Wednesday 31 October 2007

These boots

When I saw these kick-ass boots in HollyGL's blog....

I suddenly remember my cowgirl boots stashed away in the closet.

These boots are as old as YK, yet they still fit like a dream. Looking at the boots brings back lots of memories. My friend Sue Kinzie bought them for me from, where else but, America.

Sue was born in Korea, but was given up for adoption as a tiny baby. She was adopted by American parents and grew up in California into a striking beauty with the brains to match. A go-getter, she soon found herself moving about in the celebrity circle... dating movies stars and landing small roles on the movie set.

On a whim, she came to Singapore for a holiday and decided to stay behind to work as a model. One fine day, she bumped into my ex-husband while roller-blading in the park and we soon became good friends with this intriguing new girl in the neighbourhood... the confident glamour-puss, who strutted about town in cowgirl boots, with a perfect figure that looked fabulous in everything, even rags.
At that time, I had just given birth to YK and wasn't feeling like the most attractive woman in the world. Yet, she was always trying to make me over, convincing me that I had cheekbones and an athletic body any woman (back home) would kill for. Well, of course I didn't believe her...
She hung around alot in my home and went back to USA briefly at one time, only to return with a suitcase full of fashionable clothes, music CDs, books and these 3 pairs of boots for me. For years, I wore them all the time...with dresses, suits, skirts... They became a part of me. Somehow, these magical boots made me feel liberated and free-spirited like Sue.
Then she went home, for good. A gypsy like her doesn't stay in a place for long. For a long time after that, I missed her and everything about her... from the French music that she played on our CD player, to her cheery, melodious voice. But, like a true Bohemian, she disappeared without a trace. Until now, I haven't found her...

Our business district

I had three meetings in the business district this morning. Since the weather was nice and cool, I walked from one point to another without breaking a sweat. Walking also allowed me to see alot more interesting spots along the way.
I have never noticed this Chinese temple in the city before.

Check out the interesting ceiling of this new building.

Cecil Street was strangely quiet just before lunch hour.

I love the striking wall paintings on this art centre.
There are pockets of greenery, such as this, in the business district. It certainly makes the walk a more pleasant one.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Breaking up is hard to do

I have been thinking about this lately. Nooo.. I'm not breaking up with anyone but on days when I'm feeling blue, I equate it to what being broken-hearted feels like.... when melancholy and despair fill every single pore in your body.

I have been through bad breakups before and don't wish that upon anyone, especially my own kids. Now that they are in their teens, they're going to experience the exhilaration of falling in love one day. We all know that falling in love as a teenager is more intense than the experience in adulthood. Unfortunately these early relationships usually burn out quickly too. This is where they'll need to learn how to survive a breakup.

Afterall, there's nothing much one can do for it all boils down to science actually. Flushed cheeks, a racing heart beat and clammy hands are some of the outward signs of being in love. But inside the body there are definite chemical signs that cupid has fired his arrow.

When it comes to love it seems we are indeed at the mercy of our biochemistry, involving chemicals from testosterone and oestrogen to neuro-transmitters called 'monoamines' and hormones inside us.

When the love is gone, another set of chemicals takes over. Being in love is complicated? You bet! Can they still be friends with an ex? Well, that's another story for another day....

break up miss you

Secret stash

Can you believe it? It's only the second day of the school holidays and I have already made so many trips to the supermarket. We have a black hole somewhere, the food just disappears so quickly.
YK called me at the office today, "Can you buy some food? There's absolutely nothing to eat at home!"
How is that possible? There are loads of cereal, fruits, nuts and other frozen food in the refrigerators (we have 3) and he's telling me there's nothing to eat?
So I went to the supermarket again and came home carrying bags laden with lettuce and canned tuna for making sandwiches, canned soup (in mushroom, clam chowder, corn and chicken flavours), fresh mushrooms, pasta sauce, cup noodles, fruity yoghurt, Jello, soymilk, ice lollies, fresh plums, corn flakes, mini Oreos, Pringles, Twisties and ice cream.
But I have a plan. If I display everything in the kitchen, they'll be gone in no time at all. So I'll hide some of the snacks in the garage cabinets, where I stash away the old magazines and gardening stuff. Heh heh, the boys will never know I have goodies in there. Shhh...

garage cabinets


Monday 29 October 2007

I'm a noob

On most days, I have no trouble at all posting one or two blogs in the morning. Yet there are times when I stare blankly at my screen waiting for a miracle to happen.

