Aly’s first picnic at Botanic Gardens

It’s been a long time since Ys and I went for a picnic together. In fact, not since we got married! I guess it’s because it sounds like such a chore, having to prep for the picnic, and the weather in Singapore is either too hot or too rainy for pinics!

About a couple of weeks back though, we thought it would be nice to bring Aly on a picnic. We felt we had been spending too much time at the malls and indoors and wanted to allow her to experience the great outdoors. So last Sunday, we decided it shall be Picnic Day!

Honestly, I learnt that a picnic can be as fuss free as you want it to be! There is no need to prepare a feast for the picnic. For the picnic last Sunday, we put together a simple picnic basket consisting of baby yoghurt and baby biscuits for Aly, cheese sausages and bread (with a bottle of mustard) for Ys and myself, two bottles of ginger ale and a box of strawberries! That was it! It took us maybe only about 20 minutes to put everything together? Throw in a camera, a mat, and a bottle of bubble solution to keep Aly occupied, and we were all ready for Aly’s first picnic! Sounds simple enough, no?

We arrived at the Botanic Gardens at about 9.30am and I was concerned that it was getting a little warm but was quite pleased to find a huge lawn in front of the symphony stage which had a shaded patch. The place was already filled with families with picnic mats, dads and sons with their soccer balls, young couples playing catch with their dogs and groups of friends, by the time we arrived.

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The huge (shaded) grass patch in front of symphony stage

We chose a spot, laid our picnic mat, and started tucking in!

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Aly, pleased with her yoghurt and watching a family play ball

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Aly loves her strawberries

Aly was kept really entertained, just people watching. She was particularly excited about the dogs that were running around the grass patch. Lots of kids were running around and playing freely too, and it’s easy to forget that you’re in Singapore with all that greenery and space.

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Aly made a friend

We had a great time and look forward to more picnics at the Botanic Gardens. Makes for a great (and cheap) family outing! Aly obviously enjoyed herself and was all smiles that morning. Hope you enjoyed your first picnic, dear Aly!

All smiles!

So much fun!

Do you have a favourite picnic spot?

Carpe Diem – Young Love from an Old Perspective

I am sharing this piece of writing which warmed my heart. Extracted from the online edition of The New York Times and written by Eve Pell, who is the author of “We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante.”

The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap
By EVE PELL
Published: January 24, 2013

Sam and I dated for two years. Then, when I turned 70 and he 80, we had a joint 150th birthday party and announced our engagement. We married a year later.

We came from very different backgrounds. Sam, a Japanese-American who had been interned in the camps during World War II, worked his way through college and was happily married to his Japanese-American wife for more than 40 years until her death. I grew up as a fox-hunting debutante whose colonial New York ancestors were lords of the manor of Pelham. Typical of my much-married family, I had been divorced twice.

We belonged to the same San Francisco-area running club. He was a rarity — a charming, fit, single man of 77. I wanted to get to know him better.

I devised a plan. Our mutual friend Janet had in her house a small movie theater that seated about a dozen people; she often had parties there. I called her. “This is very seventh grade,” I began. “But I’d like you to invite Sam to one of your screenings. I’ll come to any movie he’s coming to.”

Soon after, she called. “He’s coming on Thursday.”

There were 8 or 10 of us there that evening. After the movie, as we were all standing around and chatting, someone mentioned “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a new film about Che Guevara.

“I’d like to see that,” I said.

“I would too,” Sam said. Short pause. I held my breath. He looked at me. “Would you like to go?”

Squelching the urge to high-five Janet, I said yes. We set a date for the following week; he’d meet me at the theater. But when the day came, our movie was sold out.

What to do? We looked at what else was playing and chose “Sideways.” I have only a vague memory of some plot about men and wine, but a sharp memory of sitting next to Sam. And when “Sideways” was over, we decided that since we hadn’t met our objective, we’d see “The Motorcycle Diaries” another day.

Sam and I began running together. Early on, however, I was faced with a dilemma. At a half-marathon in Humboldt County, he went out fast and was way ahead. But as the miles went by, I crept closer and closer and I could see, from the way he was running, that I had more energy left. What to do? Should I beat him and risk his being resentful? Some men really hate being bested by a woman.

I could slow down and let him beat me, but that would be patronizing to him and make me resentful. Then I thought, “If he gets annoyed that I ran faster, he’s not the man for me.” So I sped up, patted him on the behind, and said, “Come on!” I ran on to the finish and, as it happened, he couldn’t keep up. But I needn’t have worried. Sam didn’t get upset — in fact, he seemed pleased I had run well. And so we grew together.

