Monday, May 31, 2010

Poll Results

Wedding Bells! Spring-time heading into summer usually is the kick-off to the wedding season. How many are you invited to in the next 6-9 months?

No one has 5+; My summer weekends are accounted for!
Two people have 4-5; A little crazy, but still able to book some personal time for fun.
No one has 2-3; A perfect amount of time to catch up with family and friends you don't often see.
Two people have 1; I can focus my celebrations on the one lucky couple :).
One person is having Just a relaxed summer.
One person has Been there and done that. It's baby showers and birthday parties now!

That's one bad thing about being so far away from home, missing out on key events.  This past weekend, my cousin got married!!  It sounds like it was a wonderful time and fun was had by all.  I wish I could have been there to celebrate with them. 

Congratulations to the happy new couple,
Brian and Danica!!

The beautiful couple at the ceremony. 

And to make the night even better, Hawks win!!  I'm sure that's not the only reason for smiles though :).

Tim (cousin-in-law) and my brother with some smooth moves on the dance floor.

Pics courtesy of my Mom :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Latest food updates

I've had a few interesting food encounters lastely.  Last week I saw veggie noodles on the menu and thought I would give them a try.  Not sure what they're made out of, but they taste like normal noodles only neon green. :) 

One condiment I've grown to love is the Asian equivalent to the crouton/cracker. They are little fishes (at least I assume they are), baked/fried or something. Can you see them on top of the noodles and dumplings above?  They are crunchy and salty and really just a nice addition to most Asian dishes. 

A not so wonderful food story happened on Monday.  I was working from home in the morning and decided to make myself lunch (a sandwich) before going into the office.  It was a turkey, cheese and (fried) egg sandwhich.  Pretty good.  I hop on the bus to work, get off and at the cross walk find myself looking around for garbage cans because I don't feel so hot.  It is good to know that the Singapore garbage cans are the ones with holes on the side - not friendly if you're feeling ill.  It wasn't too bad though and I made it to the office but then the elevator was there.  I thought I would have to skip out to a lower floor.  I got off, immediately got sick in the restroom and went in to tell my secretary that I was going home for the day.  I figure it was either the lunch meat or egg.  I'm fine today though.  It was the oddest thing. 

And tonight I'm getting a McDelivery. I held out as long as I could, but I am now a routine customer of the McDonald's delivery service. It's very convenient to order online.  They usually arrive before their scheduled time (except tonight they don't seem to be early).  For a while, they had cinnamon roll thingy oferred all day which was really wonderful.  The scooter above carries my delivery man.  No worries, I'm not the only one ordering in the condo.  Well, it at least makes me feel better :).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Running (well, walking) again

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a 5.6K run (~3.5 miles), the JP Morgan Chase & Co. Corporate Challenge.  While it was officially a run, there were plenty of walkers, including myself.  I had good intentions of training for a month+ when I first signed up.  But weeks kept going by, I got home late from work and was not motivated to start running.  A few years ago I got into running for maybe the only time in my life with a "Couch to 5K" podcast that eased you into a running program over 9-12 weeks.  You only run 3 times a week and it combines running and walking to get you to a point where you can finally run the whole time.  The first time I followed the podcast I got to week 6 or 8 and completed a full 20-minute run.  Then I went on vacation to Greece and never got back into the routine.  For some of you 20 minutes may not seem very long at all, but it was HUGE for a former soprinter that couldn't really last more than 2 minutes even in her prime of high school track.  I've never done better than an 8-minute mile. 

The race started on a bridge near the marina and was full of people.  This was the front half and that's the start line with the blue banner in the background.  I was in the middle.  I was waiting to meet someone, didn't realize how many poeple were there and ended up having to walk to the back so my running partner could find me.  The second pic is from the back.  I had been almost right under the balloons and you can see how far away the starting line is now.  Needless to say it took me a few minutes to get to the start line.

The race started at 6, so this was about 10 to 6.  I was already sweating.  If you got stuck in the middle of everyone, there was no breeze and it was so hot.  The final tally was 11,753 particpants.  The race started and begins slightly downhill.  I thought "Ok, I can do this."  After running what seemed like a little while, I was thinking they should really have markers along the way so you can see how far you've progressed.  Then a few minutes later when I saw the 1K sign I realized they already thought of that, I was moving like molasses.

