Remembering LKY

We studied him in school, at length, and even more so if you were a Malayan history student like me.

When we were young, we would quietly giggle at how glorious his work was portrayed in textbooks. But as we grew older, studied more, it became apparent that there was really no other way to put it. And that the things we were taught were merely scrapings off the surface – there was a whole lot more sweat and blood where that came from.

But nothing in the books could sum up how deeply his work impacted us.

In the past week, I heard of seniors, mildly disagreeing types who used to lace their commentary of the man with casual laments of how tough he was, tell the young ones, their grandchildren, about how great he was, building Singapore from third world to first. And how sad they were that he was passing on.

At the end of the day, when pride and willful rebelliousness fades away, no one can deny how much he contributed and sacrificed to build Singapore.

When Gary and I visited Berlin, Germany, last year, our Australian-born, German-resident walking tour guide came up to us at the end of the tour, and said, “You’re from Singapore.”

We nodded.

“I got my friend to buy Lee Kuan Yew’s One Man’s View of the World and ship it to me because it’s impossible to get it online.”

He went on, “I wrote a paper on him in university.”

We were made to introduce ourselves at the beginning of the tour. It seemed as if this guide waited 5 long hours before coming up to us to share his interest in the man.

He knows Singapore because of LKY.

The man who put the little red dot on the world map. Who brought us here in a short 50 years.

He accomplished in his 91 years more than what many of us would in umpteenth lifetimes.

And I’m beyond thankful to have had an LKY among us.

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A traditional Chinese wedding

We’ll be 30 when Gary and I hold our customary wedding next year.

Many people have mistaken our desire to have a grand wedding banquet and observe traditional wedding rituals as our parents’ requests.

Truth is, from young, my parents pretty much let me have my way with things. I’ve always been the deviant, wayward child who wriggled my way through their expectations.

On the other hand, I’m blessed with very understanding in-laws who have no qualms with keeping the wedding simple, with as little fuss for the couple as possible.

The typical response I get when I say that I’ll be having a banquet is that ‘Oh ya, the older generation would want that.’

It usually comes to the surprise of my friends, colleagues and even to my family, when I tell them, that this is really what we want.

Preserving traditions

I’m a Generation-Y with a penchant of all things oldschool. Well, maybe my love for history and literature has some part to play in this.

When I was in my teens, I wanted to be non-conformist and modern like every other youngster. But as I turned 25, I realised myself being more and more inclined to observing traditions. From the Chinese New Year, Qing Ming, Dumpling Festival, Mid Autumn Festival to the Winter Solstice, I found myself trying to learn more about what is associated with all these festivals and the symbolism hidden within.

And I began to wonder why.

My elders are ageing as quickly as I was growing up. In their fifties to seventies, my uncles and aunts are getting old and starting to have health problems. It makes me panic. Separation anxiety aside, it dawned on me that the end of that generation also meant the loss of the many treasures of Chinese culture. Many people don’t understand why I was so excited to learn how to clean a slimey pig’s stomach from my Mom-in-law. This is exactly why.

Maybe it’s globalisation. The advent of technology. Modernisation. Westernisation. The marginal loss of Chinese culture from the baby boomers, the gen-X to the gen-Y in the past century is astounding.

The end of eras always made me sad. The end of the Qing Dynasty, the Romanov empire… While they ended because they were no longer relevant to the new society, it doesn’t negate the fact that, a wonderful, colourful and almost mystical piece of history is forever gone.

But I love change. I’m not a rigid fella who lives in the past. I’m a Gemini through and through and I love to try new things. I’m the sort of person who’d peel off the wrapping from any new possession on the way back home, brimming with excitement. I have no problems fitting into a new environment.

But there is a part of me that is attracted to the old. There’s something romantic and almost lyrical about how things used to be done – the art and effort that goes into creating old furniture, the display of Chinese leeks and ‘nian gao’ at home during the Chinese New Year – all this care, meaning and thought.

It’s our party

My brother-in-law Dave reminded us that this is our party. And ultimately, our opinions matter most.

A party that’s been 4 years in the making since we had our wedding solemnisation in 2011.

Every couple is different, and most young couples want a fuss-free wedding or prefer to spend their savings on other things that mean more to them.

