Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dining out: Thien Kee Steamboat

Tables spilled out of the main stall, into a few more shop spaces and into the passageways, and even round to the back.

Yet, people waited. They hung around, scouting for a good table to hover over.

No one will help you get a table - there's no queue to stand in, no number to take, no list to fill. It's all about being observant and quick on your feet.

So we also waited. First checking out one area, and then another, both eyes peeled for customers finishing their meals.

And there it was - an empty table.

Luckily the others waiting near us were large families, so no one raced us for the prize.

So we got to sit down, and tuck into some steamboat.

I guess I always have been spoiled by my late grandmother's reunion dinner steamboats, as well as those that we used to do at home, where we'd get a whole spread of the good stuff like abalone, salmon, sukiyaki pork and beef.

But this is a different style of steamboat, it's not those all-you-can-eat ones, but like Yet Con in Purvis Street, it's old-style and you get platefuls of raw food according to the price you pay.

The best part of course, is eating steamboat with chicken rice, which was fragrant and the chicken was good. Oh and so was the chili sauce.

Very satisfying. Plus dinner came to about $30 for two people.

It was definitely an experience.

Thien Kee Steamboat
#B1-20 Beach Road Golden Mile Tower

Saturday, November 26, 2005

i want it that way

I frequent libraries quite a bit, every three weeks actually, since that is the deadline they provide when borrowing.

And I certainly felt the pressure this week when I had to return books and pick up something I'd reserved.

I guess it's really my fault for being kiasu and picking up so many books. I could've stuck to four, but I can't resist it when I grab one off the shelf and then just a bit further down I see something else and it's like dang, I have been wanting to read this one! So I look down at the four books I'm already hefting, chuck the next one on top of the pile.

At this time I really should pull myself away from browsing the shelves, but honestly that's the best part of libraries and bookstores. I'm not the kind who can hang around actually reading (I never understand how people can do it) but I read a lot of litblogs and browse amazon lists and other crazed book sites, and whenever I spot a familiar title or author, a 'ding' sounds in my head and I just have to gingerly ease the book off the shelf and flip a few pages.

So the pile I'm carrying grows to about 6, 7, 8. I drag the haul over to a chair or an empty shelf and weed it out. I usually don't succeed in much weeding - at the most I get rid of one, or in extreme cases, two. And then I whip out my lifesaver - my mother's library card (I also carry my sister's around!) as she's got the membership where you can borrow multimedia eg DVDs and more importantly, more books. Sometimes she joins me on my library haunts and I negotiate with her on how many more I can scrounge. (My mom borrows art books and the occasional recipe book, in case you'd like to know.)

On my day off on Thursday, I head to the Orchard library, braving the hordes of schoolkids roaming around aimlessly, to pick up George and Sam, this book I had reserved (it was in some godforsaken part of the island) on the strength of an excerpt I read in Nick Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree. It's written by a woman about her two autistic boys, and one more, non-autistic, son. I'm only into the third chapter but it's terribly moving, brave and also funny.
More on that when I'm done.

But for now, Richard Perez's The Losers' Club
I think I picked this up on reading about it on some litblog. But I admit that while flipping through it in the library, I wasn't too impressed. I suppose that's why it ended up being read last out of all the books I'd borrowed the last round (first to be devoured was the Oscar Wilde). But once I started this one, I just couldn't stop.

It was well paced, and funny but also a bit sad. And it's a strange way to describe it but, it was very much alive.

The book's essentially about a struggling poet who gets obsessed with personal ads, and the women he meets through them. I hate writing summaries about plots so I think a one-liner will do.

Here's my haul
Paul Auster - Timbuktu
Siri Hustvedt - What I Loved
ZZ Packer - Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Stephen Chbosky - Perks Of Being A Wallflower (yeah its a coming of age story, aimed at teens, but I've always thought it's such a great title)
Charlotte Moore - George And Sam

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dining out: Wine Garage

So the company that owns Brewerkz and Cafe Iguana has decided to go in a different alcohol direction and offer wines.

Brewerkz is now flanked by the iguana and Wine Garage, which has a rather extensive winelist and a decent menu. Service was a dismal letdown but what's new nowadays.

I was a couple of minutes late on Thursday, and arrived to find eps scrutinising the winelist. In the middle of the table was a plateful of sliced breads and what looked like yam paste, which I later found out was simply butter, that was grey in colour. I wondered if it was pate, but to my disappointment, it was not.

But bravo to the speed the bread and yampaste/butter/pate was laid out. Other customers were immediately offered that and menus just a few minutes after sitting down. I didn't even have to raise my hand to ask for water. So on this part, service was excellent and efficient.

When J finally arrived, we picked a semillon-sauvignon blanc from australia (not really noticing the sauvblanc part of the details) from the list, having decided to try something a bit new. The waiter (here's the notsogood service part) was asked for recommendations and the first thing he said, in an embarrassed tone, was "I'm not so good at that", leaving us equally clueless as to why, since this is a place that obviously specialises in wine, he was not trained to recommend at least one bottle or one blend, and also, why he didn't have someone, say his manager, come to our table and recommend us something instead. (The same guy also couldn't really make a recommendation for the food.)

Being left to our own devices, we made our own pick, which was ok. (They do have somemore that look quite interesting and which I wouldn't mind trying)

But what I quite liked was the food, although... well... here's what happened.

I ordered the steak frites, medium rare. And it came pretty well cooked for a medium rare, or even for a medium. So I sent it back and I got a better one, which was still a bit more on the cooked side - I like them bloody

But oh were the fries great. Instead of crinkle-cut types or skinny ones ala mcdonalds, or fat ones, they were small and skinny, with the skins on. They looked more like they were run through a grater. And sprinkled with just the right amount of salt, some herb and a bit of pepper. Yummy.

