Wednesday, October 28, 2009

American MSG meet Asian MSG

This is MSG.

The one on the left was bought in the United States. The one on the right was bought in Singapore.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this food additive and I'll be honest and say that I never really paid that much attention...

Until I moved to Asia.

Ever since we moved to Singapore, I get frequent headaches that seem to come out of nowhere. It's not because I don't drink enough water and it's not because I'm outside in the heat. I get them while typing at my desk in my air conditioned office while drinking a liter of water. I also get them while riding on the MRT in the middle of the day. I could not find a common link to solve the headache puzzle.

After months of this, someone told me that it's probably all of the MSG I'm eating in the food over here.


Like every paranoid American, I hopped on the Internet to Google it.

There, I found this website called It's full of information about what it is, why it's used, what it does to your body and what it could potentially do. It was enough to make me uneasy.

Here's some snippets:

  • MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious. It is not a "meat tenderizer". It is not a "preservative". The food industry is trying to confuse the issue by focusing on the "fifth" taste sense they call umami. Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors. The purpose is to help us discern real food from inedible matter. It changes your perception of not simply taste but the nutritious qualities of what you put into your mouth. However, and here is the main problem with free glutamic acid - It is the very same neurotransmitter that your brain and many organs including your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas in your body use to initiate certain processes in your body.
  • MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. So many diets these days are concerned about the Glycemic Index of foods and yet none of them address the fact that MSG and free glutamic acid stimulate the pancreas to release insulin when there doesn't even have to be carbohydrates in the food for that insulin to act on. The food industry has found their own "anti-appetite suppressant". It's a convenient way to keep consumers coming back for more. The blood sugar drops because of the insulin flood. And you are hungry an hour later. Sound familiar?
Um yeah. Everytime I eat Chinese food, I want a friggin' Big Mac like an hour later. I always thought it was the rice that did it.

But seriously, food shouldn't make you feel that way. Food is supposed to be filling. It's supposed to satisfy hunger, not antagonize it!

So after all this research is when I decided to search our cabinets and found the container of Accent. I had no idea that it was straight MSG. That makes me feel really good about all of those dinners of canned green beans that we douse in chemicals.

Aaron and I didn't stop the search there though. We rummaged through our entire pantry. You know what we found?


Every bottle of Ranch dressing. Every package of Jalapeno Ranch Chips. Every granule of Parmesan cheese. Every Dorito chip. Every container of Lawry's Seasoning Salt.

It was one of the saddest and most guilt-ridden days of my life.

That is when it dawned on me.

I've been eating these MSG laced foods my ENTIRE life. Nothing bad has happened to me yet (that I know of). How can they prove that MSG is the thing making my head hurt?

I lived on Doritos and Ranch dressing for the entirety of high school. I don't ever remember getting a head ache. (A stomach ache and huge love handles is what I should've had. Yet, those gems did finally arrive later.)

So I think I'm over it. I do still think that they put a lot more MSG in Chinese-style foods and I am going to make a conscious effort to not to eat those as much. But really, it'd be near impossible to avoid it all the time.

Plus, I really like Ranch dressing too much to let it go.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We're still pretending it's Fall

Because we apparently live in a constant state of denial, we decided to make another Fall themed dish at our house tonight. It is not Fall in Singapore. Nor has it ever been.

But it is at our house.

Aaron's (aka my newly adopted) Aunt Debbie sent us a yummy sounding recipe for pumpkin soup the other day and we just couldn't get it out of our heads.

So a week and four ransacked grocery stores later, I finally had all of the ingredients to make it. I'm getting better at this. When all other grocery stores fail, always go to Jason's Marketplace. They always have crazy expat stuff like canned pumpkin puree. I grabbed two big cans...because that's all they had. Go big or go home. So I figured I have one for our upcoming, mandatory Thanksgiving pies and one big can for our soup.

Have you ever had pumpkin soup? I know it sounds weird at first, but give it a go. It's surprisingly delicious. We had ours with sour cream and bacon on top.

Bippity boppity BACON. Just cuz it goes with everything.

Yes it does. Don't argue with me.

Oh and the Shiner Bock? It's just there because it needed it's picture taken. We never see Texas beer 'round these parts.

