Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back to nature

I can't believe it took us so long before we visited the Botanical Gardens. You would have thought that since we lived in the countryside for 5 years, we would have been there sooner. Well at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm going to blame it on the humidity again.

So last Sunday, I thought enough's enough. I really have to brave the heat & bring The Girl there. I believe it was SIG (thank you) who recommended that we go to the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden.

Walking to the Children's Garden, we came across a foot reflexology path. After explaining what it was, The Girl, without any hesitation, took off her shoes & started running up & down barefooted. That's my girl, alright.

She was extremely curious and would stop me often to ask what the trees & plants were. Thank god the Botanical Garden is great about naming everything. I'd forgotten that they also have many fruit trees. It has been ages since I last saw a jackfruit tree.

The Girl gingerly walking across the suspension bridge

The Jacob Ballas Children's Garden is the outdoor equivalent of the Science Centre. Lots of interactive stuff for kids to play with - like cranking the dial to generate mist

The Girl is all wet not because she was perspiring but because she had just been to the Water area. I didn't pack a swim suit & I couldn't say no to her especially since it was hot so I just let her play in her panties (therefore no pictures).

I wasn't entirely ill equipped, I did pack a picnic lunch & mat. We found a nice spot to have a picnic amongst the trees. As we're munching our lunch, I was thinking to myself why had it taken us so long to come here.

I had gone there thinking that we would be there for an hour, max 2 hours. We were there for 5 hours. She wanted to touch, feel & try everything.

The tree house was a big hit. She generally doesn't like to participate in any activity if there are too many kids around. But we went there just after a passing shower so it was empty. She could run around to her heart's content well at least until the other kids started to show up.

Then after that, she insisted on going to feed the swans. So we made our way across the Botanical Gardens again, looking for Swan Lake. Now you know why we were there for 5 hours, that & the ice cream break.

There I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having the foresight to bring a loaf of bread to feed the fishes. Until I met a family who not only brought loaves (plural) of bread but also bags of vegetables. Remember the swans in Geneva who loves bread, their Singaporean cousins would have none of that, they only eat leafy vegetables. The family has another little girl too. It wasn't long before they became friends & they very kindly offered The Girl bread & veggies for the marathon feeding session.

We had so much fun that we exchanged numbers & promised to have another play date there soon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mad about dinosaurs

One particular show stood out amongst the offerings for the recent Children's Season. Dinosaurs in the Garden by Erth Visual & Physical. You might have read in the papers about how dinosaurs were let loose on the streets of Singapore as a publicity stunt, well that's them.

This is an Australian group & together with their dinosaurs, travel all over the world. The dinosaurs are very well made life sized puppets, of course. The stage was filled with inflatable plant life that existed in the jurassic age. The presenter (I forgot his name) was very entertaining but not only that, gave lots of snippets of dinosaur facts

Almost every kid I know is mad about dinosaurs. Maybe because they don't exist anymore ? I've never seen a more enthusiastic bunch at a show. There were no shortage of kids wanting to go on stage to pet the dinosaurs, to tell jokes or even to put their head inside one (scary even if it's just a puppet).

I close this post by sharing a joke told by one of the kids

Question : What do you call a sleeping dinosaur ?
Answer : A dino-snore

Sunday, June 21, 2009

abalone noodles

Since returning, I've been eating noodles as if they were going out of fashion. Fishball noodles, beef noodles, wanton mee, bak chor mee, laksa, mee siam, fish head noodles - I don't crave for rice the way I do for noodles.

My current fave are these abalone noodles that my friend Ian brought back from Hong Kong. I've always loved the HK har tse meen (prawn flavored noodles) but abalone noodles is new to me. They come individually packed with a small seasoning packet that has bits of abalone in them.

Just throw in some wontons (I don't make them myself anymore, I buy them fresh or frozen), veggies and serve them Hong Kong style with red vinegar & lee kum kee chilli sauce.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

River fun

Who knew Singapore could be so much fun ? Sorry but I did leave 18 years ago & way back then, there weren't outdoor concerts, late nights at the museums nor river festivals. I like that organisers here are trying to replicate what is very common in Europe - the summer festivals.

Randomly trawling the internet brought me to the Singapore River Festival website. Free ice cream. Great. Free entrance to the museum. Great. Free cuban jazz concert. Wow. Free mojitos. I'm so going there.

As we made our way there, there were street performers trying to entice people to the events. The Girl enjoyed watching them but was too shy to have a picture taken with them.

The lawn in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum was transformed into a big lounge area with picnic mats & cushions. I thought it was also pretty cool with the skyscrappers in the background. So we made ourselves comfortable as we watched dance performances by local dance groups. Pity I didn't have the foresight to prepare a picnic basket. There were stands selling food but nothing seemed interesting so we headed over to Indochine for a bowl of pho bo.

As part of the festivities, the Asian Civilisations Museum is offering free entry from 5 pm to midnight on Friday evenings. A good reason to check out the Kangxi exhibit which has been extended (probably because of this). Want more reasons to go there ? Free ice cream & free mojitos (you have to collect the stickers & tags when you enter the gallery).

Since Singaporeans can always sniff out freebies, be sure to go early cos it can get really crowded & then they start controlling the numbers going into the gallery.

Throughout the night, the museum would be lighted up & the walls outside become the canvas for an amazing light show.

Bacardi, the sponsor of the free mojitos, is launching their 1st Mojito Fiesta. We were lucky we got our mojitos early cos by 9.30, they were already out of mojitos. The free mojitos were limited to 1 per person but you could still buy them at $10 a pop & we were quite willing to do so cos they were yummy. Not quite like the ones we make but still yummy. After dinner when we asked, they had already run out (bad planning) & they were only serving rum & coke.

