The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

A UK Lunar New Year

It’s officially Spring and the end of celebrations marking the new Year of the Dog. But where are the delicate flowering peach blossoms. Oh I forget, they’re on the other side of the globe.

The times I will miss Singapore the most will be the gap between 2 January to the Lunar New Year. Perhaps I’m just attracted by pretty decorations. No sooner are the Christmas lights whipped down then up go all the reds, gold and pinks to usher in the new Lunar year. There’s no time to dwell on the lows of the holiday season being over with when there’s preparations for another underway.

In Singapore, it was easy to embrace the Asian and Western sides to our lives. For the children in particular, who have grown up in a visibly multicultural society, this is what they know. The streets are festooned with decorations to celebrate Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Diwali. In between we have Easter, Halloween interspersed with friends talking about Thanksgiving and Sinterklass.

The children find it difficult to grasp that the UK is ‘home’ and why should they because it’s not been their home until now and especially when we are not living together as a full family. Perhaps over time they will when we are more settled and have a house of our own. At the same time, I want them to value the country they were born into and be proud of those roots with an understanding of life over there. I don’t think a boomerang back over to Singapore would ever be ruled out.

In the meantime though, how do you create some of over there, over here. Now that I’ve experienced living in an Asian country, I understand so much more of the cultural importance and traditions that go with certain festivals and it’s been one of the best things about living abroad. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my cultural roots and being able to pass that on to my children. It is too easy to focus on one dominant culture and getting a balance with a second culture requires effort and reminding.

This year may have been a subdued affair at home with less of the decorations but I was happily surprised that the children remembered we needed to spring clean the house before the start of the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, on the eve of the Lunar New Year it is a time for family reunions for dinner. In Singapore, with no family around, we would have Reunion Dinner with good friends. So this year with Husband still back in Singapore, we invited a bundle of friends over and I was particularly touched by new friends who really put some thought into what should they do to help join in our celebrations of Chinese New Year. They came laden with gifts and red envelopes with chocolate coins in and asking me, ‘what should we do to celebrate?’ and I hadn’t even thought about it because I had never been asked before. Then I remembered when I was much younger, how proud and excited I felt to invite friends to the Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle and how they came dressed in their best outfits. So perhaps we can create our own traditions of celebrating this important festival .

I’ve already been trying. In fact, even this time last year when I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t be in Singapore I started thinking about what would I try bringing back with me. One of the biggest associations we have with the Chinese New Year in Singapore is eating a lot of pineapple tarts and last year I made my first homemade batch of tarts and then I worried about where would I find pineapples in the winter of the UK? Well it turns out that these days, nothing is quite out of season. So we had our pineapple tarts and mini cornflake cookies. We had decorations and we even had friends from Singapore join us for the first day of the New Year.

As you may know, during this time there is a strong emphasis on family. Hence Reunion Dinner and spending time with your own family as well as visiting relatives. It has been a very long time since I celebrated this festival with my family in Newcastle. Even way before we moved from the UK. It has definitely changed and grown in stature within the region so that it doesn’t just involve the Chinese community but the whole community. You could say that it has grown so popular that many Chinese people shy away from the event because of the crowds which is quite ironic.

There were firecrackers, Lion and Dragon dancing, parades in traditional dress and street food stalls. Of course not on the grand scale that we’ve been used to but a colourful celebration all the same on a winter’s afternoon.

The best part though, was being with family. Pottering around Chinatown with my Mum and my Uncle, my cousins and their children. As quietly but deeply painful and bittersweet as it was for me. I remember as a child how much fun it was to bump into older family members and pocketing lucky red packets and playing with cousins and friends my own age. In just the same way that my children were out playing with their cousins and collecting many lucky red packets.

You can’t have it all. But you can make the very best of what you have.

May this Year of the Dog bring you happiness, good health, prosperity and peace.

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Finally, we have ourselves a proper cold Christmas

Finally we have ourselves a proper cold Christmas. Though at a ‘mild’ 11 degrees celsius, I’m told it’s warm outside…I don’t think you know the meaning of a warm Christmas!

For how many years whilst living in the Tropics have I longed for a cold Christmas! This will be my first in ten years and the first ever for the children. That in itself is exciting enough. Even after all these years, Christmas only feels much more like Christmas when it’s dark and cold with twinkly lights shining out from people’s homes and on the streets.

Singapore knows how to dazzle at Christmas but our first UK Christmas has brought us back to a more traditional tone. The story of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, Jesus born in a stable, the Three Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels and a wandering star. My three children have been enchanted by it all and I have to admit that there were key parts of the Nativity story that I simply hadn’t known about. It’s amazing what I am learning at School.

