Monday, February 16, 2015

Birthday breakfast

My first meal on 14 February. Coffee, eggs and toast. Breakfast of champion. So simple and yet so good. 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Birthday Month

I love February because it's my birthday month. Sometimes I wish it has more days than 28, just because then I have more time to utilize all the birthday treats or discounts from shops. 

This year I have even less days to redeem or use the benefits as Chinese New Year is in February. Already I usually can never have discounts on meals on my actual birthday as it is Valentine's Day. With CNY that means there are more days where the discount is not applicable too. Bummer. 

Still I do adore getting all the vouchers and discounts given to the VIP card members or just by being a loyal customer. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Victoria Sponge Cake

I finally made the Victoria Sponge Cake. It is something I have always wanted to try but just did not get round to it. I saw the cake mix from Marks & Spencer and decided to go for it. It is a simple recipe and if you have a regular basic sponge recipe, it is do-able. 

Somehow mine did not turn out as in the picture and I decided to pair with Mango Raspberry cider instead of tea. I thoroughly recommend this brand - Rekorderlig. It does not have a strong alcoholic content and is a bit sweet and bubbly.

The mix does not indicate the size of the cake pan and I use 2 x square cake pans. Obviously too big as my batter was too little to split between two pans equally. So one turned out crispy (brown) and the other was fine (yellow). But the height was not as tall as in the pictures.

So I decided to do two version. The yellow sponge was airier and I used the jam provided (plus a bit of my own Christmas jam). I also followed the instruction using the icing sugar (included) and whisked with butter. It turned out too sweet and grainy. I topped it with my own whipped cream which I made with whipping cream (400ml) and just 2 tablespoons of castor sugar.

For the brown sponge, I used Crabtree & Evelyn mulled jam and the whipped cream. This was still sweet but not overly sweet like the other version.

I think I will want to make my own version without the cake mix in future, Still a nice cake for tea.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pink wallet for 2015

A friend sent me an article about your wallet and fengshui. After reading it, I was thinking maybe I should try it.

I am on the fence about fengshui. I don't believe in it, nor do I think it is all hocus pocus. I do find it interesting but I have never actively done something about it. I think my thoughts about fengshui will be more from the traditional metaphysics side of it, and not from the school where one needs to buy things to avoid bad luck or to get good luck.

Anyway, back to the wallet. I had noticed that I spent more when I was using my red wallet. So after 6 months or a year, I decided to change wallet to see if I will spend less. I did. For most of my life (school time and at least 7-8 years of working life), I used a brown or black wallet. A wallet is so personal that when you are used to one and it serves its function, it is hard to change wallet or keep changing it like you do a bag (I hate switching bags too).

I started using a colored wallet several years ago when I bought a light blue Agnes B wallet. I loved that color. I noticed that was the start of my slippery slope into buying designer bags too. From that light blue wallet, I changed to a red wallet. I like red and the common thinking is that red means prosperity. What I saw was my spending just skyrocketed, and the scary part was thinking a few thousand dollars was no big deal. It was not like I was earning big bucks (5-digit monthly salary). I decided I better switched to something of a darker shade. I bought a navy wallet but I did not feel any affinity to it and very quickly found my HG wallet - anthracite (dark grey coal color) with magenta (purple) interior. I did not see anything adverse happening with using it. I spend but within limit and reason, but I don't see myself saving that much. The time when I can save a lot or have more money in the bank was when I was using the brown and black wallets.

Some will say it is a coincidence and that I have less to spend when younger and I had a higher income and so spent more when using the red wallet. While it is true my income is higher when using the red wallet, it is not necessary for me to spend more than necessary. So there is a bit of truth in wallet color to me.

And so I decided to get a black wallet. My old black wallet was gone as it was spoilt, which was why I got the light blue wallet then. I really did love that wallet. After telling a friend, I was told I should get the pink wallet first, reason being I have more earning power years than maybe relationship years :p Well, it is not that true but yeah no harm trying.

