Thursday, March 30, 2017

duet

(Playing blog catch-up again! I was in Melbourne accompanying Choon on his overseas wedding photo shoot. Mighty interesting it was)

Because there are three of them, Mona likes giving them duets to play, the usual configuration being Day-Jo or Jo-Lu.

For some reason, Jo is always the one chosen to be involved in every one.

Here’s a recent one the girls did. I like the piece. Lu, as usual, sways back and forth while playing.

* Tarantella

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

otters

I bump into the lovelies while cycling.


The otter at 0:19 certainly looked confused at the attention it was getting: What you all staring at me for?

Jo asks: Why are they all over each other? Are they mating?

I don't think so. Google says they're cleaning their fur and socialising.

The humans were utterly captivated. 

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

kungfu

Tiger vs snake.

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Kungfu
* Photos by Feline Lim

Friday, March 24, 2017

young hawkers

I am seeing quite a few young hawkers around. It’s interesting how many of them pour their love into making atas food hawker-friendly and Instagram-worthy.  Fish and chips, pastas, wagyu this-and-that, truffle whatever…

Often, I thoroughly enjoy their offerings because I like things that are different. In the first few months of opening, when passion is at a high, the food is often really worth the price. Although I wonder how many would stay the course and do the same thing, chopping their own ingredients and doing their own cooking to the same standards, for the next 30-40 years the way the old hawkers did.

We check out one such stall recently which isn’t far from us, at a coffeeshop.

The two young men are exactly the ones who I saw featured in the magazine. Apart from telling us we could pay after the meal (not a usual hawker centre or coffeeshop practice), they actually turned away some customers (very politely) to take a lunch break.

I tell the kids, if they can cook one great dish - like carrot cake or some such thing - they're set for life. I wouldn't mind their being future hawkers.

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* Wagyu burger ($13) which KK pronounced "good and juicy"

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* Day's chicken burger ($6 or $7 I forget)

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* And because I hate burgers, my beef rice ($7 or $8 thereabouts), which was really quite beautiful especially after I broke the poached egg and the yolk melted into the gravied rice

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

sec cca

The briefing to parents was a serious one. “Do listen carefully. Your child’s choice of CCA in Secondary School is important.”

This was at the start of the year, at Day’s secondary school.

What came across clearly was that it’s not just a matter of having fun. He has to accrue points which would go toward his entry to junior college.

It’s certainly not new. I vaguely recall having to chalk up ECA points back in the late 80s, but it was a straightforward easy path because I was in the national orchestra which gave me a boatload of points, and I never had to consider other options.

It isn’t so straightforward for Day.

Following his experience in Primary school, he headed straight for one of the secondary school’s outstanding CCAs, one in which he’d be pushed to achieve greater things: the prize-winning badminton team.

His attempt was thoroughly disheartening as he was told after about 30 seconds of ‘audition’ play that there was no need for him to continue. Why? I think there were too many great kids who had started playing in primary school, whose parents might have paid for them to take classes before, or who had already won badminton competitions.

At age 12, he was already outclassed, and had lost the chance to try.

Never mind. He next tried for the Outdoor Activities Club, which promises to allow him to expend much of his energy in wholesome outdoor pursuits. Rock-climbing, running, canoeing, camping, stuff like that. He loves those things.

But the result of a ballot-like system in which he listed out his six top choices of CCA (his top three were Outdoor Activities Club, School Band and Chinese Orchestra), was that he was going to be a concert band member.

Day is very much like me in one aspect: He settles for less (than what he desires), and he accepts.

Surrounded by disgruntled classmates howling in protest over their CCA assignations, he said OK. His thought was: Why not? I put it as my second choice, means that I am OK if I don’t get my top choice, and it could be interesting.

It also offers him an advantage when it comes to points, because of the many opportunities to represent the school at performances. He doesn’t have to win anything, just participate.

Which instrument, then?

