mum’s birthday

It’s mum’s birthday!

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We went to frites for lunch, where they have a nice semi-buffet. The salad bar has plenty of salad, and only 1 or 2 have meat so Robert also had lots of choice. I had mussels too, but should have just stuck with the salad bar, there was too much food.

Afterwards, mum and I went to look at bathroom stuff. We’ve looked for a long time, and finally decided on American Standard. Got all the model numbers and prices from one shop. TMI about buying toilets, it’s absolutely necessary to sit on all of them to find the one that is most comfortable.

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Somehow it feels like a normal day, I had to look at the calendar to realise it’s a saturday. Days bleed into each other nowadays.

Mum and I went to central to the electrical appliances shop to look at ovens, fridges and washing machines. They also have air-conditioners. I saw a double door fridge that I like, will need to get someone in to measure the stairs and kitchen space.

Lunch was simple noodle soup. There’s some superstition that says must have noodles on birthday to ensure longevity, probably because noodles represent longevity. Anyway, suited our purposes. Popped back to my flat to check mail.

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Met sis and gis for tea buffet at the Conrad. Nice atmosphere, small atrium café with not too many tables, and we got a corner table to boot. Debated whether to get the free flow drinks but decided against it. In terms of food, there was more than enough to satisfy the most hungry: salad, dimsum, noodles (more noodles, I had laksa), satay, cheese, fruit, waffle, pastry, ice cream. When I called round the hotels to book, I asked if they offered anything for birthday and the answers were disappointing. The Marriott and Conrad both said they can bring a cake from the buffet selection and ice “happy birthday” on it. I was like, nope. I did the birthday cake myself, took a piece of chestnut cake–one of my favourite–and sis brought a candle. We did a low key birthday celebration, that was fine.

After tea, they all went home. I met up with mm for an hour for a glass of wine. She couldn’t join tea buffet, and she has a family dinner. The dinner as it happens is in the same area as the Conrad so it was convenient.

I was still very full, so didn’t need dinner. Only afterwards did I see a missed text from sis at around 7.30pm asking me to join her and R for dinner. Hahaha, I was already home by 7.30pm.

mum birthday

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Mum’s birthday! We went out for an errand, had tea at mcdonalds. I left mum with her cheesecake and met sis for an hour at a wine tasting event. It’s an english sparkling wine company that is expanding and they had 4 different wines for tasting. I focused on the drinking and eating some of the canapés while sis was busy socialising. I did some small talk but found the posing, invisible social jostling and marketing speak way too fake for my liking.

Picked mum up from marks where she went after she fnished at mcdonalds. Dinner was at Jimmy’s Kitchen, an old colonial era restaurant. Except for my niece who opted for pasta, we all had the set menu. I had tuna tartare as starter, mum and sis had roast beef salad which sat on top of a chewy, hard cold yorkshire pudding. For mains sis and mum had rainbow trout and I had slow cooked lamb shoulder.

Sis ordered a baked alaska for dessert and they wrote happy birthday on the plate. Nice meal, predictable food.

ex-colleagues dinner

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Yesterday we met up with the ex-office girls for dinner at a thai place. There was a slight panic when we were told we can only have the table for 1.5hrs, but in the end it was an empty threat–there was no one in the queue after 1.5hrs so no need to return the table. Nice food, the place has the same name as a dingy, crowded place I’ve been a few times, wonder if they are the same.

Satay, spicy chicken feet salad, green curry chicken, pad thai, pineapple fried rice. We had beer and the girls had lime soda. I’d actually gone out earlier to run errands and attempt to pokehunt. Errands took quicker than expected, coudln’t lot into pogo and it rained very hard so I spent more than an hour at a happy hour place nearby and had 2 beers already. Too much beer!

The girls brought a nice green tea cake for dessert. Perfect small size for 5 people. Great to catch up.

birthday

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Sis treated us to lunch at ON dining. It’s busy at lunchtime, good to see that business is good.

For starters I had pork knuckle carpaccio, which is pork terrine sliced very thin with an emulsion of egg and herbs topping. Mum and sis got an amuse bouche of soup since they didn’t order starters; gis had onsen egg with black truffle sauce.

Mains Sis and I had pigeon with foie gras. Perfectly cooked pigeon, delicious. Gis had beef and mum had hake.

I got a surprise birthday cake, their raspberry & yuzu that was on the menu. Mum got the same cake for dessert. Sis and I both ordered cheese so we got a large cheeseboard of comté plus six strong, oozy, yummy, cheese.

Met mm after lunch. We were going to have drinks but I thought we could get haircut since that was our original plan for saturday. Even better, because sam said he was pretty booked on saturday.

