Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Christmas is coming; the gheezers are getting fat

Dinner menu in the House of H, running up to Christmas:

  • Tonight: Homemade Hokkien Prawn Noodles
  • Christmas eve: Slow-cooked lamb shanks and homemade gravy with roasted veggies
  • Christmas night: Cheese toasties. (Because we’re planning a HUGE brunch with friends! Did I mention Roast Turkey Roll stuffed with apricot, mango and hazelnuts? Ooh baby…)

What are you planning for dinner this week?


I might be on a roll here…

Pecan and choc chip cookies. A little dry, so will ease off on the flour next time.

Pregnancy mythbusters

I was having lunch with a colleague who, like me, hails from Southeast Asia and thus has the happy conundrum of being saddled with two versions of everything. And when it comes to pregnancy superstition and “do-this-or-else…”, the East has always excelled in scaring the daylights out of poor hapless n00b moms… but the West can hold their own in this department, too.

There are heaps, HEAPS out there and I’m sure it depends on generation and upbringing, but here’s a choice pick from both my worlds.

1. Avoid soft cheeses because of the risk of listeria

Two things seem to be linked to the harbouring of listeria in soft cheeses: pasteurisation and how the cheese is ripened. White mould cheese, such as brie and camembert (yum), are surface ripened, and their near neutral PH value and high moisture content make them that extra conducive for the listeria bacteria to grow.

The thing is, Australian law likes its milk and cheese pasteurised. And listeria, like love, is all around us anyway. We are already exposed to the bacteria whether we like it or not because it’s in the environment. Yes, pregnant women are at risk – but the risk is low, especially in Australia. In 2006, only 61 cases of listeriosis were registered with the Department of Health and only 8 were cases where a mother and baby were infected. And we don’t know that soft cheese was the culprit either, since there are many ways you can get exposed to listeria

BTW, if you’re suffering from leg cramps (especially with your calf muscles), it’s likely due to a lack of calcium. And that’s far more common a symptom in pregnant women than listeria.

So get some perspective, and if you’re still wiggy about it, nuke the little buggers by having your soft cheese piping hot and runny. Yummm… 

2. Don’t bathe or wash your hair during your confinement

The logic goes that if you bathe or wash your hair during confinement, ‘wind’ will enter your body and you can get rheumatism, among other ills.

You have GOT to grow up in a Chinese household to understand the concept of “heat”, “cool” and “wind” to not look at me like I’m talking about breathing in someone else’s farts.

BTW, I’m not talking a couple of days after the birth, or even a week. Some households have the no-hairwash limit at 12 days, and the no-bath limit at 40!

Fact: if you want to be a yummy mummy, then smell like one. And let’s not even get into stating the obvious, like good personal hygiene and the reduced risk of skin and wound infection.

3. If you eat sushi, you are basically a baby killer

Okay, first of all, sushi ≠sashimi. And fat, happy, pregnant Japanese women still have sashimi because man, the fish oil is great for baby. If you believe Dr Phil, Omega 3 fats

enhance the development of the baby’s brain, improve the baby’s IQ, make the baby a better sleeper after birth, prevent premature contractions and premature labor, prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy, and act as an anti-inflammatory that prevent infection.

But yes, we also have to think about mercury levels and other contaminants. So do a bit of sleuthing and figure out which fish is safer. The rule of thumb seems to be young, fresh white fish and canned light tuna. Basically, young white fish good, big old sea-going fish bad.

As for me, because I can’t attest to the refrigeration standards of soi disant local sushi chefs, I’ve decided to avoid the raw anything – mostly because it’d be horrible to deal with pregnancy AND salmonella at the same time. But I miss it like a fat kid misses cake.

4. Don’t watch scary movies when you’re pregnant

Another Eastern gem. Basically, stay clear of horror flicks as you might scare the baby witless.

And just to prove how deeply embedded this superstition is among certain folks, apparently some Chinese horror flicks place the following disclaimer before running:

Important to NOTE: this movie is not suitable for expecting mothers.

I think the myth speaks for itself, but I just had to add this one in because the movie bit was priceless. I say this with much affection for Chinese ghost stories. They are usually funnier than they are scary. Except for Ring. That was just insiduously freaky. But then again, it was Japanese.  

BTW, Tony and I have been completely blowing this one as we’ve been catching up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the last 3 weeks. It’s our stay-home dinner date and I wouldn’t miss the excuse to snuggle up with him even for Blob.

5. Don’t eat spicy foods as you will induce premature childbirth

Pffft. My comeback to that: India and China’s populations. ‘Nuff said.

