Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Peek-a-boo, and Other Favourite Pursuits


Jordy's really into the "now you see me..." type games at the moment. Since learning how to haul his dense little self up to kneeling/semi-standing position on any appropriately-positioned surface, he will give a bit of a cheeky grin, and proceed to play peek-a-boo. It's incredibly cute, though a tad repetitive at times (forgive me! I'm with the kid 24/7!)...


He also loves it when I drape a sarong over his head, then snatch it away like a magician revealing a crystal ball. Except crystal ball is said baby's head. Never fails to produce a smile or a belly full of laughter.


Oh yes, have I told you? Jordy now laughs these from-deep-within-the-belly chuckles. They first appeared last week at Mama and Gong Gong's house when Dad and Aunty D were entertanining him with clothes hangers out in the backyard. The latest thing to cause him such mirth was my finger puppetry yesterday, specifically with a frog and a kiwi, alternately headbanging to my sung version of Splish Splash I was taking a bath and playing peek-a-boo with him. D says Jordy's guffaws gives him a "Santa-down-at-the-pub" quality, which I think is just a delightful description!

All I can say is that the baby is changing everyday - and I'm pretty glad I'm here to catch it all!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High Chair Antics Part Two (Or, A Record of Jordy the Gourmand)

At our first proper dine-out lunch together as a family at the NUSS Guild House. Jordy had his favourite baked fish in orange and carrot sauce (homemade of course), and D and I had Mee Rebus (it was damn fine Mee Rebus too!)

Jordy is getting more and more comfortable in the lofty status of his high chair. I thought that, for posterity's sake, I should record what a leaf from Jordy's daily meal planner looks like at exactly 7.5 mths age.

Breakfast
Milk first thing in the morning, followed by

Oatmeal or barley cereal with fruit (usually banana, apricot, peach or pear), milk (this is where I introduce follow-on formula into his diet) and a dash of prune juice (to help the old digestive track along).

Morning tea
Homemade yogurt with fruit (usually mango, papaya or banana)

Lunch
A protein dish. His favourite right now is Annabel Karmel's baked fish in carrot and orange sauce (with cheddar cheese, his newfound favourite food). Today I tried brown rice pasta for the first time, served with another Annabel Karmel recipe, fish in cheese (edam this time) and zucchini sauce. He loved it.

Afternoon tea
Milk feed, followed by

Rice crackers or few small pinches of softmeal bread (tried bread for the first time today. he loved it!). Whatever we can have on-the-go as we're usually out at this time.

Dinner
A vegetarian dish (today it was steamed sweet potato from my mum's garden, with carrots and broccoli. Yesterday it was Annabel Karmel's tomato and cauliflower gratin. Again a favourite), and depending on his appetite, some fruit with brown rice cereal (like a rice pudding), followed by

Milk feed

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Cooking for Jordy now takes up a fair bit of the day. Can't wait for him to be able to help me with the grating and measuring of flour etc! Can't wait for when he sprouts teeth (yes, he still is TOOTHLESS!!!) then the first thing I'm going to make him will be corn and cheese muffins! Yee haw!

Anyway, to illustrate just how grown up he is getting, here he is with his friend Poppy at their favourite cafe.

High Jinks from the High Chair

I'll, err, let the pictures speak for themselves.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Secret Scripture

I read this in a day, and felt a mixture of elation and sorrow when it ended.

Elation, because the novel was an exercise in Irish lyricism, language so beautiful that it brought to mind Yeats; sorrow because the content of the novel was a harrowing account of life in rural Ireland in the early part of the century, and dealt deftly on the themes of feminism, female sexuality and madness (which are often seen as one and the same eh?), religion, politics (learnt a lot about the history of the IRA and the Irish civil war) and a misogyny insidiously prevalent in Irish societal norms at the time.