This week we attended the school’s Carol Concert at the local church and today Husband and I took the children to our first Christingle concert. Previously I had only been to church for weddings and funerals but for the children to discover their own path, I’d like them to know and later decide for themselves. Though for my own part, I have found on both occasions a certain calm and opportunity for reflection.

This year for the first time ever I have found myself with no social engagements at all! Not one Christmas lunch! Can you imagine! No rolling home inebriated in the early hours. No fancy cocktails in some exclusive bar. Bah humbug indeed. Until I realised it’s about who you want your Christmas celebrations to be with and so we did have a Christmas do after all and it was exactly just right.

I hope I have managed to create a good enough Christmas experience for my three children this year. There is guilt in my heart that due to my own sadness and even their own that Christmas preparations for my three children has been missing a bit of its usual shine. I have really tried my best but it has been hard to think about presents when this year it is people who matter the most.

We have a lovely tree all lit up brightly, we’ve baked batches of gingerbread people, we’ve sung countless Christmas carols and songs, we been to visit Father Christmas and gone on winter walks. I’ve circled all the tv programmes in the Radio Times and already missed a few shows.

I really don’t know what I imagined this Christmas to look like but I do feel the warmth of goodwill, family and celebration all around me.

And if anything, hearing of how others are celebrating this year has buoyed me along too. I love Christmas. That will never change. And what has been most exciting is sharing with friends the chit chat on what they’re cooking over the festive season. I bought all the cooking magazines and have barely deviated from my usual! But who doesn’t love looking at a good festive feast and oohing at the many variations on a turkey dinner with all the trimmings that you can get!

I really hope the children wake up yelling with excitement that Father Christmas has been! That they come running upstairs with full stockings and have raced downstairs to check he’s left something on their list for them too. If anyone deserves a bit of magic tonight, it is them.

They’ve excitedly and carefully laid out goodies for Father Christmas and the reindeers and placed a ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign on their bedroom window. They’ve sprinkled Santa and Elf magic dust on our doorstep (previously unavailable from the shops in Singapore would you believe.) They handed out good things to eat to our neighbours and strangers on the street. This year, I have asked them to think of not just themselves but others too.

Surprisingly though, I seem to have everything ready and can even enjoy a restful glass of wine. In previous years I am still wrapping gifts until the early hours on this night. I have so little to do I suspect I have forgotten something!

But whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t ruin the day. Tomorrow is a day about family being together. Something my children will value more than anything. They have done amazingly well whilst we have relocated ourselves and their Daddy has remained in Singapore. So whilst there are many gifts under the tree that will be met with great enthusiasm and much joy, the best gift we have is that we have these next nine days of togetherness to share the holidays with.

This year, I have not sent out Christmas cards as is the custom during the first year. Though I wish you more than anything a Happy Christmas to be shared with those who matter the most. May you laugh, love and enjoy each other’s company.

Merry Christmas to all. xx

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With a fizz, pop and a whizz bang

I can hear the last few crackle and pops fading away. It’s been a decade since those familiar sounds signalled the start of shorter days and colder nights. Since the clocks went back an hour last weekend, there has been an unfamiliar drop in temperature outside. Oh my gosh! So much for acclimatasing gradually into a traditional northern English winter. 

I’ve gone from embracing this cooler weather to sporadically yelling ‘I’m bloody freezing!’ We’ve been going to the local park every day after school. In the early autumn days that was lovely. Sitting in the late afternoon sunshine, chatting to other parents over a coffee, only calling out home time when it was time for dinner. 

Now, now you’ll be lucky if I can manage 20 minutes of non body movement on a cold wooden bench whilst my ability to chat to other parents diminishes by the second as my face freezes up. I mean it’s possibly just me. I have seen some people still in shorts. And it is no use saying to me ‘But you’re from Newcastle!’ Do you know how many years, nay decades it has been since my proper north east of England days? I’ve just moved back from the tropics for goodness sake!


And I am not the only one in this household who thinks the same. #2 was in tears last night after just two hours outdoors. Trussed up in multiple layers and a big thick winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves. I don’t know what else she can wear for when winter sets in proper. We had all been admiring the fireworks when suddenly, painful yelps could be heard from #2. Baffled as to what could have happened #2 woefully declares her fingers are not working and her toes have disappeared. 

And she was right. I couldn’t feel my toes on the walk home either. Nor was my mouth formulating the shapes to speak. But #2’s distress was too funny as you see unfurl before you the idealistic notions of playing in the snow to the reality of living in conditions for snow to happen. I’m sure in time, they will all acclimatise. Maybe I will too but until then it’s tempting to see sense in #2’s declaration that she was catching the next flight back to Singapore.

