Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Old partner

While I was out walking with Rusty last night, I saw a man and his partner, each holding a torchlight. They were seeking out stray cats hiding under bushes and parked cars. Later I spotted him again, crouching next to a cat, smiling contently as he watched the cat feeding on the food he brought.

He suddenly felt self-conscious and lost his smile when he saw me looking. I can understand his wariness. Some people frown upon these cat feeders but not me. I applaud them for their dedication and kindness. I'm an animal lover and I know these cats do not cause any harm or destruction. Being neutered, they will not produce any offsprings and will eventually die in their old age. I learned from young that when strays know their end is near, they will go away quietly and die discreetly. Even in their death, they will not bring inconvenience to anyone.

So when I read about the Korean documentary 'Old Partner', I couldn't help but shed a tear. I am sad for the farmer and his beloved cow. I even feel sorry for his nagging wife.

This is a love triangle of a man, wife and cow. The director wanted to make a documentary about the beauty of simple things. So he chose a farmer who preferred his devoted old cow to any modern tractor.

The documentary chronicles two years in the lives of a hardworking couple as they await the death of the cow which had served them for 40 years.

The old farmer is nearly deaf, has a deformed leg and often had to crawl across his rice fields. The staggering brown cow was no better off. Both struggled and toiled in the fields as if they had a secret pact to keep working together or both will die.

His wife was jealous that he gave the cow more attention, often griping about how he loved the cow more than he loved her. Yet when they knew the end was near, the man, his wife and the cow, they all shed tears. At this point, I had to pause and wipe away my tears. I'm so glad I'm not much of a beef eater.

In one of their last days together, the cow struggled on a trip to collect firewood. The farmer stopped the cart, unloaded some of the wood, strapped them to his back and walked alongside his old partner.

When the cow finally died, even his wife was moved. "May you go to heaven", she said."But why are you leaving before us?"

Monday, 30 March 2009


I have been feeling tired lately even after a good night's sleep. While driving home yesterday, I suddenly had a monster craving for savoury fried chicken. As you know, protein is practically absent from my diet, so I saw that as a sign of my body crying out for more nutrition, like pregnant women and their cravings. Some theories hold that there is a wisdom of the body. A craving for milk might mean you need calcium; a craving for fruit may signal a need for vitamin C.

Anyway, visions of KFC chicken and McSpicy burger were dancing in my head but having just drank a cup of oatmeal cereal less than an hour ago, I settled for one fried chicken wing from Old Chang Kee.

The kids are the ones who introduced me to the savoury snack. When I drive into the petrol station to fill up, they would pop by the Old Chang Kee counter to grab some curry puffs, fried chicken wings or cuttlefish on a stick. These are certainly not healthy and should be eaten in moderation but man, they really know how to make delicious snacks. In fact, the chicken wing is more satisfying than KFC chicken!

I've learned a thing or two from the kids. They have introduced me to yummy snacks like nata-de-coco jelly, Mamee Noodles and ice lollies through the years. These are things you wouldn't buy as an adult.

I managed to introduce a new sandwich to YK today. It's the sardine sandwich that we grew up eating. I heated up a can of sardines with onions, lots of fresh chilli and tomato ketchup. Mesh it all up and make a sandwich using multi-grain bread, loads of lettuce and fresh tomato. He was skeptical at first because he's not a sandwich kind of guy (especially wholemeal). I coaxed him to try and he polished up everything and was even eyeing mine.

After the sandwich lunch, my body feels invigorated again. Sometimes we just have to heed our body's calling.


Recently a group of friends (who are all single, by the way) launched into a passionate discussion about how parents spoil their kids these days. I choose to stay out of the discusion because I'm a parent, hence my views are biased. In all honestly, I have so much to say, I don't even know where to begin. I've been mulling over this for a week now.

Let's just say, until one becomes a parent, one shouldn't be too quick to make judgements. Many people swear they will never raise a spoilt kid only to find that they would have to take it all back when they become parents.

