Sunday, April 19, 2015

Making Zebra Pound Cake and Tips to Remove Your Cake from Round Pan

Lately I have been baking cakes or cookies on some Sundays and I guess baking on Sunday has slowly become a habit to me.

This afternoon, I decided to use up a pack of whipping cream and butter that I still kept in my fridge for making zebra pound cakes. The three of us are going back to Indonesia next week and since my house often experiences short circuit during thunder rain, I tried to empty the content of my fridge for the coming week.

A slice of my pretty zebra cake.

To make my zebra cakes today, I used the Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake recipe that I baked few weeks back because that recipe requires whipping cream. I don't think I need to reiterate the above recipe in this post because I basically used the exact same recipe and ingredients to make my zebra pound cakes. It's just that this time around; I used two round tins and sifted the flour once instead of three times as I didn't want a cake with too soft or crumbly texture.

Fresh from the oven. Too hot to handle.

For the zebra effect, I poured half of the vanilla cake batter into another bowl and mixed it with 2 table spoons of sifted cocoa powder to come up with the chocolate cake batter. Then, I alternately put few spoons of the plain and chocolate batters into the centre of the cake tins until I finished all the cake batter and ended up with few alternate rings of mixture in the tins. Lastly, I popped the cakes to oven for about 45 minutes.

Fail-proof pound cake recipe.

I think I baked better pound cakes today than few weeks ago. The cakes didn't severely crack in the middle. Also, the texture of the pound cakes I made today was moist, slightly dense (like how pound cake should be) and the cakes smelled very creamy. I am happy with the zebra effect I created on the cakes.

I brought half of the cake to my MIL's house this evening and my husband's grandma and nephews enjoyed eating them. My youngest nephew asked for another slice after I gave him one. Naomi also demanded to eat the cake again when she saw all her cousins and great grandma were eating the cake. I plan to bring the other cake to Naomi's school tomorrow for her teachers and friends. 

Baking tips: How to easily remove your cake from round pan with removable bottom.

Finally, I am going to end this post with a trick that my husband came up with to easily remove your just-baked cake from a round pan with removable bottom. I used to ask him to come over to the kitchen to help me take my cake out of its round pan until he taught me how to do this myself.
  1. Wait until your fresh-from-the-oven cake is not piping hot to handle or better still, cool it down completely before removing it from the pan.
  2. Put a medium glass on your table or kitchen surface.
  3. Place your cake pan on top of the glass and slide the pan down.
  4. Voila! Now your cake is ready to be taken out from the pan and served
P/S: Make sure you line your pan with baking paper or grease it with a bit of butter or margarine before you pour your cake batter and bake it in the oven. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Moving On

To those of you who wonder how I am coping with my stillbirth loss, my answer is: I am doing fine now. I've undoubtedly had my better days before I was told that I'd lost my son last year but overall, I am doing way better than few months ago and I think that I am already past those painful grieving days.

Soon after I delivered my sleeping baby, I went through days and months when the sky above my head felt like constantly grey even though technically Malaysian sky was generally very clear and sunny almost all year long. There were also days when grief, self-pity, envy, anger and bitterness almost swallowed me alive. Nevertheless, months after I lost Dylan, all those feelings gradually subsided. Time does heal, apparently, although not entirely.

In my mind, he grows bigger too.

I mourned Dylan for about 4-5 months and it was a slow process for me to organize my feelings to live my normal life again. I cannot deny that sometimes I still long for my son and allow myself to think or mourn about him but lately, I don't let myself mourn for more than 5 minutes every day.

Previously, when I visited Dylan's grave, I often felt shattered and because of this, I refused to go to his grave if not necessary. These days, every time I visit his grave, I don't feel that much pain or sadness any more. I don't cry over him as often as I did either. In my daily life, I talk less about him too. I've begun to accept my loss and let Dylan go largely after I registered that (1) Dylan is never coming back. No one can bring the dead back to life. There is nothing I can do to have him back with me. (2) I cannot turn back time because there is no such thing as time machine other than those you see on movies (3) There is no point for staying in my own bubble of depression for too long. Life must go on.

