Sunday, 30 September 2007

My desktop

I've been tagged by Amel's Realm and Janice Ng to do the Desktop Meme. I have some difficulty capturing my screen, so here's a picture of my favourite desktop without all the icons.

It's easy to see why Rusty's on my desktop. I caught him trampling on my amaryllis while I was pottering around in the garden. Seeing his little innocent face squinting in the sun, and looking so intent on accomplishing his mission, I didn't have the heart to admonish him. C.H thinks the picture of Rusty is so whimsical, it's on his desktop too.

My Desktop Free View Instruction:
Upon receiving this tag, immediately perform a screen capture of your desktop. It is best that no icons be deleted before the screen capture so as to add to the element of fun. You can do a screen capture by:
Going to your desktop and pressing the Print Scrn key (located on the right side of the F12 key). Open a graphics program (like Picture Manager, Paint, or Photoshop) and do a Paste (CTRL + V).

If you wish, you can “edit” the image, before saving it. Post the picture in
your blog. You can also give a short explanation on the look of your desktop just below it if you want.
You can explain why you preferred such look or why is it full of icons.

Tag five of your friends and ask them to give you a Free View of their desktop as well. Add your name to this list of Free Viewers with a link pointing directly to your Desktop Free view post to promote it to succeeding participants

People who have already pimped their desktop:
Francine of La Place de Cherie Chez Francine Bloggishi Unchained Melody LadyJava's Lounge Mariuca Revellian Dot ComDesktop Emila’s Illustrated Blog Spiff, The Spaceman Rolando Brown Baron Ordinary Folk The Kat House Trinity West Virginia Blogger Promthep MeAndMyDrum Elena's Photos MAX Amel's Realm Choc Mint Girl Madhur Kapoor Mother's Home! Consuela Aaron Cook Dot Com Vincent Chow I Was Born2Cree8 Janice Ng, Blur Ting. Please add yours here after doing this tag.

I'd like to tag the following bloggers. Would love to have a peek at your desktop!
Mother Hen
Soul Survivor
New Beginnings

Good afternoon

After sending SK for Chinese tuition, I decided to give myself a little treat. I ended up at my favourite place - Holland Village of course!

Why do I love this place so much? Dubbed the “bohemian enclave” of Singapore, Holland V is an eclectic mix of old and new, where traditional coffee shops jostle for space aside ritzy wine bars and fine dining restaurants. Heh, I'm a boho-chick.

I parked next to the old swimming pool. I love how retro everything is about this place... from the grilles to the colours...

This old tree has a huge fern growing on it! If you look closely, you may see some bikini babes lounging by the pool.

This is a typical 'void deck' of a public housing block. I hid behind the pillar to capture the old man eating noodles.

What's a windmill doing here? Well, it's Holland Village afterall, so no surprise there.

I love Holland V for its interesting shop mix. This is a lifestyle shop that sells artifacts and furniture. It's nestled amongst a row of popular restaurants. Lots of expatriate families were out having brunch at the fancy restaurants, I felt like I was in a foreign country.
Holland V is also one of my favourite haunts for shopping, especially for ethnic clothes and unique labels. I was so happy to see new designs from my favourite 'doggie' label. So I ended up buying...

Not one....

Not two...

Not three...

But four pieces from the same shop! I'm in love with the cute doggie mascot!

What else did I buy? Some costume jewelry, a linen blouse and a crinkly skirt.

I'm such a black and white person, I know.
Good thing I had to go pick SK up or I'll end up burning a big hole in my pocket.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Cat fight

Mum's garden produces orchids that are mainly exported worldwide. We supply the lower grades to the local flower shops and vendors, including vendors at the cemetery. Yes, the cemetery.

They started coming to our farm several years ago. At first, they came in their rickety motorbikes and could only afford to buy very little. They repack them into little bundles and sell for a lot more at the cemeteries. People who buy flowers at the cemeteries do not haggle over prices.

These flower sellers were soon making a bundle and started arriving in pick-up trucks and were able to buy more. Soon, their relatives, seeing how lucrative this business is, also joined in the revelry. Mum’s customer base also increased.

