Saturday, November 28, 2020

'The Crown' :: Season 4

I firmly ignored 'The Crown' (2016) until this season, Season 4, because I wanted to watch both Gillian Anderson and Olivia Colman in their titular roles as Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II respectively. This is typically not my genre of shows I watch. I most definitely didn't want to suffer through an excellent portrayal of a closeted and out-of-touch Royal Family. I wanted to throw my shoes at all of them. 

However, I did scan through the previous seasons, very quickly, just so that I could argue with people who tell me 'Oh you should watch it, it's very good.' You know me. LOL A good show doesn't mean I have to watch it. I'm not discerning like that. Duhhh. 

I'm not particularly interested in any rivalry between the Queen and the Prime Minister. I don't care about either of them as historical figures and they're certainly not female leaders to emulate. Neither am I bothered to fact-check the history of the country, its politics and its socioeconomic policies, etc (bloody hell I had to study it), nor the accuracy of the gossip tabloids with regards to the royal family. I just want to watch the show for these two actors because of their fine acting.   

Vulture's Nate Jones wrote, The Crown Fan’s Guide to Margaret Thatcher' published on November 18, 2020. The article which did an easy fact-check and comparison of Gillian's Anderson's Margaret Thatcher and her relationship with the Windsors to what we do know now, given the notoriously tight-lipped Conservative British Royal Family's inclination to sweep everything under the carpet. 

I was really quite impressed with Gillian Anderson's portrayal of the Iron Lady. I only had televised speeches to refer to, but I thought she did catch loads of mannerisms in the slight tilt of her head, the slow drag in her voice, the way she walked, the way her mouth moved when she talked—these little things form intentional character acting.

As stunning as Gillian Anderson's Margaret Thatcher is, the writer opines that her intonation is not fully in tune with the actual voice and cadences, especially markedly obvious during Iron Lady's televised speeches. He feels that the actor "hasn't quite gotten it."

In the collection of video clips below, you can hear how the real Thatcher had a lightness to her voice, a soft musical lilt, which Anderson’s version lacks. (This lightness was not natural; she adopted it at the suggestion of her image consultant.) However, I’ve noticed that those who lived through the Thatcher era are more convinced of its accuracy. Could it be that Anderson’s heavier, more ominous intonation is giving us not the way Thatcher actually spoke, but the way her voice was perceived by those who hated her?

I did feel for Margaret Thatcher in S4E2 'The Balmoral Test'. That weekend in Balmoral wouldn't be my idea of fun anyway. I would love the hiking, but not the deer stalking. Nature is awesome. However, an extended family gathering is my worst nightmare, and trying to ingratiate oneself into such a snobbish family is a terrible ordeal. 

What I did, was to spend loads of time randomly reading articles and interviews about the actresses and how they felt acting opposite each other, how they felt about each other as a scene partner. Those were fun. Hahaha. The one male that didn't irritate me each time he appeared onscreen is Denis Thatcher. The scriptwriter is brilliant. Denis Thatcher had the best lines in this show, I swear. I loved him (the show persona) from the scene when he commented on what his wife thought of working together with the Queen. 

“Two menopausal women,” he says. “That’ll be a smooth ride.” 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020


We invited the man's parents over for Thanksgiving dinner. They don't mark Thanksgiving. I do. We hadn't had them over for a meal at all this year, so we might as well make this the one meal of 2020. Hahahah. Since nobody is all that fond of turkey, we skipped that traditional dish. It's too much effort to thaw out a frozen Butterball to brine for a day or two and make that cranberry sauce, and to have to cook three other more palatable dishes too.

