Salt Lake City, Utah | Photo credit: Me!

Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame. I’ve smashed my thrice-a-week blog post resolution to bits, but wait! Hold off on the waste-throwing, because I made progress in a few other areas. It’s an uphill climb, my friends.

New Year Resolution Scores:

  1. To read the Bible for 10 minutes every day (3/5)
  2. To publish a blog post of at least 300 words, 3 times a week (0/5)
  3. To spend at least 10 minutes writing fiction every day (1/5)
  4. To take 1 great photo a week (2/5)
  5. To update Project Life once a week (5/5)

Out of the 8 weeks since my last post, I’ve read the Bible daily for at least 6 of them. I’m finally past the 100-day mark of my 365-day plan! I’m awarding myself a 3 out of 5.

I went off the ARFI grid completely, so that’s a big, fat zero for me. I didn’t write 10 minutes of fiction everyday, but I did write the second chapter of my thesis project (a 60,000-page novel), as well as two short stories for class. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it? Even if they’re for school. Jenna gets a 2 out of 5.

I spent a week in Salt Lake City (ski trip) and a week in Washington D.C. (writers’ conference), and I took a couple of great shots during those trips. Back in Philly, though, I reverted to hermit mode, living off the stockpile of meat in my freezer. So the only shots I took were of my husband and my beautiful Le Creuset. I’m awarding myself a two.

A Project Life spread from December 2016

Ah, resolution no. 5. My only perfect score. For the first time in my 2-year love affair with Project Life, I’m up to date. In case you haven’t heard of it, Project Life is scrapbooking made easy. It’s a photo journal that helps you, in Project Life’s own words, “Cultivate a Good Life and Record It.” I’m a huge fan.

For more information on Project Life, watch the video below. You can get them in Malaysia from this website. I use an Epson Picturemate 310 to print my photos at home. They turn out better than if you print them at a shop, and fit perfectly in Project Life’s photo slots.

In Other News

I caught a bad flu after being exposed to a freezing day in Washington D.C., which resulted in my missing most of the conference I had travelled there for, and a topsy-turvy sleep schedule (because I was in bed all day). For almost two weeks after my return to Philly, I was running on Malaysian time—falling asleep at 9am, and getting up at 5pm. While this facilitated my catching-up with friends back home, I started to miss the sun. On Sunday, I took advantage of a short story deadline to stay up for 24 hours, crashed, and was finally able to get up when the sun did. Now I get up at 5 am and crash at 6pm. Better, but not ideal. Hopefully, by the next time I post, I’ll have gotten back to my 3am-11am sleep pattern.

What else? As I mentioned two months ago (shame, shame), I recently took up photography, and I’m loving it! I bought Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure”, which really helped me understand the basic ISO/aperture/shutter speed trio of previously daunting photography terms, then registered for a free online digital photography course on alison.com (the course has since been taken down). Once I understood the basics, my DSLR (a Nikon D7100) became my new best friend. I’ve always envied friends who are able to draw/paint/design (I suck at drawing. Like, really suck), and photography has opened the door for me to be an artist, too.

Writing is a form of art, but it’s much less spontaneous and much harder to do well. Plus it’s harder to get your friends to read your stories than to look at your photos.  On the other hand, writing is free. The cost of new glass (that’s fancy photography-speak for lenses) is insane. INSANE.

You’re all caught up now. Two months covered in one blog post. Boy, I need to start living it up if I’m to blog three times a week.

Thanks for checking in, guys.


A Day in the Life Of

The view from my favourite spot on the couch

As I write this, the smell of beef and tomatoes simmering in their own juices fills my apartment. For the perfect Italian ragu (bolognese meat sauce), Marcella Hazan writes in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking:

  1. The meat should not be from too lean a cut; the more marbled it is, the sweeter the ragu will be
  2. Add salt immediately when sautéing the meat to extract its juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce
  3. Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect it from the acidic bite of the latter
  4. Use a pot that retains heat…enameled cast-iron pans (can you say Le Creuset?) or a pot whose heavy bottom is composed of layers of steel alloys are fully satisfactory

And the clincher:

5. Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than 3 hours is necessary, more is better

No less than 3 hours, which is why I’m sitting here, blogging at half past midnight with a growling stomach, as my apartment smells more and more delicious.

