Friday, December 30, 2011

Summary of 2011

Since last year, I decided that I will write a summary of my year each December on my blog.

It's now time for a summary of my year again.

How time flies.


I started 2011 with a trip to London. That was my first business trip since I started working with the bank in April 2010. It was good to finally meet people I've been working with face-to-face. With the pound at an all time low, I also did a lot of shopping in London and had a really heavy luggage to drag back home. It didn't helped that I hurt my ankle just before leaving London, and pretty much limped my way onto the plane and back home to Singapore.


In March a terrible earthquake shook Japan, causing huge tsunamis to hit the Sendai region and North-eastern part of Japan really badly. The Husband and I visited Sendai and the Tohuku region around March/ April 2010, exactly one year before the earthquake and tsunami. We couldn't help thinking how fortunate we were - to have missed the terrible incident and visit those lovely places before the disaster.


We also made a big purchase decision in March that will move us to a faraway place (by Singapore standards, far away from where we currently stay) in 2014. Since then, I have been trying to read magazines and books on renovation and home decoration with the hope that I can be more discerning when it comes to home decoration in the future.



We also managed to visit Malacca over a long weekend for the first time in April. It's not common for Singaporeans to not have visited Malacca, so I was glad to have finally checked that box. We had the the most amazing tandoori chicken and naan in Malacca, so I supposed we'd definitely be visiting Malacca again sometime in the near future.



In May, I went for another business trip to London and New York. This was another good trip. I even managed to visit Oxford with a few colleagues over a weekend. After this business trip, there were some changes at work that resulted in me looking after a bigger team.. Suddenly, I got really busy and stressed out at work.

Around this time, The Husband decided to take a break from his hectic work life. He went home to Hong Kong for a few weeks to spend time with his family and also brought over a box of Alphonso Mangoes from Mustafa for them, which everyone loved. (These mangoes are delicious. I'd always be watching out for them around this time every year from now on.)


I took my block leave around the end of June to join him in Hong Kong. After we returned, The Husband started cooking and baking a lot of desserts in his spare time. I especially loved the many souffles he made, even though he declared most trials failures and the one that really did succeed according to him, I didn't get to eat.



Also around this time was the Singapore 2011 General Elections. I am never one to bother much about politics, but I went to one of the rallies near my place and I must say it was really rather exciting. The incumbent party in Singapore really need to work that much harder to win the hearts of younger Singaporeans!


In September, we took a short break to Bangkok. It rained almost everyday when we were there. After that, there were severe floods in Bangkok, so again, we were lucky to have had our holidays very much unspoiled.


After we came back, there was a piece of very bad news in the family - Someone had to cancel his wedding plans and got into quite a lot of personal debt as a result of prior commitments for the upcoming wedding. This incident affected me very much and I tried to help what I can.. though I also realised in retrospect that this incident is both a blessing in disguise and also an expensive lesson for that Someone. I still do hope and pray that he will recover from this incident and come out stronger.


The Husband took me on a relaxing break to a small and private resort in Batam to getaway from all the frustrations at home and stress at work, and we had a few quiet, relaxing days to ourselves.

My little niece also joined the family around this time. In the midst of all the frustrations, she really brought a lot of laughter and joy to the family.


November and December were busy months at work. I also moved to a new office location. Work got busier and busier and my hours got longer and longer. I had some good news at work in December and I guess that was a nice way to end a busy 2011 for me.

2012 will be another busy year, but there are lots of things for me to look forward to as well. I have learnt that as long as one is surrounded by love (people who love you and people you love), life will always have things for you to look forward to.

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dorayaki


The Nex mall is the biggest mall near our home, and we often go there for a movie. But I don't fancy the restaurants in Nex, so we seldom have our meals there.

There is something I really like to eat from Nex though, and that's the Dorayaki from Fiesta, located at B1 (Shokutsu 10).

Dorayaki (銅鑼焼き) is a kind of Japanese confectionery. It's the favourite snack of Doraemon, the robot cat from the future.

Dorayaki is made up of 2 sweet pancakes with a generous dollop of filling. The traditional filling is red bean paste, although you can find easily find other fillings like cheese and chocolate in dorayaki today.

