Sure as Autumn Flame

“25 Life Lessons For My Daughter”
November 1, 2012, 2:14 am
Filed under: L.ove, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

I came across a blog post I archived years back, in hopes of living my life by them. As titled, these were advice from a modern-day Dad, and I find it tragically funny that I had to take advice from a digital piece of writing, because I never had the opportunity to get my dose of life’s advice from my dad.

So as humorous as they are at times, they make alot of sense. I have lifted from MetroDad’s post, his 25-liners for his daughter:

(1) When posing for any photos, assume that the only people who will see them are me, your mother, your boss, and the dean of admissions.

(2) Lennon, not McCartney. Keith, not Mick. Page, not Plant.

(3) Life is too short not to order the fries.

(4) Never date a man who is rude to waiters, doesn’t say “bless you” when you sneeze, or won’t offer you his jacket when you’re cold.

(5) Never order drinks that are pink or come with an umbrella in them. Don’t be fancy.

(6) Don’t worry about being popular. The “weird” kids are much more fun and will end up being your most interesting friends. Also, when it comes to friends, you can’t trump quality with quantity. Choose wisely. Who would you call to drive your white Bronco?

(7) Give charitably, generously, and anonymously.

(8) Crocs are for people who have given up on life.

(9) Never cheat. Not on exams, the crossword puzzle, or your boyfriend.

(10) If you love someone, tell them. Don’t hold back.

(11) It may be a small world but it’s a huge planet. Grab every opportunity to see as much of it as you possibly can. Most people don’t.

(12) Keep your eye on the ball and follow through, both in sports and in life.

(13) Speaking of sports, pick a team and stick with them. There are few things more important in life than loyalty. It’s a dying trait currently in short supply. Trust me. I’m a Mets fan.

(14) Never regret staying home alone with a good book.

(15) If you feel the need to reinvent yourself, at least be original. No tattoos unless you’re in the armed forces. No body piercings unless you become a pre-Columbian tribal Aztec. No orange hair unless you join the circus.

(16) Learn from the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And always remember that the story is never over.

(17) Don’t make a scene.

(18) Learn how to entertain yourself. Close the door, crank up the stereo, and dork out. Invent new dance moves. Play the air guitar. Practice your touchdown moves. Too many people are self conscious even when they’re alone. Don’t be one of those people.

(19) While you’re at it, learn how to laugh at yourself.

(20) When you realize that everyone comes from a dysfunctional family, life gets a little easier and you feel a little less crazy.  The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.

(21) Thank you notes are to be written promptly by hand on personal stationery. E-mails, phone calls and text messages don’t count.

(22) Remember that nice guys do finish first. If you don’t know that, then you don’t know where the finish line is.

(23) Learn to cook one thing really well.

(24) Happiness is not fame, money or power. The key to life is finding your sweet spot.

(25) Take every piece of advice anyone ever gives you with a grain of salt.


Truth be told, a huge part of me feels angry that I was given another sort of advice as life’s lessons – points that I do not agree with because they aren’t in my character to stick to. Another part of me feels sad that I had to discover such common sense advice through my own idle reading, and never having the wonderful privilege to know a role model to live life by.

So on the contrary, below are the life lessons given to me:

(1) A woman’s goal in life is finding a rich man who will love you, care for you so that you never have to work a day in your life.

(2) Happiness is having so much money that you never have to work a day in your life and you can do whatever you please.

(3) Always study hard no matter what, because that’s going to get you a good salary, and a good life.

(4) Always lift the toilet seat up; you don’t want the next person to have her butt wet while taking a piss or dump.

(5) Cook only in the kitchen if it doesn’t make the counter and floor oily, because it is stressful having to clean up.

(6) Always eat from a disposable container with disposable cutlery when you can, to save on washing up after that.

(7) Never work harder than what your scope of work requires you to. People never appreciate what you do anyway.

(8) Bliss is finding the man who is able to provide you and your family with a comfortable life (read: big house, maid, car and holidays)

(9) Don’t play too much sports because men are never gonna love scars on women.

(10) Skincare regime begins from 21 years old, because the Chinese saying: “When you do not burn a joss-stick as offering to the gods regularly, they would not come to your rescue at the last-minute even when you hug them at their legs.”


