Friday 31 October 2008

Rainy days

Rainy days make me think of money. Well, not like the raining money kind of illusion but more like rainy day funds.

My parents have inculcated in us the significance of saving for a rainy day since we were young. When I was 20, I put all my savings into a design firm that lasted for 15 years. For several years, I've used my savings to splurge on vacations for myself and the kids. More recently, I poured all my rainy day funds into the apartment.

These days, whenever I bring mum for her doctor's appointment, I no longer reach for my wallet, insisting on footing the bill. "Sorry, mum. I can't afford to pay for your treatment at this moment. Maybe you'll have look to my brothers for sponsorship?"

"No, no, no!" She'll insist on paying using her rainy day funds. As far as I know, her rainy day funds have been poured into the numerous doctors' bank account.

Sometimes when I deny the kids of a frivolous purchase, they would tell me in a huff, "Then use my savings lah!"

"No, no, no. That meagre savings you have is for rainy days." I always say.

But to them, that pair of shoes or jeans or t-shirt is to die for. It IS a rainy day!

A cool Saturday

I woke up to the sound of rain at the break of dawn and rushed out to the patio. Alas, too late. My laundry was already drenched. I crawled back into bed and got up at 9am.

This is the first Saturday I've ever slept in since moving here. It was drizzling when I got up, so I've decided to chuck the saturday routine out of the window for a hot cuppa and kaya toast instead.

In fact, I don't even need to do my marketing on Saturdays anymore. Now that SK's Chinese tuition has stopped for the year, I have regained back my Sunday mornings. If I buy my vegetables on Sunday, they will stay fresh in the fridge for another day.

Last night, I threw out a pack of vegetables that had gone bad and decided to use up whatever I could salvage to make dinner. CH and I didn't go out because I was having a headache. It must be the weather. My throat was a little sore the past few days but I woke up feeling fine this morning. The long night of sleep probably helped.

I'll dedicate the morning to housework. First, the wet clothes must be rinsed again before going into the dryer. With this kind of weather, it's best to postpone my plans to wash the bedsheets. The floor needs to be cleaned and when my chores are done, the boys and I are heading over to CH's new place to have a look see.

Thursday 30 October 2008

4 kinds of women

My ex-husband is quite the skirt chaser. That's the reason why he's my ex. He once said, "There are only 4 kinds of women."

(i) the really beautiful ones who are so hard to get because they think they're the best. But he enjoys the challenge and can often get them because he's can be so charming and persistent.
(ii) the ugly ones whom he'll avoid. Yah, he can be such an ass.
(iii) the ones who are not interested in men whom he won't waste time on. He likes to fritter away his time doing stupid things but not on women who can't boost his ego.

And finally, he said, "...and the rest are women like you (yours truly) and WK (my best friend), the mass produced type that roll out of the factory. This kind will appeal to most men. That's why they get snatched up very quickly."

I didn't know whether to laugh or kick him across the room. Not that I tried of course because I was the meek factory goods, not that goddess with the big ego.

Whenever I look at the tumultous love life of many beautiful women, I can't help but think about his stupid analogy. Beautiful women get sought after by men with big ego. There are only few kinds of men with big ego - those who are rich and famous and the ones who think they're the best. Whichever type they are - they're all the self-centred type - life with them must be miserable.

The plain and simple girl-next-door appeals to the regular bloke with a regular ego. So while their life together may not be as colourful or glamourous as the rich and beautiful, they are better at managing their expectations and build happier relationships.

Life cycle

Somehow it doesn't feel like a Friday. Today, it's my colleague's turn to take the morning off to bring her mum to the hospital. Her mum has been admitted repeatedly this year due to an alarmingly low red blood count.

I feel sorry that almost all her annual leave had been spent in the hospital ward with her mum instead of an island resort with her family.

Yesterday, my brother took the morning off to bring Ting to the pediatrician again after she spent the entire night throwing up. They had just returned from a short holiday in Bintan where many happy hours were spent building sandcastles and frolicking in the pool. On the way back in the ferry, Ting's nose already started bleeding. She began coughing badly in the night and they brought her to the doctor the next day.

I feel sorry whenever I see Ting swallowing a cocktail of drugs and using the nasaliser to ease her breathing. She's turning 4 this December and though she looks so wholesome and rosy, she is often sick. When I was a kid, I was sick alot too. My grandma used to say I was like a sweet potato that looked so good outside but lacked immunity inside.

I feel sorry for Ting's parents too, having to juggle between work, the kids and doctor's fees. What to do? I remember going through the same process when my kids were growing up. It's inevitable that the kids will fall sick, and that they will pass the virus to the parents who will end up getting sick too. Annual leaves are spent tending to sick kids or nursing a bad cold at home.

Now that my kids are bigger and stronger, the attention is on my parents who have grown old and weak. It's an endless life-cycle. Before you know it, I will be the one needing medical care and attention. I just wonder if our kids will be there for us.

Second opinion

It's a good thing I brought mum to the endodontist today. As it turns out, not one but several teeth require root canal therapy. Mum is the kind who takes great care of her teeth and visits the dentist regularly. Several years ago, her dentist recommended her to make a bridge instead of dentures.

Trouble is, the bridge is a really long one supported by teeth that are not very strong to begin with. It's like building a long suspension bridge supported by few shaky pillars on a weak foundation. To cut the story short, her bridge is now shaky and the good teeth are weak and inflammed from the overload. Hence she's suffering from so much pain. It all makes sense now.

The specialist painstakingly removed the bridge and treated the root canal of an infected tooth today in a 2-hour procedure. Mum will have to make many more trips over the next few weeks. We're not looking forward to this but it's the only remedy now.

I'm mad at her previous dentist. He should have known the consequences. Today the specialist discovered more problems that have surfaced due to his shoddy work. They're all giving way now and she had to destroy the bridge that cost so much to build.

I'm glad mum went my dentist who referred us to this endodontist. I've learned that when it comes to health matters, it always pays to seek a second opinion.

