Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Office Politics

The worst part about working has to be office politics.

I don't mind heavy workload and issues at work as much as I mind office politics.

What is office politics? Wikipedia has it as "the use of one's individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one's legitimate authority."

Hm.. Perhaps.

I think office politics is about individuals navigating around within the organisation, getting things done the way they want. It is very much about "me, me and me".

Office politics is annoying and more importantly, frustrating.

But it is a little different if you read about it rather than experience it.

Perhaps that is why this particular Chinese novel is so popular in China. (So popular,  the writer wrote 2 sequels for it.) The story has also been made into a TV series and a movie.

The name of the novel is "The Story of Du La La's Promotion". It is my latest read. I'm currently at Book #2 and I must say... I've quite enjoyed Book #1 - I can quite identify with the protagonist's (Du La La) experience, especially because of my 3 years stint in China.

If you are read Chinese, do consider picking up this book. It gives an interesting insight to working in a foreign firm in China.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Laksa Linguine

This is very similar to the fried laksa I made a couple of weeks back.. except I used linguine instead of fresh thick beehoon. This is good for those who can't get fresh beehoon where they are.. or those who happen not to have any at home when cooking this dish (like me).

Be sure to add a little bit more of the pasta water when frying this, as the linguine soak up water pretty quickly.

Recipe here.

Tarragon Rejuvenated

I don't have green fingers.. and I have found herbs especially hard to grow.

Petunia gave me a pot of tarragon a while back.. and it was tall and beautiful, with lots of yummy leaves and pretty, fragrant flowers. I used the leaves in my roasts and the flowers in my salad. But alas, over a few weeks, the leaves turned brown and after a while, it became a pot of dried tarragon.

Frustrated, I trimmed away all the dried leaves and cut the plant up severely, leaving only a relatively short stump behind.

I thought I'd be throwing the entire pot away in no time.

To my surprise, however, green leaves started sprouting out everywhere.. and now, I have a pretty decent looking pot of tarragon again! No flowers yet.. but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Buah Long Long

This fruit is known to me as "buah long long". I've also heard that the Malay name for it is "buah kedongdong". Quite a cute name, either way.

The "buah long long" fruit has a leathery skin and a thin layer of pulp. The pulp is either eaten fresh, pickled with vinegar and chilli, or made into juice or jelly. It is not a common fruit to find.. even in Singapore. I've had the drink before in Penang as well and have heard that it is also available in Indonesia.

The "buah long long" tree is a useful tree.. and I find it strange that it is not more widely cultivated. The fruit is supposedly "cooling" (ie dispels "heatiness") and diuretic. The roots and bark too, have medicinal value - can be consumed and also used for external application.

In any case, the juice of the "buah long long" tastes great - a bit like lime juice but with a more grassy flavour. With a lot of ice and a sour plum, it is a great drink to have on a scorching hot Sunday afternoon.

Not many stores sell this drink now.. I find this at a Penang restaurant called Gurney Drive at Ang Mo Kio.

P/S: I used I could reccomend this restaurant because I personally love Penang food. Unfortunately, the food used to be a lot better when the restaurant first started. Our assam laksa today was rather disappointing. I'd be writing to them about it.. because there aren't many places where assam laksa is available in Singapore! Watch this space for more!

Showy Lantanas

The combination of very hot morning and early afternoon sun, late afternoon showers and vigorous trimmings sometime back is making my lantanas bounce back to life in a big and showy way.

They look really good now, don't they? The white and yellow one is really blooming in a big way now. The violet one isn't doing as well.. but it is still flowering.

Lantanas are really pretty easy to grow. My experience so far with these 2 pots are lots of sunshine and daily watering. I really ought to get a couple more pots of these. The really add lots of interesting colours to my balcony!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guess the colour of my Frangipani

The success of our botak frangipani (which is now by the way, ahem, a rather handsome plant) encouraged me to buy another one.

