Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gong xi fa cai Happy Year of the Goat


On 18th Feb 2015 which is today, the last day of the Year of the Horse, I woke up at 2am in the morning knowing something was very wrong. My body was hot and felt weird in several places. Also, I could stop scratching the area below my left arm. I turned on the light, removed my t-shirt and started examining my body more closely. I seemed to have red patches all over. I asked hubs to take a look and he said I have hives.

The first thing I did was to take a cold shower. The cold water worked as long as it was on me. The minute I got out of the shower, the itch was incredible. I decided to do an inventory of my hives. I noticed that the left side of my face was reddish and slightly swollen. Both my hands were burning, swollen and red hot; the left hand far worse than the right. I had large streaks of red patches running across my stomach and both sides of my body. Even my right eye lid itched and the base of my head as well. My right thigh was a mess and both my feet were starting to look angry. Amazingly, my back was completely spared. My skin felt raw so I applied QV cream all over the problem areas. I noticed I had two bites - one on my thigh and one below my left arm. They looked like mosquito bites.

I remember announcing to hubs at some point that I may possibly have to skip Chinese New Year.

I took an antihistamine and the box said only one tablet a day. This meant if the medication didn't work, I was screwed. This is the first time I have an attack of hives and it is truly a terrifying experience. Hubs has a history with hives and he had told me before a cold pack works best for itching. I spent the next hour pressing the cold pack on my itchy skin. It prevented me from scratching myself.

Around 4am, I noticed the redness was subsiding. My skin still itched but the redness was less scary. My hands previously swollen, puffy and red looked a lot more normal. I guess the antihistamine worked. By 6am, most of the redness had disappeared. I still felt some remnant itch and my body still tingled but I was more sleepy than anything else.

Anyway, I started thinking about what could have triggered my hives and since I've never suffered from hives before, I don't really know what could be the cause. Only two things stood out. Before I went to bed, I had cleaned the balcony, washed the kitchen floor, washed the laundry area and the kitchen bathroom. Yes, it's quite out of character. The other thing that could have caused the reaction are the mosquito (or insect) bites. I've been bitten by mosquitos and insects countless times so I doubt it. You know what this means?


I knew all these years I had a very good reason to shun housework. My body was protecting itself.

It is 11pm as I write this. My skin still has memories of itchiness. But I no longer look like a burn victim and I don't have to scratch anymore.

We've had our reunion dinner at my MIL. This is an important meal to start off the Chinese New Year celebrations. One of the items on the menu is the salad which we toss in the air for good fortunes. After all that messiness, we eat the salad.

Some people play mahjong too. I'm not good at the game. My kids are better than me. Yes, we play with real money.

Tomorrow we will do our visiting if I don't wake up with hives again. Just in case, tonight I'm taking another antihistamine. I am sharing some pics and stuff at Instagram. Over there, I'm also known as projectsbyjane.

Here's wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous Year of the Goat. May you have health, wealth and success.

For some goat puns, check out hubs' blog post here.

May The Goat Be With You

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Checklist for Chinese New Year 2015

1. Figure out if we are celebrating Year of the Goat or Year of the Sheep.

Us Chinese have had such a long history with written records existing from as early as 1200 BC. And suddenly this year, with the new year approaching, there is this big question of what the next Chinese zodiac year should be. Is it the Year of the Goat or the Year of the Sheep?

Goats at Chinatown

Retailers all over Singapore are not united in their choice of animal. Some are doing it the tradional way and going with the goat. Others find the sheep "cuter".
"Technically speaking, the different interpretations are not wrong. Assistant professor Lee Cheuk Yin, who heads the Department of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore, says: "As the Chinese character is yang, the zodiac sign could be interpreted as either shanyang (mountain goat), mianyang (sheep) or lingyang (gazelle) and still be technically correct."               Read here.

This 'yang' is fictional. It does not refer to any specific kind (of sheep or goat)," Zhao Shu, a researcher with the Beijing Research Institute of Culture and History, told AFP.     Read here.

So experts are saying it can be goat, sheep or gazelle. Gazelle? Gazelle? Growing up we had the 12 zodiac animals hammered into our brains. I'm serious. Hammered. In school, at home, everywhere. And each and every time it has always been a goat. I say let's stick with goat. If we're gonna follow tradition, let's do it the traditional way. I have nothing against the sheep or gazelle. If right from the start it had been sheep or gazelle, that's okay. But one of my sisters was born in the Year of the Goat. I can't like, oh, she's a goat or a sheep or even a gazelle. The zodiac animals is big deal in Chinese culture. It's so ingrained. I cannot, overnight accept sheep or gazelle, whatever the "experts" say.

