Growing in my balcony – the beginning

I had a short stint in gardening when I was in primary school.  We had a small little garden beside the canteen where there were maizes, cai xin and a handful of little chicks in a corner.

I didn’t quite enjoy that experience – it was hot, sweaty and itchy. I had bad eczema when I was young and the sun was my greatest enemy.  My face was red after the sun, and the skin itched because of the heat and the poking from the leaves and grass.

I thought I will never touch or groom the greens ever again. I was so wrong.

I had my own roof a year ago and a great sunny balcony.  It looked pretty bare and wasted without the greens.

My first 3 pots were from my parents-in-law – Pandan Leaves, Curry Leaves & Pomegranate. My in-laws grew the plants to a good size before our shift, and when the plants moved into our new place, they are already easy to be taken care of. We now have our own supply of curry leaves and pandan whenever we need them for our home-cooked food.


Pandan Leaves




Curry Leaves

I bought a few packet of seeds, pots and soil and wanted to grow something from scratch by ourselves. It’s also a way to get the kids to do something on a weekend.


They prepared the pots with soil, wet the soil and sowed the seeds.

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This is what we planted for a whole morning under the sun. There was Parsley, Lemon Balm, Chives, Tomatoes, Red Chilli, Sunflowers, Coriander & Lettuce

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And we waited…for days and weeks…




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This is the beginning of our gardening journey. Though I don’t have 100% good results for all the seedlings which sprouted, it’s still fulfilling once a while to see some turn to bountiful pots or bloom flowers and fruit.

I will share on my successful pots the next round – sunflowers, red chilli and mint.

Hijiki Salad

The first time I see and know about hijiki, was in Ootoya Restaurant.  They served (and I think they still do) Hijiki Seaweed Rice and both hubby and myself fell in love with it.  We can go all out just to dine in  this restaurant, because this special flavored rice is not readily available in other restaurants.

It also seems that hijiki is high in nutrition and you can read more about the nutrition value of hijiki.

When I was trying to find recipes for Hijiki Seaweed Rice, Nami’s recipe for Hijiki Salad came out from the search.  I tried the recipe and we love the result! Please do go to her page to view the full recipe.


Hijiki Salad
Cuisine: Japanese
  • 30g dried hijiki - I bought from Daiso
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 part of lotus root
  • A little oil
  • 3 cups dashi - I used instant dashi powder
  • 6 TBSP mirin
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 6 TBSP soya sauce
  1. Soak hijiki in water for 30 minutes. Water to cover all hijiki.
  2. Drain the hijiki after soaking. Wash the hijiki under running tap. Set aside.
  3. Remove the skin for carrot & lotus roots and shred them into thin slices - I use a normal manual vegetable shredder.
  4. Prepare Dashi and set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a pot and add carrot & lotus root. Do a light fry.
  6. Add hijiki into the pot and mix well with the carrots & lotus roots.
  7. Add dashi and let it boil - make sure dashi cover most of the ingredients in the pot.
  8. Once boil, add in all the seasoning and mix well.
  9. Simmer with cover for 30-45 minutes.
  10. Remove the cover and let it continue to simmer. The aim is to reduce the sauce until you can see the bottom of the pot. Once this is done, it's ready!

I use a shredder for the carrots & lotus roots instead of cutting them into thin slices or strips because it’s so much faster for me.  To me, the shape of the carrots or lotus roots does not matter much as after 40 minutes of cooking, it will just “blend” into the pool of hijiki 😀

This dish can be kept in an air tight container and into the fridge. We usually keep it for about 5 days. We add this into our lunch box, or to make hijiki onigiri or to mix into rice to become hijiki seaweed rice!

Example of my simple lunchbox – hijiki and korean fried fish cake.


How about some hijiki onigiri? 🙂


Eva is 4!

I never had a birthday party during my childhood.  The first party I had was when I turned 21 years old, in the then famous chalet at Pasir Ris. And I told myself that was the first and the last party that I will have for my birthdays (yah, even when I get to live till 80 grand birthday).

Birthday parties or celebrations are rather common for this new generation of children now.  I got a little shock when Dawn came back from the childcare centre with bags after bags of party favors. That was 5 years ago, and my journey of jumping into the trend began.

