Friday, March 30, 2007

What We Call the News

A hilarious but painfully accurate reflection of the state of news media today, and how the powers that be have deemed it more important to ceaselessly debate the paternity of Anna Nicole Smith's baby than to report on the genocide in Darfur...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hedonist Artisan Chocolates II

Hedonist Artisan Chocolates is officially taking orders!!

I had written here about how our friends Zahra and Jennie have started their own handmade chocolate business. They're now taking orders for Easter so please order, order, order! because you KNOW they're going to be deeeeevine!!

Go Zahra and Jennie!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Track of the week: Over the Ice - The Field

Call it whatever you like - microhouse, ambient pop, shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine-esque electro, glacial Nordic soundscape ... Whatever it is, Axel Wilner, a.k.a The Field from Stockholm has me reaching for my currency converter to calculate how much 11.99EU is in US dollars. Much hyped by Pitchfork and this glowing review by InFactAh, I am completely unable to resist this. There's something about these Nordic folks and their electronic music... I've also been obsessed with another Nord, Trentemoeller. Check out this paragraph from InFactAh:

This is music for imagining a utopian future to, for dreaming of running through alpine fields with that cute girl on the other side of the dancefloor and for hoping that this tune lasts forever and you never have to open your eyes. Simply stated, it’s truly beautiful music. At this point, words run out... The Field knows some deep magic, the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since the ‘90s heyday of ‘Selected Ambient Works’ or ‘The Brown Album’. Frankly it doesn’t really matter what music you’re normally into, I think you still need this record. It’ll make you a better person.

By the way, the track comes from The Field's new album From Here We Go Sublime and you can preview it here. And on The Field's MySpace page, there's a better track than the one I'm streaming called "Everyday". Damn you kompakt ... I thought I was done with electronic music forever ...

Update: Serene says that I should retitle this post "Release your inner techno beng" :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Zen and the art of sushi-making...

As if I don't love sushi enough already- tonight, I tapped into the pulsing energies of that mystical universe otherwise known as sushi-making, specifically, maki-rolling. You think well, it's just a ball of rice flattened onto nori, a smear of wasabi, a helping of whatever filling you feel like, and you're good to go.

Erm... no.

I now have even greater respect for sushi chefs. The pictures tell exactly just how hard rolling the perfect maki roll is. I was disastrous until my last one- I'm not even going to go into it... It's hard to find affordable sushi-grade fish in Ann Arbor, so we stuck to making makis instead of nigiri sushi pieces. The fun was really in experimenting with the different fillings people brought with them: bulgogi with cream cheese, tofu with pickled plum and enoki, even artificial crabmeat with ranch dressing!

1. Rick's "Philly" roll, 2. Jinah's super-duper roll, 3. Rick's vegetarian roll, 4. Jude making his first roll, 5. Enoki mushrooms with marinated tofu, 6. Serene's disastrous first roll, 7. Marinated tofu with bulgogi, 8. Sesame marinated tofu, radish and burdock, 9. Serene before attempting her first sushi roll

[mosaic created with Flickr Toys]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My Visual DNA

So my sister sent me this link a couple of days ago and I've been having some fun with it since. It's a personality test/ social networking/ online-shopping site. Basically, it purports to be able to discover your "Visual DNA" by the ways in which you respond to different pictures. Kinda like a Rorschach inkblot test, but without the inkblot...

The Gift Finder feature is kinda neat, and pretty darn accurate too. After responding to a series of pictures, it generates a list of gifts that might suit you, a wish-list of some sort. You're supposed to then send that to your loved ones so you don't get another dozen pair of socks or a sad sweater for your birthday. Amongst other things, it predicted that I would like these handmade Danish felt slippers (that I would totally buy if not for the fact that they cost 48 pounds each!...), a hamper of Italian yummies (not too much of a stretch there...), a Marimekko make-up bag (*gasp* my secret Marimekko lust has been exposed...), organic Dark Hot Chocolate (!!! who ARE these people??...), and a Tivoli radio, which believe it or not, we already own! So there, I can do without an apron that costs 18 pounds or an organic wine case (I guess if you had enough money to buy enough wine to want a wine case, you would want it to be organic... *rolls eyes*...), but on the whole, they've made the point- they get my Visual DNA... This is apparently what Visual DNA says about me (what? they figure out what I want for Christmas and now they want to expose the inner workings of my soul too? Right...)

