Thursday, April 29, 2010

Present for the Couch Potato

I am a TV-loving couch potato.  I think most of you probably already know this :).  While my vacations are planned and active, my home life is lazy and boring.  I love my TV (meaning actual TV shows, not TV set) and have been planning to get a new set since I moved here and my apartment was furnished with an older, 29" tube TV.  So heavy to move around, but otherwise really nothing wrong with it, which is probably why it took so long to get a new one. 

The TV broadcast, frequency, something like that, is different from the U.S. and I couldn't bring my old TV from home.  My brother and his roommates benefited from that :).  Apparently, just like with other things, the U.S. is like the only place that does TVs differently.  However, I can buy a TV here that will work both in Singapore and at home.  So my new one can come back with me!

And without further ado.....the new look of my entertainment wall (with one of my new favorite TV shows featured).

It's a Samsung - I tend to get brand loyal and am on a Samsung TV kick.  It's one of the new LED series, but it's an earlier series than what's already out so it was cheaper.  Since I don't cook and my apartment was furnished, I haven't had to make a lot of big purchases - toaster, iron, steamer.  So this was it.  It's a little funny because I spend the money for the fancy TV, but am hesitant to upgrade the cable box to HD.  Yeah...that one is going to take a little while to happen.  While I love TV, I hate paying for it.  Not sure if I can go above basic cable. (In Peoria I didn't even have cable!)

It is advertised as the slimmest TV out there...pretty darn thin, but you be the judge.  It was crazy how nice it was to take out the previous monstrosity.  It went from the wall all the way up to the front edge of the table.  The cables are all pretty well hid from the front view as well.  It is a good picture, but different from the last TV.  Some shows look so real/raw.  It takes a little of the *tv magic* away.  I think I'm use to it now - have had it for a few weeks.  I purchased it at the store one Sunday and they delivered it the following Saturday (would have come Tuesday but a girl's gotta work).  When I purchased it, I asked about disposing of the old TV and was told it would be $50.  I forgot about it and never paid when I checked out.  I meant to call during the week, but forgot.  When they brought the new TV, I just asked the delivery guys if they would take the old one.  Not even a flinch and they said yes.  So I got my disposal for free!

It's been a great TV so far and I'm looking forward to having it to bring back to the U.S. with me.  Yes, after a couple years, it will already be old technology, but I think I can live with that. 

Nothing too unique about this shopping experience.  When they delivered, they did do the full set up - reconnecting all my cables, cords, etc. to make sure it was working before they left.  That was very nice and it was all free.  The worst part was just deciding when and what to buy.  It's not like the U.S. where you can research everything online, get it picked out and then just pick up at the store.  Here nothing is online and I have yet to find a good way to price compare.  Here instead of going down in price, they tend to just add on freebies.  If you don't need the freebie though, it's hard to get value out of it.  My breaking point on this purchase was that I had seen the TV I wanted advertised for just under my minimum price twice during the weekend.  This past weekend I went shopping.  I was scared to see what it's priced at now :).

Ignorance can be bliss.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poll Results

Which season do you enjoy most?!?

Nobody likes Hot & Steamy Summer
Nobody likes Cold & Snowy Winter
2 people enjoy Rainy & Green Spring
6 people enjoy Cool & Golden Autumn
...and 1 person enjoys the even temperatures year-round
Lately it's been storming here big time.  Huge rolls of thunder.  Some lightning and dark skies during the day.  It's kinda like spring storms back home but without the gusty winds and threats of tornados.  I truly hate tornado season.  My mom has instilled in me a fear of them :) - head to the basement!!  I also have a fear of drowning in water.  I would guess my siblings have similar fears.

Anyway - I'm packing my umbrella.  You never know when you'll need it!

Fun fact: A lot of people in Singapore carry umbrellas, if not for the rain then for protection from the sun.  But when it is raining and you enter a building, they have plastic wrappers (think skinny plastic grocery bag) for your umbrellas so you don't get the floors all wet.  Maybe this is common in other big cities, but it was new to me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It fits!