When was brother was young and eligible, he couldn't tolerate little kids especially the crying ones. My kids' tantrums used to annoy the hell out of him, he always threatened to punish them. However, he underwent a massive transformation when his daughter was born. Now, he's one of the most doting fathers I know and doesn't let two wailing daughters bother him one bit.

One reporter sums it up very nicely in today's papers. "Parents are destined to love their children, no matter who they are. But for children, it works the other way round."

Speaking from her experience as a daughter, she says, "We are destined to slowly discover who our parents are, and then love them in spite of their faults - and in spite of ourselves."

How true. Kids fail to see the parent's love and good intentions. When I was studying, mum would wake up at 5am to cook me a bowl of nutritious oatmeal every morning. I hated it and would pull the longest face at the breakfast table.

Mum used to say, "I am doing this not for my benefit, it is for your own good. " But of course we couldn't see that. As a teenager, I wanted independence and wished they would stay out of my life. Thinking back, I can't believe I harboured such thoughts knowing my parents had always meant well and are the kindest folks I know.

Life is but a circle, now it's my turn to face the music. From time to time, I lament that my kids don't appreciate me enough. But I'm glad they enjoy having me around and don't find me too meddlesome.

SK left his pocket money at home yesterday, so I swung by his school during lunch hour to send him some money. Knowing how much he loves eating at Thai Express, I wanted to treat him to lunch. He was clearly in a dilemma. His friends were waiting for him in the canteen but thinking that I was the one craving Thai food, he could go and keep me company.

We didn't go to Thai Express. He joined his friends for lunch and played a game of soccer after that but I was happy knowing that I've a sweet kid.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Old is gold

A 47-year-old man wrote in to the newspapers today lamenting about how older workers are being rejected by companies in Singapore. After working in Shanghai for 18 years, he returned to Singapore to find himself being treated shabbily and facing nothing but rejection during 6 months of job hunting. It's disappointing for someone who had been away for so long to return to see our society in such a state.

"It is sad that some employers consider being 40 to be over the hill", he said. Given a chance, he would like to open an affordable, no-frills restaurant and employ retirees who want to work again.

I completely understand his plight and wish I had a bigger business so I could employ more people like him. When I was in my 20s, I was in charge of hiring and must have scanned through thousands of resumes of designers, art directors, programmers, sales and marketing executives and clerks in one decade.

To be honest, I plead guilty to shunning the older candidates during those years. Maybe it had something to do with my youth or simply because we were in the creative field, I always picked the younger candidates. In our advertisements, our keywords were "Young, energetic, dynamic and independent".

I made the mistake of employing a fresh graduate simply because he impressed me with his perfect results. The straight As student promptly disappointed me with his poor work attitude and cockiness. He left the company within days citing unstimulating environment and boredom.

Now that I'm older, I see the value in matured workers. They're mostly sensible, down to earth and responsible. Of course there are exceptions but I am speaking from experience. I used to be impulsive and hot-headed but I've mellowed as I age. Another good role model is my staff who's in her mid-40s. She the no-nonsense type who always has the company's interest at heart and even shows concern for me and my kids.

For our new venture, I have been emphasising to my partner that if we need someone to work in the farm, we should employ a retired gardener/farmer because I know he will bring with him, years of experience and wisdom to the company. I truly believe 'old is gold'.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


YK wanted to come home by 8.30pm so that he can switch off his aquarium lights to mark 'earth hour'. We drove into our estate at 8.35pm to see the block fully lighted up. "Woah, nobody here cares about the Earth?" he exclaimed.

I think we're still at the infancy stage when it comes to awareness about climate change. I must admit that I'm guilty of using too much water in the garden today. After a morning of gardening, I gave the patio a good wash and treated the plants to a watery bath after suffering from days of scorching heat. Perhaps I should find ways to collect rain water for my garden. Of course, I mustn't make it into a breeding ground for mosquities.

My father is such a good gardener. He only began growing vegetables recently but is already enjoying the fruits of his labour. During dinner, we ate sambal sweet potato leaves, stir fried spinach and chye sim. The vegetables were so tender and delicious even though they were simply fried with garlic. The papaya from his backyard was sweet and succulent, this is organic food at its best.

