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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big Eater

In case you thought that this blog has gone off on a "domestic" tangent altogether, I thought I'll write about a pretty good crab restaurant that my CEB and I chanced upon a couple of weeks ago. Or rather, one that my CEB had heard about and thought would satisfy his peckish wife who was demanding to go to somewhere different for dinner instead of the usual haunts.

The name of the restaurant sounded pretty awful - like a direct translation of a pretty decent Chinese word/phrase to English without thought to how it would turn out in a different language. And the location of the restaurant, near some large factory building and among a row of shophouses with extremely limited parking (we had to park at the back of the restaurant at the residential area) wasn't the most, well, asthetically pleasing.

All that aside, we had a good enough experience there which prompted talk of going back for a second time. As per the pic above, the restaurant menu has a page devoted to listing just its specialities to make for easy ordering.

My CEB ordered the Hokkien Noodles which turned out to be unlike the yellow/white noodles that we were expecting. While the dish was not easy on the eye - coiled wet worm-like noodles heaped in very dark looking liquid, the aroma wafting from the dish sent both of us digging in without second thoughts. We agreed this dish was yummy - not too salty despite the sauce, but tasty and wet as good hokkien mee should be. I would definitely recommend this dish to folks going to the restaurant.

I was debating between 2 of the chef's recommendation - the Claypot Herbal Mutton or the salted egg crabs. My CEB was pretty firm about not trying the latter, having had an unpleasant experience at another restaurant before with this dish but when the server told us they were out of the mutton soup, my CEB surprised me by ordering a crab cooked in salted egg (My CEB seems to be less fixed in his ways and more open to trying, and to giving in since the EE course).

The Slog Reviews: The salted egg crab was not the least bit too salty and the dressing (salted egg) surprisingly did not detract from the sweetness of the crab which was as fresh and "meat-packed" as the one we had in Malacca. This dish was extremely well done - the salted flavor of the sauce was a subtle contrast and brought out the full flavor of thecrab's natural flavor. A must try!

The total bill came to about SGD50+ for the noodles and the crab (abt 900gm) which was lower than what we had expected (too much of eating in Malaysia I guess!).

Address: No. 34 Jalan Pari Burong (Upper Changi Road) Singapore 488700.
Tel: +65 6245-7268

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cooking a meal for the first time in more than 15 years

Before my CEB and I got together, I wrote that nothing beats a home-cooked meal, especially if it was specially cooked for one (click here). Maybe that is why my ex-fiance, and the suitor that came after, and even my CEB cooked for me on Valentine's Day.

But me? I have never ever been motivated or inspired to cook for any of my boyfriends or loved ones on my own accord. The last time I tried cooking was 14 years ago for my first boyfriend at his request but after that 1 time (the cooked salmon tasted horrible), I never wanted to try again. I also lacked the interest altogether, and never believed I would be able to cook (and was happy enough to have it so).

Well, today I cooked proper dishes for our dinner all by myself! I was terrified while preparing dinner that we might end up with The Runs or worse, food poisoning but thank God, we both are fine and my CEB is as usual, snuggled up to me in bed asleep at this hour, leaving me to blog.

Well, anyway the reason for cooking was because while "supermarket-ing" last weekend, I found a packet of dou miaos at the veg counter, and 2 large pieces of juicy looking striploin (those were pretty expensive at SGD11). And recalling that my CEB eats dou miaos, and that we both love beef, I bought them without really thinking of how I was going to cook them - I think I thought I could persuade my CEB to do that :P

But today, I realized I would be away for almost half a month from Wed so I decided to do a stock-take. I figured I'll leave the steak in the freezer and dump the dou miao but for some reason 2 hours later, my "itchy fingers" asked my CEB on IM if he wanted steak for dinner. I didn't think he would agree cos we had planned to go out for dinner but he said yes!I wonder really, if it crossed his mind how his wife who didn't know how to cook was going to cook steak. Hmmm.

So, that was 4.40pm when I hurled the work laptop aside and ran into the kitchen. Because I knew the steak was hard as a rock, frozen in the freezer and I hadn't the least idea how to cook the damn dou miao. And my CEB would be home within the next 2hrs. Without any mental preparation that the hour to cook would fall upon me so soon, it was DO or DIE TRYING.

