Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ciao from me!


Hello peeps, you can find me at @eattodraw - thanks!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Great Expectations

The last six months of 2014 had been an amazing turn of events - first I decided to heed my inner voice and take a six-month sabbatical from work in end June to find myself again and just do all the things I want to do (reading, crafts, arts, cook/bake, travel, etc) - before my 39th birthday. I didn't expect getting pregnant to be on that list - so soon anyway!

A fertility stone that I picked up in Gili Air

I found out when I headed to Gili Air island for a three-week holiday in August with my sister and friends. My period was late for a week (not unusual), then another week (strange) and I was getting up 3 times a night to pee and couldn't sleep (highly weird). I bought a test kit and it came out positive! That morning I cried when I saw the two clear blue lines on the stick showing immediately right after I peed on it. Could this be real? I showed it to my sis and we cried and hugged.

When I came back, L and I visited the gyne and true enough, the ultrasound scan revealed a tiny foetus nesting in my womb at eight weeks old and its heart beat reverberated strongly in the room. We were excited and still couldn't believe we made it. We always wanted to have kids and I guess there's no better time than Now. It's all in the grand scheme of life - perhaps my inner clock was telling me to slow down, stop work and let my body take over (we actually conceived on 10 July 2014, 10 days right after I stopped work).

In July, I was also feeling great - running the COTW exhibition and market - one of the many fun purrsonal projects that feed my life purpose. I also turned to arts and crafts, feeding my inner child and artist. In Gili Air, sis and I became children again and explored the island, played, created, swam, read and reflected on our lives. We were both at important turning points in our lives and I'm glad we have each other during this time. She stayed with us and we continued to fuel our creative energy and turned to creating new stuff for the festive purrzaar and set the motion for future plans.

It was not easy always; at times we still mourned the loss of Jarvis - his love was so big and his loss so profound. We grieved and celebrated him everyday. Luckily I have Mimi and Lucia who were sticking to me like bodyguards when I became pregnant (they know!). Lucia began to sleep with me in bed every night - much to our amusement. Cats are such amazing creatures.

That's why I was happy when I was approached to help with a PR campaign for the new cat museum - it's right up my alley indeed! I also organised a cat photo workshop at a cat cafe here and it was fun to connect with our fans. I got editing and writing gigs - believing in the Law Of Attraction, i.e. when one door closes, another window of opportunity opens, and we must recognise and chase our dreams and goals.

Now that 2015 is here, I have set my sights on being a mother and artist, a communicator and connector to serve my higher purpose and help others to achieve theirs too. I am a creator, I choose to love and live life fully in the present. Let it flow!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Zealous Beginning

So many things happened since Jarvis' passing in April. We still miss him every day but the pain has lessened bit by bit. My sis went to seek solace in New Zealand's embrace and I went to join her for 2 weeks, along with our mom and friend Art in mid May, just when winter started and the cold kicked in. It has been almost 4 years since our last Golden Light trip there and it was wonderful to be back in Auckland to see Y and her family, as well as finally head down to the South Island and explore its wilderness.

After a couple of restful days in Auckland, we flew down to Nelson by Air NZ and were reunited with sis and Karlos on his man-cave caravan which has traversed all of NZ. South Island was definitely colder especially when the wind picked up. We spent a night in a fabulous log cabin at Hammer's Springs and prepared dinner of handpicked wild abalones in the well-equipped kitchen as the fireplace warmed us up. This was Mom's first winter experience and we fussed over her to make sure she's ok.

The magical Castle Hill

The next morning, we drove down to the sacred site of Castle Hill to soak up its magic. Dalai Lama called it the "spiritual centre of the Universe" and we could sense why. Every rock cloaked in shapes of animals was alive and whispering - we blessed the grounds and set our intentions. Even mom said it's such a peaceful place.

Arthur's Pass in the morning

Next we drove quite a distance to Arthur's Pass and found a BnB to spend the wary night. The weather was not kind and poured for 2 days hence we were not able to hike in the nature reserve but we still piled on the layers, walked to the nearby river in the early morning to collect spring water and shiny stones. Mom was reluctant at first but plodded on and had fun as you can see from the picture above.

