Oct 12 2016

Remembering Basil Alcove

Published by under Life

I got finger-trigger happy earlier and was trashing a bunch of blog posts, and then of course the inevitable happened and I discovered I’d permanently deleted something I’d wanted to keep.

You see, earlier this year I’d received a comment on the blog from someone very special to our family, on this post.

Dearest Evelyn, Alf and layla!!! Stumbled upon your blog by chance! Was searching
around the internet for some old articles… Anyway was so moved by your entry that i
couldn’t resist and had to reply you immediately! Miss you guys terribly and definitely
cooking for Layla! You guys are the one of the few reasons i still continue cooking everyday, i have learnt a lot throughout this journey with you guys! Big respect on the kind words. Hope you will have a pleasant day, write to you soon! — Xander

I’ve written back but we haven’t heard from Xander since; I hope he’s doing OK and I’ll probably check on him around Christmas. His message meant a lot to me, Alf, and Layla. I remember getting up at 6AM because my phone pinged, reading it, and tearing up. It’s not stuff we would’ve said to each other in person, but he was a big part of our lives and I’m so glad he’s still doing what he’s great at.

Below is the post that Xander found, which I’d deleted, but there are usually ways to get around that. In this case, it was the Wayback Machine to the rescue. It’s happened to me several times this year but anything lost and found becomes infinitely more precious, and so I’m republishing this again:

Basil Alcove

Alf and I discovered Basil Alcove the year we had Layla, and let’s just say we discovered real food there.

We’re both sentimental about this family-run eatery, it was our “everything” place and you’d find us there on date nights, nothing nights, friend nights, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas… The Basil crew definitely got to see Layla grow up! If they were paying attention they might’ve caught us breaking up or making up, many times over. I guess Layla was the only one doing any growing up.

Alf found out recently that Basil Alcove will be shutting down in mid-Feb and I dropped in tonight to say hi and bye. If you’re in the Bugis/Beach Road area, do stop by while you still have the chance. Try the Mushroom Bacon pasta–I was hooked on it for years!

* Basil Alcove is at 01-12 Fortune Centre (Middle Road).

p.s. If you’re not chatty and you’d like better service at your favourite restaurant or coffee joint, try this: Order the same thing in the same way, every single time. I think servers get a high from correctly predicting what you want; they’ll like you better for it (and you’ll like them) and you can work your way up to a friendship. It works for me!

p.p.s. This picture of Layla was taken at Basil Alcove in 2007. Check out the attitude!

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Oct 11 2016

Picture A Tree (Scholastic)

Picture A Tree

Picture A Tree

When I was growing up, I mostly stayed indoors. My mom’s a homebody, and she also preferred it if we kids were sitting quietly and amusing ourselves, so she stocked our home full of toys, and later, computer games and videos. It’s not what the experts today would recommend, but I would still say I had a fun childhood, especially since I was blessed with the freedom to choose my own entertainment.

I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

It was only post-motherhood that I started to venture out more. I’ve clocked many green hours with my athletic 10 year old before she entered school, because she takes after her father and if staying indoors is unbearable for her, I suffer too. Z has couch potato tendencies like me, but for both our sakes, I’ve put him in a sports playgroup with an awesome coach, and we meet out in the park, weekly, when the weather permits. The play spot we’ve chosen is perfect, with just the right balance of sun and shade. I think trees, and greenery in general, are conducive to conversation too, and there was a morning recently where a new friend and I sat on a bench, watching our kids, while letting our guards down to discuss everything from marriage to music.

In Barbara Reid’s “Picture A Tree,” she crafts a loving tribute to trees using a keen sense of observation and plasticine as her medium. Her artwork, photographed for the book, depicts what trees can represent for us–depending on your perspective, they can be a source of comfort, adventure, or wonder.

There is more than one way to picture a tree.

It doesn’t matter that my kids and I will never have a tree clubhouse. We’ll probably never climb a tree either, but what’s important is that we find our own ways to connect with nature, especially when the heart needs healing, or when the spirit could use a little nourishment.

Picture a tree. What do you see?

Some people think making books for kids is effortless, or that it can be done in a flash. Not the case, if you truly have a vision and a message that you want to bring across in the best way. It’s easy to gloss over the artwork in picturebooks without appreciating the effort that went into creating it–if you’re planning to get your hands on this book (you should!), you also need to watch this behind-the-scenes video.

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Oct 07 2016

Little Spuds

Published by under Reviews + Sponsored Posts

Little Spuds

Usually, when people write to me because they’ve wandered into my blog, it’s for tips on ballet or gym. But occasionally I get touching notes that I save, like this one:

I just want to say I really admire your honesty in sharing so much about your personal life and thoughts.

Cat wrote to me last year, saying she hoped she didn’t come across as a “weird stalker type.” Absolutely not! I don’t get it when bloggers complain about loss of privacy or being recognised in public, because it’s a choice what you put out there. I’m a control freak in some ways, and if I’ve published something, I’m conscious of the fact that it’s available for you to read, whether you’re family, a friend, or a complete stranger. I have specific reasons for sharing my stories and once I’ve deemed that the content has served its purpose, it’s deleted or privatised, no looking back.

