Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Zott's True Alps

Let's just dive straight into it shall we?

It was my lovely mum's birthday, so I wanted to bring her somewhere special, Zott's True Alps caught my eye because I've never heard of anywhere else with Alpine-inspired food. Totally worth the $140+ spent on lunch for three people. Especially the service!

The restaurant was tucked away along Amoy Street, the entrance was narrow, and if I hadn't spotted the host standing at the door I might have just walked right past it.

Like all shophouse restaurants, The interior was narrow and long, but cosy, with an alcove for a group seating made of raw wood, with a hanging display of cutlery and branches hybrids decorating the alcove wall. Red brick walls were lined with art, all for sale and all protected by thick glass walls, at the end of the shophouse, was an open concept kitchen with a huge bulls head in centre of the room.  

(I wish I had pictures! I kinda deleted them all :/ hahaha needed space in my phone lah.) - These are from the website itself.

We were shown to our seats in the near empty restaurant, napkins fluffed for us and given menus, large, hard cover books with beautiful illustrations inside that not only pointed out where the food was from, but also had mini stories about the food.

It was a pretty gruesome story about the animals eating the hunter or something along that line.
We ordered one starter and three main dishes:

All quality restaurants need to start with bread right? They started with bread, topped with radish and spring onions and condiments of salt and cherry tomatoes which were so good, even Mr Skeptical had some, and he hates tomatoes.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Let's make: Black magic cake

If you like mild flavours, you're on the wrong page. This cake is a magical concoction sent to help you gain tons of weight. Its chocolate-y goodness is enhanced by the almost invisible taste of coffee and is equally as addictive as the slow poison.

Black Magic Cake

I had friends coming over for the Game of Thrones finale the other day. So in the spirit of the Crows, their imminent demise  and the all round blackness of George R. R. Martin's bottomless heart, I whipped up a Black Magic Cake.

Aside from George's stoneheart (HINT HINT) Here's a picture of the finished cake:

It was rich, dense and amazing. What I love about this cake is how easy it is to whip up. You don't need butter, you don't need cream. It was so easy! 

But the secret to its deliciousness: a cup of strong black coffee. Instant coffee was good enough.

(I tried the recipe twice. Once with all the right ingredients and the second time with replacements.)

Dry ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour / cake flour 
2 cups of white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's one is good!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients
2 Eggs
1 cup of strong brewed coffee (Instant coffee)
1 cup buttermilk (Regular milk works too! But buttermilk makes the cake more moist)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius 

Combine all the dry ingredients together:

Mix it all up and create a well in the centre:
Do you like my pastel coloured whisk? Cute right? Hahaha
Once it's all mixed and the big lumps broken up, dump in all the wet ingredients. Make sure you cool the coffee to room temperature first!!
Looks like shit, but tastes pretty darn awesome.

Just another picture of the goop. It becomes wet and watery, which is good! You want that! 

Now pour your batter into your baking tins/ silicone pans. Fill about 3/4 of the pan.

Bake for 30-45 minutes way through till a chopstick, shoved into the centre, comes out moist (not wet!) Bake for too long and it comes out dry and yucky. Also known as burnt.

You've got your cake:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Frivolity: Chanel makeover

Here's something new about me, I've never purchased a single branded item for myself in all my twenty-something years.

Something which I (sort of) rectified on Friday. I wanted to treat myself to something pretty and I popped by the Chanel makeup station at Takashimaya to get me some Chanel goodies. 

It all started when one of my best girls Jia Lin received and invite for a free makeup session from Chanel for her and a friend. I went along.

I was totally unprepared. Super dressed down and Jia Lin's first sentence to me was, "you went home to change?" Erm. No. "Oh! You can dress this way to work?" Yes... I was ashamed. So pai seh, heading to Orchard dressed like a slob.

Anyways, we were both given personal classes, the first half on how to moisturise, whiten and clean makeup off your face:

In total, this range is $600!!! Wah Lao. Want to take care of your face also so expensive.

Jia Lin getting ready to look beautiful.

Me with a giant ZIT on my forehead. Daily make-up on.

My face without make up. *sigh.*
I was very impressed by the Chanel team they were all such sweethearts. Props to Ng Wai Wai our awesome makeup artist. She was patient, explained things well and was so cheerful. Also, the girl who helped me with removing my makeup was great too, but I didn't have the chance to ask for her name.

