Monthly Archives: January 2010

Roles We Play Part 4: Foodies

One of our favourite date activities is exploring quirky and ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurants. If the choice of dining places were left to Jasmine, we would (almost) always be ending up in either MOS Burger or Long John Silvers. Heh. Thankfully, we’ve managed to harness the power of the Web and have uncovered several lovely restaurants over the past few months. Here are some of our recommendations:

1. Naive (Located along 99 East Coast Road)

Andrew: I’ll admit it – sometimes a food places wins you by sheer novelty and decor. Given that I’m a compulsive meat-eater and Dearie doesn’t quite like vegetables, the only reason we checked this vegetarian place out was because it looked and sounded unique (at least to me). And indeed, the experience was unique… I mean, where else would you begin your meal with a Japanese-inspired “bloss” ceremony:

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We were both given an individual set of mortar and pestle and asked to grind the fresh toasted sesame seeds so that we could sprinkle it on our food later. The aroma of ground sesame seeds is heavenly, but I have to admit that this was simply novelty for novelty’s sake. Nothing wrong with that – but I did not find that the ground sesame seeds really enhanced the taste of any of the dishes we ordered later. This was purely just for fun and I must admit, I enjoyed it a lot! 🙂

We ordered fried noodles:

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I asked for green chilli, which I normally have with such noodles, but they don’t give green chilli because they believe that it will spoil the original flavour. This was too bland for me, without the green chilli.

The waiter recommended that we try their specialties,

IMG_6482 We ordered their tofu cake (in the centre of the pic) and their spring rolls (shown below). I can’t remember the title of the spring roll, but I believe it was ‘seasonally’ themed – Spring, Autumn something? (Dearie, if you remember, please help me out).

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Tofu-cakes were not bad, but nothing that I would definitely go back again for either.

What was unique about the spring roll was that it had yam inside. However, the presence of yam didn’t significantly enhance the flavour. It made it more starchy and ‘flattened’ the overall flavour.  Even the sweet sauce at the side couldn’t lift the flavour from its starchiness.

Well, I went to Naive for the novelty factor and that’s what we had. The ‘newness’ didn’t significantly add to the quality of the food, but it definitely added to the quality of the dining experience. The food is reasonably priced as well and decent enough, but not really outstanding in terms of taste. For the health fanatics/freaks out there, this is the place for you. It prides itself on not using any meat, seafood, eggs, onions, garlic or MSG!

Overall rating: Worth going once just to check it out, but doesn’t warrant second visits.

2. P.S. Cafe (at Palais Renaissance)

We’d been to the one at Dempsey Road for lunch before. This was our second visit and we came for dinner this time.

I’ve always really appreciated the ambience of P.S. Cafe with its tall ceilings, abundance of flowers, a huge chalkboard displaying its daily specials. One can simply sit around and enjoy a magazine – which is what we did:

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(Jasmine: I love P.S. Cafe too! I’ve been there twice, both with Dear. To be honest, the food is not out-of-this-world special but the cool, relaxed ambience more than makes up for it. I could sit there all afternoon reading fashion glossies and sipping strawberry-flavoured water.)

Andrew: Both of us weren’t very hungry that day, so we initially only wanted to order a steak sandwich to be shared. After being informed of the minimum order of one dish per person, we added on a lamb salad:

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While I really liked the lamb in this salad, there was just too much going on in this salad. So many different exotic flavours intermingling in our taste-buds for me to truly appreciate it. I later realised that this salad had mustard-seeds and pickles in it, which I don’t like. We’ll stick to the Caesar Salad next time.

The lighting in the restaurant was really dim, hence making it difficult for me to take a good shot of the steak sandwich with my flash-impaired camera. I really liked it though. Beef was well-prepared, tender and juicy, the bread was well-toasted and the fries were nice and crispy. Another dish on the menu which I like.

Other recommendations:

P.S. Steak Burger and the Anchovy Shirasu Aglio Olio. Both available only during lunch. The only cake I’ve tried there is the Carrot Cake, which at 9.90 a slice, is rather disappointing. Jasmine’s mum makes a far superior one, chock full with walnuts and generous cream cheese topping! The banana pudding which I tried a year ago, at the Paragon outlet, is amazing. The combination of whipped cream, ice-cream and bananas really makes it the ultimate guilty pleasure!

