RIP Grandma 1923-2012


My grandmother on my mother’s side passed away just over a month ago.   Here’s the eulogy I wrote for her:

My Grandma was born in 1923 in Singapore.   Whilst she only had 4 years of formal education at Methodist Girls School, she was smart and resourceful through her entire life.

Being the eldest of 7 children, Grandma spent a lot of time helping her Mum with home duties and looking after her 4 brothers and 2 sisters.

At 17, Grandma married my Grandpa, Siang Him.   Just two years later, the Second World War came to Singapore and Grandma’s Father died.   But my Grandma and Grandpa were able to overcome these challenges and start their young family, bringing up Henry and then Andrew.   Their family continued to grow with my Mum in 1946, then four years later with Dennis and the next year with Nancy, who was adopted out to Grandpa’s cousin.  I am truly inspired by how Grandma was able to do the best she could with what she had and care for her family during these tough years.

Being mainly family oriented, Grandma had few interests outside of her home and family – but she was very good at handicrafts.   My Mum recalls how talented she was with embroidery and sewing and making paper flowers with crepe paper.  Grandma also loved and was very good at cooking, a pastime that she enjoyed and was happy to share with family and friends.

In 1975, Grandma came to Australia by herself for 6 months to help Mum when I was born.   But in 1981 at the age of 58, Grandma showed immense courage as she migrated to Australia away from her brothers and sisters and the Chinese culture that she had grown up with.  Grandpa joined her two years later, staying initially with Mum and Dad in the Granny Flat in Walcott Street before moving to their own house a few blocks away in Marradong Street.

I will always admire the love, care, personal strength and devotion that Grandma had to my Grandpa in the late 90s when he battled with cancer and eventually passed away in 1998.

Grandma moved in with my parents when she was 80, but longed for independence and her own space again, so she moved out when she was 86.

You can never be too old to make new friends or have new experiences.  For the last few years, Grandma joined in the weekly excursions for seniors organized by the Stirling City Council in a group called “The Tuesday Travellers”.   Grandma always looked forward to and enjoyed these outings, giving us a passionate report about the lunch afterwards.  She was looking forward to join in their Christmas in July function on 17th July but unfortunately did not make it.

Despite having a heart attack in 2002, suffering from asthma that grew worse as she got older, and some pain in her leg, Grandma worked very hard in the garden and around her house to keep it very tidy and clean.   Her routine would include as she says, “sweeping the compound” – raking the leaves and box tree seeds, pruning plants and pulling weeds.   She died doing what she enjoyed and what was keeping her fit in her old age – cleaning up the backyard.

Her life reminds me of truths that we all know deep inside – that you don’t need belongings to be happy or leave your mark on the world.  Compared to what she had, she gave so much and she was so blessed with being able to enjoy seeing her 4 great grandchildren grow up and spoiling them.    Grandma, may you now be reunited in heaven with Grandpa.  We miss you and we’ll always remember and love you.

Yummy Chinese steamboat dinner

On the weekend, we had all of my wife’s side of the family over for a belated Chinese New Year meal together.

The theme for this dinner?   Steamboat!

We don’t have steamboat very often, but it’s a family favourite. 

The best way to explain what steamboat is, is that it’s like a hotpot.  We normally put out trays of various uncooked foods (sliced meats like sliced beef or chicken, balls like beef balls, fish balls, crab balls, tofu balls, etc) and each guest will put what they want into a boiling steamboat pot in the middle of the table to cook their own food.  Then you spoon it out and have it with noodles, vegies and some of the broth – sort of like a noodle soup :)

In Perth, one of the best (and only?) places to buy the bits and pieces for steamboat is Emma’s Yong Tau Foo shop in William Street in Northbridge.

I actually hadn’t gone in there before, always dropping Wifey out the front.  But on the weekend I ventured inside this unassuming shop.

And it’s like a TARDIS!

It’s a massively packed Chinese grocery shop, and towards the back is a massive counter full of bags of balls and other goodies.  My mouth was watering just looking at all the food, and as usual, we ended up buying way too much!

Way too much to choose from

Wifey had to pull me away from the Chinese New Year food display they had there too – very…  hard… to… resist..  Kueh Bankit…

Chinese New Year delights

If you’re not sure what to buy, I noticed they sold some combination/assorted bags if you want to try different things first.

Or just do what we do – buy a few bags of single items, eat as much as you can on the day, and chuck the rest in the freezer to have with noodles for the next few weeks :)

Some of the goodies we bought

Emma’s Yong Tau Foo shop is located on the corner of William St and Newcastle St in Northbridge:

Look for this shop! (Image from Google Maps)

Mah Jongg with the Aunties

We had just finished lunch at my Wifey’s parents house.   The taste of spicy curry was still swirling in my mouth.  The kids were screaming and running around the freezing pool outside, trying to escape the humidity of the evaporative air-conditioning.

