Tuesday 30 November 2010

D.I.Y sucks

I wanted to surprise YK with a new study desk from Ikea. Back home, I opened the flat package and out spilled a dozen pieces of almost identical planks. I laid out them out according to the drawing and quickly fastened using the screws provided.

After labouring away for some 30 minutes, I realised I couldn't proceed to the next step. I stared at the half-completed frame in disbelief. With Ikea furniture, every piece of wood comes with holes drilled in the right places so that all will eventually fit together like a puzzle. If you make one mistake, you would have to tear everything apart and start over.

It's no rocket science but when it comes to installing DIY furniture, I always get it wrong. All you have to do is look at all the Ikea furniture in my house. They're either wobbly or scratched up or missing some screws.

With sweat trickling down my face, I unscrewed and rearranged the components. When the frame was finally fitted together again, I heaved a sigh of relief. Then I put on the table-top to find it wouldn't sit properly. I couldn't fasten the screws as the holes were facing the wrong way.

Ugh! I could pull everything apart and make it right. But then, it was close to dinner time, my tummy was growling and I was getting grouchy. It didn't help that Rusty kept getting in my way, stepping all over the screws and tools.

I guess YK would never notice the mistake unless he tries to move the table or sit on it. The top is now secured to the frame by several small wooden pins. It's only good enough for his laptop to sit on.

When he returned home to find a new desk sitting snugly in his room, he was too pleased to spot any defects. "Wah, so nice! Thanks Mum!"

Sunday 28 November 2010

New phones

I'm certainly no technophile and couldn't care less about my mobile phone as long as I can send/retreive emails, text and make phone calls. While people around me are brandishing their iPhones, I am still cradling a Nokia E52.

Yesterday I surprised my sons by getting each an iPhone 4. SK's jaws almost dropped when I made the announcement several days ago. I had recently replaced his laptop and he thought the much coveted iPhone would have to wait for another year.

Most parents will agree that while we're happy to stinge on ourselves, we will not hesitate to splurge on our kids. I personally have no desire to own one but the youngsters will find the Apps truly useful.

YK's phone has been malfunctioning for months. When he makes calls, he has to activate the loudspeaker. It's rather inconvenient especially in public. When he's in the car, we would have to keep quiet and turn off the radio when his phone rings. I've not seen many of his friends but I've heard their voices.

As for SK, his phone was sent for servicing 3 times during the first year. I think it was slightly defective to begin with.

To cut the story short, we drove to the store after lunch at Sushi Tei yesterday. It's not easy to gather everyone together, so I didn't want to let the opportunity slip. Besides, I have two phone vouchers which were on the verge of expiry.

The store was packed but everyone was surprisingly patient when it comes to getting a new iPhone. SK waited with bated breath, hoping the store wouldn't run out of stock.

We finally walked out after 2.5 hours with new phones. I'm particularly impressed with the tiny package that looks more like a box of perfume. After trading in my old Nokia 65 and offsetting those vouchers, I didn't have to fork out loads of cash.

When my contract expires early next year, I might get myself one as well.

Friday 26 November 2010

How time flies

Driving home from dinner last night, I spotted a car with the same number plate. My number plate starts with the numbers 37, so I struck up a conversation with CH.

"Did you know that when we first met, you were only 37? Now you're 43. We've been together for 6 years! At that time, I didn't think we could last for a year."

CH said, "Oh??"

"Imagine if we had a child, she would be starting primary one in January. I'm sure we would have a daughter because you have 6 nieces and no nephews!"

Of course CH pooh-poohed my logic. "It has nothing to do with genes lah, it's all random!'

"But still... cannot be so coincidental right?" I said.

"My brother has 3 daughters and my sis has 3, it not that each one has 6."

What started out as a romantic conversation ended up being a scientific one. I ended up saying, "Anyway I'm too old to have kids now."

It has been 6 long years since we first met. We were slim and athletic with a head of natural brown hair. Now that we're kinda pudgy, I'm glad we met when he was 37.


Gone, just like that! I can't believe someone stole SK's new bicycle. It was parked in the basement carpark, in a secured condominium.

SK had recently bought it using his hard earned money as a packer. The bike was chained up but due to lack of space in the carpark, it wasn't chained to any post.

Out of the hundreds of bikes, the thief had to pick the gleaming new one. I had advised SK to leave it in our balcony but he thought it should be safe to park in the basement.

The security guard said it was still in the basement this afternoon when he did his rounds. It had been stolen just hours ago. Many contractors come in and out daily to do renovation work, repair work and so forth, someone could have conveniently carted it away in a van or truck.

Geez, this is so sickening.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Dining alone

It's dark and raining outside and I'm eating alone. Now I understand why mum always sound a little sad whenever I called to say I wasn't coming home for dinner. Being so used to eating with the family, it just feels weird having dinner alone.

