Mum went to mass and I met her at the Tesco’s nearby. I don’t know if it’s because of Mother’s Day, but mass ran very, very late. I was inside the tiny Tesco’s for a good 45mins. Silver lining is I got to look at every shelf on every aisle and found some stuff I want to buy next time.
Met sis at a Taiwanese noodle place for…Taiwanese noodles. Mum had their signature beef noodles which proved to be the best choice. I opted for the fried chicken noodles, with the fried chicken served on the side. Whilst very crispy, it was way, way too salty. We shared one of their signature desserts. Mango, sago, chewy bits, and about 10 other ingredients. Very nice, refreshing. I’d have that again.
Went to ikea to finally order a bed for me. Or rather, it’s a sofa bed that rolls out into a single bed. When we move back, it can go in Papa’s room as a chair for relaxing. If we have visitors, which is rare, it can be used as a guest bed. Delivery on wednesday. Can’t wait. The sofa is fine to sleep on, except it’s getting hotter and the fabric doesn’t dissipate heat and gets itchy too.
Dinner with mm’s family. Both her parents are quite seriously ill at the moment, so it’s good to get together for a meal.
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.
Normally we meet for lunch at the foodcourt then take a taxi. We were very early today so we thought we’d take a look around the restaurants inside the shopping centre. Decided to try a Shanghainese place that had 30% off for dimsum. Order a selection and a main dish. Pretty good, makes a change from foodcourt food.
Lots of people at the cemetery. Saw nearly 20 taxis going down as we were going up. There was a long, long queue when it was time for us to leave, but it only took 5-10mins for us to reach the top of the queue.
Went to an ikea nearby. This one is huge!! More like the size of ikeas in the UK and US. Plus a restaurant too. Saw some useful furniture and designs. I’m not taking my bed with me when we move; I saw a nice sofa bed that I can use, and we can use it if we hire a helper.
Pretty full from lunch, just had noodles for dinner.
Took my niece out for snake soup, because she wanted to try it and she asked me to take her. Sis won’t because she’s much more of an ethical/healthy type of eater, well actually she’s more squeamish. Rob won’t because he’s vegetarian lol. There are a few choices of restaurants but I picked one that is near my niece, has a good reputation and is a sit-down restaurant. Some other places I go to are holes-in-wall at markets and I wanted my niece to have a better experience first.
Snake soup is on many, many people’s bucket list. To be honest, it’s not so special although it’s not something I have all the time. I guess it’s like people don’t go out for clam chowder all the time. So, everything you want to know about snake soup:
it’s a soup made with snake meat, bones, chicken, mushroom, ginger, herbs and simmered for hours–since snake meat doesn’t have too much flavour it’s like a very rich chicken soup
the snake meat is shredded to thin slivers and looks quite similar to chicken, it can be distinguished in the soup because it’s slightly more brown and is a little bit tougher
snake soup has been around since the 3rd century and was a luxury dish enjoyed by the wealthy
it’s becoming more rare nowadays because special training is required to handle the snakes, most businesses are family-run
The place we went to has been around for almost 130 years and is currently run by the fourth generation family. It’s been in its current location since 1989. So, very traditional although it’s probably the one to take tourists and people who are trying snake for the first time.
And still a luxury. The soup is made from hours and hours of cooking and has additional ingredients to make it richer and sweeter. Equivalent to over £10 per bowl. I also had a bowl of rice with sausage and gis had rice with salted eggs.
The most pressing question, did she like it? Yes she did. She said it was unexpectedly good. She loves rich, almost gloopy soups and this one was exactly to her taste. The snake meat itself was pretty innocuous. May be next time I’ll take her to the really local one at the market.
Visited Papa. I looked out from the terrace and realised I was looking at the same place mm and I went yesterday. The slightly curved shoreline with trees on one side that ends at a bunch of residental buildings? That’s one end of the waterfront bike path. It didn’t click yesterday because our attention was focused on the new residental buildings being built and were wondering what it’d be like to live there. Didn’t think to look beyond and up the hill. Plus, it’s further than it looks. Next time we go, I’ll know where to wave to Papa.
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.
Although we said goodbye to my cousin’s family yesterday, we saw them again when mum convinced me to join them to visit our grandparents and great-grandmothers at the cemetery. We had an interesting time telling the kids about their great- and great-great-grandparents. My great-aunt (my grandpa’s sister) is still alive, and the kids know her, having gone to visit her in RI several times–they’re only like 4hrs’ drive away. So it was easier to have them relate to her.
They went back to their hotel for other appointments afterwards, this time it was hugging them goodbye for real, they’re flying home tomorrow, sniff. Mum and I had lunch at the foodcourt and she went shopping while I met up with mm. We slowly and aimlessly walked around, covering the flower market, the fruit market, the street that had fish (for pets) shops, and then looking for a birthday card for one of her family friends. It’s surprisingly hard to find cards nowadays and the place we ended up finding a suitable one was at the Catholic shop at one of the old buildings.
