The journey of thoughts

It is not news that I generally am someone who is dissatisfied with many things in life. It’s a given that complaining is a national past-time, and me being a true-blue Singaporean, am also wont to complain all the time. It ranges from day-to-day trivial issues like crowded trains (what’s new), to slightly more serious matters like future plans. Well, the latter is relative, because to me that isn’t trivial but to another person it doesn’t mean a thing.

Anyway, I have always been told to learn to practice gratitude, appreciate what I have in life instead of being a chronic complainer. It is definitely something easier said than done, since being caught in the moment, sometimes it is just easier to vent and play the role of a victim. It is easier to blame the whole world for everything that went wrong, rather than to quiet the mind and consider all the other possibilities that could have been worse off, breathe and move on.

Recently, I have been trying harder than ever, to be appreciative. It is a journey no doubt, but I hope I will be able to proceed in a positive direction. I still am not happy with my life and every circumstance that have led to where I am today. I can complain till the cows come home and frown at every single item that I feel has caused me to envy another person.

But then, comparisons usually lead us nowhere. Sure, they may spur us to improve and probably at some point they will, but raising the quality of one’s life, is something that should be intrinsically-motivated rather than because we see something that we want to have just because someone else has them. Besides, envy and jealousy are hardly desirable feelings since they only leave you feeling bitter with another person or yourself.

And I also try to resolve to move on, move forward. We are all told not to look back too much, for the past has been cast in history and looking back and reminiscing on the good times can create a warm feeling, although sometimes these are felt on hindsight. But looking back and regretting what was done or not, leading to unhappiness, serves no purpose.

So what is the point of this post really? Nothing much other than to serve as a reminder to myself of what I thought I ought to do. It may be incoherent by some accounts but it’s just a way of ‘verbalising’ my thoughts and putting these ruminations into words. I’m just glad that Monday is almost over. More the next time…

Downsides of technology

Much has been lauded about technology and I won’t deny that its development has brought so many benefits to modern life, some that I can’t imagine being without. But we have probably heard and known enough about all the good things that technology has delivered so it’s really meaningless to continue praising it here.

Technology has its downsides as well, which many of us probably also know and acknowledge. By doing so, it doesn’t mean that I’m deploring technology or being unappreciative of the convenience enjoyed as a result of technology. It just means that perhaps we have to be mindful of it, and understand that technology should be a means, something like a slave, rather than master, of our lives.

Too often, I have witnessed and experienced, social situations such as gatherings, dinners or the likes, where instead of engaging the people seated face-to-face with them, people are busily tapping away at their smart phone screens, whether scrolling through Facebook news feeds, Whatsapping their friends, checking their emails, or otherwise. It is absolutely pointless that a group are seated physically together at a table yet their minds and focuses are elsewhere. Kudos to technology for enabling us to communicate with people across geographic locations, obliterating the distances in-between. Yet we can’t fault technology but how human behaviour has evolved to lack the consideration of “face-time”. Sometimes I have been exasperated enough to ask pointedly at my lunch/coffee/dinner partners if the issue is so urgent that their digital conversations have to take precedence over the face-to-face chats. Mostly, they will absentmindedly wave you off while they continue texting their friends.

Mobile phones and tablets should really be banned during such occasions but how many actually have the discipline and courtesy to practise this? I can be very absorbed in my phone too, I won’t deny that. But those are usually times when I have nothing better to do, for example whiling time away when waiting for someone or during the daily commute. I try to make it a point not to keep checking my phone or stow it away when I’m out with someone, unless it gets to the stage where my presence is redundant.

It’s just annoying. And plain rude.

Forgotten love… MBMJ

Many years ago, or maybe it wasn’t so long ago… I used to really like stuff by Marc by Marc Jacobs because of its quirkiness. Back then, there was often a regular update of their designs by a new mascot that they would use, whether it’s a Miss Marc or Mr. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s Miss or Mr, but I thought sometimes it looked like it could be a male. That was what drew me to the brand anyway but after some time, I dropped off. It probably isn’t sustainable for my wallet anyway haha, and to be very, very honest, I don’t need so many bags / earrings / pouches / accessories / what-have-you.