This is supposed to be a good thing right? Well, not really. The competition and rivalry drive mum crazy. For those who do not know about orchids, we have flowering seasons. These vendors hound mum day and night. When we do not have enough to supply, some become unreasonable and demanding, expecting mum to sell them export-quality for ‘scrap’ prices and forbidding her to sell to their rivals. They fight among themselves over territories at the cemetery. Sometimes they come with scratch marks on their faces after cat fights. The authorities have stepped in many times to keep them under control.

For them, business at the cemetery is also seasonal. Whenever the festivals come around, business soars for them. We’ll see them coming in and out of our farm too frequently. When supply doesn’t meet their demand, they'll cajole or demand, stressing mum out tremendously. Well, mum has a way of dealing with them. Whilst she’s a nice lady mostly, she will throw them out of the farm if they go overboard. This little lady is feisty too!

You go girl!

Sunday brunch

It's a lazy Sunday, so today's brunch is grilled unagi (eel) with instant noodles. Since so little effort has been made in preparing the food, the boys finished it in 2 minutes. Talk about instant food.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Saturday brunch

This is what the boys are having for brunch - a hearty meal of 'big mama pasta'. I made the sauce using fresh red tomatoes, chilli, fresh prawns, fresh shitake mushrooms, frozen clams, lots of garlic and Marks & Spencer Chunky Basil Tomato sauce.

Friday night out

So, how did my Friday night pan out?

Well, the sun was still shining when I got home from work. I even managed to take a picture of the water lily in my garden. After a quick change of clothes, I left the house in high spirits.

The usual Friday evening traffic was so smooth, I couldn't believe my luck. Friday night was looking good until I saw the dark clouds in the distance. I was heading into the rain zone, straight into a huge jam. C.H. messaged to say the Italian restaurant that we chose was fully booked. Damn! The other one, Wild Rocket, was also fully booked.

It was pouring and traffic had almost come to a standstill. I sat there, drumming my fingers on the dashboard, chiding myself. When things are going well, it's taboo to keep saying it because it will only go downhill.

When I finally got to his office, it was still raining, we were starving, and it would be silly to drive through bad traffic in search of a nice restaurant. So, our quick decision to have dinner at the coffee shop nearby turned out well... simple, good comfort food without the frills.

The rain stopped. We drove into town. Walked around and decided to stop by the famous Rochor dessert stall for soymilk and fritters. The place was filled with young energetic people half our age. After stuffing themselves with nourishing food, they were going to party the night away.

We, on the other hand, were so damn tired, we went straight home to bed.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Happy dance

I'm doing the happy dance! It's Friday!

It's the last day of mum's treatment! I can wear my skinny clothes again! It finally stopped raining. It's also the last day of my colleague's vacation, that means she'll be back to work on Monday...I miss her. I hope her plants are still alive on Monday...

And... I have my Friday night out with C.H!

Life will be back to normal soon. I'll have more time to blog and read my favourite blogs. Happy happy!

Missing in action

Yes, I know. I've been so quiet today... I was running all over the place, like

I was bouncing between the schools, my office, hospital, pharmacy, shipyard, container yard ... driving around in the stormy weather. As if not crazy enough, I even saw a chain collision happen right before my eyes while driving home. Then, three motorbikes skidded and crashed just before me, while trying to avoid the vehicle pile up. Thank God, nobody was really injured.... just lots of unhappy faces in the rain.

Oh man, what a day! Hope yours isn't as crazy as mine.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

You make me smile

It's so nice to receive the "You make me smile" award from the lovely Amel. I would like to award this bunch of people in the blogosphere who make me smile everyday: Jyankee, Mother Hen, Soul, HollyGL, Seagrape, Foul Bastard, Mooiness, Random Magus, Janice Ng and Crow's Feet... now you know why I enjoy lurking around your blog so much!

Of course, not forgetting my favourite people and animals who never fail to make me smile! Love you all!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Guess who?

Yup, that's me, in the container yard, baking under the sun this morning. As a container reseller, I visit the yard every now and then to look at my stock. Not the nicest place in the world but hey, somebody's got to do the job.