Jia Lin went first. She opted for a natural look and sweet pink blush. 

I went to do my nails first. Free express mani by the Chanel team!

I picked Tutti-Frutti for the little stubs I call fingernails. It's part of the new collection by Chanel:

See any you like?
To be honest, I don't see much of a difference between the new collection and the old. Shades of pink all around.

The two on the left are the palettes they were promoting. No. 1 and No. 2. These were the palettes we bought.

Jia Lin used number 1 for the sweet, natural look, I went for the contoured, natural look with number 2.

Wanna see the before and after?

Before, with no makeup.

After! Are you impressed? Hee. I was. I opted for contouring and a bronzer look cause I don't suit pinks.

Together with our lovely makeup artist, Wai Wai! She was a sweetheart. 

Our two pretty faces!

They should hire her heehee..

Anyways, how could I resist the new palette that helped me transform my face? So I purchased the lovely palette made of three shades. A highlighter, powder to set your face and the magical bronzing colour. It's the Les Beiges collection.

I love the lovely beige colour!

The inside is so simple, the crescent brush for application along your cheekbones and places that need shadows. 

The three beautiful shades that now contour my face in the morning.
So next day, I decided to give it a whirl, cause I was heading to church and I wanted to look pretty. 

Popped on my carousel pony maxi dress:

Got my face ready!

So ended my first time buying a branded item! Definitely worthy the money spent. It smells good, feels good and looks good. Came with a  bag full of samples too anyway! 

Pardon the frivolity of this post! Sometimes, I like to be girly and put stuff on my face to make me look good!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to get cheap flights

I'm at the age where wanderlust has taken hold of me and I desperately want to travel to as many countries as possible. But I'm soooo brokkkeeee...

Unlike my dad who has tens of thousands of SQ miles that he won't share, *sad face* I have a tight budget when it comes to traveling. But... I have discovered the secret to purchasing tickets at the right prices... Okay, it's not really a secret. It's easily available online.

According to a post on CheapAir, you should purchase tickets 54 days BEFORE your flight. But then they go on and contradict themselves in another article and say that "there are some exception circumstances where you might want to forget about the “don’t book too early” warning and book your flight much earlier than 54 days in advance."

Ah then screw it. Here's how to look for cheap flights the old-fashioned, hard-working way.

To remind you why flying is so much fun.
There are a few basic rules though:
Rule 1: There is definitely a cut off on how low prices can go, so don't believe promotional prices that promise you $0.02 flights back to Singapore or wherever. (I'm looking at you FlyScoot. I feel totally cheated after spent three hours refreshing your booking page just to realise that the complete price of a round trip roughly floated around the same range as other budget carriers.) Some way or another... The house will always win....

Rule 2: Understanding that will bring you to rule 2, where you should begin to look at the average prices of flights to various countries. For example, Perth. You can't expect to get flights worth $100 for a round trip to Perth. The price varies between $350-$550 (for flights with luggage and taxes) so get anything cheaper and start to worry for your safety! And getting anything more expensive means you better not be on a budget flight.

Rule 3: Always browse through a few sites! Just cause one is cheap doesn't mean you won't be able to find something else cheaper.

Where to go to look for flights
There are a ton of great apps and sites that help you look for flights, they compare all the prices and that means you won't have to check through many sites meticulously.

Personally I found that Skyscanner -
Has the cheapest rates. It also runs through OTHER flight price compare sites for you. Also has an iPhone/ Android app.

Fare compare isn't bad too:
Its only downside is that it opens up 6 over pop up windows into different flight fare comparing sites. Very troublesome.

Promotional days for budget airlines
But if cheap flights aren't enough, check below for weekly specials.

Tiger Airways: Thursday - Cause Thursday is Tiger Flash Time. ROFL. You have 24 hours before the deals are gone.
Jetstar: Fridays - Friday Fare Frenzy. Lasts from 11am to 6pm only!
FlyScoot:  Tuesday - Morning Glory Tuesday. 7am to 9am only.

By the way, it really pays to follow airline carriers on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters! You'll get clued in on all the right discounts you need.

For example, did you know Tiger Airways is having a 1-for-1 special for OCBC card holders? Yeah, cause you didn't get the newsletter! 

Sites to follow to check for promotional pricingI did say you'd have to work hard for a low price didn't I?

