Grandeur of the Canyon

The drive up to Grand Canyon was a pleasant 5-hour drive from Las Vegas. After breakfast (which was a large chocolate eclair for me and a croissant for the hubs), we collected the car from the airport and started our journey.

Managed to catch the sunset which was about 5ish (not sure which time zone we were then) and proceeded for an early dinner. Surprisingly, the cafeteria served food at decent prices.

Wanted to catch sunrise the next day but it was snowing! What a pity! We decided to leave for Las Vegas before we got snowed in; it was snowing rather heavily and visibility was low.

Thankfully the ride back to Las Vegas was smooth and we managed a short trip to the Hoover Dam. Off to SF!

Sin City

“Lights! Camera! Action!”

Welcome to Sin City! And be warned – You’ll be bombarded by the urge to spend. This is the place where you let loose, celebrate or just to get away. Numerous hotels with different themes line the strip and in each hotel, there are tons to do – shopping, eating at the various restaurants, gambling at the casinos, relaxing at the spas, enjoying the various entertainment such as musicals, cabaret shows, magic shows, etc – the list just goes on. Even if you can’t bear to part with dear cash, you will be much occupied with just soaking in the atmopshere or like us…taking pictures.

Las Vegas is never on my list of places to visit. In fact, the hubs and I had contemplated staying in Boston for the winter hols until M, his friend, suggested going to Sin City and Grand Canyon. The latter sounded terrific and it was a ‘go-ahead’ for us. Besides, we could avoid the cold. The cold we did avoid, as well as the blizzard that lashed on the East Coast a day after Christmas.

Anyway, Las Vegas is a crazy place. You are greeted with casinos as you enter each hotel and if you are not enticed by gambling, you are swarmped with malls with great discounts (Christmas sales!) and eateries. Oh, talk about eating! You can basically spend the whole day on this activity when you sign up for the $39.99 (for 24 hours) all-you-can-eat buffet in 8 participating hotels. Oh, the horrendous line that one has to be in and you basically have to be in the queue for at least an hour or two before you could get your first taste of food-glorious-food! I don’t quite understand why anyone would subject themselves to such training of the leg and stomach muscles and wonder if there will be people who miss one of the meals, i.e. one might miss the breakfast because by the time he is first in the line, it would be lunch by then. Well, at least he gets a meal in the end! The hubs was not in great condition and was haunted by sore throat and slight flu. What a pity!

Nonetheless, we managed a short tour of the strip in the daytime before retreating to our room (which was rather big!). As for me, I had the pleasure of having my desert pastry for breakfast and a complimentary cup of coffee (sign up for a free Rewards membership to get a booklet on discount coupons) from Payard, a French Patisserie and Bistro @ Caesars Palace. I was more excited by the eateries than anything else, frankly, and if I had the extra $$, it would be fantastic to have a good meal at one of those restaurants. Eating out here was expensive and for normal folks like us, we could only go for the usual fast-food stuff like burgers and fries (which is crappy fried food for the body) and food court (which is decent). I want to go back and cook my own food!Enough for Sin City. I really feel that the place is designed to cater to those with cash to spare but once is enough for poor folks like us.

Happy holidays!

The food consumed, the dishes done.
The apartment’s cleaned and the bags all packed.
Tis my second year celebrating Christmas with Ken but it seemed we have been together for ages already!
Off to the West coast for our vacation to enjoy a bit of sunshine…or rain.
Happy holidays!

This past year in the kitchen

When did I really get serious in the kitchen?

Looking through my blog entries, it officially started on 12 Dec 2009. I was married to a wonderful man and we were bunking in at his father’s place during the weekends. His apartment had a nice kitchen, renovated a few years back but what’s more important was the existence of a relatively new oven that was underutilised. What a pity! Under the encouragement of both men (my FIL is really sweet and definitely has a sweet-tooth), I started my adventures in the kitchen, in particular, baking.

I started a blog too to document all the dishes I have had prepared. Oh, the many lessons I have learnt in this one year and yet I’m just at the tip of it. I wanted to get more serious with it and as I have been managing two blogs concurrently, one of them was not as well-maintained as I wanted it to be.

So, I will be documenting my adventures in the kitchen in the space here. I’m not going to do a migration from kitchenwork to this site; it’s too messy. I’m starting anew…yet again.

 Breakfast
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last,
“what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

30 Stuff

I made this 30-stuff list on my birthday last year because I’m rather bo-liao but hey, this is like a challenge, isn’t it? Or like a life game! Anyway, I will be coming out with my 30-stuff list again for 2011. Contribute if you want. They must be SMART. 30 because I’m already in the 30s club.

