Thursday, May 29, 2014

thankful for mama

A couple weeks ago I had ordered some flowers online. It was my first time, and I didn't quite know what to expect. Ironic considering I'm in the e-commerce field! Well, the florist was based in Malaysia and we've heard cases of fraud and such so it was with some trepidation that I clicked submit.

I had already texted my dad to be on standby at home since I wanted it to be a surprise for my mum. He happened to be out for lunch then, when the delivery boy came. He tried to call my mum and after trying for like 10x he left some messages.

My mum working then, thought it suspicious that someone had delivered "something" but would not tell her what it was and who it was from. Later she found out that their delivery staff were trained to be discreet while professional.

In the end, since no one was at home, the delivery boy tried both neighbours but alas, they were also out. He finally managed to leave the bouquet with the neighbour 2 doors away. Glad to know they didn't hoard the flowers themselves - I should have more faith in humanity I'm glad there is hope in humanity.

Finally that evening when she came home she finally got the flowers. My dad who was more excited took quite a lot of pictures for me!

She was very surprised with the gift and expressed her appreciation to me and my bro. This was the first time I had thought of it, as years before when I asked, she replied that flowers don't have much value as they are not very practical gifts >.<

Friday, May 23, 2014

I AMsterdam p4

I thought I was supposed to be in Sweden this week for another project workshop, but perhaps due to budget I'm here in Japan instead. I secretly suspect it's because of the recent incident at work, but I'm kinda glad I'm able to catch up with me-time and spring cleaning and blogging about my last trip to Amsterdam.

Watch out, pictures galore!

I had the opportunity to try out the KIX Air Side Lounge this time. I guess it was because I was now Gold on Delta Skymiles, so the check-in lady gave me a special pass. What a lovely surprise. I bet the nicest would be JAL/ANA's own lounge, but I'm not complaining!

It's hidden in a little corner behind some cafes after the immigration checks. It has a superb view of the tarmac and the planes. Not too big but the atmosphere is pleasant and rather private.

Since I didn't expect to enjoy a nicer lounge this time, I had only about 15 minutes before rushing off to the departure gate. So I grabbed some finger food to keep my tummy quiet while waiting to board.

My onward flight ticket was booked very last minute, and confirmed just the day before in fact. So I lost my previous seat booking. But the silver lining is that I was able to choose a better seat while checking in online. Even though I'm tiny I still appreciate the extra legroom in Economy Comfort. I had been so worried with the last minute confirmation I would not be able to even get my flight, so was super relieved at this little upgrade.

As always, love the in-flight food served on KLM. I have never tried Business nor First Class so am not in a position to compare, but from my experience on a limited number of international flights, I'd say this is one of the better ones. In fact, I've heard that KLM service and air flight attendants are trained exclusively for the Japanese market.

Due to last minute confirmation, the usual hotels were all fully booked. So we got the Ibis Amsterdam instead. It's a queer hotel located just above and next to the train tracks on 2 narrow buildings linked together via a bridge from which I took this photo. It's a bit hard to explain without seeing for yourself the shape and location, but needless to say it's the most convenient!

We had a lovely dinner with the team near the office. Hoofddorp reminds me of Cyberjaya where there's almost nothing but corporate buildings on vast area of empty land. So I was delighted they had some decent food near the residential area.

So this was not exactly authentic Asian food, and the writing on the plate bore no resemblance to Chinese characters, but look at the way they arranged the chopsticks! I had to give a little insight into Oriental culture and taboos to my Caucasian colleagues.

As if the huge plate of noodles was not enough, I was greedy enough to order desserts too. Having good food with good company is always good excuse to fatten myself up.

The OT office in downtown Amsterdam was pretty quaint, in a traditional Dutch office. We had to climb narrow stairs to reach the attic where the meeting was held.

An interesting conversation with the French manager got me realising that European buildings were made to last and insulate - hence bricks. He wondered why Japanese buildings weren't made the same way. We spend so much on heating because the buildings aren't warm enough and there's no double glazing to keep out the cold.

On the other hand, it's good to know some countries preserve old buildings and renovate the interior to fit current needs.

I got myself the famed Kill Bill OT shoe from here (well, not the original of course, but close enough)!

After the workshop, my dahling Malaysian friend came to visit me. Oh the irony, I just had to go to a Malaysian restaurant! Well, on all my trips to Amsterdam no one wanted to try Malaysian food, so finally I got my chance :)

I've seen Wau many times as it was near my Thai friend's restaurant in Zeedijk street. Must be doing well judging from the positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Can anyone tell me what drink I had - I have not had this for the longest time ever!?

Gado-gado for starters. This made me miss rojak, especially those with freshly cut fruits.

One of my fav dish - kangkung belacan. Think my tastebuds must have been domesticated - the spicy oil almost killed my throat. I try to have this everytime I'm back home.

Of course, nasi lemak! I would have easily settled for the RM1 banana leaf wrapped minimal version, so this was way too luxurious for me - look at the glorious sides and generous sprinkling of colours. We were glad we shared, this was perhaps normal for Dutch portions.

On the outbound flight, I tried for the first time the KLM Lounge. The location was such that I wondered if it would be worth it. The spaciousness kinda made up for it. Being an official lounge I suppose they had to cater for many passengers.