We thought hard and decided that having a traditional wedding means a lot of us. We are two old souls.

Every couple has their own priorities and preferences. Gary and I must be one of the rare gen-Y couples who want a traditional wedding with as much fuss as possible. Well, what can I say, it’s not a wedding without a good amount of fuss!

Once in a lifetime

Gary and I decided to focus on rituals that were exclusive to weddings. After all, it’s once in a lifetime.

So we will be doing the whole works – the ‘guo da li’ (exchange of betrothal gifts and ‘pin jing’), giving out wedding cakes, ‘sheung tao’ (hair combing to symbolise good luck, the gatecrashing, the tea ceremony, the bed rolling by a little boy, the display of longan, red dates, lily bubs on our bed, the lighting of the dragon and phoenix candles, etc.
I’m even getting a ‘qun kua’, a traditional Chinese wedding gown, for my ‘fan sam jiu’, when I return to my Mom’s home. The other version would be a cheongsam. But cheongsams can be worn every day (I wear it every Chinese New Year) while a girl can only wear a ‘qun kua’ during her wedding!

My Mom-in-law recently showed me the set of jewellery she has put together for the ‘si dian jing’ (Gary is Teochew). She told me that they were ‘gu kuan’ (old style) but, you know what, I loved them. I love how they were pieces that held so many memories. A pair of earrings Gary’s maternal grandmother bought my mother-in-law when she was just 10, a ring from Gary’s paternal grandfather, a huge gold pendant that has been around for over 20 years. Priceless. And they’ll look fantastic with my ‘qun kua’!

When my Mom and Dad were getting me a bangle to be gifted to me during the tea ceremony (they seem to be hooked on buying gold jewellery in the name of our wedding) I chose a traditional dragon and phoenix bangle. We initially thought of getting a diamond bracelet, but decided against it. Because there was no other time in my life that I’d get myself something ostentatious like it.

I’ll be decked in elaborate gold jewellery on my wedding day, but well, once in a lifetime, right?

I’ve come a long way. When I was 19, I proclaimed that I’d never get married because I didn’t believe in it. Now I’m a bride who wants to have a traditional wedding. I’ve grown up, haven’t I?

I can’t wait to go wedding shopping with my in-laws, pick out the wedding cakes, and get this whole thing started.

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Carbonara from scratch

Gary loves a good carbonara. Since we first started dating more than 8 years ago, he has acquired quite a taste for western cuisine, particularly Italian, since it’s so easily available.

In the past 6 months, we’ve discovered awesome carbonaras at Cacio e Pepe at Serangoon and Cugini at Club Street. I guess you could call them authentic. Cream thickened by a sinful eggyness, with sauce just enough to coat the pasta without any left soaking at the bottom.

I have been watching tonnes of Youtube cooking videos. I love Jamie Oliver’s foodtube, which linked me to Utobia, which had this awesome video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRsvIGPRRNw.

I made some tweaks to the recipe. Here’s my version.

ImageApologies for the blur photo. LOL.

Pasta for 2 – about 1/4 packet of spaghetti

Cooking cream (Emborg) – 100ml (I used slightly less than half a 250ml packet, but it depends on how much pasta you have)

1 egg yolk

Parmesan cheese (however much you’d like, really. I used about 5 tablespoons in the sauce, another 1 tablespoon on top of the pasta)

Bacon strips – 125gm, about 8 strips (half a 250gm packet)

4 bulbs of garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

I poured out whatever I needed and left the cooking cream, together with the egg, at room temperature for about 15 minutes before I began boiling the pasta. If you could, try to use fresh eggs – meaning, those you just brought back from the supermart, unfridged. It might be psychological, but I’m less apprehensive about eating eggs kept at room temperature, rather than out of the fridge, for this dish. Read on and you’ll understand why.

Boil pasta according to package instructions.

Cut bacon up into 1cm-wide pieces with scissors. I always found it hard cutting thinly sliced fat with a knife. Slice garlic, they don’t need to look pretty. Throw bacon and garlic into a non-stick pan on medium heat and ignore it, occasionally stirring the fat around so that nothing catches on to the base of the pan. Turn heat to low once it starts to brown and let it continue to crisp.

