Monday, July 11, 2016

jo generates content

In support of Jo’s latest aspiration to be a YouTuber (I think one shared by Day too, and quite a few other kids around), her first edited video.


I’m impressed because she uses a Video App with music and jump cuts to do the entire thing in her phone. It’s more than I could ever do. She sends it to the Family Group Chat with the words (and two smileys): Made it myself. Enjoy!

It’s also hilarious to me because it captures the utterly humdrum detached after 7pm-life of a Singapore family where everyone is absorbed in a screen of some sort – Dad on TV, Boy on laptop AND mobile, Mum and Sister on desktop and Jo herself doing around the house filming with her phone – while uplifting music which she chose plays in the background. The sort of music where you’d expect to see children running in the grass, parents hugging the kids, bonding as a family. 

The images and the music is disconnected, but it's laughably real. I told her, next time we have to act for you. And we'll pack up the house first.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

art lesson

When an art session for Jo and Lu – to separately work on two canvases which will be combined into one - illuminates who they are.

1: Lu is the one with the art interest, and confidence, to stride into class with a sketch of an owl she had made and say – I want to paint this. Jo follows her lead.

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* Lulu's owl sketch

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2: Jo is the perfectionist who, once she is clear about the direction, dominates the work, eventually straying onto Lu’s canvas, correcting Lu’s work and terrorizing Lu out of the picture because she deems that Lu’s handiwork is “wrong”. Maybe it's the teacher part of her. This is also the part which makes my blood boil, as I see Jo modifying Lu's strokes and pushing Lu away from her own painting, and which eventually leads to the teacher positioning Lu’s canvas at a 90 degree angle to Jo’s instead of being side-by-side so the girls can’t quite see each other’s work.

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* Teacher Ocean working with Lu

3: Jo paints as if her life is on the line. Lu paints as if she wouldn’t mind the picture going into the trash. Jo is very worried and stressed throughout, Lu paints with a smile.

4: Lu’s strokes are rough, but she finishes on time with a drawing which she is proud of. Jo’s strokes are impeccable, but she doesn’t finish on time with a drawing which she says sucks.

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* Lu's

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* Jo's, which she actually didn't want me to take a picture of because its incomplete

5: Through it all, neither of them listen to anything I say, unlike all the other kids who seem to go along with what their Mums say and do.

6: They sit still at their easels for three hours.

7: Unlike other kids who make friends with other kids and then spend part of the time running amok and playing, these two don't talk to any kid, not even the ones they know. Like these ones:

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* Norman, Bridgette and Val

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* Jolene and Eva

Thursday, July 07, 2016

atas anniversary meal

Our 13th wedding anniversary (the wedding dinner one not the ROM one) is on 6 July.

KK said – Let’s go eat at one of those restaurants where the food looks very small on the plate and you don’t feel full when you’re done.

I knew exactly what he meant. I had always yearned to be one of those fools.

I’m a happy hawker center person, KK is a slightly more upmarket café person, but don’t we all aspire to eat some fine-dining mosh at least once in our lives? I've been meaning to since 2012, took me that long to take the plunge.

Moreover, one of the most interesting books I’ve read was one on El Bulli and Ferran Adria’s food inventions. For a while I craved foams and whatnot. Now I’d get my chance to nibble at pricey food inventions, courtesy of KK’s wallet.

I searched online. And I found it. My former boss, a highly-respected food critic, had also once recommended this man’s food to me above all the other fine-dining restaurants in the country. This year, his restaurant ranks 32 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the only Singapore restaurant to make it in.

I e-mailed for a lunch reservation (dinner would have been excessive), I got a date a week later (KK will have to take leave but hey it’s our anniversary), we had to pay a $50 deposit to secure the table, for a meal that would cost nearly $500.

We turn up half an hour early on the day, at 1130am, the first amongst a handful of diners. The place is a recessed slice of white studded with French windows, set back from the buildings on both sides like it’s not quite meant to be seen, with a sprig of olive tree like a big decorative bonsai in front.

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We step in, slightly fearful that we’d be outclassed, or maybe jeans and sports shoes is not allowed (it is). Inside, the first floor is all dark paneling, chandeliers and mirrors. A black opague sliding door at the end reveals the kitchen, which we are shown twice because it’s clearly an exhibition of Gattaca-ish stylings. It’s a dark, glassy, futuristic space where a team of chefs (numbering more than the diners I think) silently assemble their delicate creations in great concentration. The atmosphere is probably not unlike that of a semi-conductor facility and its terribly impressive.

We are led to the third floor – an airier lighter space which the waitress calls the “fun” space - and given a prime table next to the chef’s personal library, where apart from cook books he also stores his raw pottery creations and sketches.

