Category Archives: Weather & Power Outage

Day 4 in Pastry Arts … Working a Sweat

We were supposed to receive power at the culinary institute this morning, Jean-Luc told me as I got in.  Great!  But power or not, we were gonna have class, so it wouldn’t really matter except then we could work more comfortably.

Chef Emmanuel was starting his class in his cuisine lab today, we have used his lab for the last 2 days.  Chef Philippe gave us 3 choices: Go home, Go field trip, Go back up to Pastry Lab and do pastillage at a room temperature of about 30 deg C.  No one chose to go home, so we willingly went back up to the Pastry lab and did pastillage.

My ingredients were used by Chef for demo, I didn’t have to do the pastillage dough.  My conclusion was that it was more difficult watching others do than be doing, I felt conscious of the warmth when I was not doing.  I decided to wash up the stuff at the sink, just then Chef Sebastien came in with the level 1 classes – his and Chef Rudolf’s – about 20 students.  When I turned around, Chef Sebastien greeted me with “Good morning, Joycelyn“, before I could reciprocate, he told his students that I was his student and now I was no longer his student, I no longer greeted him??!!  Not guilty.  Ha, today he said to me 2 times we didn’t greet him … again not guilty.

Back to class and finally I can shape my pastillage.  It looked easy when Chef Philippe was demonstrating to the class, rather he made it look so comfortable and easy.  I enjoyed the feel of pastillage more than chocolate … Use the right tool!  I had taken out a knife with a sharper blade than paring knife for Jillian when Chef left the lab and we didn’t realise a toolbox existed on Chef’s work table with all the scalpels and I had conveniently used the knife on the table to cut instead of the precision blade.  No excuse, got it … Roll out like a tart doughgoshI love tart dough, I mean since day 2 I rolled and shaped tart dough evenly with no issue, but somehow I had a problem – I was too conscious to roll the dough evenly, I forgot to feel and enjoy it.  A simple round strip I measured and cut nicely turned out short, ok next …  the second strip I cut and didn’t measure was not even in height at the closing edge and when I looked at the cross section, it wasn’t even in thickness – I really questioned my heart.  It was just a strip, goodness.  Then the bamboo – I rolled not once, twice, and this time the strip wasn’t long enough to wrap round the pole, tried as I might … “Oh sxxx“, oops I let out a loud exclamation, more to release the congestion in my heart  … I caused a commotion in class.  Chef turned round, “Joy, what did you just say? … You must put this on your blog” Anyway he assured us we still got some time … I knew Chef must have read I seldom swear – I went through level 1 and only cursed under my breath and maybe only after week 5(?), and I was now only on Day 4 in level 2 and I was just doing “play dough” which was supposed to be fun and easy.  I decided I have to find a new word to release any congestion in future – I wasn’t frustrated, I just didn’t feel it and I needed to let go.  Let me think of a new word.

After a break of staring into nothingness (yes, behind a noisy generator), I actually felt better.  I don’t like break room, I don’t like smoke, sometimes I just need a space to breathe some air and stare into nothingness.  But I made an effort sometimes to join my classmates at the stone bench.  The second part was easier – flowers and butterflies.  I loved the third part best – I felt better for the freehand though I had thought otherwise.

The third part – Leaves, and Calla Lilies.  I will only know tomorrow if the stems I did for my Calla Lilies fit.  I was happy Chef introduced Calla Lilies coz I dreamt (rather visualised) about them on my wedding cake, a small bouquet with simple greens with Lily of the Valley.  Last week, at Barnes & Nobles,  I read from a book (ha, and I copied down) that Calla Lilies come in ivory, yellow, orange, light pink, dark pink, red dark burgundy …  More about Calla Lilies – no scent, and it stands for Ardor, Magnificient Beauty, Feminine, ModestyNice.  And they are simple and elegant.  I was looking up Lily because its Chinese name 百合 has a significance for 百年好合, which literally which means 百hundred 年years 好good 合harmony & union, a very good blessing to wedded couples, blessing them to stay in love with each other forever.  But Oriental Lilies appeared too bold (more the size but what is the word?) for the cake.  And Chef recommended we start looking up desired piping to practise for our wedding cake, I was dreaming about how the cake looks and still thinking about the piping fit.

