Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chowing down in Japan...

Hmmm.. how to choose?

Not quite finished yet with the Japan adventure.... there was the food.  On a cold, rainy afternoon, there is nothing like a steaming hot noodle bowl, of which we partook (is that a word?) a few times on our trip.  The best was in Hakone, in a little noodle place on Lake Ashi.  We had just visited the Hakone Shrine in a freezing drizzle and wandered back to town.  Chris seemed to be fine, but I was chilled to the bone.  My noodle bowl with soba and tempura did the trick.  I couldn't understand why the restaurant was deserted until we noticed a pizza place across the way packed with locals.....  

Noodle bowl in Hakone
Himalayan tea in Asakusa
In Tokyo, we found an awesome cafe in the Asakusa neighborhood, after a chilly, rainy walk through the shops.  We ordered Himalayan tea, which was served with sweetened condensed milk, then added a shot of Scotch, which really warmed things up!  One evening for dinner, we found  the Indian restaurant, Moti, owned by a Delhi family, where I had dined eons ago when I was living in Japan.  This was where I learned to love Indian food.

Christmas decorations

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A quick trip to Japan

Hei Shrine, Tokyo

Asakusa, Tokyo
We took a mini-vacation in Japan this month; a couple of days in Tokyo, followed by 4 days of playing in the mountains west of the city.  I met Chris in Tokyo (he had business there), roamed around my old haunts from ... a few years ago..., then we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Hakone, an area dominated by Mt. Fuji or Fuji-san. This is an area of mountains, lakes, temples and small towns, and one gets around by an efficient system of trains and buses.  

We stayed at a beautiful, but understated Hyatt, with house dog, "Haru", on the side of a mountain with its own onsen, which is the Japanese word for hot spring.  The word "onsen", actually conjures up a whole experience that includes not only the spring itself, but a pool, either natural or man-made, that uses the spring as source, with an inn or hotel nearby or surrounding it, creating an environment that dares one to relax and soak until reaching nirvana.  

Hakone Shrine
Chris with Fuji-san
The sulphuric hot springs were created eons ago by ancient volcanic activity in the area, and indeed, one can see plumes of sulphuric vapor rising out of the ground in a number of places there.  Our days started with a hike or ride in a train, cable car and/or bus with a bit of sight-seeing, bowl of noodles, followed by return to the hotel for a soak and then cocktail hour by the fire.  After 4 days, I was not ready to leave.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hi From Mt. Fuji from Flat Lucy!!!  It felt grrrrrr-eat to be back in the mountains with the humans even if 3D Lucy had to stay behind in Singapore. Cool weather, lots of new smells in Japan, plenty of steep climbs and downhills too. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

West Coast Park

Well, it's been a while since we've visited this site, as I've been to the US and back since the last entry.  But wanted to share with you our latest adventure with Lucy - West Coast Park.  Not as big as East Coast Park, but much less people, and it includes a large dog run, probably 5 to 10 acres.  And muddy, but everywhere is muddy now, as it is the beginning of the rainy season.  "Mud season" in Summit County is nothing compared to this!  The picture shows Lucy and two new friends, Toby and Ella, terrorizing a small, but fearless dog this past Saturday.  Was all in great fun, and the little guy was fine, as Toby and Ella are extremely gentle Great Danes.  I was particularly glad that Lucy is chocolate that day, as she was covered in mud; had our driver seen the magnitude of mud coverage, he would have had a cow..... Needless to say, Lucy got a shampoo when we got home.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

East Coast Road - Zaffron Kitchen

Chris sampling Indian wine.....

Sunday night, Chris and I went to East Coast Road, to do a little shopping and to grab some dinner.  This is a main East-West, yet still two-lane, artery in the East Coast area, and yet retains a local feel with many shops, markets, restaurants and other neighborhood businesses.  Restored tiled and shuttered shops from old Singapore show the history of the place, and, at the same time, it is slowly being updated and transformed into a hip area to hang out.  And it is very convenient, as it is a 5-minute bus ride from where we live.  We picked up a few inexpensive items and then had an awesome dinner at Zaffron Kitchen, a 3-month old Indian restaurant on East Coast Road.  We sampled a dry white wine from Bangalore, India, and was pleasantly surprised - hadn't a clue they even made wine in India!  Chris had a wonderful fish dish, and I had Palak Paneer, spinach and Indian cheese with curry, followed by Kheer for dessert, a hot rice pudding flavored with spices.  Note the waitress's apron that reads, "the devil wears prata".....(prata is a fried flour-based pancake that is cooked over a flat grill. It is usually served with a vegetable or meat based curry and is sold all over Singapore.)  We will be going back to this place!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tanjong Beach at Sentosa


