Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

**Note - this one is mostly just for a record of our first Thanksgiving in Singapore.  Not much to see here.

Thanksgiving 2011 has definitely been one to remember.  We started the day in a doctor's office, and we closed it out by attacking our refrigerator with a hair dryer.  Thanksgiving might as well be synonymous with tradition, and we managed to fit a bit of that in, too.

B2 arrived home after 10 days in London only to be greeted with a text that said, "B3 is throwing up.  Welcome to Thanksgiving.".  He shouldn't have been surprised; someone is sick everytime my immediate family gathers together.  Every Time, Every Holiday.  Ahh, the memories.  His symptoms looked an awfully lot like Strep, so we visited a doctor to have him checked out.  Since it was a holiday, we made a family outing of it.  B3 and AK wandered over to a mall to wait on us, and AK decided that a mac and cheese lunch was just what she needed.  I've heard some families wouldn't celebrate Thanksgiving without macaroni and cheese, so I suppose she started her own tradition. 

The bus ride home was a thrill for AK and B3; it was a double decker, which is the ultimate ride if you're under 6 (or 40.  Right, Alicia?)   Unfortunately, B2 was struggling with jet lag, and I must have had sympathy sleepiness.  A dose of Motrin revived B3, and he showed no signs of his persistent lethargy.  Two hyper kids in the front upstairs seats probably made for a less than enjoyable ride for the other passengers, but we finally made it home about an hour after a taxi would have brought us home. 

While we always look forward to Thanksgiving, the traditional pumpkin and cranberry aren't our favorites. We're looking for dressing and gravy and strawberry pretzel salad.  We compromised with dressing for us and cranberry sauce for the kids.  There was no strawberry pretzel salad; while we could certainly have eaten the entire thing between us, it was a better choice to wait until Christmas when there are others to help us enjoy it.  I couldn't bring myself to buy a $40 turkey breast, and my source for cheaper ones ($15 - much cheaper!) has been out of stock for weeks.  So. our meal was roasted chicken, dressing, gravy, fresh green beans and cranberry sauce shaped like the can it was in. Simple and delicious.  AK ate her share of all of it and went back for Ben's and my portion of cranberry sauce.  She loves it!

After dinner, the moment AK has looked forward to for months finally arrived.  She got to help her dad put up the Christmas tree!  Its ornaments will be added tomorrow, but both she and B3 were absolutely thrilled to see it shining before they went to bed. 

Since our fridge has been creating a river of water across our kitchen floor for about 2 weeks and I wasn't ambitious enough to fix it myself while B2 was travelling, we decided to tackle it after the kids were in bed. A quick google search pointed to the problem, and we got to work unloading the fridge, only to discover that the problem spot wasn't accessible from the inside panel.  So, we refilled the fridge and pulled it out from the wall.  Ben figured out the problem was an iced up drainage hole in the freezer, so the hair dryer joined in on the fun.  After at least an hour of Ben mopping up water while I was de-icing, the drain was unplugged, and we were in business.  Until he opened the fridge again.  It was flooded. There was standing water in the door shelves, and everything was completely soaked.  Once again, everything had to be emptied and dried before we could call it quits.  Over two hours after we started, we were finally done. 

While it isn't the Thanksgiving we would have planned, it was a good day.  B3 didn't have Strep after all; it's probably viral and we're hoping he's much better tomorrow.  We've got lots of Motrin to keep his energy up, just in case we need it.  AK loved the "Thanksgiving food" and her wholehearted appreciation for the cranberry sauce made whatever price I paid for it completely worthwhile (I didn't eat any, and I don't intend to!).  The dressing was delicious, and it reminds me of many family meals when we've enjoyed that same recipe around tables from Frog Pond to Charlotte (and even one Christmas dinner for Mexican friends in Orizaba).  The fridge is fixed (we hope), and our tile floor was more than accomodating of the floodwaters. 
We end the day thankful for what we have and where we are!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Does a Singapore Thanksgiving Look Like?

More than one person has asked me, "Do they celebrate Thanksgiving over there?", and I've tried to be polite and understanding when I answer.  But, really...why would Singaporeans celebrate a holiday that's 100% American?  Have we forgotten the history behind the celebration?    I know other countries do celebrate their own day of Thanksgiving, but they're not gearing up to celebrate this Thursday.  However, if you take a look around our grocery store, you'd think that all of our neighbors were, indeed, getting ready for Thanksgiving. 