Your choice of colour signifies a sense of intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty and calm. You are likely to be a very devoted and loyal person that likes things to be in order. You are probably happy to express your emotions and are regarded by your friends as someone that can easily gauge their mood.

Spare time is spent doing the little things in life that keep you going. You like the predictability of routine - but also the random nature of escaping the day to day and dreaming of somewhere else.

Nothing beats spontaneity; fun for you is unpredictable, reckless and a little childish! You have heaps of energy and love to be in the centre of things.

You love to surround yourself with friends - you are generous with your time - and it is a real treat to have a good conversation over a nice long dinner...

Your style is relaxed and approachable, you like things to have character, and posses that handcrafted feel.

When you have extra time you like to spend it enjoying the everyday activities that others ignore. These moments are sometimes snatched, but so important.

You like your holidays to be relaxing, and exotic. You want the basics - just sand and sea. Whether in a hotel or under the stars you love the laid back vibe of life on the beach, life passes so slowly and easily...

What matters to you most is your family, you see them as the backbone of your life.

Giving means doing that little bit extra for those that really matter to you. Shunning grand gestures, you know it is the little things in life that count. You are caring and appreciative, and sometimes a little soppy!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sonic Youth to perform Daydream Nation in its entirety

So we were really impressed with the Pitchfork Music Festival last year. And although this year's lineup has yet to be fully announced, we've gone ahead and bought our 3-day pass to the event already. And the thing that has gotten me really excited is the fact that Sonic Youth will be performing Daydream Nation, the full album, in all its noisy, dreamy and teen-angsty glory. This performance of Daydream Nation comes as part of All Tomorrow's Parties- Don't Look Back series. Also, the performance comes on the eve of the album's 20th anniversary since its release. It's pretty amazing to think about this album and how far it's come - it was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2005. That's saying something about the cultural significance of this work, let alone the personal significance to thousands of teens growing up in the 80s. But enough of the "incredibly cheesy sentences extolling the album's greatness".

I thought that it'd be a good idea to attach a photo that I managed to take with the band when they performed in Singapore in 1996. Click here for a funny story about that interview. I was working as a freelance journalist then and had the good fortune to be able to interview the band with Lim Cheng Tju. Someday I'll put up the interview that we conducted with Thurston Moore on my personal- and as yet illusory- website :)

But enough about the past, in the meantime, until I lay on the grass in Union Park, Chicago in July, closing my eyes to a live rendition of "Teen Age Riot", I guess watching the video online will just have to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blue eyes vs. brown eyes

Watching the TAL video Jude posted below was both delightful and a little sad at the same time- the artless candor of children on the one hand, but also how vulnerable and impressionable they can be. Which then reminded me of something else that Jude had shared with me recently: this PBS special, A Class Divided is a arresting look at how one Iowa teacher in 1968 taught her third-grade class a devastating lesson on prejudice and discrimination. It won the 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Informational, Cultural, & Historical Programming and is also one of PBS Frontline most requested programs ever.

I won't say much about it except that it's almost like Schindler's List and The Stanford Prison Experiment, but in primary school. I STRONGLY urge that you watch it- everyone should- but make sure you have a box of Kleenex next to you and that you're sitting down. Be cautioned: it's very powerful, very uncomfortable to watch and I wish there was a better way to teach this lesson to children. It also shows you how children are more politically and socially aware than adults give them credit for. Some of the sentiments articulated by these eight-year-olds are more honest and insightful than you'll ever hear from the most learned adult. And the fact that something so fundamental to human existence even has to be taught in the first place makes it even more heartbreaking. I don't think I could bear to watch it another time without breaking down again.

There are originally five parts to this series; here are YouTube links to the first two, and they're also the most powerful ones. You can see the rest of them here.

This American Life ... on TV!!!