Decided to do the friendliest meat of them all- chicken. Bought An Xin chicken from my current favorite Toh Thye San Farm — two bone-in thighs and four skinless breasts (outer fillet only, not the tenderloin). Marinated the meat simply with lemon, honey and garlic. Then oven-baked them on a bed of root vegetables. Easy peasy, and super healthy for the parentals. In fact, I went so low on salt that anyone desiring a heavier flavor would need to sprinkle Himalayan pink salt on it upon eating. Well, the parentals are between helpers, and they're not in a position to cook at home, so when they eat out at the restaurants, they would already have an avalanche of salt in their food. #ImpieCooks2020

There was a beautiful box of fine de claire gifted by the dear friends. The oysters arrived in the afternoon and sat in the fridge until they were shucked at dinner as yummy appetizers. The man took care of the carbs in the form of pasta. He wanted to put two chilli padi into the sauce mix. I was like, no. One would do. Even if it was de-seeded. The parents cannot do chilli or anything remotely spicy anymore. Even the mildest chilli is too spicy for them. Putting this much minced garlic into the sauce is spicy to their tastebuds. Spaghetti alla puttanesca completed the meal. The pasta was my only food. I wasn't going to eat the chicken, obviously. The stomach had only just quietened from the bout of spirulina poisoning attack, and I wasn't going to overload it this soon.

The dog got her own Thanksgiving meal too. I forgot about ordering a meatloaf of sorts for her. Hahaha. Luckily Barking Good set up a frozen cake vending machine at Group Therapy Coffee at Cross Street Exchange. It's cleverly placed outside the cafe and made available 24 hours. Picked a frozen beef cake. I'm mindful of too-rich food for her. She can't have the whole cake in one or two meals. I split it into quarters. She could have a quarter over two meals. So her Thanksgiving meal included the cake, raw slices of tenderloin topped with tiny sprinkles of shaved Parmesan, and one oyster. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Wines Arrived In Time for Thanksgiving


Collected wine that didn't see delay in shipping although Europe went into lockdown again in November. Bought 16 bottles because I wanted to hand them out as gifts to the friends. Many of them have actually imported their own cases earlier. No point giving them more wines when they already have tons. Heh.

R took on the tedious task of collating our random orders for wines; he liaised with the producers and arranged to import the wines into Singapore, sorting out taxes and such. When collective orders hit a minimum amount that makes sense for shipping and doorstep delivery, everyone wins. Yes, R also got some of these cases for himself, but he doesn't run this as a business, hence I appreciated him taking on the challenges of logistics. 

Sometimes it's easier to jump in with the friends' orders when they buy wine simply because I can just put in as little as I want. I've been pretty much doing that all of this year. I could buy from the shops, but I prefer to look at the friends' curated lists. That narrows down the choices and I don't actually have to think very much about what wines to get from the shops. I'm not a collector of any type of alcohol, and there're no plans to install a wine fridge at home. So what I can bear, is literally not to stock more than 12 bottles at home. My preference is to stock only 6 bottles at any one time. They either sit in the fridge or in the music room, both of which don't hold ideal temperatures. The solution is to drink 'em fast. Heh. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

No More Spirulina Ever


I've been super careful about food. So when I went down with a sorta-major allergic reaction, I was floored by my own stupidity. I've been having açaí bowls since forever. No issues.

However, that day, I didn’t order my usual ‘Pura Vida’ or 'Sao Paolo', and absentmindedly ordered a 'Big Surf', of which I've never had. I happily ate the whole thing and wondered why the açaí was blue. Then it hit me. There wasn’t any açaí in there! The ‘blue’ base was all blue spirulina blended into coconut, pineapples and bananas. Good gawwd. 

The bowl was ingested at 2.30pm. By 5pm I was feeling unwell. I thought it was indigestion, but didn't think how it could be so. Didn't bother with much dinner except for five spoonfuls of pasta. (The other three people who ate that didn't fall ill.) Nightfall was when it hit worst. I couldn't sleep. I had weird hallucinations. Skin was itchy and a mild rash appeared in patches across the body. No fever. There was nausea, and then there're the terrible runs and flatulence. OMG. I felt like I was tripping out! I was this close to getting out the EpiPen.

