Monthly Archives: July 2010

Starry, Starry Night

Andrew: Attending Ballet Under the Stars has always been a dream of Dearie’s. We missed last year’s one due to very unfortunate circumstances which resulted in more unfortunate circumstances which won’t be the focus of this post! The main point is – we finally managed to make it this year!

#1: Stock up on snacks

We hadn’t had a ‘date date’ in a long while, so I was determined to make this a special one for her. Went grocery shopping before the ballet for all of Dearie’s favourite tidbits (chips, Pocky, kinder bueno and mango juice) and of course, no date would be complete without a bouquet of flowers! A bouquet of flowers never fails to bring a smile to Dearie’s face and she was delighted to receive them 🙂

#2: Arrive early to chope a good spot. (Or failing that, bring a couple of sledgehammers to carve out your own niche.)

We had a quick, but really sumptuous dinner at La Nonna before heading down to Fort Canning. We arrived at 7.15p.m. and were really surprised to see Fort Canning Green almost completely packed with many families and Westerners, who always seem to enjoy a good picnic. We didn’t expect that it would be so full or popular!

Jasmine: We had to move a total of four times in order to find a decent spot, because we either couldn’t see the stage, or because our butts kept slipping off the grassy incline.

Andrew: The first place we settled down in was flat ground, but it was too far to the right of the stage, hence a large part of the stage was obscured from our view. We then found a spot further back with a clearer view of the entire stage:

IMG_8734 As you can see, it was getting rather dark by the time the ballet began. I actually managed to take this shot only by manipulating the exposure setting on my digital camera and keeping my hands very very still. We only took one photograph of ourselves at the ballet:

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After a while though, we realise that our second sitting spot had a great disadvantage – it was at a rather steep angle which meant that we had to consciously position ourselves so that we wouldn’t slip downwards. We were gradually ‘sliding’ downwards every 5 minutes during the first ballet piece. Heh. So we moved once again and finally found a spot which was flat and offered a reasonable view of the stage if there was nobody standing up amongst the audience. Heh.  Note to self: Arrive earlier for Ballet Under the Stars in the future.

Not being a ballet person myself, I wasn’t that excited about the performance pieces, but was more drawn to the idea of watching an outdoors performance, which we don’t normally do in Singapore. (Sidetrack: Dearie was mentioning, and I totally agree, that they should bring back drive-in movies in Singapore, or at least outdoor screenings of movies!)

The main drawback of it being an outdoor venue was the potential for distraction and unfortunately, last night was also the National Day Parade preview. The fireworks were extremely distracting as everyone just went ‘Woooahhh’ everytime there was a new ‘burst’ of fireworks in the air to the point that the organisers decided to stall the programme until the fireworks died down. So much for stealing the limelight huh.

There were also some people who obviously hadn’t bought tickets and kept trickling in through one of the pavilions at the side. At one point, an old man sat next to us and rolled up his shirt to ‘cool himself’, exposing his belly. Dearie had an obviously disturbed look on her face (which amused me to no end) and said she felt like she was at my HDB void deck. Heh.

Other than that, however, the setting was lovely. The weather was mercifully cooling yesterday, after almost a whole morning of rain, and the sky was amply cloudy so Dearie and I had fun, just lying down on the ‘picnic mat’ (or rather, the banner we used as a mat) imagining what the various tufts of clouds could represent. We came up with rabbit head, puppy and pig taking a dump. (Jasmine: yes, the last one was my invention.) Heh.

Well, here are my two-cents worth on the various pieces, from the perspective of a layman:

Concerto Barocco: Frankly, I was quite bored by this piece. As a general trend, I found the ensemble pieces rather bland as to me, just a group of dancers mechanically synchronizing their movements. Ah well.

Piano Concerto No 2, Opus 102: There was a duet portion in this piece which really mesmerized me and pulled me into the performance. That was one moment I felt was truly romantic. Ballet is the ultimate expression of chivalry indeed, as the man leads the woman, lifts her up and supports her and I found myself hoping that I was more flexible and able to perform some of these moves. (Fat hope, I know)

Don Quixote pas de deux: Now this was a fun piece of showmanship. It was a piece that really made you go ‘Wow’ as the piece ended off with both the male and female dancer ‘out-pirouetting’ each other. The male won, of course, performing at least 10 pirouettes continuously!

