May 31, 2012

Team lunch at Level 33

Had lunch at Level 33 today, thanks to my boss who sponsored a team lunch since Sarah was in town. We were joined by Cris from Inside Sales.

We didn’t have a reservation but luckily they were able to clear a table for us. We all had the set lunch, at $33++ it offers good value with a Ploughmans table for the appetizers and desserts. There was a decent spread of pasta salads, leafy salads, chilled meats, cheeses and chilled seafood and a few cakes and fresh fruit.

I was so full from my appetisers already but managed to almost finish the Burger and Chips I ordered. It was a waygu patty, a very thick one at that served with truffle aioli, cheddar, bacon and egg.

Sounded promising but I was a little disappointed as the egg was a tiny quail’s one, the bacon was half a slice and the aioli only on the top bun and a small amount at that. The fries were fat though!

This morning I woke up horrified to find my beloved DVF Lune dress on the galah…Wendy had washed it in the machine…horrors!

Can’t blame her though, it was Nick who had put it in the laundry basket though it’s supposed to be dry-cleaned, the twit. The first time I wore it, I actually went to Level 33. The boy feels contrite and has offered to buy a new dress…rest assured I will ketuk!

Fight fight!

What a dramatic day! Witnessed a fight on my 196 bus this morning and the police were involved.

All started at the SGH bus-stop, after I had just got on at Kampong Bahru. 2 men, a Chinese and a Malay got into a bit of a scuffle as they tried to board at the same time, one accusing the other of pushing him when suddenly the Malay man pushed the Chinese guy out of the bus, causing him to land on his back at the bus stop and break his glasses.

I helped pick a lens up and the Chinese guy continued to board all the time exchanging words with the Malay man but by the time we approached the next bus stop, they had already started punching each other and someone requested to call the police, so I did.

I was trying to stay calm when I called the police, was worried I would get caught in the exchange or that when the aggressor realised help was being called, he would get more violent.

In the midst of the confusion, the Malay man disembarked and hopped onto another bus, but not before a commuter had snapped a picture of him. All the bus passengers had to alight since it was a police case, the cops got there in a few minutes…we were just opposite the police complex.

The incident made me later than usual for work but I had a valid excuse.

Went out for lunch with Sarah and another colleague Aaron. Sarah had mentioned wanting to try bak kut teh, so I took them to the Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha. I live so near, but it was actually my first time eating there, Nick had only tapaued once before when they first shifted to the PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex.

The soup is how I like it, peppery but it isn’t as peppery as Founder’s I think. They have the option to have lean meat in the soup instead of ribs, so Aaron had that since he is not proficient with chopsticks.

I had the regular ribs and we shared some veggies, kiam chye and peanuts. As an alternative to rice, they also had mee sua so I ordered that, but I think bak kut teh has to be eaten with rice. It was nice, but not filling enough!

We walked one round to see what other stalls there were, I had no idea there were so many coffeeshops in this place! At least 6-7 and some promising-looking stalls, I have to go back and try the 2 prawn mee ones I spotted.

We stumbled onto what looked like a tourist trap shop selling chocolates. It was in one ulu corner but very crowded with Indian and Chinese tourists snapping up overpriced snacks and a brand of chocolate I had never heard of.

I suspect it’s a tourist trap because really, there was a tin of wafers I’ve seen at NTUC retailing for $2, but here it was on ‘offer’ at $6.

Later in the evening, after the kids slept surprisingly on time, Nick and I headed out to Quarubar at Frankel to meet the rest of the gang. Nice chilled out place with live music. The original plan was to go Mambo tonight to ring in Kavi’s birthday but she had to work so we celebrated without her!

May 29, 2012

MBS Light Show

My Beijing-based colleague Sarah is in town and she’ll be here till Friday so my aim is to make sure she tries as many local dishes as possible. She’s already had chicken rice and chilli crab with her relative who lives here and after work today, I showed her how to get to Orchard.

I collected my MBMJ toiletry pouch and rushed home to eat before we took the kids out to One Fullerton. Sasha was once again frightened of the Merlion, so was Gigi.

We strolled for a bit and then sat down to catch the laser and fountain show across the pond at MBS. Kids were initially scared by the loud music but by the end, they were enjoying themselves and clapping.

With it being the school holidays, there’ll be more such outings since they nap in the afternoons and sleep later at night.

May 28, 2012

Going Gaga

Today was the much anticipated Lady Gaga concert at the Indoor Stadium, the first of 3 shows. We had bought our tickets during the Amex pre-sale months ago and I had ample time to familiarise myself with her songs, but I didn’t!

Can’t say I’m a big fan of her music, was there more for the entertainment value, I knew it was bound to be quite a spectacle and she didn’t disappoint.

