Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Risky Living

Talk about arhitecture going out on a limb! Singapore, you leave it for a couple of years, and look what happens!

Apparently Far East Organisation is building this standing-on-one-foot structure at the end of Cairnhill Rd where it meets Scotts Rd.

The building is designed with four individual apartment towers that vertically offset from each other and are all securely (one hopes) suspended from a central core tower. This is what makes it appear as if they’re floating.

I must say the 153m, 36 storey condo will cut an oddly interesting, if not limping, silhouette on the skyline. But what must the people who will live in the 68 high-end condos be feeling with nothing but air beneath them?

For more technical info about the building, you can go to World Architecture News . Com

Monday, 26 March 2007

Transformation of a Cushion

This is what I've found since coming to live in Canada. Independence. Those of you who know me and have grown up with me will be arching your eyebrows in in surprise asking "What the heck is she talking about?". I've always been the most independent of spirits, following the trail of my own goofy little star and have mostly done things for myself. But not like this though. Not like here in Canada.
Here, I've had to learn to cook my own meals (no cheap, delish & convienient Tiong Bahru hawker centre nearby), plant my own herbs and make my own cushions, slip covers, scarves and curtains. Unlike Asia, where retail is cheap, variety is, well, various and GST is abysmally low (so stop complaining), Canada has a retail sector that has seen it's heyday (like 20 years ago) and GST is made up of provincial & federal taxes, which together comes up to 14%. The cheapo Singaporean in me couldn't bear to pay out so much, especially for taxes, especially when she knew how much things really cost in Asia. Ergo the girl is now DIY mad.

Forgive me as I indulge and run thru my latest project with you.

Once upon a time, my loving sister, Veron decided that I was in dire need of the jangle of beading and flashes of hot pink in my life. She, from her deep generosity, proceeded to buy me the most darling square cushion from Delhi, where she was living at that time.

Unfortunately, The Spawn of Demon, who also answers to the name of Minke, decided that it was her dominion and proclaimed for her own. Well, that was in Singapore, where the cooling satin fabric of the cushion and the bling of the pink was all good & appropriate. But since coming to live in the land of cold & rain, she's favoured wool & tweed instead. And the poor pink beaded cushion was then only used for the Minkster to practice her own special brand of feline manicure.

Enough already! Said her cheapo DIY mistress and rescued the rare (in Vancouver at least) & highly reusable kapok (cotton wadding I think it's called in English) from the tattered cushion's insides. The following documents the cushion's road to recovery.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Paper * People * Planet

Looks like I've gone blog wild!

I've started another blog. It's called Paper * People * Planet
And it's to do with all sorts of paper and paper projects, recycling, inspirational people, the environment and anything green. Yes, I guess you could include Kermit too.

Some of you might remember a little eco company called Green Bananas that I started in Singapore which was WAY before it's time.

Well, I had picked up so much info & wisdom while doing it, it's nice to be able to air it out and see if it can be of use again.

So for those of you , and I know that there are many, who want to know how to make/recycle your own paper, just click on this link.


Tuesday, 20 March 2007


It's incredible to believe that I started blogging only 10 days ago. Not even 2 weeks and yet it seems a life time. Still loads to learn and I've already learnt so much. It's rather like sinking into a whole new layer of world floating just below the one I currently swim in.

My first post was about going back to Singapore after 2 year of being away. That blog was meant to be a test piece so that I could figure out how to work inside a blog. You know, like placing pictures and changing fonts and making categories to place things like favourite seller. Fun and frivolous stuff like that. And to my surprise, seeing something personal like that out for the whole world (well, at least teeny portion of the world) to see & read was an unexpectedly cathartic experience.

In a couple of days I was trawling through other peoples' blogs to see what they had on theirs and how I could improve mine. In the meantime I set about another Etsy treasury featuring Etsy carfters & artists who blog. The treasury still has 13 hours to go...

Here are some really cool Etsyians with interesting blogs


Do you know how many blogs there are out there in the bulging blogosphere? Too many for this girl to blog-hop with a single beer! I needed to focus. Which I did.....on shopping sites, what else? Well that was the most obvious! Besides, so many Etsy sellers were on them. Made sense to have a look.
These I've listed aren't blogs per se but they do have cool widgets to ad to your own blog to make it look better and, well, hipper.

www.etsy.com has a etsy mini widget to show off stuff from the shop,

then there's www.wists.com
& www.stylefeeder.com

that let you compile things you like online and do yourself a wishlist that is open for public viewing and that you can put on your won blog too. Unfortunately the idiot-proof instructions for both those sites left me tearing me hair out because they never told me if my picks were confirmed or not and so I've left those for a while.

