Making Good

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Gosh, I have to admit, I have been very lazy at blogging. Other things somehow just took priority and grabbed me of my time these days. I am glad that I can come back to blogging about something I am really passionate about – cherishing Mother Earth!
These are two cheap IKEA pieces in my house now. I know, IKEA items really don’t last sometimes, but with those prices, what unreasonable expectations shall we have right?

The adjustable table has a small story behind it. My maternal grandmother used to stay with us every few weeks and the old lady must have her all her meals with her dosage of television! Hence, my sis brought this back home one day so that this can be made Grandma’s table. Well, sometimes, when we got careless, we forgot to place newspaper on top of the table, and the heat from the bottom of the bowl and plate (after numerous times) caused many ‘bubble’ to develop on the ‘sawdust’ board table top. The surface was uneven and it looked really bad.

Eventually, Grandma could no longer move around, and she no longer came to stay with us. This became my iPad reading table. So, I thought why not make it look really nice, and since I work with fabric quite a lot, I decided to add fabric to the table top! Since there were bumps, I took a piece of old mattress topper, cut it to shape and lay it over before I used a staple gun to staple the colorful cloth over. The bottom of the table certainly doesn’t look so neat, but it was my first staple gun ‘artwork’ so I guess it is not so bad? I think there are improvements to be made, but for now… there’s no more items at home that are available for my modification practice.

As for the chair, it had stains on the sitting surface that are no longer possible to remove, so I just unscrew the 4 nails and stapled over the same colorful cloth over the cushion part. Then, I screw the 4 nails back, and voila, same chair new look and no more stains.

      

My projects are usually simple because my hands aren’t that agile, and my skills really not that good. But I guess it only goes to show everyone can at least try on making good?🙂

Thank you Kareena for introducing me, and next up we have Vicky, based in UK, who owns a really creative Etsy Store that has handmade handbags, bags and purses, often with a focus on eco friendly.

Do follow through the Making Good Blog Train and get inspired on repairing/up-cycling tips! With every bit of effort, we can only make our earth a better place for every one.

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Agatha from Green Issues by Agy on “Making Good”. What is repair, and why do we even bother to repair the things we have? Some see repair as a way of reconnecting with our possessions as we extend their lives. Others see it as a form of creative potential and an avenue to express their craft. The rewards for mending varies from feeling immense satisfaction to prolonging the life of the product. Follow the “Making Good” blog train this month and see what we have repaired and reconnected with. Have you mended anything today?

The Kampung Spirit

Recently, I have been blessed with very good and sweet jackfruit for free. 真有口福啊!You must be thinking, how can there be free lunch in this world, especially the increasingly expensive Singapore? Now, that’s where the Kampung Spirit kicks in. The jackfruit are a courtesy of my youngest Uncle (no 7!) who works as a car mechanic. There are several jackfruit trees at his workplae and the employees can help themselves to the fruits! Imagine my surprise when I first saw those huge fruits with white pulp like material revealing those little yellow lumps of sweetness and aroma. Because I just got married, I started doing my own grocery and I was shocked to see 8-10 pieces of jackfruit going for $4-$5 in the supermarket. And, money aside, they are usually pale, not fragrant and not sweet! Sometimes, my parents manage to get better ones in the wet market fruit stalls for $3+ but even so, nothing beats these ‘home-grown’ ones that my Uncle has shared with us so far! Thick sweet succulent fruit flesh! And he generously gives us half the huge jackfruit each time, which yields about 30-40 pieces of the fruit. That’s easily $15-$20 market value!

I feel blessed to have such a generous Uncle and my few thoughts:

1) Sharing is good, really good. Above is a perfect example, in turn we often share other good food or even clothes or other materials with our Uncles. If not for the sharing, each of our family will end up spending more money or lose out on the possibility of tasting such good fruits.

2) Homegrown is really good and I really wish to do more of this but my capability and available space now is a limitation. But still, such a story really inspire me! At least I have started with a small pot of sweet basil plant and it turns into lovely pesto sauce for my pasta!

