Ulrika's Singapore

On shopping, eating, exploring and raising children in wonderful Lion City, lah!

How you can wake up to freshly made bread, budget-style

Do you think you need to spend $6.99 at Swiss Bakery to get a decent loaf of bread in Singapore? Think again. This beautiful seeded whole wheat loaf came out of my bread maker for an approximate cost of $1.50. No preservatives, no additives. Just wholesome goodness.

I’m about to make myself a breakfast sandwich with a hard boiled egg and Kalles caviar. Good morning!

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Holiday’s over: back on track again

I’m baaaaaaack! Finally. I spent the summer travelling all over the world, visiting family. It was really great seeing everybody, but but my waistline is suffering from too much beer and S’mores. So now, back to reality…

In my suitcase back to Singapore I packed a pair of five finger running shoes purchased in Canada. The idea is to run barefoot-style, like you would run if you were barefoot. Consequentially you land on the balls of your feet, not your heels, and proponents say that’s good. I’m all for back- to-basics, so I thought I would give them a shot.

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I was afraid that my feet would hurt since I run a lot on asphalt, but they have not. I have also ran off-road with positive results. (Mind you, I’m hardly a marathon runner; I can’t say what anything longer than 8k will do to your feet…)

They take a little getting used to, though. It’s really backwards in the beginning trying to put mitts on your feet, but for every time you try it gets easier.

Shoes isn’t everything, however. You need good tunes as well to keep moving. The really awesome program Spotity (invented by a Swede, go figure) is now available in Singapore. We were already signed up with monthly payments via England, but now we switched to a Singapore account so we can use the mobile function. It’s awesome! All you do is create a running playlist on your computer. You direct yourself to that directory on your,phone, and download. Et voila, you have some awesome tracks, always interchangeable, to get you moving. (Note that not all songs are available due to its content. This is Singapore after all.)

As for choice of music, sign up to http://www.runhundred.com to get a list of the top ten best running tracks emailed to you.

Now there no excuses not to run! Hope see you on the trails!

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From Singapore to Sweden for the summer

I just returned to visit my homeland Sweden for the first time after moving to Singapore two years ago. Here are some first impressions from my jet lagged self:

– Huge change in weather: it’s 22 degrees in the sun but that wretched humidity is gone. Instead we have a refreshing breeze all day long. Mornings and evenings are nice and crisp and, since it’s May, the sun rises early and sets late. I have really missed that.

– No crowds, less noise. Right now I’m sitting on my sister’s country house veranda, and all I can see is trees, trees, and more trees. Welcome to Sm√•land!

– More space since we are in the country, and it’s nice not to worry about my kids running into the street. Instead they are running around with their cousins in the garden like maniacs, or playing with the 12 (!) cats here. Wonderful!

– There is no condo construction in sight, nor any Bangladeshi construction workers sleeping on the ground (they would get frostbit!)

– Today’s lunch was nettle soup with a hard boiled egg – the nettles were picked wild from the far backside of the garden. A beautiful and free meal I certainly couldn’t have had in Singapore.

It’s nice to be back ūüėČ

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Go (see) Singapore navy

It’s not everyday y20130315-214408.jpgou can parade around a frigate and dream of being a warrior of the seas, but this weekend you can.

The Singapore Navy has stationed their RSS Intrepid at Vivocity and the public is invited to check out the chopper and missiles.

I took my boys there today and that experience pretty much got them signed up. They got to play around in the driver’s seat and I’m surprised they didn’t set off any explosions the way they handles the joy sticks. But the staff didn’t mind.

Getting to the bridge was interesting however. We had to climb very steep stairs and then queue up to exit descending equally steep stairs. It took a long time as only one person at a time could use the stairs.

Downstairs we inspected the staff sleeping quarters, kitchen and dining room, and board/living room. There was some cute good luck messages from the public on the wall that reminded us of what these guys go through.

The open house is free and you can try to get tickets at the information booth on the first floor at Vivocity, near the Mangosteen pub. It’s open 10am to 8pm but go early to avoid the crowds climbing those mental stairs.

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Why you should pay to see thousands of Lego bricks: The Art of the Brick

Imagine your husband, a successful New York City attorney, came home one day and said: “Honey, I quite my job today. I’ve decided that I’m just going to sit around and play with Lego instead.”

Eh what? We have all heard about interesting switch of careers, but this one takes the price. However thankfully for Nathan Sawaya this change panned out rather well, and now you can see his artwork at ArtScience Museum in Singapore.

This isn’t just about creating lego sculptures on a large scale – it so you would have found it at a shopping centre – but Sawaya is a true artist. He has just chosen to use Lego as an artform, rather than traditional method such as clay and stone. For example, his feature piece of the show – pictured below – makes me think of an artist spilling his guts to the world, exposing himself to those around him.

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Sawaya also has sense of humour throughout. One sculpture of a man in a¬†contemplative¬†pose has an empty chair next to it, and it’s¬†irresistible¬†not to sit just like then man and pose for a picture.

