Wednesday, May 31, 2006

keeping it short

A short story, on the other hand, has maybe twenty minutes to burn through the calloused shell of your life, pull you out of your pitiful existence, and screw fundamentally with your emotions ¡ยช good luck. Which is why stumbling upon a transcendent story, two or twelve or twenty-five pages, can knock you off balance a little like falling headlong in love. - Powell's Books blog

gone too soon

Now where did my two days off go?

I had Mon and Tues off - they were days owed to me - and here I am, on Wednesday, feeling like I was just here in the office the day before.

Let's recap, shall we?

Monday - I spend the morning calling travel agents and checking online for affordable airfares to Chicago.
I spend that same morning feeling broke - the tickets are rather frightfully expensive.
After exhausting my list of travel agents (ie the classifieds) and essentially hearing about the same quotations, I give up and go have some lunch of pasta with tomato-based sauce (essentially lotsa garlic, some fresh ginger, some mushrooms, celery, one fresh tomato and one can of whole tomatoes, oregano and a bit of fresh chilli, and of course some linguini)
I spend the afternoon lazing around and watching In Good Company (Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson) then find myself all headachey and wondering if I should go meet the girls for dinner.
I figure that as long as I stay away from any alcohol, it should be fine.

So it's off to the Turquoise Room for some average food and great company.

This time I have the grilled prawn salad - nothing terribly interesting. It lacked a zesty dressing - the Wine Company did a far better job with their prawn salad and its assam dressing. This one simply used balsamic and olive oil *yawn*

Faring far worse was the apple crumble with ice-cream. First of, we were asked if we'd prefer vanilla or chocolate.
Chocolate? For an apple crumble? I love my chocolate, but I doubt it would go with an apple crumble.

When it comes, it resembles a pie or a tart. It's wedge-shaped. It doesn't look like an apple crumble. It's flat. Where's the crumble? (now this is apple crumble)

It tastes of digestive biscuits. Both the bottom and top of the pie seem to be made of crushed digestive biscuits, which overpower the apples and whatever spices (if any) were added to the apples. So it tasted like digestive biscuits. And more digestive biscuits, with some squishy bits (the apple) in the middle.


Tuesday - I make a few more phone calls and finally decided to just book the damn thing, after learning that Northwest is full on the weekend I intend to go. So it's United for me - better lah, only one stop vs Northwest's two. (Alright so I'm lazy)

I stay at home for dinner, where once again I face the prospect of watching local TV series - my parents like Ch 8 dramas, which never fail to amuse me. I decide to go online instead, not really wanting to see an hour of overacting, bad sets and cliched plots.

So that's my two days off. It's back in the office again. Whee........

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

wine and dine

I quite like the Wine Company at Dempsey Road, having been many times just for a bottle of wine, but it's more likely to be a couple of bottles, some pizza, cheese platter, chicken wings...

I just don't like that sometimes it can get kinda crowded - I prefer to sit indoor (got a/c mah) and sometimes the laughter and the chatting can get rather loud.

So I am very pleased to find that the newer outlet at Evans Road has a larger indoor area - where the tables aren't forced close together - as well as a nice outdoor area. And it's got proper food.

There are salads, soups, pastas, lamb cutlets... and char kway teow. Yeah...

Anyway, we went for the cheese platter, the prawn and mango salad with an assam sauce (which was kinda tasty), the mushroom pasta (could do with more salt and pepper but was piled with quite a bit of mushrooms, which was great) and a spinach pizza (always good)

And because I was in a "sparkly" mood, we went with a lovely sparkling white wine. I can't remember what it was now but it was yummy.

I like that they used the original tiled floor, and introduced lovely dark wood furniture and ceiling fans that recreate a colonial feel. The ugly fish tank in the middle was a bit out of place though. Not just cos it's ugly but it seemed to have been a last minute decision - maybe a fengshui master said they needed some kind of water element in the room.

Dinner including the wine and $6 fee they charge for consuming the wine inhouse, came up to about $85.

The Wine Company @ Evans
26 Evans Road
Tel: 6732-1229

(yeah I really couldn't think of a better post title)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

lucky lucky you're so lucky

A venture into Lucky Plaza can be pretty fruitful.

It not only gives me the chance to fill up with Indonesian food - today oxtail soup, although I must say the meat was kinda lacking! (And also to meet with hucks, whom I hadn't seen in a long while)

I find all kinds of surprises at the (seemingly permanent) book fair on the ground floor near the lift lobby.

I've already picked up some steals over past visits but today I found Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer going for only ten bucks! And I'd even been considering getting it at Borders during their sale. But it definitely wouldn't have been $10 after discount then!

Another find was Gregory Maguire's Mirror Mirror at $8 and a Great Britain guide for $12.

So three books for $30.

