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Friday Morning


Friday, May 30, 2008


It's almost 9am in the morning. Got to give the apartment a quick tidy up before the housekeeping ah yis arrive to clean and er, tidy up.

Don't even say it, I know.

But the house-proud housewife in me just can't let them think we are messy pigs.

Really.



Footnote: We have two, sometimes even three ladies come clean for us weekly. I find it ludicrous as the apartment is only 1/3 the size of our house at home which I maintain without any help. I could have easily done without housekeeping here but it came with the lease package. No complaints though. Every extra help is appreciated as it's extremely dusty here due to the northern desert winds blowing sand and dust on everything. It gets so bad I have to wipe down the entire apartment daily. This for a woman whose motto is: "I was not put on this earth just to dust and clean!"

It must be retribution for being nasty to the domestic help in a previous life.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:56 am

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Bolero


Wednesday, May 28, 2008



Completed this girly pink cotton bolero over the weekend. The pattern is taken from Keito Dama Let's Knit Series Summer Magazine #134

And as the magazine suggests, it's perfect for summer.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 3:01 am

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Busted




While rummaging around the cupboards for some fresh towels, Hubs came across my stash of yarn, the result of a recent spree at a local yarn store. This was on top of pre-existing supplies.

Oi.

Later over dinner, Hubs highlighted to me in loving, husbandly tones about my hoard of yarn and if I intended to knit underwear for the entire population of China.

So now I present Exhibit A, a photo of said yarn spree and I ask you, dear reader...

HOW IS THIS EXCESSIVE???!!!

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What Your Fridge Says About You


Monday, May 26, 2008





What Your Fridge Says About You



You aren't greedy, but you don't really deprive yourself either. You strike a good balance with the stuff you buy.



You tend to be a fairly thrifty person. You splurge occasionally, but you're mostly a saver.



You are a very adventurous person. You love to try new things, and you get bored very easily.



You are responsible, together, and mature. You act like an adult, even when you don't feel like it.



You are likely to be married - and very busy.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:41 am

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The Muppet Personality Test







You Are Animal



A complete lunatic, you're operating on 100% animal instincts.

You thrive on uncontrolled energy, and you're downright scary.

But you sure can beat a good drum.

"Kill! Kill!"



*****

Me thinks me shouldn't take this test so close to That Time Of The Month.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:04 am

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Dutchess And The City - The City Walk Personality Test




After designer shoes and desserts, personality quizzes rank up there on my list of guilty pleasures.

I thought I'd start the week with a few.




What Your City Walk Means



You are adventurous and easygoing. You love life, as long as you don't have to do anything hard.



You are generally confident and friendly with strangers. You are well mannered and sociable.



Money is fairly important to you. You aren't super greedy, but you enjoy spending money on yourself.



You tend to seek comfort, coziness, and stability in your life. For you, feeling at home is the best feeling ever.

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Tea


Friday, May 23, 2008



The phone rang and I answered it, bracing myself for yet another annoying sales call. But no, the voice on the other side politely informed me she was from Ten Fu's Tea and that the latest batch of summer green tea has arrived - would I like to come by the store to sample some?

*****

If you've been paying attention all this time, most of you will know my choice of poison is tea. And seeing how we're currently in the mothership where Chinese tea is concerned, I've been having a ball with all the different sorts available. It's been quite an education; I never knew there could be so many grades for just one variety. Prices differ greatly too, from a paltry RMB10 to RMB500 for 50g. And all this for dried leaves. I will never grumble about Hubs' Cohibas again.

Blossoming tea balls

On top of my usual staples of Pu Erh, Tie Guan Yin, Oolong, Jin Long etc and because of the warmer weather, I've been indulging in floral infusions and blossoming teas. Again, there are many grades and I've discovered where blossoming teas are concerned, buy the best available or what your budget allows you. It does make a difference in terms of how the tea leaves are fashioned and bloom in your pot. More importantly, the corelation between price and quality of taste. I tried a few of the cheaper ones and quite honestly, they tasted horrid, with lots of fine grainy bits floating about the surface. The colour of the tea was not attractive either and worse, the petals started to fall apart.

