Monday, September 30, 2013

Glorious Green

Glorious Green,  Aileen Chua
Loving green
Picturesque nature
Calms the harried mind
Breathing green
Listening green
Soul of nature
Heals the tired mind
Giving renewal to body and soul

Sunday, September 29, 2013

PSLE conundrum

The PSLE has been in the news lately, following complaints from parents that the questions - math being notoriously so - are too tough and it is stressing pupils too much.

The Sunday Times today has published the article by Zuraidah Ibrahim, "Parents, it's fine to let go of hang-ups". In which, she shared her idyllic school days and let on that she might not have survived the ruthlessly competitive system of the 1990s.

Then there was a recent commentary by Chua Mui Hoong who pointed out the stance taken by the Education Ministry that there was no need for tuition, was out of touch with reality - with the tuition being a multi-million dollar industry. Most parents would want to send their children for tuition classes in a bid to help the children top their cohort.

One key reason as per echoed by parent Wong Siow Yuen in The New Paper was their own education experience. She wrote about her anxieties and her son's seemingly relaxed attitude:"I had been influenced by the enormity many parents and educators accord to the PSLE. It is as if I've been loading him with my failures and inadequacies."

As for me, I have now switched to a low gear and am no longer pushing my elder boy to practise yet another paper. I can see his anxiety though he tried to look nonchalant.  In this last lap, I am constantly giving him my encouragement. I do not want to add to the strain.

As for the results which are supposed to be his future in the making, let's say I am at peace with myself for helping my boy to stretch his potential. Whatever the results, his future is yet to be written. He still has a long way ahead. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The High-Stake PSLE

This week, my elder boy took his first PSLE paper on Thursday. The term "high-stake" was used by him to describe the first most important examination of this twelve year old boy.

While I had been playing the role of tiger mother for the past few months, I have loosen my grip in the last two months leading up to the examination. 

remembered that I had attended a workshop by a retired teacher. She shared that in the grand scheme of things repeating a school year was a very negligible part of a person's lifespan. What was one year out of 80 years? The more important thing was to love and encourage the child.

Life journey is filled with challenges. There are many lessons to pick up along the way. I remember those from ostrich racing at Ellis Park. In their panic at the finish line, the ostriches shoot back in the opposite direction, toward the starting gates. 

The ostriches remind us that life does not always move onward. Reverses are not that uncommon. At times, we are required by our own experiences to sometimes go in another direction altogether, perhaps even back to one of our many starting points.

Starting over is not a sign of weakness. It takes determination of an exceptional kind. Nowhere is one's character more magnificent than when you are back at a starting point, writing new goals for your life.

Like everything in the course of life, even your dreams can start over.

Like my boy, I am still learning to be a stronger and better person than what I was yesterday. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Best Friends Forever

R's composition that was chosen as one of the model compositions in class. Boy, he was thrilled.

Best Friends Forever

I was having a friendly basketball match during my Physical Education lesson. Our referee told us to be careful. I loved basketball and was filled with excitement not knowing that I was about to be a victim of an accident in the basketball court.

I dribbled the ball with my right hand and was blocking others with the other hand. I kept on dribbling and looking forward. Even though I wanted nothing bad to happen, someone suddenly snatched the ball from my right hand.

"Ouch!" I shouted when my left arm hit the hard floor. The person who snatched  the ball did not care for me. He just got away and focused on winning the game. I felt hurt when I saw my best friend, Tim, staying away from me. Our Physical Education teacher was watching nearby and he came to help me.

My teacher called up a few of my friends to help. I felt even more hurt when Tim did not come to help me! I said to myself, "Why did I make a friend that does nothing to help me when I am injured!" While thinking about that, I was brought to the General Office. When I was there, I realized that Tim was there too. I asked,"Why didn't you care for me when you saw me injured." He said sadly,"I am sorry, I just do not know how to help and was stunned to see you injured." I pat him on his back telling him that we could still be best friends.