The noodles and soup have already been cooked. CH announced that he had to take some guests out for dinner tonight. Alright, the fish shall stay in the freezer.

Just as I was about to crack some eggs, YK texted to say he's eating out. No point making an omelette if he's also not eating. The eggs and ingredients go back into the fridge.

Then SK texted to say that he'll be late, I should save him some food. That's it, I'm not cooking anything else!

After feeding Rusty, I sat down to eat my own simple dinner.

Noodles with grilled chicken drumlets.

Clear vegetable soup.

I can't wait for the kids to be home as I've bought their favourite cakes - strawberry cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, tiramisu and black forest gateau.

Since we can't have dinner together, we'll eat dessert together!

Wednesday 24 November 2010

The mighty pen

Recently, a radio DJ was sharing his unpleasant experience on a budget airline. He was starving on an early morning flight yet was denied breakfast on board.

Apparently his colleague, who was already tucking into her hot meal, had forgotten to purchase his breakfast when she booked his ticket.

He wanted to buy. The air stewardess said, "No, cannot!" and walked away without giving any explanation. The poor guy spent the rest of the journey watching others eat.

Two recent experiences also left me dissatisfied, I had to take matters into my own hand, I mean pen.

Due to unforseen circumstances, I had to cancel YK's air ticket to Australia. The travel agent said, "No refund. Not transferable either."

I couldn't believe it. The ticket, at $900, wasn't exactly cheap. Few days after I made payment, the airline ran a promotion at $728. Here I was, giving more than a month's notice prior to departure, and ample time for the airline to resell the ticket.

So I called up Singapore Airlines who said the same thing. Well, I wasn't about to give up, so I wrote in.

Two days later, a very polite gentleman called to explain that I could get a refund for the taxes and surcharge (which doesn't amount to much). It was surprising that the agent had not informed me. He was apologetic and wished he could do more. Then he shared some tips on traveling in Western Australia.

When he hung up, I was no longer angry. In fact, I appreciated his courtesy call and concern. He certainly helped Singapore Airlines score plenty of brownie points.

The second incident involved our bank. An oversea reader was so kind to order 5 pieces of poster calendars from me. As she doesn't have a Paypal account, she mailed me a bank draft.

Our bank rejected the cheque, saying the payee should be "Clouds in the Sky LLP" instead of "Clouds in the Sky". I went to the bank, spoke to the officer and was told, "Sorry, cannot help. Get your customer to issue another one."

I urged her to reconsider. It's a small sum afterall and the company's name is just missing the "LLP". No other company in Singapore has the same name.

"You will have to ask our headquarters.", she said.

Back at the office, I called the headquarters and all I heard was "Sorry, we can't help you."

I almost lost my temper. Her nonchalance made me even more determined to forge ahead. I wrote to the bank explaining that while I understand the bank's policy, surely they can exercise some flexibility?

For our customer to pay us, she had to travel to the city, line up at the bank, pay a service charge for the bank draft and incur oversea postage. We are already very grateful for her business, we certainly do not wish to inconvenience her any further by making her go through the same process again.

Surprise, surprise! The bank called and said they would accept the bank draft afterall. All I have to do is send it in together with a supporting invoice.

Once again, I'm glad I took the trouble to write in. It's easier to get the message across in writing. I have done it many times to know how effective it is. Of course it helps to be polite, sincere and logical.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Dinner at Fusionpolis

We were at Fusionpolis for dinner last night and it suddenly dawned on me that Singapore is progressing so fast that I can barely catch up. I haven't been to all the latest attractions - Singapore Flyer and casinos! Even though I drive by Bouna Vista almost everyday, I had no inkling Fusionpolis is such a happening place.

Sure, the ultra-modern complex houses research organisations, government agencies and hi-tech companies but what I didn't know was, Fusionpolis is home to restaurants, cafes, shops and a large grocery store (Marketplace) as well.

As you can see, my first visit was an eye-opening one. We were looking forward to Koryo's fish stew that Chris raved about but it wasn't on the menu last night. Apparently he got lucky when the it was served as a 'daily special' when he dined there.

Yesterday's daily special was stewed kimchi pork ribs which looked really enticing in the menu. Somehow the real thing didn't quite match up in the looks department. It didn't taste spectacular either.

Stewed pork.

The side dishes were too salty, we hardly ate any.



For the mains, we ordered comforting food like the seafood beancurd stew and chicken potato stew. These were great when eaten with rice.

The seafood pancake was beautifully fried with crabstick and prawns. It makes a perfect dish for sharing with friends.

Our friends, EY and Chris.