And perhaps, for good measure, here are my personal anecdotes to start with:

(1) Spend time finding out who you are, because once you have discovered and love that, it becomes for others to love you.

(2) Travel whenever you can. Nothing beats chalking a life full of stories to share over a round of beers.

(3) Decide if you will work for passion or for money. The best you can achieve is a balance of both but never more of your preferred choice. The grass is always greener than the other side.

(4) If you realise you are decent-looking enough, use your good looks to your advantage – get people to remember you, make an impression, and most of all, be NICE.

(5) Honesty is the best policy. The more you lie, the more you have to remember to make your stories consistent.

There are a great many more…but these are enough to start off with, for now.


The Mother of all Detox Plans (till date)
September 23, 2012, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Food, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , , ,

Detoxing is an ocassional 1-3 days plan I embark on in my years of living insane schedules (ie. work hard play hard exercise harder party decently hard). The great thing about detox is that it doesn’t last very long, it cleanses the body inside out, and you feel pretty good again and ready to start that cycle till the next session.

I was kidding about repeating the cycle. However, I also have to point out that we inevitably fall into the cycle of living it to extreme, and going cold turkey via “detox”.

image from Press Tag

My usual routine was honey-lemon water or green tea throughout the day, fruit juices or fruits for 2 to 3 days. Flushing everything out felt really great, but you would be ready to devour KFC by the end of the 3-day programme. This kinda thing is easy especially after festive occasions such as Christmas, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving when your body takes in four times the normal amount of turkey, roast, beer and wine.

Plus, I was never really a fan of diets. I believed in eating what I liked and burning it all off through exercise.

However, I reached the point in my life when work took over exercise, and the pleasures of wine and dine are alot easier than hauling myself to the gym. Sure, there was the 50km bike ride I try to clock once a week, yoga once a week but the weight stubbornly clung on.

Until my friend told me about the Optrimax 5-day programme. Or rather, she did not really tell me about it – she asked if I detoxed and I gamely said yeah, and she plonked the detox kit on my desk after sending me an email containing information which I confessed to having no time to look at.

Optrimax 5-day plan: The contents of one meal

The instructions were simple. 5 days worth of meals that come in the form of smoothie shakes, and one after-dinner snack at the end of it all. I picked a week where I was busy running events so that I don’t have time to eat and think about food, figuring it would be a pretty perfect way to get through the week – get busy, get work done, get detoxed.

The Optrimax Guru also tells me what I need to do to prepare, even offering cheat tips just to make me feel better. I have to admit, those almond nuts (as pathetic as eight of them sound), salad, fat-free yogurt helped curb those nom-nom-nom pangs. I’ll leave out the instructions and stuff because all it really matters is, how did I feel?

Day 1: Went through 3 meals, only to discover that I could only eat one damn sng muey (sour plum) at the end of the day? Shake tasted strange, but acceptable. The stress from work certainly did not help, I was depressed, feeling faint and needed Vietnamese coffee – badly.

Day 2: Went through 2 meals before my body suddenly decided it ain’t gonna go through another strange-tasting shake without some proper food. Looked through cheat-sheet and resorted to skinny flat-white. (They said I could drink coffee!) Day felt better. Colleagues did steer clear away from me though, they noticed I was alot grumpier than normal and immediately attributed it to detox.

Day 3: Back in office after two hectic days of running around. Fatigue helps because all I wanted to do is to sit down and not eat, and hammer away at the keyboard. Went through the lot of shakes with coffee in between. (I really needed the coffee). Lots of toilet breaks for me – seems that Optrimax did work its way through my system. Unhappy with sng muey treat at the end of the day though. Optrimax, if you must, please do not call it a treat but stick to your reason why green tea powder and sour plum helps in keeping the weight low. Having a good reason to eat that is way better than rewarding a grumpy person with a sour plum. I would chew the head off someone who says that to me!

Day 4: Out filming again, with mad rush around town. No time to have lunch, not even make a shake. I made it up by having Starbuck’s Green Tea Soy Latte (sorry I cheated 😦 ! ) Came back to office starving and really stressed. Needed a beer but decided against it. Ordered Timbre’s pizzas for the team and my talents and watched them eat…damn.

