Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Award - Part 1

I was really touched to receive an award from Milka. Her blog's name is Milka Jishiben. Jishiben is Chinese for notebook.. and I'm a regular reader of her blog because her blog is like a lovely notebook... more like a lovely scrapbook really. Her blog showcases her gardening experiences and very excellent DIY projects that has me going "woo" and "ahh" every single time.

And so to receive a Stylish Award from Milka.. well.. I kind of feel... I'm not quite sure.. Stylish? My blog? Hm... but having an Award motivates me to blog more regularly! So.. thank you very much, Milka!

To accept this award, the rules are that I must:
* Post a link back to the person that gave me the award
* Share 7 things about myself
* Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
* Contact these bloggers and tell them about it

Here are the 7 things about myself
1) I work in a bank.. and whilst I quite like working.. I secretly (and now not so secretly) think that my job is boring. I mean.. what I do does not cause joy or change the world in anyway.. My world at work is very minute and dull compared to the world out there.
2) I'm born in February. February is really the month that signifies a new beginning for me and is usually when I try to get my New Year resolutions done. (I know.. I'm late usually) I tend to reflect upon what I want to do with my life more around my birthday and I find that helps with setting New Year resolutions. This task gets a little more depressing every year because I still do not really know what I want to do.. You'd think that after so many birthdays, it gets easier.. but it really doesn't!
3) I love to eat and I love to cook almost as much! My idea of a great catch up with friends is over afternoon tea - with a cup of fragrant tea and sinfully delicious cakes and pastries!
4) I have lots of dresses... I think I have about 50 dresses? (Although you'd seldom see me in one off work) Dresses are easy because there is no need to mix and match.. so I suppose you would know the kind of person I am from this..
5) I dislike CATs and am actually quite terrified of them
6) I am rather impatient and have a pretty quick temper. Whilst I may "forgive and forget" very quickly, not everyone around me does that and this causes tension at times. This is something I'm really trying to improve upon.
7) I like growing edibles but I haven't had much luck with most.. They don't seem somehow to survive very well on my balcony.. under my hands.. :)

Now.. the hard part about this reward is getting the 15 new bloggers.. Hm... I'm not sure if I read 15 blogs because Milka has gone and also awarded some blogs I love...

Here are some from me.. (in no particular order of preference..):
1. MySinfonia - a blog on beading, gardening and the wonderful life in Tasmania
2. My Little Garden in Japan - blog about growing lots of amazing stuff in a balcony garden in Japan. I am especially impressed with his edibles and his blog's logo! (Hint - read the About page for more details!)
3. Steph's Green Space - Steph has the most colourful and most shapely flowers! It baffles me how one can get colours and shapes working together like that in a garden! See this post as an example of what I mean.
4. Petunialee - Petunia's blog is about her everyday life seen through her eyes, with her wonderful sense of humour and wit
5. DreamersLoft - For the yummiest recipes and photos of homecooked food and wonderful desserts
6. Kitchen Simplicity - There is nothing simple about this kitchen! I read it like a wonderful food magazine and then go scavenging for food after that..
7. Evan Kitchen Ramblings - Another blog that has amazing, magazine-like food. And I actually know Evan... so in a way, reading her blog is like reading a magazine written by someone I know..

Hm.. let me think about some other blogs I read and would like to recommend - watch this space for more!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Four O'Clock Flower

Thanks to Ting, I know now that my plant is the Four O'Clock plant.

It is also called Mirabilis, or Marvel of Peru, or "Purple Jasmine". The plant is called Four O’clock because it tends to flower in the late afternoon. It is not actually the time of day that causes the flowers to open, but the drop in temperature. And so the flowers are still open in the early morning before I go to work.

The flowers are extremely fragrant - I suspect that might be the reason why it is called "Purple Jasmine".. And they attract nocturnal pollinators like moths!

The flowers are used in food colouring. And the leaves can apparently be used to reduce inflammation.

The seeds however, are extremely poisonous, leading one website to call it the "fatally fragrant flower"

Such an interesting plant!

Photo from here

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pink Moonflowers?

Now, this plant of mine grew from a seed.. As my seed management skills obviously has great rooms for improvements, I didn't know what plant this is.