3) I mentioned local growing and I am reminded of this young boy who actually got permission of the town council to give out 100 mangos grown on roadside trees to give out to some old residents. Singapore is a literal garden city; and we do have fruit trees and it is a real pity that the only harvest we see are from techno-farms, those HDB small plots (allocated to at most that few residents) and small amount of urban farming on top of buildings. Why can’t we make use of our exisiting fruit trees or some scattered space for growing fruits/vegetables and let us enjoy own grown fruits and vegetables. I have read before that vegetables are really grown in Korea’s road side because the idea was – since we are growing something green, why not something edible and useful!

Anyway, just my thoughts. Note to self: although delicious, jackfruit is very heaty and high in sugars so I better don’t overdose on them.😀

I DIDNT THROW IT AWAY

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I annoy my family quite a bit with my ‘waste not, want not’ principle in life; and I am quite a recycling fanatic that I made an effort to train up my parents to do so before I moved out of our home into my hubby’s place. To me, it is as simple as creating the smallest waste/carbon footprint that I will leave behind on this earth. I am also looking forward to fast tracking my minimalist lifestyle once we move into our new home in 2 years’ time.

Thank you Agy from Green Issues by Agy for getting me to join this blog train series on why I didn’t throw something away. Below are two things that I have kept for more than 20 years:

1) Handcrafted Stainless Steel Rack

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My Pa’s 3rd Brother, my 三伯 (3rd Uncle), was once a steel craftsman. When my parents first got married, they had little and lived in rented places and Ama’s Kampung place until I was about 4 or 5 years old. When they finally got their own flat, 3rd Uncle handcrafted this 100% stainless steel rack, together with a similar steel mini cabinet, for our new flat. The rack had since then been installed in our toilet.

In 2010, my parents decided to do some renovation to our house, and everyone decided it was time to discard this rack. Chinese are quite annoying sometimes, new houses equates many new things. The concept of vintage or sentimental value hardly exists. I protested big time because it was such a well designed and beautiful rack and it would be very hard to get anything close to this. Looking back, I am so glad I persisted. This beauty still lives in our house, serving its purpose. Before I got married off, I gave it several nice washes and it is as shiny as 20 years before.

2) Gold Ball Earstuds

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I just wore this pair of earstuds last week and my Mommy was surprised I still have these, after a long 20 years. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my Ma brought me to this goldsmith at Beauty World 美世界 and let me have my ears pierced. Back in those days, it cost $20 – $30 to get our ears pierced with a choice of gold studs. We kept those gold studs on for about a month until the wound healed, and for the years on, it was all fashionable accessories that came and go (although I don’t even have those anymore haha!)

All these years, I kept this pair of gold ball earstuds aside, because they held so much sentimental value for me. And somehow, as one gets older, classic designs grow on you and I have taken a new liking to the earrings and have started wearing them again. Coincidentally I saw something similiar when I was shopping for 四点金 in Poh Heng and it now costs a good $90 already (due to gold price inflation). Doubly glad I kept this pair of small trinkets so well he he.

In this buy and throw society we currently live in, do you ever ask yourself what is the true value that lies in something you had yesterday and something that you are getting tomorrow? I like to believe that, if we take the effort to appreciate and take good care of something we have, then we will be better and more contented beings in this life.

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Agatha from Green Issues by Agy on “I Didn’t Throw It Away”. We have become such a throw-away society, but there are some things in our households that we still keep. Why is that so? Perhaps this blog train can unlock the reasons behind it! Follow the daily posts on this blog train and read about the stories behind the things we have kept for many years and why we didn’t throw them away.

Tomorrow Christine from Rhinestic’s Knick Knacks will sharing her story too! Christine has always loved creating. She could be sewing a dress one day, and doodling the next. However, she is deeply inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese artworks as well as steampunk aesthetics. Through her blog, she hope to share more about her crafts further on our little red dot!