Met Rena after work and we took the train down and joined the queue to enter with Swana and Kevin, followed by Banu shortly after. The organisers had issued wrist bands with serial numbers for those in the free-standing area but they proved to be pointless as no one really checked them or followed the sequence.

When we entered the arena, we stood about 6 people deep from the front of the barricade for our section, so it wasn’t really that bad a view until people started jumping or waving their arms.

There was a DJ spinning really nice music to warm up the crowd and Lady Gaga herself hit the stage about 8.30pm. There was a bit of an alien storyline to tie the show together and she made her entrance on a horse dressed like an alien.

A huge Gothic castle formed the backdrop for her elaborate set pieces, she changed outfits practically every one or two songs and was accompanied by a posse of dancers, I felt like I was watching an MTV Music Awards show because not many performers come here with such a big entourage or stage set, except for Michael Jackson in the past.

She had a modified meat dress, an origami crane dress, a white paper doily dress, the alien outfit, some S&M bondage outfit, a Stormtrooper type dress and she sang all her hits from Just Dance, to Paparazzi, You and I, Alejandro, Bad Romance, Marry the Night, Telephone etc.

The crowd went wild whenever she mentioned Singapore, she was quite chatty throughout the show and talked about being bullied as a teen and encouraged everyone to be themselves because they were ‘Born This Way’.

I think I can’t do standing concerts anymore, my feet were killing me by the end of the night and I didn’t really get into the swing of things because of the blocked view from the tall heads around me and the distance from stage. But there’s another standing concert on the horizon, Jason Mraz on 29 June!

As we exited the show, Germaine finally located us…she had a moustache on, siao char boh!

May 27, 2012

Nangka Busuk

Oh my poor Sasha-bao, she had a major fall today and thank goodness she seems fine thus far.

We were having lunch in town with Mildred after attending mass together. There was a good deal on at Sante Fe, selected mains were at 50% off and I had me some ribs and mashed potato, and quesadillas.

After lunch, while Nick had brought Nat to pee, Mildred said she wanted to bring Sasha into OG. She started carrying her and I told her not to, and to let her walk. But she insisted it was for a short while, and next thing I knew, both of them went tumbling down as Mildred missed a step.

Sasha was sort of thrown onto the floor, landing on her right side and her head would have hit the ground. Mildred’s knees gave way and she landed on top of Sasha, on her bad knees. Sasha was screaming her head off but I was more concerned about Mildred, falling at her age is worse.

It took a while to pacify Sasha, she was really shocked by the whole thing but so far so good, no signs of concussion.

Incidentally, I spotted this sign at a traffic light in Bugis this morning…I know that LTA frowned upon it, viewing it as vandalism, but it’s funny no?

In the evening, we ventured to Chai Chee where we had an impromptu bubba gathering. Nat was a bit reluctant to go, methinks she’s embarrassed by her condition but she forgot all about it as soon as she saw her cousins.

John was there, and even Vim and Ajen made it. Nice lazy Sunday evening…

Yesterday was another lazy day. Brought all 3 kids to Ikea where they each were pushed around on a trolley. Bought a princess/mosquito net for Nat, she claims she will sleep in her own bed once I install it. Ya right!

I sat through the girls’ Chinese class, Gigi refused to let me out of her sight for some reason. The rest of the day was spent at Membina.

May 26, 2012

PE Time!

It was the last day of school today, or rather yesterday and the kids didn’t have any lessons. Instead there was a charity fair at school and a demonstration of the their weekly PE lessons conducted by external trainers.

I took the morning off to accompany Nat and got to see her little friends. She and Gigi are very tight with girls named Christabella and Charlene!

I bought some books and we spent 45 mins observing their PE lesson where they jumped, hopped, balanced balls and tried to score goals. Nat is so kuniang and after a while, she and Gigi were more interested in chatting with their friends than enhancing their motor skills.

Nat’s peeing hasn’t improved, in fact it regressed so we went to KK yesterday. Had a long, thorough consultation with a very nice Dr Loh, and after taking some urine samples etc, it was found that there was no more bacteria in Nat.

The problem could now be psychological or stress-related, or pain-related as she had some redness on her skin. Or perhaps her muscles got weakened and we now have to make her practice controlling.

Swana had her D&D today and Nick had a NATAS dinner so I was left with all 3 kids this evening. Managed to put them all to bed one by one, Gigi was wondering where her parents were but sleep eventually prevailed. After that I was bored and dying to get out on a Friday night, so as soon as Swana was done (she won a camera in her lucky draw!), she picked me up and we headed to Sentosa’s Skyloft.

Very nice place, though very dead for a Friday. Drinks were decent and reasonably priced, the band was The Unexpected so Swana’s friend Colin was around.

There was a lovely view of the sea, I can imagine it being very nice during sunset…might go back to try the food. Jack and Rai perform there on Thursdays so maybe a night out with the boy.

