Tuesday, 27 May 2014

for the soul #1: Sophie and Lyla

I thought I'd take a slightly different approach to this post. Not an influx of photos for one. :) But just a few things on my mind I wanted to share. Namely, great songs and great books! Music and books have got to be the great loves of my life. Along with a few other things but these two always rate highly no matter what the rest of my life is like. 

Today has been a pretty awesome day off. Was able to spend time with my mum and dad at a yummy dimsum lunch after which we all got back home and K.O-ed in bed for an afternoon nap. I looooove restful afternoons like that. Then I wanted to get some books from Kinokuniya but of all days in the year, it happened to be closed today for stock taking. -__- But oh well, at least I was able to get some bread from DonQ (which has really yummy mentaiko baguette and sweet potato-sesame bread among others ;p) and make a mental note of a very nice pair of shoes which I might be tempted to get... soon. I'd really wanted to get more of Sophie Kinsella books. Yes, I am an avid reader of her books, especially her Shopaholic series. ;) I know so many people look down on chick lit but seriously, who really cares? If you haven't read her stuff, you're missing out on a great bunch of books that can really brighten up your day especially if you're going through a dry spell. They just make me so happy. I think this would appeal more to the female readers but a good light hearted book can be enjoyed by anyone. It's sort of a cycle I go through. Every once in a while, perhaps when I'm hitting a snag at work or just feel a little down about things and need a pick-me-up, I tend to gravitate back to books like these that provide such an enjoyable means of escapism. Of course my favorite would have to be the first one - Confessions of a Shopaholic, but the second one, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, makes me all tingly with excitement inside at the thoughts of NYC. :) Someday soon hopefully. It's been too long. I just read Twenties Girl in the span of maybe 2 days? It's that easy to enjoy and difficult to put down once you get started. The next few books I'll be getting will definitely include I've Got Your Number and maybe some of her earlier 'Madeleine Wickham' works like A Desirable Residence or The Wedding Girl. :) Excited to get my hands on more of these titles. 

Here's a little interview she did that will give you a little introduction to the world of Becky Bloomwood. 


After starting this new rotation, my days have all sort of become jumbled up because of the shift work. There's no clear distinction between weekdays and weekends though I still feel that thrill when it's Friday night, mainly because then everyone else will be free for possibly some fun over the weekend. But at least there's quite a bit of time now for me to make use of for exercise, reading and relaxation compared to the way things were last time so I'm grateful for that. The first week was tough because whenever I had to go to work at 12 noon, I'd end up feeling so groggy and sleeping all the way till 11am that I'd do hardly anything but sleep-work-eat dinner and press repeat. Now I've gotten a little better and have been semi-successful at waking up earlier to go for a jog in the morning which REALLY helps in so many ways. :) I've come to realize that when you do something good for your body, its effects do ripple down throughout the day/week and it makes all the difference. At least when I'm at work I feel more energised and happy that I've gotten some exercise in already and I've done what I can do to keep myself healthy, so whatever else happens during the work day... I'm in a pretty good position to deal with it. And I like that feeling. :) That said, I'm winding down tonight but putting together a new mixed cd for when I'm on the road. I love these moments that come around every so often (maybe once in a month or two?) when the music that's been playing in the car has gotten a little stale and I've collected enough Shazam tags on my phone for a new CD. I've got a habit of listening to the radio (the only legit one nowadays is Lust 99.5. It's got a great selection of Indie music and DJs that keep inane chatter to a minimum! :D) and then Shazam-ing a song whenever it catches my ...ear. A couple of songs on the new mixed tape would include: 

 1. Drunk - Ed Sheeren 

I know this isn't a new song but...it's so addictive! X) And soulful. 

 2. The Fisher King - California Wives

I think I might've come across this song in Books Actually. It's the sort of song that I could listen to while lying in bed for a quick escape from my thoughts. 

 3. Light All My Lights - Seeker Lover Keeper

Kept hearing this on the radio. Isn't it pretty addictive too? 

