Saturday, December 31, 2005

not just the sweet stuff




I made bread!

Let me clarify that, since I'm quite excited about it, I made bread without the help of a bread machine!

We used to have a bread machine and man was that easy - pour stuff in, put your settings and wake up the next day to bread, fresh from the machine. It kneads and bakes and everything.

But I've always wanted to bake bread from scratch and so, one day before work, I started on the, er, starter dough, which needs to rest for 24 hours in the fridge.

Oh but first things first, this recipe for walnut bread was something my dad printed off the cedele website. It's officially spring onion and walnut bread, but I can't stand spring onions so I took them out and put in more walnuts


Makes one 350g loaf

Ingredients
Bread flour 400g
Wholemeal flour 100g
Salt 1 tablespoon
Dry yeast 2 tablespoons
Cold water (chilled overnight in fridge)275ml-285ml
Spring onion, chopped 100g
Chopped walnuts 75g


1. To prepare the day-old dough, start at least 24 hours before the intended day of baking the bread. Mix 100g of the bread flour, 50ml of the cold water, 1 tsp of the dry yeast and 1 tsp salt together in a large plastic mixing bowl, stirring until a firm dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough slowly ferment in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 24 hours.

2. The next day, mix wholemeal flour and the remaining bread flour, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, and slowly pour cold water in, drawing the flour into the puddle with a spoon. Add just enough water to make a soft dough. Stir in the day-old dough, and knead the whole mass for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, and dough does not stick to your hands.

3. Gently knead walnuts into the dough until evenly incorporated. Cover dough with a sheet of plastic or a damp tea-cloth, and leave to rest for 1 to 11 hours in a cool place (ideally at about 23-24 deg C) or until dough has almost doubled in size.

4. Punch down dough, kneading lightly to deflate it completely, then shape into a tight ball and let rest again, covered, another 20 minutes.

5. Shape dough into a 8-inch long rod or baguette. Place shaped dough on a greased tray and cover with a sheet of plastic or a damp towel. Rest loaf for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 230 degrees C / 425 degrees F.

6. With a very sharp knife, quickly and gently slash a lengthwise shallow cut down the middle of the loaf. Sprinkle a little flour over the loaf and bake for 25-30 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds hollow when overturned and tapped on its bottom.

And the result was a nice soft loaf with a crunchy crust.

It was fun to pull off the tea towel and discover that my dough had swelled immensely. And then I got to bash it down. What a treat.

Actually, now that I've looked at the recipe again, I realised I probably used less yeast. I think I misread it as tsp instead of tbsp. It still worked though.

Friday, December 30, 2005

ciao, 2005

On this last day of the year, people are looking back on this past year, and taking stock of what good and bad they've done. I sorta did this earlier, so all I'm going to say is that I am looking forward to the year ahead. And hoping it will be filled with more good eats and drinks, good music, good movies, good books, good friends, good times.

And that shall be my new year's resolution - to enjoy the new year.

Happy new year everyone.

it was a lull period at work

A snippet from the Friday 2am conversation over porridge.
G: Do you drink a lot?
Me: Not really.
G: When you said that you looked like you thought you should be drinking more.

...

Also on Thursday, had lunch with DSD at Island Cafe, where we were hardly impressed with the food - we shared a starter of an Asian platter (eg chicken wings, satay, fried wantons and spring rolls) and a black pepper crab tung hoon (which was a mass of fried tung hoon, overdosed with black pepper and topped with a soft shell crab). Marvelled at the hordes of people stewing about town on a weekday afternoon, and looked forward to the days when school would start and force them kids out of town. Ah, how I long for those quiet afternoons where one doesn't have to be shepherded by the security guard at Wisma Atria to join the crowd in the left lane leading out of the mall and into Orchard MRT. And those weekdays when the 171 and 174 buses have seats available.

Randomness
How could you not love indie haikus from Stylus

Listening: Fiona Apple - Window

cards and cookies

E-cards really suck. I hate opening my lotus notes to find them. cos I'm never sure if it'll be a personal one, or one of those mass generated ones. Why don't people just send emails saying hello happy new year, merry christmas, i've had such an excellent year and hope you did too. Rather than having me go to a link, wait for the e-card to load, and fall asleep as random graphics dance around the screen to some cheesy seasonal tune.

Of course, I still prefer old-fashioned, paper cards that have to be sent via snail mail.

Although, except for those ass-ugly office ones which were tricky to write on, I didn't send any out at all this year.

Where did my Christmas spirit go to?

All those damn cookies!

And here are more damn cookies, not the gingerbread kind, but the rum and pecan type.




I tried out this recipe for Southern Pecan Bites (via Shaken And Stirred).

It turned out to be a quite tasty little (and not so little) bite. Or so say those who sampled it - one of whom asked for another, and then a third, which I take to mean that it's tasty.

Anyway, I felt that the cookie dough was a little too dry for me, so I used only about 500g of flour (instead of 550g) and added twice the amount of rum - although it didn't taste of rum, or alcohol, at all. I wonder if bourbon would make a difference, or if something else could replace the alcohol... er.. milk maybe?

It's something I would try again. It's rather easy to make, once you get over the chopping of the pecans which is frankly quite a pain. I suppose you could use a food processor, just make sure you don't blitz the nuts into a powder. But chopping results in different sized pieces, which I prefer. After all, if I wanted everything of similar size, I'd buy a package of cookies from a store.