At the Fiesta stall at Nex, they make the dorayaki on the spot, after you order. First, the pancakes are cooked on one side. Then, they are flipped over and then stamped with the Fiesta logo. Lastly, the filling was added to the centre of one of the pancakes and the the 2 slices of pancakes were sandwiched together.

The freshly made dorayaki is delicious - fragrant and hot on the outside, with cold filling. I like the red bean paste filling and green tea cream filling.

It's nice to stand there, watching the dorayaki being made

Christmas Dinner

The star of the dinner

The beef was perfectly cooked


We had a wonderful dinner last night at D's house.

She made a great roast beef - 3 kg of beef, marinated with lots of herbs, roasted perfectly until pink in the centre. The roasted carrots and baby potatoes tasted so good I forgot all about my low-carb diet. To make the dish a little more festive, she made an apple relish to accompany the meat.

G brought her signature salad to dinner - thick slices of salmon sashimi with cold lettuce and a tangy Japanese sesame dressing.

We ended the meal with 2 desserts - The Husband's Mango Delight and Ugly Chocolate cake.

One of my favourite salad - sashimi with lettuce and sesame dressing

We got to have a really wonderful and peaceful meal at D's place, without the hussle and bustle of the Christmas crowd.

I think from now on, I'd always have Christmas dinner at home, either my own or a friend's home.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Potluck

This year, there are some changes in our Cell Group.

I'm glad that everything turned out well and we are having a potluck Christmas dinner at one of our cell group member's house later.

We are bringing over Mango Delight and Ugly Chocolate Cake, both tried and tested recipes that The Husband has made before.

I'm a lucky girl - I just need to laze around and enjoy the wonderful smell coming out of my kitchen. And then take the photographs of the finished products.

Merry Christmas to all!

Mango Delight - a recipe by the famous HK Patisserie Tony Wong

The Ugly Chocolate Cake - is also a flourless cake.. 
It is really quite ugly isn't it?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gado Gado

Gado gado means "mix mix" and is an Indonesian mixed vegetable salad with peanut sauce.

I love to eat Indonesian food and am especially partial to gado gado. The last one I had in Batam was so delicious it made me crave for gado gado for quite a while after that.

Today, I made it for a potluck dinner with my extended family.

My version of gado gado contains all my favourite ingredients - blanced cabbages, long beans, bean sprouts, sliced boiled potatoes, baked tofu and hard boiled eggs.

I took an easy way out for the peanut sauce, using an instant mix-gravy mixture. I cooked the peanut mixture with water, lemongrass and a squeeze of lime juice.

Just before serving the gado gado, I topped the vegetables with bitter emping crackers and the spicy peanut sauce.

This is a very nice dish to bring to a potluck meal - I can prepare most of the ingredients way in advance and it doesn't need to be warmed up before serving. My family seemed to like it a lot, so I guess I'd be making this again sometime very soon.

Gado gado - without the emping crackers and peanut sauce. 
I forgot to take pictures after adding those..

New York New York

I've just realised I didn't manage to post about my trip to New York in May this year.

It was my first trip to New York - The city of Sex and The City.

The city felt new and distant to me, yet strangely familiar as well.

There are many corners about the city I feel I've seen before. May it is because I've seen so much of them on TV.

I had a weekend to roam about on my own, along with a camera on very low batteries.

So, I don't have too many pictures as a result - but enjoy!

 The symbol of New York - or rather of the US

Central Park. I really enjoyed my very long walk there

Central Park - see the famous fountain? That's the one from Friends, I think

The famous Times Square - it's surprisingly small!

The 911 memorial site

 Wall Street - where all the recent bout of financial troubles began

 Broadway!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Transportation Woes

A part of the MRT (Singapore subway) broke down the other day during peak hours, just when people were planning to head home from work. Some people were trapped in a dark train for about an hour. Others like me had to take a detour to get home.

Naturally, many people were frustrated, angry even with the company responsible - SMRT. Many people in Singapore rely heavily on the subway system to commute.

Singapore has the highest cost of cars in the world because of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which is something you need to own a car. This month, a COE for a small car (under 1600cc) costs about 52,000 SGD and a COE for a larger car (above 1600cc) costs about 72,000 SGD. We also have a rather high cost of car usage, with Electronic Road Pricing.