After we polished off the food, for some reason, we decided to have nachos instead of dessert. I dunno why - it wasn't my idea. But nachos from neighbouring Brewerkz that is.

And we figured that since the place was owned by the same company, we could do that. Nope. Wrong.

It wasn't as if the two places served the same type of food. I mean, if nachos were on the Wine Garage menu, then sure, we wouldn't have minded ordering that. The waiter could've easily ordered from a Brewerkz staff, we could've paid when the food arrived. And the plate could be returned after. Not that difficult. The manager was consulted. She (of course it had to be a woman - yes I know it's going against my own gender, but I do have two female bosses) said no. Then these people sit down at the table behind us, carrying glasses of beer from Brewerkz. We decide to check out Brewerkz but their waiting list is long despite a couple of empty tables outside - now that's efficient.

And we end up at Tapas Tree, where we lounge on cosy sofas and sip on sangrias that somehow don't taste of wine, but rather of a hard liquor (eps reckons its vodka cranberry), and chat as Eros Ramazotti plays in the background. So these people don't make sangria with wine and play Italian music. I doubt that the owners are from Spain.

The Wine Garage,
30 Merchant Road,
#01-07 Riverside Point
Tel: 6533 3188

The Tapas Tree
The Tapas Tree,
3D River Valley Rd,
#01-08 Clarke Quay,
Shop House Row
Tel: 6837 2938

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

he said it

Periodic hedonism is our natural birthright, a privilege that not only contributes to our sophistication but can often be the catalyst that makes life bearable at all. - James Villas

Monday, November 21, 2005

almond joy

almond 002
Originally uploaded by killing time.
so I made this Pear and Almond Cake with an almond crunch topping on Sunday afternoon. Left the house for work without knowing how it turned out. Got home around 1130 (early day for a change!) to find this large chunk gone from the cake. Figured it must be edible.

ain't that enough

It's a bit scary to realise that my Bloglines has more than 200 feeds, plus I use Kinja for blogs which dont have feeds, which makes it about 15 or so more.

Now what was it that I used to do before blogs came along? I just can't remember...

Definitely not typing this out, that's for sure.

(It is incredible quiet in the office today. For some reason, all the tvs seem to be muted, people seem to not be talking at all - ok this, in this department, aint all that unusual, but there's hardly any noise from the other sections either. The sound of my typing just seems terribly loud, and so's the music I'm playing on the computer. It's all so quiet. It feels like it's past offstone or something. Or even like when I used to work in the mornings, and no one else was around, except for us sad sods who had to be in by 530 - yes that's AM. Although come to think of it, I did enjoy the AM shift. It was peaceful. There was something about being awake before sunrise, and climbing into the van, driving down Lornie Road and into the office. And best of all, leaving the office at 230. I just hated having to sleep early, and not stay out.)

Now playing Tegan and Sara - Downtown

Sunday, November 20, 2005

music for the people

An Aquarium Drunk's posted a great track from Ryan Adam's 29 Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play The Part

Here's Elbow doing a cover of Massive Attack's Teardrop, off their Not A Job single.

Also, did I mention how much I like Wolf Parade?
Here's Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts

And Rogue Wave's
Publish My Love

Listening to Brendan Benson - Tiny Spark

Dining out: Mozzaic

My palate is still thinking about the grilled pineapple I had at dinner on Saturday. Yeah, ended up at one of them Brazilian churrascaria places - Mozzaic at Club Street.

The intention was to hit Oosters but (1) the indoor section was booked up for a private function and (2) they were all out of mussels, which was what we were there for.

So a wander towards Club Street, where a Club Street festival was in swing, with people sitting at tables on the closed-off street and looking somewhat festive (although the weather was a bit humid for outdoor dining). We chose the quieter side, and airconditioning and ended up at Mozzaic.

The manager, upon learning we did not have reservations, scrutinised the reservations list for several minutes before leading us to a table at the back. The place was about half full. Empty tables aplenty.

We went for the carnivore option ($38 per person for dinner) and waited for the roving salad bar to come our way - it took a bit of time and I must admit muttering impatiently about that. Interesting concept though, ideal for lazy people like me. But that also means it's up to the server to pour your dressing and that's usually something I prefer, mostly cos I don't really fancy dressing that much. But it turned out alright.

The meats were pretty good, and included beef rump (which was amazingly tender), lamb shoulder, chicken, chicken heart (surprisingly edible) and pork sausage. And to finish, grilled pineapple - my mouth waters just thinking of it. It was a good end to the meal.

Mozzaic Restaurant
36 Club Street,
Tel: 6325-3360

Dining out: Xi Yan

So the long awaited day finally arrived... we dined at Xi Yan last Wednesday.

I'll leave you to visit DSD's blog for pictures (hopefully with the proper names of the dishes?) but here's my take on it.

With several alcoholics (yes... I'm including myself) at the table, we ordered a Chilean Cabernet Sauv and a South African Pinotage. The chilean was ok, but the south african was quite tasty, even better than the one I liked at Wine Co.

But on to the food!

We started out with a lobster with dual dipping sauces - mint and a chilli-based one, which most people preferred.

Eps and I had tried a version of tofu with pork floss at Central the week before and we hadn't enjoyed it much, so I was a bit apprehensive about this one. But it was thankfully, different and much better. It was topped with some salted egg yolk and the sauce was far tastier and lighter than the one at Central which was more like a dark soy sauce.