At a practice session, he was introduced to the band instrumentation, tried out a few things. His order of preference: Clarinet, saxophone, flute. Those were the few instruments he could play, given his braces which make it impossible for him to blast against a brass mouthpiece.

He got his first choice.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

mr and mrs wong

A day after my birthday this year is what is arguably the most anticipated event in our family (our meaning the Wongs) in the last decade and a bit.

Choon gets married, four months after the proposal! The prodigal son finally has a lo por zai! (Cantonese for wife) My parents will have grandchildren bearing their surname!

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As he and Phoebe go through the solemnization of the marriage, scenes run through my mind: Por Por purchasing a jade pagoda from a fortune teller in China and faithfully placing it beside her bed next to the telephone because the (scammer) told her it would ensure her son’s marital bliss, Por Por reciting chants from a notebook which she carried with her even while on holiday in the belief that the daily ritual would snag Choon a wife, the visit to another fortune teller who told Choon that he had to maintain a longer fringe covering his forehead to boost his marriage chances, the occasional discussion (amongst us in Singapore while Choon was in Darwin) whether he was actually interested in men instead and we were all barking up the wrong tree.

Gosh. Which goes to show that when things are meant to happen it will.

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* Thrilled to the  max: Por Por (eyes closed I know but I didn't take another shot), Gong Gong, Jai and Teng (who is not so thrilled now that the spotlight has turned to him)

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* The Loh's are thrilled too

The ceremony took place at Sentosa’s Tanjong Beach Club. As it turns out, Phoebe’s dream was to get married at the beach and while the gray skies and initial drizzle drowned out hopes for a ceremony against a golden sunset, the beach was really quite beautiful.

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Highlights:

A COUPLE WHO BOTHERS

I was a couldn’t-care-less bride with a husband who cared even less. Choon and Phoebe, however, really put in the effort, procuring all sorts of knicks and knacks from taobao to make their solemnization special.

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* Jo in the Bride's chair

And they looked amazing, from Choon’s suspenders (Jo hated them because she thought they looked weird but I thought it was quirky) to Phoebe’s fairytale gown and flower headdress.

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The only spoiler was the club’s sound system. The mike refused to work for the couple (and only the couple because it worked fine for me and the solemnizer, I think it could have been where they were standing) and their self-penned wedding vows were unheard by the guests.

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* The solemnizer, the cameraman, Gong Gong (first witness) and the second unpictured witness, Phoebe's dad

MY FLOWER GIRL DAUGHTERS

I’ve never said this but I’ve really wanted the girls to be flower girls, since they were young. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because I thought they were cute.

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* Jai - who IS a member of our family and who is so proud that Choon has gotten married - taking photos in the background

I wish I were a little more ambitious in my dreams for the girls, like wanting them to be doctors or lawyers or do well in school. But no. All I want is for them to walk in front of a wedding looking pretty and throwing flowers out of a basket. The girls were very unwilling at first, they felt they were too old. But when Mum is stubborn about something, no one can say no.

Phoebe got them baskets and head-dresses, and bought the red rose petals, while I managed to buy $20 dresses for them from Uniqlo, thank God for Uniqlo. Shoes, they didn’t have anything suitable, so they went barefoot. I thought it was very apt for the beach.

They even put on make-up, of their own accord. They grabbed what they call “pinker” from my makeup bag (it’s a cheek tint) and applied a light lip balm I bought for them from before.

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MOTHER-DAUGHTER PERFORMANCE


That’s me on violin and Por Por on piano, playing the Kanon in D for the first march-in, where Phoebe comes in with her dad.

What’s funny were the two little kids who were completely adorable in not-knowing-what’s-going-on, and when Lu ran out of rose petals. She started off liberally spraying them out, then dwindling to one petal per throw, and realizing at somewhere around the 1:25 mark that she had very little left. Then she did some air throwing before giving up altogether.

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* Por Por with maracas which she borrowed from her school

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* Por Por with keyboard which she borrowed from her friend. Yay for Por Por and her kang tao!