Every girl/woman reading this has those pair of jeans or shorts, skirt or dress that they keep tucked in the closet or drawer and just can't be thrown out because ONE DAY they will fit into them again!  :)

I've got a few of these items myself.  It's hard for me to throw stuff out in the first place, much less something with an emotional attachment.  I especially tend to fall in love with purchases from my trips.  I've got these "fisherman pants" from Thailand that have become my favorite travelling pants.  They are capri length, roomy/airy for hot weather and tied around the waist so they always fit.  I love them, but they make me look like a bag lady. 

Before I required the large, extendable fisherman pants, I had my cheap-o, polyester pants to travel in. I bought these in Spain. I was there my fall semester senior year of college and basically removed jeans from my wardrobe.  I loved these pants, but I lost a lot of weight in Spain and quickly grew out of them when I moved home to the U.S.  Today, was the ONE DAY when I've gotten back into them!!  (Yes, this is a feat although it might not look it from the pic.) It was very exciting, didn't expect it to happen and couldn't believe when they slipped on and actually buttoned.  There is one more pair I've kept hold of which I think I only managed to wear once in Spain and haven't come close since.  Althought the tag says they're the same size....they are not.  I've got some more time to spend before I ever get back into them. 

There's been no secret to my weightloss here (15-20 lbs down), I think it's a combination of the following factors:
  • No car, I have a lot more walking to do.
  • Eating slower - chopsticks and foreign foods have slowed down my meal times. Not that I don't like the foreign foods, but I just don't scarf them down as quickly as the Quiznos sandwiches I'm use to.
  • Less meat - I have more rice, noodles and fruit/veggies.  Just not large portions of meat.
  • Less milk - Can't find my American milk very often.
  • Work hours - I tend to get home after dark (after 7), so it's dinner and bed - no time for snacking.
  • And the not so healthy stress factor of this new life that at times takes away my appetite.
If only I put in some more effort - I can get into those last pair of golden pants. :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Amazing Race!?!

Did anyone watch a week or two ago?? The amazing race came to Singapore!  If I had known, I totally would have run across screen or something. 

Fun fact: Do you know that I applied to be on the Amazing Race?  Yep - no call back.  It was my friend Sara and I.  Maybe because we made our audition tape after a night of sleeping in the Gatwick airport after a couple weeks trodding around Eastern Europe.  Let's just say we didn't exactly have our game faces on.  :)

A pic to remember our morning getting ready in the bathroom.  Our flight was early and we were too cheap to find a hotel in London that was only required for a short time.

Back to Singapore...did you see the drums being played at Speaker's corner?  It is one bus stop from where I get off for work.  The drummers aren't usually there ;). 

Did anyone else get nervous for the guys crawling across the top of the Singapore Flyer (giant ferris wheel)? I've been on it at least 3 times.  It is high.  When I get to the top I get a little freaked out and need to move to the middle to calm myself.  After a couple minutes, then I'm okay to go out to the windows and look around, take pics, etc.  I don't know if I could crawl across the top. 

The ice cream 'uncle' - not sure where that was at.  But yes you can find these ince cream stands all over the place.  The terms uncle and auntie are used for older people.  Cab drivers are "uncles".  I do not call anyone these names because I don't know that it is always positive and I'm sure I'd use it incorrectly.

They got lost on the show - not surprising.  The roads are crazy.  No grid system. The road I live on goes practically straight to my office - a little curving.  It changes names like 3-4 times.  No apparent reason.  So even with a map it can be hard to find things here.

I've been to Sentosa island, but not the zip line.

Friday, April 9, 2010


You can love 'em or hate 'em but I've been thinking about them a lot since my move.  I'm not even sure how to organize my thoughts, so here's a bit of stream of consciousness.

What shoes are they wearing? One of the immediate questions that goes through my head. It's instinctive and don't always realize I'm doing it. But I always notice fairly quickly what shoes people wear and I'll remember them.  I've been intrigued by what I find in Singapore.

