Monday, December 31, 2012

Summary of 2012

It's that time of the year for a summary of my year again.

I can't help thinking how quickly time seems to fly by.

I've blogged much less this year than I ever did over the last few years so I'm starting to write this post really early (It's 3 Dec now) so I have enough time to recall what happened over the year.

Chinese New Year 2012 was in January and hence, considered early. I caught a flu bug and didn't have much appetite over the CNY period which was a shame because of all the good food around. Then I went on a business trip to London right after the CNY holidays and didn't enjoy myself at all because of the cold (English weather!) and poor appetite.

We visited Ubud in Bali over my birthday in February and whilst I really enjoyed the place and the resort we stayed in, I can't say the same of Balinese food. The problem is not so much the food but my appetite, I think.

Villa Sarna, Ubud

I enjoyed the breakfast at the resort though, especially the little donuts

Well you see, I was expecting and hence the poor appetite. For the next four months, I hated almost all food and smells of food, which was a real experience for me since I always love eating. I ate mainly salads and fruits and avoided all strong smelling and oily food. And so I finally managed to lose the weight I couldn't lose even with a low carb diet in the last couple of months of 2011.

 Mainly salads and tasteless food for me from January to April..

In May, I got to go to Zurich for a week's training. The Husband joined me after that and we went travelling around Switzerland for 10 days. I really enjoyed this trip. Switzerland is a very stress free place to travel in - it's very safe, things run on time and English is widely spoken. By then my appetite also came back and I could enjoy food once again.

I also thought that it'd be a while again before The Husband and I would be able to travel on our own, so I really treasured the time together. The sights in Switzerland were every bit as beautiful as the postcards and pictures I've seen, and I was really glad to have done the trip. I'm looking forward to another trip to the Italian part of Switzerland in the future.. and hopefully, it's in the near future.

One thing about travelling this year - I didn't go Hong Kong at all! I think it's been a long time since I didn't go Hong Kong for an entire year!




After my trip in May, things started getting more hectic at work. I was also trying to finish off and handover some of my work before my maternity leave in September, so I was under quite a bit of pressure. Of course, I didn't manage to finish off any of the key issues at work, but I did hand over my work properly (I hope!) and then, suddenly, I was off work! I had almost 2 quiet weeks all to myself, during which I swam, read, ate things I liked and met up with some friends. All in all, the 9 months of being pregnant is a rather special time for me. Apart from the poor appetite initially, I was fortunate to be really healthy and well throughout and I don't believe I've got as much compliments in my life on how I looked thanks to the weight loss over the first four months.

 I drank lots of bubble tea over those 2 weeks..

And lots of coconut water, which supposedly gives your baby good skin..

Then 20 September came and Little N joined our family.

The first few days at home were very difficult. Then things started getting better.. But just as she turned full month, she started crying a lot. All in all, the first 7 weeks after she joined us was an emotional and somewhat scary time for me. Looking back, I don't think I've ever felt so inadequate and lost. There are times when I simply don't know what to do.

Taken in the delivery suite whilst waiting for Little N to join us.. 
I had a long labour and got very bored, so I started taking pictures..

Little N on the second day of her life

At about 8 weeks, Little N started to smile and coo and suddenly, things got a bit better. There are still times when I don't know what she wants and all that crying (more like screaming) still unsettles me, but things really are better, just like everyone around said they would be. There are still bad days of course but generally, she is getting to be lots of fun and things are settling down.

Little N is able to flip herself on her tummy now

My resolutions for 2012 were to eat healthily, change my lifestyle and enjoy life a little more heartily. I definitely ate more healthily and had a big lifestyle change this year because of Little N... so I should at least give myself a little pat on the back for that. *pat pat*

I have another month of maternity leave before I go back to work in the beginning of February. The 5 months of maternity leave seems to have really just flown by.

To be honest, I don't really know what 2013 will be like for me. Little N will be looked after by a nanny during the day and I hope that works out. With my long hours at work, I still don't know how we can bring her home in time for her last feed and for bed since she sleeps before 830pm.

