the trip nobody really wants to take

It’s been a week or more since I last posted. It is a bit unusual, when I had been keeping up a rather regular habit of journalling since the beginning of the year, particularly when I began telecommuting since mid-February. As I mentioned (I think), it isn’t as rosy as some may think or imagine, or I am just not managing it well enough or making it work for my benefit while balancing that with my responsibilities as an employee.

Nevertheless, things have seemed to be spiralling southwards, and just a few days ago, the cusp of a weekend no less, our Prime Minister delivered a sombre speech that confirmed what many of us had been suspecting or expecting. We are an entitled and spoilt bunch who needed the stick to be wielded before we would comply. Even then, the government has not been entirely harsh to impose a total lockdown, with the various exemptions to ensure that our tiny city-state stays operational in key and essential services and sectors. As a small state, we cannot afford to just shut down like what some other countries have done, because we have too much at stake. This makes it much more challenging for the government to balance economic feasibility and the health and safety of the populace.

I am quite proud and impressed with the agility of the authorities, despite many naysayers, at every single initiative they put out. From a total turnaround of the budget that would have been approved and ready to be delivered by the Finance Minister in February, the virus probably caused that to be discarded and I shudder to think of the overnighters that many involved have had to pull to put out a whole new budget in record time, for three support packages that have been announced.

The ‘circuit breaker’ is due to kick in tomorrow. In the lead up to 7 April, most and myself included, have been in a frenzy to create a stockpile of sorts (yet again) to prepare for the stay-in. Despite that the authorities have relentlessly tried to assure us that there is zero need to stockpile or hoard, we also want to comply with their advisories to minimise heading out too often and therefore social interaction, hopefully that during this one-month period, we can help to flatten the curve of infections. It is disconcerting that since a couple of weeks ago, the numbers have been rising rapidly despite the safe-distancing measures announced.

I was among the statistics that remained stubbornly adamant on being part of group exercise classes, although the numbers in classes have been drastically reduced. It doesn’t reduce the risk of spread though because we see different people in each class we go, especially when we do not just visit one yoga studio since most these days partake in a variety of fitness regimes. What about those who had regular social gathering with different groups of friends, colleagues and of course, family? There is just so much potential for an asymptomatic person to become a super-spreader. For that, I have been careful, to reduce meet-ups with friends (almost none) and family. I no longer have interaction with colleagues since February so that is one channel closed.

While I was preparing for 7 April, I was buying stuff that I thought I may be needing this one month which I can avoid heading out to restock should they run out. Things I can’t stock would of course be perishables, and that would also give me the opportunity to head out and get some air, aside from the regular daily exercise I can make myself stick to.

The feeling I experienced in the lead-up felt familiar; it was like those times when I was scheduled to travel to some faraway foreign country for the first time, some unknown city that little is known about by myself or people I know, and not knowing what is there and what I should expect. In the past when I was scheduled for audits in such places, I would then be stocking my luggage with items that I may potentially not be able to buy when I am there. It kind of feels that way, only this time, it isn’t a trip I look forward to (not even with trepidation); it’s just something I do not want to be on yet I do not have a choice.

Is this further isolation, and at the end of it, what kind of person would I emerge as?

It is a lot of uncertainty and fear I won’t deny. I understand now how even for people are supposedly introverts, community interaction is still fundamentally important. What more, I am not entirely an introvert. Maybe an extraverted introvert?

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.