For instance, I wonder if there's a Singapore version of the Butterball hotline, since they're clearly going to need one:

And, if your idea of  the perfect Thanksgiving side involves Pepperidge Farm bread crumbs (Heaven forbid!), you're in luck. Don't worry about the S$7.50 price tag; it doesn't take long to become immune to all price insanity.

Likewise with the pie filling for $7.50 a can.  It's not a Thanksgiving staple for us, but it's amusing to see so much of it so suddenly in the stores.  I'll likely buy a can of cherry pie filling to keep on hand since it's a main ingredient in one of B2's favorite desserts.  One can is cheaper than a purchased dessert, so it makes sense to splurge for something special. 

Don't forget the cranberry sauce!  Whether you prefer the smooth canned kind (like my kids), the lumpy canned kind, or freshly made with fresh cranberries, you're in luck.  All three varieties are readily available this week.  Now, if I only had that small brown rectangular Pyrex bowl from my Grandma's house for the cranberry sauce leftovers, it would really feel like Thanksgiving.  It seems like every year, we ate cranberry sauce out of the same bowl.  It just isn't the same from any other. 

For some, the French's fried onions are a high priority on their Thanksgiving shopping list. My family is not from the People of The Green Bean Casserole, but my inlaws are.  As a result, I've learned to eat it (once a year) and actually enjoy it, but I'd only make it if someone requested it specially.   It must be a tradition for every other American on the island (all 19, 996 of them), however, since the stores have pallets of mushroom soup and these onions.  I did notice some of the cheddar cheese flavored ones last week, and I remembered last Thanksgiving with a laugh.  We were on our way to celebrate in the North Georgia mountains with the Marion side of the family, and were were asked to stop and pick up the onions. Of course, the Ingles in Clarksville was out of everything but the cheese kind, and they certainly added a little something to the casserole.  Again, I don't have a long history with the dish, so I'm just guessing that the cheese variety is not preferred. 

Again, just ignore that S$7.95 price tag; everyone else who wants those French's onions certainly is.  It's a small price to pay for the comforts of something familiar. Even I might admit to enjoying some green bean casserole if it was part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal in Singapore.

I'm not sure we're having Thanksgiving dinner; I can't bring myself to pay the outrageous price for a turkey that no one is really even passionate about. Spending a day cooking for just the 4 of us probably isn't the best use of my time, either.   I'm beginning to feel a need for cornbread dressing, however, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be making cornbread for dressing after tucking kids into bed on Wednesday night.  I've made a shopping list of ingredients to have on hand...just in case!

From all indicators, it appears that a Singapore Thanksgiving looks an awfully lot like an American one. 
Maybe the next time I'm asked if we celebrate Thanksgiving over here, I'll just say, "Yep."  Want some green bean casserole?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Much do Chicken Feet Cost?

I know some of my friends aren't chicken people.  You know who you are.  You don't want a whole chicken unless it's cooked and in a cute plastic rotisserie pan.  You're not a fan of raw and parts and who knows what else they put inside of that chicken you find in the meat department. Some of you might even be searching for the "back" button right now.  Never mind where I'm going with this; you're headed back to facebook or pinterest or somewhere fun and full of puppies and sunshine and anything but raw chicken.   Don't worry; I'm not going to show you pictures of the pile of chicken feet I saw at the market on Tuesday. 

But I thought you might enjoy this picture.

Can you see what the blue package says right below  "Fresh Chicken" ?  It says, "With Head and Feet".  Now that Harris Teeter special is looking better and better, isn't it?  I admit, I haven't had to mess with the head and the feet; the Chicken Man who delivers our chicken happily keeps those parts for himself. 

Even if we didn't have the Chicken Man (who is coming to see me on Saturday, by the way!), we could buy the red packaged chicken on the right in the picture above - sold without head and feet.  Now, note the price difference.  Evidently, they're passing on the cost of head and foot removal.  S$0.30 more.  That's thirty cents that I'll gladly pay all day long. 

As AK says, "we don't like the feet in our dumplings, do we, Mama?"  No, dear, indeed we do not.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vending Fun

I'm learning each day how boring our life as Americans is.  Maybe it's not that American life is boring; perhaps it's that I haven't lived in a big city (if Atlanta even counts) in 15 years.  Maybe it's just that suburbia is so different from our everyday life here. 

For example, when the Redbox video vending machines appeared in every Wal Mart/Harris Teeter/gas station in Charlotte, I marvelled at what a cool invention that was.  It was cheap and convenient, and oh, so high tech and urban.  Our movie watching increased dramatically once the we figured out how to reserve movies online.  AK even learned to choose a movie while I paid for my groceries, and I gave in to her requests more often than not.  We haven't yet discovered any video vending machines here yet, but it's a perfect market for it.  I can just imagine one at each MRT (train) station, right where commuters walk every day of the week. Perfect!  Are you reading, Redbox?  Come on over!

