Christmas cookies #amonthoffaves #weekendcooking

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Today’s topic:

This is How We Do Christmas

Christmas Cookies, the 2022 edition

I make cookies to give to friends at Christmas time. In recent years, my focus has been more on cookies with an Asian twist. Here’s my post from last year.

This year, I made:

Gochujang Caramel Cookies (recipe from New York Times).

These cookies have a fun slightly spicy aftertaste and a great chewy texture. Instead of using cinnamon, I replaced it with five spice powder. The only thing I found a bit difficult was the way the gochujang is swirled in. I think instead of swirling all of it in, I would just do that for half, then leave the rest to be spread on after you form the dough balls. Be warned that these cookies spread quite a bit! Interestingly, the family that we sent the cookies to said that these were their favourite!

Matcha and Black Sesame Shortbread (recipe from Constellation Inspiration)

I misread this recipe a little, not realising that I should have had three different doughs: matcha, black sesame, vanilla

Instead, I put black sesame straight into the vanilla dough before dividing it into two. So I ended up with two different doughs. Still it was fun and delicious. My younger son keeps asking for these. I am not a fan of matcha flavoured desserts in general, but I really do like matcha shortbread, it makes it less sweet maybe?

These are very buttery and crumbly shortbread. On hindsight, using snowflake-shaped cookie cutters wasn’t the best idea, especially not for packing to send.

Almond cookies (recipe from Bake for Happy Kids)

Oh these are lovely crumbly cookies. There are actually four recipes listed in the post. I gave the first one a try. They do crumble easily though. So I had to make do with these tiny cookie cutters. The kids did enjoy cutting out the cookies.

Miso peanut butter cookies (recipe from New York Times)

I’ve been wanting to make something with miso, but wasn’t sure what to try. I’ve seen some miso chocolate chip cookies but didn’t want to make chocolate chip cookies, so found this one instead. I didn’t have white miso, as I prefer red miso (red miso has a higher percentage of soybean and a longer fermentation period, and so has a stronger taste). So I used red miso instead. I really like the texture of these cookies, but I did wish that it would have a stronger peanut butter and miso taste. I’m not sure if it’s easy to up the peanut butter flavour though, as it probably will change the nice texture of the cookie. I like how you bang the cookie sheet on the counter and it creates that nice crackle look on top.

Matcha checkerboard cookies (recipe from Constellation Inspiration)

My mum used to make checkerboard cookies (vanilla and cocoa) for Chinese New Year treats. I’ve never made them myself before and I think I made my layers too thin. The green of the matcha also didn’t come out as strongly as I would have liked. Definitely needs work!

Neapolitan cookies (recipe from Constellation Inspiration)

I made a matcha cocoa Neapolitan cookie last year but I think I may prefer the look of the strawberry-vanilla-matcha combination. The strawberry flavour dough uses freeze-dried strawberries that are ground up. I usually buy freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe’s as my kids love to add that to cereal and yogurt. So I had some on hand.

That’s my round-up of the Christmas cookies I made this year. I hope you’ll Happy holidays to you!

I’m also posting this to Weekend Cooking

Reading Challenges and Goals Check-In #amonthoffaves

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Today’s topic is:

Reading challenges, personal goals, resolutions – how did you do?

Are you making any for next year … next month … next season?

Reading in 2022

I keep track of my reading challenges via Storygraph.

Some of them are challenges that I’m very slowly working on. Others are to be completed by the end of the year.

I managed to finish the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and the Popsugar challenge. I also set myself a goal of 200 books and a page goal of 50,000 (I don’t know, it was just a random number that seemed doable, maybe I’ll set a higher page goal for next year).

Reading in 2023

Next year, I’ll probably keep the 200 books goal.

I’m also thinking about working on these reading challenges. I’ll try to put up a proper post, hopefully with some book lists soon.

2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge

Reading Across Asia 2023 (on Storygraph)

Decades Reading Challenge

Underrated Books That Deserve More Buzz #amonthoffaves

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Today’s topic is:

Underrated Books We Think Deserve More Buzz

I’ve previously gone with Goodreads ratings in the past, and will continue with that this year.

The Book Eaters – Sunyi Dean (10,529 ratings)

I really liked the dark vibe in this book.

Hunt the Stars – Jessie Mihalik (5,746 ratings)

This sci-fi romance was just such an enjoyable read for me. A book I didn’t want to put down although it was getting late.