Somehow I managed to have a fulfilling day without feeling any stress. Besides gardening, I went for a hair cut, did the laundry, brought YK to the fish farm, napped and went back to my parent's house for dinner. Not forgetting I walked Rusty twice today. I even had time to wash my car which is something I don't do often. Too bad YK was starting to develop an allergy from the dusty interior, so I did a quick wash before dinner.

Back home, I had just finished sewing SK's pants and walked into his room to find it in total darkness. Instinctively I reached for the switch but he said, "Don't! It's earth hour!" I walked back into my brightly lit room, feeling slightly ashamed. But how am I supposed to mend his pants in the dark?

SK wanted his new pants shortened at the tailor but I have been procrastinating for days. Then it occured to me that I could do it myself. I'm not good at sewing but I managed to hem it up nicely. I'm pretty pleased with the outcome.

I think the trouble with me is I'm a Miss want-to-do-everything. I want to grow vegetables (cos I like gardening), make my own dinner (cos I like cooking), do my own housework (it's not that difficult afterall), walk the dog (so I get some exercise too) and so forth.

When the kids were younger, I even tried coaching them myself (I thought I could be a good teacher) until I started becoming less popular with them. Anyway, the tuition teachers did a better job and my relationship with the kids improved again.

Now, what can Miss want-to-do-everything do to make her life less stressful? "Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise!" like what some of my readers say. Yah, I'm learning.

Night at Sentosa

We drove to Sentosa for dinner last night and I must say I am disappointed at the dismal state of our resort island. Touted as a paradise island that offers a kaleidoscope of attractions and activities, it was surprising deserted last night.

One is supposed to be mesmerised by the breathtaking beauty of the lush greenery and be blown away by the unbeatable ambience but there was hardly any soul in sight, even along Singapore's hippiest beach. I was expecting to see sun-kissed bikini babes lounging by the beach-side bars or hot-bods playing volleyball but all was quiet on the beachfront.

The posh but empty restaurants simply didn't beckon us to step in, so we ended up at the Koufu foodcourt. It was a mistake of course. The quality of food was not up to standard and our expectations are not even that high. The mango snow ice we had for dessert tasted a little stale.

Perhaps the lush greenery did somewhat save the night. We sat by the coast after dinner and watched the bright lights from the ships docked afar. Maybe the crowd will return
when the casinos are finally completed and Sentosa will become the lively place I used to know.

This is the southernmost point of the Asia continent.

Sentosa does look like a tropical paradise.

Enjoying the beautiful view from the top of the viewing pavilion.

Yup, my date.

The Merlion and the deserted beach below.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Cool mum

I stumbled upon an old post yesterday where I wrote about how I don't sweat the small stuff. And here I am, writing about how uptight I get if I things are not done. Am I a walking contradiction or what?

My younger brother used to envy me because I appear to juggle work, family and play so effortlessly. Well, I am mostly a picture of calm and composure and take everything in my stride. That doesn't mean my life is not stressful. Being organised and systematic helps. I like planning ahead and dislike last minute surprises especially when they're from the kids.

There are days when I feel overwhelmed. I blame it on my hormones or the alignment of the stars and moon. While I was feeling so harrassed yesterday, this morning I'm emanating a feeling of zen and calmness. Maybe it has something to do with a very exciting potential deal that I was working on late last night. Hope brings a renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Or simply because it's a Friday and I'm looking forward to my night out. The kids have already informed me they're eating out tonight. What about little Rusty? Someone will have to feed him and walk him in the evening. Oh, my vegetables need watering too. The laundry in the patio must be brought in before it rains. I can't be back early as I have to bring mum's maid to the embassy to collect the new passport.

See, the to-do-list is starting to get longer. I'll get the kids to help out before they leave for dinner. Keep cool. Breathe in... breathe out.....

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Need to unclutter

These few days I feel I'm on the verge of burning out yet I cannot allow myself to unwind. Talking to best friend yesterday helped a little. Like I've always said, she's so good at managing stress, she makes me look like a maniac in comparison.