Mid-autumn moon

The moon is big and beautiful tonight. Why of course! It's Mid-Autumn Festival when the moon is at its fullest and brightest!

I did my best to capture the beautiful sight using my little camera.

Sad song - Qiang Qiang

This is my current favourite song by Ella, who paid tribute to her pet dog that died recently in a touching song. The song's in Chinese... even if you don't understand, prepare your's sad.

Little cute shoes

Look! Ting is wearing a cute pair of new shoes today! I can't resist asking her to model for me.

Monday, 24 September 2007

I feel good!

I am so energetic today, I even ran along my office corridor! I've not felt this good since I returned from France.

The rich and salty diet during my travels made me all bloated up. When I returned from France, I went on a strict regime of a bland and healthy diet. Now I feel lighter, my skin is clearer, my hair is shinier and my cold is almost gone.

Most importantly, I have regained my vitality! I feel so de-toxed. You should try it sometime too!

Not the end

When I saw the headlines "ITE wins prestigious Harvard award", my heart was leaping with joy. It's about time! Why is this award so important to the Institute of Technical Education?

Well, in Singapore, if your child is unable to qualify for tertiary education, he'll likely end up in ITE. Sadly, in a nation that is obsessed with academia, ITE has always been referred to as "It's The End".

The Award is given out for the first-time by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. It is sponsored by IBM. ITE has been conferred the award for making Vocational and Technical Education a thriving option for Singapore’s academically-challenged youths through its unique 10-year Transformation Plan.

Formerly a last resort for low-achieving students, Singapore’s ITE underwent a 10-year reform plan, revamping irrelevant curriculum, upgrading learning environments and instating new academic requirements for current teachers. As a result, the programme reports a 33 per cent increase in graduation rates and a 50 per cent increase in students enrolled between 1995 and 2006. Over the last decade, 90 per cent of ITE students have graduated with high-paying industry careers.

Shortlisted from more than 100 applicants from 30 countries, ITE beat four finalists including a sweeping reforms plan from Georgia; a personalised social services delivery network from Canada, and a US Department of Health programme that cut operating costs.

According to the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Havard's Kennedy School, Professor Stephen Goldsmith, "Singapore's ITE has created a highly sustainable model for transforming poorly performing education institutions worldwide."

The chairman of ITE's board of governors, Mr Bob Tan said another unique feature of ITE was the nurturing quality. "When students come to the ITE, they have a self-image of people who cannot make it. It's a matter of raising their confidence," he said.

Hence I rejoice for ITE, and for the students in ITE. They will never feel like black sheep again.

I'm venting!

Ting : "Rusty's tail."
Rusty: *phooot* "Oops. Sorry...I'm venting"

Sunday, 23 September 2007

If Rusty could talk

Oops! Wrong picture, but that's ok. Just don't tell Rusty.

Rusty woke me up in the middle of the night, asking to go out to the yard. I opened the door to let him out, thinking that he needed to pee. He came back into the house, sat on the rug and threw up some yellowish foamy stuff. Oh, he had gone to chew grass. He must be having an upset stomach all night.

For those of you newly acquainted with Rusty, I'm reposting an old blog today...

For the past three years, Rusty has brought us so much joy and a fair amount of anxiety.
He went missing yesterday afternoon. We looked everywhere and by bedtime, we were almost in tears at the thought of never seeing him again. You can imagine our joy when we found him at a neighbour's house this morning. Well, that's another long story...

Once he fell into a ditch and was only found the next day. Being small, he could sneak into the strangest nooks and crannies. He was locked in the storeroom once until we heard his cries for help. There was the other time when he was sound asleep all afternoon inside the room while we were anxiously searching high and low for him.

This feisty little fella has gotten into more than afew skirmishes with other dogs who have wandered into our yard. You've guessed it. He's been in and out of the pet hospital many times! By now, we're used to seeing him with a 'lampshade' around his neck.

Living in our farm, he has his fair share of thrills and adventures. Life here is a huge playground for him. He's always running after birds and geckos, or sniffing out toads and rats.

He's a tough cookie. He can outrun all the other dogs in the neighbourhood. He can leap onto my bed in a single bound and swallow his food in one big gulp. And he can stand on his hind legs for the longest time.

