Category Archives: Firsts

Debutante – My Garden Plot of Words

In keeping with my new year resolution, I’ve started a new blog in Chinese.

Apologies to those who can’t read it. But like this blog, My Garden Plot of Words (for that is literally what the blog title means) aims to function as an online journal. People think differently in different languages. So this is partly an interesting little experiment for me. Why the title? Firstly, blogging is a bit like tending the garden as I’ve explained here. Secondly, it was prompted by seeing my dad tending to his little “plantation plot” during my new year trip home.

By the way, WordPress’ tagline is true. You can literally create a new blog in a matter of minutes.

After that, it’s all about the upkeep!

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Culinary adventure

Just when I was fretting that I can’t seem to find traditional French food in Paris, I accidentally ordered andouillette for lunch today!

*This post has been edited to include how this happened.

Me reading a French menu with basic English translation.

Waiter walks over and graciously tried to speak English as much as he could since I comprehend almost zero French.

Waiter: What would you like to eat?

Me (thinking the “sausage” dish sounds promising): I’d like to have the sausage please.

Waiter (looks at me for a while): This is special.

Me: Great! I like special!

For the record, this is not something I would normally eat.

An unusual cappuccino experience

Will write more about my day in Santiago city later.

But right now, am writing this while having cappuccino in one of Santiago’s highlights, the cafe con piernas, or coffee with legs.

This cafe doesn’t have a single chair nor does it give out serviettes (if you looked at my cappuccino you will know why i needed serviettes).

But that is not the unusual part. If you don’t know what I am talking about, just google for it! Bear in mind I went into this cafe all by myself!

Not to mention that the cappuccino itself is also one of the strangest ones I have had!

16.06.10: copa fever, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar

A few people in the house woke up early for the world cup match between Chile and Honduras. Although I wasn’t staying up for that, I hardly slept the whole night. Was the jet lag finally catching on?

Still I had to wake up early to make the trip to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. As I walked on the streets amidst the early morning traffic, a sudden cacophony of honking thundered on the streets. From the looks of the smiling faces, it seems that Chile scored a goal. Apparently schools and employers adjusted their time for the match. And when Chile eventually won, the city went into frenzy! This may be just ONE match to someone like me and the world at large, but apparently their first World Cup match win in 48 years.

As the bus sped on the highway that cuts across some valleys lined with vineyards, the first glimpse of Valparaiso is nothing short of serendipity notwithstanding the rain. Colourful houses stand in compact stead on the steep slopes. As we went up to the top, we see the magnificent views of the crescent-shaped bay and the neighbouring bay of Vina del Mar.

There was a very well-dressed woman who was also travelling solo in the group, who stood out from the relaxed demography of the group (mostly Brazilians, a spaniard and the odd Asian). I chatted with her out of curiosity. From Switzerland, she used to teach at a children’s home in Santiago 40 years ago, and wanted to find out how the country is like now. She said that while Santiago has changed a lot (I could tell that the tall buildings, LV and Hermes outlets weren’t always there), Valparaiso is still exactly the same.

It is rather heartening to hear that: “Valparaiso” means valley of paradise. The city is indeed built on valleys, with houses perched on slopes and facing the sea. Founded earlier than Santiago, Valparaiso used to be the most important city in Chile. Today it is still where the Chilean congress sits. Although its coastal scenery is not unlike that of the Mediterranean, Valparaiso has tonnes of character with its colourful houses, buzzling port, fishery, and electric buses. It’s a pity that I was just taking a day trip. I’d imagine a couple of days’ stay there would be most pleasant!

Visited another one of Pablo Neruda’s house, called La Sebastiana. It is just as interesting as La Chascona, and with the lovely view of the city and the sea. Plus, unlike La Chascona, you can tour the place without a guide and take your time to peer into the private keepsakes of this man.

On the other hand, Vina del Mar is hardly interesting (although it has a small moai that was taken out of Easter Island), but was part of the tour since these two cities are very close by. If you do go to this part of the world, you could spend more time in Valaparaiso and do a short trip to Vina del Mar.

Bienvenido Auckland? (14.06.10 – Santiago)

Flew LAN Chile from Sydney to Santiago de Chile (with stopover at Auckland). The flight from Auckland to Santiago is just over 10 hours. After getting wasted on movies for the bulk of the trip, I decided to catch a wink, just to wake up to a bumpy landing, and the air stewardess announcing “Bienvenido Auckland!”

What? Was I dreaming during the flight?

Turns out it was a wrong announcement as she immediately corrected thereafter.

On stepping out of the plane, I was greeted by snow-capped mountains – part of the magnificent Andean range, or as the locals call it, cordillera de los Andes – in a 360 degree surround view. Making a mental note to take a window seat the next flight.