Technorati is apparently something no blogger can do without. It's a blog search engine, or so I believe. No wait, it's more than that. It ploughs though blogs and tags like a baleen whale and counts up links and ranks these to tell you in an Internet second which are the most popular. And if your blog is ranked high, the more likely you are to be picked up on a search and it follows from there that more traffic will come to your site. It really doesn't matter to those of us who have personal blogs but if you want to start making money from your blogs, then it MATTERS.
Add to <span class=

More about making money from your blog in the next couple of posts or so. I've only made close to $5 so far in the past 4 days, so I'm no expert. Mostly from Google adsense. The way I look at it, it's better than a kick in the head.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Moonlight & Magic

This is the most fav treasury I put up on Esty yet. It's called

As ephemeral as is the moonlight, so are etsy treasuries. They have a lifespan of only 2 days and as I type, Magic & moonlight has only 15 hours left to it's existence.

Sorry about the resolution of the picture. I still don't know how to save a screenshot yet. So I took a pix from the screen itself. Learning about technology all the time.

For a better view go to the site to take a look.

Here's to not being attached and enjoying the moment.


Saturday, 17 March 2007

Just Letting Life happen...

People who Inspire

I guess to be an artist, a sculptor, a crafter or any sort of creator you need to have a certain amount of trust, a bit of reckless faith and perhaps a somewhat Buddhist perspective on things. That something can come out of nothing and that everything will eventually go to nothing. That things are transcient and art is but putting temporal flesh on the every-changing flow of the spirit.
That's why when someone manages to capture the pose of a soul on canvas, film or clay, it delights your own soul and in an odd way comforts you. As if you belonged somewhere, where you don't have to explain yourself, prove your worth, fight for your rights. A very nice place.
Everytime I look at my pieces by a most generous & kind sculptor, Christa, I am transported into that marvelous place. Many have an old world feel about them and all have a certain weight that gives yo a feeling that they all know exactly where their place is in the world.
If you shake the pieces you will hear a little ringing. It is a small piece of clay that Christa leaves in each of them. A melodic reminder that all art keeps some spirit within it.
I'll let you see for yourselves. And if Christa feels so inclined, I hope she will add some comments on these pieces.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

The Secret of Great Rendang

Every Singaporean will eventually come to this somewhere in their blogs. Especially an overseas one. FOOD....sorry, I meant Super Shiok FOOD.

Having settled so many thousands of miles from any decent Nasi Padang Stall I had to come up with my own version of the comfort food (yes, Nasi Padang is naturally on top of this girl's list).

Couldn't have managed it without this surprising cookbook. Written by an ang moh no less called Wendy Hutton. The title of it is Wendy Hutton's Singapore Food - A spicy journey through the history and wizardry of Singapore cooking. Published in 1979, it's probably out of print by now. But because it was written that many years ago, she captured accurately the flavours of Singaporean favourites, like acar, loh mee, ikan assam pedas and beef rendang. I've tried it and to my taste-buds' gobsmacked surprise, it smelled & tasted frighteningly authentic.

It is an educational and amusing read. Especially because it was written by someone trying to be culturally sensitive in an age so politically incorrect. Still it is written with a real desire to help keep real bits of the Singaporean heritage, and for that, Wendy Hutton my stomach & I will be eternally grateful

And so I put this yummie recipe for Beef Rendang up for your salivating perusal. Especially for my friends at The Urban Tea Merchant in West Vancouver who were subjected to my culinary experiments those many winter months.