Yet, when the sky threatens to rain, he turns into the most timid creature. He'll seek refuge under the desk or bed. More recently, he has found the ideal hideout inside mum's wardrobe. She was puzzled at how her clothes have mysteriously formed a pile outside the wardrobe. :-P

Being a typical dog owner, we think he's the smartest and most handsome Jack Russell we know. Rusty is more than a pet to us. He is the kids' playmate. He is also my gardening companion. He keeps our friends and visitors entertained. He hangs around the dining table. He sleeps next to our bed at night and wakes us up in the morning. He goes for walks with my dad and watches mum do her cooking. He is Cookie's best pal.

Yesterday, the kids said "We must find Rusty. He's part of our family."

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Health update

Mum is so blessed to be well-loved by her children and grandkids.

Mum's first radiotherapy session on the sophisticated Novalis equipment went well. The doctors recommended six sesssions instead of one. That means we'll be at the hospital every morning for the whole of next week.

My elder brother took the afternoon off to accompany us to her first treatment last Friday. His wife brought back some birdnest tonic for mum to help in the healing. My younger brother and his wife offered to relieve me on some days next week. My aunt came over with some health supplements and my cousins dropped in to offer some words of comfort.

Now mum feels that everyone cares about her. Of course we all do. She knows that but sometimes she just needs the reassurance. Being a mother, I fully understand.

When I'm sick, I tell my boys "Mummy's sick you know?" They look up from what they're doing (mostly at the computer) and say, "Huh, really? So poor thing." and then go back to playing their games the very next second.

"Hello! Didn't you hear your poor mummy coughing away all week?"

Oh well, that is still quite reassuring.

Lantern festival

My nieces and nephew were playing with paper lanterns tonight celebrating Lantern Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, a date that parallels the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar (25 September 2007 to be exact). This is the ideal time, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, to celebrate the abundance of the summer's harvest.

Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat round moon cakes while the kids walk around the neighbourhood carrying brightly-lit lanterns.
Let me get a candle first. (Of course hers is not lighted up. It's too dangerous for a 3 year old)
I'm ready now. Shall we go?

Walking around with the lanterns.

Blowing out the candle.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Big pau, small pau

Maybe I've been eating too little this week because of my cold, I suddenly developed a craving for pau. The thought of sinking my teeth into a fluffly white pau filled with chunks of juicy savoury meat made me rush to ....... got you there! Bet you thought I was going to rush to the nearest pau store right? Noooo, not after I've checked my favourite food blog for the yummiest pau in Singapore! I share the blogger Leslie Tay's mantra "Never waste your calories on yucky food."

According to him, Tanjong Rhu Pao rules! He has a nice photo of a big pau that set me drooling. It was surprisingly quiet when I got there yesterday evening. It's hard to imagine people traveling all the way to Kampong Arang for their pau fix. I had to rely on my street directory to get there.

The paus are indeed smaller than the ones sold elsewhere and more expensive. I bought a mix of big pau, char siew pau and ying yang pau. The small bag of goodies cost me $20!I gave some away to my brother and CH and steamed the rest for breakfast this morning.

The ying yang pau is generously filled with an unusual combination of red bean paste, lotus paste and salted egg. The smooth and sweet paste is nicely balanced out by the salty egg yolk. Why does it remind me of a mushy mooncake I wonder?

For those of you who have not seen a pau before, this is what it looks like on the outside. It's like our Asian burger. The dough is soft, slightly sweet and when you break open, you can find meat, vegetable or sweet fillings. They are sold steaming hot and are eaten as a snack or breakfast food. We have the coffee shop variety and specialty pau stores like Tanjong Rhu Pau or Teck Kee Pau.

I like my meat pau fillings chunky with enough bite, and this pau has enough chunk factor to satisfy my craving. The meat is well seasoned, succulent and tender. It even has some juicy drippings when I bite into it. I can only complain about the size. It's too small, I finished it in 2 bites.

If the big pau is small, then the char siew pau is minuscule! But the delicious pieces of smoky, sweet bbq meat makes up for its lack in size. The filling's probably one of the best I have eaten.