Himawari House – Harmony Becker (3,456 ratings)

A fun graphic novel about a girl who moves to Japan to find her heritage.

Grass – Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, translated from the Korean by Janet Hong (5,571 ratings)

An anti-war graphic novel about a young Korean girl forced into sexual slavery during WWII. Not an easy read but an important one that’s beautifully done. Waiting is another amazing graphic novel by this author about the Korean War that deserves more readers!

The Fortunes of Jaded Women – Carolyn Huynh (916 ratings)

While this book was only published in September, I was surprised that there were less than 1,000 ratings, as I had definitely seen it more than a few times on Instagram. It has a large number of characters and that can be confusing, but it was such a great story about a family who’s been cursed so that they would never find happiness and love, and can only bear daughters.

Winter Pasture – Li Juan, translated by Jack Hargreaves (366 ratings)

This was quite an eye opener. Li Juan, who is Chinese, joins a family of Kazakh herders taking their animals to winter pasture in the remote wilds. She lives with them for some time, learns to herd, and what life is like when it’s way below freezing. This was first published in 2012 but only recently translated into English.

Moshi Moshi – Banana Yoshimoto (4,495 ratings)

I loved this one by Yoshimoto (my post) about a young woman who moves to a Tokyo neighbourhood after the death of her father.

Popular Books Worth the Hype (or not) #amonthoffaves

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I’m never sure what hype means when it comes to books, but I’m going to relate this to books that seem to be popular on social media (and by that I mean mostly Instagram) and maybe “best of” lists. These aren’t all published in 2022 but books I’ve read in 2022 (and may have been published this year).

Kaiju Preservation Society – John Scalzi

This was definitely a hyped book as it had a long library ebook queue. I happened to be lucky and spotted it on the shelves at the library one day. It was just a really fun read that starts with a guy at a new job that’s been described as an “animal rights organisation”. These animals just happen to be kaiju (a Japanese term for giant monsters) and they happen to live in an alternate world.

When Women Were Dragons – Kelly Barnhill

Another book about unusual creatures. Except that these dragons start out as women. This book touches on some important themes like feminism, LGBTQ+ relationships, and the bonds between mother and daughter.

The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

The first book in this crime/mystery series starring a group of spunky senior citizens. Really fun read.

Afterparties – Anthony Veasna So

Sadly, the author died in 2020 aged 28. But this collection of stories featuring Cambodian communities is truly unforgettable.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow – Gabrielle Zevin

Ah, a book I initially wasn’t sure if I would like, but ended up absolutely LOVING it. Zevin’s Storied Life was a bit too sweet for me. But this one that revolved around video game designers was fascinating and so immersive.

Books Not Quite Worth The Hype

Love Marriage – Monica Ali

There was quite a bit of hype about this since this was her first book in ten years. But I struggled through it, eventually finishing it, but not having enjoyed the reading journey much.

I Want to Die but I want to Eat Tteokbokki – Baek Sehee

I’m not sure if it’s really hyped in the US since it was recently released here. But this Korean book was everywhere in Singapore. Also it was recommended by RM of BTS. It’s a kind of therapy memoir and has a very eye-catching title. I hesitate to say that I wasn’t fond of it, since it’s the author’s journey with depression and I admire her for putting her story out there. It just wasn’t for me.

Weather – Jenny Offill

Offill’s books are often critically praised but I just didn’t jive with the very fragmented style.

The Echo Wife – Sarah Gailey

While thinking about this list, I saw this title on my reading spreadsheet and couldn’t remember what it’s about. So that doesn’t bode well for it.

Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

This was a major disappointment for me as Ishiguro has written some lovely books. It was also longlisted for the Booker 2021. He had some good ideas but didn’t manage to explore them all successfully.

Moments of 2022 #amonthoffaves

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#AMonthofFaves Moments of 2022. What were some of the moments this year that you are grateful for?

Ah 2022 was well, I was going to say a lovely year, but then again it was also the year that my kids caught covid and luckily they were ok and didn’t have bad symptoms – slight fever, sore throat, cough. They also started at a brand new school campus. The school district decided to merge the Mandarin immersion program from two elementary schools to one, as well as open the school campus that had been built a few years ago in a new housing area. There’s still quite a bit of construction around the school as more condos and houses are being built. The kids are definitely appreciating their new campus!