Meanwhile, add egg yolk to cooking cream in a bowl that’s big enough to accommodate the pasta and the liquid. Use a metal bowl if you have one, I used a glass one and it worked anyway. Whisk (with a… whisk, or fork, whatever you have on hand) the egg yolk (remember to remove the whites, Phoon Huat sells a very good egg separator) with the cooking cream until the mixture is an even, pale yellow.

Add grated parmesan cheese and continue whisking the mixture. I used the coarser type because it was on sale. It works just as great as finely grated ones. Don’t bother getting a block of it because it is a pain to grate cheese in our heat and humidity unless you are cooking for an Italian, who will probably snob at the fact that you are using cooking cream for this recipe anyway (which makes the sort of carbonara we are used to eating) because it is heretic to Italians to cook carbonara without anchovies and with cream. Add some ground black pepper and sea salt. Whatever the celebrity chefs call a ‘dash’, I call quarter of a teaspoon. Don’t over season, you can always add salt and pepper to the plate. You also don’t need to be a whisk nazi here. It’s fine if you still feel lumps of cheese in your mixture.

By now, your pasta should be ready. I used spaghetti. Tong the piping hot pasta right out of the pot into the bowl of cooking cream. Throw in bacon and garlic, stir well and serve.

You can add a dash of parmesan cheese after you plate the pasta.

A super simple carbonara that Gary says it’s the best he’s ever had. Honestly, I’m not that bothered by whether it’s authentic or not. A good recipe is one that tastes great.

Try it!!!

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On the rewind

Gary and I have this thing about defying conventional timelines and doing things… the other way round.

What I’d call, on the rewind.

Our milestones are all jumbled up. Case in point:

We got into a relationship 3 days after our first date. We only started getting to know each other really well after we became an item. And though it was a tumultuous journey of discovery, we laid our cards on the table at all times and surprisingly, survived!

We applied for a flat before he proposed.

While most people would have a surprise proposal, be presented with the proposal ring (that the bride has no knowledge of), and move on to look for wedding rings together, we custom-made our wedding rings and proposal ring both at the same time. I designed my own proposal ring. Yes…

We collected our proposal ring together, and I calmly waited for him to propose. You might think it’s quite anti-climatic, but Gary pulled it off pretty well!

We had our wedding solemnisation in 2011.

We bought our WMF pots, Sealy mattress and Nespresso machine at least 2 years (if I remember correctly) before we moved into our new place in 2012.

We moved in to our own place of what will be 3 years before our customary wedding in 2015.

And our latest ‘doing things the other way round’, comes in the form of a Dolce & Gabbana bow tie.

You’re supposed to tailor your suit, decide on your shirt, and even your belt and shoes, before you get your bow tie.

Heck, it was Valentine’s, and there were absolutely no new gadgets I could get for Gary. And there was no way to splurge on anything outside the wedding guiltlessly.

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Isn’t this lovely?

I was certain I wanted a bow tie. I had procrastinated getting him a Valentine’s Day gift because we were supposed to treat each other to the Royal Carribean Cruise trip (which is coming soon!). So, it was Friday, Valentine’s Day. I panicked. I googled online for the latest collections, but it seemed like Dolce & Gabbana was the only designer that was big on bow ties for the latest seasons.

I went to Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss. Nothing.

And then I stepped into Dolce & Gabbana and saw this burgundy baby. It was the last piece. I don’t think it’s from the latest collection. Oh gosh, it was waiting for me.

The best S$230 I’ve spent in 2014 so far.

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Easy oatmeal cookies

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A couple of months ago, I imagined myself going on a healthier diet and bought a packet of instant oatmeal. It’s been sitting in our kitchen cabinet for wayyyyy too long and I decided to bake some oatmeal cookies over the weekend. It was perfect timing – our pet bunny is turning 5 in November and I was thinking what I could make for his birthday party. The cookie cutter’s from Daiso. How cute are these cookies!

I came across this great, simple recipe (http://www.food.com/recipe/just-1-dozen-easy-oatmeal-cookies-211115?mode=metric&scaleto=12.0&st=null) while googling for one. The recipe uses instant oatmeal satchets, which are already sweetened and flavoured. Since my oatmeal was plain, I used black sugar for its warm flavour, doubled its amount, and added cinnamon. I made this over thanksgiving weekend. Not that I celebrate thanksgiving… but it felt so good to be munching on these oatmeal cookies with a glass of milk. Oooohhh cinnamon.