When Rusty smells meat paus being steamed, he comes running into the kitchen. How not to succumb to his earnest begging?

Of course I shared my tiny paus with him. Now he looks as satisfied as I am. These paus are so nice, I have to buy more next time!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

What's in a name?

My niece and I have the same family name (Eng) and the same given name (Ting). Yet the written character, meaning and pronounciation of our ‘Ting’ are different in Chinese.

A Chinese name is written with the family name (surname or last name) first and the given name (usually one or two characters) next.

Chinese family names are patrilineal, passed from father to children. Although there are thousands of Chinese family names, the 100 most common surnames are shared by 85% of the population. Historically, it was considered taboo to marry someone with the same family name — even if there is no direct relationship between those concerned, though in recent decades this has no longer been frowned upon.

Some families have generational names whereby one of the two characters in the personal name is shared by all members of a generation. Eg. Ong Siew Poh, Ong Siew Hong, Ong Siew Chuan...

Nowadays, many Chinese choose to adopt a Westernized name which is usually written before their family name. Eg. John, Ong (family name) Siew Poh (given name).

Some of my non-Asian friends get so confused, they coin the strangest names. In the example above, you can either call him John or Siew Poh, but not Ong Siew or Ong Poh.

Confused already? It’s ok, we understand.

Poor Ting

I pull into the garage to see Ting's (my niece) face pressed against the glass window in the living hall. She always runs to the window by the garage to greet me. What a joy to see her happy face!

Suddenly, she sticks out her tongue and licks the glass. I wave my finger at her, "Tsk! tsk! tsk! Don't do that. The glass is very dirty!" Her smile turns into a frown.

She turns away, and stick her fingers into the mouth. Her nanny calls out sternly, "Ting, don't put your fingers in your mouth! So dirty!"

Feeling miserable, she walks into the kitchen towards grandma who is about to open the refrigerator door. As she ambles closer, grandma says "No more snacks for you today. Go outside!"

By now, she's pulling the longest face.

She scans around the room and sees Rusty sleeping blissfully. It's time to vent! Pointing her finger, she shouts at him, "Aunty dowan you! Grandma dowan you! Everybody dowan you!"

Rusty can only look at her wondering "Now, what did I do? WTH is she bitching about!"

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Thanks for the memories

It’s back to the daily grind after our vacation. The best part, besides the wonderful memories of course, is hearing from the new friends we made on the trip. While traveling the world alone is exciting, enjoying new experiences with nice companions really makes the difference.... and the memories stay with us forever.

I’d like to wrap up my travel series (this summer) with our day trip to a beautiful little medieval town in Belgium called Bruges. Enjoy!

The pedestrian Barge Bridge links Bargeplein at the edge of the city with the entrance to Minnewater Park. The bridge, with its girders painted red, is an example of asymmetrical architecture. The Dutch designers opted for a bridge in the form of a reptile, that you can climb.

Next to the bridge is a small building containing public toilets that is partly protected by a shelter. Thus a new meeting place for tourists arriving by bus is turned into a very pleasant location from which to start a visit to the city.

The ‘Minnewater’ (Lake of Love), today a romantic spot, used to be a dock for so-called ‘barges’ which operated a regular transport service between Bruges and Ghent.

Upon visiting Bruges, one will immediately notice that this city has always carefully cherished its architectural and artistic treasures from the past.

A nun from the convent stepping into the church.

Walking along the maze of winding cobbled alleys and romantic canals, it's easy to imagine yourself to be in medieval times.

A charming shop window.

Walking down the shopping district.

The wealth of museums is a striking image of this city's stirring history.

One of the embarkation points for taking a boat trip on the canals of Bruges.
The medieval folks placed him there to protect the village from flooding.

Tapestries and lace are Belgium's specialty.

What a surprise to see a marching band...and its band of followers...

The restaurants in Bruges offer gastronomic cuisine. They're famous for mussels cooked in a myriad of ways.

A beautiful day to spend at the shady flea market by the canal.

A boat trip on the picturesque canals of Bruges allows you to admire the city’s most beautiful sites from a totally different angle.

Our 5 pcs of Belgian chocolate, moulded together after a long day in Bruges.