Monday, August 31, 2009

Easy pizza dough

I like making my own pizza.

I think it is quite simple to make. It makes a nice snack when I have guests over at my place.. and also makes a nice one-person lunch or dinner.

Often, I am tempted to buy a ready-made pizza base to make it even simpler. But everytime I'm at the supermarket, I balk at the price of the ready-made bases.. Plus, I usually prefer a crispy pizza base and most ready-made ones are too "bready" for me.

Last Friday, I made pizza again. This time, I tried out a new recipe I found at Epicurious.

But I saw that there were some feedback that the dough was a little too wet and a little too bread-like, so I made some adjustments to it.

What I used
1/3 cup warm water (Instead of 3/4 cups suggested in the recipe)
1/4 envelope active dry yeast (Instead of 1 envelope suggested)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried herbs (My own addition, this makes the dough even more fragrant)

What I did
1. Mixed warm water and yeast
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together, with the exception of the herbs
3. Slowly add in the oil and then the water-yeast mixture
4. Knead the dough til it is stretchy and springy
5. Add in herbs (Herbs or flavours should always go in last in a dough. Otherwise, the herbs may affect the development of the gluten.)
6. Set dough aside, covered under a damp towel for 1 hour
7. Beat the dough down using my knuckles
8. Roll the dough out into a pizza base. I rolled it out into 4 small thin pizza bases.
9. Bake at 180 deg C for 10 minutes
10. Put pizza ingredients on top, plus extra cheese and bake til cheese melts and blends with other ingredients

No pictures this time - All the pizzas were eaten by the time I remembered about pictures.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Focaccia with Rosemary & Tomato

Finally, months after attending the Foundation Bread Making course at Creative Culinaire, I made bread at home.

(I've made pizza a couple of times, which they did teach during the course, but I used my old recipes, not the one taught at the course because it was too bread-like for my liking.)

Today, I made the focaccia, almost exactly according to the recipe, with the exception of the olives in the bread, because I forgot to buy them. I wanted to make focaccia partly because my rosemary is getting bigger and I thought it'd be good to start harvesting them to encourage further growth. I've found that with a lot of herbs, the more you harvest, the more they grow.

This is a pretty easy bread to make. Especially so if you used a machine to help knead the dough. I kneaded the dough using my hands, which was possible because the portion is not too large. Nevertheless, it was still pretty tiring. And having warm hands didn't really help.


Ingredients used

Dry ingredients
190g of Plain flour and Bread flour mix (equal proportions, sifted together)
4g Salt
4g Yeast
1/2 tsp Sugar


Wet ingredients
6g Honey
10g Greek olive oil
120g Water


Rosemary and Tomato Topping
A bunch of fresh rosemary
Some stewed tomatos
Black pepper to taste
10g Olive Oil

What I did
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together well
2. Add all the wet ingredients. 20g Chopped black olives can also be added, if available.
3. Knead til a smooth dough is formed
4. Cover with a clean wet towel for about 1 hour, till double in size
5. Punch down the dough and divide into 2
6. Shape dough and spread topping over dough
7. Proof till double in thickness
8. Bake at 190 deg C till cooked (about 15 - 20 mins)

For step 7, since I don't have a proofer at home, I covered the bread and a cup of very hot water with a large salad mixing bowl for about 40mins.

I was a little unsure if how it'd taste because I felt that I didn't knead the dough as well as I ought too. (I got a bit tired). But it turned out really soft and quite chewy. It must taste ok, because The Husband and I ate them all up in under 15 mins.

I enjoyed making this bread.. and eating it, of course. I think using my own rosemary added an extra kick to the bread.. Although next time, I think I'd leave the bread in my oven for a tad while longer, to give more colour to the bread.
Before baking, after proofing


After baking, still quite pale but soft and chewy already

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The credit goes to the rain


The malabar spinach growing in my balcony was grown from a cutting.

(Yes, again, it was given by a kind fellow GCS forummer. Most of my edibles are grown from seeds or cuttings. I'm a bit sceptical about the insecticides that nurseries use.. )

It started growing very slowly when I first got it. For a while, I wondered if I would only be able to taste them only during Christmas! They were growing so slowly!

Then came the rain. For one, two, three and then four days days.

And one morning, after a night of heavy downpour, I went to my balcony and looked at the mess the rain made. And oh, my malabar spinach! I almost couldn't recognise it! It seemed to have just grown up overnight!