What I liked best was the duelling narrative of Roseanne Clear, an almost 100-year old woman who has lived in a mental asylum for the last 60 over years, and Dr William Grene, the resident psychiatrist in the asylum who, under pressure from the public, has to assess the various geriartic patients to see who amongst them are really mentally ill and should be moved to the new but smaller hospital premises, and who is well enough to be released to the community. What their narratives uncover is a small family tragedy, made all the more poignant as one can imagine it repeated in various small communities across the emerald isle.

The only small criticism I have is the plot contrivance at the end, a twist I saw coming when I was about a third into the book. Compeletely improbable, and a bit too neat, I felt. But that's a very small niggle in the face of such an immensely well-written novel.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Indigo Girls Live at the Singapore Mosaic Music Festival, Esplanade Concert Hall

Me and C two minutes before the lights dimmed and the opening act came on.

You know how you always fantasise about the perfect concert by your favourite band? And you know that even though the perfect set list varies from time to time in your head - depending on your mood and factoring in the relative constraints of a two-hour concert - there are some touchstones that are always present in your fantasy?

Well, for years - 17 long years actually - I've had time to ruminate on my perfect Indigo Girls concert. And though the song choices changed (as IG put out new albums, some new songs invariably would make it to the list), the following factors were always there:

* Pure acoustic set, bonus points if mandolin was present
* More an Emily-vibe than Amy (i.e. more low-key, lyrical, soft, rather than angry, angsty and dissenting)
* Intimate setting
* Other fans present who would chant along to songs
* Fun banter, ala Emily's "moo" pre-Galileo in 12,00 Curfews
* To watch it with C, oldest friend, and fellow Indigoer who made me the BEST mixed tape of IG tunes to travel Europe with in 1998, and who has consistently bought every IG album there is! Even ordering Despite our differences from Amazon, cos it wasn't available in Singapore!

Well, last night's concert was fantasy come to life. Most truly and astoundingly so. Every bullet point above checked off. I'm still buzzing a whole 24 hours later.

So indulge me now as I take you through the magical mystery tour that was last evening's Indigo Girls concert.

SET LIST

1. Yield

From Become you, one of my favourite later albums, this started off the concert on a high-energy note. Kudos to the sound technicians and the acoustics of the Esplanade concert hall, every word sung was crisp, and boy were the harmonies tight!

2. Hammer and a nail
When Emily played the opening riff to this, my heart literally lurched and almost fell out of my mouth. From Nomads Indians Saints, this is possibly in my top three favourite IG songs of all time, and to hear it so early on in the night (when I afraid they mightn't even play it, was almost too much). Their rendition is so full of joy, so wonderfully sonorous, I don't know whether to chant along, or to stop and soak it all in. I end up doing both badly, but who cares? This is bliss.

3. Heartache for everyone
There's a clear pattern emerging. They're playing one Amy song, then an Emily, and now it's back to Amy. This is from All that we let in, and though I wasn't a huge fan of the album version, the way they pared it down last night infused it with a broken melancholy that was so moving. For some reason, I think of Brokeback Mountain (look I loved that movie. No gay jokes please!).

4. Fill it up again
Yep, now it's an Emily song. And again, it's from All that we let in. Very happy. Emily sounds chirpy, in a good way!

5. Shame on you
From Shaming of the sun, this is a definite crowd-pleaser and everyone chants along to the chorus, "La la la, they said, shame on you." Amy smiles as she sings "They say we've been looking for illegal immigrants/ Can we check your car/ I say you know its funny/ I think we were on the same boat back in 1694". The crowd cheers.

6. Get out the map
Still on the same album, and this is another one that gets the crowd going. Amy and Emily play the whole song on mandolin and banjo. HEAVEN!

7. Three County Highway
From Despite our differences, this is my favourite Amy song of the night. It's gone so quiet that all you can hear are Amy's amazing vocals and the first miracle of the night, Emily's work on slide guitar. Again, scenes from Brokeback flash through my brain! Aiyoh!

