Daily

One-Hit Wonder

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Z’s best bud Matt is bunking with us for two days, and his mom (my girlfriend Stephii) and I were discussing food options:

S: Do you need us to get groceries?
Me: Don’t worry about it, Alf’s been cooking a lot, and I can make anchovy pasta.
S: Your famous anchovy pasta!
Me: LOL! I really should expand my repertoire.
S: You are specializing!

This is why I have an inflated sense of self-worth… my friends are always making me feel good! But the truth is that I have been unreasonably faithful to one recipe all year. It’s a wonder that protests haven’t erupted at the dinner table, and I still get thanked. And it’s not even my recipe but a Gordon Ramsay knockoff–I’ve been cutting corners lately by omitting the capers and olives. Here it is in its full glory, if you want to try it too.

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Daily

Father’s Day

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I showed Alf a Father’s Day post that I found particularly touching, and reminded him that I’ve cleaned up my Facebook feed to mostly follow the best writers, thinkers, and creative personalities that I’ve come across, in the hope that some of it will rub off on me. As an afterthought, I added:

“Oh, and I also married you!”

“Well… we all make mistakes.”

“No, I’m actually very selective.”

My mother always told me to choose a guy who’d make a good husband and father, and I have to admit I never followed her advice when dating–I had other things on my mind! But my mother also told me I was born lucky, and when I look at the husband that I have, and the father that he is, I think that must be true.

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I was reading this “9 Questions” feature on Vox and thought I’d love to hear from my friends too. So please feel free to leave your answers in the comments! Here are mine:

First piece of media consumed every morning? The NY Times, mostly because it’s always first on my feed.

Someone I disagree with but still read? I just started following local political commentator Calvin Cheng, after having instructed FB to hide all his posts from me a year or two ago… to be honest I disagree with his approach and would prefer if he substantiated his claims with relevant reading material (to save me googling time), but on recent rereading found that some of his views resonated.

Person who has most influenced the way I think? Probably my critical reading professor back in grad school. For him, I read Barthes, Derrida, Baudrillard, and more… and actually enjoyed it for a spell.

The last time I changed my mind? I read a graphic piece on a lynch mob exacting revenge on rapists in India, which I thought would be gratifying, but realised I couldn’t condone that behaviour either. I still have vigilante fantasies though.

Worst intellectual habit? Not finishing what I start.

What inspires me to learn? Believing that I am capable of learning or doing anything that interests me.

What I believe to get through the day? Anything is possible; there are no dead ends.

A view I hold but can’t defend? I’d be disappointed if God didn’t exist.

Book I’ve recommended most? Read into it what you will, but I’m more likely to recommend Modern Love columns or music than a book… In the last year or so, perhaps All The Light We Cannot See, and that’s maybe three times at most. If we’re talking about something potentially life changing (but not a book), I have recommended Seattle pastor Peter Chin’s sermons to many people!

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Daily

Togetherness

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My husband asked me a few days ago, “What do you like about me?” The correct answer to that, of course, is “Your body.”

But I also told him I’m often reminded of him when I read about yet another everyday hero who’s restored our faith in humanity with an act of grace or courage. I’m past the point of needing my husband to rescue me, but if you should ever land in a dire situation and find yourself standing next to him, count yourself very lucky indeed. For that, and for loving me—imperfectly perhaps, but unconditionally—our early anniversary lunch is on me today.

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Daily

Choose Your Own Nightmare

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My friend Pat sent me this article today, along with the question, “Still want to go to Seoul?”

In the classic novel Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the protagonist tells the tale of his steamboat voyage up the Congo River to a destination of unimaginable danger. Having to choose between unavoidable evils on his journey, he tries to pursue the lesser one, recognising that he has to be “loyal to the nightmare of (his) choice”.

The US Navy’s aircraft “supercarrier” – the USS Carl Vinson – and its accompanying fleet of warships that constitute Carrier Strike Group 1, currently steaming their way towards the Korean peninsula, is unnervingly resonant of that story.

My answer was a resounding “YES.”

As I told my friend June over coffee, it seems appropriate that I would find myself in Seoul at this juncture, as I take stock of my life so far and decide on my trajectory for the next 20 years or so, if I’m lucky enough to have time on my side.

In a worst case scenario, if something were to happen during my solo getaway next week (and if I managed to survive), I would think to myself, “This world is so screwed, but I’ve never felt more alive.”

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Fun

Little Passports

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We received a six-month subscription to Little Passports (for review) last year, and I’d meant to feature them on my previous blog. Unfortunately I experienced a technical glitch while transferring my phone pictures over to the laptop, and most of my Little Passports photos were corrupted and unusable thereafter.

Some background on Little Passports: It’s a subscription-based product that introduces kids to a new country every month. The two moms behind this were exposed to a variety of cultures as they were growing up, which motivated them to recreate these learning opportunities for other kids.

The reason I’m putting this up now is that we enjoyed the packages, and Z’s been badgering me to resubscribe. All pictures in this post are from the Little Passports web site.

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Daily

News & Sadness

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“I think you should pray.”

