Friday, 30 April 2010

Walk the talk

I'm so lucky because the local newspapers did a feature on my garden today. People may think that I have friends or relatives in the press to give me free publicity. It's nothing of that sort.

If there is anyone I should thank, it would be the nice teacher at the school that I do volunteer work for. When I heard they wanted someone to groom their wayward students into little gardeners, I signed up immediately. It's for a good cause afterall and I have that few hours to spare. Some of my friends wonder what I'm hoping to get in return, like money or favours... well, absolutely nothing.

I'm just happy to see the kids enjoying the gardening sessions every week. I'm proud that they can rattle off the names of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees in the school yard now. When they see seeds germinate, joy is written all over their face. We're all looking forward to a good harvest of sweet corn soon.

When I was there one afternoon, the people from NParks came by to promote the 'Community in Bloom' programme. We started chatting and they think more people should become gardeners like me. I'm all for growing edibles, as long as I am able to promote my cause, I would gladly lend a hand. One thing led to another, and I found myself in the papers and news portal.

Every week, I spend time speaking to young children about growing vegetables. On Monday, I was at Eton International Preschool to check on their vegetable garden. The next day, I was at Just Kids Kindergarten teaching 5 different classes about the wonders of vegetables and how to grow their own.

I believe in 'walking the talk'. If you lead by (good) example, others will follow. And I believe in doing things with good intention and sincerity because it is very easy for people to see through your pretense or ulterior motive.

When I ventured into my current business, many people wondered about my ability to last in the industry. I was a complete newbie and learned everything from scratch without much help. I wonder what gave me the courage to knock on the door of a huge shipping line one day. The director was kind enough to hear me out and opened some doors for me. Years later, he told me that he thought he would never see me again after that meeting.

Well, it's not that easy to get rid of me! Truth is, it must have been my earnesty that won them over. Competitors must be wondering if I have a rich father or sugar daddy behind me. How I wish too! I remember how my dad suddenly announced one day when I was still in my teens, that he would donate all his money to charity one day. He just doesn't like the idea of his children fighting over inheritance. The good thing is, none of us is mercenary. Not that my dad is very wealthy anyway...

I believe that one must make it a point to practise good ethics, whether in business or in life. One should walk the talk as well. Do things with passion and sincerity and good things will come your way naturally.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The missing parent

YK was more than a little disappointed with his father. As if not bad enough that his dad forgot his birthday, he conveniently forgot to send the promised monthly allowance despite many reminders. I'm not surprised of course.

The father has been missing in action for several years until he decided to surface in their lives again early this year. This time, he contacted his sons directly because he felt I was such a pain to deal with. I have no objections since he's their dad afterall but in my heart, I have my reservations.

Now that the kids are in their teens, they're in a better position to communicate with their dad. Naturally when he found out that YK has a marine aquarium, he started dispensing all kinds of well-meaning advice. He's an expert in this area afterall. Like YK, he kept marine fishes since his early teens.

When YK began this hobby 1.5 years ago, I didn't want him to consult his dad. I had my reasons. I knew nothing about marine fishes but I was willing to support him in every way I can. Due to our inexperience, we made some wrong decisions in the set-up, like we should have used thicker glass for the tank.

Fearing that our safety is compromised, we're now looking into replacing the tank. It's a huge exercise of course, and an expensive lesson. Luckily, his dad had offered to fund his new tank.

As it turns out, the father failed to live up to his promises again. Seeing my son so disheartened, I offered to make up for the shortfall after he sells the corals, fishes and equipment from decommissioning his old tank.

One thing I have learned over the years is never lie to children (no matter how young) because they cling on to every word you say. If you promise to bring them to the playground after lunch, you do it no matter how tired you are because they believe in you.

And you can forget your wife's birthday, but NEVER EVER forget your child's birthday because they came into this world because of you. Is it so difficult to remember your children's birthday? If you want the kids to love and respect you, you will have to lead by example.

I often feel sad that my kids grow up without the influence of a father yet I console myself that it is better than living with an irresponsible one.

Recently I expressed gratitude to best friend's husband because he spent an afternoon discussing shrimp rearing with SK. I was bowled over by my son's in-depth knowledge.

Unlike his older brother who has met many fellow hobbists in the reefing club, SK is all alone in his hobby. I cannot add any value other than listen to him describe enthusiastically about his 'babies', naturally I was happy he found someone to share his interest with.

For all the parents out there, give your kids more attention and support. You are all they have for now.

Why I love River Cottage

I don't watch alot of TV but I am a huge fan of River Cottage. For the clueless, this good natured guy named Hugh Fearnley moved into the River Cottage in Dorset, rural England to grow and rear his own food.

