company of three, black peppermint tea

Category: holidays

bubbs you ok

by bezzle

I forgot to post this earlier but I got the best socks while on holiday

CIMG0836

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Just in time for New Year

Aren’t they naff

BUBBLES this is what i come back to

by bezzle

I came back from watching the tennis to find my post wiped I am hopping mad

Anyway I came back from China today and it’s great to be back home

Fresh air I missed you so much

Anyway I was going to talk about the tour I went on and stuff but really it was quite unremarkable except for it made our entire family realise how gullible and how much of a big spender my mum can get, it’s quite terrifying.  It was nice having good meals and five star accommodation every day for six days for a minimal price per person.  The catch is that they spend a significant amount of effort and time each day trying to persuade you to buy the area’s specialties – pearls, silk sheets, jade, high class tea – and although we did get to go to some tourist sites, the whole underlying pressure and urging to spend ruined the whole mood of the tour and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Even if you think you can resist their sells, it’s still a waste of time and you’re probably better off paying for an upfront tour.

I did manage to get used to squat toilets because they were basically the only toilets we had while travelling about.

IF YOU EVER GO TO CHINA BRING LOTS OF PACKAGED TISSUES WITH YOU

Public toilets and lower class restaurants don’t supply toilet paper/tissues and you would be up the creek with a full bladder and lots of germs if you don’t bring some yourself.

The last day on tour we spent in Shanghai and it was the worst day because the tour guide dropped us off at this place that reeked of a scam.  It’s a long and hard to convey story but I’ll try anyway:

The bus pulls into the front of a store on the main street.  The store is painted a bland pink, there is only one window and it has a screen with fake bamboo (i.e. you couldn’t see into the store apart from the door area).  The parking lot is basically a few parking spaces in front of the store.  Previously the stores we visited were quite high class places or factories (obviously so the exorbitant prices seemed more credible) so it gave a different impression, but not that I really cared at that moment.

We enter the store, and an employee in a suite introduces himself as our guide to the store which is a jewellery store; this fits in with what we experienced so far.  (Incidentally, he was pretty hot.) He took us upstairs and directed us into a conference room where some workers gave us tea and our guide started a powerpoint presentation about characteristics of jade.  All is normal.

Until a worker opens the door and interrupts, saying that the boss (owner) is here and wishes to talk to the tourists.  Not long after, a man walks in and he looks just a like a rich businessman: casual clothes like he’s off to play golf, middle aged and with a clear and glowing complexion – not like he was pregnant, but you know in Chinese, the 面色? you could tell he was healthy and rich.

He immediately asks the guide his name, and gives him a 500 yuan payrise, to which our guide thanks him, totally flustered, and exits the room.  The boss spoke slowly and haltingly in occasionally-wrong-toned Mandarin, and explains he is from Thailand.

(A bit of context here before I continue.  Our entire tour group of 42 people were all from Canada or Australia and spoke Cantonese.)

He goes on to tell us a bit of his life story, telling us that his parents/grandparents were originally from China, and his paternal grandfather was saved by some Cantonese person, hence he considers all Cantonese people his 恩人, and that he is lucky to have met us because he just happened to be there that day.  He goes on to tell us nice fluffy stories about his relationship with his parents, and that some old woman that was sitting at the table near him looked like his teacher.  It was quite disarming how he managed to work everyone up; he would address everyone collectively as 阿哥 阿姐 and he would rouse the group and pause and everyone would clap.  I’m not sure if people were actually enthusiastic or humouring him, it was probably both.  In particular, there was this one father who sat right in front of the boss who was very keen, and when the boss mentioned possibly expanding into Canada or Australia, the father offered to invest if he came to Sydney.

The time in the conference room with the boss was basically him working on our sympathies – giving the employee a pay rise, painting us as people he highly viewed and himself as one with strong filial piety and Chinese pride (he said he’d support China if we went to war with Japan over the Senkaku Islands…not that that’s a rare sympathy in China though…) – and trying to win our trust.