May 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Yawn, I’m so tired…still trying to adjust to Singapore time. We arrived super early yesterday morning and instead of going to Membina immediately, I chose to snooze. What was supposed to be 2-hour nap turned into a 4-hour one, so Nick left me at home and went to see the girls first.

They didn’t seem overly excited to see us but I think the absence made Sasha fonder of me…she’s not resisting my hugs and kisses and doesn’t protest when I put her to sleep.

Had a belated Mother’s Day lunch for Mummy at Bali Thai in Novena Square…very empty but the food was not bad. Loved the tom yam.

Went to AMK in the evening, Mildred is very concerned about Nat’s peeing habits. The munchkin developed a UTI while we were away and is currently on antibiotics. She was going every 15mins from Tuesday night onwards, and on Friday Ma brought her to the doc.

The frequency has reduced to 30min intervals but there’s no noticeable improvement so we might have to go back for a second opinion after the antibiotics finish. Poor girl’s been on 2 courses of antibiotics already in a short space of time. I hope it’s nothing serious.

May 17, 2012

Best of Holland (Day 6, 17 May 2012)

In the blink of an eye, 6 days of touring have come to an end! We are back in Amsterdam for one night at the Mercure Aan de Amstel Hotel before departing tomorrow morning for Singapore.

I fried my own eggs at breakfast this morning, they had a corner for you to DIY! Even provided wet wipes and all.

We kicked off today's sightseeing with a short ride to Workum where we had a short rest stop and managed to have drinks with Ananda again. The smell of dung permeated the air again but after a while you get used to it.

We then drove on towards Friesland province on the Afsluitdijk, a 30km stretch of causeway along the Zuiderzee, a bay belonging to the North Sea that was dammed off, forming a freshwater lake on the other side. It was a major project in the 30s and there was a monument dedicated to the architect which we stopped at. There were tonnes of giant mosquitoes flying about and they sort of swarmed the bus windows and a number of them went splat on the windshield!

We continued on to Edam, the town the cheese is named after. It was another pretty village, and then on we went to Volendam to stop for lunch and some R&R time. They had plenty of souvenir shops and being on the coast, I felt it only apt we eat some seafood.

They had a number of shops selling fried fish and seafood and we managed to get a sear inside one. I had a mixed platter, while he had fish & chips. Then we browsed the shops, didn't buy much, except for some tees for the kids at a very cheap outlet store.

Last stop was Zaanse Schans, a popular tourist attraction with a collection of historic windmills. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast so all my pictures turned out gloomy. The houses in the area are a distinct green and after trying for so long to take a decent windmill shot, I gave up and we had apple pie and coffee in one of the cafes.

The place is truly a tourist magnet, lots of Indian and Chinese tourists, and Chinese sales assistants behind the jewellery counters. We visited a clog shop, so many types of clogs!

We reached Amsterdam in the early evening and I found out from Swana that Nat had been peeing unusually frequent the last couple of days so I told her to get it checked because I suspected an infection.

The room was big but a little old but it faces the Amstel River. We got ready for the farewell dinner, to be held in a place called Humphrey's.

There was a section cordoned off for us but because we lingered in the back, all the tables got filled pretty fast and the only 2 empty seats were separate from each other.

That wasn't actually a bad thing because then we got to sit and eat with Ananda and Mark our driver in a quiet corner. And we could also change dishes from the appetizers offered because Nick and I don't eat carpaccio or salmon! Instead we had soup and grilled prawns, and I chose prawns again for my main.

We found out interesting facts about Mark, he had a 19 year old son, but lives in Germany because of his girlfriend. He used to be a 9-5 office worker but traded it for life on the road because he felt restricted.

We had to hustle right after dessert which took some guests by surprise because there are restrictions on how many hours a driver can drive and also mandatory rest hours so we made it to the hotel just in time, only to encounter a locked gate! We got off anyway, and bade our goodbyes to the rest of the group.

My bags are all packed, hardly any space left and I'm rather satisfied with the purchases. Wished we had more free time to wander on our own but 6 days wasn't actually as fast as I imagined and we saw so many things.

Holland is very postcard pretty. I won't forget so soon the greenery, tulips, canals, quaint villages, windmills, cows, ducks, cuisine and hospitality. We had a lovely time, I'm not sure if we'll ever come back but I'm glad we went and I look forward to the next tour!

I could get used to this touring business versus free and easy, didn't have to worry about sightseeing planning or where to stay...just where to shop! Everything was mostly taken care off, we didn't have to spend too much except the occasional dinner and our lunches so it's very worth it with the staff discount, although this particular trip was free, even for me, thanks to his generous boss.

Hmm, where to next?

May 16, 2012

Best of Holland (Day 5, 16 May 2012)

Phew, it was another looooong day today as we explored more of Groningen province.

