Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Supermodel Christmas

We haven't had a Christmas tree since the birth of the twins. Come to think of it, we didn't have a tree before the twins were born. We had a wreath, some Christmas runners and a big candle (which was the candle from our wedding) put into the middle of the wreath. All that was divine but it was all very adult. The first two Christmases the twins had were at their grandparents' house. Their grandparents did a great job, decorating the house with a tree, wreaths, candles, presents and festive cheer. Now that we're on our own, we decided (or rather I decided) that we would make a big deal out of Christmas and everything to do with it.

We've taken to playing Christmas carols in the car, reading them the Christmas story as well as decorating the house. Obviously, it's nothing like decorations that adorn some houses in the US but we had fun setting up everything, right from the get go. First we had to decide on whether we wanted a live tree or a fake one. The great thing about a live one would have been the scent of pine. Even when we were at the nursery, its scent was alluring and we were tempted.

Just walking through there, down the rows of fir trees made me feel like I was in a different country. Maybe it was the smell or the wet and cool artificial climate that had been created to keep the trees looking pretty and green, but it made me feel Christmassy although a little bit of snow and cold would have been nice. I know Christmas trees are cruel and environmentally unfriendly but they sure are pretty. And if we were to believe Phoebe in Friends, they have souls and shouldn't be killed.

What kept us from buying, apart from our consciences, was the knowledge that it would die and before it did, it would shed its needles like a cat shedding fur. So a fake tree it was and a relatively small one at that. We could have bought the 7 feet one that looked almost as real as the pine ones sans the shedding and the dying. But we had to remember that we had two young children whose fingers were extremely twitchy and destructive. Same thing went for the decorations. No point with pretty delicate ones that might shatter once Destructo and Destructee start bouncing them around.

Anyway, the twins had a wonderful time decorating the tree although we needed to re-decorate it after they'd gone to bed. We were pleased with the fact that they knew how to hang the ornaments onto the branches even if their idea of hanging them up were to hang EVERY single ornament on the same branch. Packrat did the honours and put the lights on. The Barbie on top of the tree is mine; the Sugar Plum Fairy Barbie that I was given the year I was involved in the Nutcracker Ballet. Since it was no longer in pristine condition and was worth naught, I decided that it would sit pretty on the top of the tree and be my contribution to our Christmas decor stash. If you look very carefully, there are also reindeers at the base of the tree which I fell in love with and had to buy. Of course, the twins have tried to ride it, feed it and constantly talk to it as if they were alive and their pets.

We didn't managed to totally avoid the siren song of the fir trees and ended up with a tiny table top one. Packrat really liked it and even though it was extremely pricey for that little tip of a tree, we bought it and I adorned it with apples and cinnamon sticks. It looks slightly pagan but sits pretty on our dining table and every morning, we walk into the dining area to the smell of pine and cinnamon. Divine.

So we're ready, decor wise for Christmas. The children know their Christmas songs and know that it is Jesus's birthday. The only thing we haven't done is actually to do our Christmas shopping. It's a little bit of a bummer to do without a bonus this year and whatever paltry extra we were going to get in lieu of a bonus is pro-rated for me, owing to the time off I took. Like I say, bummer.

But at least, I have a pretty home to come home to and it is very therapeutic to sit and watch the lights twinkle, although when the twins fiddle with the switches and it flashes really quickly, I think I'm going to have a seizure, which is usually my reaction to a lot of things they do, anyway.

A friend commented looked at the photos of the decoration and commented that it was going to be a Supermodel Christmas. Lean, thin but very pretty. That indeed. And at least we have the pretty.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 01:09

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fast Food Nation

Yet another sign of globalization, or rather Americanization in Singapore is the re-entry of Wendy's into Singapore. As a kid, I remember Wendy's being in town. There was also Hardee's and Denny's. They disappeared though. It just didn't work then. I suppose there wasn't enough wealth for Singaporeans at that point to support such a large fast food market. Anyway, Wendy's is back and apparently, there are 35 outlets in Singapore planned for the next 10 years.

Packrat loves anything that reminds him of the USA. It isn't so much that he is a sucker for anything American although he does seem to have a soft spot for all things American. So, when we saw a double-decker bus that had the Wendy's ad on it, he was determined to hunt it down.

Hunt it down we did. Last night.

And as I stated on my Facebook, I suffered much aggro trying to order my burger.