I would've bought more but those three were already kinda heavy - plus I was already carrying the McSweeney's book that I've yet to finish. Plus I'm really not supposed to buy more books.


I've been tagged....

Here goes: 24 random facts

1. I went to three kindergartens - Nanyang, Maris Stella, PAP.

2. PAP kindergarten sucked - it wasn't any fun at all. (ok so this really isnt a fact about me)

3. I've never lived in a HDB flat. I've lived in a semi-d for about 20 years and before that at Farrer Court, which is HUDC.

4. My hair is now longer than it's ever been before.

5. I was a prefect in primary school.

6. My Sec 1 teacher wanted to make me a student leader but I said no thanks.

7. I am blogging this at work, like I write most of my blog posts.

8. I used to watch the X men cartoon series on TV. I loved Gambit and thought Jubilee had the stupidest powers.

9. I can't seem to get by without eating supper these days. I'm always hungry when I get home after work.

10. Supper's the best time to eat cereals - I just can't eat them when it's daylight anymore.

11. I have 247 feeds in my bloglines blogroll. Yeah I have plenty of free time.

12. I have plenty of free time.

13. I am turning 27 in a couple of months. Yikes.

14. I was put on four blind dates over the past year.

15. Blind date number four is now making me very happy.

16. It was a set-up by DSD and Monoceros.

17. I just had a new passport made as mine's expiring in December. Now immigration officers don't have to keep telling me: "it's time to get a new passport".

18. I got an A2 for AO Chinese and a distinction for orals. But the other day I couldn't remember the word for carrot when ordering a fruit juice.

19. I don't eat durian.

20. I also don't eat lychees, longans and rambutans - I'm not really fond of the way they taste, plus there's also the fact that each fruit has to be individually opened.

21. Yet I just can never get enough of mangosteens.

22. I haven't driven a manual car since I passed my driving test some eight years ago. I don't think I can remember how to.

23. I took ice skating lessons as a kid.

24. I'm making some pretty big changes pretty soon. It kinda freaks me out and yet I'm also totally looking forward to it.

Man that was a tough one.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Yes I can tell that we are gonna be friends

I worked Saturday, which I usually request off, and was surprised to find myself heading home on the midnight transport. (Working Saturdays usually mean sticking around until 130 offstone, as pages and stories are fussed over) So damnit, today I have nothing to bitch about.

Instead, I shall be spending my Sunday afternoon blissfully uploading mp3s into my new friend, the 60GB iPod.
More importantly, the battery lasts for more than a few hours.

I am only up to 15GB now, having to slowly rip CDs, whose MP3s I'd dumped off this computer a long time ago as they were taking up alot of space. (It's the family PC and not my own, otherwise, it'll be filled with nothing but MP3s.)

Next up in the budget - a laptop. It's about time.

Jack Johnson - We're Going To Be Friends

death and dying

I'm onto my second and third books out of my library pile now, having finished Bait And Switch and wondering if it was really such a good idea to read that book at this point of time when I'm about to make some drastic moves.

Anyway, that lovely compilation that is the Best of McSweeney's Vol 1 is sitting on the office table as I type this out (with the fullest intention to post this post the moment I get home, but of course I will get sidetracked and slouch on the couch for longer than necessary).

McSweeney's, in case you didn't know, is a literary journal started by author Dave Eggers (he of A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius). It also has a fascinating little website full of odd lists such as Possible Names for a Child Conceived by an Almond Fanatic and a Lover of the Movie Young Guns and Places to Which Eddie Murphy's Character in Coming to America Would Want to Move If, Instead of a Queen, He Wanted to Find a Prostitute
(although sometimes the lists themselves are not as intriguing as the title of the list)

In the book, Eggers explains how he hit on the name McSweeney's.

When I was a kid, our family periodically received letters from someone who called himself Timothy McSweeney, and who claimed to be a member of our family (my mother's maiden name was Adelaide McSweeney). In his letters, which were nonsensical and customarily unsettling, he usually included train and plane schedules, and vague itineraries - he was always promising to visit - for a reunion! - sometime soon.
And so the name of a journal of stories that had been estranged from the family of acceptable literature - if they'd ever been related at all - became Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern.

This volume has stories by Eggers, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, and a whole host of others.

But the one I've been musing on is William T Vollmann's Three Meditations on Death.

I suppose it stems from a mild fascination with the macabre. But more from the way this man writes.

He first muses from the depths of a catacomb, below Paris, where "I saw and inhaled death".

A quick wiki of the Paris catacombs tells me that these were actually depleted quarries put to use in the late 1700s by people who believed it would be better to remove bones from cemetaries and place them underground, to prevent contamination. These tunnels span more than 300km in length, and sneaking into them is illegal. Those who get caught by the cataflics (the special police who patrol the catacombs (!)) get slapped with a 50-euro fine.

