NN Header

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Musings through Music

If there is one thing in life I cannot do without, it would be music. It is probably one of the strongest influences in many aspects, and one of the most powerful tools I have ever come across. I often marvel at its magical touch, at how it is able to transport and transform me somewhere far away, ethereal settings I would otherwise have not visited in the normal circumstances.
The Transformation through Music
A pulsating rock music or trance revertebrates through the organs, thumping away in our veins and filling us with an energy that propels tapping feet and swaying hips to turn towards the dance floors, where actions take place to the lure of these fast-beating rhythms.
Like warriors, like animals, like spirts, we all react accordingly to the music that fills us up, forging ahead or stopping to wait for the change in rhythms.


The Tranquility through Music
When stress or tumultuous events take our lives by storm, it is through music therapy that we feel soothed - classical or New Age music that connects with our soul and leads it through a series of tranquility to the inner calm within. It matters not whether we are listening to the quartet strings of an orchestra, the nimble tunes created by piano keys, the gentle flow of the waters, or mellow humming of a seasoned alto artiste, these softly alluring tunes tugs at our heartstrings and slows the beating, tames the breathing, so that when we next open our eyes, we feel soothed.
The Transformation through Music
Have you ever felt an odd sense of deja vu or an eerie sense of being transformed through music before? The effects of a foreign piece of music, or the eclectic rhythm of certain music, has somehow hooked your mind and soul, transforming you into feeling strange sensations that you have not experienced or felt before, or scenes you have not visited in reality before?

Like, the sensual stirrings in a strange irridescent setting, where darkness and colourful metallic tones fill the mind's eyes just like bright skies illuminated in coal skies? Like, immense melancholy invoked by other songs that immediately instill sad scenes or imaginations in your thoughts, tugging so hard it makes you want to weep in the current setting?
Well, I have. I have been brought to indescribable highs through music alone (no, I was not on drugs or alcoholic influence), reveling in the beauty of the strange sights around me even though I recognised nothing at all; letting the power of the music sweep over me and be my guide in these unexplainable circumstances. I have also witnessed frightening suicide or divorce scenes through musical impacts, feeling deeply the agony of the affected characters in my sights, under the influence of certain music - everything happened in a whim, there was no chance for preparation realization was a mere jolt.
The Transportation through Music
I feel music strongest when it brings my memories alive.
Every period of my life is tagged to a certain song or series of songs; a very subsconscious effort on my part. This results in the literal and momentary transportation back to a certain period in my life by the mere strings of a familiar song.  I have songs reminding me of my late Dad, songs that take me back to the cherished high school days, and songs that remind me of my first overseas trip with friends, etc. The feelings that come about are so strong, so intense that when I am being transported back in these periods in my life, all my senses are engaged and I am able to see, hear and smell everything that made up those precious moments. Sometimes, when time allows, I would allow myself more time to get lost and indulge in those memories longer, basking in the happiness they brought me, before snapping out of it voluntarily or with the ending of that particular song that brought me  back in time.
This is what music does for me - providing time travel through albums of my life, my treasured memories saved in every piece of music that coincided at the exact moments, like cameras capturing them in flims.

Music also makes for a good companion, when the rooms get too silent with no one else in sight. The accompaniment of good, familiar music lightens the mood invariably, especially when one gets to enjoy it in beautiful settings or over a glass of quality wine. The hunt for, and discovery of music that speaks to me and connects with me, is a constant sport that keeps me excited about, for there is nothing like music that expresses emotions better.
There is a need for music for every occasion - like carols for the festive season, or requiems for the darker periods of life. It signifies a journey traversed, a period transcended, as well as a part of our life; a simple but beautiful creation that is timeless and caters to all walks of life.
Music, my love.

All The World is a Stage

As I watched the end of a 1000-episode Taiwanese drama coming to a closure finally - after having dragged on for 3 years, a lot of emotions hit me suddenly, and I must say I am surprised. After all, I have never been much of a TV fan except some glimpses of them, or listening to them playing in the background while I do my stuff in the room. Furthermore, this was a Taiwanese drama series - I usually watch American or French TV, thank you.

But, one has got to admit, after catching glimpses of a drama series for three years, you kind of identify with the characters, sharing a familarity with them, like old friends. This feeling is probably akin to how some of us feel close to the characters in "Lord of the Rings" or some of those Superheroes flicks that go on and on.