Chris mimics the bikini model behind him

Yesterday, we had a great morning at Tanjong Beach on Sentosa, an island right off the South coast of Singapore with our good friends, Rob and Louise, and Ralph, and Doogie, a visiting dog in tow.  On Saturday mornings, Tanjong Beach belongs to dogs and their humans, and, indeed from about 9:00am and a few hours after, there were hardly any folks there.  Chris took the video below of primarily Lucy, of course, but Lucy's pals were captured as well, all having a dog fest in the waves.  The weather was gorgeous and the temperature of the water was delightful - I could have stayed in there for hours.  We've quickly gotten the Sentosa run down to a routine:  hanging in the water as long as possible, followed by dog shampoos (yes, there is a dog-washing station) and showers, followed by a cocktail or two at the Tanjong Beach Club.  Great way to spend a Saturday!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hi again from Flat Lucy!!!  Here I am on top of a building in the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong island!  That's the Hong Kong Peak right up there over my head.  What a nice hike!  Think of an urban version of Spruce Creek or the Barr Trail to the Incline station.  and, it's especially easy on Flat Lucy since I get carried up!!!  on the far right is the "mid levels" district in Hong Kong where all the richer folks live.  I almost ended up in Hong Kong (no quarantine requirements from the USA), but I'm pretty sure I'm happier in Singapore. 

Tiong Bahru Market

This is another local market, kind of in the middle of town, with a floor of local shops and a Food Centre, or hawker stand.  I'm posting a few pictures of this place, because I was fascinated by a few shops selling a variety of paper products:  paper cell phones, typewriters, housewares, printers, toys, just about anything.  Apparently, the Chinese have a custom where on special occasions, paper items are bought and then burned so that the remains will go to their ancestors.  Many of the items have designer names printed on them, to ensure that their ancestors are being provided the best merchandise.  I think I heard that some of the brand-name companies are suing the manufacturers of these paper products for copyright infringement.....  makes sense, I guess, but silly.  After, wandering around for a bit, my friend, Joanne, and I had another incredible meal at a hawker stand selling Thai food, for $4.00 a piece!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another visit to Tekka Market

Buckets of spices
Well, we can't seem to stay away from Tekka Market - it is a colorful, interesting wonderfully-local place with wonderful food and great bargains.  This time, I dragged Chris there, along with his camera, and he got some great shots of the place.

Forget about the salmon from Norway -

get some local sea bass, Lady!
Catching a nap

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is an imposing structure in the middle of Chinatown, Singapore, on a busy corner, surrounded by restaurants and retail stalls.  It seems to be an important part of the community, and often there are events, not only as part of the Buddhist calendar, but also designed to help the poor.  There must be a monastery attached to it, as we have often seen a large group of monks dining at our favorite vegetarian restaurant across the street (must post a blog about that!).  Recently, we had lunch with a colleague of Chris' at this restaurant (second floor of building on the right side of left picture below), and while we were there, about 12 monks filed past us and sat at a large round table in the front.  (I'm sure it was saved for them!)  They ate and left, and by the time our party left the restaurant, a large procession was in progress, led by the chanting monks with horns and gongs, followed by a sizable contingent of lay people in black robes.  We felt very fortunate to have witnessed such a colorful and spiritual event, and of obvious importance to the community.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Spring Has Sprung In Sydney!

 Hey!  Look at me!  Here I am down at the Sydney Opera House.  It's Spring in Australia after a pretty mild winter so everyone is already ready for fun.
Turn around to the left and there's the other part of Sydney harbor with the big Harbour Bridge heading over to North Sydney.  Funny how I have the exact same expression, huh?  Well, Big Dawg is taking Flat Lucy around with him since the canine immigration laws are a lot easier on Flat Lucy then 3D Lucy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ramadan Bazaar

During Ramadan, the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar takes over a bunch o' blocks, under a large tent, in the Paya Lebar neighborhood of Singapore.  It is an explosion of color, texture, clothing, crafts and food.  It amazes me how moslem folks can participate in this sumptuous bazaar with all the aromas and visions of wonderful food and not eat until sunset!! Chris and I wandered through last evening and then had a great Chinese meal in an inexpensive nearby restaurant, Happy Kitchen, on Geylang Road.  A feast for the senses!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Creepy Cake!

