26 Feb 2016

Stunningly gorgeous and successful at 23

Some people you're friends with because your families grew up together, or you were two girls who knew nobody else at the party, or all 30 of you were chosen to live together for the rest of high school.

If you asked me how I found boarding school, I'd probably say it was a little catty at times. Much drama; we were all trying to get out (although only one of us managed to escape), all trying to bend the rules, break the rules, jump the fence, stand up for the correct interpretation of The Yellow Book.

But I hold the four years with very fond memories. 
Everything in sepia. 

I learnt how to budget, where to find free wifi, how to fill in free time. The girls influenced my humor, taught me "to the windows, to the wall (to the wall)", taught me not to be the first to text and always first in the dinner line.

We created a culture, a sense of community and we were, and still are, proud of it today.

We were a little different than the rest of the girls at school. Our parents didn't own a house in the grammar zone, but instead they invested $12k+ a year to give us an education that was otherwise unavailable in small towns. We were different because we didn't bus home with our friends, we didn't come home to share our day's experience with an adult, we didn't really meet up at the mall or whatever teenagers do on the weekends. 

We were away from home and we only had each other.

Of course we were all unique in our own ways. Everyone had their own 'thing'. 
There was a cyclist champion, a tall blonde beauty, an artist who could touch the canvas with a paintbrush and take your breath away, one with a pet, a rower with firmest of all thighs, one who was always out running, one who was always running and getting fit, one who ate a bag of carrots a week, the only child, the kind and gentle spirited one... I was the only Asian (apart from the few international students) the whole time I was there. Not a lot of cultural diversity haha, no Indians at all either.
Around the table yesterday were nine stunningly gorgeous girls.

I look around and am in awe of how elegant, confident and successful we've become. And I don't mean CEO successful but there were Masters students there, a youth worker, a property investor, an engineer, a potter...

Did you ever do that thing where you guess who'd be the first to get married, to have a kid (Mrs Nice), most likely to become famous, become a doctor (Dr Duley)...?

I never thought I'd be the sick one. But when I did, they showered me with virtual hugs and kisses, blooming bouquets at my doorstep for a week straight, nautical knick-knacks and a hamper so big I couldn't get out of the car while holding it.

You need friends to get through life. God created people so we can build relationships and go through the years on this earth and stay emotionally sane.

At the start of each year, we'd look around for new faces after checking if our room came with a window. And we'd say hi, where are you from and before long they'll be signing out to go to the daza with us. We're a very hospitable and welcoming bunch.

My strongest 'first day' memory was in fifth form where everyone was just so excited to see each other again and we had the electrician fixing something in our hallway. But the electrician made the mistake of bringing his hot son with him so we were all sitting legs stretched across the hallway hyping up about "the electrician's son".

Last night we cringed at Alice in Wonderland, speculated about the terminated contracts of hostel workers, criticised sunglasses, laughed at kill-me-now long car rides and rejoiced over news of a miracle.

We talked about how the 100th school anniversary is coming up and how we'd thought we'd come with our babies, our tongue-twister job titles and our Ryan Reynolds-look-alike husbands.
But actually most of us are still figuring out how to tie the pieces together.

Much thanks to Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Now I can see your travels around the Mediterranean, your London lifestyle, celebrity events, and your adorable blonde toddlers.

23, much older, much wiser, yet still the same humorous beautiful people.

23 Feb 2016

$12 Steak Nights

On Wednesdays after 6.30pm at The Spotted Pig, they have $12 steaks.
And excellent steak too.
Sirloin with bacon, mashed potatoes, mushroom and all that green stuff.
Very good portion.
My medium well steak was tender, the jus was tasty, the bacon added an extra saltiness and crisp texture to the dish.

And then there's dessert...
This is donuts with mandarin parfait and edible flowers $9
Dark chocolate tart with poached black berries and mascarpone
Pannacotta with black berries
All $9

Everything was delicious.
They also have pub quiz alongside their $12 steak nights on Wednesdays.
I've been twice and lost twice.

On Thursdays it's beef/ chicken schnitzel for $12. Lets go?

