associated emotions

It is funny how emotions of humans beings (talking about me in particular, yes me again who else right) can be stirred and affected by a myriad of random things.

Just the other day, arising from the announcement by our neighbouring country up north about the lock-down that included us, a second wave of panic-buying albeit to a lesser extent maybe ensued. Despite that it was not as bad as when the DORSCON was raised to Orange when I was shocked by how people reacted and emptied all the shelves in supermarkets and minimarts, it was evident that people are stocking up on the usual necessities such as toilet paper (apparently this is a global phenomenon), but this time even things like bread, rice, biscuits, etc., were being snapped up.

In the first round, people were mainly stocking up on dried foods and things like instant noodles and canned food disappeared from the shelves. With Malaysia being a major source of food supplies to us, I guess people were concerned about the staples running out so more different things flew off the racks. As much as I did not join in with the buying because I think I shouldn’t be stock-piling or hoarding things that would ultimately expire (and result in me eating even more expired stuff), seeing those shelves that laid bare and empty somehow left a feeling of emptiness (too) in me. A wave of sadness arose in me, and it is weird because I described it as ‘sadness’ but why do empty shelves stir up such feelings of dejection and sadness?

It is similar to the kinds of feelings I experience these days when I see the setting sun at dusk. Although sunset is often lauded and admired by many for the beauty of nature when the brilliance of the setting sun casts magnificent masterpieces that many have captured and posted on social media, the setting sun that gradually leads to a darkening sky seems to invoke that same sense of sadness. I inferred that this could be linked to the feeling that something is coming to an end, just like the bare shelves signify a similar sense of forlorn, the heaviness that weighs on my heart is undeniable.

In my ‘past life’, I went through a hedonistic phase where night fall on weekends, sometimes even on weeknights, meant a renewed lease of life as I spent hours in clubs/pubs, imbibing copious volumes of alcohol of all varieties, lost in the pulsating loud music and alcohol-induced high. These days, I think I have become the exact opposite. I may be able to appreciate the beauty of the night sky, but I much prefer the break of dawn, when the rising sun creeping up slowly from beyond the horizon lights up the world as life starts to stir and awake.

 

On to happier things on a Friday. Happy food, happy belly, happy mind maybe.

I don’t think the number of call-meetings I had this week was more than last, but I don’t know why I feel more tired this week as compared to last, and have not been more glad that it’s finally Friday.

Starbucks ‘Mornings Made Better’

I used to be a big supporter of Starbucks, because whenever I travelled, I make it a point to visit the local Starbucks to check the ‘local content’ and also the prices, the former to satisfy my curiosity like how fast food chains customise/localise their menus by countries, and the latter was just some personal project to compile a ‘Starbucks PPI (based in SGD)’.

I had been a Starbucks Gold Member ever since they launched their loyalty programme but I think a couple of years ago I decided to let go of that because I didn’t think that I adequately made use of the benefits much, not that I think there were any palpable differences. Also at some time I reduced my frequency of visits and patronage when I started to acquire a deeper preference for other cafes and also particularly local coffee joints such as Yakun.

Anyway, back to Starbucks. See how I have this bad habit of getting distracted?

Like most decent cafes, Starbucks offers breakfast options and bundle them up as sets (or meals – as fast food joints call theirs). These used to cost a single price I think, but as their options started to vary, they also differentiated their pricing. There was a 2-tier pricing, $6.50 and $7.50 but recently they added a third, i.e. $8.50 – depending on how ‘big/heavy’ the food item was.

They launch some new items on and off, when they switch F&B supplier I suppose? There were some options I had really liked in the past that were discontinued, and to be really honest, a lot of the food items that Starbucks sell are just not that great. Nowadays I go there only because of convenience and IF I can find a seat. Free WiFi that offers a decent speed would help also that depends how many people in the cafe are tapping on it at any one time.

So! I finally (and yes I finally get to the point of this post) had their breakfast sets recently, after an extremely long hiatus. As usual, I was besieged with decision fatigue. I don’t know why I am that indecisive, with so many thought processes ongoing all in different directions. Eventually, I settled on the multigrain croissant with egg mayo. I was hesitant because usually these turn out very disappointing when the croissant is limp and soggy with stale oil, and the egg mayo filling is pathetic and overly-mushy.

