Friday, 30 May 2008
Weekend is here
Unfortunately, poor Licia had just broken up with her boyfriend of 3 years, so we weren't in the most celebratory mood. Sometimes a relationship just isn't meant to be and in a way, this turns out to be a blessing because she's such a sweetie who definitely deserves someone better.
It's Saturday morning and we're at the office. The kids are here because the broadband connection at home is so bad, they can hardly go online. It's especially bad today because of the heavy rain. I quite enjoy coming here on a weekend. It's quiet and peaceful and not like going to work at all.
I fixed them stir-fried lo shi fun (rat tail noodle) for breakfast. It's a rice noodle shaped like a rat's tail and when fried with eggs, fresh shrimps, green vegetables and dark soy sauce, this simple dish can smell and taste quite heavenly. The kids love it.
We've arrange with the house owner to allow us to make some measurements at the apartment this afternoon. That will enable us to choose furniture and appliances that will fit into the house properly. The kids are seeing the house for the first time, I hope they'll like the place. Fingers crossed.
Thursday, 29 May 2008
Everything looked so tempting, I wanted to buy them all. In the past, I would have bought anything I fancied without thinking very hard. Things are different now. I consider very carefully before making a purchase. I've stopped making frivolous or impulsive buys. My new mantra is "Is this item necessary?" Nine out of ten times, it isn't.
With an empty house to furnish, things like clothes and shoes go way down on my priority list. Yet it's funny how the priority list keeps expanding day by day. At first, I thought furniture was all I needed. Then I realise I need sheets for the beds. And towels. And rugs. And blankets.
Today I added rice cooker to the list. And wok. And pots and pans. Of course, we need detergent and cutlery too.
Oh, when is the list going to end?
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
I'm dreaming of a sunny vacation by the sea. SK loves the beach, YK loves marine fishes and I just love a good break! I wonder if it's too late to plan a quick getaway...
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Now, this gruelling hike is no small challenge for anyone, regardless of age. It's definitely not a walk in the park but a hike in the mountains that took 127 days. It was an achievement which would not have come about if she had listened to the naysayers, she said.
“Most of the time, people are afraid of what others will say. They are going to say I’m nuts anyway, but I know that I wanted to do it,” she said. There were others who extended their support, though. When her cardiologist brother realised that she was serious about the hike, he gave her a check up to “make sure that my heart could take it”.
Now, don't you just love to hate those naysayers! Unfortunately, we can't avoid them completely since they're everywhere around us. Most of them can even be well-meaning friends and relatives.
I can be stubborn as a bull, so I try to dodge them as much as I can. Like, I enjoy running but non-runners have been telling me how I'll wear out my joints or kill my heart. In business, we have our fair share of naysayers too.
Amy is right. If we listen to everyone of them, we'll be paralysed with fear and doubt. Then, we'll never get anything done.
Monday, 26 May 2008
A friend indeed
Time and again, her thoughtfulness has surfaced through our many years of friendship. She's more than a sister I had always wished for. I was so touched, I even blurted out, "I would not hesitate to marry you if I were a guy!"
Of course, she's blissfully married but you get my point?
Thank you, my dear friend. You have no idea how touched I am.
YK went out for dinner with his friends tonight and by the time he got home, it was close to midnight. When we drove in through the garden, we saw the biggest blooms ever! If not for the late night, I would never have the chance to witness the dragon fruitflower in its full glory.
The dragon fruit flower only blooms at night. It was huge and fragrant!
There were 3 huge flowers tonight!
Sunday, 25 May 2008
A blooming Monday
It's a hazy and dull Monday morning with rumbling sounds of thunder in the distance. Good thing our garden is ablaze with colourful flowers.
Our dragon fruit plants are producing lots of magnificent white flowers. The gigantic blooms, measuring about 20cm long, open fully at night and were already half-closed in the morning when I took this picture.
The orchid, Vanda Miss Joaquim, is Singapore's national flower. Dad recently planted some in the yard and they're always in bloom.
The kids' tutor gave me a small sapling of this creeper years ago. An extremely slow growing plant, it has overtaken a big part of my garden today, creeping over the plants and trees. I'm not complaining because it sets the garden ablaze with the profusion of flowers.