Yes, I like to bake.
I like the magic that happens when you put together flour, eggs, butter, sugar and other ingredients and out of the oven pops a tasty sweet treat. I feel comfortable in the kitchen, where I know what to do - more or less. (Although I sure wouldn't mind if the weather were cooler.) I like working with my hands. Clean hands, I might add. I like the smell that fills the house when something's baking - houses should always smell of food, and not have kitchens that look spotlessly untouched. I like knowing what goes into the food that goes into my stomach. I like being able to use good sugar from Billingtons - it does make a difference you know. I like that it gives me something to do in the daytime before work.
It sounds terribly domesticated doesn't it.

Listening: Shout Out Louds - Wish I Was Dead part 2

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dining out: PS Cafe

I'm very fond of the Dempsey Road area, its wine cafes and colonial-esque charm.

But sometimes, you just want something a little more substantial for dinner, instead of cheese and sausage platters and frozen pizza.

And tadah! There's PS Cafe just down the road, and nearer than I thought.

Wanting to save money on a cab, I grabbed a bus down from Orchard Road where I'd been doing a bit of window shopping with my sister, and walked up Dempsey Road, only to be confounded as to which direction Harding Road was. I remember the review in Chubby Hubby saying that it's accessible via Minden Road as well, so decided to veer to the left. But still puzzled, I stopped by one of those furniture stores where a woman was seated outside on a swing, reading a newspaper.

She pointed me on my way, although I waited a couple of minutes for the rain to slow down a little. And there it was. Just a couple of minutes walk from Dempsey.

The building - which according to a waitstaff was knocked down and rebuilt - had floor to ceiling picture windows looking out onto what looked like a field. (The windows were fogged up, I couldn't really see) The restaurant retained its projectshop essence of dark wood floors and white walls. Yet it's a little more classy than the original Paragon cafe - with its less haphazard furniture and a cleaner look.

We shared a starter of a sticky prawn salad with a citrus chilli dressing. Had a good spicy kick, with a great assortment of greens.

I went for the lamb curry, which had a most tantalising aroma, tender chunks of lamb, pieces of okra and papadums!

The moussaka wasn't as large as the waitstaff promised, but was tasty and had just the right amount of cheese.

The prawn pasta, also recommended, was pretty good although it came with huge penne, which I'm that fond of.

We enjoyed the food with a lovely bottle of 2003 Brown Brothers Shiraz (limited release).

As the portions weren't overwhelming, there was room for more.

After scrutinising the puds of the day, which were listed on a chalkboard, we made up our minds to get..
an order of fries.

But man were they good fries!

These were huge chunks, deftly salted. And accompanied by a kaffir aioli, which was heaven! Slightly sour, and spicy and oh very creamy. The waitstaff had kindly warned us how unhealthy it was. But we still made him get us a second round of dip - the other dip that came with it was bbq sauce. I don't eat bbq sauce, and according to those two who did, it wasn't as good as the sinful sauce.

And to round the dinner off, we shared the ginger pudding. Now that was a generous portion, surrounded by brandy sauce and topped with vanilla ice-cream. It wouldn't win prizes based on its looks - a grey mound, with a moat of yellow-beige and a crown of white - but it was a hearty, warming, heartwarming dish. Perfect for a rainy night in December, seated by fogged-up windows, imaging it were the middle of winter.

So to sum it up:

Good service - maybe cos j is a regular so she knew some of the staff there, who had moved from the Paragon branch.
Good food
Good atmosphere

Make sure you make reservations though. The place was full on a Tuesday night. And some walk-ins ended up sitting outside - it looks lovely but it was a rainy night and mozzies could've been on the attack!

Also here's another tip: In case you went to the original cafe at Paragon and picked up their location map of a postcard, which J did, they're only open for dinner at the moment, although the card states lunch and tea. So if your traipsing up there for a nice cup of coffee in the afternoon, dont say I didn't warn you.

However, I am looking forward to when they open up in the avro. It would be a nice place for a cup of coffee and a good book. Or a bottle of wine and good company.

PS Cafe (somebody change the name!)
28B Harding Road,
Tel: 6479-3343

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cheese, Gromit!

I was standing in line for tickets to the 130 screening of Narnia. I usually don't do this. I don't get why people would stand in line for tickets in a cinema where you don't get to choose your seats. When you could easily book online, choose your seats and pay about $1 more. The only reason I was in line was these free movie passes I had.

Anyway, while waiting, the kind people at GV decided to make a public service announcement that there were only seats from the 4th row forward for the next few screenings. After a quick confer over the phone with my sister, I got the 145 tickets for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit instead.

And while I will still try to go see Narnia, I must say, Wallace and Gromit was what I needed! It was fun, thoroughly entertaining and cheery. Like all the other Wallace & Gromit movies.

Those rabbits had me giggling throughout, as if I were beginning an alcoholic high. And Wallace and Gromit, well, what can I say, they're always entertaining. Especially Gromit, the always silent, always patient and always loyal dog.

I don't summaries, but apparently hucks does!

But I'd give this movie 4 out of 5. A must-see this holiday season. Or any season.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Dining out: Shiro

It's the Japanese restaurant which doesn't accept walk-ins. You have to make a reservation, turn up on time and ring the doorbell.