NZ is never about the destination, it's always the journey that holds surprises - like when the caravan accidentally slipped into a shallow ditch and someone came to help us. We tumbled out to the roadside, first relieved, then overjoyed to see a huge rainbow across the meadows! Another time we were on the highway in the dark and the strong wind ripped out the caravan's solar panels above. We had to scramble in the dark to find the panels and then climbed up to fix the roof. Such adventures of road trip!

After Arthur's Pass, we found our way to Maria's hot springs and stayed a night at the Japanese onsen-style resort. It was freezing but we were able to seek warmth in the outdoor hot springs overlooking the misty mountains, followed by a hot meal cooked in the caravan. Dining out in NZ was quite expensive so we stocked up at the supermarket (still not cheap) and cooked what we want, from healthy pasta to avocado-blue cheese wraps and miso soup noodles.

Riwaka river

The next day we picked up Art's friend from Nelson and made our way slowly to our base in Takaka along the Golden Bay  up north of the South Island. The drive was very scenic as we winded past lush hills, gushing rivers and a deep valley dotted with jersey cows and sheeps. Karlos made a lunch pitstop at Riwaka river and it was a pleasant 15-minute hike to the source of the river. The air was fresh and chilly, and a pair of fat birds with long tails followed us curiously. The mouth of the river was a cavenous hole, shaped like a womb - a source of fertility and birth indeed. Karlos and sis took a dip in it before, as part of her Jedi training, and survived the freezing temperature. He suggested I try it too but I just gave him a lifted eyebrow. We filled our bottles instead with the pristine spring water, pregnant with more blessings, and I actually carried some back for L to drink.

Takaka is a hippy town according to my sister and I could see why. There was a mixed bag of holistic spiritual gift shops and organic grocers, quaint cafes, etsy-like stores selling handmade ceramic wares and artworks. This was where she met T and his pirates gang who all live on their boats at the port. We checked into the cosy Sandcastle cottages and cooked up a storm of chicken curry, omelette, pumpkin soup and rice for our welcome dinner.

After dinner, we headed to the 'pirates cave' for some whiskey, smokes and songs. Mom was quite taken aback by the pitch black cave and the sounds made by the penguins haha but T built a fire effortlessly within minutes that lit up the hole. We peeped at the millions of stars above the foliage and hoped to catch a shooting one.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Be Free - Now is the time


Jarvis went to the stars and has become our guardian angel. He will always be. With his passing, we have reached another awakening and are ever more conscious of life and living it to the fullest. What do we want? What's our soul purpose and calling in this wondrous universe? How can we bring about change in this lifetime? The message to me is be free, be who you want to be. Act on it now. Just do it! I have thought about it and decided to take a break to live and just do all the things I want, instead of waiting for things to happen in our constant lame excuse of busy-ness!

An affirmation are the wonderful Cancerian forecasts for 2014 found on www.freewillastrology.com (check yours out! ;)

PART 1
"To destroy is always the first step in any creation," said the poet E. E. Cummings. Do you buy that idea, Cancerian? I hope so, because the cosmos has scheduled you to instigate some major creative action in 2014. In order to fulfill that potential, you will have to metaphorically smash, burn, and dissolve any old structures that have been standing in the way of the future. You will have to eliminate as many of the "yes, buts" and "I can'ts" and "not nows" as you possibly can.

PART 2
French poet Edmond Jabes had this to say about the birth of big creative ideas that dramatically transform one's life: "For the writer, discovering the work he will write is both like a miracle and a wound, like the miracle of the wound." Regardless of whether or not you're an artist, Cancerian, I expect that you will experience a wrenching and amazing awakening like this in 2014. The opening you've been hoping and working for will finally crack its way into your destiny. It may be one of the most pleasurable disruptions you've ever had.

PART 3
Big rivers don't travel in straight lines. Their paths are curvy and complicated, with periodic turns and bends. In some places they flow faster and in others they're slower. Their depth and width may vary along the way, too. Your own destiny is like one of those big rivers, Cancerian. In some years, it meanders for long stretches, slowing down as it wanders along a crooked course. It may even get shallower and narrower for a while. But I expect that in 2014, you will be moving more rapidly than usual. You will be traveling a more direct route, and you will be both wide and deep.

Woohoo!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ART Vita


I love art, I always did and I still do in my heart and soul, even though I have lost touch with her due to my 'busy' schedule in the past decade. Funnily as soon as I willed it, I found myself back to art, starting with winning a big art fair project for the year.

