More birthday meals

Even if I didn’t have many birthday celebrations, July was nevertheless still considerably a month of feasting for me. With 3 birthdays happening in my family and a cousin’s wedding within the span of 12 days, it is no wonder that all of us were really stuffed by the time July came to an end.

For Mum’s birthday which fell a weekday, since old folks have this thing about not wanting to celebrate their birthdays post the actual day because they believed it to be inauspicious, we met up after work at the Redhill area, at this Cantonese eatery that was supposedly highly-recommended by one of my brother’s colleagues. Since it was a week night, the place was extremely empty and devoid of patrons. We were one of 2 or 3 tables of customers in the air-conditioned part of the restaurant (that of course attracted higher prices as compared to the non-air-conditioned coffee-shop part). But I think they serve similar, if not the same, dishes. And because it was a weeknight without many customers, we could even order dim sum from the coffee shop to be served here. We kind of made a note to return, some day – wondering when that day will be, for dim sum brunch because based on what we tried, they were pretty good.So the above is a collage of the spread that we had. Imagine all that food for 6 adults who kind of are past their prime in terms of appetites. We are all now at a stage where our tummies can’t really work like they used to be, despite that on all other fronts we are definitely still very young! I enjoyed their dishes, the ones that we ordered anyway, because they exuded a home-cooked feeling and tasted not too overwhelming in terms of flavouring and seasoning. Of course, whenever I’m at the dinner table, my brother always made it a point to ensure there is sufficient veggie for the (almost) herbivorous me. I eat meat, yes I still love meat to a certain extent, but sometimes I realise I can go without meat for quite a fair period of time. Until such time when I kind of start missing eating meat. Hurhur.

The custard bun looked really good but as I am really not such a big fan of it, I didn’t have any of it. But the rest of the dishes got a big thumbs up from me!

For my brother’s birthday that capped off the month, we went to this coffee shop near Kembangan that supposedly serves awesome liver mee sua. Well, it is weird to associate me with this, because when I visited Taipei and everyone went crazy over Ah Zhong mee sua, I was one of those that ate it only because I had to. I hate the taste of liver, in whatever forms, and the gooey texture of mee sua somehow doesn’t appeal to me. But this one was pretty alright, plus the other dishes that were ordered to supplement our main (which is the mee sua – one bowl per person OMG). Or maybe because I was really hungry, having gone almost a whole day without much food because I was under the weather, battling a fever complete with chills and a suspected gastric flu/cramps of sorts. Yes, so even with that, as my sister-in-law remarked, I could still muster such a healthy appetite. Sigh. What can I say, me appetite seldom ever takes a break.

No photos of the dinner, because even if my stomach was working very hard and appreciating the food, the other parts of my body were in a shut-down mode that whole day. I even took a nap in the afternoon! Something I hadn’t done in years I think!

Blessings crown my head

As the years go by, we realise that our social circles get smaller and smaller. In most cases, it is a matter of choice because we start to get more selective of people we hang out with, spend time with, because time has become such a precious commodity that we see no point in spending these valuable moments with people who do not really matter, or perhaps people whom we feel we don’t have a connection with. In any case, my lifestyle has also dictated the way my social circle has dwindled over the years, and the energy level that I have these days just don’t lend myself to staying out for long hours whether it is after work or on weekends to socialise.

It sounds a little like I am wallowing in self-pity, what I am about to write, but this is really something that I want to write about to show a sense of thankfulness for what I have.

My birthday was last month, and I’m grateful for friends who remembered the date and sent me their well wishes via Whatsapp or through Facebook, despite that I had not publicly-listed my birthdate for Facebook to send reminders to my friends of it.

A few of my friends asked me out, but I ended up only being able to meet them, one a week or so after the actual day, another just a week ago and finally one today. Even if there wasn’t that kind of ‘fanfare’ associated with celebrating birthdays anymore, I suppose it is also a matter of choice and I still appreciate their thoughts in giving me a treat or buying me a gift. :)

Since young, my family never really had the habit of celebrating birthdays in a big fashion with cakes and what nots. I didn’t have any fancy celebration for my 21st, and so maybe it has also become typical for me to just spend my birthday as just any other day. While I was in school, and maybe in my younger professional days, there might have been friends who have made the day a bigger affair, buying cakes complete with candles and stuff, birthday cards and presents. These days, it is but a muted event.