Come to think of it, Cat didn’t discover me through my blog–I found her first. Almost a decade ago, she ran an online store where she sold stripey legwarmers for kids, among other things. I bought Layla a pair and ended up using them as arm warmers once, for a gig! I know, please don’t come to me for fashion advice.

Recently she wrote to me again, and this time it was to tell me that she’d opened a new online store called Little Spuds. I’d mentioned in my last post that Z received a surprise package. Well Layla and I got one too, and it was such a treat!

Little Spuds

This is probably the fanciest breakfast I’ll ever make. Z wakes up every morning now requesting a “heart-shaped sandwich.” You can’t go wrong with this sandwich shaper–just press down on the bread and peel the sides away.

Little Spuds

Coin pouches! I know my daughter’s tween friends will fancy these.

Little Spuds

Am digging the tattoos and keychain, and the Little Spuds business card doubles up as a good behaviour incentive card! As I said before, I’m going to be putting in some orders as an official customer soon, and I highly recommend Little Spuds if you’d like to make some kids very happy on a modest budget. There are wearables too!

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Oct 04 2016

Something To Smile About

Published by under Reviews + Sponsored Posts

Little Spuds

Little Spuds

Little Spuds

I’ve only just upgraded my iPhone to iOS 10, and as always, I wish I hadn’t! How late am I, did everyone else do this months ago? More important: How do I reprogramme my muscle memory to stop swiping to unlock?

Fortunately, no major changes in the camera and albums department. I’m impressed that my photos are sorted by people now, but also increasingly wary of facial recognition technology and how it can be used against us in future. Well there’s plenty of time to worry about that. In the meantime, it turns out I have more photos of Z and his buddy Matt than anybody else! Kids are a joy to photograph, especially younger kids. I do occasionally instruct them to smile or say something (never “cheese”) but I’ll wait till they’ve freed themselves from their camera faces and are back to being natural again. There’s so much genuine emotion to capture.

Today’s excuse to photograph Z was a special package he received from my friend Cat. There’s a story behind how we got to know each other but I’m saving that for another post. In the package was a cheery new tee for Z, which we love! You can find Cat’s online store for kiddies, Little Spuds, here. Lots of pretty and budget-friendly things to pick up, even for older kids. I’m already planning my own order–post-exam goody bags for Layla’s friends.

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Oct 03 2016

Doing It All

Published by under Life

banana pancakes

Last Friday, it occurred to me that my husband had:

– worked a full day, beginning at 7.30AM since he teaches
– arrived home to prep dinner
– played a boardgame with the kids
– possibly tucked them into bed with a made-up story

And after all that, he still had enough energy left for an 11PM game of soccer–he doesn’t watch, he plays–and supper with friends. I thought to myself, geez he’s trying to give supermoms a run for their money!

I said as much to him yesterday and he was surprisingly touched. He replied that he couldn’t do what I do, being the primary parent at home. But y’know, this is sort of my midlife crisis year… I’m a responsible person but there are days where I check out emotionally, and he’s been there, holding the fort. I appreciate that.

p.s. I also like that I now have a husband who serves up banana pancakes for breakfast! Definitely doing it all.

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Sep 29 2016

Talking About Throwbacks

Published by under Life

Talking about everything

Yeap, that’s me in blue, trying to check up on my friends in my usual inelegant fashion.

Sometimes I’m not sure if talking helps at all. As I recall telling someone else, I prefer to work through issues on my own, and talk about them when they’re somewhat resolved.

And then there are things that I almost never talk about, like matters of the heart. These days I let an emotion or two slip into the one-sentence journal that Ron bought me, but I’m also guilty of getting so annoyed by my own whinging that I’ve taken to self-censorship–by blacking out selected statements with a permanent marker, so that no one else will ever have to suffer through reading them.

I do occasionally tell Ron about these things though. It is a relief to have someone that you can talk to without having to overexplain everything or provide a heavily sanitised version of the truth. I’m much more emotionally stable now than back when we were confiding and confessing a ton of stuff to each other a decade ago, but I’ll always be thankful for us.

And speaking of throwbacks, this post from 2012 still makes me smile–those Instagram filters are so 10 years ago! Also, I have not succeeded in using fewer exclamation marks, but I’m trying. Continue Reading »

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Sep 28 2016

The Little Executive: Astronaut Training Camp

Published by under Reviews + Sponsored Posts

The Little Executive

The term “growth mindset” has been around for a while, but my first real encounter with it was through a blog post written by my friend June. After reading her post, I got curious and did a little more digging in order to write this for work. Having a growth mindset is about not seeing your potential as finite, and instead, believing that you are capable of anything that you hope to achieve, if you’re willing to work for it. Note that this doesn’t refer to blind hard work; it’s better to work smart by not fearing failure and being open to trying new strategies and approaches when you hit a roadblock. Of course, this doesn’t all come naturally.

