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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Small Progress

Did you see the tabs above? Those that say ...
(1) About Petunia
(2) Coaching
(3) Seminars
(4) Therapy
(5) Potato Chinese®
(6) Book

The Husband had asked me to write up the content for a website describing the services I would offer. He would then arrange to develop the html files necessary to render my designs and ideas on a dedicated website. I had completed my drafts when I remembered that My Sinfonia had created pages with tabs on her blog to showcase the various aspects of her very productive and creative life. So, I messed around on Blogger.Com trying to figure out how to create multiple pages with tabs.

Lo and behold! I did it!

And I didn't need The Husband's help at all! I wasn't halfway through the design and refinement of the pages when an order came in for 10 books. By this morning, I had sold 23 books. I am so very pleased indeed. Creating a web presence doesn't seem as difficult anymore and selling books online seems quite doable indeed. I had initially believed it would take months to even put up a description of my services... and so I was quite amazed that it could be done in 1 day with Blogger.Com. So many things are so easy these days!

I am keeping my fingers very crossed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Milo Can Tell Time

Our Milo can tell time.

We live on a small street that can get quite busy with traffic during the evenings. Strangers of every shape, size and nationality walk past our front gate and peer past the hedge. Paranoid Petunia designed an open fence that gives passersby a clear view of our patio, car porch and front yard. I had hoped that leaving my front door in plain view of the street would deter thieves from breaking in. Certainly, if they knew that any passerby can see their clandestine dealings from the street, they would bring their clandestine activity somewhere else?

Unfortunately, Milo hates having strangers peek into his domain and stare at him. Many of the regulars who frequent the cluster of eateries down the road will call out to him lovingly, "Miiiiiiloooooh!" That makes Milo quite mad because he thinks it isn't any business of these passersby what his name is. He got so noisy trying to tell these people to bugger off and stop calling his name, that he became a neighbourhood Noise Pollution Factor.

The Family considered the options:
(1) bark collar
(2) throat operation
(3) get rid of him
(4) lock him up where he can't see these passersby

Understandably, we chose Option 4 for there is no other dog in the world like Milo... and we like him just the way he is, even though he is badly trained, very disobedient, eats like 5 pigs.. and a Neighbourhood Noise Pollution Factor. So, lock him up we did. We told him that between 8pm and 11pm each night, he had to stay in the backyard fenced up by tall walls on 4 sides. He seemed to understand, trotting into the backyard every evening and staying there all quiet and sweet-natured.

After a while, we began to forget to let him out... so Milo learnt to be pro-active. Hence, at about 11pm last night, we heard one short yelping bark. It's the sort of plaintive bark Milo speaks when he is asking politely for something. Just one bark. No more. The Daughter said that he does that every night. Just one bark and no more. When she went downstairs, he was sitting politely by the door expecting to be let out into the front yard to roam at will. Then when The Daughter walked to undo the lock at the backyard gate, Milo did his Happy Milo Dance. It's a cute dance he does as he skips happily from one foot to another... and since he has 4 feet, it really is quite a jiggle.

The question is not how he knows to dance, but HOW does he tell it is 11pm?

Monday, May 21, 2012


When I say The Husband has NEVER praised a restaurant, I do not exaggerate. To my memory, it has never happened. In The Husband's world view, restaurants are a necessary evil of which the sole purpose is to indulge me... and keep me in a good mood so that life with me will be somewhat sweet (and largely bearable). The Husband is not difficult with food. Home-cooked food (of whatever quality I manage to make) is best. Hawker centre food comes a close second, and he is not the sort that will travel to faraway hawker centres where famous hawker stalls are located. When I say hawker centre food, I mean the 3 hawker centres near our home.

So, when I dragged him to POMO at Selegie Road to sample Tao's 6-course lunch, The Husband went along in an amiable and companionable spirit. After so many years of marriage, he is resigned to the fact that this is part of what he has to do to preserve our marriage - indulge The Wife's palate.

By the end of the lunch, The Husband was raving. He loved what he ate and he loved the price he paid - $21.90 for 6 courses. All decently made and nicely presented. I'm sorry the pictures don't do justice to the dishes

Nice fluffy toasted bread.
Prawn roll with pork floss
Melon Potage
Very thick mushroom soup
Fruit teas - Delish!!
Melt in your mouth baby back ribs

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Such was the power of the beauty inside her that winter turned to spring in her path and flowers grew in her footsteps.

The Daughter gave me a memory foam pillow for Mother's Day because I had been complaining about a sore neck and shoulders. And she wrote such beautiful words on the pillowcase that I began to feel like the Queen of the Faerie Folk. Then when she told me how she came by such an expensive pillow, I was bemused.

