Sunday, 30 May 2010

Show me your teeth

While flossing my teeth over the weekend, two small chunks of filling fell out. Oh no, it's happening again.

This isn't the first time. Over the years, fragments of my molar or fillings have chipped off. At first, I thought it was the lack of calcium.

The dentists that I've visited always ask if I'm fond of eating hard nuts or sour stuff. They're baffled when I say no.

With the advent of technology, they are now able to see tiny fractures on my teeth. The surface of my molars is also worn out and flat. I must be grinding my teeth when I'm asleep.

As a young girl, my granny made me chew on a boiled pig's tail to help me get rid of this undesirable habit. Even when I was traveling with mum some 10 years ago, she complained that the grinding kept her awake all night.

Judging from the extent of the damage, the grinding and clenching is still going on at night. It has done too much damage to my set of healthy teeth. Because of the chipping, I now have two crowns and a ceramic inlay.

I recoiled with horror when the dentist first recommended a tooth guard. How can I sleep comfortably with a foreign object in my mouth?

"We need to address the root of the problem. You can't be patching and crowning all the time. Even these will get worn out", he declared.

Today, I finally relented and opened my mouth obediently to have the mold done. The guard will cost me S$500 (US$350)!

"Is your life that stressful?" he asked. "Wear the guard for six months and monitor the condition of your teeth. Make sure you put them on when life gets stressful, like when you're moving house or something."

Last week, the TCM physician told me to calm my nerves. Now, I'm hearing it from the dentist. These consultations don't come cheap. Someone please tell me how to reduce stress when the bills keep piling up?

The dog did it!

Oh no! Rusty destroyed YK's homework!

He's so gonna get it when YK wakes up. Run Rusty, Run!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Dogs, dogs and more dogs

We attended another BBQ this evening. This time, the little pooches were also invited. Here is the host's dog, Chubby.

Chubby, who was rather infatuated with Rusty, kept chasing our poor doggie around.

Until even good natured Rusty lost his temper.

Kay loves both dogs equally.

She took turns to play with them, separately of course.

When more dogs came, Rusty checked them out one by one.

We had to leave for my father's birthday celebration at home.

Guess what? There's another new dog at my parent's place. This gorgeous spitz belongs to our tenant.

My brother bought a black forest birthday cake.

Ting watches her aunt put candles on the cake.

The cake was yummy!

Friday, 28 May 2010

Weekend BBQ

I've come to realise that women across all cultures love to take on the role of feeders. Take last night's BBQ at Beverly's house for example. All the women, 2 French, 2 German and 2 Singaporeans, brought along lovingly prepared food to the table. The men knew better than to get into their way in the kitchen. They were happy to tag along and eat everything laid before them.

Beverly's dog, Shino.

Making a roaring entrance on their bikes.

Catherine was happy to put her new oven to work. She baked a tuna-olive cake and a banana cake. I don't know if the savoury tuna cake is a French specialty but it was a first for all of us, and it was delicious.

Catherine slicing the tuna-olive cake.

Here's my simple chickpea salad made using olive oil, lemon juice, onion, chilli padi, salt and black pepper.

Christiane's tomato-cucumber salad was really good, especially when eaten with the chickpeas.

Patricia, the only vegetarian, prepared parcels of vegetables for grilling while we chomped on freshly barbequed satay, shrimps, squid and fish.

Sandrine made a huge batch of potato salad, French style I think. The ladies also made sure that the meaty dinner was well balanced with lots of bread, fruits, cheese and desserts.

Conclusion - You can't go wrong if you invite women to a pot-luck party. You will have more than enough to eat!

Oh, and remember to bring along enough men to eat all that food.

Shino is the classic lap dog who will happily allow you to cuddle him.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

I don't know him at all

Yesterday's meeting with SK's teachers threw up a few surprises. Both teachers said the same things - that he is very smart but is too chatty and distracted during lessons. He needs more discipline. If he focuses more, he can do very well.

If I were to hear it from one teacher, I would seriously doubt her, but hearing another one echo her sentiments makes me sit up and listen.

Firstly, to hear that SK is very smart is something new to me. His older brother is known to be the smarty pants around the house. SK, who had always struggled with math, started scoring A1 in this subject lately. Like me, he was surprised that he could do so well. My mum has been right all along. She always had faith in him.

But to hear both teachers complain that he talks too much in class is quite a shocker. Whilst YK is the kind who will not hesitate to speak his mind, SK is the one quietly chuckling in the background. He seldom speaks unless spoken to.

Yes, he was an active child who could not keep still for even one minute (we actually timed him). In primary school, we was always in a world of his own, fashioning gadgets out of eraser or pencil lead during lessons. Now that he's older, I'm pleased that he is channeling all that extra energy into sports. But according to the teachers, he's is still easily distracted. He disturbs his friends and he needs more self discipline.

Discipline? He's the most disciplined one at home. He cooks and cleans up, he washes his own dishes and bathes the dog without being asked. He stops eating when he is full, avoids junk food and gives up drinking his favourite drink (Coke) because he wants to be healthy. He works out and plays basketball to keep fit. He is thrifty and prudent in managing his money. When I check on him each night, he's either doing homework, lifting weights, listening to music, tending to his aquarium or working on his art. He seems pretty disciplined for a 15 year old if you ask me.