We not only identify with the characters and their lifestyles, but inevitably, recognize the coincidences of their plights or habits with ours.  Well, I certainly found myself identifying very much with Becky in "Confessions of a Shopaholic" or Elle in "Legally Blonde", cliche as it may sound.


That's when it all hit me, how our lives alone are dramas on their own, and we are performing on an almost daily basis.  "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players," quipped Shakespeare, centuries ago.

The only difference between our dramas is the number of viewers we have, monitoring our life's progress constantly. At home, whether we mingle with our neighbours or interact with our family members / housemates, we are performing, whether we like it or not. Whether we portray ourselves as loud and sloppy at home, whether we portray ourselves as considerate neighbours, we are acting, and people living with and around us are all privy to our behaviours. Whether we choose to smash the ceramic vase in a fit of anger to display our feelings, or whether we choose to portray a calm facade in times of crisis, it is a performance we put up.

When we commute to work, whether we dress up or not, we have audience. If we drive a swanky car and turn heads on the roads, we are putting on a show, and we revel in the attention garnered.  Whether we give up our seats for the needy due to kindness or fear of being glared at by watching eyes, it is an act - act of kindness, or act of social obligations, we are performing. At work, whether we look around to see if anyone is peeking at our laptop monitors, or put up a sales presentation, we are essentially performing as well. It is a different stage now, a professional one where stakeholders and reviews result in compliments or criticism, and has an impact on your "ratings".  Some of us put on a mask in these settings, just so our best sides are being portrayed to the audience at large; it does not matter whether we had a rough night or do not believe in the company's products at all - as long we we could pull off the show, we are deemed good.

The same goes for social  events, meetings with friends, or other functions that we attend. The ways we interact with others, the words we choose to utter, the clothes we choose to wear, and the people we choose to be seen with, are all part and parcel of a peformance. There are some who choose to play down on their wealth, to portray a humble and simple front; and there are those who may prefer to flaunt their wealth, putting up pretenses of possessions they may not have.


Some of us want to hide our sorrows and problems, whereas others create drama with their issues wherever they go. If we piece all these together, or have just that one watchful audience following all the events of our lives; it is all a very entertaining and meaningful drama.  The audience - whether people in real lives watching us from different angles, or followers on our social media platforms - form impressions based on the shows we put up, the facades we choose to exhibit. Therefore, like it or not, we are acting on a daily basis, performing for strangers, performing for people who know us, performing actively on life's stage, dancing the dance with steps that only we could master and singing the tunes that only our hearts know best.

Years later, we look back upon our own lives and deeds, viewing them like filmstrips running through our minds' eyes, and either rejoice in the beautiful memories or wonder why we did not put up a better performance when we could. You don't need to be an actor or actress to act well; just perform well on stage of life, in your own movie, and that would be akin to producing the best movie requiring the highest skills and accolade.


Saturday, 4 July 2015

Dinner at Oasis Bay Restaurant (海京楼台湾粥) @ Toa Payoh Pavilion

303 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh Town Park, Singapore 319393
Tel: 6346 4418

This was another family dinner, celebrating the Mom's birthday as well as Mother's Day, since both occasions coincide in the same month. It would always be a dinner for 6 - always and forever....the number could only go up and not down :)

Anyway, why Oasis Bay Restaurant? I had already made reservations with both Li Bai (Sheraton Towers) and Hai Tien Lo (Pan Pacific), truth be told.   The Bro suggested here because the food was not bad. And this restaurant has replaced another Chinese seafood restaurant we used to visit as a family when younger - located at the same circular building, with no air-conditioning, but served very good seafood and zichar dishes.

Before and after dinner, we would take walks around the lovely garden pavilion, admiring the pond as well as trees dipping low like willows. We would also snap plenty of photographs as a family, before heading into the restaurant for live seafood feast. Oh well, those were the days - that was what, nearly two decades back?

So, we decided to come back to new-yet-familiar grounds to reminisce, and check out the changes.    Oasis Bay (Taiwanese Porridge) Restaurant is a good-looking restaurant with comfortable settings and very good service - I took a lot of recommendations from one of the male staff, and they were all very good recommendations.    Yes, I brought one of my Rubis chocolate wine here to celebrate (corkage fees of SGD$10.00 applies), and yes, the Beau and I were late so when we got here, the appetizer of ikan bilis (SGD$5.00) was gone.