Well, it's Birthday Season - and Chris was in Beijing on his birthday early in August,  He went out on the streets with some colleagues after the work day and not far from the hotel, there was this fine find near a street market.  What you see here are scorpions on skewers -- you pick the skewer you want and the vendor pops them into deep boiling fat and off you go!  Now, this should have been a movie instead of a photo because these guys are live scorpions -- squirming away on the sticks, their poisonous stingers flitting away!  Looks like a Birthday Cake, eh?   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Katong Park

Reflexology Walk
Hi!  It's me again!  Lucy Blue!  It's about time that I told you about my new favorite place, Katong Park.  This is where I go to pee and poop and walk and play with my ball and hook up with new buddies.  It's probably about a 20- to 30-acre park right next door to where we live, with big shady trees, a small playground, a reflexology walk and a dog run, where I can go off-leash and see buddies (although I'm often off-leash in the main part of the Park, playing ball).  Everyone else does it, and no one seems to mind.

Dog run area
The Park has been around since the 1930s, and reached its "heyday" after WWII. During the war, it was used as a place to repair airplane engines for the Japanese.  Before it became a park, a fort was located there (1879 - 1901), Fort Tanjong Katong - there is a small fenced-off area where you can see an excavated portion of the fort's foundation.  My ball went in there once.... thought we were going to get in trouble!  There's a picture of the Park's big beach house - ha!  No beachfront here anymore, due to landfill!  Well, better go now - time to go to the Park!  Yippee!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wet market!

I went to Tekka Market in Little India yesterday, one of Singapore's larger "wet" markets.  This is a large multi-level space where one can buy vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, beans, herbs, spices, home-made noodles and pretty much every other food item in existence.  There are also hawker stand sections, where one can sit down and have a wonderful plate of goodies originating from Singapore, just about anywhere else in Aisa or the Middle East.  They are called "wet" markets, because the floors can get wet in primarily in the meat and fish areas - I don't go to those sections.....  Yesterday, I had a long list of veggies to buy, so hopped on a bus and went there, instead of going to my usual supermarket.  I love strolling past the spice stalls and catching a whiff - the big colorful tubs of turmeric, cayenne, cumin, etc. smell heavenly.  There are some stalls with big bags of dried stuff - haven't asked what they are yet..... (see pic).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Teresa Hsu

I went to an event last evening where I listened to an amazing woman.  Considered the Mother Teresa of Singapore, Teresa Hsu arrived here in 1961 to care for her ailing mother and founded the Home for the Aged Sick in Singapore.  She is now 114 years old, is sharp, funny, humble and driven, still, to care for the poorest of the poor.  It was a privilege to be in the room with her and listen to her gems of wisdom.

Hsu said whenever she was faced with a problem, she would try to solve it but if she could not, then she just accepted it.

To another question, she said she wasn’t born naturally caring but shared an incident that deeply affected and changed her. Her late mother once dug up potatoes to feed the family but gave away the entire pot to a starving beggar who arrived at their doorstep with a child.
“That was the day I learnt that to give what you have in your hand to others is a great blessing,” she said.

When asked how important religion was to her, Hsu said, “Nobody ever told me what a religion was”.
She cited an incident when a Buddhist man and a Christian lady were arguing and singing praises about their respective religions.
She told them, “Brother and sister, there’s just one door”.

When asked the secret to her longevity and good health, Hsu responded, “Ha, ha, ha! Make sure your heart is always happy”.

Here is a YouTube link to a blurb about her on CNN:

My birthday!

It's my birthday today!  Mom and I went to Singapore's Botanical Gardens with my new buddy, Ralph and his human, Louise.  Lots of good smells and squirrels and birds to harass!  We got caught in a rain storm and hung out in a gazebo for a while.  The Gardens are beautiful - it takes over a half hour to stroll from one end to the other, and includes at least two good-sized lakes.  A van with dropped us off and picked us up!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Birthday Party!!!!

