April 2013 Archives

in eating and drinking |


We went for an oyster opening short course in the evening. 6 oysters and they say 2 glasses of wine that turned out to be total one glass in volume. No matter, it was fun.

We each got an oyster opening knife which we can take home. The instructor was pretty good, demonstrating the technique first then helping whenever anyone needed help. Things we learned from him: soak the oysters in salted ice water for 15mins to get rid of scum and bugs — salted ice water not because it’s like seawater but because salt reduces the temperature of the ice and will numb any bugs embedded in the shells so they fall off. The skirt of the oyster inside can be brown or black depending on the temperature when they were harvested. Squirt some lemon juice or gently touch the skirt once opened to check if the oyster is still alive, the skirt will shrink if it is.

Place the oyster around a wet cloth folded over, hold it down with your palm, insert the knife through the lip. Firmly push it up and down a few times, and make sure it’s touching the roof of the shell and stuck inside. Then lever gently and it will open. Clean off bits of shell and detach. I got my first one opened within a few seconds and I even managed a couple of more difficult ones.

The oysters were extremely fresh, and full of seawater. Lovely, lovely taste. No need even for lemon or any condiments. Our favourite was the fine de claire which had a little mineral taste and excellent texture. There were also rock oysters from Ireland, ones from Holland and another French one.

in going places |

Finished packing over the weekend already. Got the final stuff like toiletries and chewing gum. Our second cruise of the year, Mum had been doing lots of research into our destination — the Norwegian fjords. We’ll be staying additionally in Copenhagen and Dubai, so the challenge is to pack 2 weeks’ worth of clothes for both hot and cold weather.

It’s another MSC cruise, this time on the Musica. I expect the staterooms and most things to be similar. I think we have balconies also this time, and that will be great when sailing into the fjords. There are a couple of excursions we may join, because it’s not as easy to do ourselves — the railway at Flam and possibly an excursion at Geiranger. The rest, like the stops at Kiel, Bergen and Oslo, we’ll explore the cities by ourselves.

in being healthy |


I went out walking in the afternoon, to get out of the flat. Walked to the library to return a book, then wandered around. Bought wine, coke zero, some toiletries. Total eventually was over 2hrs, wow. And then I did some weights. Gentle exercising, together with lots of vegetables, a healthy sort of day. Oh, well, I had ice cream too.

in eating and drinking , family first , on the relationship front |


Met up with mm, she came to pick me up in her car and I directed her to a new area she’s never been to. Just simple lunch of rib-eye and vegetables. Went to the library, window shopped at estate agents and went to a small store. Went over to the church so she can get a spare copy of her baptism certificate. I wanted to get my confirmation certificate filled out too, but apparently I have to return to the church I was baptised in, not the one I was confirmed. Strange.

Met with family at a pub near Sis’ place so we can have a family dinner for early celebration of Mum’s birthday. Nice pub, not too crowded and it was okay for my niece. I had smoked duck breast with mash and a big floret of broccoli. A couple of glasses of Hoegaarten too.

in being healthy , family first , how the day went |

Boxing Gloves

Sis dragged me to thai boxing class. I’m not very keen on classes, I’ve tried yoga, aerobics and dancing and didn’t really enjoy them. This thai boxing was quite okay, long warm up with stretching, squats, crunches and the like then it was punching, jabbing and kicking against the punching bag or the trainer. It was good, I wasn’t all that winded. But I don’t think I’ll go again.

Did some work on her book, then it was mad rush to take my niece to enopi class then taikwondo class. Grilled some fish back at Sis’ home for dinner. Quite a full day.

in on the relationship front |

CHF 10 - Wood Wine Rack

Lunch with mm at a Japanese restaurant near the office, no reason, just felt like it. She had grilled hamachi head and I had the sashimi set. I then went to the market to get some stuff for the cruise, went home then went out again, we were going to Ikea to take advantage of their 40x point shopping days. She bought wine racks and I bought a replacement kitchen scale. Back to her place to put the wine racks together. Not really dinner, my dinner was a hot dog and meatballs at Ikea. She did give me some soup though.

in objects of desire |


Spa day. Was shopping with mm a few weeks ago and she stopped at one of those aromatherapy places. They had a trial promotion for massages, so we booked for a trial at < a href=”http://www.alqvimia.com” title=”alqvimia”>alqvimia. I’m more used to standard massages that are more muscle manipulation (ie more painful) than these oil-slathering type of massage. First, the therapist checked for which type of oil would suit my type, then she put on soothing music and I got 60mins of a nice relaxing massage. It was okay, I felt no different afterwards. I probably won’t go again, too expensive.

