Monday, April 15, 2013

Black Pepper Crab

Woke up early on sunday and decided to visit the wet market just opposite from our flat where you get the freshest produce as compared to any supermarket. As usual I went a little crazy. After having bought a loadful of fresh fish, we walked past a spice shop as we were about to leave and they sold freshly made black pepper crab paste. I bought a container thinking I could try it out with different meats apart from crab. on our way out of the wet market, I bumped into the friendly fish monger whom I bought our fish from, and decided to ask if he knew anyone who sold crab in this market. Sure enough he did! He walked us to the stall, and told his friend to give us the better graded crab and even to give us a good discount. How lovely!

And so we headed home with fresh live crab! It was our first time doing this, and we didn't really know how to prepare crab for cooking. We also didn't really want to cut them up while they were still alive. So we fired up you tube and found a great video on a more humane way of putting them to sleep - pop them in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. Boiling a crab live, stresses the crab and it tends to tense up it's muscles making the meat tough after. Hey! Something new we learn everyday!

After much struggling, we managed to clean, prepare, and cut up the crab before making our dish. No pictures since it was too messy and I couldn't get hold of a camera.

Final result was good though. Bon Appetit!

Baby Shower 13 April 2013

"Do you want a baby shower?" - was all it took to put it into action, by my dear cousin and sister. These two gals are one of the best people in my life whom I truly can rely and depend on when all else fails. It was also this duo that helped me a tremendous deal through the organization of our wedding back in 2009, and made it fun for us.

Everything was planned by the both of them. All I was asked to do was to provide them a guest list for this shower. I didn't know how many to invite, so I just went ahead with my own estimation and 13 in total came for this party including me. I later on realised that they were planning for a small size of about 8. Oops!

It all turned out well though. I was happy they did this for me. I got to catch up with so many people and friends that I have not seen or heard from in a while.

 So everyone who arrives get a name tag. Mine was obvious.

And everyone got to write my daughter a diaper message. The idea was for her to wear them when she's out. My favourite message - " I like big butts and I cannot lie". We all had some home cooked lunch courtesy of my cousin for 13 people, after which they surprised me with a beautiful cake my sister picked up!

I'm really glad they did this for me. It makes me feel really special. And my daughter's already spoiled silly by all these aunties.

Thank you everyone for making this so memorable for me.

Thank you for supporting me and being with me through every milestone of my life.

I was initially apprehensive about meeting this many people since I have not seen anyone in a while, and I was pretty conscious about the total amount of weight I had put on. So much so Julien calls me his "little whale" now and sometimes "moby dick" just for variation. But who cares really about some bit of fat when they are more concerned about me, and are excited to see my daughter in the near future.

On behalf of my darling girl, thank you aunties. We are very blessed.

Chip & Dale

April so far has been fun, fun, fun!

I can't remember where I saw the advertisement first but it was for an event titled "The Ultimate Ladies' Night Out - Bad Boys Australia". This was accompanied by a marketing picture of a row of men with muscular topless bodies. And I thought, hey why not. Called my sister and my cousin, and we were set for our ultimate ladies' night out. What was absurd about this was, we were going for a 'strip' show with a mother of two on maternity leave (she just gave birth), an almost popping pregnant lady, and one that just got married who thinks she has the best at home. But who cares. We went anyway - we were all eager to get out of our daily routine. And boy did we have the VIP treatment, compliments of the preggers.

We did not have to queue at all even though we arrived a little late. We were also escorted up by a bouncer to the event location, and were given a VIP table just beside the stage without having to pay any of these VIP prices. The only condition I had to fulfill, was that I was not allowed to order any alcohol. These were management orders, I swear. They even allocated a guy on duty beside our table so we could tell him whatever we needed, and he could get our drinks for us, etc. Is this awesome or what?! We were squealing even before the show started.

And even better when the show started. My sister, was the loudest standing just in front of the stage giving occasional wolf whistles to the boys as they lost their layers. haha! Apparently, in other countries apart from here where they perform, they end up only in their Gs. Unfortunately due to "regulations" here, they ended up in tight short boxers. Boo! My cousin, on the other hand, got called up the stage twice where the bad boys danced about her and shook their booty! It was hilarious. I laughed so hard I almost started labour. And as the finale, one of the bad boys did a knee skid on stage towards our table, and gave my sister a kiss on the cheek as the show ended with blinding lights and a big bang of confetti. I seriously could not stop laughing. We were having a ball of a time!

The great service didn't stop right there. We stayed a while longer to club a little, before telling the bouncer that we were off. Again, we were escorted out with us having the right of way. He cleared the crowds so we could go through. Reeling from the adrenaline, we didn't want to go our seperate ways just yet, and decided to have coffee. Who knew we were going to end up staying out chatting till 3am!

