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Friday, October 22, 2010

Celebrating Singapore: Of Cream Sauces & Saucy Games

** Warning: this post is rated NC16. Parents - consider yourselves warned **

The week before my birthday, the husband had been raving deliriously on his Facebook status about how much he was looking forward to the "dirty weekend".

And no, he wasn't referring to the lack of showers (think, people, think!)

So much so that our friend Jeremy commented that Dan seemed more excited over the hotel stay than his birthday wife did. Tsk. Down, boy, down!

However, we were definitely both equally excited about one aspect of the weekend celebration - dinner with friends, from what we call our Social Events group. I'm guessing the nomenclature arose because we kinda started going out together when Mandy, Zen and I were working in MAS on the Singapore 2006 IMF-World Bank meetings a few years back. I was part of the team organising the social events for the delegates and their spouses, and we somehow must have agreed to continue coordinating "meetings" and social gatherings amongst ourselves, together with our other halves and friends like Jeremy, Grace and Shirley.

Every week or so, we get together to just Do Stuff. Any Stuff.

The ones with good hand-eye-ball coordination play a round of tennis every Tuesday. But not me and Dan, cos I am terrible in any sport that involves small balls and having my right arm extended by way of a racquet, golf club or pool cue. It makes me feel unbalanced. Plus, I hate bending down to place or pick up ball after ball after ball. Makes me grumpy.

Sometimes we go watch a movie. Sometimes we check out free events in the city. Sometimes, we just hang out over dinner and drinks. Or head over to someone's house for chips, ice-cream and DVD movies. Or play board games like Settlers, Munchkins and Dilbert. Or on the rare occasion, a bout of tone-deaf karaoke where we torture one another with our so-called singing (except for Miss Mandy "MAS Idol" Loh, who sings beautifully.)

The more complicated (and expensive) activities are stuff like wakeboarding and scuba-diving trips.

But we kept things simple for my birthday. Everybody came over to where we were - Changi Village Hotel - to La Cantina de Venezia for Italian rooftop dining. Well, everyone except for Mandy and Tim who were blissfully honeymooning and shopping for gifts for us in Greece. Heee.

So on a sticky, humid night in Changi, I was surrounded by:

Zen & Rob, long-time friends of Dannie and then me, AND fresh out of the wedding chapel in June!

Shirley, Mandy's Senior Best Friend (yes, there really is such a designation) and dedicated teacher (to secondary school kids, not to Mandy. Well, maybe Mandy too - we could all do with some home econs lessons.)

Jeremy and Grace, our future neighbours in Dream Home 2015 (Naked Wing)

Zen again! She gets double mention cos besides being Dannie's friend since forever, she and I were colleagues in MAS and then later again in URA

And of course, the man I'm stuck with for the rest of my life. But I'm not complaining.

And there was one more guy named Evan, who likes salsa, fast cars and Shirley (not necessarily in that order), especially the combination of Shirley and salsa (as in the Latin dance, not the spicy dip.... but then, who knows right? :P) It turned out that I didn't get a sufficiently clear picture of him because HE KEPT MOVING when his picture was being taken! And I didn't want to introduce him in my blog as The Blur Named Evan. That's not the way to treat new friends...

MOVING ON to the food (yes, only I can move, Evan cannot)...

We ordered a whole host of starters (fried calamari, buffalo mozzarella, garlic bread), pizza, pasta and meats. The portions were HUGE. Talk about a hearty Italian meal. The chef turned out to be unmistakably Chinese, but as Jeremy said, she looked like she was capable of frying up zhi char dishes large enough to feed ten people at a pop, thus the big portions.

That said, I realised only after downloading my pictures from my camera that we took only took ONE photo of the food the entire night. Here's the precious photo of me and the first dish served to our table:

Fried calamari and me!

And if you stare hard enough, you can just about make out the remains of my pasta carbonara...

Well, dinner went really well - lots of chitchat, laughter and passing of food around to share. Then Dannie had to spoil it all by REFUSING TO LET ME ORDER DESSERT!

What the....?! Which man actually dares stop his wife from ordering her dessert?! Especially if it's in an Italian restaurant. Especially if it's cake. Especially if it's tiramisu..... Raawwrrrrr!!!

