Merry (belated) Christmas!

So anyway, Christmas has come and gone. So fast. Too fast. I thought it was just November? Good times never seem to last, but that is how things work. Good times are enjoyable and so they appear to pass faster. The reverse is, of course, true as well.

So how did you spend your Christmas? I hope it was all good for everyone out there who happens to come to read this post. Merry Christmas to you, albeit a belated one, although it is technically still Christmas since there are supposed to be 12 days’ of Christmas right? This would make today the 4th day.

Came across an article shared by someone on LinkedIn that talks about complaining, and I would raise both hands sheepishly to admit that I am someone guilty of being a chronic complainer. I know all along it isn’t healthy, even though there are times when there is a need to just ‘vent it out’ and not keep it bottled inside because it is healthier? I don’t know, I guess there are different schools of thought on that, but the article is against complaining. More specifically, it is against complaining without a purpose – it is okay to complain if it leads to a desired outcome, say you are complaining about bad service but with an aim towards hoping there can be an improvement to it (an example in the article). But most of the times, we, or rather I, complain for the sake of it.

It isn’t just a bad habit that should be kicked for good, having it out of our lives actually helps promote better health, maybe better relationships and overall a better quality of life. I think this would be something for me to work on in 2017, and hopefully the tips offered by the article will help me move in the right direction!

a Christmas that doesn’t feel like Christmas at all

I can’t believe it has been so long since I last posted anything. It’s getting increasingly challenging to post on WordPress, metaphorically. There really isn’t much to write about and I just do not have the inclination to write. It’s easier on other platforms perhaps, to share, words or pictures.

That said, as I checked out the blog’s page, I realised that the drifting snowflakes are back! Obviously I haven’t activated that this year, so I guess it is a feature that has carried over from the year before. Looking at the snowflakes, I can’t help but feel the sharp contrast to what we are experiencing this year in Singapore; the weather has been nothing short of scorching, warm and humid, save for a few bouts of slightly gloomier, cooler and wetter moments that offer some kind of respite from the heat that is so uncharacteristic of this time of the year. Indeed, if these are the effects of global warming, I really shudder to think of what could lie ahead.

Such weather pushes any thoughts of Christmas far away from my mind, which automatically links the heat to ‘summer’ season. On the other hand, the shopping belt and malls have started pretty early in ramping up the festive vibe, with the decor and then when they began playing Yuletide tunes that kind of sets the tone to get people into the spirit. I didn’t want to, and seldom buy many gifts for Christmas in the first place but as I bought one, the others somehow just seem to follow. It is always a blessing to give than to receive, although I wouldn’t of course refuse presents that come my way!

Going through a period of simplifying my life and hopefully eschew the more material parts of life that I used to (and probably sometimes still do) hanker after. After all, we all come into this world with nothing and will leave with nothing, why should we indulge in material items that don’t do much other than to artificially inflate our egos? It’s something I try to convince myself, that material things don’t make or define a person, definitely not me. I don’t become a “better” person just by carrying an expensive bag, or wearing expensive clothes or shoes. What matters more and most is what is inside of me, which are not what so-called branded items can define.

Anyway, before the year runs out… we have another 10 days or so before 2017 arrives, if I don’t come back here to do another post, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Merry (belated) Christmas!

This post concludes the series of posts of the Hong Kong trip, which spanned a week until Christmas day. I flew back in the afternoon, which usually wouldn’t be the case for HK because it doesn’t make sense if it were a 4D3N trip, but since this was a week and because I had originally thought that I would have shifted to a new place by December, I had planned to arrive in SIN in the early evening to allow myself time to… well, settle in and get home.

Anyway, short post with fewer pictures since there wasn’t as much eating done as compared to the past days.

Headed out early in the morning to get a box of biscuits from Kee Wah for mum, even though I know she isn’t that big on all those traditional biscuits. She finds them too sweet, and will usually complain that they are too much to finish (on her own). I guess that’s also where I inherited my calibrated sweet tooth from, because I admit that I have a sweet tooth, but it isn’t all sweet things that I like and can take. So I just bought a box of their 老婆饼, which she kept only 2 and gave the rest away to my aunt, which was really fine. I am trying to not sweat this; if it’s bought for her, she can decide who she wants to gift them to.

