Merry meals

Strawberry, watermelon and pomelo salad with white wine, strawberry and mint granitaThere’s nothing like home-cooked Christmas meals, which usually (for us, lah) comprise of one or two things we’ve never cooked before, which causes great concern among the family-folk, who know that I don’t exactly eat healthily.

But, thanks to one of the many cookbooks we have on our shelves, we made a great gratin, whose recipe (when executed properly) is such that someone inevitably asks, “how much cheese you put inside?”, to which we inevitably answer, “no cheese”, to which they say, “really? it tastes like there’s cheese”, to which we respond with a smug flourish, “nope, no cheese at all, good huh?”

Having a four-course meal increases the chances of your guests liking at least one of the courses, and because there were guests at this year’s family Christmas Eve dinner who didn’t eat beef, didn’t like milk, didn’t take cream, afraid of carrots, petrified of bread rolls and had a phobia of fish, we were very pleased that the reaction to dessert was unanimously positive.

But because this is not a food blog, and I am not a chef, and because we sorta made it up ourselves, we don’t have the exact recipe for the dessert here. All I can say is that we sorta adapted it from what we had a week ago at a friend’s wedding:

Fuzzy recipe for Strawberry, watermelon and pomelo fruit salad with white wine, strawberry and mint granita:

Ingredients:

A few punnets of strawberries, sorta diced
Some watermelon, sorta diced too
Some pomelo, sorta broken apart with your hands
Some caster sugar
Some white wine from the bottle after you’ve had a couple of glasses
A few sprigs of mint

Method:

First, you pour some wine and some sugar and some water into a large saucepan, fire up the stove and cook some strawberries in it, until it’s sorta pulpy, then you take the strawberries out. Then you put some mint into the thing and boil it some more. Then let the thing cool. Then put it in a bowl and put it in the freezer, checking and stirring the thing every half an hour or so until it turns into a sorbet-like thing. This thing is the granita.

Then you boil some more strawberries in a saucepan with some more caster sugar, but not as pulpy as you’ve made the other thing earlier. Then you put it aside in the fridge when it cools, to cool some more. This strawberry jam-like thing is the, um, strawberry jam-like thing.

When it’s time for dessert to be served, make your guests wait a bit as you go into the kitchen to fix it up. Get your mum’s serving glasses and fill about a third of each glass with the strawberry jam-like thing, then another third with the uncooked strawberries, pomelo and watermelon pieces, and the last third with the granita, after you’ve scraped it out of the bowl, because you forgot to stir the thing every thirty minutes.

Serve, sit back, and wait for your guests to ask for some more. Then go make some more.

Boxing Day dinnerWhat we usually do on Boxing Day is rue the fact that it’s not a public holiday in this country, plus the fact that it’s been raining cats, dogs and every other household pet.

Then we cook something hearty, like oxtail stew:

Anyhowly Sorta Italian Oxtail Stew

Ingredients:

Several pieces of oxtail
Coupla cans of whole tomatoes
Some Worcestershire sauce
A dash of mustard
Many carrots
One onion
Some garlic
Some olive oil
Some parsley

Method:

Put some olive oil into a large pot, slice one onion, some garlic. Throw oxtail, garlic, onion into large pot and fry till oxtail pieces are brown. Then open two cans of whole tomatoes and put them in. Add mustard, worcestershire sauce, carrots and bring to boil.

Then leave to simmer, stirring a few times every now and then. Then go out and pick up the wife from work, agree to go for an hour’s foot reflexology and massage, and then fight traffic all the way home.

Remove burnt bits from large pot and transfer edible bits into a smaller pot. Cook some rice, watch a bit of telly, then serve with some parsley.

Enjoy.

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Christmas Letter

Breakfast on Christmas Day
Christmas Day Breakfast

There was a woman in her forties strolling through the hordes at Takashimaya the other day, singing out loudly, “All I want for Creamer is my two frontee, my two frontee, my two frontee”. Auntie, we hope you get your two frontee and more.

