Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Help Karen find her "...happily ever after"

This is Karen.
Her life has never been a fairy tale but her smile makes her a beautiful princess, inside out.

Despite everything that's happened in her life, Karen remains optimistic and believes she can win this battle. Hers is a story that has reminded us to cling on to faith and to keep up a good fight. It has also made us hope in the goodness of humanity because we've had people reaching out to her and helping out. At the moment, she relies on her former school mates/batch mates to help fund treatments. They have been sending money out of their own pockets and are hoping to raise more however way they can. 

My friends and I are backing Karen in her fight against cancer so we've been thinking of doing races, baking cakes, doing carboot sales, and various fund-raising stuff so we can help pay off her treatments. You can also join the party by pledging for various activities (nothing clothes off!) you'd like us to do. We've set up a charity page for her so it would be easy for people to donate any amount they can. Please do spread the word - it's time to give Karen a happy ever after.

To learn more about Karen, or to see how you can help please email karenfightscancer@gmail.com.

Mixed Tape Series: A Perfect Circle - 3 Libras

Threw you the obvious 
and you flew with it on your back 

We all harbour feelings that can give the word 'mental' a run for its money. We choose our battles so we often keep these feelings to ourselves thinking the human race can live with one less fight. When we do this, we get the impression of being the 'bigger person' (like, what does that mean, really?); when the slightest of things trigger that emotion for the nth time, we expect spontaneous combustion.

Difficult not to feel a little bit 
disappointed and passed over 
When I've looked right through
See you naked but oblivious

This happened to me one too many times this week and I felt the urge to let it all out when I hit boiling point. I wanted to (and need to) talk/ ramble/ vent... but I felt that I had to do it without anyone feeling the pressure to be there. Without anyone interrupting mid-sentence with 'uh-huh'/'right'/'gotcha' followed by an opinion or two. Without anyone staring sympathetically as I end up losing my train of thought because the rhythmic nodding/frowning/nervous smiling is distracting. Without anyone having to say ''Awwww I'm so sorry to hear that... but don't worry it will be better'.

And you don't see me

Sometimes a bit of reassurance is awesome but when you're in a dark place, stating the obvious can feel a bit insulting and annoying. Yes, everything gets better eventually. Yes, He has a plan and dark days are put in between so we can learn to appreciate and strive for the happy-happy-joy-joys. Yes, we all get by with a little help from our friends and every little counts. I get it, you're being a good friend, thank you very much.

But. Sometimes, when I feel that sickening quadruple hole-punched feeling in my gut, I just want to grab a paper bag and stick my head in it. Or scream into my pillow for 10.5 seconds. Except I'm scared of asphyxiation.

Here I am expecting just a little bit too much from the wounded
But I see, see through it all; see through, see you.

It's exhausting to feel negativity - for anyone and for other people who actually care. One too many times this week, I felt like I was where I needed to be: by my lonesome. Knowing this made me realise the importance of being alone - to exhaust all negativity and to dust ourselves off. The people who care about you do not deserve to be dragged into your rattled kaleidoscope. And you deserve a little slack while finding your own way to cope.

Apparently nothing all.

Maybe sometimes, that's why I write.

Oh well.

Monday, 19 August 2013

SEA Aquarium, Singapore

In my previous life, I was a mermaid. But of course you've heard a lot of girls say that, much thanks to Ariel and Flounder and Sebastian. Seriously though, there's something mystically eerie about the vast underwater world that makes me want to explore it some more. 

If only I had gills. 

Plaid Boy and I went to the S.E.A. Aquarium in Resorts World last May (yes, I am bad at documenting travel stuff). It's the world's largest of its type and it would've been a shame to have not gone, considering the number of times we've planned another aquarium date. We tried to go last December when it was newly opened but we didn't stand a fighting chance against the x-mile-long spiraling queue (I kid you not) so we've put it off another time. 

We went on a weekday arvo so it wouldn't be so busy and packed with tourists. I was surprised the admission fee was only SGD33 (£17) for adults (SGD23 for kiddos and senior citizens). Now isn't that a cheap date!

So when you get into the building, you'd see a bit of historical stuff on exhibit.

You'd see all sorts of artifacts from the sea and land tradesmen of yesteryear. We didn't really bother much on this as we just really wanted to check the aquariums.

There's a massive tank display of a shipwreck... and some divers floating about by the entrance.

We had very few decent couple photos during this date. This is probably the most decent one, and we weren't even really ready for the cam.

What's an aquarium visit sans tunnel photos, aye?

...and bird's eye view shots of vicious sea predators lurking under the glass floors.

There are big tanks of small fish, coral and sea creatures.

Ssmaller tanks for different types of species..

Like this cute cuttlefish...

...and cassiopea! 

Heaps of little fish.

And typical fish you see in aquariums all over the world.

We saw some jellyfish...

...and jelly lips. Look! it's Paris Hilton!!!! Hahaha.
This lady sashayed to get to the jellyfish aquarium, posed for her equally tanned boyfriend and sashayed away. I think we were all in much fascination with her seemingly collagen-filled puckers than the colour-changing jellyfish.

But they are indeed fascinating.

