Monday, 30 April 2007

Faster pasta!

With two growing boys in the house, you'll always find me in the kitchen whipping up meals. When they're hungry, they want their food pronto! Good thing I am a fast worker.

I create dishes around what I can find in the fridge. So I often churn out the most unusual concoction. I made seafood spaghetti for lunch today. First, brown chopped garlic together with fresh chilli and fishcake until fragrant. Next toss in chopped fresh tomatoes, diced carrot and fresh whole prawns. When everything is half cooked, stir in Prego Pasta Sauce and simmer for another few minutes before tossing in the boiled pasta.

Voila! A pasta dish is ready in 15 minutes!

May Day brekkie

Spring Home frozen prata dough
Fresh dough being panfried
Fluffy pratas
Chicken curry
I made roti prata for breakfast this morning. Well, I didn't actually make the prata from scratch. Remember our last trip to Little India? We bought lots of stuff from Mustafa supermarket.

The Spring Home frozen prata is actually fresh dough which I had to panfry until they become nice and fluffy. Well, I had expected them to be already fried but still, cooking them was such a cinch, they were ready in no time at all.

I made curry using a premixed curry paste, adding in chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and fresh chilli to enhance the taste.

That was brekkie in a quickie but oh so yummy!

May day - a day to celebrate!

It's Labour Day holiday today. While we don't have huge celebrations such as parades, shows and labour-oriented events like in some countries, we have our own reasons to celebrate this May Day!

My sister in law went into labour yesterday and delivered a little baby girl! Today's also my 11-year old niece's birthday!

This afternoon, CH's treating us to Spiderman 3 at Vivocity. It's YK's belated birthday treat actually. And we're watching Phantom of the Opera at the Esplanade tomorrow night.

What a great way to start the month of May!

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Don't freak out!

My garden is full of beautiful plants. My garden is also filled with caterpillars! They come in all shapes and sizes, in various stages of their lives.

Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered as pests. Here in my garden, they're YK's pets for one fine day, they'll become beautiful butterflies. We have plants and weeds that are attractive to butterflies. After filling up on nectar from the flowers, they lay eggs on the host plants. Soon the miniature eggs will hatch into tiny caterpillars.

Caterpillars are amazing little creatures. These little eating machines have soft bodies that can grow rapidly, like balloons, between moults. They eat leaves all day long, shed their skins generally four or five times, and eventually pupate into an adult form. Measured by weight increase, caterpillars have a very fast growth rate. For instance, a tobacco hornworm will increase its own weight ten thousand times in less than twenty days.

It's a wonderful hobby really. Thanks to YK, we have a yard full of colourful butterflies fluttering about in the sun.

Running back in time

I went for my long run along Upper Bukit Timah Road yesterday. I started at Bukit Batok, ran through Toh Tuck Road, past Jalan Jurong Kechil, continued along Upper Timah Road, followed by Hillview and back to the starting point again.
I simply love this area because of the open fields, old buildings and interesting structures. I was blessed with cool weather as it was drizzling lightly but the pictures taken on my mobile phone aren't that great. Well, enjoy anyway!
One of last few circus left in Singapore.
The vast open field always makes me think of green pastures in New Zealand.

This tunnel, with an overhead train track, leads to Hillview estate.

This must be one of the oldest Standard Chartered Bank buildings!
It was there since I was a kid.
The Salvation Army building looks like a ship, doesn't it?

An old railway track, with The Rail Mall in the background.

Old Ford Factory building along Bukit Timah Road, where the British surrendered. On 15 February 1942, the Head of the Allied forces, Lt General A. E. Percival, surrendered to general Yamashita of the Japanese Forces there, who made Ford factory their Japanese Army HQ during WW2.

Friday, 27 April 2007

What you see is (not) what you get

When we read about the new Marina South Pier, we were impressed! If you had read it, you would be too… here’s why..
“THE new Marina South Pier, which opened last year to replace Clifford Pier, is so close to the Central Business District but yet, the minute you turn off the East Coast Parkway, it feels like you're taking a trip to the countryside. It's a quiet and deserted drive to the futuristic-looking complex from where you can take a boat to the Southern Islands.

The spanking new waterfront maritime building covers about 5,000 sqm and features a striking wave-like roof shelter. At night, the soft blue lights from the roof cast a romantic glow in the nightsky and beckon visitors from afar.

A new restaurant, Pier Eleven serving modern European and Mediterranean seafood has opened on the 2nd level. Pier Eleven believes in providing food in an interesting setting. Its main draw is the waterfront view and secluded - and if you get to dine on the outer deck, romantic - feel. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and Modern European fare but chef Alan Koh has in fact given a broad Asian interpretation to it.

Over on the roof garden, The Edge Bar & Bistro is also a nice place to chill-out under the starry sky and shimmering sea. At night, the blue fairy lights on the wooden deck create a romantic mood. You can also rest your feet on the benches facing the sea while you watch the ferries dock below at the jetty.”

Lured by the charming description, we drove there last night after dinner at Clarke Quay. Indeed the shimmering lights did beckon us from afar but boy, were we disappointed when we got there. It’s just a ferry terminal. Period. (Don't let the pictures above fool you)

The restaurant and bar look out of place in the pragmatic building that had ferry operators using walkie talkies alongside serious customs officers in uniform. Do you think people would be able to chill out in such an ambience. I don’t think so.

Nevermind. We went to the second storey and found the much glamourised Pier Eleven restaurant sandwiched between a tiny food court (which was already closed at 9.30pm) and an office. Hmm, doesn’t look very inviting.

So we went up to the roof garden and hey…not so bad. The timber deck floor and steel railing make one feel like you’re on a boat deck. The Edge Bar & Bistro was pretty quiet and low key. Not that happening yet, I guess. We hung around under the starry sky and looked out at the glittering lights in the distance. We peered at people boarding and disembarking from the ferries docked at the jetty below.