One memorable dish was the Japanese tomatoes with a sesame-wasabi sauce - four large (monstrous even) skinless tomatoes that were so sweet and juicy, they changed my mind about tomatoes being suited only for tomato sauce.

Another signature dish is the Szechuan chicken - chicken, yam noodles and century egg, topped with chinese parsley, peanuts and doused with a fiery chilli sauce, which left a numbness in the mouth. You could go for the 'original' (which we did) or a toned-down heat. And boy, was it hot. I felt like I could breathe fire after that, yet it was so good I couldn't help it but go for a second helping.

I also enjoyed the garoupa coated with shrimp paste and deepfried - its crispy skin with the salty shrimp paste and the soft flesh of the fish, oh delightful. It rested on a bed of pomelo bits, chili and onion. Nice contrast.

But fried stuff always tastes good, so the oysters coated with fermented bean curd and deepfried, was also yummy.

The pork cheek was tasty, to be eaten with lime sections and a thai-style chilli sauce. And the dish of cloud ears with lotus roots was a nice change - I've only had black fungus in japchae and I've never been too fond of it, so I was surprised to find myself taking a second helping, it was just that tasty.

The major disappointment of the night had to be the glutinous rice with beef shin. The rice was dry and tasteless, despite the waitress' explanation that the beef shin was placed on top of the rice to allow the juices to seep down into the rice.

Before bringing on the chicken ginseng soup (just like grandma used to make!) a platter of fruits soaked in suan mei juice was brought out, to cleanse the palate and I think that also sorta helped whet the appetite a little as well. After all there were still 4 more items to go.

The soup, the old young happy news (lao shao bao xi) - which was dou miao and some pickled cabbage - xi yan's famous tang yuan (made with five special ingredients and damn was it tasty - i could've had another couple more) in ginger soup. and at the end, we were treated to a baked alaska, for we were sorta celebrating DSD's 27th - and the chef made it specially for her. And to finish off the night, a shooter of calamansi, honey and whisky - light and fruity.

The dinner, which had about 12 courses, took four hours and cost us about $100 each, including wine. The dinner itself is $80.
Almost like a wedding dinner, without the yam sengs and bad food.
Highly recommended!

Xi Yan
38A Craig Road
Tel: 6220-3546
Dinner starts at 7.30pm.
Closed on Mondays.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

up there

cyber gaming is big in sg, with all these damn international competitions being played out here.
but isnt it a bit said to be a professional gamer? to spend your waking hours in front of a screen fighting virtual enemies and playing virtual sports? do these people ever see the light of day?

ok, i guess i'm in a similar situation. I spend 8 hours in an office everyday, the nearest window about 20m away. I can't tell if it's dark outsides, cos i have to turn my head to peer at the windows - which in fact just offer a view of the rest of the building, so i dont really consider that a proper window. i haven't the faintest idea if it's raining - unless I hear thunder rumbling outside. I am glued to the computer screen, working or chatting or surfing the web for more random info to fill my head with.

the only time i step outside of this windowless world is to have dinner for an hour, and to go home. On the days I hit the office gym, its a elevator ride up 4 stories, and into yet another airconditioned space, this time with windows looking out onto the opposite HDB blocks. That is, until darkness falls and the windows turn mirrors and all I see is myself, panting, running out of breath, until I stop.

Then it's back to more hours in the airless space, with my photos of sunsets in canada, perth and the sandy Cherating beach my outlets to a world of natural beauty, endless space and fresh air.

I want to go outside.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

pass it on

My friend hucks has graciously tagged me with yet another meme.

So here are:
Ten things I am grateful for today (in no particular order)
- my family (although we're a bit weird at least we're somewhat sane)
- my friends (for being there for me, and those who haven't, those I dunno
- the internet
- mp3 blogs
- happy hours
- for having been relatively healthy so far
- chocolate
- dictionaries
- holidays
- that work starts at 4pm and I can pop over to town before going into the office (at least until the end of the year)

And to the following five people i'm throwing this at... too bad!
dsd, slumbering gal, aberwyn (i've never tagged someone i've never met before but there's always a first time! altho i have no idea if you do respond to tags...), mel, and my sister

This list was brought to you by the band that starts with the letter W - We Are Scientists, just cos I wrote it while listening to Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt. We Are Scientists are an NY band which happens to have a bit of a cute/geeky sense of humour.

off their website's Corrections & Addenda:
On a flight from New York City to London on September 21st, Chris listened to his iPod, an electronic device, during takeoff. We Are Scientists regret having almost caused the aircraft to crash into an airport hotel or the flight tower or another plane, and also wish to express total uncomprehending surprise that none of those things happened.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Did I mention that I like reading Chuck Klosterman's writing?

He writes about a whole heap of irrelevant - but maybe relevant - topics from the NBA to MTV's Real World to porn.

But he's got this view on things that makes me want to laugh, shake my head in disagreement and even mutter to myself "what the hell is he thinking?" But he's got conviction in the stuff he writes and argues his way towards the conclusion he made in the beginning and somehow you find yourself nodding along to his points.

The chapter I'm reading now is about Star Wars and Gen Xers (which is a term hardly heard these days but is supposed to sum up those born between 1965 and 1977. So apparently I dont fall into that group. What the hell am I then? Gen Y??)

He believes Luke Skywalker is the original Gen Xer.
- he's incessantly whiny
- he's exhaustively educated about things that had little practical value (like how to stand on one's head while lifting a rock telekinetically)
- he's romantically interested in a woman who looks at him like a brother
- his dad is "on his case to join the family business"
- "Most significantly, all the problems in his life can be directly blamed on the generation that came before him, and specifically on his father's views about what to believe"

A couple of pages later, he ends up with this conclusion:
"Quite simply, Winona Ryer is Luke Skywalker, only with a better haircut and a killer rack."

