cny dinner


Family dinner tonight at the posh club where sis and Rob are members. A bit of fun beforehand, sis booked the bowling alley and the three of us (me, niece and rob) tried to bowl. My scores were abysmal, the highest round was 95, ugh.

The dinner was buffet at the garden lounge at the top floor of the club building. Unlike hotel buffets, it was very civilised and the atmosphere very pleasant. There were only around 20 tables, so that was an advantage already. Soup and a half lobster salad were served at the table. My niece doesn’t like lobsters so mum had a whole one!

Both sis and I opted to add-on free flow drinks, which included champagne, red and white wine, and sake. We mostly stuck to champagne, I tried the sake with dinner and it was really good. Not dry, and went well with food.

Food was the usual buffet fare. Cold seafood of oyster, crab leg, prawn, clams were alright. Sashimi was fresh and enjoyable. I had two huge plates of rocket and beetroot salad and a little bit of cold poached trout. Skipped most of the hot food although the others said it was good–steamed fish, beef checks, iberico pork chops, curry. There was a noodle station which had very little business. Outside on the patio was a bbq station with skewers, roast rib-eye and other bbq meat. The skewers was disappointing, either overcooked (chewy and dry) or undercooked (the scallops were almost raw and not charred outside).

Had a sorbet and some macarons for dessert. There was a cheesecake with chestnut topping, I only ate the topping. Half my plate was full of delicious blackberries.

cny day

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Most people spend CNY with family. All I did was stay home and cooked lunch and dinner. No difference from any other day.

Lots of greetings received on whatsapp groups. I looked and looked to find ones that didn’t have dogs, which was pretty difficult. These are from one of the priests mm follows on fb, he made them himself. I especially appreciate the explanation at the side, together with a pronounciation guide. With so much negativity around the use of fb (I deleted it from default tabs and check it once a day if I remember), it’s nice to see something that isn’t an ad, a stupid meme or spam.

cny eve market


Traditionally people go to a flower market on CNY eve to buy flowers and to participate in the festive atmosphere. Last time I went was so many years ago and all I remember is the crowd.

We set off around 11.30pm on the tram, the slowest means of transport. It was nice to enjoy the view and the cool breeze and not have to hurry. Catch pokemons too, tram is slow enough.

When we got closer to the flower market park, we saw the beginnings of the hoard. The station was completely blocked and there was a queue along the pavement to cross the road. Lots of police officers there to direct traffic and keep it orderly. It was very crowded, but organised.

There was a one-way system in place at the market, so we had to go up one aisle of stalls and down the next. So crowded that progress was slow, may be a few steps every minute. The market split into roughly two sections; one for flowers and one where mostly school and college kids sold soft toys, cushions and other festive stuff. Cute at the time, but incredibly useless and tacky a few days later. This year, there were so many dog soft toys it was hard to find anything else.

We only managed half of the souvenir section, there was one part that was completely gridlocked. When we calculated that we’d moved may be 10 steps in 20mins, it was time to give up. The flower section was marginally less crowded, so we headed there. Many stalls had discounted flowers, the market had been in place for about a week and it was the last few hours. We left with a few bunches of flowers, mostly for mm’s mum. I got a pot of basil for the equivalent of £1.

By the time we left it was something like 3am. Amazingly there were still people heading into the market. These wise and persistent individuals were there for last minute bargains, good luck to them.



My contribution towards Valentine’s Day? I cancelled lunch and a day out with mm. She’d booked an Indian buffet for lunch but I wasn’t feeling 100% when I woke up. Strange headache on the left side of my head behind my ear, sometimes it’d feel hot and sometimes it’d feel a bit numb. Occasionally there’d be a sharp pain. But not debilitating like a migraine. Thought it was best to stay home and rest. Headache persisted throughout the day, even with panadol. Drank a couple of large cups of green tea and took a 20-min walk to the small park to get some sun and fresh air. Slight improvement. Probably need a good night’s sleep or rather, a week of consecutive good nights’ sleep.

Anyway it wasn’t a proper v-day event, we were just talking about Indian food and how long it’s been since we had it. We usually don’t pay much attention to v-day. More importantly, it’s Ash Wednesday. Busy this week, between Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and CNY coming up on Friday. May be it’s the trying to keep track that’s giving me the headache.

winter solstice


Happy Winter Solstice! Supposed to be a traditional family day but it was just a normal day for us. I did make duck breast and a warm quinoa salad for dinner instead of eating leftovers.

It’s the shortest day of the year and the day that marks the beginning of winter. Here’s an oddly satisfying video of two people removing a huge amount of snow from a roof in Nagano prefecture. It’s more than winter in northern Japan, the Tateyama-Kurobe pass is closed and they’ve had winter weather for a while now.

pokémon go fest


I was quite looking forward to the pokémon go fest event in chicago, having been lucky enough to get a ticket. Niantic was advertising all sorts of fun events: raids, global catch challenges, legendaries and special pokémons. The trainers at go fest were supposed to lead the world in catch events that were to take place in 30-minute windows.