The waitstaff ushers us into the dark, muted room, the walls covered with curtains, making me feel like I'm backstage somewhere, waiting for the show to begin. But the show had begun already for a couple of customers seated at the sushi counter, who were regaled with tales and facts about sushi and Japanese food.

We stuck to the set menu, and went with the champagne lunch - a special tie-up with Moet & Chandon. Priced at $65, it comes with a glass of the gold bubbly, although it doesn't really go that well with the food served. Yes, pricey, but also very good. (Plus, I figure that I would never be able to afford dinner there. I didn't really look at the a la carte prices, but the dinner set was $180.)

We started off with a trio of grilled scallop with a miso-like sauce, sea urchin in a wasabi-infused jelly, and a refreshing little bowl of seaweed and chopped yam in a cold vinegar-based sauce.

Sashimi followed. A good generous portion.

Then came a grilled salmon with a miso marinade, served with some pickled vegetables, which were very addictive.

After which was a chawanmushi, which had a generous serving of some lovely rich broth.

Sushi came next. This was served with a bowl of hot soup with a fishcake floating in it. Hearty indeed.

Dessert was three pieces of jelly - redbean, chestnut and something else I couldn't put my tongue on.

Good food? Indeed. But with those kind of prices, I'm not sure if I can make it there again.



Shiro Japanese Haute Cuisine
24 Greenwood Avenue, Tel: 6472-2774

Sunday, December 25, 2005

christmas is a time...

I never really know why my family celebrates Christmas. We're hardly religious. Well, make that - we're not religious. My grandparents are and were Buddhists or Taoists. Some of my aunts/uncles are of various Christian denominations. But my family, we are... 'free thinkers' although I would prefer to use the word agnostic for myself.

But we've always celebrated Christmas.

As a kid, it was a Christmas eve party at my paternal grandparents' house, with us kids doing some carol singing and even organising games for the whole family. But the grandparents having passed on and the kids now grown up (well, some of us are, the younger ones are still in sec school/jc) things are simpler.

My Christmas started off on the eve, with a dinner at my mom's sister's house. This time, with the addition of my uncle and his family, including a sweet almost one-year-old little girl.

So feast number included: green salad, pasta salad, roast beef, roast chicken, roast potatoes, a leg of ham, another lot of greens and mince pies.

For dessert, my mom had made a pumpkin pie and a chocolate cake.

Christmas music played from upstairs as the family sat around to talk about various things, including the upcoming wedding of one of my cousins - we're all just wondering who the groom is.

Christmas Day dinner was at my dad's brother's in the east.

This time dinner involved: turkey (and stuffing), a leg of ham, roast beef, green salad, brussel sprouts that looked overcooked, pineapple rice, some other greens, spaghetti, potato salad, cold crabs - which an uncle had steamed with some Chinese wine - yum.

And for dessert: my sister's brownie, a pecan pie, and white and dark chocolate fondue - fruits and marshmallows.

Each family brought home a doggy back of beef and ham. Looks like it's gonna be sandwiches the next couple of days.

A couple of rabbits ran loose in the front yard while the Bourne Supremacy entranced its viewers in the living room - the coffee table laden with fruits, chocolate and a pot of Chinese tea.

I hope your Christmas was filled with good food and good times.

it's a nice day for a white wedding

Friday was unfortunately a rainy one, so the solemnisation ceremony (is that what it's called?) had to take place indoors, but the sky cleared enough for us to have pictures taken outdoors with the happy couple.

I was a friend of the bride, whom I'd worked with and had become friends with.

This was one of the weddings where I knew more than one person attending, so it was nice to hang around with them. It was still about an hour before dinner to start but we found out that we could have beers while waiting so that kept us in a good mood.

Until the dreaded moment, where the single women had to go catch that damn bouquet.

You could tell how enthusiastic we all were, the way we huddled away from the stairs where the bouquet-tossing was to be. We had to be coaxed nearer.

She tossed.

I watched it make its little arc in the clear sky above, thanking the heavens that it was not heading in my direction. Only to see it drop on the grass in front of one of the bride's ex-classmates, flowers scattering. She picked it up reluctantly, protesting.

The bouquet-tossing was to make a second round. Damn.

Again, she threw it. I think I was holding my breath.

This time, it was headed a little more in my direction. So I did what any single girl would do. I took a step back.

The flowers landed in the arms of the groom's sister.

The rest of us cheered her on, a little more than relieved.

Now wasn't this little ritual supposed to be one where the women try to make a grab for the bouquet? That's how it seems to be in er... movies... and er... America's Funniest Home Videos, where the fat women trip over each other in their fight for the prize.

Here, it was avoided like the plague. It was a form of torture.

When I get married - maybe I should change it to 'if' since I didn't catch the bouquet - I wouldn't want to toss it.

Otherwise the dinner was all good. It wasn't the horrendously torturous typical Chinese sit-down dinners but a meal of western food, buffet-style. There was cold dishes, salads, sushi, and best of all, bbq - steak, lamb chops, stingray, fish. Although someone remarked - what's a bbq without sausages!

And the happy couple did look happy, I suppose that's all that matters.

