Friday, October 31, 2008

I need honey!

I am getting nervous! Stage fright is starting to set in.

What am I talking about?

On 8 November 2008, a friend will be getting married. Some of us have been roped in to be the coordinator, lector, reader and/or usher for the church wedding. So far, the list does not sound daunting, does it? Wait! There's more.... yes, 3 ladies (including yours truly) and 1 gentleman have been conscripted into the choir!

I used to be in my school choir. In fact, I was in the choir from primary 3 (Grade 3) till Junior College 2 (Grade 12). I was a first soprano. There was a year where the new choir teacher transferred me to second soprano. It was a big mistake. I had difficulty singing the lower notes. Needless to say, I was back to being a first soprano before long.

However, the last time that I performed publicly was in 1990. That was eons ago!

There will be several hymns / songs sung during the wedding service. Some of these hymns/songs may be familiar to you:-
(a) Shine Jesus Shine
(b) Loving and Forgiving (Psalm 103)
(c) Sing Alleluia to the Lord
(d) The Lord's Prayer
(e) Perhaps Love
(f) Praise her with a flower

With the exception of "Perhaps Love", which is a secular song, the rest of the songs in the list above are Christian/Catholic songs/hymns.

The bride's sister will be singing "Loving and Forgiving" and "Praise her with a flower" solo. I have been asked to sing "Perhaps Love" solo. Our little choir will be singing "Shine Jesus Shine", "Sing Alleuia to the Lord" and "The Lord's Prayer".

These few days, I have been busy trying to locate youtube videos of the above songs so that we can practise. I have managed to find youtube videos for all the songs except for "Praise her with a flower". However, a colleague of mine happens to have a CD entitled "Fifty Years of Love and Blessings" (which is dedicated to Mother Mary) which contains 4 songs, including "Praise her with a flower". Phew!

RT, the "thorn amongst the roses" in the choir is a very talented pianist. He is also the brother of my friend SC. He plays the piano for his church choir. In fact, he also played the piano at Da's and my wedding and also SC's and WC's wedding several years ago.

The choir as well as WC (whom SC says "cannot carry a tune" but who has been assigned the role of "head usher" at the wedding) will be meeting at RT's home this evening to practise the songs (for the very first time!). The last we checked with RT on 25 October 2008, he said that he is familiar with all the songs except "Perhaps Love". Gasp! That is the song that I am supposed to sing solo! Yesterday night, I emailed the link to the youtube video for "Perhaps Love" to SC. Hey, girl, please ask RT to watch the youtube video - I would like to sing a pitch lower because I am "no Placido Domingo" (*grin*).

Gosh! What happened to our power of memorisation as we grow older? I need to buy some ginko biloba (which is believed to help one's memory)! I have been trying to memorise the lyrics to "Perhaps Love". However, I do have to bear in mind that the choir will also be singing three other songs! Frankly speaking, I do not think that I will be able to memorise 4 songs by 8 November 2008. I think that I will stick to memorising "Perhaps Love" and refer to the wedding booklet for the remaining 3 songs. haha!

My wonderful relatives have also been giving me tips on how to ensure that I have a smooth and angelic voice on 8 November 2008 (*giggle*). Here are some of their tips:-
(a) "say no to eating chilli for a start"
(b) "say no to your masala spicy chicken, curry pork dhal, papadum...etc...etc.. hehehe..........oops, as well as baked otah with tahu and the full works.................."
(c) "if you can't resist eating Muar can still indulge in eating them but remember to drink honey to cool down the heat"

post-script @ 11.57 pm
I have just reached home from choir practice. We have changed one of the songs because er... the choir members do not know how to sing the original song! As such, the final song list is as follows:-
(a) Shine Jesus Shine
(b) Loving and Forgiving (Psalm 103)
(c) Sing Alleluia to the Lord
(d) The Lord's Prayer
(e) Perhaps Love
(f) Ave Maria

SC's mother has suggested that we take a spoonful of "chuan pei pi pa gao" daily till "showtime" at the wedding.

On a lighter note, the 3 ladies of the choir have been contemplating going busking next week so that we can practise the 6 wedding songs at the same time. SC is not free on 3 November 2008 but SL and I have been toying with the idea of busking in Bedok on 3 November 2008. Very tempting... let's see how my schedule is on that day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

go organic

The latest buzz words are "GO ORGANIC".

What does it mean to "go organic"? Organic foods are produced according to certain production standards, that is, they are grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste or sewage sludge and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. Livestock are reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified.

Organic food production is legally regulated. Currently, the European Union, the United States of America, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain organic certification in order to market food as organic.

Historically, organic farms have been relatively small family-run farms, which is why organic food was once only available in small stores or farmers' markets. However, since the early 1990s organic food production has had growth rates of around 20% a year, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations. As of April 2008, organic food accounts for 1-2% of food sales worldwide. Future growth is expected to range from 10-50% annually depending on the country.

Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients. If non-organic ingredients are present, at least a certain percentage of the food's total plant and animal ingredients must be organic (95% in the United States of America and Australia) and any non-organically produced ingredients are subject to various agricultural requirements. Foods claiming to be organic must be free of artificial food additives and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions (no chemical ripening, no food irradiation and no genetically modified ingredients, etc.).