So yes, I went and bought myself an early birthday present and something for the new year. The lighting is not that great, but it is a pale pink called Pout Pink from Kate Spade. Let's see if it will really increase love and relationship luck. As the interior has black and white stripes, my friend said it is a pink and black wallet! So killing two birds with one stone? Maybe I will increase wealth a bit too.

For those interested:

Monday, January 05, 2015

Citibank, what has happened to you?

So I have been a long time customer of Citibank in Singapore, since 2001 or thereabouts. I usually have no problem with them or your customer service, be it at the branch or over the hotline. The CS could always solve my problems and in double quick time. So yes, I was (past tense) a fan. No longer a fan due to its consecutive failures to satisfy basic customer needs.

Since November 2014 to now, I am facing problems after problems with Citibank business practices. Though technically the issue probably stemmed from late October 2014.

Late Oct 2014, I could not find my credit card and called to cancel it. I did not want to cancel it as I would be traveling the next day and was worried the new card issued with new card number would interfere with my travel booking made with the card. Later I found the card and went to the branch office to check if the hotline CS has already canceled it or if I could reverse it. Too late, the card was canceled. So that was it.

In November 2014, I was waiting for my cc bill and decided to call the hotline to find out what happened to it. It turned out Citibank has auto-enroll me into e-statement. I did not get any notification about it at all. Apparently Citibank sent an SMS about it. But as I was overseas and not using my Singapore SIM card, I did not get the SMS at all. So I also found out SMS does not get through if SIM card is not in use. I told the CS to remove me from e-statement as I am used to paper statement and I write cheque for payment.

I went down to the branch a week later to check on my statement as I did not receive it. The branch CS was very helpful and printed my statement for me. A couple of days later, I received the paper statement. But with the change of card number and the change from e-statement to paper, the format was a bit different. No matter.

I made payment with cheque and dropped it off at the branch cheque box a few days before due date. The cheque was in the Citibank envelope with the statement payment slip. The following week I received an SMS from Citibank saying I have not made payment. I called to check and encountered the worst Citibank hotline CS ever. I told her I had dropped off the cheque, she said no. I asked her to check. She refused. I asked to speak with her supervisor and was grudgingly put on hold and someone spoke to me. The other person promised to check and to raise the case to investigate.

I was concerned and dropped by the branch the next day to find out if the case has been raised. It was under investigation. The ever helpful branch CS said not to worry and to wait for the outcome before making another payment and that all late charges and interest would be waived as this was being investigated. So I waited. A few days later the hotline CS came back with the news that they could not find my cheque and if I could make payment again. In the interim I received another call from Citibank asking for payment, and I had to inform the person this case was being investigated. Don't they share information?

So the hotline CS told me to make payment. I asked who would pay for the stop payment on cheque as there was a fee to do that. I was told it was MY problem that CITIBANK LOST my cheque. This was quite unacceptable as I dropped it off in good faith in their own branch, I did not even mail it through the post. I told them they could check their CCTV as I know the time and date of when I dropped off the cheque. They refused, of course. I asked if I could go to the Paragon counter to drop off the cheque. The CS snootily told me I could not as it was Citigold branch and I am not a Citigold customer. She told me to go to the other branch where I dropped the cheque before and to approach the staff there for the envelope when I asked about it. And also to get the staff to witness me dropping off the cheque into the box. I asked what would happened if they lose my cheque again. It would be my own fault again if the cheque got lost was the message I inferred.

So I had to go through another round of hassle with my cheque issuing bank on stopping the cheque payment. They want to charge me for that. Again, I so feel I was being penalized for something I did not do. It was not like I lost the cheque or dropped it somewhere while walking.

Anyway, I got the branch CS to witness my dropping the cheque and we verified the amount for each cc I was making payment for - 3 total. The branch CS was the only bright light in this whole saga. She helped to check again on the missing cheque and helped to put in request for the waiver of the late charges and interest and just kept me updated throughout the whole week. Kudos to Christina. That is customer service. Anyway, the cheque cleared.

