Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coconut Sunday

Last Sunday we had a coconut party almost all day long until.... well until we did not want to be anywhere near a coconut any more (seriously).

Once we finished our morning tasks, thanking the Man for the blessings and another (failed) Ikea trip for a special person, we headed up to 508 Social Bistro. We chose this place because we were in the mood for some Taiwanese food.

508 Social Bistro used to be Chill Restaurant & Lounge, but was closed for a period of time and re-opened with a new name. The interior design and everything else stayed the same while the menu had changed a bit.
Curry Udon
Wife ordered Curry Udon since she was craving for it for some reason. Unfortunately the Curry Udon was bland that day and it wasn't presented as nice as it used to be. The Curry Udon was prepared using a thick sauce instead of the soupy version.

The best Curry Udon we had before was when we were at CKS Taipei International Airport for a layover. There's a cafeteria (forgot where exactly is) that makes the best Udon Curry soup: hot and spicy!

Taiwanese Chicken Nuggets
Deep-Fried Calamari
I chose two items: Taiwanese Chicken Nuggets and Deep-Fried Calamari. Alas, they both were also a bit bland compared to the usual. Normally, Taiwanese Chicken Nuggets are spicy, peppery, and aromatic due to the five spice powder used.

We were somewhat disappointed with the decrease of quality of the restaurant. Somehow, it was not the first time things have changed not for the better.

Back in the Chill Restaurant & Lounge days, we loved their Taiwanese Beef Noodle

Taiwanese Beef Noodle
But one day they decided to change the soup base of the Taiwanese Beef Noodle from the original recipe to a mix of beef and tomato broth. Yes, tomato! Definitely not our favourite.

Beef Wraps
They used to have beef wraps (forgot the actual name of the dish) that we also enjoyed but is no longer part of the menu. It could also be that there were the only select few who enjoy it.

It is unfortunate that we enjoy less and less of what they can offer in each of our subsequent visit lately. We would love to support local businesses around our neighbourhood but somehow things just did not work out with this particular spot.

We headed home afterwards to take a break for a while before Wife's usual Sunday Cooking Dash session. I took some time to prepare the coconuts we bought on Saturday to be consumed before the NBA All-Star 2012 and Descending.

Left: Older, Right: Younger
Bought two coconuts, found out that one is older than the other one.

The older one was definitely more "rough" looking than the younger one.
Old Coconut with thick meat
The coconut flesh of the older one was also thicker and less enjoyable while the juice was a wee bit salty.
Young Coconut with firm and soft meat
The younger coconut had softer flesh and sweeter juice.
Right before Descending started.
In this episode, the crew dove to a few spots in New Zealand to explore a sunken cruise ship and the Poor Knight's Island marine reserve. I kept flip-flopping between Descending and the NBA All-Star.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Wife made Hainanese Chicken Rice and fortunately I still had some Prosciutto left. Remember: always have Prosciutto ready in the fridge just in case and also when you put that Prosciutto on a plate, make sure it is the closest one to your mouth to avoid thieves.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Travelling: From Departures To Descending

As previously mentioned, we're big fans of "Departures", a travel show that was on TV between mid-2008 to mid-2010 for about 3 seasons before the crews called it "done".

The pilot, titled "Ocean to Ocean", started with the trio road trip from the east of Canada and ended on the west of Canada (Vancouver).  The last destination was Australia, right after visiting Bali, Indonesia.

Take a look the videos below to have a taste of what these guys had to offer:

They were also the few people who had a chance to visit and to document (to some extend due to the country's policies) the mysterious North Korea:

We both learned a lot from watching these guys travel around the world.

There are a few reasons why the show has made us big fans:
  • Soundtrack: superb, majestic, emotional (we bought all 3 albums)
  • Hosts: entertaining, down to earth
  • Shots Andre is probably one of the best cinematographer in Canada (he won a Gemini Award)
  • Locations: Antartica, Mongolia, North Korea, Ascencion Island, Jordan, Amazon river, Chile, Cuba, and lots more!
Have I mentioned that the combination of Andre cinematography skill and the music are mind blowing?

I don't think we had seen a travel show that explored the untouched and off the beaten path as far as possible and took absolutely stunning pictures (moving or not) the way these guys did.

(All pictures below belong to Departures Entertainment 2 Inc).

New Zealand
Some of the episodes are available online at CityTV website (http://video.citytv.com/video/show/departures/Season2/episodes/4294966445+4294966577/19/)

Even though the show had ended in 2010, OLN has kindly re-run the episodes from Season 1 to Season 3 every morning at 7AM PST. We watch the re-runs whenever we have time before we embark to our office in the morning.

Fortunately, Scott and Andre decided to continue their passion in travelling and producing documentaries. They have been working very hard in 2011 to travel around the globe and to explore the "other 70%" that have yet to be explored by them.

Enter "Descending". A new travel show that covers under the sea exploration (via diving, not submarine).