8. Power of Two
The girls quip that someone present at a radio interview in Singapore requested this song. When the first few notes of Power of Two are played, C and I practically leap up in our seats. After all, this song, along with Closer to Fine, are what got us hooked on IG in the first place. This song was on my wedding playlist, it's in my top three IG songs of all time too. To hear it live was, my god, a treat.

9. Ozilline
Amy wrote this about her grandma. They make a funny joke about how their greatest fans are Amy's grandma, and their parents. Seven of them hanging out in a bar.

10. Pendulum Swinger
This is one of their more political songs of the night. From Despite our differences, it's catchy, and everyone happily bops along, until they sing "If we're a drop in the bucket/With just enough science to keep from saying f*ck it". A few ears prick up, did someone actually say the F word on a Singapore stage? They did? Whoopee? Yay!

11. Become You
The title track from the album, the night is entering energetic mode again. I like!

12. Love of our lives
Amy says that they're going to play a few new songs if the crowd doesn't mind. We hoot in support and she says this is a new song by Emily in their upcoming album Poseidon and the bitter bug. The song blows me away. It's Emily at her best, it's lyrical, the melody is inventive, the chord progression unexpected and so typically sonorous! And the lyrics are the best part. I cannot, absolutely cannot, wait to get their new album.

13. Sugar Tongue
Now an Amy song from the new album. Very nice! It's Amy channeling her Land of Canaan muse.

14. Ghost
Oh. My. God. When Emily plucks the oh-so-familiar first notes of Ghost, I am at once goose-bumpy and almost weepy. I experience objective correlative in the flesh. A wave of emotion and memory sweep through me and I am so grateful it is dark (and also for the choicest of choice seats which C bought one-minute after the bookings opened). Anyway, this was the second miracle of the night, especially hearing Emily's soaring vocals at the end.

15. Driver education
A song from an Amy solo album given the IG treatment. Cute! I like!

16. Closer to fine
The signature tune. The crowd goes mental, channelling their activist/collegiate days through our ageing bodies. People leap up from seats waving their arms wildly around. What fun!

17. Chickenman/ Bitterroot When the opening bars are played, C and I stare at each other. We definitely know this tune, but h-a-n-g o-n, not in the best way. We struggle to remember the title then suddenly it dawns on us and we can barely keep it together. Chickenman. Yup. The song that was permanently fast forwarded when it was the cassette-tape era, and skipped once we bought CD players. But you know what? We hated the album version but the live version seriously rocks! Who else but Amy could sing about road kill and make it sound vaguely charming? They end the first set there, but the crowd scream and chant for more. They're back out in a short minute and launch into...

18. Kid fears
WHAT?! That's from their self-titled first album and C and I loved it as it featured one of our other favourite people from music land, Michael Stipe! IG and REM hail from Atlanta and hence the guest spot! Wonderful performance, though C and I kept singing the Michael Stipe bit, which was sadly missing. But I can't believe they actually sang this from 1989! Wowee!

19. Galileo
They say this is their last song. I freak out and yell, "Galileo? It must be Galileo right? They haven't done Galileo yet! What if they don't do Galileo?" The American guy next to me pats me on the back and says that he's glanced down at the sound booth and can see Galileo scribbled down as the last song. I let out a great big Yaup (thanks Dead Poets and Walt Whitman). I am officially completely filled with joy. The crowd sings along. I am so happy that they know the lyrics.

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The concert ends and I ask the sound booth guy for the set list. He gives to me. C and I queue for about half an hour to get autographs. Amy and Emily sign the set list I took, and C's copy of Despite our differences. I gush about how I've been a fan for 17 years and they say, "thank you, thanks!" And I say a very courteous, almost shy, thank you. When all I wanna yell out is, thanks y'all!

In line for autographs


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jordy on the Jungle Gym (or, Happy 7th Month Birthday Jordy!)