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Do we have fun? Um. Not quite. We don’t quite know what to do. We cringe at the thick silence, eschew the wine (“warm water for me please, thank you”) and in what was the ultimate faux pas, walked up from the table to try and search for the place to pay before the meal was finished. (our Japanese Waiter, a very prim and proper gentleman in a suit who precisely recites the story of each dish before he serves it to us, raises an eyebrow as we head toward the lift – We have not served you the petit fours, Madam, you have not finished your meal.)

I honestly had no idea. What are petit fours? Food Noobs that we are, we are likely not able to fully appreciate what we are served, like how I as a Car Noob will never appreciate how a Volkswagen is superior to a Lancer.

But it is an experience. We are served like we have never been served before (different sets of cutlery in different styles for every course, a towelette served on a wooden dish looking for all the world like a dry round white biscuit until boiling water is poured on it when it then springs open like an accordion) and we put strange things in our mouth which have never been there and which do even stranger things once in there.

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* Towelette

Now I turn to the food, which I will dwell on at length because this will be the last time I’m eating like this. We are served nine plates. I give the official names, then my food noob observations.

PLATE 1: Seafood Tamara with Gluten Bun

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That’s a translucent carrot chip (finally! I eat a carrot chip! It’s sweet!) with salmon roe under, sitting on an incredibly light and crispy puff which explodes in a shower of warm crumbs in my mouth.

PLATE 2: Abalone/Liver/Crispy Kombu and Prawn Head

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* Abalone with purple things (don't know what) sticking out

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* Prawn Head

This plate which looks like a coral reef is put under my nose. It's the prettiest dish of the meal. The very thinly-sliced abalone sits on a piece of crispy seaweed, I don’t know where is the abalone’s liver, while the prawn head (where IS the head?) tastes like some sort of airy Japanese keropok. The really good part is when I start tearing off the bland greens lining the plate and stuffing it in my mouth. Along comes Mr Japanese Waiter to clear our plates. KK asks, pointing at me – Are we supposed to eat that? Waiter doesn’t blink – Not really, no.

PLATE 3: Dry Aged Scallop, Textures of Mushroom and Tofu, Kombucha Granite, Vegetables Demi-Glace

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* The melt-in-your-mouth scallop

Lu would squeal. This dish looks like two cute ball-y creatures prancing on a meadow. There’s the brittle ball of what tastes like onion ice-kacang on the left (KK does not like the iciness), while on the right is a truly succulent springy scallop, the flesh of which isn’t the least bit like the usual “strands” texture of scallops, wearing a cloak of very artistically burnt (?) mushroom strips. That powdery stuff is tofu powder, ground from a block of dried tofu and I think the meadow is spring onion oil?

PLATE 4: “Terre Et Mer” Gillardeau Oyster Tartare, Cured Lardo, Shima-Aji and Pork Trotter Broth

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Mr Japanese Waiter announces – This dish is a very interesting combination of the sea (fish) and the land (pork). Ah, so. The dab of paint is a salty, smoky puree of onion and smoked eel, the pile in the centre is oyster with what seems to be potato cubes covered with a white veil of something, the perfect tiny triangle of seared fish with straight-cut sides (I’m very impressed at how each side of the fish is exactly perpendicular to the plate) is apparently stuffed with chicken. I cut very small pieces trying to find the chicken in the fish, but I can’t. Maybe it’s blended in. 

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* Got chicken?

The dish also comes with a small cup of spectacularly rich intense pork soup, so rich it feels like if you dripped it from a spoon it’d drip slowly.

PLATE 5: Burnt Beef Tongue Salad, Ruban of Butternut Squash, Warm Foie Gras Soup

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The story for this is that it combines poor food (butternut) which takes centrestage as the star of the dish, and rich food (foie gras). This was our favourite. Usually I hate pickles and those delicatedly-folded origami-ish columns (no idea what the white dot on top is) have a definite whiff of sweet/sour pickle about it. However it’s supposed to go with the bed of stuff under, presumably the beef tongue although I can’t decipher the beef’s tongue, and some crunchy bits. The waiter pours a rich foie gras soup into the plate. Everything goes into the mouth at the same time. It’s intensely sweet, salty, rich, crispy, crunchy, sleek, jelat, satisfying.

PLATE 6: Salt Baked Poulet De Bresse, Grilled Leek Flower, Egg Noodles, Tasmanian Truffle and Emulsion

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* Chicken wrapped in the dark lotus leaf

This was the big surprise. These sort of meals usually have some sort of surprise element, whether it be from ingredients which have been turned into a completely different form or unique combinations. The waiter first brings a small loaf of black bread as long as my hand to our table and beams – “This is your main course. Actually, your main course is chicken breast from France, which is the best chicken in the world (like a showman, he then proceeds to cut the bread to magically reveal, in the cross-section, a perfect circle of chicken. He continues slicing the bread). The chicken is wrapped in lotus leaf and baked in the bread so the flavor is intense (he removes the bread and places one tiny piece of chicken on my place). Enjoy.” He walks away with the bread and chicken which is still in the two ends of the loaf, where it would presumably be discarded (no!!! I can dabao for the kids!)

