Monthly Archives: December 2009

You Know You’re Dating A Geek When…

Jasmine: Andrew is away in Bangkok with his family for the next four days, getting Thai massages and riding scooters, whilst I have been busy preparing for my presentation at tomorrow’s all-day staff meeting. What fun, huh! Anyhow, I’ll be publishing a couple of backdated posts in the interim prior to my dear’s return… I can’t believe the next time I’ll be seeing him is next year (his flight is on Jan 1, heh).

This post was a contest to see which of us was geekier. I present to you: You Know You’re Dating a Geek When…

(On Jasmine as a geek)

1. She has an Etsy account.

2. She thinks Freck specs are the Next Big Thing.

Vintage Guy Laroche glasses studded with rubies- what’s not to like?

3. Short hair and glasses are her style signature, according to her students, who all started chopping off their hair and wearing thick-rimmed frames and said they were “copying Miss Ong”.

4. She emails you links to random articles on relationships, theology and street style that she thinks you will enjoy. (In fact, her last email was entitled “The art of folding pocket squares” and contained an annotated bibliography of websites and how-to videos.)

5. You receive a Teachers’ Survival Kit from her, complete with Brand’s Essence,Vitamin C tablets, Esprit socks, a corkboard and a portrait of you as a teacher.

6. She almost bought you Lego brick cufflinks once.

Orange LEGO Brick Cufflinks -FREE GIFT BAG- Retro Man Guys Dad Fun Gift 80's Dork Boy Groom Groomsmen Fathers Day sale

7. Her lifelong dream is to get married at Borders.

8. She blogs about her favourite geeky shirts, and devises her own rating system that ranges from MacBook to MacBook Pro.

9. During a discussion on how we should behave as a couple in front of friends, she suggests that we first think about how we behave in the private sphere, then discuss our behaviour in the public sphere and then look at how the both intersect.

10. Her idea of making small talk involves asking you to reflect on your “best professional qualities”.

11. She plans her working wardrobe by sketching every single piece of clothing and itemising them by providing a written description of the piece, along with the price and place of acquisition.

12. When you asked her if she would consider dating you, instead of giving you a straightforward answer, she waited till the next day, and scribbled “yes” on your lesson plan when class was over.

(On Andrew as a geek)

1.  He used to time how long it would take to walk from his place to the bookstore and back and factor it into his daily revision schedule so that he wouldn’t lose precious revision time.

2. He used to sign up for extra uncredited modules in University just because he was bored.

3. He creates a table in Microsoft Word to map out his ‘courtship’ plan with you over the 6 weeks. He sends the document over to you for vetting. He even password protects the document.

4. He plans dates with a pre, main and post activity structure.

5. He asks his close friend for tips on how to be a better boyfriend and summarises the converstion in the Notepad function of his handphone, so he has a hard copy in case he forgets.

6. He ‘googles’ ‘Acts of Modern Chivalry’.

7. He tags every macaroon in a photo on Facebook with the exact name of its flavour by doing ‘research’ on the bakery website.

First column on the left (Bottom to top): Ruby Macaroon, Dark Chocolate Ganache Infused with Raspberry, Pistachio Buttercream

Second column on the right (Top to bottom): Chocolat-Passion – Mik chocolate ganache with passion fruit, Macha Flavoured Macroons, Gianduja – 40% Milk Chocolate with peanut butter feuilletine crunch, Ruby Macaroon

8. He lets you read his diary and you see statements like, “Dear God, which are the areas in which I have subject mastery?”

9. After every play or exhibition that we attend, he insists on a debrief (not that she objects to it either – in fact, she adds on by asking questions like, “If you were to design the exhibition, how would you improve it?”) 

10. He writes down his ‘apology’ speech to you in his notebook and spends the afternoon rehearsing it before formally ‘apologising’ to you. He insists on apologising to your parents as well, just to show that he is serious.

Verdict: Andrew has successfully outgeeked Jasmine

The Roles We Play Part 3: Cooks

[Post written by Andrew]

Andrew: Dearie had a sore throat today and I was feeling rather under the weather today, so we decided that instead of our usual museum visit + food hunt, we would have a domestic day today!

My scouring of food blogs led me to uncover a Baked Chicken Meatball recipe that I’d been meaning to try out and Jasmine purchased a loaf of charcoal bread from JB with the intention of replicating the Smoked Royale she had at Hatched (an egg-themed restaurant near the Botanic Gardens).

It has always been Jasmine’s ‘dream’ to over-dress and take photos in a supermarket and we managed to do that today! It was one of the few times she was all dressed and ready at the moment of my arrival at her place. (Jasmine says: Aiyah dear, must you give away all my secrets…) And off we went to Cold Storage at Katong Mall:

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Yes, these were all posed shots. We bought nothing from the seafood section or the juice section.