Sam and I often ate at Chinese restaurants where I received some fortune cookies that truly lived up to their name. Two of my favorites:

“Persevere with your plans and you will marry your love.”

“Stop searching forever. Happiness is just next to you.”

One evening at the movies, after we had been seeing each other for several weeks, I felt his hand on mine. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can recapture the moment: the dark of the theater, the warmth of his hand, my happiness. One might not expect an old grandmother to feel a surge of romance, but I did, and I knew that his reaching out was a brave gesture. I reciprocated, inviting him in for tea when he took me home. I have a narrow, uncomfortable sofa in my living room, poorly designed for intimacy, but nevertheless that was where we sat, and that was where we kissed before he went home.

There was a complication: I could feel that Sam was conflicted about our budding relationship because of his loyalty to his wife, Betty, who had died six years before. In my younger years I would have felt competitive, as if his love for her meant less for me. Now I knew differently, and one night I spoke my mind.

“I know that you loved Betty very much, and I have great respect for your marriage,” I began. “But I think you have room in your heart for me, too.”

He hugged me and went home.

Several days later he asked, “Are you going to run the 5K in Carmel next week?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like to go together?”

“Yes.” I had no idea what he had in mind, but that became clear a few days later. We were talking after a run; Sam looked bashfully down at his shoes as he said: “I have made a reservation in Carmel for a room with one bed. Is that O.K.?” It was.

I realized that the last time he had been dating was in the early 1950s, before his marriage, and he had entirely missed the change in customs of the ’60s and ’70s. When he began staying over at my house, he always stopped the newspaper at his house so the neighbors wouldn’t know what was going on. But for all his adherence to decorum, he was a true romantic.

A few months later, when we were both in Europe on separate trips, we met in Barcelona. This was a leap. Traveling together in a foreign country would be a more exacting test of our relationship than our jaunts to movies and races. But in this, as in almost everything else, Sam was perfect. When I arrived at our hotel, he was there with wine, chocolates and flowers. For all our anxiety about traveling together, we meshed. On the flight home, Sam declared, “We must never travel separately again.”

From then on, we were well and truly together. We had few outside pressures: He was retired with a comfortable pension; I was a freelance writer with an outside income; our middle-aged children were on their own. We had nothing to do but love each other and be happy. Sam and I did things younger people do — we ran and raced, we fell in love and traveled and remodeled a house and got married.

After the ceremony, we flew to Hawaii. “You must never call this a honeymoon,” he told me. “That way no one can ever say that the honeymoon is over.”

We traveled to Italy to compete in the 2007 World Masters Athletics Championships (what I fondly call “The Geriatric Olympics”), where we both won gold medals in our respective age brackets: 70 to 74 for me and 80 to 84 for Sam. At home, we planted a garden; I finished writing a memoir. Every morning we did push-ups; every evening we sat on the rim of our bathtub and flossed our teeth. He called me “sweetheart.” He never forgot an anniversary, including our first movie date. I gave him flowers on Betty’s birthday.

OLD LOVE is different. In our 70s and 80s, we had been through enough of life’s ups and downs to know who we were, and we had learned to compromise. We knew something about death because we had seen loved ones die. The finish line was drawing closer. Why not have one last blossoming of the heart?

I was no longer so pretty, but I was not so neurotic either. I had survived loss and mistakes and ill-considered decisions; if this relationship failed, I’d survive that too. And unlike other men I’d been with, Sam was a grown-up, unafraid of intimacy, who joyfully explored what life had to offer. We followed our hearts and gambled, and for a few years we had a bit of heaven on earth.

Then one day the tear duct in Sam’s right eye didn’t work, and soon his eye began to bulge. One misdiagnosis and failed treatment followed another until there was a biopsy. A week later his doctor called to say Sam had stage 4 cancer that he would not survive.

There was the agony of Sam’s fight to live, which he waged with grace and courage. Desperate to lessen his suffering, I learned to give hospital nurses $20 Starbucks cards to get special care for him. Every day I brought him bowls of his favorite watermelon balls. But one morning he couldn’t eat even those, and a few hours later he died.

Not only was I happy during my short years with Sam, I knew I was happy. I had one of the most precious blessings available to human beings — real love. I went for it and found it.

I yearn desperately for Sam. But the current pain is very worth it. He and I often told each other, “We are so lucky.” And we were. Young love, even for old people, can be surprisingly bountiful.

{Saturday Morning Snapshot} – Breakfast with Grandparents

Saturday has got to be my favourite day of the week and Saturday mornings are especially precious. I get to laze in bed and cuddle Aly for a bit without having to rush to somewhere or worry about getting something done. I wake up happy, well rested and all excited about the weekend ahead.