I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was quite impressed with what I got. It turned out to be rather substantial, both the croissant that retained much of its crispness and freshness (no stale oil thank goodness) as well as the peppery creamy egg mayo filling (hello calories and fat) that left me feeling rather satiated on the whole. I was quite happy with my choice, aside from the fact that the brew was not really up to par – I don’t think I have ever had coffee at Starbucks that ‘blew me away’ although that cup of brew kind of gave me a bit of headache which I wasn’t sure why and if it was the primary cause.

So there. I can’t profess or guarantee that you will be equally pleased if you were to order the same, but just giving it due credit. Maybe it was also because I wasn’t expecting much or how wrong can you go with croissants that are meant to be sinful and buttery and should usually be good? I did have bad croissants before but those are few and far between.

Ok, weekend is here! Have a good weekend.

the vagaries of simplicity

We all want to have a simple life. But what does a simple life connote? What does it mean to lead a simple life, or live simply? Is it a life of minimalism, is it a life of detachment, is it a life of mindfulness and peace…?

As much as we say we want to live simply, it is an oxymoron because the mechanics of a simple life is just not simple at all.

I love cakes. I kind of developed a sweet tooth somewhere in my adult years, if I remember correctly, it was something that only happened in recent years, oddly. Maybe it was a result of hormonal imbalances that was fundamentally self-inflicted. I don’t recall having such a strong love for sweet things when I was younger. But much as I enjoy cakes, I don’t fancy cream so baked goods like tea cakes, sponge cakes and the likes, the “simple” stuff, are what appeal to me more than those fondant cakes that are all the rage these days, costing up to 3-digit prices for a single cake. They look pretty for sure, but the kinds of cream used on those cakes are just not for me.

A simple life, can be sitting at a cafe enjoying a cup of sugarless black coffee and a fragrant slice of banana bread. But such a life does not come ‘simple’ or ‘cheap’. It is working at job that earns us the dough to be able to indulge in such experiences occasionally. This was the week where I was scheduled to work-from-home in view of the recent virus outbreak. For me, it wasn’t so much of ‘working from home’ per se but just ‘working away from office’. I cannot bear to stay home for a long period. Maybe I am just not a homebody, or maybe my home just is not conducive because it is often replete with noise disturbances from people who are just inconsiderate for others living in the same community. Ironically, this WFH week probably saw my expenses rising because of these ‘working from cafe’ jaunts. There are pros and cons of being away from the office; while I get to work and do my stuff around my own schedule, it is hard to manage expectations when during this week, I give-and-take and work or reply emails well into the night or in the wee hours of the morning. It is not something that I will want to continue doing when I am back to the office but people sometimes may just expect the same behaviour and do not readjust their expectations accordingly.

I had considered that perhaps this could open the door for me to negotiate for a flexible working arrangement when the virus dies down and life starts to go back to normal. However, I think it isn’t just the flexibility in working hours or arrangements that is the deal maker or breaker. Despite that I was away from the office and the colleagues for a whole week and this week really saw me talking minimally (probably retreating further and further back into my cave), the core issue I have with this job is really the people and next, the nature of work. Even though I know that wherever I go, I will be bound to run into such people, the combination of a toxic environment and the overall unstructured nature of this role spells disaster with a capital D. In this week alone, every single day, I would receive sporadic emails or text messages from my boss asking me to think of or plan for this and that, usually arising from some external catalyst that elicited the reactivity in her. It is tiring to have to keep on reacting and responding, and from that point on, gaze into an imaginary crystal ball to try to predict and guess what lies ahead, what is needed, or what people want.

Then, the problem of people taking advantage of my attempt to be helpful and proactive, because in my recent appraisal, it was the apparent factor that cost me a promotion. I was further accused of drawing lines, yet somehow when others push their work to me in view of their heavy workloads or when they draw lines and progressively push the lines in their favour, they don’t suffer the same consequences but on the contrary they were the ones who got promoted!

Is there any more reason to stay? Is there anything else that I need to do to be able to get out of here? It’s said that if a door is not opening, it just means that this isn’t a door that’s meant to be closed yet. But really, in a span of two years I have felt so drained and exhausted and the rest and recovery I thought I had made in the 10-month break I took prior to this seemed to have been completely wiped out and pushed me further and deeper into an abyss that I have not imagined I could land into.

It all seems so dark and bleak. Uncertain. Hopeless.