So I got on the 9.12am train, stopped by 7-eleven to get water, and made my way towards grant park.

And that began a day that can only be described as a complete fail.

The event was supposed to start at 10am. I got to the entrance around 10.15am to see a long queue stretching down columbus. Walked to the end of the line to see an enormous mass of people snaking around buckingham fountain. Snaking like an intricate maze. I joined the queue and it took more than 2 hours to get to the entrance. They had one entry point for 20,000 people. There was nothing to do, the app took forever to open or crashed when I was trying to do anything. Someone mentioned we walked 7km just queuing up, she either was able to keep the app open or had a fitbit.


Actually getting in was fast. Go through bag search then scan the wristband. Once inside, we were given an envelope that had a badge and a QR code. The idea was to spin at one of the official physical pokéstops and scan the QR code to get the event badge. Sounds easy enough? Ha! There was NO SIGNAL. If we could get in, the app crashed after a minute. It took mutiple tries to get the app open and 4 tries to get the QR code to scan and the badge to show up. It wasn’t just me, it was everyone at the park. It was supposed to be an event where 20,000 people worked together to catch or raid pokémons but it ended up being 20,000 people with their heads down staring at their phones trying to get connected to the network or load the app.

I was there for a bit over 2 hours. In total I spun 2 stops and caught 2 pokémons: onyx and magikarp. A grand total of 200m was registered. Hatched an egg (rhyhorn) but couldn’t start to incubate or spin at a stop to get a new one. At least I got the event badge.

Left around 2.30pm and went to get something to eat. I hadn’t eaten anything and only drank a bottle of water up to then. The people at the next table were also from go fest and everyone expressed disappointment. The worst was when I was walking out and I heard a dad said to his son,

I’m sorry this was such a bomb.

I tried the app while I was eating and saw to my amazement, a porygon and then a chansey. The app crashed when I was catching the porygon but I got the chansey, phew I needed the chansey more. I started walking slowly to the station because I had around an hour before the train. Saw a bunch of people outside an alley and it turned out to be unown.

Niantic CEO and CMO got booed when they went on stage in the park to greet the crown. Turned out, they hadn’t informed the cellular providers they were having an event where 20,000 people would try to get on the internet. They had “forgotten” to install wifi towers. The servers couldn’t take the strain (nothing new there, par for the course for Niantic).


So they extended the catch radius to two miles outside grant park. Those of us who were finally able to get a signal saw the promised rare pokémons. In addition to the porygon and chansey I also got unown and heracross. My recents don’t look so bad.

As I was taking the train back to the house, I was reading about possible compensation. The official Niantic apology to registered attendees:

  • refund of the $20 ticket
  • $100 worth of pokécoins
  • radius of special pokémons and eggs extend 2 miles for 24hrs (only visible to registered attendees)
  • legendary pokémon lugia to be automatically added to the account

I haven’t received any notifications yet; the compensation seems to be just about enough to shut people up. Doesn’t take away the fact that they ruined many people’s day. People came in from all over the US or around the world to play and they couldn’t. Especially sorry for all the families who were there, the kids must have been gutted. Trainers around the world who had organised their day to coincide with the event were also left confused and with no information. A good rundown of the how the day went is at heavy.

Apparently within the 2 mile radius after the event it’s super fun. Lures and legendary raids everywhere. But most attendees have probably gone home or away from the area.

Anyway, I’m leaving on Monday and I still haven’t seen a single tauros shadow. That’s another complaint for another day.

chicago trip day 08

Woke up at 5.30am because we had an early start. We loaded up my suitcase and muji bag of things for people and the silent auction and were off at 7am. It being a public holiday the roads were relatively clear. I took a chance and asked reception if the room was ready and it was. I dumped my bags and joined the group for breakfast and part of their meeting.


Very interesting meeting but I and another meeting attendee had to leave at 11am to get a lyft to Wrigley to see the baseball game. A was at a downtown hotel and would meet me at our seats. I’m not sure why we needed to get to the park so early, we got there at 11.45am and they wandered off to their seats. I walked around the outside of the stadium, made my way inside and explored the concession stands. Lots of food–beer,hot dogs, snacks. Souvenir shops too. I got a goose island beer (had to look for it, it was mostly budweiser) and a giordano’s pizza–I asked for cheese and got pepperoni, sigh. Our seats were in the shade behind first base. The game started at 1.20pm, I had over an hour to wait. Again, not sure why the friends took that lyft so early.


It being Independence Day, there was a parade of military personnel, a display of an American flag that covered most of the field, and we stood for the National Anthem.


To be honest, I found the game boring. There’d be short bursts of action then long periods of waiting around for teams to get organised or change positions or talk strategy. It’s not continuous and makes the game very long, total I think this game was 3 hours.

The cubs were playing tampa bay rays. Cubs took a 1-0 lead but rays in one innings went up 1-6. It wasn’t till the end of the 9th innings that things got exciting. Cubs fought back to 5-6. Two out and two strikes there were people on bases. If the batter hit the ball far enough they’d have a chance to win. But in the end they didn’t so final score cubs 5 rays 6.