Now playing: Plastic Bertrand - Ça plane pour moi

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dining Out: Poppi

I love dim sum. I love that it's bite-sized, and that you can sample a good variety without being overly stuffed.
I love dim sum for brunch. I love dim sum for supper. I love dim sum in Hong Kong.
I love dim sum in pushcarts.
I love dim sum. But probably not as much as Dim Sum Dolly

And for the first time on Sunday, I had western dim sum. But I don't think this anomaly was a successful one.

That is, western food served somewhat bite sized and with several servings per order.
This is the Sunday brunch special at Poppi at Fort Canning. Innovative, cute maybe, has potential, but which was unfortunately not achieved.

Here's what we had:
Smoked salmon with eggs benedict on an English muffin - sounds good but turned out lukewarm, with an English muffin which tasted and cut like it'd been sitting in the kitchen for too long.
Shellfish bisque with lobster tortellini - good, hearty soup with a yummy wanton stuffed with lobster and served in a coffee cup
Yorkshire pudding stuffed with roast beef and horseraddish. Not too bad either, although the beef was a bit more done than I'd like it
Mini Wagyu burger with fries. Unfortunately I liked the fries more than the burger, which wasn't juicy enough - is it because the burger's smaller than my palm? Is it easier to keep a patty juicy when it's large?
Truffle risotto with grilled scallop. I quite liked this one. The taste of truffles was quite strong and the rice was al dente. And with risotto, a whole bowlful is always too much for me, no matter how good it is.
We'd ordered a croque monsieur but that never came...

The dessert platter wasn't too bad but the five desserts would've done better if the plate had some sort of partitions, so that the various creamy runoffs would not spill over into the others.

I did like the cold lime souffle and that chocolate/raspberry cake thing. The pavlova was a small meringue tower with some cream and a strawberry on top. There was also a panna cotta and some prune/armagnac thing. But nothing really blew me away.

Poppi also has a Sunday brunch set, as well as a full menu. But the seafood capellini ordered wasn't too impressive and the duck confit wasn't that great either, according to those who ate them. (I'd been stuffed with some hari raya goodies on a mini visit prior to brunch so wasn't that hungry)

What I'd remember from this brunch is not the food but rather the beautifully-lit verandah that we sat at, the light streaming in and making everything sunny and happy and relaxed. The inside was a bit gloomier, suitable perhaps for a romantic dinner or somewhat. Too bad there wasn't a view to look out onto as the blinds were drawn to soften the light.
I'd also remember the way the food was presented. Bite-sized on white platters does look so appealing.
I just wish I'd want to remember the way the food tasted. Seeing is believing? The taste first needs to pass muster.

Level 2,
The Legends Fort Canning Park,
11 Canning Walk,
Tel: 6339-8977

Friday, November 11, 2005


Here's what I learnt on my day off on Thursday:
Carrying 20-odd CDs around town for the afternoon is no joke.
One, it's a pretty heavy and odd-sized package to handle
Two, the CDs set off store security alarms - at least in Zara and at least one other store.
But the Zara one I remember cos the guard came up to me and said: "when you leave let me know". So he checked out that one library book I was carrying - library books have set off these things before - but nope. Then I hefted over the CD bag and he gave that a try. And yep that was the culprit.
After that I decided it would be wise to stay out of any stores that actually sell CDs...

As I absentmindedly nibbled on a bit of kinderbueno chocolate egg that someone had given to me - and wondered who the hell could eat this overly sweet and milky concoction, or are you just supposed to smash open the egg for the toy? - I thought fondly of the two hours spent at ProjectShop on Thursday, where I nursed a cafe latte and read Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, which I'm so loving. But also silently cursed my lack of Internet access - as well as my own unawareness - seeing that I had to read Polysyllabic Spree, return it, in order to get SDnCP borrowed, not realising that the library has drummed up a Christmas bonus in doubling the number of books that can be borrowed from Nov to Jan. Damnit. But that does mean I can go find more stuff....!

Oh and finally ate at Central at Taka but didn't think very much about it. Not worth a review. Might not go again. Mostly cos (1) almond milk drink tasted instant (2) when people order the Durian Fried Rice - why I dunno - it stinks up the place. Yes the stench lasts only a few minutes but that's just a few minutes too long.

However, we later adjourned to mezza9's martini bar, where we lounged on these great armchairs, where we were not overly plagued by cigar/cigarette smoke or have to yell to hear each other, where the pepper cashews were pretty tasty, but where I think I'd rather order a bottle of wine the next time. I'm not very good with martinis except for classic dry gin ones - I ordered a Negroni (gin, vermouth, campari) which was actually not too bad but somehow just gets a bit much the more you drink. Wine is far easier and I don't have to take a sip of water after a sip of wine. I suppose the people at the next table knew what they were doing when they ordered a bottle of red. (although eps and I agreed that the icewine martini sounds quite divine)

Listening to: Faker - The Familiar

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Book it: Nick Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree

It's not the name of that multi-colour tent-wearing musical group that appeared on TV show Las Vegas some eps ago. It's instead the name Hornby gives to the editors of the Believer, who, well, believe strongly that a book review shouldn't be snarky.

So the book's a collection of Hornby's monthly columns for Believer magazine, where he writes about what he's reading, and the books he bought (which are not necessarily on the same list).

However, because of the fear of snarkiness, he doesn't reveal the names of the those books he didn't like. Instead, they are put aside and left anonymous, in the fear that readers of the columns will er, believe every word Hornby says. Every single one. And not find out for themselves if they like the book or not. They will merely dismiss the book with a wave of their hand, their nose in the air, because Hornby said so.