Hence, I really need more wisdom and better time management skills in 2013! 2013 will definitely be a year of many "firsts" for me.

Have a happy holiday season and a great year ahead.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

3 Months

When Little N turned 3 months last week, I could barely believe 3 months have gone by! This means I'd be back at work in another few more weeks..

Would you believe that before Little N arrived, I thought of catching up on my reading, meeting up with friends and spending time with my nephew and nieces during my maternity leave?

I don't even have enough time to cook so we resort to mostly packing food back nowadays!

The 3 months have flown by!

She has grown really fast. Physically, she has put on 2.5kg and is now 10cm longer (she's a tall baby..).

She has grown from a tiny newborn that sleeps, drinks, poo and cries to a chubby 3 month old who can now do a lot more things. She can flip herself over on to her tummy, makes multiple attempts each day to sit up on her own and mumbles "ahhs", "ohhhs" and "goos"..

Every baby has their own unique personality and I like the way Tracy Hogg (in the book "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer") talks about the 5 different baby personality types. (See below for more details)

I think I definitely have a "Touchy" baby.. though what is described about baby not liking to be dressed/ changed under "Grumpy" baby certainly describes little N well.

But I noticed she is definitely a baby who prefers predictability. Outings and vaccinations seem to throw her off a lot. Hopefully, she'd adjust well once she starts going to the nanny in January and I start work in February.

I can't help feeling a little nervous and worried about the first few months of 2013.

I can turn myself over now..

Baby Personalities (source from here)

Angel babies are good as gold. They are mellow, eternally smiling, and consistently undemanding. Their cues are easy to read. They are not bothered by new surroundings and they are extremely portable. They feed, play, and sleep easily, and usually don’t cry when they wake up. They easily amuse themselves when they wake up in the morning. They can often calm themselves down. Even when they get overtired, it is easy to settle them down again.

Textbook babies are predictable and fairly easy to handle. They do everything on cue so there are usually few surprises with them. They reach all the milestones right on schedule – sleep through the night by three months, roll over by five, sit up by six. They’ll have growth spurts like clockwork. They can play on their own for short periods (about 15 minutes) as early as one week old. They’ll coo a lot and look around. They smile when someone smiles at them. Though they have normal cranky periods, they are easy to calm and it isn’t hard to get them to sleep either.

Touchy babies are ultra-sensitive. To them, the world is an endless array of sensory challenges. They flinch at the sound of a motorcycle revving outside their window, the TV blaring, a dog barking in the house next door. They blink or turn their heads away from bright lights. They sometimes cry for no apparent reason, even at their mothers. They often get fussy after a number of people have held them, or after outings. They’ll play on their own for a few minutes, but needs the reassurance that someone they know well is close by. They like to suck a lot and this cue may easily be misread for hunger. They nurse erratically, sometimes acting as though they have forgotten how. They have difficulty falling asleep during nap times or at night. They easily get off schedule – an extra-long nap, a skipped meal, an unexpected visitor, a trip, a change in formula, etc. can throw them out of the loop. To calm them, you have to recreate the womb – swaddle, snuggle them to your shoulder, whisper a rhythmic shushing sound close to their ear, and pat their back gently. The quicker you learn their cues and their cries, the simpler life is. They love structure and predictability.

Spirited babies emerge from the womb knowing what they like and don’t like and they never hesitate to let you know it. They are very vocal and even seem aggressive at times. They scream for Mum or Dad when they wake in the morning. They hate lying in their own pee or poop and will vocalise their discomfort. They babble a lot and loudly. Their body language tends to be a bit jerky. They often need swaddling to get to sleep because their flailing arms and legs keep them up and overstimulated. If they start crying and the cycle is not interrupted, they reach the point of no return. Their crying will lead to more crying until they reach a fever pitch of rage. They’ll also notice other babies before those babies notice them. They’ll grab at their bottle at an early age and as soon as they’re old enough to develop a good, firm grasp, they’ll grab other babies’ toys as well.