We took the red line to A’s hotel, stopping off to get some stuff at walgreens and visit cheesecake factory. Taxi to a blue line station, L to rosemont then taxi to the hotel.


A little tired but hungry. Walked over to the retail park 5mins from the hotel. There was a band and food stalls as people celebrated the holiday. We found seats at a mexican place and I had blackened shrimp quesadilla which was quite good.


Had a wine at the hotel bar and joined others to watch fireworks. Long day and tired.


After church we went to visit Papa. Lunch at the foodcourt and taxi up the hill.


Instead of going home or going to the market, mum and I went to the coastal seafood area and walked around. Obviously it being new year’s day and a public holiday there were people everywhere. There were craft stalls, helpers singing and dancing, people playing with kites, a busker on electric violin and a huge dog meet & greet area which we avoided.

Mum queued up at a bakery for pineapple buns while I visited the wine shop next door. Bought a couple of craft beers: a chocolate stout and an oat stout. The chocolate stout was the last bottle.

Early dinner at one of the multitude of seafood restaurants lining the waterfront. Most offered a set meal depending on number of people. The portions were small, so they were able to fit in more variety. For two people we had razor clam, salt & chili scampi, lobster with noodles, steamed fish, bok choy and fried rice. They gave us seafood soup since mum asked for it. The quality is…just like mass produced food, not too bad. I liked the razor clam and scampi; the lobster portion was too small; the steamed fish was one of those with a very soft texture that I don’t like; the fried rice was way too salty. It’s a touristy area and the food reflects that.

family christmas

Christmas Day at middle island. Quite a long journey for mum and I, but the 260 bus came first and it turns out that it’s really, really quick–only 3 stops and no one got on at the intervening 2 stops. A long walk from the beach to the landing pier, we literally ran into Tony who was walking slowly on his own while R and D was out hiking. Everyone gathered at the small pier for the shuttle boat.


Not very crowded at middle island. Mum and I ordered lobster roll and we all ordered stuff for the bbq: prawns, sausages, veggie sausages, potato, corn. The prawns were ginormous but the lobster roll was anemic. Since it’s something like double the price of lobster rolls I’ve had in the US, I won’t order it again.


Sis and G didn’t come to lunch as G wasn’t feeling well. We went back to their place in the afternoon to rest. I helped sis cook dinner, mostly vegetarian–roast potato, carrot, parsnip, pumpkin, onion, garlic with vegetarian bacon. There was non-vegetarian fried rice from middle island too.

No turkey today, but we do have our traditional turkey. A whole cooked one from the gourmet supermarket. More like a large chicken, the label says 9 pounds. My parents always get this cooked one so I’m not going to go against tradition and make a roast one. I stripped it into several ziplac bags of meat and two bags of bones. Surprisingly not as much meat as I expected.

christmas eve at the yacht club


Christmas Eve always means mince pies and Christmas carols at the yacht club. Sill as crowded as past years around the chairs set out for elderly guests. Still drank too many glasses of mulled wine. Still brought ziploc bags for mince pies and chestnuts. The choir was pretty inept, depending on one person who knew the lyrics and could sing. Ah well, it’s Christmas spirit that is important.

Went back to the brands expo since mum wanted to buy more vitamin E cream. Had frozen yogurt finally, enough for dinner after the mince pies.

mid-autumn festival

It’s mid-autumn festival but tomorrow is the public holiday. Very thoughtful, people will stay out late to look at the moon and play with lanterns, so the day after is a holiday.

Thursday so office day. About 75% finished writing my paper, with just one or two sections to go. It’s over my 4 page target so there will be some cropping. Went to pick up my tenancy agreement and bought chicken sandwich for lunch. Happy hour with mm before going home. This place’s happy hour is normal priced drinks but $10 oysters. Good quality, sometimes cheap oysters are no good but this being a seafood restaurant seems to have gotten it right.

Mum was out with her friends but she came back for dinner. I cooked ribs and sweet potatoes yesterday already so she just needed to reheat it. Hahaha, she still managed to burn them, which is why I do the cooking.


Our mooncakes were ice cream, sis gave me a haagen-dazs voucher for 4 mini ice cream mooncakes. Perfect.

new year’s eve

Went with Sis to the New Year’s Eve event at the FCC. They have unlimited food & drink from 7pm, so we got there early and found our table. Luckily it’s in the quiet room. The FCC is a narrow building so guests were seated in all the different restaurants and bars. The food was also spread out: cold buffet at the bistro on the ground floor, hot food in the main restaurant upstairs, dessert downstairs at the bar. The wait staff kept the prosecco and wine coming.


The food was a bit hit and miss. The cold seafood was great. Sashimi cut fresh and oysters shucked fresh too. It meant a long queue, but no one seemed to mind. Other seafood included prawns, crab legs and lobster. All very good. The hot food consisted of roast (a dry-looking beef, another dry-looking ham and lamb rack that was really rare), an entire row of deep fried food, an Indian station and pasta. There was no hot veg. Seriously, I got the lamb and was looking around for something simple like carrots but nope. I ended up snagging some sag paneer. Dessert was nothing to write home about either. But again, no one seemed to mind. Free flow alcohol and a good atmosphere made up for the mediocre food.

