Arrangements

We went to the florist (Ji Mei) at Far East Flora in Thomson to get some flowers for Ps Carol’s ordination. She got a lot of flowers! But I was happy to pass her a bouquet for picture taking (forgot to make one side lower so they’d show up in the photos)


Made an arrangement of pink roses with peacock flowers and monsteria ferns. Actually I was just copying one of the arrangements in the shop but with some embellishment. Ji Mei is a great florist in that they provide all the materials you need, from the gauzy wrapping to the leafy fillers. The lime green filler was a little on the expensive side (not sure if I was charged correctly) at $12.50. Dethorning the roses was a pain! I didn’t know they had a machine for that. I just snipped the thorns off with a small black nail scissors, and removed all the browning petals. Here’s some trivia for you: It takes only 1 hr in a hot car in the sun for a rose petal to completely dehydrate into potpourri.

Since we were at the florist, I made two other arrangements, one for Gracia for her birthday, supported by a huge amaryllis in the middle:

And accompanied by the scholtzia – pretty pink buds that kinda scattered every which way as they fell off. These flowers were imported from China. The amaryllis browned pretty quickly!


The last arrangement was a carnation spray for my grandma. Here it is in the black Ff glass. Most of the carnations are not open yet so I guess they’ll be really pretty round about now.

I realize the first time I even dabbled in flower arrangement was at Wegman’s, where the flower section is right between the fresh produce and the milk and you can’t help but stop by and look at all the pretty flowers that are so much cheaper there than in Singapore. Wegman’s really is a formative experience.


Also, I found my phone! I’m really happy about it, because the little kimono phone strap was the last of its pattern in Muji and I won’t be able to replace that. LZ actually already got a replacement phone for me and I suppose I’ll have to use up that credit. It’ll come in handy if/when I lose my phone again :P

Christmas!


Here’s a digital illustration liangze did on Paper, the ipad app by 53. Our pencil hasn’t arrived yet, but this looks pretty awesome don’t you think? He thinks he’s going to stop drawing things on the app now, since nothing he draws will ever look as nice as this, apparently. We’ll see what happens when the pencil comes. We’ll probably have to get an Ipad Air instead of an Ipad Mini to do some serious graphic design on that app. I did the words and the cute little snowflake!

I started the day with Ze’s family and ended it with my family – and no church-going involved whatsoever. We went around delivering christmas presents and kueh lapis we brought back from Batam to everyone in the Bishan area (i.e. his cousins and Szeling) and also gave his parents their presents – I’ve decided to only give them either perishables or new things to replace old things in their house because there’s just too much clutter. Previous years I got them decorative items (like one of my paintings or painted eggs which are now on display and contributing to the clutter) But this year I’m having none of that. For his mum’s birthday last Friday, we got her a toaster oven because her old toaster oven had been overheating everything from toast to meat for nearly three years. The new one we got her had a little temperature dial so she can set it at whatever temperature she wants. The old one will soon be given to their cleaner, who actually wants a toaster. For Christmas we got his dad medium cut Seville orange marmalade (he doesn’t like thin cut peel) and his mum Tetsuya’s salad vinaigrette. They don’t do christmas presents because I think it’s difficult for a pastor to give christmas presents – you risk offending people by getting some people something and other people nothing. Or perhaps it’s because they don’t believe in the tradition. I love giving/receiving presents because it’s fun to shop and even more fun to shop while thinking fondly of all the wonderful people in your life.

After playing at Santa the entire morning we headed to my place, where my mum had reheated a turkey breast roast and made rojak. I didn’t even know you could make rojak at home :S my mum is pretty good at local cuisine when she sets her mind to it. I think I’m better at cooking American/European things. We brought back five boxes of mashed potatoes from KFC (it’s actually nice in singapore) to go with her turkey so there wouldn’t be too much work to prep lunch. My entire family (excluding me) have been down with a virus and have been hacking and sniffling away for nearly two weeks! They were all hoarse and congested at the dining table it’s almost a biohazard to stay at home. I narrowly avoided catching it by going away to Batam (more on that later). So I was initially going to go with my parents to my church’s service (from 4-7pm) and then go for Bethel’s christmas service from 7.30pm – 10pm.. which does sound like a lot of church. Well I do enjoy christmas and the carols and the church services (probably not the sermons) but my mum decided to stay home because she was feeling unwell.. and I was feeling unwell (not to mention sleepy, after the overnight round of 80 points at Batam) too so we all stayed home in the end, leaving lz to go to church all by his lonesome :P He was a shepherd in the Bethel christmas service so couldn’t stay home with me.