IMG_6566 A first for us. Setting timer to take a photo in a supermarket. We placed our camera on boxes of Japanese snacks. A mum and her son stared at me with a bewildered glance.

IMG_6567It’s amazing how my Dearie can make a shopping bag look stylish. The bag was the Science Centre bag we received during our NIE Induction Field Trips, the site of one of our very first geeky dates.

We –okay, I– got quite trigger happy at Cold Storage:

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How could we start cooking without posing for a shot with Mohawk and the latest addition to the family – Bunny!

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Introducing Bunny again!

Baked Chicken Meatballs
I started preparing my Baked Chicken Meatballs first as they were more tedious to do.

First, we had to soak bread in milk.

IMG_6574 The recipe stated Italian bread, which is a really broad category of breads. Dearie mentioned that all it means is that the bread had to be of a coarser texture, so we chose a wholemeal loaf for this.

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After soaking the bread, we pan-fried a mixture of bacon, onions and garlic:

IMG_6576Then, we drained the excess milk from the pieces of bread and mixed the ground chicken, bread, bacon onion garlic combi, tomato paste and parsley together.

IMG_6578 …. rolled out the meatballs and glazed them with an olive oil + tomato paste mix:

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Pre-baking appearance:

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While baking:

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The final product:

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IMG_6590A more aesthetically appealing version of the meatballs, obviously arranged by the more artistic of the both of us. 

The verdict

Andrew: The meatballs turned out to be too dry, as we used ground chicken (instead of pork/beef) which had less ‘fat’ to add to the taste. The flavour didn’t ‘burst’ out upon biting it, unlike Ikea meatballs. The meatballs were also rather bland. I realised upon tasting a few samples that the bread with milk actually ‘flattened’ out the taste and reduced the meaty texture. Even eating it with ketchup or chilli didn’t help to enhance the taste. All in all, they were edible, but not particularly tasty or appetizing.

(Jasmine says: Given that it was our first attempt, I’m just glad the meatballs managed to stick together instead of disintegrating in the oven. We’ll use more bacon and beef for added taste (we used quite alot of minced chicken this time) and we’ll serve it with spaghetti bolognaise!)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.  

Andrew: Dearie prepared her Smoked Royale wannabe Coal Royale,  which she claimed was cobbled together using scraps from my meatball dish.

(Jasmine says: Ok ok, the only “scrap” I used from Andrew’s dish was the leftover bacon bits. I’d originally intended to use honey-baked ham.)

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Andrew: The dish was simple enough – lightly toasted charcoal bread topped with scrambled eggs, bacon bits and diced tomatoes.

(Jasmine says: The charcoal bamboo bread was an impulse buy from a bakery the previous evening. I had originally planned to make Andrew breakfast (think really burnt croissants), but when he suggested we have a cooking date, I was all too happy to repurpose the bread for a brunch menu. I liked that the bread looked charred… so even if I burnt it nobody would be able to tell the difference!)

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Comparing Dearie’s dish with the original Smoked Royale

The verdict

Andrew: I must admit this is one of Dearie’s best dishes yet. The scrambled eggs were very well done, with the right texture (fluffy and not too chewy) and good flavour (cooked for the appropriate amount of time to retain the flavour of the egg), and broken-up into the right size too. The bacon bits really complemented the scrambled eggs well and the charcoal bread tasted more ‘normal’ than it looked. Overall, it was very satisfying. Based on the uniqueness of using Charcoal bread, I recommended Dearie to ‘sell’ this dish to Hatched.

(Jasmine says: I can’t claim credit for fresh tomatoes and store-bought bread, but I was fairly contented with my scrambled eggs, in which I had melted cheese and sprinkled basil, oregano and parsley. Andrew wouldn’t be too pleased to know that the last time I made scrambled eggs was about fifteen years ago…) 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Our complete meal:

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IMG_6592Of course the meal would not be complete without our companions.

Andrew: After our meal, we continued our lazy day by watching Inglourious Basterds on DVD. A fitting title, considering the company:

IMG_6609Jasmine:  I missed the opening credits and first ten minutes of the film because I got carried away taking pictures. To the left of the picture is a gorgeous pot of hydrangeas that Andrew had delivered to my place a couple days ago. Thank you dear!

Andrew: Mohawk and Bunny are stealing the limelight way too often!

Jasmine: Andrew is so cute when he’s jealous!

Merry Christmas!

Andrew and Jazzy would like to wish all our readers

Merry Christmas!

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Photos from One Caramel

Andrew: The highlight of our Christmas ‘celebration’ was watching Avatar with my family.