I figured the first priority would be to defrost the frozen steak since I could do the rest of the cooking while it was defrosting. Thankfully, the microwave had an Express Defrost function

And thankfully too, I had Kikkoman teriyaki sauce in the fridge (bought during the last supermarket trip at the advice of my mum who told me that this was a lifesaver) which I used to marinade both pieces of steak in. The instructions on the label said to marinade for 20mins and I figured that would be easy until it was time to pour the sauce over the meat.

For a first time cook, the word "marinate" was foreign to me. How much sauce was required? Was water needed in the mix of the marinate? Did the sauce have to cover the top of the meat or should I flip the meat in the sauce or massage the sauce into the meat? So I ran back to the laptop and googled "What does Marinating mean?" Most of the results said "Soak, cover" but added the words "overnight or a few hours". Too late for regrets at my hasty decision to cook, and so I decided to place my trust in the Kikkoman Gods that 20 mins of marinating would suffice.

While the steak was marinating, I googled "How to cook Dou Miao" to get to one of the pages I had read briefly b4, for the recipe. This great webpage, noobcook.com came up - Dou Miao with Scallops - and it struck me that I now had a way of getting rid of the half-opened packet of frozen scallops (I usually add these to instant noodles). And then it struck me again - more work - defrosting required again.

In went the scallops in a bowl and I even patted the white little things dry with a kitchen towel per the recipe after defrosting. And I thought I was all ready to cook till I saw "2 tbsp of chopped garlic" on the recipe...what did chop mean? Like the word marinate, I had no idea what that meant - was I to chop them in cubes? And if so, how big or small, or was I to chop them in slices and dice the slices? Bless Google and Ehow.com which brought me to enlightenment (click here).

Just in case something went wrong, I chopped more garlics than needed and added the requisite 2 tablespoons in the frying pan. The recipe said Stir Fry till fragrant and maybe the garlics were too "old" because I could not smell anything. And when the cubes turned brown, I figured something was wrong and threw in the scallops which cooked pretty easily, followed by half the packet of dou miao.

And pushed and prodded the pile of veg around the pan. When the burnt brown garlic bits started sticking to the dou miao (see pic above), I was ThisClose to giving up. Then I figured I still had half a packet of veg to try and some garlic left but dear me, I had to chop more garlic (How was I to measure with my inexperienced eyes how much 2 tbs of garlic would look like on a chopping board?) And so in went the oil again, the garlic, and then the rest of the dou miao. And because I didn't bother waiting to smell the fragrance, the second try turned out better. Only problem was that the portion was not enough for 2. So I spent more time picking the burnt bits out of the first fried batch of veg and then it in the pan with the second and completed the rest of the recipe to produce this.

After I had put the dish on the table and went back to the kitchen to throw away the hand-written recipe copied from the net, I realized I had forgotten the last step which is to add soy sauce. And I didn't have a freaking cover to my frying pan as required. So guess what? From the dish back to the frying pan the whole dish went just so I could add soy sauce and stir fry some more as required.

Next challenge - the beef which now seemed pretty soft in the marinate. Based on the recipes I had read on the net for frying beef (instead of grilling or using an oven which we don't have), it seemed relatively simple. And it was. Into the olive oil went the first slab of beef for about 3 mins before I used a tong to flip it over to the other side. It appeared a bit charred, shrunken and tough so for the second slab of striploin, I left it on its side for 1 min before flipping it over, and then back and forth a few times. After that, I put both pieces on the plate and used the kitchen scissors to cut away the most gruesome layers of fat before testing out the beef to see if it was bloody within. The second slab was not cooked in the middle - in that it was still raw-ish so I cut the slab in half and put it back in the pan for a bit more. And the result? Delicious tasting beef, even my CEB kindly said so!

I know this entry is really long but it marks a milestone in my life, one I'd never dreamed that I'll voluntarily cross, even after marriage. Go me!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First Wedding Monthiversary

Our first wedding "monthiversary" was remarkable in the sense that we spent almost the whole day with the people who had supported us on our journey to the altar. (It must be true then that when you marry someone, you don't just marry that person, you marry that person's family!). And with just half an hour more to go to the next day, and my CEB snuggled in bed next to me doing his thing - thumbing his iphone -, I can think of no better way to end the day than with a post to remember us being married for a month.

I use the word "remember" instead of celebrate because there isn't a sense of triumph in passing the one month mark. Yes, we had adjustment issues, yes we had more spats than when we were dating, and yes we gave each other s*it, sometimes unknowingly and sometimes knowingly but the issue was never whether we would get through married life but how best to.