In hot water, this opens up to to reveal a circlet of jasmine flowers surrounding the magenta bloom

A variation of the jasmine blossoming tea. You need a tall glass to fully appreciate the suspended jasmine garland. I used Hubs' beer mug.

My floral flavours of the month are Golden Lotus and Osmanthus. Both flowers infuse to give a deep golden liquid but that's where the similarity ends. The Golden Lotus is a tad bitter while the Osmanthus is sweeter and smells of apricot. Both are lovely with sweets and cakes.

Golden Lotus flowers

Osmanthus buds



*****

So I tell the nice lady, yes, I will swing by some time next week and thanks for letting me know. I hang up the telephone and make a mental note to self: I must enquire if they also stock a special kind of Pu Erh tea that's been aged for eight years. I first came across it at a Yunnan restaurant and it's now become my beverage when we visit. This is not unlike wine that's been aged. It's deep, robust but not overpowering - an excellent complement to the rather heavy and spicy Yunnan cuisine.

Second mental note to self: Another visit to that Yunnan restaurant is due. I kind of miss their deep fried cactus...

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Omelette Dumpling With Pork And Shrimp Filling


Wednesday, May 21, 2008



Inspired from an item we ordered at a Sichuan restaurant recently, this dish is a bit of a nightmare to prepare but wouldn't you agree, it's such a treat to look at. And delicious too.

I don't have the recipe proper but by using some common sense and culinary CSI, managed to work my way round it. I'm too lazy It's another nightmare typing out the long-winded steps so if anyone out there is keen to give this a go, do drop me an email. But be prepared to spend a substantial amount of time in the kitchen.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 3:23 am

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Boy Desperate; Slips Note To Mum


Tuesday, May 20, 2008



Okay, so sometimes I get carried away by the internet.

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Rest In Peace


Monday, May 19, 2008


Today China obeserves the first of a three day mourning period for the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake.

May their souls rest in peace and loved ones left behind find their own peace too.

*****

As far as tears go, I'm made of stone. I hardly ever cry. Not at movies, sentimental moments, never. Well, except when I'm furious. Like foaming at the mouth furious. But that's not what I want to talk about.

I've been keeping track of the earthquake on CNN and CCTV (local Chinese television network). I don't know if it's CNN's reporting style but it left me cold. As if it was just another natural disaster in another part of the world. Never mind if I was literally shaking with fear yesterday.

Not so with the CCTV broadcasts. Minutes into their news and photo footage, I start brimming up and before I know it, I need a Kleenex. Maybe two. In half an hour, I go through a plethora of emotions ranging from sadness, shock, relief (when survivors, especially children are pulled out of the rubble) and finally respect. Respect for the way the Chinese government, the aid workers and the nation in general are rallying round to help in whichever way they can.

Kudos to all of you.

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Earthquake


Monday, May 12, 2008


I can now add earthquake to my list of life experiences.

To our family and friends, we are safe and well.

Hubs was at the office when it happened and felt nothing although the building across was shaking and people were flooding out of it like molten chocolate. One wonders what kind of super duper foundation thingamajig is anchoring the building Hubs works in.

Sonny-boy apparently didn't feel anything at school either. But then again, you know how boys are when they are playing, it's like an earthquake anyway.

As for me, I had just returned from yoga and was taking a breather on the couch when it happened. It was an especially tiring session with my head suspended upside down for quite a bit which made me light headed. So when I felt some kind of movement, I thought

i) I was tripping from the yoga; or
ii) I was having one of my dizzy spells

But no, the building was shaking real bad and the hanging lamps in the living and dining areas were swaying from side to side. I made my way gingerly to the windows and could see people milling out. Rightly or wrongly, I stayed put and called Hubs. After a short conversation, I quickly packed up all our passports and important paperwork into my bag and waited in the hallway. I was going to make a run for it if another wave of tremours began. And as cliched as it might sound, I kept thinking of Hubs and Sonny-boy with all sorts of wild scenarios flashing through my mind.