There was a band upstairs and a DJ on the ground floor. At close to midnight, everyone congregated in the main areas and there was a big cheer during the countdown.

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

True to tradition (it is the FCC after all), a real bagpiper played Auld Lang Syne.

We left around 12.30am. Sis got a taxi and I walked a mile uphill back home. I think I had 4 proseccos, 3 (or 4?) red wine, 1 whisky (glenfarclas 12) and a mint tea. Sounds like a lot but it was over 6 hours with food.

christmas day dinner


Christmas Day dinner was traditional and fairly straightforward. Mum and I went to the market in the morning to get potatoes, carrots, salad and other veg for the week. We even found a chicken carcass for the gravy.

Menu was turkey, lamb rack, roast potato & carrot, salad. As per our family tradition, the turkey was bought pre-cooked. It’s actually really nice, juicy and not dry at all. The problem was because it doesn’t come with giblets and we can’t use the bones for this meal there is nothing to make gravy with. Hence the chicken carcass from the market which I used to make stock together with mirepoix and some herbs. Two hours at a simmer, then use it to deglaze the lamb rack roasing tray before reducing to the proper consistency. I made the lamb a tad on the rare side so it’ll warm up with the gravy and the leftovers isn’t overcooked.

Sis’ family is in the UK, so she came over. We facetimed them and shared our dinner plans.

No room for dessert, we finished off a bottle of really nice gewurtz from the US and some non-alcoholic mulled wine.

christmas eve at the yacht club


The yacht club does this every year. Early evening on Christmas Eve means mulled wine, mince pies, hot chestnuts and carol singing.

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Didn’t feel like it’s Christmas Eve because it was 27ºC. Argh, I was sweating buckets. The mulled wine was of course hot, so made me even hotter. It was nice though, could do with more spices and fruit. The mince pies were great–not too sweet, flaky pastry, small enough to handle. The queue at the candyfloss station was too long and too many kids so we didn’t even try.

Sis got other snacks too–satay, sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and chips. The satay was their usual high standard.

Carol singing started at 6pm. The enthusiastic choir was mostly kids of all ages with a few adults. Started with Away in a Manger, went through the classics like Deck the Hall, Jingle Bells, The Holly and the Ivy and one of my favourites, Once in Royal David’s City. If only the crowd would have quietened down so there was less background noise.

a huge box of christmas presents


The post office left me a card on Friday that I have something to be picked up. I went over today and was pleasantly surprised that it was a HUGE box! It fit perfectly inside my backpack, leaving space for nothing else.

I saw from the stamps that it was from A. Yay!!! Christmas presents.


Everything inside was perfect. Dutch sweets and biscuits, as well as a packet to make the wonderful apple tart. Even the card was Dutch, a beautiful scene of bikes on the canal.

But wait, there’s more. British stuff!! PG Tips, jaffa cakes, a mini christmas pud and QUAVERS!!! I don’t care that I’m going overboard with the exclamation marks. My friend sent me QUAVERS!!! A is the most thoughtful, most considerate friend ever. Or, I’m so transparent about what I like and don’t like, teehee.

And there’s even a moleskin notebook for Washington DC. Moleskin is the sort of geeky stuff I’ve been hankering after, but never quite bringing myself to buy. Now look what she’s started. Then again, it reminds me that I won’t see her next year. I must remember to include her vicariously in everything I do in DC.

CNY year of the sheep


The obligatory CNY greeting. Year of the sheep this year. Woke up, hugged parents, got red packet from them, sent greetings to sis and mm, spent the day reading and watching tv. Had a chuckle to see the previews of the Great British Sewing Bee; I don’t think it’ll be as popular as Bake-off. Yes we had the non-vegetarian version of the traditional vegetarian dish 齋 for lunch accompanied by abalone and turnip cake but that was it.

cny sheep decoration at landmark


Met with my FA, and remember why I’m so glad I don’t need to brave the traffic jam and huge crowds every day to go to and from work. The flipside of not working is, of course, the need for money to pay the bills. I don’t spend a lot, so it’s an easy request for her to make a small withdrawal from the account. Hopefully by the time I need the next withdrawal, the portfolio will have regained that amount…and more. We’re switching out of Europe into UK, and exiting Latin America. There’s some in Energy that has gone down, but we’re not panic selling.

The CNY decorations are up. The Landmark mall has a display with clouds and sheep and a big tree in the atrium. Not sure why clouds, but they look quite cute.

family christmas day lunch

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It rained almost all day, but it didn’t dampen our mood. We trekked all the way out to middle island for lunch. Long bus ride, long walk along the seafront (so windy umbrellas were useless) then the rickety small boat came and picked us up.

