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Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Year Two Months

We were looking through our wedding photos to find one I hadn't posted yet to celebrate this monthiversay. And we found this one below which somehow manages to capture where we are at today with our marriage - standing together gazing into the big unknown.

This month was certainly the most trying month for us so far in so many ways. The new lows and new highs that our marriage has hit this month has definitely had an impact on both of us and our marriage. But we are both learning that in a marriage, when one party scores a point (win) at the expense of the other, the result is a lose-lose situation for both parties and the marriage.

A marriage is team work and neither of us, truth be told, have had any experience with a marriage before now. We are still in the process of discovering what marriage really means, the sacrifices, understanding and compromises it demands, and the time and effort needed by both parties to make it work another day.

Unlike a parent-child relationship bond, we have selected the other to journey through life with us. And this means aware that there is a price to be paid for our selection of this person over the others (out there) and paying that price when that person's weaknesses affect the marriage. However, it also means being strong for the other when the other is weak, and being the bigger person to make a bad situation good for both instead of choosing to make a bad situation even worse.

So maybe while it is all good to be standing side by side gazing in a common direction, we need to remember to take the time out occasionally to look at the person standing at our side. Because that person IS our present as well as the future, not whatever it is in the big unknown.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bigger is better most times!

Presenting the latest addition to our home to replace the previous smaller one which had given me nothing but lots of grief the past year...

We spent a couple of weeks looking at various models at various places until we were sold by Sharp's fridge plasmacluster ion technology. The retail price at Courts was SGD999, a well-know electrical appliance store was willing to sell us the same at 850 and its neighbour, 830. Even though we did not see this model on display at Gain City, when we informed the salesman that we wanted only this model, he offered to get it for us at SGD 799 (inclusive of delivery and disposal). It's pretty shocking how much the price of the same item can differ so much across well-known retailers!

I'm most delighted with this latest addition to the household because it means a lot more space for all the food I have. However, because we were advised that we should not switch on the fridge for 2 hours after it was delivered, I had to clear most of the food we had in the old refrigerator which the delivery folks helped to dispose of and this I did by cooking dinner on Tuesday. I had 2 white promfrets which I prepared and steamed with sour plums (stuffed into the cavity), salted veg (under the fish), ginger and loads of mushroom.

I thought my CEB would enjoy the dish despite his dislike for all things healthy but unfortunately he did not like the texture of the white promfret. I thought the dish was a failure too and the lesson I learnt was that the fish needs to be very fresh if it is going to be steamed. I bought the fish on Sunday and it had a use-by date of just 1 day later. Oh well.

I used the Magic Twin Pan to cook my CEB's favourite food - chicken cordon bleu, some frozen prawn stuff he bought and scallops. If the fish dish was a failure, this attempt at cooking was a disaster. I burnt the orange prawn stuff black, and the cordon bleu was not cooked to grilled perfection. I think what I did wrong was to try to cook everything at one go when each at different cooking times required.

For soup, I tried out Campbell's Borsch soup which is sold in Singapore (my friend The Slug used to buy these back from Hongkong for his boss!) and my CEB barely drank half of that. Sigh. But at least, he ate all the boiled potatoes with bacon bits with his chicken cordon bleu and was content.

Maybe it is true afterall that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. After a really filling home-cooked dinner, my CEB would wander into the kitchen as I am washing up and say most sincerely "Love you, (insert unflattering name)". With our new fridge, I think I'm going to be hearing more of that in the near future!

Monday, July 23, 2012

An unexpected break

At the time I write this post, I should be in a hotel in Melbourne.

But I'm not, I'm home with my CEB and Buaticus. And it feels wonderful.

This not being able to fly is not by my choice but due to totally unexpected circumstances. I will not be travelling to Melbourne once every month for the next 3 months. I will also not be able to fly to USA in September. No more New York, no more Florida. Thankfully I hadn't booked the domestic flights and hotel rooms for my planned work trip extension.

Goodbye Krisflyer Gold Status. Goodbye nice hotel rooms and airport lounges. :P Goodbye to the chore of unpacking and packing. Goodbye to long custom queues and airplane food.

I can't say Welcome to what at this stage because I don't know the future. But I'm hoping it will be all good.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cooking at home - potatoes and the Magic Twin Pan

For the 2nd time since I returned from the UK, I cooked dinner at home for the 2 of us. While the multi-tiered steamer has come in handy, it definitely is a hassle to pour away the water and clean the plastic tiers if I cook rice alone. So, remembering I had potatoes in the fridge from the week before when I wanted to cook chicken curry (but had cooked chicken herbal soup instead), I decided to do a "Western-style" meal.

Dr Google showed me how to boil the potatoes and test if they were cooked so into the pot in cold water the potatoes went after I peeled them.

