Shortly after I picked up the Goofy stuffed toy from Hannah’s favorite character from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cartoon series, I asked her to pick her second favorite character – which she immediately replied ‘Pluto!!’. The toy arrived over the weekend from an eBay reseller in California, and Hannah’s two bed companions are now Goofy and Pluto.

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Pluto looks like he’s getting choked!

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Desktop ready wallpaper.

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Yoshinoya brunch on Sunday. Mommy just woke up LOL.

And what’s the third character going to be? It’s Donald LOL. The first two pictures were taken at Saturday morning’s brunch at the newly renovated Hougang 1. The small mall used to be named Hougang Point, but since its refurbish was completed a month or so ago, the place has been added to our list of regular brunch haunts. The new Kopitiam foodcourt is a lot more cheerful looking now with bright lighting (it used to look really dreary), though the hawker stalls aren’t different from the usual suite of stall types you find in typical foodcourts here.

Pomelo is the largest citrus fruit in the world. It is rich in vitamin C and potassium. During the mid-autumn festival, it is a traditional must-eat item along with the mooncakes. Pomelo symbolises family harmony and abundance.

Thick rind peeled off…the rind released a sweet fragrance :)

As far as I know, the best eating pomelo comes from Tambun town near Ipoh in Malaysia. The soil and climate there produce the much sought after plump, sweet and juicy pomeloes. And the brand which I usually buy is Sunny Fruit. Recently, NTUC is selling the Sunny Fruit pomeloes at $6.99. What a steal! Sunny Fruit pomeloes are usually quite pricey and only sold at respectable fruit stores. I just bought one from NTUC and was pleasantly surprised to discover that its pulp is pinkish. Nice!

Pink crystalline pulp – ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hannah had tried pomelo about a year ago and didn’t like it. However, she was instantly hooked when I offered her some of Tambun’s pomelo today. *Yay* :) It’s nice to have someone in the family who can appreciate this lovely fruit with me.

Delicious fried Hokkien prawn mee cooked by an uncle and served by an auntie.

The stall is located at a nobody’s coffeeshop tucked underneath a multi-storey HDB car park off one corner of Tampines town. I wonder if the stall even have a name! It is called ‘Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ or ‘Wu Ba Ye Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ if you prefer your prawn noodles to be served on a leaf. ‘Wu Ba Ye’ is opeh leaf in Chinese. This is a type of leaf sheath used to hold cooked dishes such as fried kway teow and hokkien prawn mee.

Nowadays, almost every food court and coffee shop in Singapore houses a stall that sells fried Hokkien prawn mee. However, most do not impress. Perhaps I’m too particular. Too often I find myself regretting having bought the noodle dish after eating a few mouthfuls and forcing myself to finish the rest in order not the waste food. I used to enjoy Geylang Lor 29 fried Hokkien prawn mee but the last time I was there with our angmo friend Matt, I felt that the yellow noodles had a strange taste.

Waves of umami right down to the last bite :)

This ‘Wu Ba Ye Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’ stall serves really tasty fried Hokkien prawn mee. The flavours of all ingredients were balanced and well incorporated, noodles were cooked with the right wok temperature and sufficiently moist without being soggy. The prawns were reasonably juicy too. Lard was served with the noodles but I always pick them out, hee hee. Oh ya, the chilli complemented well with the noodles too. We have bought this dish from the stall for a couple of times already and I must say that the quality has been consistently good.

Give this stall a shot if you’re around the vicinity k. Let me know what you think :) For more information, the stall is in a coffee shop called Soon Hong Food House located at Tampines St. 72, block 742A (beneath multi-storey car park). They are closed on Mondays. Opening hours are from 11 am – 10 pm.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken evening pictures, and have forgotten how wonderful the colors can turn out with a good low-light lens. The following were taken yesterday evening at our cellgroup friend’s apartment block near Punggol Drive. We’d arrived early, so explored the nicely landscaped herb garden at the second level for a bit. The garden had several fruit plants that seemed nicely cultivated. All taken  using the E-M5 and 20mm lens.

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Very warm lighting evident from the picture. This was around 7:15 PM.

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Mommy and Hannah poking each other, while the duck is getting choked.:)

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Reaching out to touch bananas.

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Going for the Tin Pei Ling Kate Spade look!

A bit of a funny incident yesterday too. Hannah has learnt not to reply ‘what?!” whenever we ask her a question. While driving home yesterday, when Ling inadvertently responded with the same when she couldn’t hear what I was saying, Hannah chimed immediately; “Mommy, cannot say ‘what’!. It’s very rude, you know!”

That got us chuckling, and again mindful of how quickly young children pick things up and are able to apply them to all kinds of situations they believe similar.:)

Taking barley drink to cool down our bodies on hot days is a common practice amongst the Chinese. There is the barley drink and then there is the China barley drink. One is the true barley and the other is the imitation. Just kidding…! :)

China barley aka coix seeds aka Job’s tears

I did some homework on this grain and here is what I’ve gathered. China barley is native to Asia but has been grown worldwide. Although it looks like the big brother of pearl barley (i.e. the true barley), it belongs to a different genus and hence is technically no barley at all. Perhaps due to its production in China, it has been called China barley. Other names for this grain are coix seeds and Job’s tears. In Chinese, it is called 薏仁 (yi ren).

