Inspirational Quote of the Day

"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." —Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, January 23, 2016

InterNations in Penang January 2016

I had good fun being at the InterNations Penang January event. This time, the event was held at Halfwake Cafe located at Lebuh Melayu in George Town, Penang.

The address: No. 24 Lebuh Melayu, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

The sun is setting; early birds...


Loved the art!

Jazz & Pop by Elyssa Daze

Lovely balcony.

Friends chilling at the event.

Time to tuck in!

The Raggy Project: After our event, we went for a Round 2 and paid another good friend a visit at The Canteen, China House.

Do check out Halfwake Cafe's post about this event on their Facebook page:

A wonderful event at Halfwake Cafe last Saturday. Thanks to InterNations members who joining the get-togethers and meet-ups event held at our cafe. Glad to know that you like our food, music & ambiance.
Posted by Halfwake Cafe on Thursday, January 28, 2016

You can find out more about InterNations here. And if you're an expat, all the more reason why you should be joining!

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Friday, January 22, 2016

A STREET CAT NAMED BOB, by James Bowen

Chapter 1. There's a famous quote I read somewhere. It says we are all given second chances every day of our lives. They are there for the taking, it's just that we don't usually take them.



Ever since I moved to Singapore, I have decided not to buy books, but instead, to use its awesome public library services. National Library in Singapore is so good there's almost no reason to buy books, except well, this time. For Bob and his James Bowen.

I came to know about Bob the ginger tomcat about two weeks ago. I don't know what took me so long but it was when I saw a video of him and the street musician on my Facebook newsfeed that Bob caught my attention. I decided there and then I will buy his book to show my support.

I finished A Street Cat Named Bob in one day. It is a fast read and certainly an enjoyable one. I couldn't put it down because I had to continue reading to know how the story goes, in London, between the street cat and the penniless street musician who is on the recovery from drug addiction. Bob was in a rather bad shape when Bowen found him one day in his apartment building hallway. Bowen did not immediately take Bob in, but after a few days, he relented. It worries him, though, because he could hardly feed himself, so how is he to care for another being? He did it any way and that action changes Bowen from that moment on.


Throughout the story I can feel Bowen's love for Bob, and the trust Bob has in Bowen. That guy does his best to care for the cat. Bob follows Bowen when he busks and instantly becomes a hit with the people. It's not all rosy and nice because there will always be nasty people around (those that love giving hell to others).

This is a beautiful memoir and a wonderful testimony of true friendship. It's a straightforward narrative (but never a boring one!) of a journey towards healing and responsible living. This is an amazing story. I'm now reading its sequel, The World According to Bob.

It's not easy when you are working on the streets. People don't want to give you a chance. Before I had Bob, if I would try to approach people in the pubs with my guitar strap on, people would go 'no, sorry' before I'd even had a chance to say hello. p.90
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People don't want to listen. All they see is someone they think is trying to get a free ride. They don't understand I'm working. I'm not begging. I was actually trying to make a living. Just because I wasn't wearing a suit and a tie and carrying a briefcase or a computer, just because I didn't have a payslip and a P45, it didn't mean I was freeloading.

Having Bob there gave me a chance to interact with people. 

They would ask about Bob and I would get a chance to explain my situation at the same time. They would ask where he came from and then I'd be able to explain how we got together and how we were making money to pay our rent, food, electricity and gas bills. People would give me more of a fair hearing. p.91

And... my Hong Kong Bar picture of Bob has made it into the Around the World in 80 Bobs blog! This is so nice and unexpected. Thank you, Bob and James Bowen!



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Friday, January 01, 2016

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, by Ken Follett

I must admit I have a fear of big books and The Pillars of the Earth is a HUGE book. It’s not that I don’t like these big guys, but the thought of getting started and then sticking with them until the end seems daunting. What if I’m not committed enough to finish the job? However, with Pillars, that fear is completely unnecessary. This epic novel is literally unputdownable.

I bought it for my personal library collection in November 2008 and seven years later, I plucked it out of my bookshelf and got started. I can no longer claim that Pillars is my first historical novel because that place was taken by Wilbur Smith’s River God, which I read sometime in August this year—loved that one!

Pillars is set in 12th-century England and concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town Kingsbridge. The story brings together three ambitious men: the idealistic and humble Tom Builder, the pious and compassionate Prior Philip, and the unscrupulous Bishop Waleran Bigod. The four-decade story spans from 1135 through 1174 and throughout those years, I went on a roller-coaster ride of my life experiencing the struggles, religious fights, battles, and my goodness, there is never a shortage of problems that affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. I must say I’m not a big fan of the Hamleighs and the brute William Hamleigh is an idiot. There are also no shortage of independent and resourceful women in Pillars. My favorite is the beautiful and bewitching Ellen who was mistaken for a witch. I really like Jack, Ellen's son.