To distract myself from the hunger pangs, let me tell you about my day. Today was an especially good day to blog about, because I didn’t waste it on (much) Netflix. I wish I could tell you that today was a typical day. Pretend with me that these sorts of days happen more often than the ones where I binge-watch TV shows, a’rite?

I woke up at 11am and shopped around for casserole dishes on Amazon. There’s a pot luck at one of hubby’s classmate’s houses this Thursday, and I’m going to bring my tried-and-tested lasagna. After I bought a set of buttercup-yellow dishes (to match my beloved KitchenAid, with whom I will be reunited in 18 months, God-willing), I actually got out of bed, and lugged my set of Long Earth books + Eragon back to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

I spent an hour browsing the books, trying to make myself borrow something that might improve my craft rather than just going for my favourite authors, and ended up with:

The Birthday of the World and Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guinn
Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle Book 2) by Christopher Paolini

…Not so Useful?
The Shopaholic series books 1-8 by Sophie Kinsella
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Ursula K. Le Guinn is a pretty renowned author of fantasy books, so there’s lots to learn from her. The thing is, I remember reading one of her books as a teen and not liking it. I also don’t like short stories. Her book’s going to be work.

The Inheritance Cycle‘s going to be work as well. Eragon fans, I’m sorry! I liked the first book so little when it came out in 2002 that I never progressed to the second, but I’m giving it another go. I’m going to persevere through the third and fourth as well, because Paolini was only 17 when Eragon was published, and Hollywood made a movie based on his book, and what author doesn’t want that kind of moolah? So I’ll persevere. (By that logic, I should really be re-reading Twilight, but I really, really don’t want to).

The Sophie Kinsella books are going to be my candy.

I  lugged twelve books back home, then I did my homework while watching Sex and the City.  I’m 18 years too late, but I want to see what the fuss is about.

The ragu turned out great! Can you smell that? This is now my favourite bolognese recipe.

Fusili bolognese served with freshly-grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

So let’s see — I went to the library, did my homework, cooked dinner for my husband, and to cap it off,

I blogged!

Now I can crack open Rick Riordan’s latest book, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 2: The Hammer of Thor with a clear conscience. I love it when I’ve been productive.

As always, thanks for checking in on me, and remember — when life gets hard,

There’s ARFI.


Labrador Butts & Other Things

3 weeks in a nutshell — Netflix, reading, baking, cooking

“It’s been 20 days since your post ‘Sky’ was published”.

Holy moly! I feel really, really guilty about this. Since this blog is about cultivating some discipline as a writer, the fact that I haven’t written a post for nearly 3 weeks is a personal failure. My goal is to blog at least twice a week, so 20 days is bad. Real bad.

I don’t have a good reason for my neglect. One episode of Gilmore Girls led to another, one episode of Downton Abbey led to another, and before I could blink September was almost over. Curse you, yellow labrador butt!

Besides watching a ton of Netflix (New Girl, The Office — again! —, Jane the Virgin, Chef’s Table…the list, to my shame, goes on and on), I’ve also been caught up in Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter’s The Long Earth series. I discovered the books in the Free Library of Philadelphia, which is just 700m away from home. If you’re a resident of Philly, membership is free and you get to borrow up to fifty books at a time, for 3 weeks at a time, and you can extend your loan period up to ten times. Yep. Fifty. This is fantastic!

The Long Earth was part of my haul, and I’m really happy I borrowed them. The books are about the discovery that there are an infinite set of Earths that humans can Step to. These Earths aren’t alternate realities, they’re distinct Earths that have experienced different cosmological events, which have affected the evolution of their life forms. Recently, humans have developed the technology to Step to these other Earths, and we follow a few characters as they explore these different iterations of our planet.