There was still time before she had to go to dinner with her folks, so we headed to a craft beer place I saw a while ago. They had a selection of around 20 on tap. I had one called torikage birukatsugan, apparently named after a ninja leader. It’s a black IPA made with lots of hops and dark malts and is roasty and bitter but not overpowering. She had a blueberry fruit beer that is very different from mine–the scent of blueberries come through and it’s very refreshing without being tart.
Nice morning and afternoon. I was home by 6pm to cook dinner.
And, the modem failed. All the lights went off except the power one, which blinked so sporadically and weakly that I could barely see it. I even changed to another wallplug with no success. Called in and luckily the technician will come tomorrow. Meanwhile, I can tether.
Big family outing day. Early start, everyone met at the train station to go take the cable car up to the big buddha. The cable car was very crowded but since there were 10 of us, we had our own. The journey was long, around 20-25mins, with really good views. I’d dismissed the cable car as a touristy gimmick but was as pleasantly surprised as when I went on it for the first time a few weeks ago.
We walked along the shopping village, which my cousin A described as being like in Disney but in a good way. For some odd reason, we had a few free coupons for snacks at specified restaurants, including an ice cream place so the kids could get cones. Walked to the end of the village towards the big buddha. I still don’t know what record it holds, largest outdoor sitting buddha with a raised hand? My cousins and the kids walked up to the top while I went to explore possible lunch places.
We saw several feral cows. They were just laying there on the grass enjoying the sun, people were going up close taking selfies and petting them and they didn’t seem bothered. My nieces were fascinated and J said it’s the best thing she’s seen all trip. I told them the story, that they are descended from farm animals that were abandoned. But looking at them, they don’t seem to be starved or suffering. If anything, helping with tourism.
Vegetarian lunch at the temple starts at 1.30pm so we decided to go elsewhere. I ran ahead to check the bus stop and found the one to the fishing village just about to depart. The extremely nice stationmistress said she’ll hold it for me so I ran back to the group to tell them and got mum, my two aunts and my uncle (all retirees) to run for the bus, hahaha. Only 10mins to the fishing village with stilted houses. Not too crowded on a weekday, so a pleasant walk exploring the houses and shops. Lunch was at my “usual” deck café where we had the entire upper deck. Just pizza, fish cakes and soft drinks. But the view, wow, still spectacular even after so many visits.
We lucked out on the bus again, only 5mins’ wait back to the cable car. But the return trip had a 30min queue. My nieces were taking time lapse videos but for some reason mine didn’t work, sigh.
Dinner was buffet at the hotel restaurant. Really nice and everyone had a great time.
Met sis, gis, my cousin and his kids for lunch at a sushi restaurant sis suggested. It used to be a conveyor belt restaurant, but now it’s a sushi train. We order via a tablet, the food is prepared in the kitchen and sent to us on a miniature train. We take the plate and push a button to send the empty train back. It’s very, very cool. Much better than conveyor belt because the food is fresher and we can actually pick what we want instead of sitting around hoping for something good to arrive. The kids loved it.
After lunch, sis had booked us all to go to an escape room game at a place called Lost. The coolness of the day continued. We played a game called Alcatraz, where we were split into 3 teams and locked in 3 cells: Red, Green & Blue. We had to work together, solve puzzles and escape from the cells. The puzzles, in retrospect, were pretty straightforward, but in the moment when everything was unknown and we were all trying to scream at each other, it felt more stressed. Plus there’s always the time limit–45mins. We all managed to escape our cells but ran out of time to solve the last puzzle to escape from the room itself. A huge amount of fun and something I’d do again in a heartbeat. The kids say it’s one of the best they’ve played.
Everyone had separate plans so I ended up sitting in a Mcdonalds for 2hrs drinking one small coke zero and reading on my ipad. This branch is pretty good, not very crowded. I was waiting for mm to finish to meet her to help her with shopping. Her family is having a gathering this weekend and doing a New Year’s version of Christmas Secret Santa. The budget is local$200, but the difficulty is the gift has to be suitable for her parents (in their 70s) as well as her nieces and nephew (teen and pre-teen). I gave her a magnetic noughts-and-crosses game I’d originally bought for my nieces and she got a box of nice biscuits and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. Under budget too.
We weren’t that hungry so dinner was just noodles. Went to HMV to have a beer and chat for a bit until time to go home.
Herding cats. I don’t recommend doing it. Still, it was a reasonably enjoyable day. And I don’t remember spending christmas day with so many family members.
Met the extended family and took them via the bus to Middle Island. At least my cousins and their kids were smart, followed directions and it was a joy to see them take in everything. The weather was brilliant, and the 15min walk from the bus stop to the boat pier was really, really nice.