The choices we make in our life really do affect the outcome, and in the case of Pillars, for many years to come. Aliena, the young and strong-minded, beautiful daughter of the ex-Earl of Shiring has refused to marry William Hamleigh and canceled the wedding causing the Hamleighs much humiliation. Although she can’t be faulted for the ensuing mayhem after that, she does seem to be the root cause of the problem (at least that’s what she thought for herself, too, many years later). And then just when you think your life will become better and more secured, hell breaks loose or new sets of problems emerge. Life is hard for these folks, more so if you're a woman in the Middle Ages.

For all the suspense and treachery in this epic tale, I had my burst-into-tears moments. Pillars is also a good love story. Here are some of my favorite passages:

Aliena: But he had noticed her: he had loved her secretly all those years. How patient he had been! He had watched as the younger sons of the country gentry came to court her, one by one, and went away again disappointed or offended or defiant. He had seen—clever, clever boy that he was—that she could not be won by wooing; and he had approached her sidelong, as a friend rather than a lover, meeting her in the woods and telling her stories and making her love him without her noticing. She remembered that first kiss, so light and casual, except that it had burned her lips for weeks afterwards. She remembered the second kiss even more vividly.

Jack: ‘My mother fell in love with an oddity.’

Action, intrigue, violence, passion, architecture, politics, ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge, love, forces of nature (famine, storm). The Pillars of the Earth has them all. This is the best book I’ve read in 2015.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saturday Afternoon of Gourmet Food and Wine with Chef Max

I had great fun yesterday afternoon upstairs at Jammin Via Pre indulging in Italian pleasure with paired gourmet food and wines. The cooking demo was by Chef Max, founder of the NERO GROUP in Kuala Lumpur (his restaurants: Nerovivo, Neroteca and Vineria). He was assisted by the 23-year-old Chef Luca from Florence. The food was delicious! I loved the wine selection too.

The event has certainly brought back for me fond memories of Italy when I was there for three months last year in the deep south. The food samplings at the demo were:

The western north: Piedmonte and Liguria
  1. Focaccia Ligure 
  2. Involtini Bresaola
The deep south: Puglia (I was here!) and Sicily
  1. Calzoni Fritti Siciliani
  2. Crema di Melanzane Calabrese

Chef Max explaining how to make the focaccia ligure dough. Tips:
  • Press down the toppings so that they will not detached after they're cooked.
  • Olive oil (OO) is good enough and don't use extra virgin OO as it'll just be a waste (literally up in smoke).
  • When preparing the "growing agent" the less yeast you use the better (7 gram is ideal for a normal-sized dough). 
  • Water and vinegar helps the yeast to grow, and stir it until bubbles form which will help the yeast to grow even more. 
  • Keep working the dough instead of adding water even if it feels "dry" because as you knead it, it will become softer and moist.
  • If the dough still sticks to your hand when you knead it, the dough is not ready.
  • Adding potato into the dough will help it last longer.

This is how the focaccia ligure dough looks like when it's ready for toppings such as salami, cheese, mozzarella, and olive oil.

Chef Max assisted by the young Chef Luca from Firenze (Florence). A variety of toppings being placed on top of the focaccia dough.

The Urbani Tartufi (truffles paste) used for the involtini bresaola (air-dried beef). Chef Max gave two recipes: 1) with tomatoes, anchovies, and rocket salad (Liguria); 2) with truffles, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano (Piedmonte). Chef Max has warned against using truffle oil which is nothing but chemical. For the ricotta, it is best to buy ready-made instead of attempting to make them yourselves as you could get into tummy troubles if you're not careful.

Chef Max holding a bresaola he's wrapped.

My two versions of the involtini bresaola. Yummy! I especially liked the tomatoes+anchovies+rocket version.

Onward to the calzoni siciliani (stuffed Sicilian patties) and here's one of the many. It looks like a karipap!

Here are the ready-to-eat calzoni siciliani. I also re-posted below a short Instagram video of the panzerotti (similar to calzoni) that I took at the Il Grottino Minervino Murge in Puglia.

A video posted by Alice Teh (@aliceteh) on


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Monday, November 16, 2015

Currently Reading: British Language & Culture

British Language & Culture is a hilarious read. I borrowed this book from the National Library in Singapore and have been thoroughly enjoying it. For example,

'It's all gone pear-shaped.' The thing to say when things go terribly wrong.

