Saturday, December 31, 2005

The belated Christmas Post (quick get it in before 2005 finishes!)

** Sorry no pics yet due to problems with blog bot**

The extra long Christmas weekend was lovely in Sydney. It was wonderful not just because of the food but the fact that we got to spend time with each other, the family and friends.

We drove straight after work on Friday to Sydney, arriving at about quarter to 11 pm, not bad at all a time. We labelled and hung candy canes on the tree for ourselves and our guests (some friends from Richard's parents church, Hornsby Baptist who had no family around that day to celebrate with).

The next day (Christmas Eve) we lazed around, then braved the crowds at Westfield Hornsby to gather up groceries to be used for the 2 dishes I would be contributing to the lunch/ dinner the next day. Sometime in the afternoon, in the scorching hot heat, I decided that would be the time I would make my potato salad. It was probably a touch of heatstroke but I prepared and cooled, cut the potatoes, fried and diced the bacon, hard boiled the eggs and smashed them, diced the onion and when everything had cooled (but not refrigerated) I mixed it all with mayonaise, dill and mixed herbs. It started out looking good but I kept noticing that the salad wasn'at adopting the "creamy" look and kept adding more mayonaise. All of a sudden, it hit me, especially looking at the oil that was starting to gather on the bottom. The mayonaise had *separated*. I gave a squeal of horror and Richard came running. He comforted me that the taste was the same even though the texture wasn't. But I felt like that was my biggest cooking faux pas of 2005.

I was quickly cheered up though as we went to Hayashi Teppankayki at Castle Hill. Its been a while since I had teppanyaki and it was the first time we had an "interactive" chef. We chose a banquet type option with a prawn course, a chicken course, a steak course and fried rice. All had different seasonings and all were cooked to perfection. We could even choose how we liked our beef and the chef would tilt our plates to his own code and timed it all wonderfully. I chose mine medium rare and all the 11 of us got our beef exactly the way we liked. Then, the fun began. We had to catch raw eggs in rice bowls (which were later beaten for omelletes and the fried rice), catch omellete in our mouths and catch our bowls of fried rice expertly tossed to us. My egg caught on the lip of the bowl and it cracked itself half in my bowl and I got some on my hands and the table got the rest of it. We all had a very good time but the big surprise was that Richard's parents had mentioned in passing that we were celabrating their birthdays belatedly. Well, guess what!? They were presented with their fried rice packed tightly in the rice bowl and then removed and placed upside down on a plate with a candle and "Happy Birthday" sign on the front. They put on the usual cheesey canned tape and we all sang happy birthday to them. It was a really nice surprise and was a very enjoyable evening. The staff were attentive to our needs and extremely quick to clean up any of the messes we made.

On the actual day, we went to church, came home and I made my other dish, sushi rice rolled with smoked salmon, avacado and japanese mayo. This one was edible *phew*. We had a blue and silver theme. Since Christmas in Aus is so hot, we had cold meats and a large variety of salads for Christmas lunch.

The hot weather got to me and I got a really bad sore throat so Richard and I stayed at his parent's place while the rest of his family drove an hour up the coast to his Aunt at Umina. We nibbled on leftovers, watched DVDs and played one of his christmas presents, Jenga.

On Boxing day, we went to my friend Js house a bit earlier. The boys caught a snooze (I notice lots of men tend to do that, especially married men) sitting on the sofa, while J and I prepared some food for the night. We were treated to a perfectly roasted turkey and stuffing. J had wrapped the turkey in rashes of bacon to retain moisture and the trick worked a treat. Yes, it was indeed a good night and I find it is always a perfect party when people chat late into the night, after the coffee and dessert. Some of them played mah jong, while I and a few others caught up. I smiled when I saw some people start to stand around the kitchen and pick on leftovers after midnight. It was indeed a wonderful end to Christmas 2005.

Happy New Year one and all !!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Odds and Ends

Hmm haven't been back in the saddle for more than a month now. Not sure what to write about first... the nice albeit few days back in Singapore? Or about the dental concentration camp I voluntarily signed up for where I got chewed up and spat out? I was tested and tried and found wanting. *sigh* Well I decided to do an odds and ends post since I still can't really string two coherent thoughts together.

I guess I'll go chronologically. The trip to Singapore was quick, I mostly stayed at home, only venturing out for my friend's wedding and for a meal. Here is a picture of a lane in Chinatown where the road is closed and it comes alive late at night with hawkers selling all sorts of tasty delights such as satay, hokkien mee,
chicken rice, fried kuay teow, cheong funn, seafood "cooked food" stalls(where you can order any style you like eg. pepper crab, chilli crab, butter prawns etc), dessert stalls and drink stalls.

The meal I had was at an Indian "banana leaf" canteen type place. You go up to the counter and point at various things you might like, enquiring when the meat looks too cloaked in thick curried pastes to tell its origin. I had a black pepper lamb biriyani set. It was delici-yoso! And pretty cheap at $5.50 SGD. My mum also ordered some curried blue swimmer crabs on the side and had dosai (a thin crepe like bread made with yogurt, a delicious complement to the many curries) A man soon delivers your set meal complete with cucumber raita, acar (picked veggies), papadum and an egg doused with rich red curry. A guy walks around during the course of your meal with a tiffin carrier offering other "side" curries or chilli sauces should you wish. These have no meats but are useful for mopping up with excess bread or rice. Also they are complimentary.

The wedding was beautiful, my friend of 15 years, A. and her new husband J. had their tradtional 9 course dinner sans sharks fin soup (substituted with abalone fish maw soup instead) as they are environmentally concious. The restaurant was by the Singapore River and they arrived in a decorated little bum boat decked with white balloons and ribbons, the boat comming in close for a photo op with them waving from the bow. We the guests then formed a welcome arch armed with sparklers as they walked in from the pier. Everyone had lots of fun ! No photos for privacy reasons of course but I guess you the readers can use your active imaginations :)

Then came the hard slog. I had never studied so hard in my entire life. I arrived late on Thrusday but from Friday morning until the following Wednesday, my cousin and I studied really hard, sleeping only about 4 hours a night, and even that was pretty fitful. We stopped only to shower and eat (20 minute breaks). I am happy to say that my cousin made it! However, I on the other hand fell really short :( I think the number of subjects we passed was proportional to the amount of time put into preparation before and since I worked 5 and a half days a week until october, I put on my students cap too late.*sigh*

Here is a photo of my cousin and a friend we made at the hostel fervently studying anatomy. We named our skulls Fred (left) and Harry (hairy getit? ;)) You could say we really put our heads together *kaching boom!*

Well after the 2 week nightmare, it was great to kick our heels up, my cousin and I gretting a great meal at Seoulria in Sydney (review to follow). I enjoyed a beautiful drive home, stopping at a truck stop just after Lithgow, close to the Mt Piper power station. To take this photo of a Christmas tree/ pine farm which backed onto it.

Well I must leave now to pack for our Christmas weekend in Sydney which will be spent with Richard's parents as well as my friend J. who got married in October.
As I wrap the last of the presents, I will leave you with some of the famous Orchard Road lights in Singapore, taken from my Dad's car on the way home. This is only the tip of the iceberg and doesn't do the mall section any justice. Hope you like it though.