Happy 2016!

Happy New Year everyone!

Haven’t been posting much on my blog. School has kept me pretty busy. Term 2 had just ended and the new term will start in a week’s time. Am truly appreciating the term break now cos I don’t think we will get the same duration of break time for the rest of the terms.

2015 is an eventful year for me. It’s also one of the turning points in my life when I have decided to take a break from working and go back to school. Essentially, I had stepped out of my comfort zone.

It is something which I planned to do but had procrastinated for a while. Amidst the concern of time and money, there were also several doubts and insecurities (the “what ifs”).

Casting all these negativity aside, it’s time to just take that leap forward. I know if I don’t do it, I will often think about it and this will become a nagging thought forever.

School has been great. Sure, it is tough especially during the exam period but if it is not challenging, then where’s the fun right? Ha… kidding… sometimes challenges make you work harder and learn. That’s the point in studying right?

I get to know more people, in the form of my course mates. All of them are younger than me. Well, that’s what happen when you pursue your Masters at this age. Haha..

There’s another 6 months to go before the course ends. Hopefully, I will be able to try new roles, be it in my current organisation or others.

In this new year, I hope to banish much negative thoughts from my mind and heart. It’s really easier said than done. Every year, we always wish for much success, happiness, good health and so on… But things do not happen miraculously just by “wishing” alone. It’s still all about hard work and effort. Ok, maybe toss in a bit of luck as well.

For me, one negative thought would be to stop harbouring people who I can’t stand in my thoughts. There are people who I really dislike for many reasons which I don’t wish to talk about. Sometimes, I think about them. Why are they like that? Why do they behave this way?

It’s time I stop thinking about them and other terrible thoughts. Whenever my friends rant about irritating people they had encountered, I will always say, forget about them, they are not worth it. When the same happen to me, I should just listen to myself right? :p But it is always easier to advise from a third-party perspective than when you are involved.

So… less hate and negativity, and more positivity and happy thoughts in the new year…

Also, much of these “happy thoughts” and less of any negativity stem from being able to ignore so-call “white noises”. That is, unconstructive comments from busybodies, malicious words and gossips and most of all, opinions that others try to impose on you to make you feel bad about yourself or doubt your abilities in any way.

Oh yes, there are such shit stirrers around who have nothing better to do with their time but meddle in other people’ business or people who enjoy putting others down just to achieve that gratified feeling cos likely they are unhappy souls themselves.

In the new year, I must try to be more tolerant and patient. Hmm, this is nothing new. Believe I had said this many times. Yikes. Frankly, I think my temper had mellowed much. Occasionally, my fuse will be lighted up but thankfully (hee), did not lead to a major blow-up. 20 years ago, I would have totally lose it. Urgh…

Oh… one more thing… 2016 is the year which I bid farewell to my 30s and embrace (or try to) the 40s. And I used to think anything beyond 40 is “old”. Well, forgive my impetuous thought. I was really young then.

Again, rather than being resigned to the negative thought that the older we get, the more irrelevant we will be, one of the ways is to reverse that view is to be, what else, relevant. Be open and learn new things. Be adaptable and sometimes, flexible. Move forward rather than be stuck in the same rut and then complain endlessly which is not gonna help improve or address the situation.

Someone once told me that everyone has a choice to do whatever they want. It’s whether they are brave enough to make that choice happen. Hence, be courageous to take that leap forward even though it may come with risks and uncertainties. But we won’t know what lies beyond until we try. And if things do not happen the way we expect or if we did not achieve our intended aims or if we *gasp* fail, we should summon the same courage and try again. Like a fractured bone, the new bone, once healed, will become stronger. Hence, I do wish to have that courage and tenacity to plough on when the going gets tough, be it studies or later on, work.

I don’t consider the above as new year resolutions cos they shouldn’t be something that we only think about at the start of a new year right?

Anyway, on a lighter note…..

After the past few weeks of feasting, it’s time to go on a clean and light diet before the lunar new year in about a month’s time… MUST cut down (but doesn’t mean cut out…hehe) on fatty and oily food.