They may also be required to be produced using energy-saving technologies and packaged using recyclable or biodegradable materials when possible.

Early consumers interested in organic food would look for non-chemically treated, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: "Know your farmer, know your food" was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted "organic" were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored. As demand for organic foods continues to increase, high volume sales through mass outlets such as supermarkets are rapidly replacing the direct farmer connection. However, for supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labeling, like "certified organic", is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance. A "certified organic" label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is "organic".

It is a common belief that organic food is very expensive. In general, organic food costs more than conventional food because of the laborious and time-intensive systems used by the typically smaller organic farms. You may find that the benefits of organic agriculture off-set this additional cost. At the same time, there are ways to purchase organic while sticking to your budget. There are several factors we should take into consideration when questioning the price of organic:-

(a) Organic farmers do not receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
(b) The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.
(c) Organic farming is more labour and management intensive.

Is eating organic food the same as eating natural food? Natural foods do not contain additives or preservatives, but they may contain ingredients that have been grown with pesticides or are genetically modified. In other words, the ingredients in the ingredient panel will look familiar, but they have not been produced organically. Natural foods are not regulated and do not meet the same criteria that organic foods do.

Many of us balk at the thought of eating organic food because we have this perception that organic food is unpalatable. This may have been true of processed foods at one time (for example, crackers or pretzels). However, this stereotype is as outdated as the hippie connotations that follow it. Today many organic snack foods taste the same as their conventional counterparts, while most people agree that fresh, locally grown organic produce does not compare to the alternative. Even organic produce that is not in season and has been shipped thousands of miles to reach our supermarkets' shelves cannot compare to the produce found in our own back yard or at farmers markets. Taste is certainly an individual matter, so give organic a try and see what you think! Try baking a couple batches of cookies or prepare a couple of bowls of fruit or vegetable salad; use organic ingredients in one and conventional ingredients in the other.

Here are some recipes that you may like to try:-


When my colleagues and I had a business lunch with some clients on 28 October 2008 at a Chinese restaurant, we were each given a complimentary drink at the end of the lunch. The drink was served in a test tube and was very red in colour. I took a sip and tasted beetroot. When we asked the waitress what was in the drink, she said that it was an organic drink and was very healthy.

Here are the ingredients for the organic drink:-
(a) beetroot
(b) lemon juice
(c) green apple

I do not know the proportion of the ingredients. I have not tried concocting the organic drink yet but I intend to do so in the near future. What was really interesting is that there was mixed reaction to the organic drink - the women loved the drink whereas the men all made a face when they took a first sip of the drink!


1 cup corn starch
1 tbsp orrisroot powder
1/4 tsp essential oil

Spoon the cornstarch and orrrisroot powder into a blender and run on low speed. Slowly add essential oil and blend well. The dusting powder can be applied with a powder puff.


2 tbsp Sea Mud Base (Sea Kelp, Green Clay, Calcium Carbonate, Baking soda, Xanthan gum)
5-6 drops of essential oils
1 cup distilled or filtered water (heated)

Blending Mask:Beat all ingredients together, using a whisk or hand blender, until mask begins to thicken into a paste. Add essential oils and blend well. If the mask is not being used immediately, pour into a clean plastic bag, knot at the end and refrigerate (3-4 days). Place bag in boiling water until warm to use your mask. The shelf life for the mask is 2 weeks refrigerated


2 cups finely ground sea salt
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp light oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil
2 eggs
5-6 drops essential oil

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees celsius. Mix together all the ingredients. Take a teaspoon of the dough and roll it gently into a ball (about an inch in diameter). Continue doing this with all the dough and place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. (You can decorate the cookies with clove buds, anise seeds, or dried citrus peel if you wish.) Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Do not over bake. Allow the cookies to cool completely.

To use: drop 1 or 2 cookies into a warm bath and allow to dissolve.

Yield: 24 cookies, enough for 12 baths.


1 egg white
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp vodka or witch hazel
2 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops thyme essential oil

Mix together all ingredients. Place in a clean container and keep in the refrigerator. At night before retiring, pour a teaspoonful in the palm of your hand or on cotton ball and rub over face and neck, letting it dry. If desired, in the morning, an hour before bathing, repeat the operation, also letting the liquid dry. Regular use of this preparation for four weeks will give the skin an extraordinary beauty and freshness.

(1) Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bon voyage, 花

By this time tomorrow, 花 would be back home in the Philippines.

After 8 years in Singapore, she has decided to go back to the land of her birth.

I am sure that in her years here, she has enjoyed herself and she has formed lasting friendships. I fully agree with Tiki that the globe is so small - no where is too far to travel to.

It is with great sadness and reluctance that her friends in Singapore bid her bon voyage and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

We hope that she will come back and visit us as often as she can. Furthermore, I shall be thick skinned and openly ask 花 now for an invitation for Big Foot, ET, SY, The Three Musketeers, Da and me to visit her in her homeland soon.

花, do let us know when you have settled down back in Philippines and gotten used to the way of life there. I think that after 8 years here, you have acclimatised yourself to the Singaporean culture, customs, language and way of life. You can even speak some Mandarin, dialect and Malay now! What an achievement!

We will miss you, girl. You will always be in our prayers.

May the Lord bless you richly and may you always abide in the shadow of His Almighty. May the blessings of Abraham be upon you and your family.