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Year of Second 5-Year F1 Night Racing Season

2013 marks the first year of the second 5-year F1 Night Racing Season. Singapore has emerged as one of the most popular events on the F1 calendar. Ticket sales of Formula 1 tickets have been brisk with 99% snapped up days ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

While this spelt huge crowds in the Marina Bay Area, I was struck by how adversely the retail business had been affected by the F1 effects. The normally bustling shopping mall looked deserted with only a handful of passers-by.

Above: Just outside the Marina Bay circuit, the vicinity looked hollowed out. 

Yes, the venue of the only night race, Singapore's street circuit is a unique and exciting challenge. However in the lead up to the event, the streets in the vicinity went into lockdown. Consequently, the retail business took a hit.  This was despite the special offers to lure shoppers to the areas. The traffic snarls around the area were a big turnoff.

understood that there had been ongoing consultations with local stakeholders which had cut the period of possible disruption to just six days. Key routes such as Esplanade Drive, Nicoll Highway and Stamford Road have remained usable. 

With the end of the F1 racing, I hope that there will be spillover effects from the huge increase in tourist numbers to shop and dine in the wide range of shops and restaurants in the area. 

When that happens, everyone wins and everyone is happy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

R's New iPad

I share R's journal a few weeks ahead. Now, it is P's side of the story. Hmm, look's like a case if sibling rivalry at play. Well, well, all parents love their children equally. I guess it will take time for the reality to sink in....

R's New iPad

It was R's birthday. So, Mum bought R a brand new iPad as a birthday present. 

Wow! That was SO unfair! I mean during my birthday, other than a small Oreo cake which I dislike, Mum did not give me anything! The reason why Mom bought an Oreo cake instead of a fruit cake (which I like) was because R liked the Oreo cake and would not touch the fruit cake. Why? That was MY birthday not R's birthday.

Anyway, R said that he would share the iPad with me in front of Mum. Bunch of lies! However, Mum actually got caught in his ruse and even praised him!

Behind Mom's back R delivered the punchline- Only if I follow the terms and conditions given by R. And they are:
1-Follow me to the toilet because I am scared.
2-Follow the above condition at all times.

See,I knew my hunch was true. With such conditions, even I would not want the iPad!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wholesome Home Cooked Food

A mean cook, I am not. I only have a limited repertoire of recipes to rely on in cooking. 

Most of my dishes are brewed soups which have all the natural goodness infused in the soup. They are easy to cook especially with today's many useful gadgets such as the thermal pot. Throw all the ingredients into the pot. Let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Put the pot in the thermal pot in the morning. Piping hot soup would be ready in the evening.

Watercress soup with pork ribs, red dates and wolf berries. A great cooling soup to beat the heat.

Bitter gourd with pork ribs, crushed peppercorns and generous cloves of garlic.

Another predominant type of dishes is steamed based. Steamed food is simplicity at its best. However it calls for absolute freshness in the ingredients and condiments.

Above are ingredients to be steamed by placing the metal container on top of the rice in the rice cooker minutes before the rice is fully cooked. The ingredients include prawns, salmon, chicken strips dressed up with mushroom, finely chopped fresh dill, drizzle with light soy sauce with dashes of pepper powder and lemon pepper.

Another steamed dish is minced pork with cubes of toufu and century egg, mixed in an whipped egg, seasoned with light soy sauce and dashes of white pepper powder. It is a simple and flavourful dish.

If you are like me, a vegetable lover, we can always stir fry greens like spinach, dou miao, with a clove of crushed garlic, and light soy sauce.

Cooking at home needs not be difficult. The above few dishes are real easy but pack a punch in terms of taste and awesomeness. My dear readers, are you tempted to whip up a cooking storm at home now? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Days After My Father's Passing

It was just another Saturday where we would make our regular visit to my parents' place. My husband had just reached Singapore and would be flying off again in a few days' time for another business trip. After repacking his luggage, we sat huddled in our silver family sedan and were on our way to my parents' place.

The afternoon sun was a blazing fireball.  But the intense heat did not dampen our spirits. The children were happy and looking forward to see their doting grandparents. It was then that my mobile phone rang.

"Aileen, come quickly to see Ah Pa", a panicky voice from my sister-in-law greeted me. 