Writer’s Rant

One of the more useful things I’ve been up to instead of blogging is working on my punctuation with Eats, Shoots & Leaves.  English is my first language (no kidding, banana!), so I breezed through English at school without having to really study punctuation and grammar. I get really frustrated when I’m reviewing some one else’s work and I know the grammar is wrong but I don’t have the vocabulary chops to explain why.

It’s also pretty horrifying to discover I’ve been doing some things wrong my whole life, like using hyphens instead of em dashes and single quotation marks instead of double quotations marks. To this day, I’m still not clear on the use of “who” vs “whom”, “than me” vs “than I” (e.g. you know more than me/I). Recently, my professor pointed out that the “duchess’ daughters” in a recent story I wrote really should have been the “duchess’s daughters”. I won’t go into specifics, but an illustration of why this particular use of the apostrophe is not simple is the fact that “Jesus’ disciples”and “Achiles’s heel” are both correct, but “Jesus’s disciples” and “Achiles’ heel” are…less correct.

This kind of thing makes me wonder if I can ever purge all the errors I must have accumulated over the years from my writing.

While I’m on the subject, a friend made a comment that really stuck in my craw. When this friend heard I was going to do a masters in creative writing, he/she responded with an incredulous “Do you really need to study to become a writer? Don’t you just need a great idea?” I was speechless. So much more goes into the writing of a great book than a great idea.

In his seminal work, The Art of Fiction, John Gardner writes, “No one can hope to write well if he has not mastered — absolutely mastered — the rudiments: grammar and syntax, punctuation, diction, sentence variety, paragraph structure, and so forth.” From where I’m standing, this seems a substantial task,  and it’s only the first step towards becoming a good writer.

You need to build an extensive vocabulary in order to write scenes that are vivid and believable. You need to study and master the use of plot arcs and narrative voice, character development and themes, suspense and poetic rhythm.

Consider, for example, the way these sentences (from The Art of Fiction) have a different rhythm and emphasis when you read them aloud:

  1. Tammy was a damn fool
  2. Tammy shot a damn fool
  3. Bill Jones shot a damn fool
  4. Bill Jones shot two damn fools

Great writers work painstakingly not only to get the big things right (the “great idea”) but the little things right as well, working over every syllable until their masterpiece sounds just right.

My friend’s question left me speechless because it implied that writing is easy; it’s anything but! Especially if you want to write something even half-decent.

The more I learn, the more I realise how much work lies ahead of me. Maybe I’ll never write anything even remotely as good as The Wind in the Willows, but a girl’s gotta dream.

Coming Soon


In pursuit of that dream (and a result of my blog-neglect guilt), I’m planning to kick off a project this week. I have short story due on Sunday (Oct 2), and I thought I’d work on it every day this week, on my blog. The exercise will hopefully make me a more consistent writer, since my previous three short stories were the results of last-minute all-nighters.

Once that’s done, I’m going to aim even higher and kick off Fiction Friday, which is a challenge to myself to blog a thousand words of fiction a week.

Wish me luck!




1st anniversary @ Bukit Tinggi (2010)

Have you ever dreamt a dream so bad that you were bummed out the entire morning? In your dream, a parent has died, or you relive a break-up, or it’s the morning of your pre-u chemistry test and you’re running late.

Last night, I dreamt a real doozy. In the dream, hubby broke off our engagement because I had lied to him about something, and before I could bring myself to believe that our relationship of five years was over, he found someone else.

It was horrible. Everything moved in slow motion. I couldn’t believe that a lie had caused this; it wasn’t even a big one. I remember going over our entire relationship in my head, picking out all the Hubbies in happy moments, and kind moments, and loving moments, and comparing them to the Hubby who had just broken up with me. How could a person change overnight?

How can someone just stop loving you?

I sought closure — Hubby wouldn’t give it to me. I sought forgiveness — Hubby told me that trust, once lost, could never be recovered. Anyway, he was with someone else now and really shouldn’t be talking to me.