I made dinner for my parents after my 3 hour nap because everyone was out of commission and probably wouldn’t eat dinner at all if nobody cooked (my parents are like that. Meals are optional with them). Fried up some farfalle off the top of my head which tasted pretty good but was a tad spicy which may not have been the best for my mum’s sore throat. Here is what I did (for documentation):

Ingredients (serves 4):
8 strawberry tomatoes, sliced into thirds
Handful of torn basil from my herb garden
Bunch of snipped up chives from my herb garden
One red onion (any size you prefer), chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 packet of chili flakes from an old pizza delivery
Dried parsley flakes
1.5 cups of shredded turkey breast ham
Black pepper and salt to taste
Ketchup, sweet Thai chili sauce, and oyster sauce to taste
Vegetable oil (for frying)
4 eggs, beaten with salt and white pepper
Pot of boiled farfalle (bow tie pasta) for 4 – you can substitute fusilli or rigatoni

Method:
1. Pour some oil in the wok, fry the eggs, scraping from the sides of the pan and turning until only slightly wet. Chop them into smaller chunks with the spatula, then remove from the wok.
2. Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the wok, turn the heat on high.
3. When the oil is shimmering, toss in the garlic chips, a sprinkle of salt, and fry till golden. Toss in the red onion and a sprinkle of sugar; stir to prevent from burning.
4. When the onion has softened, toss in the pasta, the cherry tomatoes, the turkey breast, the fried eggs, the basil, and the chives, in that order.
5. Stir to mix everything up. Add 5 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce, 4 tbsp of ketchup, and 2 tbsp of oyster sauce.
6. Grind black peppercorns over the pasta for about 5 seconds (I use my electric black pepper mill, hence the timing), and toss in about half a pack of chili flakes from the pizzeria. Add the dried parsley.
7. Toss everything till the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. Taste and add salt accordingly. I added about 1.5 tsp of Himalayan pink salt.

This is a dry pasta, so don’t expect much sauce. It will probably also taste good chilled as a salad but since there are golden flakes of garlic in it it’s best served warm. My parents liked it quite a bit.

Dinner was eaten all by my lonesome since LZ was at his christmas service. I don’t really like the way his church does christmas because of the multiple rehearsals – don’t think it’s necessary. Plenty of competent people at his church who can pull off a decent Christmas service with just the one rehearsal, I think. And it’s just a service, shouldn’t the meaning behind the event be more important than the execution? I like the way Vespers are done at Cornell – I’d be surprised if there was even one rehearsal for that. Probably the Glee club and the Chorus will have to practice, but apart from that, no one else. And it’s perfect every time. So since nobody was around (I served my parents but didn’t eat with them – my family doesn’t really seem to have this practice. Everyone was eating at the same time, but glued to a TV screen haha. In fact my parents were watching the same TV show, but my mum was in her room while my dad was in the living room, and the TV was turned to the same channel. Bizarre.) I myself watched the BBT episode where Amy tries to cure Sheldon of his OCD about gaining closure. It’s not that my family doesn’t communicate, it’s just that we already had lunch together, and I think extreme introversion runs in the family :P

I played a bunch of Scarlatti sonatas from 9-10pm. It was a perfectly tranquil night – even though a good 300 people live in my apartment block, all was quiet and my piano is situated in this little cove under the staircase (think harry potter) which has awesome reverb. Scarlatti sounded great there. I bought 2 books (his complete sonatas) off Amazon sometime this year but haven’t really gotten around to playing all of them. I only like the slow sonatas (I am getting old) so I play the Allegro/Presto ones slow too, and they sound nice like that. (My Budapest piano instructor wished me a Merry Christmas on fb today which made me think I should probably go get some of the dust off my piano :P He’s currently in Iceland working in a conservatory.) After the Scarlatti I did some pop music, Richard Marx and Norah Jones and some of Phillip Keveren’s New Age arrangements, which are particularly nice at night. My dad came downstairs and parked himself in the middle of the living room to listen. I think they prefer it when I play pop music to classical music, although through the years they probably have come to appreciate quite a lot more classical music than if I didn’t play the piano. Esoteric stuff too, because that’s the stuff you put in your exam repertoire if you don’t want your examiners nitpicking you on well known pieces haha.