After the wedding, we headed to Loof, which was packed, so we had to stand at the bar, which killed me cos I'd been in my heels since 3 and were my feet and legs aching! Walking around in those things for 9 or so hours is a killer! Fortunately, threw mej's stealthy moves, we squeezed and got a sitdown. But I didn't stay long, despite spying eps at another table who was with an interesting bunch of random strangers. I was pooped. I wanted to go home and sleep off the ache in my legs. And wear flats for the next week.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

picky

It was far easier to pick out my favourite books than my favourite albums of the year. But I know what goes right on top - Wolf Parade!

Among the other bests would be:
Spoon - Gimme Fiction
The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
The Magic Numbers
The Boy Least Likely To - The Best Party Ever
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Arcade Fire - Funeral

Monday, December 19, 2005

not potty

Harry Potter original? Bah! There was first Ursula K Le Guin and her enchanting Earthsea quartet, one of my all-time favourites.

Now that I would love to see a movie off. Just bettter not let Mike Newell direct it.

However, a mini-series was shown not too long ago on cable - it was appallingly bad, and starred Shawn Ashmore as Ged. This was the kid who played Iceman in in the X-Men movies. How in hell did he get chosen to play Ged?

So it's no surprise that Le Guin explains on her website that she "had minimal, long-distance contact with the producers, and no consultatory input".

ARGH. Bloglines is down. Now what do I do? Type in blog urls manually?!!?!

Listening to: Nightmare of You - Why Am I Always Right

merry merry

Oh I forgot to blog about these:

My gingerbread cookies.

They took me about 2 hours to make on Saturday and I think I managed to churn out about 250 of them (some are mini ones, thanks to the set of mini Christmas cookie cutters Dad brought back from the shop for me)

I usually help my mum out when she does these but this year, the backbreaking work was all mine. So don't mind if I blow my own horn a little.

I was inclined to ice them up real nice, but figured that I would first need to leave in a country which doesn't have the sun beating down on its citizens in December - sekali the icing melt, then instead of a happy face, you'd just get a blob in the middle of the head. I already traumatised Annabel with a decapitated person, so a disfigured one might just give someone a heart attack.

So meet
Suicide Jim
and
Suicide Sally

and their jolly good time Christmas accessories.


Oh and this is their illegitimate kid known as Boy. (as in, eh Boy, stop sticking your head in the effing bell!)


Most of the time, Suicide Jim and Suicide Sally aren't on good terms, but sometimes, they are.

Suicide Jim and Suicide Sally and the rest of cookie cutter world are available for a nibble.

Oh and here's a little Christmas tune, from the lovely lads of Boy Least Likely To Little Donkey

Sunday, December 18, 2005

a cinema virgin

"WAH!!"

"WOAH!!"

"WOWWW!!"

He was thoroughly absorbed in the movie, each twist in the plot, each exciting bit in the film was accompanied by exclamations.

This I can understand coming from a little kid.

But this guy, seated next to me during the King Kong screening, was a grown man. Probably in his 20s, for all I could see in the dark.

He acted like he'd never watched a movie before.

Or maybe he just had a low IQ.

I couldn't be too sure.

But it was rather distracting sitting next to someone who seemed every ready to jump out of his seat and into the movie itself.

And I was just wondering why it is that my movie-going has dropped considerably this past year. Although the lack of access to free previews is probably the biggest reason, I can't deal with fellow moviegoers who insist on treating the cinema like their own home, with no consideration to others in the cinema - eg potato chip bag rustler in Lido, brats who kick chairs and people who just won't shut up.

summing up

After watching King Kong on Saturday night - good cinematography and acting, and of course, amazing special effects, but at three hours plus, a tad bit long. But I must say, I never expected to be moved by a love between a woman and a huge gorilla - went to Vinum at 1 Raffles Link, to a party I didn't know I was attending, where people were supposed to don "mad hats". But hey, it was a one-for-one so, why not?

And after, tagged along to Loof to have another drink and to lounge around and look at the moon. And to be entertained by this group at the next table, who sang Christmas tunes on request. Well, those parts of the carols they could remember that is.

Well this place is tons better than Balcony! Nicer atmosphere, something to look at... sorta... - well the sky beats the side street hands down. Wait staff also a bit better trained. Plus, there's no jacuzzi!

Now playing: Wolfmother - Dimension

Thursday, December 15, 2005

woohoo

Oasis
Franz Ferdinand
Placebo
Maximo Park
Ian Brown
Korn (eh)
Snow Patrol

at Bangkok 100 Rock Festival!

5,000 baht for 2 day pass!

Thursdays child has far to go

Large Hearted Boy's on his way to 52 books in 52 weeks. Otherwise, it's another nice list of books I have yet to read, although I doubt I'll find them all in the library. Well, there's still the kino sale I guess...
Btw, McSweeney's Quarterly, I discovered recently, retails at more than 40 bucks here!

The lovely Slate writers have also picked their top reads of the year, with many choosing Ian McEwan's Saturday. Must see what all the fuss is about...

Oh, and for some reason, The Guardian interviews The Sunday Times' AA Gill. An entertaining piece.
Then I saw this part.
His first piece of journalism was a 600-word piece on Craigie Aitchison for a friend's art magazine.
"I said, 'I can't spell'; they said, 'It doesn't matter, we've got subs.'"