Bonfire Night. Guy Fawkes Night. Fireworks Night. It’s a brand new occasion for #1, 2 and 3. Who is this Guy Fawkes? Why do we burn him on a fire? Why was he naughty? These are quite terrifying concepts for young children. As we gloss over the story on our way to said Bonfire Night the local church are handing out free sugared doughnuts as a timely distraction. This will mark all that is good about Bonfire Night forever for #1, 2 and 3. 

Fireworks are one of my all time favourite things. The explosion of sound and colour against a clear night sky just makes me happy. In Singapore we were truly spoilt for magnificent fireworks displays. But I feel there is something more authentic just standing watching a frenzy of fizzing, popping, crackling fireworks going off in the freezing cold.  

There’s a proper massive bonfire, the likes of which I haven’t seen since I was a teenager on a beach in Sunderland. And actually a house just down the road and around the corner from ours had their own mini bonfire going on in their front garden which concerned #1 no end. He was pleased to see just the embers were smouldering when we passed it again on our way home.

The other thing I did today was boil a lot of sugar. A lot of sugar. And syrup. For cinder toffee and toffee apples. I honestly don’t know why I felt the need to make my own. I mean when cooking for small people, homecooked from scratch is usually the better, healthier option. But sugar is just sugar. I could have just bought them from the shops. 

But then again, there is something soothing to be indoors on a FREEZING cold afternoon measuring sugar and syrup with #1. And I have to say, it is not so easy to make your own toffee apples. I’m not even sure the cinder toffee is right either but #1, 2 and 3 were more than happy.

And that is enough for me. For these occasions will come to mean something to #1, 2 and 3 as we add it to the other calendar of events. Creating new traditions as we embrace this new life and add some warmth in our hearts to defrost those fingers and toes so we will brave the cold outdoors again. 

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Lets stay together

Ten years of marriage. It seems like such a milestone to reach and then all of a sudden it’s here. Over the years, Husband and I had talked about how we would celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. Particularly when not much celebration had gone into seemingly less significant anniversary years. When that happened, we vowed we’d make this one something special. 

Would we be able to take a few days away somewhere on our own now that #1, 2 and 3 are older. Would we be able to have a dinner with our Bridesmaids and Best Men. Would we be able to take #1, 2 and 3 back to where we got wed.

Well it turns out that none of these things are happening. I’m not even in the same time zone as Husband. I’m sat on our sofa with Strictly Come Dancing on in the background. Something I can do without Husband sat here silently rolling his eyes. Especially after I’ve had The Undateables and First Dates on earlier in the week too. Whaaat!? I’m catching up on nine years of missing out on British culture and what is shaping the great minds of tomorrow.

 I don’t want to paint a tragic figure here but last night I was listening to Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ all on my own some. It was our first wedding dance song you see. A beautiful song but very hard to shuffle to. As I was listening to the lyrics in the quiet of the night, I thought about our wedding day and how…fresh, I guess is the word I would use to describe how we were then. Perhaps like all young newlyweds. 

‘Let’s stay together, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad’

Ten years later, what have I learnt? Well that times can be good and bad, happy and sad. Mostly exhausting. A buzzing hive of activity that never stops when young children are involved. Their needs are our priority. Their calls of ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’ reaching up from waist height often the only sounds we hear. The number of times I’ve heard from other couples celebrating a night out/weekend away as an occurrence as rare as sparkling unicorns. We love our family. We love each other too. 

Ten years have passed and we have experienced so much, far beyond what we could have imagined that day. The upheaval of moving to another country, starting a family on our own, taking on new challenges as a unit of two, figuring out the answers and finding our own way without knowing what the outcome would look like. It has certainly been an adventure. Not always plain sailing. But strong in the belief that every decision made, every action taken, is for the good of us. 

It is without doubt disappointing to be apart from Husband on our 10 year wedding anniversary. Not because I feel like I’m missing out on the spoils such celebrations bring, but because I am missing that other person, the only person, who has shared exactly the same days that I have. Except of course for these past few months since I have moved back to the UK with #1, 2 and 3. We are in the midst of good and bad, happy and sad. For how could we be truly happy without being together. One of my biggest fears about starting back on my own was ‘can I really do this?’ Can I do this on my own? 

As a trailing spouse in Singapore, dependent on Husband’s employment visa, one can become fairly invisible. Even when in Gainful Employment in my own right, I was still tied to Husband’s  status. That’s just how the bureaucracy worked out. So to suddenly do a 360 degree turn and be the driving force behind setting up a new home is daunting. When it comes down to it, we are all stronger than we believe. Especially if we have a supportive network to cheer us along the way. But the greatest pillar that I could possibly have is to know that Husband is there everyday. To listen, comfort and reassure that all is well and who is encouraging me to plan ahead for what I want to do next. 