All in all, an extremely satisfying christmas, even though most of it was spent apart from LZ because he agreed to be a shepherd :S I also finished Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl today, which I thought was amazing and have now added my reading-Rainbow-Rowell-books withdrawal symptoms to my playing-80-points withdrawal symptoms. Life is tough :(

The Heaven Delusion

I’m Facebook friends with Dan Piraro (the same way Sheldon is Words With Friends friends with Stephen Hawking) and he recently posted this which I thought was really cool. I have shockingly little interest in American politics, but I do get my daily dose from Andy Borowitz:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In the halls of the United States Senate, dozens of Senators congratulated themselves today for having what one of them called “the courage and grit to stand up to the overwhelming wishes of the American people.”

“We kept hearing, again and again, that ninety per cent of the American people wanted us to vote a certain way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). “Well, at the end of the day, we decided that we weren’t going to cave in to that kind of special-interest group.”

“It was a gut check, for sure, but we had to draw a line in the sand,” agreed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S. Carolina). “If we had voted the way the American people wanted us to, it would have sent the message that we’re here in Washington to be nothing more than their elected representatives.”

Calling yesterday’s Senate action “a bipartisan effort,” Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) said, “This proves that on a matter that affects the safety of every man, woman, and child in the nation, we can reach across the aisle to defy the interests of all of them.”

Senator McConnell agreed that yesterday’s vote “sent a powerful message,” adding, “If the American people think that just because they voted us into office and pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions, we are somehow obliged to listen to them, they are sorely mistaken.”

I’ve also finished reading the first Simon Rich novel (It’s three days after the GRE!) but it went down remarkably fast – in two sittings. One on Saturday night where I read about 42 pages and the second today at lunch where I finished the rest of it. What In God’s Name

is a pretty amazing, irreverent take on heaven and what people (angels) do in it. In the following excerpt, God has decided to shut the earth down and cut his losses following his inability to answer all the prayers sent up to him, but some angels from the Miracles department have made a bet with him – if they can answer just one of millions of prayers God gets, he won’t destroy the earth. The time is about 10 minutes to D-Day and the angels Craig and Eliza are frantically trying to get two humans (who prayed that the other one would like them) together.

“Let’s see what you guys are working on,” God mumbled, throwing his arms around them for support.
“Oh!” he said, peering at the screen. “That thing.”
He shook his head and laughed. “Why do you guys work so hard? What’s that about?”

Eliza shrugged. “We like doing it.”
God smiled, genuinely moved.
“You know what?” he said. “You’re good people.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Eliza said. “We got into heaven, right?”

God squinted at her, confused. “What do you mean?”
Eliza shrugged. “Just, you know, you picked us to get into heaven. So we must be good people.”

God laughed. “That’s not what it’s based on.”
“It’s not?”
“Nah.”
“So… what is it?” Craig said. “What’re the criteria?”
“You guys don’t know?”
“Just tell us,” Eliza said.
God smiled. “It’s rock skipping.”
Craig and Eliza nodded, waiting for God to elaborate. But he didn’t seem to think he needed to.
“What are you talking about?” Craig asked eventually.
“You’ve got to get seven skips,” God explained. “On any one throw.”

Eliza turned pale. “That’s it? Just skip a rock seven times and you’re in? That’s all?”
“What do you mean ,’that’s all?'” God said. “Rock skipping is hard. Almost no one gets to seven skips.”

“Seven skips,” Craig repeated, his voice a dazed monotone. “Unbelievable.”

“Well, for women it’s five,” God said. “You know, so it’s fair. They’ve got weaker arms.”
Craig shook his head, stunned. “Why didn’t you base it on something important?”
God stared at him blankly. “Like what?”
“I don’t know. Like, righteouness? Or courage, or faith…”
“But those things are too hard to measure. Like, how can you tell how righteous someone is? It’s not something you can just add up. With rock skipping thought, you can be like, ‘Hey, that was four skips.’ Or, ‘That was eight skips.’ It works.”

