Sunday, December 21, 2008

it's in the air

For me, the festivities of the Christmas season don't begin with the tacky light-up on Orchard Road or the seasonal sales, but the smell of baking - hints of spice, vanilla and chocolate - wafting through the house as it did the whole of Sunday.

I started with a double batch of Choc Oatmeal Cookies and then, with my mom, whipped up some gingerbread men and women, and some heart-, Christmas tree- and star-shaped butter cookies.

It was beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

one more day

I am looking forward to tomorrow's airport hello.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Not sure what to read next? This is the best time of the year to have that all figured out, as the New York Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, LA Times, Amazon, NPR, and many many more weigh in.

But the best lists, in my opinion, are over at The Millions, which instead of listing the best books published this year, has readers sharing the best books they read in 2008.

Listening: Rosewood Thieves - From The Decker House

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In today's news

"I've not heard of the book or the movie".

This ordinarily is not be a sentence that would suprise me on a Friday morning.

However, the aforementioned book and movie is Twilight. While I have every intention not to see the movie or read the book at this point of time, I've been hearing about it and reading about it - in the blogs, in the newspapers, online, and in every bookstore you step into (even in Taipei). And not just since today.

Second and more importantly, the statement was uttered just this morning on live tv, Channelnewsasia to be exact, by Suzanne Jung, the news presenter. This was just after a review of the movie. It was just a complete shock to hear the words coming from her mouth - in this day and age.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh Spaghetti Cat

On a sleepy Tuesday morning, when I just cannot stop yawning, here's... Spaghetti Cat.

And some great book covers (via)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Little People, Big World

I've come out of hiblognation to point you to Little People (via).

And also to note that I'm on my countdown to the last day of work. The 12th officially, but with leave to clear, the 3rd. I'm wrapping up on the Taipei project (I suppose I ought to put up some pictures) and then before you know it, it'll all be over. And in that space under 'occupation', my answer will be 'unemployed'. It's been an interesting year of work, and I've enjoyed a large part of it. A couple of the projects - especially those dealing with statistics - I've dreaded, but I'm glad it's ending on a good note, with the trip to Taipei, getting to interview interesting people and see parts of the city the average tourist probably wouldn't.

And with things to do, books to read, bags to pack, visitors coming for Christmas and the wedding, I'm looking forward to December.

Friday, October 31, 2008

monday in the kitchn

chicken pie
A chicken pie (shortcrust pastry made from scratch). Leftover pastry makes for some ugly ducklings.

prawn cakes
Prawn cakes - instead of breadcrumbs, we processed some rolled oats. Crispy!

And not pictured, an orange sponge cake, covered with a honey-marmalade.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

too relaxed?

Last night, R forwarded a two-sheeted excel document from his friends whose wedding is a week after ours. It's a comprehensive list of helpers, contacts, a detailed schedule of the actual day and what-nots. And they've even scheduled a helpers' meet-up for next month.

It looks like we've got some catching up to do.

But with two months to go, and things more or less booked, I figure, eh, we're doing ok. Sure there are the little things to sort out, but I don't think ours is a complicated wedding. We do need some help from friends and family to run things on the actual day, but I think things should go fine.

(Although as I type this, I wonder, am I too relaxed? People keep saying I seem very relaxed for someone who's getting married in a couple o fmonths. Is there such a thing? Why do brides always seem so stressed out and busy doing stuff? I know I've asked this before, but it seems like such a surprise to people that it keeps me wondering, huh, what should I be doing? What should I be thinking about? And yet as I think about these questions - answers are a blank - I think of what is important to me on the day itself: That the people who matter are there. And that everyone's happy and eating good food.)

Songs for a rainy Friday (in four languages)

Juanes and Andrés Calamaro - Minas Piedras

Kaolin - Partons Vite

Adele - Hometown Glory

Björk - Vökuró

Penang Penang

Friday to Sunday. Family trip to Penang. For a wedding.

Best told in pictures.

Skyline (view from hotel)
pose for the picture
Ice kachang exposed
What? The rojak is gone?
Ang ang
Assam pedas
It's mine

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday bits

Margaret Atwood on life and debt

Palin for President? (click on stuff, especially the phone! Someone sure has a lot of free time)

And my favourite recent online discovery? Being able to watch full eps of The Daily Show online! Like this one from 20 October, where Jon Stewart investigates what makes "Real America".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

want a naan

After a weekend of Penang food, I wanted something non-Asian for dinner. It's like people needing to eat Chinese food after a few days in Europe, except that I need to eat ang moh food.

The canteen at the airport had the usual offerings, zhi char, cai peng, noodles... the one western stall had such a queue, perhaps also from pasta-starved Singaporeans returning from trips in the region. It was too long, and the relatives were all picking the quick and easy choices, so I figured I should look for something else. The only thing else was the Indian stall, which listed naans - plain, garlic or cheese. But as I looked at their naan, I just couldn't help think of the lovely Indian food at Cherry Lane last week, shook my head and went for some hot milo (and at home, some crackers and a brownie).

Cos I really really like the Indian food at Cherry Lane. I don't know what the stall's name is but the eloquent owner (at least I think he's the owner) persuaded us that day to try this new yet-t0-be-put-on-the-menu starter of button mushrooms, capsicum and spices wrapped up in a pastry and deepfried. It's served with a pineapple sauce. And surprisingly tasty.

And once again their tikka - this time we had the chicken - is tender and succulent. And their cheese naan and garlic naan were tasty with the cottage cheese and spinach curry.

Wash it down with a dark Erdinger. How can one top that with a airport canteen naan and curry?

(And on that note, this used to be a food blog, but it's not really one anymore. I don't eat out that often, and when I do, it's not really been all that fantastic. I'd rather stick to places that I know are good, such as the Indian stall at Cherry Lane, where you can get something affordable and really tasty. The old reviews are all still there on the right, and will probably remain; it's just highly unlikely that I will be adding more on places in Singapore.)

post its

I have yet to watch Mad Men, but this post on its use of typeface is intriguing! (via)

“Housewife Finds Time to Write Short Stories” was the headline that appeared in a local paper when Munro first began publishing.

And I've just added Oh Happy Day to my Google reader.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Band montage!

Some music videos make no sense. And some songs make no sense. So here's a song which makes the music video make more sense. Oh just watch it (via Sweetney).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


And today, you get a double post!

Because I'm a bit tired of writing and analysis. And I need to read something else. While Amazon has its Kindle, Sony apparently has been pushing its eReader, with UK book bloggers like dovegreyreader and kimbofo getting to test drive them.

So The Beside Crow gives us the Pony eReader! You can get your own too! Watch your life change before your eyes.

