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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Slaying the Monster (Part 1)

When Evil befalls us, when the night is at its darkest, that is when the courage of men (and women) will shine brightest.

We were relaxing in our nice cottage in the city of Stowe when we heard a clamor of cries for help from the neighboring town of Waterbury.

"Help us!" The men cried. "There's an monster made entirely of ice-cream that we cannot conquer!

"Help us!" The women cried. "This monster contains at least 7,000 calories! That's 7,000 chances of being one calorie too much for our health!"

Being the brave souls that we were, we agreed to help the poor citizens of Waterbury to look into this menace.

This is what we found out:

The monster is called the Vermonster, an evil concoction created by the sorcerers Ben 'Coldheart' Cohen and Jerry 'Grimfield' Greenfield.

This Vermonster had the following weapons and powers at its disposal:
- 20 scoops of ice cream
- 4 bananas
- 4 ladles of hot fudge
- 1 giant brownie
- 3 cookies
- A smothering layer of whipped cream
- Mini M&Ms
- Oreo cookies
- Gummi bears
- Rainbow sprinkles

Truly an evil beast!

Well, being brave doesn't mean being stupid. We were not about to try to tackle this Vermonster without some sort of plan. So, we made a journey to the Oracle.

"Oh great Oracle of D'ough!
Help us understand, help us know!
How can we slay the Vermonster,
For, if need be, my wife will sacrifice her sister!"

The twin-headed Oracle peered intently at us, and in a silky voice, purred.

"Sacrifice, I do not need,
But others' advice, you must heed
A visit to the Graveyard is on your charts,
Hurry on now, or you'll smell my farts"

Heads bowed in acknowledgement and gratitude, we hurried along to the graveyard...

(to be continued)

Slaying the Monster (Part 2)

As we stepped into the Graveyard, a chill wind blew. The trees rustled, as if to whisper the news of our mission to anyone who would listen. Goosepimples rising from the sudden cold, Yi Lin muttered,"I wonder what help are we supposed to find here. Perhaps weapons of some sort?" Suddenly, the Ghost of Ethan Almond appeared!

He added:
"But our legacy of nuts live on
As you have proved from now thereon,

The day after the full moon,
Attack the monster with this spoon."

We got our weapons. Yeah! Level up!

"I wonder if that was it." Lint mused. "Weapons are one thing, but how about some strategy?"
At that moment, another spirit appeared!

Dastardly said:
"My demise was too quick and concise,
Though I had weapons and knowledge wise

Now, I'm sure I've found the hole in the loop,

Unlike you, I alone could not attack in a group"

Ah. So cooperation is the key to defeating the dreaded Vermonster. Forewar
ned and forearmed, we decided to turn around and leave the Graveyard. But having turned around, we found another apparition in our way!

His Unholiness hissed:
"I'm fanning the flame,

by spreading its fame.

You can't defeat the Vermonster

You'll only spread its infamy further!"


AngelBoy suddenly appeared and showed the Devil his white-gauntleted finger. With a Mighty "Eep!", the Devil finally disappeared.

"Come with me," AngelBoy beckoned, "I have some training for you, before you face your nemesis.

AngelBoy brought us to his sanctum, the FlavoRoom. With a flick of a hidden lever, he presented some Oatmeal Cookie Chunks ice-cream. Free training dummies! Brandishing our spoons, we leapt into the training regimen with vigor not seem in this town for the past century!

Within minutes, AngelBoy declared us ready to meet our ultimate foe - the Vermonster!

(to be continued)

Slaying the Monster (Part 3)

Stealthily, we approached the lair of the Vermonster.

We were appalled by the sheer size of the fiend!

3 of our training dummies could easily fit into the little container beside the monster, and this monster was yet another 15-20 times the size of the container! We knew we had our work cut out for us. With a bloodcurdling yell, we attacked! The monster was quick to react, flashing its colorful patterns at us.

Despite knowing the ways of such monsters (they appear colorful, but that's only to attract prey. There's usually poison or some other dastardly weapon hidden!), we plunged right in, as if we were nuts.

With at least 3 of us continuously hacking at it at any one time, the monster had no chance to recover, no chance to escape. We quickly went past the colorful sprinkles and started on the cookies and brownie.

