Monday, August 21, 2017

九年剧场 ::《画室》

Over a good half of this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) is a stellar line-up of local productions. SIFA has steadily grown its identity and assert what it wants to highlight. As a paying member of the audience, I appreciate the curation and programing.

I began my support of SIFA with commissioned work 'Art Studio'《画室》presented by Nine Years Theatre (九年剧场). This eponymous play directed by Nelson Chia (谢燊杰) takes its inspiration from Singaporean novelist Yeng Pway Ngon's (英培安) 2011 Chinese novel that has been translated by Goh Beng Choo and Loh Guan Liang in 2014. I think the play keeps true to the book's intentions, and the director's skill shone through in the play's concise portrayal of relationships versus life, hopes and regrets, and the eternal search for self-identity.

Different characters who lived through Singapore in the 1970s to 2010. People who came together in an art class hosted by an elderly painter Yan Pei. Artists whose lives are presented as works on stage. We have an aspiring poet, classical singer, a gangster, a Communist fighter lost in the jungles, an exile, lovers and friends.

I was a little reluctant to get my tickets, only because it was going to be a three-hour show in Mandarin. But I managed. There were English surtitles. After watching Utter《优剧》in 2012, I had to plough through the novel 《画室》itself. A bit painful to read because there're so many details to pore over, but it's so well written. There were the expected fairly complicated human stories. I gotta say it isn't quite my usual genre of reads, but it was nice watching it play out on stage. I suppose they had to clock in at three hours to stay faithful to the book.The first half was very very slow. The second half fared much better. A Cubist canvas brought to life.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cigarettes After Sex

Since the friends raved and raved about Cigarettes After Sex, I bought tickets to see their show. Shoegaze, dream pop, ambient. Okay lah. Fairly mellow and happy. Luckily it was a free-standing gig, or I'd have fallen asleep in my seat. Thankfully the band sounded pleasant enough live. However, they were really boring. The video projections on the screen moved more than they did.

The venue still hasn't sorted out its ventilation issues. At maximum capacity in this sold-out show at Capitol Theatre, it was stuffy, and the air-conditioning was as weak as it had been since the opening. This is a placid crowd, given the genre of the show. Imagine if people bounced a little more, the collective body heat would have been unbearable.

Mainly led by singer-songwriter Greg Gonzalez, the band released singles and an EP. They only just released their first eponymous album 'Cigarettes After Sex' two months ago. I didn't exactly do my homework, so I didn't know all their songs. Although there were five songs I wanted to hear. However, a fair portion of the show was spent gazing at my shoes. Hehehe. As expected, the gig was over in about an hour and ten minutes. They didn't have that many songs lah. The night ended with an encore of two songs I'm not familiar with- 'Please Don't Cry' and 'John Wayne'.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Violet Oon's Satay Bar & Grill

We went to Violet Oon's Satay Bar & Grill at Clarke Quay for Q and M's farewell dinner. (They're heading home up far north after a decade in Singapore.) Since there were so many of us, we ordered almost everything on the menu. Hahaha. It was a first visit for all of us.

Grilled meats on skewers. Spices galore! Love how the kitchen didn't dumb those down. The satay was beautifully done. Skipped the chicken. Ordered beef, pork and tripe. Three sticks per portion- good quality meat well marinated and well grilled. The meats came with a lovely spicy peanut sauce topped with grated pineapple. The boiled-till-tender-then-grilled tripe came with a gorgeous coconut rempah drizzled with freshly squeezed calamansi juice.

There're carbs on the menu as well, rice noodles and fried rice. We felt that the restaurant has taken on a fair bit of Balinese and Indonesian influences in terms of its use of sambal and chillies. The sambal bajak udang was delicious because of its 'chilli padi sambal'. Sure, the prawns were fresh and gorgeous, but the sambal with all its onions were so impressively piquant.

I didn't bother with alcohol that night. I had the restaurant's house-brewed old-fashioned ginger beer. It was really good. The rest somehow took a fancy to the house 'Baba Negroni' and ordered many glasses of the cocktail. Be warned, the restaurant is NOISY. Like really loud, just like its sister outlet, National Kitchen.

Said delicious sambal bajak udang.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jumping Rope

At the start of the class, the instructor barked out her demands- 100 skips + 10 push-ups; repeat 10x. Completed them. 1000 skips. 100 push-ups. Had to take a water break in order to catch my breath.

And those were just warm-ups. 😒

I hate jumping rope. The gym uses these clunky jump ropes that force me to hop higher. UGH. Where are they keeping the speed ropes?! When we moved into the structured exercises proper, extra effort had to be put in. Dug deep to find the last ounces of energy to grit through the 45-minute session. Gave up doing those jumping lunges. Walked them instead, and kept the ahemmm knee bent low. (Sorry, can't resist the GoT reference.) This side of my room giggled like crazy (for the third week in a row) when the instructor hollered, "Keep your knee bent low whether you're walking or jumping!" or a shorter reminder, "Bend your knee!"

