Celebrating Chinese

Last year, I bought pussy willow to make the dutch home feel like Chinese New Year. Read >ย Here

This year, I did the same but more because I’m not gonna be in Singapore for Chinese New year which kinda sadden me, so, I’m gonna celebrate CNY the dutch way. ๐Ÿ™‚

You know, ย it’s time like this you want to be with your family. Sometimes I wish one can be at two place at the same time or distance be made less noticeable.ย Anyway, don’t wanna get all emotional here. So, ย let me share with you the happy things. ๐Ÿ™‚

There are a few things that are mandatory during Chinese New Year.A Sumptuous Reunion Dinner,ย Pussy Willows, Mandarin Oranges, Bak Kwa (Roasted Pork), Pineapple Tarts & Red Packet! Sadly, there are only a few I manage to achieve in order to make that dutch home looks almost Chinese New Year-Sy.

The easiest to achieve was Mandarin Oranges. The dutchies eats Mandarin as their daily fruit intake. So for that is it not new. The only thing is, the dutch mandarin are way smaller than those we have in Singapore which we import from China mainly. The size is at least double but not at all sweeter. So Dutch Mandarin 1 – 0 Chinese Mandarin.

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Surprisingly since last year, pussy willows are easily available in the Dutch land. And it seems like they sell them during this period of the year. So I went back to the same florist I did last year to buy those pussy willow. They are still pink and pretty like they were. The pussy willows that we have in Singapore which are also imported mainly from China aren’t pink. They have really long stalk, so you will need some muscles to carry them home and a huge vase to place them. So Dutch Willow 1 – 0 Chinese Willow.

What is different this year is, I am here to watch it blossom!

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Bar Kwa (Roasted Pork), Pineapple Tart & Red Packet are those that are not achievable. I realise I wasn’t allow to bring in any meat products while travelling back to Holland so i did not take the risk of smuggling some. I don’t know why I didn’t bring back any pineapple tarts, I’m just stupid. Now I am regretting it like a big time. And the dutchman won’t give me red Packet so I don’t have red packet as well ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Nevermind, I get over it. In order to make myself happy, I reckon I must at least have a reunion dinner kind of meal! So I send Jos a text while he is at work that we will have steamboat tonight. To my surprise, he didn’t ask what is that but readily said OK!

The typical kind of reunion dinner in Singapore are; go out to a fancy Chinese restaurant and be ready to spend a lot of money. Because these restaurant worked so that you can have your reunion dinner so naturally, their prices are way above the usual rates. Or, make your poor mother/father/grandparents whipped up a sumptuous feast of at least 6 dishes. These old people are usually really good with CNY food. I don’t know why. My mum is one very good cook but because she is now old, we usually eat out. I miss her cooking, she made delicious curry chicken, Soy Sauce Pork and many more. It’s time like this I miss her even more. Okay not because I’m hungry for food, more because it’s Chinese New Year and we should have reunion dinner together! So, anyway, ย I called her just before the new year and we have made a deal that she have to pass down her culinary skills to me!

The other kind of reunion dinner for the not so good cook is to have STEAMBOAT. And that’s clearly why I decided I will make do with Steamboat as a reunion dinner with my white man. All you need is a good soup base and everything else is dependent on what is your favorite. I love prawns, the huge ass ones. On the contrary, Jos hates prawn. So good, I have them all to myself and I bought a lot of it. Some nice cut meat (Chicken, Pork, Beef), some Shitake Mushroom, Some Fishballs (typical steamboat ingredient), Tofu maybe and whole lot of vegetables; bak choy, broccoli if you like and any others. In another words, it’s a steam pot with whatever you want. It’s so easy and it’s really yum! So here are the pictures of the ingredients for our steam-pot.

Did you spot the chinese chop sticks and spoon? I bought them from the chinese supermarket especially for this. I reckon it is important to make it as authentic as possible. ๐Ÿ™‚

So that’s how I spend my first Chinese New Year in Holland. Not quite the same but okay.