Remembering I had bought the Magic Twin Pan from Robinsons some months before during 1 of their many sales for just SGD58, I took the pan out of the box for the first time and found that the instructions were in Chinese, if not Korean. I did my best to read the characters and deliberated waiting for my CEB to get home to confirm my understanding but in the end, I decided to go by trial and error

So, I had planned on a chicken and seafood platter with potatoes to surprise my CEB with. And I had a couple of chicken parmigiana in the freezer waiting to be defrosted and served.

Into the pan they went and to my great delight, the chicken turned out beautifully cooked with grill lines seared onto the surface. Best of all, no oil splatter with the twin pan which required only a minimum amount of oil.

Encouraged by this success, I went on to cook the other half of the meal in the same manner.
I wish I could report it was a success but it was not. The prawns turned out fine but a little too dry because I was trying to make sure the cray fish was properly grilled. The cray fish was a disaster and a great waste of money. The flesh was withered and had a bad odor after I had spent a great deal of time cooking them in the pan.

So I had to improvise. Chicken, a few prawns and some potatoes were not going to cut it. Now, one can't use the twin pan to cook vegetables so I had to use the wok to fry the organic dou miao in the fridge. To lend sweetness to the dish, I soaked a handful of wolfberries in water and after frying chopped garlic and then the dou miao over high heat, I added the wolfberries and the water into the wok and then let the dou miao simmer over low heat for 2mins.

I took 2 hours to cook everything (including preparation time). I know because I started at 5pm and my CEB came home at 7pm, kissed me and said he was hungry. And I was just about done with each of our plates. A picture of his dinner for the night (scallops grilled with the twin pan too). And he devoured every single item and proclaimed it was good. That made me happy. He ate all the potatoes to my delight (with mayo and bacon bits) - sometimes I don't know how something will go down with my CEB and when he is happy with it (or pretends to be), I feel doubly delighted.

Oh yes, and here is a picture of the dou miao dish which we also polished off. I thought tht my fried toufu tasted like shite but my CEB surprised me by eating more than 1 piece i.e. it wasn't all too bad. We both liked the way the vegetables tasted though - mushy but sweet.

And after all that food, I cleaned up the kitchen real clean and proper because I knew I wouldn't be cooking anymore this entire week and the next....no more domesticated (insert unflattering nickname) but the huntress hungry (insert unflattering nickname!).

And the week after, Melbourne...I've been travelling so much that I really need a break from the same tired routine of airports, customs, hotels, taxis, meetings. It would be nice to establish some sort of a routine life at home and have time to blog, join a class...to just be here. Be where the heart is. My CEB is my home.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and Desaru Fruit Farm Tour

When I came back from UK, my CEB surprised me with a short weekend getaway - a 2D1N stay at Lotus Desaru Beach Resort that came with a complimentary Fruit Farm Tour and return ferry tickets. All that, together with free parking at Changi Ferry terminal, complimentary entry to the Water Park, a buffet lunch at the Fruit Farm and ground transportation in Desaru taken care of for only SGD99 per head seemed like a jolly good deal.

The ferry was due to depart at 9.30am and we reached the ferry terminal at 8.50am despite the fine print on the form stating that we had to be there at least an hour before departure. I think we were the last to pick up the ferry tickets but there was no trouble at all. Surprisingly, there were quite a number of foreigners in addition to the groups of older folks waiting for the ferry to Desaru but all of us cleared the 2 booth customs checkpoint at the ferry terminal and boarded this ferry to Desaru.

I was incredibly tired from having slept little the night before and fell asleep on my CEB's shoulder. When I woke up, I thought the ferry hadn't moved because the view outside the windows looked the same. But apparently, we had completed the 45mins journey to Desaru. As we had chosen to sit indoors (which had aircon) as opposed to on the deck, we had to queue a bit to clear the Malaysia customs at Desaru ferry terminal. Although I had the MAC card, the customs officer insisted on stamping my passport. 1/3 pg of the precious few pgs left, sacrificed.

There was a tour leader waiting for us once we cleared customs and he directed us onto the wrong bus. After waiting 15mins, we were told to disembark and board a smaller bus which took us straight to Desaru Fruit Farm. Our driver directed us to join one of the English speaking tour groups which were filled with middle-aged and older folks from Singapore. Thankfully the weather was just right as I hadn't brought my umbrella and despite my fears of being bitten by mosquitoes and other bugs at the farm because my mosquito repellent was in the luggage, I survived the entire 1 hour tour without incident.

The tour guide at the fruit farm was a lady who looked to have helped herself generously to the farm's produce and she spoke really good English. Despite our initial reservations and resignation to a boring meaningless tour, the tour turned out to be pretty informational. Stuff that I either had forgotten or hadn't learnt back in school.