Matcha Mochi Meditation

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I brood a lot, until Mr W labels me as a walking worry wart sometimes. I guess this naturally happens when you are a hypersensitive person who leans towards paranoia too often. And, it really doesn’t help when someone like me is taking a slower pace towards life now; I basically brood even more sometimes. SO, I made a mental note to stop all these self inflicting nonsense and decided to DO SOMETHING. And today’s form comes in baking!

Baking requires research, deliberation, ingredient preparation and step by step work. To me, it is the nicest form of meditation. I forget to brood and start to get really focused on every single step, purposefully. You can really get your cake and eat it (literally).

Many months back, my wondrous friend YJ, shared this Matcha Mochi Cake recipe with me because I gave her some matcha powder. Months later, I am still staring at the Matcha and another pack of matcha latte from Muji. AND, since there is leftover glutinous rice flour in the fridge (one of my bro-in-law got very excited making muah chee some weeks back) so I thought, what better time to conjure this right? It is a simple recipe and I even used the simpler cupcake version because I have the Morries Mini Cupcake Maker.

The colour didn’t turn out so great because my Matcha powder is probably medicore grade, but it does taste chewy with a touch of crunch on the outer layer. And whatever I worried about didn’t happen. Yummy meditation.

SIXTY AND GOING STRONG 六十而不惑

Happy Old Folk

While going through my inbox, I found a meaningful article which I will be sharing with my parents. I have translated the traditional chinese portion into simplified chinese for ease of reading for most of us, enjoy!

Sixty and Going Strong
(Translated from the original in Chinese below)
“There are 1000-year old trees in the mountain, but not many 100 year-old people”
At the most, you live until 100 years old (only 1 in 100,000).
If you live until 90, you only have 30 years.
If you live until 80, you only have 20 years.
Because you don’t have many years to live, and you can’t bring along things when you go, you don’t have to be too thrifty.
Spend the money that should be spent, enjoy what should be enjoyed, donate what you are able to donate, but don’t leave all to your children or grandchildren, for you don’t want them to become “parasites”.

Don’t worry about what will happen after you are gone, because when you return to dust, you will feel nothing about praises or criticisms.
Don’t worry too much about your children for “children will have their own destiny and find their own way. Don’t be your children’s slave”
Don’t expect too much from your children. Caring children, though caring, would be too busy with their jobs and commitments to render any help.
Uncaring children may fight over your assets even when you are still alive, and wish for your early demise so they can inherit your properties.

Your children take for granted that they are rightful heirs to your wealth; but you have no claims to their money.

60-year olds like you, don’t trade in your health for wealth anymore;
Because your money may not be able to buy your health.

When to stop making money, and how much is enough (hundred thousands, million, ten million)?
“Out of thousand hectares of good farm land,
you can only consume three quarts (of rice) daily; out of a thousand of mansions, you only need eight square meters of space to rest at night”.
So as long as you have enough food and enough money to spend, that is good enough.

So you should live happily. Every family has its own problems. Just do not compare with others for fame and social status and see whose children are doing better, etc. but challenge others for happiness, health and longevity.

Don’t worry about things that you can’t change because it doesn’t help and it may spoil your health.

You have to create your own well-being and find your own happiness;
As long as you are in good mood, think about happy things, do happy things daily and have fun in doing, then you will pass your time happily every day.

One day passes, you will lose one day;
One day passes with happiness, and then you gain one day.

In good spirit, sickness will cure; in good spirit, sickness will cure fast; in good spirit; sickness will never come.
With good mood, suitable amount of exercise, always in the sun, variety of foods, reasonable amount of vitamin and mineral intake, hopefully you will live another 20 or 30 years healthy life.