Shopping makes one hungry, thirsty and bored. So in between shopping, we eat, drink and get fat. I am looking forward to doing housework actually because I'll get a good workout while mopping and cleaning.
As we see more and more furniture, we veer away from our original ideas. I like quirky but the kids prefer sleek and contemporary, so our tastes clash that way. Somehow we'll manage to find the middle-path. YK has pretty good taste, so he's in charge of the living and dining areas but he mustn't meddle with my bedroom. I'll take charge of the beds, patio and other areas. SK? All he wants is a bean bag!
At least we can all agree on this curvy Calypso sofa set. The suede-like fabric is actually in black though it appears purplish in the photo.
The kids like this extendable coffee table because it goes so well with the curvy sofa but I'm not so sure about this....
I like this coffee table with a black top and silver base.
We still can't agree on the dining set. YK loves it because of the see-through glass top, and alternating clear and frosted glass panel below where he can store interesting knick-knacks. I find the legs too chunky and short (like mine). Haha!
Friday, 23 May 2008
What's for dinner?
While I was making brunch this morning, SK asked, "Who's going to cook dinner when we move to the new place?"
He was delighted to hear that I'll be cooking, "Good, then we can eat pasta every night!"
At my parent's place, our domestic helper makes dinner every night. Typical dinner is rice with stir fried vegetables, steamed fish and soup. Very traditional Chinese style.
I replied, "Of course not!" Currently I cook pasta for the boys during the weekends. When we move, it'll be simple home cooked fare. They can't be eating pasta everyday! I'm already training them to wash their own plates and cups after meals.
I made SK wash some plates and bowls while I was making pasta this morning. He did a good job with the washing but when he left the kitchen, the floor was covered with water. What a mess!
This morning's Pasta Marinara.
Last Saturday's pasta with prawns and squid. I usually use the entire prawn, head and all, because the head lends a stronger flavour to the dish.
Thursday, 22 May 2008
A lonely existence
Being self-employed, I miss having someone to bounce off ideas with. Whether it is making a decision like office relocation or negotiating a complicated deal, the future of the company lies squarely on my shoulders.
For somebody who was never given a chance to make any decisions while I was married, suddenly I am solely responsible for the lives of two kids. Did I choose the right school? Should we go on a holiday? Have I taught them well? Do I have enough to see them through tertiary education? I am faced with decisions, big or small, everyday.
As you can imagine, it has been a rather stressful week. While buying a big ticket item like a home is a joyful experience, the process of waiting for the bank's approval with bated breath can be quite suffocating. One bank rejected my application for a stupid reason which I shall not discuss here while the other encouraged me to take a smaller loan to enjoy a better interest rate.
So I began the process of scraping whatever I have together just so that I can make our little dream home a reality. At the back of my mind, I have my concerns, especially after reading reports of an imminent economic downturn and falling home prices.
Again, I have nobody to bounce off ideas with. It didn't help that the first thing I heard from my good friend when I told her about the purchase was, "Your business ok or not?" before she went on to talk about her upcoming California vacation. Or very reassuring to hear my colleague warn "Is this the right time or not? Don't forget you're a business owner, if business turns bad, your property can be at risk."
I'm trying to convince myself that at the price I've secured, it is still a very good buy. And that we've been through the ups and downs of this cyclical business before, we will ride out the recession.
Let's face it. Nobody's going to pat me on my shoulder and say "You've made the right decision" or help me get back on my feet if I have made the wrong one. It's not their life afterall.
I am so determined to forge ahead.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
The lady dentist is a very attractive and chatty lady who seems quite happy to conduct a monologue. I mean how was I supposed to talk when my mouth was stuffed with all kinds of gadgets and instruments?
The moment I sat down on the big dental chair, she peered inside (dentists love me because my mouth is so big!) and said, "Huh, you like to eat hard stuff. I can tell alot by looking at your teeth you know? The sharp edges are no longer sharp and the flat ones are getting flatter. Maybe you like to sit in front of the TV and munch on peanuts and dried cuttlefish..."
At this point, I wanted to protest but no use. I don't watch TV alot and hardly snack. They're probably worn out because I grind my teeth when I sleep.
