Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's finally here! - Be warned... mega long post with ramblings

Today was a mega busy day for me. Was out of the house since late morning, went to pick princess from school then rushed to paed before they closed for lunch, just so we wouldn't have to wait hours to see him after. She's started coughing again so have to increase dosage back to initial stage. He had only decreased it a week ago. However, was told that a viral cough triggered it, so now back to square one. Sigh.

Then was rush rush, had to do a quick spot of shopping to pick up a farewell gift, rushed to post office to collect parcel, back home to drop it off then out again to swim class. Gosh. I wonder where I get all the energy from. Hehe.

I'm very happy, though, that I managed to clear a few Christmas gifts on my list with a quick 30-min visit to the bookstore, erm, make that 40mins as our dear princess decided to make herself at home and dismantled a 48-piece jigsaw puzzle and mummy had to squat and help her fix it all back, and it didn't help poor mummy's feet one bit.

Harris had just opened a branch at Suntec City 3 days ago as informed by the staff. Harris is the slightly more upmarket 'sibling' of Popular Bookstore. Being new has its advantages as most books are still in mint condition as opposed to the ones in the older bookstores. I'm really happy as Borders has just opened their latest outlet at Parkway Parade, replacing the old MPH. I do so miss MPH though, as it was there with me throughout my growing up years and beyond. It was there when Parkway first started business. So it was indeed very sad when they had to close. One by one the various branches are closing and being replaced by foreign imports such as Borders. Even Times the Bookstores are dwindling in numbers.

Well, so much for that... So today I finally sorted out that parcel from my cookie exchange partner, the person who was supposed to send them to me. Gosh, this Singpost is mega screwed up. I wish I could use harsher words but this being a family-friendly blog, I have to watch my language. I was seriously pi**ed with them! Apparently they had tried delivering the item to me but I didn't have the slightest idea that it had arrived. So HKChoo, the sender, was a bit suspicious of matters, especially since the parcel from the US arrived so soon. A package from Malaysia wouldn't have taken more time than one from so far away. So thankfully she had registered the item and was able to trace it. Thus she knew that it failed to be delivered. Armed with the trace number etc, I rang up the parcel tracing department and the person whom I spoke to, took my message and said she'd get the appropriate branch to give me a call to arrange for the delivery. I assumed the call would come on the same day, so I waited. The whole of yesterday there was no call. And even today there was no call. So what was I to do??? I marched down to the post office and tried to control my temper. After all, it was no fault of the staff there and I am so proud of myself that I remained composed throughout. She searched high and low and finally, yes, there it was!!! I breathed a sigh of relief. I asked for a feedback form and nicely told her about the problem. I mean it isn't the first time that such a thing has happened. I believe what happened was that the postperson did not put the advice slip under the door or somewhere where the wind wouldn't blow away. MIL sent a parcel a couple of months back and the advice slip was found when a certain kapo saw a slip of paper outside her neighbour's door and kapoed to have a look at it. Sure enough, there was princess' name in big prints. So I told the lady I don't want such things happening again thus I would like to feedback to whoever's in charge as I am expecting more parcels arriving. She didn't have the forms but instead gave me the number for a certain dept. What a rollercoaster!

And guess what? When we got home, what were we to find under the door??? Another slip!! This time from MIL! Yikes, another trip to the post office tomorrow!!! But this time he/she had the good sense to place it under the door. I'm not sure if it was due to my feedback over the phone yesterday that they've bucked up a little. So, I've decided to keep that little slip of paper with the number for another time when they slacken again. :P

Well, well, I guess it's time to give some attention to the parcel. HKChoo, thanks so much for your little parcel, made with all your love. Everything from scratch, even the pineapple filling for the pineapple tarts. I truly appreciate it. And also the lovely thought of the teddy bear with stickers for princess. Before I read your card, I already said it to her that Auntie HK put that in for her. She loves it. Thank you. I also love that you did the paper cutouts of the angels, so lovely of you. I'm sure that took a lot of effort. Tell you a secret... I have that same punch. ;) And I know it's not easy to punch them out.

The cookies were great. Princess couldn't wait to sink her teeth into them. She said yummy when I gave her a taste of the chocolate apricot ones, and later, daddy gave her the pineapple ones. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that tarts don't ship very well. They are very fragile. I don't know how many you made, but I managed to salvage 3 flowers. The rest had turned to dust, so that's why they were not photographed as per your request. ;) But no, they were not mouldy. The other cookies, the healthy tasting ones, haha, are they meant to be soft? I'm not sure as there was a tiny tear when I looked at the packet so not sure if they were supposed to be crispy.