Sis, Rob and Gis had gone there early to get a table, and the food was good as always. I was in charge of the barbeque and grabbed the kids to help me. There was way too much food and we took some away with us.
Gis took the kids to the beach to play after lunch. So much fun with just sand and rocks. When I joined them we started building rock stacks and ended up with a village. Would have been nice to see the faces on the next set of people to visit the beach.
Braved the crowds and went up to the Peak, had to split the group up into 3 taxis, making sure there’s at least one person in each that knows what they’re doing. A friendly taxi driver in Sis’ group told them that we should get the Madam Tussaud’s combo to skip the peak tram line, which probably saved us 1-2hrs because the queue was horrendous. The waxworks were quite interesting actually, there were movie stars, sports stars, a bunch of unknown K-pop singers and the biggest queue was for President Obama.
I did a bit of playing around on HDR on photoshop, which is why the pic above looks very processed. Uncle A is a big fan of lightroom and I see him play around with it on his phone whenever he takes a group pic. I tend to edit on the mba; on the iphone I just used the camera roll editing tool but I’ll start using either lightroom or photoshop cc.
By the time we escaped from the peak, everyone was tired and still full from lunch. Dinner was wonton noodles and steamed egg custard at the old places. Lots of nostalgia.
My aunt L, cousin E and his family from Long Island–his wife A and kids K, M, J–arrived for a visit. I haven’t seen them since I visited them in 2016, and aside from my aunt and cousin, the others had never visited. We’ve been planning and organising lots of stuff to do with them.
Dinner tonight with the whole group at the traditional restaurant where my grandparents first took us. Poor kids, they’re so jetlagged. Little J, who is only 10, spent the entire dinner sleeping in A’s arms.
The eldest, K, who is in college, wasn’t jetlagged so after dinner we took her and auntie L on a whirlwind tour to see the Christmas lights. Very crowded but pretty. Within about 2hrs we took in the harbourfront, Peninsula hotel, the star ferry and lights at Central. Not too shabby for a night’s work.
Met uncle A and auntie J to visit my grandparents and great-grandmothers at the cemetery. As usual we met at the flower market, but when mum and I got there, the usual flower shop has closed down. In its place is an empty shop currently undergoing renovation. Mum usually gets handmade small baskets but most of the other shops don’t do them. We walked around and decided to get some really beautiful potted flowers instead. For my grandparents we got a large pot of…some red flowers and for the great-grandmothers smaller pots of…other red flowers. Okay, I’m really terrible at flowers and I forgot to take pictures.
Quick lunch of wonton noodles, this place used to serve giant wontons but nowadays they are definitely deflated. Also got a dish of deep fried fish balls, so piping hot when they came to the table they scalded the tongue. There was enough time to walk around before meeting my uncle and aunt and we ended up in a small supermarket that sells a lot of Tesco products. I have my eye on olive oil, juice and wine. Will need to make a shopping trip one day.
We were efficient at the cemetery. There were quite a number of people there today, unusual for a weekday. The weather was nice, a little cooler than before so may be that’s why.
Had tea and cakes afterwards and then we said our goodbyes. Mum went shopping and I took the bus to mm’s place. I was really early so I bought some snacks and walked one stop. We were going to skive but then her mum texted inviting us to dinner. There was about an hour before we had to get going so we tried to fit in a happy hour drink. Didn’t work. We’d only started on our drink when I glanced at the clock and it was already 5.20pm. We were supposed to pick her dad up and then drive to the restaurant at 5.30pm. Yikes. So we asked the bar if they had takeaway cups and thankfully, it being a mexican place, they had those plastic cups with dome lids they probably use for margaritas. We hurried and managed to get to her dad’s place at 5.45pm.
Dinner was nice, her mum’s friend P was also there. I managed to take an orange and some dessert home with me.
Met my aunt and cousin for lunch. They’re the Rhode Island relatives; I hadn’t seen my aunt in absolutely ages and I don’t remember her daughter at all. I think when I last saw them last my cousin was still a kid. She’s now all grown up and very tall.
Went to the peking duck and shark’s fin place, which we all agreed is a family favourite. Everyone has memories of going there with my grandparents as hosts. Whenever someone comes for a visit from the US and Canada, that’s where we all go.
