Why I’m Not Finishing the #atozchallenge This Year

The annual A to Z Challenge – I look forward to it every April, and most years I managed to come up with 26 posts for the month. This year, it’s obvious I won’t be finishing the challenge since it’s nearing the end of April and I’ve only written 6 posts, even then, they were posted belatedly.

I thought that since most of the world is quarantining at home, I’d be inspired to write daily and write more. It’s been the opposite actually. Though I had the words in my mind, getting them out of my head and putting them down onto paper (or screen, in this case) was difficult. It was a case a of the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I thought of giving myself a few days before catching up with the posts I missed, but the more days I didn’t write, the easier it was not to write. Even this post had been sitting in my Draft folder for a few days.

Anyway, that’s it for me for this A to Z Challenge. Though I liked my theme this year and for a little while, looked forward to writing within that theme, perhaps I’ll revisit the theme in a future challenge.

Happy A to Z to the others who are still in the challenge!

Theme Reveal Time #atozchallenge

The theme I eventually decided on for this year’s challenge was actually a theme I contemplated writing about for last year’s challenge. I even went so far as to list out the potential post ideas for each letter of the alphabet. I’m glad that I kept that list though because at least now I won’t be starting from scratch.

From 2001 – 2003, I lived and studied in Toronto, Canada. It was my first time in that country and I spent those two years experiencing many firsts. I’ve written about some of my experiences in Toronto before but only superficially. I’ll be using this challenge to dig deeper into those experiences, which is something I’m quite excited about. So, this year, my theme for the April A to Z Challenge is

(I’m so excited about this theme, I even made a logo!)

As usual, I’m still at a loss as to what to write for those difficult letters X, Z and Q.

#atozchallenge 2020 is upon us!

February, despite having an extra day this year, zoomed past, and now we’re in March! I still have February feelings which is why I was a little bit caught by surprise when I got the notification email that sign-ups for the April A to Z Challenge is now open. Whaaattt???

I signed up (No. 91) but I’m panicking a little because I truly have no idea what I want to write about this year. This is in contrast to previous years when I had several theme ideas swirling in my head.

The theme reveal is slated for the 16th of March, there’s no obligation to participate in the theme reveal but if I have an idea what to write about by then, well, I can get started on what my posts will be like in April. Crossing my fingers and toes.

Anyone else joining or thinking of joining the April A to Z Challenge this year?

I Survived the 2019 #atozchallenge

This year was my 8th time participating in the April A to Z Challenge, BUT only the 4th time that I’ve completed the challenge properly, posting all 26 posts in the month of April.

I enjoyed writing my ‘Food Memories‘ post even though I was a little apprehensive at first whether or not I’d have enough food memories to reflect on. But I needn’t have worried, I had more than enough anecdotes, some I even forgot myself until I started writing about them!

When I wrote my posts, I tried to include as many details as I could, including the specific name of the restaurants where I had certain food (if I could remember them) and also the dates (or years) when I tried that food. I tried hard to dig up facts from the memories instead of just writing about the emotions I felt.

Though I still mainly wrote my posts on the posting day itself, I did have some posts written ahead. I didn’t schedule those posts to go live at a certain time and day however, since I preferred to re-read them again before finally clicking that ‘Publish’ button myself. I would then tweet about the post, and if I remember, log onto Facebook and post it on the challenge page too.

One of the most amazing things about this challenge, is finding new blogs to follow, so this year I’d like to give a shout out to these bloggers for entertaining me with their posts throughout April:

  • Allison & Her Camera, who shared about her eco-journey. Also, her pictures (which she takes herself) are pretty amazing!
  • To My Recollection, a blog belonging to S.M. Saves who posted mostly scary flash fiction. She even managed to write a 4 (or 5?) part flash fiction during the challenge!
  • Planet Simon, who posted about sci-fi films throughout the challenge. Some of his posts reminded me about movies I’d forgotten, and best of all, his posts were short and sweet!

Looking forward to next year’s challenge already!