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Ingredients

1/2 cup black sugar (Brown or white sugar will do just fine. I’d reduce the amount added if I were using white sugar.)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter or margarine or vegetable oil (I made mine with butter.)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

150g instant oatmeal (About 1 cup. I used Quaker oats in blue packaging.)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line baking tray with baking sheet/paper.
  • Mix all of the dry ingredients together.
  • Mix in butter. Don’t worry if it looks dry at first. It will all come together.
  • Roll into cookie dough.
  • Flatten dough and cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter. Alternatively, roll dough into small balls, flatten on baking sheet. (Cookies rise and expand about 20% in the oven. Work backwards to determine the thickness of dough as desired.)
  • Bake for about 12-15 minutes on 175 degrees Celsius.
  • Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before placing cookies on a wire rack to cool.

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Rosacea

I never meant for twentyseventhmay to be about skincare, but heck, I couldn’t resist. 

I’ve always had fair skin that’s extremely oily. For a good 18 years, my skin was pretty resilient. I could use all sorts of facial skincare products and cosmetics without worry.

I was always struggling with issues associated with oily skin – break-outs, clogged pores, yada. But it was OK… as long as I had some concealer on.

Just before ‘A’ levels (after I’d turned 18), things started going downhill. I had tiny bumps covering my chin, sides of the face, oh gosh. It was really bad. And I covered most of it with make-up anyway.

I started working part-time after the ‘A’s and decided that my skin issue was eating my self-esteem away. So I consulted a dermatology-trained general practitioner who put me on some pills that was supposed to suppress the sebum-producing androgen in my body. That left my skin dry, flaky and sensitive. I eventually stopped the medication, but that was the start of my sensitive skin journey.

It wasn’t so bad, I could still use Loreal products and my Sunplay sunscreen, which I’ve been using since I was in JC. Then I graduated from university, started working, and just about 3-4 years ago, my skin started becoming a hyper-sensitive bitch. 

I also became extremely allergic to dust and stale seafood. To the point that the husband calls me the dust indicator who doubles up as a stale seafood police – any stall that gives me hives is eternally banned.

It’s gotten especially bad these 2 years. I now feel insecure when I forget to carry my emergency dose of anti-histamines with me. I have been switching skincare products because I never know when something that has worked for me for X number of months will suddenly trigger an episode. 

I now have Rosacea.

It occurred to be that I should get an allergy test, but it’s going to be a tedious, costly process. And it’s not like I have my airway constricted or stuff like that when I get an attack or that my lips get swollen to resemble lifebuoys. My face simply starts itching. Then the itch travels to my scalp. Serious episodes last only 2 days with the help of an anti-histamine like Zyrtec, Sancotec or Telfast (my newly acquainted darling). The flaking continues for 2-3 days, during which putting on blusher is a bitch. 

I miss those days when I could switch foundations and face powders out of whim. I now have to study the products very, very closely, plough through makeupalley for reviews, before I dare put my money on anything.

The ONLY two-way cake and foundation I dare use are from ZA. It’s strange that the mildest BB creams have caused some serious irritation when ZA works. 

About a month ago, I was using Juju Aquamoist’s lotion and Laneige’s lotion for sensitive skin. Then I had an episode. So I continued with Juju and dropped Laneige (I still have another fresh bottle I need to introduce back into my regime) and even tried Juju’s moisturising milk without incident. Everything changed when I got a new bottle of Juju’s lotion – it flared my skin up quite terribly. To think I finally found my holy grail and got my best friend to bulk-purchase them for me from Hong Kong because they aren’t available in Singapore. Such disappointment! I still think Juju Aquamoist is a great product, much better than SK II (the irony!) and Hada Labo which irritate my skin to no end (both red and white bottles). Juju used to give me supple skin. Now it just doesn’t work anymore. What a pity, I know. Guess I’ll have to wait till my skin gets over the latest episode before I try to use it again.