Well I know I said that Hornby wrote his best book in High Fidelity but I forgot that I'd also read Songbookwhich was an excellent read and similar to Polysyllabic Spree, but about music. There he writes about his all-time favourite songs - after reading the bit on Teenage Fanclub I just had to go and have a listen. He also chose songs from Aimee Mann and Ben Folds, how could I not like this man!

But what I like most about him, is the way he writes. He doesn't talk down to you rather it's more like a chat over coffee with a good friend, who happens to know quite a bit about books - and having had some of his own made into popular films. He doesn't attempt to be clever or overly witty and a couple of times shoots himself in the foot (aw)but redeems himself again soon after.

For example when in the Nov 2003 column he raves about Wilkie Collins' No Name. Then in the next column (Dec/Jan) he apologises for having given the impression that "everyone should rush out and buy it" and describes his battle reading the book's last 418 pages. And his apology finishes off with an offer to refund readers "insane enough" to have bought the book. But adds "It has to say No Name on the receipt, though, because we weren't born yesterday, and we're not stumping up for your Patricia Cornwell novels. You can pay for them yourselves."

I just can't help smiling as I read this book!

On reading

I wrote this on a Wednesday but didnt get to post it till today (Friday)

Sometimes when there's nothing to do I like to browse Powell's staff picks and best ofs.

That's what I was doing yesterday evening during the two hours when nothing's come through to our side yet - the previous two days I was working on summaries so I actually did have stuff to do during those two hours and only managed in between to do the usual online rubbish of reading blogs, chatting, checking email, reading the NYT/Guardian/London Times etc.

Anyway I was looking at the Powell's staff picks for 2004 and realised that 2005 is ending. But yeah I know I've said that before. The clincher to this statement is 2005 is ending and I've still not read these "best ofs" of 2004.

How the hell does one read till the reading's done?

There are just tons of books out there, (I think in Nick Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree, he learns that it would take about seven years just to read a list of all the books that have ever been written) publishers are churning them out the very instant your eyes are glazing over my typed out words, writers are furiously typing out the last sentences of their novels as I type out my words to this sad blog.

Slow down people!! Slow down! I can't keep up! I'm already doing my best with 7 books in 3 weeks - at least I'm trying to.

And I finally got a notice from the library that I can pick up a book I'd reserved more than a few weeks ago, and which I'd totally forgotten about. I suppose that might be my fault. Or the library's. I didn't expect that one to take so long, if I'd remembered it, I might've not been as greedy as I was and gobbled up all those books. Then again, how can I resist when I find all these books? Plus I already had to stop myself from taking up one of the TC Boyle books I found.

Sigh... I would love to take a month off and read as many books as possible. But I'm not very good at just sitting and reading. Maybe it's ADD or something, it's just hard to sit still and concentrate. I'll have something on my mind and pop off the chair to go do it, then I'd decide to listen to something and pop up again to go play it, then I'd decide to go check my email, watch TV, find something to eat. It's quite a wonder that I manage to read anything at all.

I think the only times I do some quality concentrated reading are:
- when I'm on public transport, especially on the bus (cos I hardly take the mrt)
- the half hr to one hr before I fall asleep
- the half hr to 45 min I lounge by the pool after doing some laps
- my occasional visits to ProjectShop for a coffee and a read on my offdays
- while waiting to catch the next bus home, after being given the ok by the boss, which means there's no more work left
- the occasional breaks I take at the resource centre - but that's for reading magazines
- on airplanes (altho depending on the movies showing)
- by the beach (altho depending on the scenery and how harsh the sunlight is)

So I've got those 6? books from the library, and I've got so many more I've bought (including two last month) that I've not yet touched. I'm still in the midst of reading the Iris Murdoch biography by her husband. And then there's that book by some Spin writer I can't remember the name of now waiting for me at the Orchard library, waiting to be taken home and taken care of.

Despite all this, I'm already making a mental list of books to buy during the bookstore sales, which will probably happen next month - just in time for Christmas. You know, like last year's sale at Borders where the more you bought, the bigger the discount, and which of course I took advantage of - on two separate occasions.

I tend to want to own books that I've borrowed and loved, although technically, since they've been read, I really should move on to something else. But I can't help it. I just like to own books.

I want to read more Oscar Wilde. I'd also like to complete my Thursday Next collection with the second book in the series - which I can't remember the name of and which I now can't check online for cos there's a problem with my Internet connection (but think I'll leave Fforde's The Big Over Easy off the to-buy list for now). I'm thinking of getting Bill Granger's cookbook. Martin Amis' Money and more.

I've also got tons more CDs I want to get. And this is despite the fact that I owe mej money for the last batch of CDs, which I'm getting from him on Thursday. Yay! Finally! The agonising long wait is OVER!

But how now? I want somemore...

I think it was in The Picture of Dorian Gray where Lord Henry (check) said sthg along the lines of that these are times where the only necessities are the unnecessary. How sadly true.
(Forgive me if i've totally misread/misremembered how it goes. I read it, and then remembered it and flipped backwards to try to find it. I couldn't. I could've read it all over again just to find the quote but I've got 5? more books to read before the library-imposed deadline.)

There's so much I don't need but I want to have.
It's all about possession and ownership.
I like library books for the simple fact that I can read them for free - except of course, for those reserved, but that's a mere $1.55. But what I don't like is the idea that many others have gone through these pages before me. Some of the books have obviously been well-loved by too many. Others you just can't seem to find on the shelves and have to resort to reserving. So books are best bought and cherished. I wish I could do that with every book I fell in love with, but I'd be a pauper.