Sadly, the Pier lacks the oomph. Maybe it’s still new. It will take a while before it becomes vibrant or maybe it's just destined to be a ferry terminal and nothing else. That I believe has got to do with fengshui. Take Clarke Quay for instance. We have seen it gone through various transformations before it became what it is today. When we were there yesterday, it was just filled with people, lots to see and do around there. Simply lively!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

What is this world coming to?

This week I have been reading about abuse, fights, fatal accidents and all kinds of horrible things in the papers. No wonder my friend has given up on reading the papers in the morning. “It’s filled with nothing but bad news. Too depressing.” She said.

While the world is mourning for the 33 victims of the worst shooting rampage in US history, we have some sad stories here too.

I was filled with disgust when I read about the sicko who attacked and raped three young women in their flats and the abusive mum who scalded her 11-year old daughter with hot water and cut her 13-year old son’s hand with scissors. These senseless acts will leave indelible marks on the victims and torment them for life.

Sometimes a fun outing can also turn tragic. A good-natured bar manager died after being brutally beaten outside a discotheque. Who would expect an excursion to Malacca organized by the dialysis centre to help their patients forget their condition would leave 2 dead in a fatal road accident? The nation’s heart went out to the group of teenagers who were swept by stormwaters in a canal leaving one young girl dead. We waited anxiously for news of the 2 missing teenage boys and cried to find they have drowned while celebrating their birthdays at a picnic by the sea.

I was saddened to hear of ‘happy slapping’ incidents in our schools. In a recent case, a 14-year old girl was slapped and stripped by few schoolmates in an ordeal that was captured on video. They later threatened to post the video online if she did not pay them money. Acts of bullying have taken a new dimension of being recorded and posted on websites as a perverse way for the bullies to gain fame, especially if the videos are viewed by many. This is a worrying trend.

Sigh. What is this world coming to? I hope for some good news in tomorrow’s papers.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Please go away

Thanks to an ulcer in my mouth, I can't really blog today. What's that got to do with blogging, you may say?

When you have a big painful ulcer under the tongue, you can't talk properly. You lose your appetite. It hurts to swallow your saliva. It hurts more when you're drinking hot coffee. Even the yummiest food will not make you salivate. You're feeling out of sorts. You may even feel a little feverish. Somehow you don't feel very attractive or creative. You can't think properly.

Friends have been offering all kinds of suggestions... drink lots of water, gargle with salt water or apply salt to the wound... Ouch!! No way! My best friend swears by an Oral B solution for gums and ulcers. CH offered his Bonjela. Some people say applying butter helps too...

Oh, how I hate having ulcers. I wish it'll go away when I get out of bed tomorrow. I have a dinner date ...

Happy Birthday!

It's YK's birthday today! How time flies...
15 years ago, I held this tiny baby in my arms.
Today, he's bigger than I am.
Happy Birthday my dear son!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

More importantly...

How can I forget to mention these things that Vivien will love about Singapore?

She will be so happy to see her mum, sister and niece again! That's the whole purpose of the trip isn't it? She'll visit her dad in Penang too. Surely she's looking forward to seeing me, the kids and my parents again!

She'll love the feel of hot sun on her skin. She might even rejoice at getting drenched in one of our tropical storms! She'll admire the greenery and colourful bougainvilleas as she walks on the overhead bridge and trek up Bukit Timah Hill behind the apartment where she last lived.

She'll probably frown on the construction going on at Marina Bay and the sudden appearance of mega malls around the island. Or the disappearing kampongs and the prospect of having new casinos and skyscrapers in the city.

Whatever it is, I will know when I see her again.

Counting down

Hey Viv, I'm counting down to the day I see you again! You'll be here in exactly 2 weeks! There’s so much lined up for you in the 20 precious days you’re here!

You’ll finally get to eat all the favourite things that you’re missing in Oregon... first stop, the seafood centre for chilli crabs! I know how you miss the spicy succulent crabs here. You drove for miles in Bend to eat the bland Snow crab just to stave off your cravings. While you’re here, let’s have black pepper crab too, along with butter fried prawns with crunchy oats, sambal kangkong, steamed fish, crispy roast chicken, drunken prawns, spicy clams and mussels, in fact anything you fancy!

The huge array of Indian food in Little India awaits you too. Can you smell the tantalising Tandoori chicken, mutton masala, murtabak, thosai, prata, curry fish head and nasi briyani already? You’ll be spoilt for choice.

We can have Sunday brunch at one of the Chinese restaurants. You’ll be wowed by the baskets of steaming delicacies...crystal dumplings, siao mai, har gao, chee cheong fun, barbequed pork buns, chicken feet, pork ribs…

Then of course we must visit the hawker centres for your favourite laksa, mee siam, mee pok, char kuay teow, chicken rice, hokkien mee, fish ball soup, duck rice, porridge, chicken curry, barbequed sting ray, prawn mee soup, fried carrot cake, claypot rice, bak kut teh, satay, poh piah and the famous Johnson Duck!

Oh, don’t forget to leave room in your tummy for the desserts too. Let me tempt you with ice kachang, chendol, ice jelly, sugar cane drink, chin chow, tao suan, red bean soup, glutinous rice balls, teh terik, cheng tng and even bubble tea! There're novelty ice cream and Gelato kiosks selling wasabi ice cream, black sesame ice cream, lychee gelatos, fig & brandy or the strangest concoctions to knock you off your feet.

What about snacks? You have a choice of rice dumpling, tao sar piah, bak kuah, keropok, prawn rolls, dried sotong, ang koo kuey, malay kueys, kaya toast, peanut pancakes, soon kuey… and sinfully good chocolate fudge cakes!

Ah, while you’re here, I’m sure you want to eat Peranakan food too. Or try the Tibetan café, the Hong Kong cafes, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, and places selling Italian and European food too.

