Monday, February 22, 2010

Making White Sauced Pasta: Amateur Chef

I am a lazy cook. Usually I only cook on weekends or when my boyfriend visits me. My fridge is generally empty. I only keep pro-biotic milk products, some fruits and bottles of prune essence on weekdays. I fill it with some greens and more fruits or yogurt on some occasional weekends.

Last weekend, I cooked an 'instant' practical lunch for him. Tested once and he liked it. On Friday night after work, I purposely did some groceries shopping and started to buy some fresh and canned ingredients for my planned home made breakfast and lunch.

In the end, no breakfast made and we ate one giant double chocolate muffin bought from the Cinnamon Bun muffin shop accompanied by a cup of hot instant coffee. I tried to make the Omellette during lunch hour instead.

Home Made Saturday Lunch.

English Omellete

When we were doing our grocery shopping in a supermarket in Seremban in the previous weekend, we stumbled into a topic of Omelette and English breakfast. I always know that my boyfriend is an avid fan of egg, so to accompany my pasta expose, I purposely shopped for fresh tomatoes as well to try making English Omellette for my boyfriend's breakfast last weekend.

Main Ingredients: Eggs, diced tomatoes, diced mushroom buttons, cooking oil, pepper and salt

Missing secret ingredients: Butter, cheese and diced ham

It didn't taste that fantastic and all the ingredients did not beautifully stick to the egg as planned.

Carbonara Mushroom Spaghetti 

Main ingredients: Prego Pasta Sauce and Spaghetti

Secret ingredients: Thai fish sauce, bit of sugar, pinch of pepper and Italian Herbs or Oregano.

Prego Carbonara Mushroom Sauce.

I added white large onions, eggs whisked with pinch of pepper and Italian herbs, sliced button mushrooms, sliced chicken sausage. I also put some boiled Ceylon Spinach as additional greens to be mixed with the cooked spaghetti carbonara as to make this heavy and creamy lunch less sinful to consume.

I feel that usually canned pasta sauce tasted quite plain. Therefore, to make my instant pasta sauce a little bit tastier, I added some fish sauce when I first stir fried the main ingredients.

Cooking needs practice, mood and motivation. I cook to live, not live to cook.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Perfect Dream Date at Singapore Botanical Garden

This weekend, my boyfriend gave me a surprise visit again on Friday night after he had a meeting at his site in Mersing. After planning so many times to take him to Singapore's most famous park, finally yesterday late afternoon I could take a stroll with him at the Singapore Botanic Gardens set around the Tanglin core area, Orchard. From Bishan MRT Station, we headed to Toa Payoh MRT Station to take bus no. 105 at Toa Payoh MRT Station's Exit A. After 20 minutes journey, the bus dropped us exactly in the opposite of the park. It was my second visit to this park and his first one.

5.50pm: Finally reached Singapore Botanic Garden

Yesterday, the weather was perfect. The park was not too crowded. However, as we came there pretty late at about 5.40pm, we had to rush a bit to view some good spots in the park and take some snaps before the sky got too dark.

Singapore Botanic Garden's Brochure

The Map

Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was started in 1822, in total has eleven main attraction i.e. Botany Centre, Swan Lake, Bandstand, Ginger Garden, National Orchid Garden, Palm Valley, Rain Forest, Visitor Centre, Evolution Garden, Eco Garden and Jacob Dallas Children's Garden. Due to our limited interest of time, we only managed to take a look at five of them.

Botany Centre: Education and Research Hub

The Main Entrance which hosts the Visitor Service Desk, Toilets, Food Court, Function Hall, Function Room, etc.

Sitting on an interestingly unique wooden bench near the park's main gate
Swan Lake: The Dancing Swans

A serene, pretty and large swan lake but we only saw about five swans in total. According to the information stated in the brochure, the lake is almost as old as the Gardens and was completed in 1866. It is home for few White Mute Swans from Amsterdam.

One Dancing Swan

 Three Dancing Swans

On our way before the Bandstand, we made few stops at the park's several cannot be missed other landmarks.