Maybe it's his group of friends? I've seen them and I know them. They're a tight group who spend lots of time together. They may not that academic, but they are certainly not bad kids. They just need to know when to get serious. They need to buck up this very minute.

The teachers are planning to break the class up to minimise any disruptions during lessons.
He thinks the teachers are biased and picking on him.

"Hey, your teachers care about you. They know you have the potential to do well and really want to see you going in the right direction. They will let you rot if they don't care about you!"

I could see that the teachers are fond of SK. They know he can achieve greater things. It's exasperating for them to see him this way. I am even more sad as a parent. I thought things were going well in school. He's such a great kid at home.

I began to lecture him immediately. I just couldn't help myself. I told him I am disappointed at his behavoir. I even threatened to ground him. I want him to improve and don't ever want to hear the teachers complain about him again. Instead, I want them to feel proud of him when he's done well.

Today he looks pretty downcast.


When the kids were young, they could never get enough of my bedtime stories. You see, I didn't read from storybooks, I churned out a different story every night.

Invariably, the stories were always about two little boys who got into trouble. From wandering into the forest to meeting big bad wolves or evil witches, there was always a moral behind each one.

"You're talking about us. We don't want to be eaten by big bad wolves!" They chorused.

It must be fun to hear about themselves because they always begged for more.

I was quite happy to humour my little ones even after a long day at work. They were easy to please. They appreciated even the most boring or ridiculous stories.

Those glorious days are over of course. They have access to news, gossips and stories from various medias, they don't need my bedtime stories. Now it is my turn to listen to theirs, that is if they are in the mood to tell.

Today, I was captivated by the stories of an old electrician who came to do some work at my house. He's way past his retirement, so his movements are a little slow. We chatted while he worked. He was here for many hours, so we talked about many things.

His father died when he was 6, so he never knew what it was like to have one. When the political situation in Malaysia became too chaotic, his mother sold the only asset they had (timber from the big fat tree in the front yard) and made the arduous journey to Singapore with her brood of 6 kids.

Life in Singapore was hard but she brought them up single-handedly without any help. It was obvious that he was full of admiration for his mum.

"She wasn't very beautiful but she always looked so radiant."

When I asked if she's still around, his eyes turned misty.

"Unfortunately she met with a tragic accident. While standing on the road pavement one day, a car came so close that her shirt got caught in the car's bumper. She was dragged along the road for some distance. By the time the driver realised, it was too late."

He spoke about parental love and sacrifice. Maybe he found a captive audience in me, he even shared his own story.

He has three boys of his own. The youngest, who is 22 years old, is also the smartest. He aspires to be a doctor. Knowing that his parents could not afford to pay for his education, he turned to betting hoping that a winning streak could help fund his education. It was a foolish move of course. He ended up heavily in debt. His brothers poured out their life savings but it wasn't enough.

To stop the loan sharks from harrassing them, the father negotiated with the lenders and started working again despite his old age. He can't bear to see his young son sink further into depression.

It's another sad story. Just as he was leaving, he received a call from one of the lenders.

"Yes, I will pay you the instalment tomorrow." I heard him say.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

There is good news afterall...

While trying to make out a cheque to the Traffic Police for the speeding ticket, I realised that it isn't a summon afterall. It was just an advisory that I COULD have been penalised with 4 demerit points and a $130 summon. I'm lucky that this time, NO payment is necessary.

This letter serves as a warning. If they catch me speeding again, they will not hesitate to issue me a ticket.

They are quite merciful afterall. Bravo!

Delicious desserts

We had two fabulous desserts tonight - Alphonso mangoes and lemon tart.

When I saw this blogger raving about the exquisite Alphonso mango, I knew I had to grab a box before the season is over. Indeed, this is just about the best mango we have tasted. The flesh is sweet, smooth and rich, we polished off 10 in one day.

There are 12 medium-sized mangoes in a box. They ripen very quickly, so we had to eat them before they turn bad.

YK baked a lemon tart after dinner, so we had another round of dessert. The tangy lemon custard tastes so good with the buttery and crumbly crust.


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Slow down

When I open my letter box every morning, I can't help but think of Forrest Gump.

"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

That day, YK received a 'Get Well' card from Changi Hospital. Today, I received a speeding ticket. I was stumped of course. I have a perfect driving record, now it's blemished.

It says that I was caught speeding along Tampines Avenue 1. Besides the $130 fine, I was slapped with 4 demerit points. That hurts!

Can you imagine the speed limit on that street is only 60km/hr? If you ask me, it is way too slow for a main road. I was only going at 70+km/hr which is pretty decent. Give me a break!

I can't help but vent though I know there's no point in arguing. Just pay up. And eat chocolate. No more surprises in the mailbox please!

Monday, 24 May 2010

The TCM practitioner

A trip to the TCM clinic yesterday set me back by $150 but I treat this as a form of health insurance.

The practitioner is a highly experienced one who started practising TCM since 1967. His schedule is so packed, getting an appointment can be a challenging experience. All day long, he sees patients with ailments like cancer, renal failure or autoimmune disease, yet he is relaxed and cheerful everytime she treats my mum.

He is very youthful for a man in his late 60s. His face is unlined and the skin on his arms is supple like a man half his age. He revealed his secret - green tea extract pills which he has been eating for more than 10 years. It's a powerful antioxidant which plays a crucial role in the body's defense against cancer-causing chemicals and other toxins. Obviously, it keeps his skin smooth and clear too.