My darling husband, had told me earlier that day not to bother coming home early because he was going to be out later than I am. I decided to call him just to tell him I will be a while longer where ever he was, only to realise he was already home. What cracked me up was how he pretended to be at a club, putting the music up and all while in the house. Ah, my darling yeti.

I can't include pictures of the show as it was not allowed but Girls' Night out was fun. I'd do it again soon.

Very satisfied customers indeed!

'Last' Travel

Each time we go back to the gynea for our monthly visits, we always ask for a new referral letter for that month because we were travelling. As mentioned in my last post, since I wasn't really allowed to travel in the last trimester, Phuket was the last of my sorely missed trips before I deliver in June. Short drives or ferry trips with Julien are also a no go. Safety's first.

This trip to Phuket turned out much better than expected. Always a good surprise when your trip surprises you in the end with a great experience. We had one whole villa to ourselves with our own private pool. We have been to a few villas like this on our trips but I guess this time I also really enjoyed our quality time alone. It gave us the opportunity to really catch up with one another. Lately we were always talking about baby stuff, and work, and finances, it was just nice to talk about anything but. Our days were also filled with organising the baby's room, weekends were for travels to collect baby stuff, apart from work. Hence we gratefully indulged. Even better still when you can hold your conversations in your own pool with an ice cold beer/drink. We could just do this forever.

Since I fell pregnant, we have been getting a lot of privileges. Upon arrival, we were told that we would be upgraded to a bigger double storey Villa, that was closer to the reception office - which we later found out was a lot more convenient too when calling for transport, etc - and even better yet, for the 'inconvenience' caused because we didn't really get the villa we requested for, they offered us a bbq dinner on the house. We decided to have it that same evening. It was great. We spent the whole afternoon after lunch doing absolutely nothing by the pool. Talking, laughing, reading, lazing, sunbathing, swimming.... we were in our swimsuits all day.

Dinner arrived prepared in a huge dim sum basket filled with goodies that evening. There were vegetable kebabs on the first tier, and fresh seafood on the bottom. Too much food actually, with a whole fish wrapped in aluminium, shrimps, squid, and crab for just the two of us. It was a real luxury eating to our hearts content (we didn't finish the vegetable kebabs), and then having a nice dip in the pool after. That was how Day 1 ended.

Next morning, we woke up to the aromatic smell of spices & thought, hmmm, we should go grab some breakfast. Then we realised the aroma was coming from downstairs. Hungry, (amazing right after we had eaten so much the evening before), we went downstairs to be greeted with the wonderful sight of breakfast prepared and served for us. Julien had opted for the European breakfast, while I went for the local breakfast. We wasted no time on getting started with breakfast & had a short dip in our pool before heading out to the beach!!

Service was great! They had given us a mobile with a credit of 50 bhat so we could contact them if we needed anything throughout our stay. There was the buggy service that took us everywhere and back, of course at specific times of the day. We didn't go off the scheduled buggy times as we heard through the grapevines and confirmed by another couple we met on the trip that the place was 'owned' by the local mafia, and that taxi fares were exorbitant! That couple we met on the trip got charged three times the normal rate just from the beach to their villa, which was literally just a 5 min drive. Yikes!

We arrived at the beach, and oh was it just beautiful! Fine white sand, the blue of the sea that merged at some parts to be emerald, we were in paradise!

Wish I had taken a panoramic view of the beach because this just really doesn't do it justice. We found a nice quiet spot with our parasols, and sat there for hours! Typically in Thailand, there were peddlars going up and down the beach selling their wares, and batik fabrics. It was great. You could get yourself some food and drinks without having to get up at all. What I loved about this beach was that there were the locals, I think they were paid to do this, or not, picking up the trash littered by the tourists who were there, and didn't care less about the environment. It was great because plastic bags on a beach are bad news to the marine life in general. It was like they really cared for their beaches and that was awesome to see. Of course we threw our trash in the bins.Why go to a place only to destroy it and never be able to go back again?

There was another scheduled ride to a place of interest with a panoramic view of the islands, and we thought it would be good to go see and make some nice pictures for memories. Upon arrival, at the foot of the hill, there were a line of street vendors selling all sorts of street food! Your nostrils were just greeted by and assortment of fragrances! We weren't hungry since we had eaten by the beach before coming, but there was an ice cream stand which I gave into in the end. Of course coupled with the fact that it was a damn hot day. This vendor served his ice cream, in a fresh coconut that he would prepare for you. And you could top it with any of the toppings he had available, and at any quantity for the same price. There was a huge choice of fruits, jellies, chocolates, nuts, coconut shavings, and the most odd thing to me, RICE. That seemed to be a huge hit with the locals. Rice on ice cream., yup! I settled with an assortment of fruits and jellies, topped with a few nuts. You can't see my toppings in the picture because he'd asked me to select them first before scooping on the ice cream. It was really good still though. Reminded me of ice kachang in Singapore, which was sweet flavoured ice shavings over fruits, and sweet beans, and corn and what not that you could choose, only this is replaced with ice cream, and served in a bowl of coconut with fresh coconut meat. Good stuff!