I was just about to stick the dessert menu up his.... oh, wait... a cake? For me? Yaaaaaay! *BEAM*

The waiters brought me a cake! The husband had quietly placed an order for a birthday cake from The Patisserie (read: there goes $70) and Zen and Rob had just as quietly picked it up en route to dinner and asked the restaurant staff to hide it in the kitchen.

I wasn't the only one who got to blow out the candles. It was a surprise belated birthday celebration for Jeremy too - and I gladly shared the candles and birthday wishes with him (as long as he wished for Dream Home 2015... but now I know he wished for a nice new car cos it has been ordered and is arriving in February 2011.... JEM!!!!)

The face of a proud owner of a brand-new-coming-soon VW Tiguan

Half of Dream Home 2015. Applications are still open. Just bring money. Lots of it.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel room for games. Dan and I had brought Party Scrabble with us, along with a deck of playing cards (designed by FHM, which Dan specially selected amongst all the other decks we had at home because "I think Jeremy would like them". I see. How thoughtful.)

But Jeremy had other plans, it seems. Plans that were worth more fun than a bunch of FHM girls in hand. He and Grace gave me a new party game called Saucy Charades! I suspect Jeremy was thinking of Dannie too when they picked out this game. Their thoughtfulness is immensely touching. Warms the cockles of my heart *wipes tear from eye*

(And for the record, when we met Tim and Mandy a week later, they presented Dannie with another deck of playing cards - this time with naked Greek couples (and more) in very interesting poses.... What kind of vibes has my husband been emitting?! Scary.)

But back to Saucy Charades...

Reading out the game instructions, which nobody ever listens to anyway and we all end up confused halfway through the game

Jeremy listening to the instructions and getting into the mood

Practicing his first charade already!

Saucy Charades is played like normal charades where people basically just have to act out a clue for their team mates to guess. Just that the clues here need a leeeetle more imagination, creativity and courage to act out. It also helps to have a very thick skin and lots of alcohol before you attempt to play the game.

No, putting on spectacles does not help you play any better. And there's no need to look smart for this game either!

That said, Saucy Charades is quite an intellectual game. You need to interpret the clues, figure out the best way to act them out, and think of how to silently prompt your team mates to arrive at the correct answer.

How would you act out phrases like:

- Rhythm method
- An enormous cock-up
- Never mind the quality, feel the width
- Lady Godiva
- A sperm whale count
- Get your hands off my plums
- Naked flames
- Physical jerks
- Getting your juices flowing

We played in teams of three mixed couples. We learned that it really helps to have your husband/wife play the game too. Unless you have absolutely no qualms about running over to your male friend and gesturing frantically with your hands at his crotch in response to the above mentioned sperm whale clue.

We also learned that some of us don't quite think straight. Jeremy spent the longest two minutes ever repeating an incredibly obscene hand gesture in the vicinity of his nether regions, and seemed very antagonised that none of us could understand what he was trying to get at (besides his crotch.)

It turned out that he was acting out the word BANANA.

Whatever happened to the more normal gesture of peeling an imaginary banana?!?! I made a mental note there and then not to let Jem get too near our children. Sicko.

In his defence, Jem claimed that he thought Saucy Charades meant that all his gestures had to be saucy! I told you nobody ever listens when the rules of the game are read out.

We kinda assumed that Dan and I would ace this game, with our lethal combination of our telepathy skills and his dirty thoughts. We were quite appalled when Jem and Grace kept getting winning streaks (not of the naked kind) and pulled right ahead. We finally managed to get our act together (no pun intended) towards the end and eventually tied with them for first place.

As a tie-breaker, we got Robert to act out the final clue for us to guess. After spending most of the precious two minutes guessing time gawking at Robert's unintelligible actions, Jem and Grace deciphered the charade and won the game. Darn!

Zen didn't know whether to laugh or cry or act blur when it was revealed that the strange moves that Robert put on her to act out his charade was "getting your juices flowing".

And so ends My Singapore (yes, I'm very up to date with STB's branding exercises) celebration, as well as my series of birthday posts.