We always get pretty excited when Midwestern things find us in Asia.

Monday, October 26, 2009

American electricity in Singapore

This little box is my life.

It controls whether I blow dry my hair, get to play Wii, use 99% of my kitchen appliances or get to use my computer at all.

It is the magic box that converts the British system of 220V electricity to our modest US system of 110V electricity. It is my favorite thing in our Singaporean house.

Without it, I would cry. A lot.

We have about six of these magical boxes in our home. For two kids from Kansas who never planned to live abroad, that means that we have six plug-ins in our entire house.

Yeah. Imagine living like that.

Because we have only five items that are made for Singaporean outlets/voltage systems, this means most all of our stuff is for US voltage systems. That was a fun realization. The five things we finally cracked down and bought were the only items we couldn't get around not re-buying upon our move here. There are just some things that aren't meant to be plugged into an inverter.

A hair straightener is one of them. Hair straighteners get really pissy when you plug them into an electricity inverter. I learned that the hard way when I came to visit. My hair was not anywhere close to straight that whole month.

So anyways, this is a post merely to thank Uncle Sam for giving us inverters. I tend to be a little hard on Uncle Sam sometimes.

And sometimes I'm sorry.

Not so much today, but some other times I am.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christmas in October

I know it's a little early for a Christmas post, but I've been finding a lot of interesting things out lately that have to do with traditions and customs on this side of the globe.

One of the most shocking being this:

One of my work buddies has had his Christmas decorations up for almost two months now.

Yeah. Jumping the gun a bit, huh?

Actually no. You see, he's married to a Filipina and in the Philippines the Christmas season begins very early compared to the American custom. His family puts up the decor at the beginning of the "-ber" months. So the tree goes up in September and stays up throughout October, November and December.

I also found this article here that says some Filipinos even start the festivities before that. In fact, the Philippines are said to have the longest Christmas season in the world.

Can you imagine the sheer torture those poor children have to endure? When I was a kid, just the length of time between my birthday and Christmas was painful (it's really only 11 days. Yes, I was a dramatic child). That was nothing. These kids have to worry about making the naughty list for four agonizing months.

Then again, I could go for some Christmas lights for that long. Christmas lights make me giddy like a 7-year-old hopped up on sugar. When I'm in Kansas, I force the people I love to drive me around for hours just so I can look at them.

In Singapore, they light up the entire stretch of Orchard Road. It's just crazy awesome. I love how festive the whole atmosphere is.

Singaporeans too, start Christmas very early. Sandra, my good friend and one of the mystery coworkers that I'm always talking about, told me today that she puts up her tree in early November. She says that she likes to enjoy it as long as she can.

I can relate to that. We often don't take our tree down until February....because we want to enjoy it longer. Not because we're lazy. No, definitely not because of that. We like prolonging the joyful Christmas spirit into Valentine's Day. Yep.

But really though, if we didn't have these "buffer" holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, wouldn't we be putting up the tree a little sooner too? It's only weird to put it up now because it's like "Hey! You skipped Halloween!" or "Hey! We haven't had turkey yet!"

Everyone who's not a freak loves Christmas. Who wouldn't love to enjoy some twinkly lights for a few more days?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

USA Today, I'm disappointed in you

Dear USA Today,

I just wanted to give you a pat on the back and say thanks for proving that people in the US aren't self-absorbed idiots with little regard for the rest of the so many people in the rest of the world already believe.

I refer to this article here.

I'm guessing that since it was on the Idol Chatter page, that one of your high school interns probably wrote it. That could be the only logical explanation for your lack of editing or fact checking.

Referring to Singapore as a city in Malaysia not only makes your paper look ridiculously idiotic, but it also proves the care in which you take in reporting factual information. Whether it be about entertainment issues or not. Don't you have a map or better yet, access to Google?

The people here in Singapore that saw that article were more than a little peeved. It'd be like calling Lawrence a town in Missouri or Columbia a place in Kansas. (This is just to put it in perspective for my jayhawkers out there.)

So thanks for making the Americans look stupid again. We've needed a lot more help since Bush left office.