Once again, happy new year all… May the new year be a blessed one for all..

Exam time…

Term 2 had sorta ended… No more lessons… yay..

But there’s no escaping from the exams.. 3 straight days…The first one is tomorrow, then the day after and finally, last one on Wed. Then the actual year-end break will take into effect.

Time really flies… I am almost halfway through my course.. Another 3 more terms till Jun next year. Pretty compacted so not much time to do project work and study for exams (if any).

This term had been pretty challenging. The most difficult for me would be the finance module. This is a subject which I can never fully grasp even though I had attended some crash courses and workshops before.

However, those are short lessons and most of the stuff were taught in a rather fast manner, hence the difficulty in absorbing the various concepts and formulas. For this module, there are 8 lessons, individual assignments, a group project and an exam to drive you to really study and apply what we have learnt. Plus my course instructor had managed to explain all these pretty clearly in his energetic passionate manner. That’s really important to get people to pay attention.

I am definitely no expert in finance still… much to improve even… but at least I do not reel in horror when I encounter a financial statement. That’s a good step right? :p

4 months had passed so far… It’s been a great learning journey so far… Everyone in class had pretty much know each other except for a handful of quieter ones who chose to hang out in their own group(s)… I love school life despite the stacks of readings, group projects, assignments and now… exams…

But that’s how it’s like right? In some odd way, I am relishing this kind of life now.

Sometimes I miss work (and getting income!) too but the stress encountered at school is nowhere compared to work stress. So I’d better relish this duration of school life while I can..

Now… time to get back to my books… 3 more days to go!!

The jittery feeling of receiving grades… once again…

The PSLE results were released today. The results were slightly better than last year. For this year, 98.3% of the cohort is able to enter secondary school.

Having been in that situation, I can totally imagine the anxiety these students are going through as they waited for the results. When it was my turn some gozillion years ago, we had waited in the school hall with racing heartbeats. I had a slight confidence that I will get into the Express stream but then again, you never know. Besides, the maths paper was tough so it’s hard to tell. Finally, it’s my turn to receive the result slip and when I saw that I qualify for the Express stream, a huge wave of relief just overwhelmed me.

It’s the same feeling as when I’d received my O and A Levels results. I was so nervous that my hands literally cramped up. Anyway, my A Levels results weren’t fantastic so there was some disappointment when I saw the grades. Whatever it is, those intense jittery feelings were a thing of the past.

Well, that’s what I had thought so once I started working until this year, when I become a student again!

But somehow, these feelings were much better controlled. However, there are also other factors in play. Like the final grade is usually comprised of a few components such as final project, quizzes other than the final exam though the latter usually constitute a higher proportion. The pressure does not seem as high or intense, though there still is, as compared to my primary/secondary/JC years.

Anyways, I am halfway into Term 2 so it’s that time of the term again where one rushes through the final projects and at the same time, tries to keep up with the lessons in preparation for the final exam. Unfortunately, we do not have any study breaks for this term, and likely the same for other terms, so it is really important to keep up week after week, lesson after lesson.

The jittery feeling will come again end Dec when the grades are released. It’s the holiday season too. Sigh… the feeling of enjoying the holiday season is kinda marred by these feelings huh… Hopefully, I will do ok..

It never gets tiring exploring Chinatown and Kampong Glam..

Oh man… my term break is coming to an end! Term 2 starts coming Mon. But I am not complaining cos it has been a REALLY good break. I’d never felt more relaxed and carefree. Most colleagues whom I had met for lunch in these 3 weeks (yes, 3 weeks!! Whhoooaatt!!) had commented that I looked rejuvenated and happy. Well, not for long cos term 2 is gonna erase all this radiance and bring back those furrowed brows!! Arrgghh!!

Had also managed to meet up with school friends whom I’ve not seen in years. When I’m working, it’s always about being too busy and when there’s spare time, I don’t want to do anything except my own things. Now that I have some spare time, there’s no excuse not to keep up with these friendships on grounds of having no time. Bleah… These are some things in life that matters and should not be taken for granted.

