The Weaver Ant

An interesting story I read in Stuart M. Perkins’ blog (www.storyshucker.wordpress.com ) caught my heart. It’s about a simple hello that turned two strangers into friends in a few minutes. He told about Ms.Tourist and Ms. Business in a train.

When I read it, I couldn’t help but smile and giggling. My mother fits Miss Tourist’s shoe very well. Even beyond that, I think.

At the age of 81 today, I can’t calculate how many strangers she has said that simple hello and then had a good conversation with.

Around four years ago, she still knew almost every family lives at two blocks away from our block. She knew every kid around our block and the block next door and whose their parents are. She became well acquainted with the grannies of the kids. And most of all, I could have a new gossip around the block everyday at night. Well, it’s not all about bad talks , only she would retell what she has talked with a neighbor and what has been happening that day. I nicknamed her my PR minister ( haha ). While her sisters and my cousins tease her with a name “the weaver ant”, the most sociable little animal alive.

You cannot be near her for five minutes without her getting you in a short or long conversation. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, young or old. I think my grandma forgot to teach her the term of ‘don’t talk to strangers ‘ when she was young ( lol ).

Till today I am still amazed how she could easily open a conversation with a stranger, as easily as she smiles. Unfortunately for me, I don’t inherit that kind of DNA from her because I am more a reserved and quiet person.

But today as she aged and some of her valuable memories  are leaving her , she becomes quieter and doesn’t like to socialize much as she does before. Still, when we happen to meet a person or a kid who is not from our neighborhood at the mall or market , they remember her and call out to her   “ Hi, grandma, how are you ? “

Often they stop and chitchat with her while I just stand beside her with my sweetest smile on my face as honestly I don’t recognize them. When they say goodbye to her, and I ask her who that person is, she just shrugs and says , “I don’t remember. I have met many people. It’s wonderful to know they remember me.”

Right, she has met too many people . She has made acquaintance with many strangers, even for a brief. I must say she has a rich life , preserved in her mind. Some memories are leaving her but some still stays. She still is the “Weaver Ant”.

Texas Sheet Cake

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Who has invented the name and why Texans claimed to engrave the name on this delicious chocolate cake, no one has the right answer till now. Some food writers talk about this with different opinions. Well, history does matter but who could argue more on the name while this piece of great looking cake is already irresistible to the mouth.

Let’s make one when you are ready with these ingredients and method ;

2 cups all-purpose flour

Granulated Sugar ( I use only 5 tablespoons as I don’t want it to be too sweet )

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all of these and set aside.

**

3/4 cup water

118 gram butter

27 gram cacao

Bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat. Let it cool slightly.

**

2  large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

Beat well and add the cacao mixture into the egg batter then the flour mixture. Whisk until just well combined.

Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake it in 190 C preheated oven for about 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Don’t let the cake sit for long before you pour the icing. Just let it in the oven for about 5 minutes.

For the Icing :

Bring to boil  86 gram butter + 1/3 cup milk + 4 tablespoon unsweetened cacao + 4 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar ( you may add more if you’d prefer it sweeter ) + vanilla.

Add some roasted walnuts on top of the icing if you like.

Later on I have this wonderful cake for the whole  family and share some slices with a young neighboring girl who loves chocolate cake.

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Wrecking

Awaken at many nights

Thoughts crawl around

Sheer pain wraps the open wound

A broken silhouette flashes in the sight

Healing the pieces of bruised hope

The zombie in me have I destroyed

But you, the memories I could not kill

A trace of wonder

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Living in a country where the sun shines almost everyday in a whole  year ( minus the rainy days ) , I must say, it’s a precious privilege. And watching the sunrise early in the morning in any places you are, is always a breathtaking view to capture.

This is the wonder of the earth I see every morning on my brisk walking. In front ( the dark part ) is a small river and a concrete bridge where I pause  for a minute just to stare at the sunrise, an infinite mark of a new day .

I don’t bring my phone with me on my morning ritual but one day I decided to take it to capture this beauty. I think this also could be my immeasurable trace of  wonder that I could enjoy for free.

Banana Caramel Cake

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There is always bananas at home. It has been our main fruit ever since I was a baby. In my hometown, whenever a baby reaches four months old , they have  mashed fresh banana as their solid food . I went through the process as well.

Being in the Asian region, we are fortunate with many kinds of bananas which not all of them are good for baking. We also have some traditional cakes made of banana. But today, I want to share a recipe that is not a traditional cake. I think this kind of cake has been known in many parts of the world.

Let’s get start.

Ingredients

The toffee

60g butter

110g brown sugar

3 bananas

The Cake

90g butter

90g sugar

2 eggs

75ml milk

185g all purpose flour

A pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Vanilla extract ( as you like )

Method

To make the toffee . Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Still till it bubbles and well blended. You have to keep stirring to avoid it becomes dry and hard. Pour the caramel into a round cake tin.