That’s why I thought the Saturday Morning Snapshot idea started by Wee Stories is such a great idea. Basically, you can take a snapshot of anything or anyone on a Saturday morning, upload it onto your blog and link up with Wee Stories. That way, the pictures tell a story of what happens every weekend and these pictures will serve as a reminder of good times. Do link up if you’re interested!

This morning, my parents came to pick Aly and I up for breakfast since Ys was working. We spent the morning having breakfast together and catching up, and laughing at all of Aly’s silly antics. I’m thankful that I have pockets of time like these with them. Although we do have dinners with my parents on weekday nights (when we pick Aly), I am often exhausted by the time I reach their house and we are always in a rush to leave to head home to wash up, put Aly to bed and get some rest ourselves. So it’s nice to be able to spend some quality time with them on a Saturday morning!

Aly obviously really enjoys their company too! Here’s a picture of them, which was taken at my place after breakfast!

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Wee Stories

Gem in the East – Penny University

I love good coffee and I love pretty cafes but it’s not easy to find both at the same time.

Hip coffee joints have been sprouting up across Singapore in the last two years but never in the east where I live! The closest was Loysel’s toy, which is still considered central rather than east.

So I was really excited when I learnt about Penny University opening along east coast road. I have been hearing rave reviews about this cafe (esp about the desserts) but never had the opportunity to check it out until last Saturday. It had been raining the entire day and we were in need of our coffee fix, and was thinking of a place where we could just chill out, and enjoy a cuppa and a dessert. So we decided it shall be Penny University.

It is located along east coast road (beside margarita’s) near the junction of east coast road and telok kurau road. Parking can be a problem but we managed to find parking along telok kurau road near the junction.

It’s a charming little coffee joint with an indie laid-back vibe – has 2 booth seats, about 7 or 8 tables for smaller groups of 2 or 3, and a bigger communal table (which is a concept that is gaining popularity these days). I liked that it was casual and fuss free. You get your own seats, order and pay at the counter, and your food and drinks get delivered to you.

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They have a small menu consisting of sandwiches, all-day breakfast items, and daily selection of pies, pastries and cakes. Coffee orders are straightforward – either espresso with milk or espresso without milk. I love small menus. It means I spend less time angsting over what to order and it usually also means these guys know what they are good at and keep to it.

We got ourselves espresso with milk. Some may find the coffee a tad too acidic for their liking but I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much I dropped the sugar. We also ordered a lemon strawberry tart to share. I may not have tasted many lemon tarts in the last three decades of my life but can I just say that this has to be my favourite by far. The smooth lemon filling was refreshing, not too sour and not too sweet, and just tangy enough for me.

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We intended to only have coffee and dessert but couldn’t resist ordering cheese toasties with marmite and poached eggs from their all-day breakfast menu to share. All I can say is, it was yumz. I thought it was worth every cent of the 6 bucks we paid! The poached eggs were done well, the bread was toasted to perfection and I loved the marmite, cheese and poached eggs combi to bits!

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Ok, granted we didn’t get to chill out much since we had Aly with us (toddlers and chilling out are mutually exclusive) but we really enjoyed the food and coffee and will definitely return. For date night perhaps?

What’s your favourite cafe in your neighborhood?

**Just a note, it’s not a kid friendly place (and I am not surprised and don’t blame them). I asked for a baby chair and was told they didn’t have one, so we ended up taking turns to have Aly sit on our laps. Tight spaces between the tables also mean that strollers may not be that practical.

Penny University
402 East Coast Road
Singapore 428997

Aly at 14 months

So I missed Aly’s 12th month and 13th month update amidst all the moving and unpacking! The other day I was trying to recall when she started sitting up on her own and when she started crawling and could not for the life of me remember! The past 14 months have just been a blur and passing all too quickly. I shall be more diligent in recording all these milestones! So yes, I shall continue my monthly updates!

Here’s her 14 month update:

Feeds: I have successfully weaned her off breastmilk after a very very long and painful process. She’s now on formula milk (I really miss nursing her though.) she eats pretty much whatever we eat now. She loves food and never says no to food. I’m definitely not complaining! Her favourites are bread and fruits. We call her the bread monster. Haha.

Speech: she can say papa, mama, nainai (paternal grandmother), yeye (paternal grandfather), ah ma, teh (I dunno why she replaces ah gong with teh. It’s hilarious!), yi (for ah yi), duck, nana (banana), boo (book or peak a boo), bor (ball), poo (swimming pool, pull, poo poo, how versatile), per (apple), mum mum (food), tar (star), tee (tree), egg, ah (up), more, bad (bread).