(Z)aru Soba #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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The first time I tried zaru soba or cold soba noodles was on an airplane heading to Tokyo. I was 15 and tt was my first trip to a country which I’d grow to love. I was travelling with my sister, younger brother and father, to visit my mother who was in Japan for a one-year study tour.

Similar to the cold soba served in-flight that I had years ago

During the in-flight dinner service, we were each given a tray which had a bowl of green noodles (which I later learnt was soba), a bottle of sauce labeled ‘noodle sauce’ (duh), a small sachet of wasabi and a small empty bowl containing a packet of small pieces of dried seaweed and slices of spring onions. Thankfully, there were no quail eggs in sight.

My siblings and I had no idea what we were to do with this concoction. My father, who sat in the aisle across from us, pointed at the different bowls on our tray and mimed some actions, which none of us could decipher. He then took out a pen and started scribbling on a paper napkin. He reached across the aisle to pass the napkin to us, and we saw that he had scribbled instructions including drawings for how to eat cold soba! I wish I’d kept that napkin, his instructions were hilarious.

However, since I no longer have it, here’s a How-to video for those of you who’re never tried cold soba – The Right Way to Eat Cold Soba Noodles.

Yummy (Y)uba #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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Yuba, or bean curd skin, refers to the film that forms atop soy milk when it is heated. 

Tofu skin (or foo chok) which are sold as dried leaves or sheets, is quite a common ingredient here. I’ve added it to soups and canned sardines. However, I’d not tried fresh tofu skin, or yuba, until I visited Nikkō, a city almost a 2 hour train ride from Tokyo.

Walking through the streets of Nikkō, most of the eateries featured yuba, as it is the city’s local delicacy. There was deep-fried yuba, yuba sushi, yuba gyoza, yuba burgers, Japanese curry with yuba, yuba with jelly, yuba soup, yuba-don, and yuba cream inside rice cookies!

Our primary destination that day was Nikkō Tōshō-gū, a well-known Shinto shrine located in the city. But before heading there, we wanted to give yuba a try, so we started looking around for a legit-looking restaurant that served it and that’s how we ended up in 神橋庵 (which Google translate tells me is Ryo Takahashi), a soba noodle shop, along the main street.

We were lucky to have found a seat in the restaurant when we did because just as we entered, it had begun to rain and tourists looking for shelter started queuing to get in.

Like most restaurants who relied on income from tourists, they had an English menu and we ordered a yuba appetiser and two bowls of yuba soba (hehe it rhymes).

I expected yuba to taste strongly of soy milk but I was pleasantly surprised that it just had a clean and nondescript flavour. Dipping it into the sauce that accompanied the appetiser added to the dish and the pickled daikon radish on the side suited it well. We polished off everything we ordered in no time at all! Yes, the yuba was yummy!

A quick search revealed that there are plenty of recipes detailing how to make your own yuba, which is good since I have no idea when I’ll be able to reach the city of Nikkō again.

Are you a fan of tofu? If yes, what’s your favourite tofu dish?

Getting into the (X)mas Fruitcake Mood #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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It’s not unusual for me to get into the Christmas mood by June every year. I’d start playing Christmas songs in the car, and make lists for presents and cards. Some years though, I dreaded Christmas and only got into the festive mood when I started my holiday baking.

One of my favourite things to make for Christmas is fruitcake. In my family, I’m the official Christmas fruitcake maker. A title I bestowed upon myself. For a long while though, I kept calling it Christmas pudding, I didn’t know that there was a difference between a Christmas fruitcake and a Christmas pudding since they seemed similar to me. This article set me straight.

There’s something about starting the process of making fruitcake which puts me in the holiday mood. One of the first steps in the recipe I’ve stuck to religiously for years, is to rehydrate the dried fruits. I like my fruitcake boozy so I tend to soak the dried fruits in more than the accepted amount of brandy.

There was one year, I made seven loafs of fruitcake which I gave to my colleagues at work. Some years, I insist on only making enough for the family. One year, my local liquor store asked if I’d make a batch for them to sell at their store for Christmas. They discovered I make fruitcakes when I bought the brandy I needed from them.

Writing this, I realise that I can’t wait for Christmas fruitcake making season to come around. Only several more weeks to go.

