Honeymooners class: Lesson 4

 Trust, submission and choice
By Ken and Lynn

Last week, we did not really have a ‘proper’ lesson but a panel discussion took place instead. Issues shared included addressing of in-laws, finances and problems with driving and of giving directions. All these boiled down to communication which was today’s topic.

Let’s talk about finances perhaps, since this is one of the greatest issue ( to me) that I need to learn and with that, challenges to overcome.

Ken and I decided that when we unite, everything that we own belong to each other. They include our finances, of course and yup, many of my race T-shirts are worn by him now since they are too big for me anyway =p. I had no qualms about combining our savings since I went into the union with less cash than him. Thankfully, he didn’t mind that. However, I found that when we combined our incomes, what I was introduced to, inevitably, was the fact that I can no longer spend like I’m a single and that I have to think about the family.

It changed my spending habit, for better or for worse.

I thought twice about any purchase which was really a torture … initially. Whenever I picked up something which I fancied, I would be reminded of my status now and to think about the extra money that I could save so that it could go into our housing, for example. Would I really need this stuff? Would the family need it? Is there cheaper version? So it’s not surprising that I spent more on household products like kitchenware than on clothes now.

I see the above change a positive one though. I was a spendthrift, still am, if you compare me with Ken. But I believe I have improved a lot in terms of my savings. The greatest struggle, then, was depending on Ken’s income now that I am not earning my keeps. It’s a real bother as I have really not depended on anyone for finances for more than a decade and to suddenly swing to another extreme was too much to adapt. I kept feeling apologetic about spending any amount of money and it became extremely challenging when I wanted to buy something fanciful for myself. Thankfully, Ken was all-supportive and was ready to indulge me if the item would serve me well. One thing he told me that made me more at ease was the fact that if I could not depend on my husband or submit to him in everything (in this case, finances), what makes me think that I could submit to the Lord? With that, I was more  assured about spending OUR money.

The issue of communication that Lynn talked about is closely linked to our innate selfishness as human beings.
As was mentioned during the class, marriage reveals to us just how selfish we really are.
We grow up thinking that we’re really rather cool and generous people, and it is only when we commit to sharing our whole life with another person that we realise that there is much that we’re unwilling to share or give up, even to this person whom we have committed to spending the rest of our lives with.

At each turn when there are differences of opinion, we find ourselves fighting for ‘MY’ rights, and always being disappointed that he/she doesn’t seem to care about ‘ME’.
Our thoughts are centered around ourselves and what we’re losing, instead of what the two of us, as a couple may be gaining instead.
Marriage is a journey of submission. Submission to a relationship with another. A relationship so close that you choose to die to yourself and your rights because you trust that your partner would never hurt you and will always do what is best for you.

I KNOW that Lynn will do what is best for us. That’s why I have no qualms sharing everything with her and trusting her in her choice of expenditure.

Nevertheless, we are human, and it is inevitable that sometimes we feel discouraged or that dark thoughts enter into our mind.
“Is she really doing what is best for us?”, “What if he doesn’t really care any more?”
Such thoughts do enter our mind, and when I encounter these thoughts, I bring to mind a story that a colleague shared once.
=====
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
=====
Indeed, it is only human that we sometimes think such thoughts. That is hard to control.
It is what we do when these thoughts enter our mind that we can and should control.

Starve the evil thoughts. They may never truly die out, but they grow weaker each time you choose to starve them.

I (Lynn) just want to share a song ‘Remember When’ (listen to the song by clicking the link) featuring the first part of the movie UP. I find the lyrics meaningful and of course, the life of Carl and Ellie, touching. It struck a chord with me. Marriage is for life, for better or for worse. And remember, we are married to our partners, not our children. In the end, our children will have to leave us to form a family themselves and we will be left with our spouses. Take time to nurture and spend quality time with each other. Remember those are sacred moments between the both of you. Romantic days will not always be there but our commitment towards each other has to. I have seen many parents (mine for example) who, after many years of marriage, have turned cold towards each other. They have spent all their attention on their children that they forgot about each other, the person whom they said the vows to many, many years ago.

And I hope I will remember that when the little ones come along. =)

Happy Halloween!

There’s party tonight and I was one of the 2 people to prepare food for about 28 people. * Sweat* It was a great opportunity though to be able to cook for so many. I would be preparing Shepherd’s Pie, green beans with bacon,  Teriyaki chicken on sticks, chocolate pound cake and carrot cupcakes with cream cheese.

After breakfast, the hands went to work immediately. I have planned the timing such that I would be able to continue with the next dish once the previous was in the oven. So, from 8am to 3pm, I had not stopped (why was I sooooo slow) and not sat down and I kinda could understand how people work in the kitchen. Of course, I had no time to joke around and my counternance was that of a damn serious one. I think the hubs was extremely concerned. Hah! Thankfully, I had a wonderful assistance aka the hubs who helped me wash the dishes and buy lunch.

The Halloween party night we organised turned out wonderful. Everyone had fun, especially when it came to carving of the pumpkins. This was also our first time we carved and we did a simple one – an owl. The other patterns looked rather grotesque =p.