When she asked "Do you floss?" I wanted to say "Of course! Twice a day! You can't tell how clean they are? " but I could only mumble "Uh-huh" as she examined my pearlies with the sickle probe.
I must say she's a really fast worker who could work on two fillings simultaneously, give instructions to her assistant and hold a conversation with me all at the same time. I was in and out of there in no time at all.
I never liked going to the dentist but yesterday's visit wasn't so scary afterall.
When we were in primary school, the sour-faced dental nurse would come into the class with a name list. I always prayed she wouldn't call my name. She would march us across the road, to the clinic up the hill, wielding a cane in case anyone of us strayed. We would wait nervously for our turn in the room that reeked of antiseptic and filled with all kinds of drilling and gurgling sounds. All kinds of painful cries from tooth extractions too. Oh what a horrible memory!
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
It's been 3 years
It was a hot Sunday afternoon when we met at the neighbourhood coffee place. I arrived in a lime green skirt and a black tank top while he came wearing a white polo tee, khaki shorts and his trademark grin. He wore that grin throughout the 'date' as I babbled on and on about my goofy adventures.
We were as different as night and day. He ordered ice blended mocha while I had a hot cafe latte. He was quietly charming while I did all the talking.
We parted ways soon after. He went to pick up some groceries while I hurried home to make dinner. He sent a sweet message that night thanking me for a most wonderful afternoon.
Three years on, he's still the same cool headed guy while I'm still the one with the temper. I've never seen anyone as constant as he is. He never loses his cool and is able to tolerate whatever nonsense I toss his way.
We're may be different but we complement each other in so many ways. Happy 3rd Anniversary!
Just do it!
I saw something exciting happening at the old Bukit Timah Fire Station last Sunday. I remember traveling past those imposing red doors on my bus journey to school every day. When we were lucky, we could see fire engines setting off on a mission, sirens wailing as they sped off through those huge wooden doors.
The fire station has been vacant for more than a decade now. The decrepit building and living quarters are surrounded by overgrown weeds but when I ran past the premises last Sunday, I saw some signs of life.
Come July 2008, the entire place will be transformed into an artist village. It will become a bustling hub for art, music and drama schools. As if this is not exciting enough, it is also poised to become an Adventure Hub where sports schools, corporate retreats and holiday camps abound! There will be gourmet restaurants and culinary schools too.
I peered through the fence and saw patches of vacant land and business opportunity. If only I could put some of my shipping containers in there and lease them out to the tenants as storage space, wouldn't it be fantastic? In many countries, refurbished shipping containers provide exceptionally useful storage space for schools and restaurant owners.
All weekend, I envisioned artistically painted containers serving as a useful commodity in this community. Naturally I was excited when I rang the managing real estate agent to discuss about my proposal.
A harrassed voice greeted me on the phone. I politely introduced myself but before I could clearly state my intention, she asked curtly, "Do you have my email?"
When I said "No", she simply blurted out "It's 1,500 sq ft and we are asking for $X per sq ft."
I was mighty pissed. "But you haven't even heard my proposal yet!"
She simply shut me off, "I know you want to rent out your containers as storage space. It is not allowed. Singapore Land Authority will NOT allow it!"
I hung up the phone when what I really wanted to do was tell her to flush her stinking attitude down the toilet. It is times like this that I wish I had more resources to implement some of my ideas.
This is not the first time my idea had been shot down, the most recent one being my plan to build a container office. Such ideas are not even wildly imaginative or crazy. Many are practical or even proven ideas that are just a wee bit more intricate to implement.
When I decided to sell shipping containers 7 years ago, I simply set up a business and started trading without seeking anyone's advice. When the business proved to be viable, many people were surprised. Some said I was courageous, others tried to discourage me by saying it is a high risk business and an inexperienced woman like me wouldn't last very long in a male-dominated industry.
If I had asked and listened, would I be doing what I'm doing today? Sometimes you just have to do it.
Monday, 19 May 2008
One of those days...
Since the kids have been talking endlessly about setting up a marine tank at home, we set off to visit several aquariums today. It's a really tiring exercise simply because the shops and farms are located all over the island. After driving across the country, we arrived at Aquamarin in Jalan Kayu to find the shop's shutters shut.