Besides the celebration in schools,  it is also our family practice to celebrate children birthdays in a larger scale (than a family affair) at the age of 4.

Why 4? Because that’s the age that they will remember the party, even when they grew up. It’s not meaningful if they cannot remember about their own parties, right?

Why only 4? Because both parents (aka hubby & me) think that it’s too extravagant to hold such celebrations every year, plus the child will not likely to remember anything from the age of 1-3 years old, plus both of us do not feel good to ask our friends to spend money on gifts or their precious weekend. And most importantly we do not want our children to grow up thinking that birthday parties every year from age 1 is a norm!

Eva had her 4-year-old birthday celebration in a small cozy function room on a Sunday noon. It’s a simple affair with no frills – no magician, no games, no special sweets table that wow the guests. But the kids are equally happy, and their smiles are still genuine.


Both Eva & Dawn woke up early that day and baked muffins to thank their guests for attending the event. It is also a way for them to be involved in this preparation of the celebration.

I ordered the birthday cake from Pine Garden. Because of license issues, they no longer collect the cartoon figures from customers, but leave the décor on the cake empty and let us express our own creative on the cake. This cake is design by me – including the placement of the beetles, butterflies and the flowers.  Pretty?


When asked 2 months before the actual day, Eva said that she wanted a Daisy Duck themed birthday. Knowing that there isn’t much Daisy Duck decoration available in the market, I tried to ask her for other choices, and she went on saying, Groofy, Donald, Pluto…almost everyone of them except for Mickey and Minnie Mouse! I had to “convince” her that the theme will be “Mickey & Friends”. 😀


I love this photo of both Dawn & Eva. How many of us parents know that siblings can fight and quarrel behind the scenes (aka at home) but their hearts are still close?


The décor is not anywhere near extravagant. In my opinion, who will really see, be bothered and pick with such things? 😀 The balloons are from the neighbourhood store, and the Minnie balloon is still floating after 3.5 weeks!

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The food was from Casserole Catering. Till now, still cannot forget the delicious Chicken Curry.

  • Vegetarian Bee Hoon
  • Pineapple Rice + Chap Chai
  • Vege + Signature Ngoh Hiang
  • Delicious Curry + Prawn
  • Honey Dew Sago
Birthday Song

Birthday Song

I wish.....

I wish…..

Blowing the Candles

Blowing the Candles

Cut Cake

Cut Cake

Sweet Birthday Girl with the muffin which she made together with Jie Jie.


Eva’s presents from many aunties and uncles.  Thank you so much!


A group of my colleagues bought presents for Dawn as well – so that she doesn’t feel left out or that all attention is on Eva. Very sweet of them! 🙂


Presents galore….


The happiest moment for the birthday girl – opening presents after presents.


I asked Eva to pose with the balloons, as like how Jie Jie done it 4 years ago.


On the actual day of Eva’s birthday, we brought the cake and goodie bags to her school. She chose this Strawberry Shortcake design because of her favourite colour – green!


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Eva gave out the goodie bags to her classmates. I had to tell the kids that auntie (me) doesn’t want to give out sweets & chocolates to little children without their parents agreement, so auntie (me) only put in art and craft item inside the goodie bag.  I know the kids will be kind of disappointed, but well, for the good of the children, even though they are not my kids!


This sums up on Eva’s 4-year-old birthday celebrations. These 4 years had been a fruitful time for every aspect of my roles, whether as a parent, mom, wife, daughter, employee, boss etc. The smiles and the things Eva says and does are so priceless that I will not change it for any other things. Simply wish that her kisses and hugs to us will continue as long as we hope for.

Kitchen Fun Time #6 – Chocolate Chip Muffins & Walnut Muffins!


We celebrated Eva’s 4th year old birthday with a celebration like what we had done for Dawn.  As a way to thank those who took time and their precious Sunday to attend her celebration, we decided to bake some muffins for them.

It’s certainly show more sincerity when the kids bake the muffins themselves, right?

So it’s time for our fun time in the kitchen!

Here’s my favourite muffin recipe – not too sweet or dry like some other muffins I had tasted before.