We started with the Herbal Kampong Chicken (SGD$16.00 for small) - tender, well-moisturized and tofu-smooth chicken pieces infused deeply with the aroma of Chinese herbs, every bite contained a "swish" that instantly filled the palate with the delicious herbal flavour.

The Spinach with 3 Eggs (SGD$10.00 for small) was made up of fresh spinach in clear broth, egg, salted egg and century egg. It was light on the palate and made for a great balance amongst our meaty indulgence tonight.

We also had a Giant Garoupa with Leeks in Claypot (SGD$45.00).  Fresh fish is always distinctive in flavour and texture, from the luscious taste of the flesh to the tautness of the texture that gives way upon a gentle bite or cut. This giant garoupa has all the above properties, and tinges of the leek and gravy it has soaked up, making for a superb recommendation.

I wanted a serving of these Fried Sotong (SGD$13.00 for small), thinking that it was the tiny deep-fried sotong heads we used to eat. You know, the ones they fry till dark brown? It turned out to be calamari - I do love them, but just a little odd to be ordering it here. Nonetheless, the battered exterior was crackling and the chewy flesh was lovely.

Honeyed Pork Ribs S(DG$12.00) graced the table next, sweetening the palatte with its saccharine taste, penetrating deep into the succulent pork. There was a sleekness to the texture that was very pleasurable, making it a favorite amongst us.

Next, Crayfish with Spring Onions (SGD$24.00) and Deep-fried Buns (SGD$3.00) came to us for exaltation. Looking at this dish was appetite-whetting enough , the egg sauce, the tantalising looking crayfish, and the crispy buns. Fresh with bouncy texture and dose of seaworthy sweetness, the crayfish sealed the clatter of the teeth beautifully; paired with gravy-dipped buns, one could easily hope for more, even after the plates have been wiped clean.

The Congee (SGD$1.50) was a bowl of velvety sweet-potato porridge, going well with most dishes. The best thing is that there is free-flow of this porridge for every bowl ordered, hence it was a common sight to see one pot of this situated at nearly every table.

Time for desserts! Mango Pudding (SGD$5.00) was silky enough and not cloyingly sweet, retaining a subtle mango aroma to it.

Then we had Jelly & Longan (SGD$5.00), very refreshing and jolts the senses awake with its cooling touch. The jelly was so smooth it slid past the throat easily, leaving the aftertaste of its flavour lingering long after.

Finally, some Water Chestnut Cakes (SGD$5.00) which is basically diamond-shaped pieces of mochi-textured cakes filled with juicy, crunchy bits of water chestnut within. The sticky texture of the cake was delightful - I love sinking my teeth into these textures - while savouring the hints of nectarous water chestnut slowly.

Overall, it was an enjoyable meal with a warm and hospitable ambience to boost of. I would love to be back!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Tea Time at Black and Ink Cafe @ Eunos / Changi

168 Changi Road #01-01 / 02 Fragrance Building, Singapore 419730
Tel: 9620 1022

It was my third attempt at Black & Ink Cafe, and finally managed to catch them OPEN! Located at a commercial building and standing out rather distinctly, it is just a stone's throw away from Eunos MRT. I passed it enroute for meetings at another nearby building, and wanted to check this hidden gem out. Too bad I was always here on Mondays or Tuesdays - the days they are closed.

When I spotted the OPEN sign today, I popped in gaily, and found myself face to face with Roy (@eatwithroy), or more commonly known as "Big Roy". He was really friendly and took pains to ensure that the food was good. "No printed menu yet" was what he informed me, so I chose from whatever was on display - a tough feat since everything seemed to beckon.

I totally dug the vintage chic settings of this monochrome-themed cafe, right down to the old-fashioned "coffee shop" chairs and white marble-topped tables. The quilted mirrored-wall added a touch of elegance, as well as length to the sparkly interior.

From Lavender Earl Grey cakes to Banana Walnut Peanut Butter cakes  to Matcha cakes, as well as an interesting array of fresh-ingrediented, less-sugared gelatos / sorbets, I wish we had a bunch of us here so we could order just about everything.  Nonetheless, I sampled the ice-creams:

(i) Very Dark Chocolate Sorbet - velvety, bittersweet and so rich you won't believe its "sorbet" - their most popular flavour at the moment
(ii) So-Ur Plum - nice wordplay on the word "sour", but so mine.  If you love hints of sourness in your ice-creams, something refreshing and uplifting, this was probably made with you in mind
(iii)  The lidded one was the Mao Shan Wang sorbet - again, so rich and creamy you have a hard time associating it to "sorbet". This was so delicious, it made me think of fresh durian flesh being left in the fridge, and served chilled.