224 Symonds St, Eden Terrace
just before the Mt Eden intersection, next to the carpark
Mon-Sun 11am- late

And to conclude,

This is the closest I'd get to eating lamb.
Because you shouldn't eat cute animals.
But cows are okay cause they're big ang there's lots of them.
And they're $12 on Wednesdays


Fed Deli brunch

We're just three girls who love God and that's how our paths crossed.
One day in 2013 I met one of them and realised that she lives next door to me and then over the years figured out that we both #loveleo.
I met the other girl... I can't quite remember when. The first time I remember talking to her was when I was waiting at the bus stop after dessert at Milse and she had just finished work at Cafe Hanoi. That was when she started dating my 'lil bro' and I was asking her about it and if he gave her flowers.
Because flowers, no matter the impracticality or lack of function they have, are a great gesture of affections. The most nature-al thing to show your natural feelings.

Anyway, I had been wanting to go back to the Fed for brunch ever since someone asked if I had had their griddle cakes. Last time I went for dinner, it was delicious and I loved the diner atmosphere. So I went back and took ma two gurls with me.
Their website describes it as an "old school New York Jewish deli". Pretty American, that's my take on it.
It's right on Federal Street, where the entrance to the Skytower is. We watched a number of bungee jumpers risk their lives for twenty seconds of adrenalin. Not for us, we thought.
An iced coffee for me, because they don't do espresso; they only have filter. Worth noting that it is bottomless filter! 
Iced coffee was nothing special, although I do like this style more than a frappe.

For the full menu, click here
Morning Glory; breakfast salad with portabello mushroom, haloumi, poached egg and dukkah $18
Griddle cakes; blueberry pancakes with cinnamon butter and nutty crunch $18
Turkey on rye; with cranberry, walnuts, smoked cheese and apple $15

Not bad, a little on the pricey side than most nice cafes. But we enjoyed catching up with each other.

And to conclude,

Here is my latest artwork; Tintin's first meeting with Captain Haddock. Taken from The Crab with the Golden Claws.



14 Feb 2016

Quake City

In the shadows of the city lights, a girl fell in love with a boy.
In a city prone to earthquakes, riots and mood swings
Where careless words started wild fires
And violent storms brewed in young hearts,
He was her safety when everything buckled.

He said jump and she leaped.
He said bye and she waited.
She shouted sorry but didn’t hear the echo.

For two months she believed that every force has an equal and opposite reaction
It was a game of tug of war
Using all her strength clutching on to fraying thread
She fell on her face when he stopped trying.
Shaken, not stirred.
A reminder that emotions are not to be played with.

Here I am exploring metaphors of nature and the natural forces. Realising that sometimes emotions feel just as strong as forces behind natural disasters. Are feelings natural? Does heartache count as a disaster? Written ironically when an earthquake occured on Valentines's Day.

11 Feb 2016

Let me tell you a great story

I used to think that Grandpa Jack was an odd man. He had a beard but no moustache, he ate with a spoon and fork and he never wore shoes, not even to church.
He was a writer, mum told me. But it had been a long time since he wrote any books. It was my Grandma Allie who painted for a living.
She was a wonderful painter. She painted the boats of the sea, the night sky, the long grass and precarious houses on edges of clifftops.
“I paint memories,” she said. And she would sit outside all day and paint, while me and my Grandpa Jack played chess under the hanging vines.
I had never seen my Grandma Allie play chess. Except for this time when I asked my Grandpa about it, and he called her over and she said, “One game, Jack.” 
And she won that game.
But when Grandpa Jack was putting away the pieces and grandma had gone back to her easel, he turned to wink at me and said, “Sometimes to win someone’s love you have to lose.” 
Which was funny, because I had always thought all these years, that love was always winning; winning her smile, her attention, her affections.
During the days when we had hours of sunshine left after dinner, I would help my Grandpa Jack set up the model train for Christmas.
“What’s that, grandpa?” I asked, noticing a black mark on the side of his thumb.
“This?” He asked. “You mean my tattoo?”
It was so small and hidden in his wrinkles that I didn’t recognise it as a tattoo. When he showed it to me, I saw a black outline of a circle and lines inside it, connected.
“Wow it’s the world… Why do you have that?”
Grandma Allie who was within earshot turned and gave grandpa a look.
“It’s a sign of promise,” Grandpa Jack said, “And a symbol of unity.”
“Who did you promise to?”
He sighed before pausing to put down his tools. “Let me tell you a great story... Pull up that chair, Dylan.”
And he proceeded to tell me a story of two people who fell in love quickly, who promised everything and trusted wholeheartedly. She didn’t believe in conventional ways, so they agreed he would get the outline of the world and she, the colors that filled it.
He told me of the years following it; that mistakes were made and words unspoken until they exploded. She had walked away until she couldn’t hear him calling out to her anymore.
“I love her dearly,” Grandpa Jack said wistfully.
“What happened to her, grandpa?”
“Why! She’s your grandmother Allie.”
I turned to look at her humming away, washing brushes. I had always thought they were paint splotches. But on second glance it was the land and the sea in a circle, in a place that when they hold hands, the colors would fill the outline. They had the world between them.
“Dylan, when you want to win someone’s love, you have to lose. Lose your pride, your assumptions and your doubts. And then chase after her. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find that she’s been running towards you too.”