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Early dinner at frites. It’s rugby sevens weekend and friday and we didn’t have a reservation. If we sat at a table we’d have to give it back by 7.30pm, but we were free to sit at the bar for as long as we wanted. So I picked the bar. We shared a plate of fried camembert and a pot of mussels. I had a beer and mm had a glass of red wine. Really lovely. The manager gave us each a complimentary shot of tequila for birthday, and I got a discount card too.

It was a nice birthday. Everybody made an effort and I felt blessed and loved. I just wish I felt better and more cheerful inside.

mm birthday

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It’s mm’s birthday. We were going to go have haircuts but it seemed our hairdresser is closed today for public holiday. She also seemed to be not answering my telepathic pleas to decide on when and where to meet.

So finally we fixed a time. I detoured to simplylife and bought 2 slices of cake: raspberry truffle and chestnut. They turned out to be very, very nice.

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Walked a little, then settled on dinner at the hotel near her. Semi-buffet. Salad bar was pretty good: salad, charcuterie, oysters, crab legs, mussels and a nice poached salmon that ran out way too quickly. For mains we shared the 400g rib-eye that came with shoestring fries and waldorf salad. The server tried to flambé the steak with a tiny shot glass of Jack Daniel’s and it was a pretty sorry sight. The steak was average, mm says I cook them better.

mum’s birthday

Mum’s birthday. Lunch at home, I cooked noodles because it’s a traditional birthday food.

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Met sis and G for drinks at the Globe. I had a milk stout. It’s the first time I try milk stout–it’s smoother and milder than regular stout and this one, from Kent, is nice and easy to drink. A bit expensive though, they’re charging us fancy craft beer prices.

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For dinner we all went to this waffle place. I had fried chicken and waffle, the waffle was pandan but I couldn’t taste the pandan. Freshly made and crispy waffle though. The chicken was frozen, nothing special.

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For dessert we all shared a berry waffle with ice cream. Good meal. My mains was slow coming out so either they comped us 2 glasses of wine or they forgot to put them in the bill.

pre-birthday cake & dinner

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Pre-birthday dinner with sis and gis. Went over to their place in the afternoon to have cake first. Sis bought ice cream eggs from haagen-dazs that was extremely nice and rich. Not a traditional birthday cake, I like it.

Dinner at the Pawn, where I’ve wanted to visit for a while. I follow chef Tom Aikens on instagram and see him posting pics of them making sausage or bread quite often.

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We went early and it was surprisingly quiet, only 3 tables occupied. I had the set dinner: ricotta & herbs, tuna tartare, grouper with fennel & orange, crème catalan. They were also nice enough to let us try a little of the Nebbiolo, fortunate because we didn’t like it and opted for a bottle of Pinot Noir instead. The grouper was slightly overcooked for my taste but the rest of the menu was good albeit not stellar. Enjoyed the evening and spending time with sis and gis.

gis birthday lunch

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For gis’ birthday this year she picked lunch at jamie’s italian at the weekend. She even sent the email to all of us with the details. I’ve only been to jamie’s italian in the UK, so was wondering if the menu ported over well. First of, the restaurant was huge, must have cost a pretty penny in rent. We started with cauliflower fritters and arancini to share. Everyone ordered pasta for mains. Mine was supposed to be the daily special of mussel spaghetti (I think it’s spaghetti, we had problems understanding the waitress’ english). Definitely in the can do better category. The entire dish was bland, as if no salt or pepper had been added. The shells of the mussels were broken and the greatest sin of all, the pasta was overcooked. An italian restaurant that doesn’t know how to serve al dente pasta, argh. Everyone’s pasta was overcooked too, and we had to ask for olive oil to loosen the pasta.

 

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The dessert redeemed them a little. Gis had pavlova, parents had cheesecake and I had gelato: vanilla, chocolate and sea salt caramel. Gave most of the chocolate to parents and they really liked it. Originally I was going to look for a camera with gis but she was tired and wanted to go home. Mum and I did some food shopping then went home too.

 

dad’s birthday at pizza express

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For my dad’s birthday this year they decided to go to pizza express. While I was in the US, sis was invited to this new branch as part of a focus group. She took my parents and they ate a lot, free of charge. So I guess that’s why they wanted to come back.

Raining heavily, but it was okay to go there. We had a selection of pizzas and pastas. I had a lava pizza which is burrata, cherry tomatoes, olives and basil. We ordered a dessert combo, the restaurant put a candle on it and also gave us a pavlova on the house.

mum’s birthday

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For mum’s birthday this year, we had dinner at an italian restaurant near a) sis’ place, b) my old office. We stayed home for lunch cos it was so hot. Mum had her regular physiotherapy session which she didn’t want to reschedule. I went earlier to stop by the apple store to get her a new ipad—she said it was fine to get it later but I wanted her to have her present on her birthday.