Serene and myself are big fans of the National Public Radio Chicago Public Radio program, This American Life. (Check out their official website as well) We love the little memoirs, narratives, interviews and field recordings that emerge each week with this program. Thus, the both of us are greatly anticipating the debut of This American Life (TAL) on the Showtime Channel tomorrow. However, while on Boing Boing today, I was delighted to find out that not only is there a viral teaser out there on the internet, also one of the segments has been entirely illustrated by Chris Ware, a favorite comic artiste of mine. Click on the link above and you'll get to view the entire teaser segment. After watching this, all I can say is that I can't wait to see how they translate what is a very successful radio program on to the boob tube :)

I should have looked more carefully, but there are a bunch of trailers for TAL on their website. I've embedded them below. Also, I thought that I didn't really articulate why I liked this show so much. I think that it's a combination of things - Ira Glass's superb production and editing, the soundtrack that they use and the little stories that they tell. At the end of the day, I think that TAL presents to us tiny 'ethnographies' of everyday life and continues Studs Turkle's tradition of interviewing everyday people to get a better picture of how society functions.

If you check the comments, WD45 has corrected me that TAL is not produced by NPR but by Chicago Public Radio and distributed by PRI international. My apologies for that mistake. That's what you get for growing up in a country where all radio is owned by the government in one way or another. I must admit that I had the misconception that all public radio in the US was controlled or associated by NPR in some way. My bad :(

Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Paddy's Day

I was a little wary initially when Jude suggested that we "get with the spirit" and do something for St. Paddy's Day. The only thing I actively associate with this Irish holiday is undergrads getting drunk on bad green beer at ten in the morning. Not pleasant. In the first place, can a day really be considered an actual holiday when the primary activity involved is just drinking?...

Anyways, as previously established, in this household, any celebrating of any sort essentially means cooking and eating. So we bought ourselves a slab of corned beef brisket, a head of cabbage and a bag of potatoes, and had Rick & Emilee over for our very first corned beef and cabbage dinner.

I had my reservations about a recipe that calls for just boiling a chunk of meat to death for 3 whole hours. Before coming to the States, the only kind of corned beef I had any idea of is of the canned variety, as is the case in the U.K. Nevertheless, I gamely partook of this American tradition, albeit with a little twist. Instead of just serving it straight after boiling the beef (I can't imagine that being particularly flavorful), I glazed it with a honey-mustard sauce and baked it in the oven for a while after. I think the final product was rather satisfactory for a first-try, and everyone seemed to like it :) On top of that, Rick made some Irish Soda Bread to go with the meal and it was delicious! More cake-like than regular bread, it was warm, dense, and deeply comforting.

Bailey's Irish Creme rounded off the night as we watch The Prestige together (much better than The Illusionist- Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale rock!), and I think everyone was duly satisfied. And that, is probably more the essence of St. Paddy's Day than anything else- a warm home, good food, and great friends :) We couldn't have asked for more...

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
- Old Irish Blessing

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Are prevailing notions of developing and third world nations still valid?

Excellant visualization software and presentation by Hans Rosling at the TED conference that suggests we need to revisit the categories of Developing nation and Third World.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Home, sweet home

So the thing about doing my research on something like national identity is that I've been paying a much keener attention to news related to issues like immigration and what it means to "belong" to a nation. Just in the last week alone, I've come across two Singaporean news articles related to this: one was about how the new expatriates who work in Singapore today are no longer the same as the ones who came a generation before (see "For new expats, integration may not really work"); unlike some of our forefathers who were running away from abject poverty and harsh conditions in their homeland, and who intended to remain in Singapore, many expatriates today fully expect to return to their home country after they've made enough money. Singapore may give them incentives to stay- they are after all, "foreign talent"- housing rebates, education rebates for their children, or simply monetary incentives, and these expatriates will gladly accept. Who wouldn't? But they will not stay. For them, Singapore is not a potential home, it is a marketplace. The writer of the article concludes that in this day and age, rather than attempt to integrate these educated foreigners into our fold and hoping that they will help to diversify and expand Singapore's talent pool, we should instead adopt a revolving-door policy with regards to them, and concentrate on "building and growing a core of people who believe in the soul of this nation".

