Saturday, 31 December 2011

The last sentry: Steadfast reminders of old Orchard Road. Old terrace houses along Devonshire Road, Somerset, Orchard.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Hi all,

For the last Saturday of the year, we will be having our sketch walk along Orchard Road. This will be our chance to capture the Christmas decorations before they come down. (Christmas is still on considering there are supposed to be 12 days of it.) Here is the plan:

10AM- Meet outside ION's entrance (where the colourful sculptures are, facing Tangs)
1PM- Meet at Scape (outside Toastbox) We will either head for the basement or one of the higher floors of Scape
where we will have space for "show and tell". Then we will have lunch around the area.

The weather report say that Saturday will be stormy. But we will have plenty of shopping centres to hide in if it does. If you feel overwhelmed when you think of Orchard Road, too many things to draw, and the crowds, then think along these lines:
  1. Isolate smaller interesting things. eg, just one decoration or one shop.
  2. Use the crowds to your advantage. You can hide among them to sneak a drawing of interesting people.
  3. Go into and around the malls to explore and draw:
    • Some interesting ones are ION with organic curves inside and outside the mall;
    • Outside Prologue bookstore are many interesting displays and shop fronts to draw;
    • Lucky plaza (with their signature domestic help and foreign workers on leave);
    • Mandarin Gallery (they have nice big chairs to sit inside);
    • *Scape(interesting building design; dance classes upstairs;
    • Youth Park, just across from Scape with a skatepark for wheelers;
    • Buskers in the underground tunnels, between Tangs and ION as well as Lucky Plaza and Takashimaya.
See you there!

P.S. Edric will be leading a group after lunch to finish drawing the Tudor Court area. (other end of Orchard Rd). Please follow him after lunch if you are one of those who can't get enough of sketching!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Brunetti brings together a luscious array of everything we treasure in Italian cooking, in an enticing café space – a Gelateria, Cioccolateria, Pasticceria and more. They are famous for their mouth-watering cakes, freshly baked breads, delightfully sinful chocolates and flavourful gelatos.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Tanglin Place.

Sketching on Christmas day. This year's decor will be removed/modified at record speed in preparation of the impending Chinese New Year celebration.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas 2011 Sketch Walks

Dear fellow Urban Sketchers and friends,

In conjunction with the closing of the Urban Sketchers Singapore: Volume 1 Exhibition at the URA Centre and also to celebrate this festive season the way we know best (through sketching, of course!), we have lined up a series of sketch walks for you!

1) First of all, we shall make a special return to Vivo City as we did for last year's Christmas sketch walk.

Venue: Vivo City's Sky Park Amphitheatre
Date: 24 Dec 2011 (Saturday)
Meeting Time: 9.30am
Show-and-Tell Time: 12.30pm

This time, we'll explore the Sky Park area, and sketch-able subjects include the giant Christmas tree, the huge rooftop wading pool, the various outdoor sculptures and installation artwork (including the Elephant Parade!), and also the nearby cable-cars, cruise liners, waterfront and ferry terminal facing Sentosa Island, as well as St James Power Station. And that's just the outdoor ones!

At the same time, we would like to reprise the "Sketch Gift Exchange" game that we had last year, in which every sketcher who turns up would participate by drawing a special piece (in any of your own preferred style, paper and size), submit it into a box or bag, and during the show-and-tell session, randomly choose ANOTHER fellow sketcher's work as a Christmas gift to bring home!

So please remember to bring along your own single-sheet sketch paper (or card) in preparation for this special exchange.

We could also buy your lunch and bring it over to the Amphitheatre for the show-and-tell session at 12.30pm sharp, and picnic at the same time.

After that, we should then all make our way back (by bus *) to the URA Centre by 1.30pm to have a special closure of the exhibition, and also to help remove and collect back our sketches on display, as well as purchase any of the frames used in the display if so wish.

There might be special announcements after that, so do keep yourself available till around 2.30 or 3pm if possible.

* We could take the public bus services 80 and 145 to URA Centre, or alternatively, if we could get around 30-40 sketchers, we would hire a special charter bus via URA, for S$40 and split the bill. Do leave a comment under this post with your name to indicate your interest to share this charter bus.

2) Some of us who might not be celebrating Christmas at home and might like to do it with fellow sketchers, could join a special Christmas Day sketchwalk!

3) With the Monday (Boxing Day) being a public holiday too, some of us would like to take this opportunity and sketch over at Pulau Ubin.

Venue: Changi Point Ferry Terminal
Date: 26 Dec 2011 (Monday)
Meeting Time: 10am
Show-and-Tell Time: 3pm and beyond.

4) There will also be a final and official last-Saturday-of-the-month sketch walk on New Year's Eve. So while keeping an eye on the updates, do keep that morning free to join us too!