Thank goodness it never arrived nor did the situation escalate.

Oh, and a more relieved mum there never was when I picked Sonny-boy up from the school bus later that afternoon. I might have hugged him that much tighter.

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Candied Ears


Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Everytime I do my big weekly grocery shopping, I make it a point to come away with something I've never tasted before. The more suspect and exotic looking, the better. As long as it's been hygenically prepared and sold at a reputable supermarket such as Carrefour, Walmart and such, I'm fair game. Having said that, every adventurer has an Archilles' heel or limit. I draw my line at chicken's feet, chicken or duck heads, heart, tongue and brain of any species and most recently, ox penises. Yes, I saw not one, but four of those on Monday, neatly cling-wrapped in styrofoam trays. I was fixated, like one would be in a freak show. I must say the appendages were rather impressive, clocking in at approximately 8-9 inches with a girth of say, 2 inches, give and take a little? In case you were wondering, I didn't have a ruler handy in my purse but once upon a time as a trained designer and dressmaker, I have a mental measurement tape tucked away in my little head. And 99% of the time, I get it right.

So last week, in keeping with my "something new, something exotic" mantra, I bought a pack of sweetmeat from the generous confectionery of the Carrefour which is stocked with the usual breads and cakes. However, what draws me in is the array of sweets, sweetmeats, cakes and pastries in the local section. I've been working my way through it, trying out all the different items. Sometimes I strike gold, sometimes I strike out.

Candied Ears

These are called "Tang Er Duo" in Mandarin. Literally it means Candied or Sugared Ears. They are deep fried pieces of dough cut and shaped to resemble human ears and then drowned in golden syrup. The first bite is satisfyingly crunchy. As you continue, the crunchiness gives in to a soft, chewy mass in your mouth, which is all rather pleasant if you have a sweet tooth like me. I have reserved them for elevenses or the mid afternoon cup of tea. It makes a nice change from my usual biscuit and chocolate bon bons. These ears are wonderful - they listen obligingly and don't pass rude comments when you reach out for another piece. The perfect tea-time kaki (Malay word for leg; a Singaporean/Malaysian slang for friend or buddy. Don't ask. You need to have grown up with it).

Recommended teas: Osmanthus, Golden Lotus, Jasmine or blossoming teas. The floral aroma of these teas really play up the golden syrup and buttery flavour of this sweetmeat.


Footnote:- I presented these to Hubs and Sonny-boy and they were suitably grossed out. Wait till I show them the ox penises, they'll have something to howl about then. *snigger*






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A Drop Of Kindness


Friday, May 02, 2008



Three weeks back, W - a fellow Dutch colleague of Hubs - handed him a small package saying it was for me. I was puzzled; why the sudden gift and more importantly, what was it? It turned out to be a portion of muntdrops (liquorice coins).

Eh? Then it hit me.

Weeks ago, while chatting with W about this and that, I let on how I loved and missed muntdrops, a habit picked up while living in the Netherlands. Drops or liquorice, are as Dutch as tulips, windmills and wooden clogs. And now, here in my hands were dropjes from W's personal stash he brought along from home. And not just any drops, mind you, they were from Jamin, a popular Dutch confectionery chain of which I'm a big fan of.

How kind and thoughtful was that?


But it was not the end.

Last week, I received a mystery package from yet another of Hubs' colleague who went back to Germany but was now in Beijing again. We briefly met at an after work dinner and made the usual pleasantries and small talk. In any case, I didn't place any significance on the exchange. So, again, why the present and what was it? And yes, you guessed it, another packet of muntdrops. From Klene this time, a popular drop manufacturer. I asked Hubs, heavens, how did he know? Was it W? Is word getting around I'm crazy for dropjes?

Damn, if that's the case, I should've mentioned something about carats too .....

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 1:13 pm

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