ups and downs

I gingerly but boldly stepped into 2020, as I recalled how on the very first day of the new year of the new decade, I told myself I wanted to be rid of certain thought patterns and behaviours, and proceeded to order brunch that included creamy scrambled eggs and smashed avocado on toast. Despite that it appeared in a rather disappointing fashion, I think taste-wise, it was still rather delicious. In the not so distant past, scrambled eggs, connoting cream and lots of eggs, maybe even sugar, were something I would have never allowed myself to eat. It was a sad sight, thinking back, even if I have yet to fully let go and not even coming anywhere close to that, of how I really scrape at the food that I eat. Thinly-spread peanut butter on a single slice of multigrain/wholemeal/whole wheat/whatever-grain bread, never any of those fancy (and yes pricey) bakery buns that contain anything remotely described as custard/cheese/cream… you get the drift.

Eating wise, it definitely is a long and arduous journey, not unlike that of a roller-coaster ride, which I have never been fond of and do not imagine that I ever will be. It is just like any other forms of recovery that involve the psychological state isn’t it?

Myself aside, the year in itself, almost 3 months and a quarter that has just sped past, we have witnessed so many occurrences in the world in such a short span of time it seemed like history has been compressed in this period. Curve balls have been thrown left, right and centre, impacting on practically every single part of our lives and every nook and cranny of the world.

The week that passed has also thrown me into a state of disarray and heightened anxiety and stress levels. I thought I had settled into a fairly comfortable routine, ever since mid-February when there were some adjustments in the work schedule due to the virus situation. But what transpired in the week definitely was not within expectation (yet again demonstrating how unpredictable and sudden things can happen and change) and once more everything was tossed up into the air like a pile of dried leaves being ruffled by a strong gust of wind.

It was extremely challenging and stressful trying to navigate the changes, and try to once again put some order into creating a routine for myself to draw comfort from and restore a bit of sanity that I so badly need. I need control, which explains the situation(s) that I have gotten into, and this is definitely not good where control is concerned.

It is easy for someone to tell me to let go, let God, because He is in control. I know that too, but head knowledge vs heart knowledge – we know which usually emerges triumphant. It shows that my heart is not fully immersed and in belief of His provision, and it is hard. It would take a massive amount of trust and faith to really commit one’s whole life into His hands. My mind is crowded with a million darting thoughts and progressively it is getting noisier; this week was exceptionally bad, which probably also explained why I had been quiet here, because I didn’t have the headspace to put into words what had been darting through and around my mind, even though journalling is meant to help. I just did not have the energy to sit down quietly and write.

It is a Saturday morning. I am allowing myself to breathe a little as I try to think about how to readjust my weekly schedule, both weekdays and weekends. We may not need to control our lives so much, but some form of routine is always helpful to keep us sane and grounded. Particularly in times when we really are being forced to live day-to-day and planning has almost become irrelevant.

Instagram has always been lauded as being toxic but it probably also takes conscious curation to maintain that hygiene over who we follow and what content we allow ourselves to feed on. I’ve spent hours mindlessly scrolling through it and I wouldn’t say it’s the best but sometimes we do find gems.

pause for a bit

Just read something sad. And again it makes me wonder why we all seem to take life for granted. There would always be times when we, or at least I can speak for myself, have wished that God will just bring us back home to be with Him with immediacy, yet there are people who have their lives cut short, while they were supposedly in the prime of their lives. When such things happen, we begin to question the indolence we exhibit towards life and fate, the extravagance with which we throw away our lives, not cherishing each and every living moment or be grateful for that extra breath that we get to have.

When we have something that seems like it is in abundance or that we do not have a view of its impending end, we tend to get complacent and think we have it all. But that’s not the case because life is unpredictable like that.

Anyway, this post was meant to be lighthearted and as a record of what I had recently.

