Thursday, 15 September 2011

Salsa dancing at Cruise Bar (15th September 2011)

Normally I would need a bit of encouragement to go out salsa dancing on a weeknight but tonight I've made my own decision to go and texted Ken to find out if he was heading over as well. I was feeling rather annoyed after attending work drinks at the client site - I was trying to network with the people in the project I've not met yet but the moment they learnt that I was working for their vendor,  all conversations ceased and turned to me getting a nasty helping of their complaints on why this doesn't work or if I knew whether the defect has been fixed. Er, excuse me? First of all, I work in the Datamart team so am not across all defects raised (and for the record, my team is doing darn well and only have very few defects left opened) and secondly, why are we still discussing work at after-work drinks?? I gave up after an hour and left the party out of sheer frustration - this was not the first time it had happened and it really puts me off attending such social events knowing it only makes me feel terrible after. I just couldn't get through to anyone without eventually talking about work and was feeling like such a social retard. I didn't think my social skills were that bad - really??

A quick stop back home to change and grabbed a bite, I headed out to meet Ken at Cruise Bar around 8.30pm. This was my second time to the bar and it was still rather quiet when I arrived. Several groups of people were there for social drinks and the dance floor was dead with no dancers in sight. The regular Thursday salsa night was meant to start at 8.30pm but it wasn't till around 9pm that the DJ finally arrived and started playing Latin music. Photo of a very quiet Cruise Bar:

Ken and his mate Chizz arrived shortly, followed by his salsa gang members Sam and Laura. Introductions were made and I was able to hold a conversation and even got a few laughs out of our little group. So obviously I'm NOT a social retard but it is the people and/or environment I'm in that makes the difference. Sheesh! I'm feeling much better now being in good company :)

Sam, Laura, Ken and I kicked off the dancing being the first 2 couples to hit the dance floor. There were a lot less people tonight compared to the last time I was here. I found myself several Cuban dancers to dance with which was fun. In between my dances, I chatted with Chizz who was visiting Ken from Melbourne - Chizz is cool and has a great sense of humour, asking me lots of questions about dancing. He's a non-dancer but that might soon change after I told him it's a great way to meet girls in a fun and safe environment (you didn't hear that from me!). 

Oh, there was an interesting character at Cruise tonight, an oldish Asian man whom both Ken and I thought was slightly creepy. Shriveled-looking yet dressed ghetto-style with lots of bling, the man loves showing off his shines leaving most followers to balk and unsure what to do next as he continues on slapping his foot on the floor dancing in his own world. Well, he's earned himself a nickname from me, Mr Octopus Arms, because he has the habit of moving his arms in that manner while dancing. Peacock Guy, Fishy Man, Chest Vibrator and now Octopus Arms - the nicknames don't stop, do they? :P

It's a pity tonight's a weeknight so I can't stay late and headed home by 10ish. Still, an hour of dancing helped me get over my earlier annoyance and boosted my self-confidence. Feeling much happier now! :)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Allergy testing at North Shore Medical Centre (13th September 2011)

Back in July, I went to see my GP about my constant break out of hives. I do get the odd allergic reaction to bug bites or grass when I've been out on walks but the recent series of break outs were just getting way out of hand - I'm living in the city for Christ sake! What could I possibly be allergic to??! My ears are red, my neck is red and so is my décolletage, arms and thighs - argh, I can't stop scratching myself!

According to the GP, hives - skin rash of pale red, raised, itchy bumps aka wheals - tend to be caused by an allergic reaction which could be from medication, food or physical agents. "Perhaps you are allergic to Sydney," joked the doctor, who added further that it usually takes migrants a few years before they develop allergies to their new home country. True, I was never allergic to bug bites until three years into living in Wellington and in recent years, developed hives mostly during summer. But how do I explain THIS? There was nothing the doctor could do for me except provide a referral for an allergy test which in hope would give us some answers to my issue. I was told to take anti-histamine tablets whenever I found the itch too much to bear - pretty much what I've been doing so far. Interestingly, only the 180g anti-histamine tablets work for me AND they are the more expensive ones too :/

Finally, after the 2-month wait for my appointment, I took off work early today to see Dr Andrew Broadfoot, a specialist in immunology and allergy at North Shore Medical Centre in St Leonards for an allergy test. Looking through the list of names on the directory board in the foyer, I headed up the lifts to Level 2 but there was no reception area in sight. The floor had several rooms/suites, all with closed doors and name plates of the doctors stuck outside. My doctor was in Suite 7 but I wasn't sure whether to enter through the closed door. I could hear voices coming through from the other side which strangely sounded like there were more than five people in the consultation room. "The doctor couldn't possibly be seeing that many people at a time," I thought to myself, and at that moment, a mother and daughter walked out through the door. Ah, as it turned out, the door opens into a reception and waiting area, as well as the consultation room. I reckon they could do better with a sign that says 'Please come in' on the door - at least that causes less confusion for first-timers seeing the doctor at this medical centre.