And it led me to realise that Gill and I have something in common.
Gill is dyslexic.
Sometimes I feel like some people I sub for are dyslexic.

Turducken? Why do three birds in one when you can do
ten!

Since del.icio.us seems to be down for maintenance (although they claim it to be only an hour, it has been more like a day), I'm linking here instead a rare interview with Philip Roth who just can't be bothered to answer the same questions over and over again. And when I interviewed authors like Jasper Fforde, I am sure I was the millionth reporter or fan to ask them the same questions, but they were nice about it. But Fforde, he's no Philip Roth.

"Why don't you smile?" I ask.

"There once was this photographer from New York. 'Smile,' she always said. 'Smile!' I couldn't stand her or the whole phenomenon. Why smile into a camera? It makes no human sense. So I got rid of both her and the smile."

"Do you ever smile at all?"

He looks at me. "Yes, when I'm hiding in a corner and no one sees it."


Then later

"I would be wonderful with a 100-year moratorium on literature talk, if you shut down all literature departments, close the book reviews, ban the critics. The readers should be alone with the books, and if anyone dared to say anything about them, they would be shot or imprisoned right on the spot. Yes, shot."


Hmmm I like this man.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

and off we go

Rick Moody - The Black Veil
Joan Didion - Where I Was From
John Irving - Until I Find You
Kazuo Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go
William S Burroughs - Junky



Here's my december library haul. This time I braved the bus ride and walk and escalator ride to the dungeon that is the Central Lending Library, picked up the two reserved books, marvelled at the heft of John Irving's latest (and even considered asking not to borrow it, but eh they'd still charge me the reservation fee) and breathed a sigh of relief at the relative smallness of Kazuo Ishiguro's newest. Then I wandered the non-fictions to find the Joan Didion (her latest isn't out yet so I wanted to read some of her writing just to see what she was like) and also came across the Rick Moody (whom I always want to spell as Ricky Moody) and then a pop over to the fiction side to find that there are several Burroughs books available. Must... come... back...

As I sat along one of the black benches provided, with a view of the books by authors whose names start with B, I watched as a teenaged girl in a red t-shirt and denim skirt hovered over the Bs, poring over the collection to find... that perfect Charlotte Bingham novel. I'd never heard of Charlotte Bingham, but she's sure been busy. I could see at least 10 different books by this industrious woman. Although somehow they all seem to have the same cover, in blues or other pastely colours, with a woman, most often looking longingly into the distance. Ok so from where I was sitting I could only see a few covers but I'm guessing the rest of them look all the same.

I hope it's just a teen thing, and that she will not be reading Ms Bingham's books for the rest of her life - although I'm sure Bingham will still be producing these things then. Saul Bellow was a few steps to the left, why not that? The next row had Cheever and Chekhov staring right at her. But there was hardly a flicker of interest. Well, I admit that I've only read Bellow's Ravelstein, wanted to borrow Augie March once but the weight of the hardcover scared me a little. Chekhov I've not really read much of either.

But I suppose reading crap is better than not reading anything at all! In secondary school I really didn't do much reading, as I've said before. And I'm now just trying to catch up. Struggling to, that is.

listening to: The Decemberists - We Both Go Down Together

red

What's the best thing you can do on Mondays? Get liquored-up!

So it was probably my third or fourth wine class but the first one I'd actually paid for. (The others had been for work as the former paper had quite a few of these for readers)

The class at Cafe Amigo was a two hour one and featured six different wines - a sparkling white, two Chardonnays, a Merlot-Grenache, a Pinot Noir and a Gewuertztraminer.

I came out of it not knowing any better about wines but it was a good two hours spent with friends and alcohol, although a bit of a hungry one as I'd not had dinner before that - the seven of us polished off the bread and cheese offered and when class was over, even grabbed those off the other tables.

After class, eps, char and I went to have a look at Balcony, which was nearly full upstairs, despite it being a Monday night. With a lack of chairs at the small table, we had to sit around this pathetic little jacuzzi which was probably just a bubbling cesspool of bacteria. Managed to find seats along the side later, although a giant red velvet curtain sorta blocked my view of.... hmm... the streets below I suppose.

Our calamari took ages to arrive and when it did, it tasted like something out of a frozen packet.

But when all you've had since 7pm is a couple of miserable California rolls out of the sad sushi display at Centrepoint. and some slices of baguette and teeny cubes of cheese, frozen calamari with tartar sauce will do. (ok so I also had a latte and half a chocolate cake slice at BloodBros at about 4pm). Oh and of course we didnt just go there to stare at bubbles and eat frozen battered squid! I had a gin and tonic. We were by this time more concerned about filling the stomach than getting a fancy drink so I named the usual. Plus the drinks list was a little grotty looking, despite the new-ness of the place.

I'm not sure if I'll go there again. If I'm in the area and am hankering for the alcohol, I think I'd rather go try my luck up emerald hill. then again, they do one-for-one drinks (if I remember correctly) until 9pm....

Oh, and I suppose some people already know this, but I didn't until today.

Alcohol Flush Reactionis a condition where the body cannot break down ingested alcohol completely, due to a deficiency of an inactive enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) which is normally responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde, a byproduct of the metabolism of alcohol. Since acetaldehyde is a toxin, it accumulates and causes flushing if the human body can't break it down. Approximately half of all Asians have a sensitivity to alcohol due to this condition and there is some evidence that this condition exists frequently in people of Jewish descent as well.

