Monday, September 16, 2019

College & Class Differences


Having gone through Singapore's education system in its 'elite' schools and wisened up in US colleges, I'm blind to many faults of such a system because, echo chamber. I'm reminded of privileges and exclusions each time I come across personal stories of academic difficulties and a long road to securing and receiving an education. I'm reminded of it again in Alison Stine's story published in Longreads in February 2019, titled 'Class Dismissed', and how academic achievements and meritocracy can be an oxymoron.

I don't know how children, teenagers and young adults behave in school now, or what they think of. I don't have children. I don't have many close friends who have children. I don’t interact with many children, and prefer to keep it this way. I only know that children today are way savvy than we were back then, not just because of greater knowledge gleaned and the aid of technology, but it's a whole new world with a different set of social rules now.

Is a college degree important? It depends on where you live, what your values are, and the sort of job that matters to you. Unfortunately, all these 'revelations' and decisions won't come to you in your twenties. Real life ultimately doesn't quite gel with what you thought you'd be when you grow up. Unless you're superbly focused.

I went to work after graduation, like everyone else. I didn't have to pay off student loans (no bank loans or scholarships or bonds) or in the Singapore context, pay off the parents' CPF monies used for my education. I was free to travel, explore freelance work and such instead of staying put in an office. When I finally hauled ass back to Singapore and dipped toes into an office life, I didn't like it very much. I'm obviously not interested in climbing the corporate ladder. Graduate programs are useful; but not for me. I didn't see the need to do a PhD for my line of work.

Not coming from the world of privilege made navigating the real world after college challenging. I didn’t have student loans, surviving on a combination of scholarships, work study, summer jobs, and what my parents had saved, but many of my college friends weren’t as lucky. Our wealthiest classmates didn’t have this burden of repayment; they weren’t starting out already buried by debt. 
On a teaching assistantship, I went to graduate school: another academic institution wound by wealth. I was surprised that many of my classmates said they were there just to learn; I was there hoping to ultimately land a good job with my degree. I had to have a job to live: learning was an afterthought. 
My boyfriend at the time never finished the program, due to financial constraints. My longtime partner later in life had had the same experience: dropping out of a PhD program because his car broke down and he couldn’t get to class. He was one of the only ones among his graduate school class with a day job.

In this day and age, many young people in Singapore seem to have more varied career choices. As long as they get to pay rent, utilities and bills, and fulfill obligations to living parents and such, I suppose it works. I'm still woefully uneducated about what the world's students think, because in this region, we're still ruled by how well we do academically, and later on, how much money we earn, and how much respect we can get by the cars we drive or the lifestyles we lead.

Do we hang out with people who share similar educational backgrounds? I dunno. It might an unconscious gravitation because, conversation topics, humor, types of films watched and books read, et cetera. Don't we hang out with people who share similar interests, and who aren't assholes? I certainly don't care if my friends have a college degree. I care that we're on these same thought wavelengths and values when it comes to the fundamentals in life.

The author doesn't seem have turned out too bad. But I daren't presume simply from this article. I am glad that the author respected her scholarship and had a healthy fear of losing it. That probably kept her safe from the craziness of frat partying, young love, alcohol and drugs. These are the things that could derail anyone from the academic track, or kick one into the gutters of life.

Certainly, cheap beer flowed like a constant, sticky river. Boys lined bathtubs with garbage bags filled with “jungle juice” which was every bottle of alcohol in the dorm poured together, with a lot of malt liquor thrown in; it was always red. But many of my classmates had had the access and allowance to drink for years before I could. They were familiar with alcohol and used it to their advantage; they continued to lavish cash on partying expensive and hard. 
And rarely faced consequences. 
Because I feared getting in trouble, because I had no safety net and was terrified of losing my scholarships, I didn’t drink much. This further outcast me. I couldn’t even party like the others, bonding at frat parties. Not having had high school or family experiences with drinking also made me vulnerable. I tried to keep my drink with me at all times to stay safe, but I certainly couldn’t hold my liquor. 
It wasn’t experience that kept me from getting hurt those years, it was dumb luck and my own terror.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Trying Out A Syrah

The man wanted to cook. He hadn't cooked for ages because work demands too much attention. He was finally free to do an easy pasta dinner on a Sunday night. A penne of fresh rosemary English sausages, cannellini beans in a tomato sauce topped with grated pecorino was perfect. Vegetables were needed. Grilled zucchini and pumpkin as side bites. That was a simple and filling dinner.