What I am going to share in this post now is not the sob story of the emotional ruins post the baby I lost. As a matter of fact, I am going to share some stories that hopefully can aid those mothers who recently earned their new title as Angel Mom and still find it difficult to move on with their lives now.

Months after my Dylan flew away, three different persons virtually and literally came into my life. These three persons walked into my life with heart-wrenching stories of babies or young child that they lost in their families. Somehow, after listening or reading their stories, I felt that the sorrow and agony that had burdened me for months after Dylan left were kind of  'lighter' as compared to theirs. These people had lived more horrific hells than I did when they lost their babies, yet, they survived.

Here are their stories:

Story 1: Three little angels

A couple months after I posted about a blog post on giving birth to Dylan, a Mom-blogger in Singapore happened to read that post then shared with me that she has angel babies too. Three of them (a singleton and twins). Soon, I hopped over to her blog to find out more of her angel babies' stories and had to hold my breath several times as I read through the posts about those little angels.

While I share the resonate pains of losing a baby with her, hers were obviously tripled. I admire her and her husband's strength to finally get back on their feet despite the searing pains that they had gone through and find the courage to tell the tales.

Three angel babies... Having one angel baby in the family is already devastating and left us grasping at something that is permanently just out of reach, let alone three.

Story 2: A Niece in Heaven

Few months back, I downloaded LINE in my iPhone for fun. As I was playing around with my new app, I found that my ex-colleague whom I haven't met nor spoken in the past 5 years had LINE account too so I began contacting her. She responded pretty fast after I said hi. After few minutes of exchanging each other's news, I mentioned to her that other than Naomi, I also had another child (how many kids I have now is a tricky question to answer).

Not long after I shared a summarized story about my Dylan, my ex-colleague told me that her 1.5 y/o niece just passed away. It was a sudden death. She said the kid was playing like normal in the morning before she turned blue later in the day. When her parents rushed her to the hospital, unfortunately doctors couldn't save this little girl's life.

I was speechless and sorry when I learned this story. I could not imagine the loss that my ex-colleague's sister and brother-in-law had to face when their daughter departed. Also, the heart break from merely having 1.5 years of memory with their precious child must have been beyond belief. Not to mention that this girl was an only child and her parents waited for years to finally have her in their lives.

Story 3: Three months of life

My husband had his two Indonesian workers fix Dylan's tomb last month. Before they did that, I asked them if they're okay with fixing a tomb as I worried that working in a cemetery was a taboo thing for them and they were not comfortable with that. Both of them said they are fine with fixing the tomb. No taboos.

The night after they fixed my Dylan's tomb, I casually told one of them that the tomb they fixed was my baby son's. Few minutes later, this worker we spoke to revealed to my husband and me that he would have been a father of four had all of his children been alive. His wife suffered from miscarriage once and few years ago, they lost their youngest child at three months of age due to Dengue fever. He mentioned that he only learned about this distressing news when he just landed in LCCT. The moment he got the call that his baby had died, he had to frantically buy another ticket to fly back to Surabaya to deal with this matter. After he shared this story, I asked how his wife coped with their young baby's passing. He just shrugged and smiled.

To conclude, I don't know your mind-numbing event when your baby went away or whether your experience was more traumatic than the above. A lesson that I am trying to convey here is to quit comparing your life to others who seem to have it all. This 'looking up' attitude is hard to neglect but will certainly accumulate more envy, anger and bitterness that you naturally build up after you lost your much anticipated baby. You should try to look down and appreciate the bitter pills that life had thrown you because evidently they were not utterly bitter as those that some other people had swallowed.

I thought that I was going nuts during the time of great tribulation that I endured when I lost Dylan but moving forward, the above stories served as my wake-up calls to realize that I was not that lucky but still pretty lucky.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Teething Round Two

Whenever Naomi has interrupted sleeps at night, I do too. If Naomi wakes up cranky in the morning because she is unable to sleep well means I get cranky too due to lack of sleep.