Naturally, if it is able to rejuvenate my immune cells and preserve my youth, I am eager to try. I only managed to get an appointment to see him yesterday. Even then, I had to wait for more than an hour before I was called into his consultation room.

From my pulse, he could tell I'm the anxious type. To prevent my blood pressure from shooting up, he advised that I should learn to relax. In other words, don't sweat the small stuff. Yah, we all know that already....Oh, and it is important to go to bed early, before 10pm.

He was pleased to know that I eat healthily and keep myself active and declared I am in the pink of health. When he wrote a prescription for some natural medicine to improve my well-being, I was quite disappointed that he didn't prescribe the much coveted elixir of youth. Maybe he thinks I don't need it yet. But I do want it!

So I cleared my throat and asked, "May I have some of that green tea pill please?"

He looked up, amused. "Why?"

I was embarrassed when I blurted out, "You were extolling the benefits the other day, so I must try it for myself too."

The good news is, I've got it!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Lazy rainy day

It has been drizzling all morning and I am happy because it is a Saturday. Luckily mum cancelled her physiotherapy session at the hospital or else I'll be out driving around in the rain.

The rain didn't stop me from walking to the market to get some fresh clams. It's the perfect weather for comfort food - pasta vongole. I'll be cooking with chives and basil fresh from my garden.

After lunch, I will settle down to read the papers. Who cares about housework on a lazy rainy day like this!

Pasta Vongole recipe

Boil pasta according to instructions.

In a thick based pot, heat up some olive oil. Add in chopped onion, garlic and chilli padi. Cook until fragrant. Splash in some white wine or Chinese cooking wine.

Add in 1kg of live clams (I prefer the ones with thinner shell as they are more flavourful) and cover the lid. After 5 minutes, check to see that clams have all opened up. Toss in the chives and basil. (this is optional as some people do not like the herbs in their pasta)

I usually remove all the shells for easy eating. The stock is rich and flavourful, so there is no need to add any salt or seasoning. Toss in the pasta and serve immediately.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Small blessings

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw a letter from Changi Hospital was, "Jeez. They must have forgotten to bill me for something."

It was addressed to YK. When I opened it, I found a "Get Well" card instead.

What a pleasant surprise! After many trips to the hospital lately, I have nothing but good things to say about the service in public hospitals.

Growing up, hospitals were such dreary places with that horrible disinfectant smell and angry nurses. When I started bringing mum to her hospital appointments few years ago, I was surprised to see the big change. The hospitals are now bright, cheerful and modern. Service has improved by leaps and bounds too.

With the makeover, they are no longer intimidating and frightful places to visit. Gosh, they even send out 'Get Well' cards now!

This reminds me of our policemen. Remember how much we feared the 'mata' (policeman) when we were kids? Each time we misbehaved, we were certain the 'mata' would come haul us away and our parents would have to rescue us from prison. Today, we have the friendly neighbourhood policeman smiling at babies. These threats won't work on our kids anymore.

Kids these days are lucky. Parents treat them with respect and tender loving care the minute they are born. Mum used to talk about how her dad ruled the household with an iron fist. The kids cowered in fear when he raised his voice, which was very often. Parents then didn't care about their feelings, and they don't spoil the kids. That could be a good thing but like all things, we have to move with the times.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Walking my dog

Being a multi-tasker, I try to accomplish as many chores as I can while I'm out walking Rusty every morning.

He follows me to the bank nearby to drop off cheques or use the ATM.

At the wet market, he waits patiently while I pick out fish, fruits or vegetables. Almost everyone at the market knows him by now. Some adore him and think he's well behaved and cute. It makes me beam with pride when I take him out.

The old man at the char kway teow (fried noodles) stall is charmed by Rusty. "He must be an expensive dog. What breed is this?"

He must have a bad memory because he asks the same question all the time. Still I reply, "It wasn't so expensive when I bought him 7 years ago."

"You mean it's cheaper to buy a 7-year old one?", he asks.

"Nooo, what I mean is, it would cost more to buy one now, compared to 7 years ago."

Luckily my packet of noodles arrive and I get up to leave. Maybe he wants a dog like Rusty, who knows?

Someone should tell him that Jack Russells do not have the best reputation. They can be noisy, aggressive and hyper-active. Rusty maybe an angel around people but when he's with other dogs, it's a different story.

Rusty is a dog afterall. A small one with a big ego. He's only friendly with dogs that are smaller than him. So far, only chihuahuas and puppies (all kinds) fall under this category.

When we bring him to the park every evening, he struts around like a stud, picking on dogs bigger than him. He lunges at them and barks ferociously until there's an awful cacophony of barks in the estate.

It is times like this when I cower in shame and drag him home as fast as I can.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Learning Chinese

With so much talk going on about learning Chinese, I feel compelled to put in my two cents worth.

Even though I learned it as a second language for 14 years in school, I still suck at it today. I can hold a decent conversation in Mandarin but when it comes to reading, it takes me forever to read a small passage. I usually give up after the first line.

Mind you, I don't even dislike the language. I scored a B in Chinese for both my GCE O and A levels. I tune in to the Chinese radio stations while driving because I love listening to Chinese songs. I watch Chinese movies and understand the entire plot, just don't ask me to read the Chinese subtitles.