When we left the place, along the way to the bus stop, I was amused by the youngsters  people on the streets, all dressed up in different characters, some really frightening while others extremely funny. Throughout the bus journey, I was fascinated by them and chuckled all the way. FUNNY!

 

The day’s event can be found here.

Boston Night of Worship

Awesome! It was somewhat like the Hillsong worship. Even the setting was somewhat similar to theirs. It was a night when churches in Boston came to worship together.

Indeed, when Christians unite, Christ is glorified.

Awesome!

Potato gratin (pommes dauphinois)

How ‘sotong’ can I be?

For the past few days, I was all hyped up about French Fridays with Dorie and was looking through the recipes and purchasing the required ingredients.

I baked potato gratin for breakfast and then realised that this is one of the dishes for November! Oh my! I have fast-forwarded the month in my eagerness! Today, according to schedule, we should be baking marie-helene’s apple cake! Sigh! I shall bake it later for tomorrow’s party. According to Dorie, the cake gets more comforting with each passing day (actually, it’s her husband’s opinion).

This is nice and easy to do.  I halved the portion since there’s only the hubs and I who would eat it. In addition, I added bits of cooked bacon and small broccoli florets for more colours. Comfort food and good for carbo-loading.

Reflections: Motivation. Potential. Imposing.

God, please get me through the lessons. I need compassion for the kids. Let this day be a good one.”

It was one of those days that you need prayers to get through certain challenges. After last week’s encounter with P, I was disheartened and wasn’t quite sure if I could do a good job.

Ms H got me to work with P again and this time, on shapes. P smiled at me upon seeing me. I felt assured. She’s all right with me. I guided her on her work, being extra mindful that I needed to be gentle with her and to respect her answers. Today. she was more cooperative and when I tried to tell her gently to try again, she was less resistant. She was having little successes for the first few questions and it was the last page. I read the instructions to her and she did the work by herself. Come on! Get it right. Come on! When she finally got all the questions for that page right, my heart leapt for joy! I really wanted to shout! You’ve got it right! Well done!!!!

Pride was written ALL OVER P’s face and in a very shy and quiet tone, “Can you tell Ms H that I got it correct?”

Of course! When P got the praise from the teacher, she was beaming and automatically went to look for her earlier unfinished work and did it, by herself! For the next few part of the lesson, P was all attentive.

She was motivated. Period.

During writing, I was helping a child with his work when I noticed a boy, CO sulking at his table. Going over, I asked him what was wrong. “I wanted to write my own story, but I can’t!”

You see, before that, Ms H was telling him that there was a need to beef up his story and that he needed to change this and that. Perhaps, in the end, he was thinking that he was actually writing a story that Ms H wanted but not what he desired.

I left the school, thinking about this for the longest time. YOu see, Ms H had a set of objectives for the lesson. As teachers, we all have SIOs to achieve. In our earnest attempt to do that, have we, as teachers, imposed our perspectives or views on our students? Have we allowed them to develop their potential or have we done the reverse?

Then I thought about myself, my own education.

I was hopeless in my primary school years and was eligible for a place in the 7 extended class until the principal decided to give our class a chance to ‘transfer’ to Primary 6 (yes, I was not promoted). That was indeed a saving grace and on to the next phase I went.

I did well in secondary school though, well enough to choose any stream that I wanted for Secondary 3. I was especially interested in Home Econs (HE) and Art and excelled in the practical aspect of HE. My teacher would have the other girls taste my cooking and baking and praised me for my design and workmanship for sewing.

But, I didn’t receive that kind of encouragement fom my mom. My mom had never touched my food that was brought back from my HE class, commenting that there was a weird smell to it (Oh! Perhaps only once. It was Chicken Macaroni soup). I thought there was something wrong with my cooking and baking and that had been my belief since then. So, when it came to choosing the stream for Secondary 3, I knew Home Econs was not an option. Besides, there was a stigma attached to that stream – only those who cannot excel go there. But you know what? Whenever my friends came out from their HE class, with their containers of cooked food in their hands, I would just admire them from where I was, sitting fixed in the chair with the teacher rambling on and on.

I continued to think of my cooking as bad and since mom would not be eating or anyone else for that matter, I would just ‘anyhow’ cook, as long as the food was edible. But there was one incident which I clearly remember. My brother was discharged from hospital from a car accident and as no one was at home, I decided to cook a good meal for him. I did a beef steak and some sides to accompany and his response? This is good! To hear a praise from my brother is like getting a camel to go through the eye of the needle. My brother NEVER praised me and I was shocked when I heard that. Maybe, my cooking CAN BE good after all!

 I wonder what my path would be if my mom had been more encouraging and allowed me to pursue what I wanted ( she should really learn from Ken).  I did well in swimming when I was younger and the coach told my mom that I could be real good in long-distance swim. My mom, after that swimming test, stopped me from attending. Her reason? I needed to concentrate on my studies (my studies actually got worse after that; I was in Primary 2).

