Monday, January 30, 2006

Urshering in the CNY...with FOOD (of course)!

恭喜发财, 万事如意,新年快乐!!!
Chinese New Year is so uneventful in Brisbane . I even got the dates for the 1st day of CNY all mixed up!

This will be my fourth year of not having CNY with my family in Singapore. Well, I made a vow not to return for CNY when I got married because as a married means giving out red packets to the singles (however OLD they are) that equates to burning a hole in my already shallow pocket hence not leaving me enough for holiday shopping!

I wasn't particularly home-sick the last few years but the same cannot be said for this year. In fact, I was feeling quite the reverse. I miss the family reunion, the gossiping, the food, etc hubby and I did what we thought would be the best case scenario for our very own celebration at home.

We decided to have a seafood feast and in particular, prawns and crab. You know how when you want something, you can never find it...well, that almost happened to us and the crab. We went to our usual seafood outlets (2) and both were sold out on crabs! Hubby then took me to some backyard operation near his work and to my surprise and pleasure, they had crabs...BIG and ALIVE! We picked a 1.5kg big fat crab. The shop owner placed it in an iced eskee so that it would "go to sleep" - more humane way of "killing it" rather than stabbing it in the chest!

Come Sunday - 1st Day of Chinese New Year
We decided on two of our all time favourite dishes. Mee Siam and Chilli Crab. Since there was only the two of us, we decided to have Mee Siam for lunch and Chilli Crab for dinner.

Home-Made Mee Siam

Cooking Mee Siam puts a smile on my face

Chinese New Year Lunch - Yummy Mee Siam

Honey, can I lick your bowl too?

Home-Made Chilli Crab
That's our "victim" turned into feast for our eyes, nosese and bellies!

A farewell kiss for...the lovely memories?

Ahh...that's the way it should be! EATEN!

I often wonder who the asian is, in our relationship

Washing it all down with a nice cup of tea

That's all that was left of the "victim"'s a scavanger, no more!

Needless to say, we were both very full and satisfied. Washed down our meals with japanese tea brewed with proper tea leaves.

If this is what the year of the Dog is like...we'd better kick start our exercise regime, quick smart!

Friday, January 27, 2006

First Week Back

First week back at work and thought it would take at least 2 weeks for me to get back into the swing of things. Surprisingly not...especially with the "guidance" of emails.

The emails sure kept me on track and very organised. Events and project deadlines for the year have all been communicated to the relevant groups. Hence, I am feeling rather good. Again, come March this year - I would be with this company for 3 years! That is definitely a record for me.

Yesterday was a Public Holiday in Australia. We celebrated Australia Day as a nation. It was very relaxing and I slept in, to my pleasure. Hubby and I drove to see the American Army Vessel powered by Nuclear power. The trip which would normally take 20 mins, took 1.5 hours! Apparently, half of Brisbane had the same idea. Nothing to do so might as well go check out this nuclear powered vessel!

Got home and put on an aussie barbecue of lamb chops, beef sausages, onions and heaps of cold salad. Absolute simple yet effective.

This weekend is Chinese New Year.

As a child, I always look forward to this day not just because of the red packets (filled with money) given to us by our elders but the reunion with both sides of the family. It is always loud and bursting with food!

This will be the 4th year of not celebrating CNY and I am not missing it because my family is not here and I don't live close to Chinatown and am the only asian in my neighbourhood.

The first day of CNY is Monday - my family in Asia will be busy visiting relations, gorging on delicious food, catching up, playing card games...I will be here in the office, working.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Times have change

I never fluttered even an eyelash over a $100 hair cut when I was a Uni student. Yes, I am guilty of having expensive taste. Not only did I have an expensive hair cut but add another $200 on top of that for colour! It doesn't just happen once in a blue happened every 6 weeks. I am not joking. Yes, I was very happening then! I wonder how I manage to pay rent?