Which do you prefer – Christmas fruitcake or Christmas pudding?

(W)ingstop (W)ings #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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One mild evening in Houston, my sister announced “Let’s go, we’re going to get takeout from Wingstop.”

“Wingstop?”

“Yeah,” she said, “they have one of the spiciest buffalo wings I’ve tried. I think you’ll like it!”

And off we went to the nearest Wingstop, about a 15-minute drive away. When it was our turn to order, I remember my sister asking for one portion of wings with a non-spicy sauce (for my brother-in-law and the kids) and one portion with their uber spicy Atomic sauce. At that point, the employee behind the counter asked us to read the warning taped to the counter which apparently was targeted to customers ordering the Atomic sauce wings. I don’t quite recall what it said precisely but it was along the lines of “We shall not sue Wingstop if our tongues get burnt off by the Atomic sauce.”

That was when I thought Whoa, this must be serious stuff! Can’t wait!

When we got home, we sat around the coffee table with our bounty of buffalo wings. My sister even cooked plain white rice just in case the heat got too much.

I picked up my first Atomic chicken wing and bit into it. Mmmm… delicious and moist. Okay, it’s a little spicy, but still tolerable. I was waiting for the Atomic-ness of the sauce to kick in but it hadn’t yet.

It was towards the end of my second wing when I finally felt the heat. I made the mistake of licking my lips, since that action caused my lips to tingle. And not the good kind. The heat didn’t falter but kept increasing. I wanted to stop eating, but I kept reaching for more chicken wing. I was a glutton for punishment. I took a spoonful of rice to temper the fire that was building in my mouth and continued. This was heaven/ This was hell!

After my last wing, I took a big gulp of ice cold water and fell onto the couch, satisfied even though yes, it felt like I ate the sun.

When Wingstop finally made its way to Malaysia recently, the first chance I got, I rushed over there and ordered the Atomic chicken wings. In the privacy of my home, I grabbed the wings to relive the agony of that first bite all those years ago. The familiar heat that I’d been dreaming about for so long, came flooding back. I went to bed that night, stomach full of fiery chicken wings, mouth swollen and throbbing. Nirvana.

Are you a fan of really spicy chicken wings? Have you tried the Atomic chicken wings from Wingstop?

Bo(V)ril #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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At the back of my pantry, there’s a small bottle of Bovril. Just in case. I don’t really eat it as often as I used to but I like to have it on hand, in the event I wake up in the middle of the night and crave something unctuous and salty.

Mmmmmmm…

When I was young, one of my favourite meals was white rice mixed liberally with a tablespoon (or more) of Bovril. I could just have this concoction without anything else, and go to sleep with a full stomach. On days when I had no appetite, my mum would make this for me, and my appetite would miraculously reappear.

In Malaysia, Bovril is stirred into rice porridge (yum) and coffee.

I’ve also tried Bovril diluted in hot water too, which is apparently its original method of consumption. It tasted really beefy, hearty, good for a really cold winter’s night if you’re wintering in Winterfell, I’m sure. For tropical Malaysia? Not so much.

Have you ever tried Bovril? Or something similar like Marmite? Did you like it?

(U)lat Sago #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.

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This is ulat sago, or sago worm. Though I prefer the term, sago grub because it makes those wriggling, fleshy, white larvae, seem cuter than they actually are.

When my brother was quite young, he kept a sago grub as a pet. My mum had bought a bag of live sago grubs from the market, and let him have the fattest one. We had an old, small fish tank which became its temporary home. He furnished the tank with a variety of leaves and bits of fibre from the sago palm that came in the bag with the grubs.

As for the rest of the sago grubs – my brother’s pet sago grub’s pseudo-siblings – well, my mum gave them a rinse and threw them into the wok with hot oil. After a quick stir fry, with a little chili and lemongrass, we had those grubs for dinner. I took the smallest one, used my spoon to cut a little piece, gave it a quick chew, swallowed quickly and I was done. The rest of my family popped them into their mouths like the grubs were popcorn.

My brother’s sago grub pet, well, it lasted a day in the tank.

Have you ever tried to eat a worm/ grub?