With our cuba libres, we sat outside on the lawn as beautifully lighted bum boats sail by & enjoy the music of the Cuban band. The Girl was dancing away to the salsa beats & I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

That was a great sundown party. If only I could end the work week like that every Friday.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Jones the Grocer

Jones the Grocer is clearly my favorite brunch place in Singapore. It's a 2-in-1. Restaurant cum gourmet food market. Imagine having your meal & being surrounded by delicious looking food items.

There is a bar counter with delectable displays of cupcakes & pastries. A meat section - where I finally found my chorizo (yeah!) & the most amazing cheese room. The Girl who seemed to have lost her taste for cheese since we arrived, sampled everything they had to offer.

The products here are definitely high end. I didn't end up buying much. I just enjoy browsing at food markets, in general & this one is really good. I'm eyeing their balsamic vinegar - maybe the next time.

I won't be heading there for my weekly grocery run but for those hard to find items, this place could be a good source.

The very delectable cheese room with a selection that could rival any supermarket in France. Everything is well labelled & there was a tasting platter which The Girl generously helped herself to.

That was my dish - poached eggs with smoked salmon. I only remembered to take a picture after I'd dug into the egg. Hey, at least I remembered before I finished - a good thing too cos I wiped the plate clean. I LOVE eggs for breakfast - doesn't matter how they are done - scrambled, fried, soft boiled, hard boiled, omelette or poached.

The communal sitting appeals to me too - you get to see what everybody else is eating. If you go during the weekends, make sure you go early to snag a seat inside. If not, you can eat out on the balcony (but even with the fans, it can get rather hot).

Jones the Grocer
Blk 9 #01-12
Dempsey Rd
6476 1512

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Substituting lup cheong for chorizo

Where before I had to work with limited Asian ingredients, now I find myself having to substitute Western ingredients. It's a situation I would not have imagined myself to be in . I suppose the 5 years in France has spoilt me. In between my binges of bak chor mee, laksa & mee siam, I'd have a craving for something French - Rene's caillette, wild mushrooms, foie gras, gratin.

Where before I complained about expensive Asian ingredients, now I'm shocked at how expensive Western ingredients are - even the most regular stuff like cream (a must in French cooking), grated cheese (I'm not even talking about the premium stuff), chorizo (okay it's not French but you have no idea how many places I went to before I finally found some).

Remember my wannabe-paella, well I wanted to make some & since I couldn't find any chorizo, I decided to substitute with lup cheong (chinese sausage). Hence creating arroz con camarones y lup cheong. Not bad at all. I was rather pleased with the result. The crust turned out very well & since this was a mini success, I'm going to be experimenting more.

Why kill myself trying to find expensive air flown ingredients when I could be sourcing local or Asian alternatives ?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Of knobs & Da Vinci

I believe it was Eunice who recommended I go to the Singapore Science Centre. It must have been more than 30 years since I last went. The Da Vinci exhibition is on right now & from what I know, the Science Centre is air conditioned so we hopped onto the train & headed over to Jurong East.

The Science Center is every kid's dream. No knobs or buttons went untouched that day. The Girl insisted on trying EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. Many were not reachable but was that going to stop her ? No siree, she had a plan - stand on the stroller. See evidence below.

Photographic proof of bad mother allowing daughter to stand on stroller. Sorry for the grainy picture cos it's taken with my phone. Would you believe it ? I forgot to pack my battery charger for the camera. I left it in France !

We didn't really have time to check out all the display nor go to the popular Omni Theatre (more reason to go back again) cos I didn't want to miss the excellent Da Vinci exhibition. It has been around the world & I'm so glad we managed to catch it while it was in town.

The exhibition showcased all his talents, as an artist, sculptor, inventor, scientist, engineer, anatomist, biologist, architect, philosopher & musician (some of which I wasn't even aware of). I was most impressed with the display of his inventions. There were scaled down interactive models of his ingenious contraptions that were just so way ahead of his time. There were of course, many manuscripts showing his famous "mirror" writing & a huge section detailing the Mona Lisa. Don't kill me but in my opinion, not what he should be most remembered for.

No photos were allowed but you can check out more about the exhibit here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Getting our routine back

Back in France, one of our routines were the trips to the mediatheque every 3 weeks. The Girl loves books & always looks forward to going there. Needless to say, it wasn't long before we headed over to the National Library. In fact it was one of the first things I did after we arrived - to get The Girl her very own library card.

When we were in France, one of the items we regularly borrowed were audio books. Not those read-aloud-by-some-random-celebrity books nor those motivational CD types but musical books. Sort of a children's version of a musical - the CDs are usually not more than 20 mins & the accompanying books will have lyrics & graphics to further enhance the story. Our mediatheque in Aubenas has a whole section of these books. The last one we borrowed was a story about a little girl who went round the house looking for her missing doudou (french term for one's favorite stuffed toy or doll) - not terribly exciting but when it's backed up with original music & catchy lyrics - makes for a very fun read.

So I eagerly signed up for a premium membership, which allows one to borrow the audio-visual items. Imagine my surprise when I browsed said section & there was nothing like that. Not even close. I can't believe the French has a monopoly on these types of audio books. Does anybody out there know if such books are available in English ? Maybe I need to enquire at Kinokuniya or Amazon (which is what I'm going to do right after I publish this post).

Although I didn't manage to use the premium membership for it's intended purpose, we're benefitting from the additional books. As usual, even my quota goes to borrowing The Girl's books. I'm happy I've instilled this love of books in her & hope that we will continue our routine of reading 2 books every night before she goes to bed.

Only on our last trip there, did I realise that the Toa Payoh Library is probably closer to where we live so I think we might go check it out next.