Unfortunately, when I was at World Farm choosing a new frangipani for my balcony, none of the frangipanis there were flowering. So no one, not even the expert at the frangipani area, could tell me what colour flowers they would bear. So I pick out a small plant whose look I liked and carted it home.

2 clumps of flower buds sprouted out a couple of weeks back.. I got really excited. But the buds are growing very slowly. I still can't tell what colour the flowers would be. My other frangipani plant has white and yellow flowers, so I'm really hoping the colour on this one will be a bit different.

What do you think? Would you like to take a guess at the colour of the flowers? Here are pictures of the flower buds.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Distance Based Fares

I have to say - whoever who thought of this idea must have thought himself (or herself) to be really smart.

But really, I beg to differ.

I think distance-based fares is the silliest thing I've heard of. Okay, so maybe I exaggerated. It is probably not the silliest, but it is close.

Public transport is to provide a means of transportation to the general public at a reasonable price. So on the surface, there isn't anything wrong with distance-based charging - the longer you ride, the more you pay. Fair system, yah?

But the general public travelling on public is doing so most of the time to get to work. And many people people work downtown. And in most cities, the further you stay from town, the more reasonably priced your property is.. or the lower your rent is.

And so.. people who stay further from work, who already have to put up with spending more time on the road to get to work will now have to end up paying more as well.

Where then, is the benefit of all this?

Also, elderly or retired folks who travel by public transport may not find it easy or convenient to make multiple transfers so that their travelling costs can be minimized. They don't care as much about travelling longer distances because they have more time. Why should they be penalized by choosing to make less transfers?

Public transport should have relatively flat pricing - 1 flat rate, or a few categories of flat rates at most for really long distance travelling.

Distance-based fares are not as "fair" as they sound to be.. and with all various the errors popping up in the system, they are proving to be complex as well as silly.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eggy breakfast at Botak Backyard

We sometimes visit the Botak Jones store near our place for their steak and fish burger.

I found out recently that Botak Jones opened a new restaurant called Botak Backyard around the Dempsey area. I also saw on their website that they have recently started serving breakfast at the Botak Backyard.

I love eating breakfast on weekends, so we decided to drop by this place on Sunday morning after church. I liked the place even as we were walking it. It is literally like the backyard of this other kid's golf place. The restaurant is all open air, very casual and has a somewhat vacation-like feel to it... I think the vacation-like feel came from the fact that it wasn't overly crowded, like most other popular breakfast spots in town.

The menu is reasonably priced but the breakfast selection was eggs, eggs and then more eggs. I think they also had cereals for those who didn't want eggs. But nothing beyond that.

I ordered the omelet with shitake mushrooms and it meant no more eggs for me for the next 2 weeks because the omelet consisted of 4 medium sized eggs! It was pretty good but did I mention it was 4 eggs!? The Husband and R both had the eggs and bacon, which came with 2 eggs so their breakfast was a little less scary.. 

The food wasn't drop dead fabulous or fantastic, but it was pretty decent and the coffee was good. The portions were certainly healthy (or unhealthy depending on how you view it) and the place was rather nice. It is also conveniently located near the botanical gardens, which would be a good spot to go after breakfast to walk off those 4 egg omelets.

Omelet with shitake mushrooms

Eggs and bacon

I would go back there again on a leisurely Sunday morning before too many people find out about this place.

P/S: I found some really cool lomo camera apps in iStore - these pictures were all taken with the iPhone.

Botak Backyard
Add: 130E Minden Road
Tel: +65-65091225
Breakfast is served only on Thurs - Sun

A bag by a practical woman

My jaws almost dropped when I heard the price tag for this bag.

But you have to admire this bag for what it is - A bag created by a practical woman, for herself.

Coco Chanel got tired of having to carry her handbags in her arms and decided to design a handbag that freed up her hands. And design she did.

She ended up designing a bag that is both practical and distinctive for herself.