To be honest, the gardener in me doesn't quite like the rain. I've lost a fair number of plants to heavy rains - one of my tomato plant snapped and died in a heavy downpour, my basils rotted from the rain... so did my rosemary. Most of my herbs do not appreciate Singapore rain. Plus the rain really makes a mess - splashes of soil on the wall, plants collapsing due to strong winds, water everywhere, etc etc..

So, it's such a pleasant surprise that my malabar spinach does really like the rain!

Actually, the malabar spinach is not a real spinach. It is only a distant cousin of the spinach, if there is such a thing. The leaves though, are spinach-like in taste and appearance, and the pinkish-white flowers are pretty and yes, also edible.

It is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It is also a rich source of soluble fiber and chlorophyll. When raw or cooked in clear soup, it has an earthy taste that I don't really fancy that much. But the pretty purplish colour of the stems make it, visually speaking, a very nice vegetable to add to any salad.

When fried with garlic, it taste a lot less earthy and a lot better.. but then the colour is no longer as bright. So I prefer to add a little of it into my salads. I add just a few well chopped up leaves into my salad and it actually adds an interesting texture and taste to the salad.

(Not that I have harvested any yet, oh no.. but I bought a bunch from the market to cook. And I also plonked some of the stems into a pot and oh.. One of them is sprouting baby leaves after less than 2 weeks! See photo below..)

Baby leaves, growing out of a stem cutting

The malabar spinach is a climbing vine. And now that my spinach is growing well, I'm starting to think about ways to let it start climbing and blooming...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Breakfast


Breakfast on weekdays is usually a cup of hot tea, with milk if I can be bothered. Or else, it'd be just Tetley tea (I love the tea bags) sans sugar sans milk.

Yesterday, at the supermarket, I went to the canned food section and saw baked beans. And I knew I should buy a can back.

My sister and I, a very long time ago, used to love to cook baked beans, ham and eggs for ourselves for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) whenever we have to settle a meal by ourselves.

So, I wanted to do something similar today.

I set the alarm clock to wake up a little earlier than usual and made a hearty breakfast for myself - Scrambled eggs with fresh basil, baked beans, suasage and toast. Oh, and a cup of cappuccino.

The weekend is here already.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baby Oregano

In my balcony, I have a little oregano plant. Today, I'm going to call it Little Ore. (Yes, okay.. I know.. So just today.)

Little Ore is a very small and young plant. I got it as little cutting and was quite surprised that it rooted quite well and is now slowly growing.

I had previously never seen fresh Oregano. I'm so used to using the dried version of oregano in my pizzas that to me, oregano is just tiny little flakes of really strong herbs.

A quick search on the internet revealed some really interesting stuff about growing oregano.

For example:

1. Oregano grows well in full sun and well-drained soil. They actually don't mind a dry soil but lots of sunshine is very neccessary.

(Ops.. I don't give Little Ore enough sun, I think. Maybe that's why he is growing so slowly.)

2. Oregano don't really appreciate fertilizers. They are actually bad for the flavour of the herb.

(Again, ops. I didn't know that. Oh dear, I should hold off on the fertilizers and compost.)

3. Like most herbs, frequent and regular harvesting is actually good for it. The more you harvest, the more it'd produce. The plants can be harvested once it reaches about 4 inches in height and have at least 12 leaves.

(Oh.... Little Ore is there!)

4. Oregano leaves should be harvested early in the morning, just after the dew has dried on the leaves. Once the sun starts warming up the leaves, they begin to lose the oils that provide taste and aroma.

(Point to remember when I start to "harvest". I usually pick the leaves off my herbs during dinner time...)

5. Stronger sun results in stronger flavour. Which means actually oregano is quite suitable to be grown in Singapore's tropical climate, just that it needs to be protected from the heavy rains, I guess

(Again, more sun...)

This little oregano of mine is currently hung in a little corner of my balcony. I should look for a new place for it, where it can get more sun and still get some kind of protection from the rain. And then hopefully, with a bit of TLC, Little Ore will grow up to be like this.. one day..:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chasing after The Wind

The Husband is a wise man. It's heartening to know that I have a wise person as my companion for life.

I have this thing about acheivements, being raised up in meritocratic Singapore.

Since young, I've always been told that it is important to do more and do better than others.

"Be the top 10% of your class." They tell you at School. "Make sure you get the top 10% of the cohort, for 'O' levels and 'A' levels".

"Graduate with honours - be the top 10% of your year". They tell you in University.

"Get the top 10% performance rating at work." They tell you in the Office.

And so, I always had this thing about achievements. I need to acheive certain things in life to be Someone in life.