Taxis aren't particularly cheap as well, especially with the bewildering system of surcharges.

So, it's quite natural that people are upset when the MRT system breaks down.

I hold a different view however.

I think the MRT is actually the best public transport option we have. I think that our bus system is sadly and embarrassingly deficient for a small country like Singapore.

The Singapore bus system is made up of 2 main types of buses. Buses that bring you to the nearest MRT station, and buses that take the longest detour to get you to your destination.

The recent case of the bus driver who got lost proves how complex and roundabout our bus routes are.

There is a bus from where I live that I can take to work. It stops right outside the building where I work. However, from where I get on, it'd take 31 stops to reach my office.

If the bus takes 3 minutes between each stop, it'd take me 93 minutes to get to work. With some traffic, it takes me 30 minutes to drive to work. With the MRT, even with the need to change trains and take a long hike from the station, it doesnt take me more than 40 minutes to get to the office.

There is another bus I could take, if I choose to hike a little further up the road from where I live. Again, this bus takes 29 stops to drop me right outside my office. Estimated travel time based on 2 - 3 minutes per stop, ranges anywhere between 58 to 87 minutes.

So rather than focusing on focusing on the subway breakdown incident, I think we should really get the bus companies to explain why are bus routes in a small country like Singapore, so badly designed that we only have the MRT as our option to get to work, in a reasonable amount of time!

Sadly, the companies that own subway lines also own bus routes.. so for now, I just can't see what incentive they have to redirect us away from heavily relying on their more profitable channel of transportation.

I work downtown and I have problems finding many options to travel to work. 
It would be so much more difficult if I work in a business or industrial park in the suburbs..

Friday, December 16, 2011

16 December

How did 16 December turn up?

I looked at the calendar and got a real shock today. It's 16 December!

In another 15 days, we will hit 2012.

In precisely 2 months' time, I'd be another year older.

It's just too scary the way time flies. And the thing is, I spend all day looking at my calendar for what meetings I have to go to, I didn't actually notice the dates.

Things have been crazy at work - planning for next year, closing off this year, preparing for new things whilst also planning to do the same things I did next year better next year.

I've been really stressed out by work, which is something I don't like at all.

I'm taking Monday off from work, which means I get a long weekend off.

I'm really looking forward to sleeping in, going for a swim, having a cup of tea and basically doing anything but work. Hopefully, I'd not spend my time dwelling upon problems at work.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breakfast at Food for Thought

I've tried going to Food for Thought for breakfast on Sunday mornings for a few times now.

And we always ended up somewhere else because of the queue outside.

It was raining on Sunday and our church service ended earlier. So we decided to try Food for Thought again and this time, we managed to get seats outside. It was a cooling day for breakfast in alfresco style.

The food turned out to be quite good, although I read several reviews online about how the food isn't as good as it used to be.

I ordered the granola pancakes and although the pancakes were a tad too buttery for me, I thought they tasted pretty good, especially with the whipped cream and gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup. I liked the granola although I thought my homemade one was better (Hah!). Of course my low carb diet didn't work well that morning!

A friend of mine had the Full Works - which was a HUGE plate of everything you could think of for breakfast except pancakes and waffles. I loved the potato balls - they remind me of snacks my mum used to make when I was younger.

Food for Thought is a restaurant with a cause. I don't know what else they do, 
but they make you pay $2 for iced water which they donate out. 
I don't mind paying for iced water when restaurants promise to donate them out :)

My 2 gigantic pancakes

The Full Works

The Husband had Foccacia bread which looked and smelled quite good!

Food for Thought
8 Queen Street
Tel: +65 6338 9887
They have a complex system of when they take/ do not take reservations. See more here

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin with Rosemary

It's a pity that The Husband does not fancy pumpkins.

I love eating pumpkins in all forms - roasted pumpkin soup, pumpkin in salads, stir-fried pumpkin with dried shrimps etc. The only thing I haven't really tried is pumpkin juice à la Harry Potter novels. (And to be honest, even I think pumpkin juice is a bit too much!)

In fact, if I weren't on a low carb diet, I would be happy with steamed Japanese pumpkin and steamed rice for lunch.