Overall rating: I would definitely go back again and again for both the food and ambience. There’s so much on the menu I haven’t tried yet.

3. Galley by the Straits

My dearie has been experiencing intense wander-lust over the past few weeks, so when I read about this place at ieatishooipost.sg, I thought this place which seems virtually untouched by modernisation would be a great place to go to.

Unfortunately my research wasn’t thorough enough. This restaurant has received food awards for 2008 and 2009, but I believe its more well-known for its Chinese cuisine than its Western cuisine. The food we had was rather average.

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They were rather generous with the mushrooms and croutons in this soup. However, the croutons were already soggy by the time the soup was served. The soup itself was also rather bland.

(Jasmine: Unfortunately, the soup looked better than it tasted. It just seemed like it had come out of a can- Campbell’s chicken soup with chunks of bread and mushrooms thrown in.)

Andrew: For main course, we had:

IMG_6710Lamb Cutlet

IMG_6711  Lasagna

The prices were really reasonable. The Lasagna was only 9.90 and the portion was rather sizeable. You can’t complain much when you’re getting lasagna at that price. It was an extremely meaty lasagna – so I had no complaints about it.

(Jasmine: Yes, the lasagne was pretty decent, but its biggest plus point was that it was extremely filling, thanks to the generous ladlings of minced meat and mashed potato. I could only finish two thirds of it.)

Andrew: My lamb cutlet was poorly marinated, such that the tastiness was only in the sauce, but the meat itself didn’t have much flavour.

As we arrived very late and it was pouring torrentially for the first part of dinner, we didn’t have a chance to take a photo of the scenery surrounding us as we had dinner. With Sembawang Shipyard on your right and JB right in front of you, you really don’t feel like you’re in Singapore at all. My only grouse with the setting is that there’s hardly any space for a romantic stroll after dinner.

(Jasmine: Mr Chong has been so thoughtful, especially over the past couple weeks. He chose the yacht club for our date because he knew that I really wanted a respite from the busy-ness of work, and it was the perfect setting, offering varied vistas of northernmost Singapore rarely accessible elsewhere. When we traipsed out along the beach, we saw a keylong (I think?), islands in the distance and behemoth cargo ships glistening with lights. In addition, I had told him about how my relatives had advised me to consume more carbohydrates and iron-rich foods such as beef and steak, so yesterday while we were dining at Shokudo, he made sure that he ordered a beef hot pot and a Teppanyaki fried rice. He’s so sweet.) 

Overall review: I’ll definitely be back again to try out the Chinese food. The locality itself is a big plus for me, because I really like out of the way, quiet, romantic places. Heh.

Souvenirs

Jasmine: Buying travel souvenirs for a boyfriend or girlfriend can be rather nerve-wracking. Buy too inexpensively, and you’re labelled a cheapskate. Indulge, and that’s the only souvenir you’ll be coming home with. And then a whole new headache… To buy for his family, or not? What would his mother like? Would she be allergic to pearl cream? Ginseng tea? Sesame? Would it seem like "sucking up" if I came home with a basketful of snacks and foodstuff for his folks? Would the wild strawberries that seemed like such a good idea at that hilltop monastery in Chengde survive the humidity?

Andrew and I went on holidays with our families last December- Andrew to Bangkok, and I to Beijing. Some cool souvenirs that won’t break the bank or break her heart:

1. Children’s toys

Andrew bought me children’s toys from Bangkok and a slingshot for himself. The toy makes a loud rattling noise whenever I swing it- which is perfect whenever you want to cut a conversation short i.e. on his genius, or how I should cut back on my Ruffles habit. Also useful as an offensive weapon (think battering ram). I heart the toy, Mr Chong doesn’t!

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Andrew: Unfortunately, I can’t find my own rattling toy (perhaps its a blessing in disguise) so I only have a picture of the slingshot to show here. We didn’t really spend much time in Bangkok City Centre itself during my trip there. Most of our time was spent in the non-touristy areas in the suburbs of Bangkok, hence the usual “souvenirs” were hard to come by. These toys were found in a market next to a temple that we went to. They were extremely cheap and reminiscent of times when toys were much simpler. Just for the record, I never owned a slingshot when I was young and never liked playing such “violent” toys. This slingshot is purely for collection sake. Of course, what you pay is what you get – the second day after playing with the slingshot, the rubber-band came loose and now it is effectively obsolete and harmless. 🙂 The rattling toy is – unfortunately – more resilient than the slingshot. Heh.