Chapter 5 | Inside Jokes

A compilation of stories, inspired by true events
previous chapter Chapter 4 | Your Friend is a Girl, Right?

A young man walks in, his jacket soaked with July rain. He sits with his latte in front of him, twiddling his thumbs for a while before taking his first sip. He closes his eyes as if he's praying but his hands are on his head.

A girl runs across the road, her jacket folded over her head to keep her jet black hair dry. It doesn't work in this wind.

The guy stands to his feet as she walks in.
They make a single eye contact which brings back memories.

Over the next two hours, less words were spoken and more laughs were heard, reminding me of two best friends reuniting after a decade's absence.
She puts her hands on her nose and they both burst out laughing.
He pinches his ears, makes a face and they laugh harder.
Inside jokes.

I wait for the appropriate moment to clear their empty cups. "Are you done with these?"
"Yes, thank you," the girl says, her eyes wet with tears from laughing.
"We should go soon," the guy checks his watch.
They leave together, emptying the room with their laughter.

next chapter Chapter 6 | The Usual

1 Feb 2016

Chapter 4 | Your Friend is a Girl, Right?

A compilation of stories, inspired by true events
previous chapter Chapter 3 | By the End of Dinner 

One afternoon during the university exam period when energetic yet exhausted youths came with their laptops and one question in mind (do you have wifi?), Carl gave me a nudge.
"Girl on table 9 is hot stuff."
Without looking up from the till I asked if Chef Jon had put him up to this.
"Nah man, she hella cute. She's been here everyday I've worked this week."
Seated at table 9 was a girl in her early twenties, cropped mouse brown hair, black rimmed plastic glasses and earphones attached to her iPad.
I shrugged at Carl. "Oh yeah?"
"Do something for me man. Get her number for me?"
"Take my Saturday shift for me?" I countered.
And that's how I ended up approaching her to fill up her already-full glass of water.

"Thank you," she barely looked up, still attached to her earphones.
I waited for an awkward three seconds.
"Sorry to disturb you but my-"
"What?" She looked up at me, taking out one earphone.
"Um. Sorry to disturb you but my workmate would like to get your contact details." I must've flushed bright red.
"My friend would like to get your number," I repeated.
This is so awkward. I could feel Carl staring at me from Chef Jon's kitchen bench.
She opened her mouth and shut it again before slowly saying, "Sorry but I don't give that out to strangers."
Now what?
"But your friend could ask me for it. Then I might be interested."
"Really?" I sweated beneath my shirt.
She shrugged, "Yeah."
"Okay... Um can I get your name?"
"Thanks um, Lacey. Sorry about that." I turned to duck back to the kitchen.
"Wait," she said, "Your friend is a girl right? Cos... you know, I'm..."

Carl locked us in the walk-in fridge because we were laughing too hard at his tough luck.

next chapter Chapter 5 | Inside Jokes

Chapter 3 | By the End of Dinner

A compilation of stories, inspired by true events
previous chapter Chapter 2 | Dry Eyed 

I was told of a time when Carl served a couple for dinner.
Only by the end of dinner they weren't a couple anymore.

I imagined the conversations they had over eye fillet and quinoa salad.

I'm sorry for the way I've been acting all week.
You didn't make contact with me at all til yesterday. What is wrong with you?
I'm sorry.
I've been thinking.
Me too.
It just doesn't feel right.
Since when-

He said the food was left untouched, the conversation left open and untied.

next chapter Chapter 4 | Your Friend is a Girl, Right?

