Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The unofficial (unregulated!) import-export business


If you live abroad away from your family you can probably relate to this post. A few weeks before you are due to fly home for a holiday, you will receive an email/text/call from your family/friends at home pleading/begging/bribing you to buy a couple of things for them. They always try to rationalise and show some understanding for your precious 20kg luggage allowance - "it's very small/light/cheap".

I think we have all been guilty of this at some point. I know I have. I used to order pretty much everything under the sun bar the kitchen sink whenever my parents visit London. The essentials (food) - Milo, instant noodle, fried onions, sambal, mooncake, gula melaka to the WTF (I blame my ignorant naive teenage self) - stationary, toothbrush, toothpaste, cotton buds - yup guilty!

Now 14 years abroad I have wised up and do less import but the export  has definately been on the rise. Things I buy for my family and friends tend to fall into 3 categories:

1) It is cheaper in London (e.g. designer handbags, dry shampoo)
2) You can't get it back home (e.g. Walkers Thai Sweet Chilli Crisps, Copella Apple and Elderflower juice)
3) Better quality product (e.g. Panadol, dark chocolate, mustard)

I try not to judge because I have been there myself (but Scott did looked bemused when I came home with the good! *shakes head*). This trip  home (flying tomorrow!) my luggage is 1\3 my stuff, 2/3 export goods. Fingers cross I don't get spot-check at custom...I don't plan to declare 3 new Longchamp bags!

So tell me, what have you exported recently? What outrageous things you requested from home?

Monday, May 27, 2013

A lil bit of everything: Good food, Hermes, DIY

I love bank holidays! We stayed in London for the long weekend and filled it with loads of good food, some (fashion) culture and a dash of DIY thrown in the mix. Here are a few photos...

Upstairs at The Ten Bells
Kicking off the long weekend early with a girlie Friday lunch at Upstairs at The Ten Bells with Serena, Giulia and Pooja . I have never been, heard great things about their food, saw their lunch deal and gather a troop over to check it out. Their lamb sweetbreads was out of this world, I would love a second (and third) helping of it but the starter of breaded aubergine with sweet & sour caper, walnut and parmesan was a let down. It doesn't even taste like odd dish.

Ming, Arya and I flipped coins to decide between Korean and Vietnamese for dinner...the odds were strongly favouring Vietnamese even with numerous recounts! I am not allowed to divulge the restaurant name by the boys but if you are a Vietnamese food lover, I am sure you know this place. Best pho in London by a mile. The only hint I can provide is its not on Kingsland Road....sorryyyyyy

Hermes Festival de Metiers
I found myself in Sloane Square on a bright Saturday morning, meeting Marlene and Fauxionista for the first time (through the joy of blogging!)...checking out Hermes Festival de Metiers in Saatchi Gallery. Can I just say I was blown away by the artisan work these craftsmen produce? I was, I still am. BLOWN AWAY. INSPIRIED. SPEECHLESS. I was completely engrossed in the making of the silk scarf and bag...check out Marlene's post on the exhibition, she has better pictures and able to articulate the exhibition much better than me at this point. Right, need to seriously start saving up for a Kelly bag - £1 a day just doesn't cut it anymore!

Fueling up after the exhibition at Shoryu for a ramen fix. Tried the Sapporo Miso which has a subtle flavour...think I will stick with my favourite Dracula Tonkotsu next time. I do like me some garlic breath!

May bank holiday BBQ 2013
The sun finally got the memo that its springtime and came out on Sunday!!! Ming requested a BBQ and he got one. I think we might have OD-ed a little on meat.

What is bank holiday without some good ol' fashion DIY thrown in the mix? If you are not going away on holiday, you DIY - that's the unspoken rule of bank holiday. I got the easy task this time round...painting the garden table while Scott sorted out the peeling paint in the bathroom - eik!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Big 30: Birthday notes


Notes for Scott 1
Notes for Scott 2
Notes for Scott 3

I wanted Scott to have a present that he will treasure from his 30th birthday. I got the chocolate and the fun beer-a-day countdown but I felt like it was missing something, something meaningful perhaps to mark the big day. I have bookmarked Danni's book of notes for the longest time and this occasion felt like the right time to make one of my own for Scott...but with some help.

A month before his birthday (yea this needs serious wedding-style organisation), I send a Facebook message to all his close friends and family requesting for stories/memories they have of Scott. Thankfully they were all game and I received a barrage of messages...each funnier than the previous and I think it helped trigger memories amongst his close friends of stories that had not been mentioned for a long time. A common theme emerged often involving Scott either naked/semi-naked (mostly when he was very young) or drunk (oh what a surprise!) - rarely both at the same time!