That was in 1998. Now his cottage is teeming with animals and a gorgeous vegetable garden that is so seductively productive. Every week, we follow him as he goes about harvesting beetroots and sweetpeas before proceeding to cook them in the kitchen.

It's a rustic lifestyle and I love everything about it. Well, maybe not the animal rearing part because he rears his own poultry and pigs for eating. I would love to rear them but I can't bear to eat them!

The best thing is, he helps people in the neighbourhood grow vegetables and fruits in their own backyards too. In a nutshell, it's about self-sufficiency, food integrity, and the consumption of local, seasonal produce.

Maybe other women like watching hot guys and soap operas, I look forward eagerly for Hugh to appear on TV at night. In case you're wondering, Hugh is nerdy and eccentric, always dressed in unfashionable woolly sweater and boots. A pair of thick glasses perched on his nose, unruly mop of hair and chubby cheeks complete the picture.

Curious about him, I went in search of more information and found a whole load about him on Wiki. Woah, he's a smart fella indeed. He was educated in Eton and Oxford! And he was voted Man of the Year in the Whickham Lifestyle Competition for 3 years running.

So it is no surprise why I adore this guy. Apparently many women do too. One thing for sure, having him around the house will ensure that you'll be well fed all year round. Who cares whether he looks hot or not! Lucky wife and kids!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Back on track

When I realised that refined food like bread makes me fall asleep at my desk, I quickly embarked on a healthier breakfast diet of whole food and grains.

The results were quite remarkable. I stopped nodding off and had never felt so alive during office hours. Then I started taking my newfound energy for granted and let my discipline slip.

Slowly, I went back to my old eating habits. Instead of boiling sweet potatoes or mixed grain porridge in the morning, I reach for convenience food like toast, biscuits and cakes. So it is no surprise I was overtaken by lethargy again.

I'm trying to get back on track and started today with mixed grains porridge, sweetened with dried cranberries. When hunger pangs strike, I snack on raw sunflower seeds and walnut.

I don't feel any more energetic but it's only been one day. It'll probably take a while for my body to feel alive again. Until then, I must remember to stay on track.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Restful weekend

After a hectic week, I totally crashed out over the weekend. Age must be catching up with me. I literally crawled in and out of bed on Saturday, too tired to do any chores. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was pretty well rested and managed to spend quality time with the kids.

The Earth Day road show at the primary school was a fantastic experience. We sold lots of vegetable growing kits to enthusiastic children.

In fact, we couldn't even pause to breathe during recess when kids were shoving money in our face. It was nice to see the little faces light up when they laid hands on their own growing kit.

I love dealing with school kids, especially the younger ones. Children these days are so bright and good looking!

Though we were busy, we managed to grab a bite before recess started. The nasi lemak (coconut rice) was cheap and delicious!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

YK's birthday!

YK turns 18 today! Some of his friends are coming over to celebrate with him. I've been told I don't have to do a thing. They'll be ordering pizza.

My role as a parent is changing. The days of organising parties and making fancy cakes are over. All he needs is money to fund his own parties. He has been celebrating with different groups of friends since Friday.

Every parent hopes to see his own child grow up into a well-liked individual and I'm certainly pleased to see that he is moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

It's Earth Day!

Yes, it's Earth day! We've been invited to participate in a road show in a primary school. We'll be there to encourage children to grow vegetables as part of the Earth Day celebrations.

For us, it's an exciting opportunity as it brings our gardening business to another level. While we've experienced rather good success with the preschools, we can't say that we have achieved very much with the primary schools. So this is a great start for us. And what better way to start than on Earth Day!

All the weeks of preparation is coming to fruition. I'll be heading out the door soon with a car full of vegetable growing kits and other supplies. I look forward to taking a little break after the event is over!

Friday, 16 April 2010


The entire day has just been Busy with a capital B. From morning to evening, I was zipping from one end of Singapore to the other, not once but several times! I hate that simply because I always plan my route properly so that I don't dash around like a headless chicken.

However, unforseen events happen sometimes and I'll just have to throw all the well-laid plans out of the window. One customer really irked me this morning and almost spoilt my day. I sped across the island to help her solve the problem and I'm glad all is well again.

After that, I reshuffled my entire day's programme and have just managed to complete everything on the to-do list before the end of the work day.

Well, I have a busy week ahead, looks like I can't rest until next weekend. Oooh my.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Shubho Noboborsho

Patricia threw a surprise Noboborsho (new year) party last night for Hakim, her husband from Bangladesh. He was surprised, alright, to return home to a house full of people.

Kudos to Patricia for pulling off a clandestine operation with aplomb. Emails were circulated very carefully amongst the guests, discussing about food, drinks and so forth without her hubby's knowledge.

