November Happenings

We celebrated Older Daughter’s birthday last Friday, about a week early, as she was going to be away on her actual birthday.

That’s the Mango Cheesecake I made for her birthday.

The following day, we saw her off at the airport.

She is off to spend three weeks in Shanghai, China for an intensive program of Intermediate Chinese. This program is equivalent to one semester’s worth of study. Very exciting, indeed. After one year of Introductory Chinese at Monash, her Chinese is already better than mine!

Since Older Daughter is in China, she wasn’t able to be here for the Girls’ Brigade Presentation Night.

Younger Daughter received an award for Best Junior.

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Mango Cheesecake

Regular readers of my blog should know by now that my family loves cheesecake (link to other cheesecake recipes on my blog), that I like trying new recipes — experimenting and tweaking — and that I am cheap. ALDI brand for me and extra points if the ingredients are on Special.

It’s almost summer here and that means more fruits available at the stores. I saw mangoes at a great price, so I grabbed two. Just two.

It’s also birthday season at the Yewnique Farm and my older daughter saw the mangoes and asked what my plans were for those golden pieces of tropical deliciousness. I told her I wasn’t sure yet. Later, while talking with my younger daughter, I wondered if a Mango Cheesecake might be a good idea for older daughter’s birthday. Younger daughter affirmed, “That’s what she told me she wanted!”

In case anyone is wondering, yes, we do eat fruits as they are. They don’t always get turned into cakes.

So, the hunt was on for a mango cheesecake recipe — or, recipes — and the wherewithal to be creative and make it mine.

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Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

The warmer months are upon us here in Melbourne, and with that, lots and lots of strawberries. My daughter put cream on the shopping list (“I thought of making ice cream.”) so I started having visions of Strawberry Shortcake. Wouldn’t you?

I absolutely love the internet because of the accessibility of information. Recipes galore, just by typing in keywords! And, unlike a conventional cookbook, these recipes have ratings and reviews. It’s great!

After looking at several recipes, I found a couple which looked great and easy to follow. Simplicity of instructions ranks high on my priority list when looking at recipes.

The following recipe is inspired by:

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The End of “Whom”?

I read two books recently, which I reviewed here and here.

Both stories were told in the first person. In the former, the narrator is an English teacher to foreign students. The latter is an English translation of a Japanese novel. One thing I noticed about both stories was that the word who was used in several (maybe all?) places where whom would have been correct.

Readers of my blog will know that I care about grammar. I have my pet peeves and my children fully expect me to correct radio presenters and TV shows when such errors come up.

While I do care about grammar, I am not an expert by a long shot and am not a Grammar Nazi; there are some rules I am not so gung-ho about. Using the wrong pronouns for compound objects has been a bugbear of mine for decades (no kidding!) now, and will likely remain so. Using reflexive pronouns to sound more formal is also an irritant.

And yet, for some reason,

Her and a friend went to a party.
(Should be She and friend went to a party.)

is less annoying than

The gift is from Mary and I/myself.
(Should be The gift is from Mary and me.)

 

Maybe it’s because, in the former, the speaker is going for a casual tone, but in the latter, the speaker is trying to be grammatically correct or formal, overshooting, and failing as a result.

Incorrectly using who instead of whom is less annoying than vice versa.

In fact, I am guilty of incorrectly using who instead of whom — and sometimes using objective pronouns when the subjective form is correct — simply because the correct word/form sounds awkward! It sounds awkward because people are not used to hearing it used correctly.

For example:

Who should we invite to the party?
Who did you see?
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters!)
It’s me!

All the above are wrong. They should be:

WHOM should we invite to the party?
WHOM
  did you see?
WHOM are you going to call? (Yeah, it just doesn’t have same ring.)
It is I(SO pretentious!)

And yet, I say all the wrong sentences on a regular basis. (Well, except the one about the party and the one about calling Ghostbusters.) I know what’s right and what’s wrong. I am aware that I say it wrong. I excuse myself, but hold print materials to a higher standard.

So I was surprised when I came across who used incorrectly in those two books. One of the characters is an English teacher who asked a woman who inquired about lessons, “And just who are the lessons for?”

Yeah, it sounds casual and conversational and how most people would probably speak. Still…If an English teacher can’t use whom correctly, what does that say of his credentials?

I started to wonder if the word whom is becoming obsolete. My curiosity got further piqued when I read a couple of online ‘newspaper’ articles where who was used incorrectly.

Is “whom” no longer a word? Has it become obsolete?

I posted the question on my Facebook wall, and several people responded that, yes, whom is on its way out. One person said that ‘many, many language videos now say that whom is only used in very, very formal situations’.

Another friend, who is a university professor, said that one of her students told her that he thought whom was Old English, so he didn’t use it in his essays.

I remember reading elsewhere on Facebook a woman saying that she was taught who is singular and whom is plural! (She now knows that is incorrect, but she can’t get her head around the proper use.)

fuck my life fml GIF

So, it could very well be that people are no longer properly coached on the difference between who and whom — or, they just can’t keep it straight — so they just default to who every time and hey, other people understand them anyway, so what’s the big deal??

