MOMENTS IN 2016

‘Tis the season of the year.  It’s Christmas and year-end again.

Time seems to have slipped away so super fast this year.  9 months have passed since I last wrote on this blog.   Before I go on,  if you are following my blog, you may want to note that I have started an account of the same name as this blog on Instagram, since late March.  While I had been quiet on the blogsphere, I share on Instagram. 🙂

2016 surely is going to be a year to be remembered, both good and not so good sides.

Hubby and I moved twice this year – first to a temporary accommodation in a friend’s home for 6 months, in Marine Parade, and finally settled down nicely in our new home in the city fringe, after going through much cracking of our heads in the design and all the hassles in the renovations.  With more than 35% reduction in terms of floor area, home now is a small, cozy 4-room flat which is much easier to manage in terms of housekeeping and cleaning.  I also like the convenience now, in terms of location and transportation.  Never had I live this near to the city before! 🙂  However, there are still issues with high-rise littering from extremely inconsiderate and uncultured neighbours upstairs which seem so hard to resolve, even  after repeatedly reporting the issues to the authorities.  Sometimes I wonder what the priorities of the authorities are and if  they are actually keen in helping the residents!

Just as I thought I could be thankful that my mum who had been suffering from cancer had lived another year as year-end approaches, she passed on last month, kind of sudden, although we were mentally prepared that her days were numbered.  My mum has lived to a ripe old age, and despite being a cancer patient for over 2 years, she had been strong and positive,  and able to live an almost normal life, keeping up with her routines as much as possible.  My two late grandmas died of cancer too.  I find it so hard to forget how they had to be bedridden and suffering in pain in the final months of their lives.  So I am thankful to God that my mum did not have to go through this.  That’s my only consolation now.

This year-end I have been blessed with opportunities to attend a few special performances, with compliments of organisations like Embassy of Japan in Singapore, WAttention Singapore and Popular Bookstore.  That somehow cheered up my year-end.

The Graduate Singers

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One Asia Joint Concert was one unique performance that brought together musicians from Japan and ASEAN (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore)

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Liang Wen Fu “我等到天开始亮了“ Music Showcase at BookFest 10th Anniversary

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Last Saturday, I finally went down to the Christmas Wonderland at the Gardens by the Bay.  “Finally” because I was actually not sure whether or not to go to this Iluminarie display again this year since it is expected to be more or less the same as the previous years.  Moreover, there is now a charge of S$8 per person for the entrance fees.  My good old friend from Malaysia was visiting, and so I thought that’s one good place to take her to and be soaked up in the Christmas mood.  Indeed, the mood was great and we enjoyed ourselves.

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So it does snow in Singapore!  And it’s quite a heavy one! 😀

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Here’s wishing you a blessed Christmas!

EXPENSIVE BUT ROTTEN APPLES

I bought some Japanese apples (produce of Aomori Prefecture) from Fairprice Finest in Marine Parade recently.  I remember reading somewhere that Aomori is the largest apple-producing prefecture in Japan and it is said to produce apples of high quality.

However, I was disappointed with what I got.

Jonagold Apples at S$7.90 per pair – one out of two was rotten

Ourin Apples at S$8.90 for 3 – two out of three were rotten

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In fact, this was not the first time.  A couple of months ago, I bought some for a friend, and they were rotten too.  What an embarrassment, wasn’t it?

Of course, I had to go back to Fairprice for a refund.

Such poor quality apples were totally unexpected since they are not cheap, and are sold by a premium supermarket.  I wonder where the problem started from?  The supplier or Fairprice?  Is there no quality check by the supplier before packing and distributing them and then subsequently by Fairprice before selling them?  When the Fairprice staff replenish the stocks every morning, do they not do any inspection?

These are what I have spotted in Fairprice Finest as well.

Organic carrots that were already rotten

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Vegetables that had already turned yellow

Looks like Fairprice Finest is not that fine after all!

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN THE TROPIC!

Cherry & peach blossoms in the hot & humid island of Singapore?  Yes, no kidding about it.  It’s happening right now in the Flower Dome, even earlier than Japan and Korea.  What a treat!