But thus far, I am already very happy ticking off one of the things that I have always wanted to see 🙂

The luxury of cooking

Jk said I should post more on the blog, considering that I supposedly have all this free time. I’ve been quite busy, but the main excuse is because I find wordpress a bit too unwieldy for uploading photos – is it because of the gigantic formats of digital photos taken on modern day multi-mega pixel cameras? Then there should be a faster uploading tool! Also, people tell me that wordpress is an easy blog tool to use. Anyone has any suggestions?

It’s also too much to summarise what I did in the past 1 month (the first of my self-declared sabbatical), but one of them were some kitchen experiments, captured on my trusty lumix lx3. You know, just in case nobody (else) believes me. Most of the dishes here are debuts; in other words. I have subjected my friends, brother & relatives to be the guinea pigs of my culinary experiments.

Fresh ingredients are the key

Mini portobello mushrooms & tomatos marinated with garlic malt vinegar dressing. The malt vinegar was a surprise find at the heartland supermarket.

Mini frankfurters with zucchini. I admit these did not require extraordinary effort on my part.

Fruits are nature's solution to the post-meal sweet crave. Somehow, most people respond to luscious red strawberries.

Strawberries & kiwis marinated in a special recipe.

There was still a dish of brocolli and blue cheese pasta salad. Unfortunately, did not manage to take a picture of that!

Also without a picture: “vegetable rice” – a homemade concoction of a variety of vegetables with rice: pumpkin, yellow pepper, long beans, carrots, tofu with rice and thick soya sauce, put to cook in the traditional rice cooker. Yes, it was a bit too much ingredients and the mini rice cooker almost overflowed. But actually it is very easy to make and very edible! First, dice and sautee the ingredients (without the rice) in the pan/wok with seasoning to taste together with the thick soya sauce, but lightly sauteed so as not to overcook the vegetables, but just enough to bring out the flavour. At the same time, put the rice to a slight simmer in the cooker. Then put the sauteed ingredients all into the cooker and stir slightly. In less than 20 minutes, voila – a hot piping meal! I was making a vegetarian dish, but you could easily improvise on the ingredients with minced meat etc.

And what to do with all the extra ingredients that you have bought for the big cook-outs? (yeah they were “big” cook-outs by my definition) Use them to whip up a delicious breakfast the next day.

Omelette stuffed with grated carrots, parmesan and scallions. Am not a big fan of carrots, but you can actually use up quite a few carrots in this dish, and therefore count towards the beta-carotene intake. And they naturally added to the golden colour of the omelette. Just like fluffy golden pillows.

Cooking is about improvising with what you have in the larder/fridge or can find at the neighbourhood market on that day. You can start the day with a recipe in mind but eventually end up with something totally different on the dining table. It could be a disaster, but it could potentially be serendipitious.

Eating out used to be such a luxury, an event saved for weekends or special occasions. But in the modern urban life, eating out is the norm. If only our life here permits us to grow our own food (impossible if you live in a strata-divided building without a solid plot, however small, of your own), shop for a variety of fresh ingredients (impossible if you have a 9 to 5 job because the wet market closes by noon) and whip up a delicious meal catered to you & your household’s own palettes (impossible as that 9 to 5 job is not really a 9 to 5 job because you may have to work till at least 7 or 8pm everyday).

Cooking has become such a luxury, so enjoy it when you get the chance to cook!

Droid & elephant sighting

April.

It’s the month of counting down to the start of my long leave.

It’s also the month that I was compelled to get a new phone. My old motorola L7 couldn’t survive the drop from the bookshelf in a buzz of vibration. Hence, I finally jumped on the smartphone bandwagon with a Droid. It’s amazing how so many technological functions could be squeezed into a compact pocket or evening purse size, with a cute little green android robot logo. I also learned that motorola licensed the mark “Droid” from George Lucas’ company. Too bad the phone’s exterior doesn’t quite look as cute as the name suggests!

little green robot

It’s also the month that I visited the newly reformed Sentosa, thanks to the drive in by jy. It’s really quite magical in the cool evening air. And the exhilarating Jurassic Park movie music blaring in surround-sound in the background really psyched me up to visit the theme park. One day.

The globe has landed on Sentosa island

Thereafter, it was this geek’s unexpected encounter with one of Dali’s elephant sculptures! Never mind about not getting to go Figueres; in a globalised world, weird art can be found in the oddest of places. Still I felt it shouldn’t have been placed in the location where this photo was shot (perhaps this is just a temporary location):

Salvador Dali's elephant

Perhaps this could be a more suitable location:

church-like arches at Resorts World

This space reminds me of the lovely arches in ancient churches and feels somewhat like a modern sanctuary; probably a work-in-progress, it has very few passers-by and is very quiet, quite a contrast from the rest of Resorts World.

Ironically, the other end leads to the rambunctious entrance of the casino.