But times have surely and truely changed yours truely. Eversince I started working and learnt the hard way to manage my finances by prioritising my NEEDS first before my WANTS, I am now known as the bargain queen. All thanks to the influence of my very practical and "make the dollar work harder" husband.

Most of our "investments" (e.g. furniture, roller blinds, white goods, etc etc) in this home are on "special". We never pay anything full price.

At the Boxing Day Sale, we were browsing through the "throw out electronics" table at David Jones (posh retail outlet) and came across a Panasonic High Definition Set Top Box (normally retails at $700), it was on special for $149 because it was display stock. I walked over to one of the sales guys and asked him if there was anything wrong with the gear and if the 12 month manufacturer's warranty is valid. He provided me with very favourable answers and on the spot, I offered him $139 cash. It was a deal!

Last week, hubby and I finally found an entertainment unit that we are thrilled about (we have been looking patiently for 1.5 years). It is solid teak and normal retail price was $1,700 and it was on sale for $1,200. We went to the sales girl and told her that we will pay $850 on the spot. She checked with her supervisor and told us $900. We said, "Deal!" Now we are proud owners of a brand new entertainment unit!

Yes, I am indeed a changed woman. I continue to strike a "hard bargain" because it gives me a buzz, high one.

Today, I had to make a trip to the hair salon. You see, I only go to the hair salon every 6 months. Twice a year. Why? Because this is one place I cannot bargain and don't want to, in case something "bad" happens to my hair. I have been tying my hair up for the last 4 months so I know, a hair cut and colour is necessary.

Needless to say, it didn't cost me $300. It was lesser than that and no, I am not telling. I am mighty happy with the results. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Is that a compliment? Should I take it as that?

I have been asking myself exactly that.

Incident #1
You see, hubby organised for a window tinting contractor to come to our home this morning to give us a quote...the contractor was chatting with him and I was just standing around. At some point, the contractor must have finally noticed me and thought he better 'make conversation'.

He said - "Are you a university student?"
I said - "No. I am on annual leave."

That got me thinking. Does he think I am a University student because I look young and look the part?

Incident #2
Hubby left for work. I sat myself comfortably in front of our plasma to watch the entire Series 3 of Sex in the City. I was happily minding my own business when the door bell went. Got off the couch reluctantly and see a healthy looking man in his 70's at the door. I stepped out. From his brochures, I could see that he was promoting wheelie Bin cleaning services.

He said - "Are your parents at home?"

I am clearly in shock at this point and almost lost for words. But ever dignified, I found my voice:

I said - "No. I own this home."

Do I look that young? skin care products must work very well! I suppose I should be happy but I don't want to look like a young girl!!!!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Front Yard Make-Over complete!

Yesterday, I shared my reflections on "Hard Yakka". Check out the pics that come with it.

Yes, it was hard work but also highly enjoyable because I could track the results every step of the way. Being the impatient person I am, this is a great project to undertake.

Before we went off to bed last night at midnight no less, we set our alarms to go off at 6am today (sunday) because we are determine to get to the Sunday Markets and score ourselves more very cheap but high quality plants.

To say the least, our bones and musles are aching today but our tenacity and determination did not hold us back one bit, however tired we are. The power of the mind and heart combined yields unbelievable results!!!

We are proud to present you our Front Yard Make-Over! Check out the Before and After photos:

The "Before"

The "After"

We have one more ginger plant to arrive next Sunday. We are ecstatic with the results and can't wait for them to grow up healthy and strong (albeit: big).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hard Yakka!

That is aussie lingo for "hard work" and that is exactly how I spent my Saturday.

You see, for some reason I could not slumber in the comfort of my air-conditioned bedroom on Friday night. To be precise, Friday the 13th. I wonder if that is the reason for my sleepless night.

Instead of tossing and turning in bed, I sought the companionship of my ever reliable laptop. Off to cyberspace I went and had a most enjoyable night/early morning of chatting with two girlfriends, one in Norway and the other in Singapore. I only got to bed at 3:30am on Saturday morning.