Sleep: I FINALLY HAVE UPDATES!! Ever since we moved into our new place, Aly has been sleeping on a mattress in her own room! Since I have weaned her off breastmilk, I have also officially given up my giant pacifier title. She now falls asleep on her own (with me lying beside her) after her usual bedtime routine!! I used to have to sing to her but now I just cuddle her and keep very quiet. After rolling around for a while, she falls asleep on her own! She wakes up once or twice in the middle of the night still, but falls asleep promptly after I cuddle her for a bit. She has stopped middle of the night feeds and only drinks milk in the morning after she wakes up now. I am so very pleased! Have been getting a lot more restful sleep as compared to the past few months. Still praying she will sleep through the night soon. Slowly but surely, we are getting there!

Motor skills: she is still cruising and can move around very quickly so long as she has support. However she has this great fear of falling and refuses to stand on her own, or to attempt to walk. She is able to throw a ball towards us and will attempt to catch it when we throw it back.

Other developments: Aly is really affectionate and is now super generous with her hugs. She shares her food with all of us and would always attempt to feed us (and the soft toy, the character in a book, the giraffe on her bib etc). She is easily tickled and would throw her head back and laugh whenever we do or say something funny. Sometimes, she just laughs when we laugh, which causes us to laugh even more. Aly loves animals, especially dogs and gets really excited when she sees them. She loves books (yay) although all she does is flip the pages really quickly. She loves music and would automatically shake her body to the music (she loves that gangnam dance). She uses hand gestures and expressions to say “please”, “sorry” and “thank you”.

In this picture, she’s trying to feed some bread to a character in the iPad!

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Make-Up Disaster

I had a make-up disaster the other day. No, it was not the make-up on my face that was ruined. It was my MAC liquid eyeliner and the fact that Aly had her both hands covered in black liquid eyeliner when I emerged from the bathroom one weekday morning just before I was supposed to head out for work. Did I also mention that I was alone in the house, and already all ready for work?

Honestly when I came out of the bathroom and saw her sitting there with a guilty look and hands all covered in black eyeliner, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. I was definitely annoyed but I couldn’t bring myself to be angry at her (after all I was the one who left my make up lying around)!

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I really didn’t know where to begin though. I carried her to the shower area and begun the wash her hands, only to realise that I had bought WATERPROOF liquid eyeliner. Yes that conversation with the MAC saleslady came to mind.

Me: I want something that is waterproof. Like really long lasting and something that will not smudge.

Saleslady: don’t worry MAC has one of the best waterproof liquid eyeliners. Very long lasting.

Very nice.

Aly started grabbing at my legs because she was feeling scared with all that black stuff on her hands. Yay now I had eyeliner on my arms, leg and dress. I left her on the bathroom floor and scurried to grab some cotton wool so I could apply my eye make up remover (my dior eye make up remover. Sigh.) on her. When I turned around she had used her hands to wipe her face and head and now her whole face was covered with eyeliner. Obviously I didn’t have the sense of humour at that point to take a picture. On hindsight I should have. I’m sure I will be repeating this story for many years to come, even when she grows up.

Well after using about half bottle of my eye make up remover on her and myself, I did eventually make it to work. with black nails.

The surprises a kid brings.

{Review and Giveaway} The Shepherd’s Pie

I have always been a huge fan of meat pies, it’s my ultimate comfort food. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much of a pie culture in Singapore, and I’ve not been able to find what I deem a good pie….until I stumbled upon The Shepherd’s Pie, that is.

Ever since we moved in to our new place, we have been hosting a series of get togethers at our new home, and each time, I struggle with the question of what food to get for the party. It is a source of stress for me since I am not a good cook and with Aly, it is difficult for me to set aside the time to whip up some homemade food for the party (ok, I admit this is just an excuse. It’s really cos I can’t cook for nuts!). After a while, we also got tired of the usual pizzas and fast food. So, two weekends ago, when I invited my bunch of girlfriends over for tea, one of them suggested ordering from The Shepherd’s Pie and so we did. After some discussion, we decided on the classic chicken and black pepper beef pies.

I called The Shepherd’s Pie at their hotline, and was promptly directed to an operator who took down my orders. The process was simple and fuss free. For advance orders, it is also possible to place your orders online. On the day of the get together, the pies arrived piping hot within the stipulated one hour time frame, and payment is made upon delivery. Each pie is 9″ by 9″ and two pies were more than enough to feed a bunch of 8 girls and the husband, leaving all of us extremely stuffed but satisfied. The pies got a thumbs up from all my friends and were extremely well received.

