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Archive for February, 2008

Goodie! Foodie!

Hi Hi!

There’s been lots going on in the kitchen and here are some of the highlights, in no particular order :)

Avocado, Mushroom and Chilli Padi Salad
This may not be to everyone’s taste, but I love avocados, and they go so well with lighty cooked mushrooms! The chillis add a zing to th
e dish. The avocados from Chapel Market are so fresh! I walloped 2 whole avocados in a single day muhahaha…



Chicken Rice



Shredded Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Pita & Salad
Just a change from rice :)

Chicken Nasi Briyani

Lamb Nasi Briyani
The chicken briyani was good, but the lamb briyani was better! The lamb was so so tender! Jon and I couldn’t help eating more and more of it. We were supposed to leave half of it for dinner the next day, but I think we erm..ate a lot of it hehe..

Ginseng Herbal Soup, Coffee Pork Ribs & Veg
I had extra ribs from making the soup, so thought I’d experiment and try making coffee pork ribs. Pretty ok, but could improve the recipe further.


Wanton Mee
I brought up my favorite brand of frozen wantons from Singapore – CP brand. So since I made come Char Siew for CNY dinner, I kept some to make wanton mee!

Belgian Potatoes
On our trip to Belgium I saw this being made at several Christmas Markets. We didn’t try it, but it looked really yummy. After going to several markets I concluded that the dish was basically made up of potatoes, bacon, and brie/camembert cheese. I decided to come back and try making it myself! And the final product is quite yummy and definitely qualifies as comfort food!

Pancakes
Jon’s always asking me to make pancakes, so I thought I’d give it a go – from scratch! Wasn’t too difficult, though the proportions have to be refined further :)


Paella
I’ve always wanted to try making this dish. It looks so easy to make, and it is!

Laksa
It was really shiok to have a taste of home :)

Tom Yum Soup
Perfect for a chilly day!

Fritata with Dutch Fenugreek Cheese
Saw a chef make fritata on tv, and thought I’d give it a go myself. Easy peesy and very yummy :)

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Mika!

Shan, Ben, E-Ping, and I went for the Mika concert at the Brixton Academy. Unfortunately, Jon was unable to make it that day. Brixton Academy is a very nice location for concerts. Although it’s an indoor location, once inside you somehow feel like it’s an outdoor stage cos of the wide spaces and overhanging balconies. It’s small size (relative to the O2) also makes it feel quite cosy.

Mika was just recently awarded the Best Breakthrough Act at the Brit Awards. His more well-known songs include “Grace Kelly”, “Big Girls”, “Lollipop”, and “Love Today”. You should check out his website which has excerpts from his songs. I like how it’s so whimsical and carnival-like.

The whole performance was very feel-good and whimsical. Lots of jumping, lots of hand-swaying, and sing-a-long whenever we knew the lyrics :) I also thought the lighting and decor was very good. It fit in very well with his style of music and the atmosphere of the night.

Even the encore was hilarious. The musicians, dancers, and Mika himself dressed up in animal costumes and acted out a silly skit. Then as Mika burst into “Lollipop”, giant balloons started to fall from the ceiling, and tons of confetti was blown about. Great way to end a happy concert :)

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Mousetrap

I went to catch the play The Mousetrap, the longest running show on West End, and in the world. It’s based on the murder mystery by Agatha Christie.

Very well delivered, the actors managed to bring out the idiosyncrasies of their characters. I had a fun time trying to figure out who did it. So many possibilities, everyone could have motive… I did suspect the right person, but wasn’t completely sure until the end.

So….to solve the mystery, the murderer is….

Nahhh. I can’t tell you! Go watch the play or read the book yourself! :)
We were sworn to secrecy after the show.

Anyway, I felt like a senior citizen that afternoon cos every other person attending the play was elderly and silver-haired. It was quite sweet, they’d buy ice-cream and eat it together during the interval. They’d hold hands. Aww..

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Dublin

We decided to try an audacious plan to visit Dublin over the weekend by taking an overnight train and ferry ride to Dublin, arriving Saturday morning, and returning to London again by overnight train and ferry arriving Monday morning. Quite exciting!

We arrived so early that none of the attractions and few cafes were open. So we just hung at one of the fast food restaurants at a train station. A good breakfast and a short nap later, we walked to Kilmainham Gaol – a former prison. It’s a historic, sombre place with great political significance for the Irish because many of those who fought for independence were once imprisoned, and even executed there.

The unique architectural aspect of the prison is it’s panoptican east wing. It’s constructed in such a way that from the observation landings, the wardens could look into every cell to observe the prisoners at all times.

The other gruesome yet interesting nugget we found out was that the gates at the entrance to the prison were built not to keep the prisoners in, but to keep the non-prisoners out. Apparently hangings were such a popular social event that throngs of people would gather at the entrance to watch. You can see the two small white squares on the wall above the entrance was where the wood beams would have been.