But the other article seems to contradict the lofty ideals of this dear writer. In "
Singapore is leaking talent", we find out that Singapore's Senior Minister is well aware of the statistics which show that some of our bestest and brightest citizens are staying away from our fair country, choosing instead to work and make a life for themselves and their families overseas. He laments the loss of this talent and talks about how, "This is a very big problem for us because if we lose the top 0.5 per cent from the next generation, Singapore will have a much lower 'peak'. The world is now competing on human resources and talent."

But our Senior Minister has a solution. To make up for this loss of local talent, Singapore will simply look for workers and citizens elsewhere.
We will attract them to Singapore, get them to work here, encourage them to raise their children here, buy property, and magically, we can turn them in Singaporeans. Easy. Q.E.D.

Or is it? I'd like to think that difficult problems like these don't always have such easy solutions. Instead, why not also think about what keeps the Singaporeans who make up the "top peak" from coming home? Admittedly, encouraging steps have been taken to make sure that Singaporeans abroad will always have a tether to home; the Prime Minister's Office set up the Overseas Singaporean Unit specifically for this purpose- to engage and connect with Singaporeans working and studying abroad. In his last National Day Rally speech, the Prime Minister also made sure to talk about the Singaporean diaspora and what the country needs to do to maintain strong links with her citizens overseas.

And yet, the bulk of the rest of the speech as well as much recent public rhetoric suggest that an aggressive immigration policy is still primary when it comes to solving the brain drain issue in Singapore. Yes, we have always been a multicultural nation, a nation built by immigrants, and we're proud of it. I am proud of it. This is what has given us the unique identity few other Asian nations possess. But simply courting more immigrants and hoping that they can be easily transformed into Singaporeans, rather than spending more time thinking about how to bring home the Singaporeans who have been born and bred on our sunny island seems a little myopic.
It's easy to pick a couple of thousands of people from faraway lands, give them a bunch of rebates and turn them into one of our own. It's harder to figure out carefully how to inculcate a grounded yet thoughtful notion of citizenship and national belonging in the 4.3 million we presently have.

Consider the reasons why increasing numbers of Singaporeans move overseas completely, why those who are already abroad may not want to return home to raise their families, and then do something about it. Rethink the stifling competitiveness that defines our nation. Take pains to reconsider our education system and how hard it is for so many of our young children. Re-evaluate hallowed notions of power, control and expression. It's not just about playing catch-up and making sure that our economy can compete with the biggest and baddest boys in the game. It's not just about numbers and reaching that tipping point in our population in order to produce a Nobel Prize winner. We need to be guided by principles of rootedness and memory, belonging and identity. We need people- citizens and immigrants alike; they are our resource. But more importantly, we need Singaporeans- they are our soul.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Where numbers mean nothing..."

It was breathtaking. And watching it in its IMAX version meant that we heard every whizzing arrow, every piercing spear, and every single bellowing Spartan war-cry. And it was awesome.

Critics are going to be divided as to whether 300 as a film is all CG-wizardry and spectacle but no soul, or whether it has any real narrative resonance. Scholars are going to argue over the historical accuracy of the events and characterizations (here's a nice article to put things in perspective a little.) I personally thought that as a story, it was stronger than other ancient epic adaptations like Troy (silly), Alexander (even sillier), or Gladiator (ok, I'm not even going to go there).

Perhaps there is something about the David vs. Goliath nature of that battle at Thermopylae, its purpose, and the whole Spartan myth of the citizen-soldier that just resonates more strongly with me than massive empires rising and falling. It doesn't matter whether the narrative is historically accurate- that's not what myths are. Myths are essentially stories we tell ourselves (or allow ourselves to believe in) that perpetuate a certain vision of history and to some extent, the present. And that got Jude and I talking after the movie about what it means to be patriotic. Spartans believed that to defend their homeland was their destiny from birth, that to die for Sparta was the most honorable death possible. Do Americans/ Singaporeans, or citizens of any nation feel that way today about their country of birth? Do leaders of countries have to tap into or even engineer an imagined myth of their own in order to vitalize these feelings of fervent national belonging and membership?

