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Crocheting: Popcorn Stitch Floral Cushion Cover

 photo IMG_8653-160204-v2__zpshuvuftt2.jpg photo IMG_8654-160204-v2__zpsubqggfry.jpgI completed this puff popcorn stitch (I don’t know why I keep referring to this particular stitch as the puff stitch!) floral granny square cushion cover after struggling with it for a couple of months.

I cannot seem to stick to a color scheme that I had decided at the start, and I inevitably end up with a color scheme that is quite different from what I had originally envisioned it to be.

In this piece, I had decided on a baby blue and baby pink theme but midway, I added purple to it (because I got bored with pink and blue and needed a new color to keep me going).  My aunt machine-sewed the back using a piece of Japanese cotton fabric in an ocean wave print.  Otherwise, it would have taken me an even longer time to crochet a back piece for this cover.

Front and back – two totally different looks.  And I think I should learn how to use a sewing machine.

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Seoul: Dumulmeori In Yangpyeong

People always ask me why I don’t get bored visiting Seoul at least once every year.  Somehow, I always manage to find something new to do, or a new place to visit.  I never seem to run out of things to do in that city. One of the new places that I visited during my last trip is Dumulmeori, a water area outside Seoul where the Bukhangang River and Namhangang River meet.  I learnt about this place from reading Discovering Korea and a blog written by Pheuron Tay, a Singaporean studying in Seoul (btw, her blog is filled with beautiful, dreamy photos).

Dumulmeori (such a mouthful) is in Yangpyeong, about 45 mins away from Seoul by train.  Which is perfect for a day-trip from the city.  Dumulmeori is at the Yangsuri station on the Jungang Line, and from there, I could cycle or walk or cab to Dumulmeori.  I met an ahjusshi on the train who started a conversation with me.  He was a retired teacher, and wanted to practise his spoken Mandarin.  So he started asking me a number of questions, filling in any gaps with the help of the online Korean-Mandarin dictionary in his phone.  I obliged by answering his questions, also with assistance from the English-Korean online dictionary on my phone.  I was extremely amused by the conversation.

 photo FullSizeRender-150529-v2__zpskoye5ccy.jpgI alighted at the Yangsuri station and found myself at a loss as to how to get to Dumulmeori.  Feeling a bit distressed, I wandered around the station for while, then decided to plop myself at one of the eateries outside the station where I ordered a bowl of spicy cold noodles.  OMG, the noodles were excellent.  The eatery did not use the usual chewy buckwheat noodles, but something similar to cha soba.  If I had made a wasted trip, at the very least, I got a good meal out of it.    I asked the ahjumma in the eatery for directions to Dumulmeori.  She kept pointing in one direction, and firing off in rapid Korean which I could not understand a single word of.  Despite my love for Korea, I have never picked up the language beyond the barest of basic phrases. Like – “Dumulmeori, oh-di-so-yo?”  There is hardly any point in asking where is a particular place in Korean, and not being able to comprehend the response.  I decided to take the next train back to the city.

However, the stubborn streak in me refused to give up.  I was really looking forward to seeing this place and I felt annoyed at having to go back “empty-handed”.  Last ditch attempt was to follow a group of ahjummas sporting exercise outfits and ahjumma aviator caps.  I spotted them leaving the station, and took a gamble that they were heading to Dumulmeori.  “Let’s follow them! Hehehe.  Safety in numbers!” 

 photo IMG_2665-150529-v2__zpscidtgyfy.jpgSomewhere along the way, I lost the group of ahjummas after being distracted by a a shop selling succulents, and plodded my way to Dumulmeori alone.  It was a good 20 minute walk from the Yangsuri train station and I managed to find the park.

 photo L1001079-150529-v2__zpsuhmu3rgc.jpg photo L1001123-150529-v2__zpsgzznhg0s.jpgThe entire park has several parts to it and occupies a fairly large area.  I entered Dumulseori at the lotus pond section of the park.  The lotus pond was huge but it was pity that it was not flowering in May.  I strolled along the pond and came to the “waterfront area”.  The view of the waters and the mountains was stunning.

 photo L1001086-150529-v2__zpsqzm5ft2y.jpg photo L1001084-150529-v2__zps9ogtfec9.jpgIt feels so tranquil and peaceful to look at this view.  I could stare at it all day.

 photo 1047a768-13e3-4fd7-bbde-23dd0be544fb_zpsa4eov7ke.jpg photo L1001090-150529-v2__zps9g48jrhu.jpg photo L1001112-150529-v2__zpskilzlfa4.jpgI just finished watching the Korean drama, She Was Pretty (a lousy show and an utter waste of time), and noticed that they filmed a scene in the last episode at Dumulseori. I recognized the rectangular wooden frame in the drama.

