Archive | July, 2011

Quotable Edison

31 Jul

This is an excellent quote!  I love this because it bolsters my can-do attitude!

“When you have exhausted all possibilities,
remember this: you haven’t. ”
~Thomas Alva Edison

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Goodbye Harry!

30 Jul

We watched the last, ever, installment of Harry Potter today.  And I am not ashamed to say that I bawled my way through the movie (and I was not alone, there were quite a few audible sniffles in that movie theatre, let me tell you!).

I was looking forward to so many scenes, but my favourite was the showdown between motherly Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange!  And let me tell you, Julie Walters and Helena Bonham Carter did not disappoint!

Now I can sit here and pick at the movie to bits, but I won’t.  It is the end of an age.  And I will treat it with the respect that it deserves.

Goodbye Harry Potter!  Your name will be remembered for ever (and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever…)!

Broken

29 Jul

Taken on my first ever visit to the British Museum, this is one side of the Elgin Marbles.

The Elgin Marbles, British Museum

Pet Peeve: Bike On Train

28 Jul

Right.  I’m all for green travelling.  I admire the people who bike to work.  They ride their bikes to the station and get on the train and bike to work from the train station.  It’s a great way to lessen one’s carbon footprint and it’s an even better way to keep fit (you probably just have to have a shower room at work if you sweat a lot!).

Most people who bring their bikes are considerate about other passengers.  They make sure their bikes are stored where they can’t inconvenience other commuters.  They make sure their bikes aren’t safety hazards and are stored securely so there isn’t a risk of them-the bikes-toppling over.  If they can’t make sure the bikes are secure, they stand by their bikes and hold them.

But not this person on the train home today.  He parked his bike in the middle of the aisle.  I’ve been trying to find the dimensions of the aisles on a British Rail Class 360 trains that National Express East Anglia use but couldn’t really find the information.  It just made me really irritated (it was really the last thing I needed at the end of a really long and really difficult day, really!).  He blocked in a man who was sitting across the aisle from me and didn’t even ask the man if it was okay to put the bike there.  He-the bike owner-kept saying that if he secured his bike by the doors (which have more space!) the bike would fall down and he didn’t want his bike to fall down.  Well, he probably thought he’d rather risk the bike falling on me, as I was seated across from where the handle bars were!  Funny that he’d rather risk a lawsuit, hey?

Some people.  Really.  Some people!

Mind you, the bike being where it was would’ve been hard to miss on CCTV.  Did the guard on the train do anything?  Of course not.  But he was certainly around to check tickets.

1 Year to go!

27 Jul

 

 

1 year to go till the 2012 Summer Olympics in London! 🙂

Service is as service does!

26 Jul

I think when you come from a customer service background, you’re quicker to spot customer service booboos and shortcomings.  I’m a firm believer that the way customers are treated make the restaurant.  It’s mostly the staff and how the staff treat their patrons that tips the balance.  I have places that I love that may not necessarily be the best places to eat, but because the service is amazing and, when I go there, I feel important and valued (no matter how much my tab is and no matter how much of a tip I leave), it’s on my list of great places to have a meal at.  During my recent London sojourn I ate at 2 different Chinese restaurants and let me just say that one restaurant offered stellar service while the other one has been tossed into my “do not visit ever again” pile.

A Tale of Two Restaurants

HK Diner, Chinatown, London
After I’d done my whistle stop pilgrimage to the Methodist Museum (it was after 5pm, so naturally, the museum was closed and all I had was a measly 7 snapshots!) it was decided that we’d go to Chinatown for dinner.  I’d been looking forward to dinner for a long time because it had been decided AGES ago that dinner would be at Tai Ka Lok.

HK Diner, Chinatown, LondonHaving dinner at Tai Ka Lok is like having dinner at your Chinese aunt’s place (I’m not Chinese, but in my head having a meal at Tai Ka Lok would be like having a meal at one’s Chinese aunt–stereotyping, I know!  Tres guilty!).  It’s very pared down and very simple.  You get the menu, you get the free soup as an appetiser, they bring you your food, you eat (of course after you finish eating, you pay!).  The roasted meats are amazing (my absolute favourite is the crispy pork but their version of the pork mapo tofu is amazing too!) and you can see that a lot of people like eating at Tai Ka Lok because the table turnover is hard and fast (mind you, even though the table turnover is quick, you never really feel that you’re being rushed through your meal and I feel that’s a sign of great customer service!).

But, I digress!  Anyway, there we were walking towards Tai Ka Lok when we noticed the front window was papered with…well, newspaper.  Apparently, the restaurant was being refurbished so they said to go to another restaurant.  One of the suggestions was HK Diner.  So off we went to HK Diner.

I’d pooh-poohed HK Diner for such a long time because I didn’t really think it was going to be as good as my Chinatown favourites Tai Ka Lok and New World (dimsum on trolleys! YUM!).  But as we were hungry and the other option wasn’t something we wanted to try (and it was very forgettable as I can’t remember the name now!), we decided to risk HK Diner.  If it was a bad experience, we’d just never come back.  But surprise, surprise!  The place was light, airy and somehow comforting.  We were shown into a huge booth and were handed menus.  The chinese tea came right away, steaming hot, and after we’d placed our orders, the food came shortly after!  The service was quick and the staff were very friendly and helpful.  I loved the fact that they asked us if everything was okay and if we needed anything else (mind you, in hindsight, it might’ve been their way of hurrying us along, but at the time we were none the wiser and it didn’t feel like we were being prodded along).