六十而不惑

“山中也有千年树,世上难逢百岁人。”
最大限度,你也只活到百多岁(十万人中才有一個)。
能活到九十岁,只有三十年;
能活到八十岁,只有二十年。
因为剩下的日子不多,你临走时什么都帶不走,你不必太节省。 该花的钱要花,该享受的要享受,该捐助的要捐助;唯独不能留這笔钱给儿孙,把他变 成 “寄生虫”! 。

不必对死后的事考虑太多,因为变成灰的你,对表扬与批评已无感觉。
不必对儿女的事考虑太多,“儿孙自有儿孙福,休为儿孙做马牛”。
不要对儿女幻想太多,孝顺的儿女有孝心,但工作太忙,帮不了你!
不孝的儿女也许(在你活着时就抢夺)盼着你早死,好早日继承你的财产。

你的钱财,儿女认为给他们是天经地义;
儿女的钱,却不是你的钱,你想要却十分困难。

六十岁的你,再也不要用健康去换取身外之物,
因为此时,你用金钱已未必能买到健康。

钱挣到何时、何数(十万,百万,千万……)才算夠?“良田万顷,日食三升 ;大厦千间,夜眠八尺”,夠吃夠用就行了。

你要愉快地活着,虽然家家都有一本难念的经,你不要再和別人比名利地位、儿孙如何有出息……等等,而要比谁活得更愉快、健康、长寿!

你无力改变的事,就不必太操心,因為操心也无用,反而影响了自己的健康。

幸福靠自己努力创造,快乐要千方百计去寻找。
只要心境好,每天想愉快的事,做愉快的事,自己找乐趣,就能天天都过得高兴。

过一天,少一天;
过一天,乐一天;乐一天,赚一天。

精神好,病能好;精神好,病早好;精神好,病不倒。
心情愉快,适当运动,常见阳光,食物多样化,
保证多种维生素和微量元素的合理(适度而不超量)吸收,盼能健康地再活二、三十年。

VALUE EXPERIENCES

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As I recount life since I earned my own keep, it is evident that if there is anything I spent on, it is on travel. Real joy travel, not work travel of course. Experiences are much better than possessions at making me happier.

This year, because of W’s work committment and our wedding planning, we are staying put so I am looking around instead of looking overseas. Some weeks back, I found out that Trick Eye Museum,which I have always wanted to go, is in Singapore! I was a little hesitant about the near $23 entrance fee (10% discount if you buy online). Coincidentally, the Song of the Sea performance has been replaced by a new show – Wings of the Time and W is keen to watch. A local resident rate is $15. $38 in total; attractions are indeed pricey here.

And, luck has it that I stumbled upon this All Deals Asia deal today! Coupled with my Citibank Rewards Card discount, each set of tickets cost only $27 (a near 29% savings). Even without the Citibank Rewards Card, you can sign up for an account via my Invite Friend link here and get $5 credits There is a cap of credit that you can use for each deal e.g. $1 – $2 but it is still good money to be cherished.

Trick Eye

Post Update: Wings of the Time, despite a short 25 minutes show, was really worth watching. The featured image gives a good hint to the ending. Do go for it!

TOPPING UP THE PARENTS’ RETIREMENT PIGGY BANK

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Today, it was the monthly old girls’ gathering and our topic revolved around scary varicose veins, housing issues, CPF etc. So I was reminded to explain my rationale on why I top up my Ma’s CPF. First, and foremost, you may wish to read on how CPF interest rates are computed on a monthly basis here. Basically, the lowest balance of each month is taken into consideration.

Some Background

Since Jun 14, on top of a monthly allowance to my parents, I have decided to top up $200 monthly into my Ma’s CPF Retirement Account (RA) as long as it is within my means. She is turning 56 this year, and has been a full time homemaker for a larger part of her life. She has very minimal CPF savings from her first few years of work as a factory assembly line worker. Hence, she is under the CPF Minimum Sum Scheme ie minimum monthly payout of $250 from age of 65 until the sum is drawn down.

Current State

Using a rough figure of $5,000 as current stash in the CPF RA account, and a 5% annual interest rate assumption (since account balance is under $60,000), the payout will be exhausted in 2 years 10 months, just before my Ma turns 68. Absolute payout dollar is  $750 + $3,000 + $3,000 + $1,829 = $8,579.

