Friday, March 24, 2017

My Monkey Princess


I promised myself I had to write something about Gracie.

Before this magical place between toddler and schoolie passes al too quickly.

I always thought that as children get older, I would have more time to blog and write and collect my thoughts. But this is sadly not the case. It’s hard to explain why. Probably it has something to do with juggling between my regular mum role and my daycare mum role, plus having a school aged child bringing back homework and getting piano lessons from his mum.

But back to Gracie…

My darling squishilicious, droll little monkey princess.

Here is my attempt to put together some notes to describe you as you are right now.

Nightly bed buddies:
Momo monkey*
Bao Bao
Mini hoot-hoot
Mini monkey
(*who has a occasional exasperating habit of getting lost under the covers at night and you have to drag poor mummy out of bed in the middle of the night to go hunt for it)

Favourite foods:
Peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, fresh prunes
(pretty much ANY kind of stone fruit… one time you even spotted a plumticot and you insisted that I buy one for you to try… you like to pick one straight off the display at the fresh produce section to weigh and eat on the spot)

Foods you dislike:
(I  cannot for the life of me figure this one out… especially since you will pretty much eat EVERYTHING else in the world)

Favourite animal:
(You are absolutely tickled over the fact that your mama is a born in the year of the monkey)

Things you enjoy drawing:
Momo monkey

Upcoming fourth birthday cake request:
Monkey cake

Biggest phobia:
(I always feel guilty wondering if it has something to do with the near drowning experiences you had last year)

Some of your droll little quirks:
Coming up somewhat crude body part jokes in the shower.
Describing the consistency and shape of your daily bowel movements.
Breaking up your snack into small pieces, assigning each piece a name after a member of the family, and then eating them in a particular order.
Sometimes talking to your food before chomping them down (usually to tell them about their imminent fate)
Specifying what you would like for breakfast the next day every night (it’s always the same thing: toast and cereal with milk).

Best things about you
Your mesmerizingly big sparkling chocolate brown eyes (makes my heart skip a beat every single time).
Your throaty, husky voice (you can literally growl at people when you are feeling grumpy or angry).
Your broad rainbow spectrum of dramatic expressions and moods.
Your ‘can do’ attitude toward anything and everything (“tough as nails” as they say).
The way you easily flick back and forth from princess mode to ninja/police officer/fire fighter/ninja mode.
The fact that you happily munch on raw carrot for a snack.
The way you can fall asleep anywhere in five minutes (once you finally calm down and lay still).
How people often remark how much you look just like me when I was your age (maybe that’s why I just cannot get enough of gazing at your adorable little face… it’s like looking at a mirror of three-year-old me).




Love you forever baby girl.

Friday, March 03, 2017

What I’ve been reading lately

One of the best ways to learn about others is to have a peek into some of the books on their recent reads list. Early last year I discovered that I had access to a massive online library of eBooks through my local library. So I’ve been chomping down a good variety of all sorts of books over the past year. Here’s a peek into some of noteworthy reads I’ve enjoyed lately. It might also give you an idea on some of the thoughts and ideas that I have been reflecting and chewing on as well.


When Breath Becomes Air
What makes life worth living in the face of death
by Paul KalanithiTitle details for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - Wait list(Cried buckets of tears over this one…
a very raw and real reflection on death)


Being Mortal
Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul GawandeTitle details for Being Mortal by Atul Gawande - Available(More bucket loads of tears shed over this one… especially at the end. And the author also raises a lot of
thought-provoking questions on preparing for living out the closing chapters of our lives)


The Stuff of Life
by Lawrence HillTitle details for Blood by Lawrence Hill - Available(An interesting read packed full of great trivia and facts, interweaved with personal reflections
and stories from the author, which gave the book a good pace for reading)


A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
by Atul Gawande
Title details for Complications by Atul Gawande - Wait list
(Intriguing read which will make me question everything my doctor tells me even more…
and turn me into one of those annoying skeptical patients doctors loathe!)


