Writing 101 : Happy Chinese New Year

When I think of Chap Chai Te’ng (mixed vegetable soup) I think of Chinese (lunar) New Year.

As a child right through to my twenties as a young mother to three children, Chinese New Year meant new clothes and new shoes. My favourite day of the festival was the evening before new year. That’s when all the family came round for a banquet, the reunion dinner. The dish that symbolizes the occasion is my aunt’s specialty Chap Chai Te’ng cooked with chicken, prawn balls, fish balls, cabbage, vermicelli (glass noodles), bean curd sticks, black fungus (bok jee) in chicken soup. It is a dish of many mixtures although I have no idea why it is called Chap Chai when the only vegetable in the dish is cabbage.

This special dish, amongst other Nyonya authentic dishes that my aunt lovingly cooked for us showed her love for her family. The salt, the spices, the vegetables, the meat the condiments were all mixed and cooked over low flame for hours to bring out the flavor. Everything was made from scratch. The hours she spent, the joy she gets watching the family savour her cooking. I have not tried making this dish but as I am relaying this story the slow cooker image popped into my head. I wonder if the results will be the same if I put all the ingredients into my slow cooker, turn the power on then leave for work and call my family round for dinner one night.

That’s the love of a modern-day mother for her family.  So much less sweat to shower love in the modern world.  It is almost like cheating, taking the easy way out.  Nothing is impossible with technologies but I wonder if my son or my daughters are free to make the call. It’s not easy trying to get everyone round, (sigh) ……… perhaps I should wait for a special occasion like Chinese New Year or my birthday.


Nyonya Chap Chai from Restoran Aunty Lee.  Image credit Trip Advisor

Nyonya Chap Chai from Restoran Aunty Lee. Image credit Trip Advisor


via Writing 101
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.




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Check out Nyonya Chap Chai recipe from Fatbo

Writing 101 : Point of View

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry.  Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

via Writing 101



The man
He enjoys his walk with his wife. That is one of their comfort times. For the last six months, the couple had been spending quality time together and he makes it a point to get home early at least twice a week to do their regular walk amongst other activities, just the two of them. He feels a little emotional today.  Today is one of those days that he gets more sensitive than usual. He misses her so much.

They walked past the duck pond and saw an old woman sitting on a bench underneath the cherry blossom tree, knitting.  As they walk closer, he saw her putting her final touches on a small, red sweater.

That red sweater.

He was taken back to the hospital room. His little girl in her red sweater drew her last breath and did not respond to her name anymore.  Back to the present in the park, he feels so weak, squeezes his wife’s hand tightly and tears started rolling down his cheeks.



The woman
Her love for her husband has grown stronger and stronger everyday and often times, she ccould sense how he feels and what he is thinking just by looking at him or by touching him.  She feels the grasp of his hand on hers and the emptiness he feels now found its way into her.

The late afternoon sun is still quite strong but she feels the chills.  As they walk, hand in hand on the circular walkway in silence, she is trying to find a answer why their little angel was taken away from them so soon.  Forcing herself to the present, she feels the consolation.  She has never ever feel so close, so connected to her husband as much as now, not even when they were dating.  The times they both shared and gone through for the last six months together is like two beings supporting one body, two hearts with the same emotion, two people sharing one loss.

Her eyes caught the red sweater and feeling the squeeze of his hand on hers turned her head and saw his tears.  She has no tears left but her heart hurts to see him cry.  She uses both her hands to wipe his tears, gives him a little hug and carry on walking hand in hand.



The old woman
She is worried.  Her eyes are not as sharp as they used to be but she still has her love for knitting.  She likes the sun on her face and the few hours each day she goes out from her back garden door leading to this park.  This bench is her favourite spot.

She holds that newly knitted red sweater and smile to herself showing a missing tooth.  Little two year old Emily will look good in red. She is going to persuade her daughter that she is capable to care for herself.  Retirement home is for oldies, not her.  She picks up her knitting needles, wool, the newly knitted red sweater, her reading glasses and places everything into a rattan bag.  She gets up from the bench just as the couple walk past her.

Strangers living in their own world, she didn’t see their pain.






Writing 101 : Death of adverbs

Come with us

to this place

private to you

public to them

a room of many continents.


Most were seated, staring at their computer screen with their fingers on keyboard. Numerous cubicles, ten or more per row and there were just so many rows across the whole room maybe at least more than one hundred feet long.

It was not a busy evening so you could see some reading books or munching away chippies or chocolate bars. Yet no clique or chatters.  A big team of diligent workers.  Looking top down, you could see blonde, red, black, brown or even tints of colourful heads, all wearing headphones. The skin tones in this room were a complete mix of black, brown and white.  English was the spoken language but it was amazing that you not only heard local Kiwi or neigbouring Aussie.  You might have thought you were calling America , Phillipines , India , South East Asia or maybe one of the Pacific islands of Tonga or Samoa.  The room was a true diversification of all nationalities made up of people of all colours, shapes and sizes. Some tall and lanky, others of average built and many plus sizes.

The wall was decorated with many posters, flatscreen televisions and colorful slogan “Come with Us”.  No one said “hello” over their mouthpieces but walking around the room, you could see words of “hello” in different languages displayed in many colors.  I would have thought “hello” is a word to be spoken not written.

“Come with us.”

I know I did not kill all the adverbs.  Please help me reword and kill them all.





via Writing 101: Death to adverbs

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see.  Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Long or short sentences, it’s still the same home

Killing two birds with one stone.

The home I lived in when I was twelve.

Shared that before.

Be it a sentence or more, long or short.

