Author Archives: R.K. Modena

About R.K. Modena

Writer, artist, mom, all the rest is icing and sprinkles on the cake.

Vignette Participation: Things got hairy…

This was my little contribution to the Sunday Vignettes post over at According To Hoyt. The others are also quite amusing, intriguing or both. There are also book promos, so do check them out!

Sevhan sighed, and frowned at the cringing apprentice before him, babbling near-incoherent, panicked apologies. “Do not fear, boy, I shan’t punish you for what was my mistake in the first place.”

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Fix it Mummy

So, the day started out well; the chibi-chan got to play with big brother before he went off to school and stayed awake most of the day with only brief 10-15 minute naps (or less) before she would start smiling and chattering again. Heck, she’s been in a fantastic mood since yesterday, where she charmed pretty much everyone we came across.

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Time flies!

I’m sure many parents can attest to being very sleep deprived when they have a new baby in the house, and the days can blur quite a bit when you’re living from alarm to alarm for a feeding schedule.

Nothing quite hammers it home though as “How old is she now?” That makes you stop, pause as you try to drag yourself out of the haze of Barely Awake and try to count the weeks…months … it’s 2019? When did that happen?

Then you step back, and take a look at your baby and realise she’s grown. Actually grown. And inwardly wail “No, I’m not ready yet, she can’t be past the new tiny baby stage when did she get all the cute baby chubby and start her non-verbal communication that I can actually understand?!” Yeah, and at the same time, you coo and cuddle and kiss those rosy cheeks and get a giggle! Baby laughing – ah, what a joyful sound.

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Do Not Want

So, it’s swiftly apparent that one of Jaenelle’s favourite people is the Housemate, Aff. From a baby point of view, this makes sense. He has the largest hands (besides Rhys) and when he holds her she feels secure. Also, she finds him funny, for reasons none of us can figure out

So Jaenelle was being held and talked to and it came time for her to be fed. Since we feed her through a tube in her nose, it’s easiest to keep her in her cot to do so. Aff, since he was talking to her, said “Okay, now we have to put you down in your cot, so you can have dinner, okay?”

Jaenelle’s smile immediately dropped into a sad frown, to his alarm.

“No, really, you have to be put back down in your cot-“

Even more tragic, tears welling at corners of big, WIDE EYES expression.

Me: *stifle laugh*

Aff: *slowly move toward cot and leans downward*

Jaenelle: *BURSTS OUT INTO ABSOLUTELY HEARTBROKEN AGONIZED TEARS*

Aff: O_O *hands Jaenelle to me, as I am an unhelpful Mom and cuddle and laugh at the same time as she wails and I comfort her*

Mind the reverse is more often true: he’ll lean over her, say hi and she’ll break out into this big gummy smile

Leaderprice Viande et Pommes Recreation

This is a recipe that we were originally introduced to as a frozen food by my middle brother Al’s Morrocan friends when we lived in Paris in the late 90s. It was basically ‘viande et pommes (du terre)’, and sold in the frozen food section of Leaderprice in 1 kg bags. Despite the unassuming name, the tiny diced potatoes, which had similarly tiny chunks of meat, were deliciously spiced – we could identify pepper, but the rest was a mystery, only hinted at by the fact that the potatoes were yellow-orange in hue when cooked. You just had to pop them in the microwave or stir-fry to enjoy. It was very much a budget cheapie frozen food, as there was much more potato than there was meat!

Believe me, we could each eat one of those bags. It’s a miracle that we didn’t end up massively unhealthily obese then, but we also walked a lot back in those days. Also, teenagers, I suppose.

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Berlin Memories Beef Goulash

I sent the recipe of my candied teriyaki tazukuri to my family, and my middle brother Al asked me if I have the recipe for my goulash, which I cooked up once and served to my sister in law (then to be) and she raved about the flavours and taste. It seems she remembers the dish!

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Coffee Jelly

A delightful treat of coffee and sweet cream

Happy New Year! Bye, 2018, hello 2019! Hopefully everyone will have a good year, or at the very least, one you can bear. I’m sharing my recipe of coffee jelly, which we had as part of the New Year celebration food. Really though, it’s such an easy dessert (just takes time, as jellies do) that there is no reason why you couldn’t have it more often than that!