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It’s hard to believe that someone can actually create art out of something so simple as a square Lego brick. Sawaya can capture facial expressions, stance, that hump in the back, gestures that makes the artwork come alive. The sheer amount of bricks needed is astonishing, and I have no idea how he does it.

Besides the 3D sculptures he does normal 2D framed wall artwork. They are amazing, I had no problems picking out Alfred Hitchcock and Janis Joplin (even Sawaya’s partner showed up a couple of times, maybe a thank-you for her putting up with him spending countless hours in a sea of small bricks!). The artist just knows where to put the highlights to make the person come alive.

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Those inspired by this exhibition can build their own creations from buckets of Lego before exiting, fun for small and big kids alike.

The Art of the Brick runs until May 26 at the ArtScience Museum. But if you go, promise me not to quit your daytime job just yet….

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It’s a wrap! Anna Rainn at Great World City

I can’t say it’s everyday I walk into a clothing store and leave with a purchase. Either the clothes are too small (most likely) or too big (highly unlikely). Or they are too expensive or the¬†personnel too indifferent. But at Anna Rainn the clothes fit, they are not expensive and the sales staff is lovely.

I heard about Anna Rainn in Expat Living, and was¬†intrigued by the store’s wrap dresses with its “fit-every-figure” promise. I found it tucked away by Marks & Spencers at Great World City. A friendly sales associated greeted me and looked after me the whole time (other than surfing on her smartphone by the cashier’s desk, as so many others do). Interestingly, the wrap dresses (and that’s all there is) are organised by size, not by style or colour. That’s smart and saves you time.

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I was ushered to the “S” ¬†size section. l tried on a few, slipped on the provided high heels and studied the result in the large wall mirror. The wrap dresses do fit nicely. They are tight at the right places and are flattering without being too much. These dresses, with a hairstyle- and accessories change – could easily take you from the office to the bar. The dresses are also easy to wash and travel well as no ironing is required.

There are three sleeve lengths: sleveless, shortsleeves and 3/4 sleeves and they are priced accordingly: $129, $135 and $139.

The wrap dresses are produced in limited editions which is an added bonus.

Now I just have to learn to tie the darn thing myself. I wonder if the sale rep does home visits…

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Alert Turkish food lovers (and cheap cheese addicts)

I’ve been in love with Turkish food ever since an amazing few weeks on a boat touring the islands near¬†Fethiye, Turkey many years ago (remember those carefree, pre-children days, dear friends?) I recall fresh vegetables, beautiful meat and everything accompanied with generous dollops of thick yogurt….So I was delighted to hear from my Turkish neighbour – an expert in other words – that there is a shop that sells affordable Turkish food here in Singapore, and surprisingly the store is practically in our neighbourhood.

Straits Marine Supply is located on an offshoot of the busy Pasir Panjang Road, not too far from the MRT station. Don’t come here looking for romance, there is nothing fancy about the shop and it’s location. The shop is at the back of a semi-industrial building; I felt like I was going for an oil change. The main part of the business is food storage (very big space) with the food sales in the office (very small space).


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Coffee!

Coffee!

As you can see, it’s not a big place. It’s just a few shelves and a couple of fridges. There is a lot of canned beans, pickles roasted red peppers, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil, nuts, tea and coffee, all at very reasonable prices. There is no fresh produce.¬†However, the cheese section is impressive. It’s full of Turkish cheeses unknown to me but also huge chunks of mozzarella ($17 for 2 kg, not bad), feta (goat, sheep, cow – take your pick) and Halloumi.

I was a little disappointed not to bring home pita bread, hummus and bakalava. But perhaps that will change one day. Until then I’ll guess I have to make my own hummus with my $7 jar of tahini.

And as for the creamy yogurt? I guess we’re talkin’ Cold Storage.

Straits Marine Supply
100G Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 6472-1241

 

 

 

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Five Things You Need to Have in Singapore

1. A cheque book. Have one in your handbag. For a modern country, it’s surprising how often you use cheques. Many merchants are as happy to take a cheque as cash. This is how I pay for memberships, kids’ activities, food deliveries etc. The cheque needs to be very neat; ¬†if you make a mistake, you need to sign against it (they are very picky at the bank). I prefer to start anew. And in the top left corner, you need to draw three lines. Why, I have no idea.

2. The number to your gas company on speed dial. Many hobs run on gas – as in a gas¬†cylinder – and it’s always a gamble if the stove will light up or not because there is no way of telling how much gas is left. This is a little frustrating to have a stove die on you in a time of need (think hungry, cranky children). An obvious solution is to have two cylinders, so you never run out. But I guess I like to live dangerously.¬†

3. In your handbag: umbrella and scarf, sun screen and mosquito repellant. Protect yourself from the elements and the taxi’s arctic temperatures.¬†

4. A bread maker. I may be a European bread snob (so says my husband) but the sugar-, coloured-, preservative-laden stuff they call bread in the store does not cross my lips. You can find good bread at some bakeries and the common Swiss Bakery, but do you really want to fork out $6 for a loaf? A consumption of two loaves a week will cost you about $650 a year. Yikes! A much smarter option would be to buy a bread maker and you can make delicious loaves for a fraction of the cost. 