It was suggested that we play some Mah Johngg, a Chinese tile based game sort of like Gin Rummy.  I had played before when I was a kid, but I have always been apprehensive to play with the Aunties.  My speed of play would be too slow for them, they’d have to explain the rules to me, and help me read the Chinese characters that I can’t read.

But I was allowed in!  I quickly tried to memorise all the numeric character tiles.  I couldn’t be bothered about the winds.

And then it was on.  A whole $1 at stake! 

At the end of the first round, I was up 30 cents!  The aunties couldn’t believe it.  Beginner’s luck?  How could this Australian born Chinese even know how to play mah jongg? Was it bad for me to win?  Would that be disgracing the older generation?  I didn’t care – I made 30 cents and I could feel the tendrils of gambling addiction starting to creep into my body. 

Suddenly I won another 40 cents!  Small fry think the Aunties.  Aunty across from me said she’s going in for the kill.  No point winning little bits at a time with a small number of doubles.  The real way to play is to win really really BIG. 

The afternoon was moving along and Wifey was starting to nag me to leave.  But I thought – one more game – I was up nearly a whole dollar!

But boy was that a bad decision – said Aunty across from me wiped us all out.  Suddenly I was down like 5 cents.  Where had my beginner’s luck gone?  Had Wifey stolen it with bad karma by saying I sholdn’t have played this round?

Wifey said I really had to go now before I lost more money and I reluctantly complied.  My mother-in-law took my spot and promised to win back big for us. 

On the drive home, I got an email saying she had won BIG for us!  Ahh..  I really am still a grasshopper – a young padawan Mah Jongg player with much to learn.

Yahtzee fun

Did you ever play Yahtzee when you were a kid?

I remember days when I was still a boy at home, Dad getting out the Yahtzee game and us having family game nights with it.

Well, a couple of years ago, we borrowed the game from a friend and our kids loved it!   Something about rolling dice and chance seems to tickle human fancies, even from a young age.

Secretly, I was using it as a fun way for kids to practice adding and multiplication!   5 dice with up to 6 spots, that gives a pretty good combination of sums.

So for Christmas, I bought Little Miss 11 her very own Yahtzee game that we can play as a family :) and so we did!  

(And ssshhhhh  don’t tell the kids – but they’re actually practising their sums without realising it!)

Miss 11′s AMEB Cello Exam

Oooo..  AMEB Exams.

What a lot of muso kids dread.

Whilst we were helping Miss 11 practise (read…  forcing Miss 11 to practise), she asked, “Why do I have to do the exam?”

Wifey and I looked at each other, wondering how best to answer.

Yes, why?   “It’s a good goal to work towards so you can keep on improving.”

Not a very convincing answer for Miss 11.

It’s just a lot of work for no apparent reason.  AMEB Grade 4 cello is quite hard!  Lots of scales, some 3 octave ones that go into thumb position.  The pieces themselves are hard with double stops and shifts.

This is definitely a step up.

And poor Miss 11 was feeling it.  She’s reached that stage where, yes, she does have some “natural” talent, but she has to work hard too.  And working hard is often just repetition.  Practising the scales right, and repeating them even when you get them right.  It’s only that way that your brain will remember and form the neural connections to repeat it correctly the next time.    Part of that whole 10,000 hours to become an expert thing.

In the final week before the exam, we got her to practise everyday and she even had extra lessons.

And then suddenly it was the day of the exam.   I met up with Wifey and Miss 11 at the AMEB office.

A bit of a warm up, and then she was in.   For what seemed like quite a long time too!   Afterwards she seemed relieved in her non-emotional way, and then we went to a cafe for afternoon tea.

But the good news came yesterday – her teacher had the results and she got an A+!    Wifey and I were elated!  Definitely a great reward that shows that hard work does pay off in the end and I hope Miss 11 learns from this experience.   As for Miss 11..  she didn’t seem terribly fussed about the whole thing.  Maybe it’ll sink in later?

Dinner party – MasterChef style

A few weeks ago, we gathered together with friends for a dinner party.

One of the highlights for the ladies and kids was trying to make Adriana Zumbo’s macaron tower. Unfortunately there were difficulties trying to assemble it, so we just had single macaron’s instead!

Soup for entree

Chef at work

Trying to make Adriano Zumbo's Macaron cake

Putting together the Macarons

Wifey’s Surprise Birthday Dinner

The past weekend was one full of eating!!