So when my face turns red, it's because I don't have enough ALDH2.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

meet the quiets

I find it hard to sit still, and do just one thing at a time. While I love to read, I read best on journeys - buses, trains, planes - where I essentially am confined to one spot and can't reach out to do other stuff, although while reading, I am plugged into the iPod as well.
At home, I never really sit and read for more than half an hour at a time. I will read, jump up and then go turn on the computer, put on some music, turn on the TV. And then go back to reading a bit, before I get back up and do something. Like right now, I'm actually trying to finish reading the damn Vanity Fair I borrowed from the office library, but my attention's turned to the computer, writing this, flipping over to read Bloglines, chatting with someone via coyote and msn, and with half an ear listening to woxy.com. Occasionally I check the skeds to see if they're updated, since I'm working on summaries today (the ones on page2 that nobody reads, and everyone asks... got meh?)

I wonder, was I always like this?

It was pointed out to me, on Saturday, about how quiet I am - yes, thank you for reminding me. And yeah, I am a quiet person. I can't disagree with that. My family's a quiet family. Even my neighbourhood - well except for now, since there's construction going on seemingly everywhere - is quiet. I remember telling a friend on the phone that yes, I was at home, yes, the windows were open, and yes that's usually my neighbourhood in the daytime. My parents, when I observe them with our family friends, are probably the quietest of the lot. My sister, she can be a little noisy at times I suppose (you can correct me if you think not) but I think generally she's also quiet.

So we're the quiet family. In the quiet neighbourhood. I wish we could say we had a quiet pet but we don't so you don't have to watch out for the quiet dog or the quiet cat cos there isn't any. We do, however, have a somewhat non-quiet car.

Oh, also on Saturday, one of those people who pointed out the quietness to me also asked "what's your favourite swear word?"

So just out of curiosity, what's yours?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My favourite books of 2005 (in no order)

Lauren Hillenbrand - Seabiscuit
Steven Sherrill - The Minotaur takes a Cigarette Break
Dave Eggers - You Shall Know Our Velocity
William Trevor - The Story of Lucy Gault
Ruth Reichl - Garlic and Sapphires
Charlotte Moore - George And Sam
Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Azar Nafisi - Reading Lolita in Tehran
Bret Easton Ellis - American Psycho
Truman Capote - In Cold Blood



Some that almost made it
Don Delillo - White Noise
Audrey Niffenegger - Time Traveler's Wife
Colm Toibin - The Master
James Villas - Stalking The Green Fairy

Holy shit


In a recent survey, girls aged 15-19 were asked which female figures they aspired to emulate: 47% said Abi Titmuss, 33% Jordan, 7% Anita Roddick, 9% JK Rowling and 4% Germaine Greer. When asked their ideal careers, 63% said glamour model, 25% lap dancer, 4% lawyer, 3% doctor, 3% teacher and 2% nurse.

c is for cookbooks

I love cookbooks. Let me rephrase that. I love cookbooks with pictures. Not the dk kind which shows you step by step visual instructions but more like those by Bill Granger, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson (and their ghost writers)
As this article explains, of Jamie Oliver's books:
His books make me want to shop, cook and sit down to eat.

I feel the same way, especially with the one Nigella cookbook I own. I love that she's not a professional chef and that her recipes are very accessible, and that she's into comfort food, which feature in many pages. I've been wanting to get my hands on Bill Granger's books, which also are equally enticing and manageable. And with Kino's 20% still on until January, I might cough up the money and finally get one. Either that or I'll wish for Santa to stuff one down my non-existent Christmas stocking.

That's the thing about these books. They usually cost upwards of $50, making me have to think twice, especially since I'll be thinking of the number of Cds and novels I can get for that amount.

and the grammy nominations go to...

oh who gives a shit

except maybe for best alternative album, which as Stereogum explains it The nominating comittee never listened to the following albums, but some members read about Canada Rock in Newsweek and their grandkids like The O.C.
  • The Arcade Fire Funeral
  • Beck Guero
  • Death Cab For Cutie Plans
  • Franz Ferdinand You Could Have It So Much Better
  • The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
  • Dining out: La Viva

    This place, owned by the Wong San group, took over Ocho at Chijmes, although you'd hardly know it.

    It essentially looks the same, the menu is probably about the same. It's just Ocho with a new name.

    Unfortunately, I must say that the only thing that would draw me back to this spot are the sangrias, as they have a nice variety: the triditional, the tropical, the cranberry, the peach, the one with Pimm's and something else I didn't quite catch. They only list the traditional on the menu, which really needs to be updated with a better look.

    The food was decent but nothing to rave about.

    The gazpacho was a little too thick and I always wish that restaurants would offer the vegetables on the side, rather than throwing the whole lot in. I did like the chorizo with pine nuts and raisins - a nice combination of flavours. A Catalan-style pork with vegetables was also quite tasty.

    I must say that the rest was quite forgettable.
    The tostadas were appallingly simple and made me wonder why we were paying $8.50 for something I could easily make at home. After all, it was just slices of french loaf, topped with some 'spanish' ham and melted cheese.
    A hot tapas of mushrooms in a cream sauce used unimaginatively button mushrooms.