Some time back, I got to know that they are going to discontinue the line, as in this sub-line would be consolidated into the main Marc Jacobs brand. I am not a big Marc Jacobs fan simply because I don’t follow it and am generally not a fan of any single brand. It’s about affordability, one thing, and of course, I prefer diversity and variety. It’s more practical anyway. It was only recently that it became clear to me that this quirky brand is going to be no-more, and of course with most of such occurrences it means existing products become sought after since they will no longer be produced. It’s not about it becoming a collectible (these are not Chanels or Hermes) but rather this quirky brand would just disappear. And the most important thing, the remaining products are typically sold at discounted prices! Call me a cheapo but if you can get the same authentic thing at a fraction of the original price, why not? Savings are always good. Not thinking about the ‘savings’ from if I don’t buy them at all. That’s another perspective.

So after what seemed like a long time, I decided to splurge on bags again! I can’t remember but the last time I bought a bag was probably last April when I went to Tokyo? And it was an Agnes B. tote that wasn’t all that pricey. Compared with what I used to buy, that was really a fraction. With MBMJ this time, I bought two at a go, from different sources though – one online because there was a further promotion from the website I got from, and another from Isetan as they were also offering it at a discount.

Check out both my buys, pictures taken courtesy of Nordstrom.com.

MBMJ_bags

The one on left is fruit-print canvas tote with lemon/lime prints all over. I really liked this when I saw it online, although what caught my attention in the beginning was the white/cream version that carried cherry prints instead of lime. I decided to get the black version because we all know how white or cream based canvas bags are a disaster waiting to happen over the longer term.

On the right is similar to something that I already have, a cushion-y tote that’s so soft and comfortable to carry, not to mention light. I was told that this is a bit more fragile as compared to the one I currently have so I was advised to not overload it for example, with a laptop. I had wanted to get the medium-sized tote for this but as I was carrying it, the sales assistant told me the smaller version compares better with my current piece and the medium would be a little too big because of my size. Well, I won’t call myself petite or anything but tend towards a thinner frame now so probably the medium-sized tote would overwhelm me.

The combined prices of both of these bags probably add up to just 10 percent, or definitely below 20 percent, of what one of those past bags cost. Of course neither of these are leather so that explains the lower price tags, but leather bags are much harder to maintain and heavier to carry. Also, with these it just means I won’t feel as much heartache when they become worn with use and they are more utilitarian and versatile for my daily usage!

Change – the only constant

Over the last few years, it seems like so much has happened since when I started working. Although it’s been more than 10 years, in the whole scheme of things, comparing it against the number of years that I would be in the workforce it isn’t such a long time. Yet, everything feels surreal and like in a drift.

When we were in school, there were always milestones to reach and goals to achieve. These were set for us by the academic system, to enter primary school, pass the PSLE and go on to secondary school, clear GCE ‘O’ Levels and either go to a JC or Polytechnic. From there, it could be onward to University or for some, they decide to enter the workforce. For most part of that schooling journey, exams are sort of the climax of each phase, and there is a fairly fixed time frame to work with. But the game changes entirely when we enter the working world. There are people I know who have set goals to retire early, as in reaching the stage where they choose to work, and not work because they need to. Then they work tirelessly towards that. I am not so ambitious, because simply put, I don’t know how I can work towards that, and I don’t know what would be a realistic age to set. As it is, I am not exactly young but yet not that old to look forward to retirement.

Sure, given a choice, I would rather not be working in a job where the only thing worth looking forward to is the monthly pay-check, and sometimes the bonus, or lack thereof. I would also want to arrive at the self-actualisation stage defined in Maslow’s hierarchy where work no longer feels like work, and that I actually enjoy what I do day-to-day. Then again, the lack of spirit just makes me think that is myth. Or it boils down to the fact that I don’t really know what I like to do. And if what I sort of enjoy doing can become something that could earn me a livelihood, or if I could even motivate myself to work so hard to be so good at it to make it a revenue-generating activity.