It was such a lovely day, I could not resist zoning out for an hour with a can of beer with this view in front of me.

 photo L1001070-150529-v2__zpszzzekx4l.jpgCross this long bridge and you will get to the other side of Dulmulmeori.  More parks and beautiful open spaces to fill up a couple of hours.

 photo L1001145-150529-v2__zpstspf2pin.jpg photo L1001146-150529-v2__zpsstisewsb.jpgDumulmeori is a great day-trip out of Seoul.  Take the Jungang Line and alight at Yangsu Station, then stroll to Dumulmeori.  Wear comfortable shoes and get ready for plenty of walking.

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Crocheting: Cushion Cover In African Flower Hexagon Granny Squares

My second cushion cover. It is much smaller that the first one because I ran out of patience to crochet more granny squares needed for a bigger-sized cushion cover. I have always liked the African flower pattern and have been itching to make something with it.  

 photo DSC_0701-2-150830-v2__zps6nef5mpr.jpg photo DSC_0704-150830-v2__zpsrlxsr4ao.jpgI joined all the squares hexagons on the reverse side using a single stitch, and the cushion insert has also been sewn in, so it cannot be easily removed for cleaning.

This was quite an easy one to make.

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Crocheting: Cushion Cover In Solid Granny Squares

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Didn’t get around to posting a photo of my first hand-made crochet cushion cover

I was thinking about autumn when I first conceived the idea of crocheting a cushion cover.  I don’t think this has a autumn-y feel but I am pleased with how the colors turned out.  The size of this cover is for a 20″ x 20″ cushion insert.  The one from IKEA is a perfect fit for this, if you like your cushion to be soft and cuddly.

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Koko Coconut Ice Cream At Amoy Food Centre

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Coconut ice cream is my new favorite ice cream. This one, by Koko Coconut Ice Cream located on the second floor of Amoy Food Centre, is very good. I like the texture of the ice cream. It is smooth and creamy. I don’t like the sorbet-y version.

At $4 for 2 big scoops, served in a coconut shell, this is pretty good value for money. It also comes with a free cup of coconut water, and two toppings of your choice (ground peanut, sweet corn, gula melaka sauce, cornflakes) are free. I always pick the sweet corn and/or ground peanut!

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Dstllry At 21 Media Circle

I have been to Dstllry thrice in the last couple of months, and have been meaning to blog about the place for a while.  The name is kind of weird, like where are the vowels?

Photos of Dstllry have been making its rounds on my Facebook feed and Instagram feed for a while. But I couldn’t quite figure out what sort of F&B place Dstllry was.  The only impression that I had of the place from these photos are ‘why so dark…?’   Looks hip and edgy, and I wondered if I could see what I was eating.    It was only when a friend raved about their bespoke cocktails and value-for-money omakase that I was compelled to check it out one Saturday afternoon.

Located at 21 Media Circle, Portsdown Road, Dstllry sounds like a perfect place to escape from the crowds on a Saturday afternoon. I had a bit of difficulty locating the restaurant, which is housed in a scruffy-looking building  called Infinite Studios, in the middle-of-nowhere, near Portsdown Road.  One thing for sure, the building has plenty of parking space.

 photo IMG_1727-150411-v2__zps5u2rrgqw.jpgWalking into the restaurant for the first time, I was impressed by the cool vibe and uncluttered feel of the space, largely due to the high ceilings and a dark interior.  Unlike most restaurants who feel a need to pack as many tables as possible into the space, the owner of Dstllry did not try to maximize the seating space.  Just a simple U-shape bar counter and a narrow ledge lining each of the two walls. I did not feel boxed in by the close proximity of diners huddling around the counter. 