Muffins - Chocolate Chip, Walnut, Banana
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Bakes
Serves: 9 muffins
  • 170g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g good oil (Rice Bran Oil, Sunflower Oil) > can be substituted with melted butter or use 50% oil & 50% butter
  • 100g Milk (I use Meiji fresh milk)
  • 90g of fine white sugar
  • 0.5g baking soda (omit if do not have)
  • 1 TSP Vanilla Essence
Flavors Ingredients (add quantity according to your preference)
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Walnuts, break into small pieces
  • Banana, cut to slices and mash it
  1. Combine Eggs, Oil (butter), Milk and Sugar in a Mixing Bowl. Whisk until ingredients are mixed well and most sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add in Vanilla Essence
  3. Combine Baking Soda & Self Raising Flour and sift into the mixing bowl.
  4. Use a hand whisk to mix the mixture. Do not over mix or the texture of the muffin will be dense.
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips / walnuts / banana and do a quick mix.
  6. Preheat oven to 180 Degree Celsius
  7. Pour the mixture to muffin cups to about 80% full.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes (do skewer test if necessary)

Dawn & Eva had much fun taking turns to make the muffins.  Eva made chocolate chip muffins while Dawn made walnut muffins.



The proud little bakers >>

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And we decorated the muffins with wrappers and toppers, and placed them on a princess castle cupcake stand.


Is it pretty? 🙂

Passing of LKY and a mother’s struggle

The past week was quite a gloomy week for us.  Emotions at home was not at it’s best.  The man in the house was also deeply affected by the passing of our Founding Father. We just seem to lose the energy to do anything else, except to mourn together as a nation.

I thought a lot in the past week, not as if I didn’t before (and the increasing white hair agree on this), but more so on the “What” for my remaining years to come. I probably have live half of my life, and the mystery remains for the next half. What do I want to do? What do I want to achieve? What do I want to do to impact? What will I regret at the end of the journey? What?

I followed my heart last week and I am glad that I did. The constant news about the long queues at Padang did make me shiver and at times waiver at the thought of being there. But I was so thankful that I was there on that Friday afternoon.  The 5 hours of waiting and walking seems like a “meditation” session for myself, and each step that I took was my heartfelt thanks to Mr Lee for what he had done for my family and I.

Now that the week of national mourning is behind us, it’s time to continue his good works, in our very own capacity. Each of us have our own roles, be it in driving the economy through our jobs & career, or as parents who nurture our children. Whether we are working mothers or stay at home mothers, or mompreneurs, we have an important calling for our next generation. Whether we are childcare teachers, the next-door nannies or educators, we have a responsibility over the children who are placed in our care. Teach them not just academic requirement, but most importantly, teach them the importance to know how to differentiate what is right and what is wrong from young. Teach them to speak and to behave responsibly even from a young age.

I have concerns that my children will be swayed by the digital influence once they are exposed to social media on their own (yes, I say this with reference to the 17-year-old’s YouTube video and blog post).  I am not left with many years before Dawn comes to that independence.  Something that I dread, but cannot stop and restrict her from.

Probably it seems clearer as the gloomy week past through, with the “What” that I needed to do – to ensure that my children are guided to my best ability. This would also mean giving up on some things which are currently important to us as a family.  It will be perfect to be able to have best of both worlds, but that’s not likely to happen given that I have the same 24 hours as everyone has.

It’s a painful struggle.

I’m very determined. If I decide what something is worth doing, then I’ll put my heart and soul to it. The whole ground can be against me, but if I know it is right, I’ll do it. That’s the business of a leader. (Lee Kuan Yew, “The Man and His Ideas,” 1998)

The context of the quote could be on a higher level than my current struggle. No doubt about it. But it gives me courage to face what’s in front of me.

The “What” that is worth doing. The “What” that I hope one day I will be glad that I followed my heart.

Thank you, Mr Lee

It’s not easy to wake up early for a working Monday.

It’s made worse with the news of passing.

Hubby came in to the room when he heard I woke. “He is gone” was his whisper. But I knew what he meant despite in the state of sleepiness.