'Steve's having a whizz in the crapper.' But one is to use this with caution according to LP. Whizz (or piss or slash) means urinate, and crapper (or bog or lav) means toilet. Now replace Steve with whatever name you have in mind and here's where it gets funny (at least to me, it is).

The Brits are a complicated lot. And very interesting too. Almost anything they say is opposite of what they meant. Here's another example,

'With all due respect...' actually means 'I have no respect for your view.' See what I mean?

I'm now on page 45. The other sections in the book are:
{ A Short History of British }
{ Speaking British English }
{ Living Life – the British Way }
{ Eating, Drinking & Making Merry }
{ Sport & Entertainment }
{ Slang & Misunderstanding }
{ Regional Variations }
{ Regional Languages }


What are you currently reading?

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Updates from Singapore: Settling In

So in September this year I received the great news that I will be transferred to Singapore for my new role. Well, it's not exactly a new role, but an expanded one with a different client (Microsoft!), so I'm REALLY excited about it.

It has been a crazy busy time for the past few weeks managing my new work (and the old one because I'm still helping with the transition), and of course getting myself settled down in a new country. In this case, thank goodness it's Singapore because everything then becomes super easy. Singapore is amazingly easy to navigate and dealing with all the government agencies was pain-free.

In the frantic-ness of dealing with everything that came my way, I have not been documenting the process but here's a summary version of what has happened:

Employment Pass (EP) — Checked! This was handled by my employer, so all I needed to do was to show up at the Ministry of Manpower and finalize everything else such as registration and finger printing. The whole process took approximately four weeks. Everything else (see below) is dependent on this EP, so...
Local Mobile Phone — Checked!
Bank Account — Checked! I love, love, LOVE the service rendered by the bank. Superb customer service by great staff.
Housing — Checked! I managed to secure a nice one-bedroom apartment and my real estate agent is a joy to work with.
Library Membership — Checked! I'm loving the National Library!
Changi Rewards — Checked! I'll be spending a lot of time at the airport, so it's only wise to sign up for this membership.
Transportation — Checked! My iPhone is now loaded with all the useful apps such as SMRTConnect, SBS Transit (iris), How2Go, and various taxi apps by SMRT, Comfort, GrabCar, and Uber. I've got my EZ-Link card too, which is a really nice card to have  because besides using it for the MRT and buses, I paid for my library membership with it.  


I'm blending right in! More updates on my Singapore adventures coming your way.


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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Updates from Singapore: I'm a Library Member!

I became a library member last Sunday! I joined as a foreign member and the whole process was seamless and so efficient from start to finish. I did some research on NLB's website prior to the visit and found out everything I needed to know such as the fee, payment mode, location of all the public libraries, etc. I signed up at the Central Public Library (Victoria Street) very near the Bugis and City Hall MRT stations. The customer service staff was helpful and in less than 10 minutes, I became a member.


I'm very impressed with Singapore and the way that things just happen so smoothly there. The process and execution are flawless!


For more information on membership, please visit the NLB Membership page.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

5-Bullet Friday

It's been a while and I've been away sorting out my relocation to Singapore. Yes, I'm moving country!

So I finally have some breathing space and remembered that I have a blog. I started blogging for about 10 years now (started in 2005), gained lots of new bookish blogger friends (because I blog a lot about books), and then I became inactive because of my work (this started like five years ago).

Today, I checked my inbox and saw Tim Ferriss' email titled 5-Bullet Friday. I decided to shamelessly copy him (I'm so inspired!). This weekly dose of “5-Bullet Friday” thing according to Tim is a list of what he's enjoying or pondering. So, here's mine:

Music I'm relaxing toIU - Glasses (안경) (Thank you, Sarah R. for posting this on your Facebook; and that's how I got to know about this cute song.)
Best podcast episode I found this week — I only started listening to podcast this week and the first one I've enjoyed was Leo Laporte's TWiT (This Week in Tech). This week's episode 535 features guests Om Malik, Ben Thompson, and Steve Kovach and it's about transforming journalism, Amazon brick and mortar, Comcast caps, and more. I must thank Simon P. for his influence on all things podcasty.
What I’m watching (short video) Otto the bulldog sets a Guinness World Records by skateboarding through a human tunnel of 30 people. Otto is so handsome and what a skater dude!
Something saving me time — I’ve gotta give more thoughts to this one. I promise I'll have something to say next week.
Quote that has influenced my mindset “Most people assume that meditation is about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually, it's about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going.” -ANDY PUDDICOM

HAPPY WEEKEND!

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