I like the funky industrial lamps lighting up the space, and the sound system was excellent.  Wholly-appropriate background music that didn’t bounce back from the walls, creating an echoey and noisy effect.  Not surprising, given the owner’s music background.

 photo IMG_1761-150411-v2__zpssa2w82bg.jpg photo IMG_1938-150418-v2__zpsyljpoacm.jpgDstllry has a fairly small lunch menu. A couple of donburis and no cocktails.  During dinner, they serve a 10-course omakase for $100, or you can order ala-carte from the menu.  From what I gather, the omakase menu is different every month, and changes are announced on their Facebook page.   

 photo IMG_1759-150411-v2__zps05lxy0sm.jpgTheir bara-chirashi is quite popular. At $18 a bowl, it came with a generous pile of salmon and tuna, dressed in a yummy sauce, topped with ikura and dried seaweed, on top of a warm bowl of rice.  Delicious.  Love how the pearly globules of roe pops in my mouth.  I like that they give fresh wasabi, and not the stuff that comes out of a tube.  

 photo IMG_2810-150604-v2__zps9gp2v904.jpgI have also tried their bara-ramen which, as the name suggests, is raw fish in a bowl of ramen, instead of rice.  Interesting twist to the rice version.  I cannot decide which version I like better, but I think the bara-ramen may have a slight edge over the bara-chirashi, simply because I like noodles and theirs have a nice bite.

 photo IMG_1753-150411-v2__zps61tbht3x.jpgTBH tried the wagyu beef don (higher price point at $38) and thought it was quite good. Besides the rice bowls, we also tried some of their bar food – cockles and ika mentaiko – and they were great. All washed down with a number of excellent bespoke cocktails which seem pricey but are worth every penny if you are love cocktails.

 photo IMG_2099-150418-v2__zps7czu9zfr.jpgLove these fresh and tasty cockles.  May not yet be able to rival the ones at Putien and Two Chefs, but still very good, especially so when you can sip a cocktail while eating the shellfish.

 photo IMG_2806-150604-v2__zps707uh2jb.jpgGrilled ika with some mentaiko.  Good combination and the ika was grilled to perfection.

 photo IMG_2101-150418-v2__zpszxes8tye.jpgBeautiful yuzu-laced with gin concoction.  I have tried quite a number of cocktails served up by their bartender, but my favorite is still their G&T, which is one of the best that I have ever had.  Unlike the watered-down versions served in many places, this one had plenty of gin.  Be sure to order that if you are a G&T fan.  

 photo IMG_2100-150418-v2__zpsnx7k8eof.jpgAnother exotic concoction made with beer and coffee. 

We also tried their omakase.  I like that their chefs give their own creative spin to some classic Japanese dishes using local ingredients.  It has been some time since we ate the omakase, and I cannot remember what we ate now, but each dish was quite interesting.  Just do not order the omakase and expect the standard to be what you would get in a traditional Japanese restaurant.  

We will probably drop by some time soon to try their July omakase menu – some items on the menu sound very good.  

 photo IMG_2102-150418-v2__zpsrf3gquq0.jpg photo IMG_1932-150418-v2__zpsfsjtzaf5.jpgDstllry is really a fun place to chill out either with your other half, or with a group of friends, without having to dress up and watch your table manners.  It is comfortable, easy and unpretentious, and I like the communal dining concept that you get at the bar counter.  You get to see the chefs up close and personal, prepping the food that they are going to be serving you.  

I am hoping to see more of such interesting indie dining concepts sprouting up in Singapore.  

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Seoul: Needle Story – A Knitting Cafe In Edae

Sadly, I have been neglecting my blog of late.  After taking a short break in Seoul at the end of May, I just cannot seem to ‘restart my engine’ where many things are concerned.  I haven’t even been chasing Korean dramas!  

While in Seoul, I visited a cute cafe in Edae.  It is not really a cafe, but a shop that sells yarn, wool and all sorts of knitting and crocheting things. My kind of place1  I love the concept and this would really be the type of hobby-cafe that I dream about setting up.  A place where like-minded needlework-mad people can hang out and make beautiful things together.  
For some reason, crocheting, knitting and sewing do not seem to be very popular hobbies in Singapore amongst the younger generation.  Scrapbooking, yes.  I know quite a number of people who are scrapbooking-fanatics but I don’t know anyone who likes crocheting and/or knitting (besides my aunt).  

 photo IMG_2579-150528-v2__zpsgext1bvb.jpg photo IMG_2576-150528-v2__zpsvztwpgs9.jpgPhildar yarn!  I was so excited to see the French brand at Needle Story.  I have never seen the brand in Singapore, and I have been toying with the idea of buying some online. I love Phildar’s wide selection of colors, which are popping bright and cheery. I wanted to grab every color that was available in the shop. Needless to say, I spent a huge amount of time deciding on the colors to bring home.