For old time sake, you must also visit places like Sentosa, Pulau Ubin, Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo and Night Safari before they change too much. You need to come by my place for a spot of gardening and home cooked meals and laksa party with my family too.

Wow, looks like you’re going to be one busy lady! Maybe you should stay a little longer?

Monday, 23 April 2007

A taste of Singapore

After a day of meetings and discussions, I brought my associates, Nigel from UK and Kim from Korea, for seafood dinner. A trip to Singapore is not complete without a visit to UDMC Seafood Centre where they can dine under the stars while looking out into the sea. With promises of seafood like crabs cooked in anyway imaginable –steamed or cooked in chilli, curry, black pepper, white pepper, butter, ginger or spring onion, they were in a hurry to get there.

Jumbo Seafood is my favourite restaurant. I can order with my eyes closed. The signature dish, chilli crab eaten with fried man tou, is to-die-for! We also ordered crispy baby squid in tangy sweet sauce, steamed fish and seafood fried rice.

While waiting for the food to arrive, I insisted they try some satay and Tiger Beer. When the squid was served, they were initially intrigued by the miniature size, but were soon nodding in approval after biting into the crunchy little morsels bursting with flavours.

The Chilli Crab proved to be a winner! Being the gracious host, I handed each guy a huge claw to tackle. The taste of sweet succulent flesh enhanced by the spicy tangy sauce quickly won them over though they wished there were bibs to prevent their shirts from getting stained. It’s inevitable, I told them. Using your hands and getting messy is part of the joy of eating here.

Even the seafood fried rice, cooked with generous helpings of fresh scallop and prawns, was very well received. Fragrant, fluffy and not too oily, it complemented the steamed garoupa very nicely. We managed to polish up everything on the plates.

While driving home, I was pleased that my guests enjoyed the dinner. It also got me thinking that restaurants like Jumbo have the right business formula that hasn’t changed for decades. It had obviously worked very well for them as the outlets are packed with locals and tourists every single night.

I remember during our brain-storming session, Nigel had said “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Well said!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Growing vegetables

Lady's finger (okra)

Mustard green

Corn and sweet potato

I have this sudden urge to start a vegetable patch again. For years, I have been growing flowers and shrubs in my garden, why not grow vegetables instead? At least we get to eat the fruit of my labour. Imagine the taste of fresh organic produce straight from the yard. I should start very soon before this passion dissipates...


It’s 5.30pm on a Sunday evening. I’m chilling out with a bottle of Swedish Beer which I picked up from, where else but, Ikea. Smooth and bitter, it goes very well with the crunchy Indian snack I am munching on – Haldiram’s spicy blend of cashews, almonds, cucumber seeds and pulses.

I’ve just spent the late afternoon washing and waxing my Japanese car using the wonderful American Turtle Wax. Now I am pounding away on my IBM Thinkpad listening to the radio playing UK hits in the background. I turn on the Sanyo air-conditioner and pick up my Sony Ericsson to message my friend in Indonesia. I peer inside my refrigerator which is stocked with food and produce spanning across the world, from neighbouring countries, to faraway places like USA and all the countries in between.

Thanks to globalization and international trade, we are what we are today. In a small island like ours where we are almost totally reliant on imports, imagine what life is like if we are completely cut off from the world….

If you think about it, we have nothing to cheer about really…

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Busy Sunday morning

It's a beautiful Sunday morning but here I am, running all over the shop. Gee, this is worse than a work day.

0630hrs - Alarm clock goes off
0645hrs - Shower and have a cup of coffee
0700hrs - Drive from Choa Chu Kang to Bedok
0740hrs - Run with CH at East Coast Park
0815hrs - Finish running
0830hrs - Pump petrol at Caltex Frankel Road
0835hrs - Walk to Frankel Road 7-11 to buy stuff for YK's birthday. Sorry, no stock
0840hrs - Buy breakfast for SK at Frankel Road Kopitiam
0845hrs - Pick SK from Kembangan apartment
0900hrs - Swing by office to pick up my computer
0910hrs - Pop by Chai Chee 7-11 to find that stuff for YK. Also no stock
0915hrs - Stroll over to buy fried carrot cake for YK but stall not open
0920hrs - Drive to Bukit Batok
0945hrs - Drop SK off for tuition
1000hrs- Stop by Choa Chu Kang Kopitiam to buy fried carrot cake for YK.
1005hrs - Hop over to nearby 7-11. Also out of stock!
1010hrs - Swing by 7-11 at Choa Chu Kang. Yay, finally, I got it!
1020hrs - Home at last but YK already ate because he was too hungry
1021hrs - I eat YK's carrot cake breakfast
1045hrs - Blog and rest
1115hrs - Drive to Bukit Batok
1145hrs - Pick SK from tutor's house
1200hrs - Chill out at Upper Peirce Reservoir. Ahhhh, at last!

Friday, 20 April 2007

Dinner at Sunset Grill

It’s no surprise that we ended up at Sunset Grill for dinner last night. Who knows how much longer it’s going to be there? Many others probably shared the same sentiment for the entire al fresco section was full. To think that this place, infamous for being the most inaccessible eatery in Singapore, was fully booked at 7pm on a Friday night!

Outdoor dining at Sunset Grill means sitting on mismatched chairs and tables under the huge tree with twinkle lights. To me, an old swing in the slightly disheveled garden and the couple of mongrels hanging around added to the charm of the place. Sipping beer, watching kids running barefoot in the yard and the small planes taking off in the airfield bring casual dining to new heights.

I can never decide what to order when everything in the menu is calling out to me. By now, everyone knows that the owner Jerry started Jerry's BBQ & Grill in Jalan Kayu, then Buckaroo near Sembawang Park before starting out Sunset Grill in Seletar. So the menus are somewhat similar.