It’s time for Christmas wishes, and I don’t know why it is, but I’ve only just discovered that writing and sending Christmas letters is a tradition in some countries.

People write long, wordy letters to friends and family about how they, their kids, and their pets have been doing the past year. They obviously haven’t been blogging.

If I were to write a Christmas letter to my friends and family, it’d probably go something along the lines of ‘read my blog’s archives from Dec 2005 – Dec 2006, Merry Christmas’.

But seriously though, there are some things worth saying again for Christmas, however we may celebrate it.

For mine, this is my second Christmas with Naomi, and it’s something to celebrate all on it’s own. Apart from our own, we probably also attended a record number of weddings this year, each beautiful in their way, one with pyrotechnics, and others with the quiet reflection of a few special words. To these married friends and family, we wish you again, love, peace and happiness, and our heartfelt empathy at the chaos that is known as a wedding preparation.

We also witnessed, well, not quite, but you get what I mean, a record number of births. For bringing new lives, and for forging new bonds, congratulations to every new parent we know.

To Aunty Lynn, thank you for describing in detail how Teck and Cindy brought Cerys into the world, and re-acquainting us with what it means to form lasting bonds. Teckwyn, you da man, and Cindy, you da Mum.

Don't eat!We’ve been exceedingly lucky to witness and experience the little miracles that make up our lives, and to be able to endure rough days by realising that they are wide as they are long; by taking time out to chuckle, because it’s good to chuckle; at things such as there being a plethora of ‘Geisha’ books at Borders and Kinokuniya because everyone wants a Memoir of a Geisha – there are titles such as ‘Autobiography of a Geisha‘ – which presumably has the edginess of being written by a geisha herself; ‘The Secret Life of Geisha‘, which after you watch it, won’t be so secret already, and the infinitely intriguing ‘Kickboxing Geishas‘.

But I’m chuckling at there not being a book titled ‘Anatomy of a Geisha’, which would have been a seller, I tell you.

But never mind. Merry Christmas everyone. And remember, being merry goes a long way to getting peace, love and happiness.

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Podcast: Trailer – Multiple Personalities Disorder

MPD

Yes, this is ‘the other stuff’ I’ve been busy with the past month, helping write a stage show for Hossan Leong, who is Singapore’s funniest man, and I’m not saying that because he’s my best friend, but he’s really really funny, because he can make people laugh by repeating the same jokes I’ve told, and which didn’t make people laugh.

Many of the things he tells that people laugh at come from personal experience, which when I tell them, people just shake their heads and say ‘wah lao, you damn loser, man’.

Like the time when we were sixteen and went to our first club, unfashionably early, so early that only elevator music was playing, which we thought was the ‘actual music’ that we were supposed to dance to, and so, we danced. We stopped momentarily when the ‘actual music’ was put on by the inscrutable DJ, only god knows what he was thinking, complete with strobe lights and all. Then we continued dancing.

Wah lao, damn loser, man.

They say it’s all in the delivery, and I suppose Hossan has that in abundance, while for me, even the mee pok hawker reminds me, “自己拿, hor?” (please deliver it yourself to your numbered table kind sir because I can’t be arsed with you) when I order lunch.

I’ve watched Hossan perform for decades (ok lah, not so old – a decade), and he never fails to crack me up, even if I’ve heard the jokes a hundred times before, at rehearsals, and when we’re just, well, kidding around.

Attached to this post is the 40 second radio ad which we recorded at Power 98. Yes, it is very short. So if you want to hear (and see) more, please go get your tickets now! The show, Hossan – Multiple Personalities Disorder‘, runs from Jan 31 – Feb 4.

There are early bird specials if you buy before the year ends! Faster quick hurry go buy tickets now! Thank you!

Podcast: Multiple Personalities Disorder Trailer (.mp3, 00:40, right-click to ‘save as’)
Subscribe

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Mercy Relief: A Christmas Mission

Mercy Relief - PhilippinesThere’s an idea I got from a few other people the past couple of days.