The most common question I've gotten the past month is "How's married life?" From friends, relatives, singles, married folks. I've give them answers like "It's tough, challenging, my hands are rougher than before from all the housework" but really, married life is so much more than all of that.

How do I tell them that married life means being able to experience the simple joy of watching the man I love sleep (as my CEB has done now), his lips upturned in a smile, his arm resting against mine, his gentle breathing a warm gust of air against my elbow, and knowing that this same man is going to wake up in the morning, reach out for me in bed to hug and kiss me on the lips before going out to earn a decent day's living to provide for us?

How do I tell them about the laughter that my married life is filled with almost every day? From the truly witty to the truly corny? Like, remember I mentioned here that my CEB wanted both buaya toys to join us in our new home? We brought them over with the first stuffed toy I gave him - an adorable lamb - and one morning I came into the bedroom to find that my bored CEB had proudly arranged the poor creatures in an absolutely compromising position - the perpetually half-lidded melancholic expression of my large nua nua buaya toy making the whole scene even more ridiculously funny.

And how do I tell them that married life also means squabbling about household chores with my CEB, our voices getting louder until one person gives (unfortunately that usually is me), and how it also means having to get on my hands and knees to scrub the freaking bath-tub or the yard area when I spilled bleach accidentally all over it?

Where do I even begin telling them that married life is doing things I never would have done before - reading a food steamer manual, a novita garment steaming manual, hand-washing some of my own clothes, and...surfing the internet to find out how to cook dou miao because that is 1 of the few veg my CEB eats?

And would they want to hear too that married life sometimes means having someone privy to your most embarrassing moments, not just the involuntary snores or farts or even weight gain (horrors!), but those times that you mess up so stupidly you wished no one else but you knew - like wearing a G-string the wrong way around because a label is usually found on the back of a pair of panties, and having your partner find out and guffaw outloud?

And, married life also means more responsibilities and sacrifices that a single me would never have to make/consider:

My CEB "Can you come back once your SA trip is over? Going to miss you."
(I'm leaving this Wed evening for fishing till Sat morning, and then flying off to South Africa at 2am on Sun morning ie Sat night)
Me "Har, really? Thought you don't treasure our time together from the way you arrange things on Sat which is supposed to be our day together?"

In the most pitiful tone he could muster, my CEB said mournfully "Poor me. I won't have sandwiches for breakfast anymore from Thurs"

Me "Hah! Knew it - not miss me but miss someone making you breakfast!"
My CEB (quite unashamedly) "Yar lor - what is your husband going to eat when you are gone?"
Me: *Bo Chap Look but secretly happy that my CEB likes the sandwiches I make for him.

And so there goes one month of us being man and wife :D

My CEB, if you are reading this, I want you to know (if I don't tell you often enough or show it) that I'm thankful that you have made me the one person you have vowed before God, family and friends to share your life with, and I treasure each day we have been blessed to share together in matrimony.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sing you home by Jodi Picoult

I take my hat off to my CEB - how does he wake up at 5.50am every single weekday and drive the 30KM+ to his work place.

I had a teleconference scheduled at 8.30am this morning and a meeting outside my office in the afternoon so I thought I'll bum a ride from him to work and then cab back to the in-law's place in the night for our weekly Thurs night dinners. And be productive at work since I had so many extra hours in the office. Big Mistake. I was so stoned from waking up at that unholy hour that I wasted most of the morning doing activities that required minimal mental and physical activity. Result? Work done - zilch, nada, ZERO. And to compound it all, that telecon was re-scheduled.

So - the book right? I've read every single one of Jodi Picoult's books ever since "My Sister's Keeper" so I placed myself on NLB's reservation list (I think my reservation number was over 100) and waited.

The Slog Reviews: 8.5/10. Unlike all of Jodi's previous books, I was unable to find any quotes in the book that I wanted to remember via writing it down in this blog entry. Maybe it was the stress of the first month of marriage life but the book while extremely well-written and interesting, failed to "speak" to me. There were 2 key issues that Jodi dealt with in a sensitive yet engaging manner.