Some people have set other kinds of goals outside of the corporate life. To them, they accept that work can only be something that pays them to do what they like to do beyond it, so their goals are defined in their personal lives, such as getting married, owning a property (and more thereafter maybe), having children, and so on. The moment the kids come along, the milestones also change to revolve around their growth and development, and finally their own retirement. This is not something that I have considered or thought of at this point.

I don’t know where I am heading with this entry. It was just motivated from my internal rumination as I went through some photos and thoughts that surfaced when I considered the people around. Sometimes, life feels like a tiring and tiresome journey. We try so hard to keep things going yet it always feels so one-sided and pointless. At some point, it almost becomes that things I used to enjoy, I don’t really do and I don’t know what is it that I enjoy anymore and what is it I would enjoy at all. Everything just feels meaningless – life, people, things. Even travelling doesn’t seem appealing anymore because there just is no point in it.

Collated a set of food pictures from more than 3 years ago when I went to Tokyo, and as I looked at them, I realise that I no longer enjoy some of them, and don’t eat most of them anymore. Have my taste buds changed or do I just don’t get enjoyment from eating anymore?

Tokyo_Jan2012a

Weekends are made of these – Artisan Boulangerie Co.

Who doesn’t love it when the weekend approaches? I bet that most people, by the time Thursday comes by, are already anticipating the end of the work week, that’s why there is always that oft-used “TGIF” and somehow, the mood just takes on a more relaxed tone even on Friday mornings.

These are also the times when I have the luxury of spending moments at cafes, enjoying the food and coffee without having to think of needing to return to the office post-lunch. The amount of time spent there could be the same but the feeling is just different.

Artisan Boulangerie Co., or ABC for short, is one such place I like to go to. I have posted a couple of entries on it before, but this is a short summary of the things I like from them that I found from the photo album of my phone, which I have not downloaded into some storage device but are taking up precious memory space.

Just recently, I went to ABC again, which I’m happy to (despite that a meal there is typically a little pricier as compared to the other cafes like Starbucks or Coffee Bean) especially now that I have easier access to one of their outlets than before. So this time, I had wanted to order my favourite item from their breakfast menu but was told that they ran out of it, so I decided to get a sandwich instead, which you can’t go too wrong with. Not with them anyway, and especially if it’s something that I have tried before – the roast chicken baguette. At S$11.30 (pre-GST), it isn’t the cheapest sandwich around but it’s all for good measure – just check out how generous they are with it.The baguette is easier the length of a fork and it’s of pretty decent quality, though extremely hard. I wouldn’t recommend this for people who don’t like the bite and chewiness in their breads, because even cutting into it takes a bit of effort after sometime (when the bread has cooled) that I felt as though I was working my arms just eating this thing!
The chicken filling was literally spilling out of the sandwich, and it has a nice peppery taste for some spiciness. How I usually eat my sandwiches is by deconstruction – meaning, I literally take the entire sandwich apart, eating the bread separate from the filling. I would slice/cut up the bread into bite-size chunks, the same with the filling, and eat them together like mini open-faced sandwiches. I feel that it’s easier this way and less messy when eating, though the plate becomes messy because as I cut through the bread, types like croissant or baguette crumble and flake all over the place.