(And I must urge you to read the rest of the blog posts, it's like overheard in NY, except it's erm, conversations in a London bookstore. It's been providing some good reads for this dreary Thursday morning, of which I have a box of yesterday's fried rice and a big bunch of grapes to look forward to for lunch. And tonight, I have the exciting prospect of more telephone interviews with people who don't pick up their phones! Glory glory!)

what I heard on woxy

I heart woxy
Because when you finally switch from the crap computer that takes 15 minutes to start up and never gets a steady internet radio stream, to a newer, much speedier one, you can always count on woxy to play some new (at least to me) and fantastic music, like...

Ida Maria (myspace)

Eulogies (myspace)

Horse Feathers (myspace)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Getting better

I've done it several times before, but each time I have to decapitate a chicken, I get quite squirmish.

For yesterday's roast, of course the carcass came intact, scrawny feet and head flopping about on its skinny neck. I did the job as quickly as I could, and disposed of the head, keeping the feet for future stock-making. And this time, it was easier, it was less panicky. The first time I had to chop off a head, I was quite convinced that the chicken would wake up out of its frozen sleep just as the knife was about to touch its neck. And it'd squawk at me, hop off the table and run out of the kitchen, in all its nude featherless glory.

And yet that is not as bizarre as this clip from Martha Stewart that was on Serious Eats.
Anyone wants to turn their baby into a turkey? Anyone?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

oh my word....

It's a personal library like no other! (via Books on the Nightstand)

Walker's house was constructed specifically to accommodate his massive library. To create the space, which was constructed in 2002, Walker and architect Mark Finlay first built a 7-foot-long model. Then they used miniature cameras to help visualize what it would be like to move around inside. In a conscious nod to M. C. Escher (whose graphics are echoed in the wood tiling), the labyrinthine platforms seem to float in space, an illusion amplified by the glass-paneled bridges connecting the platforms. Walker commissioned decorative etched glass, dynamic lighting, and even a custom soundtrack that sets the tone for the cerebral adventures hidden in this cabinet of curiosities. "I said to the architect, 'Think of it as a theater, from a lighting and engineering standpoint,'" Walker says. "But it's not a performance space. It's an engagement space."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ben Folds and Regina Spektor!

You Don't Know Me, (also streaming from his website) from his new album Way To Normal (out on the 30th)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are you happy?

DSD brought up this series of articles from The Guardian, essentially asking people, 'Are you happy?'

It's hard to say yes or no straightaway. Instead, I mulled on what makes me happy. Or not.

Happiness is when I’ve got my hands in something – cookie batter, flour, shortcrust pastry dough. And when that smell wafts throughout the house. And even more so when it turns out well (I’ve had a couple of disasters recently – still edible but sadly not up to par). Being with friends and family and enjoying good food and wine always brings happiness. The smell of coffee percolating, the smell of rain, the smell of freshly baked goods. That incredibly fresh, clean taste of sashimi. Some sinfully good dark chocolate and a good cup of coffee. Mmm...happiness.

Happiness is reading a good book. One that makes me laugh, and cry, one that draws me into a new world and I stay there, way past bedtime, because I can’t bear to leave it.
Happiness is listening to an amazing band, and drowning out the rest of the noise that comes with living in a city-state. No more cars blasting their horns or tyres screeching or heavy vehicles blasting their way down the street, and more importantly, no more detestable TV Mobile.

Happiness is being able to feel stronger when doing Pilates - knowing that I did better this week than the weeks before, even though it’s just the slightest of improvements, and although I know I ought to practise more.

Happiness is when I talk to R, a smile that sneaks onto my face without me noticing it. But happiness is not wedding prep and having to wait till December to see him again. That’s not happy.

Happiness is not work. I used to be happier at work, now, the projects just seem to bog me down. Perhaps it’s due to my having given three months’ notice (yes, that’s right, three months) a couple of weeks ago. And time seems to just be ticking away slower and slower. And yet, while I'm happy to have resigned, that question continues to linger: what am I going to be doing next year? Plus it's always the question that's asked of me. So my answer is, I'll take a break for a while, and then I'll see what happens. It's too early to think about it, when I'm here and not there.

If you go by points, it seems like happiness wins. But while there are all these little things in life that make me happy, there's this feeling that there's something missing - job satisfaction perhaps, and the fact that the man I love is far away (at least for now). But I've had a good life so far, and I think I'd like to focus on the things that make me happy. Such as today, when I get the assignment to spend the next couple of days viciously editing an article, written by a student* in Beijing. I'm only on the first paragraph, and it's full of red marks. How delightful.

*Actually, not a student. But an assistant professor.

Earl meet world


Meet Earl.
He's the newest member of the iPod family. His two relatives are, sadly, now dead and gone so for now, the kingdom rests on the shoulders of Little Earl.

Little Earl may be tiny but sure packs a punch with a battery that doesn't seem to need charging for more than a week. About the length of my thumb, he slips into my pocket and delivers music without complaint. Though the lack of a screen is a bit disconcerting, he makes up for it with his portability and usability. And you know what, that'll do for now.

Thanks go to R, who somehow had the prescience to bring Earl over in July.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

eating the world (or so)

Hot on the heels of the Omnivore's 100, is the Traveling Omnivore's 20 (via Serious Eats) (And originating from Fork in the Road)

1. Assam laksa in Singapore (why Singapore, I don't know. However, I will be in Penang next month, so assam laksa there too!)
2. Barbecue brisket in Texas (I'm going to guess that it's a yes, as we had all kinds of barcbecued meats in Texas, and it was a long time ago)
3. Uni sushi in Tokyo
4. Fried fish tacos in Ensenada, Baja Mexico
5. Pav Bhaji in Bombay
6. Stuffed quahogs on Cape Cod
7. Wine in Sonoma Valley
8. Beef rendang in Indonesia

9. Pizza in New York

10. Grilled steak in Argentina
11. Boudin noir in Paris
12. Fried oyster po'boy in New Orleans
13. Banh beo in Vietnam
14. Braaied game in South Africa
15. Prawn curry in Goa
16. Hot pot in Szechuan province
17. A carnitas taco from a taco truck in L.A.
18. Jerked chicken in Jamaica
19. Barbecue burnt ends in Kansas City
20. Single-malt scotch in Scotland

Haven't done too well. In four of the listed places, it's more like been there, haven't done that.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Making mooncakes

It's that time of year when restaurants come up with all kinds of things to stuff into a mooncake.

And it's also that time of year when I avoid trying any new-fangled mooncakes and instead, with my mum, make our own snowskin ones with the simple filing of lotus paste. They may not look as nice, but I quite like them.

snowskin mooncake

Happy eating!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

oh i like

I did the morning blogrun and found this very useful post reviewing notebooks - not the plug and play type.

Warning: coveting ahead (via) especially those by Tyler Bender!


Having spent the past hour trying to revive my ipod, I think it is time to come to the sad conclusion that it is dead. Of course as I write this, I cannot help but try the reset again, just to see if that brings it back to life.