Something must change … or rather I must change myself.  I must relax and enjoy, I must feel it.  Then I thought of tomorrow.  Spray paint the pastillage?… I never painted since high school but again I have a choice tomorrow.  Raffaella told me Chef will teach us the technique.

I enjoyed my class but I really pray that we get the power back.  After 2 weeks of disruption, as much as Chef tried to return us to normacy, I again wondered how these 2 weeks of lost time and momentum can be reinstated without compromising on the value of a diploma certificate from LeNotre Culinary Institute?


The Past Week+ in A Nut Shell … A Week After Ike

Sunday, 21 Sep 2008, about 4pm, along Rice Blvd …

I realised I had a missed call from school earlier around noon, I didn’t know my phone was on vibrating mode.  Anxious to know if I can finally return to pastry lab tomorrow, I sms April.  April confirmed the call from CIAML was “to make sure everyone knew there was school tomorrow”.  I was so happy.  I replied her but my pre-paid value had to run out at this time.  It didn’t matter, I was happy to be back in school again.  The feeling should be exhilarated, to be exact.  I was at Walgreen to purchase a T-mobil refill value card and replied April.  We were both “happy & … ready to go back“, she wrote “see ya in level 2!“.  Oh how I missed the familiarity of lab time, my chefs – my new and my old, and my classmates … and Jennie, Raffaella, Nicole.  See ya all tomorrow!

…   ~ flash back ~

Friday, 12 Sep 2008, about 10am, asleep …

 Jennifer was on the line.  I had ignored the repeated buzz earlier.  For once since I started classes in Houston, I didn’t set an alarm.  Had severe sleep debt last couple of days.  Today was supposed to be my last day of level 1 final as well as my last day in Baking & Pastry Arts level 1.  It was cut short and ended a day earlier in antipation of Ike.  I had updated my journal on my finals late … or early into the wee hours.  I was prepared to sleep in.  Jennifer asked me if I wanted to go over to her place to weather the hurricane together, and she had been watching news report of how Galveston was hit hard that morning – I chose to stay in my apt, I needed a lot of personal space and mental rejuvenation time and I would have time to read and hibernate …  I never thought I would miss class on Monday

Friday, 12 Sep 2008, about 11.50pm, in my apt …

Ike visited around midnight last Friday, with strong wind, at times howling, bringing with it sweeping rain.  I was thinking about my “wedding cake” and how it would look like in a couple of weeks, and working on some internet resources.  Dad called to check if everything was alright, just then the rain poured.  Dad would call me on my cell phone every Friday close to midnight to have a chat with me – Singapore is 13hr ahead, and I would call him back on skypeout.  About 2.20am, I recorded some footage on flip video from my apt of the weather outside my glass pane.  One 3min long footage started and ended with a temporary blackout inside my apt and outside on the streets.  The complete power outage started at 2.30am which was to last the next 80hr for me, thankful, as I realised later the blackout hit some households for the week.  Lights out, I went to sleep reluctantly. 

Saturday, 13 Sep 2008, about 9.00am, still asleep …

BK called to wake me up.  He, together with my parents, Pei San, my sis, David, and 6 lovely children, were about to celebrate my brother’s 38th birthday with birthday song and cake cutting at Chengam home in Singapore.  I remembered my power was cut and there was nothing I could do to access skype webcam to join in celebration.  I realised nothing in my apt, including my alarm clock, worked.  Reality hit when my cell phone ran out of battery, and I felt disconnected since all my communication channels were down.  I was hopeful that power would be up in a couple of hours, as the lady at Walgreen told me the day earlier.  I packed my apt – it has been a mess for the last week … and then read 2 magazines – Entrepreneur on Young Millionaires, and National Geographic on Elephant Love Story … I learnt that elephants are highly emotive and about their group dynamics in the ecosystem.  I am a magazine and book junkie but have resisted spending on magazines since I arrived. 