 photo IMG_2575-150528-v2__zpsdfh0utxy.jpg photo IMG_2574-150528-v2__zpsut7wvxf7.jpg photo IMG_2573-150528-v2__zps4eyas4yr.jpgI love the cushions, especially the cream lace one and the vermillion one with little puffs.  So I bought a pile of Phildar yarn from Needle Story to make a cushion, which I have just completed.

 photo IMG_2572-150528-v2__zpssosu7mt7.jpgI have tried my hand at amigurami and I suck at it.  Maybe I should try crocheting a top one of these days.  Looking at the beautiful knitwear on these models is giving me ideas.  I could try making something quite simple, something along the lines of one of these kimono tops.

 photo IMG_2577-150528-v2__zpsq8emtvkm.jpgThe cafe.  Nothing to shout about, but I like that it is quiet and a great place to relax and browse the crocheting pattern books that I bought from Needle Story.  

 photo IMG_2570-150528-v2__zpsdvf7td9b.jpg photo IMG_2569-150528-v2__zpsjipwy2ej.jpgNeedle Story is a place that I must stop by on all future trips to Seoul, to stock up on Phildar yarn.  It is very easy to find, just a short walk from the Ehwa Womens University subway stop on the green line.

Directions
Alight at Ehwa Womens University subway station and leave the subway station via Exit#6. Once you exit, walk straight down the street until you see the cafe on your left.  You cannot miss it.

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Korea: Jeongdongjin, Gangneung

Circa Nov 2010.

I was cleaning up my hard-drive and came across some old photos of my day-trip to Jeongdongjin in Gangneung Province some years back. If you are looking to incorporate a short 2-day trip out of Seoul to somewhere relaxing with the sea, a beach, lots of fresh air and seagulls, lots of seafood, Gangneung is a good choice.

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The Sun Cruise Resort at Jeongdongjin.  Perched on a cliff, the resort looks really cool.  I wouldn’t mind staying spending a night, or two, in this resort.

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View from the Hassla Art World, a place that is highly recommended if you are spending some time in Jeongdongjin.

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Interesting art installation at the Hassla Art World.

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Jeongdongjin Railway Station.  This station holds the world’s record of being the railway station that is closest to the sea.  It is a very popular spot for watching the sunrise.

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Tokyo: Cafe De L’Ambre In Ginza

 photo L1000657-150220-v2__zpsmbbr7azp.jpgWe are not fans of hand-drip coffee, but we learnt that Cafe De L’Ambre’s hand-drip coffee is excellent.  Not just the coffee, the ambience is lovely too. The interior is 1980s – brown wood, dark, smoky.  You sit at a bar counter and watch them make each cup of coffee by hand, filtered through a cotton bag.   It is an interesting place to while away a couple of hours in the afternoon.

 photo IMG_0937-150223-v2__zpso3zxh5g6.jpgCafe De L’Ambre has been around for over 50 years and serves only coffee.  No juice, beer, milk, or any type of food.  Coffee is not cheap but in my view, worth the splurge if you enjoy drinking coffee.

 photo IMG_0942-150223-v2__zpsrrywul1e.jpgThis is the coffee version of sitting at a cocktail bar, watching the bartender conjure up delicious cocktails.  The barista makes every cup by hand, slowly pouring hot water into the filter bag and letting the coffee glide into a small copper pot, which he then heats up for a quick minute before pouring it into a cup and serving it to the customer.  The filter bag is a smaller and shorter version of the ones that our local coffeeshops use to make coffee. 

 photo IMG_0835-150221-v2__zpsoo1qxh01.jpgA delicious cup of hot hand-drip coffee that has well-balanced flavors.  I usually find hand-drip coffee too acidic for my liking, but not L’Ambre’s.  

 photo IMG_0843-150221-v2__zpszgjnyrzl.jpgWe also tried their cold coffee which is very good.  The coffee goes into a cocktail mixer filled with ice, then poured into a cocktail glass.  The coffee is good hot, but even better chilled. 

 photo IMG_0842-150221-v2__zps0blvyky3.jpgHow much coffee can one drink in one sitting? At least 3! We felt as though we were in a cocktail bar, tasting various alcoholic concoctions, and being wow-ed one drink after another.  

After a hot coffee, a chilled coffee, we decided to try something different.  We ordered the Blanc et Noir “Queen Amber” – sweet cold coffee with a layer of milk floating above it.  You don’t mix the milk and coffee but just sip it as it is – sweetness followed by a slight bitterness.  Simple and good, and absolutely addictive.  My husband and I had two glasses each.  