"I don't think Ah P can make it." She continued almost hysterically.

"I am already on my way," I replied as calmly as I could.

I hung up my phone with a sense of impending trouble. Ah Pa had always been in the pink of health. Surely, it must be just some minor ailment.

When we reached there, my sister-in-law told us with her arms flailing that Ah Pa was sent to the hospital with my brother accompanying him. We drove the rest of the family hurriedly to the hospital.

After many agonising hours of waiting, the doctor broke the bad news to us that the team had tried their best but my father could not be revived. We were stupefied and tears rolled down our cheeks. My two brothers raised their shoulders and used their sleeves to wipe off their tears.

"Why not wait just a few hours for me to come." Childishly I asked and sobbed unabashedly.

The first week after my Ah Pa's passing flew away like a whirlwind. My father is the first person close to me who had passed away. There was so much to do to prepare for the funeral.

I was grateful to my relatives who put aside their work and family matters to come to help us. My friends and colleagues who were so kind and showered me with their support and love during this trying time. 

Thank you all for your generous gifts. Your friendship, support and incredible kindness have been a tremendous blessing to us during this difficult time. Words cannot express our gratitude to you. Thank you again.

As for my beloved Ah Pa, we will always love you and your loud, booming voice, the stories you share and the familiar things you say. You will always live in our hearts.

Above: This was my family portrait taken in a photo studio that marked my graduation. It was one of the proudest moments for my father who has toiled tirelessly to provide for the family. We might be poor but we are one happy family.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Family, My Strength

My family has always been the centre of my life. Every decision that I make, it is always in the best interest of my family.

When my husband studied for a master's degree in the United States of America. I too, packed my bags and joined him with two toddlers in tow. 

For a year, we lived in the yore 
years before the emancipation of women. I took charge of the household affair while my hubby brought home the bacon. My family was perfect. While we did not have financial might of a dual-income family, our spartan home was filled with mirthful love and laughter. 

Above: Our lovely home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that housed so much of our precious memories.

Above: The familiar places that we used to head out for our weekly grocery shopping.

Our family believes that a family that plays together, stays together. When one is battered by hard knocks of life, one can always envelope in the loving embrace of the family and lean on the family for support during hard times. 

To me, my greatest joy is to be with my family. When they are happy, so am I. While I do not expect returns, love is a two-way street. 

I am the person I am largely because of the influence of my parents. My mother is a housewife throughout her entire life with my father as the breadwinner. She might not be a successful career woman but she is a remarkable woman. She has provided emotional support and showered us with so much love - at times tough love, especially when we were young.

When my dad passed away suddenly, we were heartbroken. But we had little regrets as we had always tried to spend time together. After working laboriously for much of his life, he retired and enjoyed a good few years of blissful life surrounded by his grandchildren.

My dear readers, do spend time with your family. That is the most important thing, the rest are secondary.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


This month has been one of reminiscing moments with old friends who are fellow toastmasters. 

My home club Kampong Ubi TMC hosted the Club's Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest on 31 August 2013. 14 September 2013 was IPA TMC's contest. While I took a back seat and did not participate as a contestant, I gave my support to the events as an audience. In fact, I have blocked out both Saturday afternoon and I was glad to do it.

I have always admired the contestants as it needs great courage to take up the challenge. All put up a valiant attempt to clinch the trophies. All are winners in their right. As the audience, we were treated to the slew of engaging, entertaining and enlightening speeches.

It was especially special this year as I also managed to catch up with old friends. Mrs G also joined us in the August's to support the event. I also met S at IPA event. Besides catching up with old friends, I also made new ones. 

I love the Toastmasters club. It epitomises the saying, there are no strangers, only friends we have not met.

Kampong Ubi TMC's Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest 2013

IPA TMC's Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest

Fellow Kampong Ubi TMC members lending their support at IPA's event.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Term 3 One Week School Break

The September 1-week holiday is coming to a close. It has been an eventful one. My hubby was out of town for most part of the week so I was effectively the de facto head of household.

