Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mackerel & Karedok

A low-carb meal was fancied for dinner, and the best way would be to cook. Off to the market to see what fish was available. Lots of gorgeous mackerel! Wheeeee. Bought two large ones. Of course I wasn't gonna pan-fry them. I'm not a wok person, and fish this big don't fit into pans, and the oil that would splatter all over the kitchen would be hell to clean. Oven-grilled would be best.

Not much marinade was needed. Mackerel is full of fats and tasty. When they're this fresh, salt and pepper and a touch of lemon juice suffice as a marinade. Shoved them this plain into the oven. They came out all sizzling, oily and happy. Perfect. Skin was seared brown and almost crispy. The meat was delicious. Loads of bones, as expected of a mackerel. We ate with hands. Best way to pick out meat from lurking bones. #ImpieCooks2018

Needed a shot of spices for this meal. Since there was kencur in the larder, karedok would do nicely. Roasted peanuts and blended them with chillies to make a spicy sauce. Greens were needed too. Shredded cabbage, diced long beans, cucumbers and beansprouts, and a ton of shallots for the Sundanese-style salad. Karedok is a little troublesome to whip up, but since there were only two items for dinner, it wasn’t too difficult to prep. The spicy peanut sauce provided layers of flavors to the main of grilled mackerel; the raw vegetables added crunch to the meal.

Friday, March 23, 2018

S's 40th Birthday Luncheon!

Went to Blu Kouzina for S's 40th birthday luncheon. We were in the mood for sparkling wine, and ordered a bottle of easy. Didn't over-order, wheewwwww. Portions and number of items were just right. When L does the ordering, she keeps it exactly to our stomach capacity. Hurhurhur. We couldn't fit in the grilled octopus. Gotta go back for that. Food was really good, along with prompt and warm service that day even though the restaurant was packed out.

Such separate lives we lead, but we keep to regular dates because we enjoy one another's friendship, and I value their counsel and opinions. It was extra wonderful when we all made time to have a loooong lunch so that we could fit in more conversation. Dates with the girlfriends are always such a balm to the soul; lovely to catch up on all the offline nuggets happening in their lives.

The busy birthday girl is in the middle of speaking and facilitating at major back-to-back conferences, as well as gathering her research to fulfil her thesis. On top of managing her kids' schedules. Her partner does a wonderful job of sharing the crunch of family schedules and all, but I still have no idea how she juggles so many hats at the same time. It's been a crazy year and she made it through swimmingly.

Happy Birthday, dearest S. You have such incredible strength and kindness. May you bask in the love of God, family and friends always.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

To The Ice Rink!

The school holidays rolled around and Y called for a date at the ice-skating rink. It wasn't just the Missy who wanted to skate. Y was determined to do a little bit of proper skating too. Oookies. Off we went early in the morning. I wondered about the wisdom of wearing leggings to the skating rink. They won't split, but I could fall and rip them apart. Shrugged and wore them anyway. Rental skates = horrible blunt blade that I could do nothing with. Hence likelihood of falling is super low. Ha! I was rusty, of course. I don't skate nowadays. But my feet won't forget how to move. So it's not difficult to simply glide along, stop, and make it look effortless, as long as I'm not doing fancy stuff that require inner and outer edges of the blade.

Missy doesn't skate often, and could only go to the ice rink during her school holidays, which is like four times a year. Unfortunately, ice skating is one of those things that need constant practice. After warming-up a few rounds with the bar, I made Missy ditch it. Y too, after seeing her go round twice at the railing, I made her come out further. All they needed to do was to keep the ankles turned out and to 'feel the ice'. They did it! When you're at home on the ice, you would be able to conquer that fear of falling. And honestly, you gotta fall a few times in order to know that it's okay to do so.

Missy could glide along feet parallel fine and with good form. But she would need to learn how to push off with her non-master foot. Progress is slow only because she hasn't been doing consecutive lessons. Children likely only need five lessons (likely two to three weeks) to get the hang of gliding evenly on both feet with proper form, and another five to learn how to stop on ice and utilize their inside and outside edges of a pair of figure skates. Missy will have to decide if she wants to once and for all learn to skate decently. She is very occupied by ballet training, which is an equally beautiful movement. If she's ballet-trained, then she could afford to pick up figure-skating a little later and still nail her spins and jumps.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Misty Copeland in ABT's Swan Lake

I really gotta stop counting how many Swan Lakes I'll be watching in this lifetime. I bought tickets to American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' for Misty Copeland. I was quite ready to ditch the tickets if Misty Copeland wasn't dancing on opening night as scheduled. Luckily she did. (Some friends bought tickets to see Hee Seo on the second night.) I'm not going to bother discussing about the ballet itself. The critics can break it down for you exactly how these Swan Lakes differ when different companies present it.