File:Avatar-Teaser-Poster.jpg

This was followed by a time of geek-speak (just between the two of us, of course) where we discussed:

  • representations of otherness
  • the voice of the sub-altern
  • the ‘unmanning’ and re-masculinisation of the protagonist’s manhood
  • the insufficient use of the device of the Avatar i.e. someone taking on another’s identity. In this case, wheelchair-bound Jake replaces his murdered brother and assumes the identity of an able-bodied Navi warrior-in-training. In fact, Jake begins to prefer his Avatar identity over his own paraplegic body. There was one nice moment when Jake was looking at his Avatar through a piece of glass and he saw his human reflection staring back at him, but otherwise Jake’s “split selves” were not highlighted cinematically
  • the notion of reality and virtual reality and how it became difficult to distinguish between either
  • the foreign versus the familiar (how the alien race still possess recognisably human characteristics and are therefore familiar, though these characteristics are common to certain African tribes, and are therefore foreign to most contemporary viewers)
  • the polarisation of the primitive native savage and the futuristic robots
  • the lack of compromise between aliens/humans and the simplistic division of both as opposing forces; how the film maintained an “us versus them” mentality and did not even entertain the option of peaceful coexistence
  • the possible environmental messages the movie tried to force down our throats i.e. having  to populate inhospitable planets as a result of climate change on Earth

Andrew: We had fun mocking some of the movie’s corniest lines (“I see you”) and doing re-enactments of their resurrection ritual which really seemed like a mass campfire sing-along conducted in a phosphorous/fluorescent jungle.

(Jasmine: Andrew’s version of a tribal ritual involved him chanting what sounded like “Kumbaya” or “Kaya” while swaying like a helicopter as we were walking around Junction 8. I tried to keep my distance.)

 Andrew: Gallivanted around B1 for a while – buying fruit juice, eating Taiwanese deep-fried sausage, yakitori chicken and chicken ball, and guessing which bouquet Dearie would like – kind of like a revision of our previous date where she taught me about flower selection, and not being allowed to buy it.

(Jasmine: The bouquet cost $88, dear! It was extortion…)

Andrew: It wasn’t the ideal way to celebrate Christmas, but I treasured the time spent and the laughter shared.

It really hasn’t been a very jolly Christmas for both Jasmine and myself this year because of a variety of factors, mostly out of our control.

Nonetheless, it matters less what we do, than who we do it with and though it might not feel very jolly, it has been a joy to serve, to love, to cry and spend this Christmas week with you Dearie.

Once again – Here’s wishing all our readers a very (belated) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thank you

Dear friends,

On behalf of Andrew and I (yep, I actually checked with Andrew, who gave the thumbs up, before I wrote this), we’d just like to thank everyone who has been so supportive and understanding during this difficult time.

In no particular order, thank you to

– our NIE friends (Pei, Mills, Anjali, Peiyong, James, Felicia, Mindy and Nicola)

– Andrew’s colleagues and senior management

– Andrew’s RI/ RJ friends (Zhengkun, Pengyong, Xiangkun, dear please correct my spelling if I’m wrong) as well as Karen

– Andrew’s cell group (Khen Theen, Adeline, Bangqiang, Cassia, David, Arthur, Shuwen, Mike, Uncle Kelvin, Marie, Andras), who set up the chairs for the wake service on Monday

– my cell group (Marcus, Cindy, Wai Leong, Valencia, Sheer, Meow, Eleta)

– Andrew’s friends from his college days in the UK (Meiyin, Benjamin and Carmen)

– and Joshua (sorry Joshua, wasn’t really sure which of the above categories you fell into!), who stayed long hours and helped serve drinks.

Please forgive us if we have not been good hosts to those of you who came down to attend the wakes, funeral or simply to pay your last respects to Andrew’s dear sister and to show Andrew support. Every handshake, hug, text message or phone call meant something to us, and even if we did not have the time to reciprocate your kindness in full over the last three hectic, frenetic days, please know that we thank God  for each and everyone of our friends who made the time and effort to be there.

Thank you.

What would I do without you…

To my dear Jasmine,

The past few days have been really tiring and draining, physically and emotionally. But your love and your support through this tough time really made it much more bearable, and even, dare I say it, sweet (with the exception of the bitter-sweet yong sum [ginseng drink]).

Thank you for waking up earlier than usual (by that, I mean ten am instead of your usual past noon waking hour. Heh) just to boil yong sum for me before coming down to St. Teresa’s church.

Thank you for always being the good hostess, helping me to receive my friends even if most (ok, maybe all) of the jokes were at my expense. I’m sure you learnt a lot of new things about me from my various guy friends, especially Mr. Wong and ZK (Yes Mills, you too.)