Mushrooms fried in batter, buffalo wings in hot sauce, deep fried shrimps in batter, chilli con carne, calamari, tacos, pork ribs, steak, pasta, salads, brownie served with ice cream…. I want them all!

We finally settled on mussels cooked in white sauce, buffalo wings and Waldorf salad (cos CH said must include some vegetables in our diet). The salad arrived first (duh!) and kept us occupied until the wings came. They must be selling lots of wings for every table ordered a platter of these. You can buy half or a dozen, in various degree of spiciness (grade 1 to 10). Fried to perfection, then smothered in hot sauce, they are served with celery and carrots sticks and a cheese dip on the side. It’s strange how most people eat these finger licking wings using a fork and knife. I find they are best eaten with your fingers… just grip the wings, chew off the chunky meat and lick up every bit of tangy sauce on your fingers. Yes, the wings are that chunky and quite a meal in itself.

The succulent mussels cooked in a creamy white sauce was yummy. I love mussels cooked in any style. This was just perfect especially when you dip the freshly made pieces of garlic toast in the garlicky sauce!

Service was swift and efficient. Dishes were cleared away quickly. If we had lingered any longer, they would have swept us out of there too.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Unforgettable Sri Lanka

Dambulla cave Temple

Stuck in the mud at the safari

Fishing boat coming in with catch in Negombo

Village kids
Bullock cart

At the Ayurveda Spa

Typical market street scene

Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary

It’s that time of the year again when I'm bitten by the travel bug. Traveling is one of my biggest loves. It doesn’t matter where I go, how near or far, I always follow my heart. Some of the most memorable places I've been to are off the beaten path. I am happy staying in a tribal village amongst rice fields or a nice hotel by the sea, for every trip is a new experience. I travel whenever there is an opportunity and before I have any regrets. Take this trip to Sri Lanka for instance....

When we were there in Dec 2005, we already witnessed soldiers patrolling the streets of Colombo and gun-totting men in uniform manning checkpoints in villages. Today, it is no longer safe for tourists. Recently fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (Tamil Tiger) faction is intensifying. The security situation remains very uncertain and travelers are advised to avoid visiting if possible.

It’s a shame really because Sri Lanka is such an interesting place. We spent a day in Negombo, a quiet beach town against a backdrop of palmtrees and blue sky. How can I forget the sight of colourful wooden boats coming ashore with their early morning catch? Or the fish market along the beach lined by decrepit buildings, shacks and beach hotels along the shore. Though picturesque, it was also a scene of poverty.

Sri Lanka is one of Asia’s richest treasure troves of both natural and man-made wonders. Of course we did the touristy thing and visited the UNESCO heritage sites like the magnificent Cave temples of Dambulla, the awe-inspiring Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the royal city of Kandy. We rode through the village on a bullock cart, shopped at the factory outlets, toured tea plantations and spice gardens, walked through the botanical gardens, stopped by the elephant sanctuary, witnessed the rich wildlife at the Safari, visited the local markets, experienced an Ayurvedic massage …

I was impressed by their progressive and modern economy, the high literacy rate, cleanliness around us and friendliness of the people. I hope the security situation improves for we certainly like to visit again.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Another one bites the dust

I saw this coming years ago. Finally the extreme makeover of Seletar Camp has begun.

Seletar Camp is one of my favourite haunts. I love this sleepy neighbourhood simply because it’s like a forgotten place that’s tucked away in a corner of our island. This sprawling former military air base still boasts of old black and white colonial houses, abandoned buildings and old hangers and a handful of clubs. It’s the lush greenery and old world charm that appeals to me.

Thinking about that place makes me feel nostalgic. When the kids were younger, we used to drive through the quiet roads in search of caterpillars and butterflies. They could run freely on the green haven of small roads and open fields. The Seletar Base Golf Course is where I took my golf proficiency test. Last year, my best friend and I jogged through the tranquil estate one Saturday morning hoping to have a leisurely breakfast at the popular Kingfisher Club only to find it closed.

Then there is Sunset Grill which is located in East Camp. It is like an oasis in the desert! After driving through the golf course, past old repairs yards and tall fencing, it’s unbelievable to stumble on a restaurant housed in an old hanger. The last time I was there with CH for dinner, it was so dark, I accidentally parked my car on the green (of Seletar Course)! Whoops. Yet the restaurant was full of people having a great time. I remember having a most wonderful dinner with Vivien and the kids here before she left for the US. We watched the beautiful sunset while gorging on the delicious food.

I love the place so much I once harboured the thought of living in the colonial houses with open lawns. But I guess that will never happen in this lifetime for the makeover to turn the tranquil surroundings of Seletar Airport into an aerospace hub has begun. The old tenants are already starting to move out and soon, there will be a spanking new Seletar Aerospace Park here.

Let the sleeping dog lie

Rusty sleeps on his comfy cushion in our room every night. But the cushion was beginning to stink, so we brought it out for washing and sunning.

His cushion wasn't dry yet on Monday night. We found him snuggled next to the VCD player all night. (don't worry, the player is not plugged in)

We couldn't find him anywhere last night. Finally, he was found sleeping on the book shelf.

Tonight, he should be sleeping on the cushion again.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Beauty or brains?

When I was hanging out with the guys, we started talking about girls. Duh!

Guy A: If you were a guy, would you choose a beautiful girl who is not that smart or a brainy girl who’s not attractive for a girlfriend?
Me: Of course a brainy girl lah! A beautiful girl can’t stay that way forever right? What are you going to do when she grows old? On the other hand, a brainy girl can keep you entertained all the way to old age. Besides, she can go for a makeover right? Then you get beauty and brains! But seriously, how can guys just think about looks all the time?!
Guy A: Hmm, good point but meanwhile have to sleep with blindfold until the makeover.
Guy B jumps in and said: If you still can’t decide, choose the one with the bigger boobs.
Me: Roll eyes. Fainted!