Yet, I did feel a lot of love this year. My brother asked where I would like to go for dinner on my birthday. And coming from my brother, it kind of took me by surprise, and I was really touched at his gesture. There was no big celebration, sure, but what mattered was that the important people in my life were there with me that evening for dinner. It was a really traditional, Chinese-style kind of dinner, not what I usually would have picked, but my parents enjoy Chinese food and so it was an easier option for us too. I really love the char siew! The rest of the food weren’t too shabby either, but regardless the taste of the food, my heart felt warm that day. And I got a second surprise afterward, when I got home, and my other brother disappeared for a short moment and returned with 2 slices of cakes, because as he said “I don’t know what flavour you like so I bought 2.” Awww. Well, I don’t have special preferences for cakes these days, since carrot cake seemed to have fallen off the charts lately, but the tiramisu and mango cake were not too bad. I even got a candle to blow out as I made my birthday wish, which now I don’t remember what I wished for anymore.

Remembering to be thankful

Happiness can be as simple as this. A bowl of plain yogurt with a tinge of sourness, topped with granola that adds sweetness to the bowl, and a cup of coffee. Perhaps these are not the best things to go together, yogurt and coffee, the latter which would dissolve away whatever calcium is available in the yogurt? I don’t know but this is a simple enjoyment on a weekend.

During yoga class today, the instructor reminded us to be thankful that we are still alive, that our bodies still intact. She implored on us to not take life so seriously. Those were the words that I recalled, others I don’t really remember, but I suppose she was meaning to tell us that we should live in the moment, enjoy each moment and not sweat the small things. She was mentioning this in reference to the Bangkok bomb blast that took place the evening before, in downtown Bangkok in an area popular with tourists and locals. As of now, the blast had claimed 20 lives, one of whom is a Singaporean. Lives that were suddenly terminated, dreams that remain unfulfilled and words left unsaid.
I frequently lament about the various nitty gritty things of everyday life, from having to wait minutes for a train, to having people knock into me while they are rushing or blocking my way when I am in a rush… there are too many things that I can’t help complaining about, despite that deep down, as I reflect on society, on life, that there is much to be thankful for, but I, like most people, am wont to complain and feeling victimised. I need to constantly remind myself that life has given me much, despite that materially, I wasn’t born into a family with much, there has been more than enough that more than made up for it.

As I meet people whom I feel mirror who I am, I start to realise how annoying such characters can be, how much of an irritant chronic pessimists and complainers can be. I hope that I don’t continue to walk that path, but rather on a daily basis, thank God for all that I have, for all that has been bestowed on me.While I am still trying to change my attitude, which I foresee to be a difficult but not impossible endeavour, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, so what if I don’t like my job and many aspects of it, so what if day by day I feel that I am losing myself, my value, my relevance, so what if I don’t get to enjoy many of the material things in life that my peers possess, that they earn much more than me, and that I have been struggling in many areas of my life all these years, unable to break through and break free. Life still goes on, and I need to give thanks that I am still breathing and still have my loved ones around me. May they always be safe and sound, happy and healthy.

 

Doutor Cafe, Japan

Just before my birthday last month, I jetted off to Sapporo, Hokkaido, for a week to take a short break. It hasn’t been that long since I visited in Tokyo in April, but I just felt like I needed a break. Even if time is passing by so fast, particularly this year it seems, holidays are like an oasis in the desert. Although I have been to Japan so many times over the last few years since my first trip there in winter of 2007, I have never set foot on the northern territories of Hokkaido. It was an opportune time to visit even if summers in Japan can be mercilessly hot, because summer is the period when flowers bloom in Hokkaido, and temperatures there are generally more forgiving and bearable than in Honshu itself.

So because we needed to transit in Tokyo to get to Sapporo, we decided to take a red-eye flight to Narita with a short hour-plus transit stop, where we had to collect our luggage and re-check it in, due to security concerns, before hopping over to the domestic terminal at Narita to catch the flight out to Sapporo. The queues at the custom was not too long, though there was still a fair bit of arriving tourists and foreigners waiting in line. We managed to have sufficient time to clear the arrival immigration, and still queue to deposit our luggage for the domestic sector.