5. Insurance. Sorry to end on such a boring note, but as an expat, it’s really important to ensure you are sufficiently covered. There is a lot to cover: home insurance, travel insurance, emergencies, outpatient care,¬†disability¬†life insurance…. Read the fine print – does your policy cover accidents during sporting events, for instance? You may need to top up (remember to top up your glass of wine at the same time).

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Five Great Free Things in Singapore

Not much is free on this crazily expensive island, but here’s a handful:

1. Singapore libraries

Ok so this isn’t rocket science – there are libraries in every city in the world – but perhaps we forget about them sometimes. There are lots of public libraries in Singapore, and it’s a modern system with automated check-outs and online reservations and renewals. I come here for kids books, magazines and books for my book club. Yes, foreigners may apply for membership too, but the limit of four books per check out is a little low. But considering the extortionate prices¬†for new books, it’s definitely worth a go.

2. Meetup.com

Expats often live very far away from their home countries and thus depend on friends for their survival. Meetup.com is a great way to find like-minded people. Search with keywords to find people with kids, without kids, who loves photography, movie-goers, wine-drinkers, yoga-benders. You name it. I can personally vouch for the Singapore Active Toddlers Group. They do a lot of activities for the little ones and the forum is great for asking children-related questions.

3. Singapore Botanic Gardens

I know this one often shows up in lists like these, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s a wonderful place – located mere minutes from the inner city madness – with amazing trees (even a small rainforest), flowers, lakes and awesome paths where the kids can go wild on their scooters. Many families head for the Jacob Ballas Childrens Garden (note that it’s closed on Mondays) but I prefer to roam the main garden. Favorite spots are the Healing Garden (learn about medicinal plants) and the Ginger Garden (there is a lot more to ginger than the ugly knobs you see in the store). The Orchid Garden is also lovely and worth the $5 entry. When the kids have worked up an appetite, head to Food For Thought (they have delicious, huge pancakes for a tenner and a small playground to burn off the sugar!) or Casa Verde (decent Italian with good adjacent runaround space. Or if you are without children try Halia for Modern European dining.

4. Sentosa’s beaches

Even if you are on a strict budget, you can have a very nice day on the beaches of Sentosa. Running your feet through sand (imported, but who cares) doesn’t cost a cent. Bring a picnic and relax in the sun. Don’t go swimming, however – all those hundreds of surrounding ships leave “presents” that can stain your swimming wear (happened to me) and leave skin irritations. Leave the swimming to the dogs and have a shower instead. Coastes is a good beach restaurant if you need refreshments and they have beach chairs to rent so you can watch Jonnie and Maggie from there.

5. Gothere.sg

This app is not for free but it’s so good it’s definitely worth its¬†US$2.99. It will figure out how to best get from A (your current location) to B (desired location). It will give you four different options – bus, MRT, car and cab – and a cost estimate for each. Surprisingly, often the best option is the bus. Thanks to a wide network, you can get around with buses with relative ease. The bus may transport you directly whereas the MRT may require a few changes. Plus, you have get a nice tour of Singapore without paying the hideous tour operator charges. But if the view bores you, tune in to Ted.com (free app) for “riveting talks by remarkable people.” Who knows, this bus journey could change your life!

Did I forget anything? If so, please leave a comment….

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10 Characteristics of Singapore Taxi Drivers

1. There is something going on with their right foot. They simply cannot put steady pressure on the gas pedal. Instead, the foot goes on and off, which means the passenger waves back and forth like a tree in the wind. Not schoo good after a few drinksch out.

2. Singapore taxi drivers are very impatient. If they have to wait for you, they are likely to do one of the following: a) take off or b) tisk. How is it my fault that my child’s toilet visit coincided with your arrival, dear Uncle?

3. Taxis drivers love their air conditioning. A little much. In fact, cabs are bloody mobile freeze boxes. I guess they want me to feel like I’m still in Sweden.¬†

4. The murderous glances shot at me in the rear view mirror for taking a sip of water. It’s just water for heaven sakes!

5. The Chinese ballads on high volume. It just doesn’t do it for me. Especially when I’m wrestling with two youngsters in the back. Someone, stop the heartache!

6. They often don’t know how to get from A to B. I don’t know, but isn’t it their job to know where they are going? Oh if I had a penny for the times I have navigated the driver via my smartphone’s Google maps…..

7. Which brings me to the taxi’s own GPS system. Yes, many taxis have them but mysteriously the drivers don’t use them. Enlighten me, someone.¬†

8. The¬†kiasu¬†attitude toward other drivers. Would it kill you to let a driver in once in a while? It’s not a race!

9. Taxi uncles have an uncanny ability to diagnose the problem with your crying child in the back seat. Hungry, tired, too old for pacifiers, you name it, they know what’s going on. Remarkably, this talent extends to any crying children that we may pass. Honestly, I’m in awe.¬†

10. Not only are the children interesting, but their mummies too. Often the uncles want to play “20 Questions.” Where are you from? How old are the children? What does your husband do? How much does he make….

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