The American girl in Singapore

**UPDATE - The article has been edited to properly show that Singapore is not in Malaysia. So if you're going there to see what they messed up, you won't see it now. Thanks USA Today for correcting your error. I'm still a lil mad at you though.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Navy Ball

We spent last night at the US Navy Ball which was held at the famous Fullerton Hotel in Singapore.

Isn't it gorgeous? I love that hotel.

We had a blast and I finally took pictures to prove it.

I forgot last year. Wine does that to my brain sometimes.

I'll post some more later, but I need a nap right now. We got home waaaay after our 9 o'clock bedtime. Singapore has made us into geezers that go to bed at unreasonable hours for 20 somethings.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I made Halloween cupcakes

...because they don't celebrate Halloween in Singapore.

...because they don't make anything pumpkin-flavored to celebrate "fall".

...and because I needed an excuse to make homemade cream cheese frosting.

I think any of those excuses shall work.

Everyday is a good day when you get to eat cream cheese.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Singapore...Then and Now

I like to think of Singapore as a revolving door. It's constantly moving at a steady pace within it's "door frame" of values. New business opportunities and ideas easily take their place in the rotation and just as rapidly, the stale ideas and failed business ventures go out. It's a constantly moving marketplace.

And it never stops moving.

To maintain its foundation is the mixture of Asian and Western values which I think of as the door frame. These are what keep the nation in harmony. They anchor this revolving door and keep it from falling off it's hinges.

For example: New restaurants come in (i.e. Chili's) and the failed attempts go out (i.e. Taco Bell).

This is also the same for shops, companies, hair products and even Boston Baked Beans.

Yes. I was deeply upset about the sudden lack of my BBB's.

But back to what I was saying.

It's amazing to me just how fast and how often this little island reinvents itself. It's like it never sits still. I'm constantly being rerouted around construction sites around the entire country and I don't even recognize the area between the mainland and Sentosa anymore. It's changed dramatically in just the year and a half that I've lived here.

So when the gals at work sent me emails with pictures of the "old" Singapore. I was beyond intrigued. This place has changed so much more than I even thought. It doesn't even look like the same Asian city.

I've shared a few of these treasures with you below. Next to each one, I've attached the modern day equivalent. Some of the differences are so astounding that you can't even recognize it as the same space.

The Singapore River

Sembawang Beach

Orchard Road

The NCO Club (as it was referred to in the 1960s)

Eu Tong Sen Street

The Esplanade

Clifford Pier (as it was referred to in the 1960s)

Capitol Theatre

*Some of the buildings I've shown you have been placed on the historical registry (or the Singaporean equivalent) and are kept in their natural state. That's why a few aren't that different.

In all though, it's amazing to me just how much Singapore has evolved in the mere 44 years that it's been an independent country. It went from jungle to metropolis in an astounding amount of time. Most countries take hundreds of years to build themselves into what Singapore has become in just decades.

Pretty sweet, huh?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thoughts from 25-35 year olds

Sometimes I run across something on the internet that makes me laugh so much that I cannot not share it with everyone I know.

This is one of those times.

It's an entry on by a guy who is only identified as John S.

I think Mr. John S. is a genius.

Or a stalker. I swear I've thought every one of these sentences in my head at least some point in my life.

Thoughts from 25-35 year olds

posted by John S.

-I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

-I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

-Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

-I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

-Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what was going on when I first saw it.

-I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.

-How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

-The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.

- A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.

- LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- Answering the same letter three times or more in a row on a Scantron test is absolutely petrifying.

- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and I instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

-Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

-Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

- Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.

-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

- I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

-When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.

-I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.

-Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles...

- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

-It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

-Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it.

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

-My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

-It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on and the link takes me to a video instead of text.

-I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

I'd like to thank John S., whoever he is, for saying what we've all been thinking all along.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Singapore Wedding Story

Last night, Aaron and I attended the wedding of our friends Mia and D. It was the first wedding we've been to in Singapore and surprisingly the first wedding we've been to since our own.

We had no idea what to expect before we went because Mia is from this part of the world and D is from the States.

It ended up being very similar to American weddings and yet had some very cool local customs too. It was a lovely combination of the two cultures.

This is Sugee cake they're cutting. Sugee cake is a delicious traditional Eurasian cake. It's difficult to find, but oh so worth it when you do. It is a coarse cake made from ground almonds and semolina. It's not as sweet as our cakes in the West, but the texture is a refreshing change. It is usually topped with marzipan and royal icing. Sandra will probably get on here and correct me, but I think that's what she told me.