While the corps de ballet were really mesmerizing in Act Three, I was really there to watch Misty Copeland dance Odette/Odile, and for the grand pas de deux. She has been dancing these roles for two years since her 2015 debut as principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre (ABT). When I saw her on stage, she was a little underwhelming. Imho, she's a talented dancer, although her stage presence doesn't fully enchant, yet.

More than being a principal ballerina, in today's context, Misty Copeland is also a celebrity who could cross divides and nail the tough conversations. I didn't bother to read her books- 'Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina' (2014) and 'Ballerina Body' (2017). There're enough interviews and excerpts for me to have an idea of their content. All the marketing and hype surrounding her is typical of Instagram times.

She doesn't shy away from discussions about body image, and the issues that conservative strange part of America will always struggle with- race and bi-racial identities. She also overcame stress fractures in her leg to dance at this professional level. I am glad that she broke through the biases of the world of ballet when it comes to principal ballerinas. That alone, is an incredible feat of determination, effort and hard work put into her chosen career. That's not just talent, it's sheer grit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

St Paddy's Day

Technically, Saint Patrick's Day is none of our business, but since our circle of friends include quite a number of Irish, then I guess it's customary to drink to that, over two nights. With a few pints of Guinness, of course. These pints of Guinness will never beat the properly creamy cold draughts in Ireland or the UK; our local versions would have to do.

The Irish pubs at Boat Quay were packed out. People were just looping around the pubs for $10 pints of Guinness. It was insane- I went at 5pm and by 6.30pm, I couldn’t even turn without bumping into another person. Didn’t want to hang around as more and more people got seriously sloshed. Duly fulfilled my ‘one pint’ each at Boat Quay's Molly's and Penny Black, ate a beef pie and whooshed off to another ‘one pint’ at an equally overflowing Muddy Murphy's at Orchard Road. Okay, drinking done. Hahahaha. Three very sane pints.

The next night was spent at an odd little Witbier bar along Balestier Road which oddly serves up pretty delicious tze char dishes. And $10 pints of Guinness this weekend too. Outdoor seating at Witbier bar was better since we were a big group. Anyway their seating is mostly outdoors next to the road. Too much Guinness? Naaah. It helps that many of us are fond of stouts and porters, and dark beers. Our all-time dependable favorites. It’s not as though we only drink Guinness this weekend. It's drunk all year round.

The friends recommended Witbier bar because it was quiet, and food was good. We were like, good food? Really? They were spot-on about the kopitiam ambience (‘Uncle’ vibes), toilets (kinda eeeky, try not to go or stay longer than an hour), and bus-loads of tourists going to Value Hotel next door. It was nice to hang out for a bit because the company is always awesome. Food came in zi char style and was indeed unexpectedly delicious. There were prawn paste wings (har jeong gai), fried squid in beer batter, beef slices stir-fried with ginger and clam bee hoon. The beef fried rice and fuyong omelette were great. A table of regulars even brought their own fish for the kitchen to fillet and had it steamed Teochew style. The sambal belachan and sambal belado hijau were spicy on point. I still stuck to two pints of Guinness for the night. I would return again for drinks and its food, and ensure that my bladder lasts for that hour.

Monday, March 19, 2018

About Having 'Couple Friends'

The dinner conversation floated to this 'Coupler' app. It's a couple dating app, yup, matching couples to other like-minded couples. Double dating. It makes perfect sense if a couple is relocating without a ready social network in place, or to a strange new faraway city and you have the urge to fill up the weekends with activities that aren’t part of any boring standard social club run by expatriates from the same continent.

The man and I have never relocated for work. Even if we had, the cities that we would have moved to already hold an existing circle of friends (for us both). Given our interests, we wouldn't have a problem joining uhhh 'hobby groups' to fill our after-work hours. I highly doubt I'll use 'Coupler' or any similar app. The chances of me meeting people from a secret supper club or book club is higher. That's not to say online acquaintances can't turn into friends. They can, and these apps could save us loads of time when doing double-dates and sift out the awkwardness of first meetings by delving straight into complementary interests and views.

