Saturday, January 31, 2009

Not canned

One thing about cold-ish weather (especially when compared to sweltering Singapore) is the soup-drinking, and the soup-making.

Cos I do love soups and with an immersion handheld blender, it is the easiest thing possible (and much better than the canned types).

Here I sweated down an onion (diced) and several garlic cloves, then threw in some fresh tomatoes and a can of tomatoes, herbs, chilli flakes, plenty of salt and pepper. Simmered for a good while and then blended it.

Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil before serving with a side of toast.

Friday, January 30, 2009

In the Kitchen: Choc Oatmeal Cookies

It's taking me a while to get used to this oven. My family home in Singapore doesn't have a proper oven like this, but rather a combined microwave-convection oven, and I was used to how that operated. The one here in SSF is gas-powered I think, and the heat comes from the bottom. So I have to be extra careful with timings, as I didn't realise with my first batch of choc oatmeal cookies (thanks Bill Granger!), which had slightly overcooked undersides - I like them chewy and not too crispy, and these were too crisp. I had left them in for the stipulated 20 minutes, but nope, 18 in this oven is perfect, as my second lot demonstrated.

And cooking in a non-humid climate is just brilliant.

(Btw I quite like the new Picasa for Mac and its idiot-proof collage-making abilities).

On reading Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

It's like Greys Anatomy, when it was good.

The blurb:
"Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures welcomes readers into a world where the most mundane events can quickly become life or death. By following four young medical students and physicians – Ming, Fitz, Sri and Chen – this debut collection from 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam is a riveting, eye-opening account of what it means to be a doctor. Deftly navigating his way through 12 interwoven short stories, the author explores the characters’ relationships with each other, their patients, and their careers. Lam draws on his own experience as an emergency room physician and shares an insider’s perspective on the fears, frustrations, and responsibilities linked with one of society’s most highly regarded occupations."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Library Loot (Jan 29)

While I love a good hardcover book, walking around the library with 6 of them (and one paperback) is quite an arm workout. No choice though, looks like most of the books at this library are hardcovers.

The haul:
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures - Vincent Lam
The Impostor - Damon Galgut
Beijing Coma - Ma Jian
This Boy's Life - Tobias Wolff
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Kate Summerscale
Austerlitz - W.G. Sebald

The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry)

And I thought I read a lot

250 books challenge on Library Thing!

462 books read in a year!

I managed 164 last year. Looks like I still have some ways to go.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What I like

Listening to streams of new releases on Spinner (via Largehearted Boy) - the new Bird And The Bee! Mark Olson and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks reunite!

Seminary Co-op Bookstores' virtual Front Table.

Neil Gaiman's twitter about winning the Newberry.

The absolutely darling book, Ms Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum.

The blurb:
Ms. Beatrice Hempel, teacher of seventh grade, is new—new to teaching, new to the school, newly engaged, and newly bereft of her idiosyncratic father. Grappling awkwardly with her newness, she struggles to figure out what is expected of her in life and at work. Is it acceptable to introduce swear words into the English curriculum, enlist students to write their own report cards, or bring up personal experiences while teaching a sex-education class? Sarah Shun-lien Bynum finds characters at their most vulnerable, then explores those precarious moments in sharp, graceful prose. From this most innovative of young writers comes another journey down the rabbit hole to the wonderland of middle school, memory, daydreaming, and the extraordinary business of growing up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

They bend us and break us

"When the day of judgment comes therefore and all secrets are laid bare, we shall not be surprised to learn that the reason why we have grown from apes to men, and left our caves and dropped our bows and arrows and sat round the fire and talked and given to the poor and helped the sick - the reason why we have made shelter and society out of the wastes of the desert and the tangle of the jungle is simply this - we have loved reading."
- Virginia Woolf on being a reader

Hotpot night


For me, reunion dinner or 团员饭 is always about the steamboat. When my paternal grandparents were still around, we'd have steamboat reunion dinner in Katong, with one for the kids, another for the adults. As a kid, it was more about the fun of dunking and getting to cook our own food than it was about the eating. Same goes for yu sheng - for many years I detested eating the thing (all that ginger and preserved what-nots), it was only about the fun in tossing food around (most of it went on the table).