What’s my point with all these?

As an educator, I question myself if I had done my job to motivate my students, to allow them to discover their interest and to help them develop their potential. Was I too concerned with completing the curriculum that I ignored whatever talents that were manifested and failed to develop them?

As a mother in the future, would I dictate what my children would learn just so that they could be successful, in MY own terms?

I am not angry with my mom, just to set the records straight. I believe she had her children’s interest at heart and she wanted them to be successful. Success, to her, is to have education and then a job. Her notion of success is very much in alignment with what the society advocates. Aren’t our values influenced by what the society preaches, in one way or another?

Recent conversations with Ken have set me thinking about what we are doing in terms of education. I’m glad that over the years, the ministry has made a lot of changes, acknowledging that children have different abilities and talents and thus making provisions for the development of these abilities . There is still a long way to go but at least we are taking steps to achieve that.

I remember a missionary friend who homeschools her 3 children. On her second kid, she told me, “If the kid is in our mainstream school, she would have failed and be terribly miserable.” This eight-year-old kid has difficulty recognising words and thus reading. But, I tell you, she is a natural in performing arts. An amazing performer she is and I’m glad she is not under the system.

What would you do to develop your children’s potential? Would you be overly concerned about academic achievement?

Whoopie pies

Yipee! I made Whoopie Pies today!
Ok. It’s no big deal. I’m attempting because I wanted to have a taste of it and to challenge myself if I could actually bake them successfully. I had, on a few occasions, wanted to buy but the price deterred me from doing so. Hmm…I think I will try to bake them myself.

Following the recipes from MS, everything was went ok except for the filling. It started to melt when I was taking pics of them! *sweat* I think I need to beat them longer so that it could reach the stage of stiff peaks?

It was an easy bake nonetheless. I had fun!

Continue reading

On work-life balance

Question: What kind of life do you want?

This is a question too common to us. We face challenges in our lives and it seems that we are constantly being sucked into our work and for mothers, dealing with the kids and household. We end up feeling grumpy the whole time and try desperately to seek enlightenment on work-life balance.

Ken and I kinda know what we are in for when we go back to Singapore. We know what’s it like to be married to your job. Been there, done that, as with many of the people out there. It’s not going to be easy but we both desire quality lives and we know it’s up to us to determine the kind of lives we want for ourselves and to do that, we have to be resolute in our beliefs. No schemes of any organisation can help us; it’s all up to the individuals, isn’t it?

What kind of life are you living now and what kind of life do you want?

Strawberry Shortcakes

The temperature rose to 18C (crazy weather) and it’s a wonderful day to run. Not sure why but I kept visiting the toilet. It’s about 1.5 more weeks to the marathon and I’m scared. Tried to run long distance again but the legs were tired already. It’s not been smooth training for this marathon but I’ve resolved to leave it to the Almighty and enjoy the run and the sightseeing through the 6 boroughs. People on the other side of the world or many countries are living in fear each day… from civil strife, corruption, tsunami, volcanic eruption, etc and here I am worrying about a marathon? There is certainly more to life than worrying!

Having said that, let’s say a prayer for those in Indonesia. I hope my sis and family will continue to be safe too.

Trivial stuff. It’s my first time having bubble tea in US! A reward for running to the supermarket!

And strawberry shortcakes for dinner and this marked the end of lessons on quickbread. On to cakes for the next topic! Just a summary. Quick breads refer to most types of loaf and pan breads, muffins, biscuits, scones or baked oven “pancakes” that are not yeasted. While yeast breads get their lift from yeast, quick breads rely on baking powder and/or baking soda for leavening. Many quick breads, in fact, are more like cake than they are like bread.

Motherhood Lessons — The Straits Times Blogs

I’m not a mother…yet but the sacrifices mothers make are not unknown to me. Love this story.

Motherhood Lessons — The Straits Times Blogs.

=))

Christmas came early and we had gifts… that we bought for ourselves! hehhehe!

My Asics’ ING NYC Marathon running top was delivered and today, we didn’t miss the delivery of a cookbook, a gameset that hubs and I got hooked on and a book that Ken bought by Ken Robinson. Yay! What a bountiful harvest!

 

Let me share this new additional to my collection of cookbooks with you. It’s Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. I have not owned a single cookbook of hers but I’ve heard much about this writer. She’s a James Beard Award-winning author and co-wrote two cookbooks with Pierre Herme. Pierre Herme! His pastry is renowned and I really wanted to scold myself for not knowing this name earlier! I could have visited his pastry shop or take up a class when I was in Paris!! She also authored Baking with Julia and received the ultimate compliment when Julia Child herself said to her,”You write recipes just the way I do.”

I have read just a few pages and I’m enthralled by her writing. She’s very personal and her writing, simple…yet captivating. Oh, the interesting bit about it is that with the purchase of the cookbook, I am going on an adventure of experimenting with her dishes every Friday with home cooks (like you and I)around the world and when you encounter any problem in cooking the specific dish, just tweet and she will respond.

I thought this is neat and definitely a good marketing strategy. We are not supposed to post the recipe online which I thought is absolutely fair. Oh! What fun! I’m cooking French every Friday (I try)!

I’m excited! Join me! It’s gonna be fun!

Lotus root soup and Garlic & ginger rice with coriander for dinner. The soup tasted just like mom’s! I’ll improve it by adding the dried squid and red dates the next time. Yea! I love soups during cold weather!

Apple Oven Pancake

This week is gonna be a busy one with Halloween celebration during the weekends and it means a cookout session too! I’ve got the first few days of meals lined up but need to think of dishes to prepare over the weekends.

For breakfast today, it was Apple Oven Pancake. Need to use up all the apples before they turn bad =p. It was relatively easy to bake and the apples were sweet. It’s a healthy dish as very little sugar was used, drawing the sweetness from the natural sources.

The hubs found it rather sweet and prefer the pancake on top while I found the latter too bland. So, yep, he ate the top and I cleared the bottom.

Continue reading

Day trip to Salem

Halloween’s coming and our next weekend is filled with activities. So, it was suggested that we make a trip to Salem. Nope, it has nothing to do with cigarettes but everything to do with being a tourist attraction spot and of witchcraft.

We took the ferry ride ($9.50) and reached the site in an hour. Ok. I must confess that Ken and I didn’t prepare much for this trip and didn’t read up on it. We basically depended on J & A to guide us. We merely…tagged along.

It was interesting, though, to witness the people’s enthusiasm for this festival by dolling up as witches,  and all sorts of characters. I believe this place would really be real interesting on Halloween, when you could see real witches with their robes walking down the streets and hundreds of tourists who would come to celebrate the festival with them.

 

There are plenty of activities that you could join but well, since it is a family-friendly place, you wouldn’t find anything particulary frightening. We went into this Frankenstein haunted house and the 4 of us came out, feeling that the money spent was not worth it. You basically had about 2 or 3 people with a mask, either following you and suddenly making a loud sound or a person who appeared from a corner, trying to scare you out of your wits. It’s quite lame and in the end, we tried to make funny noises to scare the frankensteins.

The presentation at the museums was, well, rather non-interactive. I would have expected a lot more animated stuff or performance from real people but it was just auditory presentation with wax figures. How interesting. In this time and age, presentation mode got to change to engage audience. Hmmm…

Go only during Halloween or you will find yourself being bored to death.

I would like to comment on a cafe called Taste of Thyme. The fries were excellent but we had a horrible time in the cafe. The owner did not want us to drink only as we would only occupy space. But since when did we say we are ordering only drinks? And you cannot share food. Ignoring that piece of advice and you would have to bear an additional $1. Crazy! Is it against the law to share food? I don’t have such a big stomach as the locals and I would be penalised for sharing? So, we were under the watchful eye of Owner Hawk and I felt uncomfortable. She’s like a witch! We went in because all other cafes were rather crowded and we wanted hot drinks. This cafe has space and we thought we could just chill there. But I left with chills in my spine and anger boiling at the same time.

It’s at 122, Washington Street, Salem.

It’s my personal review based on authentic experience and I have witnesses. I don’t think it is against the law to do that. Oh, do go for it if you want an experience like mine! Unforgettable, that’s what she is…

Brrr…Cold Friday.

It’s not winter yet but the temperature has dropped to between 0 to 6 degree celsius. Brrr…I did my morning run with difficulty now; the breathing was a problem. Too cold. I must think of alternatives to running now. Maybe yoga? Pilates? Stretching with the band?

farmers market

Anyway, Ken and I decided to do a tourist thing and did the Freedom Trail walk, one of the must-do in Boston. It’s real easy. You start from Boston Common and then follow the red line. However, we did not complete all the 16 stops as we, or rather I was distracted by the open market. Oh man! The fruits and vegetables were so cheap and fresh! I must do my grocery there! Sorry, I’m being auntie.

Freedom Trail Walk

S and KK invited us to their place for laksa! Woohoo! Tasted just like those back home and had 2 games of Dominion. Now we are hooked and the hubs is looking into buying the extension. Oops…he just bought!!!

Dreams

The hubs must have been really impacted by the video post on Sir Ken Robinson because shortly after, I received an email from him (Snippet shown below).

He sent me the poem by W.B. Yeats (mentioned in his post):

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.

And then the following words:
Blah..blah…blah……..
My dream is to allow you the luxury to pursue your dreams.
I’m happy when I see you focused on the goals you have set for yourself.
Happy when I see you exploring and pushing your limits. Learning more about the things you can achieve all the time.
I’m happy that you got the chance to run in NY.
Happy that you have your own kitchen and can bake and cook when you like.
When you talked about your school experience, my heart leaped for joy.
Happy when you were so naturally at ease around the other Singaporeans.
Happy when you saw yourself more and more involved in Park Street.
Blah..blah…blah….

I was touched when I received the email because he is a man who allows and encourages me to pursue my dreams.

When we were dating, I was crazy about triathlon and spent hours training. He understood my passion and waited for me to go back from training before looking me up. He gave me words of encouragement when I was exhausted and fearful of races even though he thought it was crazyof me to do that. The best part was he went to the races with me, some overseas, and waited hours for me to complete the races. And once, he worried himself sick when I didn’t come in during a transition ( I Did Not Finish for the Bintan Tri).

Being a married woman, I suddenly turned domestic and my interest in baking and cooking grew. I toyed with the idea of taking up culinary education in Boston and in the famed Le Corden Bleu. YOu know what? He didn’t disagree but asked me to consider it carefully. He was supportive of the idea, knowing how passionate I have become of baking. Of course, I was also practical and thought the cost of the education was too much of a financial burden for us. But the fact that he was willing to live my dream was …truly admirable (for a lack of words).

Though I am not going through formal culinary education, I am living my dream. The hubs bought me all the cooking and baking equipment that I need and was always so supportive of me when I wanted to buy cookbooks.

You know what? I wake up each morning, not dreading because I am ready to test out recipes and savour the fruits of my labour. The best part, of course, is to share with the one who made this possible.

Thank you for allowing me to live my dream.

Honeymooners class: Lesson 3

The most important characteristic of a marriageable person is the habit of happiness.

This week’s topic focused more on the individuals than on the marriage as it is our attitude that will determine whether we and our partners “live happily ever after”.Happiness in marriage has everything to do with will.

I must confess that I was a bit affected when we went over to J & H’s place for dinner. Their apartment overlooked the Charles River and the whole place was carpeted. Another couple lived a few streets down and theirs was a new condo with gym facilities and a heated pool. When I heard that, my heart was complaining, “Our place is the worst. The flooring is bad, has no facilities and so small!” I was comparing and started to put a little blame on the hubs for not renting a nicer apartment (when I told the hubs about it, he shared that he was indeed worried that I would think in that light!=p)

I have fallen prey to the developing of a negative mind-set, blaming my unhappiness on things the hubs does or doesn’t do and in this case, his renting of the studio apartment. But very quickly, I realised I had to stop that unhealthy thought because in actual fact, our studio apartment IS cosy and warm and I have a wonderful kitchen with all the equipment the hubs has bought for me. So, why am I complaining?

It’s an endless game of chasing more things, better stuff and I think the key is contentment – that, in every situation, you appreciate what you have and the people who are relishing the moments with you.

I have, at that instance, changed my attitude and I found myself being able to enjoy the company of the new friends. Had I dwelt on the initial thought, I would be miserable throughout the evening.

It is thus vital that couples find the right attitude in spite of the conditions they find themselves in. Easier said than done? I think it is possible if we make the effort to programme our mind to magnify the positives rather than dwell on the negatives.

The good news is…the bad news can be turned into good news…when you change your attitude! ~ Robert H. Schuller

We went on to talk about the saboteurs of a happy marriage, namely self-pity,blame and resentment. I shan’t elaborate on these but will leave you with a quote:

If you expect perfection from people, your whole life is a series of disappointments, grumblings, and complaints. ~ Bruce Barton

Fried Radish Cake (菜头粿)

Craving hawker food, I decided to attempt to cook fried radish cake, following the recipe from Rasa Malaysia. I couldn’t find chai poh at the Asian supermarket and had to do without. I did, however, add bean sprout as this was a version I had at a restaurant before coming to Boston. The recipe did not call for soy sauce but I added since mine was rather bland.

I found my carrot cake could have been better with more eggs and more chopped garlic cloves since there wasn’t any chai poh to add to the flavour. It was a pleasure cooking it nonetheles!

                    
                    

The ingredients needed to cook

Eggs over the radish

Oh yes, the wok arrived today! I must remember to do a initial cleaning and seasoning for the carbon steel wok. But I must say I don’t think I have done a good job. Oh please, dear wok, don’t disappoint me?

                 

Here’s what you need to do to season the wok.

I made a child cry.

I left the school, feeling all shitty.

It was my second time and today, the teacher, Ms H gave them a test to evaluate the students’ understanding of what they have learnt for Math. Then she passed me one sheet, “Pls help P with the reading of the questions.”

So, there we were, outside the classroom. I was to read the questions to P and she would attempt the questions. I knew it would be difficult but I was NOT prepared to deal with discipline issues (as a volunteer, I was not to do the work of the teacher in terms of discipline).

P didn’t know her counting well enough. She would either double count or miss a number. She interpreted the two questions on each page as one and got frustrated when I told her about that. After attempting two questions (which took a mighty long time and yet not accurate), she became fidgety. I tried to ask her to explain her thoughts. She did but I was lost. I couldn’t make out her understanding, going back and forth about addition and counting backwards. What was she really thinking about?

In school, we were all trained to comprehend why our students did the various methods and with P, I was baffled for a while. I couldn’t understand where she’s coming from but there was one thing I was certain – she treated each question as an addition question and she used whatever number she could see and try to make her own sense of it.

With her restlessness came poor sitting posture and behavioural problems. I told her off nicely at first but decided that being firm was the way to go. Besides, I shouldn’t differ from what Ms H preached in the classroom. My rules should more or less parallel hers.

When she lay on the chair, that was the last straw. I gave her warning before standing up and walking back to the classroom, “You can continue to do that but I’m going back to the classroom.” She teared.

I suspect there were a few issues with P but I didn’t have her background and couldn’t come to any conclusion. During reading, there were also some problems with the behaviour of the pupils but none too serious that would warrant any disciplinary action.

I left the school, feeling really bad. A lot of questions lingered in my mind. 
Was I too harsh? Was I doing things that were not right in their culture? Would the students only be learning those topics for Math for the whole year? Those ONLY?  Is their language ability at that level? Serious?

I think I am having culture shock. If I were Ms H, I would be panicking. I wish I wouldn’t make comparison but inevitably, I did.

I am thinking of making more trips down to the school. My current frequency may not be helpful enough. Oh, I need to weigh the pros and cons.

And on the way home, a man passed by me, with his pants unzipped, showing off his THANG to all. Oh, my goodness! I don’t really appreciate it, thank you very much.

Now I wanna cry. =p

Sir Ken Robinson

Random Question: Did you know that Sir Ken Robinson contracted Polio at age 4?
Watch him on a video, you’ll realise that he walks with a limp.  Does it help you understand the man somewhat, to know that?
I love Sir Ken Robinson!  I think he’s got a GREAT name!
First name anyway. I don’t think much of his last name.

I also love his British humour and his style of speaking.
I love both his TED speeches, and especially how he ended both of them with powerfully poignant stories / poems.

I think the first one ended on a story about a young girl who couldn’t sit still.
And I think the second one ended with a poem from Yeats about treading softly on dreams.
Love them both! Go listen!

I think the important thing to take away from this latest presentation is the realisation of just how much we have polarised our education systems (and indeed our worlds) into the “Academic” and “Non-Academic”.

And an interesting point is that I think that the education system in Singapore may actually be ahead of the curve in understanding Sir Ken’s point!
We seem to have done some good for the students who are less academically inclined.
We have recognised that some students may have talents in non-academic areas and have provided for such through ITE and such.

Of course, they’re still marginalised in the sense that people think of them as less intelligent than those who are academically achieving, but that’s a societal problem that isn’t going to be fixed in a day really.

I love the fact that Sir Ken, as an academic himself, can stand up and say that the system that produced him, one that he benefits rather tremendously from, is in fact, flawed.
And I agree with him completely.

Too much emphasis is given to the academic, and too little to the many other branches of knowledge, skill and overall intelligence that falls outside of this narrow view.
Our children grow up thinking that academic grades is the be-all-and-end-all of their existence, and feel inadequate when faced with someone who scored one mark higher than them on the latest English test.

“He solves questions I can’t solve, so he must be smarter than me.”
“He knows words I don’t know, so he must be smarter than me.”
“He scored 1 mark higher than me, so he must be smarter than me.”
“He scored 1 grade higher than me, so he must be smarter than me.”
“He went to a better school than me, so he must be smarter than me.”

Do you, as an educator, find yourself thinking that way sometimes?
If it does, does it surprise you when your students do the same?

What can we, as educators do, to break this dichotomy?

East meets west

I’m gonna have problem finding the coat for my size.

I spent 2 hours in two malls looking for trench coat. Oh! How I regretted not bringing mine over! Ken and I came over with just enough amount of clothing and told ourselves that we could buy more here. The temperature is dropping each new day and we decided that it was high time to go out for those thick clothings, a coat in particular.

So, down the street I went, to my favourite store and the one facing it. I tried out a few which caught my eyes. They were small but looked bigger than my frame when I put them on. They hung on me.

I eventually found one and it’s size 2. The price, however, was rather steep and after adoring it for a while, I decided to hang it back. I need to discuss with da man.

It was to the supermarket that I went, in search of rice flour which I need for the Chinese Carrot Cake that I intended to cook later. By the time I reached home, I was carrying a heavy bag of groceries and a body of tiredness. Shopping is indeed tiring.

I was greeted at the doorway by a parcel and my box of piping tips has arrived! Yipee! And I was raring to cook the carrot cake but after reading the recipe, realised that I have to cool the steamed radish OVERNIGHT. Sigh! I had to think of an alternative for dinner. Looking into my fridge, there were my leftover curry paste, bean sprouts and lobster chunks. Ok. Let’s make a east-meet-west dish, all in a non-stick skillet.

What you will need: Garlic cloves and onions, finely chopped, handful of bean sprouts, lobster chunks and whole-wheat spaghetti.

Fry the chopped garlic and onion.

Heat up the curry paste.

Cook the spaghetti, 8 to 10 minutes.  Put the bean sprouts to the boil too, but for a while.

Toss the spaghetti in, together with the lobster chunks and bean sprouts and you have a meal!

My wok is almost dead.

My wok is dying. It has been peeling for a few days now and I don’t really know how to cure it. I tried oiling it again and am half afraid to use it too. So, these days, I only use it to steam food.

As a Chinese brought up with stir-fried food, I know it would be soon that I have to call for help. So, an SOS call was made to mom this morning and all she asked was, “What did you do to the wok?”

I don’t know! I seasoned it the first time I used it and also constantly oiled it after washing and drying. I did what I should. Then she asked, “How much did you buy the wok for?” “A few dollars.” “You cannot buy cheap woks!”

You get what you pay. A wok doesn’t really cost a bomb, unlike those dutch ovens but I know too that a few dollars worth of wok could only produce  that much of a result or last that long. I also acknowledge that it could be how I take care of the wok. Perhaps, I just didn’t preserve it well. My mom took care of her equipment and protected them. She would scold us if we turned on the heat too high and constantly observed how we used and washed them. I guess those were her prized possession and having us tamper with them carelessly made her heart ache. After all, those good ones cost almost a grand for a set (I was actually amazed when she disclosed that). My mom’s wok (or those set of cookware)is as old as I am and is still working fine. The current one that I have lasted 2 months. What a shame.

The hubs suggested getting one on Black Friday but I don’t think I can wait that long for a wok. A skillet works fine, by the way, but it’s just different stir-frying using a skillet. The handling is…just weird. Wrentham Village where we would be going houses 2 kitchenware brands – Le Creuset and Calphalon. I don’t believe Le Creuset has woks. Calphalon stores them but they cost a bomb. I am no professional and I won’t spend so much on a wok.

So, I did my research and came across Joyce Chen’s wok. She’s a chef whom I know naught of but the review on her wok is good. A little about her: Joyce Chen opened her first restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1958. She found that the selection and quality of Chinese cookware in America didn’t live up to her high standards… so she developed her own. The wok which I have eyed is relatively affordable – $28 for a set of 4 items as compared to Calphalon’s at $75 for a similar wok.

Meanwhile, I will try to resuscitate my wok. But there is a high chance that it would be replaced. Mom’s warning was “Stop using it” but let’s just try eh? The wok is a bit too heavy for my wrist as well which I fear constant use of it could resurrect the old injury I had.

Saving on kitchenware is not quite a wise move because it cost more having to buy new ones to replace them. Good ones save in the long run; they could even serve as heirloom/dowry! =p I, for instance, would love to have my mom’s kitchenware!

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I had the most satisfying bake this evening because the cake came out well and the aroma filled the whole house, making me hungry! This didn’t happen often!

What perplexed me was why the name of this cake was called a coffee cake when not a morsel of coffee powder was used. The cake had the smell of a chiffon cake and cinnamon roll.  Yummy! Oh, make sure you have people to finish it up for you. The portion is big!

Continue reading

Sweet and Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

I’m continuing with Italian, following Giada’s recipes. I love this lady. Not only is she beautiful and brainy, her recipes are really simple and thus helpful to those who are really not into the Italian cuisine yet aka yours truly.

I did not follow the recipe religiously though, primarily because I did not have some of the ingredients in myktichen. The solution? Substitution. I used chinkiang vinegar instead of balsamic vinegar and did without rosemary sprigs. The result? They were still delicious! I love it!!! Team the dish up with spaghetti and some salad and you have a healthy meal! =)

Continue reading

My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
I do not choose the colours, He works so steadily.
Oft’times He weaves in sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weavers skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the patterm He has planned.

~ Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)

It’s been 2 months

We’ve been in Boston for 2 months already and it feels like we’ve been here for quite a while already.

We have settled well. At least, for me, I could finally say I’ve adjusted and begin to be more optimistic about our short stay here (yes, despite the fact that winter is coming). I must say people make the difference.

We just had the busiest week since coming here. On Friday evening, we were invited to dinner by a Singaporean couple and in all, there were 4 couples (all Singaporeans), including the host. The conversation was most enjoyable. The spicy dishes (*think curry and sambal prawns) must have worked their magic in us and I thought all of us had an awesome time. I guess the fact that we share the same faith, are of the same age group and in the same phase of life help gel us together. I have not had such a good time for a long while!

cookies for the couples!

One of the couple then shared that they would be going Wrentham Village the next day and invited us to tag along. We did and I came out with 2 Coach bags, 1 Kate Spade bag and 1 pair of UGG boots. Yay! The hubs was most encouraging and I left the place with very little guilt. Hehehehe..thanks ah..my best friend!

In the evening, we went to a churchmate’s house for a dinner gathering. A missionary has come over and we were all humbled and encouraged by his sharing and I was touched by the hospitality of the host.

Somehow or another, we helped to be singers for worship during the fellowship meeting on Sunday and we were further blessed by knowing yet more people from the fellowship. Got to know a Taiwanese artist (who is now teaching at BU) and I totally enjoyed her conversation. I really do love the Taiwanese! While passing by the Opera House, we thought we would just try the lottery (20 tix at US$25 each) for the musical Wicked. Today was the last show! (*sad*). If we got it, we could watch the musical for US$25! Unfortunately, we didn’t but we had a good time too! We basically filled in our particulars on a sheet of paper and put it in a pot and the personnel in charge picked out 10 of the forms (each person is entitled 2 tix). It was over within half an hour. We learnt a trick though. The personnel chose forms that had been folded (we observed) and the next time we were to participate in the lottery again, we would surely fold our forms for a higher chance of getting picked. =)

Didn't get to watch the show =(

I’m tired as I am writing this post. Exhausted but truly contented. It was 3 days of being in the presence of wonderful new friends. Once again, I was reminded that no matter where I am, it is the people that make the difference.

The ARGH of running in the cold

Weather for today. Cloudy. 52 F (11 C) and 41 F (5 C) for realfeel temperature.

Brrr…it was cold. Before the run, I was almost tempted to stay in. Seeing that the hubs was up for the challenge (long run), I decided to run as planned.

A dear friend of ours has told us that one of the things to do in Boston is to run along the Charles River and we did that today! It was a beautiful sight but the weather was not cooperative; the sky was overcast. The pictures didn’t turn out well but we had fun running in the cold. Each time the strong wind blew, we went, “Ooooo…ahhhhhhh…..ARGH!”

Dear friend, we hope the pics would cheer you up. It’s really fortunate that you had visited this place long before us. It’s beautiful. =)

 

The rewards of running is FOOD! @ Panera Bread

 

‎”The marathon is not really about the marathon, it’s about the shared struggle. And it’s not only the marathon, but the training.” – Bill Buffum

Oh, by the way, the hubs also went to buy the same running top as me. It was a good purchase. Able to shield me from the cold (of course, it won’t shield completely) and it’s so comfortable to run in.

First day in school

Back to school

It’s my first day in school and I’m nervous.

Ok, it’s really no big deal. It’s not as if I will be teaching.  I’m just volunteering. But I have been out of the classroom for about 3 years and that was enough to make me feel like a stranger to the classroom. To add to the anxiety, I will be facing a classroom full of pupils from a very different cultural background as me. That, was enough to scare me.

The school’s population is about 215 (what a luxury!) with about 18 teachers. The profile? 40.9% black, 44.2% Hispanic, 2.3% white and the rest is made up of Asians. It would be challenging.

Thankfully, the hubs insisted on accompanying me to the school (lest I lost my way!) and it really helped that I had someone to talk to along the way.

My fears were unfounded. I sat in Serena’s class during Math and reading and when it’s time for me to help those who were in need, the teacher in me came out. There were 19 pupils and all of them black except for one Moroccan but they were children all the same and had exactly the same behaviour as our children back home. Oh my! I forgot to compliment them. They were so friendly to me and made me feel at ease. The teacher, in my opinion, was a dynamic teacher and had good classroom management. We are talking about a grade 2 class here and I thought she managed them well, being firm and friendly at the same time. Good!

This was just the first session with the class and I totally enjoyed it. It’s time well-spent and certainly made me want to read up again on stuff pertaining to education, reading in particular. I went to the library with the hubs and borrowed quite a fair amount of books. It’s time to read up again. I’m glad that I could have the opportunity to be directly involved with the public schools here. We could read up on them through articles all right or by listening to the opinions of others. But I feel more importantly, one has to be involved to really understand what’s going on. There are quite a few things about the education system in Boston/American that baffled me and I’m hoping I will learn more as I progress (I’ll reserve my comments for now). I’m also hoping that I could be able to volunteer in the private schools so as to make a comparison between the public schools and the private ones.

I’m hoping for a few things to happen and I’m waiting for some emails to get back to me.

*Fingers crossed*

Orange-poppy seed muffins

Another quick bread and 3 more of these to go before I proceed to attempt CAKES! This is for breakfast tomorrow =)

Continue reading

Preparation for marathon = Spaghetti?

I’m running out of ideas for meals until I came across Giada’s cookbook. Italian. Hmm… For a long while, I have tried to avoid this cuisine because it uses herbs and varied types of cheese which I’m not familiar with. Then I chanced upon this simple dish – Whole wheat spaghetti with lemon, basil and salmon and thought I should give it a try. After all, I need to carbo-load soon in preparation for the marathon and spaghetti can do a good job!

I like it. It is a simple healthy pasta dish and offered variety to what I had cooked for the past 2 months. And we had salmon today, something different from the red meat which I so often cooked. I think I would be trying out more pasta dishes in these next few weeks. Meanwhile, give me ideas for meals too!

 

And to countdown for the marathon, I bought a 2 running tops today, the most expensive I have purchased in all my years of running. I know it is rather late to try out new clothing for a race but I was hoping this will keep me comfortable in the cold weather which I would be running in; I really hope it won’t fall below 10C on that day. I’m not optimistic, btw.

I bought the hubs and I running gloves too! Mine matches my top. After this marathon, I believe I would be attempting more half-marathons in future. 26 miles is too much for my body which has given me signals recently that it is not getting any stronger. Of course, I am bearing much hope that the hubs would run half-marathons with me; it’s really lonely doing things by oneself. Let’s aim for some races in US next year! Continue reading