Thursday, 27 December 2012


Pat took this picture of me at Plaza Sing

I a writing this entry on m new netbook, which I purchased in the nick of time, as the spacebar and and 'B' button had just given out on my other computer. I need to take my old one to Sim Lim Square and find a repairman as soon as possible. I purchased my netbook from the Song Brothers, where I was once again mistaken for a student. It really is too bad I can't benefit from student deals.

I have been meeting up with a steady stream of people these past few days. I celebrated Christmas with the Byrds, watched The Hobbit with friends from school, made Shirley Temples with the illustrious Rebel Shang, saw Jana Tan and Samuel, of whom the latter came bearing gifts from Sweden, and today I met up with Pat at Plaza Singapura. We went to the Soup Spoon for Simon and Garfunkel Chicken Ragout and played Tekken and Street Fighter at the arcade, which proved to be a successful lead-up to the video game inspired movie Wreck-It Ralph. (I rule at Tekken.) Tomorrow, my old friend Lauren McKnight is coming and I have to make sure to swap the deck and tidy up the place before she arrives. I haven't seen her in years.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Skyping with My Sister

I am always generally amused by my sister as she is very entertaining to watch. She has an easy sort of charm about her, which translates well across cyberspace, and we talk about everything under the sun.

  Sofia cutting her bangs in the bathroom. Me assembling an IKEA lamp.

 Sofia cleaning off makeup or crying into a handkerchief at the end of Extreme Home Makeover.

I don't know.

Sticking things to our foreheads.

Ah, there are so many productive things to do in life and so little time to do them.

O Lights

I know I'm biased, but I think my Christmas tree looks like it's been plucked from a fairytale. 
I just enjoy looking at the lights in the dark and stillness of the room.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Winter Green

I was thinking about the differences between seasonal eating here and in Sweden. During the cold, dark winter months in the North, we eat stodgier food, something with a bit more substance to it. And many sweet things. Salads and greens are mostly left for spring and summer, when fresh produce can be taken directly from the countryside (there's nothing like crisp Swedish cucumber) and not flown in from a warmer climate. I, however, live in the tropics and am completely unbothered by changing seasons--its always warm and humid and sometimes wet--and therefore I eat greens to my heart's content.

This salad I've been partial to these past few days contains lettuce, avocado, alfala sprouts, roast chicken, red onion, feta cheese, and yellow plum tomatoes, gently devoured with a balsamic cream dressing.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Care for a light?

Most of the things in my flat are secondhand. The sofa I found on Singapore's Gumtree site, the bookshelves and side tables at Salvation Army--I like a good bargain, you see, but what I like even more is things free of charge: thus far I have collected a carved, high-backed chair, a little wooden box for holding jewelry, a tellie stand, and a coffee table.

None of them, however, have as much character as my monkey candelabra. It was sitting in the free pile in the Parent Teacher Fellowship cottage at school, obviously too ugly and strange to be seriously considered for adoption. Its brass eyes stared dolefully at the people who came and went through the doors. I stopped at the sight of it, not sure it was something I was looking for--but then I checked myself. When would I again find a golden monkey candleholder? Never! That's when. I took it, despite some eyebrows raised in my general direction, and after a good go-around with the gold spray paint used for my side tables, it is now a fine addition to my living room.

Despite its exotic look, it was made in America--see, it says so on the bottom, Dad--and not, I might add, as some sort of shrine to Hanuman. If anything, I think it has a sort of "Monkey's Paw" feel to it, striking in its own way, but slightly grotesque and too peculiar to be quite comforting.

Julfint, or Christmas Finery

This is a picture of my tidy living room, all gussied up for Christmas. My living room was already thematically blue and white and red, so all I really needed to do was roll out the red Christmas runner my mother gave me and put up the Christmas tree. Because of the size of the tree, the room looked cramped at first, until I shifted the entire sofa to the left and put it at an angle. Even then I had no room for my side table so I tucked it behind the sofa in the corner space and put my miniature palm on top. I am so pleased with the arrangement I think I'll keep it for a while.

I was given a poinsettia at the Christmas party a few weeks back, and it makes my table so much cheerier. Poinsettias always remind me of my mother and her careful instructions regarding their care. Last year she told me how sensitive they were to temperature changes. If you bought one from the plant nursery and carried it out into the cold to the car, that short trip had doomed it to a short life before it had even begun. She's killed enough to know. 

I brought this beautiful, white, antique cloth from Sweden, and I wanted to put it into a place of honour this season. However, I also had a red runner on hand, which also needed a home--and not willing to relinquish either, I thought "Why choose?" and used them both. I like the geometrical design of this the-more-the-merrier concept.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My First Tree

I have bought my very first, very own Christmas tree! You must realize this is a momentous occasion as there will never come another first such as this. My tree is a beauty. She stands seven feet tall and comes bedecked in pine cones, perhaps to make her plastic needles seem a bit more real. She dropped a few of them when I was setting her up, but I imagine it's just nerves getting the better of her. Now that she has had some time to settle down, she stands quietly in her corner, with little else but lights woven through her green tresses. She's a natural beauty--doesn't need much to look stunning--a good thing, seeing as my decorations are running low. She is from the Salvation Army, where I also plundered the Christmas section for tinsel. 

The Rebel Shang knitted me this gnome! She made his sweater gray and his trousers brown just so he would look like a Swedish tomte. He is the sweetest thing and now lives among the branches of the tree, the rest of which will be decorated tomorrow. Reb is coming over to  help, and I am going to show her how to make havreflarn. We might even have time for banana bread, which isn't terribly Christmasy but always delicious.