Maybe we were too early, so we drove to the one at Tanjong Katong but couldn't locate the store. Perhaps it was closed too. We find it strange that retail stores like this are closed on a public holiday.
As if we were not foolish enough, we drove all the way from East Coast to West Coast Drive in search of another one. We finally found it but it was also closed. By then, the car was filled with two down-hearted kids and a tired adult.
Everyone lightened up when YK suggested having ramen for lunch. I drove to IMM mall nearby to find a long line of cars waiting to enter the carpark. It would take us at least 30 minutes just to get into the carpark!
We decided to go to the mall nearest to our house and heaved a sigh of relief to find a parking space. Well, luck just wasn't on our side. We went up to the 4th level and couldn't find our favourite ramen store. Where did it go to?
We couldn't believe our eyes. After walking round and round, we realised that the store was hoarded up and closed for renovations. What rotten luck! We finally settled for lunch at PastaMania.
I ordered pizza while the kids had pasta. With a day like this, you can guess if ordering pizza at Pastamania was a wise choice....
Well, let's just say there were leftovers.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
The hunt begins
Obviously, our priorities are in the wrong place. If we go on like this, we will be eating and sleeping on the floor.
Thursday, 15 May 2008
For the past few days, we were exposed to heart wrenching scenes of children buried under the rubble and parents wailing over badly crushed bodies. The pain of losing their only child in a disaster is simply too undescribable. How will the survivors even find the strength to carry on with their lives from now on? I have no answer.
Turning to another area that had bore the brunt of yet another nature's fury - the aftermath of Nargis which left the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar in a desperate state of despair.
In both areas, critical supplies and help are trickling in slowly largely because of human intervention and inaccessibility. While we sit here in cool comfort, the victims are struggling to come to terms with their loss and the need to stay alive.
In many ways, their lives now lie in the hands of the ruler and what help they can dispense to the victims who have nobody to turn to. They have nothing to built their new life on now. They will have to start from scratch.
The heartbreaking scenes of hysterical mothers cradling their dead children, tears pouring over the lifeless bodies have filled my head for days. I symphatise but I can't relieve their pain.
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
As her doctor was rushing for another appointment, the consultation went by really swiftly, with the doctor glancing at his expensive-looking watching every few seconds. At this stage, there is nothing much he can do except to suggest another round of MRI scan in June. So we'll be back here 3 times next month!
We got home to see Ting all dressed up for school. I love to see her in her school uniform and her hair neatly tied up. I managed to capture some precious shots of her. You know how they grow up so quickly!
The rest of the day went by as usual. Fetched kids, went home, worked in my room and then brought little baby Ling out for a walk while the dogs scampered about in the yard.
We saw another glorious sunset yesterday. I'll miss little Ting & Ling and the sunset when we move.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
All systems go
It dawned on me that while my mom has my dad, brothers and daughters-in-law to lean on, my two kids have nobody except me. So it is no surprise that I have to put them as top priority in everything I do, more so when they're still fully dependent on me, no question about that.
Of course, that doesn't mean mom is not a priority in my life. This morning, while driving her to the hospital for her regular check-up, we talked about the house and she's excited and thinks it is a good investment. My dad also feels the time is ripe for me to finally own a place and have the freedom we deserve.
So, it looks like we're all set. The option will be signed and then it's all systems go.
Monday, 12 May 2008
As the need for a house becomes more urgent, I find myself staring at the classified ads again. By chance, I found a familiar face amongst the ads. Ah, how can I forget that my old friend Jean is a property agent! We were soon chatting over the phone. Jean is a very driven and successful agent who will never sit around and watch me rot.
She prompty arranged for several viewings and I think my mind's made up on a small apartment with a big patio.
These things happen so quickly, I didn't tell my parents about my plans. One night, during dinner, YK spoke about the apartment. Mom asked, "Are you moving out?"
In a way, I have no heart to tell her that we could be moving out soon though it had always been in the works. She appeared quite sad to hear of our plans.
At this age, the kids have more activities after school. YK enjoys studying in a group but all his friends live near the school. It has become increasingly impractical for me to drive him across the island all the time. Besides, on days when he is bored at home, he feels trapped and alienated. On the other hand, it's also time for me to loosen my apron's string.