He then took us to one of the viewing rooms, while stopping along the way at one of the cabinets in the main room to award a piece of jade to the woman he said looked like his teacher, and then promised a same piece to everyone in the tour group.  One of the workers then protested that the jade costed 700 yuan each, to which the boss retorted that she couldn’t question the boss’ decisions.

In the viewing room, he soon works himself into a salesman’s manner, and like magic his Mandarin becomes incredibly fluent and accurate like he’s been born and raised in China.  He starts off by saying that he recommends we not buy from his store because everything is overpriced, yet later on gives everyone 90% off discounts and gives thorough descriptions and suggestions for his goods.  Most of the kids had gone to another room so they didn’t have to stand around and listen to the boss’ spiel; fifteen minutes in I was ready to leave (I stayed to prevent my mum making poor financial decisions) and as I made to leave the room, the boss (with a sheen of sweat on his forehead and spitting with every word) noticed and said that the people leaving were doing so because they had 问心有愧 (a guilty conscience).  That was pretty much the last straw for me, and I left to join the other kids because I couldn’t stand him anymore – it wasn’t that it was screaming scam to me (although his recipes with jade sounded ridiculous to say the least) but the atmosphere was akin to brainwashing and it was really uncomfortable.

Later on, as most of us drifted outside to get back on the bus, we realised the tour guide had dumped us there and left mysteriously, and that some adults were still in there, sucked in by the incredible bargains and the boss’ sweet words.  One woman, the wife of the enthusiastic man, was frantically calling him, worried that he’d spend all their money on jewellery.  Some kids came out with the free jade that the boss promised, and others ran in to get theirs, but I didn’t because that place gave me the creeps, and so would the free jade, real or not.

Anyway that’s the story and the store’s called Pu He I can’t remember the actual characters but if your parents ever take you on the Jiangnan tour and they drop you off at that place be on your guard and for heaven’s sake don’t get tempted to buy things there.

I have more things to say but it is midnight and I need to sleep off jet lag so nightio and I’ll edit this tomorrow.

bent bus ticket

by bezzle

I am a tardy blogger who never blogs on the day things happen.

On Thursday, xionks and I went shopping for books (him) and yarn(me).  We met at Carlo Court, with him half an hour later after getting up at 10:30 (when were supposed to meet) and catching the bus in the wrong direction.

I had a semi-longish post about the day but it is rather dry and boring so I’ll just recount the worthy bits.

We went inside the Dymocks but we didn’t buy anything so off to Parramatta for my yarn we went.  However the Lincraft there didn’t have my yarn and xionk didn’t find anything he wanted at the Dymocks either so we decided to get lunch and he convinced me to go city.

I found a can with a picture of Taeyang on it in the Chinese supermarket at Parra:

20121129_135542At the Dymocks building xionk mooched around the poetry section while I read the latest sequel of Wimpy Kid, and he eventually bought two books with our pooled money.  We ended up walking the long way to Chinatown (the loop that takes us past imax, I’m rather sure if we just followed down York St? we would have reached it much quicker) and passed a screaming mass of people and limos on the street that I figured were the ARIAs.  Which also explained all the people in various semi to formal clothing.

A fashion aside: is this only something I’ve noticed as I’ve become older and more aware, or does everyone wear the same clothes?  Also, chartreuse-wearers, there is a special circle in hell for you.

Back to our general derpage about the city, where we argued over the tram/lightrail, in which xionk had to stop by the lightrail stop and gesture at the words ‘lightrail’ (obviously ignoring the much larger ‘tram’ written there) which took up precious time as we would find out later on, in the following story which was the highlight of the day.

We entered Central with two minutes until our train, and made a mad dash for Platform 16.  The whistle was already blown, and the doors were closing, but xionk just managed to jump into the carriage.  Leaving me on the platform.  Luckily, within two minutes there was another train bound for Parra, so I got on that and we agreed to meet up at Redfern to catch the same train.

So I got off the train, and there was xionk standing at the top of the stairs, to which I wildly waved back because there was another Parramatta-bound train due in two minutes, which we caught smoothly, and it happened to be an express one too.  The wonders of three trains in five or so minutes – that was probably the pinnacle of success with CityRail.