P was in the final phase of preparation of the upcoming PSLE. He continued to report to school for the first two days of the school holiday. Kudos to the teachers for extra efforts to help the students. P was also busy with the practices that he needed to sharpen his saw for the first important examination for this twelve year old boy.

On the other hand, R was enjoying his break. At the same time, he was helping me to encourage and give his not-exactly-motivated brother a little nudge in his preparation. His goofing around had definitely brightened up P's otherwise dry and mundane mugging.

The boys participated in the Junior Golf Day on Thursday afternoon. It was obvious that they had a whale of a time. Happiness was written all over their angelic faces when they were back from the course for the dinner and prize presentation ceremony. R played well and won 2 prizes. He tried hard to appear indifferent but his joy was evident. He even whispered softly into my ears to take his photos when he received his prizes. To top off the wondrous day, their daddy returned home from his work trip on Thursday too. They stayed up late just for the goodnight kiss from their daddy. It was so sweet.

Friday was family day as we headed up north. I was delighted that my mother could join us for this road trip. We had some good buys from the Johore Premium Outlet and a scrumptious dinner at the open air night market.

On the whole, it has a great week. With the PSLE looming ahead like a dark cloud, P has been making good use of every pocket of spare time. While I am penning this post, P is still pounding the books. This is the crucial time. We will be around to support him.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

One Equation and Three Axioms

Steven Hawking has once said, "One can't really argue with a mathematical theorem."

As a mathematician, I believe in it whole heartedly. However, mathematical theorems are not the only ones which are absolute, there are equations and axioms in life which are also absolute.

Today, I will like share with you one equation and three axioms of life.

First is the equation is by Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul).

Outcome = Event + Response

Most people when face with setbacks will say that they are just no good, or they do not have rich parents or they are plain unlucky. They blame anyone, anything but themselves. This is the fact:

“We cannot control every single thing that happens to us, but we can control how we choose to respond to it.”

Nick Vujicic is in Singapore recently. He is 30 year old Australian, a truly amazing person. He was born without limbs. He attempted suicide when he was 10 as he was an easy target for bullies in school. However, he defies all odds and went to graduate with a double degree in accounting and financial planning. Today, he is a sought-after motivational speaker, leading a life without limits. And this is what he said

“If you can't get a miracle, become one.”

Instead of wallowing in self-pity of why he was born this way, he takes responsibility for his own life to be the best person that he can be and traded the life of self pity to a life of purpose.

This is the power of the equation, Outcome equals to event plus RESPONSE.

Next I will move on to the three axioms.

Axiom Number 1.
You are what you believe and you have to take responsibility for the outcome. Taking responsibility will give you the power to be in control.

Let me share with you another story that of Roger Bannister. At the time when people believed that it was not only impossible for a person to complete one mile in less than four minutes but also dangerous to the health of those who tried to do so, he chose to believe otherwise. He not just believed in it, he took responsibility for it. Roger Bannister was then a 25-year old medical student at Oxford. He trained hard and he approached his belief scientifically using his medical knowledge. On that fateful day, May 6, 1954, he raced and crossed the finish line with a time of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. The psychological barrier of 4 minute mile was broken forever.

Axiom Number 2. Persistence pays. The key to success in life is to take consistent action every day, every minute, every moment. Every time you do something you learn from it and you will find a way to do it better next time.

By using this same formula, we have Colonel Sanders who built an empire of KFC restaurants all over the world. At the age of 65, Colonel Sanders’ one and only restaurant failed due to the opening of the new highway, Interstate 75 which diverted customers’ traffic from his restaurant. He took a meager $105 dollars from his first social security check. He then decided to sell his secret chicken recipe. He was a very, very, very persistent man and he stayed true to his path even after 1,009 “no”s. He succeeded eventually because he focused on the solution and not the problem. With each “no”, he learnt how to win a potential franchise in his next encounter.

Axiom Number 3 is the most important. I save the best for the last. It is to have goals . You cannot hit a target if you do not know what it is. Setting goals will us focus and move us in the direction we would like to go.

So my dear friends, do set goals that stretch your potential. Believe in yourself, take responsibility for your action and be persistent. And I will like to close with the following chorus from the song, I believe I can fly by R Kelly,

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Don's Day

A poem that I have penned for a friend. Enjoy!