Washing the toilet bowl at 4.30am wasn't the best feeling. But it had to be done. It was that bad. Poor me. Popped antihistamines and lomotil. Then I crawled back to bed to get some rest before sunrise. When morning arrived, the runs subsided, but the stomach was still tender. The head hurt. I felt like I was nursing a hangover. OMG. The last time green spirulina in a smoothie did me in, and it wasn't this bad. I just had terrible runs, but didn't link it back to the spirulina. I haven't been seeking out the supplement to add into my food because... I'm just not a supplements person. So I never made the connection. Then this blue spirulina smacked me across the face and stomach. Woah.

Note to self: Spirulina, at best, is an unverified dietary supplement. People with autoimmune issues, on immunosuppressants, blood thinners or with blood clotting issues, on medication for rheumatoid arthritis, seafood allergies and a sensitive gut shouldn’t be on any form of long-term spirulina supplements. People with PKU (phenylketonuria) should definitely not take spirulina. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Chicken Varuval & Cabbage


The man did a wetter take on chicken varuval. Masala and curry always taste better when kept overnight. He even intentionally undercook the potatoes so that it will stand up to reheating well. A dish like that is worth bringing out the steamer to reheat. Otherwise the microwave oven is the default.

Dug out a casserole dish to hold the chicken varuval. Clearly this casserole dish is a gift. It's the one item in the kitchen that stands out starkly against the preferred monochrome colors. N's mother gave it to me; it's the one item I will keep and use. I'd have preferred a clear glass pyrex. But since this is useful, there isn't a point to replace it for now. It's somehow quite the perfect size and height. It fits into the cabinets and it fits snugly into the steamer. It's also bringing in a bit of nostalgia into an otherwise contemporary kitchen that has no space for stocking up on vintage items for memory's sake. 

The undercooked potatoes went in first, then the gravy and chicken. The man used a mixture of breasts and thighs. Heh. The chicken varuval was delicious! I love the gravy on basmati rice, but I couldn't deal with all the chicken. I wouldn't have minded some skin but the meat came skinless from the butcher's. Heh. 

I needed vegetables. Had earlier bought half a flat round cabbage, in anticipation of heating up this chicken varuval some time this week. These cabbages keep well in the fridge. They're so easy to jazz up. Love it. Stir-fried it. Randomly threw in dried shrimps and dried oysters. Skipped the soy and used fish sauce instead. #ImpieCooks2020

The man was busy fielding work calls and only took a break for dinner before jumping back onto more calls. I only put these two dishes on the table tonight. They made for a satisfying dinner. We don't bother with too many dishes when having a casual meal at home. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Life is About Rainbows


Published in The New Yorker's October 5, 2020 issue, 'Rainbows' by Joseph O'Neill is oddly arresting. The story opened with the narrator remembering her young 23-year-old self at college, with a mentor whom she had respected enormously. There was an account of an incident of sexual harassment (hinted at), and her mentor advised her to drop it and not file charges, and get over it. That was the last time she met said mentor.

The narrator Clodagh, is an academic, a migrant from Ireland. She lives in America with her husband Ian, and her 18-year-old daughter Aoife. The daughter was in the last semester of her senior year, and has an issue with harassment on Instagram by a James Wang in her school, and who apparently stalked her too. The school authorities were brought in, and James Wang was suspended from classes.

Then the narrator realized the relationship between the laundromat she had used for ten years, the Chinese owners and their son, who is the said James Wang. The narrator wished they had sorted this out differently, family to family. She didn't make the link between the school harassor James Wang, and the laundromat's James Wang. Aoife didn't state it clearly. She would have known that it's the same James Wang who has made the delivery drop of their laundry for years. 

I know when my daughter is lying and when she isn’t. The missing-panties detail was absurd, but the rest of it added up. It didn’t add up to much, to my mind, because James was a child. He had feelings that he couldn’t understand or manage. The important thing was that I was informed. Information enables action.