I went to sleep that night at 8pm when it got dark.  Waking at 10pm and every couple of hours – I have a poor habit of sleeping 2-3hr during school week.  Rather, I never found I needed to sleep a lot.  I was hopeful the next time the day break, everything would be back to normal.

Sunday, 14 Sep 2008, about 8.00am, in my apt …

A light drizzle ended.  The air was cool, a little cold for me.  I decided to go out for a walk.  I sat at the bus stop.  “Is the metro running?”, a truck stopped by me to ask …  I don’t know, just trying my luck. “Do you know where I can get gas?” … Maybe Shepherd?   I overheard some places in Shepherd were opened for business.  I went back to my apt, had put on my jogging shoes to walk around the area but changed my mind.  I had left my apt door and blinds wide open to enjoy the daylight, for the first time since I moved into the apt, it felt safe and nice.  The hurricane brought neighbours closer together, with all the updates and chatters.  I resumed reading Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse Desserts and Pastries by Frederic Robert, where I left off weeks back, skimming through the recipes and dreaming …  That evening, I remembered fretting over how I can get my uniform and apron ironed for school the next day – yes, I was still hopeful power would be back soon.    Again night fell about 8pm again, I was awake and again at 10+pm, and again at 4am … I had wanted to make use of the quietness and the dark to ponder … it turned out to be futile, the images were colourless and the thought lacked power and energy.

Monday, 15 Sep 2008, about 6.30am, in my apt …

Surely there is no class right?  A guy updated me the day before that school was definitely out for whole of Houston on Monday.  Hmm… 2 days of school missed, I thought.  My antipation for power to resume was running low.  I didn’t miss food last 2 days, only edgy about missing classes and internet connection – connection to the outside world.  I used visulization to “attract” light but I was not powerful enough… it sounded funny now but I was desperate and serious then. 

Today, I told myself to be useful and started reading a section on On Baking by Labensky et al, a school text book.  By late afternoon, I urgently needed some outside inspiration and connection.  For the first time, I walked around the The Gardens, I realised the apartment across the bayou were really just opposite, separated by a bayou and a road.  That evening, I was to receive some warm food from a then stranger whom I now know as Andrene, who came by as “I thought you may like something warm“… such warmth – I always believe I am blessed and protected by angels

That night I looked out across the bayou again, no lights … surely there is no school right since my chef didn’t have lights too?  I managed to sleep through most of the night.  

Tuesday, 16 Sep 2008, about 9am, ready to find power source …

Still no electricityenough! … I was going to find some way to charge my phone.  I met a group of neighbours at the gate … I got mixed signal whether there was school, since 1 girl was going back the following day, but the teacher in the group told me they had no school till the following Monday.  10min on, someone shouted from level 3 “We’ve got power”… that moment was filled with hi-fives and exuberance. I got my cell phone charged, contacted my family in Singapore, was everywhere in virtual space – blog, email, skype, facebook … only to lose my internet connection for next 24h.  Having power back, and yet no use of internet made me felt edgy.  I quickly did my laundry in case there was school the next day. How did we spend our days 15 years back in those limited internet age?  I wondered.

BK called my cell phone that night … he asked me how I knew if there was school.  Mum told me earlier BK had called Dennise (as he only had Dennise’s name card during school tour) during power outage and was told school may be out for the week.  Huh? … He asked if I got other source of information – I said I believed there was no school that day since I had looked across the bayou the night before before I slept, and my chef has no lights too … he was amazed … or amused, maybe … by my method of logical deduction to decide if school was on.  He advised me to find out from a proper channel. Hee!

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2008, about 10+am, in my apt …

I really wanted to go out, but couldn’t – waiting for AT&T serviceman to come between 12-5.   I started on Biography of Julia Child and Baking with Julia.  By mid afternoon, I got my internet back up again.  I continued where I left off last Friday with my resource search for my “wedding cake”.  I decided I have to go somewhere the next day for a breather … listed some cafes I would like to try.

