It’s Monday and I’m trying to read more

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Back to School night was last Tuesday and we learnt just how much work the first graders will have to do. My boy is in a Mandarin immersion programme so everything is taught in Mandarin, with 90 minutes of English a day. He also gets science lab and music once a week. It seemed like a lot of work but when he got down to it, most of it was quite quickly done.

I’ve been trying to figure out a good after school schedule for the kids. They do swimming on Mondays, the 6yo has piano class on Thursdays, on Fridays they hang out after school where some of their classmates’ dads are trying to start up their own basketball class. And in between, there’s homework and piano practice and I work with the older boy on some extra Math (I think the math here is too easy and we work on Singapore math textbooks). The kids have started taking tennis lessons on Sunday but I’m considering switching that to Tuesdays. And sometimes I wonder, should they try other sports? Soccer? Add in an extra swim class? Some kind of martial arts? Isn’t this time for them to try out different things and figure out what they’re interested in? Some of their classmates go for Chinese class on weekends, or attend extra Math classes, others do kungfu, ice hockey, many of them go skiing in winter. I have absolutely no interest in skiing but I always wonder, are my kids missing out because of something I’m not keen on?

Anyway, enough about all that. I’m loving how the temps are cooling down a bit here after that heatwave. I even braved turning on the oven to bake some tangzhong raisin bread (you can read my previous post on that here) and I also adapted that recipe to make a chocolate chip and sliced almond bread. I made shepherd’s pie too and a tomato soup that my 4yo kept asking me to make again and again. I usually make my tomato soup with some carrots and celery added in, although since I just picked up some lovely leeks at the farmers market, may try one with leeks instead.

Currently…

Reading:

Watching:

Gossip Girl

Eating:

I made some fresh spring rolls (summer rolls?) for dinner – crabstick, cabbage, carrots and cilantro.

Drinking:

Water

Cooking:

Tomato and leek soup?

Fried noodles

Chicken rice

Also something to use up these lovely colorful peppers!

Last week:

I read:

I posted:

#ripxii Fox Woman

Advertisements

#ripxii Fox Woman

I have a bit of a fascination with the Japanese folklore of fox spirits. We don’t have foxes in Singapore but I’ve seen foxes in the wild in other countries. Once when I lived in Brighton, England, and it was nighttime and I was walking back to the student apartments after a pub crawl with some friends. At first I thought I was seeing things but no, it really was a fox, nonchalantly loping down the pavement with the rest of us. It was smaller than I expected.

Sometime earlier this year, in Livermore, a fox dashing along the sidewalk as we drove by. As I looked in the side mirror, it jumped into the street and ran across the road. Luckily the car behind us stopped for it and it got to live another day.

“Humanness is more than robes. Or tiled roofs, or poetry.”

“Then what?”

“Expectations. Separation from things. Lonelinesss. Sadness. Truthfully, I was glad to give it up, to run again. Not even love can make it worthwhile.”

Kij Johnson, whose short story collection In The Mouth of the River of Bees is one of my favourites (I especially loved The Man Who Bridged the Mist), writes an intriguing story told from three perspectives. Kaya no Yoshifuji has failed at the emperor’s court and has brought his wife and young son to his estate in the countryside. Kitsune is a young fox and she falls in love with Yoshifuji. Yoshifuji becomes obsessed with the foxes living in his garden. And this obsession frightens his wife Shikujo and she returns to the city with her son. Meanwhile, Kitsune and her fox family attempt a strange kind of magic that creates a whole illusion – Kitsune and her family seem like humans who live in a large wealthy house nearby, complete with manservants and handmaidens. Yoshifuji falls head over heels for the magic and for Kitsune and her family and this world they have created, and he married Kitsune and they have a child. But soon the magic unravels – can Kitsune keep her hold on her love?

I loved how the stories are told from Shikujo’s pillow book, Yoshifuji’s notebook and a fox diary. How strange it is that I easily accept the idea of a fox diary while it felt so strange reading of the life of Shikujo – often she would hide behind screens, surrounded by her women servants. Social norms of 11th century Japan make me feel so grateful I live in modern times.

“Like her poems, her life has always been elegant but lacking spark. Still, she has a beauty I will never attain, bareheaded in the rain like a peasant.”

Sometimes a quiet, subtle story like this is exactly what I need. The writing is beautiful and has a great dark feel to it. It does require a bit of time to sink into it, to be able to take on this tale of a fox falling in love with a human.

Kij Johnson has also written a second book in this series, Fudoki, which tells of a cat turned woman warrior and sounds just wonderful.

 

This is my second read for RIP XII

It’s Monday and I’m reading #ripxii books

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date
Ok so I really meant for this to be written and out this morning but Sunday just flew by and here I am, at 10am on a Monday typing this out!
Last week was the first full week of school for the first grader (the first day of school was a Wednesday and the rest of that week was all minimum days). And I think we finally found our drop-off rhythm…finally! I think the hardest part has been trying to figure out lunches for him. I’ve been packing different things. Today it was Korean leftovers – bulgogi, rice and some broccoli I steamed in the morning. I’m just glad he’s happy to eat things like sandwiches as some of his classmates will only eat a hot lunch!
Also we went to the lovely Crystal Springs reservoir in San Mateo for a Saturday morning walk. Such a pretty place.
And then delicious ice-cream in San Francisco after. I adored their sesame ice-cream (so thick and creamy!) and was surprised by how good the guava and lychee were. Luckily there’s another branch in Little Vietnam in San Jose that’s closer for us. Will definitely be back.