When mum started going deaf in her left ear several years ago, she went to a ear specialist. He poked around abit and waved her off, saying there's nothing to worry about. He even joked "You must admit you're already old. How long do you want to live? Soon you won't be able to hear on both sides." We left the clinic feeling upset.

Mum can be quite persistent when it comes to solving her health problems. Somehow, this time she felt resigned to fate, thinking that maybe the doctor was right. She's getting old.

When she finally went deaf in that ear, her doctor friend was alarmed. Old people don't just go deaf in one ear. She made an appointment for mum to see a ENT specialist. It was there when we discovered she had a 3cm tumour growing in her head. If the ear doctor had paid more attention, she would be in a much better shape today.

15 years ago, I went to a gynae because I started spotting for no reason. Out of convenience I went to one in my office building, to a doctor I had never seen before. It was there that I discovered I was pregnant with SK. He said the pregnancy was unstable and suggested an abortion. I was appalled and immediately went to my own gynae for a second opinion.

My gynae gave foetus and me a clean bill of health. And how true it was. I had an easy pregnancy and delivered a bouncy baby 9 months later. I'm glad I sought a second opinion!

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Aged surfer

The good news is, my car isn't leaking black oil afterall. I parked at a different spot last night and woke up to a spotless floor this morning. Phew! I've got to send mum to the endodontist today.

It occured to me this morning that I should set up a computer with an internet connection for my mum. She's always asking me to check about her medical condition and other stuff on the Net. Wouldn't it be better if I taught her how to fish instead of supplying her with the fish?

Afterall, she's at home all day, often feeling bored and lonely since she's not very mobile. Maybe she can start a blog and make new friends like me? We can send each other emails and stuff. It's a whole world out there. She can even chat with her old friends again without running out of breath... Aunty Madevi in Australia, Wendy in UK or even Ruby, Suzie and Lilian in Singapore.

I've also read that surfing stimulates and boosts brain power. That sounds like a brilliant plan. I can't wait to tell her when I see her later!


YK was in the living room having math tuition while I hung around in my bedroom feeling bored and restless. So I took down a worn out picture and a 2007 calendar that was too pretty to be thrown away and started getting creative.

This is the worn-out poster that I got from the Ikea sales bin for $3 several years ago. For some reason, I liked it even though it looked austere and cold. But it has been on my wall for too long, I wanted to give it a makeover.

I started cutting up pictures that I liked from the calendar with completely no idea how I was going to incorporate into the poster. Two hours later, YK strolled over exclaiming, "Now you've ruined a beautiful poster!"

I gathered all the bits and pieces of calendar leftovers and decided to call it a night. I'm not sure if the makeover is now complete or still a work in progress, but when I tried to mount it on the wall, it fell to the floor minutes later. It's now tucked away behind the cupboard. Maybe it's too ashamed to be seen hanging around. And I had to post it on my blog for all to see. Ha! Ha!


It's one of those days when I feel so overwhelmed and sandwiched between the young and the aged. I stayed home until noon so that I could send YK to school. He could make his own way there but I would rather he sit for his paper comfortably than feeling all sweaty and itchy after the long walk to the bus stop in the sweltering afternoon heat. In his 16-year-old mind, comfort is key.

When we got to the carpark, I saw a puddle of black oil below the bonnet. I remember the workshop telling me to monitor a leaking gasket or something during the last service. It had better not be from my car, I can't afford it to break down on me right now! Anyway, it's still working today, not sure about tomorrow.

SK has been bugging me about his mobile phone that had stopped working. When I came home yesterday, he rummaged through my bag to see if I had already purchased a new one. In his 14-year-old mind, not being able to communicate with his friends or listen to his favourite songs is intolerable. So I brought him to the store today to pick out one. Unfortunately we have to wait a day or two for new stock to arrive. I sent him home and promised to collect the phone once it arrives.

Mum has been urging me to get a referral letter from my dentist so she could go see a root canal specialist. In her 71-year-old mind, having to live with throbbing pain is suffering. I understand the torture and went to the dental clinic to ask for the letter and have already made an urgent appointment for her to see the specialist tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, I felt wretched for being out of the office all morning, running errands instead of finding ways to improve sales. I stepped in at 2.30pm when almost 2/3 of the day is gone. Not that there's anything urgent in need of my attention but still, it feels good to be sitting at my desk, even if I'm having coffee and croissant or blogging instead of working. It's my little sanctuary.

Tuesday 28 October 2008


I'll be lying if I say I'm not bothered by the downturn. Ours is not a recession proof industry and we're certainly not immune. Sometimes I wish we were selling rice or detergent instead.

I used to wake up to a long list of emails asking for containers in exotic locations like Moombassa, Lagos or Tema. But today, there were only 2 junk mails in my mailbox. The rest of the world must be sleeping when I was asleep. Where have all the European and American buyers gone?

My principal in the UK spoke about the smaller shipping lines that have gone bankrupt. Even here in Asia, the aggressive resellers have gone quiet due to the pulling back of funds from their backers. The smaller new traders have disappeared completely from the radar.

These days, we get more people trying to sell us containers than buying from us. The phone lines are no longer ringing off the hook like before. We used to be harrassed by impatient customers wanting to collect containers from our yard asap. Where have they gone now?

Export volumes have shrunk all over Asia, known as the trading powerhouse, and we're feeling the pinch. Thousands of freight forwarders and manufacturers in China are out of business.

According to my associates, this is not the first downturn in our cyclical industry. The last one just happened several years back but they've not seen anything like this. At that time, I was too much of an excited newbie to notice. I was just forging ahead, oblivious to the gloom around me. Still, I managed to emerge unscathed because I had nothing to lose. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

We've started to restrategise and focus on a broader client base. Yesterday we received an enquiry from a French language school who wish to put a container in their backyard. There was another one who wanted to make a containerised workshop on board a vessel. We're selling containers by the ones and twos instead of in big lots now. But still, it is better than no sales.

With more time on my hands, I am thinking of doing some artwork for my home, an area I had neglected for some time. As an individual, I don't have the power to change the economy but I can change myself.

