ble$$ed but stre$$ed

I carry a tight, unpleasant feeling with me these days. Ever since Helge died, I have become chiefly in charge of everything that is food-related in this household. It is work, no matter how much I enjoy it. Because hunger is insatiable, my work will never end.

I am sure that a day will come when I look back to these 'good old days', where I got to make every meal and dessert from scratch. I will complain about how much processed food I am eating and how it is impossible to lose this layer of fat around my belly, because food is so conveniently within reach.

Well, that day is not here yet.

If I want cake, I got to bake it myself. Store-bought just isn't good enough (for the price). The good news is, I have all the ingredients that I need, plus I have time on my hands. The bad news: I can't decide which dessert to make. I don't mean to sound entitled... I simply suffer from a severe case of decision fatigue.

I made Hannah's birthday cake this year, the way Helge would have made it.

After much pacing back and forth, I finally baked some egg tarts yesterday. Those were mildly sweet and very delicious. They were so satisfying that I decided to make an extra batch of filling. Everyone knows that is the best part. It took two egg yolks, 35g sugar, 7g corn starch, 1 dl of milk, 1 dl of heavy cream and 2 tsp vanilla sugar. I now know the measurements by heart. I cooked it up in a pot and split it with Hannah after dinner. 

Only four appetising egg tarts.

It is bubble tea on the menu today. I am drinking my Formosa Oolong milk tea as I write.

Do you think that I might be developing a sweet tooth? I've got egg whites in the fridge but not sure what I will use them for. I could make a pavlova cake topped with whipped cream, oranges and blackberries. That was the plan. But if I just make an egg white scramble, I could pivot to a cheesecake or an orange chiffon cake... I want to make them all!

Writing outside on a cool summer day with bubble tea.

My motivations for baking are quite strange, really. It is not like I am craving cakes. I just want to show myself that I can bring gastronomical joy to my family, even with very little. Beyond learning to bake, I want to learn how to strike a balance in my diet and my budget. I see managing our household budget as my responsibility. It weighs heavy. I feel like I have no choice but to get good at it.


"I feel like I have to execute this mother/wife role to perfection, even though I do not know what perfect looks like."


I have been feeling depressed the last couple of days. My husband is a little worried. I am now aware of the high pressure I have been giving myself. To the extent that I could not make dinner, could not reach out to my friends, or go outside. I feel like I have to execute this mother/wife role to perfection, even though I do not know what perfect looks like.

Imagine how much worse I would feel without egg tarts.

Could it be, I might be an anxious person? My mood fluctuates like turbulence. Little agitations that I would easily shrug off on most days return with a vengeance. I lose my temper. I lose control. It usually take a couple of days before I am okay again. Those days are tough, because I start off unaware that I am actually drowning in stress. 

The voice in my head won't stop talking, but it is my voice that I hear. Thoughts about cooking, writing and health - essentially my interests - flood my mind incessantly. What I enjoy doing turns on me. This betrayal is deeply unpleasant... Get out of my damn head!

Told my husband that if he sees me drinking bubble tea, it means I am depressed.

The weird thing is, I do find a lot of joy working under the constraints of my budget. It is a constant tinkering and I learn as I go. In July when I first started, I gave myself a budget for every fortnight. But I end up spending most of it, if not all and beyond, in less than a week. It was the second half of August that I started implementing a weekly budget. I still overspend, but now there is substantially more money left for the rest of the month. 

Money or no money, I think obsessively about what we are going to eat next. If I leave that up to my husband, we would have either bread with cheese, or oats with milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boring…

I have never quite shared about my money situation with anyone, apart from maybe my sister and some friends. The only one that knows about Helge footing all of our groceries and bills is my friend Teresa. Needless to say, I could not believe my fortune. I don't have a job but I could buy anything that I wanted from the supermarket! Can you imagine the peace of mind it brings? 

As an unemployed parent, I did not have to fret about the cost of nappies. How bloody privileged is that. Given the recent events in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I have trouble making sense of this very strange wild card. I have been a beneficiary of another person's wealth. Will I live to be a benefactor to another that needs it?

Helge and I went out to run birthday errands, played tourists and grabbed a giant ice cream each.

I was lucky that a millionaire like Helge loved Hannah and I. He had always been a frugal man, hence he was wealthy. His self-discipline is aspiring, but I don't know if I can delay self-gratification like that.

To be fair, I once valued savings over pleasure. But I have also experienced spending thousands of dollars on everything my heart desired (like traveling the world), thinking that I would never run out of money. The latter still remains true, at the moment, but only because I have the financial support from generous family. My husband is shit-scared that I would revert to spending without thinking. I can understand why.

I remember Helge and I having dinner one day. I said, "Bjarne thinks that you are funny in the way that you save on things when you can clearly afford it." Helge looked a little offended. "The money has to last me till the day I die, you know", he said defensively. I was so concerned that providing for us might take such a toll on his wealth that Helge would not have enough himself.

After putting our plates away, I went to Helge with a sheepish look on my face. It took a while for me to say, "How can we pay you back, Helge? We can draft up a plan". "No need to pay me back," he shook his head lightly. He was amused at my suggestion. "No need to worry, Vivian. Everything will be alright."

Enjoying a mini ice cream cone with Helge last summer.

I half-look forward to the day where I make my own keep, like most people my age. I am half-scared that all my routines will go to die, but excited to be a working mom. Hopefully at a job where I feel challenged in a healthy way. At this point my life revolves around the kitchen and the baby, so I would very much like to meet new people and have an excuse not to be home.

But it looks like that won't be for a while. I first need a spousal visa from the government, before I am allowed to work in Denmark. Since Helge's death, I rarely hear myself speak Danish anymore. I have not spoken to Helge's ghost for about a week. But believe it or not, I still feel his presence.

When he was still alive and well, Helge used to regularly ask me to buy chocolates, chips, pastries, cakes, ice cream and more cakes. To the point where I had to think how do I refuse myself politely. We had all this time and money on our hands. 

But if Helge had not indulged the way he did, maybe he would still be around. Around to taste my egg tarts, my bubble tea. I would rather have him back.

A slice of homemade carrot cake with Helge resting in the background. (Photo taken on 13 April 2021)


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