In trying to cope with all these, I can only turn to things that I can wield a weak grip and grasp over, which have somehow translated into compulsive and unhealthy habits that seem to wreak more harm on me than help me cope.

Sigh. This isn’t what life is supposed to be is it? 

Are you there, God? It’s me. Please don’t forget about me.

Spiced Creme Brûlée latte

I don’t usually drink milk-based coffee unless I’ve felt that I had an overdose of black coffee/Americano or if it’s a little late in the day when I felt that a milky caffeinated beverage would do less to disrupt my sleep.

But sometimes I’m intrigued to try seasonal drinks that cafés put out especially at such festive seasons, although to be honest most of them tend to be gimmicky and too sweet for me. I know it’s weird because I am a self-professed sugar addict with an incurable sweet tooth but somehow it differs from thing to thing.

So! Back to the main point. I saw this Christmas drink at Joe & Dough and I just had to try it, even if it’s just for the ‘gram.

Ta-da! I’ve a soft spot for the gingerbread man character and I just couldn’t resist this. Marshmallows are a bonus though they feature even less than secondary in my consideration.

So what’s the verdict on this? To be honest, I had not given much thought to the taste. There was perhaps a hint of cinnamon (from the spice I presume) and maybe because I had requested for it to be less sweet the barista might have been lighter on the caramel (syrup). On the whole, of course it carried a bit more taste than a regular latte would, but it also sort of muted the caffeine notes. The part of the marshmallows that were immersed in the milky mixture were fast dissolving and melting so they went into my mouth pretty quickly for me to really appreciate their taste, if any, and how they complemented the drink or not.

Also, I was trying to position Gingi (my affectionate name for gingerbread man) in all sorts of ways possible to capture the best shot but failed miserably so after a few tries I gave up and proceeded to start munching on the mini cookie. I was sorely disappointed. While I know that gingerbread man biscuits/cookies have a tendency to be less crunchy and are more of a shortbread kind of texture, this particular cookie I had, even the parts that were not soaked in the coffee, tasted soggy and stale. Stale, not in the ‘it’s probably gone bad’ kind of stale but left out in the open for too long that it has lost any kind of crisp/crunch/bite to it.

So, long story short, this is just good for a one-time try to take a photo for my own keeping and posting, but otherwise I will stick to my usual Americano.

Revisiting Flock Café, Moh Guan Terrace

I thought I read somewhere, maybe on Facebook, that Flock at Moh Guan Terrace was closing. That was after my first visit, and I had actually wrote an email to the address listed on their website but I didn’t receive any response. Yesterday, since I was on leave and was free in the early evening, I decided to go for a coffee break, even though I felt that I already had consumed sufficient food to last me to dinner. So anyhow, it has been a while since I took a walk around the “neighbourhood”, so despite that it was humid balmy day, I took the risk anyhow. There are always back-up options in the vicinity anyway, if Flock had really closed, but I was quite happy when I rounded the corner of the block where they are located, to see that they are still in business. Woohoo!

If my stomach had allowed, I would have liked to order their scrambled eggs with sourdough, something I had on the first visit that I enjoyed thoroughly. They had other all-day breakfast options too, and various other food options; in fact, I think they have quite an extensive menu considering that typically these cafes don’t offer much in terms of food. But I resisted. And ordered for myself a muffin and coffee. There were some cakes available, both the moist and creamy-looking type as well as the simpler tea-cake kind. But somehow they didn’t really appeal to me yesterday. The only muffin available was something called “Ondeh Ondeh muffin”; oh my, that sounds interesting enough! So here goes (and any diet or wellness-eating plans).

Initially, I didn’t know what to expect of the muffin because I was imagining that it would perhaps have a soft, molten core that contains some gula melaka syrup that would ooze out when I cut into the muffin. But instead, my fork met with some resistance when I attempted to pierce the top of the muffin. It’s pretty firm and hard, even though I think they did warm it up a little (this I couldn’t be sure). The top of the muffin was just how I liked my muffins to be, firm and crunchy and best of all, not too crumbly. It didn’t just fall apart into bits despite that it’s a little tough to cut into.
Taste-wise, it did have quite a distinct flavour of pandan or coconut, whichever I can’t really tell apart because to me, they are pretty similar. There wasn’t anything oozing out, but instead the ondeh ondeh flavour is just infused into the whole muffin itself. Biting into it, you won’t mistakenly think that you are eating an ondeh ondeh because the texture is totally different, but it’s just the similarity of the taste and flavour, except that in this case, it probably isn’t as strong as when you are eating the real thing, covered with shredded coconut shavings and of course, the colour is entirely different.