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We had cheese fondue, calamari, satay, fried rice and for dessert shared an apple pie and a small pavlova. One bottle of wine. Not a typical Christmas meal, everything was enjoyable. It’s been a long, long time since I had fondue and this one was good.


It was still raining but we decided to check out the bbq option. The staff there tended to the pits, and it was just a matter of ordering from the counter. We got a few giant tiger prawns and a set of cumberland sausages. Too full to eat, we wrapped everything up to take home.

Home by 4pm. Did prep for tomorrow’s turkey lunch. Quite tired, and with a sore ankle (sprained it yesterday, no running for a few days). No need for dinner, just had some fruit. A peaceful, quiet Christmas. 

Christmas ads

I just spent an hour or so voluntarily making myself cry (or weep silently) over a few ads. Of course they are heart-wrenching, they are the British Christmas ads, which are like the superbowl equivalent.

Top of the class is, as always, John Lewis. This year’s Monty the Penguin. John Lewis never, ever fails the GBP (great british public), they are as dependable as, well, John Lewis. Three tissues. (John Lewis is a well-respected, well-loved employee-owned department store. If I need something for the kitchen, or linens, or electronics, I will go to John Lewis first.)

Second is the gingerbread stall, a story of overcoming shyness, from Waitrose. One tissue, I think. BTW, Waitrose is a part of the John Lewis Group.

The Tesco, Boots and Mulberry ones are good too. I tried to like the Sainsbury’s one about the famous WW1 football match, but felt my emotions were too manipulated. Check out the rest at mashable.

Well, Happy Christmas anyway. I always say Happy Christmas rather tha Happy Holidays / Hannukah / Solstice / [other festive occasion in December]. Christmas is Christmas. It’s a time for families, food, presents, reflection and rest. The guardian had an article about new arrivals’ first Christmas in the UK and one of the interviewees, an Indonesian, said,

although I am a Muslim, I celebrate Christmas because it’s an important part of British culture and I feel it is respectful

Embrace the occasion. Forget unnecessary political correctness.  

antipasti buffet lunch

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For early family christmas lunch we opted for an italian restaurant near my place. We all chose the antipasti buffet which came with unlimited prosecco and soft drinks. Quite nice food: salmon, cold cuts, salad, grilled vegetables, stuffed tomatoes, bread. Worth it for the prosecco, not so value for money for mum and niece, I had niece’s portion of diet coke.  

gcls day 05 | two weddings


The last day of the conference is pretty much wrap up by the exec director, brunch (bacon, eggs, muffin) and lots of hugging. Sad that I won’t see my friends for another year, but happy to have the opportunity to see them at all.

I did do something I’ve never done before, and likely never have the opportunitty to again. I was invited to two weddings!

The first one was at the hotel deck. The couple were both in white and the ceremony officiated by a great, great friend of everyone. It was lovely and warm and I could see the emotions clearly on the face of the couple. People cried good tears and I felt honoured to have attended. I don’t know the couple very well, a friend of theirs asked if I could help take pictures at the last minute.

The second wedding I had been invited to earlier, also to help take pictures. It was again, full of love, emotion, warmth and happiness. It was indoors, at a chapel across the way at Vancouver WA. Many family and friends attended, as did a group of us from the writing community.

A beautiful and very thoughtful ceremony. The couple (and their son) poured coloured sand, exchanged lighted candles and were bonded by a series of rainbow ribbons. So symbolic. We stayed for the reception, the dance and even got to try the wedding cake. Great day.

cny roast lamb


Normally for CNY people eat certain traditional foods because they sound like certain lucky words, or with stuff like abalone is to show how prosperous they are, or with chicken because there’s always chicken in festive meals. These are good examples from Singapore, but don’t believe everything online: these are ridiculous and inaccurate examples.

For our CNY meal, we had…roast lamb, potatoes and carrots. Hahaha, definitely not traditional. But who cares, it’s cooking and eating food we like. It was a boneless leg of lamb that I roasted for 2hrs with the vegs. A little overdone, but still juicy. The gravy from the roasting tray and water that was used to parboil the vegs. There’s enough to serve 12 people, lots of yummy leftovers.

christmas beer


Another batch of Christmas present from my sis was a big box of craft beers, which had arrived a week or so ago. I brought one of the bottles to share with my dad. After I took the group picture I re-wrapped them in the bubble wrap they came in so I had no idea what I picked.

Turned out, it was a bottle of aztec sacrifice (second from left at back, with red cap) which the brewery described as a

big, bold malty red India Pale Ale with a wallop of citrus hops and specialty malts. Rich toffee and caramel notes with a hint of roasted barley and firm hop bitterness. This is how red ales are done on the west coast!

Wow. Big, malty and wallop definitely describes it. Extremely hoppy and quite bitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love strong bitters, but this one was a tad over the bitterness line for me. But that’s why craft beers are so interesting. Can’t wait to try the rest of the box.

boxing day family gathering

Everyone’s mood seemed to have improved, so it looked like it would be a nice day. There was still quite a lot to do in terms of cooking, so I made a rough schedule and banned my parents from the kitchen. Too many cooks and all that. Sis arrived at around 10.30am so she helped with a lot of prepping and was in charge of the salad and gravies. With 2 out of 8 being vegetarians, plus limited hob and oven space, I had to be careful food didn’t get cross contaminated, were cooked properly and all ready at around the same time. Didn’t help with hob space that I decided to make the mulled wine early so Sis and I could drink it while cooking, heehee!