My aunt and uncle have a restaurant (or restaurants, I’m not sure) in RI, their parents had a fabulous fried chicken place that I have vague and fond memories of. My cousin showed us a video of their signature dish, the chow mein sandwich. I asked her to send me the video but she hadn’t gotten round to it yet, so here’s a stock pic. My aunt says the dish was responsible for paying for their house and college education for my cousins. It’s been around for decades, so can be considered a precurser of the ramen burger that was the craze a while ago. But where the ramen burger is all hipster pretentiousness, the chow mein sandwich is more down-to-earth. The ramen burger has noodles as the bun, whereas the chow mein sandwich is
crunchy noodles soaked in a super salty, meaty, brown gravy until they’re no longer all that crunchy, then combined with ground pork, onion, celery, and a gelatinous brown gravy that tastes better than it sounds, and slapped sloppily between either half of a cheap hamburger bun
A little investigation, together with a very interesting article at the New England Historical Society reveals that the chow mein sandwich originated at the town of Fall River, Massachusetts which is less than 30mins’ drive from where my RI relatives live, in the Providence area. The sandwich is also unique to that part of southeastern MA and RI.
What’s intriguing is that the chow mein sandwich is attributed to Frederick Wong who started the Oriental Chow Mein Company in 1938. Their Hoo-Mee chow mein mix is what goes into the dish. Frederick’s son Albert and daughter-in-law Barbara took over the family business and the chow mein sandwich mantle. I wonder if they are related to my uncle, who is also a Wong.
There’s so much of my family’s history in that part of the world–my grandmother was born in Newport in 1916 so there’s history going back 100 years–I really want to know more about them. Need to plan and scheme.
Had to go back to the flat for a gas appointment. Every time the gas supply is turned on, off or transferred they send a technician to test it, free of charge. It’s a bother, but it’s safe. I turned the supply off after he left since no one will living be there for a while.
I probably need to do a little work to the flat. The main door hinge is broken and the wood pretty chipped so I may as well replace the whole thing. I’d like to redo the bathroom too but it may be costly. I’ll have a think think.
I was meeting sis for happy hour but there was a lot of time, so I stayed around to read. I only had my ex-tenant’s coffee table, but it seemed sturdy enough to sit on. Plus the beer and vitamin water he left behind were refreshment enough. The beer was mostly heineken so honestly not appealing but the vitamin water was good.
I was early getting to the hh place and they hadn’t started so I found myself at another place around the corner. They had a 2-for-1 deal which, in retrospect, wasn’t suitable because I had to finish 2 glasses of wine before going to the original place. Ah well #firstworldproblem. The hh place didn’t have any special deals, but they had canapes which made it a very popular location. They had small sandwiches, prosciutto, fried pumpkin and pasta. Enough to fill me up without needing dinner. Their wine selection was also much, much better than the around the corner place.
Sis and I went to the computer area to hunt for various gadget-related stuff for her. First, lunch at the vietnamese stall in the cooked food market above the market. Street food inside with air-con. The pho was good, and it came with a drink. We also ordered chicken wings, prawn cakes and vietnamese 333 beer. On the way out we saw several large tables with what looked like freshly cooked delicious food.
I bought a few small wicking towels and some superglue. She bought belts, straps, replacement sponges for headphones, hand-cranked survival radios, and all sorts of other fun gadgets. It’s okay to go on a weekday, still crowded but manageable compared with the weekend.
There was still time and we wanted some drinks. Nothing in that area so we went back to PP and found a japanese restaurant. I had a sawa or calpis cocktail. It was surprisingly refreshing although there wasn’t much alcohol flavour. Calpis is actually one of my favourite drinks, slightly carbonated yogurt flavour a bit like yakult. Hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t tried it.
Dinner again at mm’s parents’ place. Her mum had a return visit to the doctor’s in the morning and it’s continuing good news, so we are all very glad. I met mm near the market to go shopping for some small stuff. I gave her a jar of her favourite peanut butter that I found in our cupboards so we went to get her favourite marmalade too. Got some medicines and toiletries from a small drugstore and two fish for dinner.
Simple, healthy food again. Lots of veg, steamed fish, bbq pork from metropol. Even the lotus root that was used to make soup was tasty. Auntie was teaching us how to select the best food from the market, she really knows good quality.
Auntie’s doctor suggested that if they wanted to go on holiday for a few days that a resort or cruise will be most suitable because of the low stress. I was telling mm a little about cruises, cruise ships and how they work. Let’s see how it goes.
Dinner was early so that the elders could start getting ready for bed early. Instead of taking the train (meaning a long walk home) i took 2 buses. Probably around the same time but air-conditioning. I was home by 9.45pm.
Today would have been Papa’s 80th birthday. We met at the foodcourt for lunch–korean food at 1/10th the price of jinjuu and the bibimbap actually had crust. The cemetery was very quiet, we were the only people visiting while we were there. Must have been papa looking out for us, our taxi driver was actually waiting at the taxi stand when we were about to leave. He claimed he was taking a break but he did let slip that he figured we would have problems getting a taxi. Smart of him.
One of my regrets is I saved up a bottle of westveleteren 12, the best beer in the world, for a special occasion and never got to share it with papa. Westvleteren has the smallest production of the Belgian Trappist monasteries and sale of this beer is limited to one crate per buyer who had to call ahead to reserve their purchase (if they get through on the phone). It’s been described as the holy grail of beer. This one treasured bottle I managed to find in Brussels five years ago during my chip- and chocwalk with my friend A.