It took me a week to get everything onto the book. Organising the stories, printing, punching fancy shapes, making envelopes, gluing, cutting, stamping etc (I am not lying when I said it required wedding-style stamina and prep work) . But I secretly enjoyed the process - ha!

The book was a surprise to him. Honestly, I think he was a little disappointed when he first open the present (a scrapbook for my 30th? WTF?) but hopefully the content makes it all worth it. Oh some of the stories...some made him chuckle, some he is still trying to deny, some made him LOL.

Stories that one day may be forgotten are now saved in the book. It was definitely worth the blood, sweat and paper-cut tears.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Seaside break in Cromer, Norfolk


Cromer beach UK 1

Cromer beach UK 2



Norfolk holiday UK


Norfolk holiday UK 2

Sheringham UK

Cromer camping UK


Our camping trip in Norfolk last bank holiday weekend almost did not happen. But we went and we were glad we camped. It has been over a year since we last camped and it was a good feeling putting the tent up again. Don't get me wrong...there were the unavoidable swearing and cursing that one expect when putting up a tent but we managed to keep it to a minimum and were on speaking term when the tent was up. First camping squabble: done!

The plan was to stay for one night but we stayed on for 2 nights and was rewarded with amazing sunshine. So much so Scott came home with lovely patches of (sun burn) red on the back of his neck and legs.

I was super excited about camping this time for very shallow reasons. We are driving to Norfolk instead of taking the train and that means glamping! Airbed + proper pillows + duvet = cosy tent + a good night sleep! All that fresh sea breeze and long coastal walks meant we did sleep well in the tent. We camped in Manor Farm in Cromer. A great campsite, not as busy as other camping sites we passed by and the facilities are well maintained and clean.

Cromer, though not the prettiest seaside town, is easily accessible on costal paths to other seaside villages. We did just that...plenty of coastal walks enjoying the sea breeze and sea view. On Sunday we did a 7 mile coastal walk: Cromer - East Runton - West Runton - Sheringham - Weybourne then took the bus to Cley next the Sea for a well deserved pint!

These seaside towns are famous for their crabs so I went a leeettle crab crazy with crab cakes, crab sandwich and crab mornay! Delicious and cheap. It also turned into a fairly porky weekend. We feasted on sausage rolls that we BBQ-ed using good ol' disposable BBQ every morning and had Saturday dinner at The Pigs pub, serving the scrummiest of the Norfolk pigs. Is it naughty to admit that we also had a tub of pork scratchings as snacks with a can of Vimto during the 7 mile walk? But we totally deserve it no? 7 miles yo!

Random: We spotted a guy who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger on the beach (complete with the fake California sun tan). But it can't be him. I mean what is he doing in Cromer?!?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

April...according to Instagram

Instagram April 1
Instagram April 2
Instagram April 4
Instagram April 3

©     Quality granny time in Arran over the Easter break
©     The weather was surprisingly warm so we got a ride on Uncle Peter’s boat over to Holy Isle. We were kitted out in shamazy waterproof gears
©     Scott in his kilt – yummeh!
©     Surprise post-it note on the bed is the best…Scott was away for work
©     Neighbour has completely out-trump our front hedge with their rabbit/cat (?) hedge design
©     Made spinach pancakes for Sunday – will be making this again!
©     Scott and Adam ran a 10k race at Finsbury Park in 43 minutes
©     Wonderwoman is one tasty lady
©     Craving sardines – dinner for one
©     Best fresh grilled fish in London on Golborne Road!
©     Shoryu Dragon Tonkatsu hits a sweet garlicky spot for me
©     Tea break whilst working at Foxcroft and Ginger cafĂ© in Soho – a nice change of office scenery
©     Sunday lamb roast at The Pig and Butcher pub on Liverpool Road
©     Patty and Bun Ari Gold Burger – 5 stars!
©     The Rib Man ribs did not disappoint and worth the queue
©     Tsuru chicken karaage burger lunch catch-up with Divya.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bank Holiday Camping in Norfolk

Let's Go Camping Art Print
(Picture source by Brooke Weeber)

It's the bank holiday weekend and we are off camping at Norfolk! This time we are driving to the campsite which means I intent to make it as glamping as possible - think blowup mattress, proper pillows and a duvet! Ahhhhhh.....I cannot wait!
I have grand plans to bake this chocolate and ricotta cake and this peanut butter bites using homemade peanut butter that I have yet to make. It is always nice to bring something homemade on a camping trip no? But yup all this to be done tonight, on top of a dinner date with Scott and packing up for camping. Very ambitious. Let's see how I get on huh!