This, from my husband late last night, as we were settling into bed. I was curious as to why he would say that now, as I’ve been spiritually adrift all my life. It transpired that he too was especially affected by the stories coming out of Syria over the last couple of days. To quote my “grandfather figure” Dan Rather:

Take a moment to pause in your day. Do not skip past this story as part of the background noise of our modern world. I believe we should force ourselves to at least consider the implications. Look at the pictures of the dead children. We are witnessing a sheer slaughter on our watch. It is a situation that doesn’t lend itself to easy answers, so the world chooses to look the other way.

Read his full post here.

I’ve been getting a fuller dose of the news on my FB feed–a result of active curating. It makes everything else seem trivial; sometimes I don’t even feel like sending a message to someone to say hello or to wish them a happy birthday, not when there’s all this tragedy and injustice swirling around us.

This is part of the reason I’ve scaled down all personal updates and done away with blog-promotion efforts; to me, status updates and blogs are just a step up from gossip–they’re there to satisfy our need for a peephole into someone else’s existence. Of course I’m honoured that friends and even strangers are interested in my life and my thoughts; for a while I was hooked on my Google Analytics stats as it was logging reads from places I’d never even heard of, lasting up till well over an hour! But if I were to rank reads by priority, it would be a good book first, followed by news and quality reads such as the NYTimes, followed by anything remotely educational or thought provoking (e.g. Brainpickings or the much-maligned School Of Life/Alain de Botton) and then daily life blogs, and finally gossip–my only vice, and it’s a cesspool.

My point is, there are much more important stories that need to be told right now, and they’re not mine. I do think that those of us who believe in it should pray, while trying to find a way to help. There is a site, Charity Navigator, which seems like a godsend as it evaluates the reliability of charities and gives each one a rating. This is its Syria page.

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Flashback

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Sometimes I’m glad my friends aren’t as unsentimental as I am, i.e. they’re not always tossing or deleting everything in their path. When I reverted to this blog address and decided to let my .com go, I did save over 300 posts in the form of screenshots, but I didn’t think twice about trashing all the online evidence. That said, it does make me smile to find bits and pieces of the past still floating around, like these two guest posts that I wrote for my favourite local bloggers, Justina and June. One’s about motherhood, and the other’s about movies.

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Bill Savings

anthony-indraus-134161.jpg Reading this post reminded me that our recent power/water bill fell just under $90–that’s for a family of four, in a four-room HDB unit. My parents and brother live in an executive condominium, and according to my mother, it’s not uncommon for their bills to exceed $300 per month. Our power consumption has been under the national average since we moved in, and in recent months we’ve managed to get our water bill under the average as well without making special effort.

The difference can be largely attributed to air-conditioning. When we bought our place, there were ACs installed, but we did the crazy thing by asking our contractors to dismantle them; we gifted them to one of our housing agents. We had one AC back in our previous home, but it gave Alf the sniffles every morning–once the sneezing sets in, he’s as good as incapacitated for the rest of the day–and it was one of many things we were determined to live without when we moved out.

We got what we wanted–Alf has hardly sneezed since we moved here, despite the fact that there’s construction going on all around us. It’s comfy and cool for most of the year, but I won’t deny that heatwave and haze months have left me questioning our decision. We use just three fans, a ceiling fan in the living area that cools the study area as well, a EuropAce jet turbine fan for the kids’ room, and a Mistral high velocity power fan for ours. We didn’t agonise too much over the choice of fans; Alf picked them out. Between them, I prefer the Mistral because it’s much easier to clean. We still use blankets so the fans are doing their job.

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Enriched

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I read an NYT article about financial planning a few nights ago, and it revisited the perennial question of “How much is enough?”

I found the article reassuring, but it cited a classic rule that I haven’t been following:

Spend 50 percent on needs, 30 percent on wants and 20 percent on savings.

Lately, Alf and I have been talking about reassessing our enrichment spending. It makes no sense that we’re working all the time, only to fund lesson after lesson. (Note: I do take a number of FB breaks; my girlfriend told me to regard those as watercooler time i.e. necessary for sanity preservation.) I have a friend, a mother of three, who told me they set aside a fixed sum for enrichment every month, and if one kid has more needs for a particular month, the others go with less or without. I think that’s a sensible idea for families with a smaller budget–we too put a fixed sum into an account dedicated for monthly payments, but we’re just as likely to say, “OK, you think this is useful? Let’s see how we can make more to cover it.” We’ve made it happen, but it’s the less prudent way.

Of course exposure is important, and we’re still leaving some leeway for exploration. Layla starts a new class next month where I hope she’ll find herself engaging in discussions and sharpening her critical thinking skills, but we’re also cutting back on other classes for both kids. Chinese tuition will probably be a fixture in our lives until the secondary school hurdle is crossed, but we’ll say goodbye to science tuition after the PSLE is over. Layla’s been responsible for her schoolwork–I’m hands off–and it shouldn’t be too difficult for her to enter the school of her choice, so I’m really not worried about next year.

I’ve also ceased to be overly concerned about her grades in her daily work and tests; I’m starting to look at the big picture, and what she needs most is space to be curious, to assert herself, and to discover new passions. I’m heartened to see that she’s challenging herself–at the beginning of the year, she told me there were openings for reading volunteers to help the younger kids in her school, but she wasn’t keen. A few weeks ago, she told me that she’d signed on, and I was surprised, and very proud to see her growing in this way.

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