Sunday 31 October 2010

Afternoon tea

I know this post is going to make some of my friends (Petunia, OKC and Leah) very excited. Yesterday I had English tea at a wonderful location - Fosters, an English Rose Cafe at 277 Holland Avenue.

The Devonshire cream tea set - your choice of tea with hot scones, sandwiches and cake - is very good value at $10.50++ per person.
The photo below shows a set for two.

I particularly liked the scones, which were still warm when they arrived. They are heavenly when eaten with fresh cream and jam.

Our group of 7 sat outside to enjoy the fresh air and idyllic ambience.

Inside the restaurant, a large gathering for the Cosplay Community was taking place. Young ladies dressed in fanciful costumes kept streaming in and out to pose for photos near the terrace. While most were eye candy, there were some with blood splattered aprons. It was an amusing afternoon indeed.

Saturday 30 October 2010

What we ate

I feel a little silly dedicating an entire post to what we ate for dinner... like anyone is interested to know!

It rained all day yesterday, so we were thinking of hotpot. In Singapore, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to hotpot. We could choose between the traditional steamboat or the tongue-numbing mala hot pot (麻辣火鍋). In fact, Chinese style hotpot restaurants offering a variety of broths are opening up faster than you can count.

When CH suggested trying the Japanese style paper hotpot, I picked the nearest Waraku restaurant in the East. Driving to the city on a wet Friday evening is definitely not my cup of tea! We arrived at the Katong outlet ahead of the dinner crowd.

The Japanese paper hot-pot is tiny compared to the Chinese style hotpot. I fished around to find one fresh prawn, one slice of cod fish, one scallop and squid tentacles inside.

Naturally we had to order other dishes to supplement the hotpot. While I'm not a beef lover, I thought this grilled dish was interesting - slices of beef arranged on a bed of miso paste on a piece of dried leaf that was grilled over a tiny stove.

The uni (sea urchin) sushi was nice while the unagi (eel) sushi was nothing to shout about.

The seafood pancake looked enticing in the menu but it was so small in real life. It wasn't fantastic. We paid $51 for dinner (after 10% discount) and left the restaurant feeling hungry.

Luckily there are lots of new cafes just across the street. Two young boys outside Cocojelly were enticing us with free samples. Moved by their enthusiasm, we decided to stay and have our dessert at this 3-week old gelato palour .

I love the gorgeous wall painting done by the owner's friend.

Cocojelly creates new flavours everyday. The peanut butter gelato with chocolate chunks (left) is fabulous. The other flavour, blueberry cheesecake, is nice too.

Friday 29 October 2010

School anxieties

When YK told me his classmate got picked to do his internship at Stanford University, I was so impressed and a little envious.

"Woah, he must be so smart!"

"Yup, extremely. He knows everything about physics. In fact, he almost became a Mensa member. Too bad he's only short of 1 point. You know Mensa?"

"But of course!"

In fact, I also know about Stanford and the top 20 universities in the world. When he was about 3 years old, I already had the top 20 list pasted before me on my workdesk.

It is every parent's hope to raise a smart kid. When YK was born, I picked a world-globe lamp for his nursery hoping that the first words he could utter was "Alaska" instead of googoogaga. What was I thinking? Do they even understand the concept of the world without stepping out of their own homeland or crib?

I was so pleased when they started collecting country erasers when they were young. They had hundreds! At 5, they could identify every country flag. SK suggested going to Monaco or Lithuania for our next vacation because the flags are nice.

Anyway, I learned to adjust and manage my expectations along the way. After attending workshops and seminars, I discovered that there are multiple types of intelligence. Armed with the knowledge, it became easy for me to identify my kids' talents.

Even for a pretty free-spirited mum, I can become quite anxious when it comes to education.

When SK turned 6, he could not read even after spending many years in nursery school and kindergarten. In my desperate attempt to prepare him for primary school, I sent him to phonics class at a Montessori school. It was a big deal then because Montessori was just introduced in Singapore. After spending thousands of dollars, he still couldn't read when he started primary 1. It must have been difficult for him.

