Dearest ______,

Gong Xi Fa Cai!


Living in Singapore, I’ve learned that Mandarin Oranges are an auspicious symbol of good fortune because “tangerine” in Chinese sounds similar to the word “luck” or “wealth”. Hence you see people gifting households with oranges as a way of wishing a home prosperity and an abundance of happiness. More so during the Chinese New Year season (as it is now), it isn’t uncommon to find small trees bearing these fruits all around houses and buildings to usher in good luck.

This CNY, while I do wish that everybody receives plentiful gifts of “tangerine”, I’m also hoping that we all learn how to pick them off of the trees ourselves. May this Year of the Rooster bring each of us the most effective wake-up calls to earnestly grab opportunities and obligations alike, in wake of all our coming days.

Carpe diem! Or, Carpe them oranges! 



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Baking Bread

Dearest ______,

I wish I could transport the heavenly smell wafting through my kitchen to you right now: kneaded dough slowly baking in olive oil and rosemary. It’s making me feel warm and fuzzy inside that if there ever was a competition on being the Best Hugger, the focaccia bread inside my oven would be winning at this very moment.

I’ve been actively adding recipes into my novice baking and cooking portfolio these past few years. Not for anything in particular but the bliss- pure bliss– I’ve come to discover in using my faculties to make something that ultimately fills me, feeds people. It’s kind of basic, really, feeding yourself. And yet I love how intrinsically essential it is to learn how to do it; make food.


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Time for Tea

Dearest ______,

I like it how in many parts of the world, tea is an event in itself. I became a recipient of bewildered looks inside a cafe in Casablanca once, when I ordered: “Tea. To go, please.” Older gentlemen huddled around tables were murmuring among themselves as staff behind the counter tried to explain that their cups didn’t come with covers, nor cardboard sleeves.

There I was, right at the beginning of a supposedly relaxing 10-day holiday, rushing to get a hot beverage “to-go” so I can, what, go drink it piping hot while aimlessly walking around? Relax and take several seats, giiirrrl.

For someone who has for years made coffee or tea a minor kickoff for some other thing (i.e. a full day of work, an all-nighter before exams, etc), It still strikes me as unnatural when people suggest that the thing itself is actually the tea. Or the coffee. I’ve met people for meals at all times of the day, always with sides of hot beverage. I’ve hung out, read books, written letters with coffee or tea close by.  But I don’t believe I’ve ever just said:

“Let’s meet for coffee (or tea)!”


It’s been a couple of years since I started collecting and using my first “nice” crockery. That first one: vintage fine bone china in cobalt blue and gold inlay; an Old Royal from England (est 1846), made in the 1950’s. I’ve been collecting (and using) quite a few more since then, not one of them the least bit rare or expensive, to be honest. Nonetheless, they’re all special to me. Apart from telling stories about where I got each of them from, they’ve also become constant reminders of the ceremony of daily life– “the grand and the granular, both” (as a wise friend once put it).

We should all be so lucky as to have the time to pause and simply sit down to a hot beverage. And if we are, that just warrants a tiny celebration of gratitude, doesn’t it?



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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

geraldine, the quaint

Dearest ______,

Whenever I hear the word quaint, I think of Victorian chintz, fine bone china with gold inlay, an English garden, Miss Marple’s home in St. Marymead, and now, the quiet little town of Geraldine in New Zealand’s southern isles.



On the way to Lake Tekapo for our friends’ wedding, we stopped after a couple of hours from Christchurch to get brunch at this highly- recommended place in Geraldine called Verde Cafe and Deli.

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vegetarian kitchen: bark to basics

Dearest ______,

I saw my Tita Liz (a close family friend, like an aunt) post a mouth- watering dish on her Facebook wall the other day. It was, quite simply,

“Cucumber, tomatoes, and onions marinated in homemade vinaigrette”. Thumbs up.

Now have you ever wanted a pet so badly you end up dreaming that a puppy is licking your face, only to wake up with your own drool sliding down your cheek? A gross analogy, but that’s how the salad kind of made me feel. Sour- salty- crunchy haunted me as much as the Boston Terriers do in my dreams.


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i scream

… for ice cream.

Dearest ______,

We had one of those spontaneous “Let’s get off this bus and eat something good!” kind of things last night.


After a very satisfying dinner at Longhouse (a popular hawker centre/ food court along Upper Thomson Road), we walked a couple of blocks along the same road to get to the stretch of shophouses that had charming cafes and ice cream shops for dessert.


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DIY pancakes

Dearest ______,

The concept of paying for DIY- anything is probably baffling to our grand parents’ or great grand parents’ set. If I were to put a grumpy grandpa’s hat on, I would lament:

“Why would you go all the way out, pay good money… only to cook your own food?”



And yet here we are, a bored generation that’s become fixated with the discovery and creation of more and more “experiential” ways of doing things. In design, in shopping, and now- in dining.


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