Thank you for helping me with my eulogy, giving me the right advice on the tone I should take at different wake services, so that I would truly honour the memory of my dear sister.

Thank you for being beside me – offering me tissue and crying along with me. No, you were not being presumptuous by running on stage when you saw that I was about to cry. I read once that the love of a [girlfriend] gives the man courage and indeed, your love through this time gave me the courage to remain strong and positive in front of all my friends who came down. 

Thank you for all the other small things that you did:

  • Telling me to take it easy and not get too stressed
  • Getting food for me and serving my mum
  • Selecting the best bouquet for me to put in the hearse
  • Accompanying my family to collect the ashes from the crematorium, ‘sheltering’ the ashes with your UV-Umbrella
  • Buying flowers so that the table won’t look so empty
  • Staying up late to write me a post-card, and carefully ‘rejecting’ the many inappropriate-sounding options from the Penguin Postcard collection

And most of all, thank you for being you – for making me smile and laugh with your usual ‘half-sentences’, terrible jokes from the Chinese masseuse, insisting I take time out by going on a 20 min McDate, teasing & ‘insulting me and generally giving me a hard time, doing ‘revolting’ things and not feeling embarrassed at all.

I know it has been tiring for you too, Dearie, but I appreciate all your sacrifices for my family and I. I love you, Dearie.

Love,

Andrew

Missing you

Dearie is away in Beijing with her family this week and it just happens to be an especially difficult week.

Can’t wait for her to be back on Sunday night. I’ve even lost the motivation to blog on this blog, which actually goes to show that as much as this blog is for our readers, it’s also very much for the both of us to reflect on and to remember our moments of joy together.

Anyway, in the style of our ‘list’ entries, here’s the list of Things I do when I miss my Dearie:

1. Send her smses and imagine how she would respond with all her witty retorts/insults and incessant teasing.

I hold a mini-conversations in my head – of course, since I’m not half as witty as Jasmine is, the conversation usually ends very quickly.

2.  Do things that we would normally do together.

Of course, that makes me miss her even more. Had Mac Breakfast alone this week before heading down to see my sister. It was boring – no-one to take pictures with or to take my hash brown. As I was driving to cell group today at Gary and Jennifer’s place, I missed having my JPS (Jasmine’s version of GPS. Heh) beside me, helping me with the street directory.

3. Play wth Mohawk.

Mohawk was a great source of comfort. 🙂

4. Living by her advice to me.

Dearie always reminds me that I need to take good care of myself by eating well and taking time off for myself. This is something I always neglect if left to my own devices, but I made a concerted effort this week to really take time off when needed to refresh and recharge myself.

5. Continue to plan dates.

I’ve already discovered a new place we can go to for High Tea when she returns and of course there’s still that Antarctica exhibition at The Arts House that we are planning to go to. Read a friend’s blog lately and am interested to check out Fat Boys Burger Bar.

I’ve recently discovered too that the ‘sky gardens’ in the latest 40 storey HDB flats in Toa Payoh provide very nice, quiet spots for couples just to sit and enjoy each other’s company.

This blog will be ‘revived’ once again next week. I still have a ‘homework’ entry I’m supposed to write!

The Roles We Play Part 2: Art Critics

Andrew: As most of you all already know from this blog, Jasmine and I love going for exhibitions.

Unfortunately, most of the art exhibitions we’ve been too have been rather underwhelming as most of them are displays of contemporary art – perhaps we need a professional to enlighten us on the approach towards appreciating contemporary art!

The OH! Open House exhibition, advertised on Mr Wang Says So, seemed extremely promising – local artists, moving art out of conventional display spaces to see how they function within homes, a combination of our love for art and Dearie’s love for home decor. How could this go wrong? We were sadly mistaken.

I came with the expectation that the pieces would be thoughtfully integrated with the spaces they occupied, that the personality, atmosphere and feel of the homes would enhance the art pieces and hence bring out the message and meaning of the work more. This was done to varying degrees of success, but there were more misses than hits.

Hits

Andrew: One of the houses I found more fascinating was the first one, which belonged to a Mr Anbalangan, a Tamil poet and writer. The ground level is where he composes all his works and as you can hopefully see, his bookshelves are filled with his own pieces as well as collections of other writings from which he draws his inspiration:

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What I found rather fascinating in this house was the display of the exoskeleton of white cockroaches by Zhao Renhui.

Tottori Desert Cockroaches

These were displayed in the garage of the house, a very suffocating, compact space. The guide who brought us in mentioned that it was interesting how the change in colour of the cockroach changes it from a pest to an object of fascination.