Today I managed to have lunch alone because Liangze had to go scout out the venue for some demo his lab has to do. I enjoyed myself immensely, actually, and realize that I have never really considered the option of being single. Like, permanently. I mean, that was pretty much what I had planned for before LZ came along (sounds like he’s my son), but like the advantages of being single weren’t one of my considerations when I jumped into the relationship, and they should have been. Perhaps I should structure my relationship into alternate months, where every other month, I am single. And purposefully so, not the single-to-hook-up-with-other-guys kind of single, as if anyone can imagine me doing such a thing. There is so much freedom, there is no asking “so when is your mum cooking and when do we have to eat at your house?” or “whose church are we going to this sunday?” or “are we having lunch today?”. Just back to the good ol’ times in my cornell freshman/sophomore year where I avoided everybody and read a crap lot of interesting, funny books while eating meals alone. I never realized relationships were so tiring and grating on one’s nerves and patience until I had the opportunity to be single today and I didn’t have to give the tiniest damn about anyone.

Easter

Finally got baptized! on 31/3/13 :D Got a ton of presents – liangze’s mum gave me a grass covered squirrel. She says it’s good for my eyes to look at it cause it’s green. !?? I think his whole family is just random. His cousin gave me alphabet stamps from Kikki.K which is my new favourite stationery shop!
east1

When liangze and I were walking about in it we saw a ton of things that would make a great gift for her. His aunty gave me a Henri Nouwen book,
east2

even though I’m still in the middle of the last one I borrowed from her (as a devotional). His mum also gave me a bouquet of white roses surrounded by many different kinds of purple flowers and finally baby’s breath.
east3

It was beautiful! Mildred gave me a Muji notebook with my name designed on the front cover by her :D

east4

And my brother gave me a screen print of Totoro that he made himself!
east5
It was like having a second birthday, which I suppose is apt seeing how one’s baptism signifies a rebirth into a new, sinless body. If only the sinless part were true. Ha! Considering how materialistic I still am, I’d say not much has changed. But of course not much has – I am the same person, and in fact I was already reborn way back at the point of conversion. Baptism in its first historical records of it took place pretty much right after conversion, and when I mean conversion it really is a change from say a pagan religion to christianity. For 2nd generation christians who have been going to church all our life, baptism seems to be more of an afterthought – what’s the point of a public confession? Everyone already thinks you are a christian. And my own colleagues thought I had already been baptized. I suppose in some ways it means you are getting serious about this. It did feel pretty special (the presence of certain witnesses made it so) – liangze describes it as being married to the church but I prefer to think of it as being adopted by the church. Now I’m officially a member of my church! I get a vote and everything. Although I probably won’t go for a single AGM since I much prefer being thought of as “Bob and Susan’s daughter” as opposed to “Ivana, member in her own right.” :)

No Neuhaus

Made some easter eggs last night, only not your regular easter eggs.
I’d bought some stick on tattoos from tattly.com (they were selling in a shop in The Central), the kind where you just add water, and they turned out really nice on the eggs.

egg1

I wrote verses on the back:
egg2

These didn’t turn out so well, I need a lot more practice. And also perhaps to design it on paper beforehand to see how much will fit on the egg.
egg3

I also bought a variety of markers to draw on them:
egg4

Some of you may recognize my paper aeroplanes that I like to put on envelopes, and of course the accompanying verse is Isa. 40:31
egg5

egg6

This one is for his mum.

Her favourite verse is Jeremiah 10:23, which we both find bizarre.
I managed to get rid of the smudges of ink in the end, but I may do a whole new set since these are so.. unkempt looking. Which means omelettes for breakfast for the next few days. Unfortunately the deviled eggs I’m making for Easter dinner won’t contribute a single eggshell cause they need to be hard boiled :|

egg7

egg8

We also found some beautiful laser cut boxes in Art Friend to keep the eggs.

Easter is such a pretty time of the year.

Myth

I refer to this article that Kenji Lopez Alt writes about the ability of McDonald’s burgers to rot.

He claims that most of the evidence out there that burgers do not rot are anecdotal and heavily tinted with a bias against Mcdonald’s burgers, being generally thought of as unhealthy or of low nutrition value. Instead of examining the myriad possible factors that a Mcdonald’s burger left out in the open does not rot, they hastily leap to the convenient conclusion that the burgers are filled with preservatives and poisonous to your well-being.