My sister reminded me I'm always the artist in the family. I do remember me as a child and my toys are my prized set of colouring pencils, crayons and colouring books. I even won prizes and sold some of my works to my neighbours for 10 cents lol.

In JC, I took Art as a A Level subject and aced it (my art teacher Mary called me a dark horse). I had wanted to pursue fine arts but it was too expensive in 1994 but I opted for the next best thing - Communications in NTU.

Admittedly I am still involved with the artistic process via another love affair - Cats Of The World -where I can indulge in photography and cats. When there's so much passion and compassion, people can sense it and are drawn to the exhibition, as it grows organically. And for this year, we are implementing an element of art and have gotten a few artists to come up with feline-inspired works to raise more funds for cat welfare.


On the note of cats, Jarvis our first cat is dying as I typed this entry. My sis and I have been crying and preparing ourselves for the day that he will leave us and we are truly blessed to have him as our constant companion, inspiration and joy for the last 20 years. Every moment with him is perfection and 100% unconditional love. With that, we have no regrets and thank him with gratitude for taking care of us and inspiring us to be better humans, to spread more love for cats and enjoy every living moment with our loved ones. His passing is a significant chapter in our lives; as it truly forced me to evaluate my higher purpose and what's next.

I think it's about time I honour the inner child in me and free myself to be the born artist, mystic communicator, green lover, domestic goddess, and liberty defender. I will soon make a major decision as my heart speaks louder with every day. There are more and more messages that affirm what I need to do. Don't give in to the worries and fears. I will be a mother and teacher too.

This morning, I read an interview with an art fair director and mother of twins. She says: "Art allows children to freely express themselves in a way that words and actions don’t. There is a reason why art theraphy is so successful for helping children overcome difficult situations. Art has so many facets to it but most importantly it should always be fun. I always encourage kids to get messy when having a go at art and for mums not to be too controlling about the process. I think adults would benefit from reminding themselves of the sense of freedom throwing paint onto a canvas can bring you!"

So be it!

“The bolder the action, the greater the genius, magic and power that is likely to
flow from it.” – Robert Ringer

“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it
occupies.” – Arnold Glasgow

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” – Raymond Lindquist

 “It is more Important to be of pure intention than of perfect action.”
– Ilyas Kassam


Monday, December 16, 2013

Natale A Casa

 
We have been looking forward to Dicembre because L's famiglia are coming over - his parents and cousin, her husband and daughter Miki and it'll be wonderful to spend time and celebrate Natale together! We have set up the guestrooms for them and put up our very first live Xmas tree! :)

L's parents arrived first and we decided to invite some amici over for an early Xmas festa and house-warming too. Melina (MIL) who is a superb cook like most Italian mamma, prepared her specialita' - Casatiello - a savoury Neapolitan bread loaf that is usually enjoyed at Easter but M always makes it for Christmas too.

According to www.ciaoitalia.com, Casatiello derives from case - in Neapolitan dialect it means cheese, because of its use as a filling. "The rising dough meant the promise of new life; the shape of the bread symbolized a crown and the eggs meant rebirth." Apparently there are many variations of this stuffed bread and it is a traditional recipe that should be treasured. I love Melina's version that includes a tub of lard which she lugged from Napoli!

 
L also asked his amico who is a TV celeb chef in Rome to make 2 Xmas Panettone for us and they were delicious and light! For Xmas Eve, we will be enjoying a traditional seafood and fish dinner along with lots of vino of course. And then on Xmas Day, we will be flying off to Bali for 5 days per far niente.

Here's wishing you a Merrilicious Natale and abundant joyous New Year - I think I'm ready for the next stage in my life to unfold! Let the adventures begin. So be it baby.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Carla's Humble Kueh Pisang

With the kitchen in full swing, we have been experimenting with lots more recipes and one of them which I have perfected is the humble Kueh Pisang - a local dessert that you can find at Bengawan Solo (a small piece about the size of my palm costs $1.70!). I first learnt to cook it during Home Economics in secondary school and have always loved how easy it is to prepare and how delicious it tastes.


This dish is easy and cheap to make in the sense it only needs 4 main ingredients - Green mung bean flour, Coconut milk, Sugar, and Banana (Pandan leaf is optional) and it can serve 4 to 6pax although L and I can easily finish the portion.  You can find the Tree Brand Hun Kwee flour (as seen in the picture above) easily at most supermarkets. The only thing is you will learn from experience when the mixture thickens and when to turn off the fire. Well practice makes perfect!