 

2. Cheesy memorabilia t-shirt

Jasmine: The fact that this shirt only cost $5 SGD after some intense haggling only amps up its coolness.

IMG_6659 Andrew: Perhaps the price also explains why the shirt has started to “tuo mao” (i.e. show signs of wear and tear) only after the first washing.

3. A Superkite

Andrew: Not just any ordinary kite, but one with seven kites and fluttery streamers! I thought this would be a neat replacement for our 5-cent kite made of tracing paper, which kept darting and swerving right into our faces the last time we went kite-flying at Marina Barrage. Mr Chong could not stop laughing when I kept ducking behind him. (I was afraid the glass-covered string would cut my face… come on ladies, I know you empathise.) But with this Superkite, I am ready to navigate the skies!

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Andrew: Ok dearie, I’ll take you up on that. Let’s go to Marina Barrage soon and fly this super kite, provided I know how to fly a kite. I hope this kite flies better than the low quality kites ($1 a piece kite) that my PW groups provided me with last year. And yes, the strings were glass-coated because they were meant to be used for kite-fighting, not just kite-flying.

4. A panda bear

As with Mohawk (not so much Bunny- we just named her Bunny), we went through the gruelling exercise of choosing the perfect name for our panda bear. We eliminated all the obvious choices like Po (after the lead character in Kung Fu Panda), Kung Fu (I suggested Chong Fu), Bamboo, Black Eye, Colourblind and Aftermath (of a fight, hence its black eyes).

IMG_7788Andrew eventually decided to name our panda Fanon, after the psychoanalytic critic and theorist Franz Fanon, who wrote an (in)famous anti-colonial essay entitled Black Skin White Mask.

Andrew: That’s the best name we’ve given to our soft toys so far! Fanon was my faithful companion during my trip to Bangkok. Given that Dearie has Mohawk, Bunny and Ee-yore on her side, it’s good to have one of our soft toys on my side. 🙂

When all else fails, there’s always DUTY FREE!

5. Cosmetics that she’s been hunting high and low for

Jasmine: Buying cosmetics is a very tricky affair.

I had been searching for this much raved about eye cream at Changi DFS before and after returning from China, and both times it was out of stock, but it was my resourceful Mr Chong who found it while waiting to board his plane in Thailand!

Andrew: When I walked into the DFS at Bangkok airport, there was a huge poster above me advertising this Genifique eye cream. It was as if it was screaming out “Buy me, Jasmine wants me!”.

I would never buy cosmetics for Jasmine unless she specifically mentions the exact product she wants me to buy. There are just too many factors to consider that befuddles the simple male mind – for example, for moisturiser, my Dearie doesn’t just get any moisturiser – she looks at which active agents are inside, whether there is sun protection effect and how well it absorbs on her skin. At this point, I don’t think my knowledge of cosmestics is good enough to make a wise purchase of anything for her.

I’m glad I’m dating an English teacher

For Mr Chong- who understands

I have endured three days of being on MC after returning from the hospital on 2am on Sunday night, or Monday morning rather, having been diagnosed with what turned out to be a case of dehydration. It began a couple weeks ago when I started substituting potato chips or fruit juice for lunch, ate late, or decided to forgo said meal completely, due to having too many meetings and too little time. It was catalysed by a visit to Dairy Farm Park on Sunday when Mr Chong decreed, “I’ll race you!”, to the summit of a slope — for the record, I lost to him by a mere step. And though anyone who has ever shopped with me will attest to my stamina, I began to feel unusually winded, strangely dizzy, unable to stand or walk fifteen minutes after.

[Andrew: Just to clarify, it was Jasmine’s decision to walk up to the summit. I was rather against it, given that we were hardly even dressed appropriately for a walk up any summit. I was in my jeans and long-sleeve shirt and Dearie was wearing her pencil skirt. But yes, I admit – it was I who ‘raced’ her up.]

I miss my classes quite a bit, and cannot wait to be back in the classroom- where I belong. But in the meantime, when I am not being force-fed red date tea and milk by my mother [Andrew: Well done, Auntie! Not to mention, Jasmine has been banned from eating chips for one week.], I have spent my three days rather productively arranging meetings with vendors, replying a slew of office emails, and of course… reading up.

