Monday, May 27, 2013

The Aloha spirit

Quite coincidentally, the Hawaiian theme was channeled in our household last Friday.  First was the appearance of Lesley-Anne's photo doing stand up paddling on Straits Times Life! section as part of the article on activities for the June holidays.

The photo was provided by my friend Isabelle, founder of the SUP School, something I blogged about a few months ago.  Great to see that it's generating quite a lot of interest!

In the same spirit of Hawaii, we were at Orchard Central for lunch with my sister when she mentioned that she was taking ukelele lessons. This caught Lesley-Anne's attention and as it so happened, there was a music shop right in the mall, showcasing a wide range of ukeleles.

There are four types of ukeleles (from smallest to biggest) - soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.  The great thing about the ukelele is that it's an instrument synonymous with fun, so it comes in many designs and colours. Even Hello Kitty and Spongebob! More importantly, the type of wood, the thickness and the shape all create a different sound, so you need to try each one to see which you like best.

My sister and Lesley-Anne tried out several but there was one soprano ukelele that caught my eye simply because of the aesthetic.  It had a couple of simple carvings that were not too traditional yet not too kitsch. I forgot what type of wood it was made of but the sound was mellow and full, simply lovely.

When my sister tried it, it looked too small for her but when we put it in Lesley-Anne's arms, it looked like it belonged to her, that's how petite she is!  And that's how she ended up with a new toy that day.  (Andre was more interested in the case - he's trying to project the Mafia look here).

The ukelele is a relatively easy instrument to pick up.  Like the guitar, you can download the chord chart from Internet and learn chords quite quickly on your own.  Popular ukelele pop songs include Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours", "Hey Soul Sister" by Train, "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah".  

The ukelele is easier to learn than the guitar as it has only four strings compared to the guitar's six. It's less unwieldy (especially if you're small in stature) and it's also much more portable.  Within the same day, Lesley-Anne could strum to simple songs that didn't require complex chord changes.  Over the weekend, I was treated to bright and chirpy tunes emitting from her room.  It's such a mood lifter.  

All that for just $70.  A small price to pay for happy.

With that, I'm signing off for a bit as we'll be on a vacation break first week of June.  Happy holidays, Mahalo and Aloha!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Invasion of the Grammar Nazis

Lesley-Anne's friend once noted, "you use correct grammar even in your sms-es!"

Yup. She generally doesn't use the teen lingo, such as:

"gr8! cu @ mall w8n 4 u cos dun wan get u d wrg ting."

Such messages drive me crazy and I find them simply incomprehensible. Call me a dinosaur but if being cool entails communicating like this, I'm perfectly happy with my kid being in the uncool crowd.

I'm not sure if it's due to my influence that Lesley-Anne escaped this endemic.  Her grammar obsession extends to other areas of English. In sec 2, some of her classmates did a project which involved testing kids on their pronunciation skills.  Among the words on the list were: rendezvous, lingerie, awry, debut, ensemble, reconnaissance and renaissance.  Apparently, some kids totally butchered the words eg. "ren-der-vouse", "aw-ree".  

Lesley-Anne was one of the few who could pronounce all the words and when her classmates asked her about her ability, she replied, "my Mum is a pronunciation Nazi".  When she recounted the story to me, I wanted to protest but I knew she was right because I had to suppress my urge to correct her pronunciation of "Nazi" ("nahd-zee", not "nah-zee").

It's probably because of our shared passion for reading and writing, that we take such offence to the mangling of language.  I'm not claiming that my pronunciation or even my grammar is perfect.  There are occasions when I've stared at a sentence so long that I can no longer tell if it's grammatical. Being a frequent user of Singlish doesn't help. (My blog probably contains lots of mistakes too but since this is a casual platform, I try not to be too anal about it).

But when I spot glaring errors, especially in the media, it irks me and it looks like Lesley-Anne has inherited this trait. I love this cartoon - it sums up our feelings.  

I think most mothers and daughters have a unique area that they can bond over, and for Lesley-Anne and I, it's the love of words. She frequently discusses books with me and approaches me when she needs help or advice for English or Lit.  It's something that I cherish and I know she does too (even though she may not admit it).  Incidentally, it's not just a one-way street - I'm increasingly seeking her opinion about the usage of words and phrases, and I find that she has a pretty intuitive grasp of what constitutes good writing.

It's far from being a perfect partnership though.  Lesley-Anne's weak spot is maths and in this area, I'm completely hopeless.  She related to me (rather enviously) that some of her friends, when unable to do some maths problems, would consult their mothers.  She told her friends, "you're so lucky. When I asked my mother about log, she said, 'err... log is to beaver'."

Lol. It's true. Ah well, one can only obsess over so many things.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fruit loop

What I'm about to share will turn everything you've ever thought to be true in the world of fruit completely upside down.  So if you wanna live in blissful ignorance, stop reading now.

