Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Retro wrist purse....

I've been wanting to make my good friend S a purse for her birthday (oops, very belated birthday!)....but haven't had the time to do so until this morning.

I thought S might appreciate some retro prints and I also made a detachable wrist strap for the purse 'cos S is a party gal and a wrist strap seems to be a practical option. Of course, she can easily detach the strap and use the purse like a clutch.

Well...I hope she likes's gonna go out to her in the mail probably tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The best gifts are thoughtful ones....and the gift of friendship - PRICELESS!

Got another small package from KJ today....and I almost cried when I opened it.

Neatly packed in the small envelope were 10 pieces of tau kee ('s some kind of dried pressed soya product in flat thin sheets).

I don't even remember having told her that I miss cooking with tau kee??!! So I've no idea how she could possibly know.

I was so darn touched by the gift. It may be ridiculous to some to mail a packet of cheap tau kee all the way from Singapore to USA and to have to pay a hefty postage of many many times more than the actual cost of the item....but to me, it is no doubt the most precious and thoughtful gift that I can ask for.

Buying a gift is not about spending the most amount of's about putting in the most amount of thought into finding/figuring out what the gift-receiver really wants and will appreciate. And KJ has obviously mastered the fine art of gifting!

This packet of tau-kee is good not only in the kitchen....but it also reveals that I'm being missed and cared for even from across thousands of miles away.

So thanks KJ...for your very thoughtful tau-kee gift and most importantly, thanks for your friendship. I miss you and I hope you had a great birthday!

Newport RI - Ocean Drive & Cliff Walk....


RG and I love love love ocean views and to feel the seabreeze on our faces is one of life's greatest luxury. So one of the first things we did in Newport was to do the Ocean Drive. We started from Wellington Avenue and drove through almost 10-mile of Newport's coastline up till Bellevue Ave.

From Wellington Ave, we could see the downtown and the harbor. We could also see Marriott in the distant horizon (below - brown building with green roof).
Below is the Ida Lewis Yacht Club along Wellington Ave......
We spotted gazillion number of shell creatures that were stuck to the bottom of the floating platforms that were removed from the water and left on land during the winter period. I wonder if they are edible like mussels?
At King Park which is also located at Wellington Ave, we saw the statue of Rochambeau - to commemorate the landing of the French Allies in America. He had arrived in Newport in 1780 and had brought with him the French army to help Washington win the revolutionary war.
Throughout the ocean drive, we were rewarded with amazing open views of the sea and the rocky shoreline.

We stopped for a while at a parking lot at Brenton Point State Park to take in the wonderful sights!
We weren't the only ones enjoying the seaview.....the water glistened and sparkled like millions of little diamonds.
With such amazing views....of course I went trigger crazy on my camera!


On a separate occasion when it was warm enough for some outdoor walking, we decided to try out the cliff walk. The entire walk is approximately 3.5mile long....but we cheated by starting our walk further south from the starting point - from the Forty Steps at Narragansett Ave (which meant we only walked slightly less than 3 miles).

When I did my research on the attractions of Newport, I had seen photos of the Cliff Walk....and I just assumed that the entire walk would be on paved paths like this.... wrong I was! Probably half of our entire walk was on uneven rocky surfaces. Some parts were pretty dangerous (in my opinion) due to the rockiness, height and strong waves. My motor skills aren't the greatest and I often have difficulties balancing myself on bicycles/kayaks. So to have to leap from one rock to another for a good 1.5 mile was darn tiring for me. I was so fearful that I was gonna miss my footing on a slippery or loose rock and crack my skull as a result of a fall! And because there were only a few accessible exit points throughout the entire 3.5mile route, the other scary thought I had was what if I were to really injure would the emergency medical personnel get to me in time...and how would they get me out??!

Here's a photo of the rocky shoreline that we had to walk on....and this was considered a mild passage! There were much more treacherous parts.
And because we didn't know what to expect.....we just kept moving forward instead of turning back 'cos we kept telling ourselves that the walk would get better but it never did! When we finally reached the end of the rocky patch (took us almost 3hours!), I saw this inconspicuous sign on one of the rocks.
As you can see....the sign had disintegrated over time and one can hardly read what's on it! Anyway, I finally made out the complete sentence - "Next Exit 1.5miles - Path becomes rocky & uneven - if you are unsure of your capabilities, turn back!". Now why wasn't there a sign where we started?!