1. Complete a biathlon. I’ve not attempted one before. I didn’t attempt it after all as I decided to stay off the sun in the beginning of the year in preparation for the customary wedding. =(

2. Complete an overseas marathon. I’ve completed! In 4h 56 min! Not a good timing but completed nonetheless.

3. Conduct Facebook and sms lessons for dad.  Dad didn’t want to learn…Sigh.

4. Clock in 750km for 2010. 828km for this year.

5. LASIK I did it in April and I have no regrets!

6. Walk through the whole Bible We are only at the 3/4 mark.

7. Read at least 12 books for the year  I have definitely read more than 12 books and most of them cookbooks. =p

8. Treat hubs to a musical. We watched Beauty & the Beast!

9. Set up e-bay account. I sold 2 trainers via togoparts!

10. Bake Matcha & Azuki Swiss roll . First attempt, here.

11. Perform a storytelling session for kids Performed during Christmas 2009

12. Sell off Ken’s TREK bike by Sept 2010. Not able to. We didn’t manage to sell off the bike. =(

13. Sell off exisiting shades by August 2010. Another task not achieved.

14. Complete the study on Proverbs 31 and aspire towards becoming the woman God wants me to be.

15. Organize hard disk’s info according to year  Not according to year but by subject-matter. Good enough.

16. Sew a top for a dinner. Not able.

17. Chicken rice @ Malacca I learnt to make chicken rice myself. Maybe that counts?

18. Finish HL products before we leave in Sept. Could not.

19. Have customary wedding. Yap! Had on 21 and 23 March!

20. Run a race with La femme. Ran the 10km @ Adidas Sundown Marathon but what a letdown!

21. Cook and document 30 different dishes on the blog. This suggestion is contributed by Ken and yes, I’ve completed this project!

22. Rollerblade with Peggyand/or EK. We bladed on 3 Jan 2010!

23. Complete a short course in BostonI’ve attended a one day course on cake decorating at Le Corden Bleu!

24. Compile all the poems that Ken wrote me. Not yet!

25. Do a canvas painting. Couldn’tdo it.

26. Prepare a dish/dessert once every month for CG for a period of 6 months. Have completed that by July! =)

27. Complete reading a Chinese book.  I have not read a single Chinese book since ‘O’ Levels. This is going to be a GREAT challenge. OK. It is not lao fu zi that I have in mind but a autobiography of Rene Liu which I bought many years back in China.

28. Something for K. I don’t know what that is honestly but I want to think that the best gift to him is that I’m happy whenever I’m with him; He doesn’t need/want anything besides that =)

29. Treat hubs to a spa. He is always the one who treats me. I want to give him one! Mission failed. In the end, it’s still him who treated me.

30. A car-free day every fortnight till August. I am debt-free as of July! Woo hoo! It’s a wonderful feeling to be debt-free! FREEDOM!

mid-week!

I finally put my plan into action when I went down to have a chat with the co-ordinator for teaching ESL. Yup. I would be teaching English to adults; it’s a volunteer position. Since we have both settled rather neatly in Boston, it’s time for me to venture into other areas and teaching ESL will be an excellent opportunity for me to connect with people too! It’s also timely for me to get back into teaching and might serve as a wonderful training ground!

We caught Black Swan after that. I had wanted to watch it since I was rather captivated by Natalie Portman’s performance from the trailer. I know it’s a psychological thriller and normally not my cup of tea (I prefer romantic shows) but I was rather intrigued by the dance and so decided to go for it.

I thought Natalie put up an excellent performance and the character that she played scared the hell out of me. My head was buried during some scenes and Ken’s right arm might be bruised from my tight grip. I shan’t bore you with my review of the movie but personally I feel it is a wonderful show, artistically filmed.

We left the theatre and were met by snowfall again (nice!) but my mind wandered to the life of a ballerina. What tough training she has to go through! I have an added level of respect for these dancers now ( I am not a dance person so this is an entirely new subject for me). My interest led me to find out more and look what I have discovered? (see youtube video below). But having said that, I don’t think I would be able to appreciate ballet so I’ll give the Nutcracker a miss.

Back at the kitchen, I’m trying to clear whatever perishables I have in the refrigerator. So, it would be minced beef soup. I wanted to create some ramen feel to my creation and added the hard-boiled eggs. This time I cheated; I used ready-made beef broth which tasted horrible to me. But after I’ve added the egg noodle (not so Japanese eh?) and miced pork, the concoction tasted good (surprisingly!).

It pays to wait-and-see.

From Life is Meals: For a hard-boiled eg, put an egg that is at rom temperature into slowly boiling water for 10 – 12 minutes, then place in coldwater for 6 – 7 minutes to stop the cooking and make the shell easy to peel. Eggs cooked too long have rubbery whites and yolks that tend to crumble.

Eggs should be stored unwashed with the narrow end down in the least cold part of the refrigerator. Generally, they’ll last a month. Refrigerated raw egg whites keep for up to 12 hours; a yolk for 24 hours.

Butter Cookies

I didn’t intend to bake them but I received a distress signal from my sis who was at her wit’s ends; her cookies were unsuccessful and she wondered why.

We communicated for a while, laying all possibilities for the flakey cookies. I was puzzled because my sis has more experience in the kitchen and even if she were to encounter any difficulties, it would be other stuff and definitely NOT….cookies!

So, my curiosity was aroused and I wanted to test if the recipe was all right. I decided to bake them. We are 12 hours apart and I wanted to share my results before she retired for the day.

We shared the same technique and had the same result for the dough. But the finished products differed. Mine came out okay and were butter cookies all right. In the end, we both agreed that it could be her oven (or was it toaster?) that was the culprit. She has brought her toaster to the new place which used a different voltage and this could be the reason why her baked goods didn’t turn out well.

Yup. That could be it. Mystery solved! But well, I think my BIL would have to fork out some resources for an oven now.