The restaurant wasn’t crowded, mostly people at the bar out front taking advantage of happy hour. Mum had salmon, Papa had lasagna, sis had veal, my niece had spag bol and I had spaghetti aglio e olio. I asked mum over the weekend what sort of cake she wanted and she said cheesecake, so I made blueberry cheesecake. I asked the restaurant when I made the reservation if they would let us bring a cake and they said sure thing, no charge. Very nice of them! When we arrived, the manager took the cake to keep in the fridge, after our mains he brought it out and the staff had decorated the plate and put a few strawberries as decoration. I scattered more blueberries on top. It was well received, it’s one of the lightest cheesecakes I’ve ever made. We gave the restaurant a big tip.

I think Mum was very happy at her birthday celebration. She seemed to have a good meal and she complimented me on the cheesecake. She was happy, of course, with her ipad. Yay!! If she’s happy, we are all happy.

europe day 22: dublin to midleton to cork

Didn’t sleep well (too warm, curtains didn’t close properly and pigeons cooing outside), woke up to lots of happy birthday greetings from family and friends. Trying not to get too unhappy about getting older.

Checked out, got car, loaded our luggage and were on our way at 10am. A short detour took us off course but we found the motorway to Cork eventually. The signposts were informative, it was a glorious sunny day, perfect for driving. Part of the motorway had tolls, in general the quality of the road was excellent and not too many cars and lorries.

First stop was for a loo break, then around 12.30pm we reached Cashel. Took pictures of the rock (a lot like rocca maggiore in Assisi), didn’t go inside the castle. Weren’t hungry so we pushed on. The destination was Midleton to the Jameson distillery experience.

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We weren’t interested in the tour, just browsed around the shop. Had a great lunch at the restaurant—lamb shank for me, irish stew for mm. Tasted a dram of green spot irish whiskey at the bar.

Drove the short distance to Cork, found parking and headed towards the English Market to catch them before they close. It’s a small indoor market with stalls selling fruit & veg, meat, fish and dried goods. Some of the stalls were closed and others were closing, we bought oysters from a fish stall. One of the fishmongers came to take a picture with me.

Visited a souvenir shop, then to M&S for dinner. Yep, for my birthday dinner I opted to get M&S chicken drumstick, noodle salad and rocket to have at our hotel. It was a good choice, we had some troubles finding the hotel and needed the directions of a friendly Korean chef at a pizzeria. The hotel, when we reached it, was a sight for sore eyes. Free parking, huge luxurious room, walk-in shower, air-conditioning and curtains that close. Had a drink (redbreast 15) at the bar brought to our room to have with our dinner.

europe day 21: dublin

I’m quite proud that we booked the yotel at T4, because it was so convenient to take the free train to T2 to catch our flight to Dublin. Only 1hr and then we got the car rental shuttle. Quite a lengthy process to get our rental car, a toyota corolla. Somehow we got off the motorway and ended up in the north suburbs. I’ve only been to Dublin once, 3 years ago, and didn’t have a car then so it was a while before I got my bearings. Plus the combination of one-way systems and bank holiday traffic, it took us many wrong turns to find our hotel. Not helped by its obscure location at the top of Temple Bar, with the entrance next to Tesco..

Once we parked, unloaded and checked in, we went in search of food. Found a nice little casual café (the sort with shared wooden tables and artwork on exposed walls) that was still serving lunch. Had the special of shepherd’s pie, salad and ice cream. I had a local cider too.

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Had some time for a little shopping. Traditional sweet shop (the sort that should be called a shoppe) and Tesco. Walked down Grafton Street, aiming at the Celtic Whiskey shop. Ahhhh. So many Irish whiskeys, so little time.

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Dinner was a special date, to celebrate both our birthdays. I booked Butcher Grill at Ranelagh. Last time in Dublin with RM, we made the trip especially to Ranelagh for this, and it was no different this time. Easy enough to get the tram from St Stephen’s Green. We started with half a dozen sweet Irish rock oysters (the sort with only needed a few drops of lemon juice). Then for mains we had their côte de boeuf for two, on Mondays and Tuesdays this is reduced to €45. Came with beans and onion rings which we substituted for fries. A delicious cut of steak: tender and succulent on the bone. Different from Hawksmoor steak, less intense, sweeter.

Tram then walk back to our hotel. Final celebration was birthday cake in the form of one-bite miniature red velvet cupcakes. Perfect.

europe day 19: rome

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Our last full day in Italy, and the weather turned from blue skies to cloudy and rainy. Took the subway to the Coliseum and ran into a wall of people. Walked around the southern end and around Palatine Hill.