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Candied Teriyaki Tazukuri Dilis

So I was writing about Tazukuri in my Takeno Gohan recipe, and after looking at a few recipes on how to make Tazukuri, I felt I could make my own twist on it – a bit closer to the recipe made by Seakid, maybe.

It turns out that I had already thought of doing this, as my husband remembered that I had some of the dried dilis in a package in the fridge, shoved into the back. I had the rest of the ingredients in my pantry, so seeing as today is New Year’s Eve, I figured, why not? It looked like something I could do while Jaenelle was napping after a feed.

Forgot to take a picture of the dilis in the package. Sorry. I got excited.
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Takeno Gohan with Tofu

Bamboo-tofu rice with seasoned seaweed, aburaage and sweet and spicy crispy fish and blueberries on a tray
of A Japanese-style meal with bamboo tofu rice as the main star!

I started making Japanese style cooked mixed rice as a fairly easy, makes me happy light meal. Takeno Gohan, or Bamboo Rice, is actually by itself pretty filling (to me) but sometimes, I want a bit more and I can add seasoned seaweed, or aburaage, or crispy candied dilis fish. (I didn’t have access to dried dilis at the time but I found them packaged as a coated crispy snack with spicy cornstarch, so I cooked sugar and soy sauce together until it got very thick and sticky and coated the snacks with them to make my own candied dilis. In Japan they’re called Tazukuri.) This is really less of a recipe and more of a method of cooking. (Edited to add: I’ve made my own version of Tazukuri. Enjoy!)

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Delicious Failure

So since it’s heading to New Year, we were preparing the food that should be started ahead of time – squeezed in between taking care of Jaenelle, of course. I had planned a cake for Christmas, but discovered we were out of sour cream, and the shops were all out of it as well. So we let the dry mixture sit in a bowl, and the melted butter was put in the fridge to be reheated later.

Turns out you shouldn’t use the microwave to re-melt the butter that’s already been melted. The fats stay separated. We figured this out only later though, because we poured the remelted butter into the cake mix and ended up with this:

It had boiled over and out of the pan, resulting in a very buttery pudding…thing. It’s still very delicious though and rich, and with a bit of whipped cream on top, it’d be perfect. So we’re enjoying our delicious failure, as it’s already nicknamed. ^_^ By flavour, it is redeemed!

Latkes

So I recently started having a rather peculiar potato craving (and no, I’m not pregnant!) that I acquired from surfing Pinterest recipes while taking care of the baby (usually while holding up her syringe of milk; she’s currently on a nasal-gastric tube only feed.)

Happy bright eyed baby girl
Jaenelle giving me a cute, crooked smile

Anyway, I ran across a recipe for latkes that struck me as super easy, even though I don’t have a cheesecloth to squeeze the shredded potatoes with. I figured I could use the food processor to make my life easier too, so I’ve been wanting to try make this since I saw the recipe for the things about a month ago.

So the other day, I found myself with time to try it; Jaenelle was having a very comfortable sleep in her cot in my work area, and I didn’t think this would take much time to prep and would make a nice side dish with the honey mustard chicken bake I was doing. I had plenty I thought… and ended up with a couple of unexpected but welcome dinner guests, who gave me a big thumbs up and rave reviews about the meal.

I made these with a bit more flour than I should’ve, but they turned out wonderfully – more like a latke-fritter than a proper latke, and still yummy and filling. Next time I’ll use less flour and egg. The onions, which were pre-diced and frozen, ended up meltingly soft and sweet with the potato shreds. Yuuuuum~

I wonder if one could make these as just onion pancakes. =9

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Latkes
Shredded potato and onions result in a more flavorful version of the more well-known hash browns! Eat alone or as a side, it's a flavorful snack!
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Using food processor, shred potatoes. Pour shredded potatoes and onions into a collander lined with a cheesecloth.
  2. Gather up cheesecloth around the potatoes and onions and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Put into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the seasoned salt to the eggs and beat, then pour over the potatoes and onions. Stir in.
  4. Gently fold in the flour until well mixed.
  5. Pour some oil into a large frying pan. Heat oil on medium heat, and drop in carefully a spoon of potato mixture, flattening slightly. Fry until golden brown, then flip over with a spatula. Remove from pan onto a baking tray lined with paper towels when the other side is golden brown too.
  6. Serve with sour cream and chives, or use as a side dish / hash brown replacement.
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Merry Christmas

Home for Christmas!