In the meantime, see you all there, and have a Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Japanese dinner at Nippon

Nippon Japanese Restaurant (what's with the double-entry name?) is an authentic Japanese eating establishment run by Japanese (who still speaks English with a strong Nihonshi-accent). Apart from a few local (fusion?) concoction (Houston roll?) the food is good and authentic, but the same cannot be said for the famous Japanese soft-boiled lava egg. What was served in my ramen was not lava egg, but a regular hard-boiled.

Visit to the USS Texas BB-35 and San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

USS Texas (BB-35), the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the U.S. state of Texas, is a New York-class battleship. The ship was launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914.

Soon after her commissioning, Texas saw action in Mexican waters following the "Tampico Incident" and made numerous sorties into the North Sea during World War I. When the United States formally entered World War II in 1941, Texas took on the role of escorting war convoys across the Atlantic, and she later shelled Axis-held beaches for the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings before being transferred to the Pacific Theater late in 1944 to provide naval gunfire support during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Texas was decommissioned in 1948, having earned a total of five battle stars for service in World War II, and is presently a museum ship near Houston, Texas. Among the world's remaining battleships, Texas is notable for being the oldest remaining dreadnought battleship.

She is also noteworthy for being one of only six remaining ships to have served in both World Wars.Among US-built battleships, Texas is notable for her sizable number of firsts: the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers (analog forerunners of today's computers), the first US battleship to launch an aircraft,one of the first to receive the CXAM-1 version of CXAM commercial radar in the US Navy, the first US battleship to become a permanent museum ship and the first battleship declared to be a US National Historic Landmark.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Overnight trip to Austin, Texas.

The Texas State Capitol is located in Austin, Texas, and is the fourth building to be the house of Texas government in Austin. It houses the chambers of the Texas Legislature and the office of the governor of Texas. It was originally designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, and was constructed from 1882–88 under the direction of civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker. A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.The Texas State Capitol building is 308 ft (94 m) tall.

In the 1970′s, Stubb’s restaurant became the heart of an explosive music scene. Stubbs was ground zero for musicians like Joe Ely and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Other famous musicians who would “play for their supper” included Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Robert Cray, George Thorogood, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Linda Ronstadt and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Although started by a black American, the Stubb's now is curiously white-staffed with a predominantly white clientèle.

Hmm, what gives?

Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) is a reservoir on the Colorado River in downtown Austin, Texas, in the United States. It was created in 1960 by the construction of Longhorn Dam and is owned and operated by the City of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority. The surface area of the lake is 416 acres, and it is used primarily for flood control and recreation. Located on the lake's shoreline are various hotels and apartments, as well as the Auditorium Shores park and the Austin Hike and Bike Trail.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Dinner at Osaka Japanese Restaurant.

Terry's favourite Osaka Japanese Restaurant along Westheimer Road. It is run by Chinese and serves rather good Japanese-style cuisine. Complimentary appetisers of tempura and gyoza together with ice-cream at the end of the meal.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Galveston Island: overnight trip.

Moody Gardens is a tourist complex in Galveston, Texas. It is owned, through a complex agreement, by the City of Galveston but funded, operated, and supported by the multi-billion dollar Moody Foundation.

Moody Gardens features three main pyramid attractions: the Aquarium, which is one of the largest in the world and holds many species of fish and other sealife; the Rainforest Pyramid, which contains tropical animals and plants; and the Discovery Pyramid, which focuses on science-oriented exhibits and activities.

Another major attraction is Palm Beach, a landscaped sandy area with freshwater lagoons offering children's activities. Moody Gardens also has a RideFilm Theater with motion-based pod seating, a 3-D IMAX theater, a paddlewheel cruise boat, a hotel and a convention center.

The complex attracts many local tourists from the city of Houston and its outlying suburbs. The owners of Moody Gardens commissioned a landscape design from Geoffrey Jellicoe. It is described in Gardens of the mind : the genius of Geoffrey Jellicoe by Michael Spens (Antique Collectors Club, 1992).

Colonel Paddlewheel Boat is an authentic replica of an 1800-style Paddlewheeler. The charming 800-passenger paddlewheel boat takes guests on year-round hour-long cruises in Offatts Bayou.  The boat also features climate-controlled Galveston and Texas Rooms with large dance floors, which can be booked for private dinners and parties.

View from my hotel room at: The Hotel Galvez is a historic hotel located in Galveston, Texas, United States that opened in 1911. The building was named the Galvez, honoring Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez, for whom the city was named. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 4, 1979.

A tradition of excellence for over 92 years. Back in 1911 when S.J. Gaido first opened his restaurant, visitors often arrived by boat or on the old interurban line. The Gaido family's commitment was to make the trip worthwhile with the best in service and the finest in seafood.