I see all kinds, even boots here in the tropics.  But mostly instead of seeing shoes, I see feet.  Toes, feet, heels, everywhere.  It's warm, so socks don't really exist and the less shoe you have the more comfortable I suppose.  Not sure how much I agree with that thought, but I must assume that's the rationale. 

One of the first things I ever keyed in on was women's toenails.  It's not every female on the island, but so often I see toenails that are longer than my fingernails (which can be long sometimes).  It grosses me out to no end.  How can they get so long?? Well, if you're wearing sandals and flip-flops year-round, then I guess you can grow 'em that long.  Or could they be fake? Like women's fingernails in the U.S.?  I heard someone say it's isolated to a certain "stereotype" of women here, but I don't see it.  I notice it on older women, younger women, ones who appear married and single, professionals and non-professionals alike, trashy and really not so trashy.  I have detected no pattern, but that doesn't mean one doesn't exist.  Still creeps me out.

**I have delayed this post almost four months waiting for a pic of crazy toenails.  Finally, in stealth mode with the blackberry camera....I got one, two actually.  Not the best shot, but hopefully you can begin to see what I mean.

The second thing I noticed is that no one wears socks - even when the shoe is fully enclosing your foot! Think of the sweat and disgustingness.  But the weather doesn't allow pants, which means no socks at least not with dress shoes.  And it's too warm for pantyhose for women (yes, no hose worn even in the professional world).  I have grabbed a hold of the no sock/pantyhose theme, but have had to completely reconsider my footwear.  My shoes have to be open now, but not too strappy-casual for work.  So I have peep toe and heel/toe only coverage. I still only have two pairs of heels that work (*found one more when I went home*), which severely limits my wardrobe.  I need to let my feet breathe can you not??  Maybe Singaporeans have adjusted to the climate such that their feet don't sweat (doubtful since the other body parts clearly still sweat).  Someone did tell me their answer was to take off their shoes while at your desk.  That's when my feet aren't sweating...the problem is when I walk, and I can't really take them off then.

The third most important foot consideration is the conditioning of your feet.  I am walking so much more, which is great for my weight/health but I hope not to damage my feet too much (because most of this walking is during the week in my heels).  If you look at the old ladies' feet, yes they still wear sandals so you can easily observe them, they are mangled.  I had foot pain a couple years ago and was told it was bunions due to my pointy shoes/heels.  I had to get rid of those and opt for more "old lady" shoes as my sister would call them ;).  But I've been without pain.  And still am ..... so far.  I don't want to take home mangled feet though as a souvenier of my 3 year assignment in Singapore.  The next concern in conditioning my feet is blisters.  Walking so much in sometimes new or seldom worn shoes can cause issues.  But I found my magic wand.  Band-Aid Friction Block is awesome!! It's smaller than a travel size deodorant stick and fits nicely in my purse.  I always have it with me and can easily rub it on my foot if I could feel some bad, blister-creating friction.  Much better than trying to keep actual band-aids in place (although blister band-aids work really well if you already have a blister). I am not being paid, but it really is a mini miracle.  As sandal weather is starting back home - all you ladies need to get you one!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poll Results

Do you like to gamble?  It seems that I'm with the majority and realize it can be fun but don't expect to win a lot. 

Breakdown of the results:
No way, I have a hard enough time saving my money. Don't need to risk it. 1 (11%)
Every once in a while, but it's a sunk cost - I know I'm going to lose it. 4 (44%)
It's good for a big weekend out and I've come out a couple hundred ahead. 2 (22%)
Love it! The local dealers know me and I have my favorite Vegas routine mapped out. 2 (22%)

For the next question, I understand that it's starting to thaw back home.  It is basically a consistent summer for me over here (apparently it was up to 102 today).  But I would say my kitchen is always kept between 75-80 and that's with the aircon.  It was completely weird not having fall and winter, but I don't notice it as much now.  It's funny though how when it is always hot, you can definitely tell when there's a shift of only a few degrees. 

So how is everyone enjoying spring time??

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Yummy Food

I've mentioned that a co-worker was in town recently.  This provided a good opportunity to explore some new restaurants/foods.  Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera along.  I've tried to nab other people's pics to provide some visuals.