They also got a new travel (dive) buddy, a kiwi by the name of Ellis (also appeared in one of the "Departures" season 3 episodes when the crews traveled to New Zealand).

We are very excited to see them again.

Descending airs every Sunday at 6PM PST on OLN and I don't think it is available anywhere outside Canada yet but the crews have been working hard to make it available worldwide so stay tuned!.

We watched the first episode last Sunday and were elated to see them again! The first episode was a little bit "slow" for us since it began with a few introductions of the new crews, the dive buddy, and a few "tutorials" about diving that ate a portion of the show. Having said that, they managed to dive a few times and showed the audiences the view through Andre's eyes.

Overall we're quite satisfied as it was clear that the crews were very passionate at what they do and it showed from the quality of the show.

OLN has kindly provides re-run of the previous episode on the following Saturday, 5PM PST.

2012 just gets better with Descending.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Injured Weekend

Had a knee injury last week that slowed down our mobility over the weekend. We did the grocery later than usual and did not do much over the weekend other than enjoying our time at home.

We had sushi for lunch but not front a restaurant, instead from T & T Supermarket. I think T & T Supermarket nailed another business model: a supermarket that provides ready-made food as well. We don't know if they use leftover items from their shelves do we? (^_^). This reminds me of a post from 37Signals: Sell your by-products.

Last week was a special week and we didn't have time to celebrate until the end of the week thus we decided to buy a few goodies.

Wife wanted mochi cakes so wife should have them.

Those mochi cakes were meticulously packaged that it took us a while to decide whether we should keep it or eat it at the moment.

We also bought two Korean Onigiri: Unagi and Spicy Beef for Sunday breakfast since we need something fast and efficient to fill our stomach before embarking on our usual Sunday morning destination.

Wife decided to make the Sweet Martabak as we have been craving for it and could not wait for supply from back home.

Hidden Cheese and Crouching Chocolate Sprinkles is the nickname of this thing.

It's rather unhealthy due to the large amount of cheese, margarine, and chocolate sprinkles but once in a blue moon wouldn't hurt. I think this Sweet Martabak somehow healed my inflamed knee.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Travelling: Blogs, Clips, TV Shows

I have a sweet spot when it comes to travelling. I have been travelling to a few countries in Europe, Asia, North America (major cities both east and west of both U.S.A. and Canada), and a few islands in the Caribbean and I always try to travel somewhere away from home once a year whenever I have the chance.

Aside from travelling, I spend a lot of time reading travel blogs, scouring travel short clips on YouTube/Vimeo, and watching travelling TV shows to entertain myself and get ideas where to go next or what to expect if we were to visit the places we saw/heard/read.

The first travel clip I saw a few years back was by Matt Harding, a video game designer who quit his job, dropped everything, travelled, and recorded himself doing "the ugly dance" in various places he visited.

Matt Harding first video was taken around 2003/2004 and posted online in 2005:

He continued to produce the second video in 2006 with a bigger success:

And he saved the best for last in 2008:

You can visit his website at http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/ where he documented all the things about his travelling up until today (it looks like he's making another video).

Here are a few other "creative" clips of travelling around the world:

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Kien Lam quit his job as a Strategist in a financial firm to travel around the world and made this wonderful video from the collection of pictures he took during the trip:

Looks like Kien Lam switched gear and now he's a professional photographer. To see his work, you can go to his website at http://kienlam.net.

I don't read too many travel blogs as sometimes they're too long and detailed to my liking. The few blogs I'm interested typically focus on pictures. Here are a few of my favourite past-time blogs:
Some of the picture arts from the blogs above:

Borobudur, Jogjakarta from Stuck in Customs (Trey Ratcliff)
Prambanan, Jogjakarta from Stuck in Customs (Trey Ratcliff)
Rice terraces on the island of Bali, Indonesia
Rice Terraces, Bali from Everything-Everywhere
Here are a few travelling shows my wife and I have watched in the past few years:

1) Rick Steve's Europe

Rick Steve typically goes around Europe old cities to cover a more historical building. His show seems to be targeted for retirees who would like to travel in a more slower pace and specifically to Europe.

2) An Idiot Abroad

This travel show has a little bit funny back story. Karl Pilkington (the traveller) does not want to travel but was forced to do so by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, well-known U.K. celebrities. Both Ricky and Stephen monitor Karl's progress from London, U.K while Karl made fun of himself doing odd things around the world.

Most of the time, we found "An Idiot Abroad" to be funny, and occasionally we felt less entertained due to the nature of the show trying to mix between (more) stupidity/stubbornness and (less about) travelling. Overall this is a funny travel show which we enjoy.

3) World Travel

Two travel writers exploring the world. We found this particular show to be a little bit dry for no reason. Some of the shots of the places were nice, but the overall feeling of this show is somewhat a little bit on the average side. I feel the show is a bit cheesy as most of the activities they did were predictable.

