Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Of Price and Pen.

My Platinum 'Preppy's
Platinum 'Preppy' pens
I sketch with fountain pens, almost exclusively so. When I am out and about or hanging out with my friends, sketchers and otherwise, we ask one another about the tools and media we use. One of the regular questions I get is what fountain pens do I use. There are two answers to this question:

1. I use Sailor pens, both the ‘1911’ range and the ‘Profit’ range.

2. I use the modified Platinum ‘Preppy’ pen.

The second respond is a little more complicated, as in, “How modified?” I hear you ask.

The Platinum ‘Preppy’ 
I was first introduced to the pen when I purchased a bottle of Noodler's ink. The dropper-capped bottles of ink came with a complimentary fountain pen which I later found out, is the aforementioned pen. The Preppy (available at Books Kinokuniya for about S$3.00 each) is an entry-level fountain pen that is surprisingly write and draw-friendly. It comes in .3, .5 and felt tip options. They are really meant to be used with their proprietary cartridges from Platinum, but with a simple and affordable modification, you can convert the whole barrel, which is made of polycarbonate, into an ink barrel. I really love this conversion because it means I can fill the pen with copious amounts of ink. I don't really need to worry about bringing them out for sketching with me any more, since they practically last for months before needing a refill.


You may watch the video below for instructions on conversion:

The size 3/8 O-rings are easily available at most hardware stores. The shop I went to sells a pack of 100 for S$18 (or a crazy S$0.80 each).
I love the ‘Preppy’ pen’s affordability and convertibility which allow one to experiment with different types of nibs and ink colours without having to break into your bank…

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Keppel Bay: Playground of the Rich and Pompous

Marina at Keppel Bay: Playground of the Rich and Pompous
Marina at Keppel Bay has a public boardwalk around its perimeter that links an enjoyable walk all the way to Labrador Park

Keppel Island or Pulau Keppel is an island which was owned by Keppel Shipyard for the primarily purpose of shipbuilding and repairs. In 2008, the Keppel Bay Bridge, a 250m bridge was opened linking the mainland to Keppel Island. Earlier in 2007, the Marina at Keppel Bay opened its doors. The Marina has 168 berths which could accommodate Super yachts up to 280 feet in length. The Marina also houses operates several F&B outlets and a sailing academy.

There is a public park around the island which is opened to the general public. To enter Keppel Island, you would need to enter Keppel Bay Drive next to the Caribbean at Keppel Bay Condominium. There is a bus stop right in front of the condominium and the buses includes 10, 30, 57, 61, 93, 97, 100, 131, 143, 145, 166, 188, 408 and 963 if you are coming from Harbourfront or Vivocity.

The yachting facilities and high-end residence which forms Marina at Keppel Bay enjoys proximity to the city centre. It is in the necklace of entertainment hotspots such as the Resorts World at Sentosa and VivoCity, Singapore’s largest entertainment and retail hub. 

Marina at Keppel Bay is the crown jewel in Singapore’s southern shores and like a crown jewel, is the exclusive home of choice for international luxury yachts and a water playground for the ethereally privileged.

Located at Latitude 01°15.90' N Marina at Keppel Bay has 168 berths which can accommodate superyachts of up to 280 feet. The Marina features a world-class concrete pontoon system, designed and built by Bellingham Marine. 

While the space is quiet, serene and wildly enjoyable, walking through the space, the fenced up communities and exclusive amenities serve as constant reminders of the start contrast between the haves and have-nots. It is proof that there is a wealth disparity between the social strata and the gap while hugely gaping, is neatly tucked away from prying eyes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

There is always time for a Group Therapy Session.

Group Therapy: A respite from the city buzz with coffee on the side...

Group Therapy Café is not a café. Not in the traditional sense anyway. It is a collective events space housed within a restored shophouse, tucked away on the 2nd Storey to allow groups to gather and seek respite in the heart of the CBD. It really is mainly an events space for lifestyle workshops, private parties and corporate events. The adjunct café then, is really just an expression of our love for coffee, food and good drink: an extension of their passion.

The unconventional and casual atmosphere of the space is truly a haven from the buzz so prevalent just outside its doors. The shophouse configuration also means that its use is modular and can be customised to suit various party sizes and functions.

The café serves up a good cuppa. The espresso café latte is delicious and full-bodied while the flourless chocolate cheesecake is a nice balance of sweet and tart. It would wonderful to revisit the outlet and try its other signature sweet – the four layer carrot cake.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

313@Somerset: Old Malaya Cafe serves up satisfying Malaysia's traditional fare

The Old Malaya Cafe at 313@Somerset
Made the decision to dine out the other Sunday. Was strolling along the Orchard Road belt and chanced upon this hole in the wall eatery at 313@Somerset that serves Malaysian style traditional food. Without many other attractive options available, I was game to try the place out.

I had the Penang Assam Laksa along with a side of poh piah (a local version of the fresh spring roll). The generous servings were greatly appreciated and the taste: admittedly delicious and believably authentic. Having enjoyed the experience, I was back again a few days later to try the other items on the menu. On my second coming (heh heh), I chose the Hainanese chicken rice balls followed by a chendol to sweeten and seal the palate.