So I called the hotline again today to check if the late charges and interest waivers have been approved. They had. I asked for the amount due for all my cards. To my horror, the cheque cleared 2 credit cards but not the 3rd. The frustration from the weeks past just surfaced again and I insisted on an investigation on it and to let me know the next day. As usual the hotline CS gave me the 3-5 working days to investigate. I told him this was an on-going thing which has dragged for over a month and so they should not waste another 3-5 days on it.

So what has happened, Citibank? What kind of employees are you hiring?

1. To send SMS without any verification or confirmation it has been sent, and expecting your customer to know what you sent?

2. To lose a cheque from your own cheque box, and the cheque was inside your own envelope.

3. To clear a cheque to pay 2 credit card accounts but not the 3rd account. Where did the money go to? What account number has your employee input?

This is worrying. To know the bank can actually LOSE cheques on their own premises. And now to know payment can go MISSING.

The era of relying on computer systems has its own problems and now we are seeing such issues. So should we go back to the old way of making payment at the branch counter and to get a receipt that yes, payment is received? This is also why I do not like online banking much. Any bug can just interfere and make it looked like you never make payment even if you did.

Super disappointed with Citibank now. I don't even know how to make my next payment. I am thinking of just depositing cash into the machine but I wonder if that works too. Or do I need to open another Citibank savings account just so I can transfer money to the account and make payment from it?

Or maybe I should just stop using credit cards.

Pop up globe: Rockefeller Center

A friend sent me this pop up globe depicting Rockefeller Center as he knew how much I missed New York City. 

An awesome and unexpected gift to start off 2015. Hopefully I can be in NYC for a longer holiday this fall. It will be a fabulous birthday present. I really will want to visit NYC with girlfriends as it will be more fun. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

First Day of 2015

Happy New Year! It is the first day of 2015 and what have you done?

I did not get to watch New Year's Eve in the end as I was finishing up Love Actually before it is gone from Netflix in 2015 (though I have the DVD too). Yes, another tradition...watching Love Actually during Christmas period. I will probably get to watch New Year's Eve.

I took it easy today, just stayed at home instead of going out and fighting with the crowd. I spent the morning messaging friends, exchanging new year greetings and blessings. Watched the celebrations at Times Square online and saw the ball drop on Times Square. There was something just so magical about the ball.

My first meal of 2015 was just simple chicken porridge with fried egg and onions. My last meal of 2014 turned out to be my late lunch of turkey, ham, roast vegs and lasagna (all home cooked) at my cousin's place.

My first bake of the year was a blueberry topped chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

May the year turn out to be as sweet and blissful as the cake, full with goodness and laughter. Eat cake and enjoy 2015!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014

Once again it is that time of year where I spend some time reflecting and thinking of 2014 and what it has been for me. One thing I must stress is how quickly 365 days fly by after school days are over.

So how has 2014 been for me? Tumultuous is a word that comes to mind.

2014 started very well, peaked in the middle of the year, came crashing down in Q3 and is ending on a quiet note.

I feel so blessed to re-connect with primary school friends who managed to find people via FB and other social media or friends. So we had a few gatherings with my primary school classmates (same class from P1 to P5) and even with our Primary 2 form teacher. How cool is that? We have our whatsapp group chat with our favorite teacher and a couple of other group chat without the teacher in it. That was in the beginning of 2014. Then just in end November or early December, there exists another bigger primary school group chat for the entire P6 level where we may not or never have been in the same class at all. And the organizer of that group chat is planning a reunion in a few days time in 2015. That will be so epic, seeing each other after leaving P6.

I watched the Times Square ball drop online and remembered my time in NYC the previous year. Watching it together in different countries with him. Yes, we started talking again and so it went, leading to the proposal in June and then my calling off the wedding (rather to postpone it as I felt it was too fast, too soon) and to an acrimonious end. BUT...just a couple of days ago, he messaged me after the Air Asia plane went missing. He was concerned. I replied. And that was it. I am not sure how it will be, if it will really be the end, or if we will start talking again. I am trying to move on, and I had went on a few dates (nothing to that) but I must confess it has been hard. Sometimes I do wonder if I made a mistake, but maybe it is better to trust my guts and start on a right footing than to rush into it and be filled with regrets.