At the Bonsai Garden

 Posing with not-so-healthy-anymore Bonsai

YK with the 'Sundial' at the Sundial Garden

At the Cactus Garden

Garden with a Desert look

The Bandstand: A glimpse of Victorian Heritage

According to the brochure, the Bandstand, surrounded by a rim of handsome Yellow Rain Trees is still more or less in it original 1860s form. It is no longer used for music performances and is a landmark feature of the Gardens.

Smart reading pose in front of the infamous Bandstand

A Close-Up Shot in the Yellow Forest by YK

Bright-and-wide smiling YK in front of the Bandstand

Ginger Garden: Celebration with a Zing

This garden displays several hundred species of gingers and other plants from related families. It hosts two pretty mini waterfalls. We were surrounded by green plants with leaves similar to banana leaves' kind. We thought we went to the wrong garden as there's no sign of ginger plants around us. From the information board, we found out that banana is also part of ginger families. No wonder that no apparent ginger plants came to our sights. The ginger families' varieties are just far too humongous and we know nothing much about gingers other than the ginger we usually use in the kitchen.

A pretty mini waterfall

National Orchid Garden: A Fairyland of Blooms

It is supposed to be a place of dazzling banks of colorful orchids. As we missed the last Orchid Garden Tour at 4pm, we could not have a walk inside this garden and only managed to take picture in front of the Garden and peeked a little bit on the so called 'dazzling' orchid beds. From a far, we just saw huge pretty orchid territory. Too bad we missed it!

My pretty boy is as pretty as Orchids

In the end, right after we saw the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage which is located right in the middle of the park, we decided to make a way back to the park's main entrance. Sun has disappeared below the horizon and dusk was about to share its evening darkness. It was no longer good to take photo, hence at about 7.40pm, we kissed the Singapore Botanic Gardens goodbye.

We both had an afternoon blast amongst the floras, satisfied with lots of the photos taken and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in the park.

7.39pm: The very last photo taken in the Park

I'll surely try to persuade him again to take a stroll and capture more snaps some other time in the near future!

As we were already in Orchard area, I thought of having dinner around the heart of the city as well. From the bus stop in front of the park's gate, we took bus no. 123 which goes to the main Orchard Road area. We got out in front of Lucky Plaza. Since I had not had Ayam Penyet Ria for quite sometime by then, so I took my boyfriend to eat Ayam Penyet again for the second time. He said "Okay".

8.11pm: YK with his majesty Indonesian food galore: Empal Penyet, Ayam Penyet and Es Campur

I should tell the restaurant that their sambal is like poison. Darn hot! I had heartburn that night after my Ayam Penyet dinner.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Luck Symbols for the New Year

I finally had chance to feel the excitement of receiving Ang Pao again this year. I collected the red packets from my boyfriend's family, relatives and acquaintances in Seremban and Muar during this Chinese New Year celebration in Malaysia.

First Ang Pao after two years of CNY celebration fasting.
Ready to count my 'annual income' for 2010.

This year, I managed to collect a little more than a couple hundred Ringgit and SGD 4. Wohoo..! On top of that, I had the chance to experience my second Lo Hei Yu Sheng again, for two rounds too!

First Yu Sheng: CNY Dinner with Family at Min Kok Restaurant, Seremban.

13 February 2010: First Yu Sheng with YK on the CNY's Eve.

 Second Yu Sheng: Karaoke and Buffet Dinner with friends at Green Box Karaoke, Seremban.

16 February 2010: Group photo with the God of Prosperity.

Ahh.. How I miss the CNY spirit like this!

May Good Luck Be With You in the Year of Tiger.

Happy New Year!

Book Review: Have A Little Faith

I had been planning to get the latest inspirational book by Mitch Albom titled Have A Little Faith: A True Story since I saw the ads about this book months ago but I did not managed to get one. When we saw the book in Malaysia on one weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to compare the book's prices in Malaysia and Singapore first as Singapore might have the book sale as well during end of the year. In the end, Malaysia still sells cheaper books.