By the way, hubby, who was reading my blog reminded me that I forgot to reply someone's comment in one of the posts. Haha, so here you go HK, the training chopsticks...

Thanks once again, HK, for the lovely package.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hiong Piah

My friend, D, went to Ipoh last week and came back with this gift for me. Super fresh Hiong Piah. I think it's pong piah to most of us. Wow, you can taste the freshness in the pastry and it crunches as you bite into it, thus was difficult to break it apart and take photos of the inside. The filling is lovely and soft, and you only get this with very fresh ones. I've tasted my fair share of hard fillings. Of course, it is nothing like buying it from the original source. I don't buy this at all here as they are imported from Malaysia and God knows how long they've been on the shelves. The other pastry I love is Beh Te So (err... not sure if I spelt that right), I mean, these are dialect words so I don't think there is any right or wrong spelling for them. It's just like hanyu pinyin, you spell them out the way you would pronounce them. I love spelling, so hanyu pinyin comes naturally to me. I'm very glad that princess has inherited those genes and she is a great speller. Hehe. Oops, I'm digressing here. :P

So anyway, hey sis, do you want me to save you some? I know you love the chao tar (burnt) type. I'm not a fan of that but I love the inside. ;) So sometimes when I'm not in the mood to eat the entire thing, I will peel off the pastry on the outside and just enjoy the white pastry as well as the filling within. It's the way I've been eating it since I was young. ;)

I'm not sure if this is a famous brand but it sure tastes great! And apparently they are charcoal-roasted. Yum.

Thanks, D, for thinking of me. :) And sending the stuff all the way to me. How sweet. I won't reveal how long we've known each other but we've been friends since we were 7, in the same primary class. She's one of 3 primary school friends with whom I'm still in touch with, make that 4. The 4th one I haven't really been in touch with but in the past week I bumped into her twice. Lol! I think it's amazing that we've managed to keep our friendship going till now. I thank God for friends like D, K, etc, as friends are a very important part of my life. Thank you my lovely friends. :)

Parkway lights

Last evening, together with mum, we had dinner at Parkway Parade. Due to time constraint, we couldn't spend lots of time there so we just took a little walk and also to check out the Christmas decoration on the outside of the building. I thought it was spectacular this year, lots of fairy lights and it really brightened the entire area up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A surprise!

I received a surprise package today. Really brightened up my day, not that I am having a bad one, but the weather has been depressing lately and I spent the whole morning and afternoon clearing the house of whatever rubbish I could get rid of. The mountain of toys that I just had to go through and hopefully make enough space in the storage boxes for them to be filled up again in a month and two's time. Sigh. Filled three bags full of things and still hope to get rid of more.

So, well, back to my package. I participated in a cookie exchange with overseas members of the forum I am in. First was the thrill of thinking up what to bake, next was when I would be able to accomplish the task, and now, is the anticipation of whether the package will be delivered to my exchange partner as the post office advised me that they might be rather strict in the US so fingers crossed that she gets it.

Am really surprised that it arrived so soon as she only sent it like a week ago. Time couldn't have flown by so quickly. But the lovely thing about this sender is that she wasn't supposed to send me anything, but she decided to spread the Christmas cheer a little further, other than to her appointed receiver. Thanks so much.

I do not intend to open the tub till Christmas as she sealed it so well with vacuum pack so it will keep them lovely and crisp.

The World's Best Friend Week

A big thank you to The Singapore Housewife for considering me a very good friend. Our kids brought us together and I hope our friendship can withstand the test of time.

"Do you know the relationship between your 2 eyes? They blink together, move together, cry together, see things together and sleep together. Even though they never see each other, friendship should be just like that! Life is like Hell without FRIENDS. Its ‘World Best Friend Week’. Send this to your best friends to let them know you appreciate them.

Your Love is Ur Heart,
Your heart is Ur Spouse,
Your spouse is Ur Future,
Your future is Ur Destiny,
Your destiny is Ur Ambition,
Your ambition is Ur Aspiration,
Your aspiration is Ur Motivation,
Your motivation is Ur Belief,
Your belief is Ur Peace,
Your peace is Ur Target,
Your target is Heaven,
Heaven is no fun without FRIENDS.

I would like to pass this on to the following friends:

My very best friend - Missed Young (thanks for all your love and friendship throughout the years)

And some friends I met through blogging -

1. East Meets West Kitchen
2. Little Corner of Mine
3. HK Choo's Jottings of Life
4. Life is full of Surprises
5. Lekker!
6. East Meets West
7. Oh for the love of food!