Jordy turned seven months old today! Where oh where has all the time gone? Some days it feels like time is standing still (usually when he is crying or grizzling, haha) but most other days, it feels like we're moving at warp speed!

Anyway, to celebrate seven months on this earth, Jordy attends his first Gymboree play session. I wasn't sure what to expect, having read many different reviews on different forums, but for this little boy at least, Gymboree was a big hit. He loved every minute of it, except when he had to leave.

"Time for some rock and roll, baby!"

He loved it so much, we promptly signed up for 14 sessions, thanks to Mama and Gong Gong, who are sponsoring these sessions as Jordy's belated Christmas present! Lucky thing!

"Volare!"

His favourite things were rocking on the red rocker, and horsing around on the giant rainbow coloured parachute, playing (and eating) the maracas. By the end he had used up so much energy, he looked like this...

"Just... one... more... go, mummy... ... ... don't... wanna... leave... ... ..."


My favourite thing about the session was the fun use of song and dance, and all the funky gym apparatus they had scattered around for Jordy to play on! We were the only ones in the class today, but there will be two more bubs coming for next week's session I hear!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Serendipity

Adora and Poppy, Shirley holding Jordy while her daughter, Melanie smiles on, Liz and Ned

Sometimes, a series of events occurs in such a splendid sequence that one can only look to serendipity for answers (how's that for alliteration?).

So a few Mondays ago, I took Jordy to pick our passports up from ICA. I parked at Tiong Bahru Plaza and mrt-ed to Lavender, after which mrt-ed back to Tiong Bahru. I decided to walk around the mall, as Jordy was almost napping in the ergo, so I thought I'd let him snooze in the cool air while I browsed in the shops.

Went into a baby store and was looking around randomly, when I struck up a conversation with a fellow baby-wearing mum. Turns out her name is Adora, mum to the delightful Poppy and that we share an uncanny amount of things in common - our names for starters! We decided to meet up for a coffee with our babies, and that's now what we do on Monday afternoons! Adora then met Liz, who has a lovely boy Ned, and now it's a happy group of six (oh well, the mums are happy, and the babies, mostly so!)

Have been discovering the Tiong Bahru village area, and falling in love with its lovely quiet streets, and wonderful cafes a world away from the chain-store monotony of your typical mall cafes. Went to Cafe Pralet last week, and today, it was the most charming Le Bon Marche, run by the most wonderful Shirley, whom Jordy fell a little in love with! Perhaps he knows that she makes the best hot chocolate in Singapore.

All I can say is, thank goodness for the company and fellowship of other mums :) And the serendipitous moments in life!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Achtung Jordy

Jordy in his recording studio

Jordy had a bender of a night last night. We think it was the teething, so tried out a combo of Dentinox, chilled teether, lots of cuddles and endless walking around with him in the Ergo carrier. He finally went to bed at 12.06am (according to poor D, who was on night duty as I'd spent most of the day cheering up the grizzly one and was SPENT!).

Oh yes, and he's also learnt how to scream. Octave-stretching histrionics that would make Mariah proud. Sometimes he's just testing things out and has a smile on his face, other times, he truly looks angry! Poor him, and poor us!

We're trying to be cheerful about things but gosh, this phase is hard! One thing the books never say is how your baby will reset himself and become a different baby every so often! Case in point, Jordy has been sleeping through the night like a champ for weeks and weeks...

Anyway, in the spirit of good cheer and trying to be festive amidst The Scream (yes, I mean the painting), D texted me the funniest thing this afternoon.

What if Jordy recorded a U2 album? What would it be like? Well, according to D...

Achtung Jordy
1. Poo station
2. Even tastier than the real thing
3. One (am)
4. Until the end of the banana
5. Whose gonna ride your wild ergo
6. So gruel
7. The cry
8. Mysterious ways
9. Trying to throw anything you can get your hands on
10. Ultraviolet nappy indicator
11. Acrobat
12. Love is Jordyness

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When I got the text I laughed and laughed, even as the little one was screaming and screaming.

