Happy birthday!

So without much fanfare as per the norm these days, my birthday came and went. It was such a typical day, going to work… just that I got the afternoon off and went off to meet my sis(-in-law) for lunch.

What are birthdays without cakes, especially when I have developed a sweet tooth somewhere along the way over these years.

This wasn’t a birthday cake. In fact, I got this for my friend (and also for myself to try) when I visited her at her home while she was recuperating from a surgery. It’s a new cake offered by Starbucks, a Coconut cream sponge cake, that was surprisingly quite nice, to me. Perhaps because it’s meant to be a sponge cake after all, it didn’t feel dense and heavy, and the coconut scent/taste wasn’t too strong or overpowering. I didn’t really take the cream that much so I can’t comment how good or bad it is. But overall, it’s pretty alright and good for sharing, as always!This was a real birthday cake. Ahead of my birthday, and also my bro’s, who has his birthday in this month too, my eldest bro and sis-in-law took us out for lunch one balmy Sunday afternoon, and surprised us after a hearty and comforting local delights lunch with these 2 slices of birthday cakes topped with candles! This was the one and only candle that I blew out this year. The food we had was good, it had a rather authentic ‘wok hei’ to it, and the cakes were also delicious. Maybe it was made even better because of the thoughts behind and enjoying the special moment as the birthday girl. ūüôāNot a cake, but there’s still ‘cake’, i.e. Korean seafood pancake. Haha. Met a friend for dinner and she was having a craving for Korean food so off to a Korean eatery we went! The food was yummy, whether it’s the main or the ban-chan. I loved the japchae, even if it was a little oily but perhaps that was what made it so good! The portion was so generous for it being called an ‘appetiser’ or ‘starter’ so thankfully I didn’t order any main. With the ban-chan, the japchae and the pancake, I think I was already stuffed but yet I couldn’t resist not cleaning up whatever I could because the food was just too good (imho) and I hate wasting. As much as I possibly could.So when I met sis for lunch on the actual day, she brought me to U-town and we had lunch at a bistro. Even though we went fairly late for lunch, the place was still packed. But with the luxury of time that afternoon, we could afford to sit around and by the time we were done with our mains, the place already sort of cleared out and we could enjoy our cakes and coffee in peace while having a nice chat.

The carrot cake that we ordered wasn’t as good as we had hoped or expected it to be. But oh well, we can’t really tell if it’s good just based on looks. It had a rather flat taste and the sponge part felt a tad too dry and hard. But the apple crumble tart was good though! Sis commented¬†that the carrot cake carried more cinnamon than the apple tart but I thought the taste came from the spiced apples within the tart. Anyhow, we really enjoyed the tart and it was a great and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.So that summed up my birthday celebration, if you would even consider it as a celebration. I suppose that as time passes and we age, birthdays become less of an event and quieter. We don’t need to be surrounded with people to celebrate our birthdays, or huge and noisy parties. That was never really my thing anyway. Quiet one-on-one or family gatherings are preferred because these are the people who matter anyway. ūüôā

the rabbit with an X for a mouth 

One of my favourite characters since some time ago has been Miffy, the rabbit that hails from the Netherlands, created by Nick Bruna, with an “X” for a mouth. At least it has a mouth, not like Hello Kitty, the cat without a mouth. Haha.

I remembered that since young, I have liked characters like Snoopy, the beagle without a mouth and speaks with thought balloons. Then there was Garfield, the fat lazy cat. No trend detected there.

So anyhow, I seem to have a fondness of rabbits, whether it’s Miffy or rabbit-print stuff. The only thing that I’m not that keen on would be probably real rabbits. I am not an animal person, or for that matter, pets person. It isn’t that I dislike animals but I just don’t fancy taking care of them or want to have the commitment of looking after them when I don’t know if I can even take care of myself. It could be a poor excuse for being commitment-phobic but oh well. We all have our preferences.So I got a Miffy toy for my birthday this year! Somehow, it looks a bit sad? Like how I generally feel these days perhaps. Or maybe because it was sitting beside the huge-ass slice of Apple Crumble but yet can’t have it!

Thanks for the thought and the gift. With some people, things just always feel the same despite a long bout of absence. I suppose it isn’t the frequency of meeting up that makes the difference, but the fact that we make the effort when we can.

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. ūüôā

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.

Jamie’s Italian, Singapore

After what seemed like forever, we finally got to check out Jamie’s Italian at Vivocity. Well we never made it there because we were daunted by the queues, and I am truly averse to queueing for food. Well, not always, but generally. I would rather settle for something that is just decent or passable than to spend time queueing for something that is supposedly good. Food, is at the end of the day, just food.

