The organised chaos

The rituals that the pandemic stole from us

I have an M.O when it comes to getting my hair done.

It usually takes place during the term break, so once every three months or so. I will take a day off from work, and it is typically a week day, and the earliest appointment the salon can arrange for me. I drop the kids off at school and park the car at home before taking the bus into town for the appointment.

After the usual works – greys get touched up, a trim to keep the shape neat and tidy – I’ll head over to an eatery for my coffee and meal. There, I’ll linger for a while, enjoying the quiet sips of my coffee as music wafts into my ears through my noise cancelling AirPods. There, I am shut off from the world, immersed only in my book and my music. There, I am my own, and I am gentle, and I am silent.

A cup of coffee on a table in a cafe
Always a cup of flat white

Time, however still it seems, doesn’t stop. Before I know it, the cup is empty, the aftertaste of coffee lingers in my mouth and a glance at my watch tells me that it’s time to head home so that I can pick my littles up. A quick check of the app shows me that the bus will arrive in eight minutes – I pay for my meal, pack up and slip out of the place to walk to the bus stop.

This process emerged, initially, because of a lack of time. Weekends are for spending with the kids and husband, and I needed to be home in time so as to pick the boys up from school. As time went by, it became a block of time that I carved out for me.

Over time, it became a ritual that I followed unconsciously. But for the past couple of months, and perhaps even the year, there were times when COVID guidelines meant that I could only zip and out for a haircut. The ritual that I had built so carefully over the past decade had been systematically and ruthlessly dismantled because of the pandemic.

The past two months of living under the shadow of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) has shown me just how much the pandemic has robbed us of. I never thought I would miss dining in at an eatery so much and so when we weren’t allowed to do so, it felt like something was missing. When the rule was finally lifted, the first thing I did was to book a dinner date with the husband. And our first meal out was a piping hot bowl of bak chor mee, post gym.

Over the past year of working from home and ordering food in, we have had many bowls of noodles, obviously. But somehow nothing beats waiting for the food to be cooked, and then to tuck into the freshly made noodles.

And then it hit me: it was a ritual in itself. The process of us heading to the gym together, deciding what to eat, queueing up to order, and sitting at the table while devouring our food. Having a date night is also a ritual – me deciding what to wear, dolling up, driving down the expressway with the moon roof opened and pretending that we are doing a road trip, holding hands and walking to the restaurant, conversing with no worry or care.

Maybe that’s why there is always something heavy weighing inside of me. (Granted, I tend towards the melancholy more than the usual.) But there’s always a sense of grief – at times teeny tiny, at times an avalanche – of what we have lost and given up, of what our kids have had to let go of. I am grateful that we, as a whole, have emerged relatively unscathed but I also recognise that my anxiety and grief are valid too.

Perhaps the underlying lesson to be learnt is this: to treasure the little moments of what we have, and to never take anything for granted. On some days, truthfully, the lesson can be a bitter pill to swallow. But you know, time does not stop for us. Summer is here, it’s hot and bloody humid, and before you know it, the kids will be out of school and it’s time to celebrate Christmas. We just have to focus on putting one foot in front of us at a time, shed some tears and laugh out loud along the way, and we will be where we are meant to be in due time.

Cocktails at a restaurant
Date night with the man, Spanish food this time (and most of the time!)
Foodnotes, Two of Us

Down by the riverside

The very best dates are often those that just happen.

We ended up at Robertson Quay, where we indulged in sinfully hearty burgers (Bar Bar Black Sheep) and stopped for coffee at Kith Cafe.

My favourite beer in the world! A colleague saw me with a plastic cup of beer at an office party (v classy) and said, I didn’t think you are the sort to drink beer. And when I asked her why, she replied, You always look so put together, you look like the girl who drinks wine. Well, WHY did I buy that new epilator? I’m gonna embrace my inner beer drinker and stop shaving my legs and armpits! Oh, and not shower for three days.

Coffee followed by beer. Mmm hmm. This is one liquid diet I would happily follow EVERY SINGLE DAY. Oh what the heck, let’s throw teh-si into the mix too!

We. CANNOT. Get. Enough. Of. Bar Bar Black Sheep. I had the blue cheese burger and it was divine. I still prefer the mish mash, airy feel of the Cherry Avenue outlet though.

New coffee hangout for us, yay! Also, they use a lot of chalkboards in their decor. I have this illicit love affair with chalkboard so they automatically go right up my favourite list.


Koh Grill & Sushi Bar

We are probably late to the game but we’ve just recently discovered a wonderful Japanese restaurant that serves mid-priced food and delectable fresh sashimi (thanks to me bestie). Well, calling it a “restaurant” would be a misnomer because it’s not quite a restaurant since it’s located within a food court.