Carla's Humble Kueh Pisang
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 Pack of Tree Brand Hun Kwee green mung bean flour (90g)
180g White sugar (approx 3 big heaped tablespoons)
2 cups Thick Coconut milk mixed with 1 cup water
Generous pinch of salt
1 Pandan leaf (optional)
1 Ripe Banana (or 2 also can) - sliced
* You may substitute the banana with half cup of corn kibbles which make sit Corn Kueh :)

Method:
- Mix the flour, sugar, coconut milk, water, pandan leaf and salt in a small saucepan.
- Stir gently with a wooden spoon to make sure most of the flour has dissolved well in the mixture before putting the pot on the stove at low heat.
- Stir the mixture gently for about 8 to 10mins till the watery mixture starts to thicken and coats the back of the wooden spoon. You should also taste the mixture to tell if it's ready - it should taste smooth, rich and not floury.
*Tip: the stirring part is important so that the mixture doesn't become lumpy. See the pictures below as a guide.
- Once it's ready, remove the pandan leaf and let the mixture cool for a couple of mins while you slice the banana and place them into one mould**. Then pour the mixture into the mould and let it cool for another 5mins before chilling in the fridge for at least 30mins to an hour. To serve, you can slice the kueh into pieces. I find that it tastes better when served within the day.

 
**Fun Fact: we used to fold pandan leaves into tiny square boxes which will hold the mixture and impart the fragrance of pandan as you chomp into it.  I think it's a great idea if you also set it in silicon mini cupcake moulds or soft icecube trays which you can easily turn upside down and remove the kueh! For me, I set it in a cat-shaped shallow mould as it is so cute :)


**For an extra touch of decadence, L and I decided to cook up a durian sauce for the Kueh Pisang. We mixed a cup of Mao Shan Wang fresh durian pulp, a cup of coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of sugar and let it simmer on low heat till it's well mixed. We then blended the puree so it reaches a finer consistency but not too fine till it becomes juice! We served the warm sauce with the cool kueh which is DA BOMB :D

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cooking Up A Storm

 


My healthy colourful salad for office lunch

Can I declare that I loooove to cook? It's so fun to dream up recipes and discover new ingredients and how to cook them right. Over the weekend, I bought beetroot and boiled them for 30mins in salted water before peeling them to add to truly yummy salads. I also sliced the skinny Japanese cucumbers and pickle them with some brown sugar, chilli flakes, sliced shallots, lime juice, salt and pepper.

I also made a Grilled halibut fillet with tomatoes and garlic on Sunday - and it's so easy and tasty! I didn't know halibut is so cheap ($1.80- $2.00) per fillet at NTUC Fairprice. There are many ways to prepare the fish and this is just one of them. Enjoy!


Here's the recipe to share:

Grilled Halibut Fillet 

Ingredients:
2 x Halibut fillets - can get from most supermarkets
10 Cherry tomatoes - halved
3 Cloves of garlic - finely sliced
2 tablespoons Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Chilli flakes (optional)

Method:
1. Season halibut with salt and pepper in a roasting pan/tray, then add garlic, chilli flakes, tomatoes and drizzle the olive oil over them.
2. Grill in preheated oven at 180 degC for about 20mins till fish is cooked.
3. Serve with any green salad or mashed potato or polenta.


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Working With Contractors

 

 

Contractors - Woe or Yay
Many times I have heard horror stories about contractors from friends - and that was before we embarked on our renovation in early 2013. Probably 8 out of 10 contractors are terrible according to friends - which led me to ask our contractor P why they suffer a bad repute and he explained some "contractors" are purely sales men - they are hired to get the jobs in and they get a high commission and many perks. However after they signed on the jobs, they move on and don't really care about the renovation process or after service. Real contractors are the ones who get their hands dirty and work closely with the clients and their various trusted partners from the carpenter and electrician to the plumber and tilers.
 
Anyway here are some steps to looking and working with a great contractor based on my experience:
 
1) Ask for 3 quotes from recommended sources and compare prices based on a common brief. I started with a carte of requirements and briefed the 3 contractors who are recommended by trusted friends and family. One didn't give us a quote (busy). Another asked us for our budget (which was $50k) and said it is not possible and said it'd cost $70k and didn't bother to provide a detailed quotation! P's quote was $50k – even though he didn't know our budget, so naturally he was the Chosen One.
 