Suddenly one day, when I was reading The Straits Times, he stood behind me and read the heading out aloud. I almost fell off my chair! Then I made him read the entire article and he did it without making any mistakes. From then on, he had no trouble reading.

At 6, he probably wasn't ready to go to school just yet. Perhaps that explains why he dutifully hid his Chinese homework in the storeroom everyday until the teacher marched up to his older brother one day.

"Tell your mummy that SK has not been handing up his Chinese writing for months!"

YK was so angry when he came home that he made SK lead us to the storeroom where we found an entire stack of homework. His father made him sit and write non-stop. The poor kid couldn't stop sobbing, leaving puddles of tears on his freshly written Chinese characters.

Chinese has always been his biggest bugbear in school. Until now, he hasn't mastered the language despite learning it for 16 years. I wonder if it has anything to do with the trauma of writing endlessly when he was 6?

On the other hand, his math has improved by leaps and bounds. While every child is expected to memorise the multiplication table by the time they are about 7, he was still struggling with it when he was 10. The tuition teacher would drill and yell to no avail. Naturally, he never did well in math.

Somehow, he began to grasp the concepts when he became a teenager. Suddenly, he was aceing his math papers. In fact, math is one of his favourite subjects today.

When I look back, I realise that while it natural for a parent to be anxious, what we really should do is to identify their talents and allow them to develop at their pace. Every child is gifted in some way, as long as he is properly guided and taught the right values, he will be fine.

If he can't get a place in Stanford, that's perfectly ok too.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Ms Handyman

Before I went to bed last night, I couldn't help but feel a little smug. You see, I managed to unclog the kitchen sink ALL BY MYSELF!

Put it this way, I didn't really have a choice. The water wasn't draining off and I had a sink full of dirty dishes to wash, so I crawled under the sink and unscrewed some stuff. Gosh, I don't even know what these pipe joints are called.

Anyhow, after flushing out the greasy debris, the sink was functioning properly again. I ended up with some small cuts on my palm but at least I didn't have to wait for the handyman to come and get the job done. I can tell you this job sucks.

I tell my kids they're lucky their mummy is strong enough to carry out many manual tasks at home. I'm the one who changes the light bulbs and haul furnture around.

I'm also not the squeamish type that freaks out at the sight of worms and spiders. In fact, one of our favourite hobbies was caterpillar hunting. We used to bring home caterpillars so that we could breed butterflies in our own backyard. We used to spend idyllic weekends catching fish in swamps and streams as well.

What if I were the ultra feminine type with manicured fingers and carefully styled hair? Who's going to take care of housework and blown lightbulbs at home?

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Fun fairs aren't always fun

If you're wondering what I have been busy with, well, I've been participating in carnivals. Let me tell you, for the amount of hard work we've put in, the results have been dismal. I'll be lying if I say I'm not disappointed. Sometimes we even wonder why we are wasting our time on this when the opportunity cost is so high.

Our last bazaar was in the basement of a hospital building (picture below). It has got to be the pits because the air smelt bad and dank, maybe because the stands were right next to the mortuary. Air-con ducts and water pipes were hanging just above our heads and hospital staff were pushing soiled linen and other equipment around. Strangely, the staff canteen is not too far away and the entire hall came alive during lunch hour. Can you imagine how spooky the place would be after office hours?

Yet, I choose to look on the positive side. In the first place, it all began with our passion and dream of making it big. Bazaars and carnivals allow us to test-market our products. It is important to see how consumers respond to our ideas and concepts.

The experience also helps build our character. I remember during our first outing last year (photo below), I was very self-conscious and too nervous to approach customers.

These days, chatting and even cajoling comes easy to me. I can size up a customer quickly and know when to move in or step away. It's all part and parcel of the job.

Whilst it has been an eye-opening experience, I think our days of participating in carnivals are over. Unless it is for a good cause, we don't foresee ourselves lugging heavy bags of soil and equipment across the exhibition hall, making labels and displays or standing on our feet for hours and suffering from aching shoulders all week.

Now is the time to sit down, reflect and strategise our next move.

We tell ourselves that when we make it big, and the media comes flocking to interview us, we can tell them about the time we sold our products next to a morgue. How cool is that?