Grumpy babies act like they’ve been here before and they are not at all happy to be back. They’re mad at the world and they let you know it. They whimper every morning, don’t smile much during the day and fuss their way to sleep every night. Their mothers have a lot of trouble keeping baby-sitters. They hate baths at first and every time someone tries to change or dress them, they get fidgety and irritable. Feeding is difficult because of their cranky disposition. Calming grumpy babies takes a patient Mum or Dad because they get very angry and their cries are particularly loud and long. If they reach a major meltdown, gently sway them front to back.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Surprise

It's Christmas again.

Christmas is my favourite time of the year because it usually means public holidays and lots of leave. Everything around seems more cheery with all the decorations and jingles and people seem to be in a more jolly mood as well.

Christmas also has a special meaning to me because it's the day to remember that God came amongst us and lived and died to save us.

This year though, since I'm at home most of the time, I don't feel the festive mood.

But 2 dear friends sent through a big basket of red roses with poinsettia and pines as a surprise gift for me. This makes my house look "Christmasy" and really made my day. Aren't the flowers beautiful?

Merry Christmas to all and have a good holiday season with your loved ones.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Public Transport Fare Hikes

Our transport minister announced possible fare hikes for our public transportation system recently.

So.. No big deal, right? There is inflation and naturally there should be price hikes, no?

But 2012 has been a unique year for Singapore's public transportation system.

It was a year where our MRT (subway) system broke down several times and caused massive delays since the subway companies had no prior experience dealing with these break downs. A detailed investigation was done and it was concluded that $900M was required to rectify and remedy the faults in the subway lines. This cost was co-funded by the government, namely the Land Transport Authority (see source here)

It was a year where bus drivers went on strike. A first in Singapore across any industry since goodness-knows-when.

The public transportation system is mainly run by 2 listed companies - SMRT and SBS Transit.

SMRT and SBS Transit had profits of $119.9M and $36.7M respectively. According to the Workers' Party - this translates to a Return on Equity of 15.1% and 11.3% respectively. The median ROE for Singapore listed companies in comparison was 7.8% over the same period.

Now, something the transport minister said was very disturbing. Mr Lui Tuck Yew said that bus fares may have to go up in order to accommodate wage increases of bus drivers.

Now, I work in a bank and the banking industry is a competitive industry. Banks are always looking to hire good people and to do that, you often have to either provide more opportunities for those individuals, or simply pay more.

But when banks need to pay their employees more, do they increase their prices to their customers? Would a retail bank increase their mortgage interest rates so that they can "accomodate wage increases" of their branch staff? Would an investment bank increase its IPO fees so that they can pay their staff better?

I can understand why wages for bus drivers need to be increased.

However, there are many ways to do that though - you can cut down costs in other areas of operations, increase efficiency (for example, by having double decked bus instead of single decked buses), design more efficient and better bus routes (oh my, I don't want to go into this again).

Increasing bus fares to the public and using bus drivers wages is a very lame excuse for any profitable company. See this post on a separate blog for the writer's analysis of where the money is with SMRT.

And actually, why is this comment made by the Transport Minister, when the revenue of the fare increase would go straight into the 2 listed companies and not the Land Transport Authority? ( I also wonder why the Land Transport Authority would subsidise these 2 companies through things like co-funding of repair costs? It's like having the Monetary Authority of Singapore subsidizing ATMs network repairs for banks should there be a breakdown!)

There is something about our public transportation system that seems very wrong somewhere.

Singapore is not a big country. I really do believe that if left completely to the private sector, there will be real competition in this space and I'm sure we'd have a much more efficient, and maybe even cheaper public transportation system.

Photo from SBS Transit website
Now, I don't understand why we still have so many single deck buses

Monday, December 10, 2012

Multi-tasking

Mothers seem to multi-task well and do things fast.

I never realised that I actually do things quite slowly until recently. (Apart from typing - I can type fast.. too fast sometimes and I click "Send" on the email and then regret..)

I suppose some things come with experience. For example, I can change diapers pretty fast now compared to 2 months ago.