Indonesian food is quite common in the Netherlands, but I was more than happy to indulge in something more familiar and closer to home. Being a colony country do have its advantages, just like how Indian food is supposedly the national food of UK now.

Monday, May 19, 2014

oh to extend my gifts

For those of you who are friends with me on FB, you might have seen the latest post about how I came across an unexpected extra birthday treat.

I think even if I had found out about the birthday treat earlier, I might still stash it for as long as I can, and risk giving myself a stomachache! >.<

I tend to keep precious gifts for as long as I can, trying to extend their lifespan. It's either because I have only one of them, or get them as a gift, or something my mum sent from home.

I bought these little jars of natural preserves at the Borough Market in London when I was there last summer. Because my little kitchen cabinet was running out of space, I had kept this in my closet. I do remember them when I peek at the little space beneath the clothes, but one day as I was cleaning out my luggage bag I decided to check the expiry date. And it was good that I checked, for some were about to expire!

Now I have good excuse to buy some bread to eat these with. I thought these were pretty exotic jams, would have cost me a fortune to get it elsewhere :
- Mulberry Jelly
- Somerset Cider Brandy and Seville Orange Marmalade
- Whiskey and Seville Orange Marmalade
- Damson Jam

Knowing how much I love home-boiled soup, my mum gave me some herbal soup packs from Eu Yan Sang. Of course nothing beats mom's soup, but I guess this is the closest I have. I can usually make 2 servings each time. The recipe says it serves 3-4, but looking at the amount of soup I drink, I can definitely drink more than a person's portion.

I try to make these after my period is over, but since I only have a few packets, I try to keep until I think I deserve a treat. I figured since these were dry ingredients, they could last a bit longer than the stated expiry date!

We received some White Day gifts from the guys in the department, one month after Valentine's. One of the bigger ones came from the CIO. I'm sure all the grrls have already gobbled up theirs, but since I have been on business trips past few months I was finally able to unwrap mine recently. Thank goodness it has not expired yet, so now I have some for teatime snacks in the office!

For those of you who have wondered why I have not used/eaten/drunk your present/gift/treat, you should be honoured because the more precious it is, the longer I try to keep before using/eating/drinking it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

new hair, hot springs, cocoa indulges

The CIO had made him apologise.

There's been positive changes since then, slowly but surely.

In the meantime, I have been busy myself.

To signify new beginnings and to usher in my favourite season, I decided to go for a hair cut. I found that 2 friends from church had decided to open a cafe-cum-hair salon in the apartment they used to share. The signboard outside states "Hiding Place".

It feels like going to a friend's home, but you get to be served tea time snacks and warm tea. And if you like, you get to have a haircut too and browse through the cute knick knacks on sale. There's a little box at the entrance, they depend on the goodwill and generosity of their friends and customers to pay them what they think the service is worth.

Actually, I was bit hesitant in cutting my hair as it wasn't even planned in the first place. So happened I had a free Saturday afternoon and I have been wanting to trim my hair for the longest time. An invitation came from Yumiko who was introducing another friend to the cafe and soon I found myself tagging along. Judging from the comments I've been getting, this seems to be a cute style!

Before it got too warm, I rounded up some friends to join me for a visit to the hot springs. We have been talking about since last autumn but I decided the last long weekend would be the only time to do it, and so we drove ourselves up to the Suzurandai countryside.

I also have been wanting to visit the cafe the church has started here, Little House but didn't quite know how. It's a quaint little wooden house just right beside the train tracks, in a oblong of space that would be too small to even build a proper house, but somehow with Japanese ingenuity they managed to even have a plot for the garden and a little shed to sell vegetables.

An afternoon of Japanese citrus yuzu tea and cheesecake, followed by lots of soaking in the hot waters of Suzuran No Yu, and enjoying the outdoor hot springs was just what I needed after past few months of business trips and work kraziness!

And of course my Valentine's Day treat - finally indulged in them before they start to expire! >.<

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

melting my worries

To treat myself after going through a particularly stressful time at work last month, I decided to finally enjoy the marshmallow treat from Dora. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, I won't go into details here, except that it's to do with a report I made on harassment in the office.

I'm glad I got the backing of the CIO and a senior woman colleague who were very supportive of my case, and while there seems to have been positive steps since the incident we would have to observe behavior to ensure it is not repeated.

Though HR didn't seem as supportive, perhaps due to language or experience, I hope through my personal experience there would be more awareness and empowerment.

Anyways, this birthday treat has been a little delayed. Those who know me would know that I take a long time enjoying my gifts because I want to prolong the lifespan of the gift!

It has still been a little chilly despite it being spring. One late evening as a night cap I thought I'd try the marshmallow birthday gift to cheer me up.

I had to carefully lower it with a spoon as I didn't want kitty to drown too early.

I needn't have worried because it stayed floating for a bit.

Slowly the surrounding parts started to melt, but the head and paws were still visible amidst the frothy surface.

Later I found out that a Japanese online shop creates these marshmallows by hand, and only makes a handful at any one time. These were initially created for coffee lovers who wanted cute designs on their latte. They then branched out to more than just kitten paws, but other shapes and even different seasonal creations for special occasions.