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


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


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.