I obsessed over the past. Memories of our courtship, our meals, our trips, and our days in the Christian Fellowship all marched past my mind’s eye, and because this was a dream taking place in the past, memories of what could have been followed suit. I watched as our wedding day, and honeymoon, and family dinners, and moving into the new house — every precious, mundane moment — shimmer out of existence, ghosts of futures past.

I woke up devastated.

It took me a few minutes to realise that it was just a dream.

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking about all the ways my life would be different if hubby and I had, at any point in our five-and-a-half year courtship, decided to break up. It wasn’t the big, surface things that came to mind, like “I probably wouldn’t be in the U.S. now”.  The first thing I thought about was the fact that if we had broken up, I wouldn’t have the exclusive family pass I have to [insert Hubby’s last name] family gatherings.

I wouldn’t have gotten to hold my little niece on her first day in this world, or watch her learn to use a fork (she’s a genius). I wouldn’t have gotten to know my sister-in-law better, or be there for important family announcements of engagements, promotions, new jobs.

I got up and looked for Hubby, who was in the living room, and made him hug me for a really long time.

About a month ago, I had dinner with a few people I had just met. Upon discovering that I was recently married, one unmarried guy asked me how married life was different from when we were just boyfriend and girlfriend.

I rummaged through my head for an answer, and the best I could come up with was that I could have my best friend around all the time.

So cliché lah Jenna.

Ya, I know.

It’s bothered me that I didn’t give him a better answer. I felt that I did a poor job advertising marriage, because it struck me as the words were coming out of my mouth that if you have a live-in partner, then my answer sucked.

Unmarried guy, I wish I had told you this instead:

I think your married life can only differ significantly from your pre-marriage life if you don’t believe in the concept of divorce. If you keep the option of divorce on some back shelf in the storeroom of your mind, then your married life won’t really be different from when you moved in with your partner.

Knowing that Hubby promised to take me to be his wife,

to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.

and knowing that he meant it — there’s no room for divorce in the marriage vow — gives me a security and a feeling of being loved that nothing before marriage could have given me.

When we were dating, there were a few times when things were hard, and I toyed with the idea of breaking up. It didn’t happen very often, but sometimes I would imagine an alternate reality, where I was single and could try out that Tinder thing all my friends were talking about.

The option of breaking up gave me a sense of relief when things were bad, because I knew I had an exit, but it also meant that Hubby had an exit as well. What if he decided that one of his colleagues/church-mates/schoolmates/Facebook friends was a better fit for him?

What if he meets someone who’s prettier/skinnier/more ambitious or — God forbid — smarter than me?

He has, but he’s stuck with me.

And that’s the beauty of marriage.

Soundtrack moments are rare, but this morning’s awakening could have been perfectly accompanied by this song, which I share with you because how often does a song perfectly describe a moment you’re living in?

Lean back, close your eyes, open your eyes to click the play button, then close your eyes again and prepare to fully identify with the feelings I had this morning:

If this makes you emo, remember —

There’s ARFI.


28 and Counting

I turned 28 last Saturday, and this is how I spent it:

Hubby and I toast my birthday with glasses of Mike’s Hard Lemonade

I open the package that’s been sitting on the living room floor for the past few days. What can it be? What can it be?! It’s … every housewife’s dream dutch oven, the KitchenAid of dutch ovens, Julia Child’s dutch oven, the dutch oven you see in stock photos of dutch ovens (the way the KA Artisan is the stock photo stand mixer)…yes, yes, you guessed it! Hubby gave me the green light to get…


THE LE CREUSET DUTCH OVEN! Isn’t it bee-yew-tiful? Oh, Le Creuset, I am not worthy to use you in the kitchen, but I’ll try to be. I could go on and on about the Le Creuset, but suffice it to say that there have been anecdotes about siblings arguing over who would inherit their mother’s LC. My children won’t have that problem; I’m taking mine to the grave. Better still (I don’t want to take up so much land),  I’ll ask hubby to cremate me and store my ashes in it.

My hubby spoils me. I like it.


I wash the Le Creuset. I dry the Le Creuset. I place it lovingly on its throne upon my stove. I kiss it good night.