Papa would have loved the beer. It’s dark and strong, at 10% alcohol. Rich, smoky, creamy. Tons of fruity, caramel notes–like it’s been soaked in dried fruit. It’s definitely one for sipping slowly. It’s a small 330ml bottle; but the complexity and higher alcohol content makes it more staisfying. It would have been great shared between the two of us.
Went over to mm’s parents’ place for dinner. Her mum is looking better, more energy and alert and she’s up and walking around. They have 2 helpers now, one to take care of household chores and the other is a carer for auntie. The household helper apparently isn’t a very good cook so mm and auntie were supervising the cooking today.
Simple home cooked meal, limited by what auntie can eat. Steamed eggs, steamed pork, steamed fish, vegetables. Yes, mostly steamed but there was plenty for everyone, tasted good and everyone had a nice dinner. We opened a bottle of wine and shared with auntie’s friend. After dinner we played a game of checkers then it was time for them to get some rest.
Staying with mm tonight. Initially we thought we might chat but after showering we were too tired and went to bed.
Went to the hospital to visit mm’s mum, she found out she was ill mid-july when I was in chicago. I’ve been trying to support and cheer up mm. I feel guilty about being in chicago when it all happened and she was all on her own taking care of her parents. I feel much better that I’m close by and she can talk to me more.
After the hospital visit we went for a quick drink at the salted pig, one of those places along the shoreline 5mins’ walk from her place. She had a wine and I had a rather expensive craft beer. It being saturday 8pm everything was full price.
Ordered crackling which inexplicably came with guacamole. Guac from a jar, no taste of fresh avo at all, ugh. The crackling tasted like it was from a packet too, which was surprising because this was supposed to be a pig restaurant.
Staying over with her tonight, so we can talk till later and I don’t have to take a taxi home. We’re both pretty exhausted, early to rest.
Met Uncle P for lunch at queen’s café. Old styled “western” food like borscht and skewers and beef strogonoff. He brought a copy of the photoessay book he’s been working on. Photographs from the 1970s to 2000s. I really like the theme and the photos are of course top-notch. Tried explaining the concept of crowdsourcing to him but I think he prefers the traditional publisher route.
Everyone had plans afterwards so I met up with mm. Hot day, walked a little then found a happy hour place. I was going to have beer but had a glass of wine instead. Korean bbq for dinner although we didn’t eat that much.
She was telling me about her supervisor who got her PhD in 2.5 years and is able to read 11 pages of academic journal in 2 minutes. Sounds really smart. So we were texting afterwards and we were both googly eyed. I was also trying to use the wordflow keyboard that I downloaded. I tend to type one-handed and thought the curved keyboard may help. Gave up after a short trial. I can’t figure out where to get stickers quickly. It wants to capitalise the first letter even though I turned it off. And I don’t like predictive keyboards. So three strikes and out.
My uncle P is visiting. Haven’t seen him in years and years and years!! He lives in SFO, is focusing on his photography and gave me his email so we can keep in touch better. He is quite possibly my favourite uncle because he does engineering for a bit for money then he goes off to do photography, which is the way to live. Now he’s into cooking so I love him even more.
He’s already been to PRC and Burma to take pictures. He says he is focusing on trees. Hopefully when he gets home he can share some of his work.
Met for lunch with sis, mum, uncle A and auntie J, and sis. We’ll meet again on saturday so sis can bring my niece.
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.
Bank stuff in the morning with Sis. Mum went to get a table for dim sum lunch. After lunch we went to visit Papa. It’s turned warm and humid and people were burning stuff so there was smoke all over the place. The taxi queue back to the station was very long, fortunately the wait wasn’t that bad.
Since we were out and there was time, Sis and I went to the probate office to file an amendment. Typical bureaucracy: queue up at one counter, queue up at another, then another, form filling, more queuing.
We needed to sit down afterwards and went to a new restaurant-bistro type place at the spot that used to be grappas. They had two-for-one happy hour plus a small plates counter. We had wine: barbera d’asti for me and malbec for sis. The small plates counter was good: sandwiches, olives, artichoke-pepper, lots of cheese, two types of charcuterie, fruit and a nice selection of relish and chutneys. For some reason I totally adore chutneys and can eat it on its own. They also had a blackberry chutney that I also liked.
There was an app that kept track of happy hour places but they change to quickly the app can’t keep up. Stone Nullah Tavern that used to have $1 drinks that doubles in price every 20mins is now all-you-can-drink for a set price. The old reliable bars like Canny Man are pretty consistent, with 30-40% deals. Passion near the office was good, they do two-for-one but perhaps due to the inexperience of the staff they allow two people to share one deal vs most places the offer is per order. Increasingly, there is a tendency to serve snacks. The french place we were going to go to serves a small plate of parma ham and HMV has small plates too, though I haven’t been there for a while.