Anyways, not to deviate, but we arrived at the top of this hill, and the view was absolutely breathtaking. This time, I took a panoramic, but even that didn't do justice to the place! It was absolutely lovely. It was also a spot where you could catch a great sunset. We did just that. Even with a panoramic shot, I was not really able to capture this beautiful sight from a wholesome angle. To the left of this picture, where the coconut trees are, is another Island. What was really interesting about it which I was not able to capture, was that there was a lone island on it's own with no bridge what so ever. The only way you could get to it was by boat. And there was a temple built on this Island.

I couldn't get close enough to have a nice shot armed with only my camera phone. But this was simply amazing. Where we were, we could actually do a short 5 min track down the hill to a spot just opposite this mysterious island, and take some good pictures. I really wanted to, but I wasn't allowed because I was too pregnant and "safety's first". Pfffffttt... I do regret not having done it, but I guess I could always come back after with our daughter and take that picture next time.

When the landscape is this picturesque, it's easy to make nice photos without really being a pro. Here were some of my favourites.

 Compliments from Julien

 The evening sun that casts the sky a vibrant shade of orangy pink

A few more glimpses

And then it was gone.

It makes you really happy just appreciating the majesty of it all. We went back to our villa, and as usual did our usual swim in the pool before having dinner served right at our doorstep! Day 2, and we had forgotten we had another complimentary dinner. We were happy to eat our local dinner in, since we were pretty exhausted from the events of the day itself.

Next day we were starting to get used to the pampering. We came down to a different spread of full American breakfast this time with bacon and eggs, not complaining. It's still a luxry to have someone cook for you. Just as good but filled with a lot of fat that didn't sit very well in Julien's tummy. Fortunately, he got better quite fast. We wanted to do something cultural that day! Too much lazing by the pool and beach we felt. Ha! Us telling ourselves that. It sounds ridiculous!

Truth be told, apart from the beaches, there was really nothing much exciting. Unless you really are someone who likes temples, and what not. We love the beaches more, and personally for me, waterfalls. I spent a big part of my childhood travelling to waterfalls in Malaysia and swimming in them. So anything with water is good with me. We had planned out an itinerary of visiting a the oldest temple in the area, Wat Chalong, and then up to a waterfall, and on the way back to our villa, to explore another beach along the way. As there was going to be a lot of travelling, we rented a car.

Wat Chalong covered a huge surface area. There were different temples everywhere but they were all Wat Chalong. Here's what I mean.

 An awesome view from the tallest part of the temple, although I don't know if this statue belongs to the temple or another.

 The locals here buy gold leaf and place them on the statue

We took a lunch break after visiting the temple. And stopped by this street restaurant along the way because I was craving from bbq chicken. Again I wish I could have showed you a picture of how the place looked. it was really bare but not dirty or shabby. There was a bbq pit set up in front of the shack, by the road where cars drove past, with an assortment of freshly bbq-ed meat over the rack. Behind the pit was just a wide space of concrete flooring where tables and chairs were laid out. and at the back, a small open kitchen with a small make shift wok stove, and a rack of bottled drinks. Very simple, but clean and well kept, and oh boy, the food that came out from it!

This was just a bowl of beef noodle soup, only packed with a lot of flavour, that is disctinctively Thailand. Love it. With a side of bbq chicken -  divine. All this enjoyed with fresh made ice tea. We didn't have a stomach upset at all considering this was authentic street food. We know because it wasn't the touristic street prices we paid.

After filling out stomachs we were set for the waterfalls. I was really looking forward to it because it's always nice to relive something in your childhood. Plus, the last time we really enjoyed ourselves at the waterfalls in Langkawi, Malaysia, I was really wanting another experience like that. This was already against Julien's wishes due to my pregnancy. As with all waterfalls, there has to be a hike up to it. And the higher you go, the fresher the water. We went anyway. So we arrived and started to hike up. Our agreement was, the lower tier the better, as long as the water looked ok. We reached the first tier, and the water looked stale. So okay, I was still motivated to go up to the second tier. We went up some more, and it was worse. There was no water. One more I said. I hear water, and I was determined to find it, crossing my fingers that the third tier would be the tier. Reached it, and there was a shallow pool of water that reached up to our ankles with a slight trickle by the side. I think it wasn't the right season. By then, I had broken my  "lower the better" by two tiers, and Julien was too much of a feast for mosquitoes to let me go one more tier up. We climbed back down disappointingly, and headed to the beach. I was pretty happy that at least I got to hike a little even if we didn't get to see the waterfalls. So that's why there were no picures either. We didn't take any.