Everyone arrived according to schedule, especially the leading man Hakim. There would be no party if he couldn't be home on time!

His loving wife, who's German and a vegetarian, prepared a spread of Indian dishes including dahl, pumpkin curry, spicy lady's fingers and rice. I contributed masala chickpeas while the rest brought fruits and drinks. The food was so good, I could eat it everyday!

A multi-racial gathering - Sandrine from France, Graeme fron New Zealand, Patricia and Christiane from Germany, Hakim from Bangladesh, Aya from Japan and the rest of us (Bev, CH and me) from Singapore.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Out of the woods yet?

Not really. I'm still unwell even after a day of rest. I've just let out a big sneeze which released a torrent of mucus running down the nose. It's not getting any better.

And it's pretty bad timing really because I have a party to attend tonight. We're celebrating Noboborsho, the Bangla New Year at Patricia's house. She's cooking Bangladeshi food while I'm contributing a pot of masala chick peas.

And then my mum decides to make an urgent appointment with her neurosurgeon. The only slot available is this afternoon which means I have to cancel my weekly session at the school. I will also have to send the food to Pat's house early in case I can't make it to the party on time. Oh, I've to ensure that the dog and kids have something to eat for dinner tonight too.

Weekdays aren't that good for parties but I guess you can't change the date of Bangla New Year can we? Besides, it's the start of a new year, surely everything is going to be better after this.

Well, the reason why mum needs to see the neurosurgeon urgently is because she has been tormented by these electric currents running across her brain. She had implored me to do more research about this condition. I spent all day trawling the internet for answers yet was unable to find anything concrete.

I'm not a doctor afterall but I do know that we have lots of electrical activity going on in our brain at all times. I can only suspect some of her brain cells have been damaged during treatment and have gone haywire.

Apparently some people continue leading normal lives after radiotherapy for brain tumor (acoustic neuroma) while others like my mum are generally crippled by the side effects. I've read enough patients' stories to know that doctors consider the treatment successful if the tumour stops growing. What about the patient's quality of life after that?

I wish the doctors at the hospital can be more upfront about the side effects instead of sending her for a scan everytime she complains about the pain. Life had never been the same for her after radiotherapy.

For the first year, she could hardly walk across the living room without toppling over. Since then, she has been living with facial numbness, difficulty in swallowing, choking on her own saliva, mouth dryness, deafness in one ear, tinnitus (ringing and pain in her good ear), unsteadiness, facial twitches, pain in the face, dizziness, headaches and recently, electric currents running across her brain.

It has been 3 years and I've seen her health deteriorate before my very eyes. I often return home to find her lying in bed, weak and sleepy from the medication. Yet she cannot live without the pills for headache, dizziness and anxiety. She's suffering from the side-effects of treating the side effects as well.

I'm pretty sure the doctor is going to say the same things today. "If it doesn't kill you, just bear and live with it." He will order a MRI scan just to assure mum that the tumour isn't getting any bigger (that it's all a figment of her imagination and the tumour is no longer the culprit causing all her misery). Then we will be slapped with a 4-figure sum for the scan. We will return for a review with the doctor 2 weeks later.

I guess we have no choice but to go through the entire exercise until she's completely out of the woods.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Under the weather

I'm down with the flu, must have caught it from YK. He's completely well now and is looking forward to a day out with his friends today while I lie in bed trying to recover.

The timing is not quite right of course because I have tons to do. We have lots to prepare for Earth Day next week, so I need to get well soon.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

They look like me!

When I fetched SK from school yesterday, his friend said to him, "Your mum looks like you." Of course SK was quick to reply, "Doh! She's my mum what!"

Most people think YK looks more like me, yet both brothers don't look alike. YK has my puffy eyes and high cheekbones. Here are some of my favourite photos of him from the India trip.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Generation Y

A report in the papers shows that Gen Y (aged 29 and below) are the hardest to work with.

"Workers of other generations cite attitude problems of Gen Y, such as being arrogant, impatient or abrupt, as a common reason why they find working with Gen Y difficult, according to the study by training, coaching and consultancy organisation Digne Consult Asia Pacific."

Why am I not surprised? Youths today are simply not used to waiting. They expect everything to appear instantly before them.

Life for them is meaningless without a mobile phone, computer and hi-speed internet connection. You can criticise and say anything you like but I choose to call it evolution.

Growing up, I used to take an hour long bus journey to the National Library to do research. Now, the concept of doing research at a library so far away sounds alien to my kids because information is readily available at their fingertips. They have the neighbourhood libraries to fall back on if really necessary.

My mum used to wait patiently for us to return home from school in the evening. I find myself texting the kids to ask if they're on the way home for dinner. Chances are they're already just outside the door. We are becoming very impatient people.