It is on days like this that I need a little help from my blogging buddies. I start surfing around for inspiration. Mooiness is dishing out relationship advice .... cool stuff that all men should know about. I hop over to my favourite food blog and drool over the yummy dishes as usual...

Then, over at Anything Goes, I find Nick raving about how his wife is rolling in the dough from blogging. I've read about that before in Janice's blog. These guys are being paid to blog!

Heh! How cool is that. I love blogging and I love being paid. I want to be paid for doing something I love! I check out PayPerPost rightaway. I sign up and they say I'm their newest PPP postie and this is my first post!

So, today I'm a noob but don't laugh at me because who knows, someday I could be the one laughing my way to the bank! My kids will love me because with the extra money I earn, I can fund their online games (if you're thinking of tertiary education... well, dream on cos I'd have to write like 24/7!)

I'm always game to try something new. No venture, no gain right? Maybe PPP will help me open some doors to a new adventure.... who knows?


Just hanging around

I peep into the cot to see if my niece's asleep... but NOOO! She's just hanging around, wide awake... watching the world go by.

Sunday 28 October 2007

A day in the life of....

My best friend is happily married yet she sees her husband only during the weekends. On weekdays, they live some 30km apart from each other. Hubby lives in a lovely house with his mother, while she and the kids cram into her parent's apartment. Is there anything wrong with this picture? Well, not at all.

This has been their way of life for the past 6 years, since the kids started attending primary school. They managed to enrol the kids in a good school which is unfortunately, very far from their home. So, the most practical solution is to uproot and move the kids to her parent's place near the school.

Every Monday morning, she piles the kids, their school bags, uniform, shoes, toys and her own belongings into the car, and drops them off at her parent's place where they'll stay during the week. Her hubby used to join them too, until his father passed away recently. Now he lives with his aged mother until his kids and wife return on Friday night to spend the weekends together.

When the school holiday rolls around, the kids are back at their own home and the family is complete again. For a month or two, my best friend is able to take a breather too, from her duty as a chauffeur (like me).

Tranquil afternoon

For some reason, I am feeling a little down today. Even a morning run along the beach failed to lift my spirits. The weather's lovely outside, so instead of moping around at home, I gave myself a nature retreat.

In my quest for solitude, I wound up at the high vantage point of Labrador Park.

From the viewing platform perched atop the rocky sea-cliff, I was treated to a panoramic view of the park and the wide expanse of the sea below.

Labrador Park is an oasis of tranquility and natural wonder. I took a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk, built on the edge of the secondary forest, taking in the wondrous view of the cliff side vegetation around me.

Being surrounded by lush greenery and the shrill calls of birds and cicadas is indeed soothing...

I could even catch a glimpse of the sparkling blue sea as I walked down the steps.

Down the boardwalk I went...

Under the tree branches...

...until I arrived at the large park below.

Thank goodness for the shade provided by these old trees, some of them are rare, like the monocotyledonous tree, Dracaena maingayi, estimated to be more than 80 years old.

From my shady spot, I spied some ships in the horizon, even a large cruise vessel! Some anglers were lounging around, waiting for a big catch.

For the next 2 hours, I sat there, reading and listening to the sound of waves crashing against the rocky shore.
Then it was time for me to go. I walked back to the boardwalk, up to the cliff above.

First I spotted a little insect hiding under the leaf, then another. These may be the little critters making the shrill calls in the forest.

As I walked, butterflies fluttered around me. Some 11 species have been recorded here. Birds, spiders and thousands of insects, like the ants here, all have their functions in keeping the rich forest a self-perpetuating habitat.

I peeked under this leaf to find a cottony home.

Finally, I was back at the top of the cliff, and the pavilion near the entrance.

One last look at the calm waters below.

Then, I walked back to the carpark.

Friday 26 October 2007


After spending 2 hours working in the garden, I was back in the kitchen again. You would be spending so much time in the kitchen too, if you have 2 growing boys. Well, to be fair, I was cooking a pot of curry vegetables for dinner tonight. Look at how colourful it is...
The spicy vegetable stew, chockful of onion, chilli, carrot, potato, tofu, long bean and purple cabbage, bubbling away in the wok.
It's now time to chill after all that hard work in the kitchen and garden. Have a great weekend everyone!

A glass of red wine and spicy dried anchovies coated in sesame seeds... ah!

Déjà Vu?