Monday 27 October 2008

Home sweet home

We've been living on our own for two months now. Despite the plummeting prices of homes since our purchase, I have no regrets so far.

For a start, we have cut down so much time on commuting. The kids suddenly gain alot more independence in their movements. They can go out, meet friends or invite them over without having to worry about transport.

Here, they have their own space and privacy. With internet and cable TV, they can never be too bored. They can go to the gym or for a swim without having to rely on me to send them. If they're feeling peckish, there are plenty of food choices around.

For me, it feels good to have a cosy place to live where it's quiet enough to work at home without any phone disruptions, internet disconnections, dogs barking or kids howling in the background.

I sleep on a proper bed in my own room instead of the tiny cot in YK's room with my head next to the TV and waking up feeling so sleep deprived. And I don't have to squabble with him over the room temperature anymore. I detest sleeping with the air-con on.

Now, I can even wake up slightly later than before and still get the boys to school on time. I've rediscovered my love for cooking and believe it or not, I am beginning to enjoy doing laundry by hand. These two months of scrubbing and wringing clothes have toned my arms!

I like having CH over frequently or going for a walk with him after the chores are done. I also find it so convenient to walk everywhere - to the market, the stores and train station. I can even go running at the park that's just a stone's throw away. Everything is within easy reach here.

Of course now that a chunk of my salary goes towards paying for the mortgage and household expenses, we are more mindful of our spending. I don't get to see my parents and nieces everyday. Plus the dogs don't get to live with us. But still, it's nice to have a place of our own.

Thinking of mum

I'm working from home this morning and will only go to the office after sending YK to school at 1pm. Since the kids are at home, I walked to the market to get some fresh chicken to make lunch. YK deserves a hearthy lunch before sitting for his history paper today.

When mum was still in good health, she used to cook soy sauce chicken for YK because she knows it's one of his favourites. So when I was cooking this morning, I naturally thought of her. I used to think that we're pretty invincible as long as we lead a healthy lifestyle but seeing how age and illness have destroyed her well being, my perspectives of life have changed.

It started with acoustic neuroma which led to the loss of hearing in one ear. After a series of radiotherapy to control the growth of the tumour, her life is never the same again. Instead of getting better, it's been going downhill. Last weekend, she spent most of her time lying on the couch like an invalid. Her doctors claim that her quality of life should improve after treatment but it has been a year and I see no light. Sometimes I wonder if it is old age or the side-effects she's suffering from. Maybe's it just her body constitution. She's only 71 with many years ahead of her but she's not looking forward to that.

The soya sauce chicken is now simmering and producing all kinds of wonderful smells. I've added in chunks of potato and carrot, dried mushroom, hard boiled eggs, soy bean curd and dried soy bean sheets to make a healthy dish, just like how mum would cook the dish.

What a joy!

We've done our shopping. I've had my cuppa. Now I'm in bed reading a magazine. What a joy!
I do cherish those few hours spent with SK in the city, looking for stuff at Art Friend, sharing grilled calamari, fish & chips at Fish & Co, checking out a new mobile phone and shopping for groceries at Cold Storage. It was a nice little outing.
I also enjoyed the time spent with YK yesterday afternoon even though it was merely a trip to the neighbourhood supermarket and hardware store. I've heard of teenagers who refuse to go out with their parents and hope this day will never come.
Meanwhile, I should just enjoy and treasure these simple moments.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Favourite things

Today's a public holiday because of Deepavali, the festival of lights. I remember blogging about this not too long ago. Looks like another year has flown by.

Since I've finished most of the chores over the weekend, it's going to be a fairly easy day for me. YK's friend is coming over to study with him, so SK and I are planning to hit the malls in search of a punching bag. Yes, a huge sandbag!

I have no idea where to start looking but he thinks we can find one at IMM Mall. I wonder where he's going to hang that thing or how we're going to lug it home. We'll see...

YK has drawn up a list of items for me to buy to add to his collection. Let's see.. copper, tin, zinc, hydrogen peroxide, test tubes, beaker, CH3COOH (aye, what's that? Oh, vinegar!) and so forth.

SK's school holidays has already started and I have nothing planned for him. He's going to start working out at the gym everyday which I think is a fantastic idea. I only hope he sticks to his resolution.

YK has another 3 more weeks to go before his final paper. The exams is really stretching too long, it's taking a toll on his sanity! He can't wait to renew his wardrobe after the exams. He's looking forward to the graduation night party coming up in November. They deserve to party after a year of hard work.

CH is busy packing. His family is finally moving back to their family home after living in a rental house for several years. They have torn down their old house and have rebuilt into 4 chic homes. Finally the siblings will be living near each other again. So enviable. I'm sure his dog will be happy to be back at the familiar grounds again.

YK's learning a new song on his keyboard. SK's in his room reading comics. I should go do the laundry now. Yah, we're all indulging in our favourite activities.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Great Eastern Run 2008

CH and I took a train to town for the Great Eastern Run to find that best friend was already there waiting for us. I haven't seen her for months and it always makes me so happy to see her again. We had so much to talk about, it's no wonder we're best friends. Doesn't matter if she's smarter or faster than me, she's still my best friend!

I'm so lucky that CH is so supportive. He got up so early on a Sunday morning to be with me and even brought me a can of ice cold isotonic drink. Of course he took lots of photos of us before, during and after the race.

Before the run.

During the run. Almost at the finishing line.

These 2 ladies overtook me from behind. I looked and saw a dog peeking out. Oh, so cute! I tried to pace them but they were going so fast, I lost them soon after.