Now here’s the amazing bit. After 4 days of initially not very enticing smoothie shakes, my palate got used to the taste by Day 4 dinner hour. I got really used to having nothing to munch on, and when I finally played cheat on Day 4, I nibbled one small square of the pizza crust and felt really satisfied after that. I supposed the Green Tea Soy Latte helped loads too. But hey, it’s green tea powder and soy milk, still reasonably healthy, yes?

Back to Day 5: Figured the way to downing those shakes is to have really cold water, squeeze out ALLLLL the fruit punch, shake the Zymes and VG bits in and chug it down. Got through breakfast and dinner, lunch was coffee again because I was feeling really sleepy. Decided to celebrate by joining the night cycling group on their usual Friday night 40km leisure cycle, and realised I was feeling more fatigued than usual, must have been the lack of food and sleep. Left the group halfway and went home to crash hard, dreaming up my next proper meal to come.

image courtesy of KFC Singapore

And recall what I said about post-detox. I really had KFC on post-detox Day 1.

Verdict: The MOTHER of all Detox plans, this one is a challenge both mentally and emotionally. 5 days of having no solid food is bound to get anybody…ANYBODY hungry enough to devour everything in his/her way. To be fair, I did lose 2kg (mostly water) and almost 1cm off my hips. Ate probably half of it back, but appetite’s definitely smaller now. 3 days of this would be enough, though. However, the weight tends to stay off alot longer because you somehow enter a habit of eating less, feeling incredibly satisfied even after a small portion of whatever-food-you-wanted-to-have.

I’d still stick to my insane exercise plans. This definitely works when I’m busy – worth a shot, but you had better keep at it.

Bangkok Jam

So I took the risk of a Groupon deal and signed ourselves up for a 4 day 3 night getaway to Bangkok.

There are many wonderful reasons to travel to Bangkok: (a) it’s a shopping paradise because of the strong currency exchange, (b) it’s pretty easy to get around with improved train systems and relatively cheap taxis, (c) food’s good, (d) and there is a rich mix of traditional arts, craft and culture.

So here’s my Bangkok hit list, from the last trip up. I decided to take an easy (ie. non-adventurous) trip which revolves around cafe hunting, new malls and a good traditional Thai massage.

Street Food: en-route from P2 hotel to Pratanum area

You’ll find these stalls almost everywhere, at a really affordable 20 baht per plate of phad thai, rice etc. The chicken/fish goes for 35 baht (I think) after some negotiation, considering I do not speak Thai at all. Option: wash it down with some local beer.

Grey Hound Cafe, located in Siam Square

Greyhound Cafe has a few branches across Bangkok, and is a particular favourite that I like to return to. They have a comprehensive all-day breakfast menu, great pastas, lovely side dishes and a chill-out vibe to top it all off. Tiny Japanese-inspired wooden chairs and sofas complete the clean, cosmopolitan look while an available wi-fi allows mindless idling and chatting the entire afternoon away.

Must orders are chicken wings, calamari, duck parfait (?) and basically anything with the chef’s hat icon.

You & Mee at Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok

Great beef noodles and every type of noodle in soup. Grand Hyatt is a walking distance from the major shopping malls, and the patisserie next door has everything on 50% discount after 6pm.

New Shopping Mall: Terminal 21

Terminal 21, located just next to Asoke station (and is a 5-minute walk from Bangkok’s famous massage centre – Healthland Spa) is the city’s newest shopping centre to boot. With seven city-themed levels and hundreds of stores and local designer-ware, it works even better when each level can be systematically explored by going round, and round and around. Each level follows the decor of a city (eg. Rome, Tokyo, Beijing etc), sometimes tastefully done – I had to take a picture with a giant Japanese cat – sometimes bordering cheesy. Gentlemen, there is a dedicated level just for you at Level 7.

Supermarkets and chairs I want to bring home

“Domesticated” comes to mind when I trawled the aisles of Siam Paragon’s supermarket. Edgy shotglasses, wooden serving boards, coffee takeaway-cups (comes with the lids), unique tableware were amongst the first few to land themselves into my basket. I returned on the last day to buy a carton of fresh mangoes back…mmmmmmm. Note to self: Check-in a box in future.

Bangkok trippin’ ended just like that, S$376 in 4 days of ambling. I could use such getaways more often.