I spent a nice, quiet hour in the late afternoon there, and it being a weekday, it’s pretty quiet even though there were a few sets of other patrons there, mainly just solo customers or in twos. It contrasted with the Saturday when I was first there, where we had trouble finding seats and customers were mainly in twos or larger groups, with a much more elevated noise level. It’s a nice time to have, just indulging in some sinful goodness and aromatic coffee, with a good read too. Ok, I won’t exactly call it a good read since it’s just the newspapers that I was reading, but yesterday’s free daily contained many articles aside from news stories, it being the anniversary of the passing of our founding father.There have been many opinions about him before, whether they are right or wrong, fair or not. But I think arising from his death last year and the various TV programmes that talked about his life and work, many people have began to see him in a different light and better appreciate what was being done by him, albeit in an authoritarian style and with an iron-clad manner. That worked for the generation then, where the country was mostly directionless and in need of a strong leadership voice. For the current generation that is more well-educated that has also spawned lots of opinions (some informed, others just plainly emotional and irrational), a different kind of leadership style is needed, which I think the current people are striving to achieve through continuous change and improvements.

Enough said about that, politics are never an easy thing to discuss and that’s not the main point of this post. As I read some of the articles, not without distraction though because I just cannot seem to be able to focus on reading with good concentration… this quote kind of spoke out to me:
Recalled an undergrad, “create the life we want to live, and make the most of what we’ve been blessed with”. It is not something I haven’t heard of before, but really, it’s an apt reminder that I should bear in mind – to always be thankful for what we get in life, and for what we have, make the best of it. Comparisons are inevitable because we don’t live in a vacuum, but letting comparisons get the better of us do not serve us any purpose, especially if they only lead to us envying others and lamenting.

Flock Café (relocated)

Since I moved, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking out the TB stretch of hipster cafes, which I had always wanted to do so ever since the first of those cafes started sprouting up there. It was always a tad out of the way though, and at some point I had started to deride TB as over-hyped, because to be really honest, some of these cafes (and many others around the island), aren’t up to scratch at all – they are just carbon copies of one another, which is ironic, because most pride themselves to be different in some way, not conforming to the usual cookie-cutter chain cafes like SB or CBTL. The funny thing is, with these cafes all adopting the industrial-chic look or whatever you want to call it, putting together non-matching pieces of furniture in a haphazard manner, they have become a cookie-cutter sort of template. But there are some that have withstood the test of time, and fickle consumer tastes, to last for years and are still standing today. Some of them have probably evolved into highly-commercialised entities that have lost their ‘unique’ lustre, whereas others have stuck to their original concept with perhaps a loyal fan-base.

Cafes in the TB stretch have also come and go, with some surviving the harsh and overpopulated cafe scene in Singapore. The Dispensary, a cafe along the main Tiong Bahru Road, has closed before I even had a chance to step beyond its doors. I was luckier with this other cafe, Flock, located along Moh Guan Terrace. I met my cousin one weekend and brought her there, having walked past it one day when I was exploring the area and made a mental note to return.

It was fairly crowded when we visited on Saturday afternoon (that was in January), but we were fortunate to get a table for the 2 of us on the inside, sort of on the ‘mezzanine’ deck, or the area beyond the counter. It’s a very small cafe with a narrow layout, but it could probably accommodate about 20-odd patrons inside. Maybe. Someone found us the table, and I’m not sure if he’s the owner since he didn’t seem like he was part of the crew or wearing what the other crew members wore.

So for brunch, we each ordered a coffee.We also picked the scrambled eggs with sourdough bread to share, priced at S$8 (I think). The egg was quite smooth and runny, fragrant, and also comes in quite an ok portion for us. I would have liked it more if it were egg whites, but then regular scrambled eggs for sharing is fine, otherwise all of it for me might have been too ‘eggy’. I really love the sourdough bread, which goes very well with the egg and butter! I think I could have just ordered this with a coffee and be a very happy camper. 2 large slices of bread were served in this dish.
The other item we got to share was the French Toast, which I thought my cousin would enjoy, since it seems like most people like French Toast? I don’t know, I am not a very big fan of it because it’s always heavily-drenched in syrup that makes the bread too moist and soft, which I DO NOT LIKE. I prefer my breads crunchy to a certain extent, rather it be hard than soft. The only French Toast that I liked were the ones that my mum used to make when I was young and there was leftover bread about to expire. Those were what we called Bombay Toast, or what the Home Economic textbooks called it, bread dipped in a mixture of egg and sugar, and then fried.