Yes, you heard right, a food court. I hate food courts and think that the food served there is usually overpriced crap. But this is different, I think I may be patronising Koh Grill & Sushi Bar a lot more now.

Tucked near the escalator of the Wisma Atria Food Republic, this stall may not be dressed very prettily or have service staff that shout out iraishaimasu in mangled Japanese but boy, does it serve awesome Japanese food. According to the sashimi chef, they get their seafood fresh from Tsukiji market every Tuesday and Friday. He loves to recommend fresh picks to the patrons, something that I appreciate greatly. Plus, they have some truly great value bento sets that can put your typical conveyor belt sushi chains to shame (coughsakaesushicough).

Fish & Teriyaki chicken bento set

This was what Mr Thick had – a bento set that had a slab of saba fish and teriyaki chicken. It even came with chawanmushi and a soup. Yummy! I don’t tend to like teriyaki sauce because many restaurants ruin it by drowning their meat with the sickly sweetness of it but this one was just nice. Can’t remember the price but it was probably a princely $15?


Sashimi/nigiri bento - $16.90

I ordered the most “expensive” bento – a mix of sashimi, maki and nigiri. It cost me all of $16.90 and came with a small bowl of soba. It was incredible! The sashimi – tuna, salmon and swordfish – were deliciously fatty and fresh.

Otoro - $24

This has to be the highlight of my meal (Mr Thick doesn’t like sashimi, that poor man) – OTORO! Four decadent slices of the fatty smooth meat…just check out the marbling! Isn’t it gorgeous? Every bit of it just melted in my mouth. Mmm!

Of course, this being a food court means you have to put up with the noise, the smell and the crowd. But for such bargain prices and great tasting food, I reckon the trade-off is well worth it.

435 Orchard Road
#04-21 Wisma Atria


The Garden Slug

I’m currently down with a nasty throat infection that had my doctor shaking his head and asking why I did not go to him earlier. What can I say? I have my mother’s mentality when it comes to doctors and medicine – self-medicate first! In this case, it was epic fail.

Anyway, Mr Thick and I, being food lovers, have been trying out new places to spend our money on. One of the places that he had discovered was The Garden Slug. I’m not quite sure how he uncovered this little nook next to the kitties’ vet clinic, it’s possibly thanks to the iPhone app BuUuk. I quite like the place because firstly, they serve all-day breakfast and places that serve all-day breakfast are cool and hip in my books. Secondly, you feel happy and relaxed there, there’s no buzz in the air that makes you want to jump out of your seat and GO GO GO. Am I making any sense? Blame that medication that makes me drowsy!

The food was pretty good too. I wouldn’t say it is FABULOUS but it’s good, hearty stuff and priced decently too.

Bruschetta - $4.90 for two pieces

I love tomatoes! Nom nom nom. This was alright – fresh tomatoes with crusty bread.

Greek salad - $12.50

This was quite a large serving – we didn’t manage to finish it, although I made sure all the cherry tomatoes were demolished. Told you I love tomatoes. I liked the zesty dressing.

Buttery Garlic Glaze topped with Grilled Chicken strips - $14.90

I’m actually in two minds about the pasta. I liked the subtle garlicky taste of it, liked the spiciness of it (you can choose to have it spicy or not) and liked that the chicken did not taste like dried cardboard, not that I have tried cardboard before. But the down side was that it was drowning in oil, which made me feel urghs towards the end. I know, it’s olive oil, but you do know that olive oil is FAT, right? Fat in any form is still FAT.

The Ultimate Steak Sandwich - $18.90

Mr Thick is not called Mr Thick for no reason – he likes his meals hearty and meaty. This was done pretty nicely, the beef was tender and I liked the bread.

When we went there at 8pm on a Sunday night, the place was not packed and service was prompt. Lovely, for we were starving. It’s a great place to go if you are living in the east and not in the least interested in jostling with the crowds in town.

The Garden Slug
55 Lorong L Telok Kurau, #01-59/61 Bright Centre
Singapore 425500
6346 0504

Foodnotes, Two of Us


I don’t think I have written about the time the boyf and I went off to Relish for a burgerlicious meal. No, that’s not a word but I am a writer and I am allowed to make words up.

Anyway, it was a cold and stormy Thursday. I had plans for Friday so to make up for it, the boyf had sweetly asked me out for dinner (on Thursday itself, I might add, tsk). Before we met at the MRT station, he told me that he wanted to check out Relish. I was incredulous. The burger joint is in the far flung west (Bukit Timah) and we weren’t driving! But he was confident we could find our way there via public transport and I swallowed down my cynicism.