After the race.
It was a rather cloudy morning, so we were spared the heat but not the humidity. My timing was marginally better than last week's X-terrain race under the scorching sun. Humidity can really sap the energy quickly too. Of course I have plenty of excuses... I think this year's winner finished in record time despite the humidity.
I met Bai Yun and my aunties, Molly and Rosemary, after the run. I don't meet them very often, so it was nice to see them again.
Best friend, CH and I went to Golden Mile (yes, again) for breakfast. Can you believe I haven't invited her to my flat yet!? She sent us home and asked to come upstairs for a look-see. Now why haven't I thought of that? I'm quite a retard when it comes to such matters. I am not the sort to organise parties or get-togethers. While I love meeting my friends, I just don't take the initiative. I hope my friends will not forsake me one day.
This afternoon, EE texted me "Believe it or not, one of my favourite pastimes is catching up on your blog entries..." Isn't that sweet? She's always traveling, so that makes it even sweeter and she's always the one to ask me out for coffee. I just sit around and wait for her phone calls. I'm such a sloth when it comes to this. Thanks EE!
One day, everyone's going to stop calling me and I'll become a hermit!

Golden Mile

After lunch, CH and I set off to Golden Mile in search of sulphur which YK wanted for his chemistry experiment. There are lots of little shops that sell army stuff in the area, so it was easy to find sulphur which is used by soldiers to ward off snakes in the jungle.

It's a rather hip area where youngsters go to for shoes and street wear. We came across some skirts with retro prints and CH immediately urged me to try. Finally he bought me these two. They were only $10 each!

I love the prints on the little skirt. It's very short though. I'm not sure where I'm going to wear it to but the one on the right can be worn to work.

There are lots of nice food stalls at Golden Mile Food Centre. Since we've had lunch, we settled for ice cream. We've read about Ice Queen and my sister in law was raving about it last week, so die die we must try!

The lady at the counter was really friendly and kept offering us samples to try. Finally we settled on a combination of 3 flavours - black sesame, durian and lychee sorbet - for $3.80! In other ice cream palours, one flavour can set you back by about $5, here we can enjoy 3 scoops!

I love the sesame ice cream the best. It's very fragrant and you can taste bits of sesame seeds, bursting with nutty flavour when you bite into them. The other 2 flavours are fine but not outstanding. These are freshly made everyday without any eggs. They're also low in sugar and fat, so healthy too!

After indulging in ice cream, we had to walk off the calories. We roamed around Arab Street and Haji Lane. Here are some of the photos taken along the way.

Mosque at Golden Mile.

Trees growing out of an unused shop house.

My American friend used to laugh when she sees Humps Ahead!

Shisha pipes at a restaurant window.

Walking towards Salad, my favourite shop along Haji Lane.

Japanese Vintage, but Singapore flag?
The very narrow Haji Lane.

Friday 24 October 2008

What's the world coming to?

I brought mum to my dentist for a second opinion yesterday. The X-ray couldn't reveal much but my dentist did what she could with the infected gums and advised her to see a root canal specialist if the problem is not resolved. At least she did something. Mum's own dentist simply sent her off without even touching her teeth and charged her for consultation.

Mum likes my dentist alot because she takes pain to explain alot to mum about the condition. I hope it is simply a case of infected gums and nothing else. I don't want her to sit through a long and painful root canal treatment.
It was almost dinner time after I sent mum home. CH and I decided to do away with the Friday outing, so we all had a pizza cum TV night at home instead. I called Pizza Hut while driving home so that I could return home to piping hot food. We had the Super Supreme Viva pizza and Super Hawaiian Supreme pan pizza.

When we were living in the farm, Pizza Hut wouldn't deliver to the house, so it's been years since I ordered pizza. I still love the buttery crust of the pan pizza compared to their newly introduced viva crust which smells really fragrant but lacks the rich and satisfying bite of the pan crust.
I also ordered the sweet and spicy chicken drumlets and garlic bread. Somehow a pizza meal is not complete without these. I love how the chicken is seasoned and how soft and buttery the garlic bread is. CH brought Tiramisu, which tasted slightly odd and kept us wondering if it was the rum or the cream that had gone sour.

Food pictures lifted from Pizza Hut website.
We sat around the TV and watched the Nanny, SpongeBob and Ghost Whisperer after dinner. I know YK treasures moments like this the most. He's always bugging me to watch his favourite shows with him but I tend to fall asleep or get distracted with housework. I dozed off a little while lying on the couch but managed to catch the entire show without missing the important bits. I like watching Jennifer Love Hewitt in her chic outfits!
We woke up to a sunny Saturday morning. It's a nice change after a series of wet mornings. Yesterday, two cars nearby skidded and rammed into a tree in morning.
As usual, the newspapers is full of gloom and doom. They've now discovered that the two most popular brands of biscuits here are now banned because of melamine content, amongst them is Julie's peanut butter biscuits, one of my favourite snacks.
I also found out that Nissin cup noodles had caused a woman's tongue to go numb after consumption in Japan. Nissin has recalled all the cup noodles as well. I recently bought 2 packs. The kids don't like cup noodles, so thankfully, they're still in the pantry. I threw all the banned products away.

Then I sat in the garden reading the papers and eating sweet potato and yam for breakfast, thinking about my dad who must be doing the exact same thing 30km away. How wise of him to abstain from processed and unhealthy food. It's a good thing some of his good habits have rubbed off on me.
Sometimes our parents really know best. Yesterday I was showing mum some of the nasty rashes that have developed on my legs. She asked "Have you been using Fab washing detergent?" Indeed! I started using Fab detergent last Sunday and the rashes developed soon after. Apparently she suffered from the same problem decades ago and found that she was allergic to Fab.
Looks like I will have to trash that detergent too!

Thursday 23 October 2008


The newspaper is filled with sales advertisements today. From groceries to kitchen appliances to mattresses... buyers are spoilt for choice.

Some are really good buys at rock bottom prices. If this were a month back, I would be at the store when the shutters open to grab that oven, sandwich maker or Canon camera I had been eyeing on. But I ask myself, "Do I really need these now?" Of course the answer is "No!"

When I was at the supermarket yesterday, I had a sudden craving for Teochew braised (lor) duck but was quite appalled to find the price of a fresh duck has risen to $15. I used to buy one for $8 to $9 dollars. I decided to put the duck back since I was only cooking for the boys and myself last night. I'm not even sure if they like duck very much. It would be more prudent for me to cook for my extended family during the weekend. I know how my dad and brothers love this Teochew dish.