At 7:00am, hubby woke me up with great enthusiasm - all rearing to go. Go where you ask? To the landscaping supplies down the road, of course. This is the place where you can buy anything and everything to do with landscaping in bulk (YES, they open for business very early!). I wasn't impress, to say the least. Nonetheless, I dragged my sleep induced body and brain out of bed and off we went.

Why do we have to be there at that time of the morning? Well, my father-in-law was coming at 8am to do our front yard! Do I trust him with that audious task? Oh I most certainly do. He is famous for turning bare patches of nothing into Botanic Gardens! I have seen his handy work first hand and am most impress.

Our front yard. Pre father-in-law magic
Our lush green lawn...thanks to the humidity and heavy overnight dew

Father-in-law marking out the area and arrival of truck
Yes, no help whatsoever from machines. It is 100% labour, 200% strength and 1000% determination!

Father-in-law and yours truely working under scorching heat!
Definitely 2000% determination! We have a good system - he digs, I pick, hubby takes it away to be dumped

Starting to take shape
Yipee...some plants in! Definitely two thumbs up. arms are getting sun burnt!

60% complete!
Oh boy...We are getting very excited. All the different foliage and colours plus sandstone makes it so unique!

After this, we continued with more digging. Extending the garden bed further.

The completed transformation will be revealed in the next 24 hours. Hubby and I are off to the Sunday Markets tomorrow to buy more plants. Yes, another early start. But it will be so worth it! Watch this space.

Friday, January 13, 2006

It's a Wrap!

I had a most wonderful and memorable time in Sydney. It is almost hard to believe that it has been 6 years since I have been on a vacation on my own. Well, it comes as no surprise since it has been 6 years since hubby and I laid eyes on each other! This trip is more like a food lover's vacation. I was taken to so many wonderful and interesting eateries!!!

Here's a little collection of the photos I have taken on my holidays:

For DIE HARD Chocoholics - Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar
The desserts are all to die for. I was so choc-ed up, I had to refrain from injesting any chocolate anything for the next four days!!!!
They even have a wide range of merchandise which I couldn't resist!

#1 Hospitality by Cousin and her fiance
My cousin and her soon-to-be husband were most generous and hospitable during my stay. They made my stay so relaxing and enjoyable! THANK YOU!! :-)

Sydney Fish Market - bestest and freshest seafood, ever!
Located at Pyrmont, just 10 mins from Sydney CBD is the Sydney Fish Market. It has heaps of stores selling fresh seafood of many varieties. Can be bought fresh and prepared at home or let them do it on the spot! We had super duper fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon and King Fisher) as well as some deep fried variety for cousin's fiance.

The Rocks
One of my favourite spots in Sydney. Very pictureque, steep in history and architecture.

A Day at the Beach - DeeWhy
The sun decided to come out on my second last day so off to the beach we went!

Caught up with a few friends

Final Night - Orbit Bar; 42 storeys above Sydney CBD
Don't have to tell you that it has the most spectacular view. Unfortunately for us, it was an overcast day! The ambience, company, food and drinks were brilliant!

Goodbye Sydney, for now at least.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sydney: Social Galore!

It dawned upon me yesterday evening that I actually have a larger social network here in Sydney and those networks all live within 20 minutes of each other and that is on public transport!

The weekend saw me hanging out with my cousin and her lovely fiance in the city. We went to one of my favourite spots "The Rocks" located next to Circular Quay. Beautiful part of city lined with Victorian architecture and just heaps of people. The markets were great, just the way I remember them. We then spent the rest of the day hanging out by the harbour - though it was packed, there was a certain serenity about it as there is water all around us. Sydney is such a beautiful city!

We also went to the Fish market for yummy seafood lunch! The Sashimi was so fresh - I reckon if we lived in Sydney, I would drag hubby to the Fish Market at least every fortnight to buy fresh seafood but also to eat there!

