Saturday, December 29, 2007

A little cleansing...

Thai noodle soup
Originally uploaded by ghetto of our mind.
...of the gut that is. After all that delightfully indulgent food over the Christmas weekend, we decided we needed to just slow down a little and have something a little easier on the palate and our digestive systems in general. And if you ask me, nothing does that better than some pipping hot noodle soup. It helps too that the weather tonight has been a combination of icy rain and blustery winds so it was the perfect night for something warm and comforting. If we were back home in Singapore, it would have been a cinch to find a bowl of deliciously simple noodle soup- they are a dime and a dozen everywhere and almost always guaranteed to satisfy. But in this part of the U.S. though- like most things we miss from home- it was up to us to recreate it on our kitchen.

I adapted the recipe for Thai noodle soup from here. Starting with a base of chicken stock, the soup is tangy from the lime and lemongrass, a little spicy from the chilli, and has an interesting depth of flavor from the fish sauce and belachan (shrimp paste). Throw in some crunchy veggies and cooked chicken that we stripped from a roast chicken from the store, and you have a hearty and healthy one-bowl meal that's sure to both cleanse and comfort :)

Friday, December 28, 2007


As Jude said, there's a reason why they didn't title the movie "Twice", or "Thrice"; I knew how the movie would end but that didn't stop my heart from aching by the time this little gem was over. It was quite simply- how shall I say this... enchanting.

I've had the soundtrack to the film for several months now and it's a beautiful album in and of itself. But with the film, it takes on a whole different dimension and becomes almost sublime. Some people have been saying how wrong it is that Once isn't nominated for a Golden Globe in the Comedy/Musical category; but it isn't really a musical, not in the Hairspray/ Dreamgirls sense of the genre. In those movies, actors burst out into song as an extension of their characters and the narratives; in Once, the music is the narrative. It represents all that must be left unsaid- all the tremulous emotions, the quiet intimacy, the knowing understanding of what cannot be. There are no huge emotional outbursts, no dramatic climax, no outright declarations of love even; at the end of the day, like a similarly understated and bare-bones love story, Once is a love story distilled to its most basic core- a sweet and sad story about two soul mates meeting, making music, falling in love, and moving on.

I seldom go through all the extra commentaries that come with DVD releases, but watching the ones for Once really gives you a sense of why and how the movie turned out the way it did, i.e. simply and wonderfully beautiful. It's just a lovely take on film-making and music-making in general, and even days after watching it, it continues to haunt me...
I don't know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can't react
And games that never amount
To more than they're meant
Will play themselves out

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You've made it now

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You've made it now

- "Falling Slowly", Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


What I've made in the past 3 days:
1) 89 individual dark-chocolate truffles (on top of the 87 I'd made the week before);
2) A brioche bread pudding that was enough to serve 10;
3) 6 servings of Belgian endive salad with Cara Cara oranges;
4) A large dish of spicy mac and cheese;
5) Large sweet potato casserole with walnut and brown sugar topping; and
6) One fudgey orange-chocolate brownie

I'd say that's enough cooking for a while don't you think? And we've got so much leftovers in the fridge, I probably won't have to cook for a while anyway...

Food aside, the entire Christmas weekend was most lovely :) Even though Ann Arbor was kinda quiet- almost depressingly so- our Christmas was filled with the warmth, laughter and joy of being with old friends and new acquaintances. With Pikkojoulu on Saturday, Christmas brunch on Sunday, three celebrations over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, plus all the cards, treats, gifts and well-wishes we received, we just want to thank everyone who made our Christmas away from home this year so blessedly wonderful- thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007!

From Hallmark Designs

Here's wishing everyone near and far a truly blessed, meaningful, and merry Christmas! May you receive presents you never want to return; give presents that come from the heart; realize that presents aren't the important thing about Christmas- that friends, family and love are; and may you embrace all the blessings, promises and wonders that the season brings with it!

Jude & Serene

Saturday, December 22, 2007


1. A lovely cup of cappuccino, 2. Frothing cappuccino, 3. Adding the milk, 4. Our new stove-top cappuccino maker!

Look what Jude got me for Christmas! My very own stove-top cappuccino maker! More ways to make coffee- yay! And with its speckled cow print, it's pretty too... :) It's a Mukka Express and it makes the most creamy, yummy cup of cappuccino, you can't tell it was made right at home. This nifty little contraption works kinda like our regular espresso pot, but also froths milk at the same time. Unlike the more complex coffee machines, my new little toy is cappuccino-making pared down to its most essential, easy to use, involves minimal clean-up and everything's done in one pot. I lurve it!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

C.B. and J.D.