Hubby and I set up house, him assembling our IKEA dining table, and I washing and putting away our stacks of IKEA dishes and cutlery.


Exhausted, we fall asleep.


We wake up, go down to the lobby, and watch the Olympics badminton men’s singles match. You know how that went. You felt what I felt. And, like me, you still think Lee Chong Wei is a hero. Malaysia boleh!


We had lunch at Shake Shack, and because it was my birthday I got a milkshake and a ShakeStack (“Cheeseburger and a ’Shroom Burger topped with lettuce, tomato, ShackSauce™”). On ordinary days the budget doesn’t allow for a milkshake, and I have to choose between a cheeseburger and a ‘shroom burger.


Hubby had planned to bring me to a museum, but a nap sounded even better. So we napped. When it’s your birthday you get to decide what to do, so we ended up having a really lovely nap.


Refreshed, we went out for dinner at Tria Cafe, which serves absolutely scrumptious food. We had

  • chicken liver mousse
  • apple tree goat cheese with basil pesto
  • claudio mozzarella sandwich
  • flourless chocolate torta


Finally, we walked over to the Kimmel Center to watch Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly’s live comedy show, “Summer of 69: No Apostrophe”. It was funny in parts, too vulgar in parts, draggy in parts. I give it a 6/10.



We caught Pokemon on the way home, then spent the last two hours of my birthday surfing the net on our phones.


The end.

By the way…

Thanks for checking in on me! It’s nice to see views from all over the world, and be able to pinpoint some of you. I’d like to shout out to Elena in Japan, Jason in Germany (am I right, is that you Jason?), Kuharnesh and Kenneth in the UK, and all my friends back home.

You guys are the best, you make me feel loved.



Kitchen Capers

Produce aisle, here I come!

The past week of silence is due to the fact that I was at my first residency — I’m officially a grad student now! It was a dense experience, so I’ll save that for another post. But let me just point out that I used an em dash in that first sentence, not a hyphen. I’ve been doing it wrong all my life, so hey! I’m improving already. (Technically I shouldn’t be using bold for emphasis, and that exclamation mark was probably unnecessary, but this is a blog called “always room for ice cream”, so you know I’m not taking this too seriously.)


Today’s post is just me rejoicing over the fact that now the residency’s over and I have more free time, I can finally get down to equipping my kitchen. Aww yesss. In a week we won’t be eating microwave meals and hamburgers and American-ised Asian food, in a week we’ll be able to sit down to a home-cooked Chinese meal, complete with fluffy rice straight out of the rice cooker and vegetables drizzled over with soy sauce. To celebrate, I’m going to use one of my few precious packets of bak kut teh herbs, and I’ll probably also go to that Thai stall I saw in Reading Terminal Market and stock up on some tom yum ingredients. I can’t wait. I’ve got a much more Western tummy than hubby, but even I am starting to feel rice deprivation.

After some light research — thank God for review sites like The Sweethome and cooking guides like The Kitchn and Epicurious — and with an eye always on my budget, here’s a list of my must-haves when setting up kitchen in a small apartment.

Unlike when I was back home, I’m equipping this kitchen with an emphasis on home cooking rather than baking (which I love). Which is why you’re not going to see a KitchenAid stand mixer on this list, though believe me I’m crying inside.

Jenna’s 10 Kitchen Essentials

  1. Chef’s knife
  2. Paring knife
  3. Serrated knife
  4. Wooden chopping blocks (1 for meat, one for produce)
  5. Cast iron Dutch oven
  6. Set of stainless steel pots and pans
  7. Food processor
  8. Baking sheet x 2
  9. Rice cooker
  10. Coffeemaker

If you want to see which ones I picked out, you can check out my Amazon Philly list here. None of the choices were made lightly. Having a budget makes you really consider the value-for-money of the items you’re buying. Every item was chosen after visiting a couple of different review sites as well as a quick read- through of the Amazon customer reviews.