It is quite odd to be conducting a long distance relationship at this point but we’ve done it before and having to rely on more traditional modes of communication. None of this videocalling malarky. Perhaps it comes as a timely reminder not to take anything for granted. Though we inevitably always do. Like being blase about celebrating your wedding anniversary because you think there’s one every year.  Whether you celebrate quietly or go all out, do something on your Anniversary to acknowledge to one another just how far you’ve come and what you’ve overcome, for the good of you.

Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary to us.

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A very lazy Mother’s Day 

Usually Sundays start early with rugby training for #1 and 2, followed by homework, grocery shopping and other households jobs. 

Today there was none of that. Just as it nicely coincides with Mother’s Day. A morning of lazy starts and breakfast in bed. Followed by high tea with fairly impeccable behaviour from #1, 2 and 3.  

I received three more thoughtfully decorated cards. #1 has continued with the Tie Fighter theme this year. #2 worked hard on hers for two days. #3 could barely contain her excitement yesterday as she informed me she was doing something secret that she wasn’t go to tell me about for Mother’s Day…

This was exactly about as much as I could cope with today. I am so tired right now I should be in bed. In fact I already gave myself another gift of an afternoon nap. No, I’m not hungover. That was last weekend. 

Last night I was doing something wholly virtuous. I was in fact running a 10km race. Which flagged off at 9.35pm. I know! It’s only since running in Singapore that I have come across these running events that take place at all hours. Literally all hours. Think 9.35pm is late, the full marathon flagged off at midnight! 

So anyways, I thought 10km would be ok. It would take about an hour or just over. I can that distance fairly comfortably if I practice and I’ve often ran that far in the early evening so how different could this be? It’s been a long while since I’ve ran in an organised event and I’ve missed it. The sight of seeing other runners heading to the event, soaking up the atmosphere and waiting at the start line. Then of course seeing the Finish line. 

What I hadn’t accounted for is all that adrenaline takes quite a few hours to wear off. Like a good five hours or so after the race. I should have organised the spare room instead of trying to sleep. Hence today felt like a non starter, I wonder how all those marathon runners have spent the day.

So today’s very lazy Mother’s Day has been just the ideal way to spend it and now I need to go to bed. 

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International Women’s Day 2017 – #Beboldforchange

Will you be #Beboldforchange?

I would like to think you will be. 

In the past year, I have realised something very important about the need for women to support other women. To tell them when it’s not acceptable to be spoken to in a particular way. To believe in what is just and fair. To stand up for yourself with confidence and self worth. To enable other women to be strong.

Quite recently, I heard a young woman be berated in such a way that was totally out of order. It was after working hours, a bit late in the evening after a few drinks. What was a pleasant evening turned quickly the other way. I think given the late hour and the beers involved, you may have just left it as it was blaming it on inebriation and emotions running high.

Except what struck me as unacceptable is this young woman’s response.  She said to me, “It’s ok, I’m used to it.” That’s when I needed to say,”Well you shouldn’t be.”

I have been in situations subjected to quite high humiliation in front of an audience and I just let it go. Choosing to believe the words that have been said and just waiting for the moment to pass. Instead of standing up for myself and asking the person spouting the nonsense to get a grip of themselves and just stop or walking away from them. I often wonder what made me stop and take it. I blame it on good manners and respect for hierarchy.

Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I had called out the behaviour. But in the moment it happens, your mind freezes. When someone feels they have the power to rain down on you, the natural reaction is to make it stop. To curb the vitriol and disappointment directed at you, is it best to say nothing and wait for it to blow over.

Be bold for change.

Let’s begin by just being bold. 
Be bold to believe in yourself. Be bold to stand up for others. Be bold to articulate what is right. 
If our actions are bold enough, change will follow.

I would like to impress upon others that you should never ‘get used to’ to anyone speaking to you with such disrespect. It can take years to undo that kind of impact on your self esteem.

There are also lessons to be learnt from these experiences too. Never too late. You certainly wouldn’t emulate that kind of behaviour yourself. You definitely don’t allow that kind of behaviour to perpetuate.

This young woman will some day be a great team leader and role model for other women. It is our responsiblity to ensure that they believe in themselves to be that, so that they can go on with encouraging other women to be the same. I was shocked that for someone with such a vibrant and can do personality to feel that way. I took it upon myself to point out all the reasons why she shouldn’t be and should never be ‘used to it.’