Everyone knows how much I love reading but when I'm faced with a page of Chinese words, my brain goes into auto-shutdown. It's not that I don't recognise the characters but it's just too tedious and time consuming to process the information.

I grew up in an English speaking household. My parents are quite admirable. They started learning Chinese language in their old age and are now more proficient than me. These days, they subscribe to both the English and Chinese newspapers.

Even at my worst, I am still better than both my kids. I tried to give them a good headstart in the language by engaging a tuition teacher from Beijing when they started kindergarten. The twice weekly sessions must have helped because they did very well in primary 1 and 2. I realised that they relied heavily on 'han yu pin yin' which is like romanised Chinese.

The tuition stopped when the teacher returned to China but another one took over. By the time they were in primary 3, they were struggling with Chinese characters (that's what you get for relying on han yu pin yin). Most of their friends were from English-speaking families. Nobody conversed in Mandarin, and even if they did, it was with a cute accent.

Their marks just went downhill from there. I've paid for Chinese tuition (until they were 14), bought loads of Chinese comics (like Romance of the Three Kingdoms), played DVDs and Chinese music... yet they can't master the language.

I can understand because even someone like me who loves Chinese music and Jay Chou, still find it such a drag to read an article in Chinese.

Therefore I believe, some people are just not good in learning languages. I rest my case.

Monday, 17 May 2010

On cloud nine

Just like what Petunia has said, the camera arrived in the nick of time, for without one, I wouldn't be able to capture this:

From left: Mei, Ting and Ping. The waitress insisted that we flash that "V" sign. But...but...only our teenage kids do that. We had such a good laugh over it.

Now, what is so special about 3 ladies flashing the victory sign?

To me, this is the gathering of the year. No, make it the decade!

I used to provide graphic design services for AT&T Wireless, where Mei and Ping were in the public relations department. We had such fun working on projects together. That was 20 years ago.

We lost touch after that until I met Ping several years ago. She proposed a gathering for old times sake and finally, we all met for lunch today. When three working mothers get together, we can never run out of things to say.

We had such a great time catching up. So much has happened in 20 years. Mei is still the visionary I've always looked up to. Though she's such a high flyer, she remains so humble and well grounded, I have tons of admiration for her.

Ping is chic and classy. She never fails to bring laughter to the table. Her humour is so contagious, I feel happy just basking in their company.

I strongly advocate having regular gatherings like this. An afternoon with your girlfriends will help chase any blues away. I'm so happy now, I am on cloud 9.

The surprise

My search for a camera started last year. I wanted a good one that is capable of shooting closeups of flowers and food. It must be capable of taking great outdoor photos as well. Not to mention I also demand good quality night shots. Then when YK started using my camera to take photos of his marine creatures, I find that speed is just as important.

Maybe because of such high expectations, I could never decide on what to buy. I sought help from CH and my photographer friends. According to them, you can't have everything in a compact camera. I read reviews and recommendations but couldn't decide on one that fits.

I was secretly hoping to get a new one for my birthday last year (yes, I'm hopeful and thick skinned like that), so I stopped searching for a while. When I didn't get one last September, I started saving again.

The urgency wasn't there. Something more urgent always crops up, like a broken car gear, washing machine or a new pair of spectacles. Even after we have lost the charger which rendered the camera useless, I could conveniently borrow CH's spare one.

Maybe he got fedup of lending it to me because he surprised me with a new camera yesterday. "It isn't my birthday yet!" I said, immediately feeling bad for being rather mean to him lately. Life has been pretty stressful you see....

When I read the reviews today, I realise the newly launched Canon PowerShot SX210 IS is a very good camera. One that fulfills all my requirements. He even bought an extended warranty in case of breakdowns, lost charger or even lost camera.

It's the most thoughtful gift of the year. I'm surprised my birthday came so early. Thank you so much!!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

He's fine now

Thank you everyone, for the well wishes via the blog and email. YK is well and back in school today, albeit with puffy eyes. The swelling will take several days to go away.

On hindsight, it was a wise move to buy an apartment near the hospital. The first time I rushed YK to the A&E was due to a midnight asthma attack about a year ago. In situations like this, time is of essence.

When we arrived at 3am the other day, the A&E department was rather quiet. The doctors on night duty are usually young and fresh faced, like the one who attended to YK. I could see that he looked nervous at the prospect of inserting an IV catheter into YK's vein. It made me worry too.

True enough, he didn't insert the needle into the vein properly. Poor YK was wincing and tearing from pain for what should have been a painless procedure.

It was almost too painful for me to watch. Memories of a botched attempt by a young doctor when I was admitted to hospital to deliver SK, came flooding back. The pain was unbearable, and it left a huge blue black on my arm for a week.

Anyway, the doctor attending to YK realised his mistake and decided to try the other arm. When I saw him fumbling, I gently suggested that he could get someone to help but he assured me that he could manage. Thankfully the second attempt was a success and the medicine flowed directly into the vein.

The other injection into the arm went without incident. We could see the medication working almost instantly. What a relief.

After spending several hours in the observation ward, YK was discharged. He spent most part of Sunday sleeping at home.