And look how one of prisoners proposed to his girlfriend “you will marry me and nobody else”. Period. It was quite a touching and tragic story though. They were allowed to get married in the prison chapel, but they were only married for one afternoon, as he was executed soon after. She herself was imprisoned at Kilmainham at a later date, where she spent some of her time painting this image.

After the prison tour, we took a bus into town and walked along the river Liffey, checked out the famous Ha’penny Bridge, explored the Moore street market (which turned out to be much less bustling than the guidebook made it out to be), walked down O’Connell Street, and checked out Temple Bar and the nearby Meeting House Square market (which is like the Irish equivalent of London’s Borough market, but on a smaller scale).

A funny window display :)

We had arranged to meet Julian (my JC pal!) at Trinity College. He brought us around the campus, to see the well-known Book of Kells, and the magnificent Long Room. He was a great tour guide! :) He could relate everything from the dates of the founding of the school, who founded it, to significant events since it’s opening, and recent events of interest that related to the college :) Very impressive!

It so happened that weekend was when the Rugby Six Nations Ireland-Scotland match was on! As a result, Dublin was flooded with Scotland supporters…decked out in kilts! :) I’ve never seen so many men in skirts ;)

This particular shot is not too flattering for the guy. Looks rather effeminate =)

Julian, Jon and I watched the match in a pub. An exciting match it was! Ireland played really well, and deservedly won the match.

Jon & I head off to Tallaght after the match where our hotel was located – some 40 mins out of town. Turns out that we were one of the first few guests at the hotel. They had only opened the day before! You could tell that the staff were new cos they were so eager to please, plenty of hellos, some awkwardness on their part (e.g., sometimes they don’t know which way to walk and they bump into the guests, prompting swift apologies with a big sunny smile). The place definitely has some teething problems, for example, the lift broke down on the second day and we had to walk down to the ground floor, the heating in the room wasn’t that good, the water was also quite chilly; but overall it was a very comfortable place to stay.

My only gripe is the funny mismatch between the lift numbering and room numbering system. Normally if your room is 401, you’d expect it to be on the 4th floor. But nooo, they used the G, 1, 2, 3.. system instead of the 1, 2, 3, 4..system, hence room 401 is on the 3rd floor. Even then they don’t follow the G, 1, 2, 3 system perfectly. Theirs is actually G, M, 2, 3… So just as you thought you’ve figured it out, they tell you breakfast is on the 1st floor and you suddenly realise there’s no ‘1’ button in the lift! It’s actually on ‘M’! Hiya…confusing lah. Need to standardise!

Our second day was really relaxed. Slept in – afterall we didn’t get much sleep the night before with all the train-ferry transfers, had a yummy Irish breakfast (complete with black and white pudding), then head off for the Guinness Storehouse.

It was a very informative place, and a fun museum to wander about. I liked the Storehouse very much. Unfortunately, I don’t like the product quite so much. I never really liked beer, much less stout. And even though Guinness from the Guinness brewery itself does taste richer and is much more creamy, I’m still not a Guinness fan; for Jon though, he concluded that the glass of Guinness he drank there was the best he’s ever had :) He ended up drinking up the other half of my pint. I couldn’t finish it! It started to give me a headache…even though the advertising says it’s good for you! Think I’ll just stick to cider :)

We spent quite a bit of time just hanging around the Guinness Storehouse after wandering through the exhibits. There’s a nice bar on the top with panoramic views over Dublin, and one floor below is a relaxing area to just chill.

We slowly sipped our Guinness while watching Gaelic sports on TV. I’m not too sure how the rules for Gaelic football works. It seems to be a mix of soccer, rugby and American football, and a whole lot more. It seems like almost anything goes! You can run with the ball, you can bounce it, you can dribble it; you can score by kicking it in the goal net, or you can kick it through the posts like in rugby…?!? Catch no ball. Will wiki it.

Dinner, then it was time to head to the ferry port and back to London. How quickly time passes!

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Tongue Twister

I was reading the Wales section of our Great Britain guidebook to see what interesting places we could visit when I came across this Welsh tongue twister. Try pronouncing this 58 alphabet killer of a word:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

I’m serious. That’s a word!

Anyway it’s so long even the Welsh have cut it short in day-to-day use to just Llanfair PG or Llanfairpwll.

I am left with one thought…the Welsh must be really good at spelling.

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Smashing Pumpkins!

Jon & went to catch the Smashing Pumpkins concert at the O2 and it was FANTASTIC!

I haven’t been for a rock concert in ages, and I’m not sure if the one I went for even truly counts as rock. Anyway, this was a fabulous gig. Rock sounds so good live!