Before I write this post, I don’t have the faintest idea of the benefits (and ‘dangers’) of consuming China barley or that China barley isn’t barley at all. I simply assumed that it was also a cooling grain just like pearl barley. After finding out more on the Internet, I heaved a sigh of relief that China barley is generally beneficial to health. Yes, it has cooling property just like pearl barley. On top of that, it is able to strengthen the spleen, enhance immunity, prevent swelling, remove pus, treat symptoms of diarrhoea and arthritis. Other properties include inducing diuresis and excreting dampness (a TCM term which I have little clue). And I felt good when I read that it could enhance complexion too, hee hee. As for pregnant ladies, do try to avoid China barley as it might interfere with development of foetus.

I was introduced to this grain when my mom started adding it to her home-made cheng teng (清汤). The sweet fragrant taste of China barley left an impression on me then. It is something which pearl barley cannot match up to.

I used to brew pearl barley drink for Yang to help him cool down or ease his cough-induced sore throat. However, I am not fond of pearl barley drink at all. I found the resultant texture too gluey for my liking. I like my cooling drink to have a somewhat clean and refreshing taste. Just a couple of weeks ago, China barley came to mind and I decided to try brewing this type of cooling drink for my family instead. And I was delighted to discover that not just Yang took to the drink positively, Hannah became hooked to it. She has been asking for barley drink ever since. As this is a cooling drink, it should not be consumed in excess and prolonged periods of time.

Okie dok, enuff said. About the recipe, I adapted it from a pearl barley drink recipe from Food4Tots.

Ingredients

Ingredients for our China barley drink

  • China barley – 200 g
  • candied winter melon (冬瓜糖) – 80 g
  • rock sugar – 50-60 g (adjust sweetness according to preference)
  • pandan leaves – 3, washed and tie into a knot
  • water – 2 litres

Method

1) Rinse China barley thoroughly until water runs clear.

2) Soak the China barley grains with 2 litres of tap water for an hour in a big pot which they would be cooked later.

3) Add candied winter melon to the pot and bring water to boil.

3) Once the water starts boiling, skim the scum from the surface. Cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer (gentle bubbling) for about 1 hour.

4) At the last 10 minutes of simmering, add the knot of pandan leaves and rock sugar.

5) Stir to ensure all rock sugar has dissolved. Scoop up 2/3 of cooked barley, some candied winter melon and pandan leaf knot and discard.

6) Serve China barley drink with some of its grains and candied winter melon, warm or chilled.

The cooked grains and winter melon are both nice to chew on.

I usually keep the excess drink in bottles in the refrigerator and warm it up in batches for the next couple of days for consumption. For Hannah, I limit her consumption to 1 cup (~ 190 ml) per day.

 

While coming home from brunch over the weekend, we spotted that the numerous Trumpet Trees along Buangkok Drive were all in full bloom. Quite a beautiful and colorful sight; that after parking the car, we walked out to the main road for Hannah to play with the flowers and get some specimens home.

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Trumpet Tree at the juncture of Buangkok Drive and Punggol Road.

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Many of the flowers have already fallen onto the pedestrian pavement.

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Quite a beautiful carpet of flowers on the ground!

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Our block along Buangkok Drive. We could also see a similar blooming of flowers opposite the road at Punggol Park.

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Hannah picks flowers!

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She looks a little weird with a ballerina-styled dress… and slippers LOL. She’d worn the dress with proper dress shoes while out at brunch, but slipped into a more comfy pair of sandals during the quick switch-over.:)

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Home with a bunch of flowers.:)

It’s semester break for the students at my institution, though not really so for faculty. Still, it does make available small periods in which I can clear the huge bunch of Annual Leave I’ve accumulated. It’s harder to get Hannah to smile naturally for the camera these days. Not impossible – we just find ourselves having to work a lot harder than before! I suspect it’s to do with the fact that she’s wised up to my antics when she sees a camera pointing in her general direction. In fact, she understands this whole concept of picture-taking now, what with Ling lending her her Sony camera to try taking pictures of us.:)

The first group of pictures here below were taken across two weeks; last weekend and this couple of days.

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Dinner @ Qiji. She’s still decorating her seat with toys.

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Yesterday evening at home and during daddy-daughter play-time.

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As before, she’s at her most chirpy just after her evening shower and during these bonding sessions.

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These are bounced flash shots using a Metz digital flashgun with the E-M5. Lighting’s a bit harsh. I can never get the same kind of natural lighting with this Metz/E-M5 as I can with the SB600/D7000.

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This morning just before we headed out of home.

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Still with her favorite sheep.

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All smiles, but trust me when I say she’s developed ‘moods’!