You can discount the time if you had studied overseas because when you're a student, you'd oddly have a mushrooming social life, whether you like it or not. I made a conscious choice to stay away from parties, not join any Singapore clubs and hang out alone. Solitude is always preferable. Then I recalled the op-ed in The Washington Post about having 'couple friends' and threw it up for discussion too. It's written by Rachel Raczka and published on March 13 2018,'Why are we so obsessed with having couple friends?' Well, the man and I are not; apparently neither are these friends whom we were having dinner with.

The last few paragraphs from said article in The Washington Post.

This article quoted loads from this book that I don't think I want to read, 'Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships' (2012) written by Drs Geoffrey L. Greif and Kathleen Hoitz Deal. "Greif and his writing partner Kathleen Holtz Deal explored the dynamics of couples and their couple friends, and found that heterosexual relationships benefited best when they were able to connect on a deep emotional level with another couple." I'm not particularly keen on reading about gender roles, defined, re-defined or otherwise.

Well, the man and I like having varied sets of friends who could also be couples. We love them all. (By 'couple', here, I'm not just defining it as a heterosexual pairing.) It's rather silly to stick to one set of 'best couple friends'. It's virtually impossible. You can, but there's no point. The man and I don't even do everything together, much less watch the same genre of shows. We're not stepping into the realm of (leisure) traveling with friends either. (Unless there's a firm itinerary or an end goal to this trip.) That's quite a no-no for me. I've got eccentric interests and strong opinions, and I wouldn't want to ram those down anyone's throat.

We never compare our relationship to another, or discuss what we think of the other couple's dynamics. Mainly because, 'why the f^*k should we care as long as they're happy with each other? It's other people's business.' It's not in our place to comment. On the other hand, there can't be a persistent fight or niggling thought about 'Why can't you be more like so-and-so?' That is the death knell for any relationship. If you continue this partnership wanting more or differently in terms of fundamental outlook, lifestyles, aspirations and values, then perhaps this relationship isn't meant to be.

There's also this matter of 'staying friends with whom' when a couple breaks up. It happens all the time. Depending on who's closer to whom, I guess. Often, the friendship melts away into something distant as the different people find new partners and build up new social circles. It's a fluid thing, isn't it? If friendship happens as they organically do, it happens. If it doesn't, it simply won't.

“Sometimes when you’re in a couple and have individual friend groups and you try to just add your significant other into that world, it can be awkward,” Nitschelm explained. “This way, it helps you start on the same footing with new friends together.” 
Couple friendships aren’t always a positive. Like all friendships, couple friendships can be toxic. House explained that if the connection with another couple is only surface level and not deep, such a friendship “can actually hurt the [romantic] relationship because you might get bored and have a bad time.” 
“If you’re bringing out the negativity in your relationships, you might be bringing out the negativity in that other couple’s relationship, too,” House said. “And they’ll start to realize, ‘Every time we hang out with that couple, we get in a fight, too. Why is that?’ No one wants to be around negative people. It’s entertaining at first, but we don’t want to actually live it. The reason you have couple friends is to feel better, not worse.”

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Giuseppe X Carlo At Lighthouse

The man and I were invited to a four-hands dinner presented by Chef Giuseppe Costa of Il Bavaglino in Sicily and Chef Carlo Marengoni who currently helms Fullerton Hotel's Lighthouse Restaurant. The six-course dinner came with wine pairing. Okaaay. Wine it would be for the night. I loved it that they chose to serve a Franciacorta (La Valle 2006 Regium) to start. It was a very refreshing change from the usual Prosecco.

The appetizer of braised octopus with carmelized celery was beautiful. Loved it. Carbs came in the form of an arancini (which I gave away since fried rice balls in any form don’t appeal to me), and scampi tossed spaghetti with nettle cream and candied lemon. I was nursing a mildly swollen eye from allergies; had to give away the scampi too, and hoped that whatever left in the pasta and sauce wouldn’t make the eye flare more.

Secondi Piatti came in the form of a red meat and a fish- a seared amberjack with garbanzo cream, sweet and sour onions on a red wine cloud. The red meat was a Nero Dávola wine-braised veal cheek with garbanzo cream, cabbage salad and fennel seeds, of which I gave away half of the bite-sized portion. Wasn’t in the mood for red meat tonight. After ingesting bread at the start, the portions of dinner turned out to be more than suffficient for my stomach.