Was super awed at the stilt-fishermen of Sri Lanka. Can you imagine being out there at sea for hours on your lone stilt, waiting for some good fish to take the bait?

How cool is this piece of information?

I have a thing for nautilus

We entered another room and a massive devil ray swept across this huge ass aquarium. It was creepy, but I was quite awestruck.

This room had the biggest aquarium in the entire building and it was quite a sight. No wonder tourists seem to prop themselves here for a few minutes. Even I'd stay here for a while, except there was a stench of smelly feet. =(

We went off to explore some more and saw some giant Alaskan king crabs.
(We ate some of them two days later)

...and lobsters.

Camera-elusive fish...

...and camera-loving fish.

It's beautiful down there.

Even these super calm sharkies...

...make up for a fascinating world down there.

Blessed to be able to view these pretty creatures even from outside, above sea level.

Moreso, blessed to see the underworld with my favourite boy.

Quite frankly I've seen better aquariums (London SeaLife Aquarium has penguins!!!!) but I reckon this aquarium's well worth a visit, for the sole reason of ticking 'World's Largest Aquarium' off your list - if you're into that kind of thing. It's also something to do in Singapore, but I recommend you visit the zoo first. =)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Barrafina: where tapas are worth the wait

My last trip to Barrafina was a hump day lunch threesome with a visiting Spanish friend and her husband eons ago. They both have impeccable taste for tapas and told me this was their favourite restaurant in Soho. I told them I'd come, except it had to be a quickie as I only had an hour to spare. Considering this Frith Street restaurant sits less than 25 and gets packed all the time, we were in and out in an hour and fifteen. Boom. 

Plaid Boy came to visit last week and was fuelled by the desire to have tapas. Realising our other friend G had the same love for small sharing plates, our threesome braved the queues for dinner service.

We got there around 6pm and waiting time was "just" an hour and 15 minutes. On any normal occasion I'd've thrown in the towel and rushed to the nearest alternative (unless it was Maccas). But this was tapas night. No amount of hunger could have stopped us from queuing.

Twenty minutes in I felt my batteries draining and my stomach screaming expletives so I ordered some jamon croquetas (£4.5) to recharge. I've never been so happy to see two massive balls. Crispy breaded croquettes came to the rescue, filled with gooey cheese and chopped ham. It was slightly too salty for my liking but was good enough to keep me quiet for the rest of the wait.

40 minutes later we were shown our seats. Hallelujah!

First of our tapas was the lomo Iberico de Bellota (£8). This had a mild salty flavour and the portion was pretty good. Can you see how lean the cuts are? Super sulit. We ordered some bread and olive oil (£2) to go with. I enjoyed the oil which tasted cold-pressed on the first instance but Plaid Boy wasn't too keen.

G chose some chipirones (£7) and they were fantastic. You can rarely go wrong deep fried breaded baby squid, unless of course you don't use fresh ones. Crunchy, chewy, salty, these bad boys would go down well in any beer match snacking.

Plaid Boy and G shared a serving of jamón and spinach tortilla (£7). I didn't exacty get involved with this because I don't eat egg. They both seemed to like it though they both agreed this little thing was quite heavy!

After much egging (har har) from my two dates I tried a bit of the potato. The caramelised sauce was nice, but it still had an eggy aftertaste so this one was really not for me.

I was looking forward to Barrafina's courgette flowers but as they were unavailable at the time, we ordered baby artichokes (£6.5) from the specials board instead. I loved this. It was light and delicate yet flavourful at the same time. The aioli was decent enough - it didn't overpower the smokiness of the artichokes.

The octopus with capers (£9) was something I knew I definitely wanted to try even before we queued. This is how I like this mollusk grilled: perfectly charred on the outside with  hints of undercooked bits in a few places (sans sliminess!). The smokiness of the octopus may have been heightened by a generous dusting of paprika but was also balanced by the tangy capers sporadically spread across the board.

I'm not big on pork shoulder as it's another one of those well marbled cuts of meat so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the presa Ibérico with confit potatoes (£10). Admittedly, I'm not one to order pork in restaurants so I'm glad someone else ordered this. It was crispy in some parts and tender in most, deliciously sweet and cooked nicely (although some would possibly say this was a bit under). The confit potatoes were delicious too!

The grilled quail (£7.5) was another one of my choices and considering how difficult it is to cook quail, ours was perfect. Served with a pot of aioli (which, quite frankly it didn't need), the bird was tender and moist.

Our bill came down to around £70. We were quite chuffed at how cheap the bill was considering the quality and the amount of food we consumed and the service we got. Service was attentive - our man kept refilling our water bottle and smiled all the time whilst clearing our space - and if you like the theatricals of open kitchens then this is definitely for you. 

That said, we didn't order wine for fear of falling asleep by the bar (we did queue up quite a while and by the time we were seated it was almost bed time). Shame, as the wine list looks absolutely stunning

Barrafina, you are worth the wait indeed. I'd prefer coming to you during lunchtime for quick service but sometimes, slow and surely hits the spot too. 

54 Frith St  London, Greater London W1D 4SL | 020 7813 8016
Ave spend pp: £25

Square Meal