Cunningly placed bananas tried to slow us down, but knowing what was at stake, we bravely fought past them.
We finally got down to the core of the monster, comprising of 20 scoops of Peanut Butter Cup, Coconut 7-Layer Bar, Yellow Brickle Road and Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch ice creams. Despite the flavors pooling their resources together, we managed to make quick work of it!

With the others in the group tiring fast, I suddenly sensed an opportunity. With a triumphant yell, I finally grabbed the Vermonster by its scruff, and DRANK it all down.

The fight was over. The dreaded Vermonster has been slain!

The fight left all of us totally drained. But no one was more drained than the Vermonster!

The residents of Waterbury cheered our victory, as the triumphant heroes returned back to Stowe to wash the stains of their battle gear.

"There they were, the heroes six
5 of the Tans, and a Cho added to the mix
With plastic spoons and smacking lips
They made the Vermonster a part of their hips!"

And they lived happily ever after, with Peace, Love and Ice-Cream.

(The End)

Is Prostitution Legal in Vermont?

We were on the way to my version of Mecca when we saw this truck.

Hooker's Furniture

Since I was driving, I had to beg the wife to snap this shot. She grudgingly agreed, since it meant that she had to switch lens for her camera. (Thanks baby!)

So, back to my original question. Is prostitution legal in Vermont? Ah well... whether legal or not, it must be pretty widespread to have a furniture seller that services this niche, eh? I wonder if they have those rotating heart-shaped beds. Hmmmm......

Friday, May 29, 2009

Guest Blogger: America! Where true love is dead meat.

America, land of gigangous meals.
Where you will never go hungry.
But no matter how much and how often you eat, you will be constantly reminded by disappointment at how much your stomach can, really, only take that much, even though you keep trying to prove it wrong.

The following series is a special IHOP edition (inspired by ABBA. Or maybe, served as ABBA's inspiration...)

<3 <3 <3

<3 <3 <3

<3 <3 <3

*this post is dedicated to the loving memory of.... everything you see on the table above.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where's The Cod?!

Isn't it funny that throughout our stay in Cape Cod, we never saw cod on the menu or for sale? It was always lobster lobster lobster and of course, the famous New England clam chowder. I'm not a fan of clams (and its shellfishy relatives like mussels and oysters - I've given them enough chances and still can't grow to like them) but I gave the chowder a shot anyway. It was so thick and creamy that it made it hard to see the clams, much less pick them out. Anyway, it turned out okay cos somehow the clams managed to taste like chicken :/

I clam up when it comes to eating clams

Being here in Cape Cod, we had to try a New England lobster! On a related note, my friend commented that the quality of our meals seems to have improved tremendously now that the family is in town. Well, it just goes to show that once you're a parent, you'll always be an ATM to the kids. I'm deeply appreciative of the good food we're being treated to for these couple of weeks. If not for them, we wouldn't be able to come anywhere within sniffing distance of a seafood menu. It'll be back to the budget fare when they leave in early June *sniff*

Lunch by the sea

The little guy we ordered came steamed, slightly shell-shocked and clutching a bowl of melted golden butter and decked in a delicious shade of bright orangey-red.

Sharing fries with our new friend

You can't run and you can't hide either! *evil laughter*

Being terribly suaku when it comes to eating seafood, we've never had to tackle a fully armoured whole lobster before. Lobster at home comes nicely halved, cleaned and all you need to do is poke your fork into its torso and pull out a nice string of juicy meat. Short of going to war with this lobster, we did everything we could to break the shell and wrentch it apart with our bare hands (and a measley cracker tool), while trying to stop the muddy yellow goo from dripping down the sleeves of our jackets or squirting into somebody's eye. It was like a scene from the movie "300". Brutal. Disgusting. Gross. At least in the movie, I could close my eyes during the gory bits. But here, I had to look at what I was eating (or trying to eat)! Our server said all the yellow stuff was fully edible and recommended spreading it on crackers.... *stomach churning* Dad offered to pay my brother US$50 to take a bit of it but the kiddo refused. Dan stepped up to the challenge but was informed that he wasn't eligible for the task cos he eats everything!