The base sauce of tomatoes required red wine. We had bought wine from Thirsty's warehouse sale; one of those bottles should do. (Apparently the sale is going to be a monthly thing. And yes, we went to a beer and cider sale and bought wine. Hahaha.) Cooking wine is not meant to be horrid anyway. If we're using a little for cooking, we might as well drink the rest of it.

So we opened up a bottle of Holus Bolus 2016 syrah. I'm not a fan of shiraz/syrah. But new world syrah is friendlier than the standard shiraz; many are produced without all the odd spices. This bottle was bought on discount, and rightly so. Wines are overpriced in Singapore. This wine is nothing to shout about, but it's wonderful for cooking because it's fairly drinkable. However, it isn't my favorite type of wine. I'm still not a fan of syrah, so I dunno if this is any good. However, I would not pay S$65 for this bottle of wine (in its year) in a restaurant.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Choya Was A Bad Girl


From friends playing to a fight, and nipping. Choya and Maddie had a spat. I couldn't tell who started it, and what the triggers were. I only knew it escalated very quickly within five barks. They were playing-then-fighting very near us. I pulled Choya away and the friends scooped up Maddie. I wished I could have reacted faster.

Choya is double-coated. She would be fine. I turned to Maddie straightaway. The girl had a dozen scratches and a puncture on her left hind leg. I grabbed the bottle of diluted iodine and wet a cotton pad. Then I applied pressure to the wound. When that wound stopped bleeding after a minute, I was relieved. It could have been much worse. *shudder* It wasn't a deep puncture and didn't require lavage or stitches. BUT, it was a wound and it was a bit close to the femoral arteries. It hurt. The poor girl would favor the injury and limp for a few days. I was thankful that I had just completed the SkillsFuture Canine First Responder course; the knowledge gleaned calmed me.

We were mortified and very apologetic. The friends were really understanding about it. And being seasoned pet owners, they weren't too worried about Maddie. Heartache lah. It would cause them trouble to have to consider the dog's playtime and nurse her wounds. It was a relief to know that apple cider vinegar worked its magic, and Maddie healed in three days (at least for the wound to scab over properly).

We scolded Choya immediately so that she could connect the dots and know that her actions weren't approved or allowed. (When we got home, she had to stay in the naughty corner for the rest of the night. No cuddles and no treats. We ignored her. She wasn't allowed out to roam and play.) She seemed contrite and knew immediately that she did something wrong. She bowed low and laid on the tummy, and came nearer to try to see Maddie. They nosed each other again before we left, and both were calm. But you never know with dogs, I'm not going assume. This reminds me that I cannot be less watchful around the dogs, especially when this Shiba Inu is a basal wild thing,

Many playdates ago. I very much prefer Choya to submit to Maddie.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Weekend Brunch


When the man realized that P and A would be at Carrotsticks & Cravings Robertson Quay for brunch at the same time that we would be, he arranged a date. We hadn't caught up in ages, and while our schedules don't allow for regular meets (it's more likely that we pop in to the same events), they're great people and we enjoy one another's company. We care enough to sit down for a chat.

Remember I don't like pancakes? Well, I like these ones at Carrotsticks & Cravings because they're NOT the usually flour-y, airy, buttery ones. These pancakes are small, flat, and gluten-free with almond meal. It's not cloying at all. Be warned, if you love regular pancakes, you're going to hate these. Air-fried tempeh and avocado really go well together. Who would have thought?! Oof. I've loved this combination as a kid, and am seriously tickled to see it on the brunch menus nowadays. Food at this branch of Carrotsticks & Cravings is decent, and the outdoor seating by the river is lovely. Made for a happy weekend meet.

The dogs met for the first time and were surprisingly tolerant of one another. Haha. Best. We didn't need them to play well, but we couldn't have them fighting. The dogs went out to the sidewalk at the river, and easily entertained themselves and the kid. The kid kept himself occupied by running around and getting onto his scooter and into the little cars provided by the cafe. We simply kept an eye on the little tots, getting up to intervene when either dogs or kid got too hyper or angsty. Heh.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Bone Broth For Choya


Retrieved Choya from boarding. While she liked her minders and was in a familiar venue, it was clear that she was happy and thrilled to see us. She knew all her usual spots at home and hadn't forgotten her house-training. But she has lost weight. Haizzz. She cannot afford to lose any more weight. As comfortable as she was staying with K, apparently she missed us and didn't eat much. It's time to fatten up the girl.