There were faint flickers of hope in this dramatic hour, when resetting it and connecting it to the macbook's itunes triggered a prompt to restore this ipod. But when I hit the restore button, itunes suddenly realises it is not detecting the ipod anymore.

It was working perfectly fine this morning. I had fully charged it last night with no problems. And I had just been thinking how well behaved this one is, compared to the previous one, which had a wonky battery, and would barely last an hour sometimes. Oh my ipod, you have been such a good friend for more than two years, accompanying me on commutes, drowning out TV Mobile, offering non-stop music anywhere.

I am sorry to see you go.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Omnivore’s Hundred

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating (altho I can't seem to cross out)

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (no way)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (no thanks)
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things that go crash bang clink clunk screee in the dark

At 330 this morning, I was startled out of an oddly pleasant dream in which I had turned into a fish while swimming in a lake. The clunk clunks and clink clinks of chains and heavy machinery made me think of Jacob Marley coming for Ebenezer. The noise finally died down and I went back to sleep, first checking to make sure I wasn’t hearing the voice of the Great Gonzo.

And then just some few hours later, at about 7, when I was up and about, preparing my lunch and breakfast, the great machinery came a-clunking back.

So where did they go for those few hours? For an early morning walk-a-jog around Bukit Timah? To have an early breakfast of nuts and bolts with their heavy machinery friends working at the disaster zone that is Farrer Road?

We will never know the mysteries of the lives of heavy machinery. if only they would learn to tiptoe.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

up to my ears

in urban conservation research. It is admittedly a better research topic than 'public geographies' (don't ask), except for when I had to write a summary on 'Economics of urban conservation'.

Life otherwise has been the usual heave-ho. Not very exciting stuff for a blog. So let me point you to another blog that has been entertaining me with their too-seldom posts. I give you Corpus Libris.

And now, as I return to the cave of books, annual reports, government reports, journal articles and other delightful whats-its, I bid you a good weekend.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

we two

There were no rings exchanged, and our vows were thought of on the spot, but there were smiles, laughter, great food and wine, and more importantly, our family and friends were there to witness the solemnisation of our marriage.

Table setting

The private dining room at Brown Sugar was done up far better than I expected. It was cosy and romantic, far from the room I saw several months ago in daylight.

Wedding chairs

Ready to sign

It was a small affair as the room only seats 24 people, but there was space for this little fella who was cooed over by all.

The youngest diner


I think people enjoyed the food - there was plenty of it, and it wasn't too extravagant or rich.

Organic mushroom soup

Baked salmon
Veal cheek

Although the sticky date pudding was a bit too sweet - the pudding itself was fine, but it would've been better without the butterscotch sauce.
Sticky Date Pudding with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice-cream

It was a great night. It could not have been any better.

holding hands

And in all too short a time, R was off again, flying back to SF on Sunday. I'm back at work tomorrow or so, if this cold finally blows over. It was an intense two weeks - meeting parents, parents meeting parents, meeting friends, verifying our documents at the Registry of Marriages, buying gifts, making sure the details of the solemnisation dinner worked out well, eating out, eating in, being locked in at couples' boot camp for the weekend (otherwise known as Engaged Encounter), meeting more friends, meeting parents again, going to the doctor (twice). But we managed to find time for each other.

On Sunday, I waved to him as he walked into the departure area, knowing that he'll be back again in December and that this was the last of our airport goodbyes, for we finally take our first flight together in January!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

notes from the underground

You know, when they first announced the MRT extension to Farrer and Adam Road-ish areas, I thought, why don't they just extend that to Bukit Timah?

But today, on reading the news of the Bukit Timah MRT line, the MRT stop within walking distance from the house, I wondered, why they can't just leave us alone! Sure, convenience, property prices might increase and all that. But 6 years of dust, noise, likely traffic diversions, and lotsa lotsa digging? Can't I say, No? I think the part of Bukit Timah I'm in is well served by buses. I get to Orchard Road in 20 minutes. It does take me a while to get to Clementi, but it's not a stretch. Plus, does an MRT line mean the removal of buses? Cos if comparing the actual rides, I'd rather a bus, where there's one way in, another way out, than the MRT where people push and block and just piss me off. I'd rather a bus, where I can watch the view, than those ridiculous ads that flash from the tunnel.

And yet, while I write this, I remember that it will take 6 years. The work will only begin in the middle of next year, or so they say. Where will I be next year? Not here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

eat up!

simply breakfast

My mum made me breakfast!

birthday flowers

And I got a delivery.
And I'm off to stuff myself for the third time this week. It started with Indian food on Tuesday, Japanese on Thursday, and today, some seafood is in the mix. Eh, it's not like it happens everyday.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Maybe later

July's reading hasn't started out well.

Finally picked up DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little, but put it away quite quickly, although I'm not sure whether I'll ever pick it up again. Yeah I know it won the Booker, it's one of those dark comedy books, but eh, it's not for me.

A bit of a snoozer is The Moviergoer by Walker Percy. Also a book prize winner (National Book Award), also giving me trouble. At first I thought it's because I'm reading it when I'm sleepy (ie just before going to sleep), but then I realised, it's actually the book that's making me sleepy.

I'm in the mood for some fluff.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

digital world

At the library this morning, I was reminded of our dependency on computers when I tried to borrow five books and the machine refused to accept my pin number. And so did the other. So I go to the counter and make noise and it turns out that their server is down due to a power outage. The lady behind the counter goes in search of their 'manual system', which turns out to be a small yellow notepad. She fills in my name and card number, then takes down the barcode of each book, stamps all the books, stamps the 'manual system' with the same date and then heads behind somewhere to run the books through to allow me to get out without setting off beeps at the exit.

It made me think of days spent at Queenstown Library as a kid, and lining up with my pile of books, all open to the back of the book, ready for the librarian to stamp them through. And of the library at my primary school, with its uneven floors and dull lighting, little cardboard pockets at the back of each book, holding the dates due.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

nearly there

It's July, and I'm glad.

Because after some five months of emails, MSN conversations, Skype and IDD calls back and forth, I finally get to see R again. But it's just for two weeks, and then it's back to the virtual routine until December.

However, let's think about the after later, shall we? And begin the countdown to July 20th.

Friday, June 20, 2008


The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

It was everything I expected - a detective novel, exciting, with a bit of a romance thrown into it, and yet, something I wasn't expecting, kinda funny.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

If I had known about the book burning aspect of this great novel, I'd have read it a lot sooner. A little bit hard to get into at first, and a little distressing to read (burning books!) but truly awesome.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Yet another book made into a film which I have to see (Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft!). This one's a collection of letters between an American scriptwriter (and booklover) and an English bookseller from 1949 to 1969. It's just such a sweet book, and I stayed up to finish it as I just couldn't put it down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


They walked still further and the girl said, "Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?"
"No. Houses have always been fireproof, take my word for it."
"Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames."
He laughed.
- Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

Thursday, June 12, 2008

how's the wedding planning?