MA CPF SA No Top Up

Making an impact ourselves

Instead of giving my parents an additional $200 for allowance now, I diverted the cash into my Ma’s RA (which earns an additional 1% interest vs my Pa) since they are unlikely to need this portion of money for a good 10 years. With the 5% interest, the $200 today will become slightly over $300 in 9 years plus (a risk free 1.5x money booster). I intend to do the top up until my Ma gets down to the draw down age of 65. While $200 a month does not seem very substantial, the total top up will amount up to $22,600. Thanks to the recurring interest, the payout can last slightly over 18 years, a little over her 83 year-old birthday. Absolute dollar payout will shy a little of $55,000.

MA CPF SA Top Up

Well, a $250 payout alone doesn’t seem much especially with increasing inflation rates, but it is still good money to be cherished. For me, it is the same $200 that I need to chip in, so I’d rather maximise the value for my parents first until it is needed (especially for my parents who are simple folks who know nothing about investments). And the second beauty of it is the money get deposited into their account every month so the feel good factor (vs me passing the allowance directly to them) is definitely higher for them. Sometimes I can only regret not looking through these for my parents earlier to make better use of the compounded interest. Recently there have been many talks involving CPF, but my stand is always the same – understand the pros and cons of a system then work it to your advantage / situation. I will only wish the extra 1% for the first $60,000 can be maintained as long as possible, and of course I won’t grumble if CPF interest increases eventually.

SGYI does two simple and good article on CPF and the minimum sum here and here, you may wish to take a look and learn more. Do also note there is tax relief in topping up the CPF account so that is double maximising the dollar.

MODERN GOLD PIECES

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Basically, I am not big about writing on wedding stuff. While I respect the various customaries, I value feeling good throughout the event over stressing out on the details. Hence, I had long told my Ma not to bother about the 四点金 (4-piece set of gold jewellery) because one, this is actually a customary required by the Teochews (we are Hokkiens) before the other Chinese got too excited and follow suit, two, gold are not cheap. I think the money can really be better saved. But, it was still hard to reject my Ma’s push of goodwill.  Since I am fussy about anything design related,  I was tasked to get the four gold pieces myself.

My philosophy with such precious metals is a balance one between functionality/asethetics and reasonable value. Hence, no overpriced diamond set or expensive traditional looking 999 pure yellow gold set. After browsing in various shops, I finally settled on simple classic designs from Tian Po and Goldheart. At the point of purchase, Tian Po’s 916 gold was $55.50/g while Goldheart’s was $57.50/g.

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1. 22K/916 Gold Hoop Earring ($88)

I had previously set my eyes on this pair of classic hammered hoop earrings from Blue Nile. But since I have to buy something from the local stores, I picked these edged earrings that is hollow and weighs a dainty 1.12g i.e 916 gold cost of $62.16 with workmanship cost of $20.08, and total cost after 7% GST is $88.

2. 18K Rose Gold Necklace ($206) + 14K Rose Gold Horseshoe Pendant with clustered diamonds ($400)

I am unlikely to wear those chunky gold designs with engraving details, and the very upclass and modern Italian designs like Poh Heng Oro22 collection are just off budget (a bangle is about $6,000). One of my best friends, YJ, shared that she got a diamond necklace that is versatile and wearable. I thought that was a good idea, so I decided to look for my vanity piece, which is a rose gold necklace to complement my skin tone. I chose the horseshoe pendant for its good luck symbolism and the hefty discount of 40%, so  the original price of $668 was reduced to $400. The necklace was on a 20% discount, so $258 was reduced to $206. I made an effort to choose an affordable cluster diamonds’ pendant instead of a single solitarie diamond pendant that would be very costly.

3. 22K/916 Mode Gold Links’ Bracelet ($489)

I like Goldheart’s Mode Gold collection as it is the most affordable yet classic range of Italian Gold designs. The 11 infinity links’ bracelet is very versatile, and will be great for dinner functions. It weighs 5.97g ie 916 gold cost of $337.31 with workmanship cost of $120, and total cost after 7% GST is $489.