I have decided that I will no longer be sad that I won't be home for Christmas, nor upset that I have school stuff to do all the way till tomorrow. Nope, I am going to embrace the cold and the snow, and more importantly, embrace the fact that the holidays are not about where you are but how you feel. Our family and friends at home know how much we're thinking of them, and we know that we're in their thoughts this holiday season too, and that's what matters. And we have our wonderful friends here who, as it says on a set of Crimewave USA cards that we bought, "make the holidays a little less depressing." :)

And so in the spirit of my new resolution, here's one of my all-time favorite videos- the cast of Scrubs doing A Charlie Brown Christmas. I've seen this so many times and it impresses me each time how they managed to so exquisitely meld the characters and overarching narrative on the show with those of the comic strip. If you adore the sitcom and Charlie Brown as much as I do, you'll love this! The writing is perfect, the delivery is downright impeccable as always, and like in the comedy, it's Dr. Cox who saves the day! :)

Buckle up, Charlize. I'll tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please. Here's the deal, newbie. You can stuff your stockings with shiny toys from now until you grow some testicles. But until that stocking is filled with friendship, loyalty, love and devotion, well it's just plum empty. And no you can't purchase those things at Laura Ashley and no you can't win them in the Redbook Giveaway Extravaganza and gee, sorry if these aren't things that you can wind up and watch spin for eight hours. Let me make this exceptionally clear. Christmas is about love. You can't live without other people's love. Not during Christmas, not ever. So go spend that time with your friends and family. And if they laugh at you, laugh with them. And if they laugh at you again, hit 'em and go find some new friends. But for the love of god, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat, don't ever forget this, newbie. You have to give love to get love, so start giving. Now. That's what Christmas is all about, there, newbie.
- Dr. Perry Cox

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Our house is a cornucopia of earthly delights

When we first came across the art of Linzie Hunter on BoingBoing, we immediately fell in love with its humorous and whimsical nature. She recontextualizes the subject headings of SPAM emails into colorful and cheeky statements. You can view more of her pieces on her flickr account.

The piece pictured in the photo is titled "Boundless" (after the text it illustrates) and we love its hand-drawn style and retro aesthetic. At $20 (we ordered ours from 20X200), this piece fits right in to our growing wall of silkscreened poster art. Have I mentioned our fascination with silk-screened prints? Someday we will have to get something from Hatch Showprints... Well, that is another blogpost in the making...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas presents 2007

[click for details]

So while it was blizzarding outside and Ann Arbor was getting nine inches of snow, I stayed warm and toasty indoors making chocolate truffles for our Christmas presents this year. For the past two years (see here and here) we've made gifts-in-jars, and while I had wanted to keep the tradition this year, Jude showed me this article from the NYT last week about how easy it is to make your own chocolate truffles. And indeed, it truly is.

All you need is two ingredients- good quality chocolate (we used semi-sweet/bittersweet) and cream- and in three steps, you're on your way to your very own little morsel of chocolate heaven. There are time-consuming parts, like chopping the chocolate and coating the truffles in cocoa powder/ powdered-sugar & cinnamon, but I actually found the entire process to be very calming. And because I was working so close to the kitchen window, watching the falling snow while getting my hands all gooey with chocolate was its own kind of sweet pleasure :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Synchronized Mentos-Diet-Coking

A few days ago, Jude and I were watching something on TV about the chemical reaction that occurs when you drop Mentos into Diet Coke. I never knew about the phenomenon and so when I was at Rick and Emilee's last night- with their large projector screen- we decided to look on youtube to see what we could find. Ladies and gentlemen, Synchronized Mentos-Diet-Coking:

What really blows my mind is all the planning and thought that must have gone into this process- contraptions clearly had to be built, tons of experimenting, practicing, and most importantly, impeccable timing and synchronization. It's almost a science!

Apparently, these guys became so famous for their Mentos-Diet Coke experiments, that for their later ones, they actually managed to get sponsorship from Mentos and Diet Coke themselves (and hence the more ambitious scale)

Emilee's question at the end of watching all this was: I wonder if grass can ever grow there again? ;)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Home alone

For the first time since we've been here, Jude and I are not going to be with family for Christmas. In 2003, we were in Florida with his aunt and uncle; 2004, it was Montreal with his other uncle, and for the past two years, we've had the wonderful blessing of being back in Singapore for both Christmas and New Year's. On the one hand, it makes me a little sad that we won't be home for the holidays, but on the other, I'm grateful that we're surrounded by good friends with whom we'll be spending Christmas, and that our families are a mere phone-call or video-chat away... Besides, since we've never been in Ann Arbor for Christmas until now, it'll be nice to soak in a little of the whole all-American snowy Christmas vibe :)