Yes, I know I said in the beginning that there would be five entries. Apparently, I miscounted *blush* My math and in particular, mental sums, is really bad. As in zero-upon-ten type of BAD. Well, that's one thing that hasn't quite seemed to have improved with age!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrating Singapore: The Sun(deck), The Sea(food) & The Spa

Hong Kong
Sri Lanka

That's the list of countries that my family will be traveling to over the next three months to tour, work, study, visit my brother, transit in (or go to simply because someone won an air ticket to Rome by participating in a game on the Zuji Facebook fan page. Heh, heh heh.)

Yes, we're a bunch of six busy people, so much so that we'll be leaving my poor sister behind in Singapore, all alone on her birthday.

That's not the only thing we're leaving behind - the other thing being a giant carbon footprint *gulp* Yes, our big bad footprint. Not the acceptable types referred to in some wisecrack traveler's quote that says "Take nothing but memories; leave nothing but footprints".

So to lessen the load on our conscience, we opted to stay in a hotel - right here at home. It must have been more than three years ago since we did our last staycation at the Meritus Mandarin along Orchard Road because we had a voucher for a free hotel room stay. It turned out that the 2D1N vacation didn't have much of an "escape from the drudgery of daily life" factor - because the hotel was directly across the road from Dan's then-office. Suay.

Which is why I will never ever stay in a hotel in Marina Bay. I just cannot bring myself to do it. Unless it's a free room stay, of course. I'm a sucker for free room stays. Come on, admit it, who wouldn't take advantage of a freebie like that?

But I digress....

The day after my birthday, being a Saturday, saw us checking into Changi Village Hotel (possibly the hotel located furthest away from Marina Bay) for the weekend.

We brought half our room over to Changi.... nah, that isn't our luggage lah!

We love Changi Village Hotel for it's relatively secluded location at, well, Changi Village - which is practically next to the uninhabited (almost), rustic and undeniably wild island of Pulau Ubin right?

Fine. 'Wild' could be an exaggeration. But you get the idea - it's gets us pretty far away from the throngs of people suffocating Orchard Road and all the suburban malls on the weekend.

The husband booked a 2D1N weekend promo from the Zuji website (possibly contributing towards his own bonus) for less than $200 and because it was my birthday weekend, the nice lady behind the counter upgraded us to a Deluxe Room.

The room turned out to be more de-luxed than deluxe, but it was located on the highest floor of the hotel (which is all of seven magnificent storeys high) so we got a pretty nice view of the sea - and the URA carpark right below us. But I tried not to look at that too much in case it reminded me of work (no, I am not a 'parking auntie' who 'kiaps' parking summons under your windshield wiper for a living. And for the upteenth time - no, I cannot help waive your parking fines. I know how you people think.)

Pity we were asked to keep the drapes drawn cos the window cleaners were at work! Ah well, it's for their own safety I guess - in case they are greeted with a sight that burns their eyes and they fall off the ledge.

Well, luxurious or not, we weren't at Changi Village Hotel just for its rooms (although that was what the husband seemed to be most fixated on...) That was a secondary factor in choosing the hotel location.

We were there for THE SPA!


Ta-da (again!)

The Retreat Spa is located on the 8th floor of the hotel. We booked a couple package, which gave us access to the nice big suite on the 9th (and top) floor - and the right to hog it for a good part of the afternoon.

Ours! All ours for the afternoon! Bwahahaha!

The package came with a nice, hot, bubbling, outdoor jacuzzi with a view of the sea (and the URA carpark below, yes, yes...) and a chocolate fondue of bananas, marshmallows (which I don't fancy at all) and green apple cubes (strange ingredient for a chocolate fondue.) We were left to our own devices for twenty minutes in the water... which involved trying out every single jet in the bath, sweating like pigs from the hot water (and back into the hot water...) and well, eating the strange combination of green apples and chocolate. Very romantic. You should all try it sometime.

Ooooh, I spy a strange man in my tub

After twenty minutes, the alarm sounded, signifying the start of the next part - the massage! Yippee! Before that, a nice warm footbath with nice-smelling mineral salts that killed all the foot germs and made all the dead skin on our feet fall off. I told you it was romantic!