Jaenelle is home! We’ve been home since Monday, and we’re all settling in and adjusting to her various medical needs (Mostly her feeding and medicines schedule.)

She had a tube change this morning, and since the NG tube was out for a little while, I took the opportunity to take a photo of her in a pretty dress she was meant to have on for her uncle’s wedding (we couldn’t go, sadly, because Jaenelle was still in hospital) and combine it with an idea I had while admiring the Christmas tree at the cardiac ward that we were staying in: bundle up all the cute babies, put ribbons around them and put them down with the gifts, because they were the most precious gifts of all.

Things are improving, and I think everything will be smoother once things are better set up. I am recovering from the hospital stay, and reckon my back and hip muscles will eventually loosen up again one day.

There aren’t as many presents under the tree because I didn’t get the opportunity to really do shopping; and the older children being older, preferred to have the ability to choose what they got (either money, or books. I’m happy that they went for books; though this means that they weren’t getting them on the day. I’ve been told it’s no problem.) I’m hoping that I can at least bake a cake for Christmas…

As always, we endure, adapt and survive, but when she smiles, it really is worth it! (Apparently she finds Uncle Aff’s voice very ticklish and smiles a LOT when he talks to her.)

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Happy Father’s Day 2018

Card with baby footprints and text reading Dad, Well Done I'm Awesome!

Made by one of the lovely ladies of the NICU

Last Sunday was Father’s Day; and there was a surprise waiting for us at Jaenelle’s crib – a Father’s Day card! ‘From Jaenelle’, as it were. Of course, since she is still little, she got some help in making it. Rhys, of course, loves it to bits.

Vincent usually uses a bit of his saved up money (or an unused gift card) to get his Dad a bottle of his favourite liquor with my help – ergo, the boyo gives me the money to pay for the pressie after he picks out what he thinks is the best option. But since I’m still in hospital fighting off infection (which is why I haven’t been ‘around’ per se), I couldn’t help him this time around. I gave a couple of suggestions (albeit a bit late) of options that Eldest Son can get from the grocery. It’s a wee bit of help, but at least he didn’t forget it at all.

Jaenelle is growing well; she’s in positive birth weight now and has been moved to the special care ward and has been getting a mix of bottle feeds and tube feeds. She’s still a bit too little though to really breastfeed, though she gives it a good try, she gets tired too easily and does what they call tongue thrust – ergo the baby’s tongue gets in the way and pushes out something that is put in the mouth, a normally good survival instinct, but gets in her way in this case. I might be able to help her a bit more but for the cannula in my arm preventing me from bending the limb properly.

On other good news – Congratulations to the winners and nominees of the Dragon Awards!

 

Hello Beautiful Baby!

She has her father’s big eyes, only grey.

Our daughter, Jaenelle, was born last week via a medically necessary c-section, early at 34 weeks, 4 days. She is thriving and perpetually hungry, since she has a lot of growing to catch up to. While she is in the NICU as she is prematurely born, I’ve been informed that she does not suffer from things like apnea or breathing issues, and just needs to feed and sleep enough to catch up to growing to her term size. Looks like the corticosteroids worked a treat on her lungs!

The surgery was required as I had placenta previa and a front-lying placenta. I learned something new: you can have a c-section where you cut through the placenta! I was put under general anaesthesia for it, so I didn’t see that, but Rhys was allowed in to take pictures of our baby after she’d been taken out of the womb and cut the cord. Already all that was more than we had hoped for! After finding out that Rhys had worked with sheep slaughtering, the surgeon allowed him to peek at the sewing-me-up procedure (since Rhys was being sensible and staying out of the way) and gave permission to take a couple of pics for me to see. I’m sure that we’ve made an impression as That Weird Couple.