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Life is no fairy tale

Some of my friends working in MNCs are the busiest people I know. They practically work round the clock. They can't even stay out late anymore. Like Cinderella, they have to rush home before midnight to attend the daily conference calls with their American and European colleagues. Yet they are up early in the morning for another round of long distance calls before rushing to work at the office.

They don’t get to sleep in on Saturday mornings either for it is still Friday in USA. As if that’s not bad enough, they’re so used to receiving phone calls when they're sound asleep or while they are having dinner, working out in the gym or shopping for groceries after work.

When their phones ring at home, they have to keep the kids quiet or shush the dog up before picking up that call. If they're not fast enough, they get reprimanded by their boss or hear snide comments from the other side. It’s almost criminal. But hey, it's after office hours! Why do they feel bad if they’ve missed a call while taking a bath?

My friends say they are not complaining for they have to make a living. Life is not a fairy tale...

What can I say… thanks to globalization and IT, working 9-5 is a thing of the past. You've got to be available 24/7!

Slow Down, you're moving too fast

Slow down, baby now you're movin' way too fast - Beatles

I slipped and fell again during the weekend. This time, I stepped on the wet tiles outside my bathroom and whoosh… landed on my back. Strangely, in that split second, time seemed to come to a standstill… I knew it was too late to prevent it but my mind was racing…I must break this fall to prevent my back from breaking! Instinctively, I stretched out my left hand to cushion the fall and landed in slow motion, first on my bum, then flat on my back.

Today, the muscles on my left arm feel a little sore but boy was I lucky I didn’t hurt my back. If I had landed heavily on my back, the result would be unthinkable.

To think that last week, I was evaluating an insurance policy for my mum. It’s a personal accident plan that covers medical treatments for the elderly who suffer from injuries due to falls and accidents. I should get one for myself too.

Maybe I walk too fast or am always in a hurry… I seem to fall pretty often. Then again, it’s not just me. My business associate from UK had to delay his trip to Singapore because he fell down the stairs yesterday and sprained his ankle. The poor guy couldn’t walk and you know how much walking one has to do at the huge airports these days.

When I told V about my fall, it literally sent a chill down her spine. In her resort town of Bend, a young boy who went snowboarding had a little fall, and became totally paralysed from neck down. It seems that around 44 people suffer serious injuries like paralysis due to skiing and snowboarding in USA every year.

Last week, a young man in Singapore who was involved in a little traffic accident, got into a tiff with the other driver. In his bid to prevent the other driver from getting away from the scene, he fell and hit his head against the pavement. The doctors had to remove part of his brain to save his life. He is still in a coma today.

I don’t mean to be so pessimistic but it’s scary when you think of the worst scenarios. It pays to be more careful. Slow down and don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Night out with the guys

I joined CH on his night out with the guys at Hacienda, an al fresco garden bar nestled in the lush greenery of Dempsey Road. Refurbished from an old colonial building into a cool lounge cafe bar, it’s not a swanky hideout but it has a casual elegance that draws a young and beautiful crowd.

We were ushered to an outdoor seating in the garden. Surrounded by tropical plants, our spot offered a vantage view of the club. Our three guys ordered their drinks and leaned back comfortably on the wooden chairs. They scanned the club scene and sometimes threw glances at each other, made occasional conversations, often in short sentences, laughed and then continued to sit back and chill out.

I was perplexed, “You mean that’s what you guys do when you hangout, just sit back and don’t talk very much?”

“Not much…”, came the reply, “except when we’re chatting up girls!” They grinned at each other knowingly. Maybe they’re not that chatty. Afterall they have known each other for years and are happy in each other’s company.

I looked around and saw mostly women talking. At the next table, the 4 girls had been talking nonstop while 2 guys did all the listening. The guys disappeared for a while and the girls became even more animated. Yak yak yak…

When I am out with my girlfriends, our conversation starts the moment we meet. It builds momentum as we walk to the restaurant and picks up speed as we get seated. We continue chatting as we study the menu and get so caught up in our yakking that we’re not ready to order when the waiter comes around. Choosing what to eat is a conversation topic in itself. When the food is served, every mouthful is accompanied by a commentary. The conversation doesn’t let up when dinner is over. We’d find a comfy place for coffee and cakes. Instead of lounging around, we’d sit upright on our chairs, to launch into a fresh round of gossip. Boy, we can talk into the night… long after the coffee pot is empty.

What about the guys? Well, we left Hacienda and drove to the Prata Shop. After a hearty meal of roti prata, mutton curry, mee goreng and thosai, washed down with teh tarik, we parted ways. Ciao! No lingering conversations and goodbyes…

Now you see why men are from Mars and women are from Venus?

Friday, 13 April 2007

Friday the 13th is bad news

I’m sitting here trying to cough out something for my blog but all I could do is cough and cough. I refuse to go to the doctor for any medication. Instead, I’ve been drinking hot honey water and sucking lozenges (Fortacold lozenges with propolis and active Manuka honey, a totally natural product from New Zealand!).

Maybe because my mind has gone foggy due to the cold, I have not been able to find my wallet since Friday the 13th. I’m trying my best to trace the sequence of events since Thursday. At the back of my mind, I imagine the worst scenario. Someone could have already racked up a huge credit bill on my cards or worse still, sold them to a syndicate for cloning! Oh boy, all these bad thoughts are giving me a headache.

There is still one last hope. I could have dropped it at my friend’s house. She’s going to help me look for it later. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed.

Meanwhile, I should start calling the credit card companies to report card loss...

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Getting a cold works like space travel?

I am having the sniffles. My head is heavy, eyes are droopy, throat is ticklish and my legs are weak. Yes, I have a cold. The best remedy for a cold? Plenty of rest.

I came across this website that explains to kids what a cold is. So, if you ever need to explain it to your kids, here’s what you can tell them:

A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory system. This just means it affects the nose, throat, and ears. A cold virus gets inside your body and makes you sick.