I feel a bit wiser or at least I can understand why people do have less true friends as they get older. I am thankful to be still good pals with my BFF and other good friends even though we don't live in the same countries. Thank God for Skype, Facetime and all these free social media tools. I also "lost" other friends as we just drifted apart as we have grown in different directions. It is sad but it is also life. I do find it a chore to maintain friendships just for the sake of it, especially if we have barely exchange a few words throughout the years. Meeting once a year with a group of people you hardly talk or meeting/talking frequently with just a handful of people? I choose the latter. That said, I still welcome meeting up with old friends who disappeared for a while and came back again. I fully subscribe to the theory that people come into your life for a reason or season and leave when it is over (or lesson learnt or their mission accomplished). Nothing is permanent after all.

So I was plagued with the almost 100 days cough last year. What luck that I am ending the year with a cough (3 days and counting) and stuffy nose (just started this evening!). And before that I was dealing with a neck sprain, first time I experienced that...much better but still under chiropractor care. And just in November I had a cough which last for 3-4 weeks. So the last 2 months have not been kind to me health wise.

I saw a TCM for a sprained ankle (I tripped and face-planted a guy - I find that hilarious) and somehow it became a goal to reduce my blood pressure. It went down substantially in a week so that is a highlight. Apparently my lack of sleep can increase blood pressure. I am still trying to get my weight down, not very successfully though.

I am still chugging along at work. I feel like I am doing mostly admin stuff and while it can be a bit boring at times since the market is so quiet now, it gives me time to pursue my other interests. With the free time I have, I took up courses and completed them to be a certified massage therapist with skills in post natal massage and manual lymphatic drainage massage besides the usual Swedish massage. I like body works much better, especially lymphatic drainage as I am happy when people feel better from the treatments. I am not sure what I will do with those skills yet. Open my own spa which has been my dream for over a decade or just let it be?

I also found out an ex-boss of my from many years ago passed ago. She was only 51, much too young. Life is really fragile and illness can befall you with no warning. Live life like it is your last can be a very sound advice. Stop worrying and start living.

I ticked off another item from my bucket list. Completing the Sydney Bridge Climb. I finally did it when I went to Sydney in November. Yes, I finally visited Australia again after 11 years. This time I spent more time in the smaller city as my friend lives near Wollongong. I also saw Sculpture by the Sea which was fabulous and cool. Visited Berry and fell in love with the quaint small town feel, plus the delicious hummingbird cake at The Berry Tea Shop. We went whale watching twice in Jervis Bay but still scored 0 in spotting any whales.

We also went up to Blue Mountains and I like the place too. Jenolan Cave was really cool and we did the Diamond Cave. The river inside the cave is so beautiful and makes you feel so small. That these natural minerals and caves and water have been around for thousands of years.

Some of the sculptures for sculpture by the sea

Bali pictures

I also went to Kota Kinabalu in March and it was a fun trip with beautiful clear waters around the islands. The food was not as good. It was back to Bali in April. A good but short trip with bbq seafood and the spa at Ayana Resort.

While I feel a bit disappointed that I am not in the US right now, I think it is probably right for me to remain in Singapore for now. For about 2-3 months, I felt torn and my mind scattered in so many directions on where to go and what to do. I decided to break it up into bite size pieces to handle and just let it be. So instead of flying over in September for 6 weeks and then to Australia and then back to NYC till CNY next year as planned, I am here in Singapore till who knows.

So while 2014 comes to an end, I count my blessings and look back on it with fondness and a tinge of bittersweet memory, of what if and what could be. We truly will never know how life pans out and you can plan all you want but it may derail and point you in a different direction. Or you may get exactly what you want, only to find out that it is not what you imagine it to be. C'est la vie.

Bring it on, 2015! It is time for my tradition - watching New Year's Eve on NYE.