Got off at Parra and my bus was waiting at the bus stop so it was another lucky hit with public transport so I ran for the bus and all was well.

Wow I write recounts in monotone, or at least that’s how the voice in my head reads it.

 

shooping

by bezzle

I went shopping on Saturday at DFO and got some clothes but more importantly there was a kitchenware sale with 60% off the marked price of all stock in the store!  So I dragged my mum in with me and I spent a gleeful half an hour trying to reason with myself not to buy everything.  I took horrible grainy photos of the things I got, which I thought were cheap at the time, but really are just decent and reasonable prices.  So it’s okay.

6 piece icing set ($4.00) – now I don’t have to be dodgy and ice all my cakes with a knife and a plastic bag of icing/cream!  I can reuse this syringe-y looking thing over and over again and it’s not a limp bag and I can control the flow of the icing and I’m excited to use it.  Also bonus spatula (I think we have a spatula lurking in the cutlery drawer somewhere.  Maybe.) and other nozzles.  Can’t wait to try making things look professional.

Cookie cutters ($2.60) – six cookie cutters, one edge being fluted and one edge being a straight cut (i.e. you can use both sides depending on whether you want fancy shaped biscuits or plain ones).  I’ve been either using a knife or a tumbler for cutting shapes, so this will be a much-needed set.  I sat in the car on the way back thinking this one was definitely a splurge, but hey if you put the price in perspective with other things it’s quite cheap.  It’s just six pieces of plastic in another plastic case, but I’m sure these will be very useful.

12.3cm large ramekin ($2.40) – there were so many pieces of china oven-to-tableware (like ramekins, little pie dishes, etc.) that I just had so much trouble deciding what to get.  Only earlier last week (on Wednesday) I had gone to Aldi solely for their ‘white-gold toned’ ramekins which are not the best quality but they look quite good and not different from any other ramekins, just cheaper.  So there were similar ramekins in this store, only a plain white, although there was a coloured set of five that was very cheap just not as cheap as Aldi.  There were also creme brulee pots (basically a ramekin but I associate them with creme brulee alone because I’ve never seen them used otherwise), pretty little red cherry pie dishes and oval ramekins and basically a stacked up table of I-want-some-of-everything.  Ended up getting one of the largest ramekins because then I can make my potato bake in it.  Not that my current potato-bake-dish isn’t good enough in any way, but I just desperately wanted to buy something off that table.

Here is a photo with the pie tin for comparison.

On a side note, I saw massive mugs that were basically flower vases with handles.  Showed them to mum and suggested she buy one for dad.  Because he used to have this 500mL mug and then one day the handle broke off so he couldn’t use it anymore.  He’s been happy with a Hot Dollar Christmas mug we got him, but heck I wanted to see him with that massive mug, if only just to laugh at its sheer size; it was at least 20cm tall.

20cm fluted pie tin  ($12.00) – as I went in the store I obviously had bakeware at the forefront of my mind, but the store only had the basic biscuit trays, cake pans and muffin pans.  And a ‘macaroon/whoopie pie’ tray with little round indents but I wasn’t going to waste money on getting that.  But, with some stroke of luck I found a loose-bottomed pie tin!  Not only was it something I needed, it had a loose base, meaning that I would be able to lift any pies/tarts/quiches out of the tin without having to scrape down the sides and making my life easier in general.  And it was fluted, of course.  Edit: I made a pie with this yesterday – post coming soon!

Set of 4 white-gold tone ramekins ($5.99) – by this point I am getting rather sick of typing ‘ramekins’ but this deserves a place in my post too.  This is the set of four I got from Aldi; I have yet to use them but yay for shiny things.  Obviously very cheap, but until something goes wrong when I use them, this was a good buy for me.

creme fraiche

by bezzle

On Thursday xionks and I went to the city for the UNSW Info Day but I was going to blog about on Thursday but I couldn’t be bothered so here is a post now.

Caught the train from Epping and there was a sizeable spider that was crawling up xionk’s shirt sleeve.  He promptly freaked out and flailed and unsuccessfully attempted to wipe it on a pole.  It went away eventually.