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Mustard at its best! Indeed!

Does anyone of you loves Mustard? Well I don’t. I remember finding it disgusting when someone put this brownish almost green paste on their sausages. And when they offer them to me, I would always reject. Because, in my opinion, Mustard just taste weird. I don’t like mustard on anything I eat as a condiment.

I would never have think differently about Mustard if I’ve never been living in the Netherlands. Once when we were having lunch with Nelly & Jan, everyone ordered Mustard Soup but I went for the Mushroom soup. Well, just to be safe, since Mustard doesn’t sound or taste good to me. Okay, I can be boring with food like that. Anyway, in another occasion, when Jos had Mustard Soup & I had Mushroom soup yet again, I decided to take the challenge and sip a spoonful of that yucky green-paste condiment that I dislike. And to my surprise, it was nothing but YUM! I love it so so much that everywhere I go from now, I would be looking out for Mustard Soup (In Dutch: Mosterd Soep)

Today, I was bored. As usual. I decide maybe I should check out the recipe for Mustard Soup, maybe I can surprise Jos when he comes home to a home-cook mustard soup? Maybe, maybe… only maybe. Anyway, I type Mustard Soup Recipe on Google and I must say there are just so many recipes online and they all varies. Some are much more complicated while others are easy and straight forward.

Anyway, I decide I am going to try this one :

Mosterdsoep

3 tablespoons butter
6 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups (1 liter) stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 tablespoons of mustard (zaanse mosterd)
1/2 cup Cream
1 Leek

Optional: Bacon & white wine & chervil

Simply because this have less than 10 items to purchase and the process seems really easy. For the record, I am a super lousy cook. If you like the same recipe.. Here is the link.

The good news is… I realise we have Zaanse Mosterd in the cupboard!!! I wouldn’t even take a second look on this bottle. Looks muddy and strange. It must have lying there for months? Look!!

It must be a sign right? That I have to try making mustard soup all on my own!! But wait…

The bad news is….. I think this bottle of Mustard is expired… look:

Do you also think it’s expired? I think it must have been lying there for years!?

So, I have expired mustard in my cupboard, that means I have to go buy a new bottle. But I want the same mustard from Zaanse since it is suppose to be popularly good.

I have heard a lot about how tasty the Italian Cuisine, French Cuisine even Thai Cuisine or Chinese Cuisine are, but Dutch Cuisine…. not so much. It is kind of sad because I think there are some really nice dishes that these dutchies make. Once I was really addicted to their Pea Soup. It was so good until we start making Pea Soup ourselves. Not that the result was bad, it was still tasty. But the ingredient used to make pea soup is super rich with so much bacon. I feel sick eating so much bacon. because I don’t like to imagine the amount of oily fats I’ve intake in one bowl of soup. As such, from then on… I moved on from Pea Soup (In Dutch : Erwtensoep). But still, everyone should try the Pea Soup, one of the best from the Dutchie Land.

So much for soup today, I shall run to AH now and see if they sell the same Mustard I’m looking for. And if I do find them,, I might make some soup tonight, only maybe… ๐Ÿ™‚

Ciao!

First the Ghost… Then the Yummy Cakes

At this time of the year in Singapore, we believe that we are living with Ghost all around us. These are the Ghost that are usually the hungry ones and are being release once a year for the whole month in search for food to eat. Unlike the Halloween, The Hungry Ghost Festival or the seventh Month would prolonged for the whole month. It is referred to as 7th month because it happen on the 7th month of the lunar calendar. If you are not using the lunar calender, the dates are usually starting sometime early of August and ends early of September (estimates).

Try Imagine walking at night knowing that there are ghostly spirits everywhere. I used to dislike this time of the year not because I’m really afraid of these “ghost”, more so because my mum would be nagging that I should return home before the sky turns dark. Mum would always remind, “DO NOT look back if you hear anyone calling out your name from behind during this time.” that is because it is most likely one of those wondering spirit. And if you do turn back and look, the lights on your shoulder will be blown off and you will never return! ย Imagine listening to all this as a child? Would you still go out and dare these wondering spirit or would you just hide under a blanket?