The first was about homosexuality. 1 of the lead characters in the book, Zoe, falls in love with another woman after Zoe's divorce with Max, and they both are legally married in 1 state but not the state where Zoe has her embryos frozen, these being the subject of the legal tussle between Max (who wants to give them to his childless brother and wife) and Zoe. Oh, I should mention too that somehow Max manages to find God after the divorce but yet covets his brother's wife (not a figure of speech mind). And it seems that Jodi by the power of her pen, has in the epilogue, both of them writing a happy ending together (wonder what happened to the brother).

The second less thorny but no less painful issue that Jodi dealt with was infertility. Zoe and Max had been trying at huge expense (both on the pocket and emotional) to conceive and Zoe finally makes it to the 7th month of her pregnancy only to suffer a miscarriage and deliver a still born. That is the final straw in the camel's back and Max files for a divorce from Zoe because he felt that all she really cared and wanted was him to make babies. I always thought a common goal units a couple but I guess that it is easy to lose sight of one's partner (and his/her needs) while in pursuit of that goal.

I can't stop thinking about the second issue because naturally and generally, the next item on the checklist after the marriage box has been checked is kids. Truth be told, I feel pressured by my in-laws to have a child soon - never has one session with them passed without them making reference to this future child or future pregnancy. And my CEB? He undoubtedly wants kids like...right now. Right away. I understand their sentiments, his needs but really, getting a kid isn't as simple as going to the supermarket, picking up an item and paying for it.

That is why reading Sing You Home has somewhat scared me, or rather, driven home the point that there are things in life that money can never buy, and that how much of what we want isn't within the sphere of our control or influence. I've always advocated that one shouldn't kill oneself over what one can't control or influence but I think that this tough advice would be useless to me if my CEB and I both wanted kids and we couldn't have one. Or if we lost one. Or if we had one and it wasn't what we both really wanted.

My CEB always tells me that I think too much - I think maybe he's right for once, that I would be far happier today if I had sat next to him and watched his Japanese cartoons - robots mashing robots - instead of reading books that deal with life's tribulations. But then again, if one has never fallen, one would never know the glory and triumph of rising, albeit vicariously.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After the dust settles...

Writing requires inspiration and I haven't been inspired until today to write. Primarily because I've been really busy setting up house/home with my CEB, and that, was a lot more work than preparing for the wedding day! And then there was the adjustment period after the wedding too, which was very tough emotionally - who does what, where does this or that belong, what does each prefer, and of course, trying to understand and accept each other's very different behavior and needs.

Thankfully, my CEB has been easy to love because of his relatively easy-going nature, wit and sense of humor. Like when we were out shopping for household stuff the Monday after our wedding.

My CEB "I am a knight"
The Slog "Huh?"
My CEB "I have a cloak, shield and sword like a knight what!"
The Slog "What are you talking about - wait...are you using the food cover I just bought as your shield and your Mr Man Brolly as a sword?"
My CEB "Yah, and your floor rubber-mat over my arm is my cloak so I am a real knight!"
The Slog ?@#@$%@!????
So yeah, other than having great day to day company in my CEB, my CEB is made for wonderful cuddling and snuggling up to in the night. What adds the icing to the cake is when he sometimes surprises me with the stuff that he says or does. It isn't that I have low expectations of him. It is just that we are pretty direct with each other about what we want/require, and we usually try to deliver what the other party wants...or talk about it to reach a mutually acceptable solution when there is a problem in delivering.

Therefore, I was touched when my CEB surprised me a week ago with 2 fridge magnets that he had procured most discreetly from a colleague. I didn't expect my CEB to remember, much less bother about the conversation we had when I said it was such a pity that I didn't ask him to buy the Hard Rock Cafe magnets when he was in Copenhagen 2 months back so that I could add to my recent collection of Hard Rock Cafe Fridge Magnets. Other than being a "Bag of Nonsense" (as my friend named him), he can be a "Bag of Surprises" too!

Like how he surprised me today when I came back to find him not just home earlier than I expected, but also very helpful around the house - he actually ironed all the clothes in the basket after along day at work. Actually, surprised wouldn't be the right term - amazed is more like it because my CEB is usually far too tired by the time he comes back each evening to do any housework. On the other hand, because of my somewhat more flexible working life, I am happy to do the brunt of the chores...except cooking!