After the ceremony, dinner, cake and performances by friends and family, the couple then sits on the ornate bench (for lack of a better word in my American knowledge) and the guests take turns having their picture taken with the couple.

Aaron was a little jealous that we didn't get to sit for pictures at our wedding. He'll tell you that I made him do acrobatics, millions of poses, and run all over Kansas for our pictures.

Then I'll tell you that he's a fibber.

We only went to two places in Kansas.

This is actually the second attempt of the bouquet toss. The first attempt ended with an unfortunate landing in a pool of curry. It all worked out in the end. Only a few flowers were coated in sauce.

Congratulations Mia and D! We wish you a happy and wonderful life together. Thank you for inviting us to share in your big day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Cloudy Sunday in 3D

What's more adorable than a husband in nerdy 3D glasses at a Sunday afternoon showing of the latest children's movie?

Ok, maybe a lot of other things. To me though, this picture is just precious.

I took it when we went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 3D last Sunday.

Yes. We're the goofy 20-somethings that go to kids movies without a kid with us.

If we were home, we'd totally snag a niece or nephew to make it look like we're babysitting, but that wouldn't really be the case. It's just an excuse to go to a kiddie movie. (Animated motion pictures that is, none of this Hannah Montana or Daddy Daycare crap.)

So.....we'd been planning to go see this movie pretty far in advance. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett was one of Aaron's and my favorite books as a child. I remember reading it over and over and over to anyone who would listen. When we saw the movie poster for this one, we got overly excited.

We went to the Cathay theatre in AMK Hub to watch it. I love this theatre. It's very possibly my all-time fave. It's never too crowded. The people are always extremely nice and have wonderful customer service skills. They never give us a hard time or ask us for a FIN or passport number. Numerous theatres have almost refused us tickets that we've already purchased because we had not memorized this magic little number.

AMK does not hassle the hoff. For that alone, I love them.

Also, they don't freeze the place out. Most movie theatres in Singapore as so cold that we come armed with jackets and hoodies. By the end of most movies, I cannot feel my toes.

Not lovely AMK. My toes were toasty throughout all of the flying meatballs and pancakes.

It was a perfect Sunday evening out for two very homesick Kansans.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Singapore without a Dollar

Yeah, I'd like to see that happen.

This commercial has been played at the beginning of every movie Aaron and I have seen for the past six months. It is false advertisement at it's best. I'd love to see ANYONE try to travel to Singapore with only their credit card.

It is impossible. I know this for a fact because a great majority of my time in Singapore has been spent searching for an ATM.

In fact, I'm sure Aaron and I could tell you where the ATM is in every mall/eating place in Singapore.

I'm not trying to offend anyone with this statement, but I've got to say it:

Singapore, you people are way behind in modern forms of payment.

And it's beyond frustrating.

Aaron and I never used to carry cash before we came here. We never ever needed cash either. We always used our debit card (for you Singaporeans, a debit card is the American version of a NETS card, but they accept it everywhere that they accept credit cards).

We even tried to be like the Singaporeans and get a NETS card. When in Rome...

However, we quickly discovered that most places won't even accept that.

I once tried to buy $8 worth of grocery items at a Fair Price Xtra (a big grocery store here) and was told that I was not allowed to use my NETS card unless I spent $10.

Are you friggin' kidding me?! Is it really going to kill your profits to run a transaction for $8? I'm pretty sure that 30 minute queue I just stood in, more than paid the amount it costs to make the transaction.

So I had to set down my things, leave the store, search AMK Hub for fifteen minutes for my bank's ATM and zip out cash. Then return back to the store, find my items (that had since been restocked), wait in line again and pay.

Really. Really?

Then, last night we went out for a movie and decided to get a snack beforehand. The place we went to not only would not accept credit cards, they wouldn't even accept NETS unless our bill was $20.

People. I used to use my debit card in the States to buy a 99 cent pack of gum. Do you think Walmart shed any tears over that?

This is just getting ridiculous and I've seen that friggin' dancing man commercial one time too many.

Get with the times. Accept credit.

And somebody please stop that man from dancing.