I was clearing out my supplies and found all this expired flour that I couldn’t bring myself to just throw away.
So I decided to make play dough with it with the kids. Just add water and salt and mix through to the right consistency. The salt is just there to make the dough stretchy so don’t go adding too much. 2 tablespoons to 1kg of flour is more than enough.
My mum used to make this play dough at home when I was a kid and I always wondered why we didn’t add any food colouring. Well now I do! Getting the colour to mix through the dough to get a consistent shade throughout is really tiring work. But I suppose great catharsis if you want to destress.
I call the patchy blue one cookie monster cookie dough – but now I realise it sounds like I’ve made cookie dough out of cookie monster
So baby girl no. 1 and I got the chance to try out Banyan Tree’s new hotel, Cassia in Bintan, Indonesia.
It was a chance to relax and bond with each other. I mean, it really isn’t often that I get to spend 3 days with her alone. And she doesn’t get mama all to herself for that long either.
We took the ferry across and luckily she didn’t get seasick. She already got car sick in the taxi on the way to the Tanah Merah ferry terminal and threw up all over herself 😦 I had to wash her in the ladies room at the ferry terminal and was appalled that there was no soap in the soap dispensers. The place was also quite dirty by Singapore standards. (Don’t we usually have better service at checkpoints such as these so we give tourists a good impression? Or we want to force people to buy soap from the overpriced shops just outside the restrooms? A discussion for another post!)
She enjoyed munching on snacks and took a nap. It’s nice to be rocked to sleep sometimes 😀
I didn’t really know what to expect at Cassia. At the time when we went, there wasn’t too much info online about it since it was a new hotel. Its concept is pretty cool and targeted at a younger audience. It’s tempting to say “Milennials” but that’s not entirely true either. I would say 25-45, young adults and young families, plus the young at heart. Its apartment hotel concept gives it a casual vibe, but true to Banyan Tree standards, it is still immaculately styled to envelope guests a level of luxury that is relatable, welcoming and exciting.
We were greeted by enthusiastic staff who tried to get us to dance our way into the lobby. (Singaporeans are not very excitable. Not without alcohol at least hurhur). When we got there, we were greeted with bright colours, Latin chill music, the view of the infinity pool inhabited by unicorn, flamingo and swan floats and of course, the beach.
Cassia is built right next to the other Banyan Tree hotels. Right next to Cassia is Angsana, which is right next to Banyan Tree so these other properties are just a walk or a buggy ride away. Guests at Cassia are welcomed at Angsana and Banyan Tree too.
We went to Angsana’s Lotus Cafe for lunch and they served delicious Indonesian food. We loved that we’re served kerupuk (deep fried crackers) before each meal!
We were put in a one-bedroom apartment on the 5th floor. It had a lot of light, and was quite comfortable.
The great thing about Cassia is that there’s an equipped kitchen for you to make your own meals.
This was essentially how we spent our holiday – at the beach, building sand castles, watching the waves, dipping in the water. Bliss.
Well, until I tried to get Allegra to sit with me in the water. She dropped her sunglasses into the waves and I had to look for it, and in the mean time, she ran all the way back onto the dry sand by herself because she was scared of the waves! Luckily, the water was clear so it didn’t take me long to locate her sunglasses whilst keeping an eye on her as she ran away from the water.
For some reason, I thought building sandcastles was going to be easy but I was so very wrong. Too much water, and you get a sticky mess. Too little water, nothing stays up. The balance of wet and dry sand has to be perfect.
The entrepreneur in me can’t ignore the lesson here. In a lot of things in business, nobody has the answers. You just have to come up with what seems like the most logical and balanced strategy and try it out. If it doesn’t work, tweak and try again. If I had the luxury of time and money to keep a business going while it is still not self-sustaining, then there would be many chances to try until I got it right. But very often, time and money are scarce resources and there are limited chances.
The next day, we went to visit Banyan Tree’s Tree Tops Restaurant and there was a pool there too. The little girl insisted on swimming in this pool once she saw it. Seriously, do you remember the commotion about Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool when it opened? That’s nothing compared to this ocean view. The OCEAN. This pool might be a lot smaller, but I prefer it. It’s surrounded by the ocean and trees and this combination makes it a lot easier to relax.