Oops, I left out my super best friend, the one I see day in day out... My Little Gallery - The artist Princess.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shortbread and gingerbreads

Never in my life would I have dreamt that one day I'd be able to make shortbread. I didn't even know it was this easy. Hehe. I came across a blog recently, by Chawanmushi of Cookbake Legacy, and was introduced to dried lavender flowers for cooking/baking and it got me interested. Luckily enough, I came across them and bought a packet to see what I could do with the lovely scented flowers. I love lavender, not just for the aroma but also the colour. Purple is one of the colours I like. Just sniffing them gives one a feeling of calmness. That's why I have lavender bath to calm the active one down before bedtime. Hehe.

Well, I searched the internet for some recipes, following the link in Chawanmushi's blog, and ended up deciding to go with lavender shortbread. Firstly it sounded interesting, and secondly I'll get to try to bake a shortbread, as Daphne did recently. I love shortbread, I know I know, fattening and all, but I hardly eat it anyway.

I had a problem with the recipe. I followed it accurately but the flour wasn't enough. It was too squishy to knead with 2 cups of flour, so I just added more and more. I did not measure but I believe I ended up putting 3-1/2 cups in total, as opposed to 2. With fingers crossed, I baked them and they turned out really nice. We couldn't wait for the first batch to cool before we were stuffing our faces with them, both the princess and I. :P They didn't taste too floury even though I did add quite a bit of flour to the original recipe. This is what the dough looked like after addition - a soft, pliable dough.

Note to The Singapore Houswife - You can try this as it does not contain eggs. You can choose to leave out the lavender as well.

Just wanted to show this ready gingerbread house before I get on to my next topic of gingerbread. K & I were over at Ikea to select our trees last Friday and she wanted to get hold of these houses but they had no stock of them, so after spending time at the cafe and wandering around the store, we were about to leave when we spotted some new stocks being brought in. They had the houses, but as she had to rush off to work and me home to meet princess, we couldn't wait for them to unload, thus I got mum to pick them up instead. These are so convenient, just have to ice them and decorate. Great activity for kids, although I wouldn't want a gingerbread house in my home. Imagine what that will attract! So hope K and the kids will have fun, am sure they will.

To occupy princess this afternoon while I made my shortbread, I gave her some decorating 'tools' to play with. :) The icing I prepared on Saturday and divided them into 4 colours, which I then left to harden in the fridge. So I let her have free rein on them together with some sprinkles and she came up with all these creations. How cute.

Tools of the trade.

My little artist princess busy concentrating on her work.

This is for dinner. I made a stew with chicken, onions and potatoes, but along the way I added a small piece of capsicum which was lying half dead, and decided to plonk in some mushrooms and the asparagus which were also days old. Hehe. So here is my chapalang stew.

Delicious Lychee Muffins

I finally tried out this recipe by Cranberry, yesterday. I followed the original recipe as I had unsalted butter. However, I put in approximately 200g ( a whole can would yield 230g) of lychee and found that it was rather easy to peel apart, without the need to chop them. Just break into chunks. The funny thing, though, I couldn't get the egg and sugar mixture to increase by threefold, so I just whisked it for 3 mins and added the other ingredients as per the recipe. It still turned out nice. The sugar I used was 70g but I feel I can still cut it down by another 10g as the juice from lychee can was sweet enough. I also used vanilla essence as I thought it'd be impractical for me to buy a bottle of lychee essence just for the purpose of using 1tspful. It was deliciously moist and very lovely, a change from the usual chocolate ones that I tend to bake a lot of.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seoul Garden Barbeque Steamboat

This evening we had dinner at the Seoul Garden Barbeque Steamboat restaurant in Bugis Junction. I love their newly renovated restaurant. Actually I don't even know if it's newly renovated as the last time hubs and I visited the place was approximately 10 years ago. I recently went with mum and princess to the Ngee Ann City branch but that one has the hotpot on the table top whereas the one at Bugis has a sunken-in middle so the pot sits in it. It's great as you do not get lots of oil splashes on the table but having to reach in and cook the stuff does stretch your shoulder muscles a little and it gets tiring. But we had loads of fun and ate lots, even princess. She was great with her newly-acquired chopstick skills. Hurray, am so proud that she can use normal chopsticks now. She calls them 'grown-up' chopsticks. In the past month she's had loads of practice with normal chopsticks and has been very successful with her sushi, soba etc. So happy that I have another disciple under my belt. The other being hubby. Well, actually I think she learnt it more from the training chopsticks that she had before. She still has them and still uses them once in a while, but her confidence is surely increasing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The lights of Orchard

I started on some spring cleaning today. Had to clear the store room of loads of rubbish - big empty boxes which used to house electrical stuff, just taking up so much space in there, there's no place to walk. The other reason is also because I needed to get to the tree base and Christmas decorations. Am pleased that I managed to clean out quite a whole lot of junk, but it still needs to be followed up tomorrow with more cleaning.