On a past visit, I had tried some other sandwiches. One that I had always wanted to try and did, was the Goat Cheese & Capsicum on focaccia. I can’t remember if I had posted about this before, but I love goat cheese and this was definitely one of those items I had wanted to try. I thought somehow the cheese reminded me of brie, and again it was so generous that I had to spread the cheese onto the bread so I wouldn’t recommend this for people who feel iffy about the taste of goat dairy, or for that matter, anyone who doesn’t fancy strong-tasting cheese.Yummy… this on the whole was good, but again strong-tasting, because of the goat cheese and the rockets. But goes perfectly with a cup of their Long Black.
Still another time, I decided to order something off the menu that wasn’t in the display case – turkey, avocado and brie. Although this was not bad in itself, the bread felt a little too soft for my liking. It’s toasted to a certain extent but it I don’t know if it’s because it’s white, it is too soft without the crunch and chewiness that I like to have for breads. If I recalled correctly, and from the picture it is turkey ham used in the sandwich instead of turkey meat, so it isn’t preferred. I probably wouldn’t order this again given a choice; would try something else or order something that I’ve tried and tested to be ok!
Tried the Chicken Caesar salad too and on the whole it’s pretty great, portion size was ok though not excessive but they supplement it with a serving of bread that you could indulge in with (semi-salted) butter or jam that’s freely available from their condiments counter. The salad isn’t dressing-rich, which is great and chicken portions are pretty sufficient. Only downside for me is the use of Parmesan cheese which is not my favourite type of cheese. But I think this is a typical ingredient of Caesar salads, so I could either ask for its omission in future or just make do with it. But butter croutons – amazing!
Of course, this brings me to my favourite item from their menu, which is from their brunch items – Homemade / Artisan Almond Granola, which is a mixture of organic rolled oats, toasted almonds, sesame & sunflower seeds, served with plain yogurt and freshly-cut fruits. At $12 each, this is pretty pricey but I feel worth every single dime (ok maybe not) because the fruits used are really fresh and of good quality and I just cannot resist this combination of fruits, granola and yogurt!Their other brunch items are also good, though the only other item I’ve tried is the Avocado Egg Open Face, which aside from bacon that I don’t take, everything else was just darn great!

Starbucks’ new sandwich menu 

Being the Starbucks fan that I am, I was pleasantly surprised when recently (ok not so recent anymore but this happened in 2016!) they launched a new lunch menu that saw 5 new sandwiches being introduced. For some time, they had a really boring food menu and whenever I wanted to have something substantial, SB would be the last on my mind. Even when they had sandwiches back then, they didn’t look at all appetising or filling for my voracious appetite, and besides they are pre-packed in the chilled display cases that somehow also do not whet my appetite the least bit. I would much rather go to, say Coffee Bean, where sandwiches are prepared only when ordered (or at least that’s what I remembered, if they still do that). Granted that the ingredients are a premix (e.g. chicken / tuna mayonnaise), at least the sandwich is put together upon order so the final product isn’t sitting on the rack for goodness knows how long.

The last menu they had wasn’t too bad – I liked the Tuscan Chicken sandwich that I had quite a number of times and it was satisfying enough for a meal. Their breakfast items have fared better so far, with the Egg White, Roasted Pepper, Mushroom & Cheddar wrap being one of my favourites, and now to add on, there’s also the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant and Turkey Ham, Egg White & Cheddar sandwich.

This is their latest lunch sandwich menu:

Starbucks_sandwich_new2016I made it a point to try all of them and so far I’ve actually already tried 4! I’m not sure if I will get to try the last one, which is Beef Meatball Marinara croissant, since beef meatballs… maybe not.

So the first item off the list was Roasted Portobello, Pumpkin & Devilled Egg sandwich. What does devilled mean anyway? I have no idea, and I don’t know if I even tasted any egg because I didn’t really open up the sandwich since I was having brunch then with someone else and I didn’t want to seem like a messy eater playing with my food. I really liked this, and it contains mushrooms and pumpkin which also explains why it’s the first that I wanted to try. Love the bread used for the sandwich, with its sprinkling of black and white sesame and pumpkin seeds on top. Roasted mushrooms and pumpkins inside also makes everything so much better!