And, I always thought I was doing alright.

Then one day, the cookie crumbled.. Suddenly, I felt I had no acheivements and was no longer Someone.

But The Husband told me this - "Acheivements are like the wind. It comes and it goes. No point chasing after the wind."

That's true, isn't it?

If life is just about acheivements, then we will always be chasing for something. One acheivement after another. And there'd be no end to that.

Life should be more than just chasing after the Wind.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wilting Basils

I've blogged before that my regular Basils are doing the most poorly amongst my Basil collection.

Now, I think they are slowly dying away...

One day last week, the Basil starts looking unhappier and unhappier.. Watering doesn't help. Nor does fertilizing. I've checked and checked and there are no insects crawling about in the soil.

I've been giving it as much sun as my balcony allows me too. Which should be quite a lot.

But still the Basil wilts.. and some of the leaves, start to drop off at the slightest touch.

It's frustrating.. and perplexing.

It's like deja vu. I had this happened to me before... Only the last time I didn't know about soil mealies and root mealies, so I didn't check for that. I had just assumed that it was the watering problem. And I had to throw out my dying Basil.

This time, I've written a post on the GCS forum and am hoping some experts will drop by to help

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Picnic and The Rain

View from my window


It's absolutely pouring now.. and I'm beginning to think that our picnic this evening has no hope.

Picnic? Where? Why? - Those were my first reaction when a friend suggested that we should go for a picnic this week for our cell group meeting.

D, inspite of her super busy schedule, had suggested and kind of arranged for this whole picnic thing. And until this morning, I wasn't super keen.

But after looking at the pictures of Marina Barrage this morning, I changed my mind. I've never been there and boy, it looks cool.

And a picnic in the evening means that I do not need to worry about getting a sun-burn.

I'd be making some tea and smoothies for the picnic.. and also buying a cake (No time to bake today). D will be getting chicken pie. Someone else is getting sandwiches. G said she'd make some tartlets.

Wow.

The last time I had a picnic, was with a group of young girls whom I took for Bible class. And that was like... 5 years ago maybe?

I was really quite looking forward to this.

Let's hope the rain stops soon and Mr Overworked-Singaporean-Sun will dry up our picnic grounds before this evening.

Post Script, added 24 Aug:

We did go for the picnic after all.. and it wasn't too wet. In fact, the weather was nice and cooling because of the rain that day. Here's a photo taken by D. I think Marina Barrage is best visited in the evening, as the sun is setting and the lights come on. For now, you'd have to ignore the construction works of the IR though.




Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Always one less item

I realised today my wardrobe is bursting because I really have too many clothes..

Now, Isn't it strange?

I know I have too many clothes. But yet... I seem to always be in a situation where I don't have anything to wear. So I always end up wearing the same things to the gym.. to church.. on weekends.. and so on..

Is just like I know I have too many facial products at home... and yet, I always lack one more bottle. I seem to always need an additional serum, or mask, or sunblock.. and am always buying a new bottle of something.

You know what they say, we live in the age of excesses.

Looking at my overcrowded wardrobe, with so many clothes only worn once or twice or even (gasp) never worn, I know I have to cut down on shopping.

And start giving some away.

And hopefully start wearing those I seldom wear..

(if i can still fit in)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friendly Advice


Since I came back to Singapore, each time I meet friends, or bump into friends, I'd hear at least one of the following, or all of the following:

"Oh.. you are back? When did you come back?"

"You are back? For good?"

"You mean you quit your job to come back?"

"Both of you quit?"

"Why? What's wrong with Beijing?"

I get quite used to these. Most of my friends ask these questions out of pure concern.. or surprise.

I understand totally.

Really. No problem at all.

I just have to get used to repeating myself like a parrot, explaining why we decided to come back (No special reason, is time to be back to be with family), explaining why I decided to leave my job (Again, no special reason, is time for a change) and so on...

Since I decided I will start my own business, again.. many friends ask very similar questions:

"What type of business?"

"Oh.. so different from what you were doing, isn't it?"

"Why? Your previous job pays well right?"

"Don't want to do accounting anymore?" (Only from people who don't really know me that well.. honestly, I don't know why everyone thinks that.. I NEVER worked in accounting in my life, except as an intern when I was in school. Really. If you read this blog, pls, don't ever ask me why I don't want to do accounting.. or auditing.. )

And almost everyone tries to give some sort of advice.

On how location will be very important...
on how tough life will be..
on how difficult it is..
on how I should target only certain customer segments..
on what they think of my idea..
and so on.