This is why. (I am going to compare it to Macs because Macs has the most consistent service around and generally they don't screw up your orders)

  1. It only had 2 counters. Thus the queues took forever, although there were other reasons why the queues took forever too. Read on.
  2. Unlike Macs, that takes your orders and it appears on a screen at the back for the staff to organise the order and the counter can get on with clearing the lines, at Wendy's, they take your order and it stays on the cashier's screen till it is serviced. This means, you and the counter staff spend some minutes staring blankly at one another trying to see who would flinch first.
  3. As a result of 2), I spent half an hour waiting in line with 5 people in front of me and the service staff staring blankly at us from behind the counter.
  4. I am so grateful to be the next up at the counter, I decide to try and help the counter staff. He asked the customer in front of me if he had 5 cents (all their meals end with 5 cents, so I suspect they were running out of 5 cent change). Since I had about 6 minutes on average to kill before it was my turn to order, I dug around in my wallet for a 5 cent coin. My order was $9.65. I gave the server $10.05. I was due to get 40 cents in change. Easy Peasy. But when I looked at my change, my brain could not compute. I got the right change. It was just a matter of the denominations the change came in. One 20 cent coin, One 10 cent coin and TWO 5 cent coins!
  5. The servers obviously did not pay attention when they were in kindergarten and were taught to fit the right size containers with the covers. I ordered a large drink. That should then mean that the cup should be capped by a large cover. But no, Mr Vapid, Blank Look Server had to go through the 2 smaller sizes before finding the shoe that fit.
  6. Repeating that I was taking away my order 3 times still led to my order being placed on a tray.
  7. Repeating that I wanted a Large sized combo with a Fanta Grape still led to my being asked if I wanted a Medium Coke 3 times.
  8. Each server, in a dark green shirt, was supervised by a guy in a light green shirt (assistant managers, I hear they are still hiring!), supervised by a guy in a black shirt who is supervised by ONE American dude who looks like he wants to fry up his whole staff because even though he announced loudly enough for me to hear, that there weren't any more baked spuds left, there were still orders being taken for them.
  9. With so many staff milling behind the counter, there were only two people preparing the burgers.
  10. Mr Vapid, Blank Look Counter Boy is told by Mr Black Shirt that he can take the next order while waiting for the previous order to be furnished. He proceeds to do so and puts all the food on the tray. Mr Black Shirt tells him he must collect payment before putting food on the tray. So he proceeds to take everything off the tray and put it back behind him on the warmers.
So, 10 reasons why I grew increasingly agitated and while I don't want to appear racist, my half an hour in the queue made me feel extremely Aryan and feeling that a Final Solution is sometimes justified (however politically incorrect and violating of human rights it is).

To make it worse, the large box of fries I ordered was only half filled, with fries that were over salted and smelt overwhelmingly of peanut oil. The burger, in all its square patty glory, was fair enough I guess and I can't quite comment on it because we ate it quite late.

All in, I'm not sure how it would ever make it here big if it is so inefficient. I felt like I was in a fast food joint in some back water Malaysian townlet rather than in the CBD in Singapore. Obviously, the staff needs to be trained more, the kitchen facilities need to be larger and better organised and at least have free wireless so people standing in the queue for extended periods of time can Facebook and Twitter as they wait. Or perhaps, that's why they don't or it would be splashed all over cyber space how wonderful the waiting game is.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 10:17

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Role Reversal

At some point, we all turn into our parents. I knew that would happen with regards to me having children. I had no idea that we would also turn into our parents and end up 'parenting' our parents and doing things for them that they did for us as children.

My mother turns 70 next Monday. In honour of that, my siblings and I are throwing her a big bash on Sunday. This has entailed us finding a suitable venue, looking up my mother's friends surreptitiously in her phone book, ringing them and organising them to show up. This has also entailed us sending out invitations, ordering cake, speaking to the banqueting staff a million times a day to ensure that everything is as planned.

We've also had to plan party entertainment. Videos, songs, all we're short of are party games.

Now that's where the difference lies. Party games for my mother's guests might entail some broken hips. We've also had to arrange for wheelchair access and permission for nurses to escort some of the guests. That's something our parents didn't really need to take into consideration when they were planning our parties. I spent a better part of last night in correspondence with the banquet manager and my cousin trying to map out the easiest way we could get my uncle, who is wheel chair bound from the car to the function room without having to encounter any stairs.

It was also meant to be a surprise party. But when the guests are somewhat geriatric, they tend to forget important facts that you tell them i.e. "DO NOT RING MY MOTHER AND ASK FOR DETAILS!", "PLEASE RING MY BROTHER OR MYSELF. DO NOT RING MY MOTHER!", "IT IS A SURPRISE PARTY, PLEASE DO NOT TELL MY MOTHER"

Even despite these repeated pleas, an uncle (not the same one) rings my mother and apologises profusely for not being able to attend her surprise birthday party! We put it down to his being 78 years old and regardless of how disappointed we are that the cat out of the bag, we've just had to plod along and plan the rest of it.

A friend of mine commented that she hates it now that she has to be a parent to her parents. Not because it's tiresome and a bother, which it can be, but because us needing to parent them reminds us of their fragility and the fact that they are indeed getting older. And anyone who is close to their parents, doesn't want to think about that because it leads to the inevitable which, in our minds is unthinkable.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 22:36

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" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"