On Friday night, Wifey and I were invited to a department end of year dinner for her school.   Each year they prepare a very delicious 3 course meal and this year it was no exception.  We managed to roll home with no problems ;)

On Saturday night, I had organised a surprise Birthday dinner for Wifey!  All planned secretly through emails, the biggest problem was making sure Wifey didn’t accidentally read any of the emails for the last 2 weeks!  Having separate email accounts and home laptops does help though.. 

So on Saturday night, we got in the car and I started driving.  Wifey thought we were going for a romantic dinner for two at a fine dining restaurant :)

I took various turns, stopped to find carparks by various restaurants along the way, until we got to the Leederville car park.  Got out, then we nearly popped into Jus Burgers (which looked pretty full and happening) until I suggested we cross the road.  Towards Cinnamon Club, a restaurant she has been wanting to bring me to for ages!

The classic part was when we walked in.  She spied one of our friends at a table and asked me, “Look, xxx is here!?!”, at which point, she saw more of our friends on the same table, and then the realisation hit.

Thanks everyone for coming along!  I just figured out that ALL of us (all 8 couples) needed to organise babysitting for our combined 16 young children that night!  But it was good fun to get out and meet without the kids for a change…   I’ll have to organise this again another time!

Classic snags:
* Originally organised for the previous weekend, but we had a great offer to go up to Moore River for the weekend that we couldn’t refuse.  Which meant I had to tell everyone we had to delay the dinner for a week!
* Wifey wondering if it was OK not to invite my sister and brother-in-law to the family Birthday dinner the previous week.   Secretly, I knew it would be OK because I knew they’d be coming to the surprise dinner, but it was hard convincing Wifey otherwise :)
* Wondering if Wifey would be disappointed because I think she thought we were going to have a degustation dinner at Star Anise for the 2 of us!  Oops!  Next time…

By the way, the dinner there was great!  Lots of good quality food, good sized serves, reasonably priced, excellent attentive service (waiters/floor manager came by several times during the night asking if we have enough food, etc).  It’s also well located with bars/cafes nearby.  The price of wine there is high though, so definitely recommend BYO.


Car packed for camping

We went camping on the weekend..  and we froze our butts off!

Yes it was fun!  The kids loved getting back to “nature”, playing in the forest, going on bushwalks, having smo’s on the fire…

But when it came to sleeping time, we freezed all night!  Maybe it was the air mattresses we were on, letting the cold come straight in from the ground (but we did have a groundsheet) but we had to put on extra layers on during the night.  My sleeping bag was rated 5 deg C, but wifey’s was rated -5 deg C and she was still cold.  Next time I’ll have to remember to pack a beanie and get a better sleeping bag, but we wondering if foam mattresses help since the other campers in our group who slept on foam weren’t as cold. 

Wish we could’ve stayed another night to make it worthwhile having packed so much stuff – well, it didn’t seem much, but it just all bulked up.

Here’s what we brought along:

- 4 sleeping bags
- 1 double air mattress, 2 single air matresses for the kids
- 4 pillows
- 1 ground cover
- 1 tent
- 2 camping chairs
- 1 pump, lantern, hammer, torch
- 1 bag of clothes and toiletries
- 4 cold winter jackets
- 1 camera bag with video camera and SLR
- 2 towels
- 2 bags of food, drink, bread rolls, etc

As usual, everytime we go camping we always say to ourselves, why don’t we do this more often?   Am now thinking of when we can do our next trip!

Little Miss Masterchef

Our family has recently got hooked on Masterchef.  The kids are really getting into it, looking forward to each night’s show. 

This show has really inspired our little Miss 8 to cook.  On the weekend, she put on her apron and, in the spirit of Masterchef, cooked up her own unique creation using ingredients available in our fridge and pantry!

Little Miss Masterchef at work

Little Miss Masterchef at work

I asked her what the name of her dish is, but she just shrugged.  So we made one up for her,  Caregg!



As you can see from the photo, this dish consists of a centre of scrambled egg on a base of grated carrots.  The deep red sauce is a unique combination of straight ribena infused with freshly squeezed lemon juice.  To complete the dish, it is drizzled with raw egg white and sugar and garnished with chopped lettuce.   I’m sure there’s a few other things in there like tomato sauce and heaps of butter.  

I wasn’t game enough to try the dish because of the raw egg in it, but I did try the ribena and lemon sauce – it was excruciatingly sweet but the lemon did put a nice twist on it :)   

I love Miss 8′s attention to presentation.  As they say on Masterchef, you eat with your eyes, and Miss 8′s Caregg dish was beautifully presented!   The challenge now is to cultivate this interest in cooking!