Naomi, who is soon going to turn 2y7mo, had broken and miserable sleep last night. Needless to say, so did I. Although Naomi still wakes up during wee hours on some nights, I felt that her sleeping pattern last night was just very different. Naomi couldn't fall back to sleep past midnight, kept waking me up and asked me to comfort or caress her for no reason. She just tossed and turned in bed until the break of dawn. I was so sleepy and couldn't find out why she was doing this to me, not her Dad. With one eye still closed, I touched her forehead and feet few times but she had no fever. I forced myself to get out of my bed and made her some warm milk because I thought maybe hungry pangs hit her or something. Not long after drinking her milk, she woke up again and again until my alarm rang.

My minion in mid April.

This morning, I sent Naomi to the nursery a tad late. Usually Naomi is already at the nursery around 8am or 8.30am but she arrived there at 9am something as I assumed she was still very sleepy due to her broken sleep last night and tried to make her sleep longer this morning (but failed!). Before sending her to nursery, I sensed that Naomi was a bit warm so I gave her a little bit of paracetamol to reduce her fever and soothe whatever pain she was experiencing that I couldn't figure out.

Naomi was a bit irritable and sad when I brought her to the nursery but she didn't cry. Her teacher said her fever was 37.8 degree and mentioned that she would closely monitor her today. When her teacher checked Naomi's mouth with mini torchlight, we found out that Naomi is teething her molar! I don't know how many molars she is teething now but I saw one for sure. Seriously, I thought I am done with teething... And apparently teething more pearly whites could have been the culprit behind Naomi's sudden fever, broken sleeps and loose stools that she had in the past few days! 

Moving on, at 10am something today, Naomi's teacher called me to come over and comfort Naomi because she was sobbing non-stop. When I reached to the nursery, I found sluggish Naomi was being carried by one of her teachers and they told us to bring her rest at home today as her fever has shot to 39 degree.

God... I never thought that toddlers would experience teething again but they do. An internet source says that between your children's first and third birthdays, eight molars will be breaking through toddlers' gums! In addition, teething big molars is said to be more painful than teething little incisors.

I cannot imagine how painful this teething round two going to be for Naomi and me in the coming days or weeks. Paracetamol, cold compress and teething gel, here I come.

Mommies with toddlers, buckle up! Eight molars on the way, they say.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Making Elvis Presley's Favourite Pound Cake

I've recently been baking but have not been updating my blog with the recipes because I was crazy busy and some of the recipes I tested turned to be major flops, so not worth sharing.

Few weekends ago, I baked two loaves of vanilla pound cakes. I kept one for myself and gave the other one to Naomi's teachers and friends at the nursery the next morning. I actually used the pound cake recipe that once was known as Elvis Presley's most favourite pound cake. Rumour has it that the late King of Rock and Roll could eat the whole cake at one sitting when his old friend baked this cake for him.

I must agree with Elvis. This pound cake recipe is so unusual. It's not dense and heavy like the usual pound cakes but it was incredibly moist instead. It's very fragrant and creamy too.

Can you tell how moist the cake was?

I gathered the recipe from various online sources and made some modifications on it. Here's the recipe that I used to make the pound cake.

Elvis Presley's Favourite Pound Cake

Ingredients:
  • 1 pack (225gr) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 2.5 cups of fine sugar
  • 7 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsb vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream

Tutorials:
  1. Prepare lined baking pan for the cakes. Do not preheat the oven.
  2. Sift flour into a bowl and repeat sifting it into another bowl. The flour should be sifted twice in total. Set aside.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed about 6-8 minutes until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition with the mixer.
  5. Beat in vanilla extract to the cake batter.
  6. Reduce the speed of the electric mixer to low. Pour half of the flour and all of the cream to the cake batter and mix them with the low speed electric mixer.
  7. Fold the remaining flour with a spatula until well incorporated. Batter will be creamier and satiny.
  8. Pour the batter into the baking pan and rap the pan against work surface to eliminate air bubbles.
  9. Place the pan in a (cold) oven and turn the oven temperature to 170 degree celcius.
  10. Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
**The above recipe yields in 2 loaves of cakes.