During this break, some of my coursemates had flew back home, some on vacation and there are some who remained here. Like 2 of my project group mates, Charlie and Denise. Being ever so hospitable (haha), I had offered to take them around Chinatown and Kampong Glam, both sites rich in the history, heritage and culture of Singapore’s past…

We started off with lunch at Maxwell Food Centre. I have been here several times but can you believe I have NEVER tried the famous Tian Tian chicken rice and Zhen Zhen Porridge?? There are other good stalls too but there are only 3 of us and are not big eaters.

Many would say that Tian Tian chicken rice is overrated. I think if the price of 1 plate ($5) is reduced to a more palatable (depending on how you view it) $3 plus or $4, maybe that view may change. I had read reviews that their chicken rice is preferred over the chicken. Perhaps the chicken was cooked well that day cos I’d find the meat tender and not dry whereas the rice is a tad too oily for my liking. I like chicken rice but not crazy over it so I typically don’t eat much of it. However, for a better price and good (some may say, better) taste, I would recommend the “Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice” at the basement of Katong Shopping Centre.

Zhen Zhen’s porridge has a unique texture. Quite similar to instant porridge. Of course, the taste and quality is way better than the instant processed version. Just that I felt the rice grains seem extremely fine, as if they were blended to smaller bits before boiling them.  Anyway, it is not a problem for me cos the porridge is still good and laden with ingredients.

After lunch, we walked briskly to Sago Lane where I wanna introduce them to my favourite egg tart shop. I can never remember the name of the shop except that it is along Sago Lane. Love the buttery flaky tart and the rich flavour of the egg tart. Thankfully, we didn’t overeat at Maxwell, otherwise no space for these tarts!

Maybe I had mentioned before in an old blog entry but anyways… I did a project on Chinatown for one of my history modules in university, and hence started my interest, and a soft spot (for nostalgic reasons) for this place. Even though much of it is very commercialised and many shops are selling stuff targeting tourists. Like those cheesy “Singapore is a Fine Country” T-shirts.

The weather was freaking hot that day. Actually, it has always been hot and worse, if hazy too. The “tourist guide” in me cannot take it. Need. ICE COLD drink. NOW. And air-con too, of course. #weakme.

After Charlie gets his shampoo from one of those toiletries shop in People’s Park Complex, we took a train to Telok Ayer, check out the Thian Hock Keng temple and then shield ourselves from the heat in one of the small cafes in that area. Too hot!!

It’s nice to just chill and have a cuppa and a chat. This helps us get to know each other better. Afterall, we had technically worked with each other, attended lessons together and even sat with each other in class for just 1.5 months. It’s actually not that long a duration but at least I do feel more comfortable with them now. To the extent of trying to be a tourist-guide wannabe and FAIL and end up hibernating in a cafe instead.. Haaa…

Ok…. it’s time to head down to Kampong Glam. It’s great that there’s a direct line from Telok Ayer to Bugis.

Had recalled the excitement upon discovering the street art by Ernest Zacharevic in Penang so I wanna relive that excitement again while checking out his artwork, even though not a lot, opposite Victoria Street. I especially like the ones with some accompanying props like supermarket trolleys stuck to the wall, which gives the effect of the kids sitting in them.

We had checked out more beautiful, most of them restored and repainted, shophouses along the small lanes nearby.

And then the magnificent looking Sultan Mosque (“Masjid Sultan”)…

We can’t miss one of my fave lanes- Haji Lane, filled with small cafes and eclectic shops. I love to browse through these shops but never buy anything. There’s a really cute pug in one of the shops. They have such worried expressions that it’s funny.

Dinner is at Zam Zam, famous for their briyani and murtabak. Vit, another project mate, had joined us after work.