My fear is that maybe one day the majority will no longer know the difference between compound subjective and compound objective pronouns, and will just default to compound subjective pronouns every time. This already happens more than I would like, but I am still hopeful that the majority still know the difference and will fight for what is right.

As for the objective pronoun whom — other than textbooks, non-fiction books, good newspapers — have you seen one lately, let alone used correctly?

What do you think of the demise of the word whom? Yea, Nay, or Meh?

Let me know in the comments!

 

Book Review: South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

I borrowed this from my sister when we were both back in Malaysia last month to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. She is a huge fan of Murakami. I have read one other book of his which I reviewed here. There is another book I sort of read but I can’t even remember the title of it now, let alone the plot. I borrowed that from the library and had to return it without having read it completely because it was due back at the library and I wasn’t keen to be fined. And, I had maxed out the renewals. So, obviously the book didn’t really grab me.

At under 190 pages long, this is an easy read. The story is told in the first person, Hajime.

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Pandan Cheesecake with Pandan Kaya Topping

I’ve made cakes with pandan (screwpine leaves) flavour several times now.

I think I have finally found a way of making a Pandan Cheesecake with a topping that the whole family likes!

There are three parts to this cheesecake: the base, the cake, the topping. It is a relatively easy recipe, but it does take time, and there are some ‘exotic’ ingredients which some readers might find challenging to obtain. An Asian grocery store (or well-stocked cosmopolitan supermarket) should have these ingredients. (Then again, I may be spoiled and don’t know how good I have it!)

Base

  • a packet of sweet biscuits (like Marie), crushed to yield 2 cups
  • 2/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1 tsp (or so) of cocoa powder (optional)

Note: Most recipes I’ve looked at call for 1 cup of crushed biscuits and 1/3 cup of melted butter. To me, the base ends up too thin and sometimes rather crumbly and does not hold well. I decided to double the amount here — 2 cups crushed biscuits, 2/3 cup melted butter — and I am extremely satisfied with the result. Your mileage may vary.

Method:

Combine crushed biscuits and melted butter until well combined. Press firmly into base of a 22cm (9-in) spring form pan. Chill until firm.

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp. gelatine, dissolved in 1/3 cup water (sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir to combine, and then microwave on high for 45 seconds)
  • 2 x 250g packet cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 x 400ml can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4-5 drops of pandan paste
  • 4-5 drops of pandan essence

 

Method:

Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth.

Add sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, pandan paste, and pandan essence and beat again until smooth.

Add gelatine mixture and beat again until smooth.

Pour into crumb base. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm. This will take several hours.

Topping:

I got the recipe for the kaya topping from this blog. That recipe is for a pandan kaya layer cake. I just looked at the kaya part for the topping. I tweaked the pandan juice part and the coconut milk part because I lazy (yes, I meant to write it that way). I used pandan paste and *gasp* canned coconut milk! Hey, it worked, okay?

  • 300 g water
  • 1/2 tsp white agar-agar powder
  • 40 g sugar
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 40 ml pandan juice (4-5 drops of pandan paste into 40 ml of water)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Place all the above into a big enough saucepan and let sit for at least 30 minutes. That’s right. Just let it sit. Don’t stir, don’t beat, don’t heat. Just let it be.

  • 120 g coconut milk
  • 35 g white hun kwee powder

In a big enough bowl, combine the coconut milk and white hun kwee powder until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Hun Kwee Powder

Hun Kwee Powder

Hun Kwee powder, sometimes spelled Hoen Kwe  or Hun Kwe, is mung bean flour (starch). This might be the most challenging to obtain. I had to visit three different Asian grocery stores before I found this. (I have purchased this before, so I knew which particular store had it, but I thought I’d try my luck at a couple of others before making the trip there.)

According to a forum, you can use corn flour/starch in place of hun kwee powder. I have not tried this, so I can’t tell you how successful it will be.

  • 5 drops pandan paste
  • 1 big drop yellow food colour

 

Method:

Place saucepan over low heat and stir agar-agar mixture till agar-agar powder dissolves. (Mixture is now very hot but not boiling.)

Turn off heat. Add coconut milk mixture. Stir thoroughly. Add 5 drops pandan paste and 1 big drop egg yellow food colour. Stir thoroughly.

Turn on heat to medium-low. Cook and stir agar-agar mixture till thick enough to coat sides of pot thinly. Turn off heat. Stir till residual heat dissipates. (Mixture should now be thick enough to coat sides of pot thickly but thin enough to flow smoothly.)

Pour over cheesecake and chill until firm.