As you can see, the methods of baking this pound cake are quite different from baking normal pound cakes. Also, in my first attempt of testing this recipe, as per an online source suggestion, I sifted the flour three times. I ended up having too moist, almost crumbly, pound cakes. Naomi teacher told me that the cake tasted very nice but children had troubles eating them because the cake was too soft and moist. The kids made a huge mess on the floor with the cake crumbs. That's why I think sifting the flour once or twice should be more than enough to create just nice and moist pound cake.

I will try making the cake again as I still have a pack of whipping cream in my fridge. Also, I aim to take better pictures of the cake in the near future.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Day

Today is not the 15th. Today is Easter Day and this year's Qing Ming Festival happens to fall on either today or yesterday (I'm not too sure).

In conjunction with Qing Ming Festival, my husband and I planned to visit Dylan's tomb this weekend. This time around, my husband wanted to plant real flowers in front of our son's tomb because he thinks fresh cut flowers get dry after few days and I am against the idea of putting a vase full of plastic flowers to decorate his tomb. Plastic flowers are indeed long-lasting but they look pretty weird when placed in the cemetery.

Yesterday afternoon we dropped by a plant nursery near our house and consulted the owner on the type of flower plant that doesn't require special care, can last long and loves sunshine. He recommended a kind of flowering plant with lots of tiny flowers. I don't know what it is called because the conversation my husband had with him was in Mandarin. In the end, my husband chose the one with lots tiny of yellow/orange flowers.

After today's church, we went home and enjoyed a rainy afternoon. About 4pm, the rain had stopped and the three of us drove to the cemetery where Dylan rests. When we reached there, my husband parked his car next to Dylan's tomb (next to his tomb is an empty land). We got down and left Naomi inside the car with windows opened so she could see us.

My husband and I stood in front of Dylan's tomb for few seconds before we discussed where he'd plant the flowers. Actually, while standing, I just stared at Dylan's headstone, reading his name for a long time. I didn't know what to pray for him. Not sure if he still needs it either since he is all covered in Heaven.

Soon, my husband took his gardening scoop and began digging a hole in the ground. Meanwhile, Naomi wanted to come out of the car and see Daddy did his 'gardening' thing. Naomi who still doesn't understand the whole situation was giggling and very happy. She probably thought Mommy and Daddy brought her for some outdoor outing after the rain stopped. She squatted next to my husband and plucked all the yellow flowers from the plant and the plant for Dylan was literally flowerless by the time my husband planted it.

Qing Ming 2015.

When my husband was done with planting, Naomi started running around the cemetery and wanted to touch the stuff that I didn't want her to touch in a place like cemetery so I forcefully put her back to the car. Both of us waited in the car while my husband cleaned Dylan's tomb with some water and wet wipes.

Before we left, my husband took some pictures of Dylan's tomb with the new plant. I thought one of the pictures he took earlier today was beautifully taken (see below). It speaks thousand words for me. It also looks so timely with Easter Day that we are celebrating today.

Happy Easter, beloved son!

Happy Easter, son! I know you are very happy in Heaven but please don't eat too much chocolate eggs up there. Chocolates are not good for your teeth (if you have any by now).

Mom and Dad still keep you in our hearts.

xoxo.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Speech Therapy

Last year in May, I shared that Naomi was a late talker and she was fairly behind on her language development. As such, paediatricians advised us to bring Naomi to speech therapy.

We had the appointment to see the speech therapist in November last year but somehow missed it. To my horror, it was rescheduled to some 4-5 months later. Seemingly, in the whole Negri Sembilan, there is only one place that has speech therapists, which is the government hospital in Seremban, and their speech therapists' schedules are insanely fully booked for months.

Fast forward, last Monday (March 30th), my husband and I brought Naomi to her first speech therapy session at the hospital. To be honest, I was very curious about Naomi's first speech therapy session and looked forward to it. After I registered Naomi's name at the counter, I paid RM 5 for her speech therapy session and was informed that the fee will be increased to RM 15 per session in April onwards. GST is obviously taking its toll in Malaysia.