My dissertation research is moving towards this direction- the role of schools in the political socialization of young children, particularly their development of national identity. Which is why this movie has been on my mind all day. What does it take to develop a citizenry as devoted and committed to a nation that to die in her name is preferable to kneeling in submission? Or perhaps patriotism in its traditional sense has become archaic, a thing of the past in this age of globalization, trans-migration and multicultural populations?

One of my favorite quotes from the film:
...only Spartan women give birth to real men.
-Queen Gorgo

What a weekend...

The collage pretty much captures our entire "oh-boy-the-sun-is-finally-out" weekend: we dug deep into our souls and discovered our closet hard-rocker alter-egos, got in touch with our lost youth by watching the preternaturally youthful Matthew Broderick, and went curling in Windsor, where my head made cracking contact with the ice, which explains my throbbing head and aching neck as we speak.

1) Libby had us over to play Guitar Hero on Friday night. I have to confess that I was initially more than a tad bit wary, but let's just say that whatever skepticism I had dissipated with those first stirring notes of "Sweet Child of Mine" :) I so own Guns 'n Roses!... All I have to do now is to make sure my husband doesn't surreptitiously run out and buy us a set of our own, in which case we can both kiss finishing our dissertations goodbye... (See Libby's photos of us melting faces here.)

2) Instead of doing our taxes as we had planned on Saturday, we ended up watching Ferris Bueller on Bravo instead. It was my first time watching the whole thing from beginning to end, and although it's a little dated (alright, culottes are so not ok...), there's something about the exuberance of the movie and its enduring theme that's still so endearing after all these years. Save Ferris!

3) Rachael and her friends from work organized a trip to Windsor to do some curling (photos here). Until her first email, I had no clue what that was at all. I knew it had nothing to do with hair that's for sure... In a nutshell, it's a cross between ice-hockey, bowling and pool maybe (See Wikipedia entry here.) It was really fun, and definitely harder than it looks. Jude swore to no longer laugh when he sees people play it on TV- it's hard, and a little funny initially when it looked like we were all vigorously spring-cleaning the rink...

What is less funny was when I slipped while chasing a rock. Apparently I landed on my butt, and because all the actions you would have otherwise taken to regain your balance as you fall don't really apply when you're standing on ice (and with one shoe taped no less), I promptly fell backwards and hit my head on the rink hard, as in "the-whole-rink-stopped-playing" hard. It hurt really bad and I wanted to cry, but was too embarrassed to. I did feel bad that everyone had to stop playing and crowd over me. And strangers came up and asked me if I was ok... I was a little nauseous I think and woozy for a while but several ice-packs helped and so did a really strong Cuban coffee at Vincente's (I keep telling you, coffee is the universal elixir people...). The bump on my head's subsided now but the whole base of my neck's all stiff and aching. Jude's worried I might have a mild concussion, so we're going to the doctor's for a check-up tomorrow.

We'll definitely go curling again, except next time, please remind me to wear a hat :)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Smile :)

I drove with the windows down today :) Woo-hoo!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Of traffic jams and free burritos

Free burritos!
Originally uploaded by justlibby.
[Libby's picture]

With the exception of football weekends and those occasions when I stupidly drive onto Washtenaw during peak hours, I have never been caught in a traffic jam within the Ann Arbor city limits. NEVER.

Until today.

It took me a good TEN minutes to get from the junction at the Whole Foods complex to the new Chipotle on Washtenaw. People, that's a 5-minute WALK away. And why did it take me that long to get from said Point A to Point B? Because Chipotle had its official opening today and were giving away free burritos! Thanks to Rick and Emilee, we've come to like Chipotle very much too, but until today, the nearest one had been in Livonia.