in family first |


I went over to Sis’ to help her work on her book, a parent-family guide. Reading and sorting and typing. We worked for a while in the morning, had sushi lunch, picked up my niece from school then worked pretty solidly for 3hrs in the afternoon. By the time I looked at the clock it was almost 5pm. Made a dent in the pile of material in her large plastic container. Steak dinner, and a glass of wine. A good day.

in eating and drinking |


The newest tasting, Adelphi whisky. Not quite my usual, something from an independent bottler. The name is taken from an old distillery that closed in 1907.

Tasted the cheaper blended one, which was quite okay and the price was good for daily drinking. The one that got me excited was a cask from Caol Ila that says it’s 25yr. I’m not sure I’m convinced about independent bottlers, or blends. Withholding judgement yet.

in going places , how the day went |


Went with Mum to Sai Kung, a bit out in the countryside. Still quite crowded. There’s a pier, a walk to a small sandy beach and traditional shopping streets. Saw a guy flying a kite made up of more than 100 small paper pieces.

hksaikung005fishboat hksaikung022abalone

There was a normal covered wet market, but alongside the pier fishing boats come right up to sell their catch direct to customers — fish, lobster, crab, prawn, clams, whelks, all sorts. Most of the restaurants offer seafood. We had a set dinner for 2: lobster with noodles, steamed small prawns, steamed fish, steamed abalone. All in all a good meal and a good day.

in techtalk |


So randomly, I decided to go home to see my parents. Seems Mum’s yahoo mail is causing her problems, and she can’t describe it to me over the phone. The login page for her mail, and the mail page itself aren’t loading properly, with absolutely no css, no wonder she was freaked out. Having identified the problem, I couldn’t find an answer no matter how much I googled. Finally, I installed noscript, converted her account to classic and it worked somewhat. Still didn’t solve all the issues but at least she can read emails now.

Yay! And to celebrate, here’s a candy crush cake I saw on facebook. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to be playing candy crush. My niece and I played this game on the train, to spot the people playing it on their smartphones.

in in the news |

It’s been a bad week. Boston bombing, Texas fertiliser plant fire, Lady Thatcher’s funeral. Been following the manhunt for the bombers on social media, on livefeeds, on newspaper sites. News travels fast, credit to the journalists who managed to report the right news. BBC timeline.

in in the news |


Spring is well and truly here. It’s been cloudy and showery all week. Too much pollution for the sun to come out for more than a few minutes at the time. I try to open the windows for a bit of circulation but there’s hardly any wind. The showers can get heavy, it’s awfully humid inside the flat and I have the dehumidifier working hard rotating between rooms. And I’m this close to turning the airconditioner on at night—I’ve had the living room one on for about half an hour when it got too hot and humid. The aircons in both rooms are new, so it’ll be breaking in new appliances.

in in the news |

Watched Lady Thatcher’s funeral service on BBC World News. A State funeral in all but name. Surprised at the American accent of her granddaughter who did the first reading. Glad that the Bishop of London and others who led the prayers stuck to simple and sombre subjects above politics. Found my hymn book and followed the hymns sang during the service—for a Catholic, both my bible and hymn book are CofE, from school days. (I wonder if I should get proper Catholic stuff, but it shouldn’t matter.) The final hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country was powerful and poignant.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are Peace.

There’s a picture of the family waiting on the steps of St Paul’s at the end, with the Queen at the background. Not very often that the Queen isn’t front and centre, and it felt right.

in being healthy |

4.56km 26.06min 5.43min/km (9.13min/mi)

The GPS was weak because of the crap weather so I did 26 mins instead of 2.62 miles. Just run, jog, walk and log your miles in support. Wear a race shirt or if you don’t have a race shirt, wear blue and yellow.

in being healthy , sports active |


5.68km 39.28min 6.56min/km (11.10min/mi)

What a difference one year makes. 15 April 2012 I ran the Brighton Marathon in 5.05, still a PR and re-reading the race report, a race I thoroughly enjoyed. 15 April 2013 I barely made it through 5k. Everyone is probably sick of reading about my running failures in the past year so I’ll stop now.