Of course it helps that she has 2 domestic maids to deal with the housework and parents to help with the kids and meals but still, she's the kind who exudes calm even under the most trying conditions.

I remember how she stood by me when my ex was fighting bitterly for custody of the kids. I almost crumbled under pressure and gave in, but she stepped in and whipped me back into shape again. I'm forever thankful for that. Growing up with her, I always thought she would make the perfect wife.

So she was dishing out sound advice again yesterday. "Maybe you can eat out once a week instead of cooking everyday?" she said. Well, she's right. I bought some cooked food on the way home yesterday evening and found myself with more time to relax at night. That's a good start.

I've come to realise that I've inherited mum's anxiety gene though I had always vehemently denied it. If I have a task to do, no matter how insignificant it is, I just cannot ignore it. In the past, I used to walk around with a to-do list but since I've aborted this habit, I keep a list in my head now. I input every new task into my little brain, the anxiety level builds up until I'm walking with a permanent frown on my forehead.

YK often tells me I get uptight over little things. After helping him with an errand yesterday, he said "You know what? You like to kick up a fuss like helping me with this errand. But see, it's not that difficult what. Then you nag, nag, nag, before, during and after the errand. You must learn to relax mah."

Well, he has a point. Why did I get so uptight over a small errand? Like the way I get so anxious over the meals and housework. Afterall, nobody really cares if the beds are unmade or Rusty's fur is all over the rug.

Chill mama! Learn to relax and unclutter your mind.

Community garden

Best friend and I spent the afternoon snooping around some community farms in Bukit Panjang. Starting from now, everyone in her company is asked to take one no-pay day off every week. Well, she's not spared in the economic downturn either.

The air was heavy and muggy as we walked uphill through the park. Even though I was dressed in a light cotton shirt and short skirt, my skin soon became wet and sticky from the humidity. Best friend said I looked like a reporter with my spectacles, hair tied up and CH's camera hanging round my neck.

Walking through the park.

If not for the heat, the walk could have been really enjoyable.

Most of the farms grow vegetables. I managed to find a striking flower amongst the greenery.

The lady who was tending to her plot told us this is Japanese celery.

We saw a big bunny in a cage.

While most of the vegetables are grown on the ground, some can be found in boxes and containers.

A pumpkin flower.

Brinjal or egg plant.

Brinjal flower.

The bluepea flower is used as a natural food dye.

Luscious mustard green.

As expected, it started raining cats and dogs after we left the garden. The vegetables must be happy. The farmers too.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Some kind of crisis

So I made a nice dinner last night and even had CH over. I cooked YK's favourite tom yum soup of course. There was something for everyone - spicy mussels, stir fried broccoli, celery and cauliflower, steamed promfret and a fresh salad. Even Rusty was treated to a tasty meal of pork and rice. World War II is finally over in our household.

I learned a new salad dressing while watching TV at the embassy yesterday. Mix one part vinegar with 3 parts olive oil, add some mustard and stir to form vinaigrette salad dressing. I added a dash of truffle oil which gave the entire salad such an aromatic lift.

Dinner was eaten in a hurry because YK had (another) tank crisis. His uva (sea lettuce) decided to go asexual (whatever that means) just before dinner, clouding the entire tank within minutes. Fearing that the tank may crash, YK wanted to do a water change immediately. We gobbled our dinner and rushed to the marine shop to buy salt water before it closed for the night.

YK's passion for his marine tank is as deep as my love of gardening, so I can understand and empathise. I'm also facing some sort of crisis in my garden. The beautiful tomato plants are slowly dying one by one, I'm on the verge of tearing my hair out.

While he has enough test kits and equipment to make him look like a marine biologist, I can't stop acquiring seeds, containers and manure like a veritable vegetable farmer. Next on my list is worms. Yes, worms to make worm cast which is a great natural fertiliser.

YK's interest in marine life has led him to a job offer. A young start-up has decided to milk his knowledge and has given him a job as a 'marine fish identifier'. He started work yesterday at our local university, setting up a database of marine fishes.