When Choya was moody these few weeks from the man's traveling and our vacation, she didn't just lose her appetite. She also lost loads of interest in dry food, even if wet food is mixed in, so I need to get her interested in it again. And I thought I was under-feeding her. Dohhhh. I'm slowly transitioning her to fresh food (gonna take months), so I would still prefer a meal base of kibbles (Instinct Raw+Boost or its equivalent). Then I'm free to experiment with toppers of wet food (either rehydrated dry nuggets or canned or freshly cooked). Her food should be varied in order to cultivate healthy gut flora and such. She shouldn't get too used to any one type of food, in case allergies flare.

Instead of adding water to her kibbles, I added beef bone broth to round out the meal, and make it more attractive to the dog. My current choice of beef bone broth comes from The Barkery. Comprising a total of 350ml, the frozen pieces are easy to retrieve for portion-size. When heated up, one frozen piece melts into 35ml of broth, which is perfect to soak up ¾ cup of kibbles for this 7-kg dog.

That broth smelt sooo good. I tasted it. Wow! The Barkery made a beautiful broth. It was superbly delicious. It also has bits of meat and such in each frozen piece. I wouldn't bother boiling bone broth at home only because I don't have a slow boiler, pressure cooker or a Thermomix. No. I'm not buying any. Buying frozen bone broth works out better for me. The warm broth lends a deeper flavor to the kibbles. Choya seems to enjoy it. Or at least it kept up her appetite for the first few days of settling back into her routine and calming an angsty gastrointestinal tract.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Soy Sauce Chicken For The In-Laws

We rarely have the man's parents over for dinner simply because I fear cooking for them. Their tastebuds are so conservative and they've got so many dietary preferences that everything would simply taste weird if I tweak it to, 'way-less-spicy, no sesame oil, no ginger, no lemongrass and no-no-no a ton of other things', plus they like to see plenty of dishes on the table. I cannot.

The man requested for Hong Kong style soy sauce chicken (豉油雞) for dinner. I gave it a whirl in the head, just to see if logistics would work if we had his parents over too. Took the plunge. Since I would be using a whole chicken, I asked him to invite his parents over for a simple dinner. Instructed him to tell his parents that dinner would be simple with only two dishes, and to stress that the main dish would be said chicken with basmati rice, and not white jasmine rice. I don't have the capacity to do more dishes.


I repeated this same menu of soy sauce chicken, double-boiled soup of freshly extracted chicken essence with fish maw and mushrooms, choy sum with garlic, and a test batch of braised pork ribs in black bean sauce (豆豉燜排骨). This menu is dependable and conservative enough for most tastebuds. I didn't have the energy or time to fry up side dishes. These would have to do. #ImpieCooks2019

There was an earlier test batch of pickled green chillies sitting in the fridge, so I took out some for the MIL. She loves pickled green chillies, and apparently these hit a spot. Made every sauce with the help of the food processor- the ginger scallion sauce (薑蔥蓉), a mix of dark and light soy dip for the chicken, as well as a Hong Kong style chilli sauce. Sauces made from scratch are time-consuming; I cannot be arsed about making extra eggs, braising tau kwa or tofu and such.

While the in-laws have been visiting here and there to drop off random stuff and groceries/parcels, and recently, to see the dog, this might well be only the second time they came over for dinner proper in this flat. 🤭😬

Monday, September 09, 2019

Bye Bye Margaret River!


The man and I were so busy settling stuff before the trip that we had no time to consider that we would be having a lovely vacation. We finally relaxed only on the morning of our flight out to Perth. The fish congee I ordered for the in-flight breakfast totally hit a spot, and nicely filled the stomach till dinner.

The earlier decades were spent knowing French and Italian wines, no thanks to forced family trips to wineries where I was supposed to be educated in the finer points of life. I resolutely refused to retain much of that information, unless the wines happen to be the types I prefer. Hahaha. I'll never be a wine snob or a wine connoisseur. I shall carry on drinking what the tastebuds like, never mind its credentials or vintage.

In Margaret River, I finally understood my newfound capacity for wine, especially well-produced new world reds. As much I'm not into wine, I rather welcome it nowadays when whisky is a little heavy on the liver, and a pint of beer is way filling. Wine is a great compromise. A 750ml bottle nourishes four of us gently, about two glasses each. That's reasonable. As long as I keep telling myself that it's grape juice, I can finish a bottle on my own. #NotAnAlcoholicYet


This was a much-needed vacation for the man and I, to have a little break from the crushing pressure of his increased portfolio at work, and for us to get over the shock of an omnipresent neurotic dog. We enjoyed every day in Margaret River and Perth City, and came back feeling refreshed and ready to take on these final few months of the year with all its challenges.

