Monthly Archives: May 2010

Hong Kong Never Sleeps, And Neither Do We: Part Uno

[This post is mostly written by Jasmine. Yes, this is an extremely overdue post and that’s my fault! – Andrew]

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” –Freya Stark

During the March holidays Andrew and I managed to squeeze in a sorely-needed break in Hong Kong, where we stuffed ourselves silly on dimsum, met up with long-lost friends (ok not that long… I guess 3 years for Wing and I was still too short), and like a true-blue tourist, took photos with my Minnie Mouse ears everywhere.

[Andrew: Yes, Dearie really loved those Minnie Mouse ears and wanted to wear them everywhere (not just in photos). Heh.]

Andrew and I in Macau:

At The Venetian hotel, where we had a discussion on simulacrum

At St Paul’s Ruins, where we were "very task-oriented", according to Andrew. We only had 20 min before we had to make our way back to the ferry terminal, so we took precisely four photos in front of the cathedral, and turned back without even bothering to climb up.

[Andrew: In addition to taking photo with this landmark cathedral, we also managed to buy souvenirs for our families. We tried out a few samples of almond cookies and bought a few boxes back. I really loved the almond biscuits, especially those which were warmed up.]

Back in Hong Kong, we also headed to The Peak, where we went crazy over a children’s playground and chilled out at the Haagen Dazs cafe (my treat!):

And of course, we also met Andrew’s friends and mine, who played the part of the cheerful, generous and knowledgeable hosts to the hilt:

Amhawan and his girlfriend, Lisa, who brought us around to try a great Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, a dimsum breakfast and egg tarts:

[Andrew: Aside from the great food recommendations, Armhawan also gave us lots of tips on where to stay, which places to go to in Macau and what the best way of getting around is. Thanks Armhawan!]

Wing, Doreen, Charlene, Jennifer, Nicholas and Florence, for treating up to Japanese food and for bringing us out for drinks at Lan Kwai Fong (but since everyone had to work the next day, the standard order was juice!)

[Andrew: It was interesting indeed listening to Jasmine’s friends telling me about her shopping antics during her Edinburgh days, about how they would get delayed because she was looking for that pair of Birkies. Heh. Looks like some things never change!]

Happy Anniversary!

Andrew: A cell group member of mine just commented recently that the both of us do seem to celebrate a lot of anniversaries. Well, this year we only celebrated our 6th month and our 1st year anniversary which I think it’s quite decent. A fellow friend of mine and her boyfriend take note of anniversaries in terms of months!

14th May is our official 1 year anniversary, the date where I officially (and nervously) asked her dad if I could date his daughter. (Jasmine: Hee… I still remember that day. My dad later told me Andrew’s voice was trembling. So cute!)

Andrew: I had a nice date planned out for our anniversary and as usual, Dearie had a surprise up her sleeve for me too. She hinted to me a day before our anniversary that she had spent one and a half hours preparing something for me and asked if the dinner was going to be filling. (Jasmine: I actually asked both questions a few minutes apart, but I guess it must have been pretty obvious still.) I guessed it was going to be food, and my guess was correct! As I arrived at her place, I saw Dearie busy in the kitchen – she was preparing for me a crepe with lemon curd and orange brandy sauce:

IMG_8336Yummy!

This crepe was really a lot of hard work, even though it looks deceptively simple. Dearie had to spend over an hour grating the orange peel and grinding the lemon manually in order to prepare the lemon curd inside. She also made sure that she heated it up just as I arrived so that there would be a perfect contrast between the piping hot crepe and the cold ice-cream. Lovely! 🙂

Speaking of surprises, I had actually planned for a surprise bouquet to arrive at Dearie’s doorstep:

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Andrew: It was Far East Flora’s ‘Love Note’ series. When I saw this series on the web, I thought that there was a special love note attached to the bouquet. Little did I know that the ‘love note’ series actually meant that the flowers themselves were embossed in gold on the flowers themselves! While I appreciate the effort, it was a little overkill and destroyed the ‘natural’ beauty of the flowers. Although Dearie had a lot to say about it (I’ll let her add in her own comments), she loved the bouquet nonetheless. Yay!

(Jasmine: Guilty as charged. I spent ages mercilessly ribbing Andrew about how sending flowers were already an expression of his love for me, and how he needn’t have emphasized that by tattooing the flowers themselves with “I love you’s”. But it was a hefty bouquet and I still loved it alot.)

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Andrew: Here we are, ready to start off the date. Look how I’m colour-coordinated with the bouquet, not intentional I promise!

We drove off to the Stewords Riverboat for our dinner!

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I had been there years ago for the wedding anniversary of my mum’s hair dresser and really liked the concept. An additional benefit was that it was Seafood Extravaganza night, meaning that it was a grill buffet. That’s always a plus point for guys.