The choice of bread used for the sandwich greatly affects whether I order it or not. Maybe it’s also because it’s the biggest part of the item, so sometimes it may be a greater contributor to my choice rather than the filling itself! The second item I tried used a similar bread/bun except that it didn’t have any pumpkin seeds, just black and white sesame that still gave a nice flavour / taste to the bread. This was the Honey Mustard Chicken & Apple Slaw sandwich, which I assume should be chicken marinated in honey mustard dressing served with a salad of apple slaw.
I also liked this a lot, even though it felt a little more sinful than the first, because of the dressing used with the chicken. But it’s more fulfilling in a way also because of the chicken. The addition of shredded carrot and purple cabbage also made it nicer with the added crunchiness but at the same time also caused a greater deal of mess in eating because the shredded veggies tended to just fall out.Third try – Wholesome Tuna & Cheese sandwich. It was the third because it’s tuna mayonnaise, i.e. fattening (mayonnaise alert!) although the bun was a lure. Also pretty satisfying but perhaps they could go a little easier on the cheese. There was too much of it that at one point, I decided to just scrape out some of the cheese. But overall, I also enjoyed it.:)
Closer look.  The fourth and last item I’ve tried is the Buttermilk Chicken & Egg Croissant. Croissants are amazing pastries but also because of the amount of butter that’s used (I don’t know what else) that make such a small and fluffy pastry so calorie-dense. Once in a while, it’s nice to indulge though. Which is why this is the last item I tried, after exhausting all the other options based on the bread choice. Haha.

There was another reason – hard-boiled eggs. I don’t mind yolks sometimes, but usually only when they come in liquid / molten form such as sunny-side-ups or poached eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are not my kind of thing even if I need that protein for recovery. So while I ate this, I had to deconstruct it (not unusual for me with sandwiches though) and dig out the yolks. :p
Chicken used had a pretty good flavour. It’s supposed to be buttermilk? But I don’t know how that is meant to taste like, or perhaps the flavour is tangy red pesto as described in Starbucks’ website. It has a peppery taste that together with the croissant gave the overall sandwich a rather strong taste and perhaps that is also how it fills you up since croissant in itself doesn’t really make one feel full (at least not for me) or it doesn’t keep you full for too long.  A close-up of the insides, with the generous filling spilling out! This is also what makes the new sandwiches more appealing and value-for-money! Previously, at the kind of prices they charge their sandwiches for, I would be better off paying the same (or sometimes less) for sandwiches from other shops that make them fresh with fresher and more generous ingredients! Now they are at least a more worthy competitor for some other places, though of course we can’t compare SB with shops that specialise in sandwiches!

On the whole, still a great effort and I don’t mind having some of these sandwiches again! With a promotion set meal price of $9.90 during 11.30 am to 3 pm for a sandwich and a hot/iced coffee or tea, it’s quite a good deal (for SB anyway) since the sandwiches already cost about $8.90 on their own.

W39 Bistro & Bakery, Jalan Mas Puteh

Recently on Facebook, I came across this post that talked about cafes in “ulu” (i.e. description of a place that is far from civilisation) parts of Singapore. These aren’t exactly unpopular cafes, the very fact that they were mentioned and listed in the post obviously means that despite their unpopular locations, they have still garnered quite a following, suggesting that there should be something good about them that warrants a visit perhaps. Or maybe it is just due to the fickle nature of cafe-goers to always check out someplace new, and with posts being shared on social media, especially by those with a wide follower base, it isn’t hard to gain popularity whether or not there is a good product behind it. Marketing is important, more so that the product, when it comes to attracting crowds, but of course when we talk about sustainability, many other factors come into play, so we shall see if the cafes listed on that post are still around in time to come. Who knows? But most of them, I may not even have the chance to visit once, let alone re-visit, simply because they are just too faraway for me to consider, unless someone again volunteers transport!

Over the Good Friday long weekend, my friend suggested checking out W39 Bistro & Bakery that is located in the West Coast area. When I first heard West Coast, I was thinking to myself, “What – where?” because to me, that is just ‘ulu’. Even though it is probably nearer to where I stay now as compared to before, west coast connotes a very faraway locale that I went at most a couple of times in the past. East Coast rings a closer vibe somewhat, because I’d only associate it with Marine Parade, which is just a short distance away from the downtown area of Suntec/Marina (ok it may be further but that is just my own thinking).