Though I was kind of prepared for this, but it’s still hard to sink right into the heart. The heart broke, sour with tears and my head hurts. It’s like someone who is so close to me had passed away.

I had never see him in person, nor had a privilege even to glimpse a close look.  No handshakes, not even a word that was spoken to me in person. Yet, I grief like I have lost someone significant to me.

This place which I proudly call MY home MY country, is a place that was built painfully; with nothing much in physical economic resources but his foresight, his courage and his boldness.

Sometimes I wonder about the sacrifices I have made for my children and family – the loss of ME time, the loss of possibly early financial freedom & retirement and the time to smell the roses. It definitely takes a bigger heart, a bigger person and a bigger human capacity to make sacrifices FOR a nation.

I do feel helpless now, trying to cope with my overflowing emotions that made my eyes welled up with hot tears.  He must have felt the same, if not worse, at the time when he had to address the nation with the painful news back in 1965. But the pain and tears he shed then was the fuel that drives us, up till this day.

In his last days, he still show me a valuable lesson – to believe social media in the correct context, and to be someone who is responsible for the words spoken through mouth and by writing.

This very morning before we leave for work and school together as a family, I reminded Dawn to be respectful when conversations of the passing strike among her friends and classmates.  While we may excuse the much innocent talks and reactions by Primary 2 students, I want to educate Dawn with something important that our Mr Lee has educated us.

This is for now, something that I can do, in the capacity as a nurturing mom.

Thank you Sir, for the sacrifices that you have made. For without those sacrifices, we may not have a home and a country that we can call our own. For without those sacrifices, we may still be living like how my parents lived in the 1970s. Thank you.

Easy & Quick Meal – Tomato Rice

Seriously, it’s not (and never) easy to prepare dinner for the family after a day of work ( + rushing home and picking up the kids) – who can agree this with me?

I am in quite a fortunate situation already because my employer has a flexible hour scheme which allows me to start my day early and end half an hour earlier than the official end time.  In addition, my hubby and parents-in-law will help to pick up the children from the childcare / student-care most of the days. And yet, I still feel the stress and difficulty as much as most working mothers who want to prepare a proper dinner for the family.

This Tomato Rice is definitely a saver for a working mother like me, and cooking this allows my family to have our dinner by 6.45pm.  The “Tomato Rice Craze” started in October 2014 in Singapore after Ochikeron posted a video in her You Tube channel. The video is embedded in the end of this post.


Tomato Rice
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • 2 cups uncooked rice (I used Korean rice)
  • 2 medium size tomatoes - choose the really orange/red ones
  • ¾ TSP salt
  • ¼ TSP pepper
  • 4 slices of salted butter
  • Handful of corn nibbles (I used frozen ones)
  • 2 slices of ham or hot dogs
  • Half a carrot
  • Spring onion (for garnishing)
  1. Wash rice as per usual and add water you normally use for 2 cups of rice.
  2. Remove 8 TPSP of water from the rice pot (as the tomato and ingredients will emit water during the cooking process)
  3. Add salt and pepper, mix well.
  4. Remove the top and bottom of the tomato by slicing them off. I cut the tomatoes to quarters.
  5. Place the tomatoes in the centre of the rice pot.
  6. Wash and drain the frozen corn nibbles
  7. Remove the carrot skin and dice it.
  8. Cut the ham to small pieces or dice the hotdog
  9. Place the corn nibbles, carrot, ham/hotdog & butter slices in the rice pot, at the side surrounding the tomatoes.
  10. Place the pot into the rice cooker and start cooking it.
  11. When it's ready to serve, toss the rice lightly to mix the items together.

Little Extra notes from my personal observation / experience / preference:

  1. Instead of putting the tomatoes as a whole in the rice pot, I cut them into quarters.  The reason?  The juice from the hot tomato splatted on me when I tried to mix the rice on my first try with whole tomato. Yah, I am THAT careless.  🙁  So by cutting them into quarters, there’s no “tomato-explosion” anymore!
  2. I took out 8 TBSP of water instead of 6 because I like rice to be “harder” then to be mushy. However, the rice is still a little mushy if we eat it once the rice is cooked. If the intent is to leave the rice warm in the cooker for sometime (1-2 hours) before eating, 6 TBSP of water removed should be just right.
  3. I used salted butter instead of olive oil because we like the fragrance. Let’s not think too much for this because tomato rice already sound like a very healthy dinner! :p
  4. The cook time very much depends on your rice cooker.  My rice cooker is Zojirushi and it usually takes 45 minutes to cook the rice. I can finish a lot of other chores while waiting for the rice to cook and hence I said that this is a saver for working moms.