For the record, I have eaten a moldy Mcdonald’s burger when we were in Cusco, Peru – it was a breakfast sandwich, and there was a big circle of powdery green on the muffin that I only noticed on my third bite (it was on the bottom slice, which nobody ever really thinks to look at. Word to the wise, Flip your burger before consuming, especially for breakfast muffins where both buns are symmetrical and it doesn’t make a difference). The manager promptly swapped it for me but the usual joy taken in eating from Mcdonalds there (in Peru, where there’s almost no edible local food simply because the land seems inhospitable to delicious crops, and I mean delicious. They have no problems growing humongous corn or potatoes but their corn and potatoes taste horrible and would never find a market anywhere else. The only things unaffected by their terrible soil and high altitude are meat (hardly farmed) and eggs, which we wound up eating all the time.) had vanished.

I like Kenji’s attitude toward the whole thing – he doesn’t care less if McDonald’s name is cleared but he does take offence at the manipulation of “science” to support one’s agenda. And all these look!-my-burger-has-not-rot-for-more-than-a-year people sound just like country hicks or fundamentalist christians who continue to argue for creationism.

To quote another excerpt from Player One,

God’s probably been having a big chuckle since eighteen-fifty-whatever, watching humans scramble and bunker and fight and scream over evolution. God made our DNA, thus God made us. What matters is that He got us here, to this point. Or maybe the DNA did it all. Whether you’re a believer or a nonbeliever, it’s a win-win scenario.

And the band played on

I was watching the marching band at the school down the street practise on the field, and they were just appalling – a smoking-trainwreck version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,’ or whatever the song is called – and the old guy who takes care of the equipment was standing beside me watching and he said, ‘Ah, the young angels. You know the secret of marching bands, don’t you?’ I said I didn’t and he said, ‘It’s simple. Even if half of the students are playing random musical notes, it still sounds like they’re a coordinated band.’ And that’s kind of how I feel about organized anything, including religion.”

Douglas Coupland on religion. It is so blindingly obvious I wonder why I never noticed it before. Why the music they play is always so noisy, why there are so many drums and loud brass instruments that always sound a bit off-key. I’ve always hated band music (no offence to all the people in bands). Orchestral music requires so much more technique to play. Part of my aversion to band music is also due to the band members in RGS who always behaved like they had no time for regular school work or to contribute to projects because they have this monolithic CCA called “The Band” which is much more important than all the other activities that the rest of us mortals participated in. Most band members in my class did squat for project work and acted like they deserved to do nothing and get the same grade. And they sounded just terrible at the end of all their hard work! Noisy, garish booming from everybody, everything at forte, fortissimo, all the time. Tinny and cheap, like the music from a broken down carousel at a summer fair.
This is not part of the three excerpts I was going to quote from Barrel Fever, but from Player One.

“Do you think you’ll miss being a preacher?”
“A pastor? No, I doubt it. I’m tired of people believing the first thing that passes by their eardrums. I’m tired of the way we’re all hard-wired to believe lies.”
“Churches are a lie?”
“There are thousands of them. Some of them have to be wrong. ”
“One of the doctors in my office made an observation. He was Irish and super-Catholic. He said that if there were two Catholics left on earth, one of them would have to be Pope.”

Just to highlight the massive arbitrariness that is in organized religion. And as a church-goer I know for a fact that what he says is true, you know. Many people at church believe the first thing that passes by their eardrums. Many people at church are there because they believe the first thing that passes by their eardrums that is spoken by a pastor. What put that pastor in authority? Certainly not a democratic vote. But the pastor’s own desire to preach. Wherefore the desire to preach? Given that 92% of all congregations are led by males, I can hazard a few guesses:
– The pastor likes hearing his own voice
– The pastor likes teaching people things, regardless of whether or not he is an expert on those things.
– The pastor thinks he knows better than everyone else out there (This could be true sometimes)
– The pastor actually cares about the children of God.

At my first baptism class a few weeks ago one of the younger girls getting baptised (~17 years old) asked a question. One of the adult attendees of the class tried to answer her. After waiting for him to finish, my pastor interjected to volunteer a comment. The adult attendee then immediately deferred to the pastor, who is younger than he is, saying that “but don’t listen to me, the pastor’s answer is the correct one.” -_- Good gracious. Just because of his office? I vetted the pastor’s master’s thesis (back when he was still in seminary) and the sheer incoherence in the structure of the essay was baffling. (The pastor’s answer was in fact, correct, but that is not the crux of this exchange.)