Met up with Danielle. Haven't seen her in over a year. Went to Crows Nest for dinner and found out that she will be heading up to Brisbane this week so we will catch up again. It is lovely to have friends whom I can re-connect with after not having kept in regular contact during the past year. There are just some friends who will always be friends that don't need the regular upkeep. It was bliss!

Monday saw me head into the city to meet with a potential speaker for one of the conferences I am managing this year and as we got talking - we realised that for the last week that I have been in Sydney, we would have cross paths a few times because her practice is literally on the next street from where I have been staying in Chatswood!

Spent Monday evening with Katrina, a very dear friend who will be leaving Australia soon to join her boyfriend in the UK. Stayed with her and met Homer, her adorable cat for the first time. He looks like a 5kg Christmas Ham - so well taken care of and loves Katrina dearly. He made me miss Tanzetta all the more. Then I realise that there was one friend I hadn't even rung because I have simply forgotten all about him! Doug.

Rang Doug and decided that we'd meet up tonight - Tuesday here in Chatswood. Lo and behold, he only lives in the next suburb! What a coincidence and convenience! Haven't seen him since the wedding. He was our Best Man.

It is amazing how we get so caught up with our own lives during the year and when an opportunity like a vacation comes along, we marvel at how we have simply prioritised tasks over friendships! I am simply grateful that my friendships are so understanding and tolerant!

Then my aunt from Brisbane rang me and told me that she is in Sydney and wants to meet up for Yum Cha! I onyl saw her three weeks ago - feels good that I am so 'wanted' by my social networks.

Tomorrow - Wednesday will be my last full day in Sydney. Definitely praying for good weather because it would be a shame if I didn't make it to Bondi Beach and have a drink at "Breakers". Then in the evening, cousin's fiance suggested for us to head to Centrepoint (Revolving Restaurant in Sydney). I am so looking forward to it because I have never been there and I bet the views would be absolutely breathe-taking!

I need to catch my breathe now...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sleepless in Sydney

Had another fun day with my cousin. Headed into the city more specifically to Paddy's Market as she had to buy Abalone flavoured macademia nuts from her friends in Singapore. She took me to have super duper yummy seafood laksa at the food court - absolutely authentic! Then we walked 20 minutes to QVB (Queen Victoria Building - my favourite shopping centre in the city). Came home and her fiance outdid himself with dinner!

After a fun day, you'd think I'd be able to hit the hay. In fact is was a frustrating night of tossing and turning - watched 2 dvd movies, went to the toilet, did 3 sudoku puzzles and next thing you know it is 5am! I am still bright eyed and bushy tail! Oh no!!!!!!

Somehow, when I did fall asleep...I woke up at 8am absolutely "angry"! Oh well...better wear myself out today!!! Don't want a repeat performance of last night/early this morning...sleepless in Sydney...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reporting from Sydney

Slept at 2am, woke up at 5am, left home at 5:40am, got to the airport at 6am, flew out of Brisbane at 7am and arrived in Sydney at 9:35am (EDST) - phew!

Got out of the plane and it was a cool, windy and wet 21C as compared to Brisbane - it was 29C when I left home at 5:40am! What a 'world' of difference!

It was lovely seeing a friendly face in a cool city and that friendly face came in the form of my recently engaged cousin! I cannot begin to describe how incredible that feeling was. I haven't had physical contact with a blood family member from my family for a long time so it is like a reunion of sorts.

Not only are we blood relations, we are also avid chocolate addicts! She took me to a heavenly place called "Max Brenniers". It serves the most decadent chocolate souffle that ozzes chocolate, strawberries in chocolate fondue, etc etc etc...basically anything to do with chocolate. It is absolutely heavenly.

The very first bite of the souffle brought me to an ecstatic state of no return. I didn't notice the screaming child next to our table, I didn't notice how crowded that place was and neither did I hear what my cousin was telling me. I was having a date with chocolate. Chocolate and me. No one and nothing else mattered.