Now my plant has flowered. The flowers are a bright fuschia pink. And they have a really nice smell... not unlike a perfume I once had. The perfume had a distinctly sweet flora smell.. like jasmine but gentler and sweeter. Now these flowers smell a bit like that perfume, which supposedly had moonflower fragrance.

So now I am a little confused.. I always thought moonflowers were white!

Hm.. does anyone know what is this plant and how I should take care of it?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Anzu Oil, or Apricot Kernel Oil

I haven't done one of these "beauty" posts for a long time now.

Yanagiya Anzuyu is a top selling hair product in Japan. It is actually apricot kernel oil and it is supposed to be good for keeping hair moisturized and protected against damages.

I can tell why this oil is so popular with Japanese ladies. Having used it for a couple of months now, I find that applying a bit of this oil after I've washed and towel-dried my hair makes my hair smoother, shinier and a lot more manageable. Because apricot kernel oil has anti-inflammation properties, it is suitable for people with sensitive scalp like me. Most other hair products usually cause irritation to my scalp. But I've had no problems whatsoever with anzuyu.

If you read Japanese, the Yanagiya anzuyu website is quite informative and pretty simple to understand. Directions on how to use this oil and its benefits can be also found on this website

The only thing is.. I'm not sure if this oil is available in Singapore. It is certainly easily available in most drug stores in Japan.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

15 days of Chinese New Year

The 15 days of Chinese New Year is over.. 15 days not short.. yet I always think that Chinese New Year fly by all too quickly.

Did you know that each day of the 15 days of Chinese New Year has a different significance?

The eve is the day when most families have reunion dinner. For some families, especially where members of the family do not live in the same city, this is a special time of get together.

The first day of Chinese New Year is a time when families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended family. For my family, it means visiting my grandmother and a big get together with all my relatives at my grandma's house.

The second day of the Chinese New Year is a day for married daughters to visit their own parents.

The third day is also called "赤口", or "red mouth" and is supposedly not a good day to visit your friends or family as you might end up arguing with each other.

For many Chinese business man, the fifth day is the birthday of the God of Wealth.

I don't know anything particularly special about the sixth day - except it is the Birthday of the Horse. Why this is so I have no idea.

The Seventh day is also "人日", or "Man's day" - this is the birthday of everyone. In Singapore and Malaysia, people like to eat "Yu Sheng" on the 7th day. My family likes to do that on Chinese New Year eve, or the first day of Chinese New Year, as part of our family gathering.

The Eighth day is the day that Taoist Chinese pray to the Jade Emperor. Some know him as "天公“ - Sky God. The Eighth day is the eve of his birthday, making the Ninth Day special because his birthday is celebrated that day. In Beijing, the Eighth day of Chinese new year is a day to eat the Eight-Treasure Porridge.

The Eleventh to Thirteen Day are for feasting and more merry making with family and friends.

On the Fourteen day, people start preparing for the Lantern Festival, which is held on the Fifteen Day of the Chinese New Year.

My favourite days of the Chinese New Year are:
1) The eve of Chinese New Year - because that is when we have our reunion dinner together
2) The first day of Chinese New Year - because that is when I get to meet almost all my relatives in a day
3) The seventh day - because I get to eat my favourite Yusheng

Here is the homemade version one that I made this year. I make the Yusheng in a similar manner each year - with lots of vegetables and loads of colour!

Family Day and Parks

I have been pretty quiet on my blog for a couple of weeks now. And part of the reason is because I have had a very stressful 2 weeks trying to organise Family Day.

Family Day is an annual affair for our church.. where about some 200 of us would gather together for some fun activities and lunch together.

This year, I'm one of the organisers. It has been really stressful because trying to get a location suitable for 200 people, with sufficient parking, toilet facilities and shade is not as easy as one would think. Even for Garden City Singapore. And especially if one does not wish to pay very much.

And so, for the last 2 weeks, I've basically been really rather stressed out about this year's Family Day - getting the location, coming up with the programs, the food, drinks... and even things such as enough garbage bags!

At one point I was thinking.. hm.. I wasn't even so stressed out for my own wedding. The difference is that for my wedding, all I had to do was please myself and The Husband. And our wedding wasn't held outdoors, where you are subject to the fickle weather.