We arrived early, which was good because firstly it made photo-taking easier; secondly, we had the entire grill buffet to ourselves and lastly, we could watch the sunset! It was really rather romantic. There were even live musicians.

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There was quite a spread. Each person is entitled to one premium grill, which for that night was the tiger prawns and mackerel steak and beyond that, there are five grill items which you can have unlimited order of, including crayfish (very good!), mussels (bad. They were tasteless and rubbery), boneless chicken (average, dry and tough. The sauce was good though), chicken wings (below average) and stingray (good! Stingray was meaty and the sambal sauce was flavourful, though a bit more sweet than normal).

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One of my favourite dishes was this huge baked tuna that they had all ready for you. It seemed to be marinated with lemon and basil.

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The light shining over it was too bright, so I couldn’t really get a good shot of it, but it really is huge and very yummy! I had about four servings of this and I kept asking the man to scoop up more of the meat for me.

Of course, what was most enjoyable during the dinner was our conversation. I’m sure all couples can attest to how amazing it is that there’s so many new things you learn about a person even after spending so much time with them. Dearie shared with me about her family and what they’ve been through together in the past and I shared about mine too. We did some ‘geeky’ reflection ‘discussions’ about what we’ve learnt about each other and our relationship. Heh. So typical, isn’t it? Before we knew it, the sun had set and we were so full!

Now, I had called the restaurant to make a booking for our dinner. During the call, the boss asked me if it was any special occasion. When I told her that it was our first year anniversary, she replied, “Oh, then I think you just do your own thing for her.” I was rather miffed by that response and thought that she meant they only do celebrations for birthdays and hence the response. I even told Dearie about it at the start of our dinner. Little did I know that the owners had something up their sleeve!

Just when we were finishing our dinner, the singer paused and made a special tribute to “Andrew and girlfriend” for celebrating their sixth year anniversary. Heh. The boss must have really misheard me during the phonecall. Anyway, they subsequently brought out dessert for us:

IMG_8356 What a sweet gesture!

Now, of course, because it was al fresco dining and a particularly windy night (it was even drizzling at one point), the waiter had to repeatedly light the candle for us before we made our ‘wish’. He even re-positioned himself so he was standing to block the wind while lighting the candle for us. Extra points for service!

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Sadly, we were already so stuffed by then that we couldn’t finish the brownie.

We strolled around the boat for a while, enjoying the sea breeze and the sea view before we went on to Part 2 of the celebrations, which included gift exchange and just spending time together.

Before we drove off for Part 2, Dearie wanted to pass me my presents. She had already passed me my first gift two weeks ago, which was a new Balmain pillow!

(Jasmine: According to the salesman, this was similar to the standard of  the fluffy pillows used in hotels. But what sold me was when he told me that it was anti-dust mite, so I picked out a “firm” one for my dear –yes, the pillows come in four different softnesses- to go with the bedsheets I bought him for Valentine’s Day. Everyone deserves a little everyday luxury!)

Andrew: Actually I forgot all that, though I have been sleeping on the pillow since. Anyway, Dearie had prepared another gift for me;

IMG_8370 This was what she called a “teacher’s aid”. She bought me a water bottle which said Aladdin (Heh. Because she’s my princess Jasmine). I had complained to her about accidentally dropping and cracking my water bottle last week, so she got me a new and hopefully more durable one! Also included is a set of ‘light bulb’ post-its, for all those ‘bright’ ideas that I have (hurhur…) and a set of toe socks, as I have been complaining lately that my socks aren’t well ventilated.

And of course, instead of the conventional ‘card’, Dearie got me a love ‘note’ rolled up in a little ‘tablet’. How sweet and geeky too!

IMG_8372After her gift exchange, we were supposed to head down to Marina Barrage where I was going to give her her presents. I unfortunately missed the turn and ended up on the ECP. However, Dearie brilliantly suggested that we should head up Mount Faber instead – the spot of some of our fondest memories, so up we went! It was a rather crowded night and we had to drive quite far to get a parking lot. We eventually found one and I passed Dearie her gift:

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It was a Heroic Rendezvous Doll named Nettie along with ribbons and rubber bands so that Dearie can ‘style’ her hair. We’ve walked past the Heroic Rendezvous stall at Central numerous times and Dearie had never failed to stop by and admire these dolls, so I thought I’d get her one. She really liked it and couldn’t stop playing with her hair. The little doll really brought out the little girl in Dearie. Heh. (Unfortunately, I have unleashed the ‘shopping beast’. Now Jasmine is asking me to shop online for clothes and hair accessories for the doll, as if she needed any more reason to shop! Help!)

We’re currently thinking of a name for her. The current name is Cherie (French for ‘beloved’, according to to the Francophile in the relationship), but that’s still provisional.