After buying the biscuits, I headed back to the hotel, and after our last minute packing, we went to a nearby local cafe for a last local breakfast. This was what my friend ordered, which seemed like the full works – macaroni soup with ham, luncheon meat, sausage, fried egg and spiced beef! Oh wow, this would have been perfect, though if I were ordering it would be instant CQYD noodles instead because I am not a macaroni fan.I think I ordered yuan-yang. But I can’t remember.
Close up of all that awesomeness in a bowl.

This was mine – which as an after-thought, reminds me of McDonald’s big breakfast. It’s a breakfast platter of sausage, ham, fried egg, sausage patty, and a slice of toasted thick toast. I LOVE this thick toast, because even though it’s white bread, it was pretty well toasted so that the bread was nicely-crisp and crunchy to the bite!
Not so keen on the sausage, ham and patty though. They are not bad, but just not ideal because I do hope to cut down on processed stuff. If I can!

That kind of concludes the eating in Hong Kong, for a week. On our flight back, since it’s Christmas day, SQ actually served up a mini log cake as part of the meal, a nice gesture! 

Christmas Eve.

Spent Christmas eve and part of Christmas day in Hong Kong. I shall just let the pictures do the talking, most of it anyway, because I am lazy to write. 🙂

Met the cousin early for local breakfast near his apartment. This is the Hong Kong milk tea, which I find is so much nicer than what we have locally, i.e. teh-c.

The standard breakfast fare, to me at least – soupy instant noodles topped with some ingredients like pork / chicken chop, sausages, eggs, or the likes. Or maybe everything! Order a noodle and add-on the other stuff you fancy, sunny-side up, sausages…
Yummy.
Problem with Hong Kong’s local cafes is that they don’t usually do bread the way I like it. Mostly, when I order a sandwich or toast, it is just 2 slices of plain white bread that is of the soft variety, totally not how I like my bread to be. Even when this is toasted, at an additional charge (!), it still doesn’t cut anywhere close. The smooth, creamy scrambled eggs help to make it a bit better though, but then the processed meat in the form of ham probably isn’t too great an idea.
After we had the milk tea and the breakfast, we still went for the next round of caffeine at a hole-in-the-wall cafe near Jaffe Street.  After parting with my cousin, I went to meet my friend and we decided to check out this soft-serve that was highly-recommended by the cousin. I really love this, because the matcha flavour was very distinctive and strong! And best of all is that it doesn’t feel like it’s too sweet. They have a few outlets, but we went to the one at Fashion Walk. There’s one in the basement food hall of SOGO at Causeway Bay too and if I’m not wrong, near City Super in Harbour City in TST.
Went to meet another friend thereafter, who halted her gym-time to accompany me for the Christmas eve afternoon. We popped into a random cafe where she decided to have lunch, and I ordered a salad which was a total disappointment. Where’s the ‘salad’? This looks more like dessert than salad.  It’s actually a few slices of apple cooked in some sauce I presume, topped with egg mayo and a sprinkling of some powder (don’t ask me what because I forgot), plus 2 sticks of buttered toast, very lightly-toasted might I add. I was then busy scraping away the egg yolk and mayo obviously, and left it in a mess.
After the decidedly-unsatisfying meal (for me at least), we proceeded to Lee Gardens’ Starbucks, which was also very crowded despite that the mall was almost devoid of other customers. Either everyone is out and about in their last minute rush for Christmas gifts, or this mall is just too high-classed to see many patrons. We dropped by the supermarket at Hysan Place first though, to get ourselves a pot of yogurt each to go with our coffee (my third caffeine for the day). Love the variety that is available overseas but again, I’d think this is from the vantage point of being a foreigner and seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Last year, when I met my friend in Hong Kong, we ordered the Christmas orange cranberry loaf cake/bread and since they have it this year again, we ordered it again! We enjoyed this because it’s more bread than cake, meaning it’s a bit drier and crumblier,and not so oily to boot. Wished they had this on our local menu too but so far, it has only made an appearance in 2014.
Headed back for a short run at the gym thereafter, before heading out for Christmas eve dinner. We settled in at an Italian eatery in SOHO, which somehow felt like we were obligated to dine at, because the host-cum-owner was rather pushy and we felt bad walking away after reading the menu. It was probably a wrong choice, because we ended up not ordering the huge Christmas meal that came with 6 courses per person (at quite a reasonable price actually). We didn’t think we could have finished all that food so we opted for a-la-carte, which to them meant ‘budget menu’, and we were being treated as ‘budget customers’. They changed the table setting, removing the napkin and replacing it with a paper serviette!? It wasn’t even like the eatery was some fine-dining place because each table was within an elbow’s width away, even if you are paying for the so-called Christmas set menu. Bleah. What a big downer.