Obviously Mr Puffy Eyes is quite reluctant to attend school today but he has to sit for an important test. Oh, with that blue-black bruise on his arm, he does look like an abused kid.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

A parent's worry

It's 4am and I can't get back to sleep.

YK woke me up urgently at 3am. He had gone to bed at 1am and for no reason, developed an allergic reaction while he was asleep. His eyes were puffed up until they became slits. The soft palate in his mouth was badly swollen, he couldn't speak properly or breathe through his nose. The antihistamine pill didn't seem to work and I could see his eyes swell before my very eyes.

Luckily the hospital is less than 5 minutes drive away. We rushed to A&E where the doctor administered two injections, one into his vein and the other in his arm.

The doctor thinks the situation is rather dangerous, so YK is placed in the observation ward. I came home to rest.

While this isn't the first time he has developed similar symptoms, it is the first time it happened in his sleep. We know that he is allergic to paracetamol but he had not taken any recently. As a matter of fact, he did not eat anything unusual last night. So it is rather mysterious.

This worries me. What if this happens when he's traveling and there's no hospital nearby? It's not something an antihistamine can take care of. I shudder now when I think of his recent trip to the remote village in India.

Ugly shoppers

There is a breed of people living in Singapore that frightens me. After running some errands at the mall yesterday, I decided to buy some fresh lychees at Giant Superstore. Luckily, the lychees were on offer.

Some middle-aged women were crowding around the lychee section, rifling through the large pile, choosing and plucking the best ones. If you're not familiar with lychee, they come in a bunch like this:

The ones in season aren't that good looking, so they were cherry-picking the best. It's a really bad practice if you ask me. They pluck the ripest ones out from the branch and leave a mess. Other fruit vendors would never allow this. The same scene was happening at the mangosteen section.

I stood there looking at a pile of miserable left-overs. Suddenly someone announced that the mangoes were on special offer. Two storekeepers arrived with boxes of fresh mangoes but before they could unload, hordes of people scurried from all corners, shoving and stretching their hands as if the mangoes were free.

I couldn't believe my eyes. I can only imagine that while we're sitting at the office, there is a bunch of people who spend hours scouring, pushing and shoving to grab the best deals at Giant.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Outburst. Something I grew quite familiar with. Nobody likes an outburst. It was my ex, you see. Terrible outburst followed by apology. Unfortunately it stops working after a while. Too late. The damage has been done. It cannot be undone.

I had an outburst of some sort last week. Nothing to do with the ex. Don't be mistaken, I didn't scream at anybody. After running around like a headless chicken in the hot weather, I felt angry and taken for granted. I tried so hard to suppress the urge to vent. I picked up my phone, created an sms and deleted it immediately.

I know that words, once spoken, can never be taken back. So I held my tongue. Back at the office, I received an email that made my blood boil again, the same emotions that I had been struggling to squelch all morning. Within seconds, I had hammered out an email.

This time, I hit the 'send' button before my courage fails me again. I regretted it immediately yet it was the only way I knew how to put my feelings across. I am totally non-confrontational. At my worst, I'm passive-aggressive. That is how CH would describe me when I ignore him for days. I am also not bossy. If anything, I find myself getting bossed around, and hating myself for it.

Sometimes the advent of technology can be a blessing. For people like us, it provides other avenues to get our message across.

The apology came a while later. She said she should have been more sensitive. Then I felt like such a whiner (not a winner). I had over reacted. Now I feel a little awkward and worry that things may never be the same again. For better or for worse, who knows?

Tauhu goreng

Muji came to work for us as a domestic helper the day SK was born. For 8 years, she was the kids' best playmate. They loved her company so much, we went everywhere together. From climbing trees to catching butterflies or longkang fishes, she would do anything for them. She was their heroine.

I loved her devotion to the family and her unforgettable tauhu goreng. She makes the best Indonesian style tauhu goreng. It's such a simple dish, yet many people cannot do it as well as she does.

Now, whenever I eat tauhu goreng, I think of dear Muji.

The trick is to use the freshest ingredients and serve immediately after cooking.

I get the freshest tofu, cucumber and bean sprouts from the wet market. I make it a point to roast and grind my own groundnuts. It is worth the effort.

OKC has asked for photos and recipe. My camera is out of action, so here is the recipe.

Main ingredients:
1 piece of large fresh firm tauhu (taukwa) - Wipe dry and deep fry.
Bean sprouts - Blanch in hot water for few minutes to remove raw taste.
Cucumber - Discard skin and core. Cut into thin strips and soak in ice water for about 15 minutes.

Ingredients for gravy:
Tamarind juice (soak 1 large tablespoon tamarind paste in 1/4 cup water. Strain, discard seeds and reserve water)
2 chilli padi and 1 clove garlic (pound together into a paste)
1 tablespoon sugar (gula melaka or brown sugar or fine cane sugar)
1/2 cup roasted peanut (crushed or chopped)

Mix ingredients for gravy together. I often squeeze some lime/lemon juice to add zing to the gravy.

1. Cut fried tauhu into smaller squares.
2. Arrange blanched bean sprouts and cucumber strips on top.
3. Pour gravy over it and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Cheap and good

My kids love grilled squid. Despite feeling so stuffed at Sakae Sushi, YK insisted on ordering one teriyaki squid which costs $9! He paid for it anyway since it was mother's day treat.