Jasmine: The best presents are the ones you would never get for yourself (because it’s too expensive or just too wacky), so this gift was one of my favourite gifts from Mr Chong so far, because it was such an unexpected surprise! Truth be told, I thought Andrew would get me a book or worship CD or something 😛 Kidding.)

Andrew: In addition to the doll, I had also prepared a video collage of photos from our NIE days and our relationship over the years and I showed it to her. I had a lot of fun doing it, trawling through old photographs (and indeed, we have a lot of them).

We ended off our anniversary celebration up on Mount Faber, enjoying the view of Sentosa and beyond. (Andrew: "Beyond” just sounds so literary.)

(Jasmine: Your sense of humour is “beyond” me.)

Andrew: Actually  our first anniversary celebrations ended a bit anti-climactically. Jasmine fell asleep at the binoculars because she was too tired from climbing the stairs up.

I love you Dearie. Here’s to many more happy and romantic anniversaries (the 7th anniversary next year. Heh) ahead of us!

It’s the Little Things

A random post about a motley assortment of bric brac

Andrew: When I brought my laptop bag to a prayer meeting once, Marcus commented that Jasmine should get me a new bag.

Jasmine: Well… So I guess the next best thing to buying Andrew a new bag is to blog about what’s in our bags!

While Andrew was blogging just now, I got a wee bit bored and decided to snap pictures  of our belongings. This may seem somewhat wu liao, but it may serve to illustrate how different we are.

Exhibit #1: Phones

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His very corporate-looking Nokia E72, and my very pink, tiny D&G Jalou (it’s only 84 grams, which makes it rather handy for slipping into evening clutches, and getting totally lost in all other bags).

[Andrew: Of course, to say that I only focus on ‘function’ would be under-stating the fact that I did select this limited edition bronze coloured version of the E72 as opposed to the usual silver or black versions. Heh. I must say I’m rather pleased with this purchase as I can now take sermon notes in my phone as well instead of having to bring a laptop and I can refer to my sermon notes while taking public transport.]

[Jazzy: Ok, fair enough, so what if the phone looks like a refrigerator? At least it’s a limited edition bronze refrigerator?’]

Exhibit #2: Accessories

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Andrew’s accessories are all about function. We liked the deconstructed look of the exposed mechanisms of his Kenneth Cole watch, which (I like to think) makes him look serious and reliable [Andrew: And hopefully, sophisticated.] , and of course, his trusty camera.

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In comparison, my red lipstick from Chanel and DIY rainbow pedicure, though somewhat smudged after a droplet of water from my laundry splattered on the still wet varnish (I couldn’t decide on one colour yesterday, so I decided to use all three)!

[Andrew: Dearie is into a ‘lipstick’ season now where she’s been experimenting with her three different lipstick colours every date. Today, she even considered changing lipstick colour within the same date. Heh.]

Exhibit #3: Essentials

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Jasmine: When I excavated the contents of Andrew’s laptop bag (yes, he’s still toting that around), I found a laptop (duh), folded-up church newspaper, battered Bible, office lanyard and a packet of tissue paper (he’s the one who brings the tissue paper).

[Andrew: I guess you can see.. erm. some ‘colour’ coordination there, all… blue?]

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Andrew: As you can see, Dearie’s ‘necessities’ are much more ‘colourful’ and cuter than mine, with a running ‘Japanese’ theme amongst these necessities of hers. In the foreground, we have Oyako-chan, a Christmas gift from Stephie off e-bay. Immediately behind that is a spectacle case from Kokon Tozai, proudly sponsored by yours truly and of course we have the Hello Kitty ‘Air Mail’ wallet that Dearie bought from Shanghai. I really like the Hello Kitty Wallet too!

Surprise Breakfast #2

Andrew: Once in a while, Dearie will surprise me by preparing a special breakfast on Sundays. The ‘hint’ that she will give is normally to tell me to come 10 minutes earlier than usual and I’ll know she has something special prepared for me.

The last time it was the yummy Swedish breakfast – slice of bread with an egg-filled ‘heart’ cut-out in the centre with corned beef. So, what did Dearie have up her sleeve this time?

I came to her place early and she asked me to sit myself comfortably in the living room and wait patiently for breakfast. In the meantime, I heard a lot of hollering from the kitchen from Dearie and her mum about what was the right heat, whether it was ready and when she should turn them. She then came to me to tell me, they would take a while longer. After a while, I couldn’t wait anymore and decided to take a peek at what was going on in the kitchen:

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And to my greatest surprise, I saw:

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Lovely ice-cream waffles, generously garnished with summer berries and maple syrup.

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As usual, Dearie spared no expense in terms of preparing the food aesthetically as well.

I had spoken to Dearie before about how I used to have waffles very frequently for breakfast when I was in UK and how I loved them with various sorts of spreads and ice-cream.