What I found more interesting, however, was the use of the space and how it was ironic in response to the piece of art. In the corner of the garage, there was a can of insecticide. We commonly want to rid our garages of these pests by killing them or spraying insecticide to keep them out. However, now in this space, the cockroach became the centre of attention, an object for us to admire and appreciate. It suddenly seemed as if this was a space that belonged to the cockroach. Given that Zhao Renhui’s photography interest is in the ‘human zoological gaze’ (i.e. how humans view animals), I thought the juxtaposition of space and his exhibit was very thoughtfully done.

Another display I quite liked was the series of dead children portraits by Huang Wei in the fifth and last house. It was indeed one of the more accessible series of paintings which really drew you in and made you wonder about the stories behind these paintings. I partly also think that in contrast to all the other contemporary art pieces we saw, this series was rather refreshing and ‘conventional’ – perhaps my taste in art is rather conventional after all.

One of his pieces, taken from For Arts Sake

(Jasmine says: Huang Wei was a local artist who lost his family during World War Two. This inspired him to paint a series of pictures, all of whom featured undead children who were either maimed, disfigured or bleeding. (Yes, I know, so perfect for a romantic date.)

A dozen or so of these paintings had been framed on one wall of the entryway, a satirical mimicry of classical Western interiors where the family’s ancestral portraits take pride of place in a central public room such as the dining hall or salon. In this case, however, the pictures were not of ancestral forefathers, but of an entire generation of children who had died prematurely. The fact that this was a shophouse lived in by an actual family heightened the uneasy topic that Huang Wei’s ghostly visages sought to explore: human loss. This was one of the few instances during the Open House tour that I felt that the tense juxtaposition of art object and context was especially apt. )

Misses

Andrew: Also displayed in the first house were the wax representations of HDB flats by Rebecca Lim:

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Unfortunately I didn’t quite understand these pieces and the message behind them. Like Jasmine mentioned, most of these pieces required us to work very hard to understand what they meant and the pieces themselves were not inherently interesting or captivating. For me, I found a lot of this experience rather cerebral. The pieces didn’t communicate any emotion to me (perhaps that was the point, but still).

(Jasmine says: The way the wax sculptures were displayed, on stand-alone cubes placed at knee level, did not enhance our viewing experience, since we had to crouch or squat in order to get a close look at the pieces.

In an ideal world, I would have crammed several dozen of these wax sculptures on an Ikea bookcase like the one below to underscore the crowdedness of HDB living.

A bookshelf is such a home decor staple that displaying the wax sculptures off-handedly in it would also integrate the exhibit better within the home.)

Andrew: The displays in the 2nd house confounded me.

IMG_6534 These statues were supposed to be personifications of electro and funk music, and had song lyrics inscribed on their backs

IMG_6532 These petri dishes were placed on the dining table in the 2nd house we visited, along with a magnifying glass. What were we supposed to look at?

(Jasmine says: The petri dishes contained microscopic prints that were inspired by natural forms such as spores and leaves. My best guess would be that the artist was inviting her viewers to take a scientific look at art by gazing through a magnifying glass. However, I found it purposeless because the prints themselves were not particularly fascinating up-close. In other words, the prints of spores still looked like spores through the magnifying glass- nothing less, nothing more.

Art should draw us in and make us wonder about the provenance of the artwork, such as Huang Wei’s undead children paintings, where I found myself pondering over who a certain child might be and what her backstory was. Here, however, my response to the petri dish prints was, “Ok, so what’s next?”

The placement of the tiny petri dishes on the humongous dining table also made it easy to miss out on. If the tour guide had not highlighted the petri dishes, I would probably have dismissed it as the homeowner’s collection of cigarette trays or tealight holders. )

Andrew: In one of the houses, we had to put on 3D glasses and ‘hunt’ around the house for different lightboxes.

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How the pictures looked when viewed through a 3D lens


Andrew: Again, this was like ‘eh’?

(Jasmine says: The focus was on the process of exploring the house, rather than the final product i.e. the pictures. Yet both process and product left me feeling disgruntled. For process in particular, the areas of the house that we explored (a storeroom, a stairway and a bedroom on the second floor) had all been emptied of furniture. This greatly undermined the purpose of displaying art in people’s houses, as the house seemed to become a conventional display space of four blank walls (in curator terms, a “white box”) not unlike the typical museum or art gallery concept that the Open House organisers had tried so hard to counter.)

Andrew: And finally,

IMG_6538  Backlit artpieces featuring little monkeys in Japonesque settings i.e. sakura season and wooden houses.

(Jasmine: Though the pictures were visually appealing, the problem of appropriate context cropped up once again here, as the room was void of furnishings. To give them life, I might have mounted them in a hall where a flat-screen TV might have been to emphasize the role of the spectator, or slotted them between storybooks in a child’s bedroom to provoke viewers into contemplating the fairytale quality of these visual representations of romance.) 