The food was pretty decent though, to be fair to them. It’s just that service sucks, or rather it’s dependent on how much you pay for your food.
  After dinner, we took a short walk to PMQ, where most shops were already packing up. But they had pretty interesting Christmas decor, including a holographic Christmas tree instead of a real physical tree.
  And finished off the evening with dessert near our hotel, sweet soup with lotus seeds! 🙂

Christmas in Hong Kong

It isn’t the first time I’m taking a vacation in Hong Kong during the Christmas season, or for that matter, somewhere overseas. But maybe it is the simple knowledge of being on holiday that somehow injects a stronger Christmas vibe within me. At least I kind of felt the Christmas festivities more when I was in Hong Kong, which could be due partly to the fact that it was a temporary reprieve for me from the hustle of the renovation works.

Was it last year when I  visited Hong Kong, in early December, that I also saw similar Christmas decorations in SoHo?This year, Star Wars fever has struck everywhere, from Changi Airport replete with figurines and what-not, and also at Times Square in Causeway Bay, which held an exhibition of sorts of these pretty much life-sized mascots!
The Storm Troopers, up close.  The main reason why we were at Causeway Bay that very first day we landed in Hong Kong, was of course to have dinner! I brought my friend to the Matchbox Cafe, also known as Xi Xi. Last year, my friend brought me here and I so loved what I had that I had to return. Unfortunately, they again had run out of the char siew that I liked. It’s weird, I know, to go to a ‘cha-chan-teng’ for char siew, but cooked together with the CQYD noodles, it makes for really amazing comfort food.

However, even without the char siew, we went ahead to order. Their scrambled eggs and toast smeared with butter are also great, because the eggs are so creamy and flavourful and the toast reminded me somewhat of brioche. My friend had the lemon cola which she said was good, and for the trip, she commented that was the best lemon cola she had!
Closer look at the smooth scrambled eggs that also had strips of ham tossed into the mix. Just thinking of it makes me salivate. Haha.  And this was the bowl of noodles that I ordered! CQYD instant noodles with egg (yes, more eggs!) and a stalk of chye sim. I cannot remember if there were other stuff inside, but it was a serious overdose of eggs for me that night! Check out the super retro pair of small scissors that came with my order. Presumably, it’s for cutting the pack of sesame oil that gives CQYD noodles that familiar and addictive flavour. But it could also be for cutting the noodles so that they are more manageable? I don’t suppose it would be the latter, this being Hong Kong and most people should be quite adept with chop sticks!

Year-end getaway. 

Happy 2016!

It’s amazing how time flies. 2015 seemed to have come and pass in a flash. It was a milestone sort of year for me, witnessing the first major investment of my life so far, with the finalisation of the flat purchase in early January. Renovation proper only started sometime in April, and has dragged on almost to the end of the year. Despite that it is still not 100% complete, the contractor’s work is done and the remaining items are touch-ups and ah hoc works that I found out I should or need to do. Anyway, we have officially crossed into a new year and this will be the year that sees the next chapter of my life.

Before the year ended, I took my final trip of the year, closing 2015 with 5 vacations! I ended where I started the year at – Hong Kong. It was the first vacation of 2015 in January, and it was also where I decided to go for the last vacation of 2015.

As always, flights are in the morning and what better way to start the trip pre-boarding, by having a aromatic cup of local coffee with a warm, lotus seed paste bun. These may not be the best choices for coffee or paus, but nevertheless makes for good comfort food at the airport!We arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, after the usual long, snaking queues clearing the Hong Kong arrival immigration, picking up our luggage and hopping onto the Airport Express train and then connecting shuttle bus from Hong Kong station. Our hotel, Island Pacific, located in the Western District area of Hong Kong Island, was the last stop on the shuttle bus route but it’s still quite a fuss-free and complimentary connection from airport to hotel!