A wedding we recently attended (and a beautiful one at that, congratulations, D&N) did away with wedding favours, the money which would have spent on them having been donated to UNIFEM. And a friend who attended the wedding as well informed Naomi and I that in lieu of presents she was going to buy for us, she was donating what she would have spent to World Vision.

Mercy Relief - PhilippinesSo, if you haven’t bought Christmas presents for family and friends yet, here’s something you can do, and I am only suggesting that you do so for this charity organisation called Mercy Relief, which, as I’ve written, is undertaking the tasks of providing medical and logistical aid to the typhoon stricken areas of The Philippines.

Mercy Relief has identified several localities which require immediate help, where basic needs such as drinking water were not available until the arrival of the organisation.

Cash donations are much preferred over real goods, and you can direct funds as follows:

Mercy Relief, 11 Kheng Cheow Street #04-10 Riverside Plaza, Singapore 059608
DBS account, no.: 054-900493-6

After you’ve donated the money you would have spent on pressies, you can then write your friends and family little notes that go along the lines of:

Dearest Friend, Although I wish you the world, and would have given you a token of it by way of a present, I thought that it would mean a lot more to both you and I if the money that would have been spent on the said token be directed to the worthy cause of bringing Christmas cheer to the victims of the typhoons in The Philippines. I hope that you will also consider doing the same.

Mercy Relief - Philippines

If you’re not the sort to give presents anyway, please just spread the word.

Mercy Relief’s Press Release, 15th December 2006:

Singapore’s Disaster Response Team sets to work in the Philippines
Friday, 15 December 2006

Legazpi City (Philippines)

Mercy Relief’s 1st Disaster Response Team arrived in Legazpi City in the Bicol Region on Thursday, 14 December 2006.
Following an initial assessment around Albay, the 4-man team set to work in the community of Oro Sige village where there is a large number of children and aged needing medical assistance. Overnight, the team set up a makeshift clinic in s school and attended to more than 80 patients the next day.

Most cases treated were gastrointestinal and respiratory infection, which are generally due to poor sanitation and contaminated water supply. The team will continue to monitor the situation to prevent any pandemic outbreak and will alert the local department of health should anything surfaces.“The majority of trauma cases have been dealt with prior to our arrival. It is now critical for us to maintain the healthcare of the community to prevent outbreaks of diseases because of the poor living conditions. These people survived a natural disaster and must not be allowed to suffer an epidemic” cautioned Laura Tham, Mercy Relief’s Disaster Response Specialist and a certified Nursing Officer.

Most parts of the city are still without electricity or reliable communication infrastructure. Residents who lost their homes are seeking refuge in schools and community halls. Local and international NGOs are rallying behind the local municipality to co-ordinated relief efforts so that aid can be given effectively to the deserving beneficiaries.

General medical supplies and food are being provided by the Philippines government and several foreign NGOs. However, much needed are blankets and clothing to keep the survivors warm during this monsoon period. Mercy Relief plans to be entrenched in the community of Oro Sige and will fan out to other nearby communities to help provide, maintain and improve their health needs.

Their 2nd Disaster Response Team, comprising 2 doctors, 2 nurses, a logistician and lead by another Disaster Response Specialist (a qualified paramedic) is expected to depart on Tuesday 19 Dec 06 to support the first team’s mission in Oro Sige village.

Mercy Relief is presently making an appeal for the public to support their relief efforts. Donations can be made via a secured online transaction at www.mercyrelief.org/give.html or by sending a crossed cheque made payable to Mercy Relief. Donors are advised to write their Name, address and contactable number so that the organisation can follow-up with a cheque. Cash donations can be made at Mercy Relief’s office, 11 Keng Cheow Street, #04-10, Singapore 059608 during normal business hours.