Take care, dear girl.

And now, a parting gift... here are some lovely youtube videos that I know that you will enjoy:-

God Bless You.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

rosemary wine cake with walnuts and raisins

I came across the recipe for rosemary wine cake with currants in a health magazine. As it is a health magazine, the recipes inside the magazine are supposed to be healthy. In the case of the rosemary wine cake, the recipe requires only 3 tablespoonfuls of butter.

I have modified the recipe slightly as I was not able to find some of the ingredients at the supermarket.

Not to worry, despite the modification in the recipe, the cake turned out fine. If, however, you would like the cake taste more moist, you can omit the inclusion of the crushed walnuts in the cake mixture. Personally, I am fine with the inclusion of the crushed walnuts in the cake mixture.

In fact, this cake turned out so well that when I brought the cake to a dinner on Saturday, 25 October 2008, many of us who ate the cake had a 2nd helping!


1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp butter (softened)

3/4 cup castor sugar

1/2 cup peanut oil

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla essence

dash of ground cinnamon

1 cup raisins

1/4 cup crushed walnuts

2 tsp dried rosemary leaves

3/4 cup sweet dessert wine


2 tbsp fine sugar

1/2 cup crushed walnuts


1. Grease a bundt pan with butter/margarine and dust with flour.

2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar.

4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time.

5. Add the oil, lemon zest, vanilla essence, ground cinnamon, raisins, crushed walnuts and rosemary leaves and mix well.

6. Stir in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then add 1/2 of the wine. Repeat using the remaining flour mixture and remaining wine, mixing just until smooth.

7. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking pan.

8. Sprinkle 1/2 of the fine sugar, then the crushed walnuts, then the remaining fine sugar.

9. Bake at 175 degrees celsius for 1 hour. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

10. Let the cake cool thoroughly in the baking pan. If you have greased the pan and dusted the pan with flour, you should be able to remove the cake easily. If you have difficulty removing the cake, place the baking pan on top of a hot towel for a few minutes - you should then be able to remove the cake from the pan.


1. As pre-packed crushed walnuts are not easily available in the supermarket, to crush the walnuts, you can either:-

(a) hit the walnuts (in the packet) with a rolling pin;

(b) use a walnut crusher (like what you see in the photograph below); or

(c) use a chopper/blender.

I prefer using a walnut crusher as the walnuts end up crushed but not ground. If you were to use a chopper/blender, the walnuts tend to end up ground. If you use a rolling pin, well, whether the walnuts end up crushed or ground depends on who you are thinking of as you are hitting the walnuts with the rolling pin.

2. If you do not have peanut oil, you can replace it with olive oil. The inclusion of oil makes the cake more moist. My aunt was the one who recommended using peanut oil instead of corn oil when baking cakes. I have found that peanut oil makes the cake very flavourful.

3. If you do not have sweet dessert wine, you can replace it with sweet red wine.

4. The cake goes well with a hot cup of coffee.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy birthday, Supercute!

It is Supercute's birthday today. Happy birthday, dear boy! Yes, yes, you are now erm... almost as tall as I am! Remember that I wear high heels, so I am still taller than you! *grin

When Da and I arrived at Supercute's home, we had a pleasant surprise. Big Foot was there! He was watching television with his boy-boy (photograph below). The little one must be exuberant that his Papa is back from his golf trip to Malacca, Malaysia.

Big Foot gave Da and I a lovely souvenir from Malacca. Thank you very much, Big Foot, for your thoughtfulness.

SY announced that in celebration of Supercute's birthday, we will all go to Tanglin Halt hawker centre for western food. Yummy! There is a stall at Tanglin Halt hawker centre that is famous for their western food. Proudly displayed at the stall is an old and faded newspaper article from eons ago with a write-up about the food.

Some of us ordered the mixed grill, which comprises a piece of chicken and a piece of pork.

The rest of us ordered the chicken cutlet.

Nining did not order anything. However, she had a great time "sharing food" with all of us! No prizes for guessing who ate all my baked beans and french fries.

ET also ordered a plate of satay from the Muslim stall. What I like about satay sold by the Muslim stallholders is that the entire stick of satay comprises the satay meat and there is no piece of fat meat sandwiched inside the satay (unlike satay sold by Chinese stallholders).

After dinner, it was back to the home of the Three Musketeers for singing of the birthday song and cutting of the birthday cake. Oops.... I should say "birthday cakes" because SY proudly baked 2 cakes for the soon-to-be-lanky teenager.

First up, a lemon meringue pie.

The pie was followed by a cranberry and raisin cake. Delicious!

Supercute, on the occasion of your 13th birthday, I wish you very many happy returns of the day. I have known you since you were a little boy and I am proud that you are growing up to be a very thoughtful and mature young man. May the Lord bless you and may you abide in the shadow of His Almighty always.

The three mouseketeers

I woke up this morning and looked at the alarm clock groggily. Gasp! I was late for a lunch appointment with my friends, BW and EK.

The three mousketeers had arranged to meet for lunch at Basilico, Regent Hotel. I quickly sent a text message to BW to inform her that I will be late.

Da gave me a lift to Regent Hotel. I quickened my steps as I walked towards the restaurant. I had not seen BW and EK for some time and I was looking forward to chatting and gossiping.

