Travel

Photo of the Day

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The Ninja Turtle’s moment of pleasure during her 5-mile tempo run in the sweltering summer heat today. Please feel free to enjoy the photo, but do ask for permission and credit properly if re-using it for personal/professional purposes, thanks!

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Arts and Culture, Travel

It’s Summer in Europe – Festivals!!!

OK, so for about ten months a year, life in this corner of Europe is cold and bleak, characterised by grey skies, gusty gales and the type of rain that conspires to keep people indoors. Nobody goes outside unless they absolutely have urgent business to attend to, and even then, they stomp around with a miserable look of despair and reluctance, burdened by too many layers of clothes, determined to go back indoors as soon as possible.

But for two glorious months or so, everything changes. The sun comes out in full force, and the streets fill with folks with shortened hemlines, smiles and a swing in their step. The longer days also mean that one still has plenty of time to stroll the parks or hang out for cocktails after a full day at work. Best of all, summertime means one thing for the duo – festivals.

Stalking the streets in search for art.

Stalking the streets in search for art.

GodzillaPin is a festival freak. Back in their Adelaide days, the poor chap literally lost his mind in Mad March; between WOMADelaide, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Clipsal 500 (not to mention all the other events in the regions) all happening during peak surfing season, GodzillaPin desperately wanted to believe he could split himself up to be in 10 different places at the same time. It was GodzillaPin who’d cultivated the Ninja Turtle’s enthusiasm for festivals – it’s not to say that she doesn’t enjoy spending a lazy summer day reclined on the grass with a glass of cooler wine listening to amazing groovy beats, it’s just that she was never really raised to appreciate life this way.

So, the weekend started on Friday evening with the 6th edition of Hop Hop Hop!, the international open air street theatre in Metz. Over three days, various theatre troupes performed in public spaces, absolutely free of charge. More than just theatre, there was also music concerts, marching bands, little scenes, and surprise performances where people rendez-vous at a particular time and place with no idea what they’re going to watch. It’s all good fun, and free!

Qualité Street putting up a musical/acrobatics performance at Place St Louis - according to the duo, it was the best performance of the evening.

Qualité Street putting up a musical/acrobatics performance at Place St Louis – according to the duo, it was the best performance of the evening.

Here’s a short clip from the beginning of the performance by Qualité Street. For those who find themselves in Europe this summer and wish to catch their performances, here is their touring schedule.

The same weekend, there were the Festival World MeYouZik and the Rock Um Knuedler Festival, both free and open air performances in Luxembourg. They were highly billed events, with the likes of Winston McAnuff and Anastacia being the drawcards to the respective events. GodzillaPin had initially assumed that both the world and rock festivals were happening concurrently, but it turned out to be world music on the Saturday they showed up. This is just as well, as between the two genres, the Ninja Turtle prefers world music by a very large margin.

Debademba on the Lion Stage - their style of music is described as: Afrobeat, blues, with a nod at rock.

Debademba on the Lion Stage – their style of music is described as: Afrobeat, blues, with a nod at rock.

Next up was Playing for Change, not so much a band as a collective of musicians with the goal of Connecting The World Through Music.

Next up was Playing for Change, not so much a band as a collective of musicians with the goal of Connecting The World Through Music.

GodzillaPin came to this festival especially to watch Grandpa Elliot perform. That guy can really rock a harmonica.

GodzillaPin came to this festival especially to watch Grandpa Elliot perform. That guy can really rock a harmonica.

At the MeYouVillage, there were stands with information of non-profit organisations and non-government associations focusing on fundraising for various needy communities around the world. At the village, there were also some exotic foods and drinks on offer.

The Gangbé Brass Band performing at the MeYouVillage stage.

The Gangbé Brass Band performing at the MeYouVillage stage.

A short extract of the Gangbé Brass Band’s performance. It’s quite hard to describe the style of music but it’s a fusion of African beats with jazz/big brass band? At any rate, it was cool enough to get all the little kids off their bums and shaking their booties.

Winston McAnuff & Fixi on the Lion Stage. The programmes were running behind schedule and groups were starting a good half an hour after their scheduled performance times.

Winston McAnuff & Fixi on the Lion Stage. The programmes were running behind schedule and groups were starting a good half an hour after their scheduled performance times, but it was worth the wait.

The evening ended with the duo swinging to Alice Francis on the Holy Ghost Stage. The duo had first seen Alice Francis perform in Nancy back in 2013, and fell in love with the genre because of this amazing trio from Germany. They were enjoying the music so much they didn’t take any photos or videos, but here’s a clip from one of their better known songs.

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Food, Travel

Sonic the Hedgehog’s Birthday Food Tour

Last weekend, the Ninja Turtle got to spend a few days with her best friend from Australia, Sonic the Hedgehog. He’d taken a few days off work and was initially planning to go to Bali for the weekend, but of course, the Ninja Turtle found that idea most absurd and offensive – go to Bali while she was in Singapore? And sit alone on the beach, crying into a cocktail as he turned another year older? No way. He was coming over to Singapore instead, and they were going to eat themselves stupid.