Basically it is a data entry job which pays very little but I'm all for it. It's a great learning experience for him. Besides, being surrounded by undergraduates will inspire him to be more diligent. If he's going to key in characteristics of marine fishes and corals into an excel spreadsheet over the next 3 weeks, he'll become an expert at the end of the stint. So it is all good.

My washing machine broke down again this morning, sending the house into total darkness at 6am when the power tripped. I can't believe this is happening again. My mum's washer was trouble-free for more than 10 years. Mine is barely 8 months old!

"I think you must have over-used it." YK said when he saw my exasperation. A washing machine should be able to do several loads a day. I'm guilty of doing up to 5 loads a day during the weekends.

What I need is a better machine. Maybe an industrial size one that can handle the bedsheets, comforters and everything else at one go. I can live without a TV but I can't survive with my washer! It's back to wringing and scrubbing clothes again.

Not very productive

It's such a boring day. I spent the morning at the embassy with mum's domestic maid. We were there to get her a new passport and the process was long and dreary. Not to mention the dreadful weather when we got there.

The only thing in vogue about that place is the ticketing system. We were given a queue number to get her photos taken. We got another number to submit the forms. One more to make payment. Then wait some more to put her signature on the passport. Then go upstairs to get another number to sign a working agreement.

The entire process took more than 3 hours! The officer said we're lucky today. It was like a madhouse during the school break last week. The queue number went up to 80. I must say the processing speed leaves much to be desired. Even the printer took so long to spit out one page of B/W document. Ours was 6 pages long. It's time to upgrade the machines!

I foresee more waiting this friday when we return to collect the new passport. This time I will bring a magazine or I may just fall asleep like today. Or maybe I should bring some work to do. I've been very unproductive at work lately.

Not that I'm very productive at home either. I made a really simple dinner last night. An omelette, steamed fish, fried tofu and a very bland soup. YK asked if we were having "World War II menu".

I promised him I'll make tom yum soup tonight. It's probably the best soup for this dull weather. I shall go to the store now to look for tom yum paste and straw mushrooms.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Well being

The late nights are beginning to take a toll on my aging body. School holidays are over and I was forced out of bed at 5.30am. It's back to the same old routine and gosh, waking up on a cool Monday morning was hard. I almost fell asleep driving to school and promptly laid my head on the desk to continue snoozing when I reached the office.

Our body goes through big changes throughout our life journey. In our 20s, we could drink and party all night and show up for work the next day without feeling any ill effects from the night before. Our body can no longer take such abuse. One late night and the entire week is ruined.

Talking about health matters, a recent study revealed that women in tense, strained marriages are more likely than men to suffer from mental problems like depression but also dangerous physiological conditions, such as high blood pressure and obesity.

When I read this, I was like "Duh! Isn't that obvious?" Any healthy person who's living or working in a tense environment over a period of time will surely be mentally affected in one way or another. I'm highly sensitive to mood changes and tend to let myself get affected by people's criticism easily.

SK is alot like me in that sense. When YK started lecturing him about this undesirable trait, I couldn't help but jump to SK's defence. At my ripe old age, I still find it difficult to let criticisms roll off my back. I've been trying to take things easy like my best friend. She's a master at this and such a good role model, yet, I haven't mastered any of her techniques. I thrive around happy, positive people but wilt like a rose when put in a negative and angry environment.

I'm glad that I haven't been riled by anyone in particular over the last eight years. Or perhaps I have finally toughened up emotionally and no longer allow small things to annoy me. Whatever it is, staying away from toxic people is still the best long term solution for one's well being.

The wedding in pictures

We had a fantastic time at our friends' wedding. The couple looked so radiant and happy. We were blessed with good weather, food and company. The hilltop where the wedding ceremony was held was spared the thunderstorm ravaging our island yesterday. Dark clouds that were hanging above our heads cleared and a rainbow, in fact a double rainbow, appeared after the solemnisation ceremony.

Enjoy the photos.

Putting up signs at the foot of the hill.

Plenty of drinks to last throughout the night.

