1

Popcorn: An Introduction

This is our cat, Popcorn. Otherwise – and often – known as “Hey!”, “Stop that!”, “OI!”, and other less-salutary names.

Captain Useless of the Meow Brigade been unusually affectionate

(My favourite nickname for her is Captain Useless of the Meow Brigade.)

We have a complicated relationship, this cat and me. It was the husband who rescued her from a puddle in a rainstorm nearly 12 years ago. And from early on he was her mama. She liked climbing legs, clothed or unclothed, and played with claws out.

I, on the other hand, am allergic to cats. Love ’em, but am allergic to them. Puffy face, swollen eyes, non-stop sneezing, runny nose, the works. The first six months the cat was with us, I took Piriton, an antihistamine, daily. It didn’t stop me from having a runny nose and swollen eyes most of the time I was home though.

The cat doesn’t love anyone but my husband and – now – me. It took him going away, back to the U.S., for a year and a half when we were engaged for her to begin getting closer to me. That’s a year and a half of feeding, of having only me for affection and reassurance and comfort. Once he returned, however, he was Person Number One again, with me trailing. But since then, I’ve been one of her people. (It’s a very short list.)

Popcorn spends most of the day sleeping on a corner of the bed in the guest room. The husband feeds her in the morning, before he leaves for work.

Feeding her, by the way, requires a special arrangement. She’s greedy and lacks self-control, so if you put down the full complement of food for any given meal, she gobbles it down too fast… and then throws up all of it a couple of minutes later. As best as we can tell, what happens is she swallows air as she inhales her food, and that’s what makes her hork it all up. Then she sits there meowing loudly and obnoxiously for more food. We’ve tried feeding at regular times (doesn’t help) and free-feeding (she gets fat; see: no self-control)—nothing but splitting up the meal into at least two portions served at least fifteen minutes apart seems to work.

I generally do the evening feeding. In between meals, the cat sleeps, as cats do. She spends the days bathed in indirect sunlight, slumbering peacefully. Except, of course, for those times I walk past, from my study to the bedroom or bathroom. Every time I pass, I meow at her, causing her to flick her ears and sometimes to turn around to look at me. Sometimes I go in and pet her, put my cheek against her fat furry flank.

I do it in part to annoy her, because I find it mildly amusing to tweak her a bit. But the truth, I realised recently, is that I also do it because despite it all? I do love her, and she’s old enough, and sleeps so soundly, and I’ve lost two beloved rabbits, that I do it to reassure myself that she’s still alive.

0

Cake and Idioms

You know how people say, “You want to have your cake and eat it”? Like there’s something wrong with wanting both to have cake and eat it?

IMG_1733.jpg

Did you ever stop to think how deeply weird that is? Of course you both want to possess your cake and eat it.

What’s the point of cake you can’t eat? And obviously you need to own the damn cake to eat it. Otherwise you’re just a thief.
Continue reading

0

Made the mistake of leaving the house without pen and paper. Not sure why, but lately I’ve been craving the physicality of pen on paper, and have as a consequence been scribbling and writing and sketching ideas a lot.

(Doesn’t mean I’m giving up my technology though. I’m still painfully attached to my iPhone and iPad and Kindle.)

I usually carry either a pocket-sized Moleskine Cahier or a Classic Moleskine, and a small clutch of fountain pens, one with grey ink, one with orange, and a gel multi-pen. But somehow today I thought it was a good idea to leave them all at home, or blurrily thought I wouldn’t want them. Terrible idea. Now I’m itching to write things down with pen on paper and I’m so desperate I’m contemplating stealing the notebook we use to record our driver’s hours from the car.

*twitch twitch*

0

Scamming water

So this just happened.

I’m on the way back to the apartment after physiotherapy and lunch, with a load of groceries. I get into the lift, and one of the nice guys from the Starmart downstairs—where we get our water—is inside with a cart loaded with two Aqua water dispenser bottles, headed up to the 19th floor.

We’d ordered three bottles last night, and they’d promised us delivery at 10 a.m. today. Thing is, they’ve always been a bit spotty about delivering it when they say they will. I once spent two days without drinking water, and was reduced to buying 1.5 litre bottles of mineral water so I wouldn’t dehydrate. There was no cooking done those two days, because have you ever tried washing vegetables or rice with water from 1.5 litre bottles!?