Jon & I had really good seats – not in the standing area, but just above it. From observation during the night it seems that if you’re in the pit, the only fun place to be is right in front, otherwise it can be quite a drag cos you can’t see much. Sitting just above the pit you have the feeling of being part of the crowd but with better view of the stage, and a lot more comfort.

I predicted that most of the people who would be attending the concert would be around our age plus minus a few years. All of us would be going there to relive our teenage years! :) And true enough, everyone looked around our age! And I bet there must have been a disproportionate number of people born in 1979 as well. I’m sure the Pumpkins won a ton of fans from that generation :)

Speaking of that song, Billy Corgan performed a superb solo acoustic version of it. It started hilariously with Billy giving his rendition of the Girls Aloud song ‘Call The Shots’. He was saying how that was the greatest song ever written and how much he liked it, and then he suddenly surprised everyone by launching into 1979!! The crowd went wild! It was more than we could have asked for! You have to listen to it for yourself! I tried several times to upload the video but it’s too large, such a pity.

We had such a great time! Now if only U2 were playing somewhere around UK/Ireland before we go back…

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I brought myself out for a Valentine’s Day date to watch The Lord of the Rings musical at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.

There’s weren’t many matinees that day, so my choice was limited, but I wasn’t disappointed. The show was really good!

When you first go into the theatre, you are transported into Middle Earth. The sides and roof of the theatre were covered with vines, and the hobbits were going about their village activities like gossiping, catching fireflies, fishing, etc.

I loved their stage and their staging. The stage itself is like one giant turntable, but there are concentric circles that can turn in different directions. Also, the circle is cut into eight slices and each slice (and segment of the slice) can be raised to a height of about 2 metres. I’ve never seen such a versatile stage before. And they utilised it to great effect. For example when the fellowship first started out, they gave a sense of journeying across varied terrain by continually manipulating the stage – sometimes they would climb hills, walk through valleys, jump across crevices, etc. And when Frodo and Sam were climbing the cliffs, the different slices were raised to different heights to give the visual effect of them climbing.

I also thought they brought out the fearsome evil of the wraiths very well. Those playing the wraiths stood on silts to make them much larger. These wraith were kept in the shadows such that you didn’t know they were on stage. Then suddenly the strobe lights would go on and show their presence. All the while when the lights are flashing the wraith’s ‘horses’ would be tossing their heads and searching for the hobbits. It was a scary feeling really. I heard someone behind be say it was even more scary than in the movie!

The other scary part was when Gandalf was fighting the Balrog in Moria, the Balrog was made to seem immensely huge such that only his head and shoulders could be seen on the stage; and the whole theatre was filled with smoke and wind was blowing so strongly such that even though I was sitting at the top floor, everyone’s hair was flying! Add red flashing lights and Gandalf’s “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”, and you feel like you are brought into the story. The same person behind me said, “I think I’ll have nightmares tonight!” :)

I also thought their portrayal of the relationship between Frodo and Sam was much less mushy than in the movie. They managed to show the brotherly love and care between the two characters without falling into mushiness.

Although the musical version was a super abridged version of the story (much much more abridged than the movie), their adaptation of the story for the stage was very good. I think the idea was to give the story, but more than that, to give the feeling behind the story, and that I think it did quite well.

My only grouse is that Gandalf in the musical was not as powerfully portrayed as in the movie.

Overall, even though it was an entertaining musical, my favourite of all the mediums is still the book! Gotta love the original!

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After the excursion to Goodison Park, there were more activities lined up for us at the Peak District National Park, which lies just south of Manchester. This was a bonus trip for us because we had not planned to make a trip here. Since we were going to Liverpool and had to head south to get back to London (for us) and Exetor (for Ernest), we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit the area.

We headed for the small village of Ollerbrook Booth just off Edale (itself a small town), and which lies between the White Peaks and Dark Peaks. The roads there were winding, steep and as we were arriving at night, they were also pitch black! It took us a while to locate the place. The B&B was the most lavish Jon and I had ever been to – we had a spacious room complete with a sitting area, stereo, TV, a full sized bathroom with a jacuzzi sized bathtub and shower, a walk in wardrobe…wow!

The B&B and trusty ol’ Suzie (Ernest’s car)



Evidence of spring – Snowdrops!

Around the B&B

Near the B&B was a field with plenty of sheep, which reminded me of the super tasty dinner I had the night before – lamb stew in a giant Yorkshire pudding :)

After having our fill of a full English breakfast, we headed off to explore the Peak District proper. It was lovely, bright and clear day, which was perfect for sightseeing. Our first stop was to Mam Tor – a mountain overlooking Hope Valley. But we didn’t climb that; instead we walked to the top of another hill also overlooking the valley – which was lovely except for a tall industrial chimney spewing out smoke. From the top it looks like you’re on the top of the world, even though it really isn’t that high.