I appreciate all my friend's (and relatives, of course) concerns.. and I know that most of them genuinely care for me.

I do, really. And most of their comments, I believe, are right.

But honestly, at time.. I wish I get a lot less "advice".

Sometimes, I think a comment such as "Let me know if there's anything I can help" is so much better than a million words of advice.

When we go through changes in our lives, all we need sometimes is a friendly smile, a gentle word of encouragement and a kind help.

I need also to learn to pay less "lip-service" and learn to be really there for my friends and relatives. It may not always be the easier way (It is usually so much easier to just chat) but I believe it is the right thing to do.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Malicious Comments

Someone left some comments on my blog... with links to another blog address. Thinking which friend it could be, I clicked on that link.. and it led to a blog which meaningless sales advertisement. Thinking it just spam, I removed all the comments from my blog, and updated my Facebook status to "Been Spammed".

But since that day, I have been having problems with my laptops. My old version of Symantec didn't help, inspite of updated virus definition files. It just kept asking me to reboot.

The Husband found out yesterday that my laptop has been attacked by a malicious virus.

I have to backup all my personal documents and reinstall everything. And so for these few days, I have to use the Husband's laptop instead, whilst all the installation and stuff are going on.

My status on Facebook was wrong. I've not been spammed but attacked.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leaves problem

I'm having problems with some of the leaves on my tomato plant and malabar spinach..

No idea what they are.. but I'm feeling quite worried. They seemed to have appeared over a couple of days..

White spots on the bottom few leaves
of my tomato plant



White spots on one of the leaves of my malabar spinach.
I'm so creeped out I had to snip it away...

Yesterday, I also found some tiny little worms (white, slimy and really tiny) gnawing at the roots of my hibiscus seedlings and gerbera.

Sigh..

Post-script, added on 17 Aug 09:

Seems that the "problems" with the leaves are not real. The tomato leaves are just a bit scalded by the sun. The malabar spinach (which is also called Ceylon spinach) is fine too. But I was right to remove the leaves.

The problem of the worms are real though. My gerbera is slowing dying away...

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Rosemary is not thirsty


This is my third attempt at growing rosemary.

My first rosemary was grown from a cutting. I was so proud of it then (and ahem, of myself as well). Someone from the GCS forum said that they tried many years before they managed to root a rosemary from a cutting. But by a stroke of luck, I managed to root a cutting without rooting hormone (I didn't know what was a rooting hormone then).

But for some reason, it rotted and died pretty soon after that.

My second rosemary was also from a cutting. I started thinking that hey, I must have some luck with rooting rosemary. But the soil mealies came and my second rosemary also went to heaven.

My current rosemary is from World Farm. And it has been doing pretty alright so far (*fingers crossed*). I've even harvested it once for my roasted chicken wings and enjoyed the thrill of picking your own herbs for dinner.

What I have learnt is that the rosemary doesn't need a lot of water. I have to keep telling myself that although the top soil may look a little dry, but the rosemary is not thirsty.

Keeping the watering to once every 3 days has helped this current pot survive.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Building castles in the air

English idiom: To build castles in the air, or to build castles in Spain
Definition: To daydream or dream of things that are not attainable

Photos taken in Tours, France in Summer 2006

Sometimes, I wonder if I build too many castles in the air. Certainly I have learnt from past experiences that I am sometimes too positive when it comes to estimating workloads..

Especially that of my own.

On one hand, I'm trying to start up a new business... where there are about a zillion things I don't know and need to learn. On the other hand, I have some contract work.. in areas I'm familiar with.. working with people I like.

The Husband thinks I need to be more focused and am over-stretching myself.

I think that multi-tasking is good for me.. and think that I can cope. (I mean.. I really do have all these free time on my hands, don't I... Can still blog, for one..)

He thinks that sometimes to move on, we have to give up certain things.

I dream of running my business.. and doing contract work here and there on a freelance basis.

The husband is usually right, of course... But but... Is it really not possible to have the best of both worlds?

Happy Basils

I haven't had much luck with growing basils.

Actually, I feel I haven't had much luck growing many things. I'm learning the hard way that travelling and gardening don't quite mix.

But basils are supposedly really easy to grow in Singapore. A few mistakes I've made so far are:

1. Overcrowding them
I bought pots of basils from the supermarket. These are in a tiny pot, grown really closely together, almost like a branch of basils. I brought them home, spread them out a little.. but alas, their leaves were small and they grew out in odd angles.