There were three other patients ahead of me who were here for various vaccinations and it took another 15 minutes before I was seen by the doctor. I did a bit of research prior to my visit about allergy testing to prepare myself for what to expect - the test conducted was the skin prick test, which was the most convenient and least expensive of the available methods for allergy testing. The doctor had trays of sterile lancets in a rectangle grid of eight, each dipped in an allergen extract. Individual trays were pressed onto an area on my forearm, a small prick made by each lancet which allowed a tiny amount of the allergens to enter the skin. The prick wasn't painful - it felt like toothpick pricks and wasn't deep enough to cause bleeding. Forty-eight individual allergens were tested on me; one was a positive control histamine (this was to ensure that the skin was reacting accordingly to the histamine), sixteen of them were inhalant allergens such as dust mite, domestic pets and plants, and the remaining were food allergens such as nuts, seafood and wheat. Both my forearms where covered with little red dots by the time the doctor completed the pricks! 

It takes 20 minutes for the results to show so back I was in the waiting room until time was up. Some of the dots have started turning into wheals - itchy but I was told I couldn't touch them. I'm allergic to something alright...

My right forearm just 5 minutes post skin prick

It was fascinating to see how my skin reacted to the allergens and to some extent, I was quite excited to find out what I'm actually allergic to. I was called back into the consultation room where the doctor discussed the results of the test with me, going through them one by one and cross-checking it with my medical history and previous allergic incidents. My skin was definitely reacting as supposed to because I had a wheal for the positive control histamine. I'm most allergic to dust mite (the wheal was 2-4mm in size indicating a moderate allergy) and also mildly allergic to horse, crustacean (that explains why my lips swell when I have too much crab, prawn or lobster), olive tree pollen, yeast, tomato and banana though the doctor reckoned the last three allergens gave false positive results since I haven't had any issues when these food were consumed. Fortunately I'm not allergic to staple food like rice, egg and milk - it would be terrible if I was and eating out would be a nightmare!

The doctor's advice for me was to avoid exposure to these allergens that I'm allergic to and carry anti-histamine tablets with me so I can take them as and when necessary. The consultation and testing cost $350 and though I walked out of the medical centre financially poorer, I'm glad I do not have severe allergies and now know for a fact what exactly I'm allergic to and how to deal with them. If you suspect you may have allergies, consider getting an allergy test done so you can better manage and cope with the break outs. Don't just put up with it!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Roman Holiday: Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (12th September 2011)

As an Entertainment Book member, I'm often sent deals (in addition to the ones in the book) via email and one recent deal I received was a 2-for-1 A reserve ticket deal to Sydney Symphony's Roman Holiday: Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (normally $95 per person for an A reserve ticket). "Keen to check it out?" I asked Jono. "Cool - looks good," was his response and so we sat together to have a look at the seating plan and purchased our tickets over the phone.

Jono and I met at Sydney Opera House at 6.30pm - this was the first time both of us were inside the iconic building and it was huge with a wide range of venues and facilities on site. There were so many people gathered outside the Concert Hall where the performance would be held this evening - Jono and I had a hard time finding each other in the midst of the crowd and it didn't help that the phone reception was pretty bad inside the building. I could hardly hear a word he was saying - it was so garbled and disconnected. We eventually managed to locate each other as I spotted him heading up the stairs. Jono had rushed over from work and not had any dinner so was having coffee and cake while waiting for me to turn up. He actually left our coffees (he ordered one for me too) and his cake in the care of an older gentlemen who was also having his coffee prior to the performance and sitting at the same long table while Jono came looking for me!

Around 6.45pm, we headed into the Concert Hall for the 7pm start. The Concert Hall is the largest venue inside the Sydney Opera House and it was pretty amazing - with high vaulted ceiling, brush box and white birch timber finishings, this venue is designed primarily for acoustic performances. We were seated right in the middle of the Circle Box upstairs and had a view of the whole orchestra. Probably a few rows further front would be better to get a closer look at the musicians but it was good enough for the cost we paid. View from our seats taken from my phone:

There were people who had seats behind the orchestra - I don't understand why people would bother sitting there. Ok, they may be cheap but to spend most of the time looking at the backs of the musicians, hmm, I think I would rather pay a bit more to get the front view.

The symphony started off with Mendelssohn's The Fair Melusine - Overture, a fairytale of enchantment, a mermaid and a broken promise composed into song, easing guests into an evening of classical music. This was then followed by the Horn Concerto No. 1 by Richard Strauss, featuring Ben Jacks on the horn who was performing without musical score but from memory. It was interesting to watch the horn player, how he controls the valves that routes air into the tubing to change the pitch and pulling parts of the horn apart to tip out bits of water - Jono assured me it was not saliva but water from condensation.

