Peekture: Unwinding At Home

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Ever since moving back home 3 months ago, I have hardly spent very much quality time at home. Work has been going at break-neck speed lately, and I have been spending vast amounts of time in the office, such that home has become a hotel.

I wake up, get dressed, go to work, get home past 10pm most nights, shower and go to bed. A large part of the weekends have been spent either in the office, or running errands. I feel that I have lost control of my time, and to a certain extent, my life.

I managed to stop myself from going into the office this weekend. I decided that I had to draw a line somewhere, get some rest and regain a little of my personal time. I invited mom, cousins and aunt came over for dinner last evening. I have been so out of touch with cooking, so food wasn’t that great. But it isn’t about food, or my cooking, but about spending time together with family.

Today, I visited my grandpa in the hospital, came home in the afternoon, baked a simple chiffon cake, watched several episodes of Higashino Keigo’s mystery dramas online and put together a simple dinner. I am happy to be able to find the energy to come here and write something tonight.

To a better week ahead.

Peekture: Banana Crisps Burger

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Mashed banana and crisps between burger buns. I thought this “combination”, for want of a better word, sounded and looked absolutely revolting. But strangely, it tasted quite good. The saltiness of the crisps went quite well with the sweetness of the banana, and it just tasted…good!

I have been working crazy hours in the last 7 weeks, and my home now feels like a hotel. Regardless of how physically exhausted I am, I have to get a grip on work, and restore some balance in my life.

Oslo: Fiskesuppe, Norwegian Fish Stew

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Every time I flip open the menu at a restaurant in Oslo, I feel conflicted. Should I choose the mussels, or the oysters, or the fish stew? Due to the excruciatingly expensive prices, I tried not to order more than one main course. Most of the time, I pick the mussels which taste sooooo good.

I have always wanted to try the fish stew, and only got around to ordering the dish on our last day in Oslo at an open-air restaurant facing the harbour.  The broth was tasty, with generous portions of shrimp and mussels and julienne vegetables.  The cream sauce was light and creamy, but without being cloying or fishy.  I mopped up all the sauce with bread.

Visiting Oslo makes me feel glad that there is an availability of cheap and good food at the hawker centres and coffeeshops in Singapore, such that eating out frequently will not send us to the poor house.

Peekture: Mom’s Kiam Chye Pork Belly

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There has been alot going on lately and I am feeling a little overwhelmed. The weekend didn’t make me feel much better. In fact, I felt pretty lousy today. My back was aching, my head felt woozy and I wanted to hide under the covers all day.

I was at my mom’s place this afternoon, and she offered me a plate of leftovers – kiam chye cooked with thin slices of pork belly. I love this dish and it has been ages since I last ate this. Ignoring the need to observe any table-manners, I picked off the plate using my fingers. The food was soooo tasty, and made tastier when eaten with my fingers. Then I went to the rice cooker, scooped up some rice into a bowl and polished off half the plate of kiam chye.

The meal was immensely satisfying. And my spirits felt alot better after that.

I am afraid the photo doesn’t do the food any justice!

Oslo: First Impressions

The host of TBH’s business meeting gave us a couple of suggestions on accommodation, and we chose to stay in a 3-star Radisson hotel called Park Inn.  The hotel is not a luxurious or fancy one, but it has an excellent location.  It is a short walk or tram ride to the harbour, museums, shopping streets and the subway station.

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and the city looked like a ghost-town.  The shops were closed, the restaurants were closed, and the streets were empty and quiet.  After we checked into the hotel and freshened up, we decided to take a walk and explore the area around our hotel.  We had a couple of hours to kill before going for dinner at 5pm.  I had made a reservation at Solsiden, a popular seafood restaurant located at the harbour, in Singapore.

We left the hotel, walked down the streets, and turned the corner into this charming square.  I was like – WOW!  This is so pretty.

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Mint green and persimmon-coloured buildings side by side.

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Many people were posing for photographs at this fountain and I had to wait a while to get a shot of this which didn’t have any human beings or traffic.

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Love the mustard-yellow walls of this cafe. We walked past this building everyday but never got around to actually entering the cafe.

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Pretty pots of flowers.

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Mom looking for lice…?

Oslo: A Pleasant Summer Break

Tagging along on TBH’s business trip to Oslo in July was one of those unexpected but pleasant surprises in life.  We have never really thought about visiting Norway, or any of the other Nordic countries.  We have a phobia of long-haul flights, and having to deal with jetlag thereafter, so we typically stick to visiting countries in our region whenever we go on a holiday.

After hemming and hawing over having to take a long-haul flight to Oslo for a couple of days, we decided that I should just go along. Afterall,  this was a great opportunity for us to see a city together which we wouldn’t ordinarily think about visiting.  Also, summer was perfect for visiting Oslo.

Strangely, on this Oslo trip, both our body clocks adjusted fairly quickly to the time difference.  Not that I am complaining, but the quick adjustment really helped us enjoy our holiday immediately upon arrival.