It's a question often asked of me, although lately the answer has been: nothing much happening. It's still early I know, as friends have warned about the stress during the run-up to it. I just want to keep it simple and sweet, and stress levels low. And hopefully it will end better than this:

(via {Furi Kuri} weddings)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why do I...

always get a craving for a cup of coffee after watching Gilmore Girls?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Civilwarland in Bad Decline

From the back of the book:

"America, in the near future, is a country of artificial experiences in cheesy shopping malls; where the machines faking dreams are always breaking down, and a company purporting to let urban racoons back into the wild is killing them, to save effort... [A] brilliant collection of short stories... you can't help loving this outstandingly tasteless and amusing volume"
Philip Hensher, Mail on Sunday

What goes on in George Saunders' head?
I cannot help but wonder as I plunge into Civilwarland in Bad Decline.
"So I dive in and drag her out. It's not very deep and the bottom's rubber-matted. None of the Basques are bright enough to switch off the Leaping Trout Subroutine however, so twice I get scraped with little fiberglass fins. Finally I get her out on the pine needles and she comes to and spits in my face and says I couldn't possibly know the darkness of her heart. Try me, I say. She crawls away and starts bashing her skull against a tree trunk. The trees are synthetic too. But still."
The Wavemaker Falters

One Amazon customer review suggested that this book have a dosage label, of one story a month. It is a short book, of 179 pages but I have to agree, breathing space is required in between stories, even though it's a library book (although one story a month is a bit much).
It's not that it's an exhausting read, instead it is funny and totally intriguing. But it can get a little repetitive. Perhaps because while the settings are somewhat different, the premise is quite similar - an average person struggling in a black-hole dystopia. And like the nun taking that leap, reading each story one at a time (with long intermissions) is like jumping off a cliff - your feet leave the safety of the rock, you freefall, your stomach seems to be making its way up to your throat and you're ready to scream when your toes, then your the rest of you hit the cushion of water below and you plunge into the comforting cool darkness. And when you shoot back up for air, you're all ready to take the dive again. Except without all the bashing of the head against the synthetic tree.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Wyoming, China

The closest I’ve come to Wyoming is well, Nevada (so says Google maps). Wyoming is a place I can hardly imagine, yet Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories cut straight to the heart. I think it’s best described as Michael Knight did in a Wall Street Journal review: “Ms. Proulx writes with all the brutal beauty of one of her Wyoming snowstorms.” (via Powells). The best known of the stories is of course the romance of Ennis and Jack heartbreaking Brokeback Mountain, which was of course made into the Academy Award-winning movie. But all the other stories, of harsh, unforgiving lands, filled with lonely cowboys, despite being worlds away from what I know, are completely absorbing and affecting.

And on another continent....
It's not normally a book I would pick up, but the Picador Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction seemed like a good introduction into well, contemporary Chinese fiction. There were even a couple of names I recognised (although hadn't read), like Su Tong (he of Raise The Red Lantern) and Wang Meng. Many of these short stories have morals behind them, such as Lin Xiu-wen's Black Walls, where a Mr Zhou is seen by his neighbours painting the walls and ceiling of his room black. The neighbours call a meeting and discuss what they should do and consider calling the police. Of course, one neighbour's young grandson pokes his head into the meeting and asks, why, if Mr Zhou is only painting his room and not everyone else's, do they kick up such a fuss? (groan). While this (and others) made me feel like I was reading a Moral Studies textbook, the collection on the whole was rather entertaining. It helped that most of the stories are pretty short and easily read while waiting for the bus. One of my favourites is Wang Meng's The Lovesick Crow and Other Fables, on the other hand, is quite a delight. The fables, such as The Comedy of Ducks, where ducks are riled after the publication of The Ugly Duckling: "Down with lakewater! Down with the farmer! Down with the turkeys! Down with the Chinese people!" they cry. The farmer, of course, solves the issue, the way a farmer will.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ah, Caffeine

That moment of clarity.
When you sit up, your brain switches back on.
The thoughts flow, the fingers fly on the keyboard.
The journal article you read once over and made no head or tail of, suddenly has a head, a tail, and even a whole body.
Time to make use of it while it lasts!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Roast Chicken

Watching Cookworks the other day made me feel like having roast chicken. The show's feature was really a turkey, and it looked moist and tender. And I wanted a moist and tender piece of meat heading straight for my mouth. A roast chicken would have to do!

I fell back on good ole Jamie Oliver, or at least an improvisation of his recipe, with ingredients I could find in the kitchen. Did I have rosemary? No. Did I have bacon slices? No. Still, the roast chicken was pretty yummy.


Pair that with a simple salad of butterhead lettuce, button mushrooms, a couple of small tomatoes, an avocado, dressed with some pepper, olive oil and lemon. Happy days.

Monday, May 19, 2008


The evening ceremony was about the same as in the morning, just done in reverse. The flag glided down the pole and was put away in the wooden box. The flag doesn't wave at night.
Why the flag has to be put away at night I have no idea. The country still exists at night, no? And plenty of people are hard at work. Doesn't seem fair that those people can't have the same flag flying over them. Maybe it's a silly thing to worry about - just the kind of thought a person like me is liable to fret over.

Haruki Murakami's Firefly
From Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Saturday, May 17, 2008

“House Taken Over”

My library is not a single beast but a composite of many others, a fantastic animal made up of the several libraries built and then abandoned, over and over again, throughout my life. I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t have a library of some sort. The present one is a sort of multilayered autobiography, each book holding the moment in which I opened it for the first time. The scribbles on the margins, the occasional date on the flyleaf, the faded bus ticket marking a page for a reason today mysterious, all try to remind me of who I was then. For the most part, they fail. My memory is less interested in me than in my books, and I find it easier to remember the story read once than the young man who then read it.

Alberto Manguel writes about his 30,000-volume library

Thursday, May 15, 2008

ex libris

There are some books that you race through, the exciting plot drives you on, the pages flip madly as you head for the finish line, sometimes even staying up way past bedtime.

And then there are books that you just want to take your time with, and hold back that need to read more. That's how I've been feeling about Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris. It's a collection of 18 essays she wrote over a period of four years, and they're all about books and reading.

As she says in the preface:
Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves. How could it be otherwise?

She writes of marrying her and her husband's libraries together, how their American collection is alphabetised, whereas their English collection is in chronological order (and chronological even within each author).

"You mean we're going to be chronological within each author?" he gasped. "But no one even knows for sure when Shakespeare wrote his plays!"
"Well," I blustered, "we know he wrote Romeo and Juliet before The Tempest. I'd like to see that reflected on our shelves."
George says that was one of the few times he has seriously contemplated divorce.