EK had booked a table for buffet lunch at Basilico. When I arrived and I was shown to the table, I waved at the 2 girls with whom I was schoolmates in junior college.

I went to survey the buffet spread. Wow! The selection of salads and cold cuts was mind boggling.

I do not normally eat bread when I eat a buffets. However, there was such a wide selection of bread that I could not resist taking a bread bun. It was soft and, in the words of a certain bread company, "good enough to eat on its own".

We had a wonderful lunch, catching up and gossiping. Although we have each gone on to different professions, our paths seem to cross from time to time and we have mutual work acquaintances.

Just when I thought that I could not eat another bite, I took a look at the dessert spread and I surrendered. So much choice! In the end, in the interest of our ever-expanding waistlines, we decided to share the desserts. As such, each of us selected some cakes, custards, etc and we shared the desserts.

I would recommend their tiramisu - it is absolutely divine! I am partial to apple crumble and I was very pleased to discover that their apple crumble is served warm.

It was raining when we left the hotel. BW drove off to another gathering (how was the laksa, girl?) whereas EK and I took a bus - EK was on her way to Parkway Parade and I was on my way home. I have a birthday dinner to attend later in the day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Do not worry

The truth will outlast everything.

Some people are discouraged and feel as if they do not deserve God's help and grace. However, God cares for His people's needs. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

If two shall agree, it shall be done.

Our needs are met, more than enough for us to be a blessing to others in our lives.

When Jesus becomes the centrepiece of our lives, fish go to where He is and prosperity starts flowing to us. The blessings of God behind us will overtake us. Jesus wants to be personal with us. He cares for our bodily needs and wants.

He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Jesus will perform a miracle even though it is our lack of foresight. God's supply is inexhaustible. He does not want us to see our failures. He wants us to see how loving He is.

God is doing things in our lives. Money is being transferred. Oil prices are dropping at a drastic rate. We need God to bail us out.

Our God is a big God. Ask Him for big things and we complement Him. He will move heaven and earth to protect His people.

Our loving Father watches over us. We can turn our eyes to the perfection that is Jesus Christ.

The law is holy but it cannot make us holy; only Jesus can.

In our very area of weakness, if we put it in the hands of Jesus, it will become our area of strength.

God justifies the ungodly. God hates sin but God loves the sinner. It is all the blood of Jesus. Because it is all paid, God does not punish us. God gave Jesus what we deserved and God gave us what Jesus deserved. During these times, we are going to enjoy what Jesus deserves. It is easy to do right in the presence of such love.

The goodness of God leads us to repentance. We fall in love with the God who first loved us. God will defend us, even when we are not perfect.

Do not worry. Our Father knows we need all these things. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Do not worry about tomorrow. The world is the world; are are not of the world.

He gave His life for us on the cross so that His favour will be unleashed upon our lives.

Kindness will always be upon us. Surely God's goodness a d mercies will always follow us.

Deepavali feast

To all my Indian friends, Happy Deepavali!

Deepavali is also known as the "festival of lights". The lights or lamps signify the victory of good over evil in every human being. This year, Deepavali falls on Monday, 27 October 2008.

To celebrate Deepavali, I invited my family to our place for dinner today.

Da and I had intended to wake up early this morning and attend the 9 am church service so that I would have enough time to prepare for the dinner. However, we overslept and ended up attending the 11.30 am church service.

After church, we had a quick lunch at our favourite coffeeshop located at Jalan Tua Kong before we rushed home. By the time we got home, it was almost 4 pm.

I started by baking a chilli chicken casserole in the oven.

Yesterday, I had already prepared the chicken by marinating the chicken with Chilli Chicken - 65 spice (that you see in the photograph below), lemon juice, black vinegar, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, ground ginger, garam masala, curry leaves, star aniseed, cloves, chopped parsley, chopped garlic and chopped onion. As such, all I had to do was to take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and transfer the same to a baking pan before placing the pan in the oven.

While the chicken was baking in the oven, I prepared an otah and egg casserole. Recently, YK's mother went to Kukup in Malaysia and she gave us 2 pieces of frozen otah. Da and I had already eaten 1 of the pieces of otah for breakfast the other day. As such, I decided to use the remaining piece to make a casserole. (For the recipe, please refer to The difference is that today's casserole also contains egg tauhu.

(Hi YK - your mother asked for feedback on the otah that she bought. According to the label on the package, this otah is purportedly from Muar. I find that this otah tastes more "lemak" and is more nonya style than the otah that my family usually buys from Muar. It is perhaps due to the "lemak-ness" of the otah that gives it less "oomph" (in terms of smell and taste) than the Muar otah that I am used to.)

On 4 October 2008, Da and I bought some two types of curry powder from Little India - curry powder for fish and curry powder for meat ( I used the curry powder for meat to make a pork curry dish. In addition to the usual ingredients that accompany a curry dish (eg. potatoes, carrots, etc), I added bamboo shoots (something I learned from ET). In line with the Indian theme of the dinner, I added condiments such a cloves, cinnamon sticks, star aniseed, etc. To thicken the gravy, I used plain yoghurt instead of coconut milk.