I'm tired this week. Physically. Dunno why. I've managed to get in nine hours of sleep every night. Maybe it's because I've missed out on several cups of caffeine over the past week. Like I forgot about it and by the time I remembered, it was 4pm and too late to consume any. Even as I opted out of the more exhausting anaerobic classes, I kept the aerobic exercises to keep the body moving and muscles stretched. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Hello Kitty Detangler

Stared at the detangler comb and grimaced. Yes, that's definitely a Hello Kitty print on it. At least it's in black and white. The BFF has it in Hello Kitty pink and white. The hair salon had included them in the welcome gift pack for us when they shifted to a new location. The hairstylist took pains to point out that these Tangle Teezers are the hottest detanglers in the market now. Okaaay. Not that I care, but I suppose she wanted us to know that these combs hold some sort of value.

Up to two weeks ago, I didn't have a travel comb. Had a super sturdy foldable one that lasted for years. When it finally broke in January, I replaced it with a disposable, thinking to hunt for a sturdier one at leisure. Clearly procrastination took over, and a new replacement was never bought. Now that I'm hitting the gym often and showering there, I do need a comb. The disposable is unable to smooth out knots without breaking many strands of hair. A detangler is great because I don't use conditioner.

I was more concerned about whether this Tangle Teezer works on wet hair. So far, it seems to be doing its job. It's nifty. I quite like it, so I try to ignore the print. Hehehe. I don't exactly own many things in Hello Kitty. Whatever I had, they've all been thrown out. It seems as though the cat-with-no-mouth is coming back into my drawers and wardrobe. 🙄

This Tangle Teezer 'Compact Styler' works great; the cover protects the bristles, making it super convenient to carry around. But it's a tad bulky! These £11/£12.50 detangler combs are supposedly designed, manufactured and made in Great Britain. Frankly, I wouldn't pay S$35 for it at the local Sephora. BUT, looking at how it's done, I don't doubt that Taobao retailers have already gotten into action to manufacture cheaper knock-offs which in all likelihood will work just as well.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

CURATE at RWS for $100Gourmet

The man has cleverly scored a number of meals via the Citibank credit card where we dine at a restaurant with a fixed four to six-course menu at S$100++ for two persons. These $100Gourmet dinners are usually set at S$100 per person. The only drawback, we have to pay upfront, so that's dicey. We'd just have to assume we could make it, and try to block out the date in our calendars.

It's a creative way to get me out to restaurants that I would otherwise not bother with. Whenever the term 'Michelin stars' is mentioned, I'm completely unenthusiastic. I think it's a dumb system. Anyway, at this price point, it's also a great way to shut me up rather promptly about the food because so far, while the service and logistics at the various restaurants are pretty decent, and its food interesting, they don't all appeal to my tastebuds.

We recently went for a four-course lunch at CURATE at Resorts World Sentosa. (It's located next to Candylicious, opposite Din Tai Fung, at the Forum somewhere around the Universal Studios ball and very weird Lake of Dreams.) For this menu, Elizabeth Allen of Shibui (Kaizen House) in London partnered CURATE's Chef de Cuisine, Benjamin HalatCURATE also hosts an 'Art at CURATE' series of partnerships with Michelin-starred chefs.

The amuse bouche was fun! I loved the bread and butter. Those were superbly satisfying. The glass of champagne was a nice touch. The first course of buttermilk chicken with tare sauce and spinach was hilarious. Very edible, but seriously salty. The man loved it. I didn't mind the salt punch, but yeah, it's just fried chicken, and I don't care about fried chicken or chicken. I didn't enjoy the soufflated farm egg as much as I thought I would. It was topped with spinach and truffle caviar that was so overpowering that it just didn't seem to go with the bouncy egg white. The egg white whipped into soufflé did nothing for me. After I ate the cheerful runny yolk, I was done with the dish.

I didn't request for a separate main, so today's main was beef. Although I saw other tables with scallops. The little piece of Black Angus sirloin had been apparently aged in kombu. It came with horseradish that looked like marshmallow. I quite liked the horseradish here, but it wasn't mash, so there was no way to finish it. It's just like a dip, and when I'm not a fan of wasabi or mustard, I took only a teeny bit of that. Dessert came as a surprisingly delicious coconut espuma with calamansi and rambutan honey. The flavors went well together. But because it's an espuma, and I really don't like foam-anything, so I left it alone after three small mouthfuls.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Most Angsty Ties

Hesitated starting on Suchen Christine Lim's 'The Lies That Build A Marriage' (2007) because it's not exactly a genre I appreciate. The book sat on the shelves till it yellowed. :P The title of the book kinda sucks and the cover illustration is so tacky. I was a little embarrassed to be seen reading it in public.

