Saturday 31 July 2010

The picnic - by Rusty

When I overheard mummy saying that she might bring me to the picnic, I prayed for good weather before I went to bed at night. That must have worked because the weather was perfect all day.

Our journey began at 3.30pm. From the backseat of the car, I saw the world passing by under the clear blue skies.

So this must be the Singapore Flyer -the world's largest observation wheel. Maybe if I ask nicely, they will let me go in one of those glass capsules. I'll be the first dog on board the Flyer!

From the highway, I could see the Marina Bay Sands Resort. It was so awe inspiring!

I thought I saw a Tiger? But isn't a tiger supposed to be 4-legged like me? Maybe they have bottled it. I would prefer the meat, not the juice. Gimme a real Tiger!

Then I got bored. Are we there yet?

We took the exit after Vivocity.

At long last, we arrived at Labrador Park.

How I love the smell of clean, fresh air!

There was a cake to celebrate Patricia's belated birthday.

They had a vegetarian picnic. I can't believe nobody brought me anything to eat!

While waiting for the rest to arrive, Hakim kept himself busy.

Then Sandrine and Patricia started doing yoga. I think Sandrine* had a ball hiding under her shirt.

There were helicopters rehearsing for the National Day Parade. We could hear the fireworks in the distance.

I went on many walks. All I did was look really bored and miserable. Mummy always falls for my trick.

Everyone kept feeding me cakes, biscuits and beans when all I wanted was meat!

Driven by hunger, I went in search of something to eat.

I was thrown out of the mat, just like that!

* Sandrine is pregnant

Photos courtesy of CH.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Have a break!

Today I will take a break from scouting for business opportunities. Instead, I shall focus on finding the right recipes for tomorrow's picnic! Our friend, Patricia, is hosting a vegetarian picnic at the park. I will be bringing a mediterranean pasta salad and curry dahl.

I am trying to replicate the dahl we ate at Usman last Friday. My previous attempt (also to a potluck party at Patricia's house) wasn't very successful. The peas weren't mushy enough. So I'm going to use the slow cooker this time.

I can imagine my friends going, "Will someone stop her from feeding us (lousy) curry chickpeas please!!"

Too bad, I'm not giving up just yet. If I still can't get the desired results tomorrow, I promise this will be the last.

For the pasta salad, I've got most of the ingredients already - sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives and tri-colour fusilli pasta. I'll be getting some yellow and red capsicums to grill with olive oil before tossing into the salad. I shouldn't go wrong with this one.

This is the start of my series of gatherings. There's a junior-college friends afternoon tea session coming up on 8 August followed by a pot-luck gathering with my lady blogger friends.

I'm so looking forward to every single one of them!


Five years ago, a friend who was thinking of becoming his own boss, asked for some advice. Immediately I rattled off a long list of dos and don'ts.

At that time, I seemed to have a very clear idea of what make a business work. Our industry was booming, providing us with lots of opportunities to make money. Too many people jumped on the bandwagon, so much so that it is now very competitive. These days, I let my capable staff run the business while I explore other opportunities. I can't just sit around and watch the market getting saturated.

Sadly I find myself getting excited over ideas that were once in my 'DO NOT do' list. Have I lost my acumen or am I suffering from tunnel vision?

It's so easy to give others sound advice yet I can't see for myself. Honestly, I have never felt so discouraged.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Rain suit

It has to start raining just as we were about to walk Rusty. We could carry an umbrella but what about Rusty? It's bad news to get his body, especially his tummy, all wet before bedtime. So I made him wear an improvised rain suit.

Grab a plastic bag. Simply make 4 holes for his legs to go through. Oh, don't forget to make one for his tail.

Only trouble is, he refused to walk out the door. It must be too embarrassing. We had to drop that idea of suiting him up. Luckily the rain stopped.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Raising boys

When I visited my friend's house in UK, I was shocked to see his teenage daughters' extensive collection of scarves. I know it's cold where they live but seeing hundreds and hundreds of scarves in different colours and fabrics hanging in the coat room can be pretty overwhelming.

I can only imagine their dresser overflowing with nail polish, makeup and accessories. Girls these days!

It's a different scenario in our abode. While my kids are not fussy about what they wear, they clutter the house with their aquarium paraphernalia. As if having a large tank (with accompanying sump tank) occupying half the living room is not bad enough, there are pipes, rocks, sand, test kits, buckets and what have you in every nook and cranny.

SK has two fish tanks in his tiny bedroom. His computer, tanks and school books jostle for space on his study table, even the area beneath is not spared. There are two sets of (training) weights, shoe cabinets and a box full of tank accessories. Luckily he's a tidy fella who cleans up the room regularly.