Right there, on the sidewalk, I called Ms. Vincenzullo. It was a Sunday, but it couldn’t wait. That is my core skill, I believe: making phone calls promptly and persistently. It is a surprisingly rare skill. I left a message. I wasn’t optimistic about hearing back.

But Ms. Vincenzullo did ring back, right away. It took me by surprise. I hesitated to accept the call.

The action I’d had in mind was to advocate on behalf of James and to ask if the complaint could be struck from his record. But I knew how American organizations worked. It was a dark wood of decision trees. Either Aoife had had a well-founded grievance or she hadn’t. Either she would have to retract her complaint or the school would have to retract its decision. The school would not retract, and neither, I knew, would my daughter, nor would I advise her to. To admit to second thoughts would be to invite trouble.

Everything was a mess, everything was wrong. I didn’t answer Ms. Vincenzullo.

She had a discussion with her husband. They decided there was cause to protect their daughter. Life went on. They found a new laundromat. Aoife got into college. She ran into her college mentor on the train, and was confident enough to have a conversation with her, wanting closure to that incident all those years ago and trying to find out what she really thought.

She was condescending to me, and the encounter now felt fully anachronistic. I wasn’t that girl from Newcastle West, and Paola was no longer the cool professor who jingled keys to an enigmatic adult world. My former self would have wanted to know what she was thinking—about me, about everything—would have wanted to assure her that I wasn’t in the habit of ambushing near-strangers with autobiographical monologues. But I felt sorry for her, this childless, too-thin woman in her sixties who couldn’t quit smoking and was still interested in her air of mystery.

I finished my drink and smiled. Quite amiably I said, “It was very nice to see you, Paola.”

“Goodbye, Clodagh,” Paola said, just as amiably. Giving nothing away, she smiled once again. She picked up her book.

The story wouldn't be complete if we didn't know what happened to James Wang, or if this incident and how it had been handled would always be a sore point for the narrator. Towards the end, it had to include a chance meeting in the checkout line with Mrs Wang of the laundromat, mother of James Wang. The narrator learnt that the boy had gotten into an Ivy League college. The meeting was brief and finished with pleasantries, and it answered Clodagh's questions if she had inadvertently killed James Wang's future with a sexual harassment record in his school years. 

The title. Well, make of it what you will. The story suggested that Ireland is full of rainbows. Hahaha. The family made a trip to Ireland to visit the narrator's family. And they landed on a windy spring day, they saw many many rainbows all the way during the drive from the airport to their destination Adare. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Lunches with V!


The girlfriend is the loveliest. As crazy as her WFH schedule is, she still makes time to lunch or coffee with me because it's hard for me to do dinners. I'm so thankful that we can keep to regular meets. I feel that it takes a lot more effort to step out from the (comfortable) home to meet friends than if we're perched in an office, and looking to take a break in the middle of the day. 

Lunch nowadays, is utilitarian. When I meet friends for lunch, I'm not looking for a long-drawn four-course meal. It's too fancy. I can do that, but there's gotta be a good reason for it. I can easily eke out two hours. But I simply don't have the luxury of time to sit down to a three-hour meal with alcohol. At this point of my life, these types of meals aren't relaxing because I have a zillion other things on my mind. The time spent on a meal is all the time I need to review a contract or an essay before translating it. How fast I work is not just a matter of how much I earn. Income correlates to taking on more challenging projects and working harder. How fast I work, is proportionate to how much me-time I can free up. Heh.

That day, when V and I were discussing about lunch over texts, I also concurrently booked us into an outlet of Crystal Jade Hong Kong Kitchen on Chope. Well, it's kinda a default venue (when nobody has any cravings) and most importantly, it can be easily canceled via the app. Then I read her next text and I was FLOORED.

She suggested Two Men Bagel House! OMG. WHUT. I was just thinking of it, and she suggested it!!! This was over typed-out words okay, not voice, no audio, no visuals. She was like 10km away from me, and of all foods, she narrowed it down to bagels and the exact eatery I was thinking of. How??!!! What sorcery is this!?!