Evening at the Ritz: A great piece to end off, with familiar classics sang by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was lovely seeing the dancers twirl in their long, flowy dresses and it was a piece that combined ballet with the sophistication and elegance of ballroom dancing.

Of course, no date would be complete without some photo-taking of our outfits. We went back to the location where a dear friend’s wedding was held last week and snapped some shots outside Gattopardo, an Italian restaurant:

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IMG_8741A random passer-by was very kind and helped us to compose and take the first shot above and of course in the second shot, we have the classic shot that Dearie enjoys taking with almost every bouquet I buy for her. Aww.. 🙂

Jasmine: These high-waisted shorts, which I wear ALL the time, were selected by Andrew as a welcome-home gift after I got back from the UK. He consulted with Mum and Charlene about my size and he got it right!

Andrew: Oh yes, here are some random shots too from Ruth’s wedding last week, which took place at the lawn in front of the Fort Canning hotel: IMG_8656

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We’ve decided to make Ballet Under the Stars an annual event for us, and we’ll come earlier next time to ensure we get a seat on flat ground with a better view of the stage! As for myself, I better start finding out more about ballet so I can make more insightful and intelligent comments when we next blog about it!

A well-assembled birthday

Andrew: As much as we complain about the unbearable heat in Singapore, it seems like Dearie and I enjoy spending our birthdays outdoors. We celebrated mine last year at Mt. Faber and Dearie’s last year at Batam. This year, knowing how much driving and crowds tire me out, Dearie decided to plan a restful date for me, out of the city and a ‘one-stop’ date, where we only have to be at one location.

As compared to last year where Dearie accidentally blurted out during a date that we would go to Mt. Faber, she managed to keep her secret much better this year, keeping me in suspense by continually asking me if I’d rather she cook or we go out.

(Jasmine: I was honestly leaning towards cooking for Andrew, but my mother and sister talked me out of it. I guess they thought that would make his birthday unforgettable… for all the wrong reasons.)

Andrew: Picked her up from school at 5 after her debate and she told me that our stop for today would be Hort Park. I was immediately happy as I love going to parks! The drive there took longer than expected, due to my unfamiliarity with the route. When we eventually arrived, Dearie whipped out a sheet of paper:

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It looks like a menu, doesn’t it? But instead of descriptions of dishes under the ‘starters’, ‘mains’ or ‘desserts’, it was excerpts taken from various food blogs. Knowing how much I love food blogs, Dearie had assembled a menu of food reviews for me.

She asked me to guess where we were having dinner, which frankly was kind of a duh question, given that there was only one restaurant at Hort Park – the Thai restaurant, KHA. (Jasmine: Cheh… Couldn’t you have played along?) We had spoken about this restaurant before and said that we should come and dine at the outdoor al fresco area, and Dearie had thoughtfully planned this out for me. 🙂 I knew she had more up her sleeve when she lugged a huge plastic bag out along with her as we made our way to the restaurant.

Some random shots while we waited for the kitchen to be open:

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The weather was really cooling yesterday, such that I could even wear my long-sleeve shirt and skinny tie comfortably while seated outdoors.

We had totally not planned this, but Dearie and I were perfectly colour coordinated yesterday – both in black and white! I’m sure Dearie would claim though that wearing exactly the same colours is not being colour coodinated.

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Complimentary champagne on the house for birthdays

We decided to pamper ourselves too and order mocktails! To put it more accurately, I decided to pamper myself and Dearie obliged. Thanks Dearie! 🙂

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Our mocktails: Makmuang spark (fresh mango, fresh mint leaves, fresh lime juice and mango juice) and Dragon eye (lychee, fresh mint leaves, lychee juice and mango juice) along with our starter of rice crackers with curry dip

Both mocktails were very refreshing, but the Dragon Eye was considerably better than the Makmuang spark. The fruity flavours were more distinct and varied as compared to the Makmuang where the mango taste overwhelmed the lime and mint flavours. The fresh mango used wasn’t sweet enough too, hence it had a very ‘bland’ mango taste to it. The crackers were delicious though!

We made our orders (referring to the food reviews Dearie had printed out) and as we were waiting for the food to arrive, Dearie whipped out the next surprise – my birthday card:

IMG_8702Yes, I had to piece together my birthday card.

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The cardboard on which I assembled the jigsaw had the words ‘I am the backing’.

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Finally completed!