Happily came across a local market. Fruit & veg, cheese, meat, flowers, snacks. We bought breadsticks and biscuits from a very nice man. Had early lunch at the market too—sausages with greens and lasagna. Simple, homemade.

Walked through the city, heading towards Campo di Fiore market. Stopped for gelato and coffee. The market is supposed to be a big food market but we were disappointed. Yes it was big, with fruit & veg, pasta, cheese, sweets, oil, vinegar, clothing and bags. The disappointing part was that it catered purely for tourists, unlike the other market that was almost all locals.

It had started to rain, we headed to Piazza Navona, Santa Maria Maddalena church and the Pantheon. Found a small trattoria in a side street and had early dinner of stuffed courgette flowers, spaghetti cacio e pepe and fettucine funghi porcini. We were so early that the kitchen had barely opened, the cooks and waiters were watching football on tv.

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The route back to our retreat house took us across the river and a classic view of Ponte St Angelo with St Peter’s Basilica in the background in the evening sun. There was a commotion at St Peter’s, as the people who were attending tonight’s vigil mass almost stampeded inside the security area.

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Shopping at the supermarket then back to our room to shower and re-pack. Here’s a random pic in Rome, of a line of smartcars parked at the side of the street.

brussels sprouts pizza, veneto rosso wine

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Sis and niece took me to pre-birthday dinner. The restaurant we wanted to go to had a private function so we ended up at motorino’s. Ordered two pizzas to share: brussels sprouts with pancetta and four cheeses. Both really really good. I like the sprouts one better, it was light and the veg was just charred giving them a crunchy texture. Sis was surprised we ordered two white pizzas (no tomato sauce); I wasn’t bothered, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have tomato sauce on a pizza. I remember in Rome, having this most delicious pizza with potato and a little cheese. Simple.

At her place she opened a bottle of veneto rosso wine. First time I tried it, apparently not expensive. I like it. Will keep in mind for italy trip.

#82 two family activities

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Tasks #81-83 of 101.1001 are to participate in 3 new family activities or go to 3 new places. This is 2 of 3 and task #82.

I went to 2 family events today, first with my own family then with mm’s family.

In the morning, I braved the long bus journey (that didn’t make sense geographically speaking) to go to my niece’s school’s christmas bazaar. The bazaar was split into 2 buildings and 2 main areas. One had stalls selling all sorts of stuff: christmas decorations, chocolate, gluhwein, stollen, jams, cards, clothing and bric-a-brac. The other area had food & wine stalls selling sparkling wine, wine, beer, bratwurst, raclette, asian food, cakes and waffles.

We wandered around the selling area and mum bought biscuits and chocolate while I bought a couple of stollen. In the food area we had bratwurst and waffles. I tried a couple of their beers.

Very tired. I conked out on sis’ sofabed for 45mins in the afternoon.

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The evening activity was mm’s niece’s birthday. Her parents organised a bbq at a large outdoor bbq establishment. The staff set up our pit and we had a set of the usual: pork chop, chicken wing, scallop, prawn, fish balls, sweet potato and the like. The main attraction was a whole suckling pig which we grilled ourselves on a rotisserie set up over the pit. The suckling pig had already been partially cooked so it was just a matter of browning the meat and crisping up the skin.

When the skin was crisp enough, the staff came and chopped it all up for us. Yes, definitealy crispy skin and juicy meat.

Ice cream birthday cake to follow. I had 2 portions. All in all, a family day and very tired.
 

nano day 10 | 3374 words 43777 total

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3374 words 43777 total

Today is my niece’s birthday. We went for dinner at the crêpe restaurant near their home, her choice. I was busy in the afternoon, and we left early to go to the market beforehand. Great dinner, good food. I had buckwheat crêpe with ham, egg, emmental, roquefort and salad, we had a couple of large bottles of cider. Little one was very happy with her presents.

In terms of nano, today was a short day. 3000-odd words is not bad. I’m not in any hurry because, touch wood, there is no way I won’t make 50k. Let’s see how I feel, whether I want to finish the novel or finish at 50k.

I incorporated one of the dares:

have your characters get involved in a food fight
BP: if it takes place in a place you wouldn’t expect a food fight
DBP: if it takes more than 1667 words to describe
TBP: if it’s important to the plot

So MC2 got fired because she called her boss on him taking money from the restaurant’s bank account. Although ultimately all profits go to him, as the owner, it wasn’t the right thing to do. So her best friend decided to hold a food fight party to cheer her up. That satisfies the dare.

BP: best friend’s family owns a swimming pool supply and maintenance business. The food fight party took place there, they had pools and gardens set up on display so it was easy to clean up.