As it happens, I tried a bit of this roasted pumpkin with rosemary the other day in a restaurant and this is so simple and so good I just had to share it here with all.

If you are cracking your head for an idea of a dish to bring for a potluck dinner during this festive period - here is an idea for you. This will definitely be a dish I will have on my list as a dish to bring for a potluck gathering!

Roasted pumpkin with sprigs of rosemary and a sprinkling of sea salt

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchijeon)

After my last post on Korean Seafood Pancakes, I got a comment from Fry saying I should make a kimchi one.

And so I did.

There isn't a better way to use up my Internet kimchi then cook Kimchi Jigae (Kimchi Soup) and Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchijeon), really.

These pancakes are so simple to make - mix the batter like you would for Korean Seafood Pancakes, cut up the kimchi into small pieces and add to the batter. Add in some spring onions and meat, if desired.

Like the Korean Seafood Pancakes, cook the pancakes with an extra dose of patience, until crispy on both sides.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Change of Habits

I have put on weight since starting on my current job about 18 months ago.

It's quite shocking really and I have a few dresses that I can't wear anymore.

That's really saying something because I'm not someone who buys tightly fitted clothes. My dresses are well fitting but usually not tight.

And most of them I bought less than 18 months ago!

So... I really do have to go on a diet because I still want to wear some of those clothes! But I usually suck at diets. I love eating too much... *sheepish smile

For this diet to work, I think I have to be realistic and change my habits rather than just do things differently for a couple of weeks.

So these are just a few things I will be doing from now onwards:

1) Drink a glass of water or eat a fruit before lunch and dinner
2) Climb the steps on my way to work in the subway instead of taking the elevators
3) Stretch when watching TV
4) Cut down on all sweet drinks
5) Eat a lot less carbs (I'm so inspired by Ting and Petunia - I don't think I can do without carbs, but I'm trying to only take brown rice and wholemeal bread)

Hopefully these small steps help! I'd be updating all again with my progress...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wimbly Lu's Waffles

I have been forgetting to bring my camera along with me during the weekends, which means I don't have pretty photos to show of this new, quaint little place I've found. All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone.

This cafe is pretty near to our place, and a stone's throw away from our church.

I picked Wimbly Lu as a place for tea with a few friends because I couldn't bear driving into town for tea on a Saturday afternoon (the crowds!) and frankly, just couldn't think of any other place.

This place opened very recently - this month or last, I think!

You can't miss the cafe, with its signature red-and-white vintage Beetle outside!

This cafe specialises in chocolates and what I like about it is that it is really very homey - mismatch chairs, extremely old decking, beautiful-but-mismatch plates, red brick walls, glass ceilings that lets in lots of lights and lets you see the rain. It's the kind of place you know you can be comfortable in with a few good friends for the afternoon.

The drinks at Wimbly Lu were nothing to shout about. The desserts were all pretty good though.

The black-out cake my friend ordered looked dry but it was very moist and not-too-sweet. The slice of cake was a real tiny one though. The Husband was very put of by it as he believes that you should always cut 1/8th of the cake to serve. "You can charge more but you can't give less" - is something he strongly believes in.

The Husband ordered Eton Mess, something we have never seen in a menu in Singapore. I thought it would be overwhelmingly sweet but I must say it was really quite good. I'm really impressed with the meringue - crispy on the outside with a marshmellowy center, yet not too sweet at all! The meringue went perfectly well with the whipped cream and very tart raspberry sauce.


The Eton Mess was unexpectedly good

I ordered the waffles with homemade chocolate truffle ice-cream and chocolate sauce, based on recommendations from this blog. I have been having cravings for waffles of late and this was the ANSWER to my cravings. The waffle is pretty light and crispy, not unlike the ones you get at A&W in Batam, but slightly more substantial. The homemade ice-cream looked rather melted and unappetizing but it was surprisingly rich and good!

Good waffles - I'm so glad this place is near my home!

The homemade truffles at Wimbly Lu were good too. Not particularly pretty and refined looking but they tasted good, which is what is important at the end of the day. I tried a few flavours and my favourites are the dark chocolate and baileys truffles.