Somewhat ironic that I have spent my day on MC reading a book about education:

Stones into Schools, by Greg Mortenson, is the gripping true story of how a former mountaineer becomes the driving force behind a massive girls’ literacy campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The organisation that Mortenson has founded, the Central Asia Institute, has built hundreds of schools in some of the remotest terrain in the world- a dangerous and harsh terrain afflicted by high infant mortality, military insurgency and yet their nomadic inhabitants remain pitifully ignored by both international humanitarian aid and their own government.

This is what Mr Chong, who recommended and lent his book to me, has to say about Stones into Schools:

“In the midst of war-torn Kabul, Mortenson describes a make-shift school which has been ‘set-up’ in what used to be a public toilet:

When we got back to the hut, I got out, walked over to the open door, and peered in. Sure enough, it was a toilet – or at least it had been at one time. The roof was now gone and twenty-five children between four and five years old, plus one teacher, and a slate board leaning against the wall…”

The teacher brings Mortenson on a tour of the rest of the school, which consists of classes set up in refugee tents, and an old toolshed, which was very dark, and “quite noisy because nearly one hundred students were packed in like sardines. These were the fourth, fifth and sixth graders, and according to the two women who were teaching, they were doing extremely well…”.

And this was the ‘education system’ which served the region of Simdara. Teachers persisting in their passion to impart and teach, in spite of the lack of salaries and less than ideal teaching conditions – students enthusiastic about their learning, in spite of the lack of sufficient books, pens and paper.”

My imagination is already bursting with the possibilities for this book in an English or even a Civics classroom.

I cannot wait to read portions of the book aloud to my form class, passing it off as the teaching of the personal recount genre, of course- anecdotes of school children studying in refugee tents during the dead of winter, or crowding around a young teacher and her chalkboard in an abandoned public toilet.

I hope to introduce this book as required reading for my English Academy, the Bloomsbury-style group of  promising student writers and poets that I head and mentor, to serve as a gentle prodding reminder that talent is wasted without social consciousness. 

I wish to share with my poorest and weakest students how diligence and sheer doggedness have transformed illiterate young girls into the first female lawyers, doctors and healthcare providers in their clans and communities.

And this is why I am glad that I am dating a teacher.

When at NIE, I asserted famously that I would never date a teacher. Too much inbreeding, I remarked scornfully. We’d talk about nothing but our students. Male English teachers are way too geeky, even for me.

God has the final laugh, it seems, when we speak too soon. I find that I am not only dating a teacher, but an English teacher, at that.

Andrew and I schedule marking marathons to replace restaurant dates and moonlit strolls by the coast during exam periods. We visit museums and then brainstorm on how our classes would benefit from similar visits. We share Literature and advertising resources and long discussions in the car, mired in city traffic, about how our lessons went that day.

[Andrew: As mentioned in previous dates, we also label some of our dates as “learning journeys” and plan our dates based on an NIE lesson plan structure. My Dearie has also been the strictest critic of my lesson ideas and the sharpest ‘editor’ of my lesson plans/ speeches. I’m really glad I have someone who can understand and share my excitement when I share with her about the new insights I’ve gained in teaching the argumentative essay. I’m glad I have someone I can be a complete geek with. Heh.]

I am unspeakably thankful for Mr Chong’s patience and care during this ridiculously frenetic first fortnight of Term 1, who did not complain when I was nodding off over our Moroccan lamb salad after thirteen hours of being on my feet since 6.30 am, bought Brand’s Essence for me, held my hand when I was a total scaredy-cat and refused to let the doctor draw blood at CGH, and leaving the hospital only around midnight, after I had been safely put on a drip (and inflicted minimal harm on the doctors who had ordered the IV and fluids).

So while this post will be read by everyone, it is really intended for my dear Mr Chong, who understands the unique challenges and satisfactions of being an educator, and who understands me.

[Andrew: Thank you so much for this post, Dearie. I’ve really been learning through this period to take care of you and be there for you. We were talking a few days ago about how we would like to go to teach in a foreign land in the future. I hope that dream comes true. :)]

1st Geeky Date of 2010: ‘Building’ a Relationship

Andrew: We’d been wanting to check out the Quest for Immortality (i.e. dead Egyptians on display) exhibition for some time already. We couldn’t fit it into our Friday or Sunday schedule, hence today was the best day to go!