From Notes on Cooking: Avoid even numbers when plating food.

Bilateral symmetry can suggest animal or human forms; shun such anthropomorphizing unless you are making gingerbread men. Imbalance adds interest. One exception: eggs, sunny-side up, look good in twos for some reason (likely Freudian).

Beautiful snow…

The reservoir where I frequently run is now covered with snow. What a beautiful sight to behold!

        

    

        

My 10 best friends in the kitchen!

In no particular order of preference.

#1 KitchenAid Standmixer
My hands are free to prepare other stuff while this machine helps to complete its assigned task. Good companion!

#2 Rachel Ray Basic 3-knife set

Sharp knives are good friends and knife skills are a must in the kitchen. You don’t even need any slicer when you have acquired the skill. I love this set because they are so sharp that I was cut a few times by them, normally as a result of carelessness when I washed them or brushed against them.

From the Notes on Cooking, never scrape the sharp edge across the cutting board. To gather food bits – either waste or choppings – turn your knife over and scrape with the spine of the blade. I’m guilty of that. =(

#3 Electronic scales



Precision. Precision. Precision. What more can I say? This is crucial in baking and this scale has travelled miles with me.

#4 Cuisinart Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 3 Qt

Love this because it can be used both on stovetop and in the oven. Food cooks evenly in cast-iron and is particularly useful when roasting chicken. My only complaint? I should have bought a bigger one. A 5 Qt is essential to cook a whole chicken in it.

#5 Le Creuset cast-iron skillet



Same reason as above for its material. Anyway, I love anything by Le Creuset.

#6 Martha Stewart Magnetic Measuring Spoons

I love them for their colours and that I could still use the other side of the spoon if one side has been used. Useful especially when I have no time to wash and dry it. The magnets help a great deal because I could just stick them onto the oven or my sink. Space is a constraint in the kitchen and this is great!

#7 Rachel Ray bakeware

I only have the loaf pan and round cake pan. Love the fact that they have handles at the sides, making it easier for me to remove from the oven. Love the orange too!

#8 Silicon Baking Mat

I adore this! Traded parchment paper for this. My cookies do not stick to it, making it so much easier to remove from the mat. I could just picked the cookies up by the fingers! In the long run, I think it helps me to save more as compared to using parchment paper.

#9 Non Slip Flexible Pastry Mat

I don’t have a good open space to knead my dough, only one kitchen table which I share with the hubs for his studies. So this comes in handy. I love the measurement guide on it too! Aiming for a granite/marble tabletop in future!

#10 Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table

By far, this is one of my favourite cookbook. Dorie Greenspan made French cuisine so achievable and her short stories for each dish is a delightful read. I will be continuing to cook from her book in 2011.

Out of all these favorites is still my bestest of the best – the hubs! I started cooking partly because of him and this interest has grown into a passion. His encouragement has sustained me when I wanted to throw in the towel and his honest review of my food has allowed me to continue to strive for excellence. This companion of mine has graciously allowed his waistline to grow too when he goes on food trail with me just so that I could set myself a benchmark. ❤

Dreams…

I had a dream…last night.

I dreamt that I was in my ex-school, had my own table but then I was not to teach.

Horrified was I. I wondered why.

I woke up. And I tried to reason with myself, “What’s wrong? What happened? Why was I not teaching?

Then I realised…I’m on no-pay-leave.

Dear Lord, grant me the grace to accept that when that day eventually arrives.

I do love teaching and I love teaching in my country. Having visited schools in other parts of the world and reading up on various education systems, I must say that ours is unique. We are perhaps the only country whose student-teachers are being paid and that they do not have to apply for licence to teach.

Our system is not perfect though. No one system is but having worked with the policy makers grant me assurance that they are forward-looking and looking into the full interests of our students and teachers. Change takes time, so be patient; I’m not even sure if people will react favourably when the change takes place, even if it’s for the positive.

I’m not sure why I’m rambling. I’m just thankful for our educational system. That’s all I can say.

Notes on Cooking

A review.

This book, Notes on Cooking, is a delightful read and can be devoured within a few hours. But it will leave you on reflection mode for days, weeks or even months to come.

The writer, a chef herself, gave an abundance of tips and ideas to the craft of cooking, not forgetting the essential points.

And I realised, to my utter shame, that I have done a lot of things WRONGLY!

I wish I could list everything here, as a reminder to myself and also additional knowledge for you but I guess I won’t do the writer a disservice. Get hold of the book! You will find yourself wanting to know more about cooking and to do it right.

Reading the book a second time, there are two points that spoke to me currently:

1. Work from your strength.
This is especially relevant as I have been thinking about ‘what’s next’. I mean, I would still go on cooking and baking but I’m thinking of specialising in certain stuff. And I need to know what’s my strength. I don’t wish to master everything because I know it’s not quite possible in my lifetime but surely I can be good at a few things and perhaps aim at perfection for ONE?

2. Embrace the mundane.
The writer encouraged us not to bemoan the pedestrian tasks but to find pleasure in them, be it peeling a carrot, steaming rice, prepping, cleaning.

Cooking is not about convenience but the pleasure earned through creation and in giving pleasure to others. Shortcuts are tempting, even necessary from time to time. But she wrote, “…if you reply on pre-cut vegetables, pre-marinated meats, and canned sauces, you are not cooking. You are assembling.