Not only was the walk rocky and uneven....we also had to find ways and means to try to avoid the many big puddles of water in the middle of the pathways! Here's a photo of RG - funny he seemed to be enjoying himself!
Oh was not all bad. The ocean views and views of the rocky shoreline were amazing and made it almost worth all the effort.
We saw a handful of crazy surfers who were totally oblivious to the dangers posed by the giant rocks and huge waves...not to mention the COLD water temperature!
They seemed to be having fun.....
This guy was trying to figure out how to get into the water.....the waves were slapping against the rocks wrong move and I was sure his head was gonna crack like an egg! Scary....
And then there were the peekaboo views of the Newport mansions along the cliff walk. The summer "cottages" of the wealthy are such ostentiously humongous palaces with yards the sizes of several football fields put together!

There were a couple of tunnels along the walk. One of which was located very near the Tea House (part of Marble House).

Isn't this an interesting shot of RG at the end of the tunnel with the ocean as the backdrop?
Here's a photo of us - having survived the cliff walk! While I'm proud of myself for having completed most part of the walk.....I probably won't be doing this again for a long time.

Environment vs. Development - USA vs. Singapore

I couldn't believe that we were back in Newport again last night (even before I'm done writing about our trip)!

RG and I were there to attend a public forum regarding the proposal by a major energy company to build a big berthing and offloading structure for LNG tankers in the middle of the bay area.

There was a heavy downpour last night and we were half-expecting the turnout to be poor. To our surprise, the entire auditorium (of at least 300 seating capacity) was packed!

The speaker line-up was interesting. We had the CEO of the energy company, an environment advocate and a Newport tourism personnel. So, it was a 2-against-1 debate...which I felt was kind of a lopsided presentation of the issue. It would've been nice to bring in someone more neutral who could provide a much more objective view of the situation.

The audience too was lopsided. A poll was done and I'd say 95% of all who were present were in support of NOT having the LNG facilities build. Flyers were distributed which accused the energy company of profiting with total disregard of the environment (ok, the exact words on the flyer was "this company's middle name is GREED") and the quality of life of Rhode Islanders. There were people in bright orange t-shirts & stickers that read "Boycott (name of energy company)". I only wished I had brought my camera along with me to capture all these.

All the speakers spoke eloquently and passionately....of course, it was much harder to convince an already biased crowd of the economic benefits of the project. Whereas it was easy to tug at the heart strings of the audience by highlighting how potential environmental degradation can affect Rhode Islanders' quality of life, access to recreational resources and also of the need to protect the natural habitats of marine life.

While on very opposing sides, the discussions were kept very civil. No one raised their voices or pounded their fists (which was kind of unfortunate! =P) or start beating up one another, like what you'd often see at Taiwan governmental meetings.

I can go into a long discussion of the issue - environment vs development (I was a Geog & Econs double-major and I was very much into Environmental Geog/Economics!) but that's not what I want to do here.

I just want to point out several observations:

(1) How often have we come across open forum discussions in Singapore? And especially a forum discussion with such a speaker line-up (CEO pitched against environmental advocates or citizens of the country). For example, when our gahmen decided on Jurong Island....did anyone attend any forums or were allowed to have a say?

(2) Even if there are such forums to discuss environmental impacts on developmental projects....would we have a full house turnout on an extremely stormy night with no food/drinks for the attendees? I had been to forums with good turnouts in Singapore but they were mainly related to public transportation/housing/CPF issues which are much more pertinent subjects....I doubt the same big turnout would apply to forums related to environmental issues. Are Singaporeans/SG gahmen too lopsided on this Environment vs Economic Development issue? A clean environment does not necessarily equate to a GREEN environment.

(3) Last night's forum was to start at 7pm...and despite the heavy rain, no one was late! Majority of the audience were already seated between 6.30-6.45pm. In Singapore....if starting time is at 7pm, attendees will only start trickling in at 6.58pm as most of them are probably still woofing down their sandwiches and sipping coffee at the reception area. And even after the forum has commenced for a good half an hour or so, there'll still be people arriving - way late and causing disruptions to the proceedings. That was one of my pet peeves when I was doing event management many years ago (organising conferences/seminars for professionals/executives and TEACHERS!).

(4) Oh....and during the entire forum last night, not a single cellphone rang....and the MC didn't even have to remind the audience to turn off their cellphones!!!

(5) Many of the Americans are passionate about their beliefs and their hometown/country. And they'd go to great extend to demonstrate that. I saw T-shirts/flyers/stickers/banners being made to support their cause even though those things cost time/effort/money. And they'd stand for hours in the rain/cold/heat to rally for their beliefs. Would we ever see Singaporeans doing that in the very near future?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Newport RI - The Waterfront Downtown....