Currently…

Reading:

Waiting on a Bright Moon – JY Yang

The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan

Watching:

Gossip Girl

Listening:

Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances – Leland Melvin

Eating:

Chocolate almond pound cake

Drinking:

Nespresso

Cooking:

Maybe a shepherd’s pie – the weather looks like it may cool down a bit this week and I can brave the oven again!

Last week:

I read:

The Chaos – Nalo Hopkinson
Fox Woman – Kij Johnson
Meka – Jean-David Morvan, Bengal (Illustrator)

I posted:

#ripxii The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

#ripxii The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

I am always a bit wary when it comes to YA. Perhaps it’s because I am a couple of decades too old to be in its target audience. Also I have read some rather ‘meh’ ones and some ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ ones – of course ‘meh’ and ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ isn’t limited to YA.

This is Nalo Hopkinson’s first YA book.

Sojourner “Scotch” Smith is 16. She loves dancing, has just broken up with her boyfriend Tafari, is on the outs with her good friend Gloria but is still best friends with Ben, who is gay. Scotch also happens to be biracial, the daughter of a white Jamaican father and an African-American mother.

There’s a lot going on for Scotch. Her brother Rich, has been in prison, and Scotch, who is lighter-skinned than her brother, is fully aware of how they are treated differently. There’s an interesting moment in a bar when she’s being chatted up by a guy who idiotically remarks that she could pass for white. Yet while Scotch is very aware of racism, she still manages to say equally idiotic remarks about homosexuality, such as saying out loud how she’s the “only normal one” because her friends are gay.

And what’s worse, she has been getting strange blemishes on her body, which no medicine can improve. She’s also been seeing what she calls “Horseless Head Men”:

“When I’d first started seeing the Horseless Head Men, they’d been almost invisible; I’d only been able to see them when the light hit them at certain angles. But every day, they got more solid, more real. Mom might say it was a ha’nt; a ghost. Actually, she’d be more likely to say I was hallucinating and book me into the nuthouse down on Queen Street so one of her colleagues could pry my brain open with a can opener, just like had happened to Auntie Mryss. What was Dad’s word for ghosts, again? Oh, yeah; duppies. But if it was a ghost, what the rass was it a ghost of? It looked like a disembodied animal’s head, a cross between a dog’s and sea horse’s, all covered in short fur.”

Then the world just goes completely topsy turvy. No explanation at all. A volcano appears in Lake Ontario A huge two-legged house lays an egg in the street. A policewoman grows a tail. A Sasquatch. The clock towers sing the Sesame Street theme. What in the world is going on?? No one knows, not Scotch or her friends, and definitely not the reader. It was bizarre but in a fun way. I liked how there was Russian and Caribbean folklore/mythology within. I think I was just hoping that there was some semblance of an explanation. It just seemed a bit too…random.

So while I liked the main characters and thus the YA coming-of-age part of the book, I had some issues with the speculative fiction part of the book – it was fun but just needed more cohesiveness.

I read this for RIP XII

Eating Singapore: Set lunch at Grissini

I have fond memories of dining at Pontini at Grand Copthorne Waterfront so I was frankly a little disappointed to learn that Pontini is no longer in existence. Instead, Grissini, a slightly more casual Italian restaurant has sprung up in its place.

We had stayed two nights at the hotel on a kids-free staycation and decided to end our stay with a light lunch. And Grissini was conveniently located on the ground floor of the hotel.

It’s $19 two-course weekday set lunch sounds simple but packs a punch.

I chose the heirloom tomato salad, which had a lovely sweet balsamic dressing that complemented the tomatoes perfectly.

And followed it with the penne arrabbiatta which surprised me with its spiciness. I’m not the kind of person who adds chili to my food but I do enjoy some spicy foods and this was just right for me.

You can add on dessert for $6 but we had a latte earlier and were full after the main course.

 

Grissini

 G/F Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel,
392 Havelock Rd, Singapore 169663

 

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Joining #RIPXII

Happy RIP season! I’ve been taking part since RIP IV – it was the very first challenge I took part in, so it will always be special! Every September 1 through October 31 for the last 11 years Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge. And now it’s being run by Andi of Estelle’s Revenge and Heather of My Capricious Life.

But it remains the same, it’s always about books of:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
And I always go for
Peril the First:
“Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (our very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shirley Jackson or Tananarive Due…or anyone in between.”

I’ve decided this year to focus on women writers!

Here’s my pool:

The Vicious Deep – Zoraida Cordova

Ink and Ashes – Valence E. Maetani

Waiting on a Bright Moon – JY Yang

The Reader – Traci Chee

The Chaos – Nalo Hopkinson

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

City of the Lost – Kelley Armstrong

The Witches of New York – Ami McKay

The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan

Back to School

It’s here! It’s here!

It’s the first day of school today! My boy is now a first grader. New classroom, new teacher, new classmates.

And finally, a few hours to myself in the mornings again.

Kindergarten is half-day here in my city, and he was in the afternoon kindergarten class. So that meant mornings with him and then afternoons with my 4yo. Now that he’s in first grade, it means I have a few hours free in the mornings.

What to do? What to do? Chores? Errands? Grocery shopping without someone bugging me to buy some more snacks? A chance to sit down and have some tea in peace? Read a book? Write? Work in the garden? Finally go through all their old toys and donate those they don’t play with?

There’s so much to do. And before long it’s going to be time to pick them up – better get to it.

(Ok must make sure I don’t spend all morning staring at my phone or something mundane like that).