By the time we arrive in Sapporo, it was probably around noon. We went to the tourist information counter, or the JR office, I can’t remember the exact name, where we bought ourselves a 5-day JR Rail Pass, as well as a ticket that would take us to the city, which is just about half an hour away on the limited express train.

Our hotel, Century Royal Hotel, is located not far from the JR station. There is an underground walkway that could lead us to the hotel, but with the luggage it’s easier to walk above ground, wheeling our luggage from the station, out onto the street and across a road, where the hotel stands. Hotel Gracery is also nearby, in the adjacent street, and its exterior facade somehow looks nicer. However, I think it either cost more when we were booking or it wasn’t available anymore because this is travel peak season and ours was a fairly last minute trip.

Finally, we settled for a late lunch, more like a tea break, after checking in. We were exploring the area for food options, feeling slightly zombie-fied from the lack of sleep in the flight. This was what we picked eventually, me wanting to have a coffee badly. As it wasn’t that far off from dinner time, we ordered these to share – a sandwich and a pumpkin tart.
Here’s a closer look at the tart. There are lots of such tarts being sold in the cafes all over Sapporo, mostly cheese tarts. Probably because it is Hokkaido after all, where milk, cheese and dairy are the thing to have! The texture of this cake was a little mousse-like and not really too sweet or heavy. Or maybe my taste buds had fallen asleep. But overall, it was a pretty good tea break!

Over the next few posts, expect to see more of these cafe shots and also food! What’s a holiday without savouring the gastronomical offerings of the destination?!?

The Clueless Goat, Novena

It had been a while since I discovered The Clueless Goat in the Novena area, one day while I was traipsing towards United Square from Novena Square / Velocity. It is located in the row of shop-houses next to the exit from the tunnel that leads from Novena MRT station, or rather behind it. The official address is 189, Thomson Road, but to me, Thomson sounds like somewhere far away, or maybe it’s just an impression.

Nevertheless, it is really within walking distance of Novena station! It is a fairly small and cosy cafe, probably seats 20-odd to 30 persons max, with a few small tables and one large communal table that can take about 8. I finally got myself to pop in one late Saturday morning for brunch, but I think it isn’t the best time to visit. It was quite packed with the brunch crowd, although I managed to find a seat, at a corner of the communal table no less. However, turnover was also brisk as some of the brunch crowd were really there for brunch and after eating, they promptly cleared off, mostly Caucasians living in the vicinity I suspect. With these brunch peeps, it also means families and young kids or toddlers. I actually do not have an issue with kids, even though I am not exactly fond of them. But if they are adorable and quiet, ok, as long as they are quiet, I don’t have a problem with them. But these kids were all screaming and crying, and that got me really annoyed as I was looking for a place where I could comfortably have brunch while reading a book or something. That was not to be, unfortunately, so I didn’t stay long too.

Anyway, this was what I ordered. The Granola (S$6) – Honey Nut Almond Granola with vanilla infused yogurt & fresh berries, and an add-on of Toast (S$1.50). If you would like to have some spreads, you could order Toast with Butter and Jam (S$4) but of course, for that you could choose Sourdough or Multi-grain bread although I am not sure if it’s also just a slice of toast cut in half like this. I don’t use spreads much so I opted for just plain Toast, and as it could get a little dry, I just plopped some yogurt on top. :)

The cashier suggested that the Granola was a rather small portion that wouldn’t be sufficient when I asked about its size, which was also why I ordered the add-on. Looking at its price, I also considered that which was why I asked in the first place. But I think it would have been enough for a small brunch, and for someone like me who feels peckish all the time, it might have been better for me to just order the Granola and have something else later on for tea-break!