As the parent of three children who will one day be the shining examples of tomorrow, I want them all to be bold for change. To be the change themselves and to be the change in others.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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Year End Review 2016

It is tempting to write off this year as being a terrible one. Indeed, that was my initial thought. It would be all too predictable even to go on about the things that would make 2016 memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

Truthfully, 2016 on the whole has not been my most favourite year and for those who know me well, you already know this. But to say that it was a complete shambles would do the whole year a huge disservice. It would be unfair to all those who celebrated a special occasion for instance to have it tarred with the same brush as the less favourable events that happened. All too often we can be led by the negative but this will only lead to the Dark Side. We all know how that ends. It is right now as we are about to welcome a fresh new year, that we need to lead with the positives.

How best to do this than with our very own positives from the year. 
So for my Year End Review, I am going to share some of my own personal highlights from 2016.

#1, 2 and 3

Everyday I feel thankful for #1, 2 and 3. Even if there are moments within those days when I forget to feel thankful. I am definitely thankful for them. 
They don’t know anything about what’s going on with the state of the global economy, everyone is friends and a good day is measured by what’s happened in the last five minutes. They enable me to live in the moment. Something we should all do more of.

There have been some challenges of course, there probably always will be. At the same time, it has been a joy to see #1, 2 and 3 achieve their own mini milestones at school and home, more so at school than home. I still don’t understand why they can’t just show us some of that same helpfulness at home. Just a little bit. 

#1 in particular has worked very hard this year. Some of the earlier challenges in the year around adapting to a Big School environment was hard work. There were some battles we had to overcome but hard work and perseverence has rewarded #1 with confidence and enjoyment of learning. Most of the time. I’ve also discovered that #1 likes to help out in the kitchen and can almost bake a banana loaf all by himself. And he has stuck to his goal of wearing a Star Wars t shirt everyday this year. 

When your children start Big School, you hope for a good teacher and that your child makes friends. We have been lucky on both counts with good teachers but friendships have to be navigated themselves. I know one source of worry for #2 was whether she would find friends this school year. Within three weeks of the new school year starting, #2 had been sent to see the Head of Year twice. For boisterous behaviour with her friends. Whilst I’m not condoning the behaviour at all and #2 has solemnly sworn not to find herself in that situation again (we’ll see), I’m also glad to know that she has found a group of partners in crime that she talks about all the time. I like how she’s enjoying her hobbies of judo, gymnastics and has a creative streak in her. For Christmas, she gave us books of drawings of our favourite things as presents. 
#3 has heart and generosity. As well as a loud yell. Sharing comes naturally to her. She will offer you whatever she’s eating even before she’s had enough of eating it.  That is saying something. Mostly I get offered leftovers. Or mushed up food spat into my hand. Yum. 

Catching my first ever moonset

I wonder whether, like me, you even thought about the moonset. Though it’s so obvious isn’t it? If there’s a sunrise and sunset, there should be a moonrise and moonset. I’ve often chased a sunrise and settled down with a sunset but never a moonset. For one thing, you have to be a really early morning person. Like super early. 4.45am early. I am not a 4.45am morning person. But for this occasion I was. 

The setting could not have been more idyllic. In the resort of El Nido,  Philippines which I was lucky enough to have travelled to for Gainful Employment. The waters there were so clear and the amount of marine life you could see just a 30 metre snorkel away from shore. The furthest way from the hustle and bustle of city life you could imagine. There are few opportunities to be really still and I will always remember the calm of sitting there, watching the moon slowly dip further towards the horizon as the light all around became brighter and you were caught between that moment where night ends and day begins. 


My Dad, Mr Li turned 80

Just a few days before Christmas, my Dad Mr Li turned 80. I’m very thankful for that. I’m sure he is too even though he often tells me his job is done. But I have news for you my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done. Who’s to say without your watchful eye on things that I won’t be feeding your grandchildren food from dented cans. Or allow them to go out with wet hair. Or allow them to be so daring as eat two bags of crisps in a 24 hour period. 
No my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done.
Travelled to new places sans kids

I know! I actually travelled sans kids three times this year. Twice was with Gainful Employment and whilst a great experience, it wasn’t actually a holiday and shouldn’t really count. 
This year Nana Moon came to stay en route to somewhere else. As seems to be the new tradition, whenever Nana Moon comes to stay, she and I must travel to someplace new. At first we thought about Taipei but it’s actually quite far from Singapore and with just three days to spare, you want to make sure you make the most of every moment.  There are plenty of places yet to be explored nearby and so we went to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I bet you’re pronouncing it Yog-ya-karta. That’s because you’ve never been. For us it’s Jogja now. Though Nana Moon will still insist it’s Yogi.