Very sad to read about the 23 year old runner who collapsed and died at Mile 16 at Brighton. I don’t know whether it’s more runners, more frequent occurrence, or the sensationalism aspect but it seems like there are far too many reports of marathon deaths lately. And with it, discussions about whether people should be exercising so intensely, even questioning why people run marathons in the first place. Not going there.

Even sadder news, that 2 bombs went off at the finish line of Boston. Shocked. Very sad. The explosions were timed for maximum carnage—at around 4hrs of a fast race there’d be lots of people finishing and lots of spectators at the side. Who does things like this? Boston, in addition to being one of the oldest and most prestigious marathons in the world, is the one where everybody agrees has the best supporters. The whole city comes out to cheer on the runners. The spirit of community is out in force after the explosions as people are offering their homes for people needing a place to stay.

London is this coming weekend. Already security is being stepped up. I hope stringent security isn’t a sign of things to come and runners aren’t discouraged to enter this and other marathons. One of the reasons the marathon majors (6 now) are so prestigious is the sheer amount of support of spectators along the course. A course 26.2 miles long in the middle of a bustling city is impossible to close down in the security sense—too many buildings, parks, rubbish bins, bridges and other city stuff. Do we want to move races to walled off highways with no view, no space for spectators and where the officials seem to be more intent on getting the last runner off so they can clear the road for car users to pollute the air again? No, no and no. That’s why I have no interest in running the most soulless marathon in the world, even though it’s cheap and easy logistically.

Thoughts are with the dead and injured. Please, no more violence.

in how the day went |


Korean bbq with family. It’s the first time my niece has tried it, and she said it’s “fun.” This is an all-you-can-eat so there was a neverending selection of vegetables, meat, noodles, rice, fruit, dessert and drink. I started doing the beef Korean style, wrapped in lettuce with kimchee and bean paste. Less meat, more filling.

Met up with mm in the afternoon for another drive, this time to an industrial building that had lots of outlets. Clothes and furniture and food. The one thing about this building is the lifts are very inefficient so there are people walking up and down the stairs. There are different stairwells and on some floors the doors don’t open. It’s a sort of adventure.

We were there till late, caught this sunset when browsing through a furniture store and took this on my iphone through their window. Nice.

in eating and drinking |

fauchonicecheesecake01 bluevanilla

An all around eating out day. Lunch with mm at Bistrot Le Fauchon, 2 courses with tea/coffee for just over US$10. Salad for starter, I had duck breast and she had a lamb shank. We shared a carafe of wine and a dessert off the à la carte menu. Haven’t tried iced cheesecake before, it was beautifully presented in a cone made from dark and white chocolate. Very nice, creamy and not too sweet, just a hint of cheese. Found a recipe worth trying — seems to be normal chilled cheesecake but frozen instead.

Met with sis and gis for early dinner before taking gis to the Dr Bunhead show. Gis had goats cheese tart and I had a scotch egg—still full from lunch. Afterwards we headed over to Holly Brown for ice cream. Another first for me—blue vanilla ice cream, which I had coldstoned with blueberries. My tongue was blue! Taste was creamy, fruity and I enjoyed it.

in family first |


I’m babysitting my niece tonight. Sis bought rib-eye which I cooked together with some green veg. It was good, little one ate most of the pretty large steak. We watched Masterchef and American Idol, then she played on my kindle. I wasn’t sure what her regular bedtime was, so I started nagging her at 9pm. She made it to bed at around 9.45pm, spending a little time reading in bed. Turns out, between 9 and 10p, is a good average for an 11 year old, especially since it’s not a school night.

in eating and drinking |


Whenever I had some spare time in Covent Garden I’d always try to go to 10 cases for a glass of wine. Prices were the same as pubs and they have a more superior selection. That was where I developed a taste for Chinon, especially during last summer when I felt like a lighter red. Chinon is a Loire wine and mostly cabernet franc. I was quite happy to discover that one of the supermarkets has it, albeit a little more expensive than the Australian, Chile or South African wine that occupy most of the shelves. I’m still on my old world kick, and I have to be careful about French and Italian wines here. They’re either overpriced (Bordeaux) or not very good plonk.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


Met mm for lunch, then went to an appointment with her. She had taken the afternoon off, so we took the car and drove out to a little bit further. It rained, but we were lucky to get a parking space quickly and managed a nice walk around. Explored the wet market, the pier, stopped for oysters (gillardo, cumbrae, holland live) and a small glass of wine. Back to her place for pizza and red shrimps. For the second night in a row, she drove me home.

in about me , in the news |


I shouldn’t have been surprised at the polarising reaction to Lady Thatcher’s passing. From sadness to street parties, from tributes to glee, and even lack of recognition from the younger generation. I didn’t expect such strong emotions, so openly expressed on social media. She was the first PM I remembered, and I was the right age to be considered one of Thatcher’s children. Miner’s strike, Falklands, Big Bang, yuppies, poll tax—I lived through them all. I thought she did what she believed was right for Britain at that time; some of it worked and some of it didn’t.