2. Buy mandarin oranges

I dutifully bought 8 mandarin oranges and managed to get them fresh from the box. These are swatow mandarin oranges from China. A few looked like a bad case of acne. I much prefer the smooth skin ones but the ones on display looked rotten so I opted for these.Why does NTUC supermarket sell rotten fruits? It's so unacceptable. Worse - the crew put in fresh ones with the rotten ones.

3. Prepare ang pow packets and new notes

This year we were on the ball and got our packets and notes sorted out early. Our notes aren't really fresh new. It's still money! On the note of new money, I think fresh notes are highly overrated. Firstly, you have to queue for them. Secondly, if you get them from the bank, the $2 ones come pre-packed. I remember one year I was short changed when I realised that my 100 pcs of $2 pre-packed notes had several notes missing. I believe that's called THEFT. Our relatives are going to have to accept our not so fresh notes.

4. Get new hair

I had my hair cut and coloured. This was the pic I sent to hubs after my hair was done. I no longer look like this. After a hair wash, it all went to shit all over the place. Just imagine an explosion of 1000%.

 My kids got their haircuts too.

Hubs is loving his hair too much to get a cut.

5. Get New Year goodies
This container of kueh buloh was the only goodie I bought. It costs $10. That's daylight robbery. It's emergency food for my kids over the Chinese New Year. I am not allowing myself to eat any. I can do it!

6. Get New Year outfits
I only need one new outfit because all our visiting is accomplished in one day. The more people you visit, the more ang pow money you have to give. This year I'm going very simple. It's a Bossini cotton blouse and a maroon Pull and Bear skirt. I wonder how many women I will run into wearing the same blouse as me. (it was on sale) I haven't worn a skirt in years! The outfit doesn't look great in the pic but I think I look okay in it. I do have a few other new tees and shorts but they are in shades of grey and black so totally not suitable for Chinese New Year.

I really love the skirt but it's so hard to photograph.

7. Get new shoes
In the past I was quite frugal with footwear. I would buy a few and wear them to death before I would get another pair. Ever since I bought my Teva pink sandals and discovered how awesome they are, I had a change of mindset. Previously, I only bought Ipanema but they have disappointed me a few times. I have one pair which hurts like hell. Anyway, I now think it's possible to find better and better footwear. Which explains my numerous purchases between December and February during the Christmas and Chinese New Year sales.

I bought these because I wanted a pair of red sandals and it was comfortable when I tried it.

This Teva slipper cum sandals is adorable. The colour is not as red as what you see. It really complements my skin tone.

Another Teva sandals. This one I'm going to wear sparingly so it could last a decade.

This is my first pair of Sole Lovers. I was so attracted to the colours. I hope it doesn't hurt.

This pair is from h&m and very cheap. It doesn't offer any arch support so I can't wear them for long distance.

I think these are men's slippers and they are from Global Works which is closing down and exiting Singapore. I love men's footwear but they are usually too large for me. This one fitted me just fine.

And finally these are my awesomest memory foam running shoes from Skechers. The arch support is not fantastic so I probably shouldn't run my 7km in them. They are very, very comfortable and so light.

Did I go a bit overboard with my footwear purchases? I won't need any new footwear for the next 2 or 3 years. I haven't decided which pair of footwear I will wear with my Chinese New Year outfit. It's probably NOT the running shoes.

8. Spring cleaning
I've done some tidying and cleaning but let's face it. It will never be neat and tidy. But I will clear the clean laundry from the sofa, I promise.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Eat, Drink, Run

Hey folks,

In January this year, I had one goal and that was to lose 5kg this year. I know it's only mid Feb and 1.5 months since I started eating less sweets and carbo but I have seen very, very little results. Honestly, I was hoping to see drastic changes but it's not happening. Yet. So far I have lost 1kg. It's not even a firm 1kg. I would consider 500g as a firm loss. The other 500g? It keeps screwing with me, creeping back now and then.

I have made some major changes to my diet. Like blockbuster major.

The biggest change? I have completely cut out all sweet tea and all sweet drinks. You know how much I love my sweet tea. But they were becoming such a problem as I just kept drinking them. I had no control. Sweet tea was my drug. I went cold turkey. Just like that. It was really hard the first week. I was shaking and speaking gibberish. It's much better now.
I no longer crave my sweet teas. I needed something to replace the tea so I switched to herbal and fruit flavoured tea. I don't add any suger or honey to these tea so that's like healthy, right? I drink 2 small pots a day and I would be like very, very angry if I wake up one day and find out these tea contain a lot of calories. Surprisingly, I am starting to like these tea and I surprise myself even more when I found Japanese green tea the most "delicious". I never liked green tea in the past so that's progress. I am so ready to explore more caffeine free and unsugared tea. Btw, the passion raspberry tea above? It sucks when warm but so good when cold.

When I go out to eat, I find it hard not to buy sweet drinks. So I resorted to always going out with a flask of water. My flask can keep warm water warm and cold water cold. It's a little bit old-lady but this is a free flask and it works.