DBP: the entire section of party planning, the actual party, the fight and the après fight party was 4568 words; the part dealing specifically with fight prep (had to prepare all the food), actual fight and declaration of winner was 2089 words

TBP: was it important to the plot? The entire story is going from party to party, as the MCs’ relationship strengthens. This food fight party was to transition between MC2 getting fired and the next section, of them going on a road trip. I guess it’s important to the plot.
 

mum’s mother’s day birthday

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Mum’s birthday coincides with US Mother’s Day quite often, and this year for added bonus it’s on a Sunday. The disadvantage is that many restaurants bump up their prices or force people to order set meals so traditionally we never go out on Mother’s Day.

For lunch I made some of Mum’s favourites: rack of lamb with carrot, parsnips and sautéed potatoes and mushroom. This particular rack wasn’t trimmed, which is fine because I can French trim it; but for some reason untrimmed racks still have the central bone which makes it very hard to cut when done. I was struggling with it and the presentation suffered. I got it nice and pink though.

For dinner we did find a restaurant that didn’t have any mother’s day special. It’s the yakitori place we go to regularly for happy hour. We reserved a private room last time I was there with sis and we all had loads of yakitori and sake. For dessert I brought the cake I made earlier—the restaurant didn’t charge us extra for plates and forks.

I saw a pretty picture of pancake cake and it reminded me of the cake we had in Hokkaido which was cream cake wrapped in a pancake. There’s a different taste and texture with the addition of the pancake. Instead of doing layers of pancake, I made a standard victoria sponge and alternated layers of cake with pancake. The filling is melted chocolate mixed with hazelnuts and whipped cream. Topped with shaved chocolate and strawberries. Looking at the picture I guess I should have sliced it in three instead of two so it doesn’t loook so uneven. Tasted good, everybody seemed to enjoy it.

hokkaido day 3: sapporo, jozankei

Woke up to mm wishing me happy birthday, yay. Breakfast was a the café denmark inside the station shopping complex — egg curry roll, brioche and I had a royal milk tea which was basically normal tea made stronger than their normal weak standards. Checked out of the hotel, not before trying the free massage chair at the lift lobby and also discovering they had a lounge with free coffee. Ah well. Had some difficulty finding the car rental place, we were a little confused with google maps before realising that the office was next to Sapporo subway station and not the JR station. It was actually just a couple of blocks from our hotel on the same side of the street. Ah well.

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Drove 20mins to curb market and found a parking space around the shops. Unlike the covered nijo market, curb market had seafood shops lining both sides of a stretch of the road. Lots and lots of crab, crab and more crab. We had lunch at an upstairs restaurant, which we remember from last time. Uni & ikura rice, grilled cuttlefish, grilled corn and a bottle of beer to share. Yummy. Dessert was melon slices from one of the shops on the street.

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After lunch it was off to leg 2 of our trip, to Jozankei onsen. It’s only about 45mins’ drive from Sapporo, on a regular main road. Small village with several hotels, a couple of shops and some cafés. It was too early for check in so we stopped at a traditional café. Tea, coffee, toast and pound cake. Very quaint and European style, down to the delicate china and wooden tables.

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We were staying at two different onsen hotels at Jozankei. The first is the Shogetsu Grand, a more commercial and larger place. Lovely view of the river valley from our tatami room. We unpacked and made our way to the lounge for tea, coffee and to sample their honey bar. They had something like 15-20 different types of honey to try, from flowery ones like lavender and rose to fruity ones like apple and pomegranate to odd ones like sunflower and something woody. Crackers and yogurt were available to go with the honey. So relaxing, just sitting there at the lounge.

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Even more relaxing was the onsen itself. A very large spa with 3 indoor pools at different temperatures, an outdoor spa and a steam room. Obviously you’re not supposed to take pictures in an onsen, but we sneaked them while no one was around. Great soak for about an hour until it was time for dinner.

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Dinner was amazing. It was served in our room, and like all kaseki meals it consisted of neverending courses. Umeshu appetiser with small plates of starters, fish, sashimi, pork meatballs cooked in broth at the table, pumpkin and pork rib en papillote, chawanmushi, flavoured rice, soup and a seasonal sakura pudding with blueberry vinegar. Even though we were full it wasn’t the type of bloaty fullness associated with overeating. Most of the dishes were vegetable or seafood, only a small amount of red meat.

After laying around and allowing the food to digest, we headed down to the onsen for another soak. The relaxation was topped off with 10mins at the massage chair (¥100) and then it was time for bed. What a great day.

30in30 #20 mm birthday treat

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Task #20 in 30 in 30 is to treat mm for her birthday.