Also, and this was my favourite bit, when we asked for the leftover food to be wrapped up they gave us chopsticks!  They gave us the generic packet that has a plastic soup spoon, chopsticks and a paper napkin.  Mind you, it doesn’t take a long time to plonk that into a bag, but the thought process behind that take home packet of utensils was what I admired.  Now that is service!

Hung Tao, Queensway, London
I had high hopes for this place.  It looked clean, and airy and the food hanging by the window looked well-cooked (I’m a sucker for crispy duck!).

It was clean and airy.  But that’s where my commendations stop.  We were greeted in a hurried fashion and led to a table, with menus placed on the table unceremoniously.  I wasn’t alarmed then because, really, you were in, you were made to sit, and you were given a menu to peruse, you were given food, you ate, you paid, you were out.  That was fine.  Nothing unusual.

I made a point of asking for a pot of Chinese tea as I was removing my coat.  I was thirsty and it was a bit chilly outside as it was just starting to rain.  It was a good thing I ordered the tea because it took them ages to take our order.

After looking at the menu, we’d decided to each get a rice plate with our choice of meats.  After ages trying to catch they eye of waitstaff (after seeing people who arrived after we did get served first!), I guess they finally took pity and came to take our orders.  I still wasn’t disappointed at this point.  But the seeds of doubt about the service came when the girl, with pen poised over pad, took note of our choices.

I chose the roasted two combination with rice, which was a plate of rice (it was a huge plate of rice that my brother would’ve devoured I think!) and your choice of roasted meat (I think you can choose from crispy duck, soy chicken, char siu pork and crispy pork).  I was waiting for her to ask me which roasted meats I wanted but she didn’t.  So I had to ask her to make sure I had crispy duck and soy chicken.  She looked at me with this little frown on her face.  I guess she expected me to get crispy pork and duck—or whatever was the popular choice.  The frown was still there as she wrote down my choice.  To go with our rice plates, we asked to have stirfried vegetables.

And then the waiting continued.  It took them about 25 minutes to get our orders and it took them nearly twice as long to bring our food.  It wasn’t until I noticed that people who had arrived before we did were served first and were given their orders first that I started feeling little niggles of irritation.  What was up with that?!?  And to add insult to injury, the meats arrived cold, my duck had bones with tiny little shards of shattered duck bone everywhere.  I thought the duck was deboned before you got served it?

There was a couple who were seated beside us who looked at the food we got when it arrived.  They asked us what we ordered and we described it.  When a member of staff came to take their orders it was so painful to hear and watch.  There was a language barrier, definitely.  But with the customer pointing to what they wanted and the member of staff insisting they wanted something else, it was all I could do to stop myself from getting involved.  They finally got their orders, but I don’t know if they really got what they ordered because by the time we’d finished and paid our tab, their food hadn’t arrived yet.

The food was good, albeit being cold (I guess they expected the rice to warm it up.  Didn’t happen, buddy!) and I was happy with the flavours.  But it really was the service that ruined the experience for me.  The waitstaff seemed to have a system of prioritising customers which I couldn’t understand.  I’m not asking to be waited on hand and foot.  But nearly and hour of waiting to be fed is not funny.

Nuff said.

 

Photo credits:

HK Diner – RateMyArea.com
Hung Tao – The London Evening Standard

My 5 books

25 Jul

Topic 199 suggested choosing the 5 most important books I’ve read.  Being a reader, this was not going to be an easy task because I was raised to read…and read a lot.

  1. The Bible – I grew up reading the Bible.  I grew up in church, I grew up going to Sunday School and Daily Vacation Church School, so naturally I grew up knowing how important the Bible was to my growth in faith.  It is my comfort when I need reassurance, it is my rule book when I need reining in, it is strength when my faith wanes.
  2. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume – I loved this book.  I started reading this book when I was 10.  I felt so connected to this book.  Margaret was 11 (she was a year older than me at the time, but hey, what’s 12 months eh?), Margaret’s mother was Christian (mine too!) and her father was Jewish (yes, my dad is Jewish, he’s Filipino but he converted to Judaism when he lived in Israel; you could say there’s something about those kibbutzes!).  It was a book that I read over and over and over again.  It helped me that I wasn’t the only one with conflicting thoughts and it reassured me that I wasn’t a weirdo.
  3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – it made me love my little sissypooes more and made me understand my mother’s relationship with her sisters.  I used to wonder what it was like to be rich, and there would be times when I wondered why there were things we had to do without.  But after reading about the March girls, being able to enjoy things sometimes and do without things sometimes wasn’t bad after all!
  4. Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell – when my desire to blog was waning and my cooking was uninspired, this book gave me the boost that I needed.  It helped reignite my love of writing (even if people didn’t read my blog, I still really wanted to put my thoughts out there) and it helped me look at cooking differently.  Even if Julie Powell never reads my blog, I owe her a lot.  She helped me shake off the inertia.
  5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – I read this book at a difficult time in my life.  It helped me start my soul-searching and it helped me strengthen my resolve to do what had to be done and to choose the path I wanted to take.  I gave my friends copies of this book (a la Julia Roberts) because it was such a powerful book for me.  I thought it was necessary to share.