TV is a bit of a luxury these days but here is an interesting article of what one can do whilst watching TV and during commercials. I like this website (www.dumblittleman.com) for the useful tips they hand out on almost everything!

Have a fruitful week ahead.

A pretty flower to brighten up Monday!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hundred and Fifty Thousand

The counter on my blog says that this blog has received more than 150,000 clicks.

When the counter hit 100,000 some time back, I gushed about it to The Husband. He laughed and suggested that about half of those probably came from me.

Well, even then, 150,000 is a small milestone worthy of celebration.

I started blogging in Dec 2008, when I was working on a contract job from home in Singapore for my ex-company in Beijing. I had lots of time back then and could blog as often as I liked... until I started full time work again in April 2010.

Since I started blogging, I've met many new friends - some solely on cyberspace and some I've actually met up with physically. Ting, Petunia, Wen-ai, Fry, Leah (not a blogger but a reader) are some of those I've met. Sinfonia, of course I knew before blogging but I feel I know more of now because of her blog. Others, like Malar, Lrong, Stephanie, Vivian, Celine, Rene, I've never really met.. but I feel I know them (or at least their gardens) because of their blogs and their comments on mine.

My posts have changed from short ones without any photos, to really long posts without any photos.. to what they are now - usually with a photo whether long or short. I think having a photo just makes me feel a little happier about the post.

I used to take all my pictures with a simple camera. Now, most of my pictures are taken with The Husband's DSLR, most often using the macro lens I gave him for his birthday (Hmph, it seems the lens is more for me than him right...? Hmph). And when I forget the DSLR, of course there's always the trusty iPhone.

I started this blog to write about mainly cooking and gardening. My garden is now in a pretty sad state and I no longer cook or bake that often. But I've come to use this blog to note down stuff I do, food I eat, places I go to and my experiences in general. And at the end of the year, when I don't remember what I've done along the way, I read this blog to remind myself about the year.

This year, I didn't blog much. But reading others' blog has become very much a part of my day.. it's like reading the newspaper in the morning. Somehow, my day won't feel right or complete if I don't catch up on the blogs I follow.

I will definitely continue to blog.. even with Little N and after going back to work. Blogging has given me new experiences and time to reflect on my life.. and I'm not quite prepared to give that up!

P/S: Suddenly, I remember this old post of mine on why I blog.. the reasons I've written last time still hold true!

This blog is a lot about good food. 
This is my favourite fried tang hoon by my mum

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Mini Break

On Monday, I met up with 3 other church friends for high tea.

All four of us had our babies in August and September this year. This high tea session was supposed to be a mini break for us.

Happy wasn't able to get help so she brought her little son, Little Z along. He was very well-behaved so our tea session really wasn't disrupted by him at all.

We talked, complained, shared and laughed. I had a great time and felt revitalized after the high tea!

Of course, the food at 10 Scotts was great as well.

I loved the hot dish of the day - mushrooms and pasta with meatballs. The scones were as usual very very good - I really loved the hot scones with clotted cream and raspberry coulis. The 2 tier tea set (items refillable upon request) came with delicate sandwiches, crab cake and local delights like kueh pie tee, popiah and curry puff. The crab cake and curry puff were both exceptionally good.

The desserts were buffet style and they were all delicious as well. I liked the raspberry sorbet and dark chocolate ice-cream.

The best part of the afternoon was of course the company of my 3 friends and really look forward to another catch up some time in the near future!

The 2 tier tea set

Pasta and meatballs

The desserts were all good

The glorious scones - the clotted cream is to die for

I love how the ice-cream and sorbet came in little frozen pots

Photos not tagged with Openkitchenconcept are all courtesy of Happy.

10 Scotts
Grand Hyatt hotel
Add: 10 Scotts Rd (where else?)
Click here to make a reservation

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Morning Reset

Everyday by 8pm, I'm exhausted.

If I manage to steal a nap that day, I'm exhausted by 9pm. If Little N had woken up more than 2 times the night before, I'm exhausted by evening time, as early as 6pm.