Lunch at an upmarket restaurant in Galveston - Willie G's. The restaurant has a commanding view of the pier and next to it is the Texas Seaport Museum, a project of Galveston Historical Foundation. Located in the historic port of Galveston, the Texas Seaport Museum also tells the story of a rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration.It houses the Elissa; a three-masted barque. She is currently moored in Galveston, Texas, and is one of the oldest ships sailing today.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Downtown! Houston! Tram! Oh my!

Downtown Houston is the largest business district of Houston, Texas, United States. Downtown Houston, the city's central business district, contains the headquarters of many prominent companies. There is an extensive network of pedestrian tunnels and skywalks connecting the buildings of the district. The tunnel system is home to many fast food restaurants, shops and services.

The JPMorgan Chase Building, formerly the Gulf Building, is located in Downtown Houston, Texas, United States. It is one of the preeminent Art Deco skyscrapers in the southern United States. Completed in 1929, it remained the tallest building in Houston until 1963, when the Exxon Building surpassed it in height. The building is the Houston headquarters of JPMorgan Chase Bank, and was formerly the headquarters of Texas Commerce Bank.

Discovery Green is a public park in Downtown Houston, Texas, United States. Opened in 2008, Discovery Green 11.78-acre (47,700 m2) is located on Avenida de las Americas across from the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas Hotel, adjacent to Toyota Center. The park includes a lake, bandstands and venues for public performances, two dog runs, a children's area and multiple recreational areas.The park was principally designed by the landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates.

I was craving me some gumbo and Cajun and Terry brought me to:

RAGIN’ CAJUN was originally established in 1974 on 4302 Richmond Ave., inside the loop.

The concept was born out of the Bayous of Southwest Louisiana by Luke B. Mandola Sr., Graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana “Ragin’ Cajuns”.

Sons Luke B. Mandola Jr. and Dominic B. Mandola have carried on the rich family traditions and have expanded the Ragin’ Cajun Restaurants throughout the Greater Houston Area. The Ragin’ Cajun was the first Cajun seafood restaurant in Houston to put boiled crawfish on the map in the big state of Texas. Customers have been known to drive 100 plus miles to enjoy the exceptional taste of our spicy crawfish.

Our restaurants are also notorious for our Southwest Louisiana / New Orleans flair which include po-boys, shrimp, oysters, catfish, boudin, gumbo, red beans and rice, and bread pudding.

The Ragin’ Cajun is now a very recognized name around both Texas and the United States. It has been featured in People magazine, on NBC Dateline, the Food Network, and other various television and radio shows.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park is a 4,897-acre (1,982 ha) state park along the Brazos River in Needville, Texas, run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The park is a haven for a diverse mix of native wildlife and plants covering an equally diverse range of ecosystems. Brazos Bend contains areas of coastal prairie, bottomland forest, and a wide range of wetlands including open and semi-open lakes and transitional marshlands. Highlights of the Park's numerous inhabitants include over 300 species of resident and visiting migratory birds and mammals like White-tailed deer, Nine-banded Armadillos, Raccoons, and North American River Otters. The most noteworthy and popular residents of the park are the relatively large population of American Alligators. The Park is open year round, with the exception of several weekends a year during which the Park is closed off for controlled hunts to manage the White-tailed deer population.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

IHOP breakfast

The International House of Pancakes, is a United States-based restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods. It is owned by DineEquity, with 99% of the restaurants run by independent franchisees. While IHOP's focus is on breakfast foods such as pancakes, French toast and omelettes, it also offers a menu of lunch and dinner items. The chain has more than 1,500 restaurants in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Goodbye San Antonio! Thanks for your hospitality!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Aldaco's Mexican Cuisine

Blanca Aldaco opened the restaurant in at the original Commerce Street location.  The restaurant quickly grew to be a local favorite, and in 1999, Aldaco’s moved to their current, much larger, location at Historic Sunset Station. Aldaco's Mexican restaurant and bar serves lunch, happy hour, dinner, cooking classes and events.

The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero)

The Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound, site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and now a museum, in San Antonio, Texas.

The compound, which originally comprised a sanctuary and surrounding buildings, was built by the Spanish Empire in the 18th century for the education of local Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. In 1793, the mission was secularized and soon abandoned. Ten years later, it became a fortress housing the Mexican Army group the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, who likely gave the mission the name "Alamo."

Mexican soldiers held the mission until December 1835, when General Martin Perfecto de Cos surrendered it to the Texian Army following the siege of Bexar. A relatively small number of Texian soldiers then occupied the compound. Texian General Sam Houston believed the Texians did not have the manpower to hold the fort and ordered Colonel James Bowie to destroy it. Bowie chose to disregard those orders and instead worked with Colonel James C. Neill to fortify the mission. On February 23, Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna led a large force of Mexican soldiers into San Antonio de Bexar and promptly initiated a siege. The siege ended on March 6, when the Mexican army attacked the Alamo; by the end of the Battle of the Alamo all or almost all of the defenders were killed. When the Mexican army retreated from Texas at the end of the Texas Revolution, they tore down many of the Alamo walls and burned some of the buildings.