A new buddy, Tumble, had a birthday today - he's 2!  (Big goofy yellow lab.)  So his human baked a bunch of doggy goodies, and invited a bunch of other buddies and had a party at the Katong Park dog run.  Yippee!  It was fun!  Except I guess I played with my ball instead of sniffing butts.  Mom says she's gonna leave my ball home sometimes, so I can be more "social", whatever that means!.....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chinatown adventure

We needed some noodle bowls, so I went to Chinatown where Sia Huat is located, a restaurant supplier for anything needed by restaurants - dishes, cookware, gadgets, and many unidentifiable widgets that we never see in Western cooking.  It was fascinating.  Amazingly, there was a limited supply of noodle bowls, except in melamine, which I guess makes sense, as one usually sees dishes made of that material in the local restaurants.  But, they had just about everything else!  A whole wall of woks - wok wall.... ha!  And another wall of just cleavers, those big rectangular-shaped knives.  I had wanted a bamboo steamer, so picked one up, as well as a few other things.  Then, next door, found a couple noodle bowls for everyday in a porcelain shop.

On the way back to the subway station, I was lured into a Chinese medicine shop by Ruth, a very enthusiastic seller of Chinese herbs and tonics.  These shops are all over Singapore, displaying bizarre-looking dried plant and animal items, beans, and seeds, spilling out onto the sidewalks.  I followed Ruth into the shop where an elderly Chinese lady sat, who, according to Ruth, was a long-time established Chinese medicine doctor.  She felt my pulse for a few minutes and told me a few things about my health, or lack there-of, and prescribed a bottle of pills..... for S$168 (US137).  I choked on the price, so ended up with a good-sized bag of dried shiitake mushrooms for about the amount I pay at Costco.  It's made me think, however, as the symptoms she saw in me, tho easy to predict at my age, were most likely spot on - may go back for a half bottle and see...  In the meantime, the mushrooms are apparently good for cancer-prevention and cholesterol reduction (this was corroborated online), and they were delicious - had some in my miso soup last night.....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A word about comments...

A few of you asked about not being able to comment.  And, frankly, I think this format is not that clear in that area.  But if you click on "n comments" below the post where n = the number of comments so far, it will take you to a comment creation screen.  So, if you are inclined, have at it!

Got the keyboard!

Ricky here:  Got the keyboard, and two beautiful rugs, so the echo is starting to go away.  Actually the keyboard doesn't echo, as there are no speakers - don't want to piss off the neighbors, so I just have my headphones with me - is OK.... but I may have to break down and get a small speaker....  It's a Roland 300NX keyboard, and feels and sounds like an acoustic piano.  Have already over-practiced - the arm is sore - it's a good sore!

Purchasing the rugs was an interesting experience.  It was a combination of finding this place on the web, and then having it recommended by a local, saying "Mohammad is the guy you want to buy rugs from".  His shop is in a warehouse structure in the middle of Singapore, and is a cavernous room with piles and piles of gorgeous rugs mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and India.  We were a tad intimidated....  however, I had been looking at examples from different regions online, and the tribal rugs from Shiraz (Southwest Iran) were the ones that resonated - fortunately, they did for Chris as well - we saw this one and loved it.  And it turns out that Mohammad Ali (yes, that is his name) was born and raised in Shiraz, so it felt like more of a personal transaction, and he reveled in telling us about this area of mountains, desert and his city of Shiraz.  So we grabbed that one, and a beauty from Afghanistan (Mazar-e Sharif).  At the end of the day, what I thought was going to be a chore, turned into a wonderful experience!  

More about tribal rugs:  A tribal rug is often used by the family who made it, before it is sold, and the design is created as the rug is woven.  ("City" rugs, on the other hand, are planned from beginning to end.)  Muhammad thought ours is about 40 years old and was woven over a long period of time, as the background color from one portion of the rug is different than the rest, as if they remixed that color at a later date, and it turned out differently.  The placement of symbols and animals changes as well.  Gives it "character".  Sorta like us.... characters that aren't too fancy..

This is Lucy.... I like the red one (from Afghanistan) - it's comfy, yet cool on my tummy...