The Daughter is careful with money, and she is trying to save up enough to pay her own way through university. Bless her determination to stand on her own 2 feet! The memory foam pillow was all of $149 but if she spent $100, she could buy it for $19. The Daughter couldn't afford such an expensive pillow. She must have looked a little forlorn because the sales lady told her that many people spend hundreds of dollars but don't want to buy the pillow because they have no use for it. Then, the sales lady helped her to ask one of these customers if The Daughter could ride on her receipt of $300+ to buy 2 pillows. One for Mother's Day and another for Father's Day.

A very nice lady obliged. It was a win-win all around. It inconvenienced the lady not at all. The sales lady was able to reduce her stocks of the memory foam pillow. The Daughter bought 2 pillows to honour her parents and help preserve their aging spines. I guessed it helped that The Daughter is humble, sweet and gentle in her ways with people... so sales ladies and hawker centre aunties just reach out and help her. Even cats bring The Daughter gifts. See here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Salmon Sashimi

Big Boy is having exams. As a rule, during the few weeks of exams, Big Boy and I goof off. We eat out at lunch and giggle and chat. Or rather, I giggle and he chats. Big Boy has a serious and deadpan face so if I don't lighten things up, these would be very boring meals indeed.

Big Boy and I welcome these breaks. Work is very intensive during the holidays when he doesn't have school to distract him from learning. We wake up early and Big Boy pulls regular 8 to 10 hour work days during the holidays. Work is even more intensive during the school term because he wakes himself up (whilst I snooze still in bed) at 5.30 am to get ready for school. When he gets home at 1.30 pm, he is tired, but he still puts in 2 to 3 hours of solid home learning. This is over and above his school homework.

So, when exams come around, we just let ourselves go. We ROT.

It was in the process of ROTTING that we came across this sushi bar where the sushi-rista (you know... like barista) was playing with a fish and a sharp knife. I was really impressed. He sliced straight down both sides of the fish and lifted up a filet that looked like a machine had cut it. He knew exactly where to look for the fishbones and then he sliced up the whole fish into yummy sashimi.

Masterful! Nom... nom... nom...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Changing Education Paradigms

Here is an interesting link about education -

House and Land Packages in West Swan

Foreigners in Australia are only allowed to buy property from developers. Over there, they call it "buying off the plan". But when you SELL the property, it MUST be to an Australian citizen or PR. This is smart. It ensures that foreign money flows INTO Australia to develop its infrastructure AND it prevents foreigners from chasing up property prices beyond the reach of the average Australian.

Developers offer House and Land packages where you get to choose plots of land between 350sqm to 500sqm... and then you choose a house plan to build ON it. The developer will then build a house design that YOU chose. For a fee, you can customise your house by changing the plan a little. You can also specify different building materials. This is all costed and YOUR price will be given to you. I actually found a house design that I liked here -, and a plot of land here - and

Our friend disapproved. He knows Perth better than we do and so we held our horses. When we were in Perth, we drove into the above places to have a look-see. It was clear to me that these areas had low cost homes. The look and feel of the buildings in West Swan were much different from the homes we saw in Subiaco and Applecross. Still, by Singaporean standards, these were luxurious homes. They were large and had patches of garden real estate. There were parks and ponds situated at the doorstep. The area was well-served by a major highway, good roads but still rural enough that one can breathe the country air. There were amenities nearby too.

But our friend still disapproved and so we still held our horses. He made a convincing case. There would be no way we could closely supervise the building of the house, and corners might be cut that would mean no end of trouble later. Poor waterproofing, poor roofing insulation... Rural properties aren't as sought after as beachfront properties and so when it comes to selling, the property might be hard to get off our hands. In addition, when you build a house on a piece of land, you've every interest to ensure that the Land Price : House Price is around 1:1. Since the land around West Swan are around $250,000, then you should ensure the building costs is around $250,000 too. This is because, if you build an expensive house on a piece of cheap land, people who are attracted to that suburb won't be able to afford the house you built. If you build a cheap house on a piece of expensive land, people who want to stay in that upmarket suburb won't like the house you built. Then he shook his head and said "$250,000" is too cheap a house. It won't be a good house.

Our friend should know. He built his $1 million house on a $650,000 piece of land. It's all of 5000 sq ft (built-in) on a single storey with a heated pool, ducted vacuum and dual air-conditioning. The rooms are huge and every bedroom has access to the swimming pool and decking. Oooooooooooh! Luxury! It just goes to show that luxury is in the eyes of the beholder. When I first saw the properties at West Swan, I thought them luxurious. After I saw our friend's home, those properties didn't seem luxurious anymore.

So we asked around some more and almost everyone we asked cautioned us against these "affordable properties". No, no... you don't want to buy there. You want to buy in areas that are near water (either a river or the sea)." The problem is that riverfront and beachfront suburbs that our friend approved of, are relatively built up already. Almost nothing there can to be bought off the plan. Besides, how to afford a property to the standard of our friend?

