3 Business Tips I Learnt From My Kids

There’s a whole lot my kids have taught me, and it’s not just about being more patient, or not yelling or learning to put them first, by sacrificing the last bite of cheesecake (and a gazillion hours of sleep). I’ve found that if I pay enough attention, the lessons I learned are highly applicable to my professional life too.

Tip #1: Accept & Embrace The Mess 

As a working mother, I work my life around my family and try my best to do that sometimes insane juggling act that seriously, sets even the best of us up for failure. And what’s more, I have tried to keep my professional life separate from my family life and try to kinda live my life in separate blocks. This big yellow one is for work. The red one is for my husband. Blue one is for my son. Pink one for daughter #1 and purple one for daughter #2. And none of them touch.

While that works to a certain extent, it doesn’t account for the spillover effect. The Spillover Effect. Yeah, because Life Is Messy and the gods of all that is chaotic tend to like to conspire to make life more interesting.

Just.

For.

Kicks.

So instead of just getting frustrated that my day is not going according to schedule and getting upset that the kids are taking too long to [insert task here], I have decided to accept and embrace the mess instead of fighting it.

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My son loves his blue sneakers (in the photo above) and always wants to wear them. But he takes a really long time (by adult standards) to put them on, well, because he’s 5. Instead of telling him to hurry up and scolding him for his choice of footwear because he is making everyone late, and in the process upsetting him and myself and giving everyone an unpleasant start to the day, I have suggested that he start putting on his shoes 5 minutes before everyone else does.

Because it is in accepting and embracing the situation as is, that I can figure my way out with much better outcomes, with a less stressed out Mummy and a happier kid (because Mummy is not yelling in frustration).

I have found that whether at my job or any venture that I might explore, it is pointless to wish something were a certain way when it is not. Try as I might, I can’t change people, nor can I change some situations. The sooner I accept and embrace the reality, the easier it would be to make a plan and meander through it with the best results possible.

Tip #2: Lego Blocks Should Be Part of Every Job Interview 

If you want to find out the type of person you are hiring, get them to build something out of Lego blocks. The idea is not really in what they end up building, but to observe their thought processes and questions they ask.

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When my kids and I play with Lego, it’s always intriguing to me at how they express themselves with this platform. My son, the fixer, step-by-step doer and perfectionist, would look at the pictures on the Lego box or in the booklet (if there is one) to replicate what he so desires. He is to-the-point and systematic. If he doesn’t know how to fix it, he tries to troubleshoot but gives up sometimes too soon because the perfectionist in him does not like to attempt tasks he thinks he is not good at. He doesn’t like to ask for help.

Daughter #1 on the other hand, is the imaginative and creative one who colours within and outside the lines, sees what she wants to build in her mind and just starts building (because who cares about instructions?!). Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes she screams in frustration because something is not going her way or a Lego block won’t clutch the way she wants it to. But she asks for help and figures it out in the end.

Of course, what and how the interviewee builds may not be an all-conclusive measure of how this person may be a great fit or useful for a particular role in an organisation, but I think it would be a good overview.

Tip #3: Savour the Highs and Use Them To Power Through the Lows 

Life can be Tough. So can parenting, and work.

I love my kids to the moon and back, and being their Mum has brought me through Super Highs and Super Lows. When I watched my babies learn to roll over, or walk, or when they first said “Mama”, or when my two year old does her Happy Dance. It’s like sunshine on my face and warm soup in my tummy. It is heartwarming and nourishing.

Then there’s the yucky part of parenting, when I’m surviving on 2 hours of sleep because someone got sick, or the babies had to be fed in the middle of the night, or all the kids decide to start fighting and yelling when you’re trying to do something. Those are the times when parenting feels like another job that I have to take care of and it feels like absolute drudgery.

I used to think that when good things happen, I shouldn’t celebrate too much, because when bad things happen, then the fall will be so much harder. But I’ve realised that the good and bad are just part of Life, like they are part of work and business.

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The best way isn’t to not celebrate the highs, or to wish the lows away. But to celebrate these highs and remember them as much as possible, to build up a bank of confidence in my own abilities and a positive mindset so that I will be able to take on the lows with decisive action, drive and tenacity.

 

 

 

5 Things I Learned from Randi Zuckerberg

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Randi Zuckerberg is the Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Creator of Dot Complicated and Former Director of Market Development & Spokesperson of Facebook.

Randi was not at all how I imagined her to be when I met her.

I half expected a professional, hardened, power-talking persona, and maybe she would be a little cold and standoffish, but she was none of those things.

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She’s got to be one of my favourite Supermamapreneurs because she is so down-to-earth and warm. She’s smart and immensely funny, and she doesn’t possess that arrogance that some super successful people have.

Here’s 5 things that I’ve learnt from her:

Lesson 1: Don’t let your height get to your head, and negativity get to your heart

When Mark first started Facebook, he was just 18 years old and people were mean and called him the toddler CEO. Even though he does have a thick skin, (and I guess you would have to develop that if you’re him), sometimes it was hard to not let comments like this get to him. Someone passed some advice to Randi, which she shared with him – You’re never as bad as they say, and never as good as they say, so don’t let your height get to your head, and negativity get to your heart.