Chapter 2 | Dry Eyed

A compilation of stories, inspired by true events
previous chapter Chapter 1 | Waiting for Someone

Two people walk in, dry eyed in the break of dawn.
They sit at a table around the corner for two hours.
They leave, his arm around hers, both weary with tears.

next chapter Chapter 3 | By the End of Dinner

Chapter 1 | Waiting for Someone

A compilation of stories, inspired by true events
 previous chapter Chapter 0 | Nighthawks

Today I seated a girl by the bay window. She was waiting outside by the doorway looking around. She struck me as incredibly pretty with her long wavy yellow hair. Like goldspun thread down her back to her waist.
She timidly stepped inside and looked around again.
"I've got this one, Carl," I cut in as I saw Carl getting a menu to serve her.
I showed her to table 11, the window overlooking the fountain in the park. She looked like the type to absorb the sun and radiate it through her smile.
"Thank you," she said when I poured her water.
Cute smile, I thought.
I left her for a while as she flicked through the menu. After a reasonable amount of time and she hadn't flagged down Carl nor I, I approached her.
"Can I get you anything..." Then a thought entered my mind almost as immediately as I said it. She's waiting for someone, of course she was. Someone as pretty as her has to be taken. A football player in high school; buff, Prom King, Cartier watch. A man so attractive that it didn't make her angry that he was over twenty minutes late. Some luckier guy was on his way, finding a carpark for his BMW. And he was going to see her burst into a smile when he walks in. She'll stand to her feet and he'll envelop her in a hug for her to inhale his cologne.
"Or are you-" I continued.
"Waiting for someone," We both said at the same time, and she gave a sheepish smile.
"Of course," I smiled back politely before leaving her to flick through the menu again.

But a while later, a girl walked in and they hugged like two best friends.

next chapter Chapter 2 | Dry Eyed

Chapter 0 | Nighthawks

A compilation of stories, inspired by true events


During the 2 o'clock stall, Chef Jon likes to lean on the bench, peeping through the kitchen window.
"I've got a cousin, Ryan," he said one afternoon.
Another one of his many, I thought, already smirking.
"She's blonde, you like blondes?"
I rolled my eyes as I cleaned the coffee filter. "As long as she's not underage like the last one."
"Lisa is 21! She just looks younger because of our Cuban genes!"
"I felt like I was a thirty year old dating a fifteen year old. I don't even know how she ordered that drink."
"Well soon you'll be thirty and you'll be regretting not meeting my cousin."
I shook my head at him and gave him a look as a customer came in and made a coffee order.
"Where's your usual barista?" The man in the blue collared shirt asked.
"Tom's on his lunch break," I told him as I frothed the milk.
"Hope you make the coffee as good as he does."
"Can't promise you that sir but I try my best," I smiled reassuringly, not sure if he was joking or not.
"Wait," Chef Jon popped his head through the kitchen window, "Lisa was drinking alcohol??" He disappeared again muttering in Spanish.

Tom's coffees fuels lazy minds, flavors conversations and fixes broken hearts like surgery.
The Nighthawk cafe has seen tinder dates, the stay-at-home-mums' club, job interviews, breakups, reunions, breastfeeding mother (always welcomed) within its four walls and courtyard.
Our coffee is the medium to make social interactions possible bearable.

I started waiting tables during my freshman year of uni. Part time English student, waiter by evening.
To be honest I think I got the job because I could correctly pronounce croque monsieur.
Now I work shifts in between writing my novel. Sometimes I serve the early risers, other times the late night lovers.

next chapter Chapter 1 | Waiting for Someone


My mother was an artist.
My father, a well-travelled academic, fell in love with her fearlessness and grace.
If you don’t believe in love at first sight, I tell you now,
It happened.
He showed her how a dollar bill can laugh and frown at the same time.
She showed him the top of the city from her point of view.
He made plans to be with her.
She saw and he promised.
They built a home on rocks, trust and commitment,
Out of gifts, twigs and wishing dust.
And when the walls came down
She begged for forgiveness, only to find he had already given it to her, in her back pocket when she walked away.
That’s when she realised,
That the path was full of pebbles,
Rocky stones and dimly lit.
But he said that they were measured by how quickly the stitches came together,

And not how often it came undone.