I had suggested this morning that we might go down town to have a look at the Christmas lights and have dinner there, but once I started on my cleaning, I got pretty tired and was actually very lazy to leave the house. But when hubs called to see what the plan was, I decided to go ahead with it. It was either that or order in pizza for dinner. Yucks!

So we met in Heeren to go to Vil'age (the former Marche). Hubs used to be a great supporter of Marche till they gave back the franchise to the owner. The original Marche moved out of Heeren and are now run by the owners, in Vivo City.

We tried Vil'age's food once and weren't too impressed even though they copied exactly the same food as Marche serves. In fact, Vil'age is opened by a former staff of Marche. So anyway, hubs had a taste of the food recently and said they've improved loads. Well, I didn't think so after tasting it today.

After dinner, we took a stroll down Orchard Road and took photos of the lights. We aren't great photographers and our cameras aren't top end, so the images didn't turn out that great, especially in night photography. But still, just wanted to share them here.

Blog of the month award

Thanks to Sue Sue for this award. I have so few friends here, it just always goes to the same people. Haha.

I would like to pass on this award to Daphne, East Meets West Kitchen, The Singapore Housewife, Little Corner of Mine.

O Christmas Tree... O Christmas Tree...

Today is one of the days in November which I most look forward to. Took an hours' bus ride to Ikea to select my tree!! But am very pleased. Missed the first tree which was selected by the lady in front of me in queue. That was a lovely one but nonetheless, am excited.

It will be delivered only next week as I took advantage of the one week free storage. I would love to have it earlier but one week in cold storage will keep it fresher till Christmas.

I love live trees and will never go back to artificial ones. Unfortunately I have started K & A on that path as well. Hehe. We got them a tree last Christmas as a surprise Christmas present. And A has decided that they will start buying live ones starting this year. Just waking up to the fresh pine scent in the morning reminds me each day that Christmas is drawing near and since we have no snow or cold cold weather, we can only make up for it with the smell of Christmas. :)

The thing about having live trees in our hot and humid Singapore, is that we have to try to keep them as far away as possible from sunlight or any heat source. There is, fortunately, a corner of our house which is just perfect for it. In my dad's house, his tree did not last at all the first year they got it as it was just beside the balcony where the sun shone all day. But also, he, being very sensitive to smells, did not enjoy the lovely pine scents. Said it gave him a headache all day. Ha ha.

So have to wait a week before tree is up. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gingerbread biscuits

Decided not to send princess to school yesterday as she slept very late the night before. She was quite well-behaved most of yesterday, thank God, and we baked some gingerbread biscuits last evening. A mistake of mine, as I had forgotten to take the roll of gingerbread dough out to defrost earlier. I got the ready roll from IKEA. They had them last year but they were sold out before I could get my hands on them. They turned out really well and so simple to do. But I agree with Peony, they are a little sweet, but edible. Loved the scent of gingerbread wafting through the house as we baked. Reminds me of Christmas. Speaking of which, I can't wait for tomorrow to get my tree. Yippee!!!

This dough is recommended if you don't want all the mess and hassle and just want to occupy the kids with an activity. Is easy and they get to play them like play dough and quick to bake.

Concert and magic show

The past two days have been busy days. The school had a graduation concert for the K2s on Tuesday, well, more like a full-dress rehearsal, and all the nursery and K1 parents were invited. There is the actual concert tomorrow for the graduating kids and their parents so the poor kids have to perform again. Very proud of princess' class and teachers as they did a great job. There are some performances which were real badly co-ordinated or tacky in the past but this year's one was good and the kids had a really good time and all of them performed so well. They did a disco-themed number and some of them were dressed in sequin skirts and tops. We only had some silver shoes and shiny silver hairband for princess. Great job, K1C!!! We're so proud of you!

After the concert in school, we had lunch with grandpa at the club and hubs and princess ended off with a game of bowling. They went home for a little nap while I went ahead to look for a toilet bowl and sink to replace our current ones. So so happy I got that sorted out and the very next day, which was yesterday, they came to set it all up, and it was done in less than 2hrs! We can't stop admiring it. Hehe. The original set came with the flat and was real awful looking so you can imagine our elation. :D

That same Tuesday evening we went for the Disney Magic Show. I don't want to spoil the magic but I thought it was so-so. The only attraction was the characters and Disney ones always pull in the crowds.