On a completely random note, I found these funny facts about being a leftie and I just need to share. All true - Leftie unite!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In (Chinese) food heaven at Kai

Kai Restaurant 1
Top (L/R): Lamb Shank / Wasabi prawns
Bottom (L/R):  Soft shell carb / Iberico pork with caramelised cashew
Kai Restaurant 2

Top (L/R): Lobster soup / Aromatic crispy duck
Bottom (L/R): Lobster noodle / Chilian sea bass

Kai desserts

Top (L/R): Durian souffle / 6 shades of chocolate
Bottom (L/R): Mango cake / Petit fours

Aunty Janice was in town last Monday and that often means a big feast. This time the 3 hour long feast was at Kai Restaurant. A one Michelin star Chinese restaurant that in my opinion, is not getting the publicity it deserves. Quietly refined serving to a pack house on a Monday night which can only mean one thing: very very good food!

We were in for a treat as she is chummy with the chef and we got the 'special' treatment. You know what that means right. No menu involved. The chef decides what he wants to serve us. We Chinese eat every damn thing so nothing is excluded. Dishes that were no longer on the menu but are a firm favourite (lamb shank) and new-not-on-the-menu-yet dishes (soft shell crab, iberico pork) were brought to the table. 

We feast with both our eyes and taste buds and I struggle to pick a favourite - the lamb shank was my favourite then I bit into the soft shell crab and then that becomes my new favourite then the lobster came and I gave up....there is no point in this 'favourite' game.  

Even the desserts are superb. The durian soufflé is to die for and you can smell the distinct aroma before the waitress placed it on the table (the Musa King durian directly flown from Malaysia). For chocolate lovers the 6 shades of chocolate looks and taste like a deconstructed snickers bar, but 10 times better!

I love the food (Hakkasan doesn't even come close). Indulgent food, a treat if I ever needed one. Or I just wait for Aunty Janice next trip to London...counting down to September! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Big 30: Cadbury? That's not my name!


"You are not sending me a surprise present to my office for my birthday right?"

"No of course not. I don't think I can out-trumped the duck"


Scott's Big 30 birthday was on a Tuesday. Weekday birthdays can be a bummer if you are working, which he was. I didn't want him to wait until after work to open his presents. I also like the idea of him having a surprise package delivered to his office on his birthday. I have gone down the embarrassing route before  (a huge duck shaped balloon in reference to an inside joke which completely baffled his colleagues and turned him tomato red with embarrassment!) but since it was his 'biggie' I decided to play nice.

He has a sweet tooth. It arrived in a nondescript brown package. A win for him.

hmm...this Big 30 series is taking me longer than expected to write but I am keen to jot it down somewhere so we can remember it one day. We still talk about his drunken behaviour but there are bits of his birthday that I want to cherish, smaller bits that we are bound to forget with time. I think I have one more post to go

* link to making your own customised Cadbury

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boat trip in Arran



Arran boat trip





So the Easter weather in Scotland was a nice surprise. Dry (not a drop of rain!) and (fairly) windless with sun rays coming through between the clouds that on occasions, I can feel the warmth through my winter coat...and dare I say it, I was hot in Scotland - Yea, I wasn't expecting that at all!

We took a week long holiday to spend time with Scott's family. Scott was really looking forward to this break as he hasn't had one since the start of the year. Often if we are up for longer than the weekend, we make a trip to visit his granny in Arran.

The ferry to the island is always a treat involving square sausage and hash brown roll drenched in brown sauce. A rare naughty treat we indulge only on the ferry! In my mind, the calories doesn't count as we are not on land! haha

We stayed on the top deck of the ferry the whole journey to the island this time round, savouring the sun. It was clear blue sky with a scattering of clouds and sunshine. This is what spring weather should be like but the extended winter we experienced made this an unexpected surreal moment. We lapped up all the warmth we can get by shedding our winter coats.

But the surprise treat this holiday was going on Uncle Peter's boat. It was a last minute decision to take the boat out for a spin as the sun is out. We set up the boat, got into waterproof gears (oh yes...without a doubt we looked hot in those waterproof gears!) and circled Holy Isle, spotted a big big boat with a red helicopter at the back, saw a lighthouse, squinted really hard to have a good look at the Buddhist retreat on the island (no one is allowed into the retreat area of the island) then Hazel and I left the boat and the boys took it out for a 'proper man spin'. They almost fell off the boat crashing straight into a wave but that's what boys do. They survived and lived to tell the tale.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

March...according to Instagram

Instagram March 1
Instagram 2

©       An unexpected sad trip back home to Singapore. I switched off and spend time at home
©       Scott made beef wellington for the first time for a special Sunday lunch with Ming and Patty
©       Girlie lunch at John Salt
©       Dinner treat at The Savoy Grill with Ming and Patty. They had the most amazing orchid arrangements
©       Made baba ganoush with wayyyy too many garlic – still yummy though!
©       The weather stays cold (snow!) which calls for some comfort kimchi stew
©       Easter holiday in Scotland
©       Pub huddle - when in Glasgow….