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* Performing in ghetto conditions: Trying to make sure the pedal doesn't get sandy, and a speaker brought from home

ME AND OFFSPRING PERFORMANCE


How nice to be able to play in a band where every member has been in my belly. Hahahaha! I’ve wanted to type that sentence since they were born!

Phoebe requests for Bruno Mar’s Marry You, at the last part of the ceremony, and we put it together. Basically I instruct and assign, it’s terribly easy because there’s just four chords and I’m the only one who has to do all the work. But then why do the girls look so stressed and miserable?

FOOD

The food was excellent. But I was too busy eating to take photographs.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

42

Along with the girls, within the same week, I age a year. It does register dimly that if I don't live past 80, I'm past the mid-point. 

And perhaps now is the time for mid-life crisis if it should come. What applies to me - from a brief cursery look at online material - is that as my children are getting more and more independent, I am suddenly freed up to do all the things I could never think about earlier.

And if I compare myself to my peers, it is now that I might start to feel inadequate (because in the past it was always - No time to compare, too busy with kids...)

I do wonder these days: Can I do XX better, or achieve XX, since I seem to have more room for myself now? And is it my last chance to try XX because I'm going to be 50 soon?

But I highly doubt I will go through the mid-life crisis stages: Shock, denial, depression, anger, acceptance. Not so dramatic, lah.

The day itself, 16 March, is earmarked for the diligent completion of homework because our March holiday week is so chock-full of activity its absurd.

But at night, I sneak out for a solo late-night viewing of Beauty and the Beast which I thoroughly enjoy, sitting next to a strange man, also solo, who guffawed loudly at many parts in the movie. I don’t know why.

On my birthday, I just want to be alone. 

A few days before, however, we did a hotel stay at the same place with the cascading plants and heavenly water.

There were no other plans to do anything else on the island. I only wanted to be surrounded by nature, and its as invigorating as ever. 

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* In the warm comforting embrace of the hot chlorine-free jacuzzi, friendly to eczema-prone skin, and which makes Day very sleepy

Sometimes I think it'd be nice to get a laptop and retreat there to stay for two weeks, where I can also do my work. (but then the hotel only has Wifi at very selected spots to maintain the back-to-nature, tech-free approach. That is the one thing KK hates about it)

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* Feasting on over-priced coconut ice-cream which we unfortunately love. Day is stressed because he has to share, whole family shares two scoops which a $10 bill just about covers

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* Strolling along the amazing path of mosaic animals leading to the Merlion

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* Jo using her present, a brand-new eye mask! (she lost the Delta Airlines one)

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* Jo examining a stevia leaf before putting it in her mouth (it's sweet) and Lu taking photos of Bibi, at the rooftop nursery

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

jo's 11

Jo found Lu’s birthday do very lame indeed: Home-cooked food, games at home, where’s the fun?

She didn’t want to invite anyone either.

But she had grand plans requiring a tad more money than Lu’s celebration, which she outlined in Powerpoint slides so she could make a presentation to me.


1234 from SM Wong

The girl loves her Powerpoint. Aligning text, putting in pictures, cropping them to her exacting standards, and best of all, making transitions between slides. You know, the way the slide opens like a curtain on a stage or crumples up like a paper ball or folds into a paper airplane… she loves the effects. (which unfortunately can’t show up here)

So there was a slight change in order and we started off with her favourite, Japanese food. We had it at a restaurant I passed by and which I was curious about, serving Japanese buffet, the sort where you choose what you want from the menu and they cook it there and then for you, as many items as you want, for a fixed price per head.

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Every time a dish came, Jo stopped us from eating and faithfully took photos with her phone – she is starting to remind me of some women I know.

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* Erm.... girls... Lu is using a camera

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* Jo's collage of some of her food photos

She seemed to enjoy the meal. But at the end of it, she smiled a little bit and said, “It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.”

Urgh.

Then it was on to Bounce, the trampoline park.