Went to Kinokuniya and Abbeys because xionk is xionk and has this active need to buy books but he didn’t buy any.

Then went to Woolworths, but there was no food I had to stop him from buying large boxes of chocolate.  I despair at his nonexistent sense of nutrition.

After a lot of faffing about we went to this Thai restaurant on that new boardwalk thing in Darling Harbour.  It looked really nice at night when I walked by it after formal and yeah the harbour is much prettier now!  Anyway I didn’t get anything because I already had lunch (we’d met at Epping at 2…something…) but xionk got curry so I just sat there sipping water like the rude person I am.  They advertised $5 snack dishes between 2-5pm; we plan to go there again for those heh.

Xionk got hegelnut gelato and while we were walking to Central we bumped into Anu and Bonnie.  I failed to jaywalk on the rare occasion that I tried, and we stopped by Emperor Garden for my pineapple bun.  They don’t seem as good anymore, they’re getting fluffier like all the other second-rate Asian bakeries I am sad.

Then came a stop at Market City and then the Chinese supermarket opposite because xionk wanted Calpis?  I can’t remember why.  He bought beef jerky and I ate some of it; it tastes better than the ones you buy in Woolworths?  Much less effort to chew and flakier, or perhaps it was the five spices.   Also I saw packets of haw biscuits the ones of my childhood and their packaging hasn’t changed except THE WHITE PAPER IS NOW GOLD so flashy!  Anyway it was 50c for a packet of ten little stacks or $1 for three packets and it was tempting but I couldn’t eat that many.  How does that work though?  You can either buy one, or in multiples of three because buying two packets or buying three packets cost exactly the same?  I am baffled behind the economics or perhaps the store just wanted to get rid of them (there was a whole box with many packets).

Caught the bus to UNSW and because I was standing I slammed into people behind me a few times (but they were gracious about it) and almost landed on top of a couple beside me and trampled on his foot quite a few times but they didn’t seem to notice.  Which was a good thing.

Arrived at UNSW at 5:30-ish and it looks nice half-empty with the avenue and the trees.  Walked up the seven flights of stairs, cursing every step of it.  Got lost because the venue required walking through buildings and it was basically  the furthest corner of the university relative to where we had gotten off the bus.

So while we were trekking our way through the university I remembered that we registered online for the thingo and I had only registered myself as my parents couldn’t be bothered to come and I only asked xionk to come two days earlier.  So I joked that he would be my step-father if anyone asked.  But while we were registering at the tables outside the woman just let us both in with my name, except xionk just hung back outside while I went in.  So I waved my arms wildly at him to get him to come inside tsk.

Swiped an engineering and a business booklet, and waited in line with xionk for the arts faculty table like the good friend I am.  It took forever, so I gave up and sat around and WOW THEIR SANDWICHES ARE SO TASTY I HAD FOUR AND THEY ALL HAD MEAT IT WAS GREAT and this weird creamy sauce stuff?  It was still really good.  Xionk needed to take some paracetamol so he stood around for five minutes trying to get some lemon water?  He made me try some to prove his point that there was barely any lemon in it; it tasted like someone squeezed one lemon, and then added several buckets of water.  “Water, with a hint of citrus.”

We went into the auditorium for some talks and stuff so xionk and I sat somewhat highly up and both stupidly failed to open up the arm table things.  At the beginning of the presentation the powerpoint slide said that there would be a “Q and A” session at the end so xionk said yesss qanda and I said pity I don’t think it’ll happen or something along those lines.  BUT…

After they went through all the speakers and topics, the host said “I’m going to channel Tony Jones now and start answering questions…”

Xionk and I both looked at each other with pleasant surprise and wow we were shocked.

But no one else seemed to react?  The night dragged on and soon people were leaving in dribs and drabs as the presentation was going for too long and it was getting late.  It eventually finished at almost 8 o’ clock and while we were leaving I snagged another of the leftover sandwiches because they were FANTABULOUSLY TASTY.

I later remarked to xionk that we should have clapped at the qanda reference but xionk said that we were probably too surprised, and he’s probably right.  It was the highlight of the night.