Recently, I have been into ordering Yogurts with granola or muesli when I visit cafes, because I really like eating these, and I would like to think that they are a healthy option to have as compared to my usual muffin or cake. But granola or muesli are supposedly sugar-laden too, so I’m really a little unsure. I guess as long as we enjoy what we eat, that should be good enough, after all life is too short to worry so much! The fresh berries were actually one strawberry and perhaps 5 blueberries, haha.
Their coffee is supposed to be good, and I would say that it fits the criteria of gourmet coffee, from its acidity that is reminiscent of all the places that serve good coffee. Again, I would say that I have cheap taste buds because such good coffee to me is bitter, without any sugar or milk. It leaves a really bitter, sour after-taste at the back of my throat, so sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much. I probably have to really make myself go attend some coffee appreciation workshop to learn how to savour good coffee!  And the book that I was trying to read, recommended by a friend recently. I think I would roughly know the gist of the book from its synopsis, but I wonder if there’s any plot twists in it. Let’s find out as I read on when I make some spare time by detaching or disconnecting myself from the digital devices!

The Clueless Goat has quite an alright menu in terms of variety, but many of their brunch items feature eggs, though I suppose if you don’t fancy eggs you could always order their sandwiches, which actually look pretty good when I eyed what other customers were having. I’ll be back next time, but probably at a different timing so that I can have some respite in the cafe and stay a little longer. But take note that they are closed on Mondays and on Tuesdays to Thursdays and Sundays they open only until 6pm.

Starbucks Red Velvet muffin

Back in the business of eating muffins, I finally got to try the Red Velvet with Mango Passion muffin from Starbucks. This is one of the “new” offerings they had, introduced sometime ago. I can’t remember when, but this was introduced in a new array of muffins they had (then), together with the Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese, the Chocolate with Cookie Crumble, the Chicken Floss and the Blueberry Crumble muffins. I don’t think I have tried the Blueberry Crumble, which I suspect shouldn’t be too different from their original Blueberry muffin, but all the rest I have tried, even the Chicken Floss!

My friend mentioned that this wasn’t anything special, but I decided to give it a go anyway because I have tried the Carrot Cake before and found it to be a tad sweet. So this is the Red Velvet! I am not any fan of Red Velvet, and where cakes are concerned, I have only tried Red Velvet cakes probably less than 5 times in my entire life.Somehow, it never really appealed to me, because I keep thinking it will be very sweet but it shouldn’t be, if it’s vegetable-colouring they are using to dye the flour/batter? I’m not sure but that is the impression that I get. Hehehe.

So, as I poked into the muffin, I actually got a surprise. The top of the muffin, contrary to my usual enjoyment of muffins, isn’t what I like. It has those frosted sugary bits sprinkled on the muffin top that I don’t like. But from within the core, with just a little bit of it inside, was an oozy, Mango Passion filling! Well, it kind of looks like salted egg core of the “liu sha bao” doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t and to be honest, I am not really a big fan of that custard bun which many people love.
I really like the Mango Passion molten core of the muffin because it’s tangy taste provided a great contrast to the sweetness of the muffin, which really wasn’t so sweet beyond my tolerable barometer. So this was still a score for me! Except those sugary bits.

Learning life’s lessons

Sometimes, life happens in a way that we begin to get comfortable with how things are going and perhaps start taking things for granted. Not in a bad way, but that we get accustomed to something, and expect that things should always be like that, that people are ok with it… but it turns out not to be.

At the end of the day, it is a necessary lesson to learn, not to impose on anyone, because at no point will the friends around always be willing to have you around them. Not one, not two, not anyone. It is the same with all of them.

Independence. Is a necessary evil.

There are times we compromise but where friendships are concerned, it is never a win-win situation and what we learn about equations in school never hold true. The left is never equal to the right, so there are times we lose, maybe times when we win. When we win, we don’t so much as question the situation or think too much about it, but when we lose, we tend to analyse, over-analyse, and contemplate why we should bother with giving in to what other people want when the other probably doesn’t care about what you want.

I just came back from Sapporo but the wanderlust just doesn’t seem to get abated. It has been weighing on my mind to visit Australia, maybe Melbourne, which is one of those cities that I have heard so much about but never had the chance to go so far. Probably with all these little things thwarting my plans to visit, I should just settle it once and for all and head there for a solo trip. After all, it is much easier to do that, to plan the itinerary for it, than to wait for someone to be available, to be willing to go, to offer the opportunity for a tag-along.

I hate to impose. And when it becomes blatantly obvious that I seem to be doing so, it is time to bow out.