For the next five years, the Alamo was periodically used to garrison soldiers, both Texian and Mexican, but was ultimately abandoned. In 1849, several years after Texas was annexed to the United States, the US Army began renting the facility for use as a quartermaster's depot. The US Army abandoned the mission in 1876 after nearby Fort Sam Houston was established. The Alamo chapel was sold to the state of Texas, which conducted occasional tours but made no effort to restore it. The remaining buildings were sold to a mercantile company which operated them as a wholesale grocery store.

After forming in 1892, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) began trying to preserve the Alamo. In 1905, Adina Emilia de Zavala and Clara Driscoll successfully convinced the legislature to purchase the buildings and to name the DRT permanent custodians of the site. For the next six years, de Zavala and Driscoll quarrelled over how to best restore the mission, culminating in a court case to decide which of their competing DRT chapters controlled the Alamo. As a result of the feud, Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt briefly took the complex under state control and began restorations in 1912; the site was given back to the DRT later that year. The legislature took steps in 1988 and again in 1994 to transfer control of the Alamo to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department but the attempt failed after then-governor George W. Bush vowed to veto any bill removing the DRT's authority.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Museum walk and BBQ ribs.

I was craving for a cup of good coffee on my third (fourth?) day. It was straight to the siren for a cuppa joe at Starbucks.

Mesquite smoked barbecues and ribs are staples in Texas. Couldn't resist it!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), located in Houston, is one of the largest museums in the United States. The permanent collection of the museum spans more than 6,000 years of history with more than 62,000 works from six continents.

The museum benefits the Houston community through programs, publications and media presentations. Each year, 1.25 million people benefit from museum's programs, workshops and resource centers. Of that total, more than 500,000 people participate in the community outreach programs

0ºC in Houston

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gedung Kuning, Sultan Gate

Gedung Kuning, also known as the Yellow Mansion or the Bendahara House, is a former Malay palace in Singapore. It is located within the Malay Heritage Centre, near Masjid Sultan in Kampong Glam. The palace, together with the adjacent Istana Kampong Glam, and compounds were refurbished as part of the development of the heritage centre in 2004.

Gedung Kuning was built around 1860. Tengku Mahmoud of Johor, Sultan Hussein Shah's grandson, once stayed in the palace for a short time. The house was sold after his death to Haji Yusoff Haji Mohamed Noor, a Malay entrepreneur and philanthropist in Singapore, in 1912. His family owned Gedung Kuning until 1999 when the mansion was acquired by the Singapore Government.

It is believed that the mansion was painted yellow to reflect its royal links as Malays consider yellow to be a royal colour. The building was gazetted for conservation in 1999 together with the Istana Kampong Glam.

Today, the building has been restored and converted into a restaurant known as Tepak Sireh, named after the traditional metal container for storing betel leaves used for chewing. The restaurant offers an authentic Malay dining experience, serving traditional Malay cuisine such as nasi padang. It is also a venue for traditional Malay weddings, which come complete with royal entourage, court dance and traditional Malay rites and costumes.

Sago Lane

Sago Lane (Chinese: 硕莪巷) is a one-way lane in Chinatown within the Outram Planning Area in Singapore. The street links Banda Street to Neil Road. In the past, the street was much longer and was home to funeral parlours or death houses in the past. Part of the street was demolished in the late 1960s due to the construction of the new HDB development at Kreta Ayer, also known as Chinatown Complex. Currently the street, is mainly used during Chinese New Year as part of the festive bazaar in Chinatown.

The lane received its name because during the 1840s, there were numerous sago factories in both Sago Street and Lane. Sago was taken from the pith of the rumbia palm and made into flour that is used to make cakes. During the 1850s, there were thirty sago factories in the town which had a total output of 8,000 tons annually. Many of the sago factories were in the Sago Street area. In the 1920s the lane was used as a jinriksha station in Chinatown. The lane's famous Chinese death houses or funeral homes came into existence in the late 19th century. This was the place where people near death will be left to die, with the funeral parlour prepared below. All the Chinese funeral paraphernalia (funeral clothing, home appliances, paper models such as houses, cars, incense paper etc.) were related to death rites were sold in shops on this lane. The death houses were banned by the government in 1961, and by the late 1960s, all the shophouses on the street were demolished, with part of the street being demolished to make way for Chinatown Complex.

Some mistaken Sago Street as sei yan gai or the "street of the dead", but it's actually on Sago Lane. Sago Street was where brothels were located. Sago Lane is known as ho ban ni au koi in Hokkien, which literally means "the street behind Ho Man Nin". Ho Man Nin is the chop of a well known singing hall in neighbouring Sago Street.