    I later checked newslink for the ST article on tapas places written last month, which mentioned that La Viva has 50 different types of tapas. Although my maths sucks, I know for sure that there weren't 50 different types when we were there on Wednesday! So did they change the menu? Or did they decide to put up a show?

    Spanish restaurants here tend to miss the mark, in my opinion. I've yet to eat at one I like. Via Mar at Esplanade is so-so, likewise for Esmirada, although I suppose they're not exactly a Spanish restaurant. I've only had dessert at Tapas Tree so I might go try theirs (any idea if it's good?) and there's still Streeters, which has surprised me by how long they've survived - I suppose it's time to give that a try?

    Honestly, the fun in tapas is checking out the lineup at the counter, picking out stuff you can't exactly identify but looks appealing. And having a good plate of jamon with slices of quesa, oh and since it's tapas, there should be free flow of bread. Then again, this is Singapore, a country which has restaurants charging for bread, not serving water and even daring to charge 50cents for a glass of water, of the kind that flows from taps.

    So that's what I'd do if I owned a Spanish restaurant. I wouldn't put people in gimmicky costumes, or have the roving singers/guitarists - they tend to sing and play fine but its really too cliched, too loud and the choice of songs is just too predictable. I wouldn't play Gipsy Kings or Eros Ramazotti either.


    La Viva Chijmes
    #01-12/13/14
    30 Victoria Street.
    Tel: 6339 4290
    (wouldn't recommend it, unless you are wanting to have Sangrias)

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    wednesday

    I almost missed the bus stop on my way to work today. I was half daydreaming about something.
    Then I get off the bus, trudge into the office - I suppose the somewhat depressing song that was currently playing on the iPod didn't help matters much - and sat down at my desk. Waited for the computer to start up, keyed in this password, that password and then that other password. As it all came to life, I suddenly felt the need to be somewhere else. It just hit me upside the head. So I have to sort my life for a bit now.

    Meanwhile, here's some random stuff I've culled from my browsing the web

    Read about the most exclusive restaurant in California, where patrons can request exactly what they'd like to eat. It's a place that's served only seven people in the past decade.

    So Much Silence has the Arcade Fire, live at First Avenue.

    Said The Gramophone lists the best songs of 2005 - downloadable too!

    Do you have iPod finger?


    New York Magazine gets a undergrad, a couple of high schoolers and a fifth grader to rate some new albums including Neil Diamond's and Okkervil River's. See if you agree.

    If you drink a lot of alcohol, you should drink a lot of coffee via tmn

    ok that's enough now


    Now playing: Youth Group - Drowned

    Sunday, December 04, 2005

    my bookstore wars

    This was one of the rare times I entered Borders to buy books.

    Ok I was only attracted by its weekend sale - after all, it was 35% off for 5 books or more. And I had a few books in mind, as well as some Christmas gifts for cousins to get, so I figured I'd pop by before lunch and work on Friday - when hopefully there wouldn't be too long a queue.

    However, I remembered why I didn't shop at Borders much. Service was fine but the stock wasn't. I was looking for Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials set, something a colleague had lent me a while back, but she'd only owned the first two of the series, so I hadn't the faintest how it all ended. And I figured, what's a better time to buy a boxset then during a sale! Unfortunately, the friendly Borders staff checked the inventory and the shelves and nope, she couldn't find any. So I scrambled to find another book to make it five. I got three presents and also picked up TC Boyle's The Inner Circle and Iris Murdoch's Under The Net (I've become quite enamoured with her writing).

    On Sunday, before work, went with the sister out to town to window shop and make full use of her Kino card. Well, I could've made better use of it, if I were not so budget-conscious this month. And there, in what's probably the best bookstore in Singapore, were plenty of copies of His Dark Materials set, and there were even two versions were available. While my sis was browsing the magazines, I checked out the lit section where Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy always calls out to me, but I've somehow managed to avoid buying it. And as I gaze lovingly at all those books I desire, I wondered at how different the two stores' fiction sections are.

    At Kino, I just feel a need to buy everything I lay my hands on, even if they're on the top shelf.
    At Borders, I just feel like everything's been picked up and read by at least ten people.

    At Borders, I found only a couple of William S Burroughs' books. But at Kino, there was what looked like quite a full array of his books, including what is considered his seminal work - Naked Lunch. This was painfully absent from the shelves at Borders, unless they had squirreled it away in some corner.

    However, the things I do like about Borders include its CD section (where tracks can be listened to, although you have to use the headphones at your own risk) which isn't priced as high as HMV. I also like the store's brightness and its floor-to-ceiling windows as Kino tends to be rather dark and sometimes the layout's a little confusing. Borders' food section also has more books unshrinkwrapped compared to Kino. Borders' magazine section is also a little more accessible than Kino's, although as with every bookstore, you first have to wade through the readers before you can get to the products.

    So Borders gets the consolation prize, cos what ultimately matters are the books.


    Now playing: Teenage Fanclub's I Need Direction

    Dining out: Sin Hoi San

    It was a gathering of some ex-STI people at one of them zichar seafood places at Tiong Bahru.