For more information, please contact:
Mr Frederick Foo
Executive Director, Mercy Relief
E-Mail : fred@mercyrelief.org
DID : 6332 6326
Mobile : 9011 6218


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Mercy Relief for the Philippines and Vietnam

The charity organisation Mercy Relief is sending a team today to areas in the Philippines stricken by Typhoons Durian and Utor. The team of volunteers comprises 1 doctor, 1 nurse, 1 logistician and 1 support staff. More teams are being prepared for these areas as well as for stricken areas in Vietnam.

If you’re able to help, please send donations to Mercy Relief, 11 Kheng Cheow Street #04-10 Riverside Plaza, Singapore 059608. Or you may transfer funds electronically to their DBS account, no.: 054-900493-6

For more information, visit Mercy Relief, or email them for details at intouch@mercyrelief.org.

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Vaguely appetizing

Still vagueBecause of work commitments, we’ve been eating out a lot, and we haven’t had much luck with the quality of food either.

Being a little adventurous, we decided yesterday evening to drive all the way, 45 minutes and 30 km, in the evening jam, to Changi Village to dine at Charlie’s corner, only to find that Charlie’s corner’s closed on Mondays.

We did however, plonk ourselves down at this ‘Persian and Italian’ restaurant called Pardis, which, because it was labelled ‘Persian and Italian’, looked appealing enough for us to plonk ourselves down at.

However, the Persian part of the restaurant must have had some communication issues with the Italian part because they got three out of our four orders wrong.

They did however, apologise profusely and vow on their grandmother’s grave to compensate us ‘the next time we ate there’. Perhaps suspecting that there mightn’t be a next time, a staff member who looked like he was the proprietor gave us each a glass of his best sparkling grape juice after we had finished eating and asked for the bill, which they took 10% off as well.

A few days before that, and at the southern end of our fine island, we added one more restaurant to the list of eateries we’ve patronized at Vivo City. The Tung Lok Group’s new restaurant there, called Tung Lok something something, boasts a pleasant harbour view, delicate dim sum and waitresses with the weirdest outfits you’ll find in a Chinese restaurant.

I didn’t take any pictures of them though it was weird enough to warrant a few snapshots, but if you’d picture an Ao Dai with one whole side snipped off from the waist down, you’d be about right.

The food was good, though, as was the service from the lop-sided waitresses, who very helpfully explained and described every dish you pointed at in the menu – mostly because the menu really wasn’t helpful.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of Al Vaivén de Mi Carreta (To the Rocking of My Cart) from the album “Distinto Diferente” by Afro Cuban All Stars of which I have the original CD.

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No yellow boxes here

The Pump Room, Clarke QuayIt had been awhile since we’ve gone out after work with friends, and for some reason, we said yes to an invitation to go out to a club / pub / oneofthoseplaces.

Clarke Quay on a Friday night was always expected to be crowded, with MOS drawing their usual clientele who appear to spend more time in the queue than in the club proper.

But there’s a new place on Clarke Quay that’s really worth a visit, especially if you’re a non-smoker. As a sign of things to come, The Pump Room is a no-smoking zone, which might seem a bit strange, especially if you’re a smoker like myself.

But you know what? I didn’t end up going outside to light up several times as I expected myself to. Maybe it was because the best cover band in Singapore (Jive Talking) was playing the best set I’ve heard since the last time I saw them play at Bar None.

Or maybe it was the decor, which really is quite nice – we sat at tables made of solid wood, and there were those funky optic fibre lights, pillars coated with what the manager tells us is the same material they use to make MRT seats. Which is really good to know, because if you end up with your butt against the pillar, it’ll at least be a familiar tactile experience. Or something.

Check it out here if you haven’t the time to get your ass to Clarke Quay. But you really should, lah.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of House of Rising Sun from the album “Romantic Collection Vol. 1″ by Animals of which I have the original CD.

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Eyes catching

According to a friend, there’s a shop in Lucky Plaza which has its business model a bit screwy.