This first-ever experimental blossom display – Blossom Beats – is presented by the Gardens by the Bay.

Blossom Beats celebrates the delicate nature of life.  It features a good variety of blossoms including cherry (sakura) and peach.  The overall display was designed in the setting of a Japanese garden, decorated with a Torii (a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found in Japanese Shinto shrines), kimonos and other Japanese-themed decorations.

Torii in the midst of a variety of beautiful blossoms

IMG_2155IMG_2205 (1)IMG_2135IMG_2141IMG_2235Not all had blossomed yet at the time of my visit last Sunday (13 Mar)

IMG_2188IMG_2237Near the entrance of Flower Dome, a Japanese garden with cherry blossoms (behind the bridge).

IMG_2109Bonsai arrangement is another highlight in this two-week (only) display.

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It has been almost 9 years now since I last saw cherry blossoms and it was in South Korea.  Though I have also seen it in Japan, it was certainly a joy to have this opportunity to appreciate these beautiful blossoms again, more so for the first time here in Singapore.  I was actually hoping for another holiday in Japan later this month for a true Hanami experience in the parks but my plan could not materialise due to other commitments.  Save it for next time.

IMG_2183Prunus Accolade – pink flowering cherry

IMG_2186Prunus Yodoenis Yoshido which are white in colour

IMG_2203Peach blossom Prunus “Genpei Shidare” which is characterised by flowers of two colours – red and white

IMG_2133OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrunus Fujishidare which has pendulous branches

IMG_2159Close-up of Prunus Fujishidare

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cherry Shirotae (Prunus Shirotae) – known to flower abundantly. Flowers are white and lightly fragrant

IMG_2178Prunus “Okame”

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Later in that afternoon, we were treated with a beautiful traditional Japanese music performance – Blowing in the Sakura Wind : Sounds from Japan – by two renowned musicians from Japan.

Mother & son pair : Kaho Irie, Koto (Japanese stringed music instrument) Grandmaster and Yosuke Irie, Shaku Hachi (Japanese end-blow flute) artiste from Japan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis performance was a joint collaboration between Japan Creative Centre Singapore and Gardens by the Bay, held in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of The Great East Japan Earthquake (11 March 2011) and also in celebration of SJ50 (50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic relationship) in 2016.

I was glad that hubby could finally take a breather from his furious work schedule for many weeks now, and joined me in this special experience in the Gardens by the Bay.  I think our government should do more to enforce work-life balance in private corporations and take action against companies that make their employees work like headless chickens!!

Blossom Beats is surely one unique event not to be missed especially for those who have not seen cherry blossoms before.  I imagine it involved massive efforts from many to make it happen.  Beautiful blossoms aside, a visit to the Flower Dome is educational too, as I always find it.  There is always something new to discover, and new knowledge to bring home too.  All we need is just to pay a little bit more attention to what’s being displayed together with the flowers, like these ones below.

IMG_2129 IMG_2161IMG_2224Should there be future cherry blossom displays planned, I think it will great if the designers could consider creating a better Hanami experience like organising the trees more closely in rows and allowing visitors to walk under the trees.

This time, while the blossoms are beautiful, I find the overall display too cluttered with irrelevant decorations such as the huge artificial rocks and wood-carved monkeys from the past display (Dahlia Dreams) that was held over the Chinese New Year period.  These don’t seem to fit into the theme, and the huge artificial rocks are too overwhelming and distracting.  Perhaps there was not enough time to clear them since Dahlia Dreams had just ended on 8 March and the people had only 3 days to put up this new display.

If time permits, I may make my way down to the Flower Dome again for another round of visit before the display ends on 27 March. 🙂

More photos here

29-02-2016

I have completely forgotten that today is that special day we have only once in every 4 years.  Yes, it’s 29 February!

Thanks to a dear friend’s message this morning that reminded me of the day.  This good old friend (since primary school days) who resides in Johor Baru, sends me beautiful messages almost every morning.  Thanks to WhatsApp.  Such communication is made possible without incurring additional cost in our monthly phone bills.