It isn’t the first time I ordered this breakfast item at Starbucks, and in fact it is one of my favourites from what they currently serve – the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant. The flavourful mashed chicken mayo-style filling with a peppery taste gives it an added dimension, that pairs so well with the buttery croissant. While it isn’t the best in terms of croissant, because it is not freshly-baked after all, in fact this particular one I had that day looked a tad sad and limp, but overall it still made for an enjoyable breakfast.

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.

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.

Baker & Cook, Opera Estate

This is only the second time I have visited Baker & Cook. I don’t recall how I came to know about this bakery, but then I had wanted to check them out and back then I only knew about the one at Hillcrest Road. I was meeting a friend for brunch and since we had a ride, I mooted this place for coffee and some breads! Obviously, I was the only one who was keen to indulge in the breads but anyway they serve up a pretty good brew too!

So that was sometime back, maybe a couple of years or even longer. My memory has grown hazy, along with the haze that is shrouding our little city state currently. Bad analogy. But well, I was visiting my friends at their new crib in the Eastern part of Singapore, and after lunch at Bedok Mall, or whatever it is, the mall connected to Bedok MRT station, I wanted to grab my caffeine fix and they suggested this bakery where they thought I’d love, rather than our original plan of Starbucks.

It was only when they drove me there that I knew it’s Baker & Cook and I was delighted! Well even though I already had lunch and was not likely to be ordering any breads, which is what I so love, it was tea-time and so I prodded my friends to order some sweets to share! I probably had the lion’s share of it but oh well, at least I didn’t clean off everything solely. Haha.

So, we ordered a something-tart and a slice of Lemon Drizzle cake. The tart was quite nicely done as I remembered it, while the cake was a little of a disappointment because I found it to be a tad too sweet and moist. It wasn’t that I like dry cakes, definitely not, but this was a bit too dense and wet, like it hadn’t been baked enough? Or maybe that was how it was meant to be but I just have differing preferences.

When I posted it on Instagram with my rant though, someone commented that at least it looked pretty enough to be Instagrammable. Heh.

A closer look at the tart, which should be either peach or apricot with almonds? That’s what it looks to me. It was just a few weeks ago but it has totally eluded my memory.

Anyway the coffee (that came with a small cube of awesome brownie) did make up for that, and the company that afternoon was also great, catching up for a few hours after what felt like forever since we actually met!  
As I tried to name the 2 sweets that we ordered, I was checking out their website and menu and I just feel like trying so many things on it! Obviously, the breads would be the main item drawing me to them, seeing as to how I am such a big lover and fan of breads, but their locations tend to be a bit forbidding for me, except for perhaps the outlet at Intercontinental Hotel. Then again, I don’t think that would be as nice as their other locations at Hillcrest and Swan Lake.

The Clueless Goat, Novena

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You, to the one who made Singapore possible

I’m sure there are plenty of tributes all over the blogosphere, dedicated to the man who is also known as the Founding Father of modern Singapore. Most of us are deeply saddened at his passing, despite that he had lived a great and fulfilling life. I guess we feel a big sense of loss because knowing all that he had done for us, devoting much of his life to building Singapore, there can never be a second person who would come close, at least not in our opinion, for many years to come.

It is also with him leaving us that many of us get to know him better, his accomplishments and achievements, and learn that he is pretty much a misunderstood politician. I am never a keen follower of politics, and ashamed as I am to say that I do not really know a lot of the who’s who in our local government, it is just a personal preference to not take an interest in it. The only times I was ever involved were just in recent times when I had to take part in one presidential election, and the most recent General Election where the constituency I have lived in my whole life was being contested. So you can imagine how apathetic I am politically. Throughout the week which was called the National Mourning week… regular TV programmes were disrupted and in their place, features of Mr Lee were aired, showing snippets of speeches that he made, interviews that he gave and chronicles of his life. I learned a great deal about him that I never knew, and even though right after his funeral was over, on Monday morning, I started griping about the train delays again, I am still thankful to him and grateful for what we have here in Singapore that I call home.When I think back, all that we have now culminated from the policies of this one man, who became the first Prime Minister of Singapore at an age that is even younger than what I am now. How does someone have such lofty aspirations to want to build a better Singapore, when at this stage of my life, I am still drifting aimlessly in life, grousing about trivial things daily. I suppose that is the mark of distinction of people who are destined for big things.