So, she surprised me pleasantly by going to Cold Storage before to buy the waffles, ice-cream and many summer fruits – strawberries, raspberries and blue berries.

IMG_8237The dessert chef!

IMG_8239 Getting ready to tuck in
(No, I did not eat all 3 plates of waffles. The other two plates were shared amongst her mum, father and sister.)

I finished up the waffles in ten minutes and left for church that day feeling very contented, blessed and full. What a great start indeed to my Sunday! Thank you, Dearie!

Notre Roman français

(Andrew and Jasmine: Usually, one of us writes up a post before the other edits it in the comfort and convenience of our respective homes. Today, however, is a departure from the norm. We’re currently chilling out at Starbucks on a Sunday afternoon, and have decided to write a blog entry in real time, insults and all.)

Andrew: I wasn’t particularly fascinated by Paris when I went there during my studies and I went there twice. Jasmine, however, really loves Paris and has a fascination with all things French. I’d bought her a map of Paris from Polymath and Crust last year and recently, we adjourned on a two-week Je t’aime Francais date series.

Date 1: French art exhibition followed by dinner at a French restaurant

Andrew: Our French romance began with an exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Singapour titled ‘Red Black and White’ with paintings depicting colonial bungalows in Singapore. The pieces were painted by a French artist, whose name we can’t recall and unfortunately, can’t find on Google as well.

Dearie thought the pieces were rather bland and didn’t really stand out stylistically. What struck me about the art pieces was that the artist especially highlighted the lush greenery that surrounded the houses. Even in paintings of the city, the artist emphasised the greenery, conveying an image of Singapore which was unusually ‘green’.

We also uncovered at this exhibition that there was a French film festival going on, which provided us with much more inspiration to plan subsequent French dates. 🙂

After that, we headed down to La Petite Cuisine at Serene Centre, a highly affordable French restaurant which a colleague of mine had recommended. Along the way, we enjoyed some classical French pieces by Debussy, courtesy of my school’s music library (Thanks Aileen!).

14042010005 Our Cheese Platter

Jasmine: I really enjoyed La Petit Cuisine. Ironically, it was the first time I had tried confit du canard (being an exchange student, the only French food I had in France was baguettes for lunch and the very occasional eclair), and it was rather lovely- perfectly crispy skin and very tender slivers of duck, complemented by a delicious potato gratin. Dining al fresco in the restaurant’s garden by sunset proved strangely romantic too, despite the sounds of highway traffic metres away.

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Andrew: My chop porkette avec linguine (simply put: pork chop with spaghetti, and yes, we do know that porkette is not French!) was nothing particularly special, but it was filling – and that’s all a man can ask for from a French meal with its conventionally petite portions. (Jasmine: Why do you think the shop is called La Petite Cuisine?)

Dates 2 & 3: French film and french-film inspired roof-top date

We returned to Alliance Francais the week after to watch the film Paris 36.

Andrew: Hey dear, was it a romantic comedy?

Jasmine: Yes, it was.

Andrew: It was a romantic comedy infused with many energetic musical numbers and dance routines. There was a particularly memorable scene where a guy invites a girl… [Jasmine: *Groan* so simplistic…. Let me take over.]

Jasmine: As we were saying, there was a particularly memorable scene where a male character surprised his love interest by bringing her up to the rooftop of the theatre, which boasted a breathtaking panorama of the Parisian skyline, with a sparkling Eiffel Tower in the distance. As in Moulin Rouge, the rooftop scene in French film is often cinematographic shorthand for the pursuit and romance of the female lead, and the stillness and serenity of the rooftop scene in Paris 36 made it especially poignant in contrast to the blur of flashing lights and swirling costumes in other scenes.

Andrew: Yes, Dearie is always better at descriptive writing than me. Heh. Anyway yes, so after watching that movie, I was thinking of where we could go next in Singapore to continue the French-theme. A brilliant idea hit me – I could recreate that scene by bringing Dearie to Somerset 313, one of the few buildings with an accessible roof-top garden overlooking the city.

We made our way to town after Sheer’s baptism service, drove up a spiralling, disorienting carpark and navigated a complicated series of escalators, lifts and flights of staircase to finally make our way to the Somerset 313 rooftop garden.

It was really quite romantic, though not quite like the Paris Skyline. I kept telling Dearie to imagine that Orchard Road was Champs Elysse, the Singtel Tower was the Eiffel Tower and to visualise the Arc du Triomphe in between Wheelock Place and Isetan. I believe I succeeded in recreating the magic of that scene in Paris 36. 🙂

Jasmine: Operative word: imagine.

(It was very sweet though, and I really appreciate how Andrew has been so thoughtful and meticulous in planning our French dates. It’s not something that most guys would do, let alone on a weekly basis.)

Andrew: Le finito!

Jasmine: Are you sure that’s French?