I wish I can upload some pics from the experience but Ican't do it from this workstation. The pics will be uploaded next week when I get back to Brisbane.

I am head over heels, desperately in love with Chocolate....sorry hubby!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tanzetta - our house cat and pseudo child

This is our 3 year old Siamese female cat, Tanzetta.

Named after her grandmother who was a prized pedigreed Siamese cat. Tanzetta is 7th generation but she is not show quality as she is too small. That's exactly why we bought her - not for show but for us to enjoy.

She goes by the nicknames of Tansie, Tansie Pansie, Tanzetta Pancetta or when we are extremely cross with her "TANZETTA!"

She is very clever and knows exactly what to do to gain our attention and affection, she also knows exactly how to press our buttons and infuriate us. She has also learnt exactly what to do in various circumstances to make us melt and cuddle her no end!

A highly affectionate and sociable cat, she will "talk" for 15 minutes non-stop when we get home from work and follow us around the home. She gets very upset when we go away for the weekend and makes her displeasure very clear by "nagging" for an hour non-stop [I am not joking].

She sits next to me while I prepare our meals and lays on my lap or next to me while we watch television. She will walk all over hubby's keyboard and sits on the other office chair next to him in the study. Yes, she sleeps with us too, in bed.

Her favourite foods are whatever I cook, condensed milk, butter, corn chips, bacon, ham, tuna, etc etc...not to worry, we don't give it to her often and when we do, it is hardly 1/10th of the serve! She eats the best cat food, she hates the supermarket variety. Once we mixed her good cat food with cat food from the supermarket and guess what happened? She sniffed and only ate the good cat food and left the supermarket variety in her bowl!

So what do we not allow her to do? She is not allowed out of the house / in the backyard without a harness and lead as well as supervision from either one of us. Yes, she knows how to walk with a harness and lead on like a dog would. She has never been given that priviledge since she was a 16 week old kitten and we are not about to let her venture out on her own now as she has neither the survival skills nor knows how to come home! We would be heart-broken if she was caught in a fight or worse still, run-over!

We love her to bits...

p.s. my next blog will be from Sydney

The Day in the Life of ...

Been on holidays since 22 December 05 and to be honest I have been rather bored ever since Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations went away.

However, there is one aspect I don't miss which is associated with having a 'career' and that is sleeping at a reasonable hour and waking up at 6am to be ready for work. These days, I hardly sleep before 1am and sleep in till 10:45am - never knew I could sleep in without the aid of alcohol or nightclubs (not that I have indulged in either of them in the past few years except when I was making rumballs).

The rest of the day is spent watching DVD movies, surfing the internet and the occasional housework. Other than that, it has been pretty laid back. Yes, I can go and do things but I don't want to spend money. I'd rather spend $ during my trip in Sydney so I am conserving my resources, so to speak.

Woke up this morning at the usual time of 10:45am, had yummy breakfast of summer fruits (nectarine, blueberries and mango) with gluten free musceli topped with soy milk. I then proceeded to packing my holiday bag before settling myself comfortably in front of our plasma - I am currently watching "The Pirates of the Carribean" and doing my blog at the same time. Yes, aren't we women fantastic? We can multi-task successfully!

So tonight, I have to try to sleep at a reasonable hour (but "The Bachelor" - the reality tv program is on) because yours truely needs to catch the 7am flight which means I need to be at the airport by 6am, which in turn means I have to wake up at 5:30am! Oh dear...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wonderful Memories: Christmas 2005

Christmas 05 was most certainly a fuss-free and enjoyable one for us. We shared the season with two good friends - A & J. Here's a collection of some of the photos taken from that day to remind us of what Christmas is truely all about - the season of giving and loving.

This is our Christmas table settling.

"Well...this is for..." [explanation of present]

Time to set the table for lunch, Ladies!

Presenting Christmas Lunch...

Tanzetta, the house cat shows us exactly what is to be done post christmas lunch