We next headed through the steep-sided Winnats Pass to Castleton, where we were going to go down into Speedwell Cavern – a flooded mineshaft. Inside you take a boat ride down a narrow flooded tunnel to a natural cave where a huge subterranean lake lies. Unfortunately although the pictures on the brochures look like you will get to take a boat onto the lake and explore deeper into the cave, in actuality, you only get to stand in the cave and peek at the edge of the lake. Still, it was a fun experience, and we got to stay down there longer than expected cos some silly people from a second group got on our return boat, taking our places, even before they had a chance to look around the cave! So we had to wait for the next boat to arrive. Good thing the return boat comes every 15 minutes so we didn’t waste too much time.

After Speedwell Cavern, we drove on to Millstone Edge to check out the view, which was supposed to be spectacular. The scenery there was supposed to be more craggy compared with the White Peak area, consisting of cliff edges that stretch for many kilometres. I really enjoyed walking around the park area surrounding the lookout point, just being in the outdoors on a sunny day and being near to nature :) The rock formations were intriguing, some aerodynamic looking, some were huge monuments standing up in the middle of nowhere. And of course being the monkey, I climbed everything I could haha :)

As the sun was setting we decided we’d better start making our way South, but we thought that before we left the Peak District we’d stop by Bakewell to try their famous Bakewell Pudding. It’s very sweet, has strawberry jam, almond essence, and some other ingredients.

After a good dinner and the Bakewell Pudding as dinner, we drove on to Birmingham where Ernest dropped us off at the train station where we caught a train back to London :)

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Finally! We made it to Everton’s home ground at Goodison. That was the same stadium Jon had seen on the telly since he first started supporting the club. It’s a great thing that they’ve not yet moved. So silly as the pillars around stands are, it was a fuzzy and exciting time for Jon :)

The night before I was being nagged at to make sure I wake up on time, cos we can’t miss the bus, cos if we miss the bus we’ll not get to Liverpool in time, we’ll miss the match…etc etc etc :O) Actually he was excited for the whole week! He kept asking “when are the tickets going to arrive?”

So it was a grand outing to Liverpool. We caught the bus, and got there in good time. Met Ernest who had driven up from Bristol – he was joining us for the match. From the city centre we decided (actually Jon dictated ;) ) that we take a cab cos he was worried we’d get there late and miss the match and not have time to go to the shop to buy the jerseys…. hee hee… I was just enjoying watching him so excited! =)

It was fun taking the cab cos the cab driver was really friendly. Turns out he was a Liverpool fan and Jon and him were chatting about soccer, about the history of Everton and Liverpool, and making light-hearted jibes at each other :) The cab driver was telling us that actually most people in Liverpool support Everton, it’s just that on an international scale Liverpool has more supporters. Anyway, I think the funniest part was when we were trying to get out of the cab somehow the door wouldn’t open, and the cab driver joked “that’s cos you’re Evertonian!”

Jon went on a shopping spree at the Everton Club store! He went in with his old ‘Kejian’ jersey, and out he came donning the new ‘Chang’ jersey! :) Add to that the scarf he bought and he was all decked out for the match!

Ernest and I were all made into Everton supporters for the day as well :) (yepp..the old ‘Kejian’ jersey went to me)

Jon had even downloaded the lyrics for all the Everton cheers to his blackberry! He really came fully prepared. We were actually listening to the cheers/songs a couple of days before as well to familiarise ourselves with the tunes! Too bad where we were sitting wasn’t too spontaneous with their cheering, partly cos they were frustrated with how the team was playing heh…

Everton wasn’t playing quite so well that day (even though Reading is wayyy below on the table), so we were so happy for Jon’s sake when Everton scored!! Final score was 1-0 to Everton! Yippi!! At least Jon could go back satisfied that his team won!

I appreciated how the place had wheelchair access for supporters who required them. I had not noticed this at the other stadiums we had been to (but perhaps I had just overlooked it).

After the match on the walk back into town we passed by the St Domingo sign, whereupon Jon proceeded to give us a history lesson on how Everton FC used to be called St Domingo FC :) Altogether now, “ooohhhh!”

For all the anticipation, excitement and thrill of going to Goodison, this was certainly the highlight of the trip for Jon!

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We’re off to Liverpool tomorrow!

Jon’s all eager to pay homage to Everton at their home ground – Goodison Park! We’re catching the Everton-Reading match with Ernest :)

After that we’ll be heading to the Peak District! More when we come back :)

I’ve decided to update current events and past events at the same time. All these technology troubles have taken too much time away from bloggin’!! January looks boring, like we’ve not done anything! But we’ve been keeping ourselves busy nonetheless!

Updates to come! Gotta go sleep! We’ve an early start at 5.30am, and Jon’ll kill me if I wake up late and miss the bus haha :)

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