2. Underwatering, then Overwatering
Once, I went away for 3 days and so when I came back, my basils were wilting away from lack of water. So I watered and watered.. and I watered.. Their stems grew slimy and brown and their leaves started dropping. And inevitably, , they died and went to heaven.

3. Giving them insufficient sun
As I didn't want them to be exposed to the heavy downpours, I planted my basils in a semi-shaded area in my balcony, where they could get some nice indirect sunlight, I thought. Their leaves started to grow lighter and lighter... turning almost yellow.

I'm still trying to grow my basils. So far, I have 3 types:

Regular basils - which I bought in a pot from the supermarket and repotted myself. These are my unhappiest basils. I don't really know why but they have been growing but their leaves are smaller than I would like them to be... and just not looking happy in general.

Cinnamon basils - I grew these from seed and they are growing reasonably well so far. They really do have a special fragrance too!

Thai basils - They are my happiest basil. My family and I had some of them in our Green Curry yesterday, so they are missing some leaves.. but still looking happy. Here are a couple of pictures.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My favourite Peking Duck

Dadong Restaurant (大董烤鸭店) is undoubtedly my favourite restaurant for Peking Duck.

Come to think of it, it could even be my favourite restaurant in Beijing. (But I have too many others I like too..)

I try to make it a point to go there each time I go to Beijing to have Peking Duck, which is something you can't really find in Singapore. Well, actually, you can have Peking Duck.. but it will not be in the same class, or even come close to it.

Mostly, I go to that restaurant with the same group of ex-colleagues. And usually, Mr E places our order.

Each time, there are some dishes he'd almost always order. These include:
- 盐水鸭肝 - Salted water duck liver, a cold dish of that is simple but good.
- 奇妙虾球 - Fried prawns coated with mayonnaise, my favourite dish.
- 栗汁娃娃菜 - Baby cabbage with chestnuts in an egg-like sauce. Yummy.
- 风味豆豉辣鱼片 - Mr E's favourite chilli fish slices. Spicy and very smooth fish slices.
- 大董烤鸭 - The must order - Dadong's Peking Duck.

Dadong's Peking duck is a lot less fatty and oily than the Peking duck served in other restaurants. There are 3 ways to enjoy it. One is to eat the skin, dipped in a little sugar. The skin is so crisp that it'd melt in your mouth. The other way is to eat it with the little sesame bun, with both the skin, meat and garlic paste. The third way is to eat it the "traditional" way, which is the duck slices wrapped in a little round piece of "flour paper", with cucumber, some onions and sweet sauce.

This time, we didn't go to branch we always frequent at 东四十条 (which is really nice because the restaurant is in an area where the buildings are built the traditional way with a little twist.. and has a nice ambience to it. Address: 东城区东四十条甲22号南新仓国际大厦1-2楼).

Instead, we went to the newest branch at 金宝汇 (Address: 东城区金宝街88号金宝汇购物中心). The new restaurant is built in a super swanky and modern setting. There is even a central "stage-like" area where the ovens are kept and you can watch the chefs roast the ducks. I especially like all the Chinese words which are projected onto the dark walls, because they give a bit of a scholarly feel to the place.

I didn't manage to take a picture of all the food we had this time.. but here are some of them...

红烧肉 - This is a cold dish. The waitress recited
some poem as she served this dish. Of course,
I couldn't hear a word she said.

奇妙虾球 - Really yummy and in my view,
better than the wasabi prawns at The Humble House风味豆豉辣鱼片
豆腐两吃 - Nothing special, really
My favourite Peking Duck - they'd slice it in front of you
Crispy duck skin slices
The crispy sesame buns, to go with the duck slicesThe complimentary dessert - iced chestnuts.
Yummy, though personally,
I prefer the frozen
persimmon they sometimes serve.

Skin Facts (or maybe myths)

I don't claim to have great skin.

But I think I can safely say I have reasonably good skin, thanks to a combination of good genes (Thanks mum!) and no make-up (Just lazy).

But since I returned back to Singapore, I feel my skin has become a lot oilier.

Which is quite alarming because blackheads start turning up on my nose.. and I start to think my nose kind of resembles a strawberry at times. Now, strawberries usually conjures up images of nice cocktails or desserts.. but a strawberry nose... is very yucky.

So, I've started trying out different skin care products - stuff I've never tried before, and starting seeing a skin doctor.

And here are a few interesting facts (or myths.. only time will tell) I have learnt:

1. Forget about The Night Cream
Source: Dr Hauschka

Shocking, isn't it? Apparantly, when we sleep, our skin is working to regenerate itself, balance oil production and expel impurities. Applying night cream disrupts our skin's work and our skin becomes less capable of taking care of itself. Applying a cream all day long tells our skin to reduce moisture production and results in a drier skin.