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Vacation job

While YK's new semester has just started, SK has recently ended his.

He surprised me by taking on a vacation job right away. I must say he took his own initiative to look for a job.

When I was his age, we helped out at my parent's orchid farm during school holidays in exchange for ice cream treats at Swensons.

SK is currently working as a packer (together with his group of friends) in a cosmetic factory. His work day starts at 9am and ends at 6pm. By the time he gets home (by bus and train), it is already 7.30pm.

I was interested to know how his job went, so I sat next to him as he wolfed down his dinner and asked a whole lot of questions.
"The job's ok but very tiring", he said.

One day, he told me to save him dinner as he had 'something on' after work. He came home at 9.30pm, hungry and tired.

Of course I was curious what that 'something' was all about, I couldn't help but probe.
"I went for a job interview. For better pay."

It's hard to imagine my little boy is all grown up. He wakes up at 7am to prepare for work and comes home for dinner just like an adult. Then he changes into his running gear and goes for a jog. After that he plays games on his computer, like an ordinary teenager.

I make sure he eats a hearty breakfast every morning and give him a small allowance for lunch and transport.

As a mother, I'm filled with pride and amusement. Seeing our kids grow up takes a bit of getting used to.

Monday 25 October 2010

Whirlwind trip

As Megi Typhoon cut a swath of destruction through the Philippines and Taiwan, we braced ourselves for a wet and windy weekend in Hong Kong. To our surprise, we didn't experience any flight delays, air turbulence or bad weather enroute there.

We arrived on Friday to see the no. 3 warning signal in force but thankfully Hong Kong had been spared the wrath of the super typhoon. All the guests arrived safely so the wedding could go according to plan.

We managed to cram quite alot in over the weekend. We took the MTR everywhere. I walked so much in 2 days! Here is a pictorial journal...

While CH was getting dressed up for the wedding reception, I posed as the 'wannabe' CEO of a big corporation.

The wedding dinner was held at House of Canton.

At the end of the 13-course meal, we were served Chinese cookies, rice balls and navel oranges.

By the time dinner ended at 11pm, we were so tired, I went straight to bed in anticipation of a busy day ahead.

After breakfast of Portugese tart at a Macau Cafe along Taikoo Street, CH and I went separate ways for the day.

I went to the World Expo to check out an exhibition while he joined his family for dim sum lunch. After few hours at the World Expo, I swung by Disney World to meet my brother and his family who were also in Hong Kong for the weekend.

I was thrilled to board the Disney train from Sunny Bay station!

Disneyland was surprisingly quiet that weekend, maybe because of the typhoon warning.

The sun was out, it was perfect for a day out at the resort!

I must be getting old. While my nieces were enjoying the rides, I hid under the shade like an old granny. My days of carousel rides with the kids are long over.

After watching the Disney Parade, it was time for me to say bye bye to my nieces. I took the MTR back to town to meet up with CH. I made him pose outside the Charlie Brown Cafe to which he said, "Good grief!"

We joined his family for dinner at Hing Kee Restaurant (180 Nathan Road). This restaurant serves excellent seafood like bamboo clam, mantis shrimp and crabs.

After dinner, we went to Mongkok for a crowd jostling experience.

By the time we got back to the hotel, my legs were like jelly. I didn't wake up until 10.30am the next morning. For once, I could sleep in without having to worry about feeding the dog or the kids!

We checked out the neighbourhood (Taikoo area) before checking out of the hotel.

Some typical Hong Kong street scenes.

Waxed duck.

Small cafe.

Hairy crabs.

Locally grown vegetables.

Oily, salty and sinful food for lunch....

...followed by roasted sweet potato for snack.

At the airport, we spotted a group of little kids dressed as airline crew!

When we touched down at 10pm, the warm, humid Singapore air engulfed us but boy, it felt good to be home!

I am so proud of my kids. They took care of themselves, my garden and Rusty when I was away. There were no dishes piled up in the sink. Everything looked so normal, I think I can go on more holidays in future.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

This is it

After consideration, this is likely to be what I will wear - a simple black dress with organza sleeves paired with silvery pearl necklace. Only trouble is, if I wear black stockings, the only shoes that'll go with it is black suede boots which I am not a big fan of. Do I look alright?