Also, the food at Tree Tops Restaurant will make you fall in love with Indonesian food. If the food at Lotus Cafe was delicious, the food at Tree Tops knocked it out of the park!
2 types of kerupuk and 6 different sambals for appetizers. Then, satay, nasi goreng, beef ribs, and kueh kueh for dessert. I tried their tasting menu too and it was all. so. good. So good that I had to bring some home for the husband!
Baby Sea Turtle Send Off
So this was the highlight of our trip: the turtle send off! As part of Banyan Tree’s conservation efforts, they collect sea turtle eggs to prevent predators (including humans) from eating them up. These baby turtles are hatched in their hatchery and released at 3 months old back into the sea to give them a better chance at survival.
We were very lucky to be there when Claire was there. After the turtle send off, we had cocktails on the roof of the lobby building, and then went for a barbecue dinner with some of my new entrepreneur friends!
My dear Allegra,
I don’t know if you’ll remember this trip, but I do hope you remember some of it at least. We had so much fun and I’m glad I got to know you more. You’re so funny, charming, thoughtful and loving. You love to chat, learn, play and you’re so creative. A natural out-of-the-box thinker.
I hope you’ll always be confident in who you are, even when you don’t exactly fit the mould, especially when it comes to traditional learning methods in school. I already know that the Singapore school system will be tough for you, not because you’re not smart, but because the system is set up in a way that will not bring the best out in someone like you.
But don’t fret, Mummy and Daddy will always be here for you. We will support you when it is tough and celebrate with you in your triumphs. We will fight to create a better future for you.
I hope you’ll always feel safe with Mummy and Daddy and that even when we have our epic battles in the future, you can always count on us to be there for you.
I hope I will be a good example for you, as a woman, daughter, wife and mother. And most of all, I hope that by being and believing in who I am, you will also find the courage to be who you are.
I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to holiday alone like this in the future, but I’m looking forward to it anyway!
Perhaps if we are lucky enough, both the husband and I will get a chance to holiday with each kid alone at different times in their lives.
She walks with a spring in her step. She sings, dances, skips and hops all at once.
When she smiles (and it is usually a cheeky smile), her big round eyes light up with eager anticipation.
Even though she is confident and extroverted, don’t mistake this for an impenetrable shield. Her heart is fragile even though it loves those she deems worthy, fiercely and completely.
This daughter of mine has such a creative personality – case in point these photos – she’s the girl who will choose to wear her cousin’s Adidas running shoes with her frilly girly socks, jewellery and party outfit. That’s how she rocks her outfits.
I love my children all the same. But she reminds me most of, well, me.
I hope I live my life in a way that will be a great example for her to follow – as a girl, as a woman, and if she wants, as a wife and mother.
Most of all I hope I show her that she doesn’t have to be anyone else but her most authentic and amazing self.
I’ll never forget the day I went to collect my PSLE* results.
I walked up to my form teacher nervously. She looked at me with disappointment, shook her head and said,”You could have done so much better.”
Those words burned into my head.
(This is the same teacher who did nothing but tell my whole class that we girls were “so complacent and so conceited” throughout the year. Maybe we were, maybe we weren’t, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the right way to motivate a bunch of 12 year old girls. But I digress…)
Of course, there was the mass comparisons of PSLE results happening around the school hall, but not on a scale as large as now, what with the availability of social media.
I remembered feeling upset, thinking I was stupid.
And I felt worth less.
I carried these feelings with me for a long time. Always an invisible barrier to the success that I wanted.
Ok, let me first take responsibility for my results first. Did I study hard? No, I’ll be the first to admit. But I was busy enjoying my childhood. I was busy playing, learning, asking questions and laughing.
I had a happy childhood.
But my point is – it didn’t matter that I was doing so well in other areas. I was netball captain. I was a school prefect. I did all sorts of creative stuff like putting up the P6 concert and participating in our 150th anniversary concert.
All it came down to was 3 numbers at the end of my primary school endeavours.
I was placed in Express stream in St. Margaret’s Secondary School. Went to Nanyang Polytechnic to get my business diploma. Went to Curtin University and obtained my business degree with distinction. Then completed my education with a law degree from NUS. And finally, got called to the Singapore Bar.
I managed to achieve my dream of becoming a lawyer with sheer determination and my family’s support.