The bride is a vegetarian, so she catered Indian vegetarian food for the party.

Pretty balloons and decoration.

Applying the bindi, forehead decoration to complete the Bollywood look.

The bride, resplendent in orange, making a grand entrance with photographer in tow.

The solemnisation ceremony.

The kiss. A passionate one!

Happy couple flanked by solemniser and witnesses.

Another happy couple at the wedding.

"I grant thee a pot of gold at the end of me rainbow"

The bride with a guest. She was about to release the bunch of balloons with our hand written wishes tagged to each balloon.

The couple was made to play games at night. The blindfolded bride was asked to identify the groom's hands. Of course she didn't know he wasn't even standing in line.

The blindfolded groom had to feel a whole bunch of legs, including hairy ones. He was really good at this!

Tossing of bouquet. Funny, most of the ladies were quite reluctant to catch the bouquet.

We played with sparklers too.

There was some dancing. The bride and a surprised Kiwi.

At the end of the night, the bride was so sloshed (she didn't drink alot but she doesn't hold liquor very well), she fell asleep under the stars. While the star of the night was sleeping, the guests came out to play!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Indian restaurant

We went back to the Indian restaurant this afternoon to pick up food for the wedding. For those who are keen to taste the yummy food at affordable prices, you can find Shri Anandhem at No. 1 Upper Dickson Road.

Friday, 20 March 2009

My life is a party!

We were at a BBQ party at best friend's house last night. It was a casual get together, something she always organises during the school holiday for the kids. If you think I'm an industrious mum, she would fit the bill of a fun mum.

After eating a copious amount of food and watching her huge bull frog eat beetles, we were soon itching for something more interesting to do.

So, we gathered around the TV and ended up playing tennis, bowling and baseball on Wii till late in the night.

I have another party to attend today. It's a garden party to celebrate our friend's wedding, so we're being roped in to help with the set up. We're leaving at 1pm to pick up food, drinks and cake. The party starts in the evening and I suspect will end very late.

The kids will be on their own today. They'll miss their Saturday fish-shop hopping session with me. I'm already thinking of cooking a pot of chicken curry to last them till dinner. The last thing a mother want is to be disturbed by hungry kids while she's out partying.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Night out with good friends

We met our friends for dinner at Sri Anandan last night. Though it is a small restaurant in Upper Dickson Road and usually not crowded, we think the food there is much better than many over-rated restaurants in Little India.

One of our must-haves is the platter of mixed thosai. These are tender and so yummy when eaten hot with sauces provided.

The chicken curry last night was so well cooked, the chicken remained tender and soft despite hours of cooking. It's the kind that literally melts in your mouth.

This is chappati. I'm not very good at telling the naan apart from thosai and all their crepe like thingy. I just eat them when they're presented before me. They all taste good with curry.

Our friends ordered a sweet and spicy fish dish (below). We had our favourite melt-in-the-mouth mutton too and several other dishes.

Ah, here's a photo of our friends at the restaurant. Don't you think they make a cute couple? The walls are painted in my favourite lime green colour.

After dinner, we walked to Khulfi Bar, a cafe specializing in north Indian ice creams. Kulfi, the Indian version of ice cream, is a rich and luscious dessert made from fresh fat milk which is boiled until it reduces to a thick cream and mixed with exotic spices, fruits and nuts.

The shop also sells handicrafts and ornaments from India. Here's a photo of us. We can't seem to get serious in front of the camera. Grow up, CH!

Maybe this is better...

We ordered two different kulfi creations to share. This is hazelnut flavoured kulfi topped with chocolate sauce, pistachios, almonds and silver foil. It's really good.

Here's the other creation topped with basil seeds, banana, nuts, jelly and rose syrup. This combination is rather sweet.
To wash all that sweetness down, we ordered their special teas. Our friends had the masala tea while we ordered the mango tea. The teas were served in traditional brass mugs crafted with Indian artistry. The mango tea is like hot mango juice with a hint of tea in it. It's comforting when drank hot and became refreshing when it turned cold.

Well, it was a lovely night out with good friends. We shall meet again in April.