Fortunately, your body already has the best cold cure - your immune system. The immune system defends your body against illness. White blood cells are the immune system's main warriors. They're your own private army working to help you feel better.

Mucus is the wet, slimy stuff inside the nose. When someone sneezes or coughs, mucus drops float in the air. Breathing in these droplets can spread a cold from one person to another. You can also catch a cold if you touch your eyes or nose after handling something with cold viruses on it.

Getting a cold works like space travel - the virus actually has docking points that stick to the inside of your nose - just like a small spaceship attaching to a mother ship! The virus takes over the cells lining the nose and begins creating more viruses.

White blood cells charge to the nose's rescue and cause cold symptoms, while also killing the virus that caused the cold. Runny noses and sneezing actually help to prevent viruses from invading other parts of your body.

You sneeze because your nerves detect the irritation in your nose and get the lungs to push a blast of air out through your nose and mouth. Your body can sneeze over 100 miles an hour (161 kilometers per hour) - faster than a car travels on the road!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Thanks for the feedback

Thanks to my friend's feedback, I have come to realise that reading my blog can be a strain on your eyes. With a slightly bigger font now, I hope it's easier for everyone's reading pleasure.

When I was in graphic design eons ago, my older customers were always telling me to increase the font size of their brochures or newsletters. Back then, the designers were always more concerned about aesthetics. We would go into long arguments about how the looks and feel would be compromised when larger fonts were used.

In the end, we often had to find the right balance to please everybody. Years later, I can finally empathise with the older folks. I won't admit that I am old but I am certainly not as argumentative as before, though I must admit that we often take our youth (and good eyesight) for granted.

Remember, always put yourself in other people's shoes...

Planning for my future

Last night, I spent two hours with Aunty Molly discussing about my future. Molly is my mother’s sister, she’s also my insurance agent.

When I was younger, I avoided insurance agents like plague. Now I turn to them for advice. No matter what people say, I find it is our responsibility to plan for our old age. Well, if we receive any additional help from the government, it’s a big plus but we cannot sit around and wait forever. Lamenting about it isn't going to help either. It is our own life after all. What better time to do it than now, when we are still able and employable.

Molly : At what age do you plan to retire?
Me : Around 60.
Molly : Statistics show that an average woman in Singapore can live up to 88 years of age.
Me : Oh wow, how am I going to survive for 28 years after I retire? Hmm, looks like I’ll have to retire at 68.
Molly : Now how much do you think you would need every month after retirement?
Me : Say $2,000.
Molly : Assuming you need $2,000 per month x 20 years. That works out to $480,000.
Me : Gee! Half a million dollars?

We are not even talking about medical expenses and other contingencies. We know about the escalating cost of healthcare and we’ve seen how a major illness can wipe out a family’s life savings overnight.

Coincidentally, this morning the radio DJs were discussing about the plight of many elderly folks here. Apparently, 70% of abused cases are old women who are poor and sick. Most of them depend on their family for care and support. They inadvertently become a burden to their families who are already struggling with their own problems. It’s a sad reality.

Well, it’s never too late or too early to start. Besides, it won’t cost you an arm or a leg. That’s the beauty of insurance. There is a plan for everyone, no matter how rich or poor you are. It’s better to forego that pretty pair of shoes today than to find yourself homeless, sick and helpless after you retire. You decide.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Little India

We were back at Little India last Thursday night to do some midnight shopping. We arrived at 11.30pm but from the crowd milling about, you could never tell it how late it was. That’s what I love about this little place that never sleeps.

A visit to Little India is a treat for the senses and there is a surprise waiting for me in every nook and cranny. Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Little India...

As I stroll along the narrow lanes, I catch a whiff of sweet jasmine and the tantalising scents of spices drifting out from restaurants. What a feast for my eyes too…. the gorgeous saris, colourful garlands, gaudy bangles and dazzling array of gold jewerly. I love taking in the sights and cacophony of sounds. The blare of Indian music mingles with the sounds of car horn tooting, people bargaining, hawkers cajoling and visitors marveling. I see rows and rows of shops with a dizzying display of food from thosai to thali and tandoori, briyani, murtabak to an array of snacks and sweets. How can I resist the delicious smells and friendly faces greeting me at the door?

I marvel at the little shops lining the narrow streets that display everything and anything…from fresh vegetables to curry powder, clothes and Bollywood videos to pots and cameras.

I love how the colourful temples co-exist side by side with the churches and mosques, and the way fortune tellers and ‘mamak’ stores jostle for attention along the sidewalks. The ever-changing mix of restaurants, backpacker lodges and CD shops never fails to surprise me. It’s amazing even the back alleys of shop houses are occupied by tiny stalls hawking anything from VCDs to flower garlands.

There is orderliness in this cluttered, chaotic neighbourhood. You can almost imagine you’re in India, minus the beggars, squatters and the filth. This is the reason why our charming Little India is so loved by locals and tourists alike.

When I read that Urban Redevelopment Authority is planning to ‘spruce up this place yet retain the charm’, I wonder how this is possible.

Look at what they have done to Chinatown and Arab Street! They will reorganise the shop mix, relocate tenants that do not fit into the new scheme of things, get rid of clutter, ‘sanitise’ the area, rebuild old shop houses, spruce up the alleys, inject new art galleries and put in new signboards, increase rent…

In other words, the essence of Little India will soon be gone.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Word play

CH and I like to engage in word play. Our repartees keep us amused on a dull workday.

Today, I accidentally referred to ‘touts’ as ‘touters’.

CH: A person who touts is a tout, not a touter. Just as a person who ushers is an usher and not an usherer, and a marshal…

Suddenly our mundane Monday didn’t seem so boring anymore.