Our Hokkaido vacation is partly a treat for both our birthdays. We arrived at Sapporo and checked into the hotel late afternoon. First order of business was to find dinner. I’d already suggested that our first dinner here would be at yakitori, so we could enjoy a drink and order a bunch of skewers. We got a restaurant map at the hotel and found a small but popular place about 10mins walk. We both had umeshu and we ordered mixed chicken, vegetables, grilled fish, sashimi, tofu. Made a toast for her birthday, a great start to our vacation.

nano day 11 | family dinner

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5888 words | 46015 words total

Had the morning and almost the whole afternoon to write, and got to the end of chapter 10, which sees the relationship between the MCs develop in a good way. The roof lining, windows and doors have been fitted, so the house is sealed and protected from the elements. Lots more to do, finish the exterior walls, finish the deck and porch, plant the roof plus all the interior work.

I have (I don’t want to jinx myself but it seems feasible) one more day of writing to reach 50k. The story is only about halfway at 50k so it depends if I have time or motivation to carry on. I’ll see when I get to the finish line.

This evening was dinner to celebrate my niece’s birthday. Went to a dumplings place because she saw these chocolate dumplings in a magazine and wanted to try. They were very good, like chocolate fondant with the melted chocolate oozing out when I made a hole. A good choice.

papa birthday part 2

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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

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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

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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.

food with family

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Met up with sis for lunch, she took me to sushi. Had a set that included appetiser, chopped fish chirashi, small bowl of udon, steamed egg, fruit and coffee/tea. Hung out at her flat in the afternoon, trying not to be too tired.

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Dinner with parents and sis for late birthday dinner for sis. Went to the restaurant at the market that we had to get there before 6pm. Had golden prawns, steamed clams, chicken and vegetables. Got a bottle of wine at the wine shop nearby, only HKD30 corkage. Nice meal. Long day, quite tired because I woke up early.

meetup

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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.

birthday presents

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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

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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

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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.

lunch at the ledbury

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It’s Mum’s birthday, and I’d booked lunch at The Ledbury, one of the best restaurants in London. Two Michelin stars. And only a few bus stops away on Ledbury Road, near Portabello market.

We opted for the lunch menu at £35 for 3 courses. The meal ended up being 7 courses, more on that later. The restaurant is on a corner, a black building but once inside it was nice and bright. A large mirror at the back wall gave the effect of a bigger space. There are about 18 tables, we were one of the first to arrive and by the time we left the place was full.

I ordered a half bottle of valpolicella for myself, having declined the offer of champagne. Even the bread and butter were cute. As is normal nowadays, we got an amuse bouche of foie gras and kumquat jelly on crunchy biscuit. We both started with the white & green asparagus cooked in earl grey with a crisp pheasant egg. The asparagus was fabulously sweet and the egg perfectly soft boiled.

We got an extra starter, buffalo milk curd with truffle toast and grilled onion broth. The milk curd was just like custard and the toast smelled and tasted of truffle. Very nice.

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For main course, Mum had turbot with radishes, barley and a cream of white beer sauce. I had pork cheek & jowl with pear, celeriac and dandelion. They brought the roasted pork as it came out of the oven for me to “inspect” before sending it back to the kitchen for plating. Mum’s fish was super fresh, love turbot. I had a lot going on my plate, the crunchy skin, the fatty meat of the cheek and then the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the jowl which had been slow cooked. Lovely sauce too.

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Mum had blueberry, mango & pear sorbet for dessert and I opted for coconut cream in milk chocolate and sea buckthorn bed. I’d told them that it’s Mum’s birthday so they gave us an extra dessert — lemon soufflé with sauternes ice cream. Everything was perfect. We ended with petit fours. Mum had a peppermint tea and I had a glass of Hedonism, an unusual blended grain whisky from Compass Box. I think, yes, 7 courses:

  1. amuse bouche
  2. asparagus starter
  3. milk curd and truffle toast second started
  4. fish and pork mains
  5. sorbet and coconum cream dessert
  6. extra dessert lemon soufflé
  7. petit fours, tea

The bill came to £120 which I think is good value. The extras were the wine, whisky, bottled water, tea and service charge. There was no skimping on portions, textures or flavours. Everything was perfectly cooked and presented. The service was friendly and helpful. When bookings for August opens on 1 June, I’ll be on their website to make a reservation for mm’s visit.

sis birthday bosham

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Sis’ family are on their annual UK visit to see my niece’s grandparents. I took the train from Victoria, and 1.5hrs later arrived at Bosham. It’s just a short walk to their house. It’s also sis’ birthday, so I bought her a red velvet cupcake cake from hummingbird bakery. They say it can serve 8 people, ha!! It was so rich and tall we all only had a small slice, and the whole cake could have served 20.

I have the sofa bed in the front room. It’s very pleasant and full of curios, they’ve lived there for many many years.