I must stop eating sweet potatoes. I'm turning yellow.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Hell driver

I was in Bangkok for a meeting yesterday. The actual meeting lasted about 30 minutes but it took us all day to get there and back. While the plane ride was smooth and uneventful, the cab ride from Bangkok city to the airport was scary.

Firstly, the cab driver couldn't speak a word of English. His cab was dirty and smelt funky inside. As if it wasn't bad enough enough that the seat belt didn't work, he drove like a madman, overtaking dangerously and negotiating sharp bends without slowing down.

For some 30 minutes, I clung on for dear life and cursed myself for not speaking the Thai language. Instead of shouting "Slow down! Slow down!", I prayed that we could arrive at the airport in one piece.

By the time we reached the airport, my business associate was too terrified to ask for a receipt. We just hurried out of the foul smelling cab and wished the next unlucky passenger all the best.

I've encountered several horrifying incidences during my travels. There was one in Shanghai who sped me to the airport just to prove that I had made the wiser decision of boarding his cab instead of taking the train.

Yet another time, the one in Taipei kept nodding off as he drove, I had to constantly talk to him to keep him awake. When I asked if he was too sleepy to drive, he denied vehemently.

It sucks to think that while we are such careful drivers back home, we often have to put our lives in the hands of bad drivers when we travel.

Sunday 14 November 2010

A wet picnic!

The highly anticipated picnic in sunny Sentosa turned out to be a really wet one. Despite the chilly wind, lightning bolts and incessant rain, we had a great time under the pavilion by the sea.

The wind was so strong at times, we were almost blown away.

No matter how bad the weather was, nothing beats being with good friends.

With Amy and Beverly.

Of course, having plenty to eat helps tremendously.

Rustic apple tart.

Fruit cocktail.

Sweet + spicy chicken drumlets.

Pasta salad.

Grilled wedges.

When we were shivering under the shelter, the men insisted it was warmer in the sea.

We were there to celebrate Beverly and Hakim's birthday.

Beverly and Hakim with their presents.

I love how gorgeous the Pearl Medley bracelet from My Sinfonia looks on Beverly.

Sandrine and Beverly.

Well, the skies finally cleared up in the evening. I kinda like my picnics cool and breezy like that. At least I won't end up with a sunburn.

Junk boat cruising by.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Karaoke night

Just as I was getting ready for bed last night, Best Friend called urging me to join her for karaoke session at Temasek Club. While one part of me was reluctant to leave the comfort of my home, the other half was game for a night of fun. I dragged CH along of course.

She and hubby were warming up their vocals when we arrived. We settled down quickly and started picking songs. By the time our beer arrived, we were already belting out 我問天 at the top of our lungs.

While I had been to karaokes before, last night was the first time I actually sang. It was a night of discoveries:
1. CH has really strong vocals but he's a reluctant singer
2. Best friend excels at singing Hokkien songs
3. Her hubby likes Bee Gees songs
3. I suck at singing

After discovering how tone-deaf I am, I have new respect for good singers. Anyhow, we enjoyed ourselves tremendously even though I was mostly out of tune. It's a great way to let our hair down and enjoy the commaradie.

I pity the service staff though. They had to put up with our bad singing whenever they sent in our beer!

So annoying

I found this photo in my camera. It must have been shot by a very bored SK. Rusty looks annoyed.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Self conscious

We women are often too self conscious for our own good. One friend laments about her stubby legs while another wishes for a higher nose bridge.

One has soft brown hair that's so shiny and healthy, I have to resist the urge to run my fingers through her tresses. And she has the most cheeky yet endearing grin, she can get away with any mischief. It helps that she has a glowing complexion that makes her look half her age.

She's so charming, smart and eloquent, and blessed with a pretty face, would I look at her legs? Of course, now that she had brought it up, I had to sneak a peek. They are anything but stubby.

The other lady probably isn't aware how attractive she is. We met one Saturday afternoon at a carnival. It was a hot sunny day, her face's so pretty and blushing pink, I couldn't help gushing "OMG! She's so radiant, she glows!"

I get charmed when she breaks easily into the sweetest smile. Her doe eyes, framed by long dark lashes are indeed mesmerising. Did I notice her nose? Not at all.

Listen up ladies, we all come as a package. It may be that special grin or a sweet smile that catches people's eye. Don't be too conscious about the little imperfections, nobody notices but you.

Yes, I am guilty of talking endlessly about my expanding waistline. If I keep quiet, nobody will ever notice. I'm shutting up now.

Where are the women?

I wasn't the only one to notice the lack of women amongst this year's Enterprise 50 Award winners! A reader wrote to forum. Here's a reproduction of the letter:

Home > ST Forum > Story

Nov 9, 2010

Entrepreneurship: Where are the women?

THIS year's Enterprise 50 Award winners offered a startling omission, especially for a nation that prides itself on meritocracy: The chiefs of the winning companies were overwhelmingly male.