~ Beef in Spicy Coconut Gravy ~
500g (1lb) topside beef
6-8 shallots or 1 medium red onion
3 slices lengkuas (or galangal)
2.5cm (1in) fresh ginger
16-20 dried chillis, soaked
2 stalks lemongrass
1 clove garlic
6 tbsp freshly grated coconut or
4 tbsp desiccated coconut
2.5 tbsp oil
2.5 cups coconut milk
1 fresh tumeric leaf shredded (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

1. Cut beef into pieces about 5c m (2 in) square and 1 cm (0.5 in) thick.
2. Grind the shallots, lengkuas, ginger, chillies, lemongrass and garlic together until fine.
3 Gently fry the grated coconut in a dry pan, stirring constantly, until golden brown.
4. Allow to cool slightly then pound to a paste.
5. Heat oil in a wok and gently fry the ground shallot mixture for 4-5 minutes.
6. Add pounded coconut and fry for another minute, then put in beef and sit-fry till it changes colour.
7. Add all other ingredients and stir, lifting the coconut milk and pouring it back into the wok until it come to a boil.
8. Reduce heat & simmer, uncovered until the meat is tender. If the sauce threatens to dry out before the meat is cooked, add a little hot water.
9. The sauce should finally reduce so that all that remains is a very thick coating on the meat. The oil will come out of the coconut milk and the meat will start to fry in it.

But the secret.......the real secret to making good rendang really great rendang is something called Hacks cough drops. HUH? You can't mean that black sweet wrapped in orange paper! But yes I do indeedie.

During my trip to Penyengat, Bintan to visit Ibu Raja Zainab, she came out with it. Her secret ingredient for the shiokest rendang I've EVER tasted, her rendang.... Black Hacks cough drops. Yes, just substitute 2 sweets per 1 tsp of sugar and you have the secret to great rendang.


Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Where the River Flows, a White Giant sits

Bintan Island is a very old place. Before the west came a-conquering, it was a place saturated with magic, sultanates, pirates, the spices-trade, nature spirits and most of all, stories. I had spent many hours sitting on a wooden floor in a house on stilts, listening to Pak Rajah Hamza recounting the tales of old.
Very sadly however, Pak Raja is no longer with us. Neither are the pirates, the ruling Rajas, the spice-trade and much of the magic. But the stories, they still live strong. They are told and retold around the kerosene lamps in most fisher folk huts in Bintan.

When my friend Marc bought the piece of land by the ocean, with a river winding amid the coconut trees & lallang, he already knew some of the stories. He had lived in Indonesia for a long time and was sensitive to the beliefs of the local folk.

He was also concerned about the future of his fisher neighbours. Bintan was quickly industrialising and also becoming a tourist destination. With Singaporeans & the better heeled Indonesians flocking to her beaches & golf courses by the ferry & Kijang load.

So, in a very Marc fashion, he started a rustic River Spa on stilts over his river- Bintan's Only Floating Spa. To complement his newly launched guest house; to employ & train the local villagers and to provide this fast modernising island with a casual & relaxed place to just enjoy nature in her quiet, simple beauty.

The journey toward completing the spa becomes a story in itself. During the construction, workers began having vivid nightmares, equipment broke down, plans hiccupped themselves breathless and for the first time in 18 years in Indonesia, Marc caught malaria, the brain burning kind. In Bintan, when so many things go wrong all at once, you know that you've probably stepped on something's toes. Something unseen. And in this case, the toes belonged to the sandaled foot of the Lady Spirit of the river and her protective white giant.

If you don't believe in spirits, and most city folk don't, think about it this way. Nature needs to to be honoured and respected (or at least consulted) when we choose to disturb her with our building and constructing. Especially in a place where the belief of magic & spirits is strong. So Marc, when he got well enough, engaged a translator to talk to the river spirit.

In Indonesia, he is called a Dukun or shaman. And was told that in building of the spa, many ancient parts of the river were disturbed and have allowed others to come into Her Lady Spirit's area. This was causing things to go awry. And as any Dukun worth his salt, he gave Marc instructions on how to appease the spirits. A stone was placed over the entrance from which the other spirits came and Her Lady Spirit was given a shady spot of honour. Under a ketapang tree by the river where she and her white giant sit at watch and in peace. And she once again protects the river and the land around it and keeps it in harmony.

After hearing Marc's story I must admit I was a bit nervous about having a massage in this oddly controversial spa. But my massage-denied body talked me into it. And it was WONDERFUL. There is a certain bliss of having well-trained fingers teasing the knots from your tight body while listening to the birds chirp, the waves lap and the leaves rustle. Looking through the windows of this wooden spa villa on stilts. The sleepy river moves languidly toward the nearby sea and the trees dapple sunlight over the water, making you believe in magic. At least for a little while.