It was kind of too late to think of doing anything special for the day after receiving my friend’s message, and I didn’t want to crack my head for that too.  I thought it is good enough to just do something that I enjoy lately i.e. to read in a cafe.

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Why in a cafe?  Well, in my temporary lodging now, I don’t have a proper study room and the lighting in my bedroom is poor and bad for my eyesight.  Secondly, I tend to feel sleepy in the afternoon, so reading in a cafe over a cup of coffee and occasionally plus a piece curry puff, keeps me awake. 🙂   In Marine Parade central area, there are quite a number of cafes, all just within a stone’s throw away.  How nice!  Starbucks is my pick, so they have been getting a bit of business from me lately. 😀

My current read is a book entitled Diplomacy, A Singapore Experience.  Although I am just halfway through the book, I have found it to be not only a very interesting read but also educational. It provides insights into Singapore’s foreign policies, describes the country’s challenges as a small state and also the government’s efforts and initiatives in creating good diplomatic and economic space for the country.  I must admit that I was actually not sure if the book would suit my reading interest (I have interest only in a small range of books).  I also worried that it might be too boring and “cheem” (a Singlish word meaning difficult to understand) to read, judging from the book title but I am so glad that I had picked it up.  The book was written by S Jayakumar, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Singapore who have already retired from his political career in 2011.

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And, I had a date with hubby in the evening.  Fortunately, he was able to get off from work not too late (before 7pm) today. Hubby has been so busy with work lately and it doesn’t help when you have bosses who are slave drivers!

We went to our favourite chicken rice shop – Boon Tong Kee – in East Coast Road for dinner.  This shop is also within working distance from where we live now and going back there for a meal is one of the many things that we want to do before moving out of Marine Parade.  Too much good food to savour in this area and its vicinity!

A simple but satisfying meal.  Happiness can be that simple. It is about being able to do things that I enjoy.

CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRITY CRUISE

It’s the seventh day of Chinese New Year and also Valentine’s Day today.

恭祝大家 猴年 好事连年、如意安康!

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Hubby and I ushered in the Year of the Monkey on board cruise ship Celebrity Millennium.

Celebrity Mellennium docking at Laem Cha Bang (8 Feb, first day of CNY)

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We had been spending most part of our Chinese New Year (CNY) away from home in the last few years (mainly in Japan) and for a change this year, we decided to just have a short trip instead.  We jumped to the opportunity to sail with Celebrity Millennium once again when we learned about this 5-night chartered cruise trip to Ko Samui and Laem Cha Bang (Thailand), departing on 5 February. Both of us like sailing on a big cruise ship (this was our fifth time), out in an open sea and we are so blessed that we have never had any seasick problems even at times when the ship was a little rocky due to rough sea conditions.  For us, a cruise trip is always very relaxed but yet there was never a moment of dullness as what many would think so.  There are many programmes and activities lined up for us each day but it is up to us to pick our choices.   We love chilling out at Al Bacio (a cafe on board) over a cup of coffee and a book, or sitting in the balcony of our room looking at the sea and listening to the sound of the waves. In fact, just less than four months ago, we sailed on the same ship for 8 nights in Japan and Busan, South Korea.  It was something very memorable and enjoyable.

On board Celebrity Millennium, the mood of CNY celebration was vibrant.  The ship was decorated for the occasion and the climax was on the eve of CNY. There was a Chinese menu for re-union dinner with Pen Cai (盆菜) specially prepared by a chef and his team of assistants from a Hong Kong restaurant.  In normal time, only western food, buffet and fusion food are served.  Abalone Yusheng was available too at additional costs.  There were also God of Fortune, countdown party etc.   We even had fire-crackers!  I mean the electronic ones! 😀

Abalone Yusheng

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Little surprises found in our room on the eve of CNY

Pen Cai

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This dish was actually served in a pumpkin and each serving was for a minimum of four people.  Since there were just two of us, we were served this mini portion in a bowl instead and it was in addition to the western meal we opted for.  The Pen Cai was really good!

God of Fortune who is actually the chief engineer of the cruise.  He was accompanied by the Hotel Director.