Anyway, we don't have Redbox, so if you get an itch to watch a movie that isn't currently in the theater or available on demand, I'm not sure what you'd do.  I guess there are movie rental places, but I haven't noticed one nearby.  BUT...if you're hungry for a sandwich and you're missing that crucial main ingredient - the bread - you're in luck!

Just go down to the first floor car park (parking garage) in our complex and buy a loaf of bread from the vending machine.  Freshness guaranteed!  While we don't use this often since varieties from this particular bakery often contain milk, it's a very convenient vending machine to have.  

Right next to it, there's a machine that vends fresh fruit.  We've never used this one, but if we suddenly have a craving for watermelon at 3 am, here's a solution.

The last vending machine I've found  that is worth sharing is perhaps the most important.  How many times have you found yourself out shopping and realized that you really, truly, honestly, right now, without delay or hesitation, must have....

a new bunny keychain?

If you find yourself in need, just head on over to Balestier Avenue.  I'm sure the selection varies daily due to high turnover and demand, so hurry!  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Halloween in the Tropics

For a country that doesn't really celebrate Halloween, our costumes were enjoyed on three different days at three different events.  That's fairly remarkable, even for US standards.  We found a small (really small) selection of candy in nearly all of the grocery stores we frequent, but it wasn't always easy to find. 

As always, I made the costumes. I wasn't very inspired by the costume subject, but I did what I could. I knew it was going to be really hot and sticky even without a costume on, so I kept them very simple and easily removable.  Since two of our three events were a taxi or bus ride away, it was imperative that they also be easily portable.  Normally, we don't do trendy costumes, but this year we did.  AK was thrilled to be an Angry Bird - "The Blue One", more specifically, and Ben was the poor target - The Pig. 

We started the celebration on Friday night at AK's school.  We Trunk or Treated and enjoyed a few festival games.  Unfortunately, I forget how creepy Halloween can be, and most of the trunks were decorated to remind us of the darker side.  I'm a fan of happy Jack O'Lanterns, kids dressed in storybook costumes, and really good chocolate in their buckets.  Of course, not everyone shares my version of Halloween, and it was evident.  Blood and guts and bats and spooks were around every turn. Luckily, AK was too busy chasing her friends to really notice.  B3 was too busy chasing AK, so he didn't seem to mind, either. 

AK enjoyed the face painting table, but our Pig wanted none of it.

AK's favorite part of the evening was the doughnut walk. Marion family folklore tells of a B2 who always won the cake walk, but evidently, it isn't genetic.   It took AK a gazillion rounds, but her patience was rewarded with the sprinkle doughnut she had eyed for what felt like hours.
B3 settled for a Dum Dum from the treat bag.

On Saturday, The Blue Bird enjoyed a friend's costume birthday party, but The Pig refused to wear his costume.  It was strange since he didn't want to take it off on Friday night, but he wanted nothing to do with it.

That all changed on Monday night, when our complex hosted a night of Trick or Treating.  Those who wanted to participate signed up in advance, and we were given a list of units that were participating.  It was certainly different from walking down Greylyn Drive, where nearly every house knew our kids by name. I suppose it was both the elevator and cultural mix that, once again, made it obvious that we're a long, long way from where were last Halloween.

Waiting on the Elevator

It's nice to have costumes that go right over AK's school uniform. Note that The Pig is a John Deere Fan.

Headed down the corridor to the first house.  It was nice to be inside the entire time.

 Can you tell we're in Asia?  (shoes!)

This house made AK and B3 stick their hands in a bucket of "worms" to find the candy.  B3 didn't go for it, but AK was not deterred!

Checking out the Loot

The candy haul was underwhelming. The quantity was fantastic, considering we went to only one of six buildings in our complex. The quality, however, was mediocre. I suppose if you're a fan of "Taiwan's Best: Banana Rice Cakes" in miniature, however, you would have been thrilled. 

Overall, they had a great time, and they're still enjoying their candy. It's easy for me to stay out of it, so we'll keep it for a few more weeks before sending it to Ben's office or down the trash chute.

**NOTE: It has taken me a week to type this up. I'm too distracted by kids that demand to be fed and dishes that don't wash themselves to blog about all that I want to. Stay tuned for a summary of our recent trip to the beach in Indonesia and other adventures. Maybe I'll get to it before Christmas!**