I was all psyched to cycle like a Dutch, we had a city tour scheduled and people could choose between walking and cycling, however when I tried the bike, the seat was too high for me, even after being lowered and my feet couldn't touch the ground. I dared not get on the road as such, had visions of me not being able to break properly or falling off the bike so we chickened out and got on the coach instead. Phebe and Zalina were more adventurous and practiced a bit before the cycling group departed.

We had a local guide named Paulien who took us to hidden nooks and crannies within the city centre, starting with an almshouse which provided shelter to the poor, sick and elderly in the past, we explored some peaceful courtyards and the gardens of Prinsenhoftuin and ended at Martinitoren in the main market square, the highest church steeple in the province. There are a lot of Martini-named buildings in Groningen because St Martin is their patron saint.

We then had some free time and mine is always spent shopping! The usual shops beckoned, Zara, H&M, Hema and several purchases were made, although the range was limited. We had trouble deciding where to eat and walked back and forth a couple of outlets, losing precious time that in the end, we had to wolf down burgers at McDonalds within 10 mins and hightail it back to the coach...I like to live dangerously!

The bus made a pick-up/drop-off at the hotel, then we continued on with a local guide named Titus who covered the province more in depth. We ventured into the countryside, passing narrow lanes and verdant fields with many a cow grazing.

Titus pointed out rich villages that existed in the past because of the city's wealth and artificial hillocks called terpen, which were constructed because being near the sea, floods were a big issue in the past. There are lots of dykes around the coast to prevent flooding and Titus brought us to one of the highest ones, facing out to the North Sea.

It was super windy and chilly, we were freezing our bums off. I wandered away to snap pictures of sheep spotted nearby but when I got too close, they baa-ed and walked away. We passed by a number of windmills, the traditional ones we associate with Holland are fast disappearing, replaced by modern white giant fans so every time we passed an old windmill, I would snap away.

Next up was an old estate called Menkemaborg where we stopped for coffee and butter cake and had a chance to view how a rich family lived in the past. Ducks and geese roamed the grounds, it was very serene and I noticed little things in the house that are quintessentially Dutch like Delft pottery and carpets on tables.

Ananda had mentioned how when the Netherlands became a rich trading nation in the 17th century, the Dutch would put Turkish carpets on the table instead of floor as they were too valuable to be stepped on. These carpets are also depicted in paintings, indicating the social status of the subject, as pointed out to us at the Rijksmuseum.

After a short rest at the hotel, we were out again for one of the highlights of the tour, the Be My Guest dinner. We passed by a canola field on the way, yellow as far as the eye can see! Oh, and we had a bout of hailstones too, shows you how cold it is!

Exclusive to Trafalgar, Be My Guest dining experiences showcase the true essence of a destination by an insider. As the guest of a local host, we get to experience warm hospitality and enjoy a delicious meal prepared using fresh local produce. This evening we visited a dairy farm and local cafe for the Be My Guest experience.

Everyone had to put on blue plastic covers over our shoes, I suspect so we don't bring dung back on the bus! The smell of dung was overpowering as we disembarked, but there was a rainbow in the distance so I knew it was going to be a good night.

I was half tempted to bring out the minyak kapak but didn't want to offend our hosts, a young farmer helping out in his father's business. He spoke very good English and showed us around their barns and facilities, they have a few hundred cows and modern production facilities that allow them to milk 50 cows in an hour. Or was it 200?

Some of the cows were huge, like the size of a car! They were curious when I put my camera close to their faces, one nearly licked it out of my hands!

After the orientation, we were taken across the road to Cafe Mausel, where the main dinner was hosted. There was a short presentation by the young farmer about his family's business and then Farmer Mausel took over for the dining portion. We were eating in his family's cafe, they run a B&B and have a farm of their own. His wife and daughters prepared all the food for us, hearty Dutch fare comprising some mustard soup, salads, salted herring, buttered broccoli, meatballs and roasted potatoes.

The mustard soup was a hit, we weren't sure what to expect when he told us about mustard initially but it was rich and creamy with slices of leek and bacon and only a subtle mustard flavour and I had myself 2 bowls! The recipe and mustard used was offered for sale at 2 euros and I bought some to try and replicate it at home.

I had a friendly albeit slightly deaf lady named Sandra opposite me, so I had to speak slowly for her. She was amused at the 1001 photos I took, even down to the soup and the homemade ice cream with strawberries for dessert. The ice cream was too milky for me but it was balanced out by the sweetness of the strawberries.

After dinner, Farmer Mausel showed us around his barn which hosts parties and events for the locals, there was a gleaming chilli red real Cadillac in a corner, I had no idea these cars were so big and long.

All in, it was a truly enjoyable evening with great company and good food so two thumbs up for the Be My Guest experience!