I was aiming for 12pm, and everyone was sat and eating by 12.15pm. Happy and proud of that. Turkey and bratwurst were cooked and heated in the small oven. Potatoes dominated the large oven for most of the morning — chopping, parboiling and roasting 12 potatoes to crunchiness was important. Made a large pan of mixed mushrooms, white bamboo asparagus and cabbage. Two types of gravy, cranbery sauce and a greek salad. For the veggies there was vegetarian sausage and a nut loaf. For ease of washing up we used paper plates and plastic utensils.

My plate looked like a mess but everything was GOOD! Had second helpings too.

In the end, we decided against steaming the pudding for 2hrs and microwaved it instead. Took around 10mins, perfect time for me to make the custard. Lots of leftovers, which I’m actually looking forward to.

Opened presents, we all kept mainly to food this year: chocolate, biscuits, nuts, crisps. Sis gave me a bottle of chocolate wine and I got a multi-purpose wine opener from T&D, there’s a theme here! Played the wii with my niece for a bit, then they went home mid-afternoon. Too full for dinner, I just had some fruit.

christmas turkey

Turkey is traditionally eaten at Christmas. My parents prefer to buy ready cooked, so…okay. It’s quite small, in the US it’d be a large chicken. Rather than carve it the traditional (and according to many chefs the wrong) way I broke it down into manageable pieces — drumstick, thigh, wing, back, breast so it’s easier to carve. I even managed to keep the wishbone intact. Laid the pieces on a baking tray ready for carving and serving tomorrow when we will have our family gathering proper. Could have used the carcass for gravy but I used some roast chicken bones I had in the freezer instead. Made normal gravy and vegetarian gravy for the nut roast they are bringing tomorrow.

Turkey is also a colloquial term for failure, a dud, something that was unsuccessful. And that sums up my christmas day. All I’ll say is that it only takes one person to ruin the entire day for everybody. Makes me wish again that I can spend christmas alone, away from unnecessary drama. Poor mm, I spent half an hour on line complaining to her, at least she had a better day with her mum.

#50 new recipe — christmas chocolate log

Task #50 in 101 in 1001 challenge: 2 of 10 new recipes.

I’ve made yule log before, and it is a sort of family tradition. I wanted to find a recipe that was less sweet, and was pleased that bbc goodfood came through again. I made some adjustments to the recipe, taking out some more sugar, substituting honey for golden syrup and using the chocolate cream for both filling and icing.

for the sponge:
3 eggs
85g sugar
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bp
2 tbsp cocoa powder

for the filling:
50g butter
150g dark toblerone
250ml carton + 5tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp honey

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift flour, bp, cocoa and fold into egg mixture. Bake in a swiss roll tray for 10-12mins at 200°C. Remove from oven, roll in the greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Melt the butter and chocolate on a bain marie, cool. Add honey and 5tbsp cream. Whip the carton of cream until soft peaks then fold in the chocolate mixture.

Unroll sponge and spread filling generously. Roll carefully into log shape. Cut off one end as the branch. Ice with rest of chocolate cream.

We didn’t have icing sugar so I sieved some caster sugar over as the snow. I like this chocolate cream filling much better than using butter icing. It was very rich, I cut a thickish slice and divided it into three for me and parents, it was enough.

all i want for christmas is to spend it alone


Two years ago, I had one of the best christmas day ever. I started cooking early in the morning, put the guinea fowl, duck & pheasant ballotine from m&s in the oven together with my vegs. Dessert was stollen from Prague with sparkling cranberries and a dollop of marmalade. Aside from skyping with the family and a visit to my downstairs neighbour for tea, I had no other human contact for the entire long weekend.


Whenever I’m on assignment people always say to me, “don’t spend Christmas on your own” before proceeding to invite me to their christmas do (like my downstairs neighbour). Sometimes it’s great, sometimes I want nothing more than to be able to plan the day, make the food, enjoy the day, all on my own. It’s a quiet time of year, and I want to make full use of that quietude.

I’m also aware that not everyone share my sentiment. It is important not to forget family, friends, neighbours and strangers at this time of year, and it can be particularly hard on people who are lonely, away from home, sad or need the positivity that the spirit of Christmas brings.

I’m just comparing that London Christmas to the Christmas this year with family. No one seemed to be able to make a coherent decision and I’m not even sure our parents want us to have the gathering at their place. Some people live in delusion about the Christmas card picture of a family gathering in front of a fireplace with a huge tree and mountains of presents; others don’t offer any opinion, still others want something to happen but only if everyone else do the work and organisation. I guess it’ll be a pleasant gathering on boxing day. I’m hoping people can tone down their sense of entitlement or constant moaning. Boy, do I sound like the Grinch today.

christmas ads are here

Kottke called this apple’s best ad ever, which is very fitting for the times. How many times have grown-ups shake their head at their teenager burying their heads in their iphones. Good ending to this ad.