Lesley-Anne came home from school one day, sighing gloomily, "my life is a lie!"  What happened was that in biology, the teacher had taught them about the scientific classification of fruit and it turned out to be totally different from how we laypersons classify fruit.

For example, if I were to ask, among these four items - apple, lemon, grape, peanut - which of these is not like the other?  I'm sure most people would say peanut because it's not a fruit.  Well, if you did, you would be wrong.  The peanut IS a fruit.  The odd one out is the apple because although it's classified as a fruit, the part we eat is NOT the fruit. The fruit of the apple is actually the core. What we're eating is the modified receptacle of the apple flower.

In fact, many plants that we typically would not consider to be fruit are fruit. To scientists, fruit are products of flowers and usually develop as a result of a flower being pollinated.  This means that all grains, like wheat and corn, are fruit. So are sunflower seeds, green beans and hazelnuts.  

Mind blown yet? There's more. Among these next four items - avocado, strawberry, water melon, cucumber - which of these is not like the other? Now you've probably wised up and thinking, oh, it's a trick question.  Maybe the cucumber is a fruit. So maybe the avocado is not a fruit but a vegetable?  Wrong! All of them are fruit! The one that doesn't belong is the strawberry.  Because it's the only one that's not a berry!

Whaaaaatt?? Yup. That was my reaction too.  In botanical language, a berry is a fruit with seeds and pulp produced from a single ovary.   This means that the following are all classified under berries: all citrus fruit (eg. oranges, lemons, kumquats), grapes, bananas, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, water melons, papayas, guavas, bell peppers, avocados and coffee.  The silly fact is that not all fruit with "berry" in their names are true berries.  Blueberries, cranberries and gooseberries are indeed berries but not strawberries, raspberries or blackberries. 

Our brains can only take so much dissonance.  Still reeling, I asked, "so what's a tau geh?"  Lesley-Anne's classmate asked, disbelieving, "How can a banana and a watermelon be in the same fruit group?"  Lesley-Anne said indignantly, "To sum it up, a peanut is not a nut. A bean is not a bean. A strawberry is not a berry and in a way, an apple is not a fruit. I'm in the Fruit Matrix."

The next time you see a yoghurt label saying 'mixed berries', tell yourself it's all a lie.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A birthday bash with pumpkin fries and popiah

Lesley-Anne's birthday was in April but she flat out refused to celebrate it because it was in the middle of her exams. No cake, no birthday song, she even declined opening her presents.  I think us gift givers were more excited than she was that she was turning 16. I've honestly not met a teen more adept at delayed gratification than Lesley-Anne.

Anyway, the dreaded exams finally came to an end and we took her out for a belated celebratory lunch at House, a restaurant at Dempsey.

It was packed on 1 May, a public holiday. Several walk-ins had to be turned away.  They're doing a booming business.

This was our first time there and the brunch menu was pretty extensive, it was quite a task trying to decide what to order.  We had 6 in our party so in the end, we ordered several different items to share.

Charcuterie Plate ($24): included Ham hock terrine, salami, chicken liver pate, gherkins, walnuts, caramelised onions (yum!) and bread. This is a rather rich platter, can get jelat pretty quickly but for sharing, it's great. 

Pumpkin Risotto ($25). To me, this was the best dish we ordered. Creamy and sweet, and bursting with flavour. My kids loved this too.

House offers a variety of specialty fries. We ordered the pumpkin hazelnut fries ($12) and they were really delicious. Crumbly on the outside, soft on the inside and the paprika gave them a wowza kick.  Next to it is the Fish Basket ($29). It was ok but more run of the mill.

My kids ordered the Old-fashioned American Sliders ($24): a pair of mini burgers with sweet potato and truffle fries. The beef patties were juicy and well done but the fries were way too salty and over-fried. My recommendation is to order their specialty fries instead.

House claims to have Singapore's best tau sar pow and Andre loves red bean paste, so we ordered two of those. You can order them on their own ($2.50 each) or as a set ($8) that comes with a glass of teh tarik.  I'll say, skip the teh tarik.  That was the only item we tried that was a total letdown for me.  Real teh tarik doesn't have honey and I'm pretty sure the tea wasn't actually pulled. Don't mess around with the real thing!

The tau sar pows though, were truly not bad. They're served warm and soft, and the filling is very smooth and creamy. We gobbled them up before realising we'd forgotten to take a picture! A nice way to end the meal, on a sweet note.

That wasn't the end of Lesley-Anne's birthday celebration though.  Dinner that night was also a special treat - my mil's yummilicious popiah!  We only have this a couple of times a year because it's a mammoth preparation job that includes cooking the popiah filling the night before and waking up at the crack of dawn to re-heat and stir the mixture.

My sister and bil joined in the feast. And what a feast!

The belated birthday cake.  One of Lesley-Anne's favourite flavours - Oreo cheesecake.

Happy Sweet 16, Lesley-Anne! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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