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.
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.
My great-aunt from canada called out of the blue this morning. She’s visiting for a week. Turned out she went on a last minute cruise with some friends. Now the coincidence is, they were on the Star and boarded in Auckland on the 18th!!! That’s exactly the leg after ours and we actually got to Auckland just in time to see it sail off that day. I showed her this pic I took as the bus was turning into britomart and she was there on the ship. If only we’d known. Their itineray was changed too, but at least the azipods kept on working. Theirs was a 19-day cruise that took them back to Sydney then to cairns, darwin, bali and singapore.
We treated her and her friend to lunch at the traditional restaurant spring deer. Shark’s fin soup, peking duck, minced pork and pastry parcels. Way too much to eat, we took the duck carcass and leftovers home. Lovely to see her and we enjoyed the food. Not too expensive, local$ 1600, around UD200, for 4 people. I remember going to this restaurant with my grandparents, it looks the same and the food is the same high quality. Okay, it’s controversial to have shark’s fin soup nowadays, we don’t really make it a habit. The soup was mainly a chicken soup with depth of flavour; shark’s fin itself is bland.
Met up with sis to deal with the last of the probate stuff, but it turned out we had to go to another office to get another piece of paper first. So much bureaucracy. Since I didn’t bring the necessary documents we’ll have to go another day.
Long lunch at the globe. She had beef & mushroom pie and I had the set lunch. Lamb chops and cheesecake. The lamb was salty, just like most food outside is salty. I don’t remember the taste of the cheesecake it was that memorable. Between us we polished off the equivalent of a bottle of wine, should have ordered by the bottle vs glass.
Went to the bank to put some of the joint account money to work. Too much cash, so we invested some: switched some to a better performing global income and growth fund, switched some to high yield bonds, and bought a new multi-income fund. One thing I’ve noticed about sis, she is quite impatient with investments, not experience enough to take the long view and gets panicky when there’s a loss or the return isn’t high enough.
Ah, blessed silence. The air smells toxic and the atmosphere is tense, but my ears and sanity are recharging. It’s always going to be a problem, a person who loves talking for the sake of talking vs a person whose greatest wish is to have hearing that can be switched off.
Visited Papa in the afternoon. No taxi on the way down so we started walking, luckily one came by around 5mins after. Chatty driver, sigh.
Early dinner at pizza express. We were there around 4.30-5pm for a 6pm reservation so we totally took our time. Sis had a voucher for a free pavlova, which turned out to be a ginormous portion. Delicious too. For mains I had mushroom truffle pizza, it was pretty good.
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.
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.
Met mm for lunch with mum at the nice jap ayce place. Her appointment ran late so she didn’t come till 1.30pm. We were still eating at 3pm but the restaurant was clearing up already. Unlike the other place, this one needed us out. Disappointing.
Went to the brands expo to walk around. Bought dried mushroom, honey, cordial and various home stuff like shower head, smelly wood and shampoo.
So full that I wasn’t even interested in the frozen yogurt stall.
Lunch with sis, niece and her grandparents at the yacht club. It’s curry buffet day, which means something for everyone. Their taxi pulled up just as mum and I were walking into the club car park, great timing. Poor T, one of us always has to help him walk, he uses a scooter at home but obviously can’t bring it with him. The vegetarian curries ended up being better than the meat ones, only chicken was okay. Beef and pork were tough and the salmon in the fish curry was fishy, even smothered in curry sauce.
It’s christmas when there are christmas trees and poinsettia everywhere. It was raining this morning so drops of rainwater was still on the leaves. Looks a bit like snow. Pretty.
After lunch G is off to see rogue one with her friend. For some reason sis’ credit card didn’t work so i had to use mine to book the ticket. This means I had to go with her to the cinema to pick up the ticket. No big deal.
More bank stuff today. Plus life insurance stuff too so mum came with us. The rep who helped us, the same young woman who helped us last time, was as helpful and proactive as before. She even anticipated our questions. Very grateful for the positive experience. Yes, we will need to go back 1 or 2 times, but that’s the nature of probate, can’t be helped.
Lunch at hmv. The set lunch was extremely good value. Starter two ways: quinoa salad and lentil soup. Sis and I had barramundi with tomato sauce and mum had chicken with mushroom. Also came with a lemongrass drink. Even with sevice charge it was less than local$100 (used to be less than £10 but now just over, fx). Their happy hour used to be 25%, they have a special promotion at 50% for regular wines, beers and cocktails. Worth trying. The place is huge and the restaurant is rarely full, not many people are buying anything either, I wonder if they even make a profit. I hope so.
Went back to the sportswear popup outlet with mum to look for casual shoes for her. The crocs that had her size and good design was too pink so we decided against it.