Change required: Use serum instead of creams at night

2. Good skin can still be clogged
Source: My skin doctor

My doctor has been complaining about my clogged skin, even though I protested, saying that I have no pimples. But having "good" skin doesn't mean that your skin is not clogged.

So, how to tell if you have clogged skin even if you have no pimples or acne? Telltale signs are things like tiny little clumps that appear at your eye bag areas, blackheads and whiteheads.

Change required: Use a cleanser that is "strong" enough for you, even something with AHA, especially if you have oily skin (BTW, he advised against using Fancl and Kose, which he says is usually not strong enough for combination skin.)

3. It's too easy to overscrub your skin
Source: Dr Hauschka and my own experience

Since our skin is no kitchen floor, we shouldn't be scrubbing it all the time. When I first came back, because I found my skin to be oilier, I scrubbed my face about 3 times a week, sometimes even more. But I found that my skin only got worse with scrubbing. Now, I do it about once a week, sometimes less, and I find that my skin actually improves.

Change required: Scrub your skin only as neccessary. Or don't even scrub at all if the products you use are exfoliating in nature, already.

4. Wear sunblock even at night and indoors
Source: Taiwanese TV program - 女人我最大

An owner of a modelling agency mentioned on one of the shows that even when indoors or at night, we should ensure we wear sunblock, not to protect against the sun, but to protect against UV rays emitted by halogen lights, fluorescent lights and UV LEDs.

Change required: Wear sunblock that is at least SPF 50 most of the time. (I personally think this is quite hard though...)


BTW, here's an interesting article from National Geographic about our skin - which is our largest organ and covers about 2 sq m on the average in area. Now, that's a large sized picnic mat!

Friday, August 7, 2009

32 Hours

It’s now 2:30pm, Friday, 7 Aug 2009. Calculating from the time I exited and then re-entered the Beijing International Airport again, I’ve spent exactly 32 hours in Beijing this time around.

And in total, I’d have spent about 18 hours on the road – on taxis getting to or from the airports, at the airports waiting to get on the planes and on the planes hoping to land safely.

My plane has been delayed for more than an hour.

So here I am, sitting a little away from the gate, waiting for time to go by.

As I look around, I see many fellow business travellers, heading home from work, on a Friday afternoon, tired after a week of work.

There was a time when going to the airport was something special. When leaving the country by plane meant a special vacation, a long trip away for studies or something similar.

There was a time when taking an aeroplane was an exhilarating experience, even a little scary to some. When eating plane food was an experience in itself and watching the inflight movie felt almost like a trip to the cinemas.

There was a time when we stared out of the plane windows when the airplane took off, when we gasp at the beautiful views outside that little window and try to point to our fellow travellers how we could see familiar buildings or landmarks as the plane taxis into the airport.

But those times seem far away now.

Now, we frown at the long queues at the customs at the airport, take a nap when the plane takes off, frown irritably the passenger next to us laugh out loud when watching a comedy on the inflight entertainment system and reject the food served by the airline.

What used to be once a luxury has now become just a means for us to get to work and then get home to spend the weekend with our family.


Picture taken from my seat in the airplane when
I was flying from Beijing to
Shenyang in the winter of 2007

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Travelling on a Red-Eye Flight

I’ve written on a previous blog post on how much I dislike travelling on the red-eye flight to Beijing, and won’t ever hope to do it again.

But you know how such things are.

Because here I am again, at 11pm at night, at Gate 46 of Terminal 1, waiting to get on the red-eye flight to Beijing.

It’s bad enough that I’m taking a flight at this hour. But this time, because I really have to get into town by 930am in the morning, I’ve chosen not to take Singapore Airlines, but The Other Airline, which is supposed to reach Beijing at 620am, a full 50 minutes ahead of SQ flight. (Knowing full well that there will likely be delays that will make this flight just maybe about 20 minutes ahead of the SQ one. Ah.. the value of time..)

The Other Airline, is usually cram full with tourists, both those heading towards Beijing and those returning home to Beijing. At 11pm at night, facing a night-long flight, you can understand that I’m feeling kind of grumpy.

And having fellow passengers who are packing and repacking their endless bits of plastic bags don’t really help (for tourists returning home). And shouting excitedly whilst doing so. Nor do those who are so bubbling with excitement about their upcoming trip that they have to shout excitedly to their fellow tour companions(for tourists going to Beijing).