See, this friend walked into the shop browsing through funky t-shirts and accessories, and expecting the shopkeeper to mosey up to him and say something to the effect of, ‘ex-cue me, can I helpchu?’ or ‘looking for someting?’

But no, the shopkeeper went up to him and enquired instead, ‘ex-cue me, your beowt very nice, where you buy from? It’s very eyes-catching, you want to sell?’

My friend declined to sell his beowt as he was wearing it not just to catch eyes, but to hold his pants up.

Undeterred, the shopkeeper sized my friend up again and asked, ‘ex-cue me, where you buy your bag from? It’s very eyes-catching. You want to sell?’

Being the first time he was accosted by a salesperson in this manner, my friend left the shop quite unsettled, unsure as to whether the accessories he was wearing were good-looking or simply resembled a cold dessert.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of Lucky Lucky Me from the album “The Very Best of Marvin Gaye” by Marvin Gaye of which I have the original CD.

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National pride

China A vs China B (Singapore)Because the remote control was too far away, Naomi and I found ourselves watching the semi-final of the women’s table-tennis competition at the Asian Games on Channel 5, played between Singapore and North Korea.

It made for pretty good viewing, and we became mindlessly engrossed in the first match until Naomi asked me, ‘who’s that yelling, and what’s she yelling?’.

I said I didn’t know what the player was yelling, and because I didn’t know what the yelling was, it had to be the North Korean player that was yelling.

Turned out it was the Singaporean player that was yelling something at every point she won, and I hadn’t recognised what she was yelling probably because the Singaporean player, Sun Beibei, like almost every teammate of hers, hails from the People’s Republic of China, and was probably yelling something that People’s Republic Chinese yell when they play table-tennis.

The Singaporeans defeated the North Koreans, who, with their dowdy haircuts, were the defending champions of this competition. The semi-final was exciting enough for us to tune in to tonight’s gold medal match against the People’s Republic of China. A match, which I’m sure more than a few have quipped to be ‘China A versus China B’.

China B lost, of course.

(OK, I have just been scolded for revealing the scores when Naomi’s still watching the match on tv).

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of China from the album “Little Earthquakes” by Tori Amos of which I have the original CD.

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This is a community service message

RakuIf you happen to be in Holland Village and because you can’t decide what to eat, and stroll in to this Japanese Restaurant called Raku, please, walk out again unless money and quality of food is no matter to you.

I’m not saying that the service was bad or anything like that. But there are situations where even Going the Extra Mile for Service is not going to make anything worth $114 for two, and this is one of them. Not even the nice decor and quiet ambience is going to make up for the disappointing food.

First of all, a refreshing raw salad of cabbage leaves, radish, carrot and cucumber sticks was served as an appetizer. Then our order of Ikura Sashimi (Salmon Roe) was served and tasted like the stuff you can buy in supermarkets, which might have been alright with me if I had bought them in the supermarket myself for a lot less than $20.

Then came the $16 California Maki and the $20 tempura, the former being slathered with flying fish roe that tasted synthetic, and the latter being just a bit too oily.

But the killer had to be the Ocha (tea), which was probably made from teabags which had been left to steep too long, which would have been alright if I had bought the teabags from the supermarket and boiled the water myself, but for $6 a cup, no, no, no! To add insult to an injurious bill, the raw vegetable salad was not complimentary, but itemised as ‘Yasai Stick’ at $6, which is a bit like going to a karaoke place and being billed for the ‘compulsory’ fruit platter.

So, you heard it here (as well as here). Don’t go there. And no, I wasn’t grumpy before we dined there. I am now. We could’ve gone and had a real Nabe meal instead of this nabeh one.

Oh, wait. I’ve just been reminded that if you find the Ocha too exorbitantly priced, you can order a glass of warm water at a more reasonable $3 a glass, though we’re not sure if it’s free flow.

iTunes is playing an illegal copy of Japanese Sandman from the album “German Propaganda Swing Vol 1 1941-1942″ by Charlie And His Orchestra of which I have the original CD.

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