Facebook is a great source of promotional discounts. Take the SGAG Army and Fly Scoot's promotional deal here. If you followed the saga... Good on you! I hope you were one of the 10K! I was. Heehee. But if you didn't, check out the saga here

The sale is over, but I'm sure there will be more to come. I must say, Fly Scoot has a really good social marketing team.

The low prices sound great, what is the catch?
1) the bloody airport taxes
2) discount on a flight doesn't necessarily mean discounts on the return trip.
3) it is usually the luggage-free prices that are so super-de-duper low. Anything else is regularly priced.
4) Remember the only reason why certain flights are cheap or discounted, is cause no one wants to buy up them tickets.

Anyways. This about how much i can help you when looking for tickets. Now I'm off to Krabi on my OCBC 1-for-1 deal with my best friend soon.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Take a taxi... For free!

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Boy do I have the best lobang ever. 

Thanks to James, my pal from my secondary school, I'm taking a cab to work for freeee! 

Being vain on the way to work.
Okay, no seriously. There's this app called GrabTaxi.

And they're having a new promotion for new users. 

Download and register on their app today and you get $15 off your cab ride! Don't say I never tell you ah.. Good things must share. 

The app is really cool actually, way better than the old taxi app I was using, no names mentioned, comfort *cough cough* comfort. 

You get to see what cabs are available around your area, and you get to pick the type of cab you want. 

I don't know why I can never flag a cab in punggol. It is always so difficult and every cab is always occupied. But  according to GrabTaxi there are 36 available... Real or not?! 

So anyway, after you register your number, input your location and destination, they give you an estimate of the price to expect. 

Then you see the very important field there? PROMO CODE remember it.

Key in this code: GRABTAXIRIDE 

There will be a tick to confirm that your code is valid. 

Then you're off! A cab will pick you up and you can even follow its location.

You can comment on the driver, call the driver, stalk the driver (till he picks you up!) Now the question is why haven't I heard of GrabTaxi before.

Good thing though, because this promo comes with a few catches. 

1) You have to be a new user. If you've successfully booked a cab with them before, you can't make use of this promo.

2) It's only valid for 9000 people.

3) No cash refund will be made if your cab fare is below $15.

4) Only available for one day. TODAY! 9 June 2014 12am to 11:59PM

So better start booking quick. 

Then you can be like me. Only pay $6.00 for a cab from Punggol to Aljunied. At peak hours. Passing through two ERP gantries. 

Shiok man. 

I even had time to put on makeup and play SIMcity.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

What's there to do up North?


I've been living in the East my whole life so I've never understood the North. It was full of monstrously tall buildings, industrial parks, jams to the causeway, Causeway Point and Singapore Sports School.

But my eyes were opened on Saturday.

After whinging to Mr Skeptical that there was absolutely NOTHING new to do in Singapore anymore, he hijacked the car and said, "today we will go somewhere new." 

We went to Chong Pang. 

Apparently there's a magical food centre in Yishun that has amazing food to die for. I just never heard of it before. But Mr Skeptical had, he was just pretty worried we wouldn't find it. 

But we did! And these were the fruits of our labour, literally:

I'm not kidding that is a bloody huge Jackfruit the size of those Peranakan ceramic stools. The guy was just hacking pieces out so as dessert we bought 500g from him. (Not as much as you would think though. It was about 7 pieces of Jackfruit.

But before that we stuffed ourselves with food from the food centre. We targeted those with a long queue:

Hands down one of the best boneless Duck rice dishes I've ever had. The chicken was tender, veggies crisp, braised peanuts soft, but too little lah. And Mr Skeptical said the egg and tofu were delicious. I don't eat either. :/ it cost $3.50

This delicately made Chee Chong Fun was made of pillowy clouds of Kway teow wrapped around succulent pieces of Char Siew, topped with crisp, fried onions and this salty, sometimes sweet sauce. It was an amazing culmulation of flavours in a simple dish. Dare I say.. Better than 126 or Swee Choon. *gasp* and I freaking love Swee Choon. This large dish (it really was large) was $2!!! Paired with the sambal it was a dream to enjoy. 