It is a good thing that coffee, even copious amounts of it, has no effect on our ability to sleep at night. 🙂  Satiated from coffee, we went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

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Cafe De L’Ambre
Address: Ginza 8-10-15; 81-3-3571-1551 (銀座8-10-15 Chūō, 東京都 〒104-0061) 

Opening Hours: 12pm to 7pm

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Tokyo: Awesome Bara-chirashi At Sushi Sho

 photo L1000516-150219-v2__zpsnyedq6wb.jpgI have not been to Jiro.  Or any of the other famous sushi restaurants in Tokyo like Mizutani, Sushi Saito, Sushi Dai.  It is just too difficult to get a reservation.  Most of them accept reservations only one month before your intended visit and even if you do call up exactly one month before, my experience is that the restaurant is most likely to be fully booked.  

So I was not terribly disappointed when my hotel’s guest relations officer wrote me an email to say that they were unable to get me a dinner reservation at Sushi Sho for the entire duration of my 6-day stay in Tokyo.  I was just trying my luck.  Like buying lottery.  But I was surprised that the hotel managed to get us a lunch reservation at Sushi Sho, and asked if we were fine with their bara-chirashi lunch set, as that is the only thing that Sushi Sho serves at lunch.  Of course we said yes!  Sushi Sho makes only 20 sets of bara-chirashi a day.  

Sushi Sho is located in Yotsuya, on a side street that is a short walk away from the Yotsuya station (on the Marunouchi line).  The Zen-looking entrance to the restaurant looked rather intimidating.  I was wondering if lunch was going to be an uncomfortably serious, stern, austere affair.  I hear that some of the famous sushi places are like that.  I have to remember to be on my best behavior.

 photo L1000519-150219-v2__zpsj9xctol8.jpgAt exactly 12.40pm, we opened the wooden sliding door and was warmly welcomed by one of the chef assistants.  In contrast to the stillness outside the restaurant, it was quite noisy inside!  Lots of laughter and banter between the chefs and guests.   The place was full, and many guests (mostly elderly Japanese men and women) from the first seating were getting ready to leave.  We were shown to our seats, at the end of a 10-seat counter.  I took a quick photo from my seat (above), and that is the entire restaurant.  It is tiny!  

Many of the chef assistants could speak English so I could make some small talk with them while waiting for lunch to be served. They were quite friendly and chatty, and assured me that it was okay to take photographs in the restaurant.

 photo IMG_0785-150220-v2__zpsjgs2ygpf.jpgThis beautifully presented bowl of bara-chirashi was incredibly delicious, and it came with an equally delicious bowl of asari soup.  This set cost us Yen 2,000 per person (approximately US$20).  It is such a steal and worth every penny, given the high quality of ingredients.  That’s only a little more then what Teppei charges for its takeaway bara-chirashi here in Singapore.  

When I next visit Tokyo, I am definitely trying to get another lunch reservation at Sushi Sho.  

Sushi Sho 
Yorindo Building, 1F
1-11 Yotsuya Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +813 3351 6387

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S$10 Headshots For Charity

I decided to run a simple photo project for charity this year that involves me taking a photo of you, in return for a donation of $10 (people are free to give more if they wish) to any of the four charities that this project currently supports.  The four charities are: SPD, Bone Marrow Donor Program, the APEX Rehabilitation Centre For The Elderly and the Children’s Cancer Foundation.  I am thinking about adding a fifth charity – the Cat Welfare Society.  (I like cats, that’s why.)

This is not a new idea.  I read about this project on ShootTokyo a while ago and have been toying with the idea of doing something similar, but I have always been caught up with dealing with various work and personal issues so the idea stayed as an idea.  It is only recently that I decided to do something about it.  Perhaps the thought of entering  mid-life spurred me on as I suddenly feel that more of my life is behind me than it is in front of me.  There is no time to hem-and-haw about the things that I have always thought about doing.  Let’s just do it.  

This charity project is fairly to kick-start.  It does not require much planning or financial resources, just a camera and Lightroom!  Since I like taking photographs, this will be fun, and I get to do it all at my own time and pace.  It also forces me to reach out to friends to meet up.  It is also fun for them,  since they get to pose for a photo and chip in a small token for charity.  

How does one donate? Donations can be made on the GiveAsia website here, using your credit card.  The photo is basically a headshot of you – a photo of your upper body and face, and a copy will be emailed to you.   I have also set up a Facebook page to share these photos; if you want to contribute to this project, please reach out to me on the Facebook page!  

Not sure how this will turn out, but at the very least, I know I am gonna have fun doing it.

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