The performance took a 20-minute interval before resuming with Respighi's The Birds. In this suite, the orchestra mimics a series of bird calls - dove, hen, nightingale and cuckoo - all distinctly different yet its contrast perfectly performed in this baroque-inspired piece. And to close off the symphony, we again return to Mendelssohn, this time listening to Symphony No. 4, Italian, a picture postcard of a tourist's perspective of the life and culture in Italy. 

I enjoyed our first symphony in Sydney though I agree with Jono that this was too pleasant (he prefers more 'dramatic' classical tunes). Roman Holiday only has 4 performances and we were quite fortunate to still get tickets to the final performance. Despite the audience's claps for an encore, the orchestra only responded with gracious bows and after about the third round of clapping and bowing, the audience gave up and started exiting the hall.

The symphony ended at 9pm and we headed over to Circular Quay to catch the train home. Feeling slightly peckish, Jono decided to get a combo meal from Hungry Jacks (Australia's equivalent of Burger King) located at the train station and was snacking on his fast food while we waited for the train. Urgh, it was rather yuck - I've had better Hungry Jacks than this elsewhere. We're definitely not getting Hungry Jacks from here again...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Meeting Point, Haymarket (11th September 2011)

Ken and I caught up for lunch today at The Meeting Point (TMP), a Taiwanese restaurant located next to the tram stop on Hay Street in Chinatown. I've walked past the restaurant a couple of times and always been intrigued at what Taiwanese cuisine is like (other than bubble tea, that is). Plus the interior of the place looked rather inviting - traditional Chinese tea-house with dark wood décor for a modern twist.

Ken was already sipping on his iced coffee when I turned up. "This is for you guys," said Ken and he handed me a sealed bright yellow tin which I immediately knew what it was - a mooncake! Aw, thanks :) Mooncake or mid-autumn festival falls on the 12th of September this year and though not celebrated in such big scale as the Chinese New Year, it's the only time of the year that you can purchase mooncake (round or rectangular pastries with a thick filling of lotus seed paste and may contain the yolk of salted duck eggs and/or nuts) in abundance. The one Ken gave us was a plain mooncake (no yolk or nuts), exactly the type I like. Will have to cut it up into small wedges and have them with tea at home. And maybe admire the full moon as well ;)

After chatting for about 10 minutes or so and trying to get the attention of the waitress (it wasn't even that busy in the restaurant), I gave up and walked to the bar to get some menus. Flipping through the menu, Ken couldn't stop pipping up about how Japanese influenced the meals were. I have to agree - shabu-shabu (hot pot), bento and grilled skewers (similar to yakitori) are all part of the Japanese cuisine but TMP does serve an extensive selection of Taiwanese food, drinks and desserts as well. I settled for a Pearl Milk Tea (
chewy tapioca balls added to milk tea) and Fried Chicken with Wine, Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce Bento Box from the specials board  while Ken ordered the Taiwanese Style Cold Noodles and we shared an entrée of Jelly Fish Salad.

My drink and the salad turned up first followed by our mains. Mmm, the Jelly Fish Salad is yum! When Ken suggested it initially, I wasn't sure I would be helping myself to much (it's jellyfish!) but I ended up eating most of it. The gelatin-like texture can be a little daunting for some but it doesn't have much flavour on its own. Mixed with crunchy shredded cucumber and a chilli soy dressing and voilà - delicious! My main dish was also very good and I think it was the restaurant's version of sanbeiji (translated as "Three-Cup Chicken" because the sauce is made of a cup of rice wine, a cup of sesame oil, and a cup of soy sauce - 
it is said that a restaurant that cannot cook this dish is not a true Taiwanese restaurant) served bento-style. I did try some of Ken's cold noodles dish but I didn't like it as much as my own - I guess it was because cold noodles was not served commonly in Malaysia so I did not grow up accustomed to having a noodle dish that's not warm. The dish was served with lots of shredded fresh vegetables and cooked chicken drizzled with a generous serving of tangy sesame dressing on a bed of noodles. Oh, don't get me wrong, it was tasty and Ken seemed to be enjoying it.

Jelly Fish Salad served with shredded cucumber
in dressing of oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and chilli

Fried Chicken with Wine, Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce Bento Box

Taiwanese Style Cold Noodles

Cost us $40.20 all up which wasn't too bad. We found out that this place also provided board games so that  customers can spend the day here with friends reliving childhood games while sipping tea and snacking on nibbles. And I have some suspicion they have a karaoke room as well somewhere (I could hear some singing as we headed out of the restaurant). Definitely recommended if you fancy Taiwanese cuisine (well, Chinese food in general). I'll have to come back again with Jono next time!

The Meeting Point Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato