Apr 27, 2010

Chilli in my Rojak...Part 4

We don't get to choose the people we meet each day. Nor the friends we keep for now or forever. Nor the ones we just want to let go. In all my years of working in the corporate world, I am truly thankful that my bosses eventually became great friends with me. Even after leaving my job, we kept in contact and I tried to see them time to time.

My most glorious time working was between 1995 to 1998. Where I worked as a DTP Specialist with Jardine Fleming International Securities. My job expectations were very high. From my boss, Su-Chzeng. She was with JF for 10 years and lived in Japan all that time. Our HQ wanted her to start a Asia HQ and she picked Singapore to be the place. She interviewed me over the phone. We spoke for the first time and she ask me questions related not to work but about life at home, my family and what are my hobbies.

It was more like getting to know each other. Su's way was always different. She is not like the usual bosses we all know. When we met the first time in Singapore, it was another interview. This time it was face to face. Again, we talked about life in general. Not about work. Clearly enough, she read my CV and found me not suitable for the job I was applying for.

Then how in the world I got the job? I got the job because Su thinks I can 'grow' into it. That my other skills that are non-bank like would help them in the work I was to do.

When I first started, Su was back in Japan. I was stucked in Singapore to run or pioneered the department from ground up. I had no one to help me. And remember,...I don't have the right skills either! It was then I learnt to be very thick-skinned, made friends in every department in the office and learn everything from everyone.

It is through this experience, Su taught me to be self-reliant. The very skills I needed now, today when I had my shop. Back then, I never knew why she did that to me. Leaving me alone to struggle on my own without knowing what to do. She felt that the best way to teach me was to leave me treading in the deep sea without any life saver(float) or a helpline.

It was the most important lesson I have learnt. And when Su finally made the trip to Singapore and settled here, the department was just the two of us. And that was in mid 1995. By the time I left JF in November 1998, the department grew to be at least 10-member strong. And it became the HQ for 13 countries.

One other thing she taught me was to travel alone. She would expect me to book my own flights out of Singapore to go to Hong Kong or Taiwan or Jakarta, etc. I would have to learn how to find my way around, spoke like the locals and find my own food.

To be frank, I never travel anywhere outside Singapore alone. Not until I met Su and work with her.

When I left JF, I was still very much in touch with Su. One of the things she taught me was to re-discover myself. To find my other strengths and talents that had lay hidden for a very long time due to the monotonous work I had to do everyday as an IT professional.

This was a poem I wrote for her when I was working (not with her). In the email I wrote to her...

Dear Su,

Recently a survey was conducted in-house by an account servicing staff to ask what was the first thing people thought of when the word "Splendor" was mentioned.

This is what I wrote..but not for them..its for you:

re-written by Gina Choong

What would that mean?
Would it mean "though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight?"

The only radiance I once knew
was knowing and working with you
for someone I hardly knew
could bring some radiance to the world I loft of

"Though nothing can bring back the hour"
and nothing can stop me thinking
of how once I hated tables and charts
and how now I missed Zielinski's 'ole figures and rants

"We will grieve not, rahter find
Strength in what remains behind;"

that our friendship stands to this date
dear and faithful through all the days

"in the faith that looks through death, in years that bring the philosophic mind"
For all I can say, Dear Su, its all your fault
I never knew I could be so poetic
neither did I know I could write
and its become a disease of some kind
and lest I do it, I am slave to this new find

and till the day, I find my cure
I know that forever you will have to endure
my one and many endless poetic or none to eccentric rants
of past and new I have to grant

Love, Me, your forever staff.

Note : Text in quotes are taken originally from William Wordsworth's "Splendor in the Grass"

Su is one chilli in my rojak. Someone I still keep very much in contact with. Someone dear to me.

ps..Su Chzeng is now a full fledged Life Skills Coach. I think she is the best person to do this. What would I be now, without her coaching all these years.

End of Part 4.

Apr 24, 2010

7th Heaven...

By the way, I love this song from Sesame Street's muppets..!

A break from my usual post. Recently I was trying new recipes to teach. Since I love cheesecakes, I decided to make one without the use of Gelatin powder or having eggs in it. Making it halal, vegetarian and all that too.

With Facebook popularity, my cousin read my thoughts when Natasha wrote to say "Mummy, I suddenly feel like eating your blueberry cheesecake... The one with the crumbly base." And that started a serious wild fever of eating Blueberry Cheesecake within the family and my cousins who are living in Singapore.

A funny chain of events followed soon after I made 3 sets of Blueberries Cheesecakes. My cousin Connie came by to pick it up one evening..stole a slice of it and gave the rest to her brother. One cake went to my mom's place and my sister wrote about it on FB giving her reviews. My cousin Des went to my mom's place and stole the last slice of cheesecake..

Here's the elusive, super-licious Blueberry Cheesecake I did..

I made another batch using Dark Sweet Cherries. And had it served in a dessert cup. These were for Benny's office.

You can use the same recipe. Just change the type of fruits you prefer to have.

Ingredients for filling
250g cream cheese
250g Lite Sour Cream(Dairy Farmers)
250g Thickened cream(at least 35% fat content)
60g icing sugar

Ingredients for Crust:
30 pcs Oreo cookie with cream
80g butter(salted)

Ingredients for Topping:
1 can of Blueberries(or Dark Sweet Cherries)
3 tbsp corn starch
100ml syrup from canned

Method for crust
1. Pound and mash cookies till powdery.
2. Add butter and microwave till liquid
3. Stir to mix, then spread into on the base of a cake ring or spring form pan.
4. Leave it into the chiller(fridge, non-freezer) for 1 hour to set.

Method for Filling
1. Leave cream cheese out on the table to melt slightly.
2. Cut it up into smaller pieces so it is easier to whip later on.
3. Add cut cheese and rest of the filling ingredients into a mixer bowl.
4. Whip at medium speed till its smooth and creamy.
5. Scoop cheese to fill cups(from the fridge)
6. Leave it in the fridge.

Method for topping
1. Drain blueberries and add into a sauce pot.
2. Do not discard the syrup. Use 100ml and add cornstarch to stir till evenly mixed. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Turn on the stove and add the syrup mix and cook over low heat till the mixture turns sticky like those pie filling.
4. Do not over cook..turn off fire when the mixture appears thick, not runny.
5. Leave it to cool slightly. Pour into cheesecake and spread it out flat.
6. Chill for a good 2 hours before serving.

You can freeze this and serve later..like a month later!

Here's what I use which are bought from KC store:

S&W Blueberries S$8.60 per 454g can

Palmdale Dark Sweet Cherries(Product of Italy) S$3.60 per 454g can

Philly Cream Cheese 250g S$4.50 per block

Dairy Farmer's Lite Sour Cream 250g S$3.30 per can

Dairy Farmer's Thickened Cream 250g S$3.80 each

Apr 22, 2010

Chilli in my Rojak...Part 3

Alone again, Naturally Sung by Gilbert Sullivan

I met someone who was recently divorced. She was someone who used to buy bakeware from me before I started the shop.

When I started KC store, she still prefers to visit me at home but my home is now at the store. She told me about the divorce and the bitterness it left her high and dry. She was frustrated and bitter with her ex. Time and again, he cheated on her. And enough was enough, she told me. She filed for divorce and took their only child with her.

She offered to work for me at the store. But I declined. My reasons for her was I already had one staff with me. That's Willie, my brother-in-law. Though he may not be very knowledgeable with baking and stuff, he is someone I can trust to leave the store to when I am away.

The other reason I didn't tell her was her bitterness. Until she let it go, I find it hard to have her work for me.

She was utterly bitter with herself, her life and its also the past she cannot let go. Its only when you loved so much and get hurt all the time, it will take forever to heal. She loved her ex-husband alot more than she could comprehend. Which she kept saying "I don't love him. He's a bastard!". Feeling betrayed and cheated so many times, she just couldn't let it go.

On the phone, we talked and I became her punching bag. She would 'scold' me and 'yell' at me. Venting her frustrations in every word, every sentence she said.

I remembered being like that when I left Sidney. I was bitter and unhappy all the time. My best friend, Suzie became my punching bag too. But no matter what, I only let out things about me, about him or about us. I never said things that would hurt Suzie.

However, this lady was different. She said alot of things to me. Just because I told her I am alone in my shop. Usually Benny comes after work to help me to close shop and drives me home. Sometimes he brings me out to have supper after the shop closes. But some days he had to attend dinners by friends or company, then he cannot come and help me.

She said :

"Gina, don't trust him on this. He is cheating on you. He is spending time with other women. And make sure you check his clothes. There will be smells of sweet perfume or lipstick stains somewhere! All MEN are idiots. "

That was a terrible thing to say to someone..anyone whom you do not know very well. Just because yours didn't work out, it doesn't mean that mine is the same like yours too!

And she went on to say how Benny would cheat on me. All the usual lies MEN are very good in telling. After they have slept with other women, they come home and behaved like angels. Bring their wives out for dinner or are extra loving.

She keep saying "He is cheating on you. You are so stupid not to feel it or see it."

I really felt like hitting her..I think this clipart of this Angry, Frowning Caveman says it all!

To be frank, it never did crossed my mind. Never ever ONCE. I never thought that Benny would cheat on me. And I think Benny would never thought the same about me when I used to work late every other night at the office.

To many who are hurt, broken and unhappy with their marriages, their spouses, they all tell the same story. That they thought they could trust each other, but each time, they are betrayed. I guess when your world crumbles, everything you say is very negative.

I can live with that. And understand that. I still like to think that Sidney was a good man. But not good enough for me. He is happily married a year before Benny and I finally marry. He left Singapore with his wife, Alexandra. And yes, I do know about that too! And spoken to the happy bride. I never get to meet Alexandra because they are leaving the country to return to Britain to visit her side of the family.

But its important that while we are hurting, we shouldn't hurt the ones who gave us support and care.

And to think that I have lived a part of my life meeting all kinds of people, I met someone who was so bitter that she breathes bitterness to others too.

Its often too easy to absorb that and to think the same for ourselves too. And no matter what I say or try to say to her, she just couldn't accept. Until she let it go, she will continue to be bitter and sore. There is more to life than this, we all know. This is one time that one should pick up a new skill, try a different kind of food or make new friends and move on.

Dwelling on the past makes you more bitter. Life goes on. To my friend, PM, I hope you healed soon. Its when you let it go, then you can heal completely and move on with life. He may not be the one for you, and its not the end of the world yet. Unfortunately, life isn't fair. It never is. But we can make the best of it and the best comes from within.

God Bless you...

End of Part 3..

Apr 20, 2010

Chilli in my Rojak...Part 2

Puppy Love sung by Donny Osmond

My sister is the lady in black. The other 2 ladies are our cousins, Belinda and Dagmar.

Some history repeats itself too many times. Knowing that my late grandfather went senile was very frightening. The many reasons I am penning down my memories is that I feared that day will come when I forget all the things in my life that made me happy or sad, contented or otherwise. The people in my life, that was important to me. And those who came and pass me by.

Though I may want to forget some unhappy moments, I also wanted my girls to know of them. Maybe as a consolation to them to know that everyone goes through pain and suffering and how I learnt to cope with it.

My parents have 2 daughters, my sister Winnie and me. We are six years apart. I was born with many illnesses, my sister was fit as a fiddle. She was always a healthy child. I don't remember a time ever to find her sniffling from a cold or taking meds for fever or flu. In many ways, I like to think that she inherited my dad's healthy gene.

My sister loved me alot. Even when we were kids. She give in to me all the time. Although there are times she was jealous of me because I was the youngest and doted on by so many relatives. My sister lived her life going through harsh times and good times. I remembered watching her dress up as a teen. She grew up in the time of Donny Osmond's hit Single "Puppy Love". And she would play that song 100 times a day until it drove me to scream at her.

I used to idolise one person..and that was my sister. To me, she was like an Angel. Pretty and full of life. And knows how to enjoy herself without getting hurt. My sister was a very pretty girl in her teens. She has many many boyfriends. Every other day I will be answering phone calls for her.

I remembered our first Christmas together. That was before turkey and honey baked ham became popular or affordable. We stayed at Circuit Road, off Macpherson Road. In a tiny flat. She would light up a single candle. And bought some candies and ground nuts and place them in two different bowls. And she told me:

"Ting, let's pray to God to bless this day"

I don't remember what she said that day, but I remember she told me that I am not allowed to peek or open my eyes during the prayer. And she also said that after we say AMEN, there will be a very big and bright star hung above the skies.

And true enough, we opened our eyes and looked up..and there it was, a very big and bright star. And then she divided the candies and nuts but she always give me the most.

Till today, I fondly remembered this moment in history. Now looking forward, my girls are the best of friends. Just like my sister Winnie and me. One of the most important reasons I wanted to have a 2nd child was to have Natasha had a sister, someone she could relate to..a best friend that grew up with her.

My sister had to give up alot of things in life for me. She started work the moment she left Secondary School. And went to support herself to learn shorthand and typing and trained to be a secretary. She wanted a better life for herself. And she worked very hard to achieve that.

And whatever I wanted, I always get it. I never had to work very hard for it. And she spoiled me just the same. She would do things for me. Helped me in every way she could. I would tell Benny about my sister. How much she loved me when we were very young. She never teased me and protected me. She only started to tease me more when we were older. When she knew I could handle her jokes.

When Beauty died, I wanted to get another dog quickly to fill that void..only she knew. Only she understood. She said to me:

"I'll bring Bambi over for you to hug and play."

Bambi is her daughter's pet chihuahua. I couldn't take that. So when I went out to get a new puppy, she found out about it and without saying anything to me, transferred money into my bank account. And said "its my gift to you"

When I quit my job in 2003, I didn't have a job that earns me a regular salary. It means no more year end bonus to look forward to. No more perks in life like vacations abroad. She would quietly transfer money to my bank account and then send me an sms to tell me about it. The often excuse she had was :

"I saved money to give to people I think needed it most. And I thought of you today"

When we wanted to open Kitchen Capers store, she came to offer again.

If anyone deserves an Award of "Being There and Everywhere", she would get it. Because she deserves it. If anyone should tell me about sibling rivalry, I would tell them "Sorry, I don't know what that means. Because my sister and me loved each other very much."

Share your love..not just to your better half. To your sibling...

God Bless you..

End of Part 2..

Apr 19, 2010

Chilli in my Rojak Part 1

Everything I do, I do it for you Sung by Brandy

I am starting a new series of my life story. It will be called "Chilli in my Rojak". Why Chilli, why Rojak?

Chilli is a spice ingredient which everyone is familiar with. Its spicy, chilli hot, depending on how much you put into your dish. The varieties it has, where its grown and processed, harvested and used in every part of the world, in every culture, race or religion.

Rojak is a local term here in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia of vegetable salad dish that has a mixture of local fruits, vegetables and a spicy, sweet tamarind sauce that is toss around with roasted peanuts.

A twist to these 2 words, it means my life from as young as I can remember to the present. For as long as I can remember and writing it down. The people(Chilli) I have met, things I have done, places I have been and how they affected me and my outlook in life. "Rojak" but very good, some bittersweet moments, some sad days, some happy ones, some angry ones.

After all, my blog was Taste of Time...Why I suddenly thought of Chilli in my rojak was that Benny and I worked at the shop yesterday, 18 April, Sunday. While many couples are probably spending quality time at home, either with their kids and extended family or by themselves. Benny and I shared our time together in the shop.

While he manned the cashiering counter, I sat in the office to do some admin paper work. Then he came by to say that he is seeing the chinese physician for a neck and shoulder massage. He ask if I wanted to have Rojak later on. When he gets back, he would buy a pack for me.

I love to eat rojak. So I said "Yes. Of course"

After a hour or so, he returned and ask me to go to the office to have rojak. So I ask him if he wants to eat too. He said:

"You go and eat first. Save some for me"

I went to the office and open the packet of rojak. As I was eating it, I realised the simpliest of all things..and that was

There was NO chilli in my Rojak.

I love to have chilli. In some food, not in everything. I love it as a dip, or a sauce. For my chicken rice but not in my rojak. Because I want to taste each vegetable or fruit minus the spiciness. As chilli tends to numb your sense of taste.

That is why you won't see ordering dry noodles with chilli sauce added into it and toss around. But I will eat Laksa or mee siam.

Benny loves chilli in everything. But when he orders food for us to share, he orders it without chilli. If its for himself, his portion will have chilli added, tossed into it.

When he eats with me, literally, he omits all the things he enjoy having. Chilli is one of them.

My mom once told me, finding a life partner is actually finding someone you can dine with. Someone who do not dictate your lifestyle or what you should have.

When we were dating, Benny only eat Red meat and anything that is meat-wise. I go for salad, fruits and vegetables more. When our paths crossed, we didn't quite match. A carnivore and a herbivore in real life do not mix. And I remembered what my mom used to tell me. So I learn to appreciate a little red meat along the way. And in turn, Benny started to eat salads with me at the salad buffet bar at Ponderosa Restaurant.

Sometimes we need to change a bit here and there and yet keep ourselves true to each other. Not so much that we lose sight of what we are or what we aim to be.

Well, there is no chilli in my rojak. And if there is, Benny will have my portion. And he will get me another portion without it.
As his reward, I served that last bowl of Double Boil Chicken Herbal soup for him which I didn't get to drink.

End of Part 1 ...

Apr 15, 2010

Do you love me?

Thanks to all who have written to me about my "Love Is..." series. While many shared with me their love stories, others told me they are disillusioned about their marriage life.

This song from the Musical "Fiddler on the roof" seems appropriate for this. Many times our spouses show their love in the things they do. Not in lovey dovey ways or roses or chocolates or a special gifts. We live in this rat race, raising our children, making sure our parents are taken care of, we never took time to look and care for each other beyond that.

I guess I was very blessed with Benny. Who shows his love and devotion to me all these years. In simple ways he know of. He is not a man of many words or the sort who whispers sweet nothings.

I believe that all of us have our better halves who does little things like that. So little and so petty that we overlooked it sometimes. So if you start to wonder if he loves you or not, or does she care for you ever? Yes, he does, she does. But not maybe in the way Benny does for me. Or Edward Cullen(from Twilight saga) cares for Bella Swan nor Romeo with Juliet. But yes..we all showed our love in different ways.

I remember many years ago, I used to wonder if Benny loves me as much as he used to. Natasha was only 4 years old. I just survived a surgery and was home. He seems to be distant and all he does was everything for the family as a whole.

I remember having quarrelled hard and fast with him. And I moved out! I packed my bag and was ready to leave the house. All he did was to stand outside the door. And when he came in to talk to me, I thought to myself:

"Oh good..he is trying to stop me.."

But lo! No. He said:

"I think you need to pack an alarm clock with you. Because you always have problems waking up in strange places"

And I just bolted out of the house. And stood downstairs to wait for my uncle to come and rescue me.

It started to rain...so I stood at the staircase landing below our apartment.

He came down with an umbrella, and I thought he was remorseful over what he said previously. But he said:

"Its raining, you better take an umbrella. If you catch a cold, your asthma will be difficult and won't be able to sleep tonight"

I got even more angry with him. Why?

Because I expected something more. I expected him to say sorry and at least for once try to win me back. But instead, he encourage me to leave.

My uncle came and drove me to his place and I stayed there for a few days. And went to work as per normal. It was SC, my ex boss who told me to see this in different perspective and it was then I saw that he really cared for me and loved me all the same.

It is his way of showing his affections. He didn't want to argue with me and he felt that the best way was to agree with me with what I planned to do.

He tried to win me back by sending flowers and a card to the office. He didn't dare to ring me at the office. So he rang my uncle and ask about me.

When I stayed with my uncle, I was miserable. I missed home, Natasha and him..why?
And with the many things he tried to do since I left, I realised that I am forcing him to be someone he is not. He is not the romantic guy. Nor the kind who sends flowers and a card which are automatically signed or labelled as "Sorry". And I knew I expected just a little too much for someone who never expected anything from me. But I was willing to do things for him. So I couldn't blame anyone but myself for this.

So, again I packed my bags. And this time, I went home. And since that day, I never expected more. And I know deep in my heart that he has ALWAYS LOVED ME. In ways unknown to me, in ways he knew BEST.

May this post be an encouragement to all who stumbled on my blog and read all my "Love Is..." posts. Love isn't a bed of roses all the time. Some thorns here and there. We pricked our fingers sometimes when we are not careful. But it heals. And the next time we picked roses again, we are more careful. And we still are able to enjoy Roses..the way it is..thorns and all.

Look hard, and look deep. Your better half loves you. He/she really does.

Apr 11, 2010

Love Is... Part 14

"Where Do I Begin?" sung by Andy Williams
Theme song from the movie "Love Story"

Where do i begin
To tell the story
Of how greater love can be
The sweet love story
That is older than the sea
That sings the truth about the love she brings to me
Where do i start

With the first hello
She gave the meaning
To this empty world of mine
That never be
Another love another time
She came into my life
And made a living fine
She fills my heart

She fills my heart
With very special things
With angel songs
With wild imaginings
She fills my soul
With so much love
That anywhere i go
I'm never lonely
With her along who could be lonely
I reach for her hand
Its always there

How long does it last
Can love be measured by the hours in a day
I have no answers now
But this much i can say
I know ill need her till the stars all burn away
And she'll be there...

There seems to be no end to my stories. But I want to talk about something else today. Remembering an old movie I once watched with my classmates. A sad movie. I think many of us who lived in that age and time would remember this movie.

My friends and I cried at the movie. We came out of the cinema with swollen eyes, sniffling noses. Such a tear jerker. I never knew somewhere down the way...Benny went to watch this same movie with his friends too.

I remember when we were dating, I suggested we go to the movies.

And he said "I'll watch any movie with you except all the Love story type." Its then he told me about "Love Story". He said it was very 'negative' and very sad ending. Since then, he never liked such movies because its very painful to watch he said.

But I know too many friends who lived the life in the story like the characters played in the "Love Story". Real life instances. Its not a nice feeling to have. Knowing that you loved deeply and lost it forever. Some people take some time to heal, while others never did heal, unfortunately.

Many times in our lives together, Benny and me, there were occasions where I fell really sick and was hospitalised. He is reminded somehow of "Love Story" endings. I remembered I was once in a stage of comatose and lying in bed in the hospital. My sister told me that Benny cried at my bedside. Natasha was still very young, around 3 or 4 years old. She said Benny just hit his head against the wall, in tears.

Everyone prayed for my recovery. A year later, I was in the hospital again. For years, Benny's prayers for me was always about health. He often told me we can be poor and have little to eat. But we have to be healthy.

When we started the shop, I worked non stop. I even fell sick prior before opening. I had a high fever shooting up to 40 Deg C. He was worried for me and he told me that when he see how much I had to work, he felt a pain in his heart.

These days he would take leave from work and rested fully at home on a weekday so that I can take my time off from the running of the shop on weekends.

He never talk about the movie again. But I knew he feared that stories can become real. Like with Oliver and Jennifer..(from the movie).

I once worked for a regional director who had the same love story retold. In this case, she lived to tell me the story. Her late husband died in the hospital. It was really painful for her and she told me how she coped and they had a daughter. And for that reason, she dreaded hospitals. The smell, the sounds of medical equipment dragging on the floors and white uniforms the medical team wore.

I worked with her for 4 years. Benny knew about her because I told him about it. Whenever we meet over company dinners or functions, we never talked about the past. Seeing how much it hurts her. It took her a very long time to heal.

She had to leave the country just to forget him. Even so, it wasn't easy. Some 17 years later, she seemed to have move on. We are still very much in touch with each other. When I left my job with her, she cried for us. It then she told me how much I have helped her to heal. The things I do for her. And those little messages I left on her table on Monday mornings.

And she said once "Gina, you are like a guardian angel. If I am happy or sad, you are the only one who knew and understand" And I remembered telling her "SC, it is God's plan we meet. To help to cope."

Remember that "God's Pocket" I use to have? The one I bought for my daughter Natasha? I bought one for SC too.

SC dreaded weekends at home. Alone in the house while her daughter was at school or some school activity. She buried herself in her work. Over time, she went out to watch drama and plays in Singapore. She was never a window shopper.

She use to dread birthdays too. While we tried to make her feel better, we often make a big drama out of everything. Having fun all the way.

When she shifted houses after the lease expired, what she finds most difficult to pack was his things. For the years she lived here in Singapore, his things are still in boxes. She never unpacked them.

Years after knowing her, I met Sis Seok Buay and Pastor Kim San..the very people why and how I started Kitchen Capers for. And sis SB is still coping, Boon's stuff are still in boxes.

You should never stopped loving someone but you should also learn to let go. Its only when you let go, then happiness will dwell within you again.

For SC, she can never forget him. But its wonderful memories left by him for her that lives in her heart now. That was what I wanted for her..my friend, my confidante and my ex-boss.

For Sister Seok Buay, I can only continue to pray and healing takes a longer road.

If you have known someone or yourself going through pain these way, its time to be there for them.

This is also the end of my Love Is series. Its sad that I should end it like this. But this is life..while Benny and I loved each other dearly, we never loose sight of those who needed love and care and concern.

Like I said and written here so many times

Love isn't Love till you give it away...

God Bless you..

Apr 7, 2010

Love is...Part 13

I remembered in our early days of courting, Benny knew how much I loved animals. So he told me one day he will save up money for me to open a pet shop and he will teach me everything about retailing. But though I love animals, I told him I don't want to open a pet shop. I figured that most people love pets too and may want to venture into pet shops and the like. Back then, he told me :

"Love, you have great fore-sight. I know always, you are the one for me"

And I never knew it was donkey years later, he meant every word he said about opening a shop of my dreams. In this case now, its my new dream. Yes, opening Kitchen Capers store was to me, a very far fetched dream. I once saw a post card with a photo of a kitten sleeping. And it had a big bubble text that says "When I grow up, I want to be a Tiger". The side caption wrote "When you dream, dream BIG"

My dream of opening a retail shop was big. At least to me. I don't have all the basic know-hows. Although I know how to cook or bake and some ingredients here and there. I don't know the trade very well. After all, its just a dream.

Benny knew me inside out. What I am. What I could do or what I can't. But he believes in me. In everything I do, he thinks that I do my best and will try to make the best of it. Without a doubt in his heart, he quietly set aside his savings. Day by day, week by week..and in 20 years, he finally told me he want to open a shop. A shop of my dreams.

When he first told me about a shop space for rent and he drove me there to view the place, I didn't think very far. I thought its just a joy ride. He started talking about things I wanted to do. Then I told him the economy has yet to recover, we are treading in uncharted waters.

When he finally found a good place, he told me this shop is for us. So we have a place of our own, our own business..so we can grow old together.

I think its the sweetest thing he has done for me.

And without a doubt in my heart, I accepted the challenge. We opened our store in May 2009. Its almost a year since its opening. So much have happened. I am still learning how to run a shop. And he is always by my side, helping me, encouraging me.

Since we opened the shop, I see him literally all the time. He would come back and buy lunch for us. And we would dine at home, talked over it. And then he would drive me to the shop. At night, after he have fetched the girls from my mom's place and send them home, he would rush down to help me to close the shop.

On some days he had to attend company functions or dinners with others, he would try to find some excuse to leave sooner. And he would rather go to the shop and spend whatever time with me.

I would get SMS(Short Message Service) via the mobile phone from him. He would say things like "Love you" or "Miss you" if he couldn't come to have lunch with me or couldn't come to the shop later on to help me.

If I have to teach on a weekend, sometimes he will just tell me :

"You don't have to come to the shop. You rest, I see you are tired. I see you later"

This shop was like a blessing for us. To rekindle our past memories of us dating. Our early moments being in love with each other.

And since we opened shop, I didn't have the luxury of time and space to cook as often as I could. I felt bad. So we now have our lunch at home..simple food fare, home cooked. No more packed lunches from hawker stalls.

When I had to travel to China or Hong Kong to source for new things for the shop, I had to leave the country alone. He would find time to send me to the airport. And would say his goodbyes to me in a passionate way. As if I am going and never coming back. Whilst overseas, I travelled with my Mac iBook and we would go online via MSN and chatted about the day's events. I would tell him what I see here and ask for his advice on prices and stock to take. And he would tell me about the day at the shop.

And he would always say something like "today I ate food from outside..yucks!" It is his way of saying "I miss you" And I often promised him to cook he likes when I get back.

And true enough, when I return to Singapore, its often that you see me in the kitchen cooking up a storm. Instead of washing up, unpacking my luggage or resting from jet lag.

To my friends, they think I am pampering him too much. To me, This is LOVE. Shown and expressed and given out and returned.

Read my past entry about my journey of a 1000 miles

End of part 13...

Apr 4, 2010

Love Is...Part 12

Please Love me Forever, sang by Bobby Vinton
Please love me forever
Don't forget me ever
Just listen to my plea
Please don't stop loving me

You're in my dreams nightly
Don't take my love lightly
Begging on bended knee
Please don't stop loving me

Oh, when I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord your love I'll keep
If I should die before I wake
I'll come back for you
That's no mistake

Oh, I'll love you forever
Can't forget you ever
Our love was meant to be
Please don't stop loving me

I'll love you forever
Can't forget you ever
Our love was meant to be
Please don't stop loving me


What is the greatest story ever told of Love? As a Christian, its often the story of Christ..who gave His life for us. That's LOVE for us, total strangers. Love given and returned, 10x, 100x and possibly a zillion times. Today is Easter Sunday, a day where Christians all over the world celebrated the Resurrection of Christ. The greatest story told of Love.

So today, my love story dedicates to all who have loved, be loved, going to love and lost in love. Because SOMEBODY out there LOVES YOU.

My late grandparents never had the chance to meet and to know each other before they got married. They were match-made and married off to each other just like that. Can Love exists in a relationship like this? I used to wonder hard. In all my growing up years, I spend much of my off days from school with them. I never see them quarrel. Maybe the occasional arguing here and there.

I remembered asking Ah Ma how she met Ah Gong and how did Love happen or did it happen at all? She told me she didn't meet him at all. Their marriage were arranged by her mom. A boy her mom picked from China..from the same hometown she was born. Had to be someone from the same country. She said its a normal thing to do. Back in her days, couples are married off just like that. Love is made over time. Learning to give, learning to like each other was an adventure every day.

I never could quite understand how this kind of love exists until I had to see it myself. My Ah Ma showed she loved Ah Gong all the time. She would cook and serve him first. She would learn to sew for him. And save money for other things. When she became a Christian, she would bring him along to all the church services. I don't have to say about them. All these are faint memories because it happened when I was still a child.

But I do remember all the birthdays we had for them. My grandparents looked like they are made for each other. They never showed us how unhappy they are with each other.

When Ah Ma died, Ah Gong went into depression. And suddenly, he became senile overnight. During the first year after her passing, Ah Gong seemed distant. My mom would remind him that Ah Ma has left us. Then slowly, tears welled up in his eyes. I used to stand outside his room. And used to watch my mom crying and wiping his tears.

It was also those times when I needed Sidney. But he was never there when I needed him.

I visited Ah Gong every Saturday after work. I never talked about Ah Ma because it would make him cry. I ask all my cousins to make a point to find time to visit him. To show their love for him.

My Ah Gong died peacefully in the hospital. Approximately 1 year after Ah Ma's passing. He died of brain damage, yet moments before he left us, all his children were at his bedside. He said he is going off, going to meet Ah Ma. I remembered my mom telling me how much it made her cry. But she had to hold back her pain and tears. In a way, it was a release to let him go to her. But just as much, she also wanted him to stay on.

In Singapore, land is scarce. Though there are still cemetery around, but one is not allowed to buy a plot of land and reserve it for your loved ones. So when Ah Ma died, she was buried in one of the Christian cemetery in western part of Singapore. For some unknown reason, the soil and dirt that lay next to Ah Ma's grave was too soft and not suitable for the next burial. We knew because we visited her grave for fresh flowers and paying our respects to her. For a whole year, that empty plot stayed empty.

When Ah Gong passed away, as if some miracle happened, that empty plot of land had 'wised' up and the soil starts to set. Thus Ah Gong was laid to rest next to his beloved wife. And because the soil was too soft, it affected Ah Ma's grave too. So for a year we couldn't erect a tombstone for her grave.

But miracles upon miracles, after we buried Ah Gong, a month later, the surrounding soil conditions improved. We finally erected a tombstone for them. And since they are buried side by side, it was giant tombstone for them. Combined.

Despite tears and memories, the whole family gathered at the graves of our late parents/grandparents/great-grandparents. We see it as they are together again.

The old church's vows for a married couple that goes :

"Till death do us part"

For them, it seems like they never did part. Even in death, they are still together.

I remembered Ah Ma used to tell me, she wants to live longer. So that she can take care of Ah Gong till its time for him to go. Because he cannot live without her. His life is all about her.

I told Benny about this when we were still dating. And I used to ask him if any one of us should go before the other, what would happen..And he said,

"Why not ask God to take us together. So we don't leave any one behind. But if God wants to just take someone, make sure He takes me first. Because you are much stronger than me. I cannot live without you."

Since then, we never go anywhere outside Singapore alone. Unless its business or work related. Whenever we travel, we go together. If we have to travel for work, we say our goodbyes longer and we rejoiced when we meet again.

So for Benny and I, till death we DO NOT part but lived and loved for a life time and for eternity. Just like Ah Ma and Ah Gong did with theirs.

End of Part 12...

Apr 3, 2010

Love Is...Part 11

Do you ever have a friend who was close to you, that you could relate or confide to in many things? I bet all of us have someone like that. But seriously, do you have someone who is of the opposite sex who was a close friend with whom you tell most secrets to? And still have a normal, healthy relationship with your spouse?


I have just started work in an big MNC. My boss entrusted me to start the department for her without any help from the local office. Except, she thinks that TSS would be able to guide me through the process.

When I first met him, I almost felt like fainting..okay, its not he is a dashing young man, single and very handsome. But he looked like Sidney!..yes, Sidney. Of all the people, he has to have that slight resemblance with my ex. After a while, I realised that these are 2 different persons.

After the initial shock, TSS and I were able to relate to each other very well. For some unknown reason(s), which till today, I haven't quite figure it out. But he and I could talk about anything under the sun, laughed about it and I could tease him as much as I want and he would giggle.

But he wasn't a mystery man to Benny. Benny knew about TSS. Because I would tell Benny everything. Even the part that I thought he looked like Sidney. But Benny knew me well enough to trust me. He was never jealous or showed he was. Sometimes when I had to go out with TS-san after work, I would ring Benny and tell him I will be home late. And I would tell him I am going with TSS and the other colleagues. We would be going for food, then for drinks at Boat Quay.

Amongst all my colleagues, the joke was TSS was nicknamed as "Gina's Boyfriend". To today, whenever he visited Singapore, my ex-boss will ring me and say :

"Gina, your boyfriend is in town!"

TSS was a special boyfriend or friend you must say. He is still single(anyone out there reading my blog, can ask me for his email...). And also the same age with Benny.

We became very close and TSS would confide to me all the things he feared most, the things he loved most and all the joys and happiness he has. Each year, he would send me a 3 cards. One for Chinese New Year, one for my birthday and one for Christmas/New Year. Over time, due to the distance, he would send me e-cards to save the Earth.

Once, TSS ask me this :

"Gina, my dearest... do you have a sister?

"Yes..but sorry, she is already married."

"oh..! I know you don't believe in reincarnation. But if you do come back as yourself, would you consider...."

I didn't give him a chance to finish his sentence because I knew what he wanted to say. And I told him

"TSS, no. I will always find Benny and will only marry him. No one else. And you will always be my bestest of best friends. Always special to me."

And I also ask him :

"TSS, are you having feelings for me? Please don't. I don't want to lose a special friend. Because I will never strayed. I know you are lonely and needed someone to fill that void. But to be honest with you, our relationship cannot progress further because you never loved me. What you loved me for was a friend. Because I can understand you. And how you feel of things. You can be yourself, let down your hair(figure of speech!), and still get away with it without having me misunderstanding your every move. "

TSS had a very sad past with his ex girlfriend. Something that left such a deep impact on him that he stop dating altogether. Until he met me, he was still doing his single life style. And meeting different people from different places(due to the work we do), he couldn't open up as much. He was a quiet man and kept to himself all the time.

But the surprisingly thing happened when we met.

As my boss once put it abruptly :
"When Harry meets Sally, alas, we have TSS who meets Gina..."

TSS opened up to me..pouring out everything. When I listened to his story, I had to admit that I cried too.

Its nice to have someone like TSS to talk to. Someone who is the opposite sex. Because there are times when Benny acted in a certain way or manner that I don't get it. Because of the love i have for Benny, I just accept him. But its nice to know how a man 'work' or 'think'. So its nice to hear from another man. I believe all men are made the same..!

So in many ways, God put different people in our lives to help us grow in all facades, all perspectives. Not to slow us down or hurry us along. But more for us to learn and be an inspiration to all around us.

TSS and I have a very special relationship. Benny understands that. Its not easy to have such a relationship with another man when you are married.

My special friendship with TSS was never something we kept silent about. Everyone who worked with us, knew us and our 'relationship'. So much so it became an office joke to address him as "Gina's boyfriend" or "TSS' Girl friend". At work, we looked like "lovers", but in a healthy way. No kissing or hanky panky or running off after work alone. Everything we do together are often done in a group. We all laughed and joked openly.

I remembered in June 2007, my ex-boss went to Hong Kong for a business conference. She met up with TSS and he took her out. She rang me on her mobile phone and said :

"Gina, I am in Hong Kong now with your boyfriend"

I couldn't help but felt amused by it. When I told Benny, he said the next time I go to Hong Kong, I should meet up with TSS on a date and ring my ex boss instead.

Love..that he had for me all these years and the amount of trust he had for me. In 2008, he took us all to Hong Kong and reminded me that if I need to go dating TSS, I should. He will bring our girls out while I go and meet TSS..

Now you see...why I loved Benny so much..

End of Part 11...

Apr 1, 2010

Love Is... Part 10

I was born with many medical problems since young. My parents worry for me, my health and my future for as long as they know of it. Due to that, my mom spoilt me since young. She never allowed me to do anything. My sister was different. She did everything. I lived a very sheltered life. Everything was done for me. Like a little princess. All my aunts and uncles doted on me too. They all knew I can't cook or bake and never expected me to whenever we had potluck gatherings. I often go empty handed.

The greatest fear my mom had for me was that no man would want me. Because in her eyes, I was like a pirate. With the numerous scars on my face..(I have 3!). In the old days, almost every girl can do something. Sew, clean the house at some point, cook..not bake(coz baking wasn't the in-thing back then). I don't know any of these things. So when I met Benny, and finally got married, my mom worried that I couldn't be a good wife. Her conceptions of a good wife is the one who stayed at home, tended the house, mind the kids and cook!

I have big shoes to fill in..the pressure was more to please my mom than to please Benny. Benny was very forgiving. In the first year of our marriage living in our first home... our kitchen and pantry are empty. Okay, maybe a couple packs of instant noodles. Since I couldn't figure out cooking, I didn't buy anything.

My mom taught me 3 dishes: Fried Bean sprouts with salted fish, Steamed Fish and basic soup dish. That's about it. And she said all other food/dishes are cooked the same way. She didn't think that cooking rice was important too. She used to think that since I am an accomplished Software and Hardware Engineer, cooking rice in a rice cooker is literally chicken feed to me.

And I realised soon enough that while my kitchen was fully equipped with all the tools, utensils and gadgets, one thing was missing..

the Humble Rice Cooker!

I rang my mom, but too shy to admit it, so I spoke to my dad instead. He told me in theory how to measure water ratio to rice. And he drove to our house and got me a rice cooker.

Thank God for Dads...

So I tried to cook simple meals every day. After work, I would rush home to prepare the meals. I have no idea what to cook. I have no one to teach me. No one I could ask for help. My mom would only tell me in theory how things are done. There was never any practical lessons.

I remembered my early years was spent in silent tears. I felt so inadequate and such a failure. Benny tried to please me. Every dish I put on the dining table, he would eat it. And to show how much he appreciated my efforts, he literally clean up every morsel of food on the dishes. There was never anything left for us to keep in the fridge. But I could see that he is trying very hard to swallow some food. Its often not tasty enough or too salty or too sweet. I cooked dishes based on how easy it is(at least from the cookbooks I was reading from). Not based on what he wanted to eat.

After a while, he started to tell me about the food we eat outside. How he loved a certain range of food. Mostly Western cuisine. He loved red meats and the occasional salads. And he loved spaghetti too. And I remembered Aunty Aileen used to cook a her famous spaghetti with minced beef. So I rang Aunty Aileen for help. She taught me the basics.

Slowly but surely, Benny became interested in my cooking. And whenever we went , he would tell people I could do a very good spaghetti with meatballs.

I started to cook because of him. He loved me more than I would love myself. He never expected me to do anything for him. He was always doing things for me. Always sacrificing for me. Always there to please me. Since he loved to eat, I figured its the only thing I could do for him. So started my quest to learn to cook. But only for him. Along the way, I got better and better and you now see why and how.

And he made alot of things easier for me by telling me what he like for dinner that day or lunch for that matter. And he often try to make it easy for me by suggesting a one-dish meal. Rather than to have 3 dishes, 1 soup and a rice to go with it. I started this way..in cooking.

Along the way, I got very good due to practice. So it became our ritual. He decides what we eat, I have to figure it out how to cook it. Then tell him what ingredients are needed. He would do all the shopping and paid for everything. Soon, he became adventurous with my cooking and bought home alot of exotic ingredients or he would tell me he ate something nice outside and hopes I can do it at home. Then he would bring me to that place to eat it so I have an idea what it is, how it tasted like.

This was how I learn to cook. Along the way, I documented everything. Every step of how its done. Because I figure that someone out there will be in my same predicament too. So a guide of how to do it, dummy's guide would be most effective. From a layman's point of view.

I became very effective in my cooking. My mom gave me a large cleaver knife and taught me how to use it. Till today, its the only knife I know how to use. Although I have many other knives at home, I don't use it.

You probably heard of all kinds of love stories out there. Some real, some fake or fiction. But I like to think when it comes to Love, its never fake or fiction. Its for real.

It is only when you love someone, all things are possible. The impossible made possible. Look at me as an example, I can't cook, or bake or tend the house or mind the kids. But now I can. Whenever Benny eats the food I cook for him, he knows how much love has gone into making it, perfecting it.

So our love lives every day..in the things we do for each other. You may ask how its possible that we stayed so lovingly for so long? In the simpliest of all things...in the food he eats.

The old saying that goes "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach". Its very true.

Whenever I had to travel and be away for a period of days, Benny would eat out. Once I am home, just an hour or so I would seen in the kitchen. To cook. No one could understand how and why I had to do that. All my friends think Benny controls me or orders me around like a servant. But I never felt that he was ordering me around. When he ask me to cook something for him, it means he is saying " I missed you, I loved you...."

I remembered my last overseas trip was last October 2009. I was home at 6pm plus. We went out again, to buy ingredients for the next meal. He wanted Laksa. That's a one dish meal..but very elaborate and so much preparation to do. I made all the preparations of the laksa paste that very same day I landed in Singapore.

And while I was at it, I also blended and fried some extra spicy paste to go with the noodles. Then the next day, I woke up early to prepare the dish.

Whenever its time to eat, I would serve him..like a king. He gets the choice meat, condiments. When the kids came into our lives, I still serve him first, followed by the kids.

All my friends think I am crazy. Well, yes. Crazy and in love. Still crazy all these time. Benny still decides what we should eat each time should I cook at home. If we go out for food, he decides where we should go. But when its time to order food, I never choose, although he kept asking me "do you want crabs? " Because I loved to eat crabs. I often say "whatever you want".

Whenever we ate at a food court or hawker centre, he would whip out his wallet and give us $10. So we can choose what we want to eat. And buy the food. When I am lazy or too tired, I will tell him "I'll just eat when you are having. And less chilli please!"

Here are some food photos..
Dinner some years back. Western all the way. The bread is also home made.

Sambal eggs

Mee Rebus..we had this recently. 2 hours before my class starts I was still cooking it!

One of Benny's favourite Asian snack was Crystal Dumplings.

But his all time favourite was this " Stewed Beef Tendons". This was one dish I took a long time to perfect just for him. Now a dish which I only cooked for our family get together dinners.

Love someone? Show it. Don't hide it. Love isn't Love till you give it away...

End of Part 10...