Music you can still borrow from friends and pop into the ipod. Music you can still sample online - you could do the same for books, but those are usually first chapters and what's the point in that.

Books... I don't like to borrow others' books. I feel like I hang onto them for too long, that I might crease the spine or accidentally dogear a page. I guess in the same way I am reluctant to lend people mine.

People have been talking about digital books for the longest time.

I've gotten used to reading online news already, and blogs. But I don't think I'd have the patience to read a book off a screen, no matter how lovely the screen and how portable the device. I like paper, I like the look of type on paper. I like the feel of paper. I like the weight of a book in my hand. I like that I don't have to charge it or power it up. I like that it doesn't make noises except for the turning of the page. I like that it doesn't have little lights blinking away. I like that books haven't really changed for many many years and they don't need to be updated or screened for viruses or anything like that.

I know this has been a terribly long post, but it's been a relatively concentrated one - it's amazingly unfettered when there's no Internet to distract.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


A colleague, whom I worked with previously at the other place downstairs, and who nowadays likes to pop by my desk and talk his fill of rubbish, said to me today, after looking at my latest read on my table.
"Reading one book a week just means that you've got nothing better to do. You need to get yourself a guy."
Then he adds "want to take out an ad? It'll just say something like, 'looking for someone, have strict requirements - must be a man'."
I laugh it off and stare daggers into his back as he walks away.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Just say thank you already

Two words
Two syllables
Surely it's not that hard to say
'Thank you'
There, that wasn't so difficult was it?
Let's practice that one more time
"Thank you"
Put more heart into it!
"Thank you!"
Good, good.
Now when should you say 'thank you'?
As often as possible!
When people do simple little things like holding doors open for us.

Yes, I would like to educate all the nincompoops out there who do not know how to utter those two words.
Example number one: Walking into the ladies' toilet, I notice someone about to leave, I hold the door open. She stares blankly at me and walks out.
Example number two: Walking out of a mall, a lady behind me is carrying bags in both hands. So I hold the door open. She saunters out without a glance at me.

And I stare after her, half wanting to go up to her and say "say thank you already!" but what's the point in that?
Those two words probably don't exist in her vocabulary. She's probably never heard them before. She probably doesn't hold doors open for people. And I'm guessing if she can't utter those two words, she can't utter one word either - please.

Obviously them courtesy campaigns haven't been working.

So that's my rant for Monday. (I write these things at work, email them to myself and then put them up on blogger when I get home, so technically all my thoughts are belated ones)

And in kitchen news, I made a roast chicken today, vaguely remembering some recipe from one of Jamie Oliver's tv shows a while back - prob when he was just breaking out as the Naked Chef, and when he seemed far more real than he is now.

Essentially it's rub salt into the chicken's cavity, as well as some herbs, rub more salt, herbs and some olive oil under the skin of the chicken (might have to gently ease the skin off a bit first). Then half a lemon and toss both halves into the cavity, and along with that I also threw in a clove of garlic and some ginger slices. Truss it up (is that the right phrase?) with some twine, tucking the wings in.
Fresh herbs are of course preferable, but I didn't have any.
Your oven and roasting pan should be preheated to about 220 deg C.
When chicken's ready, slide some olive oil onto your pan and pop the chicken on, uncovered. Bung it all in the oven.
Roast it for about 5 min on one side, turn over and do the same for the other, then cover with some foil and let it crackle away in the oven for about an hour or so. I took the foil off for the last 10 min to give it a crispier skin, although I reckon it could do with 15 min without the cover.
When it's done, take it out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes before cutting the twine off.
Terribly easy isn't it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I have to confess an addiction I have - I read New York Times' Sunday Styles.

Ok, that's not all of the truth.

The whole truth is that my favourite bit of Sunday Styles is always the "vows" section.

The section where there are write-ups about people's weddings, their lives and how they met. Usually only the first feature is worth reading, the rest tend to be more like "xxx, daughter of xxx and xxx was married to xxx, son of xxx and xxx on Saturday. They met at xxxx. She is a (occupation here) and he is a (occupation here). His parents blahblahblah...."

Ah who gives a crap.

Instead I'd rather read of the couple who met and dated and who broke up after the girl gets spooked by the normalcy of the relationship. "We got along so well I figured something must be wrong." He later moves into her apartment building. She makes her dates walk up the 10 flights to her flat so they wouldn't run into him.

Read the rest yourself

i love reading this stuff. It's like real-life fairytales, somewhat. It's about relationships being condensed - how people met, how they didn't like each other at first (or did), how they got together, what he likes about her and vice-versa, why they wanted to get married, what the wedding was like. All in one Internet page.

Do I read it with a tinge of envy, that these people have met and found that one person they're willing to spend the rest of their life with? Yeah I guess I do.

Am I one of those girls who have a whole thought-out plan of what their wedding's gonna be like? Hell no. (does anyone actually? or is that just in the movies?)

But with several weddings coming up in the last two months of the year, I guess I wonder what goes through my friends' minds when their big day draws nearer.

Everyone opts for the big hotel ballroom, table after table of people you're probably seeing for the first time and probably never gonna see again, time ticking away as people wait and wait and wait. That big entrance in the wedding gown, probably down an aisle with dry ice wafting across the floor to give it that "special effect" - is it so special if it's been done millions of times already? The cold dish/sharksfin/prawn/vegetables/chicken/fish/noodles/dessert combi with a freeflow of coke/sprite/fizzyorange/chinesetea/badwine/beer. The cutting of the fake-cake and the pouring of the champers down the pyramid of glasses. The 'yamsengs' at each table and the photo-taking. That little cake or chocolate or perhaps some kind of little crafted memento for guests to take home in remembrance of this special day.