Because other than cooking instant noodles and using a microwave to warm up processed food, I have absolutely no idea how to cook. I never had to learn, having my good ole mama as a housewife the past 10 years and talented house-help before she stayed home. My CEB had been duly warned about my limitations before the wedding and thankfully, he loves cooking. Home-cooked meals by my CEB are the best meals to me. :D

I don't feel different after marriage, and neither does our relationship (except for the thorny adjustment phrase) but subtle things do change inevitably. For eg, I now appreciate the use of handcream which I never did prior to us moving out on our own, and when we quarrel, I can't say to my CEB what I used to when I am extremely unhappy with how or what he says to me "Eh, I am not your mum I don't have to love you unconditionally mind!"

The thing about being married is that - it's for the long haul, or at least with that intention. :D

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The day before (the wedding)

Before the day before the wedding, I had my nails done. U know how sometimes we subject ourselves to something we ordinarily wouldn't do, and then regret every min (and cent) spent? Getting gel extensions (my nails were really short) took 2 hours and getting the 3D art work done on them, another 1 hour. So 3 hrs later and RM230 poorer, I managed to check off "Get a manicure and pedicure" on the "To-Do Wedding checklist".

The day before the wedding, my CEB picked me up about 9.30am for our 10.30am appointment at ROM. As their premises at Fort Canning were undergoing renovation works, we went to their temporary quarters at MND Building. As you can tell from the picture below, getting the forms to be married was pretty much like collecting one's passport at ICA - press the machine for a queue number and wait for one's turn at the counter. The only difference is that we both had to raise our right hands and read off a declaration form. Nothing the least bit romantic about the process and I'm glad I wore a T shirt and shorts there (because of what we intended to do in the night).

After getting the forms, I was very hungry and persuaded my CEB to drop by the hawker center at Hong Lim Complex for brunch at my favourite Bak Kut Teh store - Morning Bak Kut Tea (#01-72). I simply love the BKT from this hawker stall - the soup is cooked to salty herbal perfection and the meat just falls off the bones. I could happily eat from this store 5 days a week and writing about it now makes my mouth water.

But I digress. After brunch, we swung by Bukit Batok area to pick up the linen cloth for the church reception table which the caterer had kindly agreed to loan to me, and we also went to my lead coordinator's house to pass her the items she would be using to set up the reception table at church the next morning. By the time we were done, it was about 1.30pm and raining cats and dogs when we headed into Malaysia to pick up the wedding gowns and suit, wedding bouquet and corsages, as well as get the car decoration for the wedding car (my CEB's own car) done. (I'll write more about the wedding studio in a separate entry)

By the time we were done at the wedding studio, it was about 4pm and we headed back to Singapore to his house where we covered up the car and left it there. Using my car, we headed for Sembawang Shopping Center to have a good dinner at Aston's Specialties despite the kind advice from the wedding coordinator not to have steak before the wedding. I figured that since I hadn't lost any weight for 1 of the most important days of my life, it would make sense to just give in to my craving...and did I indeed. :P A beef baby I carried the next day as penance.

After dinner, we went to the church where we were to be married in the morning and carried out the table for the reception table as well as placed the chairs for the lunch buffet. It took all of 15 minutes to complete that and by 10pm, we both were back at our respective homes. Unlike many of my friends who reported that they couldn't sleep the entire night before, I had absolutely no problem falling asleep at my usual bedtime of 1am - it's all in the mind! :D

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First post...after being married!

We got hitched successfully - From the church ceremony at a parish church to the traditional Chinese sit-down 27 tables wedding dinner in a hotel. And all thanks to the love and support we received from our family and friends.

And almost 3 weeks later, with my CEB snuggled up to me as I write this post, one arm carelessly thrown over my waist as he sleeps, you could say that despite the challenges of planning and having a wedding, the tribulations of married life (oh trust me there are many of them and we have quarreled more than we ever have in one week of married life than the past months!) as well as the immense task of setting up a home where we both are comfortable and want to come back to/stay in, we both have utterly no regrets taking The Plunge with each other.

Signing the wedding certificate, making vows to love and honor each other before family and friends, the tea ceremony, the church wedding, the wedding dinner...all these didn't change what was already between us - that both of us together are far better than each of us as a single.

I give thanks to God for my CEB almost every day, for blessing me with a husband who is so easy to love, whom I am so comfortable with and can give my whole heart to, and whom I know loves me from his kisses every morning before he leaves for work each day, and from his reaching out to me in bed before he falls asleep each night. A husband who provides for me the best he can, who is for the most part, reasonable, and who is committed to making our marriage loving and happy.

To have experienced this one marriage, to have my CEB as my husband to hold and love in this life, it is enough for me.