I don’t know about you but an opportunity to travel sans kids for me is to explore and do things that I’ve never done before or would do if I wasn’t sans kids. Any notion of long lie ins and leisurely breakfasts never happen. These mini sojourns are to remember all the things that you should do because you can do them. 

In saying that, there was a moment whilst being suspended 60metres over a cliff when I wondered what on earth was I doing putting my life in the hands of a harness with three kids and Husband at home. The experience was worth it though.

Celebrating Big Brother Li turning 50

I think it’s fair to say that decades have passed since we celebrated any of our Birthday’s together. So it was particularly special to be able to celebrate Big Brother Li turning 50 this year. To him, these milestone Birthdays are no big deal. Indeed, even if it weren’t a big Birthday, it was still a special occasion to be together as a family for it.

Getting right up close to Take That, Kylie, Ronan Keating, Madonna, Queen and Imagine Dragons

In my former London and Manchester life, going to see live bands was a regular occurence. I’ve seen some of my favourite over the years and I’ve even been fortunate enough to be at Live8 just five rows from the the front. Strangely enough, I’ve had some of the best live band experiences in Singapore. 


Going to a live gig is uplifting for the soul and one of my top five favourite things to do. You can’t fail but smile and feel your spirits rise when you are in the presence of real drums banging and guitars twanging. Perhaps the list of popstrels I’ve been to see this year are not exactly to your liking, but for me they make me happy and therefore seeing them live makes me double happy. 

I was a bit concerned that finally getting to see Take That live for the first time (even with just three of them) would be a disappointment. Would they be too middle aged I wondered and whilst I was so close I could see wrinkles, when they played songs from the 90s we were all transported to this other time. Whilst in the 20 years or so since they first were dear to my heart, much has changed and we have all aged but in those years those same songs have seen us through and brought back feeling of happiness. 

Time with family and my closest friends  

This counts for both friends in Singapore and the ones I’ve known much longer. Time in your company is always a pleasure and thank you for all the invites to many a social occasion this year.

We are very fortunate to live in times when international air travel is so possible and affordable. I think back to when my Dad, Mr Li left Hong Kong for the UK over 50 years ago with no idea of when he would next see any of his family and friends. Whilst we may struggle at times in this privileged Expat life of ours, we have the luxury of modern technology that makes distance a little easier to bear.

However, nothing can compare to having them here with you. This year we have had the joy of my In Laws come to stay in the summer. As #1, 2 and 3 get older, we can see that they need more than Husband and I around. We are of course very important and much loved by them but there are others who are much loved too, who can give them something else in addition to what we can. People who love very much and tell them all the positive things that small people delight in hearing about themselves. 

As you know, I don’t just think Brilliant New Adventure as my friend, she is family and I often do wish she was here in Singapore. But equally, when we go now to go Hong Kong we have an extra reason to visit. It can be bittersweet because you imagine what fun times the children would have altogether. But I wouldn’t miss these times for the world. Nor the opportunities to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for many years and for it to be like no time has passed at all.

It’s funny how Nana Moon tells me that when siblings are together, you all revert to type. I think the same can be said about friends who have known each other a long time. We are all of a certain personality and the core of us perhaps doesn’t change as much as we think over the years. I still rely on Nana Moon to tell that jumping across a beam, kayaking in deep waters or being hoisted over a cliff is going to be alright. I have no idea what reassurances I give her. Let’s not ask that question.

Learning new things

This year I took Mandarin Chinese lessons, picked up new skills in Gainful Employment and made my own chutney.


One constant this year, through the ups and downs, has been Husband. He who does not complain (too much) about my intention to master the use of the sewing machine he bought me several years or the bike he got me for my Birthday which he has made more use of than me so far. He who gets up early in the mornings on school days. Who enables the travelling sans kids and much more.

We celebrated Birthdays, weddings and the arrival of new family members. And we saw otters.

 So really, 2016 gave us some good memories. We just needed to think about it. 
May we all end this year thinking of what 2016 did right. Husband and I are not going out tonight because #1 has been unwell but tomorrow, we’re going to start the year fresh, with friends and new hope for a bright 2017. 

Whatever you do, do it in style. Do everything in style. 

Happy New Year’s Eve to you. xx

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Pass me the Elf

The thing about refusing to get overexcited about Christmas in November is that suddenly December descends and I feel woefully ill prepared for Christmas which is in just THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS!

Perhaps it’s time to write my Christmas list too.