A Brief History of Death
An illuminating look at the complex ways humans face death and the dying
by W. M. SpellmanTitle details for A Brief History of Death by W. M. Spellman - Available(A different perspective of looking at human culture and history through the lense of death)


A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah HarariTitle details for Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari - Wait list(Still halfway through this one but thoroughly enjoying it so far… Lots of thought-
provoking ideas challenging conventional theories on our anthropology and history)


The 10,000 Year Explosion
How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution
by Gregory CochraTitle details for The 10,000 Year Explosion by Gregory Cochran - Wait list(This is a totally different perspective from the ‘Sapiens’ book with a different take on our evolutionary history--focusing on genetic changes in our DNA that fueled the wave of civilization that swept over us in recent history) 


The Magic of Reality
How we know what's really true
by Richard Dawkins
Title details for The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins - Wait list
(A good read… I enjoyed the spotlight on some these familiar myths and
stories and exploring some of the potential origins behind them)


Why Science Does Not Disprove God
by Amir AczelTitle details for Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir Aczel - Available(A refreshing read for me to flip over to the theist view on science and our origins… the ideas here feel very
comfortable for me but now I bear in mind that this is only one of the many perspectives out there,
however the author definitely presents some very compelling arguments)


Beyond Belief
How we find meaning without religion
by Hugh MackayTitle details for Beyond Belief by Hugh Mackay - Wait list(I found the ending and conclusion rather abrupt and unsatisfying,
but overall it was thought provoking read)


The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
by Reza Aslan
Title details for Zealot by Reza Aslan - Wait list
(A fantastic and gripping read… and I really enjoyed being able to compare many ideas and perspectives of this iconic person and the historical setting of the familiar biblical stories from a broad range of historical sources instead of just the traditional religious sources I have been so familiar with)


The Silk Roads
A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan
Title details for The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan - Wait list
(A bit of a heavy read… I am still just about one-thirds of the way through this one… after all it is trying to tackle the history of the WORLD in one book which is quite a feat for both author and reader, but lots of meaty stuff here presented in a very digestible form, but will take a bit of time to chew this one)


The Economics of Just About Everything
The Hidden Reasons for our Curious Choices and Surprising Successes
by Andrew Leigh
Title details for The Economics of Just About Everything by Andrew Leigh - Available
(Great, great read! Really had lots of fun reading this one… I thoroughly enjoyed the surprising way
the principles of economics underpin pretty much EVERYTHING around us)


Life Below Stairs
True Lives of Edwardian Servants
by Alison Maloney
Title details for Life Below Stairs by Alison Maloney - Wait list
(I liked the great detail this book goes into on every little aspect of servants on the Edwardian era, from what they wore,
how much they earned, their daily routine… essentially more trivia and facts to add to your knowledge bank)


The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
“This book makes see the natural world afresh”
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Title details for The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey - Available
(Never has the life of a snail seemed so absorbing… the pace of the book is a tad bit slow, so I’m still less
than halfway through this one, but it’s still a nice leisurely read to turn to every now and then)


Adventures in the Queer East
by Benjamin Law
Title details for Gaysia by Benjamin Law - Available
(Another fun read… and funny as well… the pace is light, but underneath the humour, you catch a
glimpse of the darkness and heartache behind the colourful characters explored in this book)


My Holiday in North Korea
The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth
by Wendy E. SimmonsTitle details for My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy E. Simmons - Available(Completely mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, and downright laugh-out-loud insane… each anecdote and story in the book
just kept getting more bizarre and ludicrous than the one before … truth really is stranger than fiction!)


The Chrestomanci Series
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (Entire Collection, Books 1-7)
by Diana Wynne Jones
Title details for The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones - Available
(This was an absolutely enchanting read! Reading this series brought me back to exactly the same place I was in when I first read the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ and ‘Wishing Chair’ series for the first time. Totally different stories altogether, but it’s just that familiar feeling of being transported deep into my imagination. Dianna Wynne Jones is the same author that wrote ‘Howls Moving Castle’. And if you liked Harry Potter, this series will be right up your alley)


Enchanted Glass
A brilliant, intricate and magical novel from the Godmother of British fantasy
by Diana Wynne Jones
Title details for Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones - Available
(I picked this one up after I finished the ‘Chrestomanci’ series, just to get more tastes of Diana Wynne Jones’ magical parallel universes… a bit different, but similar undertones in her style which is thoroughly enjoyable)


So what’s been on your list recent good reads?

Monday, February 20, 2017


[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

So we come to my favourite photo from our entire holiday.

This was taken at the backseat of my parents’ car during our little day trip to Kundasang.


I have many fond memories of family trips up to Kundasang, sitting in the backseat of car just like this. Except this time, it was sans the company of my two brothers, and in their place were my own two children with my hubs.

There were a few changes to the landscape since the last time I visited, and some new upgrades and additions to the facilities. Apart from that, the air and the atmosphere smelt and felt exactly the same.


The featured itinerary for this trip was a visit to the Desa Cattle and dairy farm.

Some people call it the little ‘New Zealand’ of Sabah.


We got up close to some calves and goats to feed them some grass and milk.
(the grass cost RM1.00 per bunch and milk cost RM1.50 per bottle)

Both the children and the animals simply couldn’t get enough of it.