It cannot be because women lack the capability, particularly when they hold some of the top positions in multinational companies, public-listed firms and statutory boards.

Could the additional demands required by entrepreneurship extend beyond management and administrative skills?

Demands like the single-minded dedication required in building a business at the expense of time and the company of friends and loved ones?

Do women lack creativity and enterprise, or is it harder, if not impossible, for them to brave adversity and failure in the pursuit of their dreams?

Perhaps our society is not conducive to raising women entrepreneurs. For instance, women, rather than men, sacrifice their careers to stay at home and raise children.

Or does the perennial Asian cultural stereotype regarding gender roles still reign: that men bring home the bacon and will not allow their wives to sacrifice time with the family to pursue their business dreams?

I hope I am wrong because I certainly would like to see women featured in next year's Enterprise 50 Awards.

Lau Chee Kin

Monday 8 November 2010

A family tradition

YK sounded surprised when he told me that most of his friends eat out everyday. "You're the only mum who cooks dinner. My friends tapau (buy packed food) everyday. No wonder we're so well fed!"

I was equally surprised to hear that. Well, I've been eating home-cooked meals all my life. My dad still eats dinner at home no matter how late he returns from work. Growing up in the countryside, we didn't have easy access to food stalls. When mum was too busy to cook, we would take over. We never had junk food, we ate lots of fruits instead. The only flavoured beverage we drank was Milo. At 20, I tasted coffee for the first time and was hooked!

My peers who grew up in the city had a totally different lifestyle. Everything could be found outside their doorstep. Kids as young as 3 drank coffee and didn't sleep until they had their late night supper of char kuay teow. The satay man came around at night hawking freshly grilled pork and mutton kebabs. Talk about convenience food!

The kids today have even more choices. If you leave them to pick their own meals, they may not make the wisest decisions. I've seen how most food stalls operate. They use the cheapest palm oil and ingredients to save cost, and they don't wash the vegetables thoroughly before cooking.

I can't allow my kids to eat deep fried food and artery-clogging meals everyday. That's why I choose to cook no matter how late I get home. Afterall I need to feed myself too. Even Rusty gets his home cooked food twice a day.

When my kids grow up and set up their own homes, I hope they keep to this tradition of eating home-cooked meals together as a family too.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Home alone

It's highly unusual for me to be home alone on a Saturday. Normally, I would be driving this kid or the other to some far-flung places (fish farms) but somehow, I am spared today. Both are out with their friends.

I contemplated hiking (nah, too hot), running (even worse) or shopping (too crowded) but decided to stay home instead. Housework was already completed yesterday, so I sat before my computer all day.

Being alone can be bad for my health. When I hear my stomach rumble, I amble to the kitchen to find something convenient to eat. So far, I've eaten a bunch of buah duku langsat (below), a bowl of groundnuts, 3 pieces of chwee kueh, 2 pieces of Wang Wang seaweed rice crackers and a cup of fruit tea.

Now that my stomach is filled with all that junk, I feel like taking an afternoon nap.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Come on ladies, 姐姐妹妹站起来!

I was happy to see the special supplement honoring the Enterprise 50 Awards 2010 winners. I like reading the success stories of these entrepreneurs and have blogged about it before.

This year, I am disappointed to see not one female face, not even one! There are so many businesswomen out there who are inspiring and most exemplary, yet none had made it this year. Surprising!

The winners run the gamut, from construction and engineering companies to restaurants and foodstuff manufacturers. The only common factor is, all the companies are run by men.

As a businesswoman, it only inspires me to work harder. Not that I aspire to be one of the winners someday (though it will be nice), I know there are enough dynamic women out there who will make the cut. Come on ladies, 姐姐妹妹站起来! (loosely translated into "Stand up sisters!")

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Halloween horror

Both my kids were out with their friends on Halloween Night. YK borrowed an old bedsheet so he could dress up as a ghost. It's free and effortless! None of his friends bothered. In fact, I saw the entire group walking by when I was having English Tea at Fosters. YK appeared a bit embarrassed when his friends started waving cheerfully, "Hello Aunty!!"

They were on the way to the cinema to see a horror movie. It's nice to see him hanging out with a group of decent friends. One of our biggest worries as a parent is the company they keep.

On Halloween Night, an 18-year old teen lost his life after he was repeatly slashed over a staring incident. The murderers, aged between 18 and 20, have already been arrested. A precious life has ended, just like that. The internet is innundated with all sorts of insensitive comments, many of which are unkind to the victim and his family. I can imagine the grief the parents are going through. Nobody deserves to die this way.

Reading about such horrific incidents make me worry about my kids' safety. They like hanging out with the boys but who knows what danger is lurking outside when even a simple stare can turn deadly.

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...