Anyway, other than that, we did some traveling this year:

Hawaii in April

We decided to finally make a trip to the Big Island during Spring Break. It was something we’ve been wanting to do for years. The kids had never been to Hawaii before. I had been to Honolulu and Maui with my mom ages ago, before I was married. We all had a blast in Hawaii. We went snorkelling, a night swim with the manta rays, explored the Volcano National Park and saw the lava glow. Here’s my post on our trip.

Singapore in July/August

As our families live in Singapore, we often make a trip to visit them. Of course with the pandemic, we hadn’t been for a couple of years. We stayed for longer this time though this timer and it was wonderful to see our families and friends. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see my sis-in-law and her family as they were stuck in Scotland.

As usual, I ate so much amazing food in Singapore, delicious Italian food, and Thai food, and of course fantastic Singapore food. I finally wrote a post about it last week! My mom and I took the kids to a Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and I also saw Korean hiphop group Epik High.

Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic Park (September 2022)

Another bucket list trip was Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Some 7,700 years ago, a volcano erupted and then collapsed. What now remains is a lake in its crater. It’s the deepest lake in the US and it’s beautiful. Here’s my post on the trip.

On the way back from Crater Lake, we made a stop at Lassen Volcanic Park. Another beautiful park with mountains and lakes. The main attraction here is Bumpass Hell, named after the person who found it, who alas fell into one of the hydrothermal areas and lost his leg. It has mud pools, steam geyser, sulphur and more. It’s truly an amazing sight. The trail is usually only open around July to October.

It was a super last minute decision to make this trip. On our way up north, a wildfire exploded through one of the roads we were supposed to take. The road was closed just 15-20 minutes just before we reached that turnoff and so we had to take an extra hour-long detour. But I’m just glad that we hadn’t been there any earlier!

Fave Book Covers #amonthoffaves

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Today’s topic:

Fave Book Covers 

Out of the books I read this year, these are some of my favourite covers. Please note that while these were my fave covers, doesn’t mean I enjoyed reading them all 😛

Folklorn – Angela Mi Young Hur

Lonely Castle in the Mirror – Mizuki Tsujimura (highly recommended!)

The Majesties – Tiffany Tsao

The Taking of Jake Livingston – Ryan Douglass

Edie in Between – Laura Sibson

Arsenic and Adobo – Mia P. Manansala

The Wolf and The Woodsman – Ava Reid (DNF)

Tweet Cute – Emma Lord

How We Fall Apart – Katie Zhao

Faves on the screen and in my ear #amonthoffaves

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Today’s topic is:

#AMonthofFaves On the Screen or in Your Ear


This year, one show has never failed to cheer me up. Run BTS. If you’ve followed my blog, you may know that I’m quite a fan of the Korean band, BTS. I became a fan of them last year. I started listening to some of their songs (Spring Day is one of my ultimate faves). But then discovered that they have their own variety show. And it’s in their variety show where I learnt how funny they are. They play games, they learn new activities (table tennis, flower arrangement), have funny debates, race around trying to trick each other….Whenever I’ve got it on my tablet, headphones on, and I’m laughing or grinning away, my husband knows I’m watching Run BTS.

Reply 1988 and Hospital Playlist

Despite being a fan of BTS, I’ve not really watched much Kdrama. But I did enjoy these two series this year. Hospital Playlist is a new series, while Reply 1988 aired in Korea in 2015 and 2016. But they’re by the same writer and director. I really enjoy how these shows are about a group of people – Hospital Playlist is about a group of doctors who have been friends since medical school and Reply 1988 is about 4 families who live in the same street in 1988 Seoul.

Baking Impossible and School of Chocolate

I really like these two recent series on Netflix. Baking Impossible teams up an engineer and a baker (who’ve never met before the competition) to make some fascinating bakes that have to pass stress tests. Like a boat that actually floats and a robot that can make it through an obstacle course. And it’s edible! Amazing.

I had already followed chocolatier Amaury Guichon on Instagram before the show launched, so I had already known of his amazing creations. But I really like that it’s not a weekly elimination type of competition. That these chefs actually get to learn and grow.

Christmas Cookies with an Asian Twist #amonthoffaves

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Today’s topic is: This is How We Do Christmas

Ah Christmas. It always sneaks up on us!

We usually keep it simple during Christmas. Christmas tree, presents, and cookies!

I’m just going to focus on cookies I made for Christmas this year.