Two weeks ago, my wish was granted when I paid my boyfriend a visit. Despite missing the POPULAR's 20% promotion period, my boyfriend surprised me with my long-ever-wanted book.

I always like Mitch's writing style and all the messages hidden in his writings. Like the previous Tuesdays with Morrie, this book is absolutely recommended for high-quality reading material and excellent food for soul. I always purposely try to read good books slowly so I can enjoy them longer. However, this time around, I just could not control flipping the pages real fast.

One thing in the book that really hit me the most was about the secret of happiness by the Rabbi.

"Be satisfied"

"Be grateful"

"For what you have. For the love you receive. And for what God has given you."

"That's it"

I plan to make these as my life resolutions for 2010 and onwards. In real life, implementing these three sounded-so-simple short statements will surely not going to be as easy as they might sound. I hope I can always recall these wise accounts and keep them up in my mind.

Seriously thinking the best angle for snapping the book's picture

Thank you, Baby!

Eulogy for My Tomatoes

Whenever I am about to go overseas for a  few days, I always ask my housemates' assistance to water my plants during my away period. Realizing that plant watering for non-planters/non-gardeners/not-really-flora-lovers can be quite a demanding and painful task to do, I always tell them that they do not need to water my plants everyday. Once every few days would be just good enough.

Last night, I came back from my long Chinese New Year break in Malaysia. When I reached home, I was, to my horror, greeted by the most feared event that could happened to my plants (though this has been expected). First thing when I saw when I turned my head to my plants was the dried and yellowed tomato plants. They were only left with one green tomato fruit hanging. All my efforts in nurturing them all this while has officially gone into the drain.

Half-past dead tomatoes.

Single Survivor.

Later on, I slowly checked the other plants, lucky the others were still alive and relatively alright. In fact, my Hortensia plants have grown much bigger within these two weeks time. I'm quite delighted that despite the demise of my tomato plants, the newly seeded Hortensia and the rests still survived.

Growing Hortensia.

Hortensia: Ready for new potting soon.

Oh well, at least when one is dying, the rests would still be living. No can do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Keeping It Up to Golden Years

During my boring hours in the office a couple weeks ago, I stumbled into an interesting article on MSN titled 'They're Golden: Together for 50+ Years and Still in Love'.  It is about how some couples successfully manage their love boat and keep it afloat for decades.

So, again, I thought I'd keep these secrets of happy relationships for record, just in case I need a dose of senses for my head on some weird days.

Be My Valentine

This year, the galaxy has set the stars to make the Valentine's Day coincidentally fall on the same date as Chinese New Year. A rare happening that occurs once in every forty years, as I read. Although some guys still sent a bouquet of red roses or a box of chocolates to their sweethearts, since most Chinese tend to celebrate Lunar New Year and very occupied with all the Chinese New Year activities, I think this year's Valentine's Day might have been slightly less elaborated by some people, including myself. Or rather, my boyfriend and I found our different way in spending the Valentine's Day this year.

Crazy About You.

I've been welcoming the Tiger year in Malaysia and spent the first day of Chinese New Year as well as my first Valentine's Day in Muar, Johor with my boyfriend's family. After too long being away from home, welcoming and celebrating the Lunar Year again had made me miss my hometown and family so much. Angpao giveaways, family dinners, family gathering and visits as well as all the New Year greetings said have pretty much sent me back to past tense.

Back to Valentine, flowerless and chocolate-less Valentine's Day didn't lessen the sweetness of my first Valentine's Day at all. Last night, my boyfriend and I decided to get ourselves out from his Grandma's house, drive around the town and breath some open air. As we both had no destination, my boyfriend finally suggested him to introduced me Muar's infamous Chinese-style 'Fruit Rojak', one of my favorite local dish which I used to lovingly and frequently consume back home. Surely, I quickly welcomed this idea.

After making few wrong turns, stuck in a couple of dead ends and got lost for quite some time in the darkness of night in Muar, we finally found the foodcourt called Tanjong Emas, which sells the best Chinese Rojak in town. Luckily, despite the ongoing Chinese festive season, the rojak stall was open. We ordered the small fruit rojak for takeaway and it amazingly cost only 2RM. After we got the rojak packed in plastic bag, we took a night stroll at the Bay opposite the food court.