Another thing I have noticed when it comes to raising boys is the volume of food they eat. They complain they're hungry right after dinner. No wonder my friend once described his visiting teenage nephew as someone with a 'bottomless pit'.

I stock up on bananas, longans, grapes and strawberries only to find them devoured within hours. Then they complain there's always nothing to eat.

While I advocate healthy eating at home, I often hear or smell them making instant noodles, Campbell soup or omelette while I'm half asleep at night. This morning I woke up to find Mcdonalds paper cups in the bin. The McDelivery guy was here last night.

I'll have to make them kick this unhealthy habit of late night eating. They only way is to feed them more during dinner. It will start tonight.

Monday 26 July 2010

Rat catcher

While we were out walking at 6am, we saw a little rat scurrying away quickly. No rat, no matter how tiny, can escape Rusty's eagle eye (technically he is blind in one eye).

I used to drag him away in the past but these days, I just run along with him as he goes after the poor creature. He's a jack russell terrier afterall. Hunting ability is bred into them.

While I would never personally kill a rat (I find little ones really cute actually), I can't make Rusty go against nature right?

It's funny how we used to trap rats at our farm and couldn't bear to kill them. After releasing them far far away by the reservoir bank, they quickly found their way back. Cookie would just bark and bark, waiting for Rusty to take over and finish them off.

He has killed 3 small ones this week. You'll be surprised at how many there are in the open fields. If not for Rusty, I would never know of their existence. He's really efficient and quick. Once he spots one, it's over within seconds. Once it is dead, he walks away and never look back. I would still be shivering from fright and disgust.

The cats in our estate just watch with amusement. They don't even bother to lift a paw even if the rat is under their nose. The only rat-catching cat I've met was the one called Julien in Loire, France. That was a wicked one who tossed the victim about for a long time before killing it. Then he ate it all up. Best friend said it's no wonder he has the same name as my ex-husband. LOL.

Staying relevant

About 15 years ago, our design firm was one of the early adopters of the internet. We were young and fearless. We harnessed the power of the internet and rode the wave quicker than our competitors. We assembled a team of programmers and designers of different nationalities and sent everyone in the office for html training.

I was quickly assigned the task of a web-architect. My job was to chart out the site maps of websites and portals. From building the national zoo's website to a mega kids portal, everyday was just brimming with excitement.

Something else was happening. We found ourselves talking to investors and 'angels' almost every week. Companies that were in the traditional brick and mortar business suddenly felt they were missing out. They wanted to jump on the bandwagon and were investing in young internet upstarts. Some investors boasted of meeting up to 50 startups every month, our presentation had better be worth their time. They claimed proposals were piling up on their desks faster than they could read. They were mostly arrogant, conservative (prudent) and in our young eyes, ancient, but they were loaded with cash. There was one prominent rice merchant who was very humble despite being chauffered around in a Rolls Royce. We were invited to his sprawling villa in the heart of town. It was the first time I knew such opulence existed in land scarce Singapore.

Now the tables are turned. While surfing around, I find a whole new world out there. I thought I was quite savvy, now I realise I am not harnessing the power of the internet enough. Compared to the younger generation, I am waaaay down there.

From the business perspective, I find myself seeking diversification. I can't put all my eggs in one basket, I need to explore other avenues. I am prepared to learn if I have to. So I set up an ebay account yesterday just to learn the mechanics of online auctioning. It's about time!! Fortunately I have a ready product to sell - organ stickers for preschoolers. This morning I had a message in my mailbox: "Your eBay item sold!"

This is so cool. It's a start. I'm taking baby steps but at least I'm trying to stay relevant.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Yoga classes for children

Yoga is beneficial for the mind and body. My friend Hakim is conducting Children Yoga class on Saturdays at 9:30am starting on the 7th August. Monthy fee is kept low at $25 a month because it is kind of a community class in the Sikh Centre (along Jalan Bukit Merah) . The class is suitable for children from the age of 6 to 15.

I hope more kids in Singapore will give yoga a try.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Weekend at the farm

As usual, we had dinner at my parent's place tonight. We were there early, so we had plenty of time to indulge in little activities like...

1. Looking for little fishes in the stream by the reservoir.

2. Feeding bread to the guppies in the big pond.

3. Catching grasshoppers.

4. Picking flowers.

5. Playing with Bodhi.

6. Celebrating birthday.

Friday 23 July 2010

Little India

On the way to Little India, I suddenly remembered Fresh Fry raving about Usman which serves Indian and Pakistani food. We made our way to Desker Road in search of the fabulous stall.

Situated prominently at the corner of Desker and Upper Serangoon Road, it wasn't difficult to find Usman at all.

Ordering was even easier. We simply ate the same things she did.