So the past few years, I’ve been making and sending cookies to Seattle. That’s where my husband’s mentor lives – they used to work together but his mentor since retired. A few years ago, his wife sent a big box full of Christmas goodies, from fudge and peanut brittle to cookies of all sorts. It was

This year, I made stamped matcha shortbread and melt-in-your-mouth peanut cookies (links are to recipes). The matcha shortbread recipe is adapted from a citrus shortbread recipe, I just added about two tablespoons of matcha powder to the recipe instead of the citrus zest and flavour.

I was quite pleased with this adaptation. This is a matcha Neapolitan cookie. The original recipe calls for both matcha and hojicha powder. I didn’t have hojicha but guessed that cocoa powder would do fine. And it did work. Also, I like that it’s relatively easy to make.

World Peace Cookies by Dorie Greenspan.

This is a delightful cookie. As I can’t leave recipes alone, I added some five spice powder and some freeze-dried strawberries. Five spice powder after all has cinnamon and cloves right, so I figure it’s Christmassy in an Asian way keke. I think I’ll add more five spice next time. And yes, there will be a next time. These cookies were delicious. A little bit harder to cut from the logs though, so just be careful when slicing them.

Sesame Biscotti

I always use this recipe for biscotti. But this year, I added some black sesame seeds.

Underrated Books that Deserve More Buzz #amonthoffaves

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Today’s topic is:

Underrated Books that Deserve More Buzz

Once There Were Wolves – Charlotte McConaghy (17,752 Goodreads ratings)

This is one of my favourite reads of the year. It’s so beautifully atmospheric with a hint of eeriness to it. It’s set in the Scottish Highlands and the main character is a biologist trying to bring wolves back to Scotland.

The Lost Village – Camilla Sten (12,659 Goodreads ratings)

I listened to this one and the audiobook narrator’s voice really added to the creepiness of this book!

Miss Meteor – Tehlor Kay Mejia (1,670 Goodreads ratings)

A really cute story about inclusion, about bullying, about a beauty pageant in a small town.

The Last Fallen Star – Graci Kim (1,359 Goodreads ratings)

This middle-grade read has great blending of Korean mythology into modern times.

We Are Satellites – Sarah Pinsker (1,467 Goodreads ratings)

I loved the idea behind this one – a brain implant that helps your brain work faster. What happens to those who refuse to get it? Or just can’t? A really thoughtful and relevant piece that more people should read.

The Shadow King – Maaza Mengiste (8,972 Goodreads ratings)

This book is set during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Its focus is on the women fighters of the war. It was really an eyeopener, but also a really gripping story full of great characters. This was on the 2020 Booker Prize shortlist. So I’m a bit surprised that it’s got so few ratings!

Love is for Losers – Wibke Brueggemann (1,478 Goodreads ratings)

A funny and honest book about a 15yo girl. It’s a coming of age story, also a learning what love is kind of story.

Popular Books Worth the Hype – and some not #amonthoffaves

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So how to define popular books? Well, some of these books are on “best of” lists, others I came across on Instagram. So anyway, here are some books that seem to be popular (?) that I think are worth the hype.

Earthlings – Sayaka Murata

A bizarre book that’s not for everyone, but for me, completely unforgettable

Shuggie Bain – Douglas Bain

I listened to this one, and I really enjoyed the narrator. I guess his Irish accent really helped make this book come alive for me.

Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

This memoir was honest and emotional.

The House in the Cerulean Sea – TJ Klune

Just delightful! It felt like a mug of hot cocoa on a chilly day.

The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

A cute romance about scientists!

The entire Truly Devious series – Maureen Johnson

This series set in a private school was just so much fun. A mystery that’s decades old. Riddles and puzzles. A true-crime enthusiast.

Little Eyes – Samanta Schweblin

Another strange book that has these mechanical stuffed animals that have cameras for eyes and can be controlled by people. You can buy the stuffed animal or you can pay to become the stuffed animal, controlling it and watching what’s going on.

Luck of the Titanic – Stacey Lee

I just like books set on boats actually. But I especially love that this story is about the actual forgotten Chinese passengers onboard the ship.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn

I’m not usually a fan of magical realism but I really liked this book set in Hawaii.

NOT worth the hype

Milk Fed – Melissa Broder

It’s probably just me, because this book is on quite a few Best Of lists. I also DNF-ed The Pisces so well, I guess I’m not going to try reading anymore of her books.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

I get it, I think. I get why it’s so popular. I just felt very manipulated as a reader. Maybe the best way to describe it was that it’s very preachy? I did finish reading it though.