But honestly, the worst kind of fellow passengers are those that allow their children (I wanted to use monsters but even at 11pm at night, that’s not a kind thing to say) to run about on the travelators , screaming and shouting at the top of their voices. Now, I can understand when travellers with infants have no choice when their yelling infants scream and cry on flights (although, I do wish and hope that they are travelling with such young one only out of absolute necessity). Honestly, I do. But when you have children at an age where they can comprehend simple instructions such as “Be quiet”, “Come over here” or “Stop it”, I really have the greatest urge to give these parents a good shake.

Actually, I am wrong.

Those are not the worst kind of fellow passengers. The worst are those who are no longer children, or even teenagers for that matter, but who are behaving very much like a 2 year old – yelling at the top of their voice, exclaiming over the smallest thing (like oh, there is internet connection at the Gate, and free phone calls to town!).

OK, I feel much better after all that ranting. I guess I have to just try to pretend that I’m going to sleep at a market later on the plane. I’ve to go now, gate’s closing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fishy Sandwich

Causeway Bay in Hong Kong has lots of interesting things - good shopping (Sogo, Times Square and the little shops by the streets) and nice food (wanton noodles, Japanese food, double layer milk pudding).

This trip to Hong Kong, I found a new store at Causeway Bay, just opposite Times Square, called Taiyaki, that serves hot sandwiches in a form of a fish.

It is a twist from the Japanese fish pancake with red bean inside.

They serve both sweet sandwiches such as "chocolate and banana" and savoury sandwiches like "hot dog and cheese".

They also serve "international" sandwiches like:
Italian: cheese + onion + tomato + sausage
German: sausage + onion + bacon
Keema: curry + cheese
French: cinnamon + apple + custard

Very interesting. Sink your teeth into one if you have the opportunity to go by Hong Kong's Causeway Bay.

Take-away only.

The shop-front

Fish shaped sandwiches

I had the hot-dog and cheese one

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Adventure, Incorporated

OK, I've done it.

I've gone and incorporated a company where The Husband and I are shareholders, which is true because both of us are investing our money and efforts into this thing.

And I've made myself the director and The Husband is now officially my secretary. (The reality is often the other way around though.)

I feel quite thrilled, even though it's just receiving an email from ACRA about the company being officially incorporated. Plus we don't even have anything substantial yet.

But it is a baby step towards a new adventure.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nearing the point of no return

I had many dreams since young.

One was to to start my own business.

In uni, I dreamt of a little cafe, tucked in a quiet neighbourhood area.Mothers would come in in the morning, when their children are in school, enjoying a little gossip over some cake and hot tea. Students would visit my little dream cafe after school, and have a glass of iced coffee whilst discussing their school projects. In the evenings, cousins or friends would drop by, enjoying a bit of dinner or just some drinks. On certain occassions, the cafe would be closed for a special birthday for a grandmother, or a special anniversary.

Even before graduation, I knew my dream wasn't going to come through, since I accepted a job at a reputable consulting firm.

But then, I had too many other dreams that didn't come true - including becoming president of the republic of Singapore, having an elder brother and so on... So I didn't make too much of it.

I've worked for many years since graduation. But this particular little dream of having my own business stayed with me over the years.

Over time, the idea of a cafe changed and evolved.

And now, after all these years, I'm standing near to the point of no return - registration of my own little company.

It's almost like deciding to get married. Only I didn't feel that worried and nervous at that time. But doing my own business is a big change, to me at least... It'd be unlike leading teams, implementing systems, managing projects and timelines..

Part of me is feeling jittery inside. A million "what-ifs", mostly negative, are running around inside my head.

Part of me is feeling proud of myself. Proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone. Proud of myself for taking that step to change my own life.

For better or for worst, it'd be a new chapter of my life.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Good food in Taipei

This trip to Taipei, I had so much good food..

Apart from the errands I needed to run, I managed to make time to visit a few restaurants reccomended by a couple of the HK guidebooks, and a food program by TVBS Asia.

Here are some of my favourites:

肥前屋

Go here for Eel rice, Egg Roll, Sashimi and BBQ Eel Kidney (only available during lunch). I went during dinner alone, so was only able to have the eel rice and sashimi. But the egg rolls and most other stuff looks really good. Lots of customers were asking for the eel kidney too... so I reckon it must be good too.. but it is not available for dinner..

And oh, did I mention that the price here is also very reasonable?