Ambience wise, I appreciate the outlet’s attempt at recreating an authentic old-style ‘Nanyang’ (南洋) café, complete with nostalgic touches like tin packaging for sweets and enamel tiffin carriers.

Overall, it’s a nice enough place for a meal in town that’s both affordable and deliciously authentic, with good value for money in terms of quality and quantity.

Kim Seng Park, 2013

Kim Seng Park along Singapore River
I chanced upon this place in 2011 and was mesmerised by the light and space here. The canopy of the trees plays merrily with the sunlight that filters and streams through the leaves and branches. It's a beautiful peaceful piece of greenery in the city. I attempted to capture the place with a watercolour sketch (see link here).

It's been two years and I was back last week for a similar assignment. I decided to do another sketch, both as a mark of time and passage for the park as well as for myself.

So much has changed...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The ABC of breads and baking: Tasting at Artisan Boulangerie Company

Artisan Boulangerie Co. at Great World City.
Artisan Boulangerie Co. (“ABC”) is a contemporary bakery with French influences. Led by award-winning artisan baker, Eran Mayer, they employ traditional techniques to bring a wide variety of breads, pastries, morning goodies and snacks to passionate fans every day.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Things We Miss Over Busy Nothings...

It is as amazing as it sad that these beautiful blooms are invisible to the very eyes that pass them by everyday...
It’s amazing how our eyes miss the things we see every day.

There is an eco-pond at my office compound. On a daily basis, I’d notice how my colleagues pass by the spot and pass up the chance to see the beauty that grows every day within that body of water.

In the five years that I’ve been there, I’ve seen papyrus come and gone, lilies bloomed and withered and a myriad of lotuses gone to seed as their petals fall to reveal their pods. These plants are no longer in the pond, given their delicacy and lack of care.

Taking over though is nature’s creative hands with its new lease of life: tadpoles to frogs and toads, nymphs to dragonflies. Also, a whole new school of fish have made the pond home as well as semi-aquatic plants that have somehow taken root and bloomed there.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Lady M: It's In-crepe-dible!

Shown here are the Vanilla Mille Crepe and the Checkers (a vanilla+chocolate cake layered with fudge)
I read about Lady M confectionery online on HerWorld’s Facebook post. Apparently, this decade-old confectionery has only four other outlets, all in the US and this one in Singapore is the only one outside of the States.

I read much about the much-raved Vanilla Mille Crepe cake: a cake made up of twenty layers of alternating crepe and pastry cream.

While I was there to experience the place with Tony and Paul (fellow USKSG sketchers), I tried the signature pastry: light delicious and melt-in-your-mouth, the Mille Crepe is not hype; it’s the real thing.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Of misty mountains and cool moist air...

Selected flora of the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay

The Cloud Forest is a 0.8 hectare enclosure within the premises of the Gardens by the Bay. It is designed to replicate the cool moist climates, found in the tropical rainforests' mountainous regions, from 1000 to 3000 metres above sea level.

The replica of the mountain in the enclosure is clad with epiphytes: from orchids to pitcher plants to ferns and other various floras typical of the geography.

I observed and recorded the more interesting floras along the trail and for a while, I felt like a real botanist...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sweets For My Sweet (Tooth)

The new menu; the sweet corn panna cotta; the grilled barramundi and the nougat parfait meringue.

Bakerzin at United Square
It’s the soft launch of Bakerzin’s new menu featuring a new array of sweets and pastries by their new chef. I was there on the first day of the introduction of the new menu to try the dessert and food. Having been a fan of their confectionery, I arrive at the place full of expectations.

I had started with a grilled barramundi, which was unfortunately, a little overcooked. The delicate texture of the otherwise well-seasoned fish was a little rubbery and chewy. The selection of French beans also left much to be desired, being a little too fibrous, chewy and stringy.

After the mains, I was also offered two desserts to try: A Sweet Corn Panna Cotta made with lemon madeleine sponge, crunchy freeze-dried corn, toasted walnuts, popcorn and caramel sauce as well as a Nougat-Parfait Meringue made with nougat parfait with orange liqueur soaked cranberries, pistachios and almonds, topped with meringue.

The matching of the different tastes and flavours within each dessert is heaven. The execution of the sweets needed fine-tuning. The lemon madeleine sponge tastes absolutely wonderful with just enough tartness, balanced off with sweet. The level of caramelising on the sponge does require more care. The serving on the table tasted a little charred on certain bites. On the other, even though its meant to be a confectionery, the parfait-meringue was simply over-the-top with its level of sweet.

However, given that today was the first day of the launch and the assurance that they are ironing out the kinks, I will withhold my final judgement till the time when I am informed of their readiness for serious tasting. That is when, I am sure, my taste buds and I will simply be blown way.

Background of Bakerzin
Previously known as Baker’s Inn, Bakerzin started out in 1998 as a modest patisserie located off Sembawang Road, Singapore, dealing with wholesale orders and supplying French bread and pastries to restaurants and hotels. During this time, founder of Bakerzin, Daniel Tay, and his team of passionate bakers began experimenting and conjuring new and indulgent creations. As word spread, Bakerzin steadily gained a reputation in the industry as not just an authentic French bakery but one with an excellent selection of scrumptious sweets on its order list.