The view from our room, which we didn’t really take the time to enjoy because most days we are out in the day. At night, there weren’t any lights on this part of the opposite shore to beautify the view so we just kept the curtains drawn, which also helps to keep out the cold!
The hotel is generally ok, but I felt the decor and its overall look and feel were a little dated – the old-school kind of hotel complete with amber lighting. I found the housekeeping standards of the hotel quite inconsistent, and they don’t seem to be thorough enough despite that on the whole, we kept the room quite clean and tidy. Maybe that’s also the reason why they don’t spend extra effort on the house-keep because they think everything is in place? Hmm.  The bathroom, with the marble vanity top, is just so typical. Haha.
After dropping off our luggage and snapping some photos of the room, we decided to head out to grab coffee. In anticipation of possibly nicer coffee that I could get, I hadn’t requested for any coffee or tea onboard, and the short hours I had the night before had already wore out the effects of the morning Kopi-O. Or so I would like to think, to justify the need for a second cuppa!

There was this place in Sheung Wan that was on my list of cafes to visit and as we walked past it, it was just the opportune time to pop in. Barista Jam, which was just on the street opposite to Holiday Inn Express Soho, which I had stayed at last December, proved to be pretty good!

We ordered a muffin and chocolate mousse cake. I think the muffin had walnut but I can’t remember if it’s banana walnut, or was it with something else.I realise that muffins in Hong Kong now are made without the proverbial ‘muffin top’, with the top overhanging the paper-cup. I wonder if it’s a conscious effort to steer away from the negative connotation of eating muffins and growing a muffin top as a result. Haha. Anyway, it was pretty forgettable and quite a disappointment for me because the top wasn’t as crunchy/crisp as I would have liked it to be. It’s rather soft, without too much distinction of texture from how the inside spongey/cakey part felt, so after this I actually did not order any more muffins from other cafes. Perhaps a good idea as well to keep to my goal of having less of such indulgences.
The chocolate mousse cake was not too bad though, as the cocoa or chocolate used had a tinge of bitterness and wasn’t oozing of overbearing sweetness like how some cakes tended to be. The size was also a comfortable one for sharing and went perfectly well with a cup of coffee or tea. 🙂The crema of my long black, along with the gold foil paper used to hold the cake, exudes an appropriate festive, yuletide feel for the moment.
We continued our traipse along down to Central, where we headed into the Landmark, and check out how elaborate their Christmas decoration was. Malls in Hong Kong probably try to outdo one another in their annual Christmas decor, and it’s on a completely different level and scale from what we have in Singapore! I wonder if any of their festive decorative pieces have caused any mishaps though. There were oodles of people all around this centerpiece vying for the best angles to take pictures or selfies. As much as I could, I tried to get a shot without too many heads bobbing at the bottom, and I think I did quite an ok job at that!

Coffee Bean’s Lemon Meringue Tart

One of the other festive treats that I wanted to try from Coffee Bean was their Lemon Meringue Tart. I have a soft spot for lemon (curd) tarts, because of the expected tangy/zesty taste from the citrus fruit. However, there have been several disappointments because in some places, the curd turned out to be more sweet than tangy/sour. The only one I can remember of recent tries that I liked was from ABC.

I asked the staff before ordering, if this item was more sweet or sour and they told me it was sour. I took a leap of faith to believe their words and ordered it, even though I didn’t particularly fancy meringue, which thankfully was just a small strip adorning the top of the tart. I wouldn’t exactly say that this is a winner, for the simple reason that this, like many others, are mass-produced and the tart base has already been exposed for too long to make it a little ‘stale’? It doesn’t have the nice fragrance that we expect buttery tart bases to be, and because this is served up cold (I don’t think anyone would warm it up for me), there really wasn’t any ‘bursts’ of excitement from it. The curd filling, on its own, was actually sweet, as I felt. Because the tart isn’t fresh anymore, when you cut through it, it just falls apart into its individual parts, i.e. the tart base would separate from the curd nicely. And you could even just remove the strip of meringue on top. The strawberry, or whatever there was of it, was just dry and nothing more. Ok, what did I expect, right?

Anyway, when I tasted the curd, I immediately felt let down, because I had believed the staff and ordered it! But to be honest, when I paired it with the tart base, it actually did somehow take on a more tangy taste, which is quite weird because the base should be more sweet and the sour should be coming from the curd right? Or maybe it was just a figment of my own imagination.
Anyway, it isn’t a total let down, but nothing spectacular either, at S$5.80 per pop, which doesn’t fill up much of my stomach but makes for a decent sized tea/coffee-break item. It does look pretty though. Next up, if I am game enough to try more festive items, I think I would just go with the log-cakes, those should be hard to go wrong, unless of course if they skew more towards the high end of the sweet barometer.