Next up, my all-time favourite Indian dish - dhal. A big thank you to SCG (may he rest in peace), a copy of whose electronic mail dated 18 March 2003 (giving me tips on how to cook his famous dhal dish) I managed to locate yesterday after rummaging through the drawers. Thank heavens! When SCG was still alive, each time Da and I visited him in Perth, I would never tire of eating SCG's home-cooked dhal. He would always cook a large portion of the dhal and the leftovers would be re-heated the next day and eaten with hot steamed basmati rice. Here is a tip that SCG gave me when cooking dhal - add sambar powder to your dhal dish and it would taste very aromatic. This dish is does not contain any meat and is therefore suitable for vegetarians.

Oops! Speaking of rice, I forgot to take a photograph of the briyani rice that we cooked! Oh well, just imagine piping hot yellow briyani rice. Sedap!

For the stir-fried vegetables, I cooked a variation of SCG's cabbage and mustard seed dish. SCG used to fry green cabbage with mustard seed and tumeric powder. For me, I used 2 types of cabbage - the green cabbage (tip: Beijing cabbage is sweeter than those from Malaysia or Indonesia) and the purple coloured cabbage. I also added carrots, fresh mushrooms, canned mushrooms, capsicum and onions.

I had originally wanted to toast the papadum (GN toasts her uncooked papadum at 180 degrees celsius in the oven for a minute). I tried toasting the papadum today. However, even after 20 minutes, the toasted papadum did not look anything like the ones that GN toasted the other day for FIL's birthday party ( In the end, I decided to fry the papadum.

Uncooked papadum is known as "appalam flour crackers" (like what you see in the photograph below). The fried version is known as "papadum".

After dinner, I made a pot of masala tea using tea dust, masala spice and condensed milk. I also served konnyaku jelly that I had made.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What a day!

I had intended to go to the office today to clear work. However, I was exhausted and I overslept.

In the end, I rushed from home to pick up Da from the office (he was working today). We had a quick lunch at the food court at Amara Shopping Centre before we made our way to the home of WC and SC. WC's niece will be getting married on 8 November 2008. WC, SC and I have been roped in to help out at the church wedding.

The last time that I helped out at a church wedding was... goodness me! It was at the wedding of WC and SC a few years ago! I was the lector as well. Time certainly flies.

We gave WC and SC some rosella dessert that I had made. (For the recipe, please refer to

When we arrived, WC's mother gave us some hot dessert that she had made. It was white fungus with ginko nut dessert. Delicious!

All too soon, evening approached. We had to rush off for a dinner. After being in Singapore for eight years, 花 will be going back to Philippines on 30 October 2008. I have known 花 for 7 out of the 8 years that she has been in Singapore. I feel very sad that she has decided to return home for good. She is a lovely girl who is fun to hang out with. 花, I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and I hope that you will come back to Singapore from time to time to visit all your friends here, including yours truly.

Dinner was very healthy. We had shabu-shabu with mushroom hot pot.

The host had taken the trouble to buy several different types of mushrooms for the hot pot.

This morning, I baked a rosemary wine cake with walnuts and raisins for the dinner. I came across the recipe in a health magazine recently and I decided to try out the recipe today. Considering the fact that the recipe was published in a health magazine, my guess is that the cake must be quite healthy. After all, the recipe only involved 3 tablespoonfuls of butter.

The cake was accompanied by hot coffee. A wonderful combination.

I am pleased with how the cake turned out. I grated the walnuts myself. This is also the first time that I have made a cake with toppings. I had modified the recipe slightly as I could not find some of the ingredients at the supermarket. Not to worry, despite the modification in the recipe, the cake turned out fine. If, however, you are not too keen on walnuts, then leave the ground walnuts for the toppings only and do not add any to the cake mixture.

Dinner did not end with the cake and coffee. There is a yong tauhu stall located at the Bukit Merah View hawker centre that operates from 12 midnight to 4 am only. As we were all awake after the dinner and cake/coffee, we decided to adjourn for supper. The name of the stall is "Shunli".

Goodness me! Do Singaporeans not sleep at night? The queue was very long when we arrived. The procedure is to select your ingredients and place them in a bowl. Then, you queue up with your bowl and wait your turn to hand the bowl to the stallholder and to give him instructions on how many bowls of noodles you would like to order.

While waiting for our supper, we placed orders for our drinks. Unfortunately, the drink stall holder seemed to have made a mistake with our drink order. We ordered 3 glasses of Chinese tea but ended up with 3 glasses of English tea with milk.

Finally, supper arrived! The interesting thing is that the cooked ingredients are served with soup in an aluminium bowl. How quaint! We ordered 6 bowls of noodles but my camera could not fit all the bowls into the photograph below. Everyone ordered the yellow noodles except for me (I ordered beehoon).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chinese money plant

Walk around any supermarket or flea market in Singapore and Malaysia, and chances are that you will come across Chinese money plants being sold.

The Chinese money plant is also known as "pilea peperomioides", "jade tree" and "Chinese missionary plant". It is native to western China and is a green-leaved house plant.

My experience with the Chinese money plant is that it is fairly undemanding and fast growing.

This plant was brought to Europe from China by a Swedish missionary in 1946.

As you can see from the photograph above, the features of the Chinese money plant are as follows:-

(a) brown, cylindrical, rough, brittle, woody stems up to 30cm long;

(b) leathery, green and disk-shaped leaves;

(c) the young leaves are glossy, dulling with age;

(d) the leaf stalk grows from centre of leaf disk.