Andrew: There were many other pieces I didn’t photograph, basically because either I felt the effect would have been lost thru photograph or I just felt that there was nothing much to take. One of the houses had a four-poster bed with human hair tied around the four posters.

(Jasmine says: This was just crass. Our tour guide observed that this was the artist’s meditation on how human hair was the only effect a human could leave behind after death. He also invited us to touch the lines of hair (give me Dettol or give me death!!) and noted that the four-poster bed wrapped with human hair was for sale. Alternatively, we could just purchase the hair (and this is commercially viable because…). 

Two children kept pestering the tour guide with The Best Questions Ever:


“So does the artist have any hair left?” “Will her hair grow back?” “How do you sleep on the bed?” 

I know Andrew found the two kids rather pesky, but I felt that their barrage of questions did highlight the pointlessness and meaninglessness of this rather unsanitary exhibit. Plus it was good for a chuckle.)

Andrew: Another house had a “protest-piece”, where the artist strung up pieces of porcelain to form cloud-like shapes and hung these pieces up on the ceiling of a very small room. We were supposed to lie on the floor and look up at the piece. It was supposed to re-create that experience of lying on green fields and looking at clouds in the sky, allowing your imagination to run wild, protesting against current modes of entertainment for our kids where they simply passively ‘take in’ what is shown to them. It seemed like a lot of work, for a very simple message.

(Jasmine says: The artist termed it a “protest piece” against mind-numbing modern forms of entertainment such as television and music that we use to keep our children occupied, but I felt that the artist over-explained yet under-conceptualised her piece.

The piece, which consisted of porcelain shards strung up in concentric circles, clearly resembled a windchime, so I wondered about the acoustics of placing this installation in a room without windows or ventilation. Furthermore, if the audience was meant to interact with the installation by touching it and making it rattle, asking people to lie down on the floor while hanging the installation centimetres away from the ceiling seemed to defeat the tactile nature of the artpiece.)

Andrew: Overall, it was quite a disappointing exhibition. Both Jasmine and I are still unconvinced of the value of contemporary art and this exhibition had so much potential, which wasn’t achieved.

Her Birthday: The Bintan Getaway

[Entry written by Jasmine. Comments by Andrew inserted within brackets]

One of our reasons for starting this blog was that it could function as an archive or repository of happy memories in turbulent times. Given how busy both of us are during term time, my birthday wish this year was simply to spend a whole day with Andrew. My dear made that wish come true when he booked us a day tour and spa package at Bintan on September 12.

Ever the meticulous planner, Andrew readies our travel documents

We were whisked off to the Aroma River Spa for a pampering massage and scrub.

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Choosing our scrubs and essential oils

The huts where we did our spa treatments were located in an idyllic mangrove swamp… So idyllic that I later sustained about 58 sandfly bites on my legs, and was scratching in a most unseemly manner for the following two weeks.
[Andrew: Poor dearie. I wasn’t affected at all by the sandfly bites. Perhaps Army training has really ‘thickened’ my skin.]

Attap huts at Mutiara Beach, Trikora, where we had our body scrubs and massages.

Nevertheless, the remoteness of the day spa made it seem a thousand miles removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. The chirping of the critters, for instance, was real, and not piped-in muzak! It was the ideal 12-hour break from work, commitments and having to answer the phone.

[Andrew: What was more amazing was that because the spa was so remote – there was nobody else there but us, so it seemed as if we had the whole place to ourselves.

I think the fact that we only spent about 8 hours there was another reason why Jasmine enjoyed it so much. She is very much a city girl. As much as she complains about the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the city, she would really rather spend a few days in a busy city like New York than two days in a place like this. I, on the other hand, love spending my holidays away from cities. Give me the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District any time! What Jasmine forgot to mention too was that the staff at the resort sprung a surprise on us. They prepared a birthday cake for her and sang her a birthday song when she opened the door to her spa treatment room:

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 Andrew: The singing was slightly out of tune and the cake wasn’t the best – it was a rather ‘sticky’ sponge cake with an over-generous chocolate rice coating. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant surprise for the both of us. ]

Reinvigorated after our respective massages!

We then enjoyed a boat ride through the mangrove. Or rather, Andrew enjoyed it whilst I endured it, since he kept making fun of my penchant for keeping my sunhat on at all times, and forcing him to slather sunscreen on himself too. It might have been fun to have done the rowing ourselves 🙂

It was then off to lunch, a homecooked meal of local Indonesian fare and fresh coconut juice, with a lanky dog never far from our table, patiently waiting for scraps.