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Grouchy as a bear

How difficult can it be, shopping for a new dress?

The simple task, which used to take all of 15 minutes, has become such a monumental effort, I have been wearing the biggest frown all week, even CH has carefully kept his distance.

It was such a silly self-imposed punishment really. Nobody said black is not allowed at the wedding. Or white. It was just an excuse to makeover my wardrobe.

And being a glutton for punishment, I made myself march in and out of malls every other day, try an assortment of ill-fitting clothes and ended up buying a bunch of stuff that I might not even wear.

The trauma of seeing myself in the dressing room mirror has made me go on a crash diet, in a hasty attempt to lose some weight before the event this Friday.

I've even resorted to rummaging through mum's wardrobe and her stash of pearls. Being the ever supportive figure in my life, she said, "Aiya, who's going to look at you? Just wear anything decent lah."

But she doesn't understand. CH's family members and beautiful nieces (6 of them!) will be there in their designer best. (Tell me I don't have self esteem issues.) Sometimes I wish I have a teenage daughter to pinch clothes from. Anyway, last night, I tried out all the potential outfits and paraded before my son.

"This one's ok, especially with the necklace. But wait, I think the skirt's too short. Nah, too skanky. Next!"
"Umm, this makes you look slim, but Bree from Desperate Housewives likes to wear dresses like that. Nah, you'll look like a housewife."
"The green one is clearly out!"

Say what you like, but black is the only colour that flatters me. Finally, I have decided on a dress which I bought in Hanoi last year. All my girlfriends said it looks good on me. It's quite classy and nice (and black of course), with stones embedded on it.

Now why did I waste all that time running around all week? Let's not even talk about the money spent on the newly acquired stuff that didn't quite make the cut.

My tummy is growling now as I write. A hungry woman is an angry one. Thank goodness the wedding is bearly, I mean barely, 48 hours away. This hunger strike is killing me!

Friday 15 October 2010

So busy

This has been a really busy week. We've been running around all day getting stuff ready for the upcoming carnivals. Today we'll be at Shaws Preschool CDLC @ Braddell Heights, 24 Lynwood Grove. Singapore 356888, from 4pm to 7pm. It's a fund raising carnival with lots to eat, see and buy. Do drop by if you have the time.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Not so lucky

Last week, the security guard at our condo found a lost Husky wandering around outside the guard house. Since nobody knew its owner, the guard brought it to the nearest police post.

When he saw me that evening, he quickly told me about it.

"Could it be Sasha?" I asked.

"No. I saw Sasha with the owner earlier." he replied.

"Then it must be Lucky!" I exclaimed.

I know almost all the dogs in the neighbourhood. Lucky is a 8-month old Husky that lives in the large mansion down the road. He sits out on the porch all day, looking forlorn and neglected. In fact, he's leashed up all day and I'm really unhappy about it.

Each time we walk by, he sticks his head out to allow us to stroke him. He's a really sweet and gentle dog, even Rusty likes him.

I went over to Lucky's house that evening to find the porch empty. Strangely, this mansion may be large but appears rather cold and sad. I hardly see anyone around. There's always a Porsche parked in the garage at night and the laundry is always hung haphazardly at the clothesline.

I rang the doorbell, an old lady shuffled out slowly. I had only seen her once calling out to Lucky (that's how I know his name). As it turns out, Lucky had ran away.

The old lady must have felt guilty because she started explaining about how she couldn't walk him because of her weak legs, and how they had to leash him up because he scratches the car and destroy things.

"I can't handle a big dog. My son should have bought a smaller dog like yours.", she said, pointing to Rusty.

"But you must understand Lucky is just a puppy! He's energetic and needs someone to play with!", I chided.

I called the police station and was told Lucky had already been sent to SPCA. The owner can pick up the dog during office hours the following day.

I made it very clear to the owner that she should arrange to bring Lucky back quickly or he could end up being euthanised.