We shared a set lunch.  It's quite common to order dishes here and share as a group. You get your own plate and then just take what you want.  Our lunch had some greens, large bbq fish, chicken rendang and I think some prawn cakes.  Very filling and a good lunch.  I found some sample pictures of food on another blog, Tummy Thoughts.


I'm not good at deciding on a random restaurant to go to.  Whenever I travel, I seem to walk around with whomever I'm with, pass loads of restaurants and just can't make the call on which one to visit.  After walking a few blocks, I said we'll eat at the next restaurant with people. (I've learned that more people means better food.)

Everyone had these large dishes on their table and it looked fun.  But we got the menu and there were a gazillion choices.  Finally I asked our waitress for a recommendation since I never seem to order the best thing from the menu.  She said the steamboat.  It's this giant metal contraption and works similar to fondu.  In the pic above, imagine a large metal bowl, but the bottom is inverted and creates a mini-dome in the middle of the bowl.  Under there are the coals and fire to heat the food.  You pour a water or broth mixture from a kettle into the outside which causes a "moat" surrounding the dome.  They provide chunks of pig lard to grease up your dome grill.  Then we had a plate full of raw meat (pork, shrimp, squid/octopus, scallops, mussels, clams) and a basket of greens, noodles and some awesome long and skinny mushrooms I've never seen before.  You can cook on the dome grill or in the soup/broth.  The veggies, noodles and mushrooms went in there and made an awesome soup to accompany the grilled meat.  Only challenge was trying to keep the raw meat from sliding down the dome into the soup. 

Din Tai Fung
This is a name of a restaurant rather than a type of food, but they are known for their dumplings and they're awesome.  I've been there twice now.

Don't be fooled! The dumplings may look small and ordinary but they are full of delicious goodness.  There are different combinations of contents, but they all have pork.  What makes them special is that they are also filled with a broth/liquid/something that bursts in your mouth.  To eat, you pick up the very tops with your chopsticks, lift (the weight makes them sag a bit) and insert whole into your mouth.  Enjoy!  You need to pick up only at the top because the dumpling skin is weaker below and you're likely to punch a whole and ruin the experience.  No worries, there are spoons for non-chopstick users :).  Apparently there are chains all over Asia. I found another blog that talks about a restaurant in Sydney and it looks to be pretty much identical to the one in Singapore that I visited.  Here's a link to "Grab Your Fork" if you're interested to learn more.  One fun fact is that they have an open kitchen.  The chefs hand make the dumplings and all wear surgical masks while doing it.

My co-worker is a big sushi fan.  I've tried a couple of rolls since being in Singapore but not full on raw fish.  We went to a Japanese restaurant and each picked a few different items.  Forgot to get some pics until mid-way through dinner.  It seemed small at first, but was pretty filling by the end.  We had some edamame, crab rolls with avocado, cucumber and rolled in roe (the bright orange fish eggs), saki, soft-shell crab (you eat the entire crab including the shell), salmon sushi, meatballs and miso soup.  Sounds like a lot, but each dish only had 2-4 items.  Again - blackberry pic.  Still mastering this function and hoping to improve the pics.

There was a restaurant at the same complex as the casino which was featured with the theme of Brazilian and Latin food.  It was a set menu with a couple options for your starter and main entree. I went with the three meat option as I don't always get a lot of straight-up meat in my diet.  My co-worker went with prawns (shrimp).  Usually prawns are the normal shrimp size.  How surprised were we when the plate came out?  They are huge! As big as your hand. A good meal, but not a new favorite. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

>> He has risen.
>> He has risen indeed!

These are the words I am usually greeted with around 6:30am on Easter Sunday morning. Today I made my first visit to church in Singapore.  I woke up late, forgot my bus/train card and it was raining.  So I wasn't sure I would get there.  But God must have really wanted me to go because a taxi came by at just the last minute (during rain it can be very difficult to hail a cab).