Anyway, as my friend’s driving and offered to pick me up from home, I gladly and readily agreed. Hehe, that is how easy it is to get me to go somewhere, just provide the transport! I Googled W39 and read about its ‘iconic blue-and-yellow chairs’, which I thought was funny/interesting because it conjures up a sort of beach image to me – like deck chairs that we would see on the pristine beaches somewhere else? But it was anything but. There was no shoreline, not even a silver of lake, where W39 is located. The road name in itself, Jalan Mas Puteh, makes me think like we were going somewhere outside of Singapore. It’s actually within a private residential estate somewhere in the western part of Singapore, not that far off from Clementi actually, so it isn’t that far west (think Boon Lay or Pioneer). Along the way there, making our way to find a parking spot, it reminded me of the Upper Thomson area where there were some cafes also located within a private landed estate.

I didn’t take any photos of the place, but you can easily find them online and you will see the blue-and-yellow decor that was described of the cafe. We perused the menu, and I was a little torn, whether to order the usual stuff that I would order for brunch, or try something new, which is local offerings of breakfast food. In the end, I chose the Nasi Lemak! I know it isn’t something exceptional, but I haven’t had it in a really long time and considering that I needed more protein to enable my body to recover faster, I thought this would be a good idea because of the chicken thigh that is the main feature of this dish! Ok, there is coconut rice too but I didn’t really take much of it so I can’t really comment – but I think it’s not as fragrant as traditional nasi lemak from the hawkers though.

So there you go, my Nasi Lemak with Roasted Chicken Thigh, that came with half a grilled tomato and poached egg – talk about fusion, haha. The ikan bilis was nice and crunchy and the sambal chilli was really something that I had missed. It feels like a long time too since I last had such sambal chilli, and although it’s a little too sweet and salty for my palate now, it complements the rice and chicken well. The chicken felt a little dry though, despite that it looks more fried than roasted, so maybe I can comfort myself that it isn’t oily or dripping in oil.My friend’s order is also pretty interesting, a fusion of sorts, but of the sweet and savoury type – Eggs Benedict, which was shredded lamb shank and mushrooms on their Butter Top Loaf (which turned out to be a waffle?). She found it pretty light despite that it’s waffle and lamb, because there wasn’t that much lamb on it, maybe something like pulled pork and the waffle was the light, fluffy type and not the thick spongy kind. I might have ordered this too, if not for the fact that I don’t really like having so much sauce on eggs, i.e. I have never ordered Eggs Ben for brunch, and I don’t really take lamb/mutton. But the veggies looked good though! After this, she still had quite some space left in her stomach so a dessert was ordered, which I actually had quite a bit of too, despite my huge nasi lemak.
The Mister Chocolate cake, a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate chips, covered with melted chocolate, came served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake was served warm, I think, because the layer of chocolate outside was in slight molten form when it came, and the fact that it’s actually a sponge cake on the inside made it more enjoyable because it isn’t too dense and heavy for a chocolate cake. I don’t really like brownies so much as a dessert because they are too dense and overwhelming for one person to have. The vanilla ice-cream complemented the cake very well too, although its taste wasn’t particularly distinctively vanilla like some that I have tried. It was a very generous scoop that was given though, so at S$6.80 for this, it’s actually pretty value-for-money.I also had a coffee, which was not too bad (can’t comment as usual) but sometimes I really wished that Long Blacks / Americanos came in larger sizes. I know that good coffee doesn’t need to be in large quantities, but I am perhaps too used to the Tall sizes of Starbucks to find the coffee cups in these cafes too small. Maybe my strategy in future should be to order the coffee only after I have my food, so that it can still be hot / warm to drink, and that I can slowly sip and enjoy the coffee properly after eating.