The other time I tried Jamie’s Italian was somewhere in the UK, not in London but Reading I think. The food, from what I recalled, was pretty decent but I wouldn’t say exceptional. Maybe I don’t know what is considered to be really good Italian food but to me, pasta is pasta. There is bad pasta, for sure, but how good it can be, I guess I don’t have a yardstick for comparison.IMG_0007.JPGSo this time we finally made it to the outlet at Vivocity, not without waiting for queueing though, even if there was not really a visible queue in sight. They will make you leave your name with the host who will then let you know an approximate time you will need to wait. I figured it wasn’t due to the restaurant reaching its maximum capacity because as we loitered in the vicinity we could see that there were quite a number of empty tables. But it was probably more to ensure that guests who are seated are more or less promptly attended to and served. It can be good or bad in a way, good in that you can turn around tables much faster but bad because you make the customers wait while standing outside the restaurant. Unless of course you want to shop around and hope they remember to give you a tinker.

Well service was indeed prompt. We already knew what we wanted since we had a fair bit of time before being shown to our table, not in the best location though, as it was a 2-seater in the midst of thoroughfare. We decided not to be ambitious and chose several small portions of sides. This is the roast potatoes dish with fennel, garlic and chilli, which I love of course, what do you expect, this is an entire dish of potatoes!

IMG_0009.JPGThen we had a main too, which was the pumpkin tortellini, filled with roasted squash, ricotta and parmesan, in a pumpkin, chilli and rosemary butter with smashes amaretti. We ordered a half portion, thinking that with 2 sides it may get too much, but if you take a look at this, you will see that there are just about 8 small pieces of tortellinis to be shared among the 2 of us. We are not big eaters, so I can imagine that those who have a hearty appetite may need to order more stuff in order to be truly full.

IMG_0010.JPGOne of the other sides, the cauliflower and parmesan fritters with arrabiatta dip. As much as I enjoyed this dish, it was a little miserable in terms of size.

IMG_0008.JPGTada, the “spread” that we had.

IMG_0011.JPGI was nicely satiated but I wouldn’t say I was full, but I could be from the bottle of lemonade that we ordered for sharing. So since we still had room, we decided to have dessert as well, also because we were celebrating my birthday! Haha, shameless I know, but what is a birthday without a cake? So we ordered the Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue. To be honest, I am not a fan of meringues, knowing how sweet they can be, despite that I am a cake-lover these days. Which come to think of it, I really do ought to cut down on. Sigh. Anyway, this was a huge serving, in contrast to the conservative amounts of the mains and sides. I liked the base that was made from limoncello and crunchy pistachio brittle, as it had a zesty and refreshing flavour to it!

IMG_0012.JPGOn the whole, this was a good dinner with nice food and desserts, coupled with of course great company! The service was polite and professional but it somehow lacks a touch of warmth which I would have preferred.

building castles in the air

 

This year, the birthday came and went like that. Well, each year it comes and goes but for all these years I have always entertained superfluous thoughts in my mind about how I would wish for the day to pan out. Not every year but in some years. I don’t know if it was a result of books that I read or shows that I watched in my growing up years where to me, birthdays are special occasions where one will have a small group of close-knit friends, or just one or two pals who would make it truly special for the birthday person on that day. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate celebration since as the adage goes, it is the thought that counts, and it is the thought that goes into making the day extraordinary as a birthday.

Thinking such thoughts only sets me up on a course of disappointment for being unrealistic. It is ironic how some have asked about how I spent my birthday or wishes have come in the form of text messages that follow with a “Hope you have/had a great day!” depending on if the wish was belated or not. I wondered how they would have reacted, if they would, if I had replied with a “It was not great, in fact, it was worse than if it were just another day.” Text exchanges save them the awkwardness if such a response was sent from me, and it wouldn’t serve any purpose either because that appended sentence was just an afterthought to the “Happy (belated) birthday”, perhaps to make the message look more complete. I admit that I am as well guilty of sending such messages, but to different people it will probably appear differently.

So each year I just stay optimistic until the actual day swings by and go by. Each year, I seem to make myself feel more disappointed, if that was even possible. It was funny how making my birthday invisible on Facebook shows how reliant friends are on Facebook reminders and notifications. I don’t mind that some people don’t remember because I don’t expect them to and I probably don’t make it a point to remember their birthdays as well. But there are/were close friends who totally did not even make an effort to remember. I suppose because we drift apart, or we don’t meet up anymore, which is a good reason to delete any cache memory that was used to store such information?