Dessert was a traditional Sicilian baba in rhubarb sauce, lemon cream and bergamot essence. The baba came in a mini size. Two cute little pieces. I took one bite. The rhubarb sauce was good. That was surprisingly enjoyable. The man was simply pleased that he got to have dessert at one meal. Hahaha. After dessert was served, the two chefs came out to say hello to the dining room.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Healing Crystals and Such

Reiki, singing bowls and healing and protective crystals are so out there in New Age techniques. Beyond understanding its scientific frequency and vibrations, the practice itself is not something I'll ever understand. I get Infinity Stones and Soul Gems. Or if you think a pretty crystal or stone is your lucky charm. However, when you talk about healing crystals and energy points (or 'chi'), cupping therapy, gua sha and all, they fly over my head.

I ain’t gonna sit around while the friends recharge their crystals in running water or moonlight or wave the smoke from sage leaves around the house. I won’t bother with wearing or carrying a crystal around with me for 'protection'. Perhaps it works for some, but it doesn't do anything for me. It's not something I'm into, the same reason why the deeper practice of yoga and its meditative aspects don't appeal because each asana is supposed to open up the corresponding chakra, soothing the imbalance of energies to restore the flow to the mind and body. I cannot.

I ROTFL at glass water bottles touted for its healing properties because of the sealed chamber of crystals sitting in there. Have you seen it? The two-hundred-dollar 500ml bottles?  I'm sure they didn't just suddenly pop up and sound all Goop-ish. These articles about 'heavenly crystal water bottles' on Gizmodo (sent by NatGeo for the magazine's review. NatGeo? Seriously?)Refinery29 (helpfully telling readers all about this trend) and PopSugar (they interviewed Miranda Kerr about her rose quartz bottles) are such a hoot. I was randomly surfing and blinked at how Free People literally has a whole page of crystal-things to sell. Okaaaay. Mind-boggling.

The open mind I keep is for my friends. Learning about these crystals and New Age theories lets me understand the friends' interest and their inner worlds. I want them to explain their beliefs to me, the same way that I'd do for mine if they ask. But I'm certainly not going to evangelize to them. I pray for my friends to find their way through darkness, with their chosen faiths, mainstream or otherwise. We're free to believe what we choose, and I respect that. The diversity and honesty of these friendships I hold dear help me to be a better person.

The corresponding crystals to the seven chakras on the human body, according to esoteric religions.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Prata Meals In A Day!

It's been a ton of prata this whole week. Although I get to burn 'em calories, I've got prata coming out my ears. Three consecutive meals of prata were quite enough. Prata coma is real. I don't want to eat another prata till May. 😨

We were in the area at lunchtime and hit R.R Indian Stall at the Lim Kopi kopitiam at Block 107 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4. The stall moved to this new venue from its previous space at Block 252. Didn’t take any photos at this eatery. Some said that the carrot cake (萝卜糕) at this area is good too. Forgot to ask which stall that is, and if it's in the same kopitiam. There’re two kopitiams side by side at this block. And another three more across the road at Block 108.

This location is rather far to casually swing by if we’re not in the area. Apparently this stall is known for its murtabak and Indian rojak, neither of which we ordered. Its prata is middling at best. Neither was the dough wasn’t tasty or the least bit crisp. But its curries were great. The fish curry was piquant and thick. The order of delicious chicken curry came with the thigh meat and bone. Spices were on point.

The table at Springleaf Prata Place.

Then there was dinner at Springleaf Prata Place at Jalan Tua Kong, a prata venue we always default to. These crazy people. They ordered a stack of prata kosong, and another stack of prata with egg. The fish curry offered here to go with the prata is okay; it isn't tangy and not as flavorful as one would expect of a properly broiled pot of curry with fish bones. It's kind of...cursory. It still tasted better than its previously offerred chicken curry which really stank. But its prata is truly crispy. If you care about that, Springleaf does it so well.

I had to order a beehoon goreng putih ikan bilis. I couldn't deal with this much prata!! The table also happily ordered mutton mysore and lamb biryaniAnd as though we didn't have enough prata, they still ordered a dessert prata!!! With red bean paste. Obviously the other people at the table had enough stomach space to polish off the entire plate of dessert. Goodness! 😵

Dessert prata- with red bean paste.