************************************

Without all the la-di-da:

Base

  • a packet of sweet biscuits (like Marie), crushed to yield 2 cups
  • 2/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1 tsp (or so) of cocoa powder (optional)

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp. gelatine, dissolved in 1/3 cup water (sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir to combine, and then microwave on high for 45 seconds)
  • 2 x 250g packet cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 x 400ml can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4-5 drops of pandan paste
  • 4-5 drops of pandan essence

Topping:

Part 1:

  • 300 g water
  • 1/2 tsp white agar-agar powder
  • 40 g sugar
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 40 ml pandan juice (4-5 drops of pandan paste into 40 ml of water)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Part 2:

  • 120 g coconut milk
  • 35 g white hun kwee powder

Part 3:

  • 5 drops pandan paste
  • 1 big drop yellow food colour

Method:

Base

  1. Combine crushed biscuits and melted butter until well combined. Press firmly into base of a 22cm (9-in) spring form pan. Chill until firm.

Filling

  1. Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, pandan paste, and pandan essence and beat again until smooth.
  3. Add gelatine mixture and beat again until smooth.
  4. Pour into crumb base. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm. This will take several hours.

Topping

  1. Place Part 1 into a saucepan and leave for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine ingredients in Part 2 and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place saucepan over low heat and stir agar-agar mixture till agar-agar powder dissolves. (Mixture is now very hot but not boiling.)
  4. Turn off heat. Add coconut milk mixture. Stir thoroughly. Add Part 3. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Turn on heat to medium-low. Cook and stir agar-agar mixture till thick enough to coat sides of pot thinly. Turn off heat. Stir till residual heat dissipates. (Mixture should now be thick enough to coat sides of pot thickly but thin enough to flow smoothly.)
  6. Pour over cheesecake and chill until firm.

*******************************

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Birthday Time Again

There are six people in our family and three of them have birthdays within 38 days (inclusive) of each other.

Today is our youngest’s birthday, which also happens to be my younger sister’s birthday. My daughter’s due date was October 31 and I fully expected her to be born a few days before that because all her siblings were born before their due dates. October would have been a good month, too, because then we would all each have our own birth month.

Older daughter was due 3rd December but made her appearance, with some urgency, on the 30th of November. Had she been born on her due date, she would have shared a birth month with her father. When younger daughter missed her due date, and continued to ‘bake’ for another six days, I was beginning to wonder if we had somehow miscalculated her Estimated Time of Arrival. Nope, not only did she want to share a birth month with her older sister, she had to share a birthday with my sister.

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Book Review: One for My Baby by Tony Parsons

I went back to Malaysia in September to visit my parents and to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. While I was there, I perused their bookshelves — being former university professors, they have a formidable collection — and came across some novels which my sister had bought and left there. I asked her if I could borrow a couple and she graciously agreed. So I brought them back with me to Melbourne.

One for My Baby is narrated by the protagonist, a thirty-something widower by the name of Alfie Budd. Unable to cope with the loss of his wife after a scuba diving accident in Hong Kong, he moves back in with his parents in London. His father has a mid-life crisis, sabotaging his marriage by running off with the Czech maid. Alfie’s paternal grandmother is suffering from ill-health and it is up to Alfie’s mother to help look after her. Can Alfie, who believes his one chance of finding love is over, start again?

This was an easy read, but I found myself being annoyed with Alfie. I know everyone experiences grief in their own way, but Alfie takes it to a whole new level. He finds a job as an English teacher to foreign students and shamelessly sleeps with his female students. Wait a minute! Isn’t that unethical? (Yes. Yes, it is.)

One of the people who crosses his path is single mum, Jackie Day, the cleaning lady at the Language School. She wants Alfie to help her pass her A-Levels English exam so she can have a better job, and therefore life, for her and her daughter, Plum. Shades of Educating Rita.

Alfie Budd also shares similarities with Macon Leary, the protagonist in Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist. Both have experienced profound loss, both watch their life crumble, and both meet single mums with a child. If you know what happened to Macon at the end, you can guess what happens to Alfie at the end of One for My Baby. Same old, same old.

Alfie meets an old Chinese man doing Tai Chi while out jogging. (Yes, old Chinese men doing Tai Chi is such a stereotype!) He befriends the man, George Chang, and meets the rest of George’s close-knit family. Several generations live under the one roof right above their Chinese restaurant. More stereotyping and predictable storylines.

There were some acute observations of life in Hong Kong which I enjoyed reading. There was also about a two-page spread where Alfie’s students explored the various nuances of the F-word, depending on the suffix and other add-ons.

Overall, the characters and the storylines were pedestrian and predictable. Your mileage may vary.

Book Review: The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

I came across this book in the library when I looking for some Alexander McCall Smith books. I looked in the regular section and noticed that I had read all the McCall Smith books there already, so I headed over to the Large Print section. There were no McCall Smith books there, but I saw several other books with the same code, a couple of which were by Grace McCleen.

I took The Land of Decoration off the shelf, read the blurb at the back, opened it up and had a scan of its contents. The writing style looked simple enough and there looked to be conversations with God. Was this a religious book? Was one of the characters delusional? Or…both?

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21

The oldest Yewnique child has turned 21. In Australia, a person is legally an adult at age 18; yet, 21 is still seen as a major milestone.

We had a small party with extended family for his 18th, but had a bigger party for his 21st.

 

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