If those stories run like Chinese soaps, then it's not my cup of tea. 10 stories and a postscript. Took a deep breath and plunged through it. Damn, they are soaps. But I suppose I rather read them as short stories than watch them as episodes on tv.

Read the first story 'The Morning After', which dealt with an overprotective mother with an unmarried 41-year-old son who now has found a woman he wants to marry, and said mother's daughter, who's son just came out to her as gay. Then read about Pearl Kwai Chee, the adopted daughter of two amah jieh (who might be lesbian partners) in 'My Two Mothers'Okay, these stories are exactly like soaps. I was less enthusiastic, but nevertheless finished them. Teenage pregnancy, abortions in an era of the government campaign to 'Stop At Two', family feuds, lousy men, strong women, et cetera. It does offer a realistic glimpse into others' lives, tensions and stories from a different era. I'm just not very keen on the genre.

Eponymous title story 'The Lies That Build A Marriage' talks about a young girl's growing up years in the 1960s with parents who struggled to maintain businesses that finally failed, and her acquaintance with Miss Pak Mei, a nightclub hostess who was their tenant, and could finally marry into the Wong family when she got pregnant, in spite of her mother-in-law's disapproval. The story moves into the 1980s when the father has failed in each and every venture and became a bus driver, then a taxi driver, and the mother became a hardened woman who has to keep the family afloat. The protagonist learnt later, Pak Mei's full story, and a possible half-sibling in Ming Li, Mei's daughter whom everyone initially thought was fathered by her eventual husband Mr Wong.

A part of me clung to the status quo. The other part sought knowledge and justice. I smelt the faint odour of exploitation somewhere. The truth was I was curious. But curiosity was not reason enough to destroy the truce that my parents had so painfully built between them. And so I dithered that whole year, and did nothing in the end. 
'To be fair to your father, he left his family for me. I never forgot that. his family was rich. Mine was dirt poor. But he left his family to marry me. And we stayed married. To the end.' 
I heard the note of pride in her voice, a woman's pride—he had loved her first and last. By venting her anger at last, she was getting rid of the bitterness in between. I took my mother's hand and squeezed it hard.  
'That is love, Ma.' 
Her thin frame shook in my arms. I held my seventy-six-year-old mother. I held her tight. She's all I have. Pa's gone. Did she love him? Did he love her? Does it matter now? What is love? Is it fidelity? The act of staying together till death do us part? In the end, everything must end in death and forgiveness. If not, how do we live?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Linguine con le Vongole & A Grilled Crimson Sea Bream

Finally had some time to think about cooking and actually get down to it. Tonight, the man wanted to do linguine con le vongole. I wanted to lightly grill a fish. At some point, we didn't want to eat pasta or have a whole fish at a restaurant when we can do it equally well, if not better.

Popped out to Emporium Shokuhin to get the seafood. It carries good quality stuff that we can't fault, so we shop there rather often. They usually have fresh littleneck clams in stock. There was a full tank of it when we turned up that morning at 10.45am. Lugged home a good 2kg of clams. Stared at the fish counter. The crimson sea bream (チダイ) looked so good, so I took one home. #ImpieCooks2017

The man and I separately went about prepping our chosen dish. Soaking the clams in salt water and cornmeal (in the fridge) works best for us. The combination persuade the clams to give up all remnant sand and grit. All that is needed to be done, is to brush and rinse them out before they go into the steamer. The man steams his clams before giving it a final toss with the pasta.

The fish was perfect. Didn't need to do much. Lightly seasoned it with olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme and lemon. Grilled it in the oven on high heat for 18 minutes, and it was all gorgeously done. With fish this fresh, the stomach was expectedly the tastiest part. Dinner was immensely satisfying. Just two items very well cooked. There's something therapeutic about using the afternoon to leisurely prepare dinner. If only we could do this more often.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Keep With The Cardio

This is me flat out after each cardio-boxing class where about 150 push-ups and 1000 punches are grunted through and thrown, along with some crazy amount of kicks, squats and jumps. Then I do it all over again the next week. Madness.

My first class ended with me utterly winded. I was shell-shocked by how much effort goes into burning something like 700 calories in 45 minutes. It took me six weeks to catch up with the rest of the class. It's never a competition, but I don't want to struggle in class. Yet I don't want to go to all out because I want to stay injury-free and not stress the heart and drop dead. I do stop for water breaks and in a friendly gym environment, no one will pressure anyone to continue. Still I refuse to do push-ups on my knees. It's not about pride. If I want to get stronger, I will do push-ups exactly how they're meant to be done.

I'm not hot about cardio, but it has to be included in the week. I've learnt to embrace the utter SWEATFEST that sees beads of perspiration running down my eyelids, into my eyes or dripping off my chin. At least I've found enjoyable classes to sweat it out at. I dislike running, so that's not a preferred option unless the friends obstinately drag me out shrieking and kicking.