Here are a few interesting details about the bag
- The bag's internal lining’s burgundy colour represents the colour of the uniforms at the convent where she grew up. It also makes looking for things in a bag easier. (So clever - How many of us grope around in our bags because the lining is black and too dark for us to find our stuff?)
- There are lots of pockets and compartments for storage - the zippered compartment at the front flap is for her to store her love letters (she was a mistress to someone then) and there is a pocket at the back to store some loose cash
- She designed a double chain shoulder strap. The chains were attached by leather-threaded chain inserted though eyelets so there were strong and lasting.. and her hands can be freed up. The chains were inspired by the nuns at the convent wore to attach keys to their waists.
- Whilst this bag was later designed to have a double CC turn lock, the original 2.55 bag Chanel had had a practical and rectangular shaped lock

Mademoiselle Chanel will be very glad to know that the bag she designed for herself is one of the most famous fashion icons today..

Photos from bagsnob

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Refreshing Cheng Tng

Cheng Tng means "Light Soup" in dialect.

I am not sure why this Chinese dessert is called Cheng Tng. It is probably because this dessert is cooling and can get rid of “heatiness” in a person. Surprisingly, The Husband says he has never heard about this "sweet soup" in Hong Kong when we first had it together in a local hawker centre. It must be a dessert unique to Singapore and Malaysia.

Cheng Tng is a nice dessert to have on a hot day, especially when served cold.

Cheng Tng can be made with a variety of ingredients. The one I made today had white fungus, sterculia seeds (pong dai hai), barley, dried longans and some fresh chinese pears.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fried Laksa

I wished I could say that I thought up of this dish myself.

But I got the idea for frying this beehoon in laksa style from C's mum, when we went to her place for party before her wedding.

I have always like fried mee siam. But I thought fried laksa is even better. I liked how it still taste very much like laksa, but without the coconut milk.

You could make the laksa sauce yourself, of course, but I opted for the easy way out. Hai's laksa paste did the job really well.

(For 3-4 people)
500g thick bee hoon
100g bean sprouts
2-3 hard boiled eggs
8-10 medium-sized prawns, boiled
4 pcs tau pok, finely diced
2 pcs fish cakes, sliced
Half a packet of Hai's laksa paste
A handful of laksa leaves, finely chopped
Fresh calamansi (optional)

What I did
1. Fry the taupok and fish cakes slices with very little oil separately and set aside
2. Heat a work and fry the laksa paste
3. In a separate pot, bring some water to boil and add in the thick bee hoon. Boil for 1 minute and add in the bean sprouts and then strain the bee hoon and beansprouts immediately
4. Add the cooked bee hoon, beansprouts, tau pok, fish cake slices into the wok and mix well
5. Add the laksa leaves and stir fry further
6. Decorate with the boiled prawns and hard boiled egg slices
7. Serve with some fresh calamansi (Squeeze some calamansi juice onto the bee hoon just before eating)

My version of fried laksa

Fried laksa by C's mum - lots of laksa leaves!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is your greatest fear?

If you had to answer this question in a single sentence, what would it be?

Would it be fear of being poor? Fear that you would not have enough when you grow old?

Or fear of loss of youth? That wrinkles will creep on your face, neck and hands.

Would it be fear of "losing out" to your friends? That you'd be that one loser amongst all your peers?

Or perhaps fear of being alone? Without a spouse or a lover to love and care for you. Or perhaps that your children will abandon you in your old age?

Maybe it would be fear of rejection - by your family and people you love the most.

Whatever your greatest fear is, life is rather sad if we live our lives to prevent our fears from coming true.

But that is what many of us do. Everyday, we work hard at our jobs, work out to keep our bodies in shape, keep in touch with our friends and stay on top of our investments. We work hard at our relationships and try our best to please the people around us.

There is nothing wrong with all these - but if our motivation is from our fears, then life is really rather sad, isn't it?

Shouldn't our motivation be based on our dreams and hopes of the future? Rather than on fears from our past experiences.

My greatest fear is that of rejection. I've sometimes jokingly thought it might be a middle-child syndrome. The need to be liked by people has always been very important to me. Why, I feel sad even when some anonymous folks leave less than gracious remarks on my blog!