The accidental macaron

I got a recipe from my friend Hani and been wanting to try. In my mind, I always thought it was meringues even though she said it was macarons. But the recipe didn't have any almond meal in it so I thought, ok well, that's what she calls her meringues. While mixing it, the mixture never turned fluffy like it did with my meringue recipe so I was thinking huh, how do I bake that, so quick thinking me took out some mini cupcake paper cups and filled them up. It was a whole lot of mix, I now have about 4 big containers of them things filled and they are so super sweet, I don't know what I'm going to do with them.

As they were baking, I caught a glimpse of them and hey, that looks familiar with the smooth top, reminding me so much of those I've eaten in the shops, and boy, Hani's right, they are macarons!!!. Lol. Seeing how they've turned out, it gives me the confidence to try the real french macarons soon. However, these were the nice ones that I picked out to be photographed. Most of them had cracks.

They were really crispy and so delicate on the surface and marshmallowy soft in the middle. However, not good for diabetics. Just one pop of these in your mouth will shoot your blood sugar level way high. So, not advisable. I did add in chocolate chips and crushed cornflakes but the cornflakes were way too little as I didn't expect such a large yield. Well, think I will go back to doing the meringues which were way less sweet.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jacob Ballas Children's Garden Carnival '07

I recently came across a write-up on this children's garden (Jacob Ballas Children's Garden) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, in the Holiday Fun magazine, and realized they were having a carnival today. So messaged K about it and she called to say she actually had carnival tickets. They were planning to give them away but since we were keen to go, they decided to go as well so an impromptu arrangement was made to meet up today at the gardens.

Have decided to give some advice to people who are planning to visit this place. It pays to do your homework first (sigh). Make sure you go through the correct entrance, which is the entrance off Bukit Timah Road, not Tanglin Road. We got there just after 10am and had a breakfast of roti prata at the food court. Then decided to join the shuttle bus queue that would have taken us to the children's garden. However, we thought it was crazy to wait half an hour for the shuttle to arrive, thus we thought it'd have been faster to walk. So we left the queue. Big mistake! A short distance off, we met a young lady who was giving out pamphlets for the carnival and she informed us that it would take 40mins to walk there. With my legs, it'll have taken me at least an hour, if I can even make it there. Joining the queue again would have been out of the question as it was long at that point.

So we took a cab and told the driver to take us to the NUS entrance, but he dropped us off at another entrance in the middle of the gardens. Boy, how were we to know that this place was super ginomous and that wasn't the supposed entrance. Gosh! So we decided to join the shuttle queue here and when the bus came, it was a mini one thus we couldn't get on, and that meant that we had to wait another half hour for it. Ridiculous! So we hopped on a cab again and this time we told ourselves that if we still can't find it, we'd go home. Luckily we did. We persisted even though cab driver was like wanting to take us to another gate. Told him to go further and finally saw signs leading to the carnival. Boy what a roller coaster ride. Have learnt our lesson. Really a waste of our precious morning.

K and family too had to walk a super long way as they've not been there.

Here we are having some little snacks and kids were dying to go have some fun especially princess who was so looking forward to it. She's there for the water play but we wanted to go check out games first.

This is a very interesting garden dedicated to children. There is a tree house and suspension bridge and they 'can learn about botanical processes such as photosynthesis, and discover the different uses of plants, experience the joy of gardening, and more'.

The proceeds from today's carnival goes to the Garden City fund to support the maintenance of this 'living classroom'.

I intend to take princess there doing the holidays to discover more of the place as we only covered a small area today.

We started off at the maze where they had to make their way to the middle to find the balloon sculpture artist who would make them something as per their request.

Right beside the maze was the trampoline/bungee thingy. There was a long queue, but it's not so much the waiting time. The sun was scorching hot and we hadn't remembered to pack any sun block, so while the dads were minding the table under the shade, we mums and kids were baking under the sun. It was truly scorching hot and we are all baked and brown now. :(

Princess was truly excited about the jump but also very frustrated with the heat and long wait. She couldn't wait to do it. But when it actually happened, oh boy, you should have seen her face. She was terrified, almost in tears and kept telling the guy that she had had enough. I guess she didn't know what she was in for. She's normally very brave so it must have been pretty scary to be thrown in the air and suspended by the ropes. But when he let her down, she calmed down and asked to go up again! Kids! They just can't make up their minds!

The highlight of the outing was this waterplay area. She finally got her wish granted hehe.

Am now taking a break while she's off to art class and then there's a birthday party this evening. Yippee though, it's a drop off party! I love those ;)