How true! Normally I would try to avoid using pre-mix or ready-made sauces if I can. How else would you experience the joy and wonders of cooking and baking if you depend on those? For example, I would never have realised the magical power yeast holds when baking bread or how easy it is to whip up a Hainanese Chicken Rice without depending on commerically-made sauce. Obviously, we would have our equal share of agony too when things don’t go right but it’s all part of learning.

There is another point which she listed – Preside happily over accidents. Get in the habit of celebrating errors and seeking lessons. Every mistake is a chance to turn misfortune to education and, in some cases, discovery. She cited a famous example: In 1889, Stephanie Tatin left her apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long and risked drying or even burning them. She rescued the dish by covering the apples with pastry to protect them as they finished in the oven, then turning the dish upside down, with its apple base now on top. The result became a classic: tarte Tatin, upside-down apple tart.

I love this book. I’ll try to pen down more thoughts as I cook/bake.

Is the Bible True?

The important thing about religion, any religion, isn’t whether or not you agree with it.
That’s why I squirm when people ask questions such as “Why didn’t God do things this way, or that way?”

I think the question is valid, but there are a few things we should recognise.
1) We will never know everything about God and his decisions until he chooses to fully reveal to us.
2) Assuming that the God in question is omniscient and omnipotent, then the only approach of such a question has to be from a position of curious humility and not in self-righteous questioning.  For we may not understand what God is doing, but if we know our God is true, then it is evident that He knows better than us anyway.  To believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God and yet think that you have a better idea on how to do things is simply the height of arrogance.

Therefore, the pertinent question isn’t “Why did God do this or did not do that?”
The question to ask is “Is this God true?”  “Is this religion true?”
And thus, for the purpose of Christianity, you ask “Is the Bible true?”
While the roots of Christianity lie in the Old Testament (OT), its heart lies in the New Testament (NT).
It is, after all, in the NT that the person and deity of Jesus is revealed, and so it is relevant, if you are asking questions about Christianity, to first of all explore the authenticity and reliability of the New Testament.  Here are some questions you may be asking:

1) Who wrote the various books of the NT and were they in a position to provide true testimony of the person of Jesus?
2) Would these authors falsify truth about the person of Jesus for their own ends? What checks and balances were in place to stop this from happening?
3) Were these books reliably preserved since the time of writing? How do they compare with other ancient documents that we use as historical documents?
4) Are there other historical sources outside of the NT that confirms or contradicts the books of the NT?

I have, thus far, read a couple of books on this.
The first is ‘More than a Carpenter’, by Josh McDowell. Perhaps more famous for his other book ‘New Evidence that Demands a Verdict’
The second, which I am in the midst of and which drove me to write this is ‘The Case for Christ’ by Lee Strobel.
Both authors had set out on a journey to disprove Jesus, but found that the evidence they found demanded a verdict for the other side instead.

I will, over the course of this post, do my best to summarise points from Strobel’s book and answer the few questions listed above.

1) Who wrote the various books of the NT and were they in a position to provide true testimony of the person of Jesus?
Of the larger books of the NT, the authorship of the 4 gospels are as follows.
The first gospel was written by Matthew, also known as Levi, a tax collector and one of the 12 disciples of Jesus.
The second gospel was written by John Mark, a companion of Peter, one of the most prominent of Jesus’ 12 disciples.
The third gospel was written by a physician known as Luke, who also wrote the Acts of the Apostles and reads as a historical account written for a patron Theophilus.
The fourth gospel was written by John, again one of the 12, and whom, along with James and Peter, was one of three of Jesus’ favoured disciples.
So of the four gospels, two were written by men who were by Jesus’ side almost every day of his ministry. One was by a companion of one of the 12, and Luke specified that he was recording from those who “from the first were eyewitnesses”. (Lk 1:2)

2) Would these authors falsify truth about the person of Jesus for their own ends? What checks and balances were in place to stop this from happening?
Considering that early Christians were persecuted for their faith, it seems unlikely that these authors would happily put their name to a falsehood that would condemn them to death.  It is an oft repeated argument that early Christians must have truly believed in Christ to put their lives on the line the way they did.
As for checks and balances, Mark was thought to be written around AD 70s, Matthew and Luke around AD 80s, and John around AD 90s.  All within the lifetimes of other eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry.  If indeed there was falsehood in their writings, these should also have appeared as refutations.

3) Were these books reliably preserved since the time of writing? How do they compare with other ancient documents that we use as historical documents?
Related to the previous question, it is interesting to note that of historical documents from ancient times, the NT books are thought as the most reliable by far for two reasons:
– They were written by contemporaries of Jesus. In comparison, the earliest records of Alexander the Great were written more than 400 years after his death.
– There are more than 5000 NT Greek Manuscripts that have been recorded about 200 years after they were originally thought to have been written. In comparison, the historical work with the next largest number of copies is the Iliad by Homer. 650 copies that were composed only in the 2nd and 3rd Century. More than a thousand years after the original.

4) Are there other historical sources outside of the NT that confirms or contradicts the books of the NT?
Josephus, a 1st Century historian, mentions in one of his works, completed about AD 90, that the high priest Ananias “convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a a man named James, the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, and certain others … and delivered them up to be stoned.”