An Awakening
July 16, 2012, 1:33 am
Filed under: L.ove, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

“Goodbye cuz, till I see you in Singapore.”

This trip to Kuala Lumpur brought me home, in every sense of the word. It was perfect timing, from coinciding landing times on Thursday with another cousin who flew home from Canada, having clients and friends in KL to play catch-up with, and the start of my break from work.

“Do you remember the times when we used to go to Yom Peng and play? Funny how 20 years later we are sitting here having coffee and talking about what we want in life.”

I spent the entire Thursday with them: we had lunch, went shopping, took ourselves out to this really awesome restorant-under-the-bridge, and spent the night skyping with another aunt, watching TV, talking, and dozing off. It was too short.

“I wish you could spend more nights here,” my aunt said.

I wish I could have planned it better. Mentally making a resolve to return for another weekend, I thought how it took me 20 years to find my way home. Leaving Malaysia for good meant saying goodbye to my closest family members, to my cousins I grew up with. My mum and I made every excuse not to visit although we were just a few hours away. In our pursuit for life, and the potential of gold it holds, we have drifted our ways and kept telling ourselves, next time next time. Till today as we caught up over coffee we realised our hunger for freedom and to taste the world has not hindered us a single bit, but fueled us to become who we are today – him as an Associate Creative Director in his own design firm, his sister in Social Couselling, and me, a consultant in Public Relations.

You are more than welcome to stay with us anytime, you know that.

That was my uncle, a man of few words. When he speaks, his words carry a halo of sincerity that warms you all up inside. I knew I could come back here and feel right at home, as I came this time to seek familiarity that is naturally there for me. True enough, I did. The slight similarities that remind us we are related by blood unfold themselves in the most peculiar ways ever: our late sleeping habits, our need to catch up with social media, our habits we formed since young, and the ease we moved about one another.

Everybody put your hands in the air!

We even party similarly. We never fail to turn heads as three of us lanky legged ones stride the mall or pump our fists in the air in the middle of a music festival. We did not really care, to be honest. One night of beers, food, hoots and laughter brought us closer than ever, for we were young (forever) that night. We would have our partners in our lives, but nothing mattered more than who we are to one another – first cousins.

Ramlee Burger. Universal Studios. Coffee hideouts. Sunway Lagoon all over again. 

Hey, how about USA to visit Jennifer next?

So we planned our next trip, just like that.

Tonight the wind is in my hair
July 11, 2012, 10:48 am
Filed under: Rhyme & Riddle, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

Summer lovin’
Paradise surfin’
Close the tab, let’s go ridin’
Down the highway we are cruising.

Tonight the wind’s in my hair
Playing, teasing without any care
I close my eyes and feel like I’m up in the air
Let my mind go, wandering, the rest of the world can stare.

Teeny boppin’
Too much acting
Screw the crowd, let’s go ridin’
Into the rising sun we go cruisin’.

The morning chill creeps up without knowing
Caressing, stroking like a lover anticipating
The sun god descends like warm breath on my skin
Smoothing goosebumps and dispelling tingles I’m washed from sin

Then the wind comes playin’ with my hair
Teasing, tangling without any care
This isn’t a time to stop and stare
But perhaps, steal a second, to have my soul shone bare.

Come home for dinner, my daughter
July 9, 2012, 2:34 am
Filed under: Food, L.ove, Woven Tales | Tags: , , , , ,


It is another Sunday evening, staring at my white plastic bowl, a black pair of chopsticks, and a spoon that looked like it has been through the dishwasher one too many times. The table is white, and I did not have my favourite placemat on it.

It is the usual Sunday evening, seated at a food court with my mother opposite me. Instead of a Channel 8 drama serial blaring in the background, I hear voices of the vendors repeating their patrons’ orders albeit too loudly, the tuneless stacking of plastic plates stacking on top of one another as a cleaner goes around the tables clearing up, and my mum’s complaints dimmed into the background. “It’s too salty…so expensive and they only give you three pieces of meat.”

I did a mental calculation in my head: it has been nine years since I ate regular home-cooked meals. Sure, there were the special occasions such as Chinese New Year reunion dinners, a get-together on Mother’s and Father’s Day…but too often they were seen as a rarity and I gorged…to remember the simple satisfaction I used to take for granted, and to grasp dismally at the memories pegged to them, not knowing when I would enjoy such meals again.