This one-pot rice is versatile and you can add different ingredients to make different type of tomato rice. Some other suggested ingredients are capsicums, crab-stick, bacon, peas, fresh pieces of chicken and many others!  You can also add sides to this rice such as teriyaki salmon, cod fish or even baked chicken karaage – which I have done in the photo shown above.

Kudos to easy and one-pot meals!

Drawings of a 8 Year old

It’s definitely amazing to see how children progress in their drawings, from early childhood (1-3 years) to school age (6-12 years). They started with faint lines (or marks) when they first hold a writing/drawing instrument and started with a lot of imagination with the lines that they drew. Those little “marks” on the paper can be the birds that they imagined, or their favourite person and food.

Then the lines or marks became “stronger” and more defined and they slowly evolved to irregular shapes that seems like oval or circle. They learned to control their strength and you can really see that they seem to be struggling with a skill which is so normal to most of us.

I was very amazed with what Dawn drew recently because it was such a different picture compared to how she drew in the past. It really showed how far we came (or aged) and how she had continued to improve on her own without much guidance.  Though these may be nothing compared to those children who can draw really well, these 2 drawings are enough to make me weld in tears like a super emotional mommy.

Cheers to motherhood!!



What is your magic number for Retirement?

This is nothing new to most of us.  With an aging population and increasing prices, I cannot help to be concerned about whether we have save enough for our own old age. Are you?

Even though it is NOT something new to me, and knowing that it is better to “start early than later” kind of theory, how many of us are really doing enough about it?  After our daily expenses plus the fixed commitment, and the expenses on the children, how much are we left with each month to save or invest? I do not know about most of the people around us, but it can sometimes be depressing to look at myself.

I never really thought of looking at the magic number for the longest time in my life, probably I do not want to be depressed further. However, as what most will say, knowledge is king! And so I must know!

So, I need to find out 2 things:

  1. The magic figure that I need for my retirement years, and
  2. The gap that I need to close in order to reach the magic figure by my retirement age.

I did a search for “Retirement Calculator” and was directed to a few local sites that offer an online retirement calculator. It is important to use a local site because it may be closer to our standard of living.

And guess what?

NTUC Income suggested that I need $555,000 based on the retirement lifestyle that I have chosen. And that’s $1,850 per month for 25 years of retirement.


I moved on to try Aviva Retirement Planner and this is what the planner suggested:


Notice the huge difference between the magic figures? Well, Aviva’s planner factored in other spending such as healthcare, household to even phone bills! While we can say that we can live a simpler life when we retire, I will definitely want to stay connected with my children and grandchildren in this digital age, right? So I still need mobile devices (for God knows what it will be like in 40 years time??) or connection then.

Wow! So my magic figure is between $550,000 – $1M. I guess having to chose the really basic “needs” in these calculators, this amount is about the same for most of us (unless you belong to the high net worth population or require an above average kind of retirement lifestyle).

So what’s next after knowing the magic figure? It is to look at what’s the current status, and what are required to be done with the leftover years before the chosen retirement age.

I tried 2 calculators, one from Tokio Marine and the other from DBS/POSB. There are others such as from CPF board, Manulife etc.

And that’s where depressing news sets in….whether I am not saving/investing enough, or I am not young anymore! Ewwwww!! (Results differ from different sites, so please use at your own discretion)



Ok, maybe it’s not bad for most of you.  Just treat this as a finding-out for knowledge session, and use it to plan forward. Whether the figure comes out to be out of reach or difficult to achieve, we need to be realistic and most importantly, start to do something about it. It’s always better to know it now, then at age 65, right?

Disclaimer : The link to the sites stated above are from my own research. There are no affiliation between them and myself.