Since I intend to bring most of the items home, I was trying to balance quality with price. So the items on the list aren’t the cheapest ones out there, but neither are they the most expensive ones on the market.

Talk to me:

  1. Did I leave anything out of my kitchen essentials list? Is there a product you think is better than the one I picked?
  2. French Press vs Coffeemaker: Thoughts?

Tell me what you think in the comments section!

Have a great weekend, and remember — there’s ARFI.


Mainly Concerned w/ Eats

An evening walk to Fountain Porter
Friday night was date night with hubby, so we decided to take a walk to Fountain Porter, a bar we’d discovered to have amazing cheeseburgers on a previous trip to Philly. What better evidence of great weather can there be, than that us couch potatoes decided to walk the 1.8 miles (that’s American for 3 kilometers) to the bar? Turns out going for an evening walk is a great date activity, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Mobile phones stay in pockets, there’s lots to see, and you work up an appetite for dinner. We walked along the Boulevard of the Arts, which is lined with theatres and houses the University of the Arts. Maybe we’ll catch a show there some day.

Children at play among the water jets outside City Hall; also, a bridal shoot!
Saturday marked my first time on the trolley (American for an underground KTM, not to be confused with a shopping cart). We took it two stops away to get to City Hall, and my brief experience of the trolley’s sights and smells has me thinking that  I’ll be doing a lot of walking here. Hubby doesn’t think it too bad, so maybe I’m being too much of a princess. It’s been a long time since I’ve used public transport.

Reading Terminal Market
We had lunch at Reading Terminal Market, a must-see for anyone visiting Philly. The Market is a sprawling indoor market filled with fresh meat, produce and gourmet cheese vendors, as well as a smorgasbord of food stalls. There’s Peking duck, Thai cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, Cajun food, oysters…the list goes on and on. There were two stores with extremely long lines which I plan to check out on a weekday when there will hopefully be less of a crowd. One was Bassetts Ice Cream, which is apparently America’s oldest ice cream company, and the other was Beiler’s Donuts and Salads. Ice cream and donuts – my two favourite things!

For this trip, we had gumbo and fried mac and cheese at Beck’s Cajun Cafe, followed by oysters at Pearl’s Oyster Bar. The gumbo was good, while the fried m. & c.tasted like TGIF’s i.e. nice, but nothing special. The oysters were alright, but pricey at 3$ a pop. I know it’s a bit early for me to be making food recommendations, but if you’re ever here (and I hope you are, and if I know you I hope we meet up), Stateside in South Philly has delicious 1$ oysters during happy hour (5-7pm).

I got a couple of cookies from Famous 4th St. Cookie Co. (I’m a sucker for places with the word ‘Famous’ in their names), but I probably won’t again.

We wrapped up with a take-away 9.50$ chicken pot pie from Molly Malloy‘s, which they very helpfully prepared for heating up in the oven by separating the crust from the filling. It was delicious – creamy sauce, tender meat, and crispy crust – and enough for the two of us, so I think I’ll be buying a few to keep in the freezer for lazy days. The chef cut a smiley face into the crust for us, which was a nice touch.

The pot pie was a great way to end a day of exploration. Look how happy hubby is.

A nightlight-lit dinner on our nifty Amazon dining table
That’s all for now, folks. Have a great week, and remember,

There’s ARFI!



I’ve Been Capped!

With a couple of free days on my hands till classes start next week, I was prepared to spend lots of time in Downton Abbey (courtesy of Amazon Prime Video), comfortably sprawled out on the only piece of furniture we currently own – the bed.

The best laid plans

Alas, it was not to be. I was barely past the intro of Season 2’s first episode when the unthinkable happened – I ran out of data. Watching videos doesn’t eat up my quota, but once I’ve used 6GB browsing and Skyping (Skype was the main culprit here – I completely overlooked the fact that Skype eats data, I used it like I was using the phone), my Internet speed is capped and becomes too sluggish to stream videos.