Nope, you're not reading yesterday's blog. This is what the boys are having for lunch (again). They loved the prawn-and-crab carb dish so much, I cooked the same thing today. They'd usually eat something ad nauseum that they won't touch it for months. But don't worry, I have used up all the little crab claws. If they can't curb their craving, they'll have to go crab trawling first!

Festival of Lights

For a month, Little India is ablaze with fairy lights and garlands. There is Indian dancing, delicious food, brightly coloured saris, sparkling jewelry and aromatic spices as the Indians prepare for Deepavali.

Deepavali celebrates the symbolic victory of good over evil and brings in the New Year for Hindus. Families lay offerings of jasmine, sweetmeats, yoghurt and ghee on the family altar and women wear their finest outfits to the temples.

During Deepavali, it is believed that the souls of the departed return to earth, and so lamps are lit to guide them. Light also symbolises goodness, success and other attributes that may be bestowed by the Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu. The festival celebrates the legendary slaying of the oppressive Narakasura by Lord Krishna, which in turn reconfirms the inherent nature of goodness and its ability to triumph over evil. For this reason it is both a happy time and a magical one.

Naturally, we decided to capture this magical moment last night at Little India. Come with us on our little journey...

We were greeted by brightly coloured street decorations, which put us in a festive mood immediately! The theme for the street décor this year is Rangoli inspired. Rangoli (Indian floor art) designs are intricate, colourful and are said to bring prosperity when drawn at the entrance of an Indian household.

We began our journey with a trip to Banana Leaf Restaurant for an authentic Indian meal.

Food here is served on a huge piece of banana leaf. We ordered spicy Masala chicken and curry mutton. A standard Indian meal comes with rice, Papadum or papad (crispy, thin lentil wafers) and some vegetables (we were offered cabbage and spicy eggplant), washed down with tangy fresh lime juice.

After dinner, we stepped out of the restaurant to see lots of cars lining Race Course Road which is flanked by beautifully coloured lights. It's so popular with the tourists and locals, they have a valet service to deal with the cars coming in.

As we turned the corner, the roof of the famous Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple came into view. I didn't bring a tripod, so I wasn't able to take really great pictures.

The main Serangoon Road in Little India, ablazed with coloured lights!

The dead tree and the Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple.
There were lots of people going in and out of the temple which I wasn't able to capture in this picture.

Well, I managed to capture a scene of a saree-clad woman walking past this brightly decorated restaurant.

We decided to rest our tired feet at an old coffee shop, so I got another shot of that restaurant from across the small alley.

This cup of coffee only costs 80 cents (50cts in USD)! I only drank half cos I didn't want to lie awake all night tossing in my bed!

There's a flea market going on this month. Come, let's go see the beautiful saris inside the huge tent!

This is just a small section of the market. I was surrounded by saris in any colour imaginable but being a disciplined shopper, I didn't buy a thing, well, except for a pair of nail clippers.

Thursday 25 October 2007

It's lunch time!

I am working from home this afternoon. YK's best friend is here and guess what I cooked for the 3 hungry boys? Pasta with prawns, crab meat, fresh chilli and button mushroom, cooked with lots of garlic of course (but don't tell the boys). Can you see the little crab claws ... they're tiny but tasty.

Dessert is sweet and refreshing 'cheng tng' soup (dried longan, ginkgo nuts, red dates and white fungus) which I made early this morning.

Parent volunteers

Every morning, I see several parents marshaling traffic outside the gate of a prestigious primary school. Rain or shine, they're there, in their striking luminuous vest. What makes these parents partake in this noble task of directing traffic in the early hours of the morning, you may ask? Especially in a school their kids are not even studying in.

Well, these parents are sacrificing their sleep for a better chance of enrolling their kids into the school in future. Mind you, not next year or the year after, but likely 3 to 5 years later. And they're not even guaranteed a place, just a slightly higher chance. All these effort may come to nought but still they try.

Welcome to the competitive education system in Singapore, one which many feel is too specialised, rigid and elitist. There's no doubt that Singaporean students have regularly ranked top when competing in international science and mathematics competitions and assessments, but at what price? This pressure cooker of our system has even spawned movies highlighting the competitiveness amongst students (and parents) and social stigma that students struggling with studies have to face.

To get their kids into the school of choice, I know many parents who relocate their homes or participate as a school volunteer at least 3 years or so before their kid is ready for school. The people behind school funfairs and carnivals are usually the diligent parents.