If you'd like to ask Marc for more stories to book a day at his marvelous River Spa, email dreams@mutiarabintan.com

Monday, 12 March 2007

A little Piece of Paradise

How could I visit Bintan without a little stay-over at my best Bintan bud's place at Trikora, on the eastern side of the island facing unimpeded out into the South China sea? Marc has a wonderfully rustic piece of land there fleshed out with coconut groves, quiet idyllic beaches & a sacred river running through it.
He's built a humble but comfortable guest house with a relaxed wooden deck out front & the kampung mandis I remember seeing when I was little in old Singapore.

It's great for city people wanting to take a short trip to get the frantic rush out of their system. Because the guest house is the only abode here, the acre or so of beach side groves and the stretch of sandy white beach itself becomes your private place.

It was brilliant being there away from the maddening pace of Singapore taking my time to just be. And selfishly not having to share this piece of paradise with any other visitor on the island.

Marc lets out his guest house to visitors....so I'll let him tell you more about it.
Looking for a real getaway? Here is Bintan’s best kept secret…

Mutiara Beach Guesthouse

Home Stay and River Spa Package

Full board accommodation, including:

* Breakfast with Coffee/tea

* Fisherman’s lunch with fresh coconut

* Supper with tea/coffee

* Discount 20% on all Aroma River Spa treatments, 10% on Boutique merchandise

* Local handicrafts workshop (baskets, ketupat)

Price per person: S$35.- per day (twin share, weekday & weekend)

Canned beverages and snacks are available at list price - Vegetarian meals option

Transportation to/from the ferry terminal is not included, but can be arranged at cost

Current room capacity: 3 rooms @ 2 beds each – Children 3-12 yrs only S$25.-

Bookings by e-mail: dreams@mutiarabintan.com

Not too bad a price for a bit of paradise I think. Go on...send him an email.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Bintan Bound for Batiks

The way it seems to me, my fate will always somehow be intertwined with that of Bintan & Penyengat ( a little island village off the big island of Bintan). It's been that way for over 15 years now, and it's been good. Good and very interesting.

After all, it was in Bintan that we built the Beautiful Asmara Tropical Spas. And it was there I spent those uneasy nights during the year 2000 riots; met Frankie the poser of a biawak (monitor lizard); saw girls get possessed by spirits; had magical moonlight walks on the soft white sands of the Mayang Sari bay; dealt with dukuns (shamans); ate the BEST ever lamb chops; explored the Riaus on a wooden sailboat called Windsong; went for my first rave & caught malaria.

And it is also there that I made some very dear friends.

I'm currently working with Ibu Zainab, Ella & Chup on making Batik Prada wall-hangings & runners. After leaving Asmara, the gang in Penyengat had little to no orders from the spa and this is my way to help them with some income generation.

All the items are sold on an online shop I started which can be found at www.rumahkampung.etsy.com

Here is some of what we came up with....

Home & Back again

It's been some time since the girl's been back to Singapore since moving to Canada.
And she was a bit apprehensive.

With all the news I'd read on the Channel News Asia website (one no longer reads The Straits Times Online since they started charging. As if SPH hadn't made enough dosh selling their Times House site to Condo developers. They have to wring out what's left of an overseas Singaporean's pitiful non-taxed income to subscribe to their site).
I digress. From the stories of how quickly Singapore had changed in the past two years; with Vivo city coming up, the new developments in Marina South and the like, this girl was afraid that she'd not recognise her city anymore.

So it was gratifying that some things had remained where she had left them some 2 years ago. Thank god the good people at Hair Fair remained at The Adelphi and thank god Joo Hock still gave the best hair cut. The MRT still worked with economy & efficiency. There were no workers strike to impede a persons daily life. Everything chugged along at a pretty good clip. I pace I understood.

Also it was good that the 3Fs still remained, more or less how I'd left them. The Family were safe,healthy & busily happy (despite their complaints), the Friends were mainly still in S'pore and were all grappling with their learnings, their plans & their new additions....and the final F, so dear to a S'porean's soul, the Food still tasted the same. The quality of Tiong Bahru's Kampung Chai Tow Kueh was spot on. Altho I noticed that the size of their portions had shrunk. Must be the higher rent in the swanky, new, escalatored hawker centre.

I was really impressed with what was happening with Clarke Quay tho. It's a tiny step toward the "Singapore-Under-The- Climatically-Controlled-Dome" idea which I'm sure many sweltering S'poreans have proposed over kopi at the corner coffee shop. Very Star Trek.