I bought two fresh squids from the wet market this morning. I'm going to replicate that dish for dinner. It's easy, just grill in the oven for a few minutes, brush with teriyaki sauce and serve. The price of 2 squids? S$4 (US$3)!

I'll be making tauhu goreng too. One large piece of fresh tauhu (firm bean curd) costs 60cts. I paid 30 cts for a Japanese cucumber and another 30 cts for a large packet of bean sprouts which is more than what I need. I have all the ingredients for the sauce (tamarind, chilli, garlic, peanuts and sugar) at home. For about $1, the entire family can enjoy a generous serving of tauhu goreng.

I was attracted to the white button mushrooms at the vegetable stall, I picked about 20 large ones which cost me only $4. It would cost twice as much at the supermarket. I'll sautee with olive oil, butter and garlic tonight. We all love the buttery texture and aroma of sauteed button mushroom.

As usual we'll have soup. I'll use fresh chicken carcass with breast meat to make the stock. It costs $2 and the tender meat will become Rusty's dinner. I'll toss in ingredients that I already have in the fridge to make a nutritious soup - raw peanuts, soy beans, dried scallops, dried oysters, sweet corn and that chunk of pumpkin that's lying around.

So, you see, for about $10 or the price of one grilled squid at a Japanese restaurant, I can whip up a really good meal for the family.

Five years

When I started going out with CH five years ago, I weighed 5kg less. I was also 5 years younger (duh!). In my excitement, I went out and bought myself many pretty dresses for our dates. I don't think he notices these things but what I've noticed now is these same dresses don't good on me anymore. It is a pity because they're still so new.

Five years on, I am more conscious of what I wear. I shudder at the thought of wearing anything too revealing or figure hugging now. The white sundress that I've worn only once suddenly looks too sweet and girly for me. It's perfect for someone half my age.

Now, 5 years in a woman's life is a huge milestone. Maybe it's a lack of strenuous exercise, but the body is padded in places that were once toned and flat, like my tummy. CH risked getting a tongue lashing last night when he questioned my lack of persistence in weight training and spinning exercise.

I know the benefits of exercise but I can't find time to fit any into my daily routine unless I wake up at 4am. That means I have to be in bed by 9.30pm. I'll be lucky if I had finished the chores by then.

Recently I loped off at least 5 inches of my hair in an attempt to take some years off my face. I regretted right after that. CH didn't notice my haircut. YK prefers the old hairstyle. And I mourn the loss of my long shiny locks. What happened to my once volumnious hair that I found so hard to keep under control? They have fallen out over the years. No amount of trimming or styling will bring back its former glory.

Let's not even talk about the wrinkles and saggy skin.... I do feel old.

Sorry folks, I must have gotten up from the wrong side of bed today. Let's hope it's on the sunny side tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Cool stuff

My younger brother, whom I consider less tech savvy than I am, just showed me his new iPhone. My colleague, who is older than me, is also using one. My kids are also lusting after it.

Suddenly my Nokia E52 looks pretty stone-age. It's my fault really because I like my phone slim and compact enough to slip into my pocket. You know how small our pockets are! No point giving me one with a thousand apps that I don't use.

When it comes to slim gadgets, the Koreans really know their stuff. When I saw this cool video of the new X300 from LG, I almost couldn't believe my eyes. It's so light (970g), you can stick it to the wall using sticky tape.

It's incredibly slim at 17.5mm thanks to a frame-less 11.6” HD LCD screen, but still packing a full-size Pebble Keyboard. It comes 3G ready and will start-up in just 5 seconds.

You've got to see it to believe it!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Sweet ending

We've had some pretty mediocre meals during our recent Friday outings.

One week, we were too tired to drive out to town, so we wound up at a nearby cafe with a nice ambience. Too bad that restaurant didn't leave a good impression. Not just the food but the service. The worst thing was, they refused to serve us water even after we've ordered food, dessert, beer, soda and a cafe latte.

The following week, we decided to eat at a new Japanese restaurant in Kovan. The sashimi platter didn't appeal in taste and presentation - the fish was sliced way too thick. I can't even remember what else we ate. It was that forgettable.

During our next outing, I suddenly developed a craving for Swenson's ice cream. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic because mum used to treat us to sundaes at Swenson's when we were young. We thought we could avoid the crowd by going to the new outlet at Changi Airport T3. Goodness, we were wrong.

What happened to the dimly lit (stained glass lamps) restaurants with the high-back benches? The restaurant at T3 is bright, open and busy. The tables are set very close to each other. We were seated near the entrance. People were streaming in and out the entire evening. Soon the line of hungry people waiting outside the restaurant were staring at my chicken burger and CH's steak. It was worse than eating at a foodcourt. We felt too uncomfortable to stay for ice cream.

We drove to T1 to find that the outlet has relocated to T2. We took the sky train over to witness the longest queue ever outside a restaurant. Since when did Swenson's become so popular? By then, we were so deflated, we settled for coke at Burger King.

Determined to put an end to our bad spell, we decided to brave the traffic and head to Dempsey Hill last Friday. We ate at BARRACKS, a chic cafe with a menu that reflects a modern nouveau naturelle cuisine, bringing together the freshest ingredients with a global appeal.

It's also the place where the young and beautiful congregate. There was a 21st birthday celebration going on, and we spotted several groups of fashionable ladies sipping ice wine. It's the new place to see and be seen.