Even though we've had a good year in business, it's still wise to watch our budget. Maybe that expensive vacation can wait but we can certainly afford to eat wholesome meals at home.

It's ironic Singapore JewelFest 2008, Asia's most luxurious jewellery festival, is happening right now in Singapore. There's a whole supplement in the papers showing exquisite creations that pay tribute to nature's splendour - pages of glittering rare gems and diamonds, pearls and precious metals. In my humble opinion, it's probably not the best time to showcase these so called 'Gifts from Mother Nature" in times like this. I really wish them all the best.

In my books, gifts from mother nature are simple things like the greenery, fresh produce from the earth and the crisp air that we breathe. Things that are bountiful and free. Unfortunately, these are the gifts that we often take for granted as we seek and lust after the unattainable.

Heart warming

It has been another dull day at work. Our industry is pretty capital intensive and tagged to the global economy which is experiencing a slowdown at the moment. Some smaller shipping lines have already gone bust. The bigger ones are cutting their sailing capacity, everyone's cautious and wondering what the future is like.

The only joy of the day came in the evening when I received a call from Muji in Jakarta. I know it has nothing to do with work but still it is heart warming to hear her cheery voice again. She worked in my household for 8 years just after SK was born. The kids practically grew up having her as a playmate. She's affectionately known as their "Kakak" and she loved them like her own kids.

I remember SK used to whine when she was busy with housework. "I don't want Kakak to gosok (do ironing) or sapu (sweep). I want Kakak to play with me!" Indeed, she would spend afternoons in the park catching spiders or butterflies just to humour them.

When she calls every now and then to ask how we are, it always makes me smile. I do miss her like the way she says she misses me. I'm glad we stay in touch as friends. "Come to Singapore for a visit." I urged. She laughed.

I know she would be so happy to be here again. Indeed she came back to visit us about 2 years ago. It was a happy reunion. I met her husband and daughter for the first time and was pleased that she had finally settled down with a kid of her own. She makes a really good mum!

Talk about heart warming, I made a nice hot meal this evening. It has been raining quite alot lately which inspired me to make a hot pot using fish (pomfret and batang), vegetables and yam. I was trying to emulate the popular and expensive fish hot pot at the food stalls. It's not a very photogenic dish but it tasted very good actually.

Fish hot pot.

I did a stir-fried vegetable dish using fresh button mushrooms, shrimps and chive flowers. We all enjoyed this dish.

Pan fried chicken steak. The bottom is seasoned with black pepper and the top with teriyaki sauce.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Bread & butter

I brought mum to the dentist yesterday. She had been experiencing such a bad toothache, she could hardly chew. She was alarmingly thin when I saw her. She's already skinny to start with but two days without solid food has definitely weakened her.

The dentist couldn't confirm if the root canal in her top molar was causing her pain as the X-Ray couldn't reveal very much. He was more concerned about getting clearance from mum's neurosurgeon before carrying out any dental treatment. In the meantime, he prescribed a course of antibiotics and some painkillers while we seek further advise from her doctor at the hospital.

It was raining when we left the dental clinic, so we popped into the supermarket next door. I bought mum some butter croissants so that she could dip into her hot drink when she gets home. I got myself a bag of cinnamon buns made using wholewheat flour and a host of good stuff like pecans and raisins.

As you know, I had been eating nothing but natural food like boiled sweet potato, corn and pumpkin for breakfast which has been going very well. When I say well, it means I don't drop off to sleep 30 minutes later.

Today, I decided to eat cinnamon buns instead just to test if my theory is right. I had two pieces of buns with coffee at 7am. By 9am, I was in such a daze, my eyelids were drooping so badly, I slumped on my desk and slept for 25 minutes.

I woke up groggy and had to drink another cup of coffee at 9.30am just to stay awake. This situation is indeed bad. I'm not sure if it's the refined sugar or the yeast but looks like I have to steer clear from white bread from now on.

A different league

We met in primary 1 and sat near each other in class. I was already eloquent in English whereas it was a completely new lingo for her. Like a hare in the race, that was my advantage and I was ahead of the class for the first few years. Then she overtook me.

We became good friends and went to the same secondary school together. We didn't sit next to each other this time. She started in a better class and later joined ranks with the smartest girls in school. As best friends, we joined the same uniformed group (National Cadet Corps) so that we could be together. Once again, she excelled and was promoted quickly to lead the troop whereas I stagnated as a lance corporal. She was a natural leader.

By the time we got our GCE O Level results, the disparity was too great to ignore. She secured a place in one of the top junior colleges. It was simply beyond my reach. She went on to graduate with flying colours. We went separate ways but stayed in close contact.

Like a hare in the race, I was ahead of her when it came to marriage and kids. She was the bridesmaid at my wedding. Two years later, I attended her wedding with YK in tow. Now we each have 2 sons.

Like their mother, her kids excel in sports and academia. The older one secured a place in one of the top schools, the same one his mother went to.

While her marriage stayed solid as a rock, mine collapsed after 10 years. During the years I was fixing the pieces of my life together, she became a high-flier in a prestigious industry commanding alot of respect and salary.

When I introduced her to running a year ago, she was a newbie compared to me. Then she started training seriously. Today, she returned from Beijing where she just completed a half marathon (21k). Her timing was excellent, way better than what I had ever achieved all these years.

"Shall we run together at the race this Sunday?", she chirped merrily. Emm, I had better not.

Once again, she had overtaken me. While I feel happy for her, I can't help but feel like a loser. I just hope I'm not a sore one.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Worn out

I couldn't get out of bed today because I stayed up last night chatting with YK. He couldn't stop thinking about some careless mistakes he made during the exams. No point thinking about it, he has many more papers to go.

He couldn't sleep the night before after his chemistry paper and only managed to doze off at 3am. Looks like I'm not the only one feeling worn out.

Thank goodness SK starts school at 8.15am today or we would be late. Anyhow, we still managed to do the midweek breakfast routine. He's the only one having fun as his exams are over. All they do is watch movies in school these days.

