done in a sporadic-reading 3. It’s that good.