Housing, bilingualism, clean potable water from taps, an armed forces, a generally well-connected and efficient transportation system, world-renowned airline, airport, etc. There are so many things, if not everything, that he had dabbled in to bring forth. Even without having the experience of living overseas, business trips that had led me to various parts of the world outside of the usual holiday destinations make me appreciate the convenience and safety of Singapore.

I missed the opportunity to head down to the Parliament House on a couple of occasions and was feeling extremely disappointed and uneasy. On Saturday, I made up my mind to go early in the morning to pay my last respects to this great man but was dismayed when I awoke to know that the queue had been suspended from Friday night. I headed down instead to Tanjong Pagar Community Centre to write a tribute to him, joined a file of people and bowed to his portrait.

After a yoga class, while I was having coffee, I read that the queue had re-opened at 615am, just right after I went to the TPCC. My heart was undecided but finally I went ahead with my heart’s desire, finished my coffee and muffin in a jiffy, and hopped on down to City Hall. It was a balmy and humid afternoon, with rain clouds threatening above. As I joined the steady stream of people all headed in the same direction, I overtook many as I brisk-walked along the route that took me from the exit of City Hall MRT opposite the former Capitol Building, along the street across from Raffles City to the Padang to the Esplanade, past it, all the way to the floating platform where we looped back along the Esplanade. I came to a half somewhere after emerging from beneath the Esplanade bridge (or whatever that was called). By that time, sweat was trickling down my temple and sides of my neck. For someone who doesn’t perspire that easily these days, I could only imagine the speed at which I had been trudging along. The queue inched slowly forward, but all through the route from the Padang, lots of volunteers lined the way distributing sustenance of food and beverages. Some even went as far as cheering us on, while we struggled to catch some fresh air to prevent ourselves from fainting.

The queue was unbearable despite that there wasn’t much of the scorching sun for most parts of it that day, not like what some others went through. There was some drizzle when I reached the Asian Civilisations Museum, but compared to the downpour that drenched those on Sunday, the drizzle was really a walk in the park.

Finally, after what felt like forever but was just about 2 hours, I arrived outside the Parliament House.

From that point, everything happened in lightning speed. In 2 files, we made a procession past where Lee Kuan Yew laid. I was in a daze, that as I passed I slowed a little but missed to stop and bow. I really regretted not doing that but at that point I only thought about moving on so that others could also come in to pay their last respects. As I exited the solemn hall, it hit me what I didn’t do. But I could no longer head back in.

It’s just like that with life, sometimes when we pass over something that we had considered doing but ended up not doing, there is no turning back. That is why there are always people telling us about the importance of seizing the moment and living in the here and now.

It was a sad week for many of us, and indeed I felt down but I didn’t go as far as shedding tears, even if I consider myself to be somewhat emotional these days. Perhaps it is a different kind of loss that I am mourning, thinking about what would lie ahead for us now that we have lost someone so vital to the development of Singapore, even if not all his policies and decisions were right. It was different as compared to earlier this year when my grandmother passed away; even if we weren’t as close as compared to the relationship I had with my maternal grandmother, it was heart-breaking when I saw her for the last time, lying in the coffin with her eyes closed for the last time, with pale pallid skin replete with wrinkles, a far cry from how I remembered her to be. Then, it was a 3-day wake that I attended and during the funeral as we trailed behind her cortege, I couldn’t help but break down as I thought about how we are now separated by life and death.

Anyway, Mr Lee’s passing caused me to reflect on a lot of things. I don’t know if these reflections will amount to any tangible actions but I hope it will make me more appreciative of things, be thankful of the things that I have, and learn how to live a better life.

Singapore will always be my home, whether or not I complain about its everything. I don’t believe in leaving and migrating because somewhere else is better off than here. We aren’t necessarily the best but because this is where we were born and grew up in, it’s where we belong and should work to make it better for ourselves.