Taking about worn out, the development at East Coast Park is looking old and shabby. Maybe it has something to do with the humidity and sea breeze, the building facade is getting mouldy and dirty. It's time for a refurbishment.

Even though we're one of the cleanest cities in the world, you can still find lots of litter in the parks and housing estates. Without the diligent cleaners like the one above who start work at the break of dawn, we wouldn't be living in such a wonderful environment.

Pretty cat outside McDonalds.

Looks like we're going to have fine weather after days of rain. Look at how mouldy the paintwork is above the restaurant.

There's a funfair going on. The attractions are a little worn out too. These were very popular during my childhood and I'm surprised the designs haven't evolved very much. I wonder if they're still popular with the kids these days?

I'm sure this was the same dinosaur I saw 30+ years ago!

The carousel - a perennial favourite.

On the way to the car park, I saw these 3 cats lying on the grass. In other countries, you would probably see bunnies but here, we have cats in the park.

Monday 20 October 2008

Those carefree days

My favourite yearly Special Holiday Escapades supplement came with the main papers today. I look forward to this paper containing pages chockful of exotic locations and colourful pictures with delight every year.

This year's supplement is disappointing compared to previous years. It's visibly thinner with hardly any features on interesting far flung destinations. Newspapers are funded by advertisers and I see less sponsorship this time. The main article "Exotic Istanbul' is sponsored by Turkish Airlines and another one on Hangzhou is by AirAsia. The other vacation spots are Tokyo and South Africa. Cruises is a hot topic this year because it is relatively cheaper compared to air travel.

The trend now is vacationing on a budget. In the midst of factory closures, retrenchments and an uncertain future, frivolous spending is a thing of the past. Even some F1 teams are fighting for survival as their sponsors start pulling out.

The recession has barely started and I'm already missing the good old days. This morning, I stumbled upon CH's Flicker album showing our vacation photos and I wish for those carefree days again.

What's for dinner?

It's 4.30pm, a quiet day at the office, and I'm wondering what I should cook for dinner. Lately the kids have been complaining about our unexciting dinners. "What happened to your teriyaki salmon steaks and kimchi hot pot dinners?" YK asked.

"Didn't you say I was trying to be 'extra' (over the top)? So I am keeping it simple these days." I retorted.

YK started to protest that he wasn't refering to my cooking but the photo taking. So I have stopped wielding my camera lately but really, it's because I haven't been cooking anything too delicious.

Last night's dinner was curry chicken (leftovers), stir fried vegetables and yong tau foo soup. This morning, I made instant noodles with frozen corn kernels and shrimp for SK's breakfast. All instant stuff.

I admit I have been negligent in the kitchen. It's YK's important examination week too. Other parents would be making ginseng tonic soup and other brain food, I should do that...

Maybe tomorrow...

Sunday 19 October 2008


If there's one regret that I have, it must be the lack of a university education. Now, my parents had never deprived us of a good education. On the contrary, they always emphasise on its significance. Both my brothers graduated with honours and one even completed his MBA.

What happened to me? I started off really well in primary school, usually topping the class which made my grandparents very proud. When I started having difficulties with math, I realised I wasn't as brilliant as they thought. Still I managed to get into a good secondary school and junior college.

I would like to think that my subject combinations led to my downfall. I had no interest in accounting, statistics and economics and struggled with the subjects for two years. I couldn't get a place in the popular Business Ad faculty in our local university (we only had 1 at that time) and turned down an offer to do social science because I didn't know what my prospects were after graduation.

It's funny how our visions were so myopic then. It was like with an accounting degree, you could be an accountant... one-track mind! The kids today are more well informed than we were.

I started working at a publishing firm with the intention of applying for a place in Business Ad again the following year. Mum was getting anxious and started bugging me to take courses in the meantime. She was afraid I may lose interest in studying. To appease her, I did a course on Public Relations at a commercial school which actually piqued my interest in journalism. Unfortunately we couldn't afford an overseas education.

When the time rolled around for the next enrolment, I found that I was enjoying my job and working life too much. Well, one thing led to another, and the university education simply eluded me. I went on to do a marketing diploma which suited me and I did very well. Unfortunately I was pregnant with YK and with motherhood taking precedence, my studies were disrupted.

At the back of my mind, this education thing still bugs me every now and then. I often wonder if life would be any different if I'm armed with a degree. While I had never really enjoyed school , I'm sure I would have loved the campus life. Reading about people doing their MBAs make me wish I were in their shoes. If only I were so academic...

It has always been a dream. As long as the dream never dies, I may just go back to school again some day as a matured student. Who knows? I could be that granny graduate!

Real Run 08

It has been a really hectic Sunday, one that started really early. As you see from the photo below, it was still dark when we arrived at Changi Convention Centre, the flag-off point for the REAL RUN 08.

At 6.30am, cars were already filling up the 1,000+ parking lots. With more than an hour to spare, we sat by the coast, admiring the beautiful sunrise.

We had done the trial run a few weeks ago, so we're familiar with the running route but we had not anticipated such a big crowd. The other difference is the weather. While we enjoyed cool weather during the trial run, the sun was really harsh today.

We started off by running through a sandy trail about 4km long. I like running on the soft sand because it's kinder on my knees. I immediately felt the impact on my joints when we switched to pounding on the tarmac after that. We wove through the shady park and ran along the sandy beach before hitting the final stretch of the run. The last 3km of paved road, though flat, was also the most punishing.

By then, the sun was beating down relentlessly. It was all tarmac with no trees in sight. The water station strategically placed along the route was a life saver. At one point, I even started seeing psychedelic colours floating on the hot tarmac. At least the finishing point ahead wasn't an illusion.

Boy, was I glad we did the 10k instead of the 15k! Though we finished the run before 9am, we had to wait around for another hour before we could leave as the roads were closed to traffic. I went home, took a shower and sent SK for tuition and Rusty back to my parent's place. I had a rest there, picked SK up and now we're back home. All these rushing around has given me a headache.