Common sights during the HGF.

Well, those are not all. There are more to the list that just that. The first and foremost “DO NOT” was to not go anywhere near to the offerings that can be found on the ground (like the picture above). If you look at the pictures, usual offerings to these “hungry” ghost are apples, oranges and some bits of cookies placed on paper plates. These cookies are specially made for such prayers, you can attempt to eat them after the prayer but I wouldn’t because I don’t find them tasty at all.

The prayer also includes burning of incense paper, hell notes as a way of sending these notes to the wandering spirits. They will only be able receive these notes if we burn them. As such, sometimes, we burn them with all our might so that they will leave us alone and not haunt us. An example of this action is like the picture below.

Burn Fire Burn!

No one gets married during this time. The Chinese believe getting married during this period will bring bad luck to the marriage. So Hotels & wedding Banquet are usually cheaper for the non-believers.

Also, we cannot go swimming during the 7th month or the spirit will drown us while we swims! How eerie?

If only Ghost are this cute.

I only wish the Hungry Ghost festival is like the Halloween, where we scare ourselves with “pretend” ghost and still have fun! Below are the Halloween photo taken 3 consecutive years.

Halloween in Singapore!

Like this one! That we could go close n take a shot!

When the Ghost is even scare of me!

And when we can stand next to a Ghost and still smile!

Finally trying to kiss a chinese zombie?!?!

Anyway, my title says Yummy Cakes. Right after the seventh month, we celebrate mid-autumn festival where we eat MOONCAKE and celebrate full moon. On the 15th Day of the eighth month of the lunar calender, the moon should be exceptional round and big. During this time, family would gather together indulging on moon-cakes while the children will walk around with their fun lantern in the dark.

My Favorite.. Goodwood Park Mooncake.

I used to really enjoy mid-autumn festival as a child, because this is probably the only time we are allow to play with fire, lighting up the candles in the lantern all ย on our own! ย After lighting the candles, my siblings and I would drip the candles wax on the table and light up many candles to brighten up the night.

I remember my lantern is always a rabbit because I love rabbit when I was a child. The traditional lantern are shown below:

Traditional Rabbit Lantern.

These days, due to some reasons, the lanterns are made with battery operated ones that are lighted on small bulbs. That means no more candles! (Boring!) Not just that, it comes with some irritating music too! So instead of a quiet evening admiring the moon, it will be a super noisy evening with kids running around with musical lighted lanterns. Yes I mean running with the lanterns! During my childhood, I don’t run with lanterns! I walk with them making sure the light don’t go off. So much fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

Plastic Lanterns – Battery Operated.

This year, the mid autumn festival will be on the 19th September, I’m going to try to bring back my childhood memories with Jos in the Dutch land! Looking forward! I will make a special post on that if it really happens. ๐Ÿ™‚

Signing Off, J

Noah’s Ark comes alive in Dordrecht

Have you heard about Noah’s Ark? As a child, I’ve learn about Noah and his ark from the church I went every Sunday. I read the story in the bible, I was reminded frequently when the pastor gives his weekly ministry and when I grew into my teens, I was even made to tell this story to the children attending Sunday school. (Yes, I used to be a Sunday School teacher.) Although I don’t attend churches anymore, this christian story has left a very deep impression in me.

After those childhood years, I was reminded once again when EVAN ALMIGHTY was aired. That was like Noah’s Ark in the 20th century. Funny and quite amazing too. ย  I enjoyed the movie very much. Have you watch it? Anyway, at that point, I thought, the story about Noah’s Ark just elevated from being a bible story into a movie. Cool!

Evans Almight – Noah’s Ark alike story line.

Even though I’ve not forgotten about, I leave the story of Noah’s Ark as that. And then in Feb year 2012, I moved to the Netherlands for the love of my life. To be honest, until today, I’m still in disbelief that I’ve moved to the Netherlands, Netherlands was never in my mind. Not a place I want to visit before but I made my way here anyway. It still feels so surreal, i can only smile in disbelief.

