Bullet Point Mondays: Master Chef Australia

I've been a fan of cooking shows and whatnot for as long as I can remember. We didn't have cable growing up, so it was Wok with Yan and his "wonder powder", and Cooking with the Dazas. I've always dreamt of cooking with all my ingredients neatly laid out on the counter in little tiny clear bowls. It has yet to come into fruition because omg can you imagine the cleanup?

These days, thanks to the internet, I have access to virtually every cooking show ever produced, and I just watch whatever I get my hands on, really. Top Chef remains to be my favorite, especially Masters, although I did rage quit one season the moment Takashi Yagihashi got eliminated. I loved him in that show. I also liked the earlier years of Hell's Kitchen, and will always cherish that moment when Gordon Ramsay called someone a donkey, but there's only so much raw scallops you can serve before it ceases to be amusing. Similarly, I also liked the earlier seasons of MasterChef US, and it did not occur to me that I would miss Joe "I process food with my brain" Bastianich until he left. The current season is just so very meh, so I decided it was time to move on to the greener pastures that is MasterChef Australia.

So I began watching the current season and my goodness. It's like night and day.
  • Let's begin with Matt Preston's trousers. They have more personality than that new judge in the US version.
  • And George is like a mini-Joe Bastianich, except likeable.
  • One of their guest judges is freaking Marco Pierre White, who used to make Gordon Ramsay his bitch. 
  • Granted, he does do a lot a proselytising, almost ("When you have a dream, it is your duty to achieve it." Well NO SHIT Marco), but when he broke down that lamb carcass it was pure beauty. Also, it's not like you can shut him up; the guy has serious Hannibal Lecter vibes. 
  • The US version gets its entertainment value from pitting one crazy contestant against another; the Australian version assumes that the cook, sans the snarky comments and the bitching about in general, is sufficient to entertain the viewer. And I guess it is, because they have a crapton of episodes. Season 7 has 62. SIXTY effin TWO. At roughly an hour and a half each, it has undeniably been a significant part of my life over the last couple of weeks (I marathoned and managed to catch up before today's finale). 
  • The skill level is... not even close. Not by a mile. As an example, this is the dish that eliminated Rose in episode forty-something of MasterChef Australia:
  • She managed to finish Janice Wong's Cassis Plum desert, but it was just not good enough.
  • And this is the dish that sent Charlie out of the running for MasterChef US:
  • He frosted it with his bare hands. I have nothing more to say.
  • There is one Filipino contestant in this season of MasterChef Australia, and it breaks my heart that he had to be such an insufferable ass. And not in a Dale Talde way where you kinda think "maybe he has issues and once he resolves them sees a therapist he will be less of a douche"; it's in an "I really want nothing more than to punch you in the face" kind of way. White chocolate velouté. Never again.
  • I am now watching the season finale. I've never been so emotionally invested in a sugar ball. 
  • I AM NOT CRYING. I AM NOT CRYING OVER A STUPID SUGAR BALL THAT POPPED.
  • And just like that, season's over. I don't know what to do with my life now. Maybe I should, I don't know, "hero" something.
P.S. You can order a Matt Preston standee here.

Barre-hopping

After four years of procrastination, I have finally found my way back to the barre.


Upside Motion is one of the few studios in Singapore that offer barre classes, and with very accessible locations - one in City Hall and another in Orchard - and convenient schedules it was a very easy decision to sign up with them.

They offer a three-class pass for beginners, valid for one week and can be used on any of the group classes. Apart from Xtend Barre, which is their particular "flavor" of barre exercise, they also offer Pilates Mat and Antigravity Aerial. So I figured I'd try all three.

I started with Xtend Barre, at the City Hall location. The studio is a short walk from the MRT, but it's tucked into its own tiny corner in Armenian Street. Central but cozy. And very peaceful.

Photo credits: Upside Motion

Our class was pretty full, but still a reasonable size at fifteen. Since there are only two rooms, it hardly ever gets crowded and there are ample changing rooms and more than enough lockers for everyone. No showers though, but I don't really mind it all that much since I go straight home after class anyway. I can see how it could be a deal-breaker for some, though.

I only have my Barre3 classes in Manila as reference, but this one is definitely more fast-paced. I do feel that more emphasis could have been given on the correct form, because that spells the difference between working those muscles and doing absolutely nothing (or worse, injuring oneself). Other than that, it's pretty much the same old barre exercises I have grown to love; the ones that leave me with violently shaking thighs and render me unable to laugh without wincing in pain.

Bonus Side Story: Abe attended a Barre3 class with me once, together with a couple of our other friends, and in return I had to run 5k with them. We weren't a couple yet back then haha :p

Next up: Antigravity Aerial. I was very very excited for this. And also scared shitless. This time they offered classes for beginners, and I naively thought we would just be stretching about in the air while lying on the hammock. So when the instructor started saying things like "inversions" I started to panic a little bit. But in the end, all it took, really, was a very deep breath and hell of a lot of faith in my core and the tensile strength of those silk hammocks (they can support up to two hundred pounds). Despite the initial scare, it was undeniably a very fun class, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I was able to achieve, what with me not being in the best shape at all.