  1. Sort out Christmas tree and decorations.
  2. Find Christmas decorations after moving.
  3. Fill Advent Calendar with stuff. Pass on organised idea of filling with mix of treats, Christmas related activities and Christmas related days out.
  4. Make Christmas cards, write them and post (and hope some arrive in time.)
  5. Clear space for Christmas tree.
  6. Drink Christmas Port.
  7. Secure the Special Gift from Father Christmas.
  8. Secure the Special Gift from Husband and myself for #1, 2 and 3 (when the truth is out then need only one Special Gift.)
  9. Order Christmas turkey and Boxing Day ham and copious amounts of cranberries to make sauce nobody really eats.
  10. Watch Elf, Arthur Christmas, The Grinch, Miracle on 34th Street.
  11. Find Christmas music DVDs.
  12. Sing Jingle Bells every day, ten times a day with #1, 2 and 3.
  13. Buy and successfully hide Special Gift from Father Christmas wrapping paper.
  14. Dig out recipe for Mother in Law’s Almond Tarts that are only to be made at Christmas time though can really be eaten all year round.
  15. Make a note to start Christmas preparations earlier next year.


Yes indeed. There appears to be a lot to do in the next THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS!


So not much has changed from last year. Or the year before.


There’s another thing that hasn’t changed.


Those Elves have reappeared.


Not just on shelves though. They get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Knocking over cereal boxes. Messing up the toys. Abseiling down the staircase. Hiding behind photographs.


I’m very glad they do things like that to entertain themselves. It’s awfully tough sitting still without moving. Just watching. With that fixed happy grin they have. Until the children fall asleep. Then they fly off to Father Christmas and report back the events of the day.


It’s a lot of waiting around. Most of the day children are still at school. So what do the Elves do then? I mean you’d think they could make themselves useful and do a few jobs around the house. You know, like mend shoes and stuff. Maybes I should pass them my list of Things To Do in the next THREE WEEKS AND THREE DAYS.


The Elf on the Shelf is not for this household as I have said many times before. It creeps me out more so than #1, 2 and 3.


But as it’s the season to be jolly, I’d rather be just that. Jolly. Rather than the parent that is reprimanding #1, 2 and 3 for the regular behaviour of small people of that age. It’s the season of goodwill and I would like a bit of that too.


So you know, as I truly believe in Father Christmas then on occasion I’d quite like him to do something to keep that belief alive. Like just call me when my phone happens to be on silent but his picture flashes up because he’s just heard about something #1, 2 and 3 have done that he thinks could constitute as behaviour for the naughty list. I just have to take the call you see and discuss the consequences with him.


And whilst I’m not in favour of the Elves on anything but shelves, I have welcomed new additions to our family this year.


Meet Mochi and Fred. They are friends of the Elves and they will be staying with us until Christmas Eve. Father Christmas has diversified his workforce this year and roped in Grandma to knit him some new staff.


They will be hanging around keeping check of everything. Especially in the mornings whilst getting ready for school. They’ve managed to shave off 10 minutes of time wasting already as well as settle disputes amicably.


If only they could stay all year round and not just for Christmas.



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A lot of Treats and no Tricks

Halloween is a huge deal Singapore. Hence the fact we have been to three Halloween events with a final one I totally forgot about happening on Friday at school. Though I feel satisfied with the value for money gained from their $20 costumes.

Any occasion to get #1, 2 and 3 dressed up is fine by me. #2 and 3 love a good dress up and can often be found on a regular day with some form of fancy dress outfit about their person. #1 can be slightly more reserved but in pursuit of treats knew when to go with the flow.

Now, Halloween with small people is a round of cute pumpkins, cuddly witches and less than threatening pirates. I mean it’s just a big fancy dress day with all sorts of costumes allowed which I don’t quite get but there you go. Over the years, I had forgotten that Halloween is really a make you pee in your pants as you jump in the air scary sort of event.  

I don’t do scary as I keep saying. Even when I know something is about to happen, I will still jump in the air and pee myself a little. True fact. Even at my place of Gainful Employment I’ve yelped in people’s faces because I’ve opened a door and come face to face with someone I know in daylight. It’s a terrible affliction. 

So I’m probably not the best parent to lead the way on a Trick or Treating mission. Not even around our own condo. Husband stayed home dressed head to toe in breathable polyester armed with at least 100 packs of sweets, waiting for the troops of angels to come by. Whilst I braved the outdoors tropical heat with #1,2 and 3 and a map to the homes providing treats. 

Front doors were bedecked with pumpkins and cobwebs, separated limbs and tombstones. One family even geniusly taped over the landing light so that an eerie red glow emanated around the hallway. It was a lot of spookiness. And it seems many get a lot of enjoyment spooking people out and go to great effort with a generous amount of facepaint. Towards the end of our rounds, we call upon a home who must have done the routine at least 60 times that night and yet still was not bored of it. First the buzzer was greeted by a ghoulish ‘mwah ha ha ha ha’ as we made our way to their floor, I had a sneaky suspicion it wasn’t just going to be a kindly face with a basket of sweets. #2 and 3 knocked softly on the door. There’s no answer. I’m sort of hanging around the corner like I know something wicked this way comes. Then suddenly, the door is flung open and a demon jumps out with a loud ‘raaaah’. #2 and 3 jump and scream loudly which is not doubt the desired effect. I’m just glad I had the foresight to hide because no doubt I would have screamed the loudest.

I have no idea how many sweets #1, 2 and 3 have eaten this weekend. In the back of my head, I’m thinking about how carefully we try to ration the sweets and chocolate intake so perhaps it does seem strange that this one of time of year, it is positively encouraged to go and fill your bucket with them. But like most occasions, it’s the joy of collecting than the eating of gathered goods that is the most fun part. Though I think #1 would dispute this. 

So what to do with all these sweets? It’s a waste to throw them away. I can’t possibly eat them all myself. I can’t possibly let #1, 2 and 3 eat them all either. So isn’t it best to regift them? I often hand out small treats at Christmas, Easter and Halloween in fancy little boxes that I enjoy making. Not many, just three or four sweets and I never thought it wasn’t ok. Until that is a good friend and successful parent blogger recently wrote a piece on his wrath at other thoughtless parents handing out sweets for birthdays and all other such occasions. I thought, I am one of those parents! Should I stop? What if parents of #1, 2 and 3 feel the same way?

I contemplated today not to bother with sharing Halloween treats amongst school friends. But then I changed my mind. I often feel that #1, 2 and 3 are very used to receiving a lot of things. Treats for all sorts of occasions so that it doesn’t seem ‘special’ anymore. Not like when treats were for special occasions when I was a child (I know.) So ever since they started nursery and for celebrations, there’s been a bit of sharing going on and more often than not the sharing involves a sweet treat. 

I agree, as a parent you should be able to say what treats and when they are given to your child. I mean there have been times when I’ve been annoyed when #1, 2 and 3 have been given loaded with food items that I perhaps wouldn’t have given them but then again it’s all part of the experience. Like the days when they’d go over to Pancakes for Dinner and thought it was the most decadent experience to have pancakes for dinner. It’s left a lasting impression. 

But perhaps it would upset us less if we notified each other when the sweet treats are coming. So I did. And never do cheap sweets. Or chocolate. I think parents fear glow in the dark treats more than anything. 

Happy Halloween!

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The things that Dads do

It is Father’s Day today as I’m sure you know. Unless you’re my Dad, Mr Li who only found out earlier today in our weekly call, though he thinks he may have heard someone mention something vaguely about it earlier in the week. But he doesn’t quite know because he can’t hear much and I think in our telephone call he just guessed what was going on and just asked random questions.


You see he had an accident with someone’s phone a few weeks ago and we think it’s burst his ear drum. I asked him ‘what about your other ear, can you hear me in that one?’ He replies ‘that one’s been gone for some years now.’ The things you learn about your own Dad. So now he can’t hear me in either ear. And yet he still calls up every week.


As #1, 2 and 3 get older, our household seems more and more chaotic. The noise levels, the things that need doing, the places that need getting to. We look forward to the weekends but there are occasions where it feels like everything is just none stop. As colleagues talk about getting up at midday and enjoying a lazy weekend, maybe go shopping, out for dinner or to the cinemas. I almost want to scowl at them. I probably do. I can just about remember those days and now I wonder how is it even possible to sleep in until midday. If I did that now, the kids would have missed out on two meals and a snack.


But there are occasions where I get to sleep in until 10.30am following impromptu Friday Night Beers. Or if I haven’t had FNBs then I may be up before dawn for an early morning run. Or I could just have had a good night’s sleep without realising that Husband has been up several times in the night tending to #1, 2 or 3.


The point is, if I am not doing the doing for #1, 2 and 3 then someone has to be. And who else would that someone be?


I know there are times where I have vocalised to Husband about the things that I think he doesn’t do. But equally what about the things that he does do. That all Dads do.


It’s still been quite a chaotic Sunday like any normal day but at least #1, 2 and 3 almost let Husband choose how to spend it in appreciation for all that he does for them. For us.


Husband says, ‘you know what my colleague says is the best gift you can give on Father’s Day? Breakfast in bed. Followed by a day by yourself.’


Happy Father’s Day to all Dads.



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