Last Saturday, Ys and I decided to eat in because he wanted to stay home to watch a soccer match and we decided to order the Rendang Beef pie (since we were somewhat in an adventurous mood) from The Shepherd’s Pie again. It turned out to be the perfect (comforting) dinner for the cold and rainy Saturday evening.

The ultimate comfort food

The makings of a good pie – A golden crust of mashed potato.

Golden crust of mashed potato

Golden crust of mashed potato

Underneath the crisp crust is a layer of buttery smooth mashed potato and mozzarella cheese followed by a layer of flavourful beef stew, with generous amounts of onions, carrots, corn and spices.

A cross section of the pie

A cross section of the pie

I like how The Shepherd’s Pie adapted the traditional Rendang dish for their pies. The result of this fusion is an interesting one. I also liked that the coconut milk taste was not too rich nor overpowering, and was just enough to bring out the flavour of the ground beef. All I can say is, the creamy coconut base and mashed potato makes a perfect pairing, and is the ultimate comfort food. I have to confess though, after about two helpings, it got a little jelak which is why I would recommend this as a pie to share with friends or family! (Here’s a little tip – unfinished portions can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to two days and reheated whenever you want to have the pie again. It tastes just as good!)

It was also not as spicy as I imagined it to be. In fact, I thought the black pepper beef pie was spicier! So for those of you looking for pies with some punch, go for the black pepper beef/chicken pie. The black pepper pie is my current favourite, after trying three different flavours! Ys’ vote goes to the rendang beef pie though.

I also liked that all three pies we tried were not too salty (and this comes from someone who has a low tolerance for salty food), and is a welcoming change from all the salty take out food we consume everyday.

So, all in all, I am really pleased with both the service and quality of pies at The Shepherd’s Pie and foresee myself turning to them for future potlucks and gatherings. In fact, I would even order a pie from them if we are too lazy to head out to eat and would just like some comfort food for the weekend.

I should also mention that the pies from The Shepherd’s Pie are halal certified, which is great for us, since ys and I have quite a number of Muslim friends.

The different flavours available on the menu at The Sheperd’s Pie are:

  • Beef Options – Classic Beef, Black Pepper Beef, Rendang Beef
  • Chicken Options – Classic Chicken, Black Pepper Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken
  • Others – Veggie Lovers, Lamb Special

The Shepherd’s Pie is opened everyday, from 11.00am to 9.00pm and orders are taken from 11.30am to 8.30pm.

For same day deliveries, please call 6789 0707. For advance orders, you have an extra option of placing an order via their website.

Craving for a pie already? The Shepherd’s Pie has kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway for the readers of this blog! Just complete the following three simple steps by 21 January 2013 and you may be the lucky reader to have a piping hot pie of your choice (either Classic Chicken or Classic Beef) delivered to your doorstep!

  1. Like The Shepherd’s Pie facebook page.
  2. Leave a comment and let me know if you would like to have the Classic Chicken Pie or Classic Beef Pie and who you would like to share the pie with.
  3. In your comment, leave an email which I can contact you at should you win the giveaway.

Terms and Conditions of Giveaway:

  1. This giveaway is open to persons residing in Singapore only.
  2. Giveaway will end at 8pm on 21 January 2013.
  3. The winner of the giveaway will be chosen randomly via Random Picker.
  4. Results will be announced on this blog on 22 January 2013.
Good luck!
**UPDATED
Winner of the Giveaway is MIRACULE
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Disclaimer: I received a Beef Rendang Pie for the purposes of the review. All opinions stated herein are my own.

A photograph. A story.

“Take a moment to ask yourself what a portrait means to you. is it just a picture, or is it some small aspect of a person’s story that reflects a story of their life? assuredly there’s merit in nice-looking pictures, but a photographic portrait, a photograph of life, offers so much more. the difference can be subtle, but the impact is huge. a photographic portrait tells a story; it sings, it whispers, it’s something far beyond nice.” –Rachel Devine

This picture was taken on Aly’s first birthday. We spent a day at Sentosa’s underwater world and the admission tickets included tickets to the dolphin show. Aly woke up from her nap to find dolphins performing just a few meters away from her. And she got really really excited! She was waving her arms in the air and letting out her signature “Ooohs…” as she sat contented on ys’ lap. And at one point, she turned to face me and broke into a huge grin.

I pressed the shutter in time, and managed to catch that precious moment.

Now, whenever we look at this picture, we will be reminded of that happy day when we celebrated Aly’s first birthday together as a family. The picture has captured that gummy grin, and the way she wrinkles her nose when she gets excited. A picture like this is priceless and is one of my favourite portraits of Aly to date. It’s a picture that tells a story.

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