Traditionally, the Chinese money plant is grown in any fertile, moist and well drained soil. However, it is increasingly popular to grow the Chinese money plant in a vase with either marbles or jelly containing fertilisers.

The vase of the Chinese money plant that you see in the photograph below contains round jelly in multi-colours, designed to look like marbles. These jelly contain fertilisers.

The Chinese money plant thrives well where there is light. A light shade will encourage larger leaves. However, the leaves may scorch in bright direct sunlight.

The plant that you see in the photograph below was propagated from stem cuttings from a money plant that I bought from NTUC supermarket a few years ago. As the plant is displayed on the side cabinet next to my window and there is an air-conditioning vent nearby, the plant gets the benefit of sunlight and air-conditioning.

Some tips to growing Chinese money plant are as follows:-

(a) Trim back leggy old growth and repot if need be.

(b) Remove old and yellowed leaves as necessary.

(c) Give your plant frequent watering in warm weather.

(d) Feed your plant regularly. I use liquid fertiliser.

I once bought a small pot of Chinese money plant from NTUC supermarket for S$2. I still have several offspring of the original plant.

This plant propagates easily with leafs planted with the bottom end in soil. To propagate the Chinese money plant, what you have to do is to cut, remove and pot up basal shoots / stem cuttings.

The Chinese money plant does not tolerate over-watering. I have been told that although it rarely flowers indoors, if given the right conditions, like the cacti, it can produce tiny star-like flowers which are white/pink in colour. I have several pots of the plant at home as well as in the office. May my plants be blessed with flowers!

As a houseplant, the Chinese money plant resembles miniature trees and require good light to grow although one should not expose a young plant to full sunlight. Once the plant is fully grown, direct exposure to sunlight should not hurt.

It is important to allow the soil to dry completely in between waterings. I used to spray mist the plant because I like to see shiny and glossy flowers. However, I have since learned that it is not advisable to do this.

The plant that you see in the photograph below is displayed in a ledge at the planter box in our master bathroom. There is a small window at the side of the bathroom (near the plant) where sunlight and air can flow through.

Under-watered plants will have "crinkled" leaves and over-watered ones will start to turn soft and yellow and start to drop. If the leaves are crinkled and drooping, you may need to water it more.

The plant is not very fussy about what type of fertiliser you use. I generally use whatever liquid fertiliser I have available at home. As I have many types of plants at home (eg. orchids, bougainvillea, sweet basil, etc) and I also have plants in the office (eg. African violets and Chinese money plant), I have at some point or other bought different types of liquid fertilisers (eg. for orchids, for African violets, etc). The Chinese money plant seems to accept any of these types of liquid fertilisers although some people have advised that it would be preferable to use a fertiliser specially formulated for cacti.

The Chinese money plant is the ultimate symbol of prosperity for the Chinese. Its flat round leaves and compact shape makes it the Asian equivalent of a money tree.

There is a belief that if you bury nine coins in the soil of the plant and place in the wealth corner of your office or home, symbolically as the plant grows, so to will abundance increase in your life.





Thursday, October 23, 2008

claypot chicken rice

I like to eat claypot chicken rice. In particular, I enjoy eating the burnt part of the rice, which is found at the bottom of the claypot.

Claypot chicken rice is a common dish found in Singapore and Malaysia and is usually served with Chinese sausages, dried mushrooms, salted fish (which enhances the taste of the dish) and vegetables and drizzled with dark soya sauce. Traditional claypot chicken rice is such that the rice is cooked in the claypot first and cooked ingredients like diced chicken and chinese sausage are added in later.

If the cooking is done over a charcoal stove, the dish has a beautiful aroma. However, it would take about 15 to 30 minutes to cook the dish.

Nowadays, many hawkers will simply do the cooking over a gas stove. I have also come across claypot chicken rice where the rice is pre-cooked in a rice cooker and as such, the cooked rice and ingredients are added to the claypot before the claypot is either heated over a gas stove or a microwave oven.

There is a restaurant called "Uncle Sam's Claypots" near my office. As Da and I had not eaten there for several years, we decided to have our lunch there.

I ordered the claypot boneless chicken rice. I was very pleased to discover burnt rice at the bottom of the claypot. :)

Da ordered the claypot beef rice. The slices of beef were very tender.

When you buy a claypot for home-use, it is important to test the claypot before using it. What you will need to do is to fill the claypot with water and place the claypot on top of a piece of dry cloth. Leave the claypot to rest overnight. The next morning, if you find that the cloth is wet, it means that the claypot has not been made properly and is leaking. Such a claypot should not be used.

It is not easy to buy a good claypot. Many claypots are made abroad and in the course of the import from abroad, the claypot may have received knocks and as such, there may be cracks in the claypot that may not be visible to the naked eye. As such, it is therefore important to test the claypot before using it (using the method in the paragraph above).

There used to be a stall in the corner coffee shop located along Jalan Tua Kong that sells chinese cooked food and in particular, aromatic chicken claypot rice. As there is always a large crowd at the coffee shop at night, the waiting time is quite long. Also, the chef cooks the rice in the claypot and as such, one has to wait about 30 minutes before one gets to enjoy the claypot chicken rice. Unfortunately, the couple that operated the stall decided to call it a day after many years. Such a pity!