[Andrew: I really found the dog extremely annoying. The staff kept trying to lure the dog away, but he kept coming back. There was a cat too at the Spa Centre itself which kept eyeing Dearie’s birthday cake, roaming around my legs as I tried to enjoy the cake. I get extremely annoyed (but also scared) when animals keep eyeing my food!

Once again, because we were the only ones there (with the exception of the dog), it seemed as if we had the whole beach to ourselves. It was really a good break for us.]

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Trying to relax in a hammock
[Andrew: The hammock was spoilt. I tried so many times and I kept being thrown out of the hammock.]

We whiled away a lazy afternoon combing the beach and the day spa’s surroundings.

He wanted more coconut juice

By the time we got back to Singapore, it was past dinnertime and we were ravenous! Andrew drove us to Changi Bistro for an alfresco meal by the coast, and that was where he also presented me with my presents:

1. Daisy by Marc Jacobs eau de toilette

2. Ladies’ pen made of birch (perfect for slipping into tiny handbags)

3. Blueberry Girl, by Neil Gaiman (not shown in pic)

I felt so spoilt by my dear that evening. Andrew told me about all the trouble he had gone to to procure the right perfume, going down twice to Takashimaya to exchange the perfume when he realised that I preferred the original EDT over the limited edition that he had initially chosen.

If you know, my dear is not a shopaholic. In fact, he is rather allergic to window-shopping, shoe-shopping, online shopping and pretty much any other kind of shopping there is.  Yet he remembered items that I had pointed out in passing on random shopping trips, such as the pen and the card, and went back to Raffles City to get them for me. He was actually… listening.

[Andrew: Yes, and in traditional ‘Andrew’ fashion, I wrote down items that you mentioned in the Notepad function of his handphone, so he could select which items to put together for your birthday package.]

Andrew could have given me nothing that day, and I would still have been happy just to have him there by my side. But I was immeasurably touched by his thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and willingness to set aside time for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better boyfriend.

Just when I thought the evening was drawing to a close, Andrew had one final surprise up his (nicely-fitted) sleeve. He brought 24 tealights, to represent the 24 years of my life, and arranged them as follows:

Carrier bags block out the wind

Given the sea breeze, lighting all 24 candles and getting them to stay lighted was an arduous task. We kept getting burned:

Gingerly does it…

But we finally made it:

Thank you, my dear, for a birthday that was beyond amazing.

 

Andrew: It was an amazing day for me too Dearie. Thank you, for being the love of my life.

Gift Guide for your Geek

Andrew and I have been on the lookout for geeky t-shirts for him, so I thought I’d share with you a smattering of my favourite picks from the Web:

1. For the English major:

Major In English Meet Girls Organic Cotton Tee

                             Major in English: Meet Girls!

Cult Classics also boasts a range of subject-specific tees with groan-worthy slogans such as…

Major in Chemistry: Imagine The Reaction

Major in Electrical Engineering: Shock Your Friends

Major in Philosophy: Just Think About It

Major in Geology: It Rocks!

Matter Matters (for the budding physicist)

Archeology… Can you dig it?

Jasmine’s verdict: The slogan’s not incredibly funny, but it’s alright. This shirt would make a good conversation starter at a party.

Andrew’s verdict: I like that the design’s not too flashy or attention-grabbing. It does suit my style and I think I could pull it off. It sure beats the countless witty but rather pointless designs we saw at Bugis Street last week. The slogan for the English Major is one very frequent stereotype I had to deal with when I was in Uni.

Our Rating: 3 out of 5 MacBooks

2. For his inner child:

Everything I Need To Know Dr Seuss t-shirt

Jasmine’s verdict: I’d be rather disturbed by a guy wearing this shirt. It’s way too Freudian for my liking. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on our conversation and would probably find myself wondering what exactly he learned from Dr Seuss.

Andrew’s verdict: It’s not something I would wear. Given that I don’t really know much about Dr Seuss, I would be putting myself in a conversation ‘trap’ by wearing something which might attract potential Dr Seuss fans. My childhood was more Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. 

Our Rating: 1 out of 5 MacBooks

3. For the foodie:

Jasmine’s verdict: Even if Singaporeans lack contextual knowledge about American and Mexican cuisine, this cartoon grilled cheese and taco are really cute, and I can imagine alot of girls being drawn to a guy who is sporting enough to pull off a kitschy shirt like that. A local version pitting a curry puff against a siew mai might just sell like hotcakes…

Andrew’s verdict: Very cute! I like wearing black t-shirts and I can imagine the fun conversations about who would win. My vote goes for the grilled cheese! 🙂

Our Rating: 3.75 out of 5 MacBooks

4. For the geology buff

Jasmine’s verdict: The colours are harmonious and the size of the screenprint is just right for Andrew’s frame. I also like how the picture doesn’t require a caption to explain the diagram- that would be overdoing it.