Cutting out carbo completely is out of the question. I don't think I can survive without carbo. But I managed to reduce my intake or find substitutes.

For breakfast, I eat porridge oats instead of bread. I cook it plain but add grapes for my sugar fix, chia seeds and unsweetened cereal. I do this for 5 days and for 2 days I eat peanut butter and banana sandwich. I time the peanut butter banana sandwich on Wed and Fri as these are my workout days at the sports center.

Lunch and dinner are when I am liable to screw up. If I cook, I can easily limit my carbo by cooking less rice or noodles. If I eat out, I have to eat the full portion of whatever I bought. The best I can do is avoid topping up with soup and drinks.

Below you can see the food choices I made when I ate out since Jan. As you can see, I am still feeding myself very well. Ahhhhh!!!

 Fish burger with tom yam soup noodles at The Union. The portions are small.

Salmon with gyoza and rice at Osaka Ohsho. The portion is perfect but I think it could be less oily.

Fried chicken with salad at The Manhattan Fish Market. A terrible choice - the chicken is unhealthy and didn't even taste good.

This is Nara Thai and I love the food so I eat everything. If I eat at Nara Thai it means no watching of calories. Not that I know what watching my calories mean.

Bonchon's fried chicken is my weakness. Fortunately there's only one outlet and it's far from my home.

Seafood noodles at Orange Language - a very good choice, not too much noodles and a lot of veges.

This was teriyaki chicken with rice and salad at Menya Musashi. On top of the restaurant smelling really, really bad, the chicken was FAT.

Prawns chee cheong fun and fried prawns dumpling at Tangerine cafe were not good food choices. But the dumplings were delish!

Olive fried rice and tom yum soup at Bangkok Jam. When it comes to Thai food, I give in to my cravings. I love Thai food so much!

Vegetarian gyoza with rice and toufu at Tsubohachi. I thought the food was not bad but hubs wasn't too impressed.

Tempura with buckwheat noodles at Bugis Junction foodcourt. It's semi healthy but I don't think I can eat buckwheat noodles alone without any fried stuff to go with.

Prawns with mashed potato at fish n co. I can eat this every day.

I think I need to cook more and eat out less. I am only a so-so cook so I can't possibly overeat my own food. At the same time I don't want to go so far that I deprive myself of nice food. I still want to enjoy my life. The trick is to find the right balance.

Since Jan, I have indulged twice in Llao Llao frozen yogurt. It's very, very sweet and totally hubs' fault. He said "no queue" so he had to buy it. I also ate a lot of cashew nuts, one small bag of hubs' chips, one blueberry muffin and TWELVE tiny bean pastries (totally lost control). I broke the rule and had fast food - KFC and Texas chicken twice. They didn't even taste good! And a few days ago I had my first instant noodles this year. Why??? Also, I eat at least two oranges a day. There you have it - my full confession.

Going forward, I will try harder not to snack, have any fast food or instant noodles.

Exercise wise, I think I am doing quite well. I have one Pilates class and one cardiomix class a week. I run at least once a week. I have managed to improve my stamina and can cover 7km. Yay! By end of the year I should be able to run 10km. I hope so! On days when I don't run or have workout class, I go to an outdoor gym.

These machines mostly work the joints and some upper body muscles. It's quite boring and I can only work on them at most half an hour. The problem for me is there are some days when I totally don't exercise and sit far too long in front of the computer. Ideally I would like to perhaps do a very short run on those days when I don't feel like exercising. Either that or a very long walk. Do I have the willpower? Exercising every day cannot be achieved at the moment.

Hubs showed me a new running route. It's next to the canal. Usually I go to the park and run in circles to cover 7km. It is a bit boring running in circles but I've been doing that since 2000. This canal route is slightly more challenging as it can get windy and there are 2 litle slopes. Running up slope is hell. It's a little further from my home so I don't know if I'm willing to go the extra distance. I'll probably go again if hubs goes with me.

Anyone trying to lose weight this year? 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Flower power


Hubs and I had agreed not to get anything for each other on Valentine's Day. This morning I woke up and saw a few stalks of roses on the dining table in a coffee mug. Yes, the man has decided to be safe than sorry. He was worried that I would be influenced by bloggers showing off their goodies. (he knows me well)

I asked him why the flowers aren't fully open and some of the leaves look wilted. He said he had bought the flowers on WEDNESDAY and left them at the office but he didn't remember to put them in water right away. He's thoughtful but also forgetful.

Today, all four of us made the effort to meet up for lunch. Honestly, we don't celebrate Valentine's Day. But with the kids growing up rapidly, it's nice to go out and eat together once in a while.

This was my lunch at Fish n Co. I can't believe it's under 500 calories.
And because it's Valentine's Day, we had to ham one up for the camera.