I am married to a wonderful man, and we have 3 beautiful children.
Standing where I am now, I really feel for the kids who are considered “low PSLE scorers” and labeled as such. I feel their own disappointment at their results, and even worse, their parents’ disappointment at their results.
As a kid, the worst thing to me was to disappoint my parents. (I actually don’t remember my parents saying anything, they probably felt sad with me. But I remember my grandmother’s disappointment.)
Why do we need to place kids in boxes and categorise them as “high achievers” and “low achievers” at such a young age?
Isn’t it more important to ignite curiosity in a child and to let him/her discover who they are and what they are good at? Isn’t it more important to equip children with the right tools to survive and thrive, which includes a strong sense of self-worth and self-confidence? Isn’t it more important to let the child know that he/she is loved completely whether they do well or badly in school?
Instead of crushing their confidence and dreams so early on and allowing them to think they are not as smart or as good as someone who did better than them when that is complete and utter bullshit.
My children are all under 5 years old at the moment. And I am dreading putting them through the local primary school system because it might not develop all my children to their fullest potentials. They are all different. Some might thrive under this system, some might not.
Don’t get me wrong, as a type A personality, I am all for the spirit of competition and doing well and I encourage it.
But not at the expense of my kid’s self belief in his/her own abilities because I have learnt without self-belief and confidence, there is nothing.
*For my non-Singaporean friends, PSLE stands for “Primary School Leaving Examination”. It’s a huge exam which streams kids into different categories for Secondary School/High School at 12 years old. And their academic talents are nurtured accordingly from then on.
I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised when I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Penny Low, founder of Social Innovation Park, an impartial, not-for-profit organisation based in Singapore that incubates social entrepreneurs worldwide to bring positive innovations to lives and societies.
Of course, the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, lent some star powermega star power to the event.
I had never thought about Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Innovation prior to this, despite being in business for the past 5 years. Mainly because I had always had the impression of it being something that only applied to large corporates because of the extent of their influence.
But, at this forum, I learnt quite the opposite. CSR and Social Innovation is everyone’s responsibility. And to make any significant kind of change, efforts have to be made from the “ground up”. This means the responsibility is yours and mine.
Find out more about the inspiration behind Social Innovation Park and what entrepreneurs can do to contribute to this cause, watch my interview with Penny here:
Honouring Extraordinary Mothers with Awards, High Tea & Fashion.
As you might know, I have the privilege of being mentored by Claire Chiang, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Holdings. A mentoring lunch turned into a mentoring afternoon because she brought us (me and another mentee, Amu) to a press conference at Jamiyah Singapore after lunch.
This is where I learned about the Exemplary Mother Award (“EMA”) and the Award ceremony that will be held on 22 October 2016. This year’s award presentation ceremony and high tea also comes with a Charity Fashion Show.
Every year, the EMA Committee receives different inspiring stories from mothers of all walks of life, races and religions and who have contributed to the community. Claire was one of the judges. These mothers have been extraordinary in being a role model for their children, by nurturing them with strong moral values, persevere for a better life and education for their children. Their exemplary attitudes continue by going the extra mile to contribute their time and energy through involvement in career and community services, without compromising their parental roles at home.
Thus, this meaningful event promotes inter-faith and multi-racial bonding and enhancing reverence for mothers in general. It also places paramount importance on filial piety.
On a personal note, when I asked Claire how and why she is involved in so many community projects, she told me that she learned the need for support when she was very young. She grew up on Race Course Road with the Malay and Indian community and her mother would often get her to bring food to their neighbours. And when her mother had a stroke when Claire was 17, her neighbours helped them out by buying food, for example.
This gotong-royong* concept of mutual help and reciprocity and the Kampong** spirit was how she grew up. I don’t think I’ve ever thought as much about the community around me until now.
Date: 22 October 2016, Saturday
Time: 2.30pm to 5pm
Venue: Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Singapore
Ticket price: $100
Guest of Honour: President of Singapore, His Excellency Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam
If you’re interested in giving back to the community and supporting this meaningful event or even if you’d just like to make a donation, please contact Nora at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6743 1211.
*gotong-royong is a conception of sociality familiar to large parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. The phrase has been translated into English in many ways, most of which harken to the conception of reciprocity or mutual aid.