We travelled to Newton MRT station, walked in the rain to the bus stop where I used to wait for the bus to bring me to school, boarded a horrendously crowded bus which huffed and puffed its way to Cluny Court. In the darkness, we vaguely made out the building before pressing the alight button hastily. It was a dark and stormy Thursday night and Relish, amazingly enough, was crowded. Thankfully, the boyf was clever enough to make reservations.

He ordered the Wild Rocket burger and I had the bacon and cheese. Being greedy little piggies, we also ordered hand cut onion rings for starters and then ended the meal with a tiramisu milkshake. Coolly enough, nothing disappointed. My medium-rare patty was juicy, thick and had lots of bite – nothing like the dry and crumbly patty served up at other joints. The onion rings were crispy and fragrant, and oh-so-addictive. I had my fries changed to salad, which was a most excellent decision. His fries were a tad over-fried and the salad was definitely a refreshing, clean complement to the grilled beef.

But the best part of the meal has to be the milkshake. It was creamy and thick and exactly like slurping up a delicious tiramisu, but in liquid form. At $9.50, it was pretty pricey for a milkshake but man, was it worth it.

We staggered out of Relish, feeling rather fat and full. On the sheer impulse of the moment, we boarded a bus to Little India and caught the NEL home. On the train, he started reading the Chinese subtitles of that terrorist video out loud but his pathetic command of the language left me giggling uncontrollably. Before we knew it, I was home!

So the moral of the story is: yes, it is possible to go out and have a great meal without the convenience of a car. And yes, it was one of my favourite dates. And yes, Relish is definitely worth a second visit.

That makes it three morals of the story. Well, I was always bad at Maths.


Bar Bar Black Sheep

Have you any yummy food?

The future housemate – he’s been demoted because I called him my husband on Saturday and he said “NO”, so he is an arse and I am still pissed off – finally put up the pictures of our gastronomy adventure at Bar Bar Black Sheep.

Here’s some food pr0n to cheer up an exhausting Monday (yay to pounding out a 1,200 word story!). I really love the prime lens. Gotta get us more of that.

!(imgcenter) made beef burger)!:
!(imgcenter) spread)!:
!(imgcenter) Hoegaarden)!:

More pictures here.

Two of Us

The non-date date

On Saturdays when I don’t trudge down to the gym in the morning, I like to sleep in. It usually goes like this: I’d sleep till way past noon, only to be woken by the boyf’s part astonished, part indulgent voice.

“Wake up,” he’d say.
“Mmmm,” I’d mumble before hanging up the phone and going back to bed.

It would be a long time before I finally rouse myself from my bed, by which time, breakfast for me would be a complete misnomer. I’d read the newspapers, laze around and generally bask in the unproductivity of it all. And then, the boyf would call and ask about our plans for the day and neither of us would have a clue. Usually, we would arrange to meet at a certain time (usually after 5pm) and then decide in the car.

Saturday was no different, except that we were going to check out Bar Bar Black Sheep! It’s a laidback eatery along Bukit Timah Road that my ex-colleagues had raved about months ago. The place is really chill – sitting on wooden benches out in the open, we were left to the mercies of the gods. Thankfully, the weather held up. It was breezy and cool, with surprisingly no sign of the humidity that defines our climate. After a few spots of bad luck involving the lack of money and wrong directions, we decided to just order everything we fancied as a special treat for ourselves.

The North Indian food was ab-fab! We had the butter chicken, chicken kebab, mutton masala and mixed vegetables cooked in butter and cream (artery-clogging stuff, basically) and everything, EVERYTHING tasted great. The gravies tasted light on the palate. The cream and butter were not cloying and the meat was tender and juicy. Even the papadam had only a gentle hint of bitterness and was subtly crisp.

The homemade beef burger from the Western stall (Smok’inn Frogz?) was good but paled slightly in comparison to the sheer genius of the Indian cuisine. The beef patty had bite and texture, but was a tad tough to chew.

And the beer! It was only $10 for a pint of my beloved Hoegaarden. 10 bucks! A pint! It felt decadent and indulgent, the delicious beer sloshing down my throat and inducing a heady wave of intoxication in my already delighted senses.

We sat around and talked till the skies darkened around us about everything and nothing. We had nowhere to go, no place to rush to, no plans and we could sit there for hours if we wanted to. I was happy, and stuffed.

On a whim though, we decided to head to the Singapore Flyer. See, things like cable cars and ferris wheels appeal to me and I was super excited that it’s finally in operation! We entered the carpark linked to the big wheel, had the shock of our lives discovering that it would cost us $1.20 per half hour and promptly drove straight out. Ultimately, we did end up at the Singapore Flyer (but not taking a ride), filling our stomachs with yummy gelato.

And it was really a perfect date, even though it wasn’t elaborately planned. Good company, good food, good weather, lots of loving and laughter – it’s all very simple, really. 🙂