So anyway, I brave the insane traffic, get to the Chipotle complex and had to then park at Denny's which is two blocks away because there were just honking cars everywhere! It's by no means warm today but there was still a ridiculous line round the corner outside the restaurant stretching to goodness knows where. I couldn't get in line with Jude and Libby coz they had already made it into the restaurant and there was no way I was going to brave the marauding horde of hoodie-clad undergrads waiting for their burrito fix. I can't imagine what they would have done to anything that got between them and a free meal and soda. Jude and I ended up sharing one burrito because each person was only entitled to one. It was very good and I have a feeling that given enough motivation, my husband would have hopped back in line in a jiffy :)

The real eye-opener was when we were driving home actually. First, the parking lot was swarming with even more cars and people literally running madly towards Chipotle; then, the jam got even worse than when I had been in it. By this time, it had stretched from the junction of Washtenaw and Huron Parkway all the way to the Huron Hills Golf Course. Ok, that's about a mile long folks.

We're going to wait until the madness dies down and the weather gets better. Then we can sit outside in the sun, sipping lemonade and slowly enjoying my soft taco with pork carnitas and guacamole. Mmmmm... :)

Yet another tune of the week: Young Folks

A tune that's gotten stuck in my head after I heard it on the radio last night. Don't you think that the whistling bit sounds a lot like the tune that Darryl Hannah's character, Elle Driver (codename: California Mountain Snake) whistles in the Kill Bill movies? I could be wrong. Also, the laconic style of the animation in the video seems to suit the track quite well. Apparently this video is all the rage on the internet and Peter Bjorn and John are about to embark on a US tour.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tune of the week: Back to Ypsilanti

I was cruising through my RSS feeds and came across a post by Mark Maynard (of Crimewave USA fame) about an Ypsilanti anthem. In the post he linked to a wonderful track by native Ypsi resident, Lee Osler, called "Back to Ypsilanti". It's a groovy little number that really put a smile on my face this evening. You can read more about the song on the Cousins Vinyl blog.

For those not local to Ann Arbor or Detroit, Ypsilanti (or Ypsi, pronounced ip-see) is the neighboring city to Ann Arbor where we do our groceries and find the restaurants to be cheaper. The city's (it's more of a town really...) a little rough around the edges and suffers somewhat from being the poor cousin next to Ann Arbor. However, there's a growing local-pride movement and the city's attracting a young hipster set who are interested in a DIY, local arts and crafts mindset. Heck, it's the birthplace of Iggy Pop and has one of the best public jazz radio stations I know of.

But whatever it is, the tune's bound to make those familiar with Ypsi smile :)

It's March already, but...

In Celsius:

In Fahrenheit:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thrown-together breakfast

[See update below]

So, believe this or not- for the first time in the history of the Yew household, we were almost clean out of breakfast food.

We're talking no bread, no cereal, no yogurt, no oatmeal. Well, we had coffee and milk, but then again, we ALWAYS have coffee and milk... Anyways, the last time we went to the store was before Boston, and we just haven't found the time to shop again since. But we did have 3 eggs and some potatoes, so I adapted this recipe I found on the Food Network for Baked Eggs and Hash. Once again, our nifty new Calphalon skillet came to the rescue (which by the way, Jude had found on Amazon at an obscene 80% discount!)- I love being able to cook something on the stove-top and then finishing it in the oven.

Also, instead of using just oregano on the eggs, I used Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. It's one my favorite things from one of my favorite stores- it's got a combination of your regular herbs, but also some interesting flavors like orange peel, cayenne pepper and savory. We put it on everything, from our scrambled eggs to roasted veggies.

Breakfast turned out rather yummy for a first attempt :) The eggs were just nice- firm whites and slightly oozy yolks, and extremely tasty too coz of the herbs and Parmesan cheese (don't leave this out!) With a steaming mug of coffee, a late breakfast in front of the TV on another snowy morning was a sweet way to slowly round off what's been an already wonderful spring break :)

Update: We finally went grocery shopping and stocked up on bread, a dozen eggs, TWO kinds of cereal, oranges, strawberries, and a 5lb bag of potato. There will not be a breakfast crisis in this house for a while... :)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Friday, March 02, 2007