We stayed at the Newport Marriott throughout the entire trip. It was mainly for convenience as RG's conference was held there. The main draw of the hotel is its location at the heart of the downtown and right next to the Visitor Information Center. It was a decent hotel but nothing spectacular about it...we got the room at a very attractive rate. We had requested for a room with king size bed but it wasn't the staff gave us a twin double-bed room overlooking the harbor. The room was reasonably spacious....I did like the high ceiling and the view of the downtown skyline and the harbor.
Isn't the view from the hotel room lovely? I took this photo from the window on a clear blue day.
We could also see the downtown skyline from our room.
A short walking distance (less than 5min walk) from our hotel is the Bowen's Wharf where there are plentiful waterfront restaurants and quaint shops for you to choose from.

Near the Washington Square (stone throw from Marriott) is the Museum of Newport History and more restaurants and shops.
And then there's Thames Street which is really like the heart and soul of downtown. Here, you'll find fun, food and entertainment along the entire stretch of Thames St.

And yes, there are many "tourist traps" along Thames Street where you can load up on souvenirs to bring back home. Of course, RG and I did our fair share of touristy shopping...and our loot - 6 lighthouse ornaments & a handful of magnets (of the different US states that we've been to).
There were also interesting antique and bric-a-brac shops.
And I found art in the most unlikely places like this......
......and this!
There were also numerous interesting looking places of worship in the downtown area of Newport.

And I found 2 pairs of shoes dangling from the power cables!
The entire downtown area is very walkable....just make sure you've got a nice warm jacket (it was 30+F and very windy on a couple of days when I was there and it was FREEZING!) and a comfortable pair of walking shoes! And when you are tired, just find a nice place to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the world go by.

There was a lot of eating in Newport....

It's the Newport Restaurant Week from 19-28 March and we happened to be around for most part of it. All the participating restaurants are offering special 3-course lunch and 3-course dinner menus for $16 and $30 respectively.

As you can guess, we ate and we ate and we ate! Here are some photos of the glorious food we had (it could've been many more such gluttonous photos had I carried my camera with me wherever we went!). We had Japanese food, Mexican food, Thai food, western food, fusion food.

These photos were taken at Diego's - a gourmet mexican restaurant at Bowen's Wharf.

We especially liked the presentation of the grilled chicken salad with guacamole served on a huge deep fried tortilla! The colors were amazing and it reminded us of puri.
Desserts were super yummy too. There was a burrito - fresh fruit and cream cheese wrapped in a tortilla, lightly fried, rolled in cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with melted chocolate and caramel! The other was empanadas filled with rich chocolate and ripe banana with caramel and strawberry coulis! *drool drool*
All the above for $16 per pax....was that a good deal or what?!

I was walking down Thames Street alone one day when I spotted a restaurant called Thai Cuisine. I decided to check it out as it was almost time for lunch. As you can see, I had the entire place to myself - found a quiet nook by the window to eat while enjoying the sights outside.
The food was surprisingly good (I wasn't expecting much as the restaurant was completely empty during lunch hours!). I ordered a pad thai, deep fried tofu and mango sticky rice. They all tasted pretty authentic. It was too much food for me so I had the staff packed the mango sticky rice for me to bring back to the hotel to be shared with RG.
The mango sticky rice had to be one of the best that I have ever eaten!! I had meant to share it with RG but I ended up gobbling the entire thing for my afternoon tea. Yikes!
On another night, we checked out this place called Yesterday's at Washington Square which not only had some pretty interesting and creative items on its menu but it also had over 36 beers on tap.

RG had the special 3-course dinner ($30) and the starter was some shrimp with artichoke thingee. We had absolutely no idea what we were eating but it tasted darn good. It was RG's favorite dish and it looked to me as if he could woof down another 5-6 of those little babies easily.
His entree was some seafood stew (thai style) with mussels, salmon, shrimp and jasmine rice. The broth was a little spicy and was cooked with some coconut milk. Me....I was happy with my BBQ ribs with fries and coleslaw. The ribs were so juicy and I was given a huge stack of paper napkins by the serving staff....guess I was expected to use my hands to eat but I didn't have to as the ribs were so tender that the meat was falling off the bones with gentle pokes using my fork! Yumzzzz
I'm getting hungry as I'm writing this post. Going to grab some lunch now!