Hmmmm... we're kinda a little bit stuck - **scratch head**. Must do more research to see more nuances in the way people view property in Australia.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cold Storage Freebies... Love 'em!

The thing about Cold Storage (the grocery chain) loyalty freebies is that they're good stuff... sometimes even branded. Over the years, I have exchanged loyalty stickers for designer teapots, branded bakeware, high quality pots and pans. The next thing about Cold Storage freebies is that they are really free. NTUC Fairprice's (another grocery chain) loyalty exchanges always require a certain amount of monetary top up... and so I find them less interesting.

The last time I saved up loyalty coupons for NTUC Fairprice's ONLY half-free bakeware I regretted, because shortly after, Cold Storage unveiled their line of bakeware to be given away completely free in exchange for loyalty stickers. This time, I was most interested in a line of serving spoons and ladles from NTUC Fairprice but I decided to wait. Cold Storage MIGHT unveil their line of completely free loyalty cutlery.

The most useful line of gifts I've got from Cold Storage was a brown lady's back pack by Kappa. Mind you, Kappa is an excellent brand of high quality bags. I went bag crazy that time. We ate a lot more beef than we normally do, just so that I could get my lady's backpack AND a toiletries travel bag. It has been years and both bags still look good and work good. Their seams are thick and the material has held up under very rough use without tearing. That little brown lady's backpack follows me everywhere... my favourite handbag.

This semester, Cold Storage has unveiled a new line of bags from Wenger... another well known brand. Petunia has gone bag gaga again. The result of this temporary fascination with bags is that we're again eating a lot of beef. Why?

You see... NTUC Fairprice has generally lower prices for each item than Cold Storage so I buy the majority of groceries from NTUC Fairprice. I only buy meat, French cheeses, gourmet hams, exotic vegetables from Cold Storage because they taste better and are worth the premium in price. These expensive foodstuffs also mean that I can amass a large collection of loyalty stickers in very little time... and then I get to carry a cute and tough little handbag for free. Plus my family eats a higher proportion of quality food - parma ham from Italy, bocconcini cheese, champagne ham, camembert, brie, feta cheese, chocolate mousse, rocket salad and beef tenderloin.

My new lady's backpack is black. It's lighter than the old Kappa backpack so it is lovely to have on my back. I hope it'll last me as long as the Kappa one. In any case, I have retired the old Kappa backpack into the box where I keep things of sentimental value. It was a good and worthy bag for many long years, and if this new bag tears or falls apart, I can take it out to use again.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bravo... Ian Tan Yong Hoe!

A journalist called Ian Tan Yong Hoe is my new hero because he spoke the pain of Singaporean children with words that resonate deeply with me...

Here is a comment tagged to the above article (that I find so good that I hope Sarah Sum-Campbell will forgive me for reproducing it here)...

My husband has a PhD in computer science and I have post grad qualifications in a child related field, yet we struggle with just the idea of sending our 5 and 3 year olds into the education system here. We need to migrate to get a life for our kids, the kind of childhood we want for them. What schools need here is to lower teacher-pupil ratio, spend the money on getting children inspired by teachers who have time for them. Children do not need huge buildings and fantastic hardware to learn, they need people to guide them how to think, show them how the world works and how to get along with each other. Here, the schools build robots out of our kids, kick the life and creativity out of them with a warped focus on achievement. To what ends? Achieving high marks does not make a child smart, creative, compassionate, a problem solver. Unfortunately only a small percentage of parents care enough about our kids think this way. I believe the bulk of parents here still think nothing of making their children sit through lessons, assessments and more papers each day. That accounts for flourishing of tuition centres - to better complete the robotic process and nail the coffin of childhood.

Post Script

Here is yet another well-written perspective in response to Ian's article... .

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Neil Kay

Neil Kay is the housing agent from Knight Frank who sold us a unit at AU Apartments here. Petunia has an over active imagination and when Neil walked in through the door of the cafe I was lounging in, the image of a large Viking with 2 blonde plaits and a bronze helmet with horns came to mind. Neil is tall, with broad shoulders... and struck an imposing figure. Standing up, Petite Petunia peered up at him. Her eyes had to travel a long way up his chest and neck to finally find his eyes in order to smile a "hello" as modern conventions of polite behavior dictate.

Then the big man squeezed himself into a chair and spoke out loud... and what came to mind was another completely discordant image of Pippin the Hobbit (also called Peregrin Took of the Second Breakfast - So there I was sitting next to a cross between a Hobbit and a Viking.

Petite Petunia stared up at his Giant Hobbit Face and declared "Oh my goodness! You talk like a hobbit!!"

