Archive for February 2009

All the way, just for the day

February 25, 2009

dscf23861 0900. We had to wake at 0400 (?!) to catch our flight to Edinburgh on an empty stomach and mind, that is why are so glad to find this greasy diner when we arrived at Haymarket. The boys had a big fry-up while I settled for an egg sandwich. Copious amounts of coffee later, we were finally alive enough to head to our meeting.

dscf2387 1200. Barely a few hours later, our counterparts suggested we head out for lunch. My CEO promptly fell onto his knees to do some dramatic push-ups, followed by some running on the spot in a poor attempt to burn off the calories he consumed over breakfast.

dscf2392 1245. We arrived at First Coast, a cute nautical themed restaurant just a short walk from the office. I was charmed by the bubbly American waitress and the lovely food on offer. I had pan-fried coley from their lunch and early evening menu. The boys had thai salad and cous-cous, which were very delicious according to them. They finished with cake and ice-cream. I managed to restrain myself and didn’t order dessert.

dscf23901300. I couldn’t resist exploring the rest of the restaurant to take some quick snaps before we return to the office.

dscf23931400. I nipped to the Starbucks around the corner to grab a coffee to go with my cola. I needed all the caffeine to stay awake!

dscf23941600. All info-ed out and tired. Meeting finally over so we walked into the city centre for a quick wander.

dscf2395 1605. I think that pretty well sums up their strong sense of self, don’t you? Also loving the accent.

dscf23991610. Still making our way through the streets and trying to soak up as many of the scenes as we can before we need to head back home.

dscf24001700. Edinburgh Castle is in the background. The city is undergoing major construction works in order to introduce tram travel in 2011. What a good idea! It was a pity we had to go home after this was taken. I didn’t even get to shop around for a tartan blanket.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake

February 25, 2009

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Observing the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, R made some wonderful white chocolate and raspberry pancakes last evening. They were very thin and reminded me more of the delicious crêpes I used to eat at Portobello Market in London.

The sweetness of the white chocolate well complemented the sharp tangy raspberries. We wrapped the ingredients together with the hot, fluffy eggy-smelling pancakes and I was actually quite surprised at how delicious they tasted and how well the ingredients paired up. It was a really delightful way to end our evening meal.

Here’s the recipe R followed, you can also try to use savoury ingredients such as tuna, mushrooms, cheese, ham etc.

White Chocolate and Raspberries Crêpe

125g plain flour

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs

275ml milk

25g butter, melted

Olive oil

Lots of melted white chocolate and raspberries

Method

Makes 10 crêpes. Prep time 20 mins, cooking time 10 mins.

– Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Beat the eggs into the milk and pour onto the flour.

– Whisk well until the batter is smooth and creamy. If there are any lumps, simply pass the batter through a sieve into a jug. Leave for 30 minutes or longer if you have time, and then whisk in the melted butter.

– Heat a pancake pan or non-stick frying ban (about 18cm in diameter) over a medium heat and rub the surface with some kitchen roll dipped in the oil.

– Pour only enough batter into the pan so that when you swirl the pan it covers just the surface in a thin layer. Cook for about 30 seconds or so until the edges start to curl up and the underside is golden.

– Flip over and cook the other side. Slide onto a plate serve straight away with white chocolate and raspberries.

饿的感觉

February 22, 2009

天正从深蓝色转为漂亮的粉蓝。清晨的气温才不过1C。

有个躺在椅子上睡觉的流浪汉把由报纸做成的被子往身上盖,人来人往的候车室就是他的家。机场的巴士站候车室里有一间咖啡座。由于离乘巴士回到威尔士的时间还有一个小时,我们决定到咖啡座买杯咖啡和牛角包当早餐。

坐下喝口咖啡后,我对R说:“看,有一个行为可疑的老人不停在入口处徘徊。他也是流浪汉吗?”

老人走到咖啡厅的冷藏柜前,像是想选一包合他心意三明治。但是我知道他没有钱,可是他很饿,肯定在想是否能趁没人注意,顺手拿走一个面包。站在附近的服务员观察他已久,在这时候走上前问他需要什么帮忙。老人明白服务员的意思,他摇了摇头,掉头走出了咖啡厅,消失在人群中。

就在我们准备要上车的时候,老人又出现在咖啡厅。R走上前去,问他要不要来份三明治和杯热奶茶。他笑了笑,点头说好。付了钱后,我们推着行李离开,我回头看他正开心地啃着他的面包,他向我挥了挥手。

£4.80,换来一顿温饱,一个微笑,一份满足,一件好事。我想,值得。

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The skies were gradually turning from midnight blue to a beautiful powder blue. The temperature at dawn wasn’t more than 1C. A homeless man who was sleeping on the benches covered himself properly with a blanket made out of newspapers. The bustling waiting lounge was his home.

There was a cafe in the airport coach waiting lounge. As it was more than an hour till our bus departed for Wales, we decided to get a croissant and coffee from the cafe for breakfast. I sipped some coffee, turned to R and asked, “Look, is that old man another homeless person? He’s been loitering around the entrance of the cafe and behaving suspiciously.”

The old man walked into the cafe and stood in front of the refridgerated area as if he was thinking of which sandwich to buy. But I know he had no money, he was hungry, and he was thinking if he could quickly nick a sandwich without anyone noticing. At this time, the waiter who had been observing him for some time decided to step forward and ask the old man if he needed help. The old man understood what he meant, shook his head, left and disappeared in the crowd.

Just as we were about to board the bus, I saw that the old man had returned to the cafe again. R walked up to him and asked if he’d like a sandwich and a hot cup of tea. He smiled and said yes. After paying, we pushed our luggage toward the bus and I turned around to look at the old man for a last time. He was happily munching on his sandwich and he gave me a big wave.