(iv) Then I also sampled the Dirty Vanilla - distinctive flavour a la old-fashioned vanilla, only stronger, a sapid fragrance yet no sickening milky taste to it; the texture was beautiful as well
(v) Yuzu Honey - being an avid yuzu lover, I was pleasantly surprised to note that this flavour was not toned down by sugar, but it was being played up to its fullest citrusy aroma, filling the palette with real yuzu taste, melting the heart instantly.

The ice-creams go for a mere SGD$4.00 a scoop; available in tubs for SGD$18.00 (except for Mao Shan Wang, SGD$22.00).

Ok, getting down to serious coffee business - I asked for an Iced Mocha (SGD$6.00), served in a thick glass that gives it a translucent outline in photos. I love the bittersweet flavour of this coffee, tinged with chocolate tones lurking amongst the tastiness of roasted coffee beans.

Then I had my Earl Grey Lavender Cake (SGD$5.00) and ate it too. Crispy on the outside, with a solid, yet soft texture within, exuding strong notes of lavender and earl grey in every bite. In this unique creation, it was surprising to note (and I noticed it subsciously - emailing away on my tablet while eating) - the nose was able to smell the fragrance of the cake all this while too. The lingering fragrance never wavered, even as the cake was already being chewed into a messy pulp by the eager molars.

Next, the Salted Egg Yolk Muffin (SGD$4.80), which Roy personally recommended, but I had already set my sights on it the moment I came in, because I love all salted egg yolk dishes / pastries. Do not be deceived by the seemingly innocent exterior - the muffin retained crunch, and tasted like digestive-biscuits crumbs, delicious on its own.

Prying apart the top revealed a very pleasant surprise - the pool of yellow, which in Chinese dimsum, we recognize it was "liu sha" (cascading lava custard) in a healthy golden tone. The sandpaper-textured liquid gold flowed over the tongue slowly, settling in nicely - a very lovely muffin overall, and the most special I have ever tried.

Just in case you wonder why I am gushing - no, this was not an invited tasting; and no, I did not know Roy until the accidental stumble upon this cafe. But yes, this is a hidden gem, with the best pastries so far, no fuss or muss with the extra decorations - inviting the flavours themselves to do the talking. So if you are an avid cafe-hopper or pastries-lover, do drop by and try for yourself the fresh, innovative creations.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Dinner at Prego's Italian Restaurant [Revisit again]

2 Stamford Road, Lobby level, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore 189560
Tel: 6431 6156

It was time for dinner with the SIL again, and I stole the opportunity to go to Prego's again, for their traditional, authentic Italian fare in an unpretentious setting. It is my fifth visit (at least) whereas her first, so I was hoping she would enjoy the fabulous food here.

For my previous entries on Prego Italian Restaurant's dining, please feel free to visit here and here, to see how their menus have evolved over the past couple of years.

When one enters the restaurant, they would pass by shelves of delectable desserts and pastries - the only pity is that all these are only available for takeout and not dine-in.

One also transcends the Anti-pasto counter where there's a variety of pastry, ham and cheese for about SGD$5.00 each. Then the Tiramisu shelf filled with tempting-looking cakes.

The Focaccia starter was rather different from the previous visits; served with salsa dip and butter on the side. It was still soft and fluffy though.

For mains, we had the Strozzapreti (SGD$34.00) - an interesting longish pasta with sauteed mushroom, crumble pork sausage and spiced tomato sauce. The tarty, tangy sauce was satiny smooth and the pasta had a texture - soft, but maintaining a certain pasty level that gives it a good bite. The sauteed mushrooms and crumble pork added a tasty overture to the dish.

I had the Penne Tartufate (SGD$32.00) with sauteed mushrooms and creamy truffle sauce. The taut penne pasta went very well with the swishy-juicy mushrooms. The creamy sauce was rich and luscious, the perfect dish for mushrooms lovers.

Overall, it was another great dining experience with attentive service and flavourful food.