To my greatest dismay, I had once again forgotten to put in the digital SD card into my digital camera, hence the only photo I have of our ‘geeky’ museum date is:

Mummies

Yo Pharaoh!

The posters claimed that there were over 230 artefacts. What they didn’t claim though was there were only 5 mummies and the rest of the 200 + items were random ancient toiletries, stationery, worktools, household display items, and, much to the delight of my Dearie, beautification tools (which were actually just mirrors and kohl eyeliner). I mean, seriously, after seeing one urn, all the others seemed the same, and how fascinating can a hieroglyphic chisel be?

I was most intrigued by the mummy which revealed 3 skeletons during the X-ray and CT-scan. It was actually the mummy of a mother who had died in childbirth and had been buried with her two infants. *shudder* The various death rituals and mummification procedures were rather fascinating as well. I found myself remembering Brendan Fraser in The Mummy, especially when I saw the 4 canopic jars that contained the deceased’s internal organs. (Jasmine: No no no hon… you did not just reference The Mummy!)

Andrew:  There was also a very fun display which they showed different amulets which they would place at different parts of the Mummy’s body. The placement of each amulet had each body part had a certain significance. You can read more about that from here.

However, the entire display took us less than an hour to finish and it was our most expensive museum visits thus far. We paid $16 per ticket, because I had conveniently cancelled my Mastercard two years ago and hence was not entitled to the 50% off. On top of that, I decided to park at the museum itself, hence subjecting myself to $7.50 parking fee (3 x $2.50 per hour – yes, we were in there for 3 hours!). We spent the rest of the time viewing photograph exhibition, a carrier bag exhibition and at the museum shop.

If you think that’s enough activities for one day, think again!

For those who read my blog, you would know that I received Dearie’s Christmas present in the mail today. It was a Lego Architecture set of the Guggenheim Museum, specially autographed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

(Jasmine: Erm, sorry to disappoint you dear, but the set was autographed by Adam Reed Tucker, who designed it. Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959.)

Andrew: *sheepish look*

Anyway…. as I was saying, we came back home from the exhibition to assemble the Lego set.

We defined our roles very specifically from the outset to ensure maximisation of time and labour. One of us would look for the pieces needed, while the other would do the assembly and we would swop whenever we had completed about 13 pages on the instruction manual.

Warning: barrage of cliched captions below:

IMG_6663Building a strong foundation

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Work in progress

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Mission Accomplished

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Built to last 

(Andrew: Jasmine just rested her hand on the coffee-coloured Lego wall a few minutes ago and it fell off. So much for structural solidity huh.)

And of course, the final geeky activity is to blog about our geeky date. We thought of describing our relationship using Lego metaphors but we realised that that would be too geeky even for us. (Jasmine: Actually, the metaphors have been woven into the captions above.)

Next up, Lego Taj Mahal!

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  Image courtesy of geekologie.com

Rules and Resolutions to Live By in 2010

Andrew and Jazzy would like to wish our dear readers a happy new year!

3 things we’re thankful for about our other whole

Andrew:

1. Her ability to analyse any problem and identify the key issues for me.

2. Her constant reminders and ‘nagging’ at me to take care of myself. I truly appreciate it, Dearie.

3. Most importantly, hHer willingness to give and to sacrifice for me, to do things beyond her comfort zone just to meet my needs

Jasmine:

1. The little everyday actions that show me that he cares: opening the car door for me, putting out his arm when he is braking so that I won’t be flung forward, covering me with his jacket when I fell asleep on the coach.

2. His willingness to lead, coupled with his openness to taking suggestions and seeking counsel- it’s a true mark of his honesty and humility.

3. Being sure about us in a time when we can be sure about so little else.

2 resolutions we’re breaking making

Andrew:

1. Exercise more regularly (at least twice a week) and train up for the marathon again

2. Ensure that I get sufficient rest and not burn out.

3. Become a better driver! (More familiar with the roads, drive faster with more confidence etc.)

Jasmine:

1. Be nicer to service staff.

2. Drink more fruit juice and eat my veggies. (Ok, I seriously sound like I’m five years old.)

1 rule to live by

Andrew: Never to take for granted those who are dear to me.

Jasmine: Give until it hurts.