I've only been to one wedding which was a bit different. It was at the Beaufort and dinner was buffet-style on the verandah. Plus it was western food, with plenty of seafood and all kinds of good stuff. Dessert was in the foyer, where along with various cakes and puddings, the wedding cake - an actual cake! - was served. Homemade, with three tiers - fruit cake, carrot cake and chocolate cake. How lovely. Now that's a wedding I'll remember, while the details of the rest just blur into each other, I'm sorry to have to say.

Now playing: John Vanderslice - The Mansion


I've been having one of those weeks that seem to crawl along at the pace of the dog that lives next door. It tries to take advantage of the main gates of the house that are wide open, tempting it to race outside... to freedom... to fun... to foolishness perhaps. But this little mix of a sausage/godknowswhatelse- i'm not good with breeds it is a slow mover. It is like the peoplemover at Disney World, which I remember being absolutely bored on although at Disney kids are never supposed to feel bored! With other dogs one might describe it as ambling, dwaddling along, but with this mutt, it's just racing, although it really doesn't seem to be moving, it is. And it's halfway to the gate, halfway to fun freedom and foolishness and... and... it never makes it there. It loses the race. The gates close. It's not even close to freedom foolishness and fun. It gazes forlornly outside, probably cursing its stubby legs and long body, its lack of fitness and need for speed. It is a dog in need of a reboot, no, a reformat.

I've been sidetracked as usual. As I was saying, it's a week that's just crawled along. Reading dimsumdolly'sblog on my Wild Rocket lunch that never happened (for me at least), I realised soberly that it was only two Saturdays ago. It felt like ages ago since I did not go Wild Rocket-ing and ended up having to go look up someone else instead.

Maybe it was because I did not follow my own advice and take xx days leave to get xx days off during the two PH week last week. But then if I had, it would've been a wasted week anyway! So all sorta... er... turned out.. for the best... I ... think...

So I'm halfway through Dorian Gray and about a-third through American Psycho. It's absolutely fascinating reading one , reading the other. (And also having started on the first two chapters of Comfort Me With Apples - couldn't help it.)

One set in the 1980s, in a hedonistic life of drugs, drink, expensive clothes, restaurants where you need to be seen, gym memberships, facial products, walkmans. The other, in the 1800s. Also decadent, but in the manner of lords and gentlemen. Instead of phone calls and emails, Dorian gets "the usual collection of cards, invitations to dinner, tickets for private views, programmes of charity concerts, and the like, that are showered on fashionable young men every morning during the season.''

Both wholly given to a decadent lifestyle. They who are monsters yet seen as the ideal beings in the eyes of others.

Christian Bale, who plays Patrick Bateman in the film adaptation of American Psycho, said in an interview: "I think of Bateman as a 20th-century Dorian Gray. Essentially, his obsession and vanity about youth and appearance are converted into merciless amorality.

Now playing: Ryan Adams and The Cardinals - Cold Roses

Friday, November 04, 2005

overbooked again

So over the next three weeks I shall be busy reading:

Bret Easton Ellis- American Psycho
Nick Hornby- The Polysyllabic Spree
William Trevor - A Bit On The Side
Richard Perez - The Loser's Club
Oscar Wilde - The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Ruth Reichl - Comfort Me With Apples
Truman Capote - In Cold Blood
James Villas - Stalking The Green Fairy

I didn't mean to get so many... I only picked up the Ruth Reichl when I was in the cooking section, trying to get a look Rocco DiSpirito's cookbook. Next thing I know, Comfort Me With Apples lands itself right beneath my feet, what could I do other than pick it up and comfort it by putting it with the rest of the books in my 'to borrow' pile?

Besides, reading this will mean I've read all of Reichl's books (I think) and she's such a nice wholesome happy food read. No one comes close. I definitely didn't enjoy Mimi Sheraton's book as much as I've enjoyed all of Ruth Reichl's.

Anthony Bourdain is a different class altogether, he's the bad kid at the back of the class, the kind who saunters in late, sneaks cigarettes in the toilet, spends his afternoons in detention. James Villas (who is also once again on my reading list) is also another sort. He's the type who probably did better in the creative side, English lit maybe. Art even. I'm not sure yet. I've not read enough of him to be able to tell.

While I thought Nick Hornby did his best work in High Fidelity and not so well after, this one interested me for obvious reasons.

"A hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read''

Well, since I'm keeping this Saturday a nice easy one, to give my stomach a break from rich food and my liver a break from alcohol, this is an opportunity to overload on indie music and good books.

Listening to: The Decemberists' cover of The Ballad Of El Goodo

Eavesdropping without listening

When recently having tea at Sun With Moon, which was delightfully empty - it was after all, a Monday (albeit a Monday before a public holiday which people should've pre-empted and booked their day off/leave) so we had a nice unobstructed view by the floor-to-ceiling window where we could gaze disdainfully on the people below at Borders Bistro and er, well, make up stories about them.

One couple in particular caught our eye.

The guy faced us, but we couldn't see what he looked like as his baseball cap was pulled down over his eyes. He slouched in the metal chair, cigarette in his right hand, casting his gaze at everything and everyone around, except for the girl seated opposite him, at the same table.

She was lighting her own cigarette, a half cup of coffee on the table in front of her. Her hair streaked brown and blonde. Messy and short. Looked like she was trying to grow it out - hopefully. Her back was to us, so couldn't tell if she was paying any attention to him not paying attention to her.

They sat like that for the duration we watched them, until we got bored with the lack of activity.

But were they friends? A couple in the midst of a quarrel?