If Tian Tian chicken rice is overhyped, so is Zam Zam.. Or maybe it’s because I do not really appreciate Indian food. But the fact is, I don’t find the briyani very flavourful. However, the biggest disappointment is the deer meat murtabak. It sounds cruel to eat Bambi but deer meat is really delicious and tender, and pretty common in the menus of Chinese zichar eateries. For this murtabak, the deer meat is minced and fried so the texture is rather dry so much so that I think it taste just like mutton except that the latter is cheaper. Hmm… I feel a little… cheated…

Well, we had compensated the lacklustre dinner with….3 scoops of Gelato and waffle!!! Initially, we wanted to check out some new Korean churros place but it was mad packed. Talking about the craze for novelty. But gelato and waffle are good too. Slurp…

What a day but it’s a good and fun one. Being local doesn’t mean we are familiar with some of these key attractions or heritage sites so it’s really nice to also visit them once in a while.


Across the causeway

Can’t recall the last time I’d been on a shopping spree at Johore Bahru (JB), our nearest neighbour linked by road. Well, I was there with some friends 4 years ago for a weekend getaway to some ranch but we didn’t do much shopping then. So when it comes to the latter, if I can’t recall when’s the last time, it must have been many years ago, possibly a decade or more ago.

It’s time we visit across the causeway to stock up on some stuff… I don’t wanna state the obvious on why we are visiting at this particular period. Go figure.🙂

So a few days ago, my friend S and I had met early in the morning for our long-awaited shopping spree in JB. Another friend is supposed to join but was held back by work. Well, it’s ok cos we plan to visit JB again pretty soon.

It must have been a really long time since we’d last visited JB……. Cos this is the first time I had stepped into the revamped checkpoint at JB! Both of us were so engrossed chatting that after going through the immigration, we made a wrong turn and couldn’t find our way over to City Square! We had no choice but to ask the immigration officer for help. Aiyo…

Finally, we arrived at City Square. First thing first…… Book a body massage and foot reflexology in the afternoon. An apt timing since we will be done and I guess, pretty tired, from all that walking… Hee… At RM 120 (around SGD 40) good deal for both body massage and foot reflex.

City Square had changed quite a bit since the last time I was there ions ago. There was this shop that sells very lovely embroidery clothes though not all of them were made from very comfy materials so essentially, they are pretty to look at but may not be comfortable to wear. I’d always enjoyed checking out the dainty embroidered flowers on the blouses and skirts but had hesitated to buy any mainly cos of the price. Well, that shop is gone now. Not surprising… Sigh…

We bought some stationery from Popular and then took a cab and head for Holiday Plaza.

Holiday Plaza is a very old mall…The reason why we bother to come here is to get some kaffir lime body cleansing lotion which S swears by. It is a multi-purpose solution that serves as a shampoo, shower as well as facial cleanser. And according to the description on the packaging, it can *gasp* “exorcise spirits”!! Well, I just hope there is no need for that… But warding off negativity and cleansing one’s spirit sounds good to me.

[Trip afternote: I had tried the cleansing lotion and I felt like I am rubbing tom yam paste on me.. Not the spicy sensation lah… More of the strong lime smell.. Dang, makes me crave for some tom yam soup now… LOL… As a shampoo, it seems ok. My scalp felt cleansed and didn’t have that greasy touch for about a day.]

S must really love this lotion cos she had grabbed like 6 bottles of them… Wow…

Another surprise find is….. the Calbee Honey Butter Chips that are taking Korea by storm. When they are first introduced, packs of these chips were wiped off the shelves. Apparently, one of my friends was in Korea for a biz trip last week and she can’t find these chips. Seemed like there were others looking for them too. She said there were some people at the chips section, scanning the shelves…

Anyway, we were checking out the local snacks and tada, spotted a few packs of these super hot chips. But each pack is RM 18.90 (around SGD 6.30) which is pretty pricey for a rather small pack of chips.

[Trip afternote: I can’t resist trying the chips the night I’d reached home from JB. I would say the flavour is interesting. Part savoury with a hint of sweet, and then savoury again. S said they taste like potato croquettes.. Kinda if the croquettes are also a little sweet. To sum up, these chips are addictive and unique but are overhyped. They are just potato chips… I am sure the hype will die down in no time, or once people get over this fad and realised there’s no biggie about these chips]

What irony that we crossed over to JB and didn’t get a single pack of any Malaysian tidbits but chips from Korea. LOL!