Here is a simple recipe for home-made claypot chicken rice.


2 cups rice (washed and drained)

3 cups chicken stock

2 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)

5 Chinese dried mushrooms (soaked and cut into half)

1 knob ginger (sliced thinly)

1 Chinese sausage (sliced)

salted fish (sliced thinly and fried till crispy)

1 tbsp dark soya sauce

4 tbsp garlic oil


2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp Hua Tao wine (ie. Chinese cooking wine)

1 tsp of ginger juice

1 tbsp sesame oil

½ tsp grated black peppercorn

1/2 tsp grated white peppercorn

½ tsp sugar

½ tbsp corn flour


Spring onion (chopped)

any green leafy vegetables of your choice (blanched)


1. Mix chicken, dried mushrooms and sliced ginger with marinade and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

2. Put rice and chicken stock into a claypot, cover and bring to boil lower fire and cook with low heat for about 15 minutes till holes are formed on top.

3. Spread marinated chicken, dried mushrooms and Chinese sausage on top, cover and cook with low heat for about 15 minutes till the rice is dry and the chicken pieces are cooked.

4. Remove from the fire and sprinkle salted fish on top, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes till rice is dry and fluffy.

5. Before serving, add the green leafy vegetables and sprinkle spring onion, black soya sauce and garlic oil, mix in to combine toppings and rice.


1. You can buy ginger juice from the supermarket. Alternatively, to make your own ginger juice, grate a knob of ginger and squeeze out the juice.

2. To make garlic oil, simply chop some garlic and fry with more oil than you would normally use to fry garlic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crossing over

When Da's friend (SNC) was still alive, he used to offer us the hospitality of his lovely home in Canningvale, Perth, Western Australia whenever we visited Perth.

SNC was a good friend of ours. He was from Seremban in West Malaysia but he obtained his Australian citizenship many years ago. He was an excellent chef and I used to enjoy helping him to prepare meals (or rather, standing around watching him prepare his curries, etc and asking him endless questions, all of which he answered with patience). His favourite phrase was "curry in a hurry" (other than "no worries", of course). Are you familiar with Baba's curry? Well, the recipe for the curry was actually SNC's aunt's own recipe. According to SNC, the company that sells Baba's curry bought the recipe from her and paid her royalties.

SNC passed away suddenly a few years ago. He had undergone a heart bypass surgery which was successful. However, when he was recuperating at his sister's home in Perth, a blot clot from another part of his body started to move (probably due to the blood vessels having been cleared after the heart bypass) and it was this clot that ultimately killed him.

Da and I were stunned when we received the news of his sudden death. I could not help breaking down in tears. We were unable to book a flight to Perth at short notice to attend his funeral but we requested a friend there to help us say a message to SNC during the friend's eulogy to SNC. We were told that there was a very big turnout at his funeral.

Da and I have spoken about SNC often over the years that followed, always with fond memories and at the same time, sadness at a life that was taken away in its prime. SNC was cremated with some of his ashes thrown into the Canning River in Perth and the rest brought back to Seremban. We do not know his family's address in Seremban nor do we have his sister's contact details in Perth. As such, when we visited Perth in a subsequent year, we were unable to pay our respects to SNC at, say, a columnbaria or cemetery, to our regret.

Whenever we visited SNC in Perth, we would watch the show "Crossing Over with John Edward" on Australian television. John Edward McGee, Jr, better known as John Edward, is an author from the United States of America. He is also a television personality. In the show "Crossing Over with John Edward", he is portrayed as a psychic medium who is able to communicate with the spirits of deceased relatives of the audience members. I have watched several episodes of this show over the years that we visited SNC. We would often see the audience members break down in tears and feeling relief when certain issues that had been burdening them for years concerning their deceased relatives were lifted during the show.

Recently, just as I was about to wake up for work, I saw SNC very clearly in my dreams. He was wearing a striped green knit shirt and smiling broadly at me. It was amazing because I remember that when SNC was alive, he used to wear striped knit shirts very often. In my dream, SNC even came over towards me and gave me a big hug, as if to reassure me that everything is okay with him. I was already half awake by then and I remember stiffening my back as I received the hug as I was not sure whether what I was going through was real. However, I felt the hug distinctly. Thank you very much, SNC, for taking the trouble to let us know that you are at peace and you are happy. (Gosh... I am starting to tear as I am typing this post.)

Have you ever had experiences where a deceased relative or friend has come to you in a dream and given you signs that everything is okay with them? Wouldn't you love to be able to talk to them one more time to ask them how they are and to tell them how much you love them?

When my daddy passed away, my family had several incidents of my daddy appearing to us in a dream, some of which were as follows:-

(a) On the 7th day of my daddy's death, my mommy and I had similar dreams. I cannot remember what her dream was. However, in my dream, my daddy was in a coffin in church. He got up from the coffin and he walked out into the open. I remember running after my daddy and as I ran out of the church, I woke up.

(b) My youngest brother dreamed that the telephone rang. When he answered the call, he heard my daddy call his name. My brother was very young then and he was perhaps shocked and he then woke up from his dream before he could hear what else my daddy had to say.