I had lime juice while CH had mango lassi.

We ordered 2 pieces of garlic naan and one plain one.

I know CH likes mutton, so I ordered this for him. The meat was very tender and more importantly, not reeking of a lamby smell.

I love the paneer dish as well (above). In fact, I like it so such, I'm thinking of cooking it at home.

I wasn't expecting the butter chicken (above) to look anything like this but it was delicious nonetheless.

The chickpeas was my favourite. It's the best I have eaten so far. The peas were so tender, they must have been cooked for hours and hours.

We ate until our tummies were bursting. I almost couldn't believe the entire dinner only cost us S$21.80 (USD16). Very satisfying!

After a heavy meal like this, it's best to walk it off. Little India is one of the best places in Singapore to wander around in. There's lots to see at night, especially in the sleazy back alleys of Desker/Rowell Road where transsexual sex workers parade freely late at night. Too bad, we were there early, so all we saw were people going about with their normal business.

This is what I could call a hole in the wall.

Little India is truly a melting pot of culture. The Museum of Shanghai Toys is, or rather was, there. They have decided to call it quits due to the high operating cost. They're moving back to Shanghai.

I had to get a photo before they're gone for good.

I was really attracted to this colonial style building along Rowell Road. I would love to live in a building like this. Then again, the location isn't the most conducive for a tranquil lifestyle.

Right across the road is Post-Museum and quaint cafe called Food #3. I really like this place.

Food #3 is a Veg Place and an art project started by a group of creative people interested to change the world. They serve a contemporary vegetarian menu with dessert, fair-trade coffee and more. This little social enterprise is part of Post-Museum and a significant part of the profit goes to Post-Museum.

I don't know if they have Earth Night every night, but soon after we were seated, they were going to turn off all the lights (crudely fashioned from scraps of paper).

We ordered pear cider before the lights went out. True enough, the rest of the night was spent in darkness save for small tea-lights placed in the small corners of the cafe.

Friday date

It's my night out. I'm craving for Indian food. Maybe some kulfi too. I'm thinking of this place we went to a year ago.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Hot and hearty

It has been raining all day, I'm craving for something hot and spicy. Since I have lots of vegetables in the fridge, I put together a pot of curry vegetables - a medley of egg plant, potato, celery, carrot, long bean, cabbage, cauliflower and tau pok (bean curd) cooked in a spicy broth. After adding in lots of evaporated milk, it tastes perfect now.

I've also cooked chicken stew (with potato, beans, carrot and celery) and butter prawns (with curry leaves, chilli padi and garlic).

Oh, my tummy is growling. I can't wait for everyone to be home for dinner.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Fire fighting

Why so quiet? Oh, I don't know... It's not that I'm so busy, there's nothing exciting to blog about unless you want to hear about the day my kitchen caught fire.

Something (I forgot what) was simmering away on the stove and I was at the kitchen sink. From the corner of my eye, I thought I saw big orange flames leaping up near the stove. Yup, the newspaper on the countertop was in flames! Thanks to my quick thinking, I threw the burning papers into the sink and doused with running water.

My heart was beating so quickly, luckily my fingers weren't burnt. The kitchen became smoky and the countertop was covered with ashes, yet nobody at home even knew I was frantically putting out a fire.

"I almost burned down the kitchen!", I exclaimed to CH who was reading the papers quietly in the living room.

"Really? How?"

SK's response was even more maddening. "Wow, so cool!"

Hello! Cool? You want to see a charred mummy, is it? The entire kitchen could have been on fire! I can't believe none of you even smelled anything!

To be fair, the kitchen door was closed to prevent any cooking smells from escaping into the living room. Then again, unlike me, these guys don't have a very keen sense of smell. If there's anything amiss, like gas leaks, I can't depend on them to save my life!

Monday 19 July 2010

Rocking good session

Did the brainstorming session go well? You bet!

It always begins with food of course. Our brains only started functioning after copious amount of coffee accompanied by thick slices of Oreo cheesecake and tiramisu. The location, by the way, was Pacific Coffee at Red Dot Traffic. I didn't take any photos but if you must know what it is like, this blog has some really good shots.

The ideas (mostly strange ones) kept coming as we slouched on the super plush sofa. We only sat up and pretended to look serious when Best friend's hubby strolled in to check on our progress.

"What have you girls achieved so far?" he enquired.

Well, we had just polished off two slices of cakes and downed lots of coffee. You want some (crumbs)?

Then magically, after his appearance, our thoughts gathered momentum and we began spouting more sensible ideas. Sometimes what you need is a catalyst (like an ex-military man) to provoke our minds (or whip us into shape).