Total Recall II

Day Three:
- We did a little exploring on our own today, which inevitably turned into hanging out at the Harvard C0-Op and returning to the MIT Press Bookstore. That's the thing about being in a city with one of the highest concentrations of universities- good bookstores are everywhere and with that comes great bargains when it comes to good academic books too :) So yes, we bought more books...
- Jude brought me to Newbury Street, supposedly Boston's shopping strip of sorts. It was cute, kind of like Ste. Laurent in Montreal. But unlike its Québécois counterpart, most of Newbury Street was almost completely unaffordable. Still, it was just nice to walk along the brownstones for a somewhat different shopping experience than let's say in NY or Chicago.
- From the impossibly expensive to the completely free, we headed into the Boston Public Library where they were having a John Adams exhibition. The collection was ok I guess; I was more awed by the architecture of the building more than anything else. While I do appreciate innovative structures like Gehry's Stata Center, there is also something deeply moving about being in the presence of a well-aged dame of a building.
- My friend Julie used to live in Boston and highly recommended Central Kitchen in Central Square for dinner. We met Terence there and we were all pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. It's a little nondescript bistro, dimmed lighting, and a great little menu. My duck confit was meltingly delicious and Jude and Terence both loved their homemade venison sausages with lentils. Definitely worth a second visit if ever!
- We skipped dessert at Central Kitchen so that we could grab gelato at Toscanini's. Anyone who tells you you can't eat ice-cream on a winter night has clearly never been to Toscanini's. The lavender-honey and orange-buttercream gelato were so decadently creamy, you won't believe it were made of milk. Anything lavender always makes me happy, and so does any kind of dessert, so I was one happy girl that cold, frosty Monday night :)

Day Four (a.k.a. Today in History...):
- If you ever find yourself in the Cambridge area and are looking for a place to have breakfast, please look no further and walk straight into Petsi's Pies on Putnam Avenue (Stan and Susan, there is one in Somerville too!). There, you will find the fluffiest, scrummiest ever egg sandwiches, frittata, muffins and scones. See here and here. To make it an even more alluring brekkie site, they play Sigur Ros. Icelandic music during breakfast- enough said... :)
- Dear Stan took some time off work today and played the consummate guide around the outskirts of Boston. It was amazing to be on the same sites as some of the most significant moments of U.S. history, whether it's where the first shot of the Revolutionary Wars was sounded, the bridge of the first battle, or the house of the original Minutemen. It's hard to look at the U.S. now and remember that it had been a British colony just a mere 200 years or so ago...
- The more interesting history however, was that of Stan's himself :) He took us to the house where he used to live in Lexington, his schools when growing up, to Tuft's where he and Susan went to college and met, and finally to their little cozy apartment in the oh-so-cool Davis Square (where I just found out was voted in 1997 as one of the country's 15 hippest places to live- you go guys!).
- After another great recommendation by Terence to have some down-home, stick-to-your-ribs Chinese food in Chinatown, we all bundled into Susan's car and headed for the swanky Finale in Harvard Square for an all-out indulgent dessert extravaganza.
- Words fail to describe the ambrosia that is Finale. Whether it is the warm molten chocolate or a heavenly crème brûlée that actually surpassed what I had thought to be the Platonic crème brûlée in Montreal, everything was simply divine. To top things off, we had wonderful coffee, and even better company- all in all, a really nice treat from our friends :) Thanks guys!
- As if all that copious consumption wasn't enough, Stan and Terence thought that the quintessential Harvard experience would not be complete without visiting Happy-Hour central, John Harvard's Pub. And so after all that dessert and coffee, what did we then go on to have? More carbs, of the brewed variety specifically... ;)
- Needless to say, we kindly declined the ride back to Terence's apartment, gave Stan and Susan huge goodbye hugs and slowly hauled our over-stimulated guts on the road, in the vain hope that the 20-minute walk home would somehow absolve us from the obscene over-consumption of the day...
- It did not.

Day Five:
- The only highlight of our last hours in Boston was finally eating a lobster roll just before boarding the plane. I've been essentially craving for a lobster roll for almost a year, after reading a special on it in the NYTimes last year. I've never tasted one before so I can't say if the one we had was the best, but it sure was good! Huge chunks of fresh lobster, lightly tossed in mayo and served simply on a buttered, toasted roll. Nothing to distract from the main star, clean and yummy :) See here.