Lesson 2: Her Secret to being a Supermamapreneur — Work, Sleep, Fitness, Family, Friends – Pick 3 Only 

To juggle her life and make it work, she gives herself permission to not have to do everything all at once. Each day, just pick 3, and everyday can be different. See, this is actually the secret of being super – we don’t have to try to do everything at once, and I think we have to learn to stop pressuring ourselves to be everything to everyone too. It’s just not sustainable.

Lesson 3: It doesn’t matter if you get 4000 “Nos”. You just need 1 “YES!” 

In 2007,  she wanted to give Facebook some credibility by getting involved in the U.S. Presidential campaigns, and to show that Facebook is also a serious place for discourse. She called so many campaigns and got turned down many, many times. The only one who said “yes” from the start was the Obama campaign (and look how that turned out!).

Lesson 4: Don’t go into business with your best friend.

If you’re best friends, chances are you both are quite alike. Having differences is the only reason why she and Mark could work together so well for so long. They would work on different areas of the business and not step on each others toes. So in business, pick someone opposite of you for best results.

Lesson 5: Money just amplifies what’s already in you. 

When asked how money has changed her life, she says she still lives a very simple life, and lives the way she did before. In her experience, money doesn’t change people. It just amplifies what is already inside of you. So if you are insecure, money will make you crazy insecure. If you’re an asshole, money will make you a crazy asshole!

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Love her yet? 🙂

Expired Food Art

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  

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Getaway: Mama & Allegra Go To Cassia, Bintan, Indonesia

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.

 

 

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Pondering unicorns.

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.

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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.

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They had all the toiletries you’d need. But at the time we went, they didn’t have combs, so you might have to bring your own. I just used my hands 😀

 

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Queen-sized bed
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View from our balcony.

 

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She only wanted to ride on the “pink one”.
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Little lady

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.

Haiyo.

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!

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3 going on 13!?

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!

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Cassia is beautiful at night. Notice the apartment blocks are built on a hill? The gentle hill creates a natural amphitheatre. Claire mentioned that they might have performances at the foot of the hill and guests can sit down on the grass to watch or watch from their apartment balconies.
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Thanks Claire for the experience! (or “婆婆 Claire” to Allegra).
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New 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!

Love, 

Mama 

 

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Stay cool with Cassia!

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.

After all, they are only small once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaius is 5.

Happy Birthday, Kaius!

I feel like I graduated as a Mother.

Dear Kaius,

You’ve just turned 5 and you have no idea how proud Mummy and Daddy are of you.

You have grown slowly but surely into this thoughtful, inquisitive, cheeky and kind little boy.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the pre-term labour scare at 35 weeks of pregnancy, and then finally the 26 hours of labour at 38 weeks to bring you into this world.

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Hello, my little boy blue.

Everyone says your first child is special.

As middle children, Daddy and I always scoffed at that statement because, well, what do you mean? We’re less special because we’re not the first or the youngest?

But when we had you, we finally understood this. (Although, we also came to the conclusion at that time (having no other children than you) that the first one will be special, the last one will be the baby, hence special, and the middle ones are *sigh* least loved! But I digress.)

And it’s not because we love your sisters any less. (Yes, everyone gets equal share when Mummy and Daddy kick the bucket).

It’s because with you, there were and will be so many “firsts”:

The first time we became “Mummy” and “Daddy”.

 

The first time I had to figure out breastfeeding and cursing at how painful it was at the beginning. (What do you mean I am supposed to do this for at least 6 months?! And why isn’t there some kind of epidural for engorgements??) In spite of all the pain and suffering, I did it for you.

The first time my heart broke when I had to leave you in the hospital when you were only 3 days old because of jaundice. I felt like I was leaving a precious part of me there. And it’s true, isn’t it? You are part of me because you were formed inside me, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.

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The first time I left you at school and forced myself to walk away even though I could hear you screaming for me.

The first time you called me “Mama”.

Even though we were given this giant responsibility of shaping your life, you have no idea how much you have already shaped ours (and turned it upside down!).

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You have taught me that gentle kisses from your baby are far more precious than anything that can be bought.

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You have taught me the true meaning of sacrifice. Yes, I worked as a lawyer before you were born, and late nights at 1 or 2am were not uncommon. I thought then, that that was sacrifice, for my career. But, seriously, what did I know then? I was only responsible for myself and I could still be selfish. Nobody else needed me for their survival, but you did. And that meant I had to put you first.

I remember once I was holding you in the middle of the night trying to soothe you whilst I was crying because I was so exhausted. But I did it anyway because you needed me.

You have also taught your Father what it means to be his son’s hero.

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Super Daddy!
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After winning 2nd place at the Healthy Baby Contest.

I will always be thankful for your cheeky smile,

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Your gentleness with your sisters,

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Sibling love.

And every time you look at me and say, ”Mama, I love you”, even when we’re in the middle of something. It’s almost like the Universe telling me to STOPBEINGBUSY and pay attention to what matters. Because there will never be a second chance at watching you grow up.