I haven't yet hung much in the tree, but I've placed my Christmas postcards among her green branches. I find they not only make beautiful decorations, but also remind me of the many wonderful people in my life. Some of my favorites from my students read, "Merry Christmas! I hope to see you next semester." (Where do you think I'm going, Bailey?) and "Merry Christmas! This is not a bribe, but I really do need an A." (Oh, Lucas, you of all people need not resort to such underhanded gestures, but still, I admire your creative thinking.)

Gifts Galore

Teaching is all about the swag--let no one tell you otherwise--and I have received a great many presents from my students. I have three tins of chocolates, short bread biscuits, three coffee gift cards, a green shawl, and for some inexplicable reason, five bottles of lotion. My sister says lotion is the gift you give when you don't know what else to give. Maybe so. Or perhaps my students find me a tad bit dry, in more ways than one, and thought it to be a subtle hint. Whatever the case, I like the Gardeners Hand Therapy. It smells like pines. 

Does it matter if you're black and white?

Black and white. 
I wonder. 
What does it do to the picture, I wonder.
What does it take away? 
And what does it add?
A white swan is still white.

 Pat at Thai Express, or should I say Pat Thai?

A white room is still white.

Monday, 17 December 2012


Nature does have wonders to offer us, but the best part of going for a stroll in the Gardens is the people that I see. Where have they been, I wonder. And where are they going? What have they seen that I haven't? And instead of stopping to ask them, I stop to take their picture so that I may go on wondering and remembering.

And who should come through the woods but Naruto himself in high form. What is he doing so far from Konoha Village? I waved and he waved back.


 Don't worry. He wasn't poking him.

I take great delight in taking pictures of people taking pictures.

Botanical Cure

On Saturday, to inaugurate the Christmas holidays, I took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens, followed by erratic weather. Not to worry--I came armed with an umbrella.

Beauty in the front, business in the back

 One swan a-swimming

Spot the dove.

Raindrops on lily pads. Every time I pass by this pond, I take a picture. I can't help it.

  The beauty of nature is not to be underestimated. I can feel the knots of life loosening already.

Adam Road

 Bukit Timah is one of my old haunts, and I like everything about it. The area is green and quiet, filled with little shops and eateries. The Island Creamery is always a standout with its inviting idea of fresh ice cream, made on the premises. A little further down the road is Coronation Plaza, good for a variety of things, and one mustn't forget that the Botanical Gardens is just a stone's throw away.

Saturday morning was filled with erratic bursts of showers and sunshine.

 Unfortunately the eateries are sometimes outside of what I am willing to pay

so I visit the Adam Road Hawker Centre instead.

Bus Rides in the Rain

I ride the bus a lot. The best days are the slow days with empty buses and rain on the windows. I like the rainy season: I like even the idea of having a season in an indifferently sunny and humid island. The tropics offer their own sorts of beauties, other than snow and ice. Recently the Rebel Shang mused over out neverending deluge.
"It's been raining a lot recently," she said. "More than usual."
"Well, it is the rainy season."
"It is?"
"That would explain a few things." 


I'm better! I have the immune system of a ninja. Perhaps that is why I am so teary-eyed and pathetic when I'm sick--"toned down" is how Jana put it--but I'm just not used to being out of sorts. Usually I seize the day by the throat and throttle it until it gives me what a want.

 Today I spent amending all the things I yesterday found to be wrong. I have taken out the trash, swabbed the deck, hung up curtains, paid some bills (in person and online), stocked up on laundry tokens, done four loads of laundry, and ended the evening by blowing  a fuse and plunging the house into utter blackness. I am now sitting in the dark with only the sound of rain to accompany me. I tried the fuse box and switching off the offending outlet, but to no avail. I called my landlady, and I suppose she will do everything in her power to get me mine back.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Swedish Christmas

I am amazed that no matter where in the world I go, I can always find reason to want to be somewhere else, or worse still, I find someone else's life to envy. These past few weeks, I have increasingly nurtured the vice of jealousy by reading my friend Clara's blog, gazing at her pictures of the Swedish countryside and dreaming of all the wonders of a Christmas up north and everything it entails--family and friends, baking, fika, long walks in the snow, a frosted countryside, and candle-lit evenings indoors.

I myself have been too busy to pay much attention to anything--I just finished up my first semester teaching, my apartment is a mess in every sense of the word, I haven't put out my coffee table Christmas runner, and I am lying on my couch with a headache and a sore throat, feeling bad that I ate so much chocolate on Friday, that I haven't yet decorated, that I have done no grading thus far, and ultimately sorry for myself and wishing there was someone here to hear my groans of anguish. I tend towards the dramatic side when feeling under the weather.
Clara in her light and airy kitchen

I want to be there, as much as I generally dislike the cold, to see my family, to eat rice porridge with milk and cinnamon, to bake cookies (and not those bland I-taste-better-as-dough American sugar cookies) and boil toffee to spoon it hot into little wax paper cups. I want to make paper snowflakes and put out the best tablecloth for company and hang the Christmas curtains. I am only begrudging my Swedish friends because I am tired and sick and quite frankly feeling a little the worse for wear. I hope that come tomorrow I'll be feeling ever so much better about things, but until then, I ask that you bear with selfish desires. My fleshly nature comes so easily to me.

All photos taken from Underbara Clara's blog.