I had scoped out the Queenstown Lutheran Church before and walked by there on Friday so I knew where I would be going - which was very helpful in telling the taxi driver where to go.  It's not a large church, two sets of pews with an aisle down the middle.  There are two services - English Ministry at 9am and Chinese Ministry at 11:15am.  I went to the Engish service and it wasn't packed, but still a lot of people.  The bulletin said 195 people where there last week.  I'm guessing around 200 people there today. 

For the most part, the service was similar to home.  The singing was a little more contemporary than I like (guitars with clapping and uplifted arms) and instead of printed bulletins, the service is projected abve the altar as you can see in the picture. 

Some other different items:
1) They had six people (young adults/adults) baptized on Easter.  Made for a longer than usual service (~1hr 45 min). 
2) Communion was a never-ending round table.  People knelt around the alter which is a big square and as someone left, you replaced them in line.  Paster just kept going in circles, or squares. 
3) Offering seemed very secretive.  In Singapore, each bill is a different color.  It didn't look like they used offering envelops, so it is very easy to see how much someone is donating - can't fold up a bill and mistake a green five for a red ten. So everyone kept their money tightly wadded up in their fists before dropping into the sack. 
4) I was one of 8 white people at the service of ~200.  Living here is a good lesson on being a minority. 
5) Before the offering of peace, Pastor asks if there are any visitors or new people.  Clearly I was new, so I raised my hand.  He came over with this huge orange microphone and I had to introduce myself, my name, I'm from the U.S. and am living in Singapore for 3 years.  Offering peace already makes me uncomfortable enough, this was icing on the cake.

Easter service was good though.  Didn't seem like the service was too much bigger or more of a celebration than normal.  Although Pastor did write a new song (to an old tune) which was kinda neat, "Jesus Puts Me at the Top of the World". It was sung to ... I'm on the top of the world; Looking down on creation ...
On my way out, Pastor's wife (Persis I think), introduced herself, tried to figure out my story and hoped to see me again.  She was very nice. 

At 11:15, an English Ministry group was meeting to distribute bread.  I figured this had something to do with communion, but I think they were actually going to hand out bread to all the nearby high-rises (HDBs).  Seemed like a very nice gesture on Easter.  Next time I'll get some pics of the outside of the church and the surrounding neighborhood.

Good Friday is a public holiday in Singapore (and even India I found out).  People were surprised to find it is not a standard holiday in the U.S.  I don't know if the Easter Bunny comes to Singapore.  I haven't heard much about him.  But I have seen in the grocery stores (those targeted more towards Western taste buds) Easter candy and some baskets, eggs, etc. 

I hope everyone has a very Happy Easter!!

**I found my California milk today and bought 3 quarts!!  Now it's time for a big bowl of Cheerios!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Almost Famous...

Remember my miraculous milk finding?? does a body good!  Well as quick as it came, it has disappeared.  I have repeatedly looked at the grocery stores I frequent with no luck.  Today I visited a couple others along Orchard Road, which is the big tourist/expat magnet, also with no luck.  The best I can do is Wisconsin Organic milk which is a hurtful S$9 per quart.  But what else is a girl to do? This is my luxury item.  Unfortunately, last time I bought it, I did not realize I got the lactose free stuff....ew! 

This is not the "almost famous" part.  In looking for milk today, I googled it on my blackberry.  Search "California milk in Singapore" and the first link you'll get takes you to the Real California Milk website which states the following:

Real California Milk products can now be found in a variety of countries internationally and consumers are thrilled. One American living in Singapore recently blogged about her excitement at finding Real California Milk in a local store.

Check out the resulting blog posting below and be sure to look for Real California dairy products at home and when you travel abroad.
And the blog posting referenced.....links to my Milk article above!  I thought it was kinda neat.  It appears to be a legit website, the copyright is for the California Milk Advisory Board, an instrumentality of the Department of Food and Agriculture, State of California.  Sounds official to me ;).

So now, between the Milk Advisory Board and the California Sunshine company, I need to find out when my milk is coming back :).  You think if I play up the fact that I'll be spending S$9 per quart on Wisconsin milk it will help get back the cheaper California milk?? Gotta try all strategies.  Wish me luck!!