Dressed for the tropical heat, Mother Turtle takes a quick snap of the duo getting ready to hit the town.

Dressed for the tropical heat, Mother Turtle takes a quick snap of the duo getting ready to hit the town.

The duo’s first stop for the day was Marina Bay, where the DBS Regatta was going on for the SEA Games. According to hearsay, there was an urban beach with food, music and stuff, so they thought they’d go check things out.

There it was!

There it was! It’s hard to tell from the overcast skies but they got there at midday, when it was stinking hot, and time for some grub.

Sonic the Hedgehog burning some calories pre-emptively...

Sonic the Hedgehog burning some calories pre-emptively…

While the Ninja Turtle is too lazy to do more than recline on a deck chair at the urban beach.

While the Ninja Turtle is too lazy to do more than recline on a deck chair at the urban beach.

First meal of the trip: beef and chicken satay, beef teriyaki nachos and Caesar salad, with half a pint of beer and a glass of prosecco. $58 (yeah, it was a tourist trap).

First meal of the trip: beef and chicken satay, beef teriyaki nachos and Caesar salad, with half a pint of beer and a glass of prosecco. $58 (yeah, it was a tourist trap).

A quick walk to see the Gardens by the Bay, which was still incomplete the last time Sonic the Hedgehog visited Singapore...

A quick walk to see the Gardens by the Bay, which was still incomplete the last time Sonic the Hedgehog visited Singapore…

Before jumping on the MRT to Clarke Quay for the next round of drinks.

Before jumping on the MRT to Clarke Quay for the next round of drinks.

Sonic had a Singapore Sling and later, a pint of Stella, while the Turtle went with a Merlot and later, a whisky. Second round of price gouge.

Sonic had a Singapore Sling and later, a pint of Stella, while the Turtle went with a Merlot and later, a whisky. Second round of price gouge.

Dinner was a meal at the Holland Village hawker centre. Sonic tried beef hor fun for the first time.

Dinner was a meal at the Holland Village hawker centre. Sonic tried beef hor fun for the first time.

Day two started with very good intentions of repairing the previous day’s damage…

The Ninja Turtle fixed Sonic the Hedgehog one of her famous fruit platter breakfasts. This one had persimmon, starfruit and roseapple, with plain yogurt, chia seeds and honey.

The Ninja Turtle fixed Sonic the Hedgehog one of her famous fruit platter breakfasts. This one had persimmon, starfruit and roseapple, with plain yogurt, chia seeds and honey.

Better yet, Mother Turtle managed to find mangosteens! It's been years since the Ninja Turtle had last eaten one of these things.

Better yet, Mother Turtle managed to find mangosteens! It’s been years since the Ninja Turtle had last eaten one of these things.

But then of course, they paid a visit to the Ninja Turtle's other best friend the Krazy Kow, and all good intentions were discarded with an evening of food debauchery.

But then of course, they paid a visit to the Ninja Turtle’s other best friend the Krazy Kow, and all good intentions were discarded with an evening of food debauchery.

How to host a quiet Sunday evening chez soi:

1. Find a crazy friend (someone like the Ninja Turtle).

2. Make sure crazy friend is armed with another crazy friend (someone like Sonic the Hedgehog).

3. Let them rudely rock up to your home while you’re still out, armed with two bottles of red wine and some lethal-for-the-waistline snacks like chilli lime soy chips and mixed nuts.

4. Get your boyfriend to stop by for baguette on the way over, because you need a vehicle for the olive oil, dukkah and sundried tomato pesto you plan to stuff your faces with.

5. Let your guests take their wineglasses into the pool because they came with bathers, only to swim 2 half-arse laps in your pool before deciding it was enough, they were tired and hungry.

6. Dig in to the snacks and wine. Your boyfriend also brought a bottle of whisky by the way, just in case.

7. Let snacks roll into dinner, which was a giant pot of delicious pasta (got to line the stomach, you know) followed by Magnum and Haagen Daz ice cream.

8. Continue with the wine. To maximise the pleasure out of all alcoholic drinks, play Cards Against Humanity. (What better game than this to play with someone you’re meeting for the first time, right? Trust us, you’ll get to know that person so well, you’ll never forget them.)

Between the Krazy Kow and Sonic the Hedgehog, the Ninja Turtle got to enjoy the company of her two favourite people in the world. (Not counting GodzillaPin of course, although to be fair, she’s been friends with them both a lot longer than she’s known GP. So give these two good folks credit for being able to put up with NT for all these years!)

Sonic had only taken a short leave from work, but Day Three was special as it was his birthday! Mother Turtle had plenty of activities lined up…

A birthday lunch at Jin Shan Lou restaurant, in Marina Bay Sands.

A birthday lunch at Jin Shan Lou restaurant, in Marina Bay Sands.

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Both Sonic and Ninja really enjoyed the meal, but Mother Turtle was not quite done with her surprises. On the way home, they casually “dropped by” the Fullerton Hotel, where something awaited.

Chocolate mousse cake from the Cake Boutique! They brewed a pot of tie guan yin tea to go with it.