In 2000, Daniel Tay launched his first boutique café serving up Bakerzin’s collection of indulgent treats. The establishment also offered an assortment of savoury dishes for every palate.

In early 2011, Bakerzin also launched its first Bakerzin Artisan Bread store located at myVillage at Serangoon Gardens. This speciality store serves up authentic European style bread for the discerning customer. To date, there are 9 Bakerzin outlets islandwide.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Changi Point - Sunset Walk: An Initmate Celebration of Orgiastic Colours

An accidental pit-stop: who knew the old Changi Point would hold this secret treasury of such a colourful scene...?
It was still early after lunch with my colleagues after work today. I decided to take a breather with a change of scenery and packed a simple picnic, heading off to Changi point for the evening. Since it’s a weekday, I know it would be quiet at that remote part of the island. What I was not aware though, is the breathtaking view at sunset: a veritable smorgasbord of colours awaits anyone patient enough to linger. As the sun descends to kiss the horizon, the sky celebrates the intimacy, bursting in an orgy of colours. It’s a sensational visual treat, an incredible sight for sore and jaded eyes.

Not many are aware of this spot, tucked away at the western end of Changi Point. It is a boardwalk, which offers a beautiful view of the coastline. This 2.2-km boardwalk is open 24 hours. Strolling along this continuous scenic route is easy with any comfortable walking shoes.

There are six distinct sections on this boardwalk: Creek Walk, Beach Walk, Sailing Point Walk, Cliff Walk, Kelong Walk and Sunset Walk. It begins from Changi Creek in the east and stretches to the western rocky coast near Changi Beach Club before finally linking up to Changi Point or Loyang Park Connector at Netheravon Road.

The 'Sunset Walk' allows you to enjoy a splendid view of the sunset at the western end of Changi Point, amid a backdrop of huge boulders. In the evening, the walkway is soft-lit and you can see the lights of the Punggol Housing Estate in the distance. This provides a good spot for a romantic stroll. This is the end of the boardwalk. You can choose to double back via the way you came from or head back to Changi Ferry Terminal via Cranwell and then Netheravon Road. If you choose to walk down Netheravon Road, it is another 2.5 km.

After this little trip (an accidental pit-stop), my memory of this place as a embarkation point for bumboat journeys to Ubin and Tekong (during my army daze) will have to change. It’s now changed from a hazy sort of olive drab to a dazzling array of rainbow hues.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Orchard Road: A little jaunt down the shopping belt...

The Orchard Road belt is Singapore’s premiere shopping district. All labels gravitates towards one of the sought after, premium-price malls along the stretch of road that once used to be home to acres of nutmeg plantations.

Zoom in to read my personal experience and take on the individual featured malls here.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Memories are made of: The Dragon at the Park

The very iconic Dragon Fountain Park at Whampoa, Block 85, Whampoa Drive.

I was just chatting up with fellow Urban Sketcher Don and his lovely wife, Kat the other day about a possible sketchwalk at Whampoa Estate and the surrounding Jalan Bahagia neighbourhood. I was sharing with them about the good food at Whampoa Market, the iconic dragon fountain at block 85, which used to be part of a complete landscaped park to its surrounding estate. A walking distance away, there is the historical ten-story houses of differing styles at Jalan Bahagia and Jalan Tenteram (literally Happy and Quiet Street, respectively). One must also remark on the St Michael bus terminal and the list could go on with this, one of Singapore’s oldest estates.

It is of little coincidence then, that I found myself at the very estate, which is near my office and wandering towards the very dragon fountain that was once many a lovers’ haunt during its heyday in the late 70s and 80s. In fact, that was how I made my acquaintance with the park. During those days, it is not uncommon for dating couples to bring one’s younger relative along on dates as an unofficial ‘chaperone’.

I was one such chaperone for my aunt’s dates.

My aunt and her then-boyfriend-now-husband (for thirty-one years now, bless them…) would have their dates here in this park. I remember a small playground of cement animal sculptures and a series of very ornate covered trash bins, which are no longer there, of course. They have all given way to the run of the mill modern ones, boringly made of plastic. The willow trees, which I also remember swaying against the indigo evening sky, are still there. And then, of course, there is the dragon fountain, the very icon and symbol of the park, if not the estate. 

The namesake dragon at the park.
The 4-meter tall dragon, surging out a body of sculpted water and reaching towards the heavens, used to spout water from its mouth. In the evening, a park attendant would spigot the fountain off. When I am there, I would stay to watch the mesmerising body of water dancing against the brilliantly lit body of the dragon, slowly trailing into a drizzle before disappearing into the dragon’s breathing, gaping mouth.

And then there is the silent park, under the starry Prussian blue sky with sparkling diamonds.

“Okay, the water’s gone now… it’s time to go…” she said, as my aunt held my hand, her boyfriend holding my other hand and we’d walk home to grandma’s.