4. Love Will Take You - Angus and Julia Stone

Oh my word. This one's just plain sweet. Was it really featured in Twilight?? Cos I keep seeing that association on youtube. ;p Whatever. A good song's a good song. 

 5. Shoestring - Lyla Foy

And this, has become one of my favorite songs since one or two months back. :) I did a little weekend getaway to Langkawi with my mum and would listen to this song over and over in the wonderfully luxurious hotel room with its fluffy pillows and fantastic air conditioning while escaping from the heat outside. Listening to this always brings me back to that gorgeous space and peace of mind.

Any good songs or books you've enjoyed recently? 

Alright, off to wind down for the night. Praying for more of these days. For you too. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Springtime Escapades #1

Hi all!! Gosh, it feels like it's been AGES since I've last blogged. And I mean ages. Seems like there's always so much happening in life all the time. For one, I've finally finished the arduous first year of work post-graduation which has historically been the toughest one for everyone who's gone through it... I'm so relieved that part of my life is over. I've started on another rotation now and while the hours are definitely more erratic, I've started to really appreciate the shift work and the beauty that comes with being able to do things in the hours before and after the shift ends. It's definitely an art ending work on time since there are times when things need to be followed up on or handed over at the last minute but I'm slowly but surely getting the hang of it. 

One thing that was really amazing that I managed to do before my first year of work ended was this - a family trip to Japan for for Sakura viewing! :) It's something that's been on my bucket list since forever and it was amazing how my whole family happened to be keen AND available for the trip at the same time. I was a little apprehensive at first because you know how these family trips can be... and we hadn't taken one complete family holiday in what 10 years? So I was definitely a tad worried at the start... but thankfully, my dearest boyfriend Donald stepped in and helped with the planning at the last minute which was an incredible help because if left to me, I would've decided on train routes and attractions upon arrival in Japan itself (as is the spontaneous and easy way to do things but often only works when traveling alone and not with family ;p)... so that definitely saved the trip. And in fact, it turned out soooo well. Far better than expected. :) Which goes to show that often times we worry too much about things in advance when really...if we focus on making things work out in the moment, they usually do. 

Here are some shots on film.

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Our first sighting of Sakura! Along the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto. It was such a lovely moment; finally getting the chance to appreciate the beauty of those gorgeous flowers. Unfortunately we had arrived there in that golden period right before sunset (one of the most beautiful parts of the day any other day except the one which we wanted to enjoy the sakura in good photography lighting lol). I could feel the light slipping by by the second. It was that fleeting. So we got along snapping as much as we could, doing random Philosopher poses (my dad's cool that way ;)) until it was way too dark and we had to resign ourselves to going off for dinner instead. 

 photo sakura1smaller.jpgI could've spent a whole afternoon there, stretched out on a grass patch/bench with a thermos flask of green tea in one hand and a sakura mochi in the other. Ooo that's a plan for the next time.

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A sushi platter at Bikkuri Sushi. I'm sorry but this is one place I would NOT recommend going to. It was our first day in Tokyo and my sis had been craving sushi for dinner (and this was after our tea time snack of Ippudo Ramen which was EXCELLENT) so we'd gotten a recommendation from the hotel concierge for a sushi restaurant in the neighbourhood. They pointed this out to us and it looked really legit from the outside. But there has to be a problem when the tempura turns out to be better than the sushi in a Sushi-ya. It was such a disappointment because I'd been looking forward to some delicious slabs of melt-in-your-mouth quality Ootoro. But when it turned out to be stringy-er, requiring more colossal teeth strength than expected... I'd say, try to find an outlet of Sushi Zanmai instead. When Donald and I went to Tokyo last year we actually stumbled upon Sushi Zanmai by accident and ended up going back there another time during our stay for some really awesome (and decently priced sushi).

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Bento on board the Shinkansen to Kyoto. X)) Don't you love a beautiful bento? Of course, nothing beats a freshly made, hot one but these are so amazing for their variety, convenience and sheer aesthetic. It was hilarious seeing my dad get so excited about his train bentos but he was right - how often do you get the chance to enjoy a bento on board a train? It's worth devoting some time before the train ride selecting just the right one.