Many advise that new mummies should always nap when the baby is napping. It's really easier said than done, you know. When Little N is napping, I need to shower, do the laundry, eat my breakfast or lunch, clean her room... By the time I finish some of these things and settle down to rest, she's up from her nap.

Strangely though, I find myself re-energized for the day when Little N is taking her first morning nap, after my morning shower. It's like there is a reset button somewhere that helps me feel energized for the day after the shower... until 6pm, or 8pm or 9pm...

Recently she has been napping pretty well, especially in the mornings, so I can afford to take time to reset in the morning to prepare for the day ahead.

Have a happy morning!

Brunch at Bishan Park - it was the first time we brought Little N with us for brunch. 
The cafe was extremely noisy but amazingly, she slept through our meal


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Best Strawberry Shortcake

I like eating Strawberry Shortcakes. The name itself makes me feel a little happier. It reminds me of the cartoon character of the same name and other cartoon characters that used to be so popular in my days (Carebears, Smurfs and all)

Surprisingly, I think the best one in Singapore is from Four Leaves, a bakery chain with a store in almost every major shopping mall. The cream is light and slightly sweet and the sponge cake is nice and fluffy. Most importantly, it's available in almost every mall so it's easy to get your hands on one.

Tampopo Deli (at Liang Court) also sell a very good one. I like their strawberry shortcake and Scoop Cake. Some think they sell the best strawberry shortcakes in Singapore. I think their cream, which is milky yet light, is indeed nicer than most other places.

Patisserie Glace (at Icon) also makes a pretty good one. It's one of their best sellers and the cake indeed looks very pretty. The plus side about their strawberry shortcake is that they don't stinge on the strawberries. But I find the cake a tad too moist and hence not as fluffy as I'd like it to be.

If you know of any fabulous strawberry shortcakes, do let me know!

Four Leaves' creation

Tampopo Deli

From Patisserie Glace

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Few Random Things I've Learnt

Here are a few random things I've learnt from Little N and through taking care of her..

1. Forgive and forget - You can accidentally drop baby (er.. just to clarify, not that I did this.. though I did accidentally knocked her on her head *ouch, my heart*) or make baby cry (well, er yes, I did make baby cry.. all the time.. through not understanding what she wants) and you will still get a smile from her the next minute

2. Life's too short to care about what others think - It's perfectly okay to smile one minute and cry the next, or even do both at the same time

3. Know what you want and say it. And if you don't get it - it's ok to pout, cry and yell.. if you are a baby. I guess we adults have it easier because we can communicate and tell others what we want. I think our problem usually is that in spite of our ability to communicate, we often don't and end up bottling our feelings and getting all upset and frustrated

4. Naps are a waste of time. Again, life is too short for naps so they should always be resisted, with a fair amount of pouting and crying

5.  There is no better time. There is no better time to play than NOW. Even if it is 5am in the morning, you should attempt to play. Again, life's too short, so why miss out on the fun stuff.

6. Nails grow fast and sharp when you are on an all milk diet (My own observation - mums out there, let me know if you don't think the same)

7. You don't really always know yourself. I didn't know I'd obsess so much over baby poo, nose shit, ear wax and fingernails. Especially baby poo. I've googled, taken pictures, emailed pictures, sniffed and observed poo in greater details over the past few weeks.. much more than I ever thought I'd do.

8. Let go and let God. Sometimes when you cry with your fists clenched and eyes close, you miss out on things your Mum or Dad wants to give you. It's the same for us and our Father in Heaven, I guess. Happy explains this well here.

9. Some things are out of your control. This is something I'm still learning. Little N naps badly and it causes great frustration for me. The Husband reminded me that there's very little I can do about it and you know, it's true. I can provide her the best environment and conditions and opportunities for napping but if she doesn't or wakes up early and crying.. as much as I'm frustrated, there is nothing I can do to make baby fall asleep if she can't.

The most animated photo I have of Little N. Too bad about the focus.
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