I don't drink many fluids during the day and I think that hurt me quite a bit on race day (in addition to the fact that I was not in shape).   I ran to the first 1K marker, well except for one clog on the race course where everyone had to stop/walk.  But then I had to walk.  A drink station came up, I grabbed a cup and it was like I was in Mario Kart and just hit a speed booster.  I started running again, but maybe lasted 0.5K before my speed booster wore out and I was resigned to walking the rest of the race.  Below are remnants of the hydration station although this is after the actual garbage dump, cups everywhere.

Towards the end of the race, my legs were okay to start running again, but I think was pretty dehydrated at this point and don't think my body could handle trying to exert more effort.  Women twice my age from the local American school were speedily walking by me.  A bit depressing to say the least.

My running partner had long since left me at my request.  She also had not trained but was able to continue running to the finish.  She was texting and cheering me on to the end :).  Coming down the home stretch we passed by the F1 pits.  (*I've bought my ticket for the F1 races in September, so hopefully the next time you see these stalls they'll be full of amazing race cars & crews.)  You can see everyone else is also walking at this point.  I ended with a whopping time of 58:02 (pretty sure I can normally walk a 10 minute mile).  But I finished and picked up my complimentary banana, water and bag of goodies.  To put some perspective on this, the women's winner ran a time of 21:42.  I was 3385th out of 4,088 women.  So clearly not as bad as it could have been.

I got home and my tank top under our team running shirt was soaked! I mean thoroughly soaked.  No wonder I was feeling so bad. I never sweat that much.  I high school (yes, over 10 years ago but still) I didn't need to take water breaks during practice and during the winter rarely broke a sweat.  So it was amazing to me that I had soaked a tank top.  I woke up the next morning a bit grouchy (not really sore).  I think it was all my body's way of telling me I needed more fluids and to train a bit next time.  The humidity in Singapore is really unreal and I completely underestimated the effort required for this little jaunt.

It was a good time though and I know better for next time :).  I have to improve on 58 minutes right?? How can I not :).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Year Older

Last Thursday was my birthday.  Work is still pretty busy.  So when my mom called at 6:45am, I was just hitting snooze and opted not to answer.  Lucky I didn't because I was tired and grouchy and she was happy, excited and singing me Happy Birthday.  I might have been mean :).  And when my dad and sister called in the morning the U.S. time (evening here), I was still at the office.  I knew this would be the case and instead of celebrating on my birthday, I'm hoping to take off a day in the next week or two and treat myself to a spa day!

I had received two package notifications in the mail earlier in the week, so I had planned to work from home in the morning so I could collect them after 8:30 when my nearby post office branch opens.  Unfortunately only one was there to be collected - I got the other one along with two more on Saturday morning!  It was for the best to open the packages on Saturday as it definitely started a waterworks show :).  Being so far from family and friends really opens your eyes to how important they are and probably how much I have under-appreciated them in the past. I love and miss everyone so much!  And I'm blessed with great gift-givers :). Here's everything that came!

Top left, clockwise:
Cubs t-shirt from the super Cub fans in South Bend (aka Aunt Mary & Uncle Craig); burnt orangish scarf/shawl from my sister - always wanted one but can never pick one; Happy Birthday cup cake from Shaun - had some air, but wasn't still floating after the trip over; some more Chewy bars from my sister (I was just running out!); some more cupcake fun fruity pebbles style; some random sparklers - that's mom :); fun new undies thanks to Shaun and Mandi's great taste; a journal to record my goings on (what can't be shared in blog land); two crazy birthday cards - from two crazy sisters who unknowningly almost got me the same cards that sing happy birthday in crazy animal/alien voices, too funny; decorative magnets and cute/inspirational post-its from said sisters; religious plaque from mom - always reminding me that God's watching out for me; Grandma's cookies!!! has to be #1 - I could smell them as soon as I opened the tupperware dish; black jelly beans (awesome pick Tom! can't find 'em here); and as always an elephant - this one is from Kate and I love the bright yellow and orange flowers (it wasn't the only elephant - the undies had a safari surprise).

Thank you to everyone, it really made my day.  I don't know if I'll make it home any time soon, but can't wait to see you all!

-- Mom & Dad, Grandma, Katie & Tom, Curtis, Aunt Mary & Uncle Craig, Shaun (& helper Mandi) --

and thanks to all for the FB happy b-day wishes!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poll Results

What seafood do you like?