That night, I had another internet outage which lasted only an hour … I made and ate corn bread.

Thursdays, 18 Sep 2008, about 9+am, in uptown …


I was really happy to take in the sights “outside” again.  I planned to visit French Riveria Cafe at Chimney Rocks – had read about the freshness and French-ness of the breads??!! … Alas, it was not opened, … had Kolache Factory for the second time.  But I was happy just to be out … I was walking along a stretch along Westheimer @ Montrose – … then the demographic changed … shops featuring adult novelties, fantasy gifts and toys, spyware, tatoo, tarot cards and palm reading … , I decided to hop on a bus to return to Post Oaks Blvd where I feel more comfy.  Dreaming in Barnes & Nobles… Elyse called to said school still had no power and she would update me on Sunday if school would be on on Monday?? ;(

Friday, 19 Sep 2008, about 9+am, in midtown …

Checked out Coco’s Crepe at Midtown.  Bus made a detour from its usual route to cross into downtown when a police signalled to the bus captain the bridge was closed … not sure … anyhow.  Having nutella crepe and coffee by the sidewalk on a weekday morn was very therapeutic to the soul, a light background music, people watch, nice sun ray though the breeze was a tad too cold – I forgot I was in Houston?!!  Very productive, I completed 1/3 on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Walked from Gray to W Gray most of the way, shopped for a mini cheesecake pan at Sur La Table.  Garren called to ask if I am ok and if I would like to join for dinner that evening – I was to meet 2 Singaporeans Garren and David that evening, we have never met before and yet they never felt like strangers.  Had dinner at KL Malaysia, I would conclude the company was better than the food.  I missed the spices but I don’t miss food in general.  They brought me to a supermarket called Golden selling all Chinese and Asian stuff, for a after dinner walk.  I already have the essentials in my apartment.  Thank you for the company, Garren and David! 


Back at apartment, I called BK who just touched down into Singapore from Hong Kong.  While I was out that morning, internet connection to AT&T terminal went flat … no connection again.  But I was out the whole day and decided not to think about it. 

Saturday, 20 Sep 2008, about 10am, in apt …

Decided to do nothing for the day, feeling moderate withdrawal symptoms from missing school and missing internet connection.  I allowed myself to do as I wished – spent the day hibernating in the apartment, was not progressing even though I was reading 7 Habits, achieved fewer than 10 pages.  Took out some maps and materials I had on Houston and starting planning a getaway if ever school was not going to start on Monday…ha!  Realised I have a Houston map by metro transit system – interesting.  It provided a bird eye’s view of how areas are connected by bus routes.  

Energy drained by evening, decided to go H.E.B., more for a breather – got my first bunch of veg – broccoli and spinach – since Ike.  Bumped into a familiar face – not a stranger, not a friend either, just someone I bumped into in my neighbourhood while he walked his dog.  He came forward to talk, my sustained interest was shortlived – especially after he went into the nutrients and vitamins for each choice of purchase in his cart and he repeated some words as if I didn’t understand English – juicer, you understand juicer?? … He tried to tell me the way to choose a watermelon was to smell it after he saw I picked up a personal watermelon (cute, literally what it was called!).  I needed a quiet break shopping, and I know you don’t sniff your way to a good watermelon.  Garren, David and I were just talking about watermelon selection the previous evening.  Anyhow I continued alone with “retail therapy”.  Cooked a quick dinner of broccoli, baked beans and eggs. 

