Mandy Martin – Pumpkin Bread (Singapore)

I wake. Is it morning? I let one eye open a sliver, peering through heavy eyelashes at the slit in my blackout curtains. 6:48? I check… 6:45. This is the first simple delight I experience in the day. Just two minutes off! I burrow deeper under my heavy covers (silly for equator climate, but I can’t help myself), letting my body slink further into the embrace of my mattress. I confirm that yes, it was worth schlepping it all the way from Vegas to Singapore. Now, I wait.

I wait for the ‘pat pat pat’ of tiny, heavy feet. A few minutes later I’m rewarded. I sneak a look to see just the top of my wee one’s wispy, blonde, toddler-mulleted head, bobbing around the foot of my bed. As with every morning in the past few months, I pretend to be asleep. She stands there for a full minute – just looking at me, watching me – with an armful of stuffies. Her still-pudgy hand finally reaches out and touches my face, so gently. She’s always been gentle.

I break into a grin and say, as I always do, “Good morning my sweet little peach! I’m so so sooooo happy to see you!”  After several excited hops, she and her creatures snuggle in beside me. “Closer, Mama!” We stay wrapped up in each other, whispering and giggling in my big bed for 25 minutes. No longer do I have the ‘up and at ‘em’ mentality I used to have.  And let me tell you. It. Is. Glorious.

I’m lucky. So far, I’ve kept my job and am able to work flexibly from home. I have help, allowing me to actually do that work from home, for the most part. The video bombs – just yesterday my little one barged in during a budget call, squealing and smacking me in the face with a balloon – have made every one of us more human, more relatable. I like this. I’ve always liked blending work with home, preferring to befriend colleagues as I’d rather work with friends. And it’s entertaining to see dogs making cameos, to inspect the art behind on the walls. In a way, the switch from meeting room to living room has brought us closer.

I’m also sad. We arrived in our new country not long before the pandemic hit – just us two gals, 15,000 kilometres away from friends and family. While we had our logistical lives set up – a home, a school, a bus pass, a library card – we were just starting to set up our human lives – friends, community, connection. We had been experiencing our own version of social distancing for months before the official one as newbies in a new place. And when social distancing became mandated, I began to feel even more isolated and alone. In the innocent and brutal way that only 3 year olds can muster, I felt it when my little asked, “Why do we have not many friends in Singapo, Mama?” Ouch. Sorry, baby girl. I’m trying. And we will. When everything opens.

Ah, when everything opens. This has become the mantra in our home. “Yes, we can definitely practice jumping in the pool with no floatie! When everything opens.” “Oh, you bet we can go to a restronk for bee hoon again! When everything opens.” “The beach with Livia and Louie? Yup! When everything opens, my love.” She seems satisfied with that, taking it as fact and moving on. Littles are remarkably resilient; bigs, perhaps less so.

But I’m doing my best and we are marching along. We bike 25 kilometres every other day – well, I bike and my little rides behind in an attached wagon donned with a tall, bright orange flag. We’ve scooted on, balance biked, and trekked every street and every block as far as her short legs will take us. When I can’t possibly make the argument for ‘exercising outside’ any more, we get creative and silly at home. We’ve constructed a three-metre-long toilet paper roll slide/tunnel for mini cars, had a pull-up hat day, created our own plastic bin ‘pool’ on our tiny balcony, and made an epic obstacle course complete with a parachute roof.

And we’re not alone. Video chats with Gammie and Papa, Uncle J, Auntie and nieces, and friends from home have kept us feeling connected and loved. I’ve received so many ‘checking in’ messages that I know others are out there, thinking of me as I do them, both old friends from faraway places and new friends close by. And wine on a video date isn’t drinking alone, right? Right. Glad we’re in agreement. In the case of dating, while it can feel limiting to discover if a potential partner’s thoughts and ideas fit well with my own before fully knowing if their hand fits well in mine, I’m willing to give it a go. We’ve settled on texting, chatting, planning, and even old-school letter writing – it’s what we’ve got. I’ve even baked cookies and sent them! It’ll be an interesting ‘how did you meet’ story, if anything.

Oh, the baking we’ve baked. My little and I are baking up a STORM! Pumpkin bread, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, pizza, apple crumble – you name it. Some have been a big hit; others a big flop. We’ve got a good rhythm – I measure, she pours. I beat, she stirs. I scoop, she tastes. She tastes again. And again. “Little peach, you’re going to get a tummy ache… And there’ll not be enough to bake!” “Ok, Mama….  But, just one more scoop!” Of course, I always relent. We enjoy the finished product as soon as it’s barely cool enough to eat. Then we deliver half to our neighbours and keep the rest for ourselves. Repeat. This newly-formed routine was where the idea of BITTOC was imagined. My story isn’t incredible or shocking, but it’s mine. Ours. It’s real. And (sometimes) delicious. And it made me want to discover others’ stories and goodie recipes, too.

At the end of the day, the extra time I’ve gotten to spend with my daughter – slowing down, in our comfy clothes, messy-hair-don’t-care – this is a gift I’m incredibly grateful for. Even if I do wear comfy clothes partially because I’m nervous that the plethora of pumpkin bread has made wearing normal clothes unlikely. Eek! Back to that bike…

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-oz can 100% pure pumpkin

Instructions:

Find the instructions here.

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