Anyway, he left after giving his two cents worth. Now that we were back on track, the second half was more productive. We were hi-fiving and beaming like we had won lottery.

By the time I had to leave (to cook dinner), we were on a roll. Suddenly we were chewing on several (promising) ideas. If you had seen us grinning from ear to ear as we walked to our cars, you might think we had earned a million bucks already.

Yah, brainstorming sessions rock.

Sunday 18 July 2010

It's on!

Oh man! What part of fun does best friend not understand?! I hope she's not reading this (I know she's not) but my idea of brainstorming definitely involves a big dose of fun, caffeine and idyllic surroundings.

She, on the other hand, suggested we meet in the central business district. She's roping in her husband (ex army-officer, now successful business consultant) in the discussion too. This is turning out to be a high level business meeting!

She's chalk, I'm cheese. I'm Apple while she's IBM. She's all seriousness while I'm all for fun. Hers is a Volvo while mine's a jeep. She keeps dogs to protect the house. I keep because I love them. My kids learn swimming to survive, hers to excel and compete. I love pottering about aimlessly in my garden, she conducts experiments and analyses the soil PH level. She's all methodological while I'm free-spirited, sometimes too whimsical. I'm into cute organ stickers and little vegetable growing kits. She sets targets and looks at the bottom-line. No wonder she's at the higher echelons while I'm still (down) here. LOL!

But we're good together. You need both types for a business to work. So, we're forging ahead with the brainstorming session. Instead of slinking off to a hideaway in Rochester Village or Dempsey Hill, we've decided to meet halfway.

We'll still be in the CBD but in a cafe situated in an old colonial building. One that boasts an eclectic community of creative types. Somewhere that I (not sure about her) can draw inspiration from.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Blur Ting the snake eater

When Karen expressed interest in our brainstorming session, I quickly invited her to join in the fun. Wouldn't it be cool to just sit down together, drink tea, eat cake and conjure all sorts of crazy ideas? Who knows what we may come up with? If you throw enough crap up the ceiling, some may stick (or so the saying goes... I think).

As it turns out, she would love to join us but her boss and big boss are in town, so she's in for a really busy week. In fact, this corporate madness is also driving her crazy. She's beginning to question if this is the way she want to live her life.

Ironically, best friend is only available this week because for once, all her bosses are out of town. Her schedule is so packed, it is near impossible for me to even have lunch with her on a normal day.

For once, I am glad I'm not such a high flier like these two ladies. In fact, I'm happy with my slow pace of life. I have the luxury of getting home early everyday to prepare dinner, walk the dog and even do a spot of shopping during office hours. I don't have to apply annual leave, do budgeting and presentations or report to any bosses.

In other words, I may not earn quite as much but I can eat as many snakes (skive) as I want. Come to think of it, life is pretty kind to me. I'm a happy snake eater!

Happy Birthday CH!

We celebrated CH's birthday one day in advance. Our friends are planning a calebration party tonight but I won't be joining cos I'll be at my parent's place for dinner.

Anyhow, we had a nice one last night. I picked Rochester House which is tucked away on a hilltop amongst lush foliage. The weather was nice and cool after a day of rain, perfect for al fresco dining amidst greenery.

Rochester House has been around for only 3 months, so it was rather quiet when we were there. The concept is pretty cool though. Housed in a huge colonial bungalow, it has space for parties, even wedding receptions and company functions. There's even a playroom for little kids. Parents can leave their kids with the au pair while they dine in comfort. Cool isn't it?

Looking into the playroom.

Opening his nicely wrapped birthday present. I must admit that I'm bad at gift wrapping. The sales lady did it.

No, I didn't make him pay for dinner! I gave him a Victorinox wallet.

Freshly baked bread with smooth French butter.

It was funny the way the Bouillabaisse was served. We were given a deep plate with a piece of large prawn, scallop and fish fillet. The soup came separately in a teapot. I must say it tastes pretty good, even better than the highly acclaimed one we had in Provence. I think the recipe here has been tweaked to suit the local palate.

I like to order food that I can't prepare at home. Last night, I indulged in pork belly roasted to perfection. I never knew crispy skin can taste this good.

CH had the beef stroganoff , also something that I wouldn't cook at home because the kids and I are not beef lovers.

I couldn't decide which one to choose. Finally I picked brownie and requested for a candle to be stuck on top.

I was so disappointed when the dessert arrived. The brownie was so flat (1cm high), I almost fainted. I mean aren't brownies supposed to be chunky and blockish?

Thank goodness the rich and chocolately taste saved the night. It was soft, warm and nutty. And when I spotted vanilla specks on the ice cream, I knew it was made from scratch using real vanilla beans. Desserts play a very important role in my dining experience. What a happy ending!

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...