Me: Oh, did I say touter? I knew it but it slipped my mind (or fingers)! So I'm a lout, not a louter. Can?

CH : *pouts*

Me : That makes you a pouter. How come a person who pouts is a pouter, while a lout is not a louter, and a cook is not a cooker? Yet one who loots is a looter? Why?

CH : Then hooters are people who hoot lah?

Me : Want *hoot* is it?
'to hoot' is 'to fight' in hokkien

Well, what can I say? English is the strangest language....

Saturday, 7 April 2007

A small milestone

I can finally wear my running shoes again. Ok, that’s not quite a milestone…but hey, I have waited one month for this day! To protect my new toenail from any damage, I bandaged it before pulling on my socks and heading for Bukit Batok Nature Reserve.

It’s nice to be out running again. Though the sun was shining brightly, the park was well shaded by a thick canopy of trees. I decided to go slow today and took some pictures along the way.

Bukit Batok Park is developed on an abandoned quarry site. Its terrain is undulating with meandering footpaths. Half of the 36-hectare site is young Secondary Forest which have started to regenerate from former settled areas, where rubber and fruit trees, such as jackfruit, durian and rambutan, once stood. There are a number of forest paths winding through these areas, some of which lead to vantage points providing breathtaking views of the quarry lake.
Bukit Batok estate is a really nice place to live in. Even the landscape at the housing estate is impressive. Isn't it nice to wake up to a lovely view of pine and conifer trees!

I suspect the water gushing down this drain near the park is spring water because the clear water never stops running, even on very hot days.
It's been a good morning. The sky is darkening now and I hear rumbles. Looks like a thunderstorm is on the way.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Girl friends

I am so blessed to have many girlfriends. Understanding ones too. I must admit that I am not good at keeping in touch. Thank goodness they haven't forsaken me yet.

Before that happens, I want to thank my best friend WK for calling me almost every morning and for organising BBQs and dinners every now and then. My dear friend V in Oregon for her daily emails and nice comments on my blog. Julia for making the effort to stay in touch via sms. The jet-setting EE for making time to have a cuppa with me whenever she's in town. I must also thank Nani from Surabaya for bringing me lots of goodies everytime she's in Singapore. Of course, not forgetting my schoomates Viv, Joyce, ML and Len who constantly update me on what's going on in their lives. How can I forget the lovely and enigmatic Yvonne who would surprise me with a phone call once in a blue moon?

My dear friends, if you are reading my blog, thanks again for being my friend.

And to my guy friends out there, I appreciate you too.

Let's have Laksa

It's laksa for breakfast today. I didn't even slave away in the kitchen grinding and frying spices. Simply boil water, stir in Prima Laska mix, add noodles, prawns and beansprouts, and serve. All within 10 minutes! It's really yummy too! In fact, better than some I have tasted at the cafes.

Tai, the gentle giant

What a pleasant surprise to come across a Great Dane in Singapore! Tai belongs to the owner of the mega pet store. He has a Harlequin coat and is already such a giant at a tender age (he's only 20 months old!). His large and imposing appearance belies his friendly nature. Though we met for the first time yesterday, he was so gentle and playful we were cuddling him in no time at all.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Ugly customer

It’s Easter holiday and I was at McDonalds this morning. It was already packed at 8am as I joined the long line at the only counter that was open. Thankfully it was manned by an efficient lady. We were moving along nicely until it reached the ugly customer just ahead of me….

Ugly customer (UC) : I want six Big Breakfasts. Takeaway. Change the drinks to Milo.
McDonalds staff (MS): Sure. Please give us a while to prepare your order.
UC : I want one cup of ice water.
MS : Sure. (hands her a cup of ice water)
UC : Can you put ice? I want alot.
MS: Here you go.
(MS fills 6 cups of Milo and starts putting them in a big plastic bag.)

UC : I want them in individual plastic bags so that they won’t spill all over my car.
MS : OK (repacks them into individual bags)

By then the line is getting longer and longer. MS scurries around packing hash brown, cutlery and seasoning.

UC : (scans around, oblivious to the people waiting, and points) Can you give me that toy set?
MS : (looks up from packing) Sorry Mdm, I have already keyed in your order. I can’t give it to you unless you buy a Happy Meal.
UC: I’m sure you can. I bought 6 meals you know?
MS : (looks at the growing line of people and whispers) I’ll let you have it but only this time. I can’t do this you know.

Another 2 counters opened up and most people in our line moved over and were served right away. I decided to stick around and wait for my turn. The kitchen staff of mainly retired folks, were moving about quickly like clockwork.

UC : (starts fiddling with her hair and scratching her bum. Yikes, I take one step back.) Is my order coming? It’s taking too long. I don’t want it anymore if it’s not here soon. And will you quickly take that one over there (points to one Big Breakfast set that just arrived from the kitchen) before someone from the next counter buys it?
MS : Mdm, yours is a big order and we are preparing it specially for you. It’s almost ready.
The kitchen staff arrives with her order. MS starts to put them all in a big bag.
UC : I want them in individual plastic bags.
MS complies and heaves a sigh of relief as UC heads for the door.

MS smiles apologetically at me and asks for my order.
Me : Just two Big Breakfasts to go please.
MS : Sure! Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me : No, that'll be all. By the way, you were really patient just now.
MS : (hands me my order) Have a nice day! :-)
You too!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007


I like routines. Following the same routine everyday makes me feel settled and organised. I like waking up at the crack of dawn, driving the kids to school as the morning sun slowly lights up the sky, and arriving at the office bright and early.

Being an early bird gives me ample time to enjoy my cuppa while I read the papers. I even finish blogging before anyone steps into the office. I start my workday feeling fresh and ready to deal with anything that comes my way.

With a routine, I reckon the day is going to pan out nicely and there is no need to rush and feel harassed. I even have routines for catching up with family and friends, like our Friday night-outs, Saturday by the park, Sunday runs, and so forth.

