Monday, May 15, 2017

mother’s day

Breakfast (supposed to be in bed but I told them very nicely I'd prefer to eat in the kitchen) by the girls.


(Only unlike Day, who had to go out, the girls are not enthusiastic cooks and they rouse KK up from slumber to fry up the bacon and mushrooms and egg).

And sweet cards.

Choice quotes:

Without you we wouldn’t survive for long.

You are always so kind to me, and even though you don’t have a pretty face, your personality outstands (sic) you on the inside.

I don’t think a great mother like you deserves a careless, clumsy and forgetful child like me.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

penmanship opportunity

Choon and Phoebe’s wedding cards - for the formal hotel wedding event in July - are breathtakingly heavy and classy.

I was entranced by the four triangular “gates” of impossibly intricate cut-out motifs which fold over the ivory invitation.


I love writing nice fonts, and the moment I saw those cards I was dying to write on them.

I mean, what opportunity is there to display penmanship these days? Who cares about handwriting?

We used to practice cursive writing in school, but the kids these days don’t even do that. I’ve had to teach the trio how to write in cursive and mind you it doesn’t come naturally. And my "training" is so sporadic they're hardly proficient.

My mum, who has the neatest handwriting, also jumps at the chance and writes on the cards meant for the elders.

I do Choon and Phoebe’s guests.

I ventured to Art Friend and gleefully purchased a calligraphy pen with three different-sized nibs for about $20.


The time outs I took to write those cards, in between doing the laundry and working on articles, were truly pleasurable. It’s so therapeutic.


Jo and Lu, taking turns to slot the invites into the “gates” and then the entire piece into the envelopes, completed the card conveyer belt.


I think I wrote perfectly well but in response to my offer to write her wedding invites, Jo declared – “No Mama I’ll get a professional. You made some mistakes.”

(chiefly being that the words on the envelopes were occasionally off-centre)

And now that I’m done writing, the girls can use the pen for… homework charts.

* Lu's chart

* My practice sheet

Thursday, May 11, 2017

lu the accompanist

Lu’s makes her school talent show debut!

Her classmate’s mum asks if Lu can accompany her flautist daughter for an item. I think, why not?

She passes me the piano score for the Radetsky March. No way Lu can manage the jumps and octaves.

I simplify it for Lu into the base chords so its easy, and teach her over the weekend.

The most important thing to do, I tell her, is to always, always, always listen to and follow Carolynn.

And with Carolynn, away she goes! It's a fun song!

 * This video is of their practice. The show itself is far too noisy

I think it might be her last time though. Like her jie jie, she doesn't like the stage.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

eczema update

The weather’s turned hot. 

Well its blistering hot and raining in turn, but as I was sweltering under the full blast of the fan the other day, I suddenly realized I wasn't scratching.

This was exactly the kind of hot, wet weather which would have caused weepy patches to bloom anew on my fingers and legs in the past, throughout my 20s and most of my 30s.

They don’t come back anymore, and I'm not taking anything.

Aside from an occasional itch, I just realized they haven’t haunted me for a while. I think it's been about six years since I visited the homeopath. Even when they return, its with decreasing intensity, until it hardly bothers me. 

I don’t know if it was the homeopathy, generally getting healthier (more exercise and sleep, less stress) or staying completely clear of Western meds especially antibiotics. 

It may well return at some point, but for now, I’m just very, very grateful for my state of skin.

So while the weather is horrible, it makes me smile to realize I’m just hot and sweaty, like normal people, and not itchy or battling a skin infection.

Maybe I can even start swimming regularly again.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

dissolved shell

Lu’s many attempts at doing strange things often fail.

Mainly because it requires some too-weird ingredient and she improvises, or I didn’t help. Like the time she tried to make drawings with salt she dyed. Or when she follows Youtube instructions and its far too complex.

The other day she finally scored. Really, its finally, because she's had so many fails.

She saw on Youtube that immersing an egg in vinegar would melt off the shell, leaving a bouncy rubbery ball.

The egg smelled really bad and sour (to me anyway, because I hate vinegar and the egg had absorbed it) but it worked! 

* Remnants of shell clinging on

The egg bounced, once, twice, and then the thin membrane split and the runny egg thudded into the sink, but she was delighted!

Friday, May 05, 2017

terrarium gift

I suddenly decided that I wanted to thank a few people who slogged their butts off to make the Tainan trip possible for us.

I thought I’d make them mosaic pictures, or terrariums. (See, all these crafty classes can be put to good use!)

I imagined a tree (the cactus lah), a bench, a streetlight, a pond and a character. I just went down to the shop to buy what I needed to make at home.

It was dead easy. Except for the characters.