The food was fabulous too. The highly acclaimed ahi taki salad, which is sauteed tuna chunks mixed in a tangy dressing of port-wine soaked raisins, pistachio, tomatoes and the freshest greens, packs quite a punch.

Picture from Barrack's menu.

Another highly recommended dish is the Jamaican jerk pork tenderloin, which is super tender pork served with peach and cranberry chutney, roasted garlic potatoes and veggies.

I particularly love the bay shrimp capellini (Rich prawn Bolognese, braised baby leeks, micro herbs, pecorino cheese shavings and chili) which is so aromatic and flavourful, I could eat it everyday if I can afford it.

When the dessert menu arrived, we were stumped. Everything looked so sinfuly good, we had to ask for recommendations. Finally, we settled for this triple chocolate concoction (below) and frozen nougat (is that what it's called?).

The desserts may be too sweet but finally, we had a sweet ending!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Happy Mother's Day

YK is treating me to Mother's Day lunch at Sakae Sushi. He's using money from the sale of his corals and fishes.

Last night, my brothers were appalled to hear how high my monthly expenditure is. I've got to maintain a house, an office, two teenagers, a dog, a car, 3 mobile phones and so forth, you do the math.

On the way home, YK was concerned. "Are we going to be ok?"

Of course, we've been living like this for so long and everything's fine right?

"It's hard for you as a single mum right?", he asked.

Now he feels guilty about his hobby (marine fish) and thinks that he shouldn't rely on air-conditioning so much.

"Sometimes I get so worried that you won't be around anymore, especially when I can't get you on the phone. You drive around so much, your life is so dangerous compared to other mums. You must be carefiul when you're driving ok? I wish you could be like my friend's mother who's at home all day."

I tell him that it worries me too which is why I buy enough insurance so that life will not be so hard if I am disabled or gone.

You know what? I have a policy that pays me $100 a day if I'm hospitalised. Doesn't matter what I'm warded for. I know that's not alot but at least you will still get your pocket money!

"You mean the insurance will pay me lots of money when you die?", he asked. "But we cannot live without you. What's going to happen to us?"

Well, you're both old enough, you'll figure something out. Kids in the West are already independent at your age. You could always get a part time job to see yourself through university.

Suddenly he said, "My friend Nat's mother is also a single mum."

We single mothers can't afford to stop working. We can never dream of becoming a housewife unless we find a rich husband. But who would want to marry me? LOL!

"I hope you'll live to a ripe old age. I'll think I'll die if you're gone." he mumbled.

Suddenly it feels so important to be their mother. That explains why I don't like taking unnecessary risks because their lives still depend on me.

Guess what? I bought myself a Mother's Day present. It's a bag woven out of natural reed grass. I love everything about it.

If you think about it, reed is a tall and weak grass but when woven tightly together, you get a strong and attractive bag. It's amazing isn't it?

Last night, SK entered my room cradling Rusty in his arms. "Here's your Mother's Day present!'

My other Mother's Day present.

Well, it's the thought that counts. How can I not love being their mother?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Three gourd soup 三 瓜 汤

Yesterday was a particularly hot and hectic day. I could feel my temperature rising as I rushed from place to place.

While tuning in to a Chinese cooking segment, I heard the radio DJ recommending the 三 瓜 汤 (3 gourd soup) to beat the heat. It was perfect timing as SK was running a fever the day before.

The key ingredients are Chinese pearl barley, pumpkin, winter melon and silk gourd. While she recommends using pork for the stock, I used fresh chicken thighs instead. I also threw in some red dates and dried scallop.

I found the soup very flavourful after boiling for 1.5 hours though the kids didn't quite like the taste of Chinese barley. I should use normal barley in future.

I enjoyed the soup immensely and had the biggest share of pumpkin which is one of my favourite food. I even ate up all the pearl barley which had become tender and tasty like the rest of the ingredients.

I'm sharing this recipe because I know some of my soup-loving friends like Petunia, OKC and Mother Hen would appreciate this.

Sorry, no photos as my camera is dead. We have misplaced the charger.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Bee Zee

Another busy day. Loads of deliveries. Sometimes I feel like a delivery girl!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Bye Wati

Wati's plane should be taking off as I write. She's heading back to Semarang, her hometown in Indonesia.

For the last 3 years, she worked as a domestic helper at my parent's home. I have seen many of them come and go over the last 20 years but I like Wati the most because we were living under the same roof until I moved out over a year ago.

Hers is a morning flight, hence she stayed over at my apartment last night as I live near the airport.

It was the first time she visited my place, so I brought her for a stroll around the neighbourhood. We met Cora, the Filipina who works for my neighbour.

"Is she your new helper?" Cora asked.

"Nope, she works for my parents but she staying over so I could send her to the airport tomorrow morning."

"Oh, you're so nice!", Cora gushed.

I don't think I've done anything out of the ordinary for Wati. The fact that she left her hometown to venture into an unknown territory is already quite remarkable. When she first arrived, she was only about 20 years old, a gentle girl with a ready smile. I used to tell mum that she's just a little older than YK, but their lives are so different.

Mum sometimes fail to understand why Wati has earphones stuck in her ear all day long. She's from Gen Y afterall. She listens to music while she dusts the house. Sometimes, she even asks my kids to download new songs into her handphone. She listens to Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas.