    7 1/2 of us (one left after an hour plus for another dinner) devoured:
    1 chili crab (surprisingly quite hot)
    1 black pepper crab
    1 butter crab (which has a lovely buttery, coconut taste)
    1 plate cereal prawns (yum!)
    1 plate baby squid (unfortunately not crunchy enough)
    2 "yue guang he" - which I suppose is literally translated as moonlit river? - essentially hor fun with a raw egg on top, which you mix into the rice noodles
    1 fried rice
    1 vegetable

    Now that was some dinner!

    And then we adjourned to Blu Jazz Cafe to meet a few others and have drinks/dessert.
    Nice place - rather colourful with some odd lights inside. But it was a relatively breezy night and perfect for sitting outdoors. However, I highly disapprove of their music selection. It wasn't blues, it wasn't jazz. It was a mishmesh of easy listening crap that included some Michael Bolton, some salsa-ish latin music, Sympathique, and Que Sera Sera - which we took as a sign to get out of there.

    Sin Hoi San Eating House
    Blk 55 Tiong Bahru Road

    Blu Jazz Cafe
    Bali Lane

    Dining out: Miss Clarity Cafe

    I decided I'd just write about this anyway.

    Thursday night dinner was at Miss Clarity Cafe at Purvis Street, after having read about it sometime ago on various local food blogs and just wanting to go have a peek (plus was trying not to spend too much money)

    Food's cheap - we took the $8.80 set that comes with soup, main course and dessert. So at that price I wasn't expecting anything fantastic. The food was decent. The fish and chips were not bad - although, honestly the kopitiam near the office does a fantastic dory fish and chips for only $5 - and so was the pork roulade, (essentially pork wrapped around two sausages and coated with batter and deepfried) which came with grilled slices of potatoes and a bed of cabbage/carrots mixture that kinda looked more like it belonged on a hospital tray. Still, it wasn't too bad for a cheap dinner.

    My issue was more with the Barbie look of the place. It was a bit too cotton candy for the likes of me. Colourful - and when I say colour, I mean pastels - tables, colourful walls. All bright and cheery. The kind of place that would appeal to a 10 year old girl who aspires to be Barbie or well, Paris Hilton - ok maybe not, it's not trashy or anything. But just saccharine sweet. Blindingly saccharine sweet.

    So after we were done with dinner, I made sure to go somewhere that was a little less pink. Somehow we ended up at Father Flanagan's at Chijmes for a Guinness and a cider. Sitting outside, we could hear the strains of what seemed to be music from the band inside. The singer wasn't terrible but he wasn't good either. I'm really being nice. I don't know why - maybe cos I was a tad bit bitchy about the previous place. Ok, the truth was the singer didn't sound any good. He couldn't hit the high notes. We heard them play U2's Angel Of Harlem earlier on and after that, they'd stopped. I thought thank heavens, but sometime later, they started up again - and did Angel Of Harlem all over. Had to leave before my ears started bleeding.


    Miss Clarity Cafe
    5 Purvis Street
    Tel: 6339 4803

    Father Flanagan's
    #B1-06 Chijmes
    30 Victoria Street

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    7 songs

    The Sassy Slumbering Gal's pointed this in my direction so here it is.

    List 7 songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Then tag 7 other people to see what they're listening to.

    7 huh. I guess these are the ones... (I've even made them downloadable!)

    The Decemberists doing a cover of The Outfield's Your Love
    Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats
    Soft - Higher
    The Scribbled Out Man - Heroics
    Wolf Parade - Dear Sons and Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts
    The Spinto Band - Oh Mandy
    World Leader Pretend - Punches

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    randomness

    Now if Blogger's nice today, I might just be able to put some of this crap I've written up.

    TMN has a nice little collection of stories about holiday travel hell.

    And there's just something about the Simpsons, that's got Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe, Michael Chabon and Gore Vidal all voicing themselves, although yellower.

    These phone/mp3 player cases are gorgeous

    And here's some stuff to listen to:
    Jose Gonzalez -
    Heartbeats

    Stars - Don't Be Afraid

    Reading allowed

    I am someway through What I Loved and I've been struck by the work that the artist Bill creates. His pieces of Hansel and Gretel, just words on a page, so vivid a description that I can see them before me.

    I get absorbed in their life in the summer house, the two families under one roof. The absence of a TV and the "entertainments of another era", where after dinner, one of the adults would read a story aloud. And I remember watching Gone With The Wind, and there was one scene where the ladies were in the house, trying not to reveal their nervousness and despair, and I believe it was Melly who took up a book - something by Charles Dickens if I'm not wrong - and begins reading.

    I like the idea of being read to and reading to someone. Reading aloud makes such a difference. It makes you actually read every single word. Many a time I am guilty of just skimming a page, especially when reading in bed, and sometimes I have to go back and read a paragraph or two again, cos later on I realised I missed something there.

    My mom used to read to us, when we were kids. She'd sit on the floor, in between my bed and my sister's, and read to us before we'd go to sleep. I missed that when she stopped it, but never told her that.

    Now the only person who reads aloud is my CCF kid but that's mostly for her to practise her English. Reading aloud's a little slow going but definitely helps.

    I've been wondering what it's like to listen to an audio book. I guess if I had a longer transit to work, I might consider listening to books, but what's a 15-minute bus ride? About 5 songs. And probably just a few pages?

    now playing: The Decemberists doing a cover of the Outfield's Your Love