Ok, lastly, my burning question for all you Bostonians out there (both present and former): Can someone PLEASE explain to me why Boston is so enamored with Dunkin Donuts???!!

Complete Boston photo album here.

Total Recall I

*Yeech*... Could we come back to worse weather? Just as the skies were turning bluer and the air warmer in Boston, we had to fly home, and to what? Slushy roads, icy rains, and sleet! Yuck! But it does look like things will be getting better next week so I'm definitely looking forward to that :)

So the trip was a blast like I said- Terence, Stan and Susan were the perfect hosts and I think Jude and I saw and learned more about Boston in those 5 days than your regular visitor would in double that time (and probably took more pictures too!...) A thorough breakdown of what we did, bought, and of course, ate... :)

Day One:
- After a horrific check-in process and consequently barely making our 7am flight, we arrived in Boston unscathed and bags intact before 10am.
- We marveled at the ease of Boston's public transportation system that allowed us to get from the airport to Harvard Square in under an hour. Can I please say this again, I lurve public transportation!
- Before we even had lunch, Terence made the unfortunate mistake of introducing us to Harvard Book Store, a lovely bookstore that has the most amazing basement of used books. If not for the gnawing pangs of hunger, I would have set up camp and lived in that basement forever. I bought three books and would later come back to buy even more- it's all Terence's fault! ;)
- Lunch was at Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers. Thick, juicy, and irreverently named- DELICIOUS! See here and here.
- The next couple of hours was a whirlwind tour of Havard. Terence's office is right in the heart of the campus and he showed us around the many notable buildings and places of historical significance. When the school has a preserved model of a water pump from before the Revolutionary Wars, you know it's ooold...
- A skip and a hop away we then went to MIT where Jude practically had to be forcibly removed from the MIT Press Bookstore. If he stayed any longer, he would have grown roots. He was a happy man, who then promptly bought a whole bunch of books :) (Note: It was 3pm on Day One, and between the two of us, we had already bought 6 books.)
- Stan joined us later, and like a school excursion, we then went about exploring MIT. I was the only one unfamiliar with Boston, so it was a mish-mash of the three guys chipping in at various places to construct a semi-coherent picture of what was what around the MIT campus. The one thing that really stood out for us was the new Frank Gehry building- The Ray and Maria Stata Center. Literally, it looked like someone stole a building from a Dr. Seuss book and plopped it in the middle of Cambridge. Whimsical and asymmetrical, it looked radically different depending on the angel you were looking. See here and here.
- We rounded off the long and invigorating day of walking by treating ourselves to the ultimate Asian comfort food- RAMEN! A steaming bowl of luscious noodles in a rich, lip-smacking broth, the ramen at Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square truly hit the spot on that chilly New England night.

Day Two:
- Brunch was tim-sum in Chinatown with Terence, Stan and Susan. I don't think I could ever get sick of tim-sum, and here, we're talking the traditional sort where the ladies still push the carts of steaming, sizzling little morsels of gastronomic delights all over. *Sigh* I miss those things, especially since they don't even have them in Singapore anymore :(
- And it being the middle of the Chinese New Year season, there was a procession on the streets, complete with lion dance, banners, cymbals, drums, and fire crackers!! I had never seen real fire crackers before (they're banned in Singapore) so I made Jude take a picture of the aftermath. Not having been home for Chinese New Year for a while, it was honestly very nice to be in the midst of the celebrations again :)
- After that, we took the Stan & Susan Inc. tour of the city of Boston. We walked through the Boston Public Gardens (where I saw the lovely "Make Way for Ducklings" statuettes), the North End (Mike's Pastry cannolis!!), and Fanueil Hall where I've never been more tempted to spend $10 on a skewer of bacon-wrapped scallops. We didn't quite stick faithfully to the Freedom Trail, but did manage to nonetheless see Paul Revere's house, the Granary Burial Ground (oldest in the country second only to the one in Plymouth Rock), and even the oldest restaurant in America (The Union Oyster House).
- Dinner was fresh seafood at Summer Shack where we witnessed Stan engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a one-half pound lobster. *whack whack* You had to be there... :)

[Total Recall II to come...]