We mangled our food... really badly.


That was my first and last time ordering a whole lobster. I'm sticking to food that I can eat without calling up the caveman instincts. Like fillets.

The Rainbow Connection

The Cape Cod peninsula is one interestingly-shaped piece of land. It looks like an flexed arm extending from the Massachusetts coast complete with biceps, triceps and a little clenched fist. The bay sits snugly in the crook of the arm. I think God must have had a bit of fun shaping this bit of earth. We stayed at Hyannis, which is located at the elbow.

Flex those muscles!

Apparently, Hyannis and its port (Hyannisport) is well-known for churning out one of America's most prominent figures - John F. Kennedy. I'm a total gonzo when it comes to history (I chose to study rock formations and geographical processes in JC instead, cos we were authorised to doodle and make little sketches as part of the lesson), even more so if its American history, so that was a bit of trivia with a wow factor for me.

We spent the day driving up the arm along the Cape Cod National Seashore to Provincetown, located at the very end of the peninsula. Provincetown is unabashedly and unapologetically gay. Rainbow flags adorn the entrance at every building. Singers decked in spaghetti tops, skirts and heels belt out "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "The Rainbow Connection" along the street.... in a deep, mellow bass. Happy people walk along hand in hand, past window displays with t-shirts screaming "I LOVE MY TWO DADS".

Paint the town pink!

Other than its colourful community and obvious gay pride, Provincetown is just like any other New England seaside town, coming alive as summer nears and especially vibrant and bustling over the Memorial Day weekend. We just soaked in the atmosphere along the streets, following our noses and disappearing into little fudge and nuts shops every now and then, always tempted by the tantalising aroma of waffle cones and roasted nuts riding merrily on the seabreeze.

Beached whale

Window displays are evil... evil!!

Chomping down on sweet cinnamon roasted cashews and almonds

Ahhh, the dog's life... and evidently that of a lucky human's too.

Row boats waiting patiently for the arrival of the summer holidays to get a fresh coat of paint
and a trip out to sea

The aisle that I would like to walk down someday, to my own little wooden tub

Lobster mascots advertising a Critter Tour

These quaint little shacks on the pier harbour tour offices, visitor services and even art shops

Just pottering around on the pier

The Whale Whisperer

After a hearty seafood lunch (which is worthy of its own blog entry - see later post), we drove back to Hyannis, stopping at small towns along the way. Some, like Truro, are named after their counterparts in England, Truro (the English version) being in Cornwall. With England being across the Atlantic from eastern USA, I guess it's no accident that many of the places on the coast share the same name as those in England, but with a "new" prefix i.e. New England, New York, New Hampshire, New London, etc. Tags like Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and Portsmouth also make a frequent appearance as town or street names. I must say, however, that there is a marked difference between the beauty of the English originals and the muted American versions of these places. Truro certainly can't hold a candle to the lovely town in Cornwall with its dramatic rocky coast, charming thatchroofed B&Bs and Devonshire Teas.

But New England's greyish coastlines did have a gloomy charm of their own. Here, my sweet yellow manguin carefully chose a smooth pretty sandy-coloured pebble to present to me. (Male penguins really do screen pebbles for the prettiest ones to present to their mates - pretty much like the engagement ring concept.) He said the pebble represents him - not very tall and slightly rounder in the middle :)

Wet, cold and shiny

Goodnight, Cape Cod, goodnight!

Of New Bags & Newport

Presenting, the first of three entries on Cape Cod which should have come before ones on Boston. I finally got down to doing some tikam tikam and picked what I hope are the best photos for the blog while trying not to get distracted by two full hours of Friends episode reruns.

The best type of travel reference materials are those that walk on two legs and aren't made of paper or available online. It turned out that meeting with Ethan Kent from PPS in Manhattan wasn't all work and no play. He shared with us a thousand tips on traveling in New England, where his family hails from. How can you not get jumpy with anticipation when a local enthusiastically exclaims, "You're visiting all my favourite places! That's just awesome." and proceeds to share with you details of the seaside towns, restaurants and nature trails that he loves? He hunted down a map of New England and started walking us through the route and scribbling down his recommendations on a notepad.