My dear mother, why do you not remember that the promise of a simple dinner by you brought me home faithfully every day? It wasn’t the curfew that you set for me, neither was the threat that there will be no food left if I came home late. It was the pleasure of sitting at the table to my own plate (Bodum, I remembered) of steaming white rice, stir-fry xiao bai cai and best of all, garlic steamed fish that I know I would never get in restaurants.

My dear mother, could you remember how it was a treat for me to find a slice of melted cheese stuck to the plate because you remembered my quirky love for cheese-“baked”-rice? How you complained it was hell to wash the dishes after that? The odd pairing of oyster sauce, cheese with rice lingers in my palate and my memories.

Nothing else comes quite close anymore.

It sickens me to know that the vegetables that those economic rice stalls sell have been deep-fried to preserve their rich green colour. There is no satisfaction in consuming the hardened rice because it was cooked in the morning and left till lunch. I sought pleasure in new dishes, raving reviews, fresh concepts and Peranakan kitchens in my food writing and restaurant-PR days, but nothing else could reach deep into my heart and fill the void that opened nine years ago.

Those who know me tease me about my obsession with Tangs, Muji and general designer kitchenware. Did you know that I would stroll down the aisles of tableware and cutlery sets, mentally picking out the ones I would love to use at home…if I cooked, or if you cooked. I paused at Muji’s new wooden tableware this afternoon, knowing how each plate would contain each type of dish you’d always cooked. I bought two wooden trays back from my last trip to Bangkok, knowing how perfect Sunday mornings will be if your toast was served on it, with cream cheese on the side.

Alas, we both too often came up with the excuse of having no time, too many things to wash, and simply being too lazy.

I sit at the round dining table in the mornings when you are still asleep in bed, eating out from a plastic bag. The cup of Nespresso was the only hint of a somewhat slow morning because only then I have time to make latte. Don’t you think it is funny that we have more coffee mugs than plates, two coffee machines and not a stove, and too many teaspoons but only two tablespoons?

And when I got ready to head out for the day, you stare listlessly at the stainless steel plate you picked out from, one that reminds me too much of canteen days. Where was the pride taken in choosing tableware that used to make us love setting the table and eating at home? Where was the thrill that used to pulsate through us when we insisted on a set of pots and pans? Why has it all been a convenient and cheap option of buying plates that remind me of the tuckshop days?

Perhaps I could say, “My dear mother, come home for dinner. Let me into your kitchen where you were the maestro of the meals that came out of it. Let me into your haven where your hands conducted the orchestra of ingredients and your soul sang to the fire. My dear mother, come home for dinner where I will attempt to replicate a recipe and laugh as you choke on perhaps curry fish made a tad too spicy. Come home to dinner where placemats and tableware matter the world to me, and put your obsession with a squeaky clean and spotless kitchen aside just for three hours tonight.”

My dear mother, dinner is home to me.

Tugging at the heart-strings
June 19, 2012, 1:57 am
Filed under: Two Cents' Worth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

There’s this beautiful thing about music, about how it sings to your heart and soul. Some pieces make you soar, some of them make you weep like there’s no future tomorrow.

Music is a universal language, yet there are times we speak in tunes, and nothing else.

That excruciating feeling when I hear the whine of a sorrowful melody, the gentle tug at my heart-strings when I sink deep into the hoarse whispers that acoustic often brings. The smile that plays around my lips when chords of summer beckon, and I imagine the four seasons that pass by the window.

Music inspires.

More than anything, I miss creating and playing music. Fingers that used to run the black and white ivories have somewhat remembered melodies from long ago, but have much inertia to pick up a new line. A voice that explored the recording studios since the age of 9 has been torched by whisky and cigars.

Tonight it was “creative satisfaction” versus “creative inspiration”.

Subsets of one another, perhaps? I gain creative satisfaction when someone inspires and pushes me to create, to play around with, to expand, to tease out something I could call my own, or ours. Yet creative inspiration is such a wonderful thing that hinges on both parties because it cannot be one-sided. You inspire me as I inspire you. I build castles on your clouds while you gather them from my warm breath. And in those castles you created a maze, which I added more turns and edges to.

That’s creation. Stemmed from….