Andrew’s verdict: This is definitely a great conversation starter, though of course I might disappoint many who would mistake me as a geography or biology major. I can imagine my primary school cousins trying to identify the various processes indicated by the arrows. Blue is one of my favourite colours, but I unfortunately don’t have many shirts in that colour.

Our Rating: 4 out of 5 MacBooks

(MacBook Pro)

5. And how about a geeky utility bag to tote his new threads in?

Jasmine’s verdict: Absolutely not! This is more freaky than geeky. I’d hate for my boyfriend to look like he was carting a cadaver around in his schoolbag. Give me a good ol’ Jansport anyday…

Andrew’s verdict: I really love the functionality of the bag with so many compartments of different sizes for files, handphone, pens, markers etc. It’s definitely a good tool for any teacher to bring to class. The straps would make for a good conversation starter amongst students and I would imagine it being rather fun carrying this bag around and telling students to stay away from your bag. Unlike Dearie who seems to vehemently object to this bag, I actually think I quite like it. 

Jasmine’s Rating: 2 out of 5 MacBooks

Andrew’s Rating: 4 out of 5 MacBooks

The Roles We Play Part 1

During a conversation with my mum on Sunday morning, she casually mentioned, “Both you and Jasmine seem like the kind who will be hosting a lot of parties in the future.” I found the comment rather amusing, but also rather true, thinking about how I like to play host by organising huge birthday parties.

But this led me to think about the kind of ‘roles’ Dearie and I have enjoyed taking on with our friends and our dates over the past week. This is going to be a 3 part series about the roles we have taken on and the first role would be hosting parties!

Role 1: Host

Event: Cell Group Tea Party

Venue: Jasmine’s place at Cannaville Cannagrill

I am not going to take excessive credit here because really it was Jasmine and her mum who put in the most effort to put together this tea party for 18 (4 guys and 14 girls – if I’m not wrong, Dearie correct me here).

So what did we do as hosts?

Fold meat pies

The preparation work was not easy. Two days before the tea party, Dearie painstakingly folded at least 100 of these meat pies – look at the folds at the edges which hold the filling in. Just like my dearie to always ensure that things are not just functional, but also aesthetically appealing.

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(Jasmine says: The first few dozen meat pies that I folded looked tragic- like beetlebugs swarming on a mound of pastry. I’m glad my mum forced me to keep going, and eventually the folding got better:))

Bake

Most of the pre-party work on Saturday involved putting things in oven and monitoring,

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then taking them out when they were sufficiently browned…

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Yes, Jasmine’s mum owns two ovens and three fridges

Arrange

While the baking was going on, I was tasked to skewer the chicken sausages with cherry tomatoes:

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I did the skewering and Dearie did the arrangement (and yes, there’s Mohawk again, stealing all the attention.)

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We had too many sausages to fit into the platter, so we tried arranging some on the cake-stand (shown above), which Dearie bought for her mum last year. Artistic (*ahem*) as it may have been, we decided it was a waste of space and far too out of place – hence we decided to store these excess sausages away and let the guys finish them later.

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Auntie made one of her best cakes (in my humble opinion) for the party – carrot cupcakes with cream cheese topping (shown above). She excluded the walnuts on top this time because Gabriel didn’t like it. I quite like the walnuts actually. So here I am, making myself useful by arranging the cakes while Auntie and Jasmine prepare the quiches in the kitchen.

And after a whole morning of work:

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The Cannagrille menu:

Cherry tomato and cheese sausage skewers

Roasted chicken wings

Bacon mushroom quiche

Vegetarian quiche

Meat pies with flaky puff pastry

Carrot cupcakes topped with cream cheese

Pecan pies

Nutella tart (tartella?)

Serve

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Dearie was hard at work, slicing all the quiches and the Nutella tart (while I spent most of my time chatting with the guys and playing Monopoly Deal. Heh). 

Of course, there were others who helped themselves freely to the food:

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The boys work for their cakes by sampling local produce (left) and setting up cake stands (right)

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to finish all the food. We set up a neat little production line at the end of the party, complete with Famous-Amos-like bags, plastic boxes, scotch-tape and those metallic ribbons they use to seal things. And we cleared everything. Amazing!

Reading the above entry might make it seem like I wasn’t really much of a host, but I must say, even if I didn’t play the role well, I certainly was dressed like the host of the party:

IMG_6520Our somewhat colour-coordinated outfits (recall: our previous post on how purple and yellow are complementary colours…)

Watch out for Part 2 of this series, where we take on the role of Art Critics!