4) Departures.

Here we go. This is the best travel show we have ever watched. The Best Ever. Period.

We stumbled upon this show one day as I flipped through channels and fell in love immediately. Justin Lukach and Scott Wilson were high school buddies who, with Andre Dupuis as the cameraman, decided to travel around the world and document everything (literally everything).

This is the show that definitely will make you want to travel.

Side note: Scott and Andre were college buddies who own a multimedia business focusing on television programming, commercials, etc even before undertaking the Departures project. Perhaps that explains the quality of the show.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

9 to 5 Weekend: Kettle Cafe Restaurant, Home Office Rearrangement

On Saturday we went out from early morning up until 5 PM. It felt like we were working during the weekend except we were not glued to the desk.

Started the Saturday like any other Saturday by doing groceries. This time we decided to go back to the healthy option: almost no snack on the list since we got them all last week. Having said that, I sneaked one up because it was on sale.

Wife also bought hers (somehow, I didn't notice until I emptied the grocery bags).

Hers is weird. Title said "Calorie Balance" but it contains a lot of fat (40%). Nice marketing package though (notice the "Save the Children" on the bottom left corner).

We went to two financial institutions to "diversify our portfolio" (says the business marketing guys) after ward. RRSP deadline is approaching and a few financial institutions gave a more aggressive rates so we tried to seize the opportunity. For example: BMO offers 2% rates for a 1 year RRSP, Scotia Bank offers 2% for both RRSP and TFSA (haven't checked the terms though). 

We normally are interested with short-term (1 year) and up to 3-years term deposits as well. We're not big on Mutual Funds or 5 years steppers as we would like the flexibility of getting the money in case we have to move away from Canada (not that we're planning to...).

Went lunch at Kettle Cafe once we wrapped up our business. We normally ordered noodle soups but we decided to do something different and got ourselves Hong Kong (or Taiwanese?) styled Pastas.

Wife ordered a spicy Pasta.

I ordered Ham-Chicken-And-Mushroom Pesto Sauce pasta.

The portion is humongous. Absolute monstrous. And as always, we didn't finish and had to take them home for dinner. Not bad, saved us some money too. Overall, we prefer their noodle soups. The pastas taste good, but not as good as their soups.

We went back home after lunch to take a short break and quickly noticed that OLN did a mini Departures marathon so we decided to watch one re-run episode. I really enjoy watching Departures since a few years ago. It is the best travel show I've ever watched so far.

Courtesy of Departures Entertainment Inc.
Once the episode came to an end, we had rest enough and ready to be on the move again to a few (secret) places after lunch to do a few (secret) things before we call it a day. (That's all I can say for the afternoon activities).

On Sunday, I had a big task to clean up the home office. Currently it looked like this:

Bookshelf contains often-read books (think of it like an L2 cache whereas another big bookshelves on the first floor is our RAM or something and the remaining books in the basement are stored in the hard-drive).

Noticed the cables beneath the desk? Not Pretty despite my attempts to make them not tangled up. 

From another angle
I didn't like the location of the printer as well, one must bow down and scan/print something. I decided that changes were coming.

First thing I did was to remove everything from the desk as I also wanted to remove The Simpsons poster as well since well, it darkened the desk's bright colour.

While we were at it, might as well cleaned up the glass top as well.

800lbs glass top

Ah... looks much brighter and cleaner isn't it?

Now let's do something about them cables.

Took out the All-In-One printer first.

Then the WiFi router.

I tried to move the table around the room to see if I could come up with a new location of the table. First target was the window front view.

The problem with this set up is the proximity with the wardrobe. 

Let's move it to another location.

How about beside the wardrobe? 

Still not suitable due to the location of the installed wall jacks. At this point I've given up and put it back to the original location.

At the moment, my goal was to de-clutter the previous set up and hopefully also be able to solve the cabling fiasco. To achieve this goal, I decided to put the items back to the desk in priority order: phone, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and workstation.

I toyed with the idea of putting the workstation behind the monitor rather than next to it. The advantage of this layout is to minimize the space used by the workstation. The downside is the need to move the monitor closer to me. 

With this layout, the printer will go back to the bottom since there is not a lot of space on the table.

Tried another layout by moving everything to the left corner and put the printer at the right corner. It feels a little bit odd since the monitor is no longer at the centre of the table, instead it is diagonal to the keyboard.

This set-up eliminates two problems I had previously:
  • Cables issue below the desk
  • The need to bow down to print
I moved the bookshelf to another corner of the room to give space next to the table. I'm still unsure if this is a more comfortable set-up for me but I'll try for a few weeks before making further changes. 

While I was busy with the home-office tweaks, wife cooked (Indonesian) Yellow Coconut Rice and Deep Fried Chicken for dinner.

We were longing for the Yellow Coconut Rice for a while and at last we can enjoy it peacefully :).