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Yes it was a Saturday, and it was absolute mayhem, the photo doesn't do justice. How I long, long, long for the days when there was only one quiet little-known trampoline park in Singapore. The space was teeming with sweaty jumpers, like ants on an ant hill, with plenty of big groups, so much so that the staff had to enforce five-minute rotations. Like, you can jump here for five minutes before you have to move on to another spot. The rule – only one person can bounce on each trampoline - was a huge challenge because everywhere I turned (I jumped too) every trampoline was occupied.

There were also queues at the obstacle course.

The last in her three-part birthday do was her chocolate cake.

Four Leaves – fortuitously a humble bakery where a cake costing $28 or $30 is enough to make us very happy – has become our cake place of choice. We really like the cakes there. Nothing pretentious, nothing organic, nothing gluten-free, nothing too sweet, nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive, nothing very Instagram-worthy. Just simple, honest, tasty cakes for regular birthday celebrations which we can finish in one sitting.

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Jo wanted a chocolate cake with “lots of crunchy bits inside” and there happened to be a cake there by the name of Coco Exotic which fit the bill perfectly. She loved it, lapped it all up, especially the extra-thick base of crunchy hazelnutty bits, and was most put out when I finished the last slice.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

lu's 9

Lu’s last single-digit birthday.

She dreams and plans for the day weeks in advance.

I think, she might want an outing perhaps. Or this may be the year when one of my kids finally wants to have a party with other kids apart from their siblings, something happening, something exciting, a Party PARTY!

But no.

True to form, her wants are simple, she plans and writes it all out weeks in advance.

Where? Her grandparent’s house.
Activities? Balloons and bubbles.
Food? Meringue (she’s been dreaming of meringues for a long time), chocolate Cadbury mini-eggs and fried rice.
Cake: Strawberry shortcake from Four Leaves.
Guests? David and Jody.

I ask her, repeatedly: Your guests are David and Jody only ah?

She is very certain. Even though there is plenty of “I hate Jody”s and “I hate David”s flying around all day, she maintains: I only want my family. Just like last year.

I spend half a day procuring all the ingredients for her party with her alone. She is all smiles as I hold her hand and we go around ticking off all the items on her list, from ordering her dream cake, to finding a little HDB heartland shop which sells all manner of balloons, and finally locating the elusive meringues.

(Actually she led me there, because she passed by the shop once a long time ago and she never forgot that it sold meringues. It didn't taste very nice though, wasn't fresh)

The big day, we head to Gong Gong and Por Por’s house after lunch. It's a bit odd when the trio yell - Let's go! It's Party Time! - and it honestly feels like just another day when we're going over for meals and whatnot. 

Lu had organised and packed all of her party stuff, including her siblings' swimming clothes, into plastic bags with labels, and we carted it all over with cake and Bibi.

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* Lulu's stash of goodies for birthday fun

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* Filling up the water balloons, which is really dreadful work because we bought the cheap super-thin type which is impossible to tie

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* The kids manage... small fingers

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* An hour of effort, all exploded in five minutes

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* Fun with water, before water prices go up in July. Jo is making it "rain" by directing the water hose up onto the underside of the umbrella

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* Break between water balloons for the cartoon, Moana. Day and Jo are feasting on longans in syrup, another of Lulu's wants

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* Teng joining in the fun

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* Setting up outside, in a bid to find a different spot for birthday cake cutting ceremonies

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* Lulu's favourite cake in the whole wide world. It's special this time because her name is on it. Most times I buy off the rack and there's no writing, but by pre-ordering, we can write stuff. I didn't know that

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* With a flower headband from Phoebe meant for flower girl duties but which is also great for birthdays

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* Some of us are standing in the fountain area, which is bone dry. After a whole bunch of fish died from some air pump mechanical failure, Gong Gong never wanted to keep fish again so the fountain's useless

Lu was utterly thrilled and so, so happy. To her, the day was perfect.