I like looking at the rain fall on the glass ceilings

They serve good-old root beer float too!

Wimbly Lu
Address: 15-2 Jalan Riang
Tel: +65 6289 1489

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Korean Seafood Pancake

Inspired by Dainty Bites, I decided to make some Korean pancakes for dinner tonight. I had some instant pancake mix which I bought from a Korean supermarket, so I didn't follow the reccomended Mark Bittman's recipe.

The pancakes turned out pretty well, I was very pleased with how crispy, yet chewy the pancakes were.

One thing I've learnt about Korean pancakes - it's important to cook them with lots and lots of patience.

I put the non-stick pan on high heat, pour in a couple of tablespoon of oil and when the oil is hot, turn the heat down to medium and ladle in the mixture.

And only when the bottom is nice and brown do I turn it over to the other side. Pressing the pancake down with the back of my spatula helps to make the other side of pancake nice and crispy as well. If the pan isn't oily enough, turn the heat up and add a little oil from around the sides of the pan. (Somehow though, the second side never turns out as pretty as the first side that heats the pan.)

Then keep doing the same for every single pancake. It's a true test of patience, I tell you!


I don't have a pretty picture of the pancake for some reason but 
these were yummy enough for a compliment from my younger brother!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Days, Simple Days

Recently, work has been busy and stressful.

"Life shouldn't be so difficult." So says the optimist in me.

After careful considerations, I think the optimist is right.

I may face tough and difficult days now and then, but overall, I tend to have more happy days than tough ones.

Happy days usually do not require too much.

A well-baked cake, a warm sunny day, a great movie, meeting up with old friends, a stroll in the park after the rain, an encouraging comment on my blog, a facebook message from an old friend.

These are all things that can make my day brighter, happier.

小时候,幸福可以很简单。

长大后,简单可以很幸福。

A delicious glass of ice-blended watermelon with 
lime can really make my day too!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Show Flats

 A beautiful shelf in the bathroom of the show flat

I like visiting show flats.

I find listening to the sales people pretty interesting.

Since I'm not really buying any apartment or house, I try not to waste too much of their time. But listening to what they have to say, even if I know it's biased because they are trying to sell, is interesting. Sometimes, they tell you of some rumours or developments in the housing market, sometimes change in government policies, sometimes it's what they say about the development of certain regions.. and sometimes, it's the things they have to say about a particular unit.

I listen and take everything with a pinch of salt, thinking one of these days, if I'm out of a job, I can probably try to be a real estate agent too!

Another reason why I like show flats is because I find that I can pick up really clever interior design ideas from show flats.

In recent years, apartments in Singapore have been shrinking.

I recently went to see a show flat of an apartment not too far from where our place is. The show flat is, like most show flat, very beautiful. I was very impressed with all the quality furnishings and the overall interior design. The apartment also felt pretty spacious so I was very amazed to learn that it was the show flat for a 650sqf apartment.

"But this apartment feels so spacious! And the toilets are huge!"

The salesman explained that that is because a lot of unnecessary space have been taken out of the apartment. "The kitchen is open concept, there is no unnecessary yard area and the developer has also taken out the bomb shelter and store room - spaces that are usually wasted in an apartment."

I also noted that as part of the design, the interior designer also knocked down the wall separating the living room and a room, replacing with a glass wall and a TV rack that can be flipped around so that you can watch TV from either the small room or the living room. What a brilliant idea!

The glass wall that separated the living room from a small room. 
I like the fact that the TV can be flipped 180deg to face the other side

The small room is also separated by the corridor by a glass shelf 
and sliding glass door so the whole house is full of light

I went away from the show flat rather impressed with this apartment.

However, on second thoughts..

If there are no storerooms, where do you store your stuff? In the room that is separated from the living room by a glass wall?

And where do you air your laundry if there is no yard space? In the living room?

The "unneccessary" spaces that he was referring to are all spaces that we use every day!

Looks like sales people can sometimes make the weaknesses of some apartments sound like strengths! Maybe I will not be a good real estate agent after all.

Sometimes, show flats make use of visuals to make spaces look bigger too! 
Technically, there should be a glass door separating the balcony from the living room. 
The lack of these doors also make the room look a lot bigger!
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