I’ve also been through many moisturisers for dry/sensitive skin. Aqueous cream, Cetaphil, QV, Rosken, etc. Rosken is not too bad really. But during my current bout of rosacea this week, I felt that my skin was having trouble absorbing the moisture. My skin was still flakey and my pores were pretending to be moon orifices. Out of desperation, and having seen the aggressive advertising of Physiogel, I decided to give their lotion a try.

The lack of smell was very interesting. Even the most fragrance-free meme has some sort of smell, but this really was… odourless. It worked. Because my skin was still pretty irritated, I was a teeny bit worried about smarting (which happened with Cetaphil). I shut my eyes tight in fear, and dabbed a good 5 cent amount on my right cheek. I waited. No smarting, no tingling, it had passed the first test. Next was the fear that my skin would flare up after it absorbs the moisturiser and decides to reject it. I waited. You know that supple feeling you get about a minute after you apply the right moisturiser? It felt great!

Fellow dermatitis patients would know that it’s not easy to find a moisturiser that doesn’t smart on flaky skin – even my previous favourite Rosken does that every once in a while.

Living with rosacea is challenging – you have to be pretty careful about the products you use. It also leads you to become overly suspicious about the stuff that’s irritating your skin. Diet, products, the surrounding environment… you try to play skin detective only to slump into denial – how can bacon and cheese be high in histamines??? How can a PR person be allergic to newspapers??? (I still eat bacon and cheese and I need to read newspapers for a living. E-papers just aren’t the same and flipviewers get on my nerves.)

Rosacea also makes anti-ageing skincare almost impossible. Most whitening, anti-ageing products are skin irritants for people with rosacea. Think AHA, Retin-A, Vitamin C and all those skin regenerating reactive meme that will flake your skin to salmon steak perfection. Having started suffering from Rosacea just about the time I should begin anti-ageing skincare, I must say it’s pretty frustrating. It’s like you know you need to take action to stop your skin from sagging and lines from appearing but there’s nothing you can do. It’s like a bad joke. Irony of life. It’s like. Boohoo, I’m going to grow old and crinkly and red with rosacea. Ah, damn. The most I can do is to make sure that my skin is properly moisturised and that I wear sun protection every day. But one good thing about having rosacea is that it curbs your desire to buy expensive over-the-counter creams. Because they’re usually laden with additives and reactive ‘active ingredients’ that make them the sworn enemies of your itchy, scratchy face.

Till my next rosacea episode, Physiogel is going to be my new best friend. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

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Some little updates…

I’ve been so inspired by the DIY and IKEA hacks I’ve found online that… I’ll be trying some of these ideas out on my own. I bought a S$20+ can of Rustoleum gold spray paint. It’s supposed to be good for all surfaces – according to my little research. It’s also said to be the best paint option to achieve the chic, brassy feel. I think I’m going to spray the home gold because that’s how much I love bright, shiny, over-the-top things! My husband even said he’s going to keep our bunny away from me just in case I go crazy and decide to colour him. I’ll be sure to post photos of my little DIY ventures here.

Remember my post on ‘Regret’? I’ve been regretting enough and I’m going to update my living room décor very soon! I never thought I’d say this but… I’ve recently become rather obsessed with teakwood furniture!

I’ve also been urged to post recipes I’ve tried, adapted and proven successful here. I’ve been cooking/baking a hell lot in my own kitchen and it seems that many friends of my age quite like how I’ve simplified some rather complicated recipes. I stick by the basic principle of keeping things simple – choosing easy recipes or modifying complicated ones so that the ingredients are kept easily available and… affordable. No point spending so much on good herbs you hardly use. To me, cooking is all about trial and error… and I think my little ‘specialty’ is in replicating flavours people like at home. It’s a bit of an art, but a lot of a science. It’s like having mini-experiments every weekend. Heh.

Well, this blog has taken quite a home décor/ lifestyle angle. I’m happy with that! My future posts will be categorised into three main sections – Home, Food & Wedding.

Yes, we’re slowly but surely preparing for our wedding on 27 June 2015. J

By the way, the pageviews on twentyseventhmay has quietly crept up to close to 15,000 hits. It’s strange how this blog is getting readers!

I hope I don’t get too lazy to post here. Wish me luck!

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