Happy Valentine's Day, my dear friends. Whether you celebrate it or not, I hope your day is filled with laughter, joy and love. If not, just eat a lot of chocolates.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Lammily Doll

In November last year I read in the local papers (here) about a doll released for sale in the US. It's rare for a local paper to cover the release of a doll so of course I got interested. This is no ordinary doll. It is short, brunette with an average body type and can be given cellulite and acne. The doll designer based the proportions of his doll on the measurements published by the CDC. The production of the doll was funded via crowdfunding campaign. You can read all about The Lammily Doll at the doll website here.

Anyway, I thought about it. A doll that is not pretty, with realistic body proportions - so mind boggling. I went to the website to check out the cost of buying the doll. It costs USD25 which is about the selling price of a fashion Barbie in Singapore. (some Barbies cost less but these are less articulated) The shipping cost was not expensive either but I didn't make the purchase because I already have enough dolls. One night, I casually mentioned to hubs I had tried to buy The Lammily Doll but decided against it. He immediately went to the website to check out the doll and all. Again we decided not to buy it. A few days later, he changed his mind and bought it for me. He decided a doll this different was worth buying.

One day, a delivery from China arrived. I was quite puzzled that the China manufacturer declared the doll cost as USD50 instead of USD25. Fortunately, there is no GST (goods & services tax) even on a USD50 package. I was quite pleased with the box. It doesn't have a cheap look.

The Lammily Doll in person. In case you're wondering, the front pockets are pseudo pockets. You can't put anything in them as the pockets aren't closed. The back patch pockets do work.

Unfortunately my Lammily Doll doesn't stand very well unless I let her lean against something. Most of my dolls can't stand very well so that's not anything new.
The Lammily Doll is articulated in the neck, arms, wrists, thighs and feet. I'm very happy that the wrists and feet are articulated. I wish the knees were more flexible. I love her hair. It's waaaay better than Barbie's. So smooth and shiny.

Sitting seems to pose the most problems.

I started to realise the restrictions could be due to her denim shorts. It fits perfectly but when she sits, the front velcro splits open and her butt crack is exposed.

The Lammily Doll isn't meant to be anti-Barbie but an alternative body type fashion doll. Nevertheless, I have a curiosity to see the difference between both dolls. If you are used to a Barbie body type, you may think The Lammily Doll look a little Fiona-ogre(ish). Okay, maybe it's just me. But I soon got used to her "average body type" and then started to notice how ridiculously unrealistic Barbie's waist and breasts are. (so high and perky)

I should have paid more attention. Introducing a new doll to my family is never an easy affair. Apparently while I was adjusting my camera setting, Barbie stole Lammily's denim shirt. She says she looks better in it. Poor Lammily had to wear someone else's tank top and a granny panty.

Crap. The hair pulling begins. She's no pushover, this one.

OMG. Doll fight. Fists flew. Ankles kicked. A few joints were dislocated...

It's Time-Out for these two dolls. Look how pissed Lammily is. Melly has kindly lent her dress to Lammily. It is of course too big...

I started to feel a little sorry for Lammily. So I let her try Barbie's crochet hat. It fits! Well, maybe a little loose but it's a hat so it's okay.

I let Lammily try Barbie's clothes. Unfortunately none fit her due to her realistic body proportion. This blue gown is the only one that she could squeeze into. But the back doesn't close properly and if she needs to pee, she has to take off the whole gown. (just look at her face)

Finally I remembered I have a set of Ken outfit. Yay, Lammily can get into the jacket. But the pants are too small.

To compensate Lammily for her loss of her denim shirt to Barbie, I crochet her a big ball to play with. It's a heavy ball as I have stuffed it with scrap fabric.

I made sure Lammily's ball is much bigger than Barbie's.

Oh, Lammily gets Barbie's pink convertible too. That is, until the denim shirt is returned.

statistics provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - See more at:
statistics provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - See more at:

To make the crochet ball (US):
R1: 2 ch, make 6 sc in 2nd ch from hook - 6 sts
Mark last stitch with safety pin because this is a spiral and you want to know where your round ends.
R2: Make 2 sc in each st around - 12 sts
R3: (Make sc in next st, 2 sc in next st) around -18 sts
R4: (Make sc in next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st) around - 24 sts
R5: (Make sc in next 3 sts, 2 sc in next st) around - 30 sts
R6-R10: Make 1 sc in each st around - 30 sts
R11: Make sc in next 3 st, sc2tog) around - 24 sts
R12: Make sc in next 2 st, sc2tog) around - 18 sts (you can stuff ball here)
R13: Make sc in next st, sc2tog) around - 12 sts
R14: sc2tog around one or 2 round until hole closes.
Fasten off and weave ends of thread into crochet work.
(let me know if you spot any errors)

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