We even got a couple of great shopping tips, which saved us from an unnecessary detour to Premium Outlets in Woodbury Common and thus, a huge amount of time on the road dredging through nightmarish New York traffic. At his advice, we headed for the outlets at Clinton Crossing in Connecticut instead, which were en route to our destination in Rhode Island.

And look what we scored:

The happiest bag lady I've ever seen

The Memorial Day (Monday 25 May) sales that stretched from Friday to Monday were unbelievably good - bags were going at a 50% discount on the already heavily discounted prices. We got my mum hooked onto Kate Spade bags and my dad grumbling about the extra load to cart home at the end of the trip. But when we hit the outlets at Wrentham en route from Cape Cod to Boston on Monday (the last day of the sale!), guess who sent the family into a tizzy because he disappeared into the bowels of the mall with his mobile phone on low batt and kept us waiting at the pre-arranged meeting point for half an hour? Hmmmmmm, Prof Tan?? He's always the first to get bored and would wait impatiently at the meeting point, sending SMSes to the wife and kids to wrap up the shopping trip pronto. So when he wasn't there, we were so worried that he might have fainted in the loo or outside one of the shops. We sent the guys to check the restrooms and coordinated a search mission to comb the mall (while leaving Mum to fiercely guard the shopping.) It turned out that he was in the queue waiting to pay for his goodies from Banana Republic! Parents nowadays are such a handful. Sheesh.

Ethan had recommended that we take the scenic route to Newport, instead of zooming up the (boring) interstate directly into Providence. It was really nice to have someone suggest the travel itinerary for a change, instead of stuffing my head with general information from travel guides. I'm glad we made the stop. Newport is a very pretty seaside town and the main destination for major sailing races, such as the America Cup. (Not that I'm much of a sailor myself - the last time I tackled a sailboat was during my first few months at Victoria Junior College, where my friend Penn Nee and I ended up floundering in the open sea in the middle of a tropical storm. I decided thereafter that I would stick to dry land and try out for the school's track team instead.)

Hopefully the next time I get to visit Newport, I'll be arriving in my very own boat (or rubber dinghy the size of a bathtub) and berthing at the chichi piers snootily marked with a 'private' sign. Tee hee.

Big straw hats with coloured ribbons! So summertime.

If I've no money to buy a boat, I can settle for a rubber dinghy too.

Stalking pigeons is a low-budget past-time

The perfect cranny for hiding from the chilly sea breeze

White fences + pots of geraniums! I heart.

Quaint houses lining the streets make for a delightful afternoon stroll

Newport and the other seaside towns in New England are treasure troves for art galleries and artisan shops. I find the artworks so inspiring. They make me want to be able to draw and paint well enough to be able to showcase my works in a gallery and actually have people buy them. I've considered taking art classes back home as a hobby a couple of times but the lessons are just so expensive and the price of art supplies can make you gag. Guess I'll just be sticking to mastering digital photography and uploading pictures for now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Five Little Ducks

I love this series of photos. It is of a bunch of ducks. No important government buildings. No impossibly tall skyscrapers. Nothing to do with man and history. Just a bunch of precious little ducks.

At the Boston public garden, we witnessed a mother duck trying to get her five little ducklings to take the plunge and jump right into their first swim. She got into the water first, then kept swimming to and from the bank, as if to say (like all mummies do), "Look kids, there's nothing to it. You'll be fine."

This little guy is pretending to be asleep.

After a fair amount of cajoling from mummy, and encouragement from the human audience, the first little duckling finally plops right in! We all applauded!

Isn't he cute?!

Mummy's proud of her brave little one...

... but keeps going back to encourage the others.

And finally, to everyone's delight, three more duckies make a run for it and launch themselves into the water. The sleeping (or pretending to be asleep) duckling opens his eyes, realises that he has been left behind and makes a dash for the edge, stepping over his own tiny webbed feet in his hurry and practically falling in head first. We all had such a laugh at his antics!

The proud mother duck was so chuffed that she actually paraded up and down before us, quaking away loudly as if announcing her babies' accomplishments!

Practically beaming with pride!

I have never seen anything so heartwarming. So inspiring. So precious. And so frickin' adorable.

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