07.04

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My obligatory once a year day off. Weather was nice, 20°C. Spent the morning skyping with sis and mum, I’m glad we finally got round to fixing everyone’s logins. Mum kept worrying about image quality, but as long as I can see her, I’m not complaining. We even did a 3-way conference call. Talked with mm when she called too, told her about plans for the day and just chatted. It was nice.

Went for a very slow 5-miles around the park, then to the local shops to get some baking ingredients. Last year it was croquembouche, this year I made a flourless swedish apple cake. It was too moist and didn’t hold its shape very well, but tasted perfectly fine.

For dinner I made surf and turf. Ack, I did the same last year, so it’s a tradition now. It’s also supposed to be national beer day so I got a vedett beer from belgium to go with my dinner.

surprise party

I’ve never been to a surprise party before. Today I was invited to Car’s cousin’s surprise party. His family prepared the food, and I was drawing birthday cakes on their driveway with the kids. When he got home, everyone was in the garage and yelled out “surprise!” when he opened the garage door to walk into the house. It was really nice. Good party.

energy, or the lack of it

Went to a birthday gathering with the family. One adult and 3 children whose birthdays were close together, so celebrating together. Lots of food — italian beef, meatballs, sausage, pasta, potato salad, regular salad, big cake.

I spent most of the time after eating playing with some of the kids. Mostly a 2-year old, who decided I was her personal toy for the day. So cute. She was one of the birthday kids and got tons of presents. The only one she was interested in was a pair of simple shiny butterfly sandals. I was sitting on the bottom steps of the stairs, she ran into my arms and we played at taking her sandals off and putting them back on. It was exhausting. But fun.

presents

It’s Car’s birthday today. I drove over to visit. I’d gone running in the morning cos it was a nice day and I knew I had to stack up the calories for dinner. Lunch for me was ice cream at oberweis — dulce de leche and cookie dough in a chocolate-dipped waffle bowl. Sugar rush!! Dinner was at a New Orleans restaurant and I had a very nice bouillabaisse.

I got her a nokia phone for her birthday, since she had been looking for one. It’s one of the few times when I actually think about getting presents that fit the recipient. I realised that I gravitated too much towards what I wanted cos normally it’d be a gadget or kitchen stuff or book. Which, yeah, is what I’d want for my birthday. Plus anything to do with running nowadays.

happy, er, wednesday to me

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I woke up at normal time, sigh. Must be getting old—oh wait, I did get older today. Double sigh.

Waited for mm to call all morning. A little unhappy that she didn’t till I emailed her on the bb, she was busy. But I couldn’t stay unhappy for long, could I? Spent the whole morning making croquembouche (see previous post). Why did I want mascarpone yesterday? To make mascarpone cream to use as filling of course. Well, the normal cream worked. I added a little icing sugar so it didn’t just taste of cream.

Lunch was portabello mushroom and vegetarian burger. Went running in the afternoon. Down to the flag at Montrose and back up to the roundabout. Total 11k. It started raining the last 2k, glad I had a cap. It turned into a downpour once I got home, I was lucky.

Did laundry and made dinner of surf and turf — sirloin steak, grilled prawns, vegetables. I opened a bottle of cranberry red I got from truro vineyards at cape cod last year. Started watching a dvd, then gave up cos I needed to deal with the pics.

There was a running joke on my fb status about how I didn’t broadcast my birthday and people weren’t sure whether to acknowledge it or not. I really liked the idea of subtly referring to it but not actually naming it. Kind of “i know you know” game. Fun.

95 years and counting

It’s Car’s grandmother’s 95th birthday party today. And what a party for an amazing lady! There were many family and friends, and I’m no longer surprised that I know quite a few and get greeted as a family member. On the flipside I get treated as a family member meaning I’m not immune to the jokes and jibes, heehee. I’m honoured and privileged to be accepted as a “cousin”. I helped as much as I could with the food prep, though there were plenty of willing helping hands. Cold cuts, cheese, bread, Italian beef sandwich, sausage, potato salad, macaroni salad, cake, jelly, brownies, rice crispies treat and I made chocolate mousse. Sometimes when there were too many people and I felt overwhelmed I retreated into “my” bedroom to watch the food network / play on the netbook and nobody bothered me. It was a late night, I had a good time. Considering everything that’s happened recently, people were genuinely happy to be gathered together for a celebration.

birthday

It’s been an…unusual birthday. Everything is out of routine. I feel a little weird, happy, sad, thoughtful. Breakfast with mm, then spent 2 hrs at home waiting for the gas and internet people to show up. Lunch with family, but not altogether a harmonised experience. Back home again to go over with parents. Early back to mm’s home, and it was only spending a few hours by myself that I was able to calm down and gather myself for late dinner with mm. Solitude rules.

birthday lunch

It’s my dad’s birthday today. 😀 We actually celebrated last saturday at the Spring Deer Restaurant. It’s one of those really old traditional restaurants that people return to cos they went there when they were young. Mum tried to book for today and they were full!!!