The sudden loss of a modern housewife’s best friend had me getting out of bed, taking a shower, and loading the washing machine. With nothing left to do, I put on my Converse shoes, grabbed my sunglasses and shoulder bag, and went for a walk…

…to T-Mobile. Where I learnt there was nothing I could do get my high-speed Internet back except wait till the next billing cycle.

So I decided to really go for walk. It was a lovely afternoon, and there were lots of people strolling along the streets, shopping and eating and talking on their phones. People don’t really jay-walk here, but then drivers respect zebra crossings.

After wandering around aimlessly for a while, I decided to conclude my walk with a visit to Trader Joe’s. It’s a good thing we’re currently only capable of microwaving food, because there were lots of ingredients pleading with me to buy them. I told them that their time would come, and headed over to microwave meals. Trader Joe’s has an amazing Asian microwave meals section. According to one of the TJ workers, who came up to me when he saw me scrutinising a packet of Trader Ming’s Chinese Style Pork Buns (3.99$ for 4), the Asian section is their most popular section.

“Do you need help?”

“Oh no, thanks…I’m just amazed that you have these!”

“Let me see, I don’t actually know what these are. How do you cook them?”

“Huh? Um well at home we steam them…”

“Oh so they’re like dumplings!”

“Uh. Yeah.”

I put the packet of char siew baos in my cart, next to the bibimbap and wan tan soup, and rolled away.

I’m back at the apartment. I’ve put the groceries away and folded the clothes.

I’ve blogged.

I’m going to go down to the lobby and see if their wifi can handle Downton Abbey.

If not, well, I guess I could read a book and have some Ben & Jerry’s. I’ve had some leftover pizza, but, well –

There’s ARFI.



Mental Math

First Grocery Haul @ Trader Joe’s

The first few days in Philly went by in a whirl of errands – setting up our bank accounts, selecting the best mobile plans, buying a mattress. The weather on the day we arrived was sunny (though the next four days of drizzling rain showed that it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia), and the low humidity makes walking a breeze.

The people here are pretty friendly, and getting smiles and greetings of ‘How are you doing today?’  from everyone from the doorman to the cashier takes some getting used to.

Unfortunately, tipping also takes some getting used to. Confession: I didn’t tip the mattress delivery guys from Mattress Factory; sorry mattress guys! I wasn’t thinking. Hubby told me to wrap my mind around the idea that everything we buy has the hidden cost of a tip. I’m too Chinese to give tips without a pang and not Chinese enough to not feel bad about not giving any. Give me service tax any day.

I’m too Chinese to give tips without a pang and not Chinese enough to not feel bad about not giving any

Shopping here has me doing a lot of mental math. With the exchange rate being what it is (1 USD = 4.04 MYR), buying a 80$ top that’s 60% off has me running this calculation through my head: [80$ – (8×6)] x 4 = RM128. A day of clothes shopping and grocery store browsing (hello, Trader Joe’s) has me forming the general conclusion that clothes cost about the same as they do at home, while produce and prepackaged food cost maybe RM2-3 cheaper per item.

Eating out here is expensive. Restaurants which are supposed to be on the cheaper end here still have you forking out about 12$/meal, which gives you some insight into why microwave meals and fast food has so much appeal here. Hubby and I had a happy rummage in TJ’s 4$ microwave meal (for 2 pax!) section.

I can’t wait for my kitchen to equipped. Our apartment is unfurnished, so I’ve been having a great time shopping for cookware on Amazon. Until the cookware arrives, it’s going to be eating out and microwave meals for us (ka-ching ka-ching!).

Cost-calculating aside, I really like it here. I thought I’d be dealing with homesickness for at least a month, but instead I’ve found a bunch of things that had me saying ‘I love America!’:

  1. Amazon Prime Free Two-Day/Same Day Shipping
  2. 2 pints of Ben & Jerry’s cost 6$
  3. The Apple Store gave me a brand new phone when they couldn’t fix the screen of my old one
  4. Everyone speaks English
  5. T-Mobile’s ‘Binge On’ offering that lets you stream unlimited Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, etc. without taking a byte of your data

Have a great day, guys! And remember:

There’s ARFI.