Wow … got my internet connection back, after nearly 2 days.  Brother called to connect mum and me on skype.  Decided to make cold dessert red bean soup for the next day – bought a packet of “small red beans” from H.E.B. – they were not small, bigger than the beans we cooked back home.  Mum told me to try doing my own bean paste for pastries, prompted by the recent news that commercial supply of bean paste from China apparently had some issues.  I was indeed thinking about bean paste that very evening.  She reminded me not to eat too much red beans, as legumes generally exacerbate joint problems – I had sustained a sport injury to the medial collateral ligament in my right knee though my knee has been pretty faithful to me in the past years.  Got my energy back with internet back on.  Life moved at a faster tempo

Sunday, 21 Sep 2008, about 11am, along Rice Blvd …

I was feeling high spirited walking along tree lined Rice Blvd.  I was to check out Croissant Brioche Cafe – a nice casual french cafe where I completed the second third of 7 Habits and sat in a corner for next 3hr …. the spinach quiche was tasty but would have preferred the crust more crusty??hmm … I love quiche. The coffee was flavourful, not sure why I ordered a latte – had wanted just a cafe au lait, nvm.  Didn’t have room for the almond croissant which I read was good.  Enjoyed walking the streets that make up Rice Village, even though most of the shops were closed.  Happy to find Half Price Books – Garren just mentioned to me on Friday.  I spent too much on books, maybe you can call it investment 😉  So I spent another 3hr in the bookstore.  I found a new copy of 7 Habits for 6 bucks – what a steal – what was more important was that I committed myself to work on effectiveness of “my life” over the coming weeks, and the book I was reading belonged to Mr LeNotre.  Other than the 30min wait for the first bus, I was back at my apt by the next half hour.

I snacked on my red bean dessert and an apple, too lazy to cook dinner.  Yes, I gave in to my craving of jalapenos tortilla chips when I was at Walgreen to pick up the refill phone card .  I had put back on some weight over the last week, I think – it must be the high carbo diet. 

Decided to update the post as a week+ overview, as part of last week was pretty mundane and repetitive with pre-occupied thinking.  I have a couple of posts to update coming week, including finishing the one I started on “Capturing the Moments..” before power went out.

Sunday, 21 Sep 2008, about 10pm, in my apt …

Dozed off … when I woke up and disoriented, I saw 9.40 on the clock and had a bad shock – I thought I missed the first day of level 2 class — ha ha ha!  I am really anxious to return to pastry lab … I was initially thinking about it so much that I was disppointed when there was no power and no school as each day went by.  I had to suppress the anticipation to lead more effective days from Thursday.

My sleep pattern was broken in the past week, I no longer wake up automatically at 5.30am.  BK assured me he will wake me up tomorrow, he had just arrived into Sydney while I was roaming Rice Blvd.  Looking forward to return to school and excited to meet chefs and my friends again are no exaggeration.

I look at the date … 21 Sept … the last proper lab time before the exam was on 5 Sept … how time flies…  Can’t turn back the clock of past week – will Chef Philippe push us extra hard or give us extra attention to make up lost hours? … It is a real deal, I am more than happy to take on and take in whatever.

Going to iron my uniform and back to my 3hr sleep schedule…

Back Again … After another 24hr of Internet Outage!

What can I say?

Right now, Thank You, of course.  The AT&T guy just left.  I couldn’t leave my apt as I was waiting for the service guy to come between 12-5pm.  Now I am back on – He said that the main building for internet svcs (didn’t get the full thing but nevermind???) is still running on generator and my connection weakened when the power went down.

I realised life without internet is very straining – coz I have got to read a lot from books.  With internet, I can make phone calls and sms my loved ones, surf for information, make purchase, check meaning of words, download pictures … and of course update my journal.

Fingers crossed.  I am back on virtual world.

I am back … after 79hr 26min of Power Outage from Hurricane Ike

This post is going to be short (oops it wasn’t that short after all).  More of a message to my family and concerned friends back home in Singapore and everywhere else –

I am well, everything is fine.  Now I really feel very hungry … there was a power outage from 13 Sep 2.30am till 16 Sep 9.56am.  Yes, I just got back the electricity!  So thankful!  I pray that everyone else affected by Ike one way or another is safe and warm. 

(I was walking out to charge my phone somewhere, wouldn’t know where but somewhere … joined a group of residents for updates … about 10 min into conversation, someone shouted from level 3 apt unit – “We’ve got power” – everyone was so happy, hi fives all round and we all went back to our apt.)  