In September 2004, the police found in a hidden chamber an underground movie theatre run by an artistic activist group.

Oh btw, in case you were wondering, his other two muses are sieges and autopsies ("The scalpel made crisp sucking sounds. He peeled back the chest-flesh like a shirt, then crackled the racks of ribs, which could almost have been pork. His yellow-gloved hands grubbed in the scarlet hole, hauling out fistfuls of sausage-links - that is, loops of intestine. Then he stuck a hose in and left it there until the outflow faded to pinkish clear. Beset by brilliant lavendar, scarlet and yellow, the twin red walls of rib-meat stood high and fragile, now protecting nothing, nearly split into halves.")

listening: U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Can't resist

Tuesday dinner was full of artery-clogging, carcinogenic, utterly bad for you but just oh-so-good, food at Aburiya (Yes, again) at Holland Village.

Eps was out sick so it was down to J and I to plough into the menu. We decided to skimp on the carbs and attack the meats. It is all about BBQ after all.

So the two of us went for:

Beef tongue with leeks
Pork cheek (shio - just done with salt and pepper)
Lamb loin (tare - a sweet marinade)
Assorted veg like mushrooms, leeks, capsicum and onions
Foie gras
Scallops with butter-yaki
Onigiri (two rice balls for grilling)

We wanted a second helping of that delicious foie gras but it was sold out! Too bad...

I also had the shochu grapefruit. They stressed in the description that it's fresh grapefruit but we were to learn just how fresh it really is - the waiter brought over the shochu and soda water in a tall glass. And then half of a grapefruit. He proceeds to juice the grapefruit right in front of us. Pouring that lovely pinkish juice and pulp into the glass after. Bravo! Definitely recommended although could do with a bit less soda water and more alcohol.

It was a bit of klutzy day for Aburiya, with one diner knocking over her drink (luckily the glass didnt break) and then one of the waiter drops the pot of charcoal, right next to us. Suddenly our feet felt rather warm. The charcoal didnt get anywhere near us though, but the manager offered some vanilla ice-cream as an apology. We gladly accepted. That along with the hot barley tea filled me right up to the brim.

But J wanted to wander around and see if there were any other dessert options so we stumbled into Gelare, where I was mildly tempted by the smell of the waffles (ok so it was more by the 1/2price Tuesday special). She gets a soy chocolate something or other (definitely not something I'd get, as the words "soy" and "chocolate" don't belong together) but it does look rather chocolatey. It is instead, after I have a taste, really sweet.

Gelare makes me feel old. The main customer base at the HV outlet seems to be uni kids. The table next to us were playing card games!

There wasn't enough shochu to numb that.

17E Lorong Liput
Tel : 6464 6536

(I have the suspicious feeling that I will be back again soon. And yet there's also this naggy voice in my head that's going on about detox and exercise. But then there's that box of Neuhaus chocolates that's still in the fridge. And now that glossy piece of paper with the pictures and descriptions seem to have disappeared so I can only take a stab in the dark when choosing from the last few less desirable chocolates in the box. I picked one, only to bite into a sweet strawberry filling. To make up for that, I picked another, which was definitely more my style - a less sweet, chocolate filling. So I ended up eating two pieces. One a mistake, the other to soothe the mistake.)


100 gay men on the final ep of Will And Grace

Monday, May 15, 2006

It's starting up again

So I had the day off. And once again, it's back to figuring out what to do by myself on a weekday.

Wasn't too bad today, as I had some errands to run and then met my sister for lunch at the Crystal Jade Macau Cafe Restaurant at Bugis Junction.

We shared char siew bao, yam puffs, shrimp and watercress dumplings, and baked rice with porkchop.

The dumplings were these delightfully tasty things. Too bad they were a little on the small side and only came in threes. I could've had more!

The char siew bao is always pretty tasty and so was the wu kok. The baked rice was interesting, although it sure didn't look baked. It was topped with a slightly sweet-sour tomato-based sauce. I didn't like that the porkchop had bones though.

This outlet is a nice change from the usual Crystal Jade Kitchen/La Mian Xiao Long Bao places. There was even my favourite egg and corn beef sandwich! But kinda pricey lah for such an ordinary dish, plus I didn't like the look of the bread they use (which kinda resembles that tooth-cracking fried baguette they use in the goose meat sandwich at the outlet at Wisma)

Mmm but the shrimp and watercress dumpling! I could definitely go for that again.

After lunch, I hit the library, where I ended up not being able to decide which four books I needed the most, and went away with six, telling myself that six really is plenty for three weeks.

Steven Millhauser - The Knife Thrower and other stories
Best of McSweeney's Vol 1
Barbara Ehrenreich - Bait And Switch
Melissa Banks - The Wonder Spot
A.M. Homes - Things You Should Know
Bao Jiemin - Marital Acts: Gender, Sexuality and Identity Among The Chinese Thai Diaspora

And with that load, I popped into the new Spins at Raffles City, which took over the back half of Mango (the front half is now Adidas) because (1) Spins is great! (2) I got a flyer for a $2 latte from the Spins at the office. Heh.

It's been a good day. Now it's time to go read one of my books... although the question is: which one!

Listening to: Nina Simone - Love Me or Leave Me

listen up

I'm rather fond of Shuffle mode on iTunes and the recently deceased iPod (I miss you... at least until the new one arrives) because I discover hidden gems that I've loaded onto the iPod and subsequently forgotten until unearthed via Shuffle.

Like this gorgeous one by Joshua Radin called The Fear You Won't Fall. have a listen here

Friday, May 12, 2006

thank you

I reluctantly wake up at 1130, having reached home at 530.
After stumbling downstairs for some breakfast, this lovely sight on the dining room table cheers me up immediately.

raku on

It was 1145am on a public holiday. A good time for an early-ish lunch, since I was to be at work a little earlier (230pm) that day - although I ended up sitting around for 1 1/2 hours not doing anything.

We decided on the Greenwood area - near my house, free parking, a decent variety of food choices.

But it was just too early. Most of the places only open at noon. Sebastien's had people sitting al fresco for breakfast, which ends at 11. But lunch service only starts at 12. So after milling around for a while, and walking up and down trying to decide on what to eat, we end up at Raku, an understated Japanese restaurant. Yeah, the one that is not Shiro - the other Japanese restaurant in the stretch, famous for being reservation-only.

You blink as you enter Raku, giving your eyes time to adjust to the low light. And then walking to your table, greeted by the sushi chefs and waitstaff, you notice how Raku is very sleek, done up with a modern touch, with muted tones and soft lighting.

You wonder if this will carry into the food, as you are, after all, opting for the set lunch, which some places are known to stinge on and not bother too much with.

This place is a little different though.

The $25 set starts with some sashimi (several restaurant-quality slices of fresh tuna and salmon), a sashimi salad (a bed of finely sliced cabbage and Japanese cucumber, with a scattering of cubes of seared ginger tuna, and topped with a soya-based salad dressing) and a dish of petin tofu, which I might be spelling wrongly, but is a very light, creamy cold tofu rectangle, topped with some century egg-based sauce.

I went for the ebi tempura option and the prawns were fresh and tasty. The gindara mentai was a slice of cod encrusted with mentaiko (spicy roe) - very nice.

And the meal was rounded off with some fruits, as usual. (But of course, we officially ended the meal with gelati and a latte at the store a few doors down.)

Raku has other options inlcuding ramen sets at $16, curry sets, and other bento sets at various prices. The $25 set is the most expensive option, but I think it's pretty good value for money.

Raku Japanese Restaurant and Bar
10 Greenwood Avenue.
Tel: 6219-9447

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

ok so no more excuses

Ok so the polls are over.

So it is time to once again kickstart this blog because once again my afternoons at work are filled with me twiddling my thumbs and figuring out how to kill time. I just spent 45 minutes at the office library looking at magazines. I shall spend the next half hour or so of no story-subbing reading P.J. O'Rourke's The CEO of the Sofa cos he cracks me up with remarks like this:
Use of bilingual signage in English and French gives the corridors of the UN a sadly Canadian air. One widely posted warning reads SMOKING DISCOURAGED/VEUILLEZ EVITER DE FUMER, and that says it all about the United Nations, its power and its might.

Otherwise, I've been making full use of my mornings and afternoons before work, spending them with R before he leaves. Sometimes we do nothing, other times we run around getting stuff he needs before flying off on Saturday morning. Sometimes I make him my guinea pig and feed him various things I made using recipes I found online such as this crunchy-topped mac and cheese from Too Many Chefs, followed by a simple chocolate pudding from Simply Recipes.

Yeah very big on comfort food. Cheesy, soft, easy food.

I suppose it's weird for me to suddenly write about him, out of nowhere. It's all happened somewhat sudden. Like I said previously, a lot has happened. But it's all good. : )

But then he goes and then for the next few months, I'll be back to my normal routine of blogging, surfing the web, hitting the library, reading, zoning out in front of the TV. Great. Can't wait for August.

Monday, May 01, 2006

: )

Just had a peek at my bloglines list and it looks like I have a lot of catch-up reading to do. It is nearly 2am and I'm still at the office. It's been a
bit of a long day. It will be a long week.

You know, I've got so much to say, and yet somehow I want to keep a lot of it to myself.

But right now I will say this: I am happy.