In AD 115, the Roman historian Tacitus mentioned that “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.  Christus, from whom the name had its origina, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our prosecuters, Pontius Pilatus.”

In AD 137, Phlegon, a Greek author from Caria wrote that in the fourth year of 202nd Olympiad (ie. 33 AD), there was “the greatest eclipse of the sun” and that “it became night in the sixth hour of the day (noon)”.  Agreeing with biblical accounts of the sky turning dark at Jesus’ death.

While these accounts are not written by Christians and therefore do not portray Jesus as God, they do show that there was a person Jesus who was crucified by Pilate, during which the sky turned dark, and after which entire masses of people started a religion bearing his name, claiming that he had risen, that he was God, and placed so much faith in their beliefs that they were willing to be persecuted and even suffer death for it.
==============================================
Thus ends this entry. I take no credit for it as all information has been pulled out from “The Case for Christ”.
I would urge that you, gentle reader, pursue reading this book in its entirety, and make your own conclusion about Jesus.

If you listened to me, and Christianity was a sham, you would have wasted perhaps a couple of days of your life.
If you didn’t listen, and Christianity was true, you would have lost all of it.

Our first snowfall!

“Look! It’s snowing!”

Both of us have never really seen such a nice snowfall. Although Ken has studied in Oxford for a good couple of years, it didn’t really snow like this. Me? I’ve been on a snow-capped mountain in NZ and perhaps encountered very light flurries recently, but nothing beats now. It’s just perfect! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas and I’ve got it! This is a great gift!

What did we do? We went out to play! I mean, take pics. =p

         

         

But you know what? Christmas will be magical and splendid as long as you are spending it with your loved ones.

I <3 BPL

Have I told you lately that I love Boston Public Library?

I love her for her huge collection of books. I could find 70% of the books that I wanted and today I was able to borrow the books that I originally wanted to purchase. Good job for delayed gratification!

I am not a voracious reader like my sis or Ken. I am not even a reader to start off with. I only starting getting engrossed in reading when I was around ten years old, an age that was deemed too late (according to some studies) to instill a love for reading (read ‘gone case’). So, get your kids started on reading when they are young before it’s too late.

I feel my sis and Ken read more for pleasure while I read for information. They devour novels while I, magazines, biographies and more recently, cookbooks.

Today, I was overjoyed with the number of books in my bag. While I was about to proceed to the checkout counter, a fire alarm sounded. We were to evacuate the building! Oh no! I have not borrowed the books! NOOooooo! I spent so much time looking for them and I’m not going to depart from them!

So, catching every minute with people evacuating the library, I went to the self-checkout counter, fumbling over the books. My heart was pounding and I was hoping that the machine would not be switched off. I was almost done except for two new books which I could not find the barcode! Oh no! Well, at least, I had the majority of them!

I left the building in a haste. Seconds later, sirens were heard and two fire engines arrived. Is it a drill? Hmm.. I was preparing to leave when I realised, to my horror, that I did not complete the whole process of my loan. I did not log out! Arghh!

So, I waited, along with a crowd of people in the cold. It wasn’t long before the firemen came out, with smiles on their faces. Ah! It’s nothing serious. I went back in again and managed to borrow the last two books which I left behind.

=)

Books in my bag:
Notes on Cooking
Life is Meal
The Sharper Your Knives, the Less You Cry
The Pleasure of Cooking for One
The Sweet Life in Paris
A Homemade Life

=) I’m a happy girl!

On Prophecy and Christmas

An interesting thing happened yesterday which I will have to go back several days (and even weeks) to explain.

About a week ago, Lynn went for a celebration of Christmas lights, which you can read more about on her faithful blog.
I, being caught up with work, and never being much of a Christmas lights person, decided not to go.
However, when Lynn was thinking about what could be discussed with our friends on the trip, I suggested Old Testament (OT) prophecies of Christ’s birth.

To be fair, I do not think the prophecies of the OT is a good place to start for someone to come to the faith.
It is, in fact, easily dismissed so long as one does not believe in the authenticity of the Bible.
So if you are interested in whether or not Christianity is TRUE, I would suggest first looking to find out and convince yourself on whether or not the Bible is historically accurate. Start with the New Testament (NT). That is, after all, where the heart of Christianity lies.

Anyway.
I suggested to Lynn some OT prophecies that foretold of Jesus being the messiah.
One of them was from Genesis 49:10, and was about the blessings that Jacob gave to his sons, specifically, to Judah.

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”

It was interesting that Jacob should bless his fourth son with such greatness and kingship.  Even more so when, at that time, Joseph was second-in-command only to pharaoh throughout all the land of Egypt.  More likely then that Joseph would rule, than any of his brothers.  Triply unlikely when we realise that the only record of Judah prior to these blessings is in Genesis 38, when he unwittingly thought of his own daughter-in-law as a prostitute and slept with her.  Hardly a candidate for greatness and kingship.

Nevertheless, it came to pass that David was of the tribe of Judah, and from David to Jesus, no other tribe ever took possession of the kingship of Israel.