6. Ginger and liquor keep the body’s vigour

Again with the wind. And please don’t take this as evidence of my knocking the “wind” theory in Asia. It does sometimes work and besides – the food that forms part of the remedy can be SO yum.

Basically, Singapore Chinese confinement foods include lots of ginger and sesame oil to deal with excess gas, and alcohol to promote better blood circulation. I’ve actually tasted confinement food, and some of it is just sublime. Possibly because some dishes are fattening beyond belief. But I digress.

However, the bit about the liquor especially flies in the fact of Western thinking and I have to agree with my Western counterparts on this one. If you’re breastfeeding, then getting liquored up isn’t great for bub. Then again, alcohol burns up when heated in foods, so I’m not sure cooking with it is so terrible after all.


Heaps more to talk about of course, but I’ll stop here. I’m not a nutritionist or some pregnancy guru, so check these out for yourself and form your own opinion. I wanted to do this exercise so that I could know my own mind. After this, whether I choose to comply with the myths “just in case”, or to keep the peace with the older generation for my own sanity, remains a subject entirely separate.

Food baby gone berserk

Maybe it was the horrid day at work that made me repress stress with food. Maybe it’s just baby + water retention. But I practically inhaled tonight’s dinner (tiger prawn linguine with spinach, capers, salmon and chilli). And I now have a massive belly that looks positively bulbous.

Which, of course, made me hit the interwebs to figure out if

  • other 13 week olds can look as bulbous as I do tonight
  • other bellies fluctuate as drastically as this – Roseanne Barr one day, Twiggy another
  • someone has made a proper weight-gain chart for pregnant women.

Answers to the above: Yes, yes, and yes.

Work stress. Everyone has it, but coupled with hormones, perpetual hunger pangs and general inexperience with how big/small you should be at which stage, it’s sometimes harder to judge. I suspect the old habit of “finishing everything on my plate” kicked in tonight and as if on autopilot, I steadily steamed through the whole dish while mulling over today’s work incident and getting crosser and crosser. Aussie helpings are ridiculously large – always. And I really should have been paying more attention.

But I didn’t. So now I look like Mother Christmas.

That will teach me. :(

Stomach smiles, and other strangeness

It’s Week 9, and I’m feeling freakishly unpregnant.

Sure, there’s the odd nausea hit now and then. But I’ve gone off yogurt (or at least don’t think of it and salivate anymore), and my skin is clear again. Apart from twinges when I laugh too hard, cough, or sneeze 7 times in a row (darn genetics), I’m feeling pretty normal in a most pre-pregnant way. Most of all, I got my energy back.

Which is freaky. FREAKY.

Meanwhile, I’m down to a single pair of work pants that actually fit because they’re hipsters. Anything else splits my body in half just about, and then there’s that terribly unsexy muffin top which – coupled with water retention and that Canberra “Tan” – makes me ooze as much come-hither appeal as a beached whale. They promise all sorts of hormonal overdrive and sex-kittenry when you’re pregnant. I really don’t see how that can come about when you’re at that weird in-between stage and skinny all over, except for this jiggly mid-section. The albino starving-ethiopian look was never really in vogue, methinks.

Everyone who knows assures me that I look Exactly The Same. But I’m eating 50% more than normal which, given the fact that Blob is the size of a grape right now, seems like overkill. I know it’s 50%, because today I wolfed down 3 sushi rolls instead of my usual 2. (YES, they were cooked… stop yelling at me about listeria.)

Hmm. So maybe I still am pregnant. Just not tired.

Got out of the work car today to get some petrol, and felt my belly button grin so hard, I thought it was about to split sideways. Lovely that my body seems to want to demonstrate its happiness from the mid-section, but it weirded me out for a full minute, AND I had to waddle to the pump. Also very un-yummy. Went home and read up as much as possible about errant belly-button behaviour. As usual, everything on the internet is both reassuring and horrifying at the same time.

One thing’s unanimous, though. If there is a way to test to see if you’re still healthily pregnant every day, every DAY… there’s heaps of paranoid pregnant women who’d love to know.

Called Calvary Hospital to try and book a place, just in case I change my mind at the last minute and want to go public. Got the forms in the mail today and to my chagrin, I have to submit a plethora of referrals from my GP together with the forms. Except I just had my last appointment with my GP 4 days ago, didn’t I.

If we ever make it to Week 40 and beyond, I am SO going to whip up a flowchart in Visio and post it on this blog, so every n00b mother can figure out this convoluted chicken and egg dance. Meanwhile, I’m going to try and wheedle two referrals ASAP, without paying yet another $70…

Power plums

Because anything that can mitigate nausea deserves to be recognised as having “limitless magnificence”.


I feel nauseous AND hungry, hot AND cold and… yogurt! *nom nom nom* bleah

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