Well, in the end, after searching out and visting about 5 parks in Singapore, we decided upon Jurong Lake Park. And we were very blessed indeed today because the weather just could not have been better. It was cloudy and breezy so that even though our activities were in the middle of the day, it was all very pleasant indeed. And I was thoroughly exhausted after the event.. but quite quite glad that everyone seemed to have a nice time.

Jurong Lake Park is a BEAUTIFUL park... I have never been there prior to 2 weeks ago, but I would highly recommend a visit to this park. I would certainly hope to go back there for a picnic one day. I wished I had remembered to take pictures of this beautiful park this time around.. but for now, you'd just have to take my word for it! :P

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meet King Kong

Meet King Kong - A giant Harrods bear.

And in case you are wondering..

Nope. I didn't buy it from London. Neither do I know anyone who is crazy enough to buy it home. King Kong belongs to a friend's brother (ops, I didn't mean to say he is crazy... I hope he doesn't read my blog). King Kong is occupying a significant corner in my friend's spare bedroom at the moment.

King Kong is HUGE - see the picture below with the iPhone on his nose for size comparison. He is so huge he got stuck at the door when my friend tried to move him into the room. He is a Harrods 2006 Christmas bear and comes with his own little bear in his left pocket. If you google "Harrods bear 2006", King Kong's pictures will show up.

I have never seen something like this in a friend's house. Every visitor to my friend's house, including all delivery and repairman, have requested to take a photo of King Kong.

I'm of course no different.

I'm lucky to have a few very good pictures of King Kong before he gets "mummified" to keep him less dusty. (Imagine having to give him a bath!)

King Kong with an iPhone for size comparison..

Fish and Chips

I love Fish and Chips - especially if the fish is fresh, the batter thick and crispy. I don't particularly like your typical thick-cut fries that comes with Fish and Chips, but the restaurant will score well if they serve Fish and Chips with mashed green peas and homemade tartar sauce - like this pub at Canary Wharf.

I was so glad to have Fish and Chips in the home of Fish and Chips - United Kingdom. (Hm... some would argue it is Australia actually.. )

What's your favourite place for Fish and Chips? The one I like in Singapore is at the Serangoon Gardens market - no mashed green peas and fancy fries, but the fish is usually very good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Harrods - a truly English Institution

Harrods is a most amazing department store. It is truly one-of-a-kind - extremely difficult to find your way around (All the sales people asked if I needed directions to me next destination. Every single one.), has the most opulent looking decorations indoors (especially the Egyptian escalators) and has a  breathtaking array of products on sale (From wedding gowns, to grandfather clocks to food. The food department is especially amazing - see pictures below.)

I think it can be ranked as one of the top tourist destination for London, right alongside Buckingham Palace and the British Museum. And indeed tourists swarm this place. The number of people picking out reusable Harrods shopping bags and bears is really quite staggering. Personally, I don't see what is so special about the 19 pounds plastic shopping bag but maybe it is just me because there were lots of tourists buying such bags.

Going to Harrods always gives me a slight headache afterwards but I really do enjoy gaping at the selections available. This trip, I also found that if you know what it is that you want to buy, it is a very good place to buy from - Harrods do stock up rather well and the VAT-back processing service in Harrods is first class.

Photo from here

Even the selection of fresh flowers and small potted plants is pretty good..

And of course, there is always a few of these giant 
Harrods bears on sale. This one cost about 1900 pounds (!!)

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf was where I was at in London for the whole 2 weeks. I stayed in an apartment at Canarf Wharf, worked in one of the buildings there.. and had my dinners nearby every single night. Except for the weekend and a night when I visited a friend, I never had to take the tube.

Canary Wharf is a major financial district in London and contains many of the UK's tallest building. Being business district, it is very busy in the day and somewhat deserted and quiet in the evenings and weekends.

However, there is some shopping around that area and a very good selection of pubs and restaurants, which makes it still a nice place to stay. Not a bad place at all to stay if you visit London.

For me, the best part about staying at Canary Wharf was that I could walk to work. This really makes a difference because it meant I could go in to work easily at an early hour. But it also meant I ended up starting my day at around 7am in the office every day! I even got in one day at around 640am!

The buildings and banks at Canary Wharf

The apartment I stayed at in Canary Wharf

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scones and Tea at Covent Garden

This trip to London, I had one weekend to do a bit of sight-seeing and a whole lot of shopping.