2) Know what you want and communicate it clearly to the contractor from the start. Agree on the list of tasks for the renovation and the handover timeline (especially if you are in a hurry to move in). Also since you are the ID, you have to come up with a mood board with pictures to articulate what you want and he can advise you if it is possible. Surf the internet for pictures - it's easy!
 
3) Sign on the agreement and payment terms. It is usually in 3 instalments but all my friends' no.1 golden rule is - DO NOT Pay them in full until you are 100% satisfied with the renovation. They say usually they will disappear after getting the money but P didn't - and sent his right hand man XL to help me with putting up accessories and fixing the pipes :)  

4) Don't be BFFs with them but maintain a professional, friendly and open relationship. Don't be mean - that doesn't get things done. From the start, I told him upfront I trust him to do a good job since he was recommended by my sister and he probably feels the pressure and delivered haha. It's a give and take relationship.
 
5) Act swiftly if you don’t like how certain ways turn out, so this way the contractor can correct things easily without further hindrance to the project. You have to pay a little more to rectify certain things that weren't in the original list, but  consider the fact that you will have to look at it for a loooooong time, it's worth it! For example, I have designed the balcony tiles in a certain design and I hated the corner tiles that stick out (my fault) so I told P to remove them and smooth out the concrete at additional cost of $300. Always ask for the costs of rectifying things and weigh your decisions.

 
6) Be the manager and be on top of things from day one, no matter how good the contractor can be. They can't guess what you want so you need to check on the progress often, especially when major things are done like flooring or carpentry. I wasn't there everyday but he actually what'sapp me pictures so I can see the progress. 
 
7) Work on a reasonable deadline so he can deliver quality work. I wasn't in a rush so I gave him 8 weeks. We also worked on a schedule to track progress and along the way he reminded me when to buy the tiles, lights, switches, taps, toilets stuff etc. This way you can source ahead and buy your stuff in time for each step! If you are a swift decision maker, things get done quickly. 
 
8) Be open to changes as your vision will change along the way because you might not see the whole picture from the start (unless you hire an interior designer). It’s fun yet a bit stressful along the way! But it’s a fluid process and just communicate with your contractor and partner/spouse/family involved in the decision-making.

9) Decide on the decision maker - to avoid arguments and hasten the renovation. I know it's tough if both partners are equally opinionated or passionate about the project but you have to work out a compromise based on your tastes and budget. In our case, L trusted me to be the visionary and left me to my devices and be the main liaison with the contractor since I can banter in Mandarin and Hokkien. I do consult him on the major stuff like tile designs, lights and paint colours so he feel involved!
Anyway before you know it, the home is ready! Good luck!   

Monday, October 07, 2013

Gatti A Casa


Yay i gatti sono arrivati - finalmente! We waited till the casa is cat-proof - which means the white PVC Venetian blinds and insect screens are installed - before moving the 2 girls, Mimi and Lucia last week. I made a painful decision to leave Lola with my folks because she doesn't get along with the rest but I'm assured that Lola is in good hands with my folks and the 2 Taiwanese tenants who love her to bits.

The first night when they came over, the 2 scaredy cats cowered in a corner and I moved them to the toilet with their new kitty litter pan so they know where to pee/poo. After a night there, curiosity got the better of them and they came out sniffing - surely but slowly - and explored the new territory. Mimi is the sweet older sister while Lucia is the more active no less-cuter sibling. They went from room to room together, ate together, played with the catnip bolster and chased each other up and down the stairs! It makes us so happy to see them so free - life's renewed for all of us.

 
I have been posting too many photos of them on instagram but I can't help it - they are simply adorable! :) Oh in the last 2 weeks we also bought new furniture from Ikea - including a sofa, 3 white metal tv benches, glossy grey shelving unit, cupboard, and white metal bed frame for the guest room. We still have to buy a king size mattress and bed, and another guest bed soon as L's parents and cousin are coming for Xmas in dicembre, so exciting!

 
Stuff we bought for Ikea to complement our Med chic look - working with the colour scheme!
 

Before and After furniture comes in - cosier to laze around, now to get the TV!