Partly it’s also because I didn’t bring enough ringgit with me. Had miscalculated my supposed expenditure. Till the next time……

Think we didn’t really plan to have dinner in JB until we saw this sign at the Manhattan Fish Market at Komtar JBCC. How can we resist the RM 99.90 (SGD33) king crab platter that comes with one juicy meaty king crab, a slab of grilled dory, thick slices of calamari on top a generous bed of garlic butter rice. And this sizable portion is good for sharing so that makes it SGD 16.50 per pax. We will not get such a price for crabs like these back home… So no way we are missing this.

This offer will end sometime in Nov so if we are ever back in JB again next month, we may wanna go for this? :p

The massage had left us feeling really drained… For that price, I shall not complain much but to be honest, I had better massages. There are other massage shops in that corner of City Square but we had settled for the lowest price. Anyway, it wasn’t all that bad lah.

We plan to visit JB again next month…. And I’d already made a mental note of what I’m gonna get the next time round…🙂

Term 1 Ends

It seems that I had just started school not long ago and Term 1 had ended. You know what… I’d really started school just recently. It’s just that each term is rather short (around 1.5 months) but very compact and intense.

Check this out… This is a pile of readings and notes just for one of my modules in Term 1. There are another 2 modules in the same term with some readings as well. But this large pile is for what I would consider as the most intensive module for this term. For every lesson (we have 8 in total), each group has to study a case before each lesson and submit our answers to a list of assigned questions to that case. There’s also class participation, which is graded, hence reading and preparing for the lesson in advance is required. So we don’t really have much breaks within the week.

Well, I have a couple more terms to go. So that means more readings, discussions, thinking and urgh, exams… I am so not looking forward to those finance modules but I have to muster the courage to face them cos that’s one reason why I chose to take up this course.

Anyways, I am starting to get to know my group members and some coursemates better. It’s been only a month and a half. We’ll have a couple more months together before we go on to our separate paths.

Here’s a class picture with one of our professors taken after the last lesson of that module. It is a huge and diverse class of different races and cultures.

Now we finalise all our final projects for Term 1 modules and get ready for Term 2!

Spice spice baby: Let’s make sambal chilli!

Had finally used a chunk of the belacan which I had bought from Penang a month ago! To use this rather pungent smelling paste, you need to toast or fry it till it becomes crumbly. To avoid the hassle of multiple frying, I had fried the whole block and kept the belacan “crumbs” in an airtight container.

Since I have belacan and a blender, why not create my own sambal belacan chilli sauce? There are many recipes online. Some are as simple as just pounding chillies with lime juice while some have many ingredients and also require frying. I had decided to settle for this recipe as it seem pretty decent. Let’s give it a shot.

Deseeding the dried chilli is horrible. I do not have gloves and tried enclosing my hands in plastic bags but found the handling to be clumsy and hence, ditch the bags and ended up with spicy hands. Ouch! Anyway, I had rubbed my hands with olive oil and washed it off with dishwashing liquid. The burning sensation had gradually subsided in the next few mins.

After blending the chillies, onions, garlic and toasted belacan, this paste goes straight to the pan for some serious frying.

If the haze isn’t bad enough, I am now creating a spicy haze in my kitchen. Be sure to open all windows when you are frying the chilli paste…. COUGH COUGH!!

After around 5mins of frying or until the chilli paste turns into a deeper colour and the oil had separated from the paste, remove from pan and leave it to cool before transferring to an airtight container. I prefer to use a glass container.

Next time, I will find a more efficient way to deseed the dried chillies. This time, quite a number of seeds had slipped into the mixture so the level of spice is pretty tongue numbing.

Other than stir frying vegetables like kang kong, sweet potato leaves and okra (ladies fingers), this chilli makes a good dipping sauce for belanjo crackers. Ooh sedap!