Flock’s version of the French Toast was similarly drenched in syrup, and served with a portion of curious-looking bacon that my cousin didn’t dare to eat. Somehow it looks like it’s overcooked or something. Anyway, we didn’t touch it at all because I don’t take bacon. This was also served with banana and some strawberries (maybe one, cut into small pieces), which I would definitely have liked more of. Overall, we both preferred the sourdough with scrambled eggs, which is a simpler (and cheaper) brunch option. The French Toast, if I recalled correctly, was S$15. But maybe French Toast lovers would still like it? Sometime after that, I thought I read somewhere that they were closing the TB outlet, or that they had ‘shifted’ to Ghim Moh (where their second outlet is). I haven’t really walked past the Moh Guan Terrace outlet since that visit, so I can’t confirm if it’s true that they have left the TB area. Sigh. I had hoped that they would still be around because I thought it was a pretty decent cafe that I wouldn’t mind revisiting to try other stuff, if not the sourdough again!

Revisiting Artisan Boulangerie Company

Recently, I have been going to ABC more often. Even though the cafe is fairly cosy and limited in terms of seating capacity, it ranks above Starbucks and Coffee Bean as somewhere to chill. Probably this is also due to the relatively faster turnover of customers, who do not hog the seats for an extended duration beyond an hour. Mostly, customers just get seated, eat and go. It isn’t so much like Starbucks or Coffee Bean where the customers sit down, get a drink and then continue to be glued to their seats for the next 5 hours.

Food is pricier which could also explain the different customer demography but cafe-goers are generally quite well-to-do and so this shouldn’t be a factor. Quality of food and coffee is definitely better here too! Well, most of them anyway. I have tried various items and so far, most of them have proven to be good and quite worth the price paid.

This time I ordered a quiche, which I’ve been told is not too bad, and comes served with a portion of salad. This was my order, fearing that I wouldn’t have enough to eat since the quiche didn’t look like it could satiate me.
Looking at the available choices, it was not easy to make a decision but I finally picked the Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche, both being items that I really enjoy. Actually, these days I haven’t been so big on quiches because the egg has somehow dulled my enjoyment. I do like eggs but in quiche, they tend to taste a little too ‘eggy’? I don’t know but it would have been better without. Haha, although then it wouldn’t be called a quiche. An eggless quiche? It was really good though, and the size was actually just right, balancing the egg with the rest of the ingredients to put together a complementary taste of egg, goat cheese and spinach. Goes extremely well with coffee by the way! But I think the usual Long Black would have made a better choice than the Flat White which I ordered, again with the unnecessary paranoia that the quiche is not enough for sustenance.
Here’s a closer look of the quiche. Thumbs up!

You’d see that I ordered an additional Blueberry muffin to go along with my meal, which again was quite superfluous. I wanted to have a balance of sweet and savoury, so I ordered a muffin, being mindful of the overall cost, as the muffin is cheaper than a tart (yes I am cheapskate and calculative like that). But in all honesty, I should have just gone for the tart, because their Lemon Curd Tart is pretty good and zesty, and I hadn’t actually tried their muffins before, which turned out to be a letdown.  I took a bite of the top of the muffin, and felt it tasted weird. They probably didn’t bake this in-house, because it looked like it came from some mass-producer. Even though there is some sweetness to the muffin it tasted flat and artificial, like it was just flour and colouring, without much scent and sweetness that I was wont to expect for muffins. Perhaps this is considered healthier or more natural? I wouldn’t know. After a disappointed first bite, and also because I was rather stuffed after the quiche and flat white, I asked for a takeaway bag to pack the muffin and brought it home.

Last night, I took it out of the fridge and the top was so hard and stiff like a rock! LOL. I let it stand outside for a while, not wanting to heat up the oven just for the little muffin, and when it has softened/thawed slightly, proceeded to eat it. Again, it just didn’t feel right so I did what I usually won’t do, and threw the rest away. Makes me feel bad to waste it, but it really wasn’t nice at all, or rather it was so tasteless that it would have been like chewing and swallowing dough.