I have one more run next week (Great Eastern Women's 10k run) followed by a 21k training run in November to round up this year's running calendar. Yah, I need a break.

Friday 17 October 2008

Running talk

After a yummy lunch of nasi lemak at Old Town Kopitiam, I didn't feel too ravenous during dinner last night.
Picture lifted from Old Town's website.

So I settled for BBQ chicken wings and rojak (a spicy fruit salad topped with crushed peanut) while CH had the beef stew served with rice.

The beef stew came with 4 small pieces of meat in a big bowl of soup. I know the economy is bad, but this is too pathetic.

Now, let's move on to my Saturday... After my usual morning routine, I went for a talk on running gait conducted by Kellie Pidgeon, New Balance Regional Technical Manager. As it is organised by Safra Running Club, the room was filled with sinewy athletic types. I went alone and couldn't find any familiar faces. That simply means I haven't been spending enough time at the training runs.
I learned alot from the talk and even managed to ask several questions related to my creaky knees. Of course she talked about how good New Balance running shoes are. Apparently a serious runner who does 80k a week wears out a pair of running shoes every 3 months. We're advised to avoid washing the shoes as this will make the materials deteriorate faster.
Well, I don't wear out my shoes that quickly and I don't ever wash them. Gosh, I don't even wash my car! I've got a muddy run tomorrow (The Real Run X-terrain Run), so what's the point of wearing clean shoes anyway.
Actually I haven't had time to train all week. I figured washing loads of laundry manually (it's really hard work) and walking Rusty several times a day already provide more than adequate exercise for me. Running is distant memory.
Besides, it's getting too hot outside. The only thing on my mind now is "Should I have a cup of coffee or a can of cold beer?" Maybe I'll have both. And I'm trying to suppress my urge to overeat today so that I don't feel too heavy and sluggish at the run tomorrow...


Both my kids are pretty artistic. Though their drawing styles are very different, they usually turn out a decent piece of art. When SK was two, he would stay up till midnight, drawing whimsical little fishes and marine creatures in the dark.

I received a call from his teacher about his art exam. For the exam, SK did an illustration of a humanoid. He had to submit a series of sketches completed over a 3-week period (preparatory work). On the actual exam, he had to reproduce the illustration within 2 hours.

According to the teacher, his final artwork looks different from the sketch. Thinking that someone had helped him in his preparatory work at home, she singled him out and interrogated him. Now, my kid is not very shrewd. He was planning to go cycling in East Coast Beach after school. When his teacher held him back, his friends were outside the door, waiting for his release.

Instead of arguing with the teacher, he simply said, "Yah, my mother helped me" hoping that the teacher would let him off. That's what his friend did (he had help from his sister) and he was released.

I have seen SK labouring over the preparatory work for weeks. It's a really fine piece of work. He drew bit by bit every night, adding in the bolts and nuts onto the humanoid gradually into an elaborate artwork. I'm not even half as artistic as him. The only help I rendered was to print out some images he found on the Internet. I also made some comments on his drawings.

When the teacher called, I was dumb-founded. My son had submitted a brilliant piece of work and she's doubting his capability. The worst thing was, he admitted that I helped simply because he couldn't convince the teacher.

I drove to school right away. I told the teacher the real story. She showed me his final piece of work (done in marker and colours) which honestly is not on par with the preparatory work done in pencil shading. I told her his strength lies in pencil shading. I've seen his fantastic illustrations in pencil but when it is time to put in colours, the illustrations become ruined.

Besides, how can you compare a piece of art done over 2 hours with another one done over 3 weeks? That's probably SK's mistake. He should have considered the time factor when he was planning his exam piece.

Now the teacher thinks the case has to be handled by the disciplinary department because of disparity of our statements. I told the teacher that knowing my son, who hates confrontations and is rather nonchalant by nature, he must have simply 'confessed' under pressure. When I was there, SK was being confined alone in a room while the case was being investigated.

Naturally I was upset. I wanted to know why my son was treated like a criminal for something he did not do. The teacher then tried to justify that if he had indeed done that 'polished piece of art', then he has a hidden talent waiting to be discovered.

To cut the story short, as a compromise, the teacher wanted him to redo the paper again. He stayed behind for 2 hours to complete the paper. I asked to speak to him and the teacher said no.

"Why? He didn't do anything wrong. If anything, he lied that I helped him because he was under pressure."

Finally the teacher relented and allowed me to talk to him under her watchful eyes. Here's what I said to him. "I've seen you slogging away on this beautiful piece of work. You didn't do well in your final piece because you're not good at using marker and colours. Now, show your teacher you can do it using pencil. Take your time and do a good job. Don't get distracted. Call me when you're done. I'll send you to the park to meet your friends."

Thursday 16 October 2008


Since I really have to go to the office and the kids will be out all day, I sent Rusty to my parents' place early this morning. He's beginning to enjoy these car rides, often standing on his hindlegs and peering out of the window as we travel on the highway.

As I drove through the big gates at 7.15am, dad was jogging around the yard as usual. Mum was in the garden giving the workers some instructions for the day. Cookie quickly crawled out from his favourite spot under my dad's car while my nieces rushed excitedly to the door to greet us. It's always comforting to come back home where life is peaceful and predictable.

My friend Mother Hen says this place is like a lighthouse but isn't it so true? Whenever I need any help with the kids or the pets or anything at all, this is where I'll come. I am still grateful to my parents for housing us for many years. That period helped me alot in getting my life back on track.

This is also the place where my nieces come to everyday while their parents are at work. In fact, they're staying over because their mum is in Bali attending a conference. It is a safe haven and they are under the watchful eyes and guidance of their loving grandparents.

I stepped into a house of busy chatter. Ting invited me to her pretend 'tea party' and treated me to 'coffee and cakes'. Her little sister is learning to scribble and is able to hold a pencil so well! It's also heartening to see that mum has a life outside the house now even though she still complains of terrible bouts of dizziness. To think that several months back, she even lacked the energy and confidence to walk to the porch.