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At our cooking class in Kyoto. :D This is something I'd highly recommend going to if you happen to be travelling to Kyoto! In fact, I would probably want to do it again in another city just because it's so fun to see how the Japanese cook even the most basic dishes. I'd booked a session for my family for a Vegetarian cooking class at this guesthouse called Roujiya (and conveniently did not mention this to them till they arrived heheheh. My dad got a shock when the sensei asked, 'how long have you been Vegetarian?'. I could almost hear the thump of his jaw on the table. He'd be a 100% carnivore if it were up to him) and due to the limited slots, ours happened to be at 2pm and we rushed there after arriving in Kyoto itself at about noon. It was such fun! The sensei, Kaori, was dressed in a lovely kimono and spoke really great English. There was even a substantial hand-out about the basics of Japanese cooking. Did you know that there are so many rules that govern the sort of dishes served in traditional Japanese cuisine? Everything is seasonal and tries to obtain a mix of Yin and Yang foods. Even the sort of small dishes used are selected based on their appearance and suitability for the season (e.g. flower shaped dish for the Spring season). Back to the photo - these were little rice crackers used for our chopsticks practice. Turns out almost everyone except the Swedish guy in our class had been holding their chopsticks wrong for donkey years. ;p I certainly have been. But it works.

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Our final assortment of dishes. We had made mini sushi balls (apparently so small because they're meant for Maiko (Geisha apprentices) to eat or nibble at so that their immaculately done up makeup/lipstick doesn't get smudged), cucumber + yuzu paste sushi, plus a yummy Japanese cucumber and sesame paste side dish. It's amazing, the amount of effort that's put into these seemingly simple dishes. And what amazed me was the attention to detail - the sensei was like, 'put 2-3 of these small leaves for decoration into your soup'. 2-3 only. Not more, not less - for optimal aesthetic.

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Cutie cat spotted outside our cooking class ryokan.

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Takoyaki man! I kept seeing him at the same spot near our hotel in Kyoto (really near the main Kyoto station too) but he'd always give a big X sign whenever I approached. ;p Did he mean 'no photos allowed' or did he mean 'not selling anymore'. I never saw him serve anyone either so... I'm more inclined to think it was the latter. ;p

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Our walk along the Kamo River in Kyoto. <3 One of my favorite parts of the trip. You can't go to Kyoto and not walk by the Kamogawa without falling in love with it. We didn't have much time to spend there because dinner was looming and my dad had to rest his back but we did manage to get quite a lot of lovely family shots at the same spot. :) I just loved seeing the Japanese relax along the river with their picnic baskets and blankets...That's the life. 

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I would've wanted to have gone further down the river to the stone steps shaped like turtles' backs which you can step on to get across the river. But that was a little further down. Once again, plans for the future. 

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One of my favorite afternoons from the trip was when we were in this restaurant in Nara. We'd just arrived that afternoon and were going to take our time at the National Park chasing deer. But before that, because we were all too famished, we stumbled into the nearest restaurant from our ryokan. And this was it - a soba place that also specialized in Kuzu, a type of Japanese arrowroot, that's usually made into jelly form (like a softer version of Konnyaku), often topped with molasses or kinako powder. Wayyy too much like jello to me. And it wasn't even easy to eat because it was much softer and more slippery compared to typical konnyaku jelly. >< So after that afternoon, I was more or less done with Kuzu. But the best bit was after the meal, when we were admiring our full bellies, enjoying the moments of contentment that come with being on a holiday and not needing to rush to the next destination...and the sun came through beautifully through the shuttered windows. It was one of the best moments. 

Needless to say, there were too many great moments on this trip. And looking back...I'm so glad we were able to do this family trip together. We didn't even get those huge family squabbles that often accompany any holiday abroad. Doesn't it seem like the older you get the harder it is to do things as a family together? But it's something I'm going to try to devote more time towards. 

Oooookiee...time for a snooze now. It's my day off. And I'm trying to make the minutes stretch out as much as possible. X) 

Have a great week ahead!