The massage was really good. Both masseuse were skilled in technique and exerted the right amount of pressure, alternating between gentle and relaxing, and firm and shiok. The essential oils felt finer than usual and seemed to be more easily absorbed by our skin, leaving a nice non-oily feel throughout - and after - the massage. Plus, they smelt lovely! The beds were the most comfortable massage beds I've ever had - nice and firm, and super wide (so I didn't have to worry about the masseuse kneeing me when she, erm, climbed on top...of...me...)

'Relaxing' was probably lavender oil. Not sure what oil 'Uplifting' was though.

And ooooh, the spa gave me a box of freebies from Phytomer! Yaaaay! Looked like my birthday was far from being over!

Stuff which you really need for birthdays once you're past 30 *sigh*

When the time came for us to leave, we simply transferred our relaxed bodies from the spa, to the room and then to the sundeck. The only programme that a lazy Libra likes is no programme.

Laying under the frangipani tree and staring into the lovely blue sky

All the deck chairs were taken so we embraced nature and shared the wooden deck with the ants and dead leaves...

Eyeing the rooftop restaurant where we had arranged to meet friends and some fried calamari (cos fish are friends) for dinner later

Reading yet another Star Wars book

Love the cleverly placed ledge at one end of the pool, perfect for lounging on and gazing into the sea

In the background: our spa suite on the 9th floor where we were earlier that afternoon

In the foreground: the wonderful guy who orchestrated my lovely birthday weekend

Just the two of us... and his bulging biceps

Act cute woah...

Catching a last glimpse of the pink sunset before we pack up and get ready for fried calamari (or did I mention calamari already?)

Earlier that week, my colleague asked if we would be spending the day at Pulau Ubin since we were staying at Changi Village. I think I choked out a horrified "WHAT?!?! Of course NOT!!!" Cycle up and down hills? Through a tropical jungle? And get all dirty and icky and sticky and sweaty and insect-bitten? Ewww. I. don't. think. so. Not on my birthday!

Don't call me lazy and unadventurous. I was just being practical, sensible and thrifty, and getting good value in return for our money by maximising our time spent in the hotel what!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Celebrating Singapore: Sindulgences

Did Anyone Say Sssssssshopping? (aka Sale/Spend/Spree)

One of the activities that I didn't plan for in the birthday programme was shopping for presents - for myself! At this time last year, shopping was pretty much a non-entity in our lives. Throughout our six months in South America, we only shopped on three occasions:

1. At the weekly animal market in Otavalo, Ecuador (thankfully, we only window shopped here);

2. At the daily handicraft market also in Otavalo (gosh, these people really like their markets); and

3. When we needed to get a replacement for Oly the camera in Bogota, Colombo (for those who didn't know him, Oly died a dreadful death by drowning while night kayaking in Puerto Rico.)

4. & 5. (Okay, actually we made two more major shopping trips while in the US where I ran amok at a couple of outlet malls. But this blog has no place for such unbecoming, embarrassing behaviour. Especially not that of a bag-crazy woman.)

Needless to say, there was absolutely no shopping to do on my birthday in San Pedro de Atacama. It was a very dry place indeed *sigh*

Well this year, I practically made up for that dry spell I suffered a year ago! :)

The evening's spoils

There we were, wandering around Vivocity while waiting for my parents to join us for dinner at Shin Kushiya, when I heard River Island whisper my name, inviting me to come in. It's true. I swear it did. And soon, Mango, Pull&Bear, Joop and a whole string of other stores joined in the merry chorus. You have just got to believe me! (I don't lie on my birthday....)

Hey, to my credit, I turned up for dinner with just ONE bag of shopping.... which contained a few smaller bags. Heh. I'm pretty happy with the selection of pretty tops, skirts and dresses that I got for myself. Now I just need to find more occasions to wear them. Shouldn't be a problem with the year-end festivities just around the corner.

Talking about bags, this was what Dan unceremoniously dumped onto my lap the moment I got into the car, when he picked me up from my office en route to Vivocity:

I think it's a bag made out of Kermit skin... :S

I had been dropping hints that I wanted a lovely lambskin bag in camel (as in the colour, not the animal itself) that I spotted in a store at Raffles City the night before.

Okay, fine: I blatantly described in great detail the exact model and colour that I wanted, right down to the location of the store within the mall. The only information that I could have missed out on was the price.... ahem. Ah well. But that's not important.