I was suprised to find that the closest item of seafood to get everyone's praises was crab/lobster (4 out of 5).  I thought shrimp (prawns) may win everyone over (3 out of 5).  I am a big fan of crab and lobster and one dish they are famous for in Singapore is the Chili Crab!  I've had it on a few occasions.  The whole crab is cooked in this kind of sweet and spicy chili sauce.  You get these really great rolls (steamed or fried) to dip in the sauce.  It is all very wonderful!  Come and visit and we shall feast :).
Here's how the poll shook out -
Prawns (shrimp) 3 (60%)

Fish (any kind) 1 (20%)
Sushi/Sashimi 3 (60%)
Scallops 2 (40%)
Crab/Lobster 4 (80%)
Mussels 1 (20%)
Calamari 2 (40%)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Queue up!

That is queue as in "Q".  It's everywhere here in Singapore and it simply means line up.  It helps things to be efficient here.  For all the people, at least I can say that people generally follows the rules of lining up and generally you don't have the 'cutters'.  But even when you do, they get called out!  I was at lunch one day and in line at the drink area (drinks are sold from a separate stand than food).  I'm waiting behind someone and in from the right came another lady who proceeded to try and order in front of me.  The person behind the counter said no and pointed to me.  I was so happy :). 

Anyway, the point of my story was a recent visit to the bank.  I get paid here in S$ and it goes to my Singapore bank account.  However I still have some expenses to pay in the U.S. and needed to get cash back home.  Usually I only go to the ATM at the bank.  This day I walk in and wander around like I'm clueless (which I was).  The security guards ask me what I need to do....transfer money.....okay, fill out this form.  Then they bring me a number. 

I fill it out and then get to sit and wait in the comfy sitting area.  Watch some news station and wait for my number to be dinged.  Everyone followed the same process.  This was the same process as when I went for my required physical for starting work.  It works really well.  What I realized that I liked most is that you don't have to play Russian roulette in deciding which line to join.  You don't have to guess who is going to take the longest, who forgot to endorse their checks, who has twenty questions, etc.  Everyone is in the same line and you don't get held up. 

It was SO much easier than I imagined and only S$10 for the transfer.  I was expecting like S$30-40.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Anything biting?

Last night I went prawning (i.e. fishing for prawns).  It was a work event.  We have a small group and we try to do group outings every now and then.  I had heard about prawning from another American who's here and she tried it earlier in the year (Asian Red Head).  I was worried about being hungry, but luckily food was served first and the prawning was the activity.

I forgot my camera and only got some partially blurred pics from the blackberry.  Basically we went to this big park that had small ponds built into the decks.  Groups can rent the ponds, which are filled with prawns (large shrimp - see pic below).  You get 5-10 minutes of instruction, poles (which are sticks with fishing line, bobber and hook on the end), bait (diced up chicken liver), a seat and a net basket to keep your prawns in. 

They varied in size and color, some more blue, some more clear/white, some pinkish.  Those blue "legs" up front are pinchers.  You had to hold them by the back of the neck to not get pinched.  I did get clamped once, but it wasn't too bad.  You slid the tiny chicken liver on the end of the hook, dropped it in, waited for your bobber to sink, then waited another 5-10 seconds and pull 'em out.  Just like fishing, sometimes your bait gets eaten, sometimes you hook 'em and still have bait left.  The hook would be right in the front of the prawn beneath all those antennae on the bottom side.  I guess that's their mouth? :)

I was fairly successful.  I think our group (3 people) caught around 15 in around an hour/hour and a half, which was average I would say.  Here's me and my team with each of our first catches.

I think the winning group collected about 6 kilos of prawn.  Here are the bags of all the prawn caught by our group.  We did get some fresh prawn thrown into the pond about 2/3 of the way through. 

Usually once you've caught your prawns, you BBQ them.  Since we'd already eaten, our group wasn't keen on cooking and eating more.  So I'm not sure where these all ended up.  Can you throw back prawns like fish? I hope they weren't wasted....there were a lot.  I did see some BBQ going on though and I wasn't heart broken to not eat the prawns because it takes some effort to do so.  I believe you basically skewer the whole prawn, drop it on a mini grill and get flame grilled prawns.  Maybe they get boiled first or something to kill or numb them.  I'm not sure.  But they are BBQ'ed in full dress - head, antennae, legs and shell.  So it becomes hard and messy work decapitating and peeling them.  On another occasion, where I hadn't caught them, I ate some prawn kabobs, so I do have experience with eating them. I was told that's why prawns are enjoyable - I'm not so sure about that.

It was a fun night and reminded me of fishing with Grandpa.  Miss those days :).