I didn't take many pictures of the Cat's whiskers, durian trees, pineapples, pomelos and other native fruits, herbs and vegetables but I could not resist taking the picture above of 2 young girls posing for a photo with the giant jackfruits, and of this banana plant. The tour guide told us that the many little bananas symbolizes fertility for women. I've never seen anything like this before!

After wandering around more shrubs, trees and waiting for the other folks to take pictures of and pose with fruits and plants that we see in the markets, we finally got to the halfway mark of the tour - the pond below. Some folks had bread with them and they threw that to the koi fish in the water. The sight of so many kois surging forward to eat the bread was quite unforgettable.
We also had a chance to buy bottled drinks made from the farm's produce at RM2 before proceeding to the mini-zoo. My CEB fed an ostrich while I chased a duck around and clucked at some chickens. There were rabbits for sale and lambs for petting too.

At the end of the fruit farm tour, we were picked up by the farm's vehicle for the 3mins ride back to the main building. The rest of the other folks rode in their air-conditioned buses. There, we found a table with our names and had quite a decent but very basic buffet. The folks at Desaru Fruit Farm were very well-organized and friendly. Definitely a thumbs-up in terms of service but one should not expect fancy fare (whether food or to buy back) there. The supermarket had an extremely poor selection of stuff to buy back (mangoes mostly) and I didn't see any mangosteens which the tour guide had informed us is 1 of the best source of anti-oxidants and has cooling properties.

After lunch (which really was not worthy of a picture), our driver sent us to the resort. He helped us to check in which took all of 8minutes while we waited in the lobby with our bags. The resort had a shuttle service from the lobby to the various blocks so we hopped onto one with our bags and had a tour of the buildings and club house before getting off at our block (Block B). Now, I have to say that the resort is very much like First World - the appearance of the buildings is definitely far from attractive, with each block painted some awful faded dull shade of pink, blue, green, yellow...you get the drift.

I didn't hold out much hope for the room we had either which was a long way from the lift and had to be accessed by stairs. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a spacious chalet which had 2 floors and came complete with a kitchenette. The next 2 pictures are of the ground floor. The TV was surprisingly small (32inch or less) but it had cable tv. And in place of a sofa in the living room, 2 armchairs were provided. Maybe to discourage additional guests from camping out in the room, or to allow for more chairs to be pulled up to the smallish dining table.

A picture of the bedroom on the second floor and the en-suite. My CEB complained that there was no TV and I have to say that if I hadn't brought a library book, I would have been bored out of my mind. The WIFI signal in the room was terrible, even on the ground level.

We thought of going for a swim since our room was so near the water-park but I'll let the picture below do the talking. Yeah...what water park?! There was only 1 decent slide/ride (and not even very high) and the park is meant for kids. Like for kids below 12 yrs- nothing like Sunway Lagoon even (and I'm using Msia standards to compare!). The rest of the park consisted mainly of a giant bucket collecting water and tilting over every few mins on the heads of those who somehow found joy in being doused with a gallon of water from Gawd-knows-where.

There were other swimming pools in the resort and this is a picture of the one near the breakfast area. Good for a soak right after coming back from the beach.

In the evening, we made our way to the clubhouse. The function rooms of the resort are located there as well as some arcade machines and pool rooms. Again everything looks worn and dreary. This hotel is rather new but already like most hotels in Malaysia, it is in need of the maintenance that will never happen. I think it must be because it is cheaper to build something new than the maintain the old in that country.

So yes, dinner. As one can see from the picture below, the beach is within walking distance of the resort. The water is (still) an unappealing greenish bluish hue that makes swimming a no-no. And the beach is of a nondescript white that I feel sorry already for the foreigners who have come all the way for this. Still, beach-front dining beats the non-existent room service in the rooms so we had pizza and 2 drinks for just RM35 -this resort does not try to take advantage of guests with exorbitant meal prices. Alcoholic drinks are available and reasonably priced at the sea-facing bar.

The next day, we woke up to a very basic mass-market buffet breakfast but which left us satisfied till 430pm when we finally got back to Singapore on the 3.30pm ferry. My CEB had packed in Buaticus for this holiday and the poor sod has only seen all of the interior of the chalet which is none too impressive. So much for a holiday for Buah Buah! And given his size, he isn't going anywhere else soon. Being big doesn't pay if one is a stuffed toy!

The Slog Reviews: 5.5/10. Unless you have kids who are easily content with basics, or unless you have no access to a swimming pool or beach or unless you have really no dough and the beaches and pools of SG bore you, I would not recommend travelling from Singapore to Lotus Desaru Resort hotel. To put it simply, it just ain't worth the time and effort to get there. Not going back ever.