June is currently an educational therapist-in-training at an enrichment school called The Little Executive, and one of their primary aims is helping students develop a growth mindset. That alone was intriguing enough to me, so when June offered to link me up with the school for a review opportunity, I was glad to accept.

That’s how Z found himself at a three-day astronaut camp focused on sensory exposure and problem solving during the September school holidays. At the time, Layla had just gone for a three-day adventure camp run by her school, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to sell the camp to Z as his own “big boy” experience, minus the sleepover. Here’s what happened: Continue Reading »

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Aug 30 2016


Published by under Celebrations

Z turns 5 in September and my girlfriend Stephii invited us to crash her family party to celebrate her son Matt’s birthday. Z and Matt are best buds now, and they were born a day apart, in the same hospital. You can read the history here.

I can’t imagine that five years ago, I didn’t even know Stephii. She is such a big part of my life now.


A joint birthday sign! Such a sweet surprise! And yes, that is Z’s name. We really do call him Z (as in “zee” and not “zed”) so I haven’t been omitting his name on purpose.


Matt also got his own astro-themed wall.


Cake decorating in progress. There is no place where I feel more useless than in the kitchen! As always, I watched. That, is the ocean.


Hello seaweed.


Now we’ve got backdrop. I say “we” but it was all Stephii.


The blocks were planned. Matt built the ships, mostly, because Z was too busy being self-conscious. The fish were a last-minute addition by Layla.


All done! It’s perfect!


Getting ready for candle blowing. I don’t think we mentioned wish making.


Together and friends forever, I hope. We’ve already imagined them fighting over the same girl…


Yay us! Alf isn’t hiding in a corner or taking our picture. He’s been stressed out at work so we gave him some alone time to recharge and meet his deadlines. And yes, Matt’s dad (Pat) is “the guy who sang ‘So Happy.'” I was asked twice after I posted this picture! Maybe we should’ve used that song in place of Happy Birthday.

So that’s the second celebration this year where I didn’t do anything at all, except soak in the warmth and love. Oh wait, make that the third, because Stephii orchestrated my surprise birthday party this year too.

To birthdays, and friendship.

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Aug 25 2016

A Very Belated Wedding Anniversary Post

Published by under Life


Our 11th wedding anniversary was in mid-June, and I started writing this way in advance. It was stored in a Notepad file and never made its way out. I did feel that this year in particular, I’ve been talking about love a lot, and reading about it even more. There’ve been so many feelings and ideas articulated so well by everyone else that I wondered if there was any point to posting my story at all.

But wait, what’s a personal blog for, right? I do miss blogging regularly. So, here goes, a couple of months late but better than never. Continue Reading »

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Aug 24 2016

Hey It’s Weezer!

Published by under Life

Weezer in Singapore

Last week, I went out twice–at night–which almost never happens. Seriously, I’ve been out fewer than 10 times without the kids this year, and most nights are spent working. But several months ago, someone I’ve never hung out with before, but happened to be Facebook friends with, asked if I wanted to go to the Weezer concert. And I thought, why not?

Alf says I’ve abandoned my 20s self, where I dreaded meeting new people and was constantly worried that I’d have nothing to say, or nothing in common with someone. I think that wasn’t me–thanks depression and insecurity, for robbing me of a decade’s worth of new friendships! The real me likes being around people even if I’m not always chatty. I’m comfortable with silences and I don’t notice them; sometimes I’m lost in my own thoughts or appreciating being “free” and out of mom mode.

And that’s how Maryann and I became gig mates last week. Some of you might recognise her as one of the best-known family photographers locally, but it was great getting to know her while she was off duty. She’s a friend’s friend, and I first met her many years ago when I adopted a Persian cat from her. I was a terrible owner, the sort that was never home, but when Zorro ran away he still broke my heart. After marriage and the baby carriage happened, I met Maryann again during one of her promo shoots and she took pictures of Layla and me, one of which is up on my fridge. Weezer was our third or fourth meeting ever, and it was lovely! We talked the entire time and she did this very nice thing: Every time she ran into a friend, she would pull me over, introduce me, and include me in the conversation. I’ve never made an effort to do that with my friends, but I will now.

As for Weezer, they’re not the loudest people around, in terms of personality. The show was set against a video backdrop that helped them come across as more energetic than they were. I definitely found the tickets pricey, perhaps much of it went towards funding the setup! Like many bands from the grunge/alternative era, Weezer doesn’t fit the rock star mould; they’re more of regular guys with sweet-catchy melodies and interesting-funny lyrics. In fact when lead singer Rivers Cuomo made a surprise venture into the audience, he wasn’t mobbed immediately. Most of us early Weezer listeners would be in the 35–45 age bracket by now, a little too old to go star crazy. Perhaps some of us weren’t even sure what was happening! But I recovered my senses enough to take a video, and we did find ourselves next to him as he was being escorted back on stage, which was pretty amusing.

On the whole, I enjoyed the experience but also felt like an imposter, being one of those annoying “fans” who only liked the very first album and knew the words to a handful of songs. Not even full songs at that! Thank goodness there were true fans in the crowd.

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