My 2.5 y/o cutiepatootie.

When Naomi's turn was up, my husband, Naomi and I entered the speech therapy room. Naomi's speech therapist last week was a young woman and once we were seated, she briefly asked us some questions about Naomi's health history and developmental milestones. I told her that Naomi can say few words already but still mostly babbles. Naomi was then presented with a bead roller coaster toy and the therapist accompanied Naomi playing with it while loudly saying simple words, hoping that Naomi would imitate whatever words she said. The first conversation was more or less went like this, "Up! Up! Naomi, say up!" "Down, down. See, this bead is going down." "Green" "Red" "Yellow" and so on. What was Naomi's response to her? Long silence. Pure ignorance.

As the speech therapist was a total stranger to Naomi and my girl was not feeling well on Monday, most of the time, Naomi acted very shy, clingy and declined to play with the therapist. Sometimes she closed her eyes to her presence and surely, was not interested in imitating any of the words that the therapist said. With this kind of attitude, I was 100% very certain that Naomi earned quite a bit of negative marks on the therapist's assessment paper.

Moving on, the therapist told my husband and I to use the language that we use at home on daily basis. She asked my husband to translate the words she said to Naomi into Mandarin but I told her it's okay to use English terms because we teach Naomi to say words in English and sing English kiddie songs too. Further, the speech therapist recommended us to use just one language to Naomi to avoid confusion.

Very expressive little girl.

Few minutes and many toys later, Naomi was still not willing to utter some words that she already mastered in front of this therapist. Naomi already can say the word of "Duck" every time she sees yellow rubber ducks, bird, swan, chicken or basically any animal with beak but she purposely didn't want to say "Duck" when the speech therapist gave her some plastic duck toys to play with. Ding... ding... ding... Another negative mark just earned.

The therapist felt that Naomi's speech development was quite behind because by age 2, kids should be able to string two words together and by age 3, they should be capable of stringing three words together. Naomi now is 2.5 years old and her vocabulary at this moment is not even there yet to be able to string two words together.

Halfway through the session, Naomi got bored and wanted to leave the room. She began to make noises and asked us to get out of the room. When this happened, the therapist quickly presented Naomi with more toys to entice Naomi while saying few words to describe them. After this, the rest of the session became a consultation session between the therapist and the parents.

In a nutshell, I think Naomi's first speech therapy session was arguably fruitless because she came back from the therapy session with no speech improvement. Well, we can't expect to gain much from the first therapy visit, can we? However, I got the impression that this speech therapy session was intended more to us, the parents, to learn how we should teach and encourage Naomi to speak new words and implement this over and over again on daily basis. We were told to speak more to Naomi and repeatedly name and point the things that we see on daily life during bath time, eating, playing, driving, etc. until Naomi gets the hang of these words.

Thirty minutes later, the speech therapy session was concluded and we're asked to come again for Naomi's second session in November. I was quite flabbergasted when I learned this because I thought the speech therapy session would be scheduled more regularly or frequently like once a week or once a month perhaps, especially since the therapist considered Naomi's speech ability is weak. I was even more shocked when I was told that the therapist expects to see Naomi be able to string words together by November. Seriously, how to achieve this? LOL. I thought the purpose of this therapy was to assist Naomi to improve her speech in a more conducive way so her language development is back on track.

To summarize, I personally prefer the idea of sending Naomi to the nursery better than attending once in a blue moon speech therapy session as an avenue to improve her speech development. At least, in the nursery, Naomi is exposed to other children (some already can talk and are very chatty) and teachers who talk to her all day long and hopefully they would stimulate Naomi to talk soon.

Nonetheless, this whole speech therapy experience was overall still a good learning to us and I plan bring Naomi to attend her second speech therapy session in November, with significant progress I hope.

P/S: No camera or hand phone allowed during the therapy session, hence I can't share any visual image of the speech therapy session.

Updates:

We decided not to pursue the second round of the speech therapy as Naomi already can talk just few months after she joined the play school.