This trip truly fed our souls and renewed our spirits. It had been unbelievably awesome. We had tons of fun and so much joy. It wouldn't have been this fulfilling without the wonderful company and conversation of J and L. We couldn't ask for more. We closed this trip with a grateful heart to our magnanimous and gracious friends.

[9] Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart: and the good counsels of a friend are sweet to the soul. [17] Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.  
~ Proverbs Chapter 27, Douay-Rheims

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Imp at East Vic Park


Before we left Perth city, I had to step into The Imp, at least for a coffee. Dragged everyone out to East Victoria Park for one last hipster brunch. The only table available on a busy morning was out on the sidewalk. Perfect, no problem sitting outdoors in this area. It was a beautiful morning.

Once seated, L looked up and into laughter. Our table was kinda under the shop sign. She insisted on taking a photo. I cackled and obliged. Took a bunch of photos of the streets and shops for the BFF since it was her old stomping ground. It has changed a lot though. There's a new single-storey mall with various little shops, a butcher, a giant Coles and a K-mart.

My heart ached at all the water bowls placed on the floor by the eateries. They welcomed dogs accompanied by their humans who would sit outdoors, and enjoy the morning bites. Many cuties stopped by. Big ones, little ones, loud ones, quiet ones. The humans kept their dogs on the leash, and close by their feet; they made sure the dogs don't bother the other patrons. It's such a different vibe from staid Singapore cafes who are bound by strict regulations.

The cafe was full and there was a never-ending stream of humans getting their coffee and food. But our orders didn't take long to arrive. The men went for broke with a big breakfast. Eggs, bacon, spinach and sausages, homemade hash (not the frozen hashbrowns, but a creamier croquette) bread. L and I went for the smashed avo on bread, and added homemade hash. Hurhurhur. Ahhh... that flat white was as good as I remembered it to be. Very comforting.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Beers! Beers! Beers!

It isn’t all about wines on this trip. We’re eyeing the beers too. We didn’t bother to make it to the craft beer festival in Perth city. The full-day+night lashing rains right on the date of the beer fest ensured lower attendance, and us bailing out of getting drenched. The rains were worse that Seattle’s all-day grey drizzle when we had suffer them at open-air gigs. I definitely do not want to stand in cold wet rain and wind in any city, not for any reason, and never for alcohol.

There’re plenty of bottle shops and breweries in the Margaret River region for me drink my fill to pile on the calories. We also hung out at the chic Petition Beer in Perth City. I drank a fair bit of James Squire’s The Chancer Golden Ale. It’s so refreshing that it always feels like I’m drinking a spritzer. Two breweries that I really like also gave me loads of great craft beers.


Old Coast Brewery

Stopped at Old Coast Road Brewery for an afternoon breather from all the driving. The brewery had recently received a lot of flak for their food. We weren't there to eat, so it didn't matter. By the time we got there, only drinks were available, exactly what we wanted.

The friends got a regular apple cider and an apple + blackberry cider, which were surprisingly good. We got beer, pale ales and pilsners. And bought extras cans of apple cider and a stout to stock up for those nights when we didn’t want wine anymore. The stout was pretty good! The scenery and carbonated drinks helped with stretching out stiff legs.


Bootleg Brewery

Had to get out to Bootleg Brewery. It looked too cute to ignore. Dogs were allowed too! Never mind the rains and grey, the premises’ sweeping views were still breathtaking. Ahhh. I was happy. Space is such a treat for this city girl. Singapore breweries and bars will never have such luxurious views.

We took a tasting portion of a few of its taps. The session ale was light and easy—it's perfect for Singapore's heat. Stocked up on some ales. Bought a four-pack session ale to-go. Gonna pack them into the suitcase. Spotted the ‘Scorpion’, which is the chilli pale ale that they sold to-go only. Took it back to the apartment for a laugh. Although there was heat in the beer which made it odd, it wasn’t that bad! I wouldn't say it's drinkable because nobody would want to finish the whole bottle unless it's a challenge! I didn’t take more than three sips. Had no wish for the mouth to be on fire!


Three Rivers Brewing

On the way in to Perth city, we stopped at this little brewery in Mandurah for a refresher. Three Rivers Brewing was located in an industrial area, no views to speak of, but man, their beers were good. Trina and Mark Rivers truly love their brews and hops.

Three Rivers Brewing leans towards producing English-style ales and porters. Everyone ordered different drinks. Tap and bottles. I took a ‘Silent Knight’ porter. Mmm, haven’t had one of those in a while. It was properly tasty. The ‘Duck’s Nuts’ was indeed so! This brewery's beers are easily my favorites of the trip.