I like the weekend routine of sleeping in, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, doing something fun like gardening, strolling in the park, discovering new places or doing nothing. Then there is the yearly routine of business trips, holidays with friends and family vacations. Of course routines get disrupted every now and then, but that’s ok. It’s sure to happen.

I can’t imagine my life without a routine. Everything will be out of whack. Days and months will fly by in a blur. Years will drift by before you realize that you haven’t planned or done enough for yourself and your family.

You may think my life is regimented and mundane. Well, I know routines keep me sane and happy. And, my life is not that boring.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Count your blessings

My best friend’s mum fell into a hole last weekend which landed her in the A&E department when her entire leg swelled up. Feeling sorry for her mum, my friend massaged her leg to help reduce the swell.

Her mum, ever the stoic lady, said, “If you think this is bad, let me tell you what happened to Ah Soh, the lady who lives downstairs.”

Last weekend, Ah Soh went for a picnic at West Coast Park with her grandchildren. She tripped and fell so badly, most of her front teeth were knocked out leaving her with a mouth full of blood. That was some bloody picnic. Poor Ah Soh!

My friend’s mum is in a way relieved that her injury wasn’t quite as bad as Ah Soh’s. Of course by now I should keep very quiet about my injured toe but still I must tell you this story about my friend’s toes.

When he saw me with a bandaged toe, he told me about how he injured his, long ago. He was riding his bike to the barbers, carrying his cousin on the metal frame before him. They were going downhill, he tried to slow down but discovered the brakes were not working. A wall was looming ahead of them! In a state of panic, he used both feet to slow down. Boom! They crashed and he landed on his poor cousin who ended up dazed, and with 3 little stones stuck to the forehead. My friend’s shoes were totally worn out exposing 10 bloody toes!

We were both roaring with laughter when he finished his story. I know, I have learned to count my blessings.

Monday, 2 April 2007

In the other person's shoes

There’s been so much news about domestic maids being bullied by employers and children being abused by supervisors at an orphanage. It is hard to imagine that such abusive behavior is going on around us.

How can employers treat their maids like slaves? These workers travel all the way here to seek employment in a strange land just so that they can provide a better life for their loved ones back home. Most of them are homesick and lonely. Everything around them, from the elevators to the stove and vacuum cleaners, are strange to them.

Yet many employers are often not satisfied with their performance. Some punish their maids by giving them very little food and rest. Others lash out or physically abuse them. If they put themselves in the maid’s shoes, will they be able to adapt to a new environment so quickly? Do they hope to have enough food and rest everyday? Are they afraid of being yelled at again? Do they wish they weren’t here in the first place?

What about those kids at the orphanage? How can the caretakers abuse them? These kids are here because they have no where else to go. Would they come here if they had a choice? Kids are playful and they misbehave from time to time, but do they deserve to be kicked, punched, strangled or slapped? What gives them the right to belittle and treat their charges this way? No one has the right to ill-treat a human being or an animal in any way.

Sometimes my kids tell me how some schoolmates are being taunted and bullied in school. I ask them “Do you feel sorry for the victims?” They hem and haw and say, “But this guy is irritating, that’s why he is being bullied.”
Then, I say, “How would you feel if you were the one being bullied?”

Sometimes, to teach them what’s right or wrong, I tell them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. The answer is usually pretty clear.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Different phases

En route to the office every morning, I drive past several residential estates and many schools.

The preschoolers are always the happiest. You can see them bouncing and skipping gaily ahead of their mothers. They can’t wait to get to school.

The primary school kids hold on tightly to their mothers’ hands. There is a strong bond between mother and child. You can tell from their faces that dearest mummy is the best in the world!

The secondary school students who are ferried to school look sullen and embarrassed to be seen with their parents. Outside, playful teenage boys laugh and joke in their deep voices while the self-conscious girls sashay and prim their way to school.

The adults at the bus stops are the gloomiest lot. They almost look too sad to be heading to work.

That's what friends are for

I’m always telling people to look on the bright side and stay positive. Well, there are days when I need a good kick in the butt myself.

While I was moaning about my injured toe, my best friend said. “You should feel lucky you didn’t break your teeth when you fell!” You’re right, an ugly toe is anytime better than a toothless smile. It’s time to snap out of this self-pity. CH is always too indulgent to ask me to shut up, only my best friend has the clout to tell me off.

She just did so on Saturday morning. I was telling her how I accidentally kicked my sore toe (again) on Friday night and how the impact had left the damaged nail hanging off the nail bed.

Best Friend : You mean you haven’t gone to the doctor? You should have removed it the very day you fell!
Me : Too painful. Think I’ll go on Monday.
BF: Monday? You should go right now! Go get it done once and for all.
Me : Okay…. (went on to examine and fiddle with the toe)

After a botched attempt to remove the nail, and reeling from the fall in the bathroom (while showering with one leg propped up, I slipped and landed on my bum) I decided it’s time to visit the doctor and put an end to this curse!

Now, my doctor is a real gungho lady.
Dr : It’s dangling. You can remove it yourself what?
Me : Scared. Too painful….yeooow, what was that?!
In one swift swipe, she had ripped it off the nail bed before I had time to say OUCH!
Dr : Gotta be quick, or else it'll hurt even more.

While she was cleaning and dressing the wound, she launched into a tirade of how stressed up she is over coaching her three young kids, her hectic schedule, blah blah..

I sat there wincing in pain, listening to her let off steam like an old friend. After venting, she softened and started telling me how smart and sweet her kids are, her eyes glistening and face beaming with pride.

As she wrapped up the toe, she said “Here, it’s all done now. Look, the new nail is already starting to grow.”
Me : Will it grow out beautifully like before?
Dr : Of course it will.

That was so assuring. I left the clinic grinning from ear to ear. Glad that all my teeth are intact and my toe's on the road to recovery.