~Entertaining myself during power outage~

~Entertaining myself during power outage~

First thing I did was to turn on my laptop and called BK, but his mobile phone was not turned on.  He should be in Hong Kong now, and my mum confirmed it.  Mum said that BK couldn’t contact me last couple of days, he called CIAML and apparently there may be no school till next mon… NOooooooooooooooooo.  It is a blessing electricity came back, coz I was going cranky already.  I was supposed to start Baking & Pastry Arts Level 2 on Monday. 

I am now charging my mobile phone, it went dead the morning after Ike hit – how smart.  I missed my brother’s birthday celebration that very morning which was 10pm Singapore time, I couldn’t join in the cake cutting celebration coz power outage simply meant no internet connection – no skype webcam.

I have been reading for the past 3 days within the 12 hour daylight I had.  I realised opening my blinds and doors were so welcoming.  In darkness and stillness of the night, it was difficult to dream in colours and feel the energy to make plans.  I was comfortable with darkness for last 3 nights, I always have this fear but no more … no choice too.  Water pressure was low for the 2 days after Ike visited, I showered my long hair from a plastic container, just like childhood days.  Have not showered in cold water for the longest time.  I have recovered from sleep debt, I have enough sleep to last me a long while.  Imagine what a 12 hour darkness meant to someone who sleeps only a couple hours each night.  Somehow I woke up past 10pm for the last 3 nights.

My inbox was flooded with many messages from my friends.  Thank you, I am doing well. 

~My Dinner with Warmth!~

I wanted to thank this special lady – she is Andrene, living by the next block.  We met when I decided to get out of my apartment and take a walk yesterday.  She knocked on my apartment door an hour later, “I thought you would like something warm“, and she brought me an iced tea, a hamburger, 2 cookies and hot baked beans – “We should look out for each other in times of need“, she said as she made her way slowly down from my second floor apartment.  I was really touched by her gesture, she didn’t even know me.  I only knew she is the aunt of this guy who was visiting from Orange and for the last 2 days been providing me with Ike updates of surrounding areas like no school for Monday etc.  I just saw her walking by again and went out to say hello.

I am just glad electrical power got back on.  I just chatted happily with my sis and bro-in-law on skype – David said that if they still couldn’t get me, he was going to call Singapore Embassy, ha ha ha.  Walah, luckily they found me when power got back on. 

Ohsurprise, suprise … DHL just came and delivered a parcel, I was expecting moon cakes from Singapore from BK – one week late, it came with a note Emergency Action Notification … Article Name: Edible Eggs and Egg Products: Moon Cakes … Action TakenPartial Destruction … so I have got no moon cakes, but I have the other half of the package 老婆饼!from Hong kong … Yipee

What about Tropical Storm Edouard?

Nothing eventful happened today. I had prepared to sleep through the stormy morning. Rain it did at about 9 in the morning, no rustling of the leaves outside my room, just fine rain. I peeped through the blinds several times, yes it was still raining but all quiet. I noticed that more than half the vehicles were out, which meant work as usual.  I peeped through the blinds several time, wondering why I am not whisking away in the lab in school. 

I got restless even though I tried to read as planned. What helped was that my dear BK was online, and we chatted.  He was working on his options.  A knock on the door … Yipee!  My parcel which BK sent me from Singapore.  The USPS deliveryman had to work till 4.30pm. 

~Parcel from Home~

~Parcel from Home~

BK had sent me my piping materials and 2 Singapore flags – 1 for my apartment for National Day, and another for the school to fly the flag when a foreign student is attending the school.  Nope, no note of love or any love letter, he included though a set of mini spatulas and measuring cups which he recently won at a “cooking competition” during a company teambuilding.  Clap! Clap!  Wait a minute, why did he send me these?

The rain stopped at half past 3.  The weather has cooled from a 41 degree C yesterday to 31 degree C.  Things happened for good reasons afterall.