I don't remember when I last shopped so much! I basically spent the entire Saturday shopping. It was a classic "shop til you drop" kind of day - I hit the shops really earlier at around 10am and staggered back to the apartment with extremely sore legs at around 6pm.

So I decided to spend the Sunday in a leisurely manner. I went down to London bridge to visit to famous food market - the Borough market. Alas, it was closed when I got there. The Borough Market is closed on Sunday and I should have known better and checked before I went. The closed market looked so interesting that I promised myself I would be back!

There are stalls selling truffles, homemade jams, handmade breakfast cereals, artisan breads, homemade fudge, coffee, fruits and vegetables. Honestly, just walking around the market made me hungry. Their website is also beautiful and I've already narrowed down on all the shops I want to visit when I'm there! I was kicking myself for missing out on visiting this market for something as commonplace as shopping..

But then I decided to visit a place I know was open on Sunday - Covent Garden. I have always liked the festive feel of Covent Garden, and was certainly not disappointed when I got there. There were interest shops and stalls selling different kinds of knick knacks and I thoroughly enjoyed my Sunday morning. 

I ended my very pleasant morning in true English style - scones with clotted cream and blueberry jam.. with English Breakfast tea! The bakes at Le Pain Quotidien is really good and I'd highly recommend you to visit it if you go to Covent Garden. I wished I've brought home a dozen bottles of their jam with me.

There's always lots to see at Covent garden - quirky street performances, 
street opera (the lady singing in the top right picture) and lots of interesting handmade crafts

The shops at Covent Garden had beautiful window displays

A huge scone.. with the loveliest clotted jam and blueberry jam

I don't usually like jam - but this one was especially good. 
Fruity and not too sweet!

The tea was very good as well - and it came with a small pot and 
a HUGE bowl that you are supposed to use as a cup.

Happy Rabbit Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

For those who do not celebrate it, this is the year of the rabbit. The Chinese Zodiac, or Sheng Xiao (生肖) comes in a 12 year cycle, each year representing a different animal. Apart from the mythical Dragon, all others are actual animals that most people will be familiar with.

I am not one to believe in Zodiac, but did you know that the Chinese zodiac is also used to label times of day, with each animal corresponding to a Chinese unit of time called Shi Chen (時辰)? There are 12 Shi Chen in a day, making each Shi Chen a 2 hour slot.

23:00 ~ 1:00 is called Zishi and belongs to the first zodiac, the Rat. This is the time when Rats are most active in seeking food.

01:00 ~ 03:00, named Choushi belongs to the Ox. This is the time when Oxen begin to crush their food, regurgitating them to the mouth slowly.

03:00 ~ 05:00 is Yinshi, and this belongs to the Tiger. This is the time when Tigers hurt their prey more and show their ferocity.

05:00 ~ 07:00 named Maoshi, belongs to the Rabbit. This is the time when rabbits come out to eat tender, dewy grass. According to Chinese legend, this is also the time when the Jade Rabbit is busy pounding herbal medicine on the Moon.

07:00 ~ 09:00 named Chenshi is this is the time when Dragons are hovering in the sky to give rain.

09:00 ~ 11:00, or Sishi belongs to the Snake. This is the time when Snakes are leaving their caves.

11:00 ~ 13:00, or Wushi is most familar to most of us. This is the time when the sun is high above and other animals are lying down for a rest, while the Horses are still standing. Hence this hour belongs to the Horse. Some also say that this is the time

13:00 ~ 15:00 named Weishi, is the time when the Sheep is being let out to graze.

15:00 ~ 17:00 is called Shenshi and this belongs to the Monkey. This is the time when the Monkeys are lively.

17:00 ~ 19:00 named Youshi, This is the time when Roosters begin to go back to their coops.

19:00 ~ 21:00, or Xushi, belongs to the Dog. This is the time when Dogs begin to carry out their duty of guarding the houses.

21:00 ~ 23:00 named Haishi, is Pigs are sleeping sweetly.

See this website for more details

So the next time you come across people saying the Chinese Zodiac signs in order, with 2 characters instead of 1 - "子鼠、丑牛、寅虎、卯兔、辰龙、巳蛇、午马、未羊、申猴、酉鸡、戌狗、亥猪" - You know what first character to each zodiac means.

Picture from here