And so to make up for being away from our friends and family at home, I decided I'll hand-write Christmas cards to everyone this year. I've always loved receiving cards or letters in the post, and that excitement of tearing open an envelope or flipping over a postcard will never be replaced by checking email, no matter what people say... When I was younger (a.k.a. when I had more time...), I used to hand-make my own Christmas cards. It would be a whole elaborate process of buying the right card stock, the right matching paper, bows, lots of painstaking cutting, folding, pasting, tying, stuffing, etc. It was a long-drawn process, and I loved it! :) Thankfully, both my sisters still do it today, and I'm glad that their friends will be blessed with the fruits of their thoughtfulness and effort. The practice of taking the trouble to handwrite something (which itself is a quite a gesture since writing isn't quite like typing, with the whole backspace/delete function), buy a stamp, and then mail it out is just one of those unfortunate sacrifices of the Internet that I truly rue. And while I send as many e-cards as the next person, I figured Christmas is as good a time as any to make that extra effort.

Since I'll be making the trip to the post office already anyway, I thought I may as well send cards to our friends who've moved away from Ann Arbor too. And by the time I got to that point, I was like, oh well, I'm already writing 30 cards, what's another few more for our friends here in Ann Arbor?... So then I add up the number of cards I'll be writing in all, and what do I get? A grand total of 52! What started as a bid to immerse myself in this whole spirit of Christmas thing might just end up giving me a hand cramp!...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Open Sourced Video Production? = Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?

To be quite honest, this is the first time I've heard about the Open Source Cinema project. As stated on the the project's website, it's "a collaborative documentary project to create a feature film about copyright in the digital age." I have to admit that I am very intrigued - an entire film project directed by one person, Brett Gaylor, and entirely made of contributions from individuals. Brett even has the script for the film on a wiki. The film is far from complete - but an interesting contribution to the project has emerged from a class, COM276 Intermedia, at Concordia University. Inspired by the work of Bob Sabiston (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly), the professor of the class spent 3 weeks with his students rotoscoping 1 - 3 seconds of the following concert video of Girl Talk:

And this is the result:

Impressive eh? Individually, I think that the results of each student's experience with rotoscoping really varied in quality. However, together, the whole video really fits the mashed-up style of Girl Talk's sound. Impressive example of remix culture?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On existence, death and the ties that bind us (virtual or not)

Today I received some very surprising- and somewhat disturbing- news. A friend passed away in his sleep this morning. His name is Colin and he was a schoolmate in junior college when we were both in the Legion of Mary. He was a lawyer and last seen arguing in court on Monday. I haven't really interacted with Colin very much. Last Tuesday, he sent me a "poke" on Facebook. I didn't "poke" back. Now I'm on his Facebook page and going through the condolence messages trickling in. I was actually on Facebook last night, and if I had paid more attention, I would have noticed his cousin leaving a message about his demise on his Wall.

Then I read this article in NYT - "Neighbors Reflect on a Death No One Noticed". To summarize, Christina Copeman, a woman in Brooklyn, passed away at home nearly 2 years ago and no one noticed until now. The most poignant passage from that article reads:
It seems impossible for a person to fall through the cracks like that, to die in her own home and go undiscovered. New York is a big city, but it is impersonal only at a distance. People have neighbors. They have relatives.
This has gotten me thinking about our social networks and the interactions that link us to each other. I know that about Colin's passing because I'm peripherally on his Facebook network. We are connected, no matter how tenuous that connection. In contrast, Christina Copeman's situation had very different circumstances. She had made the decision to isolate herself from her friends, neighbours and her family. And as the saying goes, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" In this case, the passing of Christina Copeman was no louder than a pin dropping in her social network, even though there were clear signs that things were amiss.

There has been much teeth gnashing over the power and abuse of Social Networking software in the past few years. However what's perhaps missed in these discussions is the fact that the connections that these social networks make apparent are intertwined with human emotions despite the fact that they are virtual. I am sure that Colin's Facebook page will stay up there as long as the servers stay up. I am sure that in the years to come, Colin's network will use his page to remember his mark on this world. And I am quite sure that I will come across new messages of remembrances from his friends and family in the years to come. His page becomes a trace of his existence left behind. To quote another NYT article:
Still, the sheer popularity of social networking seems to suggest that for many, these environments strike a deep, perhaps even primal chord. “They fulfill our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community,” Dr. Strate says. “We all want to be told: You exist.
My deepest condolences to Colin's friends and family. And rest in peace my friend.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Singapore human beatbox - Kallang Airport Hawker Center

This had us in stitches for a good 15 minutes!! :) I really think that he should try one of the reality talent shows - Singapore's Got Talent, anyone?

He's speaking in Hokkien and mimicking the following sounds:
1) A cuckoo clock
2) Phone ring and answering machine
3) Police car
4) Fire engine
5) Ambulance

Beats Blake on American idol any day! ;)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Story of our lives...

Copyright Jorge Cham, PhD Comics