The story and the home is still the same.



via Writing 101: Size Matters
Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.


Going back in time many many years ago, a ten year old little girl looked out the window from her bedroom on the first floor of a wooden double-storey house.

She saw a big tree and further across the field was an attap house with little flower pots (some broken) of plants and flowers sitting on wooden plank shelves outside that attap dwelling. The little house across the field was perhaps home to the servants of her family who lived in that big family home before she was born. The house compound was very big, several acres, an open field, overgrown in some parts and a stream separated that big house and the small attap house. Access was through a few pieces of timber nailed together, placed across the narrow stream as a walkway, sometimes submerged in water during high tide. The whole property had endured floods during the monsoon…

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Give and Take – Which is better, single or couple?

“I love being single.  My breakup from that dickhead was the best thing that happened to me !”

I was sitting in a cafe, next table to two women. The talker was colorfully dressed, eyes with shades of blue, holding a cup of coffee showing off finger nails painted in bright red.  The listener was dressed simply with an oversized coat of dull grey, scarf around her neck, no makeup.

The colorful lady was doing all the talking, trying to paint a picture what her life was like before and after the breakup. I was supposedly reading a book but very much drawn to listen into the conversation and was eavesdropping if you wish to call me that.

“When we were together, I had no life.  He didn’t want to do the things I liked and I had to almost always gave in to what he wanted to do and I lived my life like that for the last ten years.  What was the point, to live with someone and not being able to be myself.  I was living for him and I must have lost my personality.”

The other lady nodded in agreement and before she could reply, the colorful lady continued.

“When that dickhead left me, I cried my eyes out.  I didn’t know what I did wrong. You won’t believe how I pleaded with him to stay but he just didn’t give me a chance.  I was too shocked to tell you or anyone.”

She paused for a moment, had a sip of coffee.

“It took me one whole year feeling sorry for myself and then one morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, I still look pretty cool, except for that sad eyes so I decided to polish my image, changed my wardrobe, made new friends and no longer wanted to hang around the same group of friends we had as a couple.  Those people reminded me of him and all they did was to feel sorry for me.  That made me felt even more victimized and needy.”

Her cellphone rang, “I am finally letting her know ……….. see you at Zumba later.”

“And you know what?  When we were together, I had to sit through every rugby match. Our dinner was steak and bbq almost every day. He just won’t try any other cuisine. Today, I have tasted and tried all sorts of cuisine more than I ever did in the last ten years.”

The lady in the oversized coat finally got a chance to speak.

“You sounded very mature and mellow ……. and look lovely, Mabel.  Mum would be very proud of you. I could still remembered how worried she was when you packed your bag and went to live with Harry refusing to listen to any of us. I cannot believed you kept this from all of us till now.  You are stronger than we know.”

“I was totally lost and withdrawn in that whole year but I did not want anyone to feel sorry for me.  I guess I eventually realized I am an individual and I must learn to love myself even though he did not.  When dickhead was with me, I spent all my life loving him and neglected myself.  Being single, I can do what I want to do, turn on whichever channel on TV and dress and eat what I fancy.  The list is endless, I just didn’t realized there are just so many cool things to do, Sis.  I’ve got to run now, I’m keeping fit with Zumba.”

That was quite a pleasant conversation, a kind of reality check.  I, too had been alone now for three years and couldn’t help but agreed with her on the independence being a single.  In fact I was thinking perhaps I should start looking again but after overhearing this conversation, I may stay single for a little while longer.

I smiled and went on to read my book.





via Writing 101 : Give and Take

Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

Never judge a book by its cover

Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014.  In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study

via Writing 101: A Character-Building Experience.


How easy or hard is it to share your house with a stranger?

This stranger responded to our “flatmate wanted” ad.  We were looking for a “working professional, dog lover” to share with two others and a family dog in a four bedroom home.   He came to view, along with his wife who just got a job overseas hence he was looking to flat temporarily till he knows his future plans.

Both in their mid thirties, and sure enough fitted the “working professional” description.  They were tanned, Indian and very pleasant couple.  He was of average height and built.  My dog barked crazily but he was not scared.  That did not necessarily mean he is a “dog lover” but enough to show me that he doesn’t mind dogs.

He moved in within a week.  That dog took a week to accept him.  I would have thought my house would smell of Indian kitchen in no time but I was totally wrong.  My wine rack was almost full with wine of all sorts and he asked me where he could store his.  I have an appreciation of wine with food.  I thought he was a “wine connoisseur” like me.  Again I was wrong.

Surprisingly he told me he was going to go on a diet to loose some weight.  Unbelievable as I honestly did and still do not see any extra pounds that needed to be shed off.  He had been staying with us now for the last couple of months.  He had never once cooked any Indian meal and I have not seen him with a glass of wine, not even once.  Instead he dines on Jenny Craig, the weight management program.

I guess he is preparing himself to “feel like new, feel like you” (Jenny Craig’s slogan).  Trim and fit to move abroad to join his wife soon.

Introducing Dee, our flatmate, the fittest and most disciplined man in our house.  He is no typical Indian though was tempted once when I had Beef Saagwala cooking on the stove and he asked for a taste !


Do you mind sharing your house with a stranger?  This is one interesting character I don’t really mind.





Writing 101 – Be Brief

You stumble upon a random letter on the path.  You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed.  Write a story about this encounter.


A piece of pink writing paper, smudged, a three lined message.


Please forgive me

Didn’t know you were behind

R.I.P. You’re hurt no more.


As I walked a couple more steps up this country road, I saw a wooden cross, a bunch of fresh flowers and a little teddy bear.





via the Daily Post : Writing 101 – Be brief