Oh and you know what? It is because of you that we understood, so deeply and assuredly, just how much our own parents love us. Other assumptions, parental mistakes and definitions aside (because I am a lawyer and I gotta catch’em all), it is that self-sacrificial, tender, unconditional, enduring love that will always be there. It is the kind of love that will catch you when you fall, continually and tirelessly look for you when you’re lost, and will be there when you finally want to talk, even if it is to yell expletives.

It is the kind of love that will choose to let you have the last bit of my Cornetto cone with all the yummy chocolate in it even though I really wanted it for myself. Not because I don’t love myself. But because giving it to you and watching you scrumptiously enjoy it made me so much happier.

It is the kind of love that will fight fiercely for you. To. The. Bloody. Death.

Daddy and I are so fortunate to experience these lessons of love with you, first.

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Hello cutie!

In this crazy and uncertain world we live in, of this you can be sure:

Your sisters will always annoy you,

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Hugs from Allegra! Wait till Xaxa is old enough. I don’t know what your face will look like when they both decide to squish you!

Mummy and Daddy will always love you,

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Happy Birthday, Kaius!

And Mummy will always be the one who introduced you to chewing gum 😉

 

My Allegra.*

Of all my children, Allegra is the most spunky. 

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. 

Kids: Kaius & McDonald’s 

Me: OK kids, nap time! Go lie down and I’ll go get my book. 

Kaius: You mean your McDonald’s book? 

Me: (amused) How did you know it’s a McDonald’s book? 

Kaius: Because I saw the McDonald’s sign and I was reading it just now. 

Wow. My son is a lot more observant than I give him credit for and he’s growing up fast. 

How can I not fight to be a good example for him? 

Kaius with Grinding It Out. The Making of McDonald’s by American businessman Ray Kroc. He was responsible for making McDonald’s into the world’s most iconic fast-food brand. 

GIRL TALK: Penny Low, Founder, Social Innovation Park

Why CSR and Social Innovation is Everyone’s Business

So in September, I attended the CSR and the Social Innovators Forum.

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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.

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Excerpt taken from Social Innovation Park’s book Top 50 Social Innovations Changing Our World.

Of course, the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, lent some star power mega star power to the event.

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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.

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CSR and Social Innovation can be as simple as participating in Food Bank initiatives.
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Like this Food Bank Project X-pired –  Converting Food into Fashion!
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Me and Penny

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:

MentorMission – EVENT INVITE: Jamiyah’s 24th Exemplary Mother Award

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.

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From Left to Right: Amutha Saravanan COO of the Da Vinci Group, Our mentor and original Supermamapreneur, Claire Chiang, and me at Jamiyah Singapore.

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.

This year, there will also be a very special fashion show by 3 local designers, Adlina Anis, Kavita Thulasidas and Sylvia Lim, who will all use batik prints by Batik Master, Sarkasi Said, in their designs.

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.

Event Details: 

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

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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 nora_r@jamiyah.org.sg 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.

*Kampong means village in Bahasa Melayu.

Date Night: Of Art, Dinner & Great Company

At the National Gallery Singapore Gala 2016

Instead of the usual dinner and a movie, date night this week was at the National Gallery Singapore Gala, thanks to our friends Jean & Pauline. It was such a lovely tour of the National Gallery.

This year’s Gala was held during the opening of the opening of Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies which marks an important collaboration between the Gallery and Tate Britain.

We were invited to a private viewing of the Exhibition and all funds raised for the Gala would be going towards enabling the Gallery to deepen their curatorial research, as well as grow, preserve and present their collection to the world. It also funds community and education programmes that inspire audiences of all ages.

Besides the wining and dining, there was a live auction and a silent auction as well. I believe they managed to raise over $1million that night.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take as many photos as I would have liked because I was minding my gown whenever I walked.

But I felt so pampered the entire evening – perfect for date night! Right from the time we pulled up in front of the National Gallery where the valets took over our car and we walked up the stairs (so New York!), disappearing into the one of my favourite buildings in Singapore, taking photos at the entrance…

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Arrival at the gala

and we went up more stairs and breezed through the exhibits, arriving here for cocktails…

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..taking wefies with the beautiful background..

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Minister Grace Fu was the Guest Of Honour. 
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The gala was presented by Vacheron Constantin

 

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Weihong with  Jean Nasr, Managing Director of Mouawad Singapore

..and of course meeting up with our gracious hosts for the night, Pauline Chan and Jean Nasr…

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Our lovely company for the night

…to dinner with great people…

….To the end of the night where we were whisked away to another room in the National Gallery and exquisitely spoiled by a dessert table that offered turkish delight, giant trifles (one had coffee jelly in it instead of the typical jam jelly – so good!), berries, cakes, and gorgeously coloured meringues…

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And this wasn’t even the biggest trifle bowl!

AND a cheese table. Any kind of cheese you could imagine, it was there!

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Mmmm cheese!

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What a night!

This was a great way to spend a Friday night – with the husband, good food, great company and a worthy cause!