We’ve never had chicken like this, KK says it tastes and feels like ham, it's salty moist and springy. We don’t like the egg noodle (chewy) or the leek flower (grassy) but hey, I had my foam! All three patches of it!

PLATE 7: Porcini Crème Glacee, Milk Skin, Buttermilk Curd

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Mushroom ice-cream with crumbles (one spoon's worth) and on the other side, something sweet with what tastes like sweet beancurd skin.

PLATE 8: Carbonated Red Grapes, White Peach Parfait, Honey Ice Cream on Raspberry Ice

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* What lies beneath

A sliver of ice which really tastes like raspberry. sits like an ice-skating rink over a cocktail of peach ice cream, raspberries and grapes. The grapes fizz when I bite them. For me, because I’m not a fan of berries, the honey ice-cream wins the day.

PLATE 9: Petit Fours

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The course we almost missed, I’m glad we didn’t. A warm soft chestnut madeleine, kaya toast macaron and a Dr Pepper lollipop which I was told was a specialty but which I refused to eat because I hate cherry Coke and I hate lollipops. KK ate mine.

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* The chef behind, talking to another couple, as KK fingers the bill with an interesting expression of... resignation? The chef doesn't open the restaurant if he isn't in town, so he can cook / supervise personally.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

bedtime

What a travesty.

To think I used to be so diligent about sleep. These days I’m lucky if they are in bed by 10pm.

Most times, I shoo Day and Lu in by 10, they end up sleeping at something like 1030, and I leave Jo to her devices because her will is too strong. She sleeps 11-ish, sometimes midnight.

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* The Terrible Two

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* Jo at midnight before a school day

Everyone wakes up at 615am.

I wish they were like the Western kids who bed down at 830pm. Instead, they have become Sleep Deprived Singapore Kids, joining the rest of the nation in leading the sleep deprived world brigade.

Where did we go wrong?
  • We weren’t firm enough at the start. I know people whose kids (aged 10 and above) obediently go to bed at 9pm, but I can count them on two fingers. These folks were stern, every night, from the time their kids were little babies. We let up too often, like on weekends when bedtime flew out of the window. Their nightly routine is brush teeth, read books, play… and wait for Mum to nag and nag and nag.
  • As they get older, it’s become a lot harder to make them do things they don’t want to. They don’t like to sleep.
  • Homework. Not so much an issue for Day and Lu (they'd just not do the work and get in trouble which is fine by me) but one for Jo, who, because she takes so long to eat and shower and read and play etc, she has developed a habit of starting on her homework after 9. And because she’s so fussy about it, she insists on finishing everything perfectly. But if there is one kid amongst the three who can survive on six hours of sleep and behave normally the next day, it’d be Jo.
  • We didn’t separate them. They all share the same room (Day has drifted over because his room doesn't have air-con). If one kid is tucked in first, the noisy entrance of the next one will wake him or her up.
  • We work late. I start work after 10pm. KK also works late into the night. Monkey see, monkey do.
  • They have mobile phones. Perhaps it’s the blue light which is keeping them up?

Sunday, July 03, 2016

watermelon song

And now, Lu’s voice. For real. Singing the Watermelon Song which they made up.

Lyrics:

Watermelon, watermelon, sitting on the tree
One so big and one so small, and one watermelon for me.
Watermelon, watermelon, sitting on the tree
One so big and one so small, and one for my Christmas tree.

Friday, July 01, 2016

jo’s "interview"

Jo interviews Lu. Except in the interview, she’s pretending to be Lu.

The recording is in my phone and it cracks me up. Not so much for the content but how she impeccably copies Lu's voice, and Lu’s utterly bo-chup, occasionally uncertain, slightly off-kilter demeanour. 

I listen to it whenever I need a laugh.


The Transcript

Ok we are back to the interview about Lulu.

Lulu is a cute little girl but she can be weird sometimes. So I’m gonna ask her a question.

Lulu what do you like to eat?

[ Lu ]: Erm, I like to eat, erm, some potatoes with shit and sometimes celery.

Erm, OK. What else do you like to eat?

[ Lu ]: Erm, potatoes and shit, and sometimes, celery.

Er, OK. What do you like to do?

[ Lu ]: Er, I like, I like going into the toilet bowl and swimming. Because it’s very delicious.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

feet

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* My foot on the right with bruised big toe still in recovery mode 

The top of Day’s head skims the top of my ears but his feet are now the same size as mine.

The 12-year-old can wear my shoes and I’m a Size 7.

He’s got big feet with leathery, wrinkly, weathered soles and unkempt toenails.