Soon, I had to leave my little Rusty who was eagerly waiting for his next car ride. I snuck out as usual but I know he's in good hands. See you tomorrow Rusty!

Last night's dinner went very well. I cooked too much and we still have some leftovers in the fridge but a good host will never make a guest leave hungry. It was really fun to see Amel and her husband. She has been reading my blog and leaving comments but to see her in real life is indeed an interesting experience. She flew in from Indonesia and brought me some rice dumplings made by her mum and gifts from Finland. She's as sweet as the way I have known her from her blog. They'll spend the day in Sentosa today. I hope the weather stays nice and cool so they'll have a really memorable time in Singapore.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

So poor Ting

I have been working from home all morning just to keep Rusty company. I was hoping that once the boys return from school, I can scoot over to the office for a couple of hours.

YK called asking me to meet him in school to pass him something. I brought Rusty with me so that he wouldn't whimper and drool all over the house. I arrived at school, handed YK his stuff and he said, "Thanks! I'm going off for lunch with my friends now. Be back later"

"Huh... You're not coming home with me?" Apparently not.

Then I quickly called SK who had just finished school. "Hey, can I come bring you home?"

"Nah, I'm at KFC with my friends. I'll come home by myself later."

Uh ok.

It's 3pm. YK just called to say he's on the way home but... he's going out to study with his friends later. Looks like I'll have to keep good old Rusty company.

Not that I mind but when I brought him out for another walk (our 3rd walk today!), he refused to poop and I stepped on a pile of dog poo.

Eventful Thursday

YK's GCE O levels exams starts today. Naturally he was feeling nervous this morning.

"This is the day that I've been studying the past 10 years for, right?" He asked. Well, it certainly is an important milestone but there are more to come.

They're starting with Physics and Chemistry Practical papers today. "I hope we're not tested on Mole concept. I hate this topic the most."

"I don't like mole too", I replied, checking that annoying spot on my skin. I shouted "Good luck!" as he got off the car and hurried home to find Rusty barking and drooling all over the front door. The house was spotless yesterday because we're expecting a visitor this evening. Now I have to clean up again.

Since my blogging pal Amel is visiting Singapore today, I had invited her for a home cooked meal. She wants to help me with the cooking. I think we'll have a great time in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, I have already made some chicken curry because curry tastes better after it has been left in the pot for hours. We're also cooking sweet & sour prawns, tom yum soup and yong tau foo for dinner tonight. CH is going to bring some chocolate lava fondants. Oh, I can't wait!

Frying chilli paste with chicken pieces.

After adding coconut milk, let it simmer for 30 minutes.
Curry's ok now.

Tuesday 14 October 2008


When I was out at the patio this morning, I was surprised to see bright pink and purple flowers in the garden. Some of the plants left behind by the previous owner have started blooming. When we moved in, many of them were barely surviving. Somehow, I've managed to nurture them back to health. Now the orchids, bougainvillea and frangipanis are flourishing again, rewarding me with pretty blooms.

I often wonder about wayward kids who get into trouble with the law. Social workers say these kids put up a tough front but deep down inside, they are yearning for love and attention which they couldn't find at home. I believe that given the right guidance, most can be put back on track again. Just like plants that are not rotten to the core, they can still flourish with love and care.
Today, the papers did a success story about this 32-year old inventor/entrepreneur who admitted that he's not very academic and has taken an unconventional route to get to where he is today. Most importantly, he is grateful to his mother for sending him for computer lessons when he was young. That's where he discovered his love for computing. He dropped out of poly, started working at a young age. One thing led to another and he's now the owner of a thriving business.
My radar is always searching for stories like this because I'm not very academic myself. I feel encouraged because whilst education is important, there will always be people who will not thrive academically in school.
I'm not one who put alot of pressure on my kids to excel in school. In fact, I give them free rein to pursue their interest. Though they are brought up similarly, they have entirely different personalities. One thing we all have in common is our love for animals. In our vocabularly, every animal is cute and adorable. Somehow I've nurtured them into animal lovers.
My friend and her husband come from a family of achievers. So it is no surprise their kids are coached and trained to excel in sports and academia. They attend the best schools and have completed several triathlons at a young age. Their achievements put me to shame. As a matter of fact, their parents are grooming them to be our future leaders.
I see no point in making comparisons. It takes all kinds of people to make up a society. We need leaders and animal lovers. Let's just be happy and grateful for what we have.

Monday 13 October 2008


Today I read about a 10-year old boy who just became an orphan. We've read about him before. His mother and sister were burnt to death by their disgruntled domestic helper several years ago. Fortunately for him, he escaped death and was cared for by his ailing father. Sadly, his father died of kidney failure a couple of days ago.

The young boy remembers many happy weekends with his dad. Their favourite haunt was the East Coast Beach. Despite his failing kidney, his father did the best he could and I can imagine what was going through his head when he knew his days were numbered.

When I was newly divorced, my kids were 10 and 8. I was struggling to find a livelihood, had no assets and wasn't adequately insured. That thought plagued me constantly. What if I conked out one day? Who's going to 'inherit' my kids? I had a couple of guardians in mind. One was my brother. The other was my best friend. But I always wondered if they would be happy to take my kids in as their own. Of course there's a possibility that the kids would end up with my ex but that wouldn't make me Rest In Peace.

Watching them grow and becoming more independent takes a big load off my mind. In a few years, they will become matured adults and can care for themselves. Maybe other parents don't think about such things but to me, it's another important milestone.

Eating parcels

Since I have some minced chicken and fish paste lolling about in the fridge, I decided to make little meat parcels for dinner. They're such a cinch to make. Just mix the two together, add some chopped spring onions, sesame oil, pepper and soy sauce. Spoon the mixture onto a small sheet of dried beancurd skin and wrap into parcels.

To make a complete meal out of this dish, I added in Chinese cabbage, green vegetables and sliced fish which lend a rich flavour to the soup.

Here's what it looks like when it's done. The other dish in the background is stir-fried young leek with fresh shrimps which the kids also love very much.

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...