This economy Nasi Lemak averaged between $2.50 to $4 depending on what you ordered. Because Mr Skeptical and I were sharing, I asked for two chicken wings and they gave it to us. Really right, I feel Nasi Lemak is one of Singapore's food breakfast cornerstones. It's Nasi Lemak, Roti Prata, Kaya Toast and Otak. *drools* this dish was good. Sambal just the right amount of sweet and spicy. But the egg was disappointing, peanuts overwhelmed the Ikan Bilis and the rest tasted quite good, but resembled many other Nasi Lemak stores. Yet somehow it was still super popular, this guy walked up to me and if I could point him to wear I bought the dish. I pointed. He bought. Sharing is caring guys. 

Chong Pang Food Centre was deliciously delightful. Mr Skeptical made a good choice bringing us there. 

Happy! And super full.

So after lunch we had time to kill so I said, since we had passed it along the way, let's go to bottle tree park! 

I felt so CHEATED. Bottle Tree park had NO bottle freaking trees! Except pictures of the trees they once had.

According to the website, we're supposed to "Relax - kampung style - at Bottle Tree Park and enjoy Australian flora like Grasstrees and Bottle Trees and bask in the company of your friends, family and colleague with the numerous activities available." But there were no Australian flora. 

Very tropical lei. Not very Aussie.

But it really was very kampung! Long kang fish catch was available, fishing in the murky waters was available for $5 per hour... It was like a scene out of the 90s.

There were quite a number of people trying to fish in this large pond!

Apparently Community Centres come here for day trips. A whole bunch of people sitting at this prawning pond were simply waiting for a catch that never came. The all had orange stickers on their T-shirts.

This was a shallow pool for kids to catch fish. No adults allowed.

Some kid stomping the fishies home.
The orange speckles are tiny long kang fish for kids to catch and bring home in provided tanks to rear. To be honest. I thought it was pretty cruel to the poor fishes cause there's no limit as to how many fishes you can put into a tank. And I saw this Auntie shove 30 plus into a little carrier and the poor fish had nowhere to swim! Heartbreaking! 

Being super kaypo I went to tell the uncle at the counter that people were doing that and he said, "no choice. Scold them they also don't care." Sad. :(

But either way, it was an eye-opener! No flora spotted, but plenty of homosapians crowded around ponds. Heh.

Lonely Dino

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback post: The Origin of Love

Posted Thursday, 13 May 2010

Feeling quite sappy today.

I met up with a girlfriend of mine and we had a long long chat. (she's such a sweetheart!)

We spoke of love, and how relationships sometimes makes people a little wacky. But that's the beautiful truth right?

You're so blind with happiness and love you lose sight of what's important. Your love becomes the most important thing to you.

Then another friend of mine posted up a link of "The Origin of Love"

Have you seen it before?

It's based on Plato's Symposium:

Aristophanes (the greatest comic poet of Athens) tells the story of the origin of love. Humans were once creatures with two faces, two pairs of arms and two pairs of legs.

Man-man were from the sun, woman-woman were from the Earth and man-woman were from the moon. They were powerful and decided to overthrow the gods.

They were supposed to be destroyed, but in a moment of weakness and care, Zeus decided to cripple them by splitting them into half instead.

Their skins were pulled to hide the tear and made into a little scar now known as our belly buttons.

Ever since then, we've run around looking for our other halves.

If this were true, I'd be wondering where my half was. Do I have a soulmate? Was I half of a whole?

Well Mr. Halfway, if you're out there, I'm waiting.

The Origin of Love
When the earth was still flat
And the clouds made of fire
And mountains stretched up to the sky
Sometimes higher
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs
They had two sets of arms
They had two sets of legs
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked while they read
And they never knew nothing of love
It was before...
The origin of love
The origin of love

And there were three sexes then
One that looked like two men
Glued up back to back
Called the children of the sun
And similar in shape and girth
Were the children of the earth
They looked like
Two girls rolled up in one
And the children of the moon
Was like a fork shoved on a spoon
They were part sun, part earth
Part daughter, part son

The origin of love

Now the gods grew quite scared
Of our strength and defiance
And Thor said,
"I'm gonna kill them all with my hammer,
Like I killed the giants"
But Zeus said, "No-
You better let me
Use my lightning like scissors
Like I cut the legs off the whales
Dinosaurs into lizards"
Then he grabbed up some bolts
He let out a laugh
Said, "I'll split them right down the middle
Gonna cut them right up in half"
And then storm clouds gathered above
Into great balls of fire