The bay was flooded by so many people and dating couples, albeit packed, we finally settled ourselves in an empty bench there. We had our packed supper which consisted of the mouth-watering Muar's fruit rojak and canned soya milk as our first Valentine's treat.

What we did for our Valentine's Day last night might sound so lousy and not romantic at all to some people, but last night's impromptu supper and Valetine's rendezvous with my loved one was kind of romantic to me. The atmoshphere we had last night was similar to dating at night in a park, which I always imagined as a very romantic thing to do for couples. Not to mentioned, the rojak was unbelievably tasty and very much equivalent to the fruit rojak sold in Indonesia.

In the end, I gave into temptation and literally begged my boyfriend to buy me the same rojak again on our way back to Seremban this evening.

Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Lunar Year 2010, Everyone!

Be loving, be merry, be happy and be healthy always.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Have Brother Complex, So What?

If people had ever asked me, when was my first love?

I'd say, when I was exactly 5 years and 1 month old.

With who?

I'd say, with my baby brother.

My younger sister and close friends often said that I suffer from Brother Complex, but I always feel that there's nothing wrong with it. It's just love and affection. I felt love for the first time when my parents introduced me to the latest addition to our family nearly 21 years ago. Only when my brother came into my world, I then realized, "So... This is how it feels to love a person other than myself".

I remember my parents brought home my new baby brother from the hospital with my Dad's blue Suzuki Carry car. When I first landed my eyes on the delicate tot my Mom held, I just fell in love with the cute little angel wrapped in a sky blue knitted jacket.

My brother did not look scary as other newborns do. He was not that pink and tiny. In fact, my Mom told me he was the biggest baby in the hospital that time, he weighed 4.2 kgs. My Dad named him Juan after a Mexican boxer called Juan Polo Perez, who just won a match when my brother was born.

1989: Baby Juan.

Little Lidya and Little Juan.

1991: Lidya's 5th Birthday.

My brother had full big sister protection from me until he grew up as a young man. I shared a room with my brother until it was my time to leave my hometown. I tried to pay close attention on every little thing that happened to him when he was younger.

I laughed at his naughtiness and jokes. I felt sad and comforted him when he got scolded by my Dad. I was very much concerned with his problems from his teachers in school. I shared my big sister advice for hours with him before bed time. I accompanied him when he played his Play Station in the living room. I was his chosen and loyal challenger when he needed an opponent in his PS games. I was his private tutor for his most hateful accounting exams or other school projects. We watched Sunday morning cartoons together. I introduced him to my favorite hobby as a child: reading. We read comics together. We discussed about books. We hunted books at our favorite bookstore and books rental shop together. We collected comics together. I showed him my favorite encyclopedias in my school library and always did my story telling about Sea Monsters to him afterward. I was his this and that.

March 2003: Favorite object for my then new Samsung digital camera.

July 2005: Chubby boy with his dearest smelly bolsters.

August 2005: Before I left him for the Netherlands.

August 2006: After I came back from the Netherlands.

December 2008: Sometime after I lived in Singapore.

I even baked birthday cake for his then girlfriend until 2am. Lucky it was successful!

December 2009: Juan's latest L-Men bod.

December 2009: Juan and I finally reunited.

My two harbors of love: Do they look alike?

After I lived apart from my family and in particular, Juan, albeit we do keep contact via phone and internet, my relationship with him just changed. It is simply hard to maintain what we had in our early years as siblings. I have missed a lot of his developments. I could not be there in many of his important occasions or daily happenings. I could not give him direct assistance when he needs me. He lives his own life. I have my own busy life. We don't share that much anymore. He doesn't ask for my help that often anymore. What I feel remain the same to date from him are his manly thoughts, typical jokes and critics. Oh God, how I miss the 'Big Sister-Baby Brother' bonding I once had with Juan!

I miss my baby brother.