Collage 2017-02-20 16_08_01

And the sweet end to this excursion was the grandparents’ promise of gelato ice cream.

Chocolate. Naturally.



Parting shot with our official trip sponsors.


If you’re interested to find out more about visiting the Desa cattle and dairy farm in Kundasang, I recommend the following sites:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Museum

[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

One of my favourite childhood ‘playgrounds’ was the local state museum of Sabah.

When I was a child, entry was free for everyone. So every now and then we’d beg our mum…. “please, pleeeeease, can we go to the museum today?”. By some adult mysterious reasoning we could never guess or fathom, every now and then she would say okay.

I can remember the exact flow of almost every single display area almost by heart. From anthropology and natural history, to the ceramics display, all the way down to the local indigenous section. I enjoyed listening to my mum talk about the different artefacts on display. Then afterwards our favourite final stop was the heritage village with actual models of traditional longhouses where my brothers and I would revel in climbing up and down the ladders and running across the bamboo floors of all the different indigenous houses.

I was determined that my kids would share the same joy.


But as it often goes… reality does not always align with expectations.

“Mummy, it’s so hot!”

“This is boooooring!”

“My legs are tired!”

“I’m hungry!”

“Can we go home now?”

But being the little troopers they are, they duly followed me through all the different sections and displays and listen to me rattle on about the different artefacts and items of interest.

And it was not all that bad really. They were definitely interested in studying the lifelike animals on display in the natural history section, and venturing inside a life-sized model of a burial cave (“very spooky, mummy!”) and being weirded out by the display of human skulls in the headhunter’s gallery.


It was a very surreal feeling walking through all the familiar galleries and sections around the museum. The layout had remained almost completely unchanged since I last visited this place probably more than 20 years ago. My favourite section was always the ceramics gallery. I enjoyed studying the intricate patterns and designs of the ceramic pieces from all the different historical dynasties. Unfortunately I couldn’t do much of that this time round. This was one of the children’s least favourite section, although we did pause at a ceramic pillow on display which Nathan could not believe people actually used to sleep on.

Finally after navigating our way quickly through the remaining sections inside the museum building and adjoining block, we headed outside to the heritage village to look at the display of longhouses. We opted to cross over to the village via this suspension bridge. It was easily one of the safest suspension bridges I had walked across in my life. But to my urban Aussie kids, this was considered almost real jungle level adventure.


It had rained quite heavily the night before, so the ground was fairly muddy in some spots… which my kids did NOT care for at all and they expressed their displeasure very loudly. But when we finally were in sight of the heritage village, I think even they had to admit that those longhouses looked pretty cool.


They were eager to explore every single longhouse in the heritage village (despite the bother of having to step over the muddy spots) and Grace even tested out what it felt like to sleep on one of those pillow blocks like the ceramic one we saw inside the museum earlier (except this one was made from wood).

Collage 2017-02-19 16_42_09

Joy shared.


If you’re interested to find out more about visiting the Sabah state museum, I recommend the following sites:

Sunday, February 12, 2017


[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

First item on the agenda of our Malaysia holiday: a trip to an old school barbershop to get trimmed up for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities.

I have very vivid childhood memories of visiting an old school Chinese barbershop like this. Sitting up on those black leather chairs that go up and down--on one of those small wooden planks propped up between the armrests. Breathing in the distinct barbershop smell of wet hair, shaving cream, talcum powder and aftershave.


One barbershop. Two very different reactions to the experience.

Grace thoroughly enjoyed the entire ceremony. She took it very seriously and sat very importantly up on the seat, following the cues of the lady barber to angle her head this way and that.

Nathan’s was a nightmare experience. He told me afterwards that he was terrified that the lady barber would accidently snip his skin with the scissors and draw blood.

Collage 2017-02-12 14_56_00

Afterwards, the lady barber kindly rewarded them both with a couple of lollies. So that was a sweet end to the experience. Lollies always make everything alright in the end.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A real Malaysian Chinese New Year

[Anecdotes from our Chinese New Year holiday in Malaysia]

This year’s trip back to Malaysia had been planned years ahead. Chinese New Year this year happens to fall in January just at the tail end of the summer school holidays in Australia. We had booked our plane tickets way ahead so we could look forward to enjoying the big festivities back in Malaysia for the first time in several years.

We made sure that the kids got a first hand taste of Chinese New Year in Malaysia.