Eel and Rice

Very Fresh Sashimi
Address: 台北市中山北路一段121巷3号
Opening Hours: 11:30~14:00 17:30~21:30
Note: It is in a small alley but you can spot the sign and queue rather easily.. There is a queue usually before even the shop opens for business.

鼎泰丰
They have this in Singapore.. but I really liked the 小笼汤包 they serve during weekends brunch in Taipei.. I have only been to the 忠孝 shop which I liked. Some friends mentioned that the quality is not consistent across all the shops.. but I never found the time to go to the other ones so I couldn't really compare..

The tiny 小笼汤包,each is less than 1 mouthful

Having it with vinegar and gingerHaving it with a spoonful of soup
There are 2 ways to eat the 小笼汤包, one way is to dip it in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, with some fresh ginger shreds (like how you usually would eat 小笼包). The other way is to eat it with the soup that is provided. Each serving contains 20 little buns. I would suggest to eat it before it turns cold (which is pretty fast!) because it really taste MUCH better hot.

Address: 台北市大安区忠孝東路四段218号

度小月
This restaurant has an interesting story to it. At the beginning of each month, one usually get one's salary, right? And so it is squander time.. But towards the end of the month... it is usually time to tighten your belt and wait for the next payday. 度小月 refers to that time of the month, when you wait for your next payday.

This places serves up simple Taiwanese fair. I like the noodles and prawn roll I had. Yummy!

About 度小月
Minced Pork Noodles
Fried Prawn Rolls

良品牛肉面

My favourite beef noodles is from this shop called 大婆牛肉面 in Hong Kong. I liked the yummy soup and the noodles that soak it all up. Yumz! I used to think that no other shop can beat this place.

I'm still right, but 良品牛肉面, has noodles that is in a class of its own. I didn't think the beef and soup taste as fanastic as the one in Hong Kong (so beefy, so "I need to try one more mouth to figure out what is in the soup") but the handmade noodles were really good. It is think enough to have enough bite to it and is, as my Taiwanese friend would say, still "Q".

Handmade Beef Noodles
Address: 台北市中正区开封街一段10号
(Take the MRT to Taipei Train Station, Exit 6)

Night MarketsNight markets are my favourite in Taiwan. Usually though, I end up having lots of deep-fried stuff(Think dieter's nightmare - Fried Chicken, Fried Mushrooms) and lots of cold stuff (Mango Ice, bubble tea, Papaya with milk). This trip, a Taiwanese friend introduced me to fried quail eggs.. I like any type of eggs - poached, fried, scrambled, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, smoked (yes, I had them in HK, yummy) etc.. so this went well with me.

Fried Quail Eggs

Night markets can be a bit too hot during summer nights.. But worth a visit on an empty stomach to try out Taiwanese street snacks.

I like Shilin Night Market, Shida Night Market and Feng Chia Night Market (but this is in Taichung, not Taipei..)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hello Kitty over the years

There was a time when I really liked Hello Kitty.

(Before you conjure up images of pink bedrooms and stationery aka Kitty-hell, I have to let you know that I am not really a collector. For one, I was a fan in my late teens, when I decided to work for my own allowances and when I went to college, my own college fees. So I didn't really have the kind of money at that time to splurge on Hello Kitty artifacts. For another, my room mate already was a "collector" so half of our domitory was already pink... )

At that time, I could look at a Hello Kitty item (only the real one, of course), and let you know which year's Hello Kitty it is...

In case you don't know... every year, Sanrio will release the "new design" of Hello Kitty. You can find each year's design on this website, which is created for Kitty's 35th anniversary:
http://kitty35.com/kt_design_top.html.

Here are a few of my favourite designs... (I mostly prefer the vintage Kitty designs..)


This trip to Taiwan, I went to a Hello Kitty restaurant with a new friend and her sister. It was such a cute restaurant. I had a Kitty burger and a Kitty matcha cake. The food was just so-so.. but the atmosphere - Hello Kitty designed furniture, Hello Kitty cakes, girls (including ourselves) going "ohh..." and "ahh..", more than make up for the food.

The restaurant decor and cakes on display....
What I had.. Hello Kitty burger and fries
Cranberry drink.. You can find it all over Taipei now..

The cakes we had.. Matcha Green Tea Cake..

Tiramisu..

Strawberry Fruit Tart.. The Kitty is made from chocolate..

If you, like me, used to be or are still a fan of Hello Kitty, the restaurant is very near the 忠孝复兴 MRT station, Exit 3.

Hello Kitty Sweets

Address: 台北市大安路一段90号(捷运板南线「忠孝復兴」站3号出口)
Click here for the restaurant's website
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