I even informed that my colleague Yanling, whom I was with when I saw the bag, would be in contact soon to drop further hints. Now this woman is the queen of organising office birthday parties and gifts for all occasions (farewells, housewarming, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) so I knew my wants (no, my needs) would be well looked after *high-five Yanling and pat myself on back*

Imagined her stunned reaction when I snapped a photo of the green package and sent it to her:

Me: Er, is this the bag you asked Dan to get for me? :(

Yanling: Huh? HUH?!

Yanling: Nooooo!

Yanling: I have nothing to do with it! I swear!

Yanling: Wasn't me who told him to give you that!

Me: Er. Okay. Cos it's resembles a frog more than a lamb or camel...

Thankfully, it turned out that I was just being subjected to yet another round of Dan's trickery. Cos my real birthday bag gift turned out exactly as I had hoped for! :)

And if that wasn't enough, my sis got me another bag from the same store - in a lovely bright red. Yanling gave me one of those "bag within a bag" things to help me switch from one bag to the other without leaving behind my office pass or keys. And Zen gave me a pretty bag hook to keep my new babies off restaurant chairs and hawker centre stools. All very complementary gifts. Almost like receiving a bag gift set!

There were other gifts too: like a new 50mm lens from Dan (cos I stupidly cracked mine by packing it into the luggage on the flight to Koh Samui), a shiny diamante pendant from Yanling, Saucy Charades from Jem and Grace (yes, you read correctly - more on that in another post) and a pretty eye palette from Mandy (not seen in picture cos it was delivered in true Mandy style - late! :P But I love it, Mandy!)

My new arm accessories

Wearing my new shiny pendant at Nic and Mich's wedding last Sunday

Of Spaghetti & Other Sins

Okay, enough of shopping. I can hear the guys snoring over their keyboards already.

Birthday dinner with the family was at Garibaldi's along Purvis Street. I was very adamant on saving stomach space for good food and only allowed myself one small bowl of very yummy mee pok along Jalan Tua Kong, from the very famous stall at the Soy Eu Tua coffeeshop during lunch with Dan and Grace at Siglap (thanks for the treat, Grace!)

In preparation for the big dinner, my sister and I headed for Orchard Road to work up an appetite by walking around alot (which is sometimes more commonly known as "shopping".)

When the time came, we plonked ourselves expectantly in front of our plates, placed our orders and waited for dinner to be served by the attentive staff.

Yummy foccacia. My starving sister must have eaten half a loaf.

Paper-thin proscuitto and soft fried bread pillows

Pasta with mushrooms in truffle sauce

My sis and mum sit happy with their veal ravioli and crab linguine in vodka sauce

The hungry man goes for an entire salmon-trout (no idea exactly what fish it is, but it tasted good) that the waiter said was for sharing

Aaaaannnnndddd, as a birthday surprise, I got a little Tiramisu Turd of a cake served with a magic candle, courtesy of the restaurant :)

Ooooh, for me? Why, thank you!

A series of blur photos ensue, where my mum, sis and husband try to coordinate a birthday song amongst the three of them:

Cheeky fingers

He behaves for awhile...

Before delivering the final line of the song with much aplomb!

At this point, the mother-photographer got fed-up with the antics and in true motherly fashion, yelled at everyone to sit still for a minute so that she could get ONE decent photo that was in focus and not blurry. We tried...

... and obliged.

We'll say it again for the 1,938,473rd time - we do not look alike.

Just missing the dad (held up at school function) and the brother (dining on Danish delicacies in Copenhagen, like dry crusty rye bread and salmon in all forms....)

Dinner came up to a whopping $300+ for four of us. Ack. I've got mum to thank for the lovely birthday dinner.

We tried to tone down our palettes and give our stomachs a break from rich food later that weekend:

Simple fare at a Changi Village coffeeshop

Like I said, we tried to tone down...

It's rare that I bother to queue for food. So this International Nasi Lemak had better be good.

... but maybe didn't quite succeed.

Cheh. Super overrated *unimpressed*

The carrot cake beat the nasi lemak hands down! Cheaper, tastier and served right to my table.

Putting my new bag hook to use!

Wow. It was a true birthday sindulgence indeed *satisfied pat on tummy*

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