Colourful lion dances
Night markets
Chinese New Year cookies
Yeos packet drinks
Lou sang dinners
Dressing up in new clothes
Playing with lots of cousins
Visiting friends and relatives houses.
Loads and loads of ang pow

A real classic festive Chinese New Year every Chinese kid must experience at least once in their lifetime.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Airports and airplanes

IMG_20170116_230942 (2)

After that dejecting end to last year’s affairs, I picked myself up and look forward to kicking off the new year with a long awaited holiday in Malaysia.

Nathan was bursting with excitement over the adventure of flying on an airplane. Grace was just excited that she could pack ‘real stuff’ in her very own backpack to carry. We borrowed this book which we read umpteen times in anticipation of the trip.

I have to confess I am not a big fan myself of airports and airplanes myself. Not that I suffer from any kind of phobia or travel sickness. I just find the long waits and upright seating uncomfortable. But the delight and enthusiasm of my two little animated travellers is highly contagious. I couldn’t help having the buzz of their excitement rub off me a bit.


I must say travelling with the kids now is so much easier than before, now that I no longer have lug around a monster-sized bag of nappies, wipes and assortment of baby paraphernalia. No more worrying over fighting for a bassinet seat or making special meal requests for baby food. The kids can now carry their own little backpacks to bring along their crayons, notebooks and snacks. And thankfully they’ve always been terrific travellers, always smiley and charming to the flight attendants, no crying or whinging during take-offs and landings, no complaining of being bored or impatient during waiting times. So I can’t complain.

More anecdotes and photos from our holiday to come!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bringing some favourite books to life

Looking past the not so fantastic moments from last year, one definitely VERY fantastic thing that happened was kicking-off our reading of chapter books together.

So far we’ve finished reading Enid Blyton’s ‘The Wishing Chair’ and ‘The Wishing Chair Again’, and a little bit of ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’… Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘The BFG’… and we are about halfway through C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.

I managed to score some extra time off over the school holidays. So I decided to indulge in a bit of bookish fun by bringing some the books we read to life.


We set up our own ‘Willy Wonka Factory’ making our own Wonka bars, everlasting gobstoppers, non-melting ice creams and other confectionery creations. I made some gingerbread ‘bars’ for the kids to decorate and create their own versions of wonka bars, edible play dough for them to mould and shape into various sweet treats, and handfuls of mini M&Ms, Nerds candy and chocolate chips for them to embellish their creations with.


After that, we sat down to illustrate and write out our own secret recipe books for all the various confectionery creations we came up with. We put the booklets together ourselves in the same way we did with our previous book writing activities.


Following ‘The BFG’ we concocted our own dream jars by mixing together some small glow sticks, glitter with a sugar syrup mixture (you can also use glycerin which allows the glitter to float slowly around in the jar rather than sinking too quickly to the bottom of the jar).

P.S. Can’t wait to read the other books on this list with the kids. Plus four terrific and very touching children’s books worth reading with your little ones.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

One last hard knock before moving on to 2017

It seems every year we always need to take one really hard knock before we can move on to the next year. This year’s share of hard knocks was probably more than others.

It was kind of a year of just buckling down and weathering through the storm…

We were down to a single income family this year (me being the primary breadwinner).

I dropped my phone, cracking the screen and had to pay out my existing phone contract to get a new one.

With the current bleak economic situation looming over everything, we got stuck between a rock and hard place with a number of our investments.

Hubs and I had to weather through a lot of ‘tough’ discussions throughout the year.

Then someone rear-ended me in my car and we had to navigate through the whole insurance game.

Towards the end of the year we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right after Christmas I finally thought we were over the worst of it and could breathe easy. We were home free!

And then tragedy struck.

While we were out of the shops on boxing day, I let down my guard for less than a minute and ended up being a the victim of a merciless snatch thief.

My entire bag, with my phone, wallet, credit cards, cash… everything.

Just like that. My entire day (and my entire life at that moment) was utterly ruined.

The worst thing was the violation.

The feeling of vulnerability.


Feeling naked and exposed.


The world felt so evil.

Bad guys won.

Good guys lost.

hplyrikz: “Clear your mind here ” Words:

After a long, mortifying day of endless phonecalls. Canceling cards. Lodging reports. Driving around to see if there was any trace of the bag or remaining contents being tossed aside…

I lay in my bed. Unable to sleep.

A million thoughts and scenes and what-ifs replaying in my head again and again.

Could there be anything worse?

And then I remembered…

How I almost lost something infinitely more precious than this ‘stuff’.

Not once.

But five times this year.

Five times I let my guard down.

And almost lost this baby.


Five unforgivable crimes.

I never thought I would confess them here.

The incidents still sit on a very raw edge in my memory. All I can tell you is that they involve a couple of near drowning incidents, one involving a car seat, and two at the shops. You can probably infer the rough details from those bare facts. Perhaps one day I can recall and tell the stories freely without pain. But for now they serve to imprint in my heart the weight and value of one little life.