In three years, Wati has allowed her cropped hair to grow into long curly locks. Her figure is svelte and she's eager to return to Indonesia to marry her sweetheart.

When I picked her up from my parent's place last night, the parting was very emotional. Wati, Tummi (the new helper) and Lorrie (my brother's helper) were all in tears.

"No need to cry. You can continue to stay in touch via handphone.", I said.

We got up bright and early this morning. At the check-in counter, she quickly made friends with another girl who is leaving after working here for 5 years. Since they hail from the same hometown, I arranged for them to be seated together on the same flight.

After pointing out which gate they should head to, I felt relieved that they have each other now. At least they can share happy memories of their stint here onboard the plane. Their flight home will be a happier one.

Lemon meringue pie

After a long hiatus, YK decided to start baking pies again. Today he made lemon meringue pie.

I love the zesty lemon custard and wish he made extra so I could bottle some up for sandwiches and crackers. But that's fine. He won't be stopping at one.

Monday, 3 May 2010

School life

This afternoon, I was at Pathlight School - the first autism-focused school offering Singapore’s mainstream academic curriculum together with life readiness skills. I left the place feeling very impressed.

There is a certain positive vibe and vibrancy that is so infectious, I wanted to linger just a little longer. I walked amongst many happy children and cheery faces. I could see that the teachers and minders are patient and kind. The school building is bright and new, with interesting artworks in every nook and corner.

I was drawn to a bustling cafe operated by the school students. Then I wandered into the "Doodle Shop" and found myself captivated by the artworks of their talented young students. I've just discovered that these (below), done by 12 and 13 year olds, and many others can be purchased at their emall.

After leaving, I kept thinking to myself. Why can't every school have kind teachers and happy kids like this one?

I am comparing with other mainstream schools in Singapore. I have been to many and often find the atmosphere rather stressful. Just the other day, I wasn't very pleased with the way one teacher kept picking on the primary 1 kids. She barked at them constantly and threatened to punish them for not following instructions. She was trying to instill fear in them from a young age.

I was like, "Come on! Give the little kids a break!" You can't blame kids for not looking forward to going to school everyday, can you?

Apartment living

So my new washer arrived yesterday and did it's maiden wash at night. Unlike the previous one, this 'pedigree' purred quietly as it swished the clothes around. I sat before the machine for a good 15 minutes, watching the clothes churn and spin. It was quite fascinating.

It's not that I have nothing to do on a Monday night but I was simply doing my part as a considerate neighbour. When the security guard saw the delivery van, he beckoned me over, "Your old washing machine is gone? Forever?"

Yah, why?

"Well, someone complained about the noise. He thinks you're running a laundromat at home."

Oh my goodness! What intolerant neighbours I have! Ever since my old washer started getting noisy, I had stopped using it. I wake up 30 minutes earlier to handwash a huge pile of clothes every morning. Sometimes, I load the washed clothes into the machine to spindry for 5 minutes. Sure, the noise is loud, but not as loud as a jet taking off. It's only 5 minutes!

After 1.5 years, I am still getting used to apartment living. When we first moved in, I received a notice from the management within the first week. My neighbour had complained about the pool of urine outside their main door. They pointed their finger at Rusty.

I was very puzzled because Rusty doesn't go out of our door without a leash. I called the management to ask if it was a mistake. When I saw the neighbour one day, I brought it up. As it turned out, they did not see Rusty do it. They woke up to see a puddle and suspected it was Rusty.

I was disappointed and didn't feel that we were welcomed into the neighbourhood. Having lived there for some time now, I have only made 2 friends in our apartment block. I'm also friendly with a Filipina maid, the cleaner from China and the 5 security guards. Most families keep to themselves.

While walking Rusty last night, we met a family strolling about. They were about to purchase an apartment but were wondering why the development is so quiet at night. The father asked, "Is it always so quiet here? Why aren't there any children at the playground? It's quite lifeless compared to where we are living now."

Well, I have to agree. The people here have no life. The only time I hear from them is when they complain about my washer or my dog.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


My house is in a big mess. I can't even show you any photo now that my camera is dead (we have misplaced the charger). I haven't been able to wash the bedsheets because my washing machine is down. It's not exactly down, it just makes a deafening sound when it spins. I have to run and hide after I turn it on, just in case the neighbours come knocking on my door.

I've ordered a new one which will arrive today. This time I signed an extended warranty in case it breaks down so frequently like the old one (3x in 1.5 years!). It is now too broken and costly to repair. Too bad I had to settle for a cheap one when I moved in because of budget constraints.

As you know, YK is decommissioning his tank. He's been having a garage sale of some sort except that the buyers come in with their own buckets to bring fish and corals home. He is hawking his goods from two big plastic tubs placed right smack in the middle of our living room. The glass tank has lost its former glory, it looks dull and forlorn like a wasted seabed. It's bizzare.

And the floor is filthy! There's no point in cleaning until the old tank is gone. Someone is coming to take it away. I am bracing myself for even nastier things underneath like crystalised salt, mold and heaps of dust.

To help me cope with the disarray, I just remove my glasses. Why not? Everything looks better when it is blurry, even me. That's what my friend Bev said yesterday, "You look different without your glasses... like...younger and better."

She must have left her glasses at home yesterday.