See, I wanted each terrarium to be customized with a character resembling the person I was giving it to. In my head, I figured I would fashion it with the girls’ coloured eraser clay – like making Playdoh, simple right? – bake it so it’d harden, apply a coat of laquer, fix a pin on the base and stick it into the soil.

I didn’t think that with lao hua yan it’d be hell trying to make the tiny little people.

I employed Lu’s help. Showed her the pictures of my friends, she did a great job following the hairstyles and their attires. I busted my eyes out making the instruments and drawing the lines, but gave up at the bows. How to make stick-like bows?

Then I sprayed the coat of laquer. It wouldn’t set, not after days. Instead it left a sticky veneer so it felt like a licked lollipop.

* They're about 3cm tall. My eyes!

I sprayed over and over, to no avail. It stayed stubbornly sticky. I couldn’t use the sticky people. It’d be icky to touch and would collect dust. I had to junk them. Lu was broken-hearted. I was completely pissed for not testing first.

I made another set, this time without Lu’s help because she was most put out. I busted my eyes out again.

And because I had run out of brown for the instruments, I had to use orange and because I used orange, I couldn’t use it for the skin and had to resort to yellow.

The girls thought the characters looked horrible. Like they had jaundice.

Well it’s the thought that counts.



Wednesday, May 03, 2017

tainan: in one post

We stayed four days, which isn’t very long, and spent most of it rehearsing and performing, so we didn’t see very much.

But Tainan is quite lovely. It’s Taiwan’s oldest city and it doesn’t appear touristy – a local tells us that it was only in recent years that there have been more things for tourists to do – but reminds me of Japan in its prettiness and the way the light strikes it.

Its also not city-ish. Our hotel with its attached mall is the only high-rise for acres around. Most developments are low. When we get there, the air is a shade cooler than that in Singapore.

Oh and everyone gets around on scooters. Including kids (sitting at the adult's feet) and pets.




We played thrice: at the Xinying Cultural Centre (to a paying audience), at a private dinner (hosted by our Taiwanese sponsor who happens to own a company manufacturing iPhone cases) and at a museum (to members of the public).

(These performances were what the loaned violin was for)

* Xinying Cultural Centre

* (Impressive) wheelchair-friendly slots at Xinying

* A giant briefcase art installation at Xinying

* Rehearsing at the Chimei Museum, standing around and trying to prop up our scores as we have no stands

* Chimei Museum, which is as echo-y as the average toilet

The audience is very enthusiastic, more than those in Singapore.

I learn that while there is no lack of fantastic soloists in Tainan, there are few string ensemble groups and even fewer which play unique arrangements.

So what we bring over is very refreshing, especially when we perform the Singapore-arranged versions of Taiwanese hits like Gan Lan Shu (Olive Tree) and Ku Sha (Sands of Sorrow).


My room-mate is Kathleen, a violinist and fellow mum who is going away from her children for the first time since they were born.

* Kathleen savouring the feeling of being alone. We two enjoyed a dinner of beef soup and rice

In some ways, we both felt like we were being released from prison.

She kept going shopping on her own, reveling in being able to walk around without toddlers hanging around her knees, while I took every opportunity to have fun.

In the hotel, we both marveled at how easy it was to keep the room and toilet neat and clean. We completely understood each other’s ecstasy.


I’ve only sung karaoke twice in Singapore, but how can I not sing karaoke in Taiwan?

I pop over with three boys on our last night, two Taiwanese and one Singaporean.

* Christoven, me, our incredible Taiwanese "tour guide" and friend Hsu Ko

It’s a blast. The auntie screams her way through Mariah and Whitney (I didn’t pick those songs, the boys sabo-ed me).

It’s dirt cheap, with food throw in to the package, fabulous individual microphones for each of us, disco lights and an attached bathroom.


We head out to an out-of-the-way pier with walls of oyster shells and sit down at dirty knee-high tables.


The best meal I had in Tainan was a tub of oysters freshly pried from the seawater.


Encrusted with barnacles and algae and whatnot, the oysters are laid – flat side facing up – on a hot grill. The seawater inside is boiled, the oyster dies, and we know its time when the shell pops open with a hiss, like what you hear when water over-boils. We slurp.

* Hsu Ko demonstrating how its done


No sauce, no nothing. Just pure freshly-killed oyster in briny boiling hot seawater which explodes in the mouth and slides down the throat. It is amazing.

* Small but so fresh and packed with flavour

Cost? We paid a fixed fee, a pittance, for the entire excursion which included a trip out to sea, and we could have kept on asking for more oysters only I didn’t think it’d be good to eat more than 20.