The kids are excited at the prospect of moving to a new house. They're already planning the colour schemes and furnishings."Wait a minute!" I tell them, "I haven't even bought the house yet! Besides, your mommy can only afford a tiny one. There is no space for all those things!"
Still, they couldn't stop talking about it. "Should we bring Rusty? What about Cookie? Rusty would be lonely without Cookie. Who's going to take care of them if we're not at home? If we leave them behind at grandma's, will Rusty run away and get dognapped?"
YK, sensing that my mom was feeling sad, reassured her "Don't worry Grandma, we'll come back to stay with you during the weekends."
Mom was up very early this morning. The first thing she said to me was, "I almost fell and knocked my head against the wall while going to the toilet last night. Even though I was walking slowly with the walking aid and holding the wall for support, I still couldn't find my balance. I'm so weak and useless now."
It makes me guilty that we're moving out at the worst possible time. I'm torn between my parents and my kids. I suggested to the kids, "Maybe I'll stay over at grandma's on some days during the week and leave you guys at the new house."
I could only hear their protests.
I was doing a bit of babysitting in the afternoon. It's difficult to keep three active little ones under control for too long. To make time pass quickly, we took a little walk outside and checked out my blooming amaryllis....
Wah, look at the pretty amaryllis!
Please be careful.
Sunday, 11 May 2008
The BBQ party was great. The inviting smell of meat grilling over the charcoal fire filled the yard. We were seated around the table, eating and drinking merrily as usual. Besides the usual meats (chicken, pork, beef and ham), we had seafood (squid, fish and prawns) and other local favourites (curry vegetables and longtong, otah, fried chicken) and salads. My friend even made a refreshing cold honeydew/sago dessert and set up a chocolate fondue!
I simply love alfresco dining at my friend's place. They're one of the lucky few to live in a spacious house tucked away in one corner of our island yet not too far away from civilisation.
Here, you can still see the stars twinkling brightly in the sky and hear the crickets sing. They're constantly remodelling and upgrading their house, so everytime we visit, there is something new to greet us. First it was the treehouse, then the new lawn. The most recent addition is a big pond which is home to some kois and a big bullfrog living amongst the aquatic plants.
Now, if we're lucky, we can hear the bullfrog croaking away into the night too.
The sunset here is beautiful. I feel so at home whenever I visit.
The flowers are always in full bloom. This is the kids' treehouse.
Unfortunately, some new developments are taking shape really quickly just across the road. Most of them are monstrous houses that tower over the older abodes in the estate, promising a Shangri-La type of lifestyle complete with swimming pools and tennis courts.
Once these bungalows are completed, I'm pretty sure the tranquility and quiet charm of the little enclave will be lost forever.
Friday, 9 May 2008
Rainy Saturday ramblings
It's 9am on a rainy Saturday morning and I'm not sure what's in store for the day but it should be a good one because there's a rainbow in the sky! Plus, the boys have completed their exams, so I don't have to nag at them constantly.
I've already marinated the chicken with teriyaki sauce, lime, ginger juice, honey, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil. Somehow the frozen cod fillets don't look so good after thawing, so maybe I won't bring them to the party afterall.
I've got to make my coleslaw. I've never done it before but it shouldn't be too difficult. Shred cabbage and carrot. Chop up some onions and blend dressing using sugar, salt, pepper, mayo, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard. Sounds rather easy and I hope it turns out well.
Since I like cooking so much, I've been thinking I should video my cooking in the kitchen in future, ala Nigella Lawson style. Granted I can never be as glam as her or whip up yummy dishes like her, but one can still fantasise, can't we?
Anyway, back to the real world... I've got to nip out to the vegetable farm up the road when the rain stops to get a nice juicy pineapple. It's for my ham and pineapple kebab. I'm supposed to glaze the kebabs with marmalade while barbequing but I've just realised we've tossed the marmalade out of the fridge recently. I wonder if I can substitute with strawberry jam or passion fruit syrup.
Hmm, strawberry jam may make the kebabs look like they're bleeding. Not a good idea. Oh well, we'll see.
Slug at work
Ever had one of those days when your energy level is down to zero? Well, I'm having one of those days. It started out alright in the morning but by late morning, a sudden wave of lethargy swept over me. I picked SK up from school and crawled straight into bed when we got home.