So I’ve taken to ordering new bottles when the last full bottle goes on the dispenser, but this time I forgot till the last bottle was down to a quarter.

The lift arrives at my floor. I stick my head out the door. Three empty bottles still sit outside, in our (private) lift lobby.

“Erm. Tiga botol saya?” I say, in my crappy, anyhow-whack Bahasa Indonesia. [My three bottles?]

“Tidak ada, m’am. Kosong. Mungkin besok? Ini order kemarin.” [Don’t have, m’am. We’re out. Maybe tomorrow? These were ordered yesterday.]

“Saya order kemarin juga. Dia bilang pagi ini, jam sepuluh.” [I ordered yesterday too. He said this morning, ten o’clock.]

“Kosong, m’am.” This goes on for a couple minutes, him repeating they’re out, and that these two bottles were ordered yesterday, and me stubbornly saying that mine were also ordered yesterday, and something something about their orders for our residence stack that I don’t quite get.

“Tapi saya tidak ada air saat ini!” [But I have no water now!] Mostly true, because now we’re down to about 1/5 of the bottle, which will only last till tomorrow morning.

“Maaf bu, besok.” [Sorry m’am, tomorrow.]

In desperation, I lapse into English. “No, no. I need at least one now.”

“Already paid?”

“Ya!”

He looks at the two bottles, thinks for a brief moment, and then pulls one bottle off the cart and offers it to me. I give him one empty.

“Yang lain besok, bisa?” [The others tomorrow?]

He nods.

“Terima kasih!!” [Thank you!]

And off he goes to deliver the remaining bottle.

TL;DR: I just ninjaed part of someone else’s water delivery. GO ME.

—–
Tap water in Jakarta is generally not safe to drink, so like everyone else, we use a water dispenser for cooking and drinking water. [Go back to reading]

0

Dear Harry

Dear Harry

It’s been exactly one month and one day since I came home with you from visiting the vet and found you’d passed away on the journey back.

I had a pretty good day today: meditation workshop at the nice yoga studio where I did my AntiGravity Yoga teacher training; catching up for fellow classmates from AGY teacher training; lunch out in Midori, a Japanese restaurant out in Bintaro; good conversation over lunch about yoga and meditation and philosophy and quantum states.

I got errands run and gave small gifts of food and favours (and giving makes me happy). I even found the time and energy to go to the gym and make myself lightheaded on the elliptical.

And then I sat on the big flat beanbag on the floor (remember how you loved that beanbag?) and ate an entire can of tuna and watched TV and played music on Spotify and read while waiting for your papa to get home.

It was a nice day. Productive. Lots of positive experiences. I really enjoyed thinking and talking about how the discipline of breath meditation relates to learning to accept yourself as you are while working towards perfection, and how those seem to be mutually exclusive but don’t have to be. It was a mind- and heart-opening discussion, and I’m struck again by how what I’m reading (Yalom’s Schopenhauer Cure) is echoed in what’s happening in my life and mind.

And today I was blessed because there was very little traffic on the roads. Thank you for that gift, Jakarta!

As I was sitting there on the beanbag after my good day, I was reminded again that despite all the bad things that have happened this year—my accident, your passing, for one—and the multiple stressors I’m experiencing, I am basically and fundamentally quite happy at this point in my life. It’s not that things don’t go wrong. It’s not that I don’t get angry or upset or agitated. It’s that despite all these things I am, deep down, content.

But you know, I would have been that much happier if you’d been hanging out with me on the beanbag like in the past.

I still miss you and think of you every day. I miss your funny face. In the evenings when I go to switch the lamps on, I still expect to see your eager twitching nose going a dozen times a second and you periscoping madly as you wait for me to feed you. I miss your company especially late at night, and think of all those nights in the last year we hung out together on the carpet. You were a great companion.

20140504-011950.jpg
I miss you every day. I hope to see you again someday, at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge, with Rufus.

Love you,
Mama

0

Echigoya Ramen

I’ve had a craving for decent ramen for the last couple of months, and I don’t know where in Jakarta to go to get some!

But we do live near-ish Blok M. The first time I was there, I noticed a string of lanterns proclaiming the area around Jalan Melawai 9 “Little Tokyo”, a standalone Japanese bakery, and lots of little izakaya-type places. (Also a bunch of karaoke bars and whatnot, but somehow I don’t think we’re their target market.) I’ve been in the area a couple of times, mostly to go to Papaya Fresh Gallery, but B’s never really had a chance to look around there.