For the record, one of my friends did invite me over to her place to spend my birthday together with her. But I was just lazy to make the trip. I chose to wallow in self-pity, which I have been told I shouldn’t and which I know it too. It does not help a single thing and it does not change a single thing. People not caring won’t start to care just because I am feeling lousy that they don’t bother. It only makes me reluctantly accept that this is just how life is. Seeing pictures posted on Facebook by friends who shared the same birthday having friends celebrate with them made it feel like having salt sprinkled on open smarting wounds, but that is the downside of social media that has to be accepted if I’m not ready to cut the use of it.

The Chop House, Vivocity

For my friend and I, every year we would treat each other to a nice birthday dinner. It doesn’t always have to be somewhere expensive or fancy, but just somewhere we thought we might like to check out. This year, my friend actually wanted to check out Jamie’s Italian at Vivocity, but unfortunately, reservations were very limited and filled months in advance, and walking in, although available, meant waiting in line for perhaps a duration that we weren’t exactly prepared to do. Hopefully, we can come back another time when there is no/less queue. Who knows, as Singaporeans tend to be fickle when it comes to thronging new eateries, a good example being Tin Ho Wan in Plaza Singapura. I will reserve my opinions for that until such time when I actually get to try it right here.

So we went to The Chop House instead, an eatery that looked promising when we walked past on the way to Jamie’s. My friend thought the decor of this place reminded her of The Skinny Pizza, with its simple and clean lines with a¬†touch of industrial-chic (that is my opinion). But it’s actually from this Wooloomooloo Group (you can read more about it here), a grill house¬†that hails from Hong Kong.¬† 20130926-083512.jpg

The grill house struck me more of a Mexican place, based on their offerings on the menu (mainly just the quesadillas and fajitas haha). If we had more people in our party, we could probably order more stuff to try, like the soups and starters. We were really hungry and just jumped straight to the mains, because from what we eyed on the tables of other patrons, portions seemed pretty large.

I chose the chicken Fajitas, sauteed with onions, bell peppers and¬†chillies, and were served with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and tortillas! It’s a self-wrap¬†kind of¬†dish, which really made me think of the trip I made to Mexico City, eating tacos that I wrapped myself, and the yummy guacamole and salsa¬†spreads.¬† 20130926-083525.jpg

There were four tortillas, but I think the chicken meat isn’t enough to go round all four pieces, and I didn’t want to have so much tortillas anyway, so I just had three. Besides these sauces that were served with the Fajitas, there were also a rack of three other spreads provided, one that contained beetroot, another which was chilli mustard and the last being sweet onion relish (or something like that). I love the grilled chicken, which is tender and not losing its juiciness; they are good even on their own without the spreads.20130926-083532.jpg

My friend had the BBQ Beef, Bacon and¬†Cheddar Burger that was served with tater tots (bite-sized hash browns). It was huge but it certainly looked extremely appetising for the hungry us. I almost wished I had ordered this instead but I knew I¬†wouldn’t have been able to finish it at the end. Maybe the next time if I were to visit again, I’ll order a burger too!¬†20130926-083539.jpg

They had some sides too that I was tempted to order too, like Sweet Potato Fries and Roasted Aubergine, Zucchini and Tomato,¬†but for two persons it was definitely¬†going to be a challenge finishing all that food if we had. Their menu¬†isn’t extremely extensive, but I would say they have quite a good mix of items, chops and burgers and the likes. The table next to us ordered a Mixed Grill Platter (for two) that looked really good too!

Since it is a birthday meal, of course how can we go without dessert. The selection was small but this was the only picture on the menu and we saw the actual item on another table, which looked just as good. The Apple Strudel in tortilla with Vanilla Ice-cream:  20130926-083546.jpg

It is interesting to wrap the apple slices in tortillas before deep-frying them (not baked¬†otherwise the skin wouldn’t be crispy), and the vanilla ice-cream was nicely fragrant. I took a mouthful of it and it was good. Apple strudels or apple crumbles are something that I quite enjoy if they are not too sweet; I don’t have too many expectations or requirements of these, heh.

The Chop House has¬†a whole menu¬†of drinks for you to choose from too, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, and¬†the service was pretty good. It was a weekend so maybe with the expectation of crowds, they had¬†kept a¬†sizeable staff strength who made sure that diners aren’t kept waiting too long¬†to be attended to. It’s a place worth¬†checking out besides the usual raved-about places that everyone¬†scrambles to queue up just to¬†have dinner. Thumbs up!