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My first impression of Oslo was its very cool airport.  Unlike most international airports which are designed using a fairly standard combination of steel-and-glass, and comes across as cold and functional, the Oslo airport  has a very welcoming vibe.  Stepping into the airport made me think that I had entered an upmarket Ikea.  The airport’s design had simple and clean lines, and incorporated plenty of light wood and Nordic-inspired furnishings.  As you can see from the photos above, my eyes were drawn to the sleek lamps hung in various cafes located within the airport.

I have to rave about the airport bus that took us from the airport into the city.  It is clean, spacious and get this, comes with free wifi!  I Whatsapp-ed and Facebook-ed for the entire length of the 45-minute journey between the airport and the city.

My second impression of Oslo was how terribly expensive things cost, but that’s another story for another blog post. 🙂

Lemon Pound Cake

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If I had to name 3 desserts that I must eat before I die, they would be: a lemon tart, Tampopo’s cheese chiffon cake and Balmoral Bakery’s custard puffs. I would also add to the wish-list Dorie Greenspan’s very yummy lemon pound cake, something that is easy enough for an occasional home-baker like me to make whenever I feel like eating some.

Today was one of those times, and I made one for afternoon tea, with plenty leftover for breakfast and tea over the next few days. The last 6 months have been an incredibly busy period for me, and I had neither the time nor energy to venture into the kitchen to bake. I have forgotten how therapeutic it is to bake a cake.

The lemon pound cake recipe calls for a loaf pan, but because I threw away my loaf pan when I moved back home, so I made do with a tube pan. I like how the cake looks in a tube pan better.

Happy me.

Oslo Domkirke

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Maybe my eyes are drawn to good-looking Scandinavian men, but it does seem that everywhere I go in Oslo, I see fathers piggy-riding young kids on their shoulders, cycling with their kids, or feeding birds with their kids at the harbour.  And during the weekdays!

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The Oslo Cathedral from another angle, just before it started pouring.

Reflections

The other day, Eric Kim (a street photographer whose blog I follow) posed a question on Facebook about street photography: is it more important to go out looking for THE photo, or should one let the photo come to you?

I interpreted the question as – do I take my camera, go out onto the streets, and purposefully look for that special photo to capture?  Or, should I just go out there, take it easy, observe people and what’s going on around me, not actively searching for that something to snap, but waiting for a great moment to appear (and pray fervently that I am quick enough to click the shutter when that happens).

Quite a number of people responded to that question.  Some felt that it is important to go out looking for the photo, some thought that a good photo will come to you if you keep an open mind.  Others felt that it is a combination of both.

I found the question quite difficult to answer.  It is a chicken-and-egg thing. People who like street photography will always be looking for that special moment, one that will not return if you miss it.  If I don’t actively engage my surroundings in trying to frame an image in my mind and the camera’s viewfinder, how would a photo just appear in front of me?  Then again, if I am always looking through the viewfinder,  busy clicking away at anything that remotely looks interesting to me, chances are that I would have missed that decisive moment when it appeared.

So the difficulty for me in street photography is in keeping an open mind to what is going on around me, seeing the extraordinary in ordinary circumstances, and being to compose the photo, click the shutter within a split second, and capturing that image perfectly. Tough.

I was standing at the tram station outside the Nobel Museum in Oslo on a rainy afternoon.  There wasn’t anything in particular that I was thinking about photographing.  Because of the rain, I couldn’t do any sightseeing, so I whiled away the hours in a restaurant with a book, a bowl of mussels, some oysters, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee.  By the time the rain stopped a couple of hours later, my plans for the day had been ruined, and on top of that, I spent a small fortune on lunch.  I was feeling miffed.

So while I was waiting for the tram to return to the hotel, admiring the good-looking Scandinavians that passed my way, and feeling a little sorry for myself, this image just came to me.

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I love the reflections in the puddle of rainwater.

Peekture: Verbena In A Glass

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Finally, there is countertop space in my bathroom to put a fragrance diffuser. So at a friend’s recommendation, I went out and bought a Loccitane fragrance. I really like the light, citrusy-floral scent as it is not too floral-sweet, or migraine-inducing musky, or cloying. And I also like the shape of Loccitane’s simple broad-based bottle – less likely to topple over with clumsy me around.

I have just bought another similar bottle for the study room, as this is the spot at home where I spend most of my waking hours.

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Peekture: Freaky Clouds In The Frankfurt Skies

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This is a photo that I took on the plane of the skies as we approached Frankfurt.

Our flight out of Oslo was delayed by an hour because of poor weather conditions in Frankfurt (and as a result, we missed our connecting flight out of Frankfurt).

When the pilot announced that we were about to commence descent into Frankfurt, the plane flew past these clouds. These clouds were nothing like the nice, fluffy, cottony clouds that we see on a bright day.  These clouds were thick, grey, like a bed of tightly entwined springs.  They looked so freaky, as if they would suddenly swallow us up, and I was kind of scared for a while.

Maybe this is how dark clouds in a thunderstorm look like from above.

Peekture: Pork Chop Noodles

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We finally arrived home early this morning from Oslo. I am trying to beat jetlag, so I came home, showered, changed and went to work, making sure that I adjust my body clock back to GMT+8.

I have only been away for 8 days and I miss eating local food. I came home tonight and made us some comfort food for dinner – fried pork chops (using the Happycall Pan) and ate it with a bowl of instant noodles.

It was yummy.

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