4. 22K/916 Milgrain Gold Ring ($245)

This is from Tian Po and we got W an identical one as part of a couple ring set. The milgrain design makes it look much more than its actual value; my Ma thought the ring was lined with tiny little diamond at the sides. It is a less modern version of this pretty thing here, but I am contented. It weighs 3.42g ie 916 gold cost of $189.81 with workmanship cost of $39.16, and total cost after 7% GST is $245.

All in all,

The four gold items costs $1,428 in total, a large sum of money! But it is still considerably cheaper than the usual $3,000 – $3,500 that people will spend on a chunkier 916 gold set. I am more than happy that I have achieved a good balance of my parents’ wishes, my own preference and more importantly, not over splurging. Spending within your means is a very basic requirement of living happily.

I had actually dreaded to embark on some basic research and browsing because it was definitely something tedious, but it turned out fine because I appreciated having learnt new things like gold composition, how gold jewellery prices are calculated and even the market positioning of the various local gold jewellers.

Footnote

Out of the $1,428, my vanity piece costs $606
For the remaining $822 of 916 gold ring + earrings + bracelet,
916 gold cost is $589.28 – 76.7%
Workmanship fee is $179.24 – 23.3%
GST is $53.48 – additional 7%

FOOD DONATION DRIVE

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The youth club in my neighbourhood has organised a food collection drive for needy families in the area. The list of basic necessities required are salt, oil, instant noodles, biscuits and rice and we are to leave them at our doorstep on the stipulated collection date. Each of us in the family contributed $10 and in total, W & I set off to get the things with $50. We managed to get 2 sets of items for a total of $51.35, with each set consisting of 10 items:

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  1. Fairprice 100% White Rice 5kg – $5.50 (promotional price, UP $5.90)
  2. Fairprice Sunflower Oil 1L – $3.55 (promotional price, UP $4.15)
  3. Fairprice Instant Oatmeal soft pack 800g – $3.90
  4. Milo soft pack 400g – $3.65 (promotional price, UP $3.95)
  5. Myojo Instant Noodle pack of 5 – $1.75 (promotional price, UP $2)
  6. Indomie Instant Mee Goreng pack of 5 – $1.80 (promotional price, UP $2)
  7. Hup Seng Cream Crackers – $2 (promotional price, UP $2.30)
  8. Khong Guan Assorted Biscuits 300g – $1.80 (promotional price, UP $2.70)
  9. Kraft Chipsmore Double Chocolate Cookies – $1.275 (promotional price of $2.55 for two, UP $1.60 each)
  10. Pagoda Fine Salt – $0.45

Some after thoughts –

  1. Because I have been staying with my parents and my Mum does all the cooking, I can be quite unfamiliar with food prices in general, it is only today that I just found out a kg of rice can cost between $1.10 to $4-5. Coincidentally, there are some Assumption Pathway School students doing some excursion cum exercise in the NTUC I visited. It is a good move that I applaud, will this be done in all schools now? Dear parents, maybe you can go through this exercise with your child. Should you want to make a charity buy like this too, it is really doubly meaningful. For oldies like myself, it’s really better late than never to be more aware.
  2. I had initially planned to visit my neighbourhood mama shop to get the items, but I decided to hit NTUC in the end, because of their household brand of rice and oil. I did some price comparison online and find their price very competitive. It was important for me to stretch my dollar, but not at the huge expense of the taste or quality so I chose NTUC which I trust the most. Personally, I have never tried their brand of white rice, but I plan to do so when I do cook on my own next time.
  3. We added in Milo and instant oats because these are dried stuff that can be kept and they are great for breakfast or those hunger pangs / low sugar moments. I was initially hesitant about adding in the instant noodles but W reminded that it is important to get food that people will eat and find comfort in.
  4. If not for those promotional price, the total bill for the same amount of food would have cost $64.85, easily 20% more expensive! The amount of savings is really substantial if you check the prices carefully. And I have a confession to make, because of my inexperience, it took me an hour to get everything in place.
  5. I am aware that these food are probably very minimal in helping people, but in this life,  W & I strive to give within our means, and make a small difference.