As I told my chicks:

If I lost you, I would cry every single day, forever.

But as for ‘stuff’.

I think I should be able to let them go.

It feels terrible to lose.

But as hubs said, all I need is one little ‘win’ to help me get past this loss.

I hope I will see more wins beyond the horizon.

For now, as long as I have these…


I am still winning.


There are of course other little wins scored along the way…

Like winning at the ukulele.

Finding work-life balance; and

Being able to spend more one-on-one time with this munchkin.

Sharing my booky-love with the kids.

New special family rituals.

Summer beach plays.

Discovering some local hidden gems.

And being good at my job.


Anyway after swimming through that whole potluck of the good, bad and ugly, I’m just so done with 2016.

Bring on 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

And Here Comes Six!


So dear Mister Six has entered the scene.

You might wonder, what has the space between five and six been like?

Well, to sum up, it’s been all about…

Star Wars.
Elephant and Piggie books.
Books about LEGO.
Reading Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton books together.
Learning sight words.
Toe holes in socks.
Knee holes on pants.
Second (sometimes third) helpings at dinner.
Writing and drawing pictures about LEGO.
Sweaty hugs after school.
First visits from the tooth fairy.
Holdings hands to cross the road (most of the time, still).
Silly jokes at little sister’s expense.
Hugs and sorry to little sister afterwards.
I want to play by myself.
I want to play with sister.
I want to play by myself again.
You listen to me because I am bigger.
Okay, I’ll read you a story, little sister.
Yes, I’ll help you mummy.
No problem, I’ll take care of it, mummy.
Can I do it later, mummy?
More LEGO.
I love babies.
I like to play with babies.
I like to play with big boys.
I played that piece on the piano all my myself!
This song is too hard.
I don’t like piano.
I want to play the cello.
I want to play the trombone.
I just want to play LEGO.
Give me lots of hugs and kisses goodnight, mummy.
What’s for breakfast tomorrow, mummy?

Mister Six requested a Lego Ninjago birthday party.

Ninjago??? I thought you said you wanted a Star Wars party? And before that you said you wanted a Transformers party?

Please, mummy… I promise I will not change my mind again.


And Iit’s not going to be a big party. Just a little one. With only my best friends.

The rest is history.

Here are some photo highlights from the ‘little’ bash we had.


If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of some of the key elements in the party, here are some notes and links you might find useful…

  • Decorations: Balloons + Ninjago Eyes Printable
  • Goodie/party bags: DIY Paper Bags + Ninjago Eyes Printable
  • Table settings: Coloured Plates/Cups + Ninjago Eyes Printable
  • Ninjago Cheese: Baybel Cheese + Sultanas



The birthday cake was the result of combining these two ingredients with this Pinterest idea…




Party activities comprised of:


I printed out some clues for the team of little Ninjas to track down each golden weapon hidden around our backyard. I kept the clues fairly simple as I figured that it was already a bit of a challenge for five and six year olds to read the words by themselves in order to decipher where each weapon was hidden. But by the end of the hunt, they were all “Easy peasy-Lemon squeezy!”. All right then. I’ll be sure to add a trickier twist next time round!

Victory shot of the Golden Spinjitzu Weapon Treasure Hunters



The biggest thing I learnt from this whole experience was that birthday bashes do not necessarily have to be big. In fact it was Nathan who nudged me in this direction. Initially when I first started planning and thinking through the party, I kept prompting Nathan to tell me names of who to invite. He kept circling back to the same few names of close friends. I was tempted to start reading out names from his class list or scrolling through my phone list of friends with children. But I held myself back and decided to listen and follow Nathan’s cue instead. He reiterated that he would be happy with just a little party. As it turns out, planning a small scale party was so much fun.

The thing is, with the typical party of even say around ten children on the guest list, you will then have to consider including parents and siblings in the headcount. Which will then translate into planning food not only for the children but adults as well. During the party itself, you not only have to manage children’s activities but also mingle around and ensure the adult guests are taken care of as well. The logistics for planning a party of this scale can sometimes get out of hand, unless you decide to splurge and outsource the whole thing to an external party.

Since we ended up doing Nathan’s birthday party at much smaller scale, I was able to do a drop-off/pick-up later kind of party. So the sole focus celebration could be all about just the kids (a.k.a. Ninjagos). We were able to personalise the activities and ensure everyone was included and had a role in every activity. We could customise goodie bags for each individual guest to make it really special and meaningful for everyone.

I think this small scale style of partying might become our new favourite way of celebrating birthdays!