Every year, without fail, we read in the newspapers about the tears, the fears and cheers during the primary school registration season. Parents spending the night outside the school gate to be the first in line when registration starts is a common sight.

I have been through all that (not the lining-up part). Though I have always maintained a rather cavalier attitude towards our education system, I couldn't help but feel the heat sometimes. Would my kids be able to get into a decent school? What if they can't cope up with the school work? Will they be bullied?

What about life after primary school? It's an endless cycle. Some parents simply pack their bags and move to another country to avoid this craziness. To a place where education is more well rounded, where there is a greater focus on creative and critical thinking, and on learning for life-long skills. Sadly, this only applies to the ones with the deeper pockets.

Oh man, I am just glad I'm not the one standing outside the school gate in the mornings...

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Shoestring travellers

For us, sometimes the thrill of traveling lies in discovering new places on a shoestring. You will often find us rubbing our hands gleefully after calculating our trip expenses (or how little we have spent).

In the recent years, we've managed to go on a week long eco-tour in Thailand for less than S$500 each (US$333) and a weekend escapade to an Indonesian Island without spending more than $200 (US$133) per person. We've even managed to do a 5-day trip in Northern Australia for less than S$750 (US$500) each!

It all boils down to being willing to rough it out like staying in simple lodging houses or flying on budget airlines. For us, the adventure lies in taking in new sights and experiences.... a la Lonely Planet style... not lounging around in luxurious bedrooms or soaking in jacuzzi tubs.

With the owners of Lamai Homestay situated in Ko Pet, a rice village in the heart of rural Isan in N.E Thailand. Jimmy and Lamai are committed to sustainable tourism and try to tempt tourists away from the usual travel routes and destinations. Instead, they try to show the "real" Thailand.

We learned to weave straw mats using reed harvested from the rice fields.

Life is idyllic here. Our free time was spent walking past rice fields and feeding cows.

We had a unique opportunity to be part of a rural community in an area of Thailand where silk is still made in the traditional way - each process; from breeding the silk worms to dyeing, spinning, and weaving takes place in the village homes using hand-made equipment. This village regularly wins the Queen's Award for Excellence in Silk Production.

The beautiful Lamai Homestay is surrounded by a lush garden growing bananas, papaya, mango and custard apple. There is a cool, shady barbecue and eating area in the garden and a splashpool nearby to rest tired feet.

In the cool evenings, we sat on the verandah, watching the sun set over the lake.

The Greenleaf Lodge is another place in Thailand that brought back wonderful memories of our off-the-beaten track adventure.

Situated near Khao Yai National Park which is famous for being Thailand’s oldest national park, the guest rooms are simple and spartan but we still had a great time. As it was listed in Lonely Planet guide, we met lots of backpackers from all over the world. Nights were spent drinking Thai beer out in the garden exchanging travel tales late into the night.

Besides wildlife spotting in the national park, we also managed to see some nice waterfalls.

One of the best stays we've ever had was at Loola Resort in Bintan Island where large bungalows, restaurants and terrace, are all built in local style above the water. We enjoyed simple activities during the day and saw the moon rise over the water at night.

Have you tried archery under the coconut groves?

Or seen a food trolley crafted out of wood?

We surprised ourselves by traveling to Darwin on a whim one day. It was our first time flying Tiger Airways (new budget airline) and I must say, the flight was great. We found a room in a backpackers' haunt called Frogshollow (I know, it was the name that attracted me) and had a fantastic time in this not-so-touristy part of Australia.

The lounge area of Frogshollow is painted in a cheerful mix of pink and yellow! Set in lush, tropical gardens and opposite historic Frogs Hollow Park, it has been awarded "The best budget backpacker accommodation in Darwin", by Lonely Planet and other magazines.

We went swimming in waterfalls and diving into the Burley Rock holes at the famous Kakadu National Park.

At the scenic Litchfield Park, we admired the gigantic Cathedral Termite Mounds and the strangely pointed Magnetic Termite Mounds which are made out of a mix of saliva and excrement. The magnetic ones have been constructed so that they have two points which perfectly face north and south. These tiny creatures are pretty darn clever!
Of course we had plenty of time to feed the fish at the sanctuary and fool around with fake crocodiles in the pool too!

Chowmahalla Palace

During our week in Hyderabad, some of the places we visited include the Mecca Mosque, the Charminar (the icon of Hyderabad), Sufi Shrine, Bi...