And then fire shot down
From the sky in bolts
Like shining blades of a knife
And it ripped right through the flesh
Of the children of the sun and the moon and the earth
And some Indian god
Sewed the up into a hole
Pulled it round to our belly
To remind us of the price we pay
And Osiris and the gods of the Nile
Gathered up a big storm
To blow a hurricane
To scatter us away
In a flood of wind and rain
A sea of tidal waves
To wash us all away
And if we don't behave
They'll cut us down again
And we'll be hopping 'round on one foot
And looking through one eye

Last time I saw you
We had just split in two
You were looking at me
I was looking at you
You had a way so familiar
But I could not recognize
'Cause you had blood on your face
I had blood in my eyes
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine
That's the pain
That cuts a straight line down through the heart
We call it love
We wrapped our arms around each other
Tried to shove ourselves back together
We were making love
Making love
It was a cold, dark evening
Such a long time ago
When by the mighty hand of Jove
It was the sad story how we became
Lonely two-legged creatures
It's the story of the origin of love
That's the origin of love

The origin of love
The origin of love
The origin of love

- Mr. Halfway -

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How much to give in a wedding Ang Bao in Singapore

I am of the firm belief that everyone should have the wedding they deserve and they've always dreamed of.

But what if you can't afford it? Then do what? Beg? Borrow?

How about... Just don't throw a big fancy wedding.

I'll be getting married in a few years' time and when that happens I'm not sure how much money I'll have on hand to throw a big party AND renovate my home. Because as you all know, after you get married everything starts to speed up and you better have cash on hand for when you take your keys.

There are plenty of blogs that calculate the costs of a wedding like this one here and here.

And based on what they all say, it's gonna cost between $30,000 to $80,000 depending on how siao on you are.

"It's gonna be covered by the ang bao lah!"

No. You can't bank on that. If your ang bao covers your wedding then good. Take it as a bonus. But don't forget, essentially a wedding is just a huge party you're throwing to celebrate the start of you're journey, and quite frankly no one is obliged to give you anything. (except maybe your in-laws. As a Peranakan I hope that the exchange of pig will happen. TRADITIONS KEPT ALIVE!)

I definitely think its good manners to give ang bao of at least $100 per person when you're at a wedding, it's meant to be a love offering from the guests to the couple who thoughtfully invited you to watch their joy. But at the end of the day, you're not obliged to give. Whether you want to be thick skinned and don't give or not is up to you lah.

Sooo.. Couples be aware that if you throw a party at some small location, in a hotel that doesn't have a big name, you're probably NOT gonna cover it all, much less make money from it. Sorry. Yep, even if your wedding is $50,000 but held at a beach, you're not gonna get much because it's not at a fancy hotel and all your guests are going to think, "oh. see. don't need to give so much cause not at Ritz Carlton."

Throw a party cause you want to, not cause you wanna make money m'kay.

So now how? Should I or should I not give?
My decision-making is pretty simple:
*I'm not saying you have to follow this, but it's just a rough guideline on how much I usually give.*

Matrimony at a church/ small venue - $88
After matrimony got lunch somemore?! - $100
Chinese dinner - $100 - $150 (depending on how well you know that person and hotel ang bao guides.)
Western dinner - SAME LAH. Just cause you think the food ang mor and three courses cheaper meh? Wake up your idea. Ang mor food is always more expensive. Old relatives might have this mentality, not hotel = cheap wedding, but friends, come on, if you love the couple... help them out lah.

*The only time you should give less than the stated amount is when the wedding is for someone you barely know. Like you only go cause your mother is making you go. Or your colleague who sits at the corner and never speaks invites the whole office anyway.

Come on guys. We live in Singapore, where cars cost more than islands and our world class public housing is way too small for its price. Let's do our parts and help our friends who are not just marrying each other or marrying into each other's families. They're marrying into a 25 year loan with HDB! So be generous, because probably if you help them, they'd help you out too.

To be honest...
I really cannot stand this Singaporean mentality of a hotel ang bao guide. I feel you should just give how much you deem fit with an average across the board of $100 - $120. It's not fair to impose Ang Bao Ideals. (I COINED THIS TERM. ANG BAO IDEALS) But anyway, in the spirit of helping my fellow Singaporeans out who have been so ingrained in this system, myself included, here's a great website that gives you useful ang bao information: Wedding Ang Bao Rates in Singapore

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