The interesting thing is that last Saturday, while preparing for some  party games on Sunday, I suggested this very verse as the answer for the main quiz.
And on Sunday morning, the preacher brought up this very verse as the first prophecy that he wanted to touch on.

More than a coincidence I think.

I submit this verse, and the many prophecies in the OT, for your reading.
If you like, the Book of Daniel is one book of the OT so heavy with fulfilled prophecy that some scholars believe that it must have been written AFTER the fact.
What you believe would depend on your thoughts on the authenticity of the Bible.

I think that will be the subject of my next post. Whenever that might be. =)

One more week to Christmas? So fast?

Huh? It’s one more week to Christmas! How did time pass so fast?

I wasn’t really in the mood yet, strange as it might sound. After all, I have had Christmas parties, baking of log cakes, receiving Christmas cards and singing of carols but the Christmas warmth has not filled my heart. I wonder why.

The weekend has ended with more eating, cooking, baking, organising of games at PSIF and a musical.

The 4 Singaporean couples gathered at the Pangs for a potluck dinner. Owing to A who suggested an Ang Mo dish, it was decided that we go with the theme. So, we had a VERY rich dinner, complete with lobster bisque (Sarah’s), Kale and bacon casserole (Amy’s), pasta with chicken (Joy’s) and my Gordan Ramsay’s version of the Greek Moussaka. We had 8 of us and could only finish the first 2 dishes. So, I’ve learnt…for potluck, there’s really no need to cook more. If everyone contributes a little, it would be sufficient to go around.

Today also marked the last PSIF for this season and we ended it with a programme – a game comprising 7 stations for the various groups to complete. I was in charge of the station called ‘Guess the ingredients’. Remember the speculoos that I baked? The groups would have to taste them and to guess the ingredients that went into the baking. As the station master, I must say I enjoyed it tremendously! I was tickled by their discussion!

” Oh, this tastes so sweet. There’s sure to have sugar!”
“I can already smell ginger!”
” I think there’s baking soda or powder. Not sure which one though…”
“Maybe there’s water?” “Nah, in baking, water is not counted as ingredient.”
“Argh…I don’t know much about baking cookies. Usually, I use pre-mix.”

Looking at their expressions, it was truly an intense moment!


So, with this programme, we bade farewell to the brothers and sisters here. Until next season, be good! And off to the musical ‘Black Nativity’ we went!

 

It’s been a good season thus far for the Queks. When we left for the US, we both knew that it was not just mere studies that brought us here. Somehow, we knew that the Almighty has greater plans and each day, we were on an adventure with Him and as He slowly revealed, we could not help but give thanks.

Indeed, it has been an honour to worship with the folks at Park Street Church. We somehow got ourselves as to co-lead the current group that we have and about half of them are seekers. It has been a most humbling as well as a great learning experience for both of us. Sometimes, it frustrates me that they wanted evidence to prove the existence of the Almighty and well, we could well understand why since they were all scholars, researchers, Drs. and even scientists, people of, well, very learned background. We couldn’t fully explain some things (if we can, you might as well call us gods) but it kept us wanting to read up more too. Of course, most of the times, even when the evidence was already before their eyes, they would still not believe. It takes a leap of faith to step into the unknown and only He could move the hearts of men, not us.

We are grateful that the Lord placed them in our lives and indeed we had great fun with them. About 10 more days to a new year and we’re waiting for more adventures with Him.

Exciting.

TGIF

It’s Friday and we absolutely loved it! Now that Ken is having his hols, we can really hang out together more. Today, we checked into the Tays for most of the day.


This is the dreaded T – Green line (train) that we are at the mercy of. It is so old that it breaks down every now and then and it doesn’t come on time. Sometimes, jogging is faster than taking a T.

S has asked me to bake log cakes for the leaders in PSIF and I thought it would be a good chance to learn from her. Remember, mine failed twice? I was disheartened of course but it’s always good to NEVER GIVE UP!

There were food trucks near their place and how convenient! I thought the concept was rather cool; how nice if we could have more food trucks back home or maybe own one? Kekekkeek…

        

      

After lunch, we got down to business. We baked 9 small log cakes altogether and I had my hands on them too. It was successful! The sponge cake was soft and the rolling was good too! OK, I was encouraged! The hubs, while we were baking, had been sitting quietly at a corner, reading his newly acquired book which he devoured in a matter of hours. The real fun for him came when KK came back with a new board game (co’s gift to him) and then a game of WII for the 3 of them. As usual, I’m not good with computer games. In fact, I don’t play computer games. But I’m contented with watching them play.

We proceeded to the Kah’s to watch the film ‘The Ultimate Gift‘ at their cool movie theatre at the condo. It was really heart-warming and I really ought to do some reflections soon.

“Love is a treasure for which we can never pay. The only way we keep it is to give it away”
The gift of love.

FFWD: Speculoos

Another winner from her list of recipes. Speculoos are crisp brown-sugar cookies that have their origins from Belgium; they are the cookie that celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, the man we know as Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. The predominant spice is cinnamon but Dorie’s recipe includes a pinch of cloves and ginger which make the cookies slightly more complex.

The rolled-out dough has to be chilled for at least 3 hours and so I made it the night before.