I didn't even know Two Men Bagel House has an outlet at Holland Village. The eatery was crowded but the tables cleared fast and the queues moved easily. We didn't have to wait long for a table. The menu is different from what I'm used to at the Tanjong Pagar outlet. The Holland Village outlet didn't have my favorite vegetarian 'Lulamon', which is padded with really good cashew hummus, then there's avocado, onion, charred cauliflower and lotus chips. Oddly, smoked brisket of any sort isn't on the menu; no pulled pork here either. So I took the porchetta. It really tasted more like siew yoke. Aiyoh. Luckily I added avocado which balanced it out perfectly. No complaints about the bagels. They're generally super decent, and rather filling. I can never finish a whole bagel though. I always end up packing home a half.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Sewing Up Choya's Toys


The other day I stared at Choya's toys. I was like, 'did we like spend $500 on toys alone over the past year? OMG.' And also those cuddly things we bought for her — but that's an excuse because we wanted it for ourselves. LOL I replace the toys when they've been thoroughly chewed. That explains why. The replacement rate was crazy in the first six months. She had a grand time chewing things. Then it suddenly stopped. 

She has lost interest in chewing. Like, totally over it. She only rips apart toys that she's not interested in. Now she likes to hold them in her mouth as a comfort chew, or treat them as fweends. She will carry them to bed in the nights. She also likes to 'present' us (or visitors) with toys when we come home. 
I'm sure there're plenty of good brands selling stuffies. But the dog has gravitated towards the stuffies and fluffies from P.L.A.Y and Fringe Studio. They're non-toxic and very well-made. It has probably got nothing to do with the brands. Hahahaha. It's got everything to do with sizes and shapes. 

She still doesn't have a formidable toy box because I don't want that — can you imagine how much washing and sunning I've got to do? She gets a few toys to choose from, and she favors them differently depending on her moods. Of them all, the Starfish and the Clam are her favorites. She does nibble on them a bit, just to stake her claim on what she deems 'hers'. She especially nibbles on them after each wash. Gaaah. The fluff does come out after she does that, and if I don't close up those gaps, I can't wash them. That means, STINKY. To ensure the toys get their weekly baths, and to prolong their lifespan, I had to finally sew them up. 

Meanwhile, another batch of Starfish fweends arrived. HAHAHAHA. The brand had better don't stop producing it. Otherwise I'd have to scramble to find alternatives for the dog. She KNOWS if there's no more fweend. She might even mope, which was what she did the last time I threw it out and didn't replace it. She didn't want other fweends. Oh dear. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

El Cocinero at Novena Regency


The friends have mentioned about the decent quesadillas and tacos at this eatery. After the friends and I checked out Barry's latest outlet at Orchard, we stopped by El Cocinero at Novena Regency for lunch. There's a new branch at Mediapolis, but this one at Novena is more convenient for us. 

We never need mind-blowing tacos and quesadillas. To me, these are basic foods that I prefer, as great alternatives to burgers and pizzas. Hahahah. So to me, tacos and quesadillas simply needed to be super edible and reasonably priced. That said, I really miss tamales. I haven't found a good one here.

El Cocinero is located inside the mall alongside the ground level shops. Many shops are still devoid of tenants. The eatery's space is mostly used for cooking. The limited seating indoors has moved outside. There're tables and chairs set up along the narrow corridor for the patrons of El Cocinero. However, the exhaust fans on this ground floor are non-existent and the ventilation isn't ideal. So when we finished lunch, faint smells of grease and grill lingered on our clothes, face masks and hair. 

We shared a portion of carnitas quesadillas, a large bowl of guacamole, tacos of picadillo (ground beef and potatoes) and lengua (ox tongue). And two portions of baja fish tacos! It was quite a fair bit of food for three people! I gave in to a bottle of guava-flavored Jarritos. Kekekek. Too bad the eatery had no ice-cubes to offer along with the chilled bottle. The food was honestly rather satisfying. Decent enough for us to return on another day to eat these again.