Oh definitely a book that's to be savoured, page by page, word by word.

Read an excerpt here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where have you been all my life?

Oh boy, are we going to be such good friends!

Because when you can turn this
Leek and Potato Soup (before)

into this
Leek and Potato Soup (after)

(ok not such a great picture, but it's actually Leek and Potato Soup)
Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

You've won me over. At first pulse.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

mothers day

As I'm not much of a fan of cheesecake, it's something I've never made. But my mum does. So here's a lemon orange non-bake cheesecake. Happy Mothers' Day!

Thursday, May 08, 2008


A series of fourteen cryptograms for when you're bored at work, or just want to do something else than write reports.

Friday, May 02, 2008

let it rain

Every morning I wake up to a slightly cool (well compared to the night before) morning breeze and the faint hope that it will rain, that it will storm, that the temperature will not keep rising and that the dense humidity will not envelope me and leave a shiny sheen on every inch of my skin.

Oh for some of this

Or this

And on that note, some suitable songs, but as with most songs about rain, they're sad ones:

Tilly and the Wall
- Let It Rain
Madeleine Peyroux - California Raining
Regina Spektor - 20 Years of Snow
Emiliana Torrini - Snow

Lightning flashes when you glance
I'm thunderstruck walk in slow motion
Ran a hand on a rainy railing
Cats and dogs falling but kept on walking
(The Postmarks - Looks like Rain)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Oh, anyway, it's looking like a beautiful day

Here's stuff I've been listening to recently.

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Elbow sticks to what they know, and what they do best. As with Asleep in the Back, Cast of Thousands, and Leaders of the Free World, The Seldom Seen Kid is brilliant! I love the complexity of their music.
Love Weather To Fly, The Bones of You, Grounds for Divorce,

One Day Like This

Tina Dico (thanks to hucks)
One of my favourite tracks by this Danish singer is 'Give In' from the album In The Red, her first internationally released album.

The Raconteurs
- Consolers of the Lonely
Quite a lot of it is pretty awesome, like Hold Up, Many Shades of Black, Rich Kid Blues. Others like These Stones Will Shout is a bit ho-hum.

Monday, April 28, 2008

eatin in the mornin

I love breakfast food. And I like eating breakfast.

And I also love poking my nose into what other people eat for breakfast. Such as this series by Jon Huck, and a blog of breakfasts, Simply Breakfast.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

At the recent Film Festival, director Wayne Wang (he of the Joy Luck Club film adaptation) was in town with two of his movies and I caught 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers'. It was well, somewhat stereotypical. The film, revolving around a Chinese man's visit to his divorced daughter in America, is based on a short story by Li Yuyun. Li had arrived in the US to do a postgraduate degree in immunology, and according to Wayne Wang, had taken some writing courses at the university and ended up winning the 2005 Frank O' Connor International Short Story Award for one of the short stories in her collection.

I was wandering around the library at work the other day - one of the perks of the job, besides being able to occasionally work from home is that I have this great library at my disposal, as well as the ability to borrow forty books - when I came across the Li Yuyun collection. Despite some reservations from the movie screening, I picked it up. And I've so far read three of the stories and I must say that it's hooked me.

I expected most of the stories to be similar to A Thousand Years, that is, of Chinese immigrants in the US. But so far, the rest of the stories have been about life in China. I read of an old woman who is recently retrenched from a government factory and encouraged by a friend to marry an old man. His sons interviewed her and a week later, she moves into the house, only to find out that the old man has Alzheimer's.

I couldn't help but quickly turn to A Thousand Years, located towards the end of the collection. I read it through quickly. And as I finished it, I recalled what an audience member had asked at the Q&A session with Wayne Wang. Something along the lines of, the Russian dolls were not a feature in the book, so why was it included in the film? Wang insisted that it's in the book. But I just looked - it isn't. He should've left it out of the movie, along with the Russian music. They made for rather jarring, too obvious clues placed in the movie. It was as if he wanted to make doubly sure the audience would know that the daughter's friend was Russian.

The short story, while not as interesting as the others in the collection, was more subtle. It explained the "Thousand Years of Prayers" better, such as in this paragraph:

"We're the only family for each other now," Mr Shi says, almost pleading, but his daughter closes her bedroom door before he says more. Mr Shi looks at the dishes that are barely touched by his daughter, the fried tofu cubes stuffed with chopped mushrooms, shrimps and ginger, the collage of bamboo shoots, red peppers and snow peas. Even though his daughter admires his cooking every evening, he senses the halfheartedness in her praise; she does not know the cooking has become his praying, and she leaves the prayers unanswered.

That one part of the story spoke volumes, but it was entirely missing from the movie. Sure, it's a little bit 'Eat Drink Man Woman', a movie which I could watch over and over again (and er, kinda have). If I remember correctly, Wayne Wang said that the movie script was written by Li herself. So it makes me wonder if these details were something she put in, or was it the director?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Places I've eaten at recently

Brotzeit - It's got a lovely view, that is if you can ignore the massive construction hole on Sentosa where the casino (sorry, Integrated Resort) is supposed to be. The Kasespatzle, a Bavarian speciality, isn't much to look at but is surprisingly tasty. Spatzle is a type of egg pasta, and the Kasespatzle comes with a pretty yummy cheesy creamy sauce and topped with some slivers of onion rings. It's a dish to be shared, as it can get quite heavy. I was less impressed with the pork and veal sausage, which seemed a little bland. The pork knuckle on the other hand, was a crunchy delight, and served all chopped up on a bed of salad - pretty useful when sharing the dish. Wasn't terribly impressed with the beer - there's Paulaner on tap and a variety of bottled beers are available.

Persimmon - The Link Hotel is a bit of a walk from the MRT station, and can be a bit hard to find, unless you're familiar with the area. But once you spot those orange lights out front, there's Persimmon. Run by the people at Epicurious, it offers up some pretty good fusion food like a chicken salad that uses the flavours and sauces of Hainanese chicken rice. The spaghetti with porchetta and pinenuts was pretty good, although the porchetta on my plate was hardly crispy. And the fisherman's pie was a pretty large bowl of a lontong-like seafood stew with a rather massive slab of puff pastry on top. It was rather spicy and I was quite glad that I didn't order it, as I doubt I would've been able to eat more than half. Desserts were ho-hum, the pandan creme brulee winning over the very odd fruit crumble, which seemed to have all kinds of fruits in it, from grapes to strawberries to bananas. The white wine was quite a standout, although I can't remember where it was from now, Australia I think. But it was made from Japanese Kyoho grapes and had a nice sweet summery taste.