I am still in hospital with post-natal complications (pulmonary embolism, infection), which are being handled. I do not mind the extended stay in the hospital (I’d already been here a good 3 weeks before the surgery due to pregnancy complications regarding blood pressure) as if anything goes wrong, I’m at the best place for that.

Socialist Bananas And Limited Ice Cream

One summer, shortly after we arrived in East Berlin, my parents and we children were out and about walking and enjoying the day, when we ran across a stall, which had a long line of East Germans patiently queued for whatever it was being sold.

My father being always curious, decided to look at what the stall had to offer: bananas! Since the queue was rather long, I was sent to mind my younger brother while sitting on a nearby bench, while he and my mother got in line, telling us we’d have bananas for a snack. I remember my Dad being excited because they were very cheap, and smelled good despite starting to have brown spots on a number of them. Later, Mom told me what had happened, while they were there. The line moved along at a fairly steady rate, so it wasn’t long before they were at the front. A plastic bag was handed to my Dad, and he happily started filling his bag with bananas.

My mother started nudging him – first discreetly, then a little harder, then hissed at him in his native Romblomanon to have a quick look at the other people. Puzzled, he did, only to realise that the other people in the queue behind him were glaring daggers at his back, and the others who were selecting their bananas were only taking a few pieces – perhaps only enough for one each of their family members, or enough to cut in half and share if they were a larger family. Nobody was filling an entire bag full, like Dad was!

Shamefacedly, Dad carefully put the bananas back, and refused the stall-minder’s saying they surely could get one each! He and my mother walked back to us, saying we’ll get bananas next time. When we were far enough away, Dad explained that we could get bananas any time we liked from the groceries in West Berlin, as much as we wanted, while the East Berliners could only get these whenever a different socialist country – probably somewhere in South America – sent them something like that, which would then be distributed to sell to the locals in stalls across the city, and once they were gone, they were not likely to get any until the next shipment, which might not happen until the next year. So, it was nicer to let them have their special treat, since we could get nicer, larger bananas when we went across the border.

But for the East Germans, that’s all they’d get.

My parents had a way of explaining things so we would understand and not complain if we didn’t get a thing. (If anyone encounters me in real life, this is why I have issues understanding why children aren’t better disciplined in this day and age.)

I don’t really know where the bananas came from. Dad thought maybe Cuba, or Venezuela.

The other memory I have of such stalls and lines involves ice cream. It was pretty hot that day (a different day from the bananas one), so Dad lined up for ice cream one day. But by the time he got there, they no longer had any ice cream (there had been only two flavors – vanilla, and chocolate; chocolate had run out first, then the vanilla) and all that was left were the little shaped wafer dishes that had been used to serve out a single scoop of ice cream per person, which the stall-minder gave to him as an apology. I remember not minding not getting ice cream, because I liked the wafer; and Dad making an especial point of getting a supply of neopolitain ice cream from West Berlin that weekend.

Some time afterward, I remember Dad telling us not to line up for the things that were sold by street seller unless they were a regularly available thing, like bratwurst, and only to do so to treat our friends, because we could always eat the delicious treats the East Germans were lining up for anytime we wanted, while they might not get those things at all. If we were out by ourselves, we would not line up for those things. The government was in charge of all the things that they would get; and things that they weren’t able to grow or manufacture themselves, well, those were special treats, that the government was able to arrange for. The ordinary Germans could enjoy them – in limited quantity – and if they missed out, oh well.

Speaking of bratwurst, I really miss, to this day, the bratwursts we ate there. I remember them well – fat slightly greyish-mostly-brown sausages, boiling in the cart, put between a sliced piece of brotchen, their juices softening the hard bread, which may or may not have had a thin swipe of butter on them. The sausages, when bitten into crunched as you got through the sausage skin, and I remember hurriedly wiping my chin with the edges of my bread to catch the delicious meat juices. The sausages were slightly salty, and a single one was filling.

We always patronised the bratwurst sellers; they were common enough that Dad didn’t feel bad about buying from them nor did he feel that he was depriving someone else of a treat by getting some for us. I’m rather glad about this, because eating bratwurst, especially on a cold autumn, winter or spring day, was a wonderful feeling, and I remember the men selling them being so pleased that we children were really enjoying the food.

To this day, I can still remember how tasty those bratwursts were.