(c) I dreamt that I was sitting at the back seat of a car and my daddy was driving. He was speaking but I could not hear clearly what he was saying.

When my beloved cousin (PL) was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were taken by surprise. Her career was taking off and she was not a smoker (no one in her family is a smoker). I prayed constantly for her recovery. Initially, she was very positive (I am humbled by her strength) and accepted the invasive medical treatments with good nature. However, when she lost feeling in her legs, I think the fight went out of her. I remember that I was in the office when my mommy called me to tell me the bad news. I raised my voice in shock and then I could not stop crying. After her funeral, stories after stories came from relatives and friends about how she appeared to them in their dreams to let them know that everything was okay with her. For example:-

(a) My aunt (PL's mother) was travelling in a car once and she was thinking of PL. At that moment, she happened to look up into the sky and saw clouds forming the letter "M" (for "mother"?). This is simply amazing.

(b) PL had picked up the skill of ear candling and she used to do ear candling for her sister (HL). One night, HL could feel in her ear the same feeling that one gets when one is undergoing ear candling (I know what HL is talking about because I have tried ear candling at the beauty salon before). In the family, only PL knows how to do ear candling.

(c) PL came to me in a dream one night. However, I cannot remember exactly what she said - such a pity.

A week before my dearest grandma passed away, I suddenly felt a desire to visit her in Muar even though my family and I would already be going to Muar in about a month's time for Chinese New Year. At that time, I was very busy at work but somehow, I wanted to see grandma. My brothers were not free, so my mommy, my aunt and I drove to Muar and we spent a very enjoyable weekend with grandma. I remember telling grandma, as we were leaving, "see you in less than a month's time". At that time, my relatives laughed and reminded me that Chinese New Year was a month away and not less than a month away. How prophetic my words turned out to be! A week later, my grandma suddenly gasped for breath one morning and passed away in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. My grandma was the kindest person around and she was simply so amazing and she loved her grandchildren so much that I cannot believe that she is no longer with us. We miss her greatly. Among the many amazing encounters that took place were the following:-

(a) After grandma's funeral, my grandma appeared in a dream to my mother's cousin (who was looked after by grandma when she was a child and who now lives in Minnesota, United States of America). We all teased my aunt that grandma has now gone around the world.

(b) My mommy and some of my relatives smelt the talcum powder that grandma used when they were in grandma's room.

(c) Some relatives who can "sense the presence of spirits" could sense grandma's presence in the home that she lived in for many years.

(d) On the 7th day of grandma's death, the painting of the Goddess of Mercy (which had faded after so many years) suddenly became illuminated and the outline of the clothes of Goddess of Mercy were clearly visible.

Sometimes, amazing things happen at funerals / wakes, eg.

(a) the dripping wax from the candles form angel wings;

(b) the deceased starts to smile as the wake progresses, even to the extent of revealing his/her teeth;

(c) the deceased's fingers automatically close over a prayer bead that was placed in the hand a few days after death;

(d) footsteps can be heard in the dead of the night during the wake;

(e) the presence of the deceased can be felt by persons who can "sense the presence of spirits";

(f) the temperature in the room suddenly dips;

(g) the dripping wax from the candles form a group of persons kneeling and praying.

Remark: I placed a lot of thought before I typed this post. It is not an easy topic for me and it took me several days to come to a decision to type this post and to publish it. To all my loved ones and friends who have gone on to your rest - you will always be in our hearts and minds. May the Lord bless you and may you abide in the shadow of His Almighty Wings forever. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

rosella dessert

What does one do when one is feeling a little heaty and would like a refreshing drink / dessert? Perhaps one may head for the nearest dessert stall and order a nice bowl of "cheng ting" or one could, of course, make one's own "cheng ting" at home.

How about something different, something involving the rosella flower? In my post on 5 September 2008, I talked about the rosella flower and the health benefits associated with it.

Shortly after I published my post about the rosella flower, my family and I were at the NTUC Supermarket along Killiney Road when I came across dried rosella flowers being sold in packets. I bought a packet at that time and it has been sitting in my larder doing nothing since then.

On 18 October 2008 (saturday), Da and I were lazing around at home in the afternoon. We had about 2 1/2 hours to relax before we would go out to attend FIL's birthday party. I was very tempted to bake a cake or some cookies. However, much to my regret, there was insufficient time. As such, I rummaged through our larder to look for something to cook / bake that would need less cooking / baking time. I saw the packet of rosella flower and a thought came to me.

I decided to make refreshing dessert using rosella flower and other dried ingredients.

Here is a photograph of the rosella dessert:-

Here are the ingredients that you will need:-

In case you are squinting your eyes trying to figure out what the ingredients are, not to worry.... here is the recipe...


1/2 bowl dried orange peel

1/2 bowl wolfberry seeds

1/2 bowl dried longan meat

1/2 bowl dried rosella flower

1 bowl red dates (pitted)

1 bowl rock sugar


1. Fill a large pot with water.

2. Add all the ingredients and stir them thoroughly.

3. Bring the dessert to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

If you do not fancy eating the ingredients, you can drink the dessert on its own.


1. The bigger the wolfberry seeds, the sweeter they are.

2. Make sure that the red dates are pitted. If the pits are not removed, the dates will be a little bitter.

3. Adjust the amount of rock sugar to suit your tastebud.
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