Turns out Dearie got this while she was in the UK! She had been planning my birthday for such a long time. Aww…

IMG_8708Cheers to Dearie for the great planning! 🙂

Shortly after I finished the jigsaw, all our food arrived!

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Here’s what we had…

Our starters:

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Tod Hua Plee (deep fried banana flower, sweet chilli sauce)

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Tod man poo (thai crab and prawn cakes, green mango salad yoghurt, sweet chilli sauce)

Our soup:

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Tom yum gong (hot and sour king prawn broth, lemongrass)

Our main course:

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Kheaw wan gai (green chicken curry with drumstick and poached chicken wonton, apple and pea eggplants, coconut salad)

Our favourite dish was hands down the fried banana flower, just because of how unique and yet simple it was. The hints of banana taste went well with the very crispy, robust batter and the tangy sweet chilli sauce. Dearie generally liked deep fried food too, hence this was the dish was gobbled down the fastest.

The crab cakes were good too, though lacking the novelty-factor of the banana flowers. You could tell that they really used fresh crabmeat as every bite had hints of that crabby sweetness. The yoghurt didn’t really add much to the overall flavour though and I frankly thought it was mayonnaise if I hadn’t checked the menu again to write this post.

Tom Yum Soup was average. The green curry was super spicy, but it went extremely well with the jasmine rice they gave. Dearie surprisingly had 3 servings of rice! (Jasmine: It was two servings dear, and small ones at that. Heh.) The spiciness of the curry though started to make me sweat and that was when I became slightly uncomfortable with the outdoor setting.

We were both so stuffed after dinner, but we had to try their grilled mango based on the good reviews that Dearie had printed out:

IMG_8723 Caramel ma muang suk (grilled mango cheek and lime, passion fruit sorbet, mango sauce)

The mango was great, but I really didn’t like the passion fruit sorbet! Way too sour for me. Dearie loved it though.

So, as we were sitting there after the dessert, even more stuffed. The music suddenly stopped and I told Dearie, “Ah, this is much better. So peaceful and quiet” – when all of a sudden, the birthday song came out and the waiter came by with my birthday cake! Dearie had sneakily done this while I was in the toilet!

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And it wasn’t a normal cake! It was a Shiseido brandy cake from the pop-up store outside TANGS from weeks ago! It’s amazing how Dearie ‘assembled’ the birthday celebration together from various shopping trips running up to my birthday. (Jasmine: Hey dear! Assembling your birthday plans is just like putting together a jigsaw puzzle! I’m such a genius.) The cake was very well done, but the brandy taste was way too strong. A small slice was sufficient to knock us out! Heh.

(Jasmine: Andrew heading to the toilet was the moment I’d been waiting for. And thankfully, he took quite awhile to come back too 😛 A waiter helped me unwrap the cake (it was encased in airtight plastic and foil to keep it moist), cut it and stash it. Then he hovered around (behind Andrew, but still a comfortable distance from our table) until I signalled to him to serve the cake.)

Andrew: After our elaborate and hearty dinner, we took a nice stroll in Hort Park. It was very quiet and serene, as if we were the only two people in the entire park. We had some fun at the playgrounds, figuring out the laws of physics and balance and trying out some ‘exercise’ equipment for old people before heading back to the car for the moment I’d been waiting for – the gift giving!

And while Dearie had done a good job in keeping the birthday celebration a secret, I immediately guessed what present she had got me based on intuition and of course, by seeing the shape of it!

IMG_8727Take a moment to admire Dearie’s specially designed wrapping paper. She took a whole 5 minutes to explain the design concept to me, but I really can’t remember much, except that it was supposed to play on the concept of the Mondrian squares and create the impression of 3D.

(Jasmine: Sigh… When I was explaining, I noticed Andrew’s hand inching towards the side of the parcel, trying furtively to pluck at the sticky tape. So much for being attentive.

The addition of curvilinear lines and forms were supposed to question the structural rigidity of Mondrian squares whilst the circular shapes were meant to resemble puzzle pieces, echoing the puzzle theme of the jigsaw card and “menu” pieced together from various food blogs just like a puzzle. Never mind.)

Andrew: My present! A new pair of sneakers from PF-Flyers!

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I had been looking for a new, casual pair of shoes for a long time to wear with jeans on weekends. We had eyed this pair in TANGS a few weeks back, but I was too stingy to buy it. Dearie actually went and got it for me anyway! Thanks a lot Dearie!