We started with shark’s fin soup. Very nice. Lots of shark’s fin, not like some places where there are only a few strands. Moved on to the famous Peking duck. It’s different from some Peking duck in that they include quite a lot of meat with the skin, just the way we like it. The duck meat is especially juicy too.

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The rest of the duck meat they minced up and combined with diced vegetables. It’s served with iceberg lettuce, the idea is to wrap the minced in the lettuce leaves. This was followed by small steamed dumplings. For dessert we had deep fried “doughnuts” with red bean filling.

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#66(3) new pastry: apple & blackberry crumble cake

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It’s Mum’s birthday and Mother’s Day, so she deserves something special. I said I’d make a cake. I used to make cheesecakes, but this time I wanted something I’d never made before, so she can try something new.

This apple & blackberry crumble cake recipe is from bbc good food. It’s one of the more involved recipes I’ve tried. Nothing difficult, just time consuming and fiddly.

For the cake:
150g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraiche

For the fruit topping:
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
4 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
150g blackberries

For the crumble topping:
50g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g plain flour
50g blanched hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Step 1: make the crumble topping
melt the butter, then mix in the sugar, cinnamon, flour and nuts. Set aside

Step 2: prepare the apples
melt the butter in a frying pan, add the sugar and apple wedges
cook for 10-15mins until the apples and soft and golden. Set aside to cool

Step 3: make the cake
cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
add eggs one at a time
fold in flour, baking powder
add crème fraîche

Step 4: assemble
spoon roughly 2/3 of the cake mixture into a round cake tin
scatter 1/3 crumble mixture
top with the remaining cake mixture
scatter 1/3 crumble mixture
arrange apple and blackberries
top with remaining crumble mixture

bake at 190°C for 1.5 hours, covering with foil halfway through if crumble browns too quickly
cool for 10 mins then cool on wire rack
serve with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and crème fraîche

birthday

I opened my eyes this morning and it was 11.30 already; by the time I finally got up it was closer to 12.30. I was really tired. Really really tired.

I took the day off. I could have gone out to lunch or dinner with mm, parents or sis but I asked them all for a raincheck. I just want a quiet day. I had noodles for lunch, read, played a new computer game, and made mediterranean chicken with double potato mash for dinner. I’m gonna alternate between reading and gaming till bedtime, and it would have been exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday.

birthday pampering

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Met mm for lunch at our usual Korean restaurant, but that wasn’t the pampering for the day. After lunch we went to our hairdresser’s to get our hair cut, but that wasn’t the pampering for the day.

mm treated me to spa at the Four Seasons; and I treated her to dinner at the Marriott — those were the pampering for the day.

She’d booked a 90-minute relaxation massage for both of us. We got there 1.5hrs early to use the other amenities. The pampering started with the shower — not only rainforest, but 6 jets from the side. Then it was soaking in a large semi-oval whirlpool with waterfall feature. Sauna and aromatherapy steam room too. The relaxation room had reclining beds, personal TV screen and 3 choices of juices.

When it was time for the massage, we were led to the treatment area and allowed for rest for a few minutes. Initially we booked a double room but for some reason it wasn’t possible. It didn’t matter cos basically I fell asleep shortly after the massage started. I dunno, sometimes I wish I could stay awake during massages to fully appreciate it but other times I’m glad I’m relaxed enough to sleep. It included a hot stone treatment and I woke up for a minute during that.

After the massage we lounged around munching on dried fruit and hot tea. Then it was back to the steam room for one final soak before showering. Everything was available — robes, towels, shampoo, lotion, mousse.

Dinner wasn’t as pampering. We hadn’t been to lunch or dinner buffet for a long time. We agreed that even though it was at the Marriott, the standard isn’t as high as before. Or our expectations have risen up several notches. There was a giant seafood counter, but that was about it as far as wow factor went. It was a nice dinner though, it was great to spend time together and do something special to celebrate our birthdays.

mum’s birthday

It’s Mum’s birthday today, it’s always either on or close to Mother’s Day so double celebration. We took her to a traditional (and noisy!) restaurant for dinner. Well, Papa paid. We ordered enough food for 8 people when it’s only the 4 of us and my niece. Lots to take home though. Good food.

Then we went back to Sis’ place for cake. She cleverly bought slices of a variety of cakes — 3 different cheesecakes, apple crumble cake, lemon cake — and arranged in a circle. Much better than just one choice of cake.

Parents came back and took my old Delsey suitcase. Hee, one fewer clutter item from the apartment, but I still need a bigger place.