Slice bananas lengthways and place over the caramel mixture.

For the cake. Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Cream butter and sugar and vanilla until soften. Add egg one by one. Beat until well combined. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk.

Spread the batter over the bananas. Bake in a preheated 190 C oven for about 40-45 minutes. Test with a skewer to ensure the cake is done. Cool slightly then invert onto a serving plate. Serve with vanilla ice cream or just plain. The taste is great especially the crumpled lump of the caramel.

pisang caramel pudding 3

Chicken Curry

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Ever since I eat Japanese food, I’ve never given this dish a second glance at any Japanese restaurants or even while I was in Tokyo and enjoyed all kind of delicious dish around the subway small restaurants.

Honestly , I feel awkward that a kind of curry is in the Japanese food , though I love our own curry dish like the well known Rendang from Padang, West Sumatera. I thought ( back then ) everything about Japanese food are sushi, sashimi, ramen, anything with the last keyword…yaki  but never about curry. Till one day I crossed this recipe at http://www.justonecookbook.com and this time I put a second glance and even reading thoroughly about how to cook it.

A strange change in me, from the one who’s never tasted the Japanese curry food into the one who was excited to cook it. I thought if I cook it, perhaps I would like it. And since I have tested some of Nami’s recipes from her blog, I am pretty much confident that I would love it.

Well, if you give yourself a chance to change, something wonderful could happen. I ended up falling in love with the dish. I almost couldn’t believe me for loving it ( big smile ) but I truly do. I think it’s because Nami created a simple and light recipe for this. But no matter what, I definitely would love to cook it again and again.

Psst… I was a bit scary about the taste of the curry the first time I cooked it so I reduced the curry block less than what Nami put in the recipe. It was lighter, that’s all, but still it’s curry ( LOL ). Next time I make it, I won’t be afraid to use the strong taste of the curry block.

For the step by step making the dish, please visit her blog. She writes it very well, even for this first-time-ever-cooking-curry like me to understand  the recipe and magically recreating it into a wonderful dish.

The stone and the water. A trip to an ancient time and a wondrous nature

This is another long trip of a weekend getaway . It took us about 6 hours to reach the largest megalith site in Southeast Asia , laid down in Cianjur , West Java-Indonesia. I have planned to see this site since last year and finally I stood around the five terrace of the massive  number of rectangular andesite stones called Gunung Padang.

It’s believed to be built around 5000 BC and was known to public in 1979 after some researches were done. But till today, archeologists still debate about the real time of the hill and the purpose of it. The preliminary indication that it was an ancient pyramid construction.

Apart from the scientific view, it’s interesting to learn about the local’s beliefs about the hill which is connected to the history of Siliwangi kingdom in 1400 and a teaching of how a person should live their life  and a choice made between bad and good deed. It was described in each stage of the five terraces.

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This is the 400 successive andesite steps to reach the hill terrace. The modern construction is only the hand railing

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It was a very dry  and hot day, and what is the most refreshing thing to have than a cup of mashed fruit salad with a spectacular view of the villages.

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This is a traditional way of mashing the fruit. The sound of the wood masher creates a beautiful melody

The mashed fruit salad was sweet, tangy, salty, and mild hot.

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enjoying the fruit salad and captured this beautiful view

enjoying the fruit salad and captured this beautiful view

From here we were driven  to see another mega site of Cikondang waterfall, about 7 km from Gunung Padang. It took us around one unpleasant hour of driving  because the road was very bad. It’s really a tracking road for the adventurous  spirit. I just glanced outside and enjoyed the rice field terraces and the hill and some parts are gorges. After all, I was looking forward to see the waterfall. It’s said to be the small Niagara in Indonesia.

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one of many views I captured

And I must say it was so… amazingly beautiful. Hidden behind the hill with its gigantic sound cover the air , I just whispered… wow God, You are amazing.

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And I caught it, the little rainbow behind the rocks

And I caught it, the little rainbow behind the rocks

A strange place of healing

I am not a mall shopper. I’d prefer to shop at small shops around the neigborhood or traditional market than going to mall. The mall is where I hunt for books. 

The thing I want to share about what I think of the shopping mall is I have found out the place could be my remedial emotional breakdown. It’s not about spending all my money for books to make myself feel better, but just sit at one of the public benches provided inside the mall with a glass of fresh lemongrass tea and deep eyes.

Deep eyes. The thing I do is letting my eyes wander around and read many pieces of life stories. A mother tries to calm down her little girl or boy’s tantrum. A young teen couple passing by holding each other’s hands with eyes filled with young love. Parents with toddlers , are happily window shoppings, kids with extreme energy playing at the amusement onsite park ( I love to sit around the place and enjoy another form of chaos which in a way soothes me ). Or just watching a guy or sometimes a woman getting busy with their IPad at a cafe nearby. 

Just a couple of hours sitting there has released my own heart tantrums. Strange place to soothe a breakdown feeling but it helps me.