So we washed up at Papaya Fresh Gallery round about 12.30, and started walking. Didn’t have to go far. Just at the other end of the block where Papaya’s located, we found Echigoya Ramen. The photos outside didn’t look terribly promising, and we debated whether to go in.

Echigoya Ramen

“Here, why don’t you poke your head in and see if there are tons of Japanese people inside?” I said to B. So he did. “I don’t know about Japanese people, but it’s full.” “Huh.” I stuck my head in; the place was indeed full. The bar counter was occupied and all the tables were taken. Lots of Japanese men having lunch, so that’s a good sign right? “Mmm. Let’s give it a go and see how it is.”

Bar counter at Echigoya Ramen
Since the place was full, we had to wait a while for a table. It didn’t take long though, maybe 5 minutes max, because one of the larger groups was just about done. We took our seats, and the waitress gave us our single-page menus.

Echigoya offers both chicken- and pork-based broths, and you can get shoyu or shio varieties. They also offer a whole range of additional ramen toppings: nori, wakame, negi, ajitsuke tamago, Japanese-style chasyu (that’s how they spell it), corn, butter, and various vegetables. There’s a small side-dish menu as well, and you can also order various rice bowls, so pretty much similar to most ramen bars.

A whole lotta condiments
Each table also has a raft of condiments: ninniku (garlic, minced, fried, and stored in oil), shoyu, shoyu for ramen (what’s the difference?), white pepper, chilli oil, vinegar, and the inevitable chilli sauce.

I settled on chasyu ramen, B picked the tonkotsu ramen, and we added ajitsuke tamago to both orders, with a side of gyoza for sharing. Sadly, they were sold out of pork gyoza, so we ordered the chicken gyoza instead.

Chicken gyoza
The gyoza arrived first, and it was pretty darn good. Crispy outside, juicy inside, and perfectly steam-fried. And for once, we could eat it almost immediately without burning our mouths. Don’t get me wrong, it was plenty hot, but it wasn’t scalding. Magic!

Chasyu ramen
My chasyu ramen was served with a generous handful of blanched beansprouts, negi, and wakame on top. I lost count of the number of slices of chashu, but I think there were maybe 5-6 slices.

The pork-based broth is relatively light, compared to what we’re used to in Singapore. It’s a nice balance though, not too oily or fatty, and still manages to pack in lots of flavour.

The char siew slices are also leaner and thinner than in most Singapore ramen bars. It’s a little on the dry side for my liking, but was actually counterbalanced by the fat in the soup. You know how sometimes you eat ramen and it’s beautifully rich and tasty, but after you’re done you feel a bit over-indulged? You won’t get that feeling here. You’ll be satisfied, but not sick.

Tonkotsu ramen
B’s tonkotsu looked similar to mine, but had a big spoonful of ninniku on top. The tonkotsu broth was a little thicker and more flavourful than my basic shoyu broth, but we agreed that it’s not as rich or milky as we’re used to eating back in Singapore.

Ajitsuke tamago — marinated soft-boiled eggs for ramen
The one thing I felt let down by though was the ajitsuke tamago. The taste was excellent, lightly salty, with a faint sweet aftertaste, but the egg itself was too set for my tastes. I like my ajitsuke tamago just set in both the white and yolk, but still quivering.

Good:
Echigoya makes its own ramen, apparently
They make their own ramen on site! The noodles are a lovely balance of bite and springy.
Seriously generous servings. The waitress asked us if we wanted a small or a large portion of ramen, and we both opted for small. I couldn’t finish my noodles, and the 6’2 husband found it just right. Bring an appetite!
The chefs gave us a bigass hajimemashite from behind the bar when we came in. Awesome.

Bad:
There’s no non-smoking section, and it’s a small place. There were people smoking at the next table.
The place has an open kitchen bar, with frying going on. So there’s a good chance you’re going to smell a little of food after you’re done. On the other hand, they must have pretty good ventilation, because the smells of frying and cigarette smoke didn’t bother me as much as it usually would.

