Happy Lunar New Year!

Even though I started 2017 wanting to write more, this has obviously not translated into real, tangible action to do so. A month has passed, and this is my second post in as many months. That said, January has been quite a whirlwind, even as usual, nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary transpired. I could not remember what took place in the intervening days, other than the Lunar New Year that came and went just a few days ago. Lunar, because someone on Facebook mentioned how it should not be called ‘Chinese New Year’ as the festival is observed by not just Chinese. The Koreans, Vietnamese too? and several other nationalities celebrate it as well so let us just call it Lunar New Year.

This year, the office held a department lunch the day before the eve, since eve fell on a Friday and it’s traditionally a half-day off for us. For the first time, the lo-hei was an official one. In the past years, I recalled that we had a lo-hei at one of the bosses’ home when we held a BBQ at her place. Then in another year, we got lunch catered in the office and the lo-hei was either provided as part of the catered package, or we got it from outside. Either ways, I guess it’s a new practice that comes with a new boss.

Lunch at the Silk Road was a pretty pricey affair since it’s a special set menu that we were ordering. I won’t comment on the food since I do not count myself a connoisseur of food to say if it is good or bad, but the service definitely was not up to par. The restaurant was crowded, which is understandable since everyone was having their office lunar new year lunches, but they should have already expected it based on the bookings made, yet they made no (does not seem like they did anyway) plans to ramp up their staff to handle what needed to be done. We were one of the first tables there but ended up receiving tardy service; the interval time between dishes were inconsistently timed and they actually missed out one dish entirely until we had to remind them of it. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the set we picked was the lowest as compared to the other tables who seemingly ordered the premium sets?

So anyway it is a ‘free’ lunch for me, and it kicked off with the prosperity yu-sheng, which used smoked salmon instead of the usual raw fish. Not too sure if this was due to the raw fish scare that took place last year. I am not a big fan of smoked salmon but this one was still ok since I only had a slice. I was more interested in the 黄金, the crispy crackers that were so fragrant while munching.

On the eve of Lunar New Year, it’s the usual steamboat reunion dinner. Same as last year, we had it at my brother’s place and the food seems to be much less than before. We just cannot eat as much as we used to because most of us, with the exception of my nephew, are well past the age where our metabolisms can support massive eating.
Just before the Lunar New Year, I was down with a bout of flu and was / am still recovering from having phlegm stuck in my throat. But that did not stop me from feasting and enjoying the new year goodies. Though I do not binge on pineapple tarts, loveletters, bak kwa and the lot, I can actually count the number of pieces I have so far, I really let go in indulging in roasted cashews, green pea cookies and arrowhead chips. These are my kryptonite during this festive season, and they are no less heaty and unhealthy as compared to the others. Oh well, it’s once a year so I should not be so hard on myself right? The 初三 popiah party that was held, kind of like an annual tradition of my family too, again had me indulging in so much unhealthy food. Instead of eating the star dish of popiah, I was snacking non-stop on what my brother cooked with his air-fryer, a housewarming gift he received last year. Haha. So we had things like fries, chicken karaage, and prawn roll!

To balance out all that fried food, our lo-hei was a healthier version though. Put together by my aunt, it’s mainly a ginormous plate of sliced fruits, topped with the sinful sweet sauce though, and of course the 黄金, which my brother added on a copious amount with Lay’s Potato Chips – talk about innovation.

So that is 2 rounds of 捞鱼生 so far. Time to start reining in the eating!

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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. 🙂Not 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. 🙂

Glimpses of it coming together 

So… after what seemed like eternity to many people, and even perhaps to myself, things are starting to fall into place. Not the job situation, unfortunately, but rather the home renovation. I have put off talking about it for the longest time because oddly, when quizzed about it by concerned people around, it gets me into a frenzy and zips me straight into defensive mode. I don’t know why, but it just frazzles my nerves when people start to ask “Why is it taking so long?” and even worse, when some well-meaning family members started to lend their help somewhere along the way and began with statements like “You should have thought of…” Yes, technically, I should have. But how would I have been able to, and why didn’t you right at the beginning? I don’t even want to venture into that territory so let’s just let it go and rest in peace.

I think I still don’t want to talk too much about it. In certain things, I choose to remain fairly private. There are many things I can talk openly about, right here on this blog, but then this is one topic I would probably prefer to reserve on. It cuts a little too close for comfort maybe. But I can still share on some of the good stuff that emerged.

Initially, places that I started shopping at for furniture include just IKEA and some online websites that I chanced upon while browsing Facebook. But there are so many furniture shops all over Singapore. One day when I was at Suntec, checking out other stuff, we stumbled upon this row of shops that showcased rather pretty-looking pieces. One of them had really steep prices and most of the furniture belonged to the modern, contemporary sort that would have looked nice but probably did not fit so well into what I envisioned for my place. One shop carried many wooden pieces, actually I think all their furniture are made of wood, and some pieces caught my eye. The prices weren’t exactly affordable either but they were not as high as some others that I have seen, such as those really beautiful ones in Millenia Walk, the likes of Grafunkt, etc.

Finally, after returning to the shop a second time on a separate occasion, I settled on the TV console that I had been searching high and low for. I had wanted to keep most of the furniture light-coloured to maintain a consistency but decided to just heck it because I really love this very much.Pardon the red plastic bag at the bottom left corner of the picture. This photo is a little over-exposed but the console is made of walnut and comes in quite a dark ashy-brown shade. It is also extremely solid and heavy, and I adore its simplicity and also how well-made I felt it to be. The drawers have those anti-slamming thing built into them so that you could push them shut and they would slowly and gently slide close. ^_^

It, of course, also got the approval of the family who complimented the console for looking great despite it being really plain and simple.