Some more home shopping at the teacher’s union shop: shower gel, handwash, olive oil then bus home. It’ll be a busy week, this is just the first of 4 consecutive days I have to go out.
Bank day. Met sis at 10am at bank #2 and stayed there for over 2hrs. We had to open a joint account, a securities account, an investment account and close Papa’s accounts. There was a mountain of paperwork. Thought nowadays banks should be more automated, but there seems to be only more and more forms to fill in. The staff weren’t slacking, they had 3-4 people working on our case and it still took them to lunchtime to finish.
Lunch was at a conveyor belt sushi place. The set was nice, the sushi plates on the conveyor belt were barely touched, as most people ordered directly.
In the afternoon we went to bank #3. The staff there was also very helpful and there were also forms to fill in. We have to come back in about 2 weeks’ time after they sort out one of the bonds.
Long day and pretty tired. Bought meatballs and salmon from Ikea and took the bus home.
Met sis for breakfast at hmv. I had what they called a breakfast pizza: bacon, egg, spinach, tomato and hashbrown. We were the first customers and the food was obviously freshly made, came to the table piping hot. Large enough pizza for lunch.
The purpose of today was to go to the banks to deal with some of Papa’s stuff. Got one bank sorted. Gave documents to another bank and decided to leave the third bank for another day. Sis had to drop off a guitar, then we went to the yacht club for lunch. I had overcooked calves’ liver, a bit disappointing.
Waved sis off in a taxi and walked over to my hairdresser’s. They moved to a new place, much much nicer, more modern and roomier. I was there early enough so he could cut my hair, when mm came we had to wait for a couple of other customers. No big deal. Small (<10%) increase in price, he hadn’t increased our prices for about 10 years so it’s okay.
Happy hour at an izakaya. We had beer, vegetable gyoza, grilled sausages, shiso leaf tempura (delicious!), grilled chicken soft bone (yummy). Either a set with beer or 1-for-1 beer. Didn’t hurry, just ordered a couple of skewers at a time like we should at an izakaya. Nice industrial design at the restaurant, using pipes, sockets and bits of wood.
Still early so we went to v-park where I spotted a few vulpixes earlier in the day. Ended the night with 7 of them, from zero. Looks like a new nest there.
Called up the utilities companies to change to my name. All different procedures.
Electricity customer service advised me to not change for another month. When the next bill arrives, call up to cancel the autopay and let the deposit pay for the bill. Then change name. I thought it was great advice.
Gas needed a fax or email with all sorts of certificates, include proof of relationship. Really? But then once I emailed it was done quickly.
Water took my details over the phone and that was it.
My niece had her taekwondo exam this evening at the sports centre in one of the parks I go running in. Difficult to get to for anyone not walking though. She’s at red-black level 1 or 2 dan, I’m not quite sure. I remember she had to wait till she’s 14 to take this exam.
There were lots of kids taking the exam. The masters split them into 4 groups and they went through the exercises. First was sparring then board kicking. Quite exciting to watch actually.
Met up with Uncle Yau and my aunt’s daughter for lunch. I think we realise that we need to see more family. I only recently learned that my aunt passed away in 2003, and I haven’t seen my cousin for decades. My aunt had 8 children and they are all older, the youngest two are a couple of years older than me.
Uncle Yau also told us that Uncle 2 passed away before my aunt, which surprisingly we didn’t know about. So Uncle Yau is the only one left of the 4 siblings. With his daugher in the UK he’s now on his own. I have to make sure we keep in touch.
It’s Papa’s birthday. We went to visit, and it started raining when we were there. Sis tells me about one of his pics showing up on her random screensaver (out of hundreds of pictures). I feel mostly numb today.
It’s also Grandma’s birthday so afterwards Mum and I went to get some flowers and visited my grandparents too. Grandma would have been 100.
Our appointment at the probate office is today. I’d filled out the 3 different forms, listed Papa’s assets, included originals and copies of everything into a thick folder. Hopefully that’s everything needed.
It’s all a giant bureaucratic process:
go to counter to present ticket and appointment letter
interview with officer to go through forms and documents
wait half an hour
get documents back from officer, now in an official orange folder
go down 2 floors to register to take oath
queue up to take oath
go up 1 floor to make payment
make photocopy of documents
take stamped documents and receipt back to officer
get letter with reference number
Now there is a 5-7 week wait for the official letter of grant, which hopefully will be what we need to execute the Will.
Despite the bureaucracy, it wasn’t too painful and all got done in about 2 hrs.
It would have been my parents’ 52nd wedding anniversary today. Mum and I woke up early to try to beat the heat to visit Papa. Every time I visit, I feel like we made the right decision to go for the memorial park, it was so beautiful and peaceful. Yes, extremely hot but the open views and slight breeze made it better. The small cactus that sis brought last time is still there, surprisingly. And flourishing. I watered it. May be next time I’ll bring a small spade and actually plant it underneath Papa’s plaque.