(Jasmine: I had a couple of options in mind for Andrew’s present, including Vibram barefoot running shoes (which I brought him to try on but he didn’t like how they didn’t offer enough support), but both of us thought that this pair of sneakers looked really good on him- sporty and youthful without trying too hard.

I spent a whole month engaging in “psychological warfare”, talking him out of buying the shoes i.e. it was not worth the money, we should look for cheaper alternatives. Imagine how horrified I was when Andrew suggested going back to TANGS to buy the sneakers and some hand cream. Yes, his inner shopaholic is really beginning to emerge.)

Andrew: Although I was really tired from the day at work, I really did enjoy myself, just enjoying the peace and calm of Hort Park and spending time with the woman I love. Thanks Dearie for making this birthday so meaningful for me through your meticulous and thoughtful planning! I love you 🙂

Our Art Obsession Part 2

Andrew: We originally wanted to write about all 3 components of our arts obsession in one entry, but ended up getting too carried away with the Children’s Season exhibition. Other than the Children’s Season exhibition, another exhibition we went to during the 1st week of term 3 was a David Doubilet photo exhibition titled “Water Light Time” at L2 Space Gallery, which is becoming one of my favourite galleries.

IMG_8642This photo greeted us upon entry into the gallery, and of course, Dearie got extremely excited as ‘Mr Books’ (the penguin bag) got a chance to be reunited with his ‘brothers’. We thought this was an extremely good choice of photograph to welcome visitors into the exhibition as the warmth of the setting sun really contrasted perfectly with the stark black and white colours of the penguins. As opposed to many shots which were clearly photographic due to their composition and light play, the close-up of the penguins made it seem as if I had really just ‘walked into this scene’.

The rest of the photographs on display were extremely awe-inspiring and left the both of us gaping in amazement at his craft, but also at the beauty of the ocean.

He invented a special split lens camera which allowed him to take pictures above and below the water simultaneously. The exhibition featured many of these shots

(Photo taken from Doubilet’s personal website at http://daviddoubilet.com.)

Baby green sea turtle French polynesia 

Papuan fisherman fishes from an outrigger as baitfish swirl below in Raja Ampat Indonesia  

(Photos taken from http://www.divephotoguide.com/)

I really liked the photo of the Papuan fisherman as it was the serenity of the fisherman was juxtaposed so perfectly with the  bustling life of nature.

Another series of photos in this exhibition was the nudibranch series which was so cute! Nudibranches are sea slugs living at the bottom of the ocean which are poisonous, but extremely beautiful and colourful when their defense mechanisms come up. Doubilet apparently brought down into the ocean a little photo studio of his own, equipped with white screens and proper lighting so that he could do studio photography of these nudibranches:

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(Photos taken from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/)

Look at how vibrant the colours are and these creatures look so human! If you are interested in how he actually took these photos, check out this link here. I really enjoyed this exhibition very much and it inspired me to want to try scuba-diving sometime.

For those keen on checking out the exhibition, it runs until 18th July at the L2 Space Gallery. If you’re keen on photograph exhibitions, there’s another underwater photograph exhibition taking place at The Arts House as well. We’ll probably be checking out that exhibition soon!

Our Art Obsession

Andrew: Dearie and I were at a friend’s wedding yesterday and a friend from Malaysia lamented that there was ‘nothing to do’ in Singapore except shopping (which for Dearie, is definitely a lot to do. Heh). We took this chance to completely geek-out and gush about the many exciting art exhibitions we had been to lately. Well, Dearie was the one ‘gushing’ and I was the one merely describing in a rather matter-of-fact way about the vibrant arts scene in Singapore.

Jasmine: Speaking of which, Andrew had been asking me to go for this children’s art exhibition but I had kept putting it off, and had managed to distract him successfully on more than one occasion by telling him we’d go shopping for his stuff instead.

Children’s Season at the Singapore Art Museum

Andrew: I had been meaning to go for this exhibition for a long, long while, but my plans kept getting delayed due to other more important agendas, i.e. shopping (Yes I admit, I’m kind of getting into this shopping thing too. I got over-excited about my TANGS 20% Birthday month discount when I received it in the mail and even emphasized to Dearie that we ‘must go to TANGS’ on our next date. Oh no, getting distracted by shopping again).