The other beach we explored was nice, but realised that it was a lot smaller than the beach we had at our villa, and not as nice. We had one of the best beaches in the area! But we were also too tired from the day to beach hop. After a few more hours, we headed back to our villa, where we managed to catch our own personal sunset by the pool, for a good end to Day 3.

We tried to make the most of our last day knowing our holiday was coming to an end. Woke up really early to have breakfast. We requested for breakfast to be prepared earlier that day so we could head to the beach right after that since we still had the car. Spent a few more hours there relishing the sun, sand, and waves, before heading back to our villa for a last dip in our favourite pool. We hadn't thought about lunch but by then we had so much food leftover from the bbq night on the first evening that I used all the leftovers to make us fried rice for lunch, which amazingly was pretty good. We didn't buy any condiments since our meals were all included so thank goodness I found a bottle of soya sauce. Else it would be plain rice we would've eaten.

A really nice family vacation location that I would recommend and definitely come back again.

The missing months of Jan & Feb 2013

Since I realised my Gynea (and Julien) was not going to give me the green light in travelling probably in my last trimester, I packed my second trimester - mainly the months of Jan to March with a trip each month. This was the only period I was allowed to travel, and I definitely wasn't about to shortchange myself.

We went to Penang with my parents in January to celebrate his birthday. We didn't take much pictures of the trip somehow. One commonality between all the trips though was that I needed to be close to nature. So there had to be a part of the trip or all of it where we were close to the sea. Too much city life makes me miss the ocean. Penang was just a short 3 days where we spent most of it by the beach. We didn't go to the heart of town but were more at the outskirts of Penang closer to the ocean. Perfect for Julien and I. For my parents, it was more a food expedition trip for them which was fun too, since there was a huge vareity of choices of night markets where our hotel was located.

February in France was COLD! This is probably the first time I wasn't able to adapt as quickly to the weather changes. The hormones maybe? Hehe. We took some time to travel to Sables D'olonne to visit some friends from Singapore who had moved back to the region for the time being. I really missed them and their 3 kids. We used to hang out at their place pretty often on weekends while they were in Singapore. They really are an inspiration to me. A very positive couple who believe anything is possible, and nothing is more important than family. What a great value to pass on to the next generation. 3 kids? No problem! (just kidding).

Sables D'olonne was quiet at this time of the year, but I appreciated the time alone. Was great going to the port to look at the boats that were in that Sailing competition. I can't remember the name of that race at this point.
What's wonderful was that our friends helped us find accomodation for the few days we were there. (Many thanks to you both!). Look how close we were to the sea! I miss them a lot. Their kids are great! They LOVE ton ton Julien. Which kid doesn't?! He's like Santa to them.

Hospitality is always great each time we're back. I went through a phase where I had a crazy craving for chilli. And I do mean crazy. Like I had to have chilli ALL the time. Sometimes even in the wee hours of the night. Our friends made us curry while we were in Sable D'olonne. And so did my MIL. =) mummy Liz's curry was so good, I had three helpings. Rare for me, even in Singapore because curry is quite a heavy dish.

Looking forward to being back in December (perhaps?) with the little one! Soon soon!

Ting & Julien.

Playing catch

Wow, April already! I seem to be playing catch each time, with time. How ironic. I tend to forget we have a blog. FB did a really good job marketing wise or conditioning rather. My first instinct would be to update a page there than in here. Does that make me one of those crazy ppl who post every moment of their lives? Hmm I guess so. Ha! Well all that's probably going to change once our daughter is out. Julien doesn't want me posting any pictures of our baby girl on Fb. I can understand why. Although for me,I'm so excited I can't wait to show her to the world!

Anyway, since I am playing catch, there are a few interesting things that happened, although repetitive if you're on our FB. Then again, FB does not have the space for luxurious story telling like in here. I should write more. Not everyone's on our FB. Plus it's not as personal as narrating a picture.

Just earlier this year, I have started a scrapbook for our daughter. I was overwhelmingly happy after one of the Gynae visits that I felt like I wanted to write down my thoughts to her. So I went straight to a paper shop and bought a nice scrapbook of which I have been updating since - journaling Momentous events I thought she may find interesting when she's older, of our lives while she was in my tummy. Memories like these on daily life, or little routine gestures of care and love get forgotten too easily. Unfortunately, unlike a blog post where I can simply upload pictures from my phone, I will need to print them out. And that's something I have been procrastinating. I haven't been able to find a photo store that prints them in small sizes for cheap. Apparently smaller sizes fall under custom printing and that's a lot more expensive. Maybe I'll give that book to her on her 16th or 18th birthday? We'll see..

Just one to start to say hello again and n that we're both alive and good. :) oh! And we're excited about being parents in 2.5 months or less. Well, excited, happy, nervous and apprehensive to be more honest. I'm sure it'll be fine. Fingers crossed!

Ting & Julien