These two below were with the D7000 + 35mm f1.8 while we were out at Serangoon Nex for weekend brunch @ Swensens. I’ve picked up a Bosstrap – similar to our Ang Mo bud’s one – a couple of weeks ago and have it semi-permanently tethered to the D7000 now, though bringing a D7000 with a gunsling-styled strap out to a very public shopping center still makes me feel a tad conspicuous!

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Playing with Mommy’s Neo Xperia V handphone.

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Pretty OK bokeh at f2; though nothing as nice as what you’d get at this aperture with a full-frame. Center sharpness is nothing shot of amazing too.

The screen on my 1 year 4 months iPad 2 went kaput over the weekend. Initially I was just astonished. Weren’t Apple products commanding premiums because their products do not compromise on quality? But here’s the funniest thing. After Ling found out that the tablet’s screen was failing, she said meekly that she’d accidentally step on them not once but twice a month ago while reaching out to close the curtains in our room.

Sigh. I went about looking for a replacement tablet, doing up the usual comparison tables and the like – and listed down about a dozen Android tablets alongside the new iPad Retina models to decide which one to pick up. The iPad Retina’s screen is amazing, but at about SGD800 for a suitable 3G model with the lowest memory capacity, it was just too much to pay for a replacement. The new Galaxy tablets – Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 – were great and loaded up with a reasonably current version of the Android OS, but were also priced around SGD750. A real contender was the Galaxy Tab 7.7 with its amazing Amoled screen can be had for about SGD560, but I eventually went with one of the cheapest 3G models I could find that had the least design issues according to reviews; the Motorola Xoom 2 3G 32 GB – which I picked up at Challenger for SGD499.

After a day of configuring the tablet and loading it up with productivity applications, my overall impression of the tablet is mostly good, moreso considering the bargain bin price I paid for it; the tablet cost twice as much just 8 months ago. The strengths of the unit include its build quality – it feels more premium than the Galaxy 10.1 inch tablets – respectable battery life, and that Motorola has just rolled out Android 4.0 for it. That’s not mentioning that while the Google Play Store isn’t as slick as iOS’s equivalent nor are many of its applications on it optimized for tablets, the customizability of Android for me still far outweighs that. The above picture is a skinned theme with GO Launcher HD – something I could never achieved with the iPad unless I jailbroke it.

As for the problems with the hardware itself; well – the screen simply isn’t as nice as Samsung’s Amoled screens especially in color contrasts. It’s bright at least though. And the design and placement of the on/off and volume buttons are awkward – insufficient travel and too closely situated to each other.

Oh well. Can’t complain since I got the tablet for very cheap. And apparently the tablet is rapidly running out of stock island wide, what with the amazing price that Challenger has put onto this.:)

Both copies of Hannah’s photo book arrived yesterday morning, after spending just under 48 hours in transit from the printer’s Seattle office to Singapore. The most recent pictures that made it into the book were just taken on the 2 Sep, and it took just about a week for Blurb to produce a high quality book, and ship it over here.

It was a bit of a risk choosing all the most expensive print and shipping options. Each of the Standard Landscape 10×8 inches (25×20 cm) 220 pages books cost USD109, with the ProLine Pearl photo paper, ProLine Charcoal linen and ProLine Black End sheets options, alongside USD38 with FedEx’s priority shipping. But seeing the final product, I’m glad I didn’t scringed. Even Ling remarked how distinctly better-feeling the paper felt and sharper the photos looked.

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Two copies of the book just after delivery; one book is still shrink-wrapped.

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Volumes III to VI.
Top left to right; from Ling’s pregnancy to Hannah @ 3 months old, Hannah @ 8 months;
Bottom left to right: Hannah @ 1 year old, and lastly the new book, Hannah @ 3 years old.

Hannah took a lot of interest in the new book too, asking if she could look at her own pictures inside it. What’s even the more amazing is that just at past the age of three, she’s able to now remember many things from as long as nearly a year ago. For example, presents she got for Christmas and who gave them to her when looking at the pictures with our Christmas tree last December, and easily even more recent events like our Telunas Resort trip. And she remembered our Ang Mo bud quite well too, pointing to a photo taken of the two and chiming excitedly that “Uncle Matt was with us at the beach!”.

The irony though is that Hannah has been a little grouchy this last week, and no longer smiles for us for pictures. Hopefully it’s just a temporary phase since she’s been also a little sick (like Ling and myself) with a viral cough. Otherwise there wouldn’t be picture material for me to do the inevitable Book VII. :)

Another monthly check-up on The Minton condo, and this time the 10th and 11th floor of Block 158. The place is now about 15 months away from estimated completion. The Sigma 18-250mm lens came along for the check-out this time, and that enabled a couple of zoomed-in pictures to see the construction of the property’s facilities.

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Panoramic stitch from the corner of Blk 158 level 11.

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This should be the Grand Clubhouse.

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Entrance and driveway into the property.

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Construction men working on the air-conditioning balconies.

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Close-up look at the unit balconies reveal that the planter areas are pretty deep.

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Tennis court.:)

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Hannah still in a somewhat grouchy mood! :)