If they were friends, how could they just sit there and seemingly ignore each other. They hardly acknowledged the other's presence. They did not seem to speak to each other, unless they had mastered the art of ventroquilism.

Maybe he was trying to figure out how to break up, we thought.
Maybe he was just waiting for that moment, or just to finish his cigarette.
Maybe he was trying to find the right words to say.

He finishes his cigarette. He seems to be saying something. But it's either he's a mumbler or we can't see from this height cos his lips hardly move.

Or maybe he's just trying to get that cigarette taste out of his mouth. Or maybe he just said, 'it's over!'

She looks around - for a waiter.

She pulls out a tenner from her purse.

We gasp - is he such an idiot that he's not going to offer to pay after breaking up with her?

She gets the check.

We take our eyes off them for a while.

But the next minute, he disappears.

I catch a glimpse of him rounding the corner, heading out of sight.

She's still at the table. Packing her cigarettes and purse into her bag.

Wait! we almost want to tell him. Wait for her! Don't leave her behind like that!

She gets up and heads off in the same direction. She doesn't seem to be in a hurry.

We ponder on the strange couple for a moment. We mourn their breakup, their loss, their misused friendship.

Then we turn our attention to the 20-something sitting by herself.
Blind date? We wonder...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Taking stock

So as 2005 draws to a close, I've been trying to figure out what it is I have been doing. What achievements have I made throughout the year?

My mind is a blank.

I don't really think I've achieved anything much at work. I realise that every year that I've been at this company, I've started a new year at a new place. Next year, though it'll be back to where I started this year. Mixed feelings.

I am proud of having seen my kid through to Primary 6 and the PSLE, we'll know how she's done soon. CCF has asked me to take on someone else next year, but at the same time I'm not going to give her up yet - secondary school is a big step and I hope to maybe see her through the first half of next year.

I had been all ready to say that health-wise, I've been feeling good, but then, (see previous post) I haven't the past few days. But overall, not too bad I guess, I've been putting in regular exercise so I'm quite happy about that.

I've made some new friends this year, which is fantastic, and also become better friends with some others. I've tried to meet up with friends often, although yes, mej, we've not gone HongKong-ing yet.

I've read plenty of books, although always wanting more, watched far too few movies, listened and bought a good number of CDs (and yousendit-ed a number to people!), travelled quite a number of times but mostly around the region.

I reckon I rack up points when it comes to eating, having tried out plenty of new (for me at least) places, but also finding some duds. Drinks-wise, there have been quite number of hazy nights and one very wasted one vs perfectly sane nights which I reckon sort of evens things out.

Financially, I saved far less than I hoped and spent more than I should.

(to be continued)

Listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Pin

Too much information

This just wasn't my week.

I end up missing a good lunch on Saturday, spending the lunch hour waiting to see the doctor to get something to cure a urinary tract infection. Having a UTI is no fun - you just constantly feel like you need to pee, even though you just just went. Thankfully the desperate need to go to the loo disappeared after a few hours of taking the meds

Then just four days later I once again find myself back at the doctor's for a different problem altogether - stomach flu.

And when you wake up at 4am to throw up, and again at 6am. It's a problem!

Sitting by the toilet bowl, hoping not to heave again, made me realise that food, whether good or bad, cheap or expensive, just ends up being churned up in the stomach, with the relevant stuff being used and the irrelevant stuff being junked.

And sometimes your body just doesn't want to work and just wants to get rid of everything in the stomach and that's when you find yourself by the toilet bowl in the wee hours, just wanting to go to sleep but not being able to cos your stomach's just churning and not letting you sleep. And when you've finally got everything out, you just want to sleep and not eat and not eating just makes you even more tired and drowsy. Then you wonder if you can make it over to the doctor's because for sure you aren't going to work today but you manage to. Then you go home and stone in front of the TV until you remember that you ought to eat something before you take the medicine so you go cook some porridge but can only stomach a small bowl. but you do and you take the medicine and go sleep somemore.

You know that you should eat and yet it's impossible to eat more than a few spoons of porridge because your head hurts and your stomach's still churning and all you want to do is go to sleep.

So it's 10pm. Five hours earlier than your usual bedtime. You don't care. You drop off into dreamland as soon as you turn off the bedside lamp and before you know it, it's 10.30pm. You've slept for more than 12 hours.

And so at 4.35pm on a Thursday, Hari Raya, I write this at work. I'd still rather be sleeping, or stoning in front of the TV but I guess since I was well enough to check emails at home, I could do the same at work.

All I hope for the coming week is that I'll be in good health. I don't want to have to see any doctor for the rest of the year.

Having two health issues - both for the first time - to get over in one week was more than enough.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Originally uploaded by olduvai.

We're having some people over for dinner, don't know what the occasion is, but my mum's made a lotta food and er, I, er helped by making a brownie and agar agar!
Tried out this recipe from Ruth Reichl's Tender At The Bone for the first time. Very fudgey brownies. Although dinner's not till later, I just had to cut it open to see what it looks like. Mmm... tempted to keep it all to myself now.

155g cup butter
140g unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour sifted

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
Butter and flour a 9" square baking pan.
Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler, over boiling water. When melted, add vanilla and set aside.
Beat eggs and salt in mixer. Add sugar and beat on high speed for 10 minutes, or until mixture is quite white.
Add chocolate and butter mixture and beat at low speed, just until mixed. Add flour and combine quickly, until there are no white streaks.

Pour batter into baking pan and put in oven. Immediately turn oven dow to 180 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. Do not overbake; these brownies should be fudgy.

Now playing: Wolf Parade - Same Ghost Every Night