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God of Fortune made his first appearance at 7:30pm to distribute Hong Baos (red packets with money in them, a CNY tradition) to young children and we also had the opportunity to take photo with him.  He made his second appearance at the Grand Foyer where we had the party, just before midnight for the countdown.  By the way, the God of Fortune is a handsome Caucasian man! 🙂

Another surprise for the night!

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This ice-carving of a Monkey holding a peach was unveiled right after we ushered in the Year of the Monkey, by the captain of the cruise.  It was just so attractive that many rushed to take a photo with it.  Some even touched it as if they would receive some good luck by doing so, just like many did so with the God of Fortune!

Video of CNY Countdown Party (7 Feb)

So we really had a great time that night and it is definitely another precious travel memory to be cherished for the rest of our lives.  It has been so many years since we last actually had so much fun celebrating CNY!

The cruise trip would had been perfect if not for the adverse weather/sea condition at Ko Samui that prevented all of us who had signed up for shore excursion to proceed with our plans that day.  Hubby and I were all excited about exploring Ko Samui as it was our first time there but it was not meant to be 😦  While we appreciate that our safety was of utmost concern of the captain, the compensation (US$50 per room) was almost next to nothing and it came too late (after I had done my shopping on board and settled my bills at the front desk!).  So we decided to use it to try out luck on roulette at the casino.  No luck though! 😀

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Back in Singapore since the third day of CNY, we are getting into the mood of CNY celebration after a few years’ of break.  Today, I was all happy and excited to see lion and dragon dances, one of CNY rituals, at the places that I went to.  That’s a bonus for being home in this time of the year!  I like lion dances a lot since young and I remember my parents had paid for the troupe to perform at our home then.

Video of Lion and Dragon Dances seen on 14 Feb

THE JOY OF READING

February has arrived, and in a few days’ time, we will be ushering in the Year of the Monkey.

Chinese New Year decorations outside Orchard Gateway which many passers-by (me included) couldn’t resist to stop for a snap.

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January was a month well spent in accomplishing quite a number of things which I wanted to do, and it was most satisfying to have also completed and thoroughly enjoyed reading two interesting and, to some extent, eye-opening books written by two prominent persons in Singapore.  There is so much knowledge and information out there to acquire from books.  I always wished I could read a lot more!

  • It’s Easy to Cry is the second book by Subhas Anandan, a household-name criminal lawyer in Singapore who sadly, has passed away about a year ago.
  • A Hakka Woman’s Singapore by Dr Lee Wei Ling, a neurologist and also the daughter of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore.  The book is a collection of 75 distinct articles (out of the many) which Dr Lee has written for the Straits Times at different times.

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In 2015, as my very own way of celebrating SG50 (Singapore’s 50th Birthday), I set out a “project” to read some books about Singapore and/or written by Singaporeans during the year.  I thought it would be a lot more meaningful to celebrate the occasion by knowing more about my country through reading than to go to the many commemorative events and celebrations lined up throughout the year.  So, I was very glad and satisfied with my picks.  These books are definitely worth reading.

  • 幹嘛羨慕新加坡(Why Envy Singapore?) was written by a Taiwanese who married a Singaporean wife, resided here for about 10 years but have returned to Taiwan.
  • 成長在李光耀時代 (Growing Up in Lee Kuan Yew’s Era) was written by Lee Hui Min, a Singaporean who is now a freelance journalist and writer.

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  • Be At the Table or Be On The Menu by S Jayakumar, a former politician of Singapore.  I am going to read his other book “Diplomacy” soon.
  • My Lifelong Challenge by Lee Kuan Yew who has passed on on 23 March 2015.  Mr Lee has published many books and I have read a few of them.

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  • Let The People Have Him is a book about the early years of Chiam See Tong (up to the time he won in a Single Member Constituency in the 1984 General Election).  He is a lawyer and also the longest-serving opposition Member of Parliament in Singapore (1984-2011).  I am hoping that there will be a sequel to learn about the political life of Chiam after 1984.
  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye was in the news after National Arts Council withdrew its S$8,000 funding citing “sensitive content” and its potential to “undermine the authority and legitimacy” of the government.  Despite that, this book was a hit.  The first 1,000 copies were snatched up at launch and I was glad to be able to pick up a copy on its second print.  I am never a fan of comics, not even in my young days, so this was the first comic I have ever completed reading.  t

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I have decided that for 2016, I am going to continue with the same reading pattern, ie to continue with books related to Singapore.  Beside the two I have completed last month, I already have a few lined up on my book cabinets. 🙂

NEW YEAR IN MARINE PARADE

It’s almost mid January of 2016 now.  It’s better late than never.  So, I wish all readers of this blog a very happy and blessed 2016.