But I am tired of having this fear guide the way I live my life and make my choices.

I want my greatest fear to be that of the fear of God and from there free myself from fears.

View of the clouds and the setting sun from 
my seat in the plane back to Singapore from Haikou

 As the sun sets even further, the colours became even more beautiful

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hainan - Haikou

Hainan (meaning South Sea) is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China. It is also, I think, the only province of the country with a tropical climate.

I went to Hainan a couple of weeks back with 2 other girlfriends - G and R. It's been more than 10 years since I've travelled with both of them.

We went to Haikou for 4 days.. and actually, if you were to ask me, I wouldn't really recommend Haikou as a travel destination for Singaporeans. It is 4 hours away by flight but there isn't really anything terribly interesting or different about Haikou because a lot of the sights are really familiar to those of us living in a tropical climate - mangroves and lush greenery.

And for all the good Hainanese food we have in Singapore, you would think that Hainanese food in Hainan would be fantastic. However, I think I had the worst Hainanese chicken rice in my life in Haikou.. and the Hainanese noodles were so awful, we couldn't eat much of it at all.

But it was overall a nice getaway from everyday work and I enjoyed spending time with my 2 friends very much.

Hainan is supposedly one of the places with the best climate in the whole of China and with the least pollution. I would agree that it is much less polluted compared to the other major cities I've been to... but the noise pollution is just as bad and if not worse. Cars in Haikou drive using their horns, not signal lights.

At a volcano crater (It looks very dormant.. thankfully!)

A nice view of the surroundings.. and a pretty nice weather!
Hainan food - the big disappointment - very bad chicken rice 
(best in town according to our driver and a few others) and odd tasting noodles

A boat ride through a mangrove swamp

A big park in the city. We actually took a ride in those swan boats!

Our last meal at Haikou is.... KFC! I like KFC in China - this is the Peking roll. 
A bit like Peking duck but it has fried chicken fillet instead of duck

The Duty Free shop at the airport - I like the vintage look!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Pursuit for More

A few quite unrelated things I came across recently prompted this post.

I'm not at liberty to share those stories here, since they are not my stories. But I'd just say that a few people I know live apart from their spouse and children in the name of their careers.

I can relate to having work take one apart from one's family, of course.. because I spend a fair bit of time at work - much longer than I like really..

Sometimes though, I just wonder... All these for what?

I feel that very often, we have more than what we need. Or at least, I think I do.

When I say "I'm starving", it isn't because I haven't had food for the last few days. Most likely, it's because I've skip 1 meal or because I'm eating a couple of hours later than I'm used to.

When I say "I've got nothing to wear", it isn't because I haven got enough clothes to keep me warm but because I cannot think of what to pull out from my overcrowded wardrobe to put on for the day.

When I say "I've no money", it isn't because I literally don't have it. Most likely it is because I don't have enough to buy something I don't need but want... or don't want to spend that much on something..

Most people that I know are in a similar situation. We have what we need. But there are always things that we want - a new and bigger house, a fancier car, another handbag, a more comfortable retirement life.. or simply, a fatter bank account.

But I really do wonder at times if the price we pay for our pursuit of more is worth what we get at the end of the day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bean Curd Tarts

Le Cafe Confectionery & Pastry is a small, unassuming shop situated along Middle Road.

We sometimes go by that area to go to a Korean supermarket for some Korean groceries.

I can't remember what made me first step into this small pastry shop - I didn't know it was a pretty famous place back then. But I'm so glad I did, because I found these bean curd tarts. They are like egg tarts except that the egg custard is a little firmer and there is a hint of soya bean taste in the custard.

Yummy. Buy some to try if you happen to be in the area. The only downside is.. you'd have to buy a whole box of 8 tarts because they don't sell them individually.

Le Cafe Confectionery & Pastry
Add: 264 Middle Road Singapore 188990
Tel: +65-6337-2417
Website: http://www.lecafe.com.sg/say.htm