The place had emptied out by the time we left

Echigoya is 7 out of 10, B says, and I’d concur. Best ramen I’ve had here yet, and we would totally go back! Next time, perhaps, we’ll try the curiously named ‘Stamina Ramen’…

Echigoya Ramen
Jl. Melawai 8 No. 2A
Jakarta Selatan 12160
Tel: (021) 739 5962

Opening Hours
Monday–Friday:
Lunch 1130–1400 (last order)
Dinner 1800–0100 (last order)

Saturday and Public Holidays:
Lunch 1130–1430 (last order)
Dinner 1700–2400 (last order)

Sunday:
Lunch 1130–1430 (last order)
Dinner 1700–2300 (last order)

3

Angel Wings T-shirt Mod

Today’s WordPress daily post prompt is “Do You Believe in Magic?” Now, one of the things I’d like to do more of this year is to make sure I post regularly. I’ve been lax about posting because I keep wanting things to be just so, but the search for perfection stops me from completing things, or—when things get bad—starting them at all.

So. This is slightly tangential, and I may address the prompt directly later, but I had planned on posting this today even before I saw the prompt post…

When I was working at a dance company a few years ago, we did a dance festival, and the festival organisers gave us t-shirts. I don’t know about you, but i find that freebie t-shirts generally don’t flatter. They might be of decent fabric, and sometimes they have great designs, but the shape of the shirt just doesn’t work.

The day after we got our shirts, I saw several dancers in their t-shirts, and they’d all customised their shirts. Off came the hems! In went holes and rips! They looked spectacular. It didn’t hurt that the dancers all had lovely bodies, but that’s not the point. The point was that 1) no one shirt looked like another; 2) the shirts all reflected their owners’ personalities; and 3) they fit better, and were easier to move in.

I’ve never forgotten that. When I re-started pole classes back in 2012, I was looking for cover-ups to wear to class. I didn’t want to buy workout gear that didn’t fit or flatter me anyway, and I wasn’t skinny enough to feel good about doing class in just a bikini. (Still am not, but we’re working on that.) So I Googled “customising t-shirts”, and came across a BuzzFeed list of ways to cut up, lace, and otherwise modify t-shirts. I liked the look of 29 and 30 in particular, and tried something similar with an ancient school t-shirt.

It worked. The ventilated nature of the t-shirt kept me cooler in class, while still covering up the extra weight, and I loved the way it looked. But for one reason or another I never made another one, till today. I’d been thinking about a tank-top I used to wear back when I was skinnier. It was a white racer-back, with big fluffy white angel wings stitched along the shoulderblades, and I got to wondering, “Can I do that with a laced-back t-shirt?” So I pulled out a white t-shirt, a pencil, and my sewing shears.

First I started with a pencil sketch on paper.

Then I transferred the sketch, roughly, to the back of the t-shirt. I drew large wings on the shirt, over the shoulderblades, sweeping down to both sides of the waist. Then horizontal lines across the wings to mark where I’d cut. Mind you, I had no idea if it’d stretch out of shape once pulled…

Next up, cutting! Hey, if it doesn’t work, I’ll just pretend they’re parallel ladders, and that I’d always meant for it to be like that…

So here we are with all the bars cut for one wing. Now to start lacing…

I got carried away! It was only at this point, after I’d finished one side, that I realised I’d forgotten to take photos of the intermediate steps. Well done, me.

Anyway, what you do after making the horizontal cuts is just pull the bars. Grab hold of the fabric between the horizontal cuts and just pull. Yes, it’ll stretch out of shape; that’s the point. Yes, it’ll look horrible. No, it’s meant to do that, really. Hang on. We’ll get there. This is what it looks like with all the bars of fabric stretched into big loose loops.

Now pick up the top loop. Pull it over the next loop, the one below it. Pick up the second loop, through the first. Pull the second loop over the third, and pick up the third.

Here, have a video. It’s easier to see how than in photos.

Once you get to the last loop, you have a couple of options. You can either stitch it down, or cut the last loop in the middle, and knot it over the second-to-last loop. I was feeling lazy, so I did the latter.

And here’s the finished product!

It doesn’t look as dramatically wing-like as I’d hoped for, but it’s pretty close. I also cut the armbands off, and the hemline and neck finishing will probably come off too, so it doesn’t bind as much.

And, uh, I didn’t take a photo of me with the shirt on, because the wings sweep pretty low on to the butt, and I wanted to show the entire length of wing, but I sure as hell didn’t want to show the Internet my butt.

I’m quite pleased with this shirt, but already I’m thinking of ways to modify this for the next time I make it!

(Sorry about the crappy photos and lighting, but honestly, I’m fighting this year to stop letting perfection be the enemy of done!)