On the same day that I took delivery of the console, who were really prompt in making the delivery, I also waited (a much longer time though) for the sofa and ottoman set, and dining table to be delivered. This proved to be a much longer affair because they had to assemble the items on delivery whereas the console come as one single piece that they removed from the box and just heaved it into my living room.

So this was the sofa that I finally decided on, a charcoal grey 2-seater (ottoman not pictured). The legs are a sort of mahogany brown, which still doesn’t match either the console or dining, but I have decided to stop thinking about that for now. The sofa cushions are the firm sort, so I won’t have those plushy soft sofas to sink my butt into. The bonus was that instead of 2 throw cushions, I realised I have 4! I think the delivery people didn’t know there were already throw cushions wrapped into the sofa itself, so they passed me another 2 when they came. Oh well.
Due to the dining light that is shining at the sofa from the left contrasted against the natural sunlight coming from the right, I think the colour doesn’t turn out so obvious. But then it’s still the darkest thing around the living room. I had expected my wall to turn out a little darker but actually the shade of paint I had chosen was decidedly ok and didn’t make my living room look too dark and small. 🙂

Even as things are started to come together, as I begin to put things in perspective and pack for the move, I realise that there are still so many things outstanding that I need to sort out and buy. Buying a new home and renovating it is no easy piece of cake, especially when you are going it almost alone. I don’t know how life will turn out at that point when I really make the move, which I have been trying to delay, consciously or unconsciously. After all, I have never really lived apart from my family, despite that I used to travel regularly. Then, I still have a home that I return to with my family in it. From this point on, it will just be me.

Packing is another nightmare. After living in the current place for more than 20 years, even for such a tiny flat, we have accumulated volumes of things that would probably put the greatest hoarder to shame. At least for me,.I think I keep too many items as memorabilia. Although it might be nice to keep them if I had the space and also time to arrange them, it just doesn’t serve that much purpose anymore. It pains me a little to throw some things away, not just because I am a hoarder but because some of those things trigger memories and offer sentimental value, and making choices on what to keep and what to bin seem like the hardest decision to take. Sigh. That said, it can be quite a cathartic process packing and dumping a whole lot of things as mountains of paper bags containing little knick-knacks start to grow smaller day by day.

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.

Flashback to March

I don’t know if I actually posted about the first vacation that I took this year, which happened in March, when I went for a short trip to Perth with my family. I think it’s the first time that I had ever joined them on a trip, aside from the drives up to Malaysia when I was a kid. It so happened that this was also the first that my dad decided to join in, all thanks to a new addition to my family now, my nephew, whom has successfully to make my dad a more homely person. They left for Perth a few days before me, and I just joined them halfway through it so I was only there for about 4 days or less. But nevertheless, it was a good and relaxing trip. This was one trip where I just woke up each morning and then after a hearty breakfast with the family, hop into the rented vehicle and be on our way somewhere. Somewhere was the itinerary that my brother and sister-in-law had planned out together with my other brother, and I just tagged along. The last time I went on a road trip of sorts, excluding Malaysia, was probably the only other time, when I visited the US in 2011 and my friend’s family and I went on a drive out of the city of San Francisco.

I really miss travelling, and since I resigned and left my previous job in December last year, I had been suffering withdrawal symptoms of the travel bug. I know I’d complained about the fatigue that work travel brought me, but perhaps on hindsight, or even while I was at it, I knew it wasn’t just the travel that made me tired. I wasn’t into the job, and more so, I got tired working with the team that never really connected or which I never ever felt a part of, plus being on my own going to all those places that required me to stay vigilant 24/7 probably took its toll. I don’t know if I will ever get another job that will require me to travel for work, whether if it’s because I will apply for such a job or if I can ever get such a job again. Life is fraught with decisions that we make that veers our paths onto ways that we may never imagine ourselves to be on, but I would like to believe that God has a greater plan for me and will guide me towards the path that I should be walking on.

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Perth

Just recently, I took a really short trip to Perth that I didn’t even feel like I’d been there. To be fair, it isn’t that short, but some people are of the opinion that flying 5 hours for a 4-day-3-night thing is not worth it. I guess it is just a matter of perspective and who cares what others think.

The climate in Australia is changing, and thankfully it wasn’t too hot despite that the sun could get really merciless. Because it actually felt cold when I was in the shade and the wind blew so strongly, I tried to stay out in the blazing sunlight to remain warm and ended up getting sunburnt, on my feet and some parts of my legs that were exposed. My arms and face were fine because I was back-facing the sun most of the time and had on a long-sleeved sweater.

20140329-213541.jpgIt looks really hot in the picture above but that was the day when I felt it was so cold and was also probably the day when I got burnt.

20140329-213549.jpgStrong sunlight always makes for great pictures, that I have learnt from the various times when I have either melted under the sweltering heat of the sun during trips in summer time, or when I was basking thankfully in the warmth of sunshine during winter times.

For those short days being in Perth, I didn’t do much other than sit in the backseat of the vehicle staring out the window at passing scenery, occasionally dozing off when the humdrum of the drive made me drowsy. It was also a good time of disconnecting from the world of online distractions since I wasn’t subscribed to any data-roam plans and only connected to the wifi back at the apartment.

Generally speaking, I am not a sight-seeing kind of person when it comes to holidays and Perth would probably have been one of the last places I’d want to go for vacation. But it was still fairly enjoyable, doing things that I haven’t actually done before, like sitting down as a family at the table for breakfast, or having a sort-of picnic in the park eating food bought at the festival stalls.