Lunch at the food court, went to the market and we were home by 2pm.
Bought a whole oxtail for braising. 1hr in the oven and then I plan to leave it overnight in the vacuum pot. For tomorrow. Hopefully it’s good.
Had time left on the Citibike so cycled to the Flatiron Building for pictures, then a few blocks to Union Square Market. So many things I wanted to buy but couldn’t. Bought one tomato (very expensive, USD2 for one tomato!) and two golden beetroots to take back for Mum to try. Yes, crazy. Got talking with the stallholder at Orange County Distillery who made his own bourbon and single malt. I liked both, but could only buy one. In the end, the novelty of a small batch American single malt whisky (he called it whiskey) won. USD50 for 375ml is expensive. Want to support him though.
Back to the apartment for more laundry and then a trip tip steak for lunch. Like the feather steak, quite tough and I should have cooked it more. Watched MKR on the mba and checked into my flight.
Met my cousin at the extremely busy corner at 34th and 7th at 4.30pm, rush hour. The train ride back to their house was 1.5hrs and I salute him for doing this every day. We had a nice dinner with his kids and my aunt at the Old Dock Inn. Food was okay, the view was fabulous. They drove me back into the city. It was lovely to see the family, and I need to make sure I see them more often.
Father’s Day. Mum and I went to church, then quick lunch at a food court. Met with Sis and G to visit Papa. Very hot day, 33ºC and feeling hotter. It was cooler and there was a light breeze up on the hill though. Sis brought a little pot plant.
I thought, with all the ads about father’s day gifts, father’s day food recipes and waking up to a stupid fb gif about father’s day, that I’d suffer from trigger warnings. But I didn’t. I haven’t been feeling much of anything. Not even numbness. I went about my day, cooked dinner, watched tv, read a book. That’s pretty much how most days are.
It doesn’t feel like it hasn’t sunk in. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop but I feel like my brain has super turbo processed it all and that’s it. Some emotions have gone missing, the world seems even further removed than before. The thing is, I’m not bothered by it. Intellectually I know I’m compartmentalising; all I can muster is a shrug.
Hot, hot, hot. 30ºC with 85% humidity. We didn’t walk to church this morning, taking the bus instead.
Then home for lunch. I cooked a batch of pasta last night so it was just a matter of cooking some veg and grilling a couple of pieces of salmon. Easy easy.
Rest in the afternoon then out again for dinner. Meeting my great-aunt and her friend. Pleasant meal at a new restaurant that specialises in SE Asian type Chinese food. It’s been fantastic, having great-aunt visit these few weeks. So great to have family around you. Mum and I are very tempted to visit her in Toronto and may be stay for a while.
Here’s a random pic. Took this in central when we took great-aunt to get snacks and coconut candy. Much more interesting to have a mural outside a construction site than boring wooden planks.
Two months ago, Papa walked with his own two feet to the hospital clinic. Today we scattered his ashes in the garden of remembrance. Just to show how quickly life changes.
We’d picked the spot for the memorial plaque already, and the scattering was done in the rock pool in that section. It’s a good spot, very open with views of hills and sea. Mum bought a beautiful small bouquet of flowers.
The staff members helping us were respectful and helpful. They verified my ID, then Papa’s paperwork. The ashes were placed in a metal container and we took turns scattering on the rocks.
I thought I might be sad. I was, I am. But it was peaceful and cathartic in a way. I stared at the ashes, the same colour as the rocks, for a long time. Then I expanded my view to the bay and then to the hills opposite. A couple of birds of prey flew overhead, we hadn’t noticed them before. Papa would have loved watching the birds. Googling tells me that they are black kites. One of them hovered close to our taxi on the way down to the train station.
People talk about seeing flies or butterflies or other small signs of departed loved ones. I’ve certainly noticed that I’m surrounded by more butterflies when I’m out and about. Perhaps it’s merely that it’s the beginning of summer. I’d like to think it may partly be Papa keeping and eye on us. I thank the butterflies when I see them.
Mum’s birthday. Lunch at home, I cooked noodles because it’s a traditional birthday food.
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.
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.
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.
Mum and I went to church. At the end of mass Father said because it’s Mother’s Day, they invite all mothers to go up for a flower. Very nice.
Did a lot of walking: we missed the bus so decided to walk to church. Then walked to the noodle place for lunch and walked to the small market and then bus home. It’s good to exercise. It’s beginning to get warm but not suffocatingly so.
My uncle and aunt drove us out to see the garden of remembrance. Quite a long way and long walk up lots of steps. The garden itself is long, with good views of mountain and the harbour. Very dignified and peaceful. We can also get a memorial plaque for Papa, and hopefully we can pick the spot.