Anyway, long story short, the point I wanna make is …. I’ve not just moved to Netherlands for the love of my life, I’ve also moved next to my childhood memory that came alive – A Solid Massive, life-sized Noah’s Ark; a story, standing right in front of my eyes. I’ve not stopped being fascinated by it each time our car drove past it.

Noah’s ark (Ark van Noach) in Dordrecht officially open in Dec 2012 (The year I Arrived!). This massive full-scale and functioning Ark was built by a Dutchman (obviously), Mr John Huibers, who apparently claimed to have a vision from God that his country would flood. Many think he is crazy but I think it is quite understandable to be paranoid since the dutch are living in a lowlands with most part of the country lying below sea level. Although the dutch are protected from flood by dams, dikes and natural sand dunes, there is still possibility of flood. And for the record, I’m in high danger because I don’t swim; I sink!

The animals in the Ark – in pairs

A cafe in the Ark.

Oh did I mentioned this ark is fully functioning? Yes, this Dutchman is not building a toy boat, he is in this for real. The size has to be on scale 1:1 and it has to be able to move around like any other boats. How amazing is that? I think this guy is brilliant and awesome. But just recently, there was also news that he has the intention to bring his Ark on a world tour! So does that means no more Noah’s Ark in Dordrecht? Maybe it’s only for a world tour and the Ark will be back to home ground? Apparently, not! John Huibers thinks the people has enough of the ark and it should leave and never return! Aww.. that’s so sad! So having said that, what are you waiting for? Hurry rush down to Dordrecht, the beautiful little town in the Netherlands ! ๐Ÿ™‚

I shall end this post with a video about the Ark. Check it out ! You should really visit before it leaves forever!

 

Soaking in Italian Sun

We’ve been out and travelling again. This time out for two weeks, on road, back to Italy. We did the same routes we did two years ago. Maybe it seems boring and stupid to do the same trip we did two years ago, but this is how much we love Italy.

I’m typing this on my iPad while Jos steps on the accelerator of the vehicle heading back to the Netherlands. We are now 530km away from home and about 650km away from our last stop; Venice. At this point, I started missing the days we spent in Tuscany, strange because the last trip we fell in love with the Garda Lake in Arco. This time, I feel a lot for Tuscany, i cannot explain. Perhaps the 2 hours i spent shopping at the Prada outlet at Montarvachi or the half hour at the other luxury outlet mall in Florence? It could also be the wonderful time we have at the campsite, swimming and being bored, watching the landscape from the terrace, enjoying the sun, the smell of the morning dew and the sound of the chirping birds. Surely not the creepy crawlies that freak me out and left my hair standing. I only wish these campsite take a little more effort in keeping the crawlies away.. But then again, that’s what you get camping. But we like the life of campers, living a life out of busy towns but in the suburbs.

The most beautiful sights I’ve seen thus far was the sights of really old couples doing the things a young couple would. My heart warms each time I sees them.

While in Florence, every evening we would get a drink at the cafe before dinner. On the 2nd evening, a old lady sat on her wheelchair sipping coffee with her dear husband. She’s plump wearing a floral dress and I also noticed her feet was somewhat swollen. But otherwise, she looks a healthy old lady. Not frail at all. The same night I went for my shower at the shared bath-rooms, their caravan was parked just outside the rows of bath-rooms. The lady still in wheel chair, eating her dinner with her dear husband. I felt instantly sweet that a couple at their age would go on an adventure together despite the disabilities of the wife. And being disabled also means the dear husband has to be assigned to do everything. And trust me, camping is not like a holiday staying in a hotel. You have to clean your own cave. Doing it together is fun, doing it alone must be Love.

While in Fusina, the campsite we stayed does not have a swimming pool, even sadder to realise it is no where near to a beach (not within walking distance.) But the strange thing is I’ve spotted many people in swimwear. So I demanded “there has to be a beach somewhere.” But Jos have asked the reception and was told no.