The cookies were so tasty! I couldn’t help myself but to reach out for more and at the same time reminding myself that my waistline is expanding. Moments later, the hubs also came in and ‘stole’ some to eat. Thankfully, I made them into small pieces. To eat more small pieces = 1 large piece (deception).

=)

Although Ken was officially free from school yesterday, I still had to attend mine as the public schools’ term wouldn’t be ending till next week =(. How sad is that?

I’m happy still because after school, we would be going out! Yay! We decided to go out because we wanted to make use of the 60% discount at Borders and to check out Boston Common.

 

So, it’s lunch at BK before heading towards the gardens. Ahh…the water in the pond had solidified and we decided to walk on it after seeing a group of boys sliding. We were fearful though that the ice would crack! See…Ken was not even playing a fool here. The skate rink at the Frog’s Pond at Boston Common was open and well, we could save that activity for another day!

      

I didn’t manage to buy anything at Borders. I was thinking that most of the cooking/baking books could be borrowed from the library and thinking about bringing them back home was a great enough consideration. Most of the books on display failed to inspire me too; they were too mainstream. I was looking more for those cakes byHidemi Sugino, a great pastry chef from Japan but his works are not translated! Irritating! Besides, the internet IS a wonderful resource to go to for recipes and ideas. So, I stayed at Borders for a looong time and decided not to purchase any in the end.

Right now, I am also thinking about which area I should specialise in and really go in depth in it (sounds like some University courses, eh?).

I’m quite torn, really. What do you suggest?

 

Last day of school!

Yay! It’s the last day of school for Ken and he has also submitted all his assignments! Yipee!

Yesterday, he mentioned the omelette rice he often ate near our workplace and I thought I would cook lap cheong dark fried rice (reminds him of his grandmother) wrapped in an omelette! To top it up was Dorie’s Spiced butter-glazed carrots.

  

=)

In the apartment…

No space in the kitchen so books are on the floor

Dorie's recipe again tonight!

Baking cupcakes this Sat!

Going places soon!

When will I finish reading?

Notes, cards from friends

May you be blessed with...

End of season

We celebrated the end of our Women’s BS for autumn with a small party, with loads of food and heart-warming carols. Time really passed; we’ve had one term of BS already! Though I wouldn’t say I enjoyed myself tremendously with this group of ladies, it was still an enriching experience learning from their sharing. Of course, the few Singaporean ladies, all of them whose husbands are here for their studies, were great company. It’s sad to say goodbye to them but I also know that we will meet again next season.

It’s December again and it’s time for me to think of what I should do in 2011. And as I was pondering on my way back, I saw small (really SMALL) white stuff drifting down from above. It’s snowing!

Thank you Lord…made me think of ‘Ask and it shall be given to you…’

  

Snow, I don’t see you!

It’s -8 to -20C today but there’s still no snow.

Dear Santa, I want a white Christmas. Can you send some snow please and after that, grant me sunshine again and nice warm temperature so that I can run?

Exhausted

I must promise myself that I shouldn’t be too ambitious…with baking and cooking. Now, I’m completely washed out.

For breakfast, I decided to bake Cardamom Crumb Cake . It took me one hour in total to bake this and was a good complement to my daily dose of coffee.

Since I was free, I decided to do French for lunch – Leek & Potato Soup (FFWD) and Gougeres – and thereafter try my hands on Mocha Roulade which basically is rolled cake. The other day at Sarah’s, I did a wrong step for the log cake but thankfully she was around and it was salvaged. So, I thought I should bake it on my own and see if I could be successful this time round. Alas, it was a failed attempt again! The sponge cake cracked when I rolled it. *heart-broken* There goes my eggs, chocolate, flour, butter, etc. Oh never mind! I shall try again!

Since I would have nothing for the women’s BS party tomorrow, I thought I had better bake something that I am more familiar with – cupcakes.

The heart-shaped tuiles were ideas from Sarah and I got some amount from her the other day. I hope nothing would go wrong tomorrow. Pls, buttercream…don’t melt! You shouldn’t because the weather would be cold!

Rosemary-flavoured nuts

I’m a nutty person, not in the sense of being crazy but that I adore nuts. I love munching them and sometimes without my knowing, I would finish the whole pack by myself which resulted in a plump young lady years ago.

But I learnt my lesson of eating everything in moderation and managed to scale down my weight. I still love nuts though and today,I intended to personalise my peanuts, thanks to the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. Did I mention that during yesterday’s dinner at Journeyman, there was this couple who was seated next to us and the lady resembled Dorie? I took a few glances to determine if I was sitting next to this famous cookbook writer; I couldn’t be sure. Checking her tweets, I realised she couldn’t have been in Boston. =(

Anyway, I have missed last Friday’s FFWD and decided to make up for it today. The recipe on her cookbook was sweet and spicy cocktail nuts but I decided to go with rosemary-flavoured peanuts.

 

My main ingredients are 1 cup of peanuts and 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary.

   

1. Mix sugar, salt and finely chopped rosemary in a small bowl and add the beaten egg white.
2. Toss the peanuts into the mixture and make sure that the nuts are evenly coated.
3. Lift the nuts one by one from the bowl, letting the excess egg white drip back into the bowl and transfer them to the baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 300F or until the nuts are browned and the coating is dry. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer nuts to cutting board to cool completely.