The fact that many videos are now taken on iphones and other smartphones mean that there is a new phenomenon, portrait-orientated videos. Personally I don’t like them, and I tend not to take portrait-orientated pictures either. The ad showed the teen shooting in portrait but the playback was in landscape, which led to a twitter discussion about how wrong it was. There’s even discussion about human fields of view and other tl;dr stuff involving a NASA paper.

Back to the apple ad. Is it the best? Absolutely not; may be second best. The best will always be the 1984 superbowl ad, back when using apple products were not mass market.

And the best christmas ad? All of the John Lewis ads, the latest one, the bear and the hare another tear jerker.

school christmas fair

Christmas fair at my niece’s school. Very very crowded with lots of kids, parents and friends. The main courtyard area was all food. It being the german swiss school there were bratwurst, pretzels, ham with sauerkraut, potato salad, raclette, 3 types of beer, Austrian prosecco, Swiss wine (yay!!!) as well as other food like sandwiches, waffles and asian food.

The gym had stalls selling christmas ornaments, handmade crafts and lots and lots of food. Chocolate, stollen, biscuits, homemade cakes, brownies, jams. Business was good, I scored the last 2 bottles of gluhwein and mum bought the non-alcoholic version. Sis worked the chocolate stall and by the time she finished they were almost out of everything.

The sports hall was full of games managed by kids from each year. There were flip the rubber chicken into the basin, shoot santa with a dart gun, net the duckies from the inflatable pool and many others. Lots of kids running around, lots of noise and energy.

I had some video fun again with instagram, this was at the stalls before they ran out of stuff to sell. Edited in iMovie, and added a music track — up on the housetop via uncle dave’s free christmas tunes. I think I prefer editing and saving to flickr rather than sharing from instagram directly. Gives me more control, although I lose some of the frame due to sizing.

christmas instagram

Instagram video experiment #2, christmas decoration at the mall. Went to dinner with mm, cc and am at a vietnamese restaurant at one of the malls. Good food: papaya salad, green curry vegetables, yellow curry fish, roast pork, two types of rice (ginger and coconut). Plus 4 hours free parking. Great to spend time with old friends.

elements christmas

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

papa birthday part 2


Papa’s birthday lunch with sis and my niece was supposed to have been Wednesday at the Yacht Club when they have their Indian buffet, but we postponed it because of bad weather. Went to a Malaysian restaurant instead today. Good value set lunch, most of us had chicken rice, sis had lamb satay and papa had seafood laksa.

We took the cheesecake all the way to sis’ place. Little one and I decorated with strawberries and blueberries. A tablespoon of jam diluted with water provided the glaze. The cheesecake tasted great, adding the canned passion fruit purée was a great idea. But it was a bit too wobbly and was very hard to cut. I guess I didn’t add enough gelatin.

papa birthday part 1

papa2013bday001sushi papa2013bday005sake

It’s my dad’s birthday. I went over for lunch, then in the afternoon made a chilled cheesecake. It used to be a signature dish of mine, I need to make it more.

Dinner was at an all-you-can-eat Japanese place that my parents came across. They eat half price, so it’s a good deal. Quite a bit of a trek, long bus ride followed by more walking. To order, there is a huge stack of different coloured order slips, each with a different type of food like sashimi, tempura, yakitori, noodles. We ordered lots of sashimi and Japanese salad: crab roe, seaweed, whelks. Skewers, vegetables and a little tempura. Drinks are included, not only soft drinks but beer and sake. We polished off a couple of servings of warm sake.

gj5 birthday


Pizza and rosé at mm’s place for lunch, we had stuff to talk about so I went over. Tired afterwards so we each napped where we were sat.

She wasn’t feeling very well, but made the effort to go to her niece’s 5th birthday party. Just family and there was a lot of food — spare ribs, chicken wings, lamb rack, pasta, 2 types of salad, grilled prawns, nachos and a hello kitty birthday cake. And sangria too. Was late when we left.

birthday presents


In the past, I’d be asked what I wanted for my birthday and I’d say something like “no need, don’t waste money, I’m too old for presents.” I’d end up getting cute gadgets that are cute but useless, or something else I don’t want, or at best, amazon vouchers. This year, since it’s the first I’ve spent with family (and mm) in person for a while, I reckon they’d want to get me something. So I decided to be specific instead of wishy-washy.

And I got what I wanted.

Mum got me a backpack, since my old one’s falling apart. Parents gave me a red packet of cash, exactly what I need. Sis and family were on holiday, so I asked them to get me a whisky from the duty free. She was creative and got me a oddly named anCnoc as well as a Nikka from the Barrel in its perfume bottle like packaging. A cocktail shaker too. Seriously, I’m not that heavy a drinker!