Don's Days
Those were the days,
We were in a daze
Running around in a maze
Strong bonds are forged
As the night curtains fall
You are our shoulder to lean on
Our shoulder to cry
In unity we stand
In laughters we triumph
You would always be remembered
As sure as the dawn
Here is our best wishes to you
May the sun shine, all day long,
everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
May all the wishes you wish come true!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lunch stolen!

Sharing my boy's journal. It is very interesting to look at the world through the lens of the little ones:


Yesterday,when I went home from school, my lunch was missing! I looked high and low for my lunch, but it was nowhere to be found.Then I saw my older brother,P eating chicken rice.So I went up to ask him where was my lunch.

"This is my lunch? Why isn't there any chicken!"I shouted when P pointed at my lunch. I was red with anger and wanted to punch him. Just then, my mother came by. She told me about what had happened.

My mother said that P realized that he had to stay back in school but for some funny reasons he did not have any money to buy food! So he ended up running home before I reached home. So P had free lunch that belonged to me and I ended up eating bread for lunch.

I have to starve after lunch and also learnt that while slow and steady would win the race, it would not win food.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happiness is simple

My face lit up when my eyes caught a recognisable sight. I was on board SBS bus 88 and had just pressed the bell to signal to the driver that I would be alighting at the next bus stop. As I made my way near the alighting doors, My eye caught the back of a boy cladded in school PE attire, carrying an oversized worn-out black haversack and walking towards my block. He looked strikingly familiar.

I was excited like a child and resisted the urge to shout. Without a moment to lose, I whipped out my handphone and attempted to take a picture. Alas, I missed! The bus was moving too fast. When the bus reached my destination, I hurried towards my younger boy, R.

R was delighted to bump into me and flashed a broad grin at me. It was a wonderful coincidence. As it was lunch time, we headed to the nearby hawker centre to have our meal together, hand-in-hand.

"Mummy, the food is delicious." R beamed. He then smacked his lips and showed a thumbs-up sign.

I smiled and put my arm over his shoulder.

Happiness is that simple!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Long Awaited Gathering

Big clumps of cumulus clouds formed a blanket over the sky. Gentle sun rays filtered through the gaps in between the clouds, casting a golden haze over Mrs Poon's lovely house. Peals of laughter like the ringing of silvery bells filled the house.

It was the long-awaited gathering with my fellow colleagues which Mrs Poon has initiated. She has also taken on the role of chief logistic officer-cum-chef and enlisted the help of her husband and two sons to prepare the glorious food for us. Our team spirit was on full display as all chipped in wherever we could, just like at work. After many hands made light work and working together made great fun!

See the fun pictures and savour the finger-licking good food:

Highlights of the yummy food included the soft, succulent and tender pork ribs. Hot from the oven, the mouth-watering aroma wafted through the kitchen. We were drooling and could not resist the urge to have a bite. Thumbs-up for the heavenly and tantalising ribs!!! However, Mrs Poon told us that the ribs were to be barbecued which would add more oomphs to the already awesome taste. Verdict: 5 star Michelin food.

Another of our many favourites (there were so many!) was the big garlic prawns. There was great attention to the details where the prawns were deveined leaving the shells on. Exacting heat control ensured that the prawns retained its juiciness and the prawns were coated with just the right amount of garlic which enhanced without overwhelming the natural sweetness of the shellfish.

Thanks to our big-hearted Indian colleague, we savoured the goodness of homemade chicken curry which he has taken great efforts to bring it together with baguettes. Hah, the two went together like a match made in culinary heaven.

We also had a relaxing time just by setting our eyes on the many interesting herbs and eye-catching flowering plants dotting the manicured garden. What a pleasant sight!

To top it off, we had a karaoke session where we reminicised in old songs and embraced new ones. Mrs Poon was an avid karaoke singer. We loved to sing with her and whenever we were stumped, she would lend us a helping voice.

All in all, we had a wonderful fun time. We had glorious food, good company, great conversation and groovy music. I don't know about you, I really enjoy myself tremendously.