Today it's still about the steamboat/hotpot. It's the communal feeling of a steamboat/hotpot meal - preparing the ingredients together (in this case, visiting two different supermarkets to get the right beef*), cooking together and fishing out your favourites from the pot of steaming goodness. And yes, the yu sheng has now become a must-have, not just because of the lo hei, and not just because of the always-yummy raw fish, but somehow, over the years, I've grown to like this concoction of a sweet-sour-savoury salad.


When you have yu sheng at restaurants, the staff know the right words to say and which ingredients to say it with, but in this part-homemade (we had to grate our own carrot and raddish), part-packaged yu sheng, the sayings were the not the usual traditional ones rattled off by a stranger, but off the top of heads and translated.

(*the right beef)

Saturday night ended with Bang, Balderdash, kueh lapis and biscuits from Bengawan Solo, and pineapple tarts from Mr Bean (surprisingly good)

I hope you all had a good reunion dinner, hotpot or not.

Friday, January 23, 2009

新 年 快 乐

It looks like it's going to be a wet Chinese New Year here (that's right people, 0.48 of an inch of rain). We'll be down in the south for a two-hotpot dinner on Saturday, complete with yu sheng (best described as a raw fish salad - it's got shredded carrots, ginger, pomelo, crackers. It's a delicious mix of sweet, sour, salty.) and all kinds of CNY snacks (although sadly without what is, in my opinion, the best thing about CNY - bak kwa at every household you visit).

I hope that you too have a good Chinese New Year, eat, drink and be merry (cos you get the super long weekend). And please have an extra slice of bak kwa for me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My last month as an almost-married involved some eating...

nasi padang

more Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

charcoal steamboat at 7th storey hotel restaurant

...and sightseeing



Orchid Garden

the odd UFO-like Marina Barrage building

the view from the Marina Barrage

Cloud watcher

We've been lucky with the weather so far. Blue clear skies, gorgeous brilliant pink-, purple-, red-, orange-hued sunsets. The hint of a beautiful morning as the sun rises just out of reach of the kitchen window. But today it is 8 am and it is dim. The skies are overcast, the apartment is dark.

It is a day to settle down with a mug of earl grey tea and start on a new book.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I love breakfast foods

I could eat them at any time of the day.

I used to work at night, reaching home past 1am, and the best thing to eat then was a bowl of crunchy cereal doused with milk.

But that's not the only type of breakfast foods I enjoy. Rather, it's the wonderful array that is available at Sunday brunch. And on Sunday, we had brunch at The Creamery, sitting outside, under the heat lamp and next to an open fire. It was a good day for an outdoor brunch.

The food was, well, it was decent. I went for the brioche french toast. I know, I know, French toast is quite a no-brainer meal, it's something I make when the toast is nearing its useby date. But I am a big sucker for brioche. So that's what I went for. It was perfectly fine. I got to try some of the corned beef hash, which was quite tasty, although I continue to be disappointed by others' scrambled eggs (you get a choice of two eggs), which, like this one tend to be a bit overcooked. (It seems that we should've tried their non-breakfast foods like their burgers)

So the food was average, but the day was a nice one, and so was the company.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Library Loot

Here's what I got from the library on Tuesday:

What is the what - Dave Eggers
Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
Ms Hempel Chronicles -Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
No One Belongs Here More Than You - Miranda July
Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth - Margaret Atwood (a review from The Guardian here)
Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively
Rabbit-Proof Fence - Doris Pilkington
America, America - Ethan Canin

Blind Pilot

I am quite in love with Portland, Oregon band Blind Pilot's 3 Rounds and a Sound. It's been on my iTunes since last month but with that busy month, I didn't get a chance to really listen to it until today. It is quietly brilliant. And continues to grow on me.