Although Dearie and I are not big fans of contemporary art, I was particularly interested in this exhibition because it featured contemporary art in an interactive, immersive and imaginative setting which made these art pieces accessible to even young children.

I must say that we were both extremely impressed by the way in which the artists created spaces of ‘play’ for children, yet if you spent more time analysing these ‘spaces’, the artists’ philosophy and artistic vision became clearer and you realised that there was much more than just ‘child’s play’ at work in these spaces.

We spent the most time at The Enchanted Forest exhibit by Sandra Lee.

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Andrew: There was really something for every age group in this exhibit. The museum guide asked the little children to count the number of tigers in the forest and it was indeed a very fun activity for them because there were tigers in various ‘concealed’ forms all around the forest. There were a few where only the tails could be seen and some where the paws were visible. The kids had lots of fun looking for them and evidently, so did I. I think I counted 8 tigers, more than any of the kids could find. Yay!

Jasmine: So that’s how Andrew gets his kicks.

IMG_8601 Andrew spotted a tiger hiding behind a tree!

Of course, being the geeks that we are, we observed that there were elements of the absurd in the art, where the realism of forest animals was mingled with the fantastical world of fairy tales and Asian fables. We saw running fork and plates, a cow jumping over the moon, a gingerbread man, of course the Merlion, and many other fairy tale elements.

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There was also interesting tableaus where the animals were staring at soft toy animals (like teddy bears) in interest and curiosity, blurring the line between play and seriousness. The exhibit also evoked a sense of mystique as there were elements which were potentially scary, like a huge footprint on the floor, which could fit almost an entire adult, stimulating our imagination to think about what time period this forest existed in. (Okay, I know most of you were bored by this paragraph. Jasmine was rolling her eyes as she watched me type, but seriously, she would have written the same.)

IMG_8602 Ooh, where is the dinosaur now?

 

Jasmine: Firstly, that was the worst caption ever, Mr Chong. Andrew’s pretty much said it all (read: stole my lines, heh) so I thought I’d just talk about how there was a children’s activity corner next to the Enchanted Forest, and bunches of paper butterflies that children had coloured in were strung up from the trees in the Enchanted Forest. This seemed to symbolise the room for children’s imagination and creative expression in this art exhibit. Note also how the artist has transformed these four blank walls into a Surrealist bricolage, playing with scale (giant mushroom as tall as me), references to Asian tradition (pagoda in the far right corner) and individual flights of fancy (children’s butterflies hanging in front of me).

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Andrew: Another exhibit that we spent a lot of time (we meaning Jasmine) was the Funky Forest at Level 4. As opposed to the Enchanted Forest which was pictorial and very tactile, this was a digitally ‘created’ forest but extremely immersive nonetheless, which offered abundant opportunities for interaction with the environment.

What we had to do first was to step at the bottom of the screen below, and a sapling (the brown one in the picture below) would shoot up from where we were standing.

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After the sapling had shot up, we would use two ‘bolsters’ on the floor to direct the flow of a ‘digital’ stream of water towards the roots of our saplings so that it would grow and bear fruit (like the other plants you see around the brown one.)

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If the bolster is insufficient, brute force thru ‘kicking’ the digital stream would work too 🙂 The trees would wither away and die if you didn’t manage to water it adequately.

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Jasmine: The great thing was that the stream would respond even to our shadow and was diverted even when it sensed our shadows on the floor. Besides ‘growing trees’, another interactive element of the display involve reaching out to touch the butterflies and dragonflies in the forest which would quickly flit away.

IMG_8618Andrew: Evidently, Jasmine had way too much fun ‘swatting flies’ and stamping on the digital stream. We stayed there even longer than the two kids who were there when we arrived. I think we kind of annoyed them and chased them away by killing their ‘trees’.

We ended up spending a good 4 hours at the exhibition. Of course, we couldn’t leave without taking a picture of the mascot of the exhibition, Walter the big inflatable bunny.

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Jasmine: The minute we approached the building and saw Walter crouched on  top of 8Q, I was sold on the exhibition. I even told Andrew that if he had just told me there was a bunny on the roof, we would have come two months ago. I wouldn’t have had to keep making up excuses like, “Hey, want to go buy some funky t-shirts for yourself?”.

(Andrew: For those who are keen, next week will be the final week for the exhibition. It officially ends on 18th July. Find out more about the exhibition here.)