They were CRISPY. Nice to go with everything from beer to Champagne. Obviously, something’s missing here – nice company and cool jazzy music.

Recipe above is adapted from Dorie’s cookbook. If you can, grab her book. Her recipes are easy to follow and the food delish. I never knew that French cooking can be so fuss-free. Love it!

Arghh

A common question posed to me was, “So what do you do when Ken is in school?” or “What do you do in Boston?”

I wish I could say that I am doing something decent like attending classes or having a job as my mom suggested. But having worked for 7 years, it is a good break and definitely a useful period to learn a skill.

So, my answer to them was, “I cook and bake.”

Sometimes, I find what I am doing really trivial but when I think deeper, it really involves a lot of work. For example, I spent the whole of this morning reading up and thinking of what to cook for the week. I could well make my life easier by just simply cooking what I am used to, aka Chinese cuisine. But I wanted to learn more and pairing ingredients is a skill! I need to check through the ingredients used by each dish and to maximise the use of them, think of more dishes that incorporate similar kind of ingredients.

I felt like I was back to my beginning year of teaching when I spent almost the whole day (normally a Sunday) drawing up my lesson plans for the week and developing the relevant teaching materials.

So, here goes. I spent half a day thinking through what I could cook/bake and I could only come up with half of them.

– Spiced butter-glazed carrots
– Leek and potato soup
– Herb-flavoured nuts
– Cinnamon crunch chicken
– Chocolate Crinkle cookies
– Mocha Roulade
– Chocolate cupcakes with ganache circle & buttercream frosting with tuile hearts
– Royal-iced chocolate cookies
– Cardamon crumb cake
– Speculoos

An Atas Experience

“So, this is professional kitchen for you. What do you think?”

Sze Wei asked me after we have completed our 3-course meal (which expanded into a 6-8 course meal, courtesy of this friend of Ken).

We were at Journeyman, a restaurant opened by Ken’s friend and his wife. It was a much-anticipated visit as Sze Wei has corresponded with Ken before our move here. It was he who advised me (through Ken) that I would not really need a culinary education to cook well; I can learn the ropes myself. Besides, I could definitely go to his restaurant to take a look and have a go at it, just for the experience. 

Journeyman finally opened their doors for business about three months ago. It was delayed due to some operations issues but we were glad that we made it yesterday.

We were seated at the serving counter, in full view of what the chefs were doing (a trio of Tse Wei, his wife and another chef). It was a nice concept since I could see the chefs in action and what went into the creation of my food. Contrary to what I saw from TV, these chefs here did not shout at one another. They were whispering and politeness was in the air (obviously since you have diners looking at you cook).

Sze Wei and the other chef were in charge of the main course while the wife, Diana, dealt with savoury dishes and desserts.

Ken and I selected the three-course meal at US$40/pax but the server soon came up to us and said, “I must warn you that the kitchen has intended to ignore your order and will serve you with copius amount of food. Sze Wei has plans for you.”

And yes, we had tastings of several savoury dishes before the entree was served. By that time, I was already full, not forgetting the dessert. It was an ‘atas’ (collquial term for high-class)/fine-dining experience nonetheless.

    

Stressful was my answer to Sze Wei but as he explained, that night was really quite smooth since the kitchen had only made one mistake compared to the other nights. It was not filled to the maximum capacity (3/4 full) too so it was generally all right.

  

He went on to explain that he starts work at around 10am every day (depending on what time he can wake up) and go back home at 2am in the morning. The first order starts at 6.30pm and last order of the day is 9.30pm and as we had experienced, dinner takes about 3 hours to complete and by the time the restaurant closes for the day, it would be 12.30am. Cleaning up needs to be done and thereafter a short staff meeting will be in place and the cycle goes on.

He hopes to have a day of rest eventually since right now he could only afford an evening. Business has been good and they are enjoying themselves (obviously, there are also a lot of stress and challenges).

“You can come in anytime and play.”

PLAY? I had better not. Meanwhile, I would use my time to hone my skills and learn as much as possible. Hopefully, when I’m confident enough, I could try out at his kitchen…FOR A DAY.

Christmas Festival of Lights @ Attleboro

The most memorable unforgettable thing about this was the fact that we got stuck in the traffic as it seemed that everyone was going to the small town to admire the lights. In my mind, I was wondering what the big deal was. It’s erm…only lights. We got that along our Orchard Road. I would gladly turn back to Boston anytime.

We pressed on. Thankfully, the conversation with the guys in the car was interesting and we got to our destination eventually. It was actually a big Catholic church decorated with wonderful lights and Christmas displays. Devotees and pilgrims crowded the church and the statue (was it the virgin Mary holding baby Jesus? Can’t remember…) and we retreated. After a while in the compound, someone suggested to go back to Boston’s Chinatown for our dinner. That was perhaps the greatest idea ever!

And we filled our stomach and the restaurant with our laughter and joy. Food definitely has a way with people and can definitely gel the most perfect strangers.

What is Christmas?

What comes to your mind when we mention Christmas?

Bright lights? Presents? Santa? Christmas Tree? Food?

Remove all these and ask again “What really is Christmas?” I was surfing the web and came across the short clip on Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown spent the whole episode wondering why Christmas was so commercialized. It was really frustrating him until finally he said to the audience, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”