Chocolate mousse cake from the Cake Boutique! They brewed a pot of tie guan yin tea to go with it.

Happy birthday, Sonic the Hedgehog!

Happy birthday, Sonic the Hedgehog!

Mother Turtle also prepared some kaya (coconut jam) and pineapple tarts for Sonic to bring home, but before they headed off to the airport, there was one last surprise…

DURIANS!

DURIANS!

Happy birthday, Sonic! Thanks for coming to see us in Singapore and spending your special day with us! It has been great fun to have you and we want you back soon!

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Arts and Culture, Running

Why Do You Run?

When the thermostat falls below zero,

And the world is blanketed in ice and snow

What reasons do you have to lace up for a run?

I run to embrace the hardships and the beauty of Life

The fresh air that both stings and elicits tears of joy

The movement that jars the joints but loosens the spirit.

I run to marvel a world so vast, so different, so wild

I, who was born in a warm cradle of the tropics

I now flow through a landscape locked in ice.

I run to see the world, and to look inwards

To tackle a daunting distance, I still the mind –

The road. The cold. The pain. Me. We co-exist.

I run to seek the Truth, whatever it may be

Today I uncovered the ugliness of my soul

The excuses I too quickly and willingly make

So I ran to surmount my fear of discomfort

I  surrender myself, vulnerable, to the harsh exposure

And survived. Today, I learnt how strong my mind is.

I run for I no longer fear the darkness or the sun

Neither the humid heat nor the February frost

I am a child of the elements

The wind, the snow, and the cold

Whispered in silvery voices, calling me

To return home, to return to the Truth.

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Food

Baking Frenzy

Although he doesn’t know it yet, GodzillaPin is a lucky man… upon waking this morning, the Ninja Turtle was struck by baking fever and decided to bake not one, but two batches of biscuits. Of course, there’s always a risk when experimenting with never-tried-before techniques or recipes, that things can go horribly wrong. But that’s just a risk GodzillaPin will have to take.

Strictly speaking, it’s not the first time the Ninja Turtle has baked a batch of biscotti (she did her first try before the duo left for Nice). However, the last batch was a trifecta of baking fail: a little too strong on the orange flavour, the slices were a tad too thick, and insufficient baking time. Calling them enjoyable would be bending the truth, but those biscotti were edible for the first two days. Day three onwards, they became a personal test of will of an epic proportion – GodzillaPin hates waste and refused to throw them away, but wouldn’t eat them lest he broke his teeth. Three weeks of tantrum and tears later, the biscuits were unceremoniously dumped in the bin, with a murmured apology to starving communities all around the world.

So, this time round, she used a different recipe and tried to learn from past errors. Also, this time round she refused to repeat the very expensive mistake of using all her organic almonds in something that could go wrong.

Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti

225g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
135g sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
Chopped dark chocolate
Dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180 Celsius (350 Farenheit).
Mix the first three dry ingredients in a bowl.
In another, beat sugar and eggs for a good 5 minutes. The recipe NT followed stated to use an electric mixer, but she’s an amateur experimental home baker, and can think of three dozen more interesting ways to spend money on an electric mixer for now, so instead, she got a nice workout for her arms doing this step.
Add the orange blossom water to the egg+sugar mixture.
Stir in the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until combine. Chuck in the chocolate and cranberries.
Pour it onto a baking parchment and bake for about 25 minutes.

It comes out looking like this. A giant cookie. Resist the urge to eat it at this stage.

It comes out looking like this. A giant cookie. Resist the urge to eat it at this stage.

Remove the monstrosity from the oven and reduce heat to 165 Celsius (330 Farenheit? Math geeks please verify this thanks.)
After about 10 minutes, the pastry should have cooled enough to be sliced with a serrated knife (bread knives are perfect for this) into thin slices. The Ninja Turtle aimed for about 1cm.
Return the slices into the oven with the cut sides facing up, and cook for 10 minutes, then the biscotti to bake the other side for another 10 minutes.

With fingers tightly crossed and the kitchen god smiling upon you, it should turn out a little like this.

With fingers tightly crossed and the kitchen god smiling upon you, it should turn out a little like this.

The second recipe is not new, just a slight variation on the Earl Grey Tea biscuits.

Sablés à la confiture

250g flour
125g sugar
125g butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Jam

Beat sugar and egg like in the above recipe (basically, viciously). Add in vanilla essence.
Pour in the flour, and stir. Then, using clean hands, use your fingers to work the combination, which should resemble a gritty, sandy mess at this stage.
Cut in the butter and mix until the dough is nicely combined.
The recipe didn’t specify this stage, but the Ninja Turtle rolled the dough into 2 logs of about 2cm diameter.
Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Slice the dough and flatten it to about 1/2cm thickness, and stick your thumb in the middle of each. Fill the holes with jam.

Homemade jams courtesy of Grandma Rabbit: Rhubarb, red currant and apricot.

Homemade jams courtesy of Grandma Rabbit: Rhubarb, red currant and apricot.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes.

In half an hour, GodzillaPin will be coming home to a big surprise.

In half an hour, GodzillaPin will be coming home to a big surprise.

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