I had never felt this tired in a long time. I suspect it must be my diet. I've been eating too much refined carbs for breakfast and lunch this week. My body is on strike!
I felt slightly better after a short nap and decided to go out for lunch with YK at Fish & Co. There were a few things to do at the mall. Within 15 minutes, I had bought 2 pretty dresses for Ting, a Science assessment book for SK, mouthwash for mum and a hair curler for myself.
For lunch, YK ordered the famous fish & chips, mushroom soup and a passion fruit soda. His meal arrived after a long wait and I found the fish & chips a tad over-cooked. Everything was brown instead of golden brown!
I ordered mussels in a creamy garlic sauce thinking I need to incorporate some protein and zinc in my diet. Probably a good move cos I had a surprise meeting in store.
Mussels served with foccacia bread.
After lunch, we picked up some groceries at the supermarket. As we're having a BBQ at best friend's house tomorrow, I'm preparing coleslaw, ham & pineapple kebabs, hotdogs, teriyaki chicken, portobello mushroom (grilled with garlic and butter) and fish fillets seasoned with olive oil, butter and a pinch of salt.My phone rang just when I got home. My customer from Indonesia had just arrived at our office to meet me. Oh, I didn't know he was coming afterall. He emailed me a couple of days ago but didn't confirm the appointment.
Suddenly, I was jolted out of my lethargy. With new found energy, I grabbed my bag and rushed to the car to make the 30-minute drive to the office. I apologised for making him wait (though it wasn't my fault, really). We had a good chat and now I'm WIDE awake! And it's the end of the workday!
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
"Mom, what do you think Rusty would say if he could talk?"
I'm the mummy, of course I know what he would say!
Get your filthy hands off me!
Maybe if I keep really quiet, nobody will find me here.
I'll show you who's the boss, you little twit!
From where I come from, breakdancing is still a fad.
What do you mean I need a nose job?
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Monday, 5 May 2008
Little guitar player
Ting hasn't been attending school these few days. With too much time on her hands, it's hard to keep her entertained at home. Here she is, playing the guitar.
Those restless feet
When I left school, I was offered an opportunity to work as an au pair in Club Med Maldives. I was so excited at the prospect of working overseas, I didn't even know what an au pair was. People started telling me I would be tucked away in little remote island with no access to newspaper, TV or telephone. I would lose touch with civilisation. Well, that sounded like my dream job!
Then mom started getting all worried. What if she loses all communication with me? What if her only daughter turns bad and will never come home again? What if the rumours she had heard about the free spirited Club Med party animals were true? Her morale became more sombre as my mood soared. There were face-offs and cold wars. Finally, to preserve everyone's sanity, I didn't accept the job.
Then there was the other time when I wanted so badly to study journalism overseas. The courses in our local university were so limited, I implored my parents to send me to America. I went for my TOEFL exams at the American School without their knowledge and emerged with good scores. But alas, my dad just started his business at that time and wasn't confident that he could see me through an expensive oversea education. Another disappoint for a young lady.
In many ways, CH's niece is a lucky young lady. She's living my dreams. I'm sure she'll enjoy Las Vegas. I remember when I was there several years ago, I was more than a little bit overwhelmed.
The magnificent Las Vegas that I had seen on TV is larger than life. The infamous Strip is where people in the thousands walk up and down, where hotels glow and neon pulsates all around. Electric lights flash. Music plays. Volcanoes erupt. Fountains soar. It's a city that never sleeps, from classic showgirls and magicians, up-and-coming punk bands or legendary crooners, to cirque-style acrobats and trapeze artists; traditional casino lounges and cocktail bars to dance-till-dawn nightclubs; blackjack table, roulette wheel and slot machines, from aquariums and art galleries to roller-coasters and scream rides, all-you-can-eat buffets to fine dining... they're all there at the Strip but not exactly what I want.
As I grow older, I'm no longer attracted to glitz. I prefer somewhere more subdued. I had always set my sights further ashore, even contemplating moving overseas after my divorce. But these days my feet are firmly planted on my homeland. I'm content to be here with my family and travel whenever my feet get restless.