Personally, I benefited from that time so my regard for her is, accordingly, positive. None of my family worked in any of the industries that were union-driven or eventually privatised. I got my first mortgage, like many others under the “home ownership” spell. I still have those BT shares. She even made it okay to study chemistry at uni. I know, I know. There are areas in the country that still haven’t recovered, she never supported equality for anyone, and her ethos of extreme capitalism led to the unregulated greed that caused financial crisis after financial crisis. Like I said, some good, some bad.

Her story, as well as reactions to her policies and her death, is, in part, one of class. And so with impeccable timing, last week the BBC featured an article on the Great British class calculator. Apparently the tradition demarcation of upper, middle and lower class doesn’t work anymore, and there’s now people fit into 7 classes depending on economic, social and cultural capital. Taking the calculator revealed that I’m in the technical middle class:

a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

Which accurately describes how I take the bus to Waitrose, buy expensive wine then go back home to drink it all by myself. There’s a big section on cultural that asks questions like if you visit museums or listen to hip-hop music. Didn’t do very well there. Seems to me that this calculator tries to define classes less by birth and education factors but by, dare I say, more superficial and “American” values like whether you own a house or have a large number of friends on facebook. Oh, I’m not trying to pick on Americans, but at times she seems to like America much more than Britain. Hmm.

in about me , family first , on the relationship front |


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.

in about me , family first , on the relationship front |

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.

in eating and drinking |


I can’t remember when Japanese food became so popular. To show my age, it wasn’t widely available when I was younger, and now it’s everywhere. It’s one of my favourite cuisines. Can’t go wrong with fresh fish, tempting tempura and yummy yakitori. I have missed Japanese food while I was in Chicago and London. Spicy tuna rolls, while very nice, aren’t Japanese food. And in London I stuck with yo!sushi which again, not quite authentic.

Always happy to have Japanese. Quick dinner with mm, fresh prawn, salmon, squid, sea urchin sushi with steamed tofu. And I had a draught beer too. It’s all very fresh.

in wheels in motion |


Met with mm to pick up her new car. Took a full 2+ hours for the dealer to explain everything to her satisfaction. Our plans for a drive went out of the window. Then we met up with the guy she will rent her parking space from, that was another 2 hours.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

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.

in workstuff |


I had another interview with Regional Bank. We agreed that the role is really too junior and I’d be bored, although on the other hand it means an easy workload! That said, the manager mentioned that I’m more suited to another role, a “change the bank” type that sounded far, far more interesting. The only thing is, it means another move. Gulp.

in on the relationship front |


So mm and I were going to go out to the islands when a thunderstorm scuppered our plan. No good movies around, nothing much else going on. So we had a coffee and coke zero at mcdonalds, walked around a department store and went off in search of happy hour. A precarious taxi ride later we were at Dickens’ Bar, a couple of glasses of wine and a large plate of nachos. Nice save.

in eating and drinking |


1.7l (3pt) milk
1 vanilla pod
300g arborio rice
200g sugar
5 large eggs
50ml cointreau
40g raisins
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

I saw this recipe for orange rice cake on Two Greedy Italians and it looked so fabulous that I couldn’t wait to try it. So I made it for my parents.

Bring the milk to a boil together with the sugar, vanilla pod and large pieces of lemon zest. Add the rice all at once, stir at low to medium heat until the rice has absorbed the mlik, around 25-30mins. The mixture should be creamy and slightly thick. Remove from heat and cool, discarding the vanilla and lemon zest.

Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with cointreau. Whisk the whites until firm. Once the rice mixture has cooled, add the egg yolks, raisin, orange zest then fold in the egg whites. Bake at 180°C for about 1 hr. Can be served hot or cold.

A long time ago, I had a moist, custardy, slightly heavy cake from France. It’s a bit like canalé but with dried fruit. This tasted a bit like that. There’s a lot of custard flavour, the rice gives a different texture and the citrus is a good contrast. Flourless, butterless but still very rich and yummy.


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