Plus they did a bike tour, how amazing is that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

library longings

I joined the library yesterday. I had the library itch. And just had to put aside the two books I was already reading (as well as the other books I bought in February and have yet to touch) and take up the membership for more, lots more books.

The nearest library is just a few minutes' drive away but it's not a very big library, in fact, it's smaller (if that's even possible) than the Queenstown Library in Singapore, a two-storey building mostly overrun by little children (the adult fiction is right behind the children's section) and smelling of fried food from the cafe within.

SSF's library is a single-storey building. However, for such a small library, it does have a pretty decent collection and I came away with 8 books. The limit on each card is 50 books, so no longer do I have to carry three library cards with me (Singapore's libraries allow a measly four books per card) for my reading marathons. Now I have a nice tall pile of books to read under the covers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here for now

It's been nearly a week of getting used to being here and realising that I'm not here for just two weeks or even just two months but for much much longer than that. I no longer hit a store thinking, hey we don't get that in sg, I should pick it up. Rather, it's about what I need now to make myself feel more at home in what is now our apartment, our home.

Here, by the way, is San Francisco. Or more specifically, South San Francisco.

It would be so much easier if we were setting it up together from scratch. But since R has been living here for over a year now, it has been very much his place. Some of my things have been slowly invading, having been left here in February, crept over in July, November, December and finally the rest of the lot dumped just last week.

On the young-couple-starting-up-a-home necessary visit to Ikea (about half an hour away), we brought back new bedside tables, a lampshade, a full-length mirror (how one lives without, I do not know), another shoe rack, and some random whats-its for the kitchen, such as a new colander, cafetiere, salad bowl...

And following that, a trip to the outlets at Gilroy, in order to look for a new coat, but ending up with lots of socks, a blouse, and lots from Bath and Bodyworks. The coats I found were either too big or too poofy. It was rather quiet for a Saturday, until we got to the area where the Coach store is, which was packed with what looked like tourists (but I could be wrong) while just outside, Asian men watched over pampered pooches. And at Gilroy, a perfect pick-me-up during the futile coat search - a double-double with cheese (no onions), fries and a coke at In-N-Out*.

It amuses me to note how certain things seem quite difficult to find here, such as facial toners and tea. However, I am learning to make do with what I can find.

And we continue our search for a good and durable cordless electric kettle. Apparently some people use coffee makers - now those are plenty, and cheap. (In case you're wondering, we've been using a pot on a stove. Yeah.)

We've been doing our part to support the American economy.

*One of the issues with my no-longer-a-tourist status, is that I tend to leave my camera at home. So no pictures of that juicy burger with the crisp bun, eaten outdoors on a gorgeous day.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Weeks of wonder

It was two weeks of delightful, fun, sad, nervous, brand new moments.

We've been legally married since July but it hardly felt that way as R flew off not long after. So on 28th December 2008, I got to be married once again to this wonderful man. We tried to keep the wedding as simple as possible, yet there were still all these little details to iron out, plus the constant worrying that our schedule was too optimistic.

Then the actual day came and all went by so fast. We got married in church in front of our loved ones, snapped some quick photos, and then headed to Conrad for the lunch reception. We've since been told how good the food was at the buffet, but we only managed a few quick bites before up we went, doing the rounds at the tables - saying hello, thanks, hugs and introductions - which we never managed to finish (and we had less than 200 guests).

I continue to be amazed that we weren't made to do the whole Chinese dinner shebang, that we got a nice late morning start to the day, and that it managed to be kept simple and reflected who we are as a couple.

I am thrilled that our guests had a good time, that they satisfied their stomachs, and most importantly, that after these two and a half years of MSN and Skype conversations, emails, snail mails and IDD phone calls, R and I are finally together.