Kids today can survive even if they don't leave their home for weeks. Hungry? Just dial for food delivery. Lonely? There's MSN, Facebook and all kinds of social network. Bored? There's Wii or PS to keep them entertained. They don't even have to go to the movie theatres anymore.

The survey also shows that Gen Y may not work very well with baby boomers because the latter resemble their parents. No surprise there too. Gen Y simply don't find their parents very cool.

They scoff at parents who try too hard to emulate them or scowl at how old fashioned their folks are. You can't win them but there is a thing called Karma. When they become middle-aged like us, they will suffer the same fate as us.

Now, let me go to Facebook and peep at what YK is up to today.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

He's back!

YK is back! He touched down an hour early but it took me so long to pick him up, all because we couldn't locate each other at the airport terminal.

He was outside the arrival hall while I was at the pick-up point below. We were waiting in vain and his phone battery was flat. When he figured out I was below, I had already parked at Carpark B. He then proceeded to wait for me at Carpark A.

We spent the morning playing tag until he finally called me using an air stewardess' handphone. Why did it take so long? Because nobody would let him use their mobile. Bless the stewardess from Singapore Airlines!

How was the trip? It was not just nice, it was VERY VERY nice! So much so that he wishes to go back there again. The two weeks spent at the village were fantastic. They dug trenches for mushroom cultivation, made compost for the farmers, taught little kids English at the village school, played with kids at an orphanage and mingled with the locals.

The villagers were so hospitable, they made the visitors feel so welcomed throughout the stay. Needless to say, he made many new friends, including the three favourite aunties who cooked all their meals. When it was time to leave the village, they all cried buckets.

The following week was spent at Ooty Hill Station where they stayed in a 400-year-old Catholic church surrounded by mountains carpeted with tea plantation. Imagine waking up to breath-taking views of Nilgiri mountains (also known as the Blue Mountains), the second highest mountain range in India after the Himalayas!

They spotted wild elephants at Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and saw a huge variety of plants at the botanical gardens.

The flora and fauna is so awesome, YK thinks I would be the happiest girl on earth if I were there. But of course!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Blog journey

After more than 3 years of blogging, I seem to be running out of things to write about. Unlike a food or fashion blog, mine lacks a theme. It simply follows the rhythm of my life.

I used to hammer away on the keyboard every morning, sometimes in the evening too. It was once the perfect outlet for my angst-filled years as a single mother. Then it served as a travelogue during my globe-trotting days. While it used to keep track of my races and action-filled days, the blog clearly shows that I've mellowed with the passage of time.

I may have lost that passion for writing for I am struggling to keep the blog afloat. Or perhaps it simply means it's time to reinvent myself.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Walking in the rain

So quickly, the long weekend has flown by. It's amazing what an additional holiday can do. I had enough time to complete all my chores, read, rest and potter about in my garden.

CH and I even drove out to the North for a delicious roti prata lunch followed by a walk in Sembawang Park. This is one of the few parks in Singapore that still retains an old-world charm.

It was drizzling when we arrived but started pouring as we were walking towards the beach. Instead of seeking shelter, we kept walking as the winds swirled around us. It was fun!

Despite the rain and strong winds, the anglers were out at the jetty. Look at how high the tide was that day.

I was trying so hard to keep my umbrella upright.

The rainy weekend must have dampened the spirits of many campers. It isn't fun being cooped up in the tent all day. Who knows the tent may get blown away if it's not properly secured.

We left the park and stopped by a coffee shop for a cuppa. By a stroke of luck, we came across three young pups as we were strolling around. Seeing how they were shivering from the cold, good old CH went back to the shop to get them some hot meat buns.

Suddenly the parents emerged from nowhere and we decided to keep our distance. The mother dog ate up most of the buns that we tossed over. I think the pups are still suckling, so the mother must be famished.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Long weekend ahead

WOO HOO! The long weekend is here! Too bad, I'm not jetting off to anywhere, especially not when YK's away (remember I have fish duty?).

Some people we know are in Mongolia and London at this moment. Flying Pink Elephants has escaped the chill in London and must be sunbathing at a beach in Thailand this very minute. How nice!

I'm actually quite happy listening to my colleague talk about her recent holiday even if it makes me reminisce about my own.

While looking through my travel albums, I can't help but marvel at some beautiful gardens we've come across.

Even the wild flowers in Belgium can be amazingly gorgeous! It's virtually impossible to get our flowers to bloom so profusely here. Despite our efforts, we still can't get the plants in the school garden to flourish. Unlike my own patio garden, we're working with a pretty challenging environment here and I need to find a solution soon.

Since I like challenges, I should spend the weekend doing some research and planning what to grow. Might as well make the long weekend a productive one.