One evening, we took a walk making a nice round. Near to where the jetty is, where the boat arrives to ferry people from Fusina to Venice. There, many people lies on their beach mat in bikini n swimming trunks just to get the tan. It is at crazy 36 degree!! It is amazing how much these people love the sun despite not having any water within reach to soak and cool them down. In fact, the warmth was a little too much for me. When I start feeling the sun burning my skin, I would pull out my sunscreen SPF 50 to block the sun out. At this moment, I saw an old man in swim trunks rubbing sunscreen on the back of his bikini dressed wife. They must be 80 at least. I like to take a picture of the sight but really didn’t wanna be rude. It was such a lovely sight. I melt not by the sun but by how blessed are people that grow old together and are still able to do things young people does. So much love, so much passion.

And then from where I stand… I spotted another old couple holding hands inching away from the jetty… This, in my opinion, is love.

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Besides the lovely couples, here are some lovely views of The places we’ve been..

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Till next time! ๐Ÿ™‚

Birthday & Wanted

I find it extremely amusing knowing how the Dutch celebrate their birthday. I heard and witness the Birthday Circles but what really amuses me is walking into a building to be greeted with posters (not one but many) glued to the wall with a woman or a man’s picture (may or may not be a smiling picture) and right beside the pictures was NOT the word – WANTED but the word – HOERA. Then you know, it is not a poster of a missing person but a person who is celebrating their 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th or even 70th birthday. They don’t just celebrate in private with their families and friends, they announce it! They have this inner rush to scream… IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!

I was taken a back by this practice twice. The first thought I had when I approached the poster wasn’t positive until I read the word Hoera. The first time was in School and another time in my office building and then for the rest of the whole day you will see the same poster in the toilet, at the hall way, in front of the lift lobby, just everywhere. And next, you may even come face to face to this birthday Girl or Guy (whom you don’t speak to before) and you have to Gefeliciteerd (Congratulate) them out of courtesy.

As much as they can be really cold, this is also how friendly the Dutch can get when it comes to birthdays. I just find this really amusing! I had on 2 occasions wanted to take a picture of the posters but didn’t want to be caught, so below is a doodle picture I drew on the IPAD so you have a idea how it is like! ๐Ÿ™‚

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And in other news…. I am beginning to believe SPRING is not coming! It is March 14th and still snowing in this part of the world. And yes, I am complaining. I do need some warmth, it’s been cold far too long….

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The Merlion Safely completed Year 1

Psst! Psst! Hey, I have survived a year in the Netherlands! I don’t know how I did it but I did. Will you now throw some confetti, send me 3 kisses and tell me I did well? ๐Ÿ™‚

Yes, it’s been a year and this year surely went fast! Sometimes, I feel like Sheldon in an episode of Big Bang Theory where he was FLASH. For me, It is like in a twinkling of an eye. I’ve traveled back and forth Singapore & Netherlands a few times, Touched the sand on Barcelona Beach, Enjoyed the Sun in Brussels City, Kissed the morning dew in Dusseldorf, Ran after the train in Paris, Smelled the Romantic Air of Ghent, Chilled in Hyde Park in London and walked more than a hundred miles in so many part of the Netherlands! All these in less than a year! And in between all that, I have to work 5 days a week, go for my Dutch Lesson 2 times a week (and skipped many of course), Running to the Gym at least two times a week and think of what to wear to face the amazing weather every single day! *Applause*

Recalling all those moments, Thank GOD, I can only smile. ๐Ÿ™‚

Although I cannot say I was happy all the time because there was time I miss home real bad and not being in my comfort zone feels horrible, I must say it has been a terrific one year. The ups makes me happy and the downs just makes me stronger. Both of them together gives me an experience of a lifetime! I guess this is what human relates to being ALIVE & in “LIFE”

I will not bring you through the lengthy details of my ups & downs and surely would not repeat the story of what I did the whole year since most of it are in the blog posts. However, I should be proud enough to point out some little achievements that I’ve achieved during this year… and here we go:

Achievement 1 – Driving

I started driving on my own during the 1st month I live in the Netherlands. With the help of the navigation systems in the car, I go everywhere. And, from constantly driving very close to the right side of any road and at some point having bright head light of another on coming vehicle (of any kind) flashing at me. To Today; I’ve already gotten 2 speeding tickets till date. And yes, speeding ticket in Netherlands is nasty and unkind. Now I set my car to cruise control and pray I don’t fall asleep…

Me shivering on the left hand drive…

Achievement 2 – Language

During the part of my time in Netherlands, all I could clearly say and understand was; NIET GOED (Not Good), WAAROM (Why) & HOE GAAT HET MET JOU (how are you?). Until a point where Jos said, it is time you go back to your Dutch Lesson and start picking up more new words (he said that even though I already have lesson); nasty boyfriend I have.

Today, although I still don’t speak the Dutch Language as much as I like to, I think I grow to like the language (FOR THE RECORD – I HATE IT FROM THE START) and uses it when speaking to Jos and he understood. Just last night, I completed my Dutch homework without much of his help. *Applause* ! The only time I needed help was when I do not understand the meaning of a particular word. But surely, I have and improved by 100 folds (I think). Although there is possibly a thousand folds so mathematically, it’s only 10 percent but all I want to achieve is to first understand this Dutchies so encouragement please?

I remember I blog about speaking to Dutch is like chicken and duck talk. Now… it is no where close. i understand you more now Dutchie.. DO NOT SPEAK BEHIND MY BACK! ๐Ÿ™‚

Achievement 3 – Work

When I starting working and had to communicate on email and made phone calls to the Dutch. It was hard. Although they could speak English quite well but at some point, speaking to a foreigner can be really annoying to them (I guess). Our culture are different. The way we put across a message is different. The pace of working are different by a big wide gap.

As Singaporean, we live and worked in a very fast pace environment. We are expected to stay in the office and work till we get the job done. Here in the Netherlands is different, we work our ass out during the 8 hours in the office but no one else work once the clock strike 5pm. The phone will ring and ring and no one will pick up the call. I was frustrated when I can not get the work done before 5pm since there will be no answer. I was nervous and stressed out. Today I understand, no matter how stress out and unhappy you are about the situation, nothing is gonna change. I will not get my answer and I should just leave the office and enjoy my evening. That is truly … Life. And as I gotten more and more use to the pace, I become happier and happier to work in an environment like this one! Ane being happy also allow me to handle every situation better. As such, working is no longer stressful. I hearts my JOB. ๐Ÿ™‚

Besides the little achievements above…cutting the distance and living with Jos is also one big achievement. We have master the art of living together and be still in love. On top of all that, I have learn a great deal about life. Somethings I learn cannot be well described in words but yet it is the best lesson in life. It is meant for every individual to go through it to learn. Not one I can tell or teach.

Well, but because I survived the many ups and downs of living in a foreign country, I was just being qualified (by myself) to write a list of (proven) tips to survive the ups & downs of Life; whether you are living abroad or in your home country, I realize it does not differs.

TIPS ON SURVIVING THE UPS & DOWN

Speaking from a survival point of view …..

To survive THE UPS; one need to :

  • Smile
  • Share
  • Snap Shots

To survive THE DOWNS; it is as easy as ABC:

  • A- Allow People Around You, Do Not SHUT OUT from friends & love ones.
  • B – Breathe (And tell yourself this: “Oh great! I’m still breathing!”
  • C – Cry (Let the tears flow on any willing shoulders. Mine has always been Jos! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

After the ABC, memories the below:

  • It isn’t that bad. You must be imagining.
  • Life isn’t fair. But Its still Good.
  • No One is Perfect. As long as you are alive, you can still correct it.
  • Nothing last forever, including sadness.

If all else fails, you know you have me… faithfully me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Me enjoying the Winter

To end the 1st year, we celebrate by going to A Villa for dinner! Tell you more about this Villa in my next post! Ciao!