From mm I got a nice selection of diffusers, I picked the flavours myself. All in all, I’m pleased with my presents.

birthday 2013

bday2013enoteca01 bday2013cake01

Low key sort of birthday. Had lunch with family at Enoteca, a restaurant that can’t decide if it’s Italian or Spanish. They served pizza, pasta and small dishes. But the small dishes weren’t Venetian cicheti or Spanish tapas. Baked brie with toast, garlic mushrooms, risotto balls. Hmm. The Spanish influence came in the selection of sangria and chorizo pizza. Hmm.

Between us, we had mushroom pasta, lamb salad, fish & chips, the aforementioned baked brie with toast, risotto balls and parma ham pizza. A jug of sangria too. Okay, with the food confusion, it was still pretty good.

Sis brought a chocolate cheesecake which we all shared afterwards. Then she and mum went off to look for material so I took my niece back to her place and we played on my kindle for a while.

Rang mm, she picked me up and we went for a bit of a drive to one of the beaches. Little walk, then to a hotel near her home for a glass of wine. She’s been eating a lot and I was full from lunch so we just ordered a snack of crispy fried prawns. That was it for the day.

cake and dinner

agnesbdaycake02 braisedeelpepper

It’s mm’s birthday. We met up after lunch for tea — she had fruit sponge and I had a nice chestnut cake. Rich hot chocolate and iced chocolate accompanied the delicate (and a little expensive) cakes. Wandered around the shopping mall, took the bus to the flower market street and bought some cheap diffusers.

Dinner at a new restaurant, one that serves seafood. We had braised eel with taro and pumpkin, stuffed peppers and noodles. The eel was sweet and the sauce very nice. The highlight was the stuffed peppers though, very delicious, a little spicy with the seeds left in. Large plates too, we both had enough to take home.



It’s the year of the snake. Hmm. It’s supposed to be an exciting year and it’s important not to keep secrets (cos snakes are all mysterious and suspicious and all). There’s also a possibility of great advancement in science and technology. LOL may be facebook comes out with more apps, or twitter stops getting hacked.

Snake years are supposed to enhance people who were born in the year of the snake. Both good and bad qualities. Watch out.



The day after twelfth night is Epiphany. Do I have any profound thoughts? Nope. None at all. Aside from about 40mins out running hill repeats, I stayed home all day. I sorted some more pictures, that’s it. Reminds me, this is one of my all time favourites, and it wasn’t photoshopped or anything. I took this at the Chicago air and water show 2010; in the background are the Blue Angels doing spectacular air acrobatics, in the foreground is a seagull. One of those perfect moments. Seems appropriate for a day like today.

New Year meal

nybbmm02kilbasa nybbmm03crumble

If I had Christmas decorations it’s the day to take them down, it’s twelfth night. Anyway, I didn’t have decorations. But mm did come round for our New Year celebration meal. Because of traffic jam she didn’t get here till almost 3pm so I wouldn’t call it lunch.

We started with jamón ibérico and cantaloupe melons; the ham we bought at an expo at Christmas. Easy peasy starter. For mains it was also easy, we made inroads into the stockpile of sausages I had in the freezer, these were from Prague. Ah, memories.

For dessert she requested apple crumble so I made that. Added some cranberries I had left over, I think adding berries to apple crumble gives it a nice kick and makes it look more appealing. As per instructions from the guardian I made the crumble mix in the morning, sprinkled on some water and put in the fridge before baking.

Ham from Spain, sausages from Czech Republic followed by a very British dessert. A European New Year meal. We opened the bottle of Kavalan whisky from Taiwan, but also tried a drop of Edradour and Ardbeg.

christmas simple

christmas turkey christmasdessertdram

Compared with the enormous christmas feast I cooked for myself last year, this year’s christmas was very simple in comparison. Mum ordered a whole turkey and I got a container of already shredded white and dark meat. I had that with some failed sparkling cranberries (didn’t dry sufficiently, good as accompaniment though), courgettes and cherry tomatoes I had in the fridge. Finished with a slice of panettone, some chestnuts from the yacht club yesterday and a wee dram of Ardbeg.

Met up with the family for dinner at a curry restaurant. Parents had laksa, Sis and Robert and Gis had gado gado and stuffed tofu. I had green curry chicken with roti canai. Enough to take home for another meal.

christmas eve


We all gathered at Sis’ place to open presents. Sis gave me a whisky, a cool survival tool and hand warmers. My niece gave me a water bottle. Parents gave me turkey and a panettone.

Every Christmas Eve at the yacht club they have carols and mulled wine. The mulled wine was more like warm grape juice, which went down well in the chilly evening. Carols was fun, they even had the traditional yacht club version of the 12 days of Christmas.

GSIS EPD Christmas concert

GSIS EPD christmas concert 2012

My niece’s school christmas concert, at a converted church near her school. Very talented kids, singing, playing music, dancing. There was a small orchestra, and the Year 5 program was a bunch of them doing a great xylophone relay. Primary school kids, so it was a little chaotic, kudos to the teachers for controlling and organising them.