£4.80 in exchange for someone’s breakfast, someone’s smile, someone’s satisfaction and someone’s good deed. I think, it’s worth it.

Ahem..

February 19, 2009

Toward the end of my stay, my mother asked me impatiently, “Is he going to formally ask me about wanting to marry you? Traditionally he has to send the fat matchmaker auntie over, you know! ”

I was taken aback by what she’d suggested because this wasn’t at all what I expected from my mother. You see, when R and I decide to “go public” about our relationship, we always imagined my mother would chase him with a parang and castrate him.

And so, her asking me about whether or not he was going to bring up the subject of marriage, was I believe a display of love and acceptance peppered with resignation.

Amazingly, my family has really taken to R despite the initial doubts. Straight from the first day we touched down, my mother set out a series of tasks and challenges to test him.

He completed most of them, such as putting together IKEA furniture, cleaning the flat and fixing a fan. Other tasks which will await him in the next trip include repairing cupboard doors and painting my mother’s bedroom. “Nothing is so easy!” she told me.

But they got on OK and I started to feel very comfortable with him being among my family. He kissed my grandmother everytime he left my flat, something which got her all giggly because she found it “very cute”.

I think the trip home had done us all a lot of good. It allowed my family to get to know him more and it offered R an insider’s view of the culture and dynamics of my family.

Seeing how affected I was at the airport and how my grandmother wailed when I left had also truly made him realise we shouldn’t be taking our relationship for granted.

After my mother brought up the subject of marriage, I told R the time has come for him to get castrated, if he doesn’t hurry up and complete his last task – the most awkward of all.

And typical of him, he left it to the last day and finally plucked up enough courage to say, “I’d like to seek your permission to marry your daughter. I want to take care of her, for the rest of… MY life.”

My mum looked so serious, my grandmother was clueless about what we were talking about, I wanted to dig a hole and hide and R was bright red right down to the ends of his hair.

Then my mother pulled me aside and said, “The dowry would have to be at least, let me count, how many zeroes? Oh in British pounds as well. I’ve fed you and clothed you for 28 years …”

So it has been tough on the man, who’s been working crazy hours to meet the crazy demands of his future mother-in-law. For me, I shall relish my last few months as a single woman, before joining the ranks of aunties.

Happier

February 19, 2009

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Just because it was sunny when I went to work on the train. Even though only briefly. And because the weather is now rather mild and comfortable at 10C, I can finally be more experimental with what I wear.

Where did all the time go?

February 18, 2009

R said the three weeks in Singapore didn’t exactly fly by but I disagree. To me, it zoomed past without me having a chance to catch my breath, or catch enough of my friends and family.

I met up with the girlies only a few times, saw GK once when she was feeling very tired and we didn’t end up talking much, and had a ridiculously rushed 15-minute lunch with an old friend from poly. Where did all the time go?

Now I definitely didn’t waste it on sleeping. I woke at 8am each day and often didn’t get home till 11pm. I spent my first week running errands for my family in preparation for Chinese New Year. It’s always busy in my household during this time, when my poor mother has to cook for my 20 relatives who come visiting.

Since R was with me and didn’t have friends or family with him, I took some time each day to keep him company, be it sightseeing or just strolling around the mall. We also had to recce the venue for the small wedding brunch and do some other related research.

Then came my grandmother’s doctor visits and mornings spent just hanging out at home talking to her. Off we went to Phuket for four days and when we returned, it was a real mad rush to catch up with family members, have some time with Mum, discuss and draft her retirement letter and complete some other tasks for the family. To save time, I used taxis to get me to wherever I was going, and that burnt a big hole in my pocket.

There was one day I tried to meet different groups of people one after another in various restaurants that I got sick and bloated from eating when I got home. That’d teach me not to be so ambitious in future! As much as I love to shop, I barely had time to walk through Orchard Road or buy any new clothes.

So I’ve decided that while it’s important for R to be with me in Singapore to meet family and friends, it could also be be a good idea to leave him in the UK on some trips. Maybe that way I would really be able to devote time to catching up with people, and not so much of my own breath.

Paradise found, again

February 17, 2009

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It was nice to go away for a short break. The last time we went on holiday was in 2007 and ever since the house came along, our frequent vacations have had to go!

But this was a reasonably affordable little trip- the air tickets were a real bargain at S$125 and so we paid a bit extra for a sea view room at the quiet tropical resort nestled between the two main busy beaches in Phuket. There was nothing posh about this small laidback hideaway, but we had a very relaxing and comfortable stay and I thought it was great to be able to enjoy the sweet fragrance of tropical flowers and spices from the well-tended gardens.

We spent most of our time on a rented motorbike, exploring bits of the island and stopping by for food and drink when we needed to. Our best discovery was Ya Nui beach, an extremely small, quiet bay somewhere before Cape Panwa. The waters were crystal clear and we spent ages just standing in the sea looking at the schools of fish swimming around.

On another day we rode up a steep winding mountain path in search of the Big Buddha, a newly constructed 45m high sea-facing Buddha. Because we were able to get such a good variety and quality of Japanese food for an unbelievably low price, we took our nightly dinners at the same place, the Fuji Restaurant at the recently opened Jung Ceylon mall.

Just before we left for home, I found a beautiful spa at a nearby hotel which had a 50% off promotion on their packages. By a sheer stroke of luck, somebody had cancelled so they were able to fit me in at the last minute that afternoon. I had a 2-hour ginger and lemongrass scrub and traditional Thai massage which set me back by S$60.

I always revisit places without expecting to be wowed but somehow I always do. And strangely, this time I could also definitely hear the strong, sweet whispers of IndoChina, urging me to live and work within.