As much as I would like to show you a selfie, I was struggling enough as it is, so instead here's a video of people doing it so much more gracefully (it goes without saying that I was only able to execute a teensy tiny fraction of the moves shown here).



Last but not least: Pilates. Patting myself on the back for this one. For starters, I booked an early morning class. On a Saturday. And when I woke it was raining like crazy. Almost, almost cancelled, but I soldiered on, and I'm glad I did. There were only four of us in class, which means there is a lot of opportunities for the instructor to observe and make the necessary corrections to our form. This was in the Orchard branch, only a couple of steps from the standalone H&M store, but like the other studio it feels very cozy and, despite the central location, feels quite secluded. Amenities are pretty much the same (so again, no showers).

After that last session, I took yet another deep breath, handed the receptionist my credit card, and signed up for ten more classes. It's good to be back. ^^

The Six-Month Shopping Fast

Abe: I have something to tell you, but promise me you won't get mad.
(Madaya. How can I promise not to get mad if I don't know what he's going to say?)
Me: Fine.
Abe: You... seem to have been shopping a lot again lately.


Truth be told, for the longest time there has been this nagging feeling that my shopping habits have been spiraling out of control, back into mindless consumption territory. I try to convince myself otherwise; after all, the size of my wardrobe has remained constant, and the same is true for my makeup collection and shoe closet. But I cannot deny the fact that as I got rid of garbage bag after garbage bag of stuff, I also felt more and more entitled to buy replacements (invariably more expensive ones). Which is kind of the exact opposite of what I want to achieve.

And so for the second half of the year, I shall embark on what I'm going to call a "shopping fast". Of sorts.

  • It is, primarily, a way of forcing myself to be more mindful of my purchases. This is painfully embarrassing to admit, but nearly every single day I find something new to obsess over and stalk - be it a water bottle or designer handbag - and more than half the time it culminates in a purchase.
  • For a brief period of time I actually rationalized my almost daily mall visits by the fact that it helps me achieve my daily target of ten thousand steps. Hah. Seriously, though, all that energy I have devoted to shopping would be better spent elsewhere.
  • You would think that, after four years in Singapore and realizing that "sales" are a daily occurrence, discounts would fail to faze me. Nope. Show me a red tag and my immediate impulse is to swipe that credit card. And I don't think I'm alone in this. Just observe a member's only sale at Watson's which happens like, what, once a month? And yet people behave like it's the last day of body wash.
  • I have enough. I have enough shoes, I have enough bags, I have enough clothes, and goodness knows I have more makeup than I could use. I am neither trendy, nor cutting-edge, and I have no need to constantly reinvent my wardrobe. What it needs is refinement, and that is not achieved by impulse-buying piece after piece.
  • I do need to save up for my wedding. Ideally, I would not wish to blow thousands of dollars in a party where I don't even get to eat (I know, I know, it's much more than that). But I've never been able to wrap my head around the immense cost of weddings these days (A thousand dollars for a bouquet! No wonder brides no longer toss theirs), and I keep thinking the money would be better spent on the honeymoon, among other things, but I guess in time I will learn to make my peace with it; that that is the cost of having all the people you love under one roof for one night, or at least that's how I'm trying to frame it. The "making peace" part would undoubtedly be made easier if I have more savings to cushion the blow.

Ground Rules

  • The shopping fast applies to three major categories: wardrobe, vanity (makeup + skincare), and gadgets. Kind of a no-brainer, as these are the areas where I consistently overspend. 
  • I am allowing myself one purchase each month. So I guess it's not technically a fast in the strictest sense of the word, but I think this makes the whole thing more realistic and achievable (read: so I don't go bonkers). Also, I feel it might be interesting, the thought process behind that single purchase.
  • Replacements are allowed, but only if I currently own no duplicates. For example, if I run out of toner, I would most definitely get a new bottle of Proactiv, because I do not have anything to take its place in my existing stash. But if by some miracle I hit pan on a blush, I have several that I could use instead, so no bueno.
  • "Sports things" do not count, i.e. I'm allowed to buy them. This is more out of necessity than anything; when signed up for Pilates last month I realized I owned exactly zero yoga pants. Well, technically I have a couple, from way back when I took Barre3 classes. They have since then been relegated to lounge wear, and are now awesomely faded and overstretched and starting to resemble bacon. And one of them has a hole in the crotch. Yay. Anyway, I am now the proud owner of two new yoga pants, and might have to get more depending on how frequently I end up taking classes. We only get to use the washer once a week because we share it with other building occupants, so it is imperative that I have as many pairs as classes (because ick). 
  • I am not allowed to have Abe buy stuff for me just so it won't "count". And I'm saying this because I can totally see myself doing it. A gift is a different story, I guess, but even so, there should be no coaxing from me.
  • I am allowed to buy things for events, such as weddings or trips to non-tropical countries, if there is nothing suitable in my wardrobe. But only if there's nothing suitable.
  • No wishlisting; that is, no "one million things I will totally splurge on once this shopping fast is over". I think it kind of defeats the purpose.
  • I might relax the rules a bit when I travel, but not too much. Maybe five items max. And only if they are unique to the place I'm visiting.

We all know how previous attempts at shopping bans turned out, but I have every intention of seeing this through. I'm a bit excited, even. Wish me luck.