Da Mario Pizzeria - Of all the Places I've Eaten At Recently, this one was probably the best. It's a small joint tucked away at one corner of The Quayside at the Robertson Quay area. The Italian sausage and mushroom pizza was well, really pretty good. It had an awesome crisp crust - not too crisp and not too doughy! The canelloni was really tasty, stuffed with ricotta and spinach, covered with cheese and baked. And their puttanesca had a really good tomato sauce that was just right, not too tart, or too sweet. Plus it was chockful of olives, of the black and green varieties. I am definitely coming here again.

Ichiban-Tei - As I was walking around the Robertson area the other day, came across Ichiban-Tei, which had a pretty promising ramen menu. A quick google threw up some pretty decent reviews, so there I was on a Sunday evening, feeling a little guilty after watching the many joggers give their leg muscles (and heart and lungs) a good workout, while I was only exercising my jaw and stomach by wolfing down some chasiu ramen. The stock was a little too salty, so I gratefully reached for the jug of ice water at the table. But the chasiu had just the right amount of fat and was very very tasty, said I as I gulped down more water and left most of the soup in the bowl.

I hope you had some good eats over the past week.

Tel: 6272 8815

#01-07 The Link Hotel
50 Tiong Bahru Road

Da Mario Pizzeria
60 Robertson Quay
#01-10 The Quayside
Tel: 623 57 623

60 Robertson Quay, #01-13,
Tel: 6733-3923

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Choc Muesli Cookie, adapted (accidentally)

Making Bill Granger's Choc Oatmeal cookies is a snap. That is, if you were smart enough to check for all your ingredients beforehand. I wasn't.

It's simple enough. You start off preheating the oven at 180 degrees.

You get your butter, softened, and cream it with the brown sugar.
- Here's where I messed up and only brought out one stick of butter to soften, totally forgetting I wanted to make a double batch, which calls for 300g of butter, and not the 227g that the one stick provided.
Solution: Use margarine. Yeah, people will say, but margarine's not butter! Yes, I know that too. But what to do.

So I creamed my butter/margarine and brown sugar, beat my eggs and vanilla essence.
Then sifted flour (I had foreseen the need to actually buy plain flour, although in the end I didn't use the new packet I bought, and finished the remainder of an open packet), baking powder and salt together.

Then, dang! I forget to check if there were enough rolled oats. I poured it out onto the kitchen scales, realising already when I picked it up that it wouldn't be enough. It was short, by about half. I had oatmeal, but I didn't want Choc Oatmeal Porridge. B
Solution: I used the lovely Swiss muesli i'd picked up a few weeks ago. It has oats (and barley and raisins and apple bits and cornflakes). So in it went, along with a whole bag of chocolate chips.

Spoon the dough out onto a greased tray. Although Granger's recipe calls for the mound of dough to be pressed down with a fork, I skipped that and left it as a little mound, figuring the heat would flatten out anyway. And popped it into the oven. The recipe also calls for about 20 minutes, but by about 18 minutes, it had turned a lovely colour and was ready to be taken out of the oven.

Bill Granger's recipe for Choc Oatmeal Cookies

And I must say, despite the addition of margarine and muesli, it was a pretty yummy cookie. I might even add that having some bits of raisins and apple in it actually added to the cookie. So this is instead a Choc Muesli Cookie, adapted (accidentally) from Bill Granger's fantastic Bills Food. The book is chockful of great simple recipes that I not only salivate over but once I read it go, hey that sounds easy enough, and actually go out and do it. So in addition to the best brownie recipe ever, I now have a best chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe ever.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happiness in a cup of tomato soup

I liked Saybons. I didn’t like that it was takeaway only with not even a counter or standing tables to slurp soup at. Because they do some gorgeous tomato soup. It was the first tomato soup in a long time to make my tastebuds go, woohoo. I think the last time that happened with tomato soup was at St Pierre. But that was damn expensive soup. This one was about $2.90 for a pretty decent cup. MT and I tried all four of their soups: broccoli and cheese, mushroom, seafood bisque, and the tomato. The mushroom was the most lacking, but it was still a pretty decent mushroomy broth. The seafood bisque was very prawny and got a bit tastier as the cup emptied - I suppose the contents needed a good stirring. The broccoli was a surprising hit – bursting with flavour. The soups start from $2.90 and they also have crepes, both sweet and savoury - just be prepared to stand around and slurp, or sit outside.

Plaza Singapura
68 Orchard Road #B2-32 ( near Carls' Junior)
Singapore 238839
Tel: 68849018
Open 11am to 10pm daily

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The one who takes you home, Always the cold grey sky

The Ipod got it right today when 'shuffle songs' threw up Richard Julian's Cold Grey Sky, although it followed it up with Nirvana's Lake of Fire

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Random things on the Internet

I have caterer envy

Wedding invitation wording that won’t make you barf

"I don't believe you can have a great restaurant if you don't have great bread"

I've mentioned this to a couple of people, so here's the Observer article on Delia Smith's recipes, in which Giles Coren describes her risotto as:
"like having a pig piss in your throat. It tastes of freezer and plastic. I don't understand. If you can't cook and you can't afford to go out, eat a cheese sandwich."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

break fast

I'm always amazed when people start their day without breakfast. Take my colleague for example, she comes to work having had a cup of coffee. And that's it.

I, on the other hand, have to have breakfast. I get up, stomach growling already, just before 7am. While the water boils, I make my sandwich for lunch. The filling varies, sometimes it's tuna salad or egg salad, or just ham and cheese, or luncheon meat even. Always piled high with salad leaves. A more elaborate lunch of pasta or couscous is usually prepared the night before. And then it's time for breakfast.

I've been starting with a steaming mug of English Breakfast Tea. It's something I started drinking only when I got back to Singapore. And yes, I do drink it with milk. It's the one of two teas I drink with milk (the other being chai). And today, it was a bowl of cereal, eaten dry. I head to the living room and scan the headlines of the world, Asia, home and money sections of the papers before finally settling onto eating and reading from Life! and Urban (that's why the cereal is dry, because it'd be completely soggy once I get down to eating it). It's been some cereal from Post I think, these few days. But I'm quite appalled by the price of cereals these days - $8 for a box? That's steep. Instead, the other day I found at my local NTUC a Swiss muesli going for about the same price as the Raisin Bran. Haven't opened it yet, but sounds more fun than Raisin Bran, with its promise of sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and apple pieces. My favourite muesli is still Dorset, but here it's really expensive, and I'd have to go to supermarkets in town to get it (at least that's where I've found it so far).

Unfortunately, my breakfast of cereal and tea does not last me till lunch. I get hungry around 1030-11. And at this time, I usually crack out my snack of a peanut butter sandwich (topped with a fabulous Pinot Noir grape jelly from Sonoma) or cheese sandwich or just plain crackers. Today though, I was in the mood for something else - plus there was a lack of bread - so I headed to the Olio at the canteen to get a scone and a skinny latte. There is a Coffee Club Xpress just downstairs, but for some reason their version of a scone is one that is served dry, ie, with nothing. A scone. With nothing. That is not a scone. Plus their scone is this rather cake-like version. Not a good scone at all. So I hike up the many flights of stairs instead to Olio. Where they give you a choice of butter or jam. That's better than nothing. Plus their coffee is slightly better. Hell it smells better. It's no Spinellis, but it will do.

Listening: Beth Orton - Feral (from Comfort of Strangers)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

ladies who lunch

It's been a while since I've put up food pictures. So here a few for you to savour. DSD and I went for the ladies sushi lunch set ($28) at Kuriya at Shaw Centre on Thursday - I took a couple of days off to check out wedding stuff and she very kindly offered to accompany me. So to thank her for letting me drag her around, listening to people deliver more or less the same spiel, we had lunch at Kuriya. The lunch set changes every month, if I'm not wrong, and the quality is always pretty good.

We started off with a small salad of tuna and salmon, lightly grilled so that it's still raw on the inside.

Ladies Sushi Set at Kuriya - Sakura prawns, broad beans, grilled fish
Then this interesting combination of sakura prawns (slightly sweet), grilled broad beans in their pod, a grilled white fish and what was probably a braised bit of octopus.

Ladies Sushi Set at Kuriya - Bamboo shoot with tofu
Next was a delightful dish of fresh Japanese bamboo shoot, a light and very crisply battered and deepfried seafood cake, on top of some tofu/fish cake. (Sorry if my descriptions are wanting).

Ladies Sushi Set at Kuriya - Chirashi
And then a chirashi set, self-explanatory. It did come with a deepfried prawn, crunch it up, head and all.

The lovely set ended with a slice of strawberry cake and coffee or tea.

Shaw Centre
1 Scotts Road
Tel: 6735 5300

Friday, March 28, 2008

good morning world

It's 0513. I've been lying in bed for the past 40 minutes, feeling tired and not being able to sleep. It's partly the heat, partly the whining of a mosquito that I just can't catch, and partly the many things running around in my head.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

YA fiction

It's been many years since I've wandered the aisles of the 'Young Adult' section in the library. But what gems there are to be unearthed! Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief has a fun plot, great characters, and after I finished it, I just couldn't wait to get started on the next books, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. But I got sidetracked by Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn, which was first published in 1968, and which I only heard about last year when monoceros recommended it. It's a magical tale of a unicorn's search for her kind. I'm no good at writing book reviews, so I'll point you to a couple, and some on The Thief here.

As always, I welcome reading recommendations, YA or otherwise.

Listening: Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Cluny Court’s been around for a pretty long time but it’s only in the past year (or less) that it’s been on many people’s radars. I live around the area so I’ve watched as it was built and then left pretty much empty for ages. It’s nice to see it filling up with a variety of shops and cafes. But so far I haven’t been really impressed by what I’ve eaten there. Erm, that is, at Karma Kettle & Rhapsody, where I had a pleasant, if forgettable Lavender Chicken some months back (I enjoyed the rice served with it more).

It was a humid Sunday afternoon when I walked over and went upstairs for the first time to eat at Relish. It’s a lovely space, lots of good light, a high ceiling, a simple, clean design. I like that when I sat down, I got served water straight away, without even having to ask for it. See DSD’s blog for an explanation. There is an interesting variety of burgers on the menu, like the Ram-lee burger, a Mexican burger, a Portobello mushroom burger, but you know what, I like my burgers pretty simple, at the most, add some strips of crispy bacon and cheese. And that’s what I had, the bacon and cheese burger ($19). J had the Wild Rocket burger. And we shared some home made onion rings. Those onion rings were good, thick slices in a nice crispy batter. The burgers were good, the meat was done just right (medium) but the bacon was quite forgettable. The burgers came with chips, which were a little bit too overdone for us. And later, as two ladies at the next table were served their burgers with salad, we realised that maybe we could’ve asked for an alternative to the chips. But no one told us that.

Sunday lunches are meant to be relaxing but at about 1pm, when the place was nearly full, mostly with young families, with kids’ voices echoing around us, it did get a bit too noisy to think. But it was on the whole, a lovely Sunday lunch.

#02-01 Cluny Court
501 Bukit Timah Road

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another list of things I did

In the past couple of weeks, I:

- Saw the Silly Fools in concert. Was waiting for them to sing their Thai songs, but everything was from their new album. In English. They only played one Thai song. Disappointed.

- Had a really sinfully good chocolate mousse cake thingy at B Bakery in Bussorah Street. Chocolate. Heaven.

- Turned up at 645pm (as requested by the coordinator) to help man the reception table at Mel’s wedding on Saturday, only to realise that quite a few guests had already turned up. At 645! A good 45 minutes before it was supposed to start. And a good 1hr 15 min before it actually started. Huge wedding. 61 tables!

- Went to Mt Faber. Saw a lot of construction. Went into a bar/restaurant thing with glass windows and a nice view but a strangely white wedding like table décor. Felt like we were gatecrashing a wedding or something. Decided we’d head over to Sentosa instead. Had drinks at Coastes. Really really hot, despite being in the shade. The fans whirled quite uselessly. Didn’t help that I wasn’t really dressed for the beach. Envied the vacationers. But Sentosa is starting to resemble a theme park. From the station attendants waving when the train thingy pulls up, to all the concrete and development that’s going on. And what’s with the fish with teeth at the Song of the Sea store?

- Ate at Din Tai Fung for dinner and then to the Shimbashi Soba place for Japanese dessert. They do a pretty yuzu konnayku dessert. Were the last to leave, but then we only get to see Em during those few times she heads back to Sg.

- Celebrated the sassy slumbering girl's birthday at Timbre, Substation. That girl wowed the crowd when she went onstage and sang 'Love Me'. Happy birthday! Hope you had a great time!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

There are many reasons for not updating this blog

1) Blogger screwed up and didn't 'Save Now'.
2) I was reading the millions of other blogs floating around in the blogosphere. Like the very excellent Book by its cover and Bookshelf
3) I was listening to Sons and Daughters, Vampire Weekend, Hafdis Huld,
4) I did an interview at Old School for a project I'm assisting on, then get stuck there when it starts to rain, and with that, the opportunity for a nice long lunch at Recess, where the folks do a pretty yummy black pepper duck sandwich.
5) I've been transcribing and translating, rather painfully, an interview conducted in Mandarin.

4) Checking out La Cantina for a possible venue, then thinking of other venues, then relooking the possiblity of split events. I hope I only get married once, cos all this is not happening again.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saying goodbye at airports

With long security queues, especially with idiots in front who manage to lug along more than their fair share of bags and pack many questionable items, the need to enter the 'passengers only' section of the airport early is becoming more important. And that cuts down on the goodbye time at the airport. I already hate flying so I'm kinda queasy and uncomfortable at the thought of spending 11+ hours, and another 7+ hours on the plane. And there's the other horrible fact that I have to say goodbye to this amazing man with whom I had a measly three weeks with. I don't want to say goodbye, but I have to. We sit on those tacky plastic seats, I try not to cry, but fail miserably. San Francisco's airport, at least, has space to sit down, unlike Chicago, and is not packed, unlike Heathrow. You'd think I'd be used to all this by now, since in our nearly two-year relationship, we've had too many airport goodbyes. It never gets easier. It's always awful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wine country weekend

Sterling, Napa
Sterling, Napa

It was an almost perfect weekend - the skies were blue, the sun was out, the food and accommodations were good, if only we could just get there already. Having become quite reliant on the GPS, we allowed it to navigate us up from South San Francisco to Napa. That was fine. We popped into the Mondavi winery to pick up a bottle of Muscat, and then made a quick dash to Sterling where we had a $5 off coupon for its cable car ride/winery tour/tasting (as long as it's before 1230).

Fish tacos and sweet potato fries at Taylors Automatic Refresher
We headed back to the main Napa stretch to chow on some sweet potato fries and fish tacos and root beer float at Taylor's Automatic Refresher (that was easy enough, having driven past it on the way up). And did a quick spot of shopping at the outlets. Then on the way to the B&B in Sonoma County, we hit traffic. We crawled along, I drummed my fingers on the door, conscious of the 730 restaurant reservation, conscious also that we had to check in by 7pm. Would we ever get there?

VintageTowers, Cloverdale

We finally did, we reached the sleepy town of Cloverdale just in time. The streetlights were on as we drove through the main street, to see, well, not much. But there was the tiny sign of Vintage Towers on the corner, and we stopped, grabbed the bags and rang the doorbell. We were taken up to Mary's Room, a quaint little pink room with a massively high bed and a tiny tiny sink in the bathroom. A fake fireplace/heater sat in the corner, with dials to turn up the fake flames and the heat. A morning room was down the corner, with great brownies and lemon-poppyseed cake for the midnight-hungry.

But we had our reservations to make (which had now been changed to 745). So off we went, only to find that the GPS would not recognise the address in the town of Windsor. A couple of calls to Odyssey sent us in a variety of directions ("school? there's no school around here", "look for the archway", "we're near the pub"). And we finally made it. Service was good, food was excellent, although the wait was quite long - there's only one man in the kitchen.

We shared the pistachio-crusted swordfish involtini, a fabulous sushi-looking starter.
R went for the lamb shank and I had the braised beef short ribs. Very tender, very rich.
And finally, they presented a complimentary apple galette, as an apology for having made us switch tables earlier. It was delicate and crisp, with just the right amount of apple slices.
Apple Galette at Odyssey, Windsor, CA

Breakfast at Vintage Towers is served family-style at 9am sharp. We sat at the long table with three other couples and a family of three, who were on a college tour of California it seemed. Family-style breakfasts with strangers can be pretty awkward but in this case, the company was very welcome as one of the guests was a sommelier in one of the hotels in the county, as well as a wine judge for the San Francisco Chronicle. He provided some pretty interesting anecdotes about Sonoma, having grown up in the area, and had good tips on where to go. Breakfast itself was amazing - starting with vanilla yoghurt with pineapples and museli, then homemade cornbread with honey butter, and a Mexican souffle served with a mango salsa and a tomato salsa. Coffee, however, was typically weak.

But there were places to go and wines to sample, so after obtaining a map of the Russian River Valley, we set off for Arista, a new boutique winery with a gorgeous Japanese garden.
Arista Winery's Japanese garden
We ended up with a bottle of their velvety 2006 Longbow Pinot Noir.

Further down the road, we stopped by Moshin. This winery was nothing to look at, to be honest, but it had some very friendly staff (as did Arista), and free tastings. They also had a very drinkable Gewurtztraminer (at just $12!) and a very fine, sweet 'Moshin Potion #6', which we picked up. The lovely Scottish lady pouring the wines told us about Armstrong Redwood State Park at the nearby Guerneville and another must-see, Bodega Bay.

Armstrong Woods
It was a chilly walk in the woods, as the sun hardly made it to ground-level, so it was a quick one.

Ham and Brie sandwich, Potato Leek soup at Willow Wood Market Cafe, Graton
Latte at Willow Wood Market Cafe, Graton
We warmed up with a yummy ham and brie sandwich, served with a pasta salad, olives and pickles, and a latte at the very sunny Willow Wood Market Cafe, although once again, the GPS failed us, not knowing where we were - luckily the town of Graton is pretty tiny, and there's no mistaking the cafe.

Our final tasting for the day was at the Martinelli Winery, but wasn't terribly impressed with any wines (or perhaps we were a bit oversaturated). And so we headed out west, to Bodega Bay, where we stumbled around some sand dunes, hearing the waves crash, but not actually being able to walk to the sea, as the damaged boardwalk was closed.

Sunset at Bodega Bay
But driving north along the coast, we raced along with the setting sun and found a perfect spot to grab some pictures and have the sun dazzle us with its light show. It was getting late. It was also a Saturday, and judging by yesterday's very full restaurant (ok so it was really tiny, seating at the most 20-odd people), Sonoma was a pretty popular spot for a weekend of eating. But we had had a late lunch, which was a result of the very very big breakfast, so we were in the mood for something simple, nothing too rich like yesterday's dinner. And I remembered reading online about Bovolo, in the town of Healdsburg (about 20 minutes from the B&B), owned by the much-celebrated people from Zazu, who are all about local food, even making their own cured meats - and I was looking forward to a good piece of salami. Bovolo was an easy find - R spotted an empty lot and I looked up from the car to see the Bovolo sign, right there in front of us.

Bovolo is situated at the back of a marketplace-type store, with various little stores that sell candies, chocolates and all that.
Antipasti at Bovolo, Healdsburg
We went for the 'Butcher's' antipasti plate, which came with cheeses, grilled vegetables, and of course, that lovely meat. And the wild boar bacon mac and cheese, which was far less cheesy than I expected, with really crunchy bacon bits on top. Not bad, but not as great as the antipasti. Still it was a good meal to end the long day.

Cat at Vintage Towers
The next morning, after playing with the very friendly outdoors cat, we were greeted with a poached pear and candied ginger starter, some homemade cranberry scones and some kind of artichoke frittata, served with potato wedges, amazing as usual.

Ferrari-Carano, Sonoma, CA
We popped by the nearby Ferrari-Carano winery for our final winery stop, as various people had commented on how beautiful the grounds are. And they were. Their wines were very drinkable, made for the mass market, as the staff mentioned. And we ended up adding another muscat and a Pinot Noir to our little haul.

Lake Sonoma
And ended off our Sonoma weekend with a drive to Lake Sonoma, relying this time on the map and directions from the B&B.