My 2015 year-end, in fact, the last couple of months leading to the end of 2015, was spent preparing to move out of our home of slightly over 13 years.  What a way to end the year!  Nevertheless, I am glad and thankful that God has answered my prayers after a year of praying (persistence pays!), and hubby and I are looking forward to our new home in a few months’ time when the transaction is completed, in a new location near city fringe.  This will be the first time in our lives that we are going to stay so near the city area.  There will be no more sea view like in our previous home, but we are excited about the convenience of transports and amenities there.  I shall be writing more about it in time to come.

For now, hubby and I have settled down in a friend’s home in Marine Parade, also in the eastern region of Singapore.  We are thankful that this friend (in fact, more than one friends) had offered us temporary accommodation.  This has saved us the hassle of renting from a stranger.

A friend once told me that I may like Marine Parade after I moved over here.  I have been here for not even two weeks so far and I am already beginning to like this area.  Everything is within reach – transportation, amenities, food centres and coffee shops, shopping mall (Parkway Parade), banking facilities etc.  Although it is a very mature housing estate (some flats have already or are hitting the age of 40 years old), surprisingly it has an excellent and well maintained environment, something totally different from the estate which I came from.  I have also been impressed with a few things that I have come across so far.  I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to explore more of this area in the coming weeks and months as a temporary resident.

Sculptures of sea creatures here and there

Quite a number of blocks have beautiful drawings on the ground-floor wall like the below

A roof-top garden/mini park on the multi-storey car park!

What a beautiful sight and how lucky the Marine Paraders are!

In the block next to my previous home, there is also a multi-storey car park.  On observing for a period of time that the top level of the car park had always been left vacant, I actually wrote in to the authority to suggest converting it to a roof-top garden/mini park and promote green environment.  It could also serve as a venue for the residents to have light exercise and socialise.  Unfortunately, citing reason of structural concerns, my proposal was not accepted.  Today, it is still a wasted space with hardly any car parked there.

Am I in Japan?  I spotted this vending machine in one of the blocks!  This is the first time I have seen a vending machine on the ground floor of a HDB (Housing Development Board) block.

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Bulky Disposal Bin on the ground floor of the block.  What a thoughtful and convenient arrangement by the Town Council!  Is this a privilege of Marine Paraders?

Disposal Bin

The housing estate that I previously lived in is also under Marine Parade GRC (Group Representative Constituency).  It really puzzles me why two different housing estates of the same GRC and managed by the same Town Council can be so different when it comes to maintenance matters.

I have had so many bad experiences and frustrations with my Town Council but this one last experience I had on the day of my moving is what I least expected.  I rang the supervisor for my block to request for help to dispose of a few pieces of old furniture that morning.  There were a sofa, a chest drawer, a washing machine and a mattress, to name a few.  Town Council provides free service for such disposal, up to 3 times a month.  Two cleaners came to do the job.  I prepared drinks and bread rolls for them as a small token of appreciation for their service.  The supervisor who came just to give order without giving a helping hand at all, openly asked me for “kopi money”(kopi is the Malay word for coffee)!  Any Singaporean would know what that means.  It means tips.   Excuse me, did I hear wrongly? No, I didn’t.  I wonder if they would still do the job if I had refused to give. Anyway, I offered S$10 each for the two cleaners in order to have the furniture cleared soon.  What I found even more shocking later was that one of the cleaners actually passed his S$10 note to the supervisor and she took it!  I had not wanted to give to her as I was not convinced that she deserved it.  All she did was talking.  It is hard to believe that in famously “clean” Singapore, such things do happen, and coming from someone in my Town Council!  That was quite an eye-opening encounter!