Lucky is now back home again, leashed up at the same spot by the fence. When I saw him yesterday, he was subdued and listless. He must have been traumatised by the entire incident. I feel sorry for him. His life is miserable compared to Rusty's.

Shame on the owners. They had the cheek to name him Lucky.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Desperate and exasperated

There comes a time in a woman's life when she has to admit (painfully) that she's past her prime.

About 8 years ago, I must have looked resplendent in an elegant white designer gown at a friend's wedding because I could still remember how my date's jaw dropped when he saw me walking into the hall.

I was much slimmer then. My hair was long, shiny and natural. The dress hugged all the right places and accentuated my taut and slender figure. Sigh.

Fast forward. I have a wedding to attend in three weeks and I'm desperately looking for something to wear. As the wedding will be held in Hong Kong, I'm trying to avoid wearing black on an auspicious occasion. In my fervent attempt to salvage what (little non-black dresses) I have, I pulled out that expensive designer gown and paraded before my kids.

"Hideous! It makes you look FAT!", the kids chorused.

Really? I used to look so good in it.

"Put it away for good, please!"

Oh well, it's time to go shopping. I must admit that shopping is becoming such an ego-deflating exercise that I have almost stopped going altogether. Looks like I'll have to make that dreaded trip soon. It'll help if I can manage to shed some weight.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Humidity is killing me!

It's not difficult to understand why Singaporeans are always seeking refuge in air-conditioned malls. Even for someone who loves the sun, the humidity is killing me!

I started the day an hour late because I didn't have to send SK to school. While I usually walk Rusty before the sun is up, today's session began at 7am, just when the sun was showing itself.

By the time we got home, I was sweating buckets. I had to shower (again) before doing anything else.

Then I went to the patio to hang up the laundry. Within minutes, sweat was trickling down my face. It's only 8.30am and I'm contemplating taking another shower (my third) before I leave for work.

On a humid day like this, I can't wait to escape to my air-conditioned office!

Sunday 3 October 2010

Pulau Langkawi retreat

The weekend retreat at Langkawi was very enjoyable. The organiser pulled out all the stops to make the event a very grand and memorable one. In case you're wondering, they were celebrating their 1st anniversary.

Exactly one year ago, the owner of the company, Capt R, told me the difficulties he faced as a new start-up. Just when they needed support the most, the larger companies turned them away. I've worked with Capt for many years already, I was happy to support them right from the start.

One year on, he has 70 employees working in offices spanning across Asia. During the weekend, I saw how well-loved and respected he is by his employees. Yet his humility is admirable. At the ceremony, he spoke about 'angels' like us who helped him through good and bad times. On the otherhand, I think it is the cohesiveness and energy of his team that drive their success.

We were treated to a good stay, entertainment and fabulous programme.

I received a crystal trophy.

We stayed at The Sheraton, a luxury resort nestled amidst 38 acres of spacious, lush tropical surroundings with private beach coves.

The hotel provides carts to bring the guests around the sprawling estate.

Unfortunately we didn't get to enjoy the spa or the various pools due to the wet weather.

I must say it is a very peaceful sanctuary, until you meet the monkeys. A hotel guest looks on in exasperation after the monkeys descended on her sunbathing spot.

The rest of our time was spent visiting batik printing factory, a traditional medicine facility and Langkawi Underwater World.

On Sunday, a few of us booked a cab to bring us sightseeing. My last visit to Langkawi Island was about 20 years ago and I'm surprised that nothing much has changed. It's still the same idyllic island I know, where the pace of life is slow and stress-free.

The waterfall was particularly spectacular after a day of rain on Saturday.

I saw the cutest little kitten at the Black Sands Beach.

Look at how tiny it is!

Langkawi means reddish brown eagle in colloquial Malay, so we stopped by the ferry terminal to check out the huge eagle monument.

We had seafood lunch at Kung Fu restaurant which has lots of photos of Bruce Lee on the walls.

On the way to the airport, we stopped by the Sunday night market. One vendor was selling ducklings!

There were many stalls selling food and drinks.

From our observation, the residents love deep fried food and colourful sweet drinks.

And they sell lots of batik dresses too. Not exactly the kind of stuff that entice me.

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...