I still remember, so clearly, when I so admired his sweet feet.

Monday, June 27, 2016

time with papa

It’s a rare Saturday when KK spends it with us.

He’s gone six days a week. Sunday he’s gone half the day, for golf.

He says, what can I do? If I don’t go to Mandai to clock time (something like 75 hours a month), I won’t get the full monthly payment.

I said, forget the full monthly payment. We’d rather have you with us.

So here he is! (one Saturday)

* Cooking aglio olio spaghetti with Day
* Bubble tea by the pool

Saturday, June 25, 2016

tech change

I have never felt such a dinosaur as I do now, and the pain of change has never been as acute.

My trusty desktop breaks down. It was the computer my brother built for me when I first moved into this house, and it’s held out from the time Lu was 1 until now, when she’s 8. In an age where everything fails spectacularly quickly, it’s had an incredible seven-year run.

But it started crashing. Weird symbols started appearing in the middle of the screen.

I called on my trusty IT guy, Teng, and his diagnosis was that it’s time for a change.

We hop on down to Sim Lim where he heads into the shop for IT nerds, ticks off all the computer innards he needs on a piece of paper so tightly crammed with lists the tiny font looks like it was from the Yellow Pages of old, the men take two hours to assemble the machine he’s customized for me and we’re out of there with the CPU after I make the $700 payment (I re-use my old monitor and keyboard)

* A crappy camera-to-Blogger upload. Sucks.

Teng loads up all the software I need. Thankfully, all of my files and photos are saved, because he had designed that I store them in a separate drive from the start.

Things are different. The Windows is updated. The interface feels weird. Not in a good way. It all seems a lot more complex. But I’m OK.

Owing to the way in which the computer was configured, I also have to transfer all my data files (saved from my old computer) somewhere else, combine two drives into one, and then re-save them all back into the computer. Whatever.

Then it’s time to organize the photos. Ah.

Pardon the gobbledy gook, but I used to download, organize and edit in Picasa, downsize the photos in Irfan View and upload to Flickr for the blog.

Picasa apparently no longer exists. It’s gone to Google Photos.

Problem is, my Internet connection is actually very slow. Ever since we had to convert to fibre, I have been connected wirelessly using a not-very-good thingy (I don't know what its called); it’s actually quite a bit slower than when I had a directed wired connection from my CPU to the telephone line. The Old Way. So uploading to Google Photos takes forever.

In a nutshell, when it comes to tech, it’s DAMN HARD for me to change. And things are changing so fast, as what I get used to is phased out faster and faster.

Again, as I struggle to think of an offline solution for photo management (not to mention the 5,000 photos from the old computer which I’ve now got to organize) I want to cry. Honestly. I’ve got a lump in my throat.

I don’t mind doing it in a new way. But because Teng doesn’t know much about photo editing or management, I have to find the new way. A new, sustainable way (that won’t change) that I can use to download, organize, edit and upload photos just as quickly and conveniently as I used to.

And that SUCKS. The new way is lost to me. Fibre sucks, Google Photos suck, Irfan View sucks as an editing tool, everything sucks. Now I know I have to embrace change.... learn and re-learn and all that. It's just going to take some time to slowly find The Way and get used to it, even while I struggle with multiple commitments.

(I am also beginning to understand why some people, older than me, lament about the pace of change around them. I'm starting to feel it. In tech at least.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

dependent

Our children are our dependents, but I recently found out just how dependent some kids are. It came as a bit of a shock, although I kept my face straight.

The nine-year-old’s mother has been hospitalized and for the first time I had a peek into the reality of their home when I visited.

The father who works the night shift has to return home much earlier than usual so he can help the child – whom I’ll call X - get ready for school. This means bathing X and putting on the school uniform. X cannot shower or wear a shirt independently. Father then carries X’s bag to wait outside for transport to school.

Why can’t X shower independently, I ask the mother. Oh, X tried before but it wasn’t clean. The butt crack got itchy and I had to put cream on it. X thinks it’s dirty, does not like to put the hand near or into the butt crack.

Er, does X independently go to toilet to shit, then?

No. Mum has to wipe the backside.

What about in school? She replied, X never shits in school. In fact, sometimes, X will wait for Mum to come home before shitting so she can do the wiping.

X also did not brush teeth while she was in hospital, she lamented. A gargle will suffice.

I ask, why not?

Because X is unable to clean the toothbrush effectively after brushing. Toothpaste and particles are trapped in it. Rather than put the dirty toothbrush in the mouth, X would rather not brush, until Mum cleans it.

Long-suffering Mum agreed with me, that X is too dependent because she has done everything. She so protective, X has probably never been touched by a raindrop. (God forbid X gets wet, other than in the shower) And that her sickness is a good opportunity for X to toughen up.

I don’t like to judge. But … wow.