Gentlemanly, polite and deeply professional (in sharp contrast to my holiday cheekiness) Neil gently explained that he was Scottish. As Neil talked, memories came flooding back of Scotland, the Loch Ness and of a certain Scottish young man who invited The Husband and I to join his campfire when we decided to stop for the night in a small clearing right next to the Loch Ness. I remember that young man clearly because his Scottish accent was so thick the whole evening that you could have cut it with a knife. Then a trucker stopped by to ask for directions... and I was amazed to hear the same young man speak in perfect Standard English to the trucker. When he came back to the fire, I looked at him quizzically. He explained himself in Scottish English "There is OUR English and the other type."

I had to shake these extraneous voices from my head in order to focus on the important matter a hand. I snapped back to when Neil began to explain the hidden potential of East Perth. I sat up straight when he and his friend Linda (a pretty slim lady with animated gestures and laughter that bubbles up from the back of her throat) gave me the run down on the characteristics of this and that Perth suburb. And when what he said resonated so deeply with what I thought and documented here... I grinned and declared - "You're not just a hobbit. You're a Visionary Hobbit." To get in touch with the Visionary Hobbit, just email him at

Before committing moneys, readers MUST do due diligence. Please look at loan interest rates, exchange rates, cash flow, capital gains taxes, taxes on interest, costs of maintaining a property etc... because every investment contains inherent risks.

AU Apartments in Perth

This is the 2nd in a series of posts on what we learnt about buying property in Perth.

So, that's it. We've gone and done it... bought an apartment in Perth even before we got there. It sounds like a risky thing to do but really... when we got there, there was nothing much more to see anyway that would have made the decision different. It was a patch of empty land fenced up by sexy marketing billboards with a sales office at one end housed within a converted container. Much of my research and analysis was already done through the internet before we even stepped on the plane.

AU Apartments is on Hay Street in East Perth, which is one street away from St George's Terrace (the Shenton Way of Perth). At present, similar apartments in that area command a rental of AU$750 a week (i.e., AU3000 a month). Some evidence suggests that this could be AU$850 a week (i.e., AU$3400 a month). We used the even lower estimate of AU$650 to compute the yield on leveraged capital and decided that we liked what we saw.

Over and above the basic notion of rental yield, we allowed ourselves to be convinced by the fact that the apartment was situated in a part of town that (even though very near to the Shenton Way of Perth, i.e., St George's Terrace) was rather old and somewhat in disrepair. This part of Perth is so old that The Perth Mint (dating from 1896) is right smack in the middle of it, and AU Apartments is right opposite The Perth Mint. It sounds stupid no? We bought an apartment in the least reputable part of Perth town?

My logic follows my observations of what happened to Singapore's Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay... and what happened in West End Brisbane - The Husband and I missed the opportunities that abounded 15 years ago with the conservation shophouses along Joo Chiat Road and those in Chinatown. They looked so old back then and could be bought for a song. Look at them now, though! And of course, each now costs a stunning inheritance.

Recognising the same confluence of variables in East Perth that we had noted so many times before but weren't clever enough to exploit, The Husband and I thought AU Apartments on Hay Street too good an opportunity to be missed. Like I said, Hay Street is only one street away from St George's Terrace (Perth's Shenton Way), and I really doubt that the street that is one street away from Perth's equivalent of Shenton Way will escape rejuvenation in time to come. In time to come, we expect larger gains in East Perth than in the already chi-chi areas of Perth.

I also considered migration patterns into Perth. I know that the boom in global demand for minerals has been much hyped about but there you have it, it did play a role in our calculations. We expected the global demand Western Australia's minerals to grow. More people will move into Perth to work in this burgeoning sector. Perth suburbs comprised mostly of single storey homes are already spreading far outwards, requiring people to travel an hour plus from home to Perth CBD. Land plots used to be sold at 700sqm per house. Today, a plot per house can be as small as 350sqm. The process of densification has begun. Densification is the process of increasing population density in an area - allowing more people to live together on the same square footage of land. I do believe it's a matter of time therefore that the people will prefer to live in high rises close to the CBD so as to avoid the hassle of travelling.

It isn't happening right now, because that suburban house with a garden is still a sought after Australian dream. Yet, I did read a report that young Australians have other dreams - and another report that stated the opposite - So, it really is up to the reader to make a judgment call.

So... if you have a bit of cash to invest, you might wanna consider AU Apartments? If you do, look up Neil Kay  at, the housing agent from Knight Frank whom I found most efficient and quick to respond. I had been in touch with other housing agents for other Australian properties and not one matched Neil Kay in speed and responsiveness.

The man is a darling - more about him here.

Before committing moneys, readers MUST do due diligence. Please look at loan interest rates, exchange rates, cash flow, capital gains taxes, taxes on interest, costs of maintaining a property etc... because every investment contains inherent risks.