* Someone's dog at the oyster fest. People there seem to love toy dogs, plenty of them around


This is Taiwan’s delight, the night markets. Packed shoulder-to-shoulder, we jostle with the locals (who head there for late-night suppers or to buy cheap stuff) and stuff ourselves with mostly fried food.

* Eric (in blue) and wife playing a kind of pinball

* Big fat squid

* Nok the Thai boy trying out smelly beancurd

Not my thing, fried food, so one visit is sufficient.


Food in Tainan is curiously sweet. So the batter from the fried stuff would be sweet-ish.

I learn that sugar was a treasured commodity in the past and it was considered a privilege and honour to be able to eat it. That has persisted, and sweetness now laces most of the food.

* Sorbet-ish ice cream with peanut and coriander wrapped in popiah skin. It sounds wrong but it works right


Funny I just blogged about trying out good violins, because in Tainan we were treated to a rare show-and-tell of the Chimei Museum’s string instrument collection.

Who knew this museum in this corner of Taiwan has one of the most impressive and valuable collections of old instruments in the world?

* Eye-catching. A gutted-out double bass's second life as a shelf

It was paid for by a self-made Taiwanese billionaire, who grew up poor but along the way fell in love with the sound of the violin and taught himself to play. When the money came rolling in from his plastics manufacturing businesses, he started acquiring instruments.

The collection is apparently the world’s most comprehensive in breadth and depth (in 2012, nearly 1,200 instruments by 904 makers and 603 bows by 300 makers) and plenty of classical music big shots borrow them. These are instruments worth millions and are centuries old.

(I hear the collector's wife, however, thinks he is purchasing over-priced planks of wood)

* Curator Dai-Ting Chung

Funny thing is, after the curator lovingly went through the entire row of violins all lined up in front of him, nobody dared to go up and play because it’d be like a performance and would be too freaking stressful. I mean, even our decorated soloist was reluctant.

* Say Ming finally relents

* Shue Churn taking a video of Juan

It was only later when the formal session had been disbanded that people went up to touch.


(No, I didn’t. I didn’t think I was worthy. And I had nightmares I’d do something stupid like drop it.)


That's the best part isn't it? Just having fun with old and new friends.

* Kenneth, Zeng Ying, Ye Zhi, Nok

* Out on the streets enjoying the stellar tea of Tainan

Monday, May 01, 2017

tainan: purpose

Another solo trip. I’m a naughty mummy!

This time, there’s a more credible purpose. re: mix was invited to perform in the Tainan Arts Festival in Taiwan. (I think the last time we went overseas was to Hong Kong)

There’s so much “waaaah” behind that sentence, but what actually happened was just serendipity and luck and sheer hard work.

One of our group cellists, Jiamin, a Taiwanese lady with sparkling energy, happened to be a very well-connected and respected cello teacher back in Taiwan before she came to Singapore with her husband.

She floated the idea of our group performing for the arts fest, the answer – against her expectations – was yes.

She made it happen, from successfully getting a family friend to sponsor part of the cost, flying back and forth between Singapore and Taiwan to sell tickets, marshalling the staff of the music management company she ran in Taiwan to design and publicise and organize and God knows what else we don’t know.

* (top) Jiamin, with the violinist who doubled up as organizer on the Singapore side, Bing Ling

Aside from how we were treated like Kings and Queens by the incredibly hospitable Taiwanese, It’s the most well-organized concert we’ve ever done in our 11-year history.

We’ve never had so many, and such beautifully designed collaterals: Logo, stickers, concert programme, a tote bag. We even had escorts, for God’s sake, like we were some sort of celebrity pop group.

* The five youthful "escorts" from our "management" team presenting one of us (seated) with the tote bags and complimentary, er, perfumes, during a stupendous buffet dinner where the dessert section alone looked like an entire pastry shop

(all thanks to Jiamin. I still don't know where all the funding came from but I am so eternally grateful)

* Happy, shiny, classy things!

* We love our tote bag 

* A close-up of the brilliant logo for good measure

KK and the kids only found out a week before I  was going, that I was going. It took me that long to confess, as it came a fortnight after Melbourne.

Good thing nobody really flinched. It was a matter of "Ha? Again?" and life went on.

Saturday, April 29, 2017


The letter arrives just before he turned 13.



He’s a pre-enlistee now, and is officially on the Government's radar.

Any time he leaves Singapore for over three months, we need to inform them.

The boy has started on the road to becoming a soldier.

The next five years or so will just flash past.

A whisper of terror slakes up my spine when I open the letter, but at the same time I thiknk Day will do very fine. 

He might even love the Army and just like what it did for his father, it might even make him stronger in body and mind.

Thursday, April 27, 2017



Nine years later.