Gosh, I love my husband!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Reluctant Fundamentalist


I finished Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist during Jordy's afternoon nap today. I'm a bit ambivalent about it. The book is written in the darkly charming voice of a 20-something year-old Pakistani - an Ivy Leaguer and once succesful executive in Manhattan - as he sits having a meal with an unnamed American tourist in a cafe in Lahore. As he reveals his story, we come to see how the events of 9/11 cause him to reconsider issues of identity, loyalty and the pursuit of the American dream.

On one hand, the literature student in me applauds the clever use of a fallible, unreliable narrator and the story-within-a-story plot device. I also liked the anachronistic voice of the narrator, all colonial discourse in the midst of 21st century terrorism.

But though I started out expecting to be moved by the book, I was strangely numb at the end of it. I suspect it's because the novel was so sparely written, and the tension so well-wrought that by the end of the ride, I felt like I could breathe again, and that somehow distanced me from the issues explored in the book.

Definitely worth reading, but for me, it wasn't really a standalone experience, I needed to talk to someone about it (in this case, D, who loved it) to get my head around this book. I'm still uncertain what to make of the ending, but have a definite theory on what the last few paragraphs imply. If you've read this book and have a view, I'd really love to hear it!

One book that really got to me was Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. It affected me on so many levels, but most so on the motherhood front. I'm embarassed to admit I only heard of the book because of the movie, but am so glad I read it. Very powerful, and Yates' ability to write incisive dialogue that just cuts through to the heart of the matter is quite wondrous. Can't wait to watch the movie, but think I'll wait till it's out on DVD.

Think I'm going to read The Carpet Wars next, in celebration of the Jordy carpet from Godpa James!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hobbit's Rabbit-less Stew (or, Jordy Homemade Stew with Any-Kind-of-Vegetable)

Happy 1st of March! In this spirit of new-ness, I think I'm going to start a little archive of baby food recipes I'm concocting and testing out on Jordy. This is what he had for lunch today, and thoroughly enjoyed (although I over-estimated how much he'd eat and ended up only using half the portion).

For some reason, in my cooking, I seem to also be rather inspired by the Shire, and what I imagine little Hobbit-y children would feast on in Middle Earth. I might even start taking some food photos if I have the time, but for now, you'll just have to rely on ye olde imagination.

Hobbit's Rabbit-less Stew (or, Jordy's Homemade Stew with Any-Kind-of-Vegetable)

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 Japanese sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, diced
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Chicken stock, enough to cover vegetables
*
Liberal sprinkle of your choice of dried herbs (I used what I had, which was basil)

1. Put all vegetables in slow cooker.
2. Cover with chicken stock.
3. Add in dried herbs.
4. Cook on 'low' for 10-12 hours.
5. When done, give it a good stir and let the stew cool for a while.
6. While warm, puree with blender.
7. Serve warm, or chill then freeze accordingly for future use.

This recipe makes enough for at least 6 to 7 meals. To serve, you can thin it out with a bit of stock or hot water.

*Homemade Chicken Stock
(this is adapted from the book First Foods)

Lean chicken thighs
Chicken carcass
Chinese mushrooms
Water

1. Soak Chinese mushrooms in warm water for a few minutes. Drain.
2. Place chicken thighs and chicken carcass in slow cooker.
3. Add water until meat is just covered.
4. Add in Chinese mushrooms.
5. Cook on 'low' for 8-10 hours.
6. Drain, and put chicken thighs aside.
7. Remove meat from chicken thighs and puree as needed.
8. Freeze stock in ice cube trays for convenient meal preparations down the track!

This recipe passed the Jordy taste test today! More to come.

ps: Slumdog Millionaire was AWESOME. More on that soon, but boy, did we pick the best movie to end our six-month movie drought with!