Archive for March, 2009


The iris in my garden has just bloomed. They are always the first flower to appear, signaling the arrival of spring and warmer weather.

But this March  finds me crossing the Pacific Ocean, and back in Singapore and Malaysia visiting friends and family, and taking care of some matters.

It has taken a while to get used to the heat, but there is always the refuge of air-conditioned malls and eating places. It has been wondeful catching up with all the important people in my life, and meeting some new ones as well.

I spent two wonderful days at a close relative’s wedding .  Besides the gaiety of a wedding, I find the festivity to be a microcosm of the different cultural and generational influnces that are part of my extended family, and society. I will be posting photos and videos of the wedding soon.

So far, I have been mainly in the cities, and some of the initial effort involved getting used to the crowds. And needless to say, it has been superb sampling all the local food again. I have to slow down on a couple of days, as I still have many more dishes to go!

At the same, I’m always amazed at the food sellers and others who continue to keep the traditional food and trades alive and thriving, amidst all the modernity that continuously sprouts around them. I will feature these “unsung heroes” in my blog soon, as well.

Journeys to the place where you grew up often offer a bag of emotions and reflections. It is a good way to welcome spring, even if the season does not exist in the tropics.

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omlet3Eggs have had a checkered history where health is concerned.

There is no doubt that eggs are a high source of protein and contain almost every essential vitamin and mineral. They are also economical and every culture and cuisine feature eggs in different variations.

Some years back, eggs received a bad rap in terms of raising one’s cholesterol. People were advised to strictly limit their consumption of eggs.

However, new research shows that limiting egg consumption has little effect on cholesterol levels. A University of Surrey team said their work indicated most people could eat as many eggs as they wanted without damaging their health.

The researchers said the idea that eating more than three eggs a week was bad for you was a misconception based on out-of-date evidence. They said eating saturated fats was far more likely to cause health problems, and eggs were actually a key part of a healthy diet, as they were packed full of nutrients.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many people all over the world still believe that it is necessary to limit one’s consumption of eggs.

Eggs is a comfort food for many people, and everyone has his or her preferred way of cooking eggs. I know a man who was adamant that his future wife would be someone who could scrambled his eggs just right, a creamy consistency and light golden in color. But happily for him, he found out that the eggs were not his main criterion for a spouse. After forays in several kitchens, he fell in love with a woman who made scrambled eggs at a just passable grade, according to his standard. But she more that made up for it with her charming personality.

Eggs can also give different sensory effects depending on the time you enjoy them. An omelet in the morning tastes brisk and refreshing. Switch to the nights when you are reading or watching TV, suddenly you feel hungry and you get up to make an omelet. Savoring the egg while it’s dark and quiet outside gives a different kind of satisfaction and calm.

My grandmother and grandaunt believed that soft-boiled eggs could cure almost anything. Feel a cold coming on? Have two soft-boiled egg. Wake up in the morning and feel sluggish about life? Have two soft-boiled eggs, and you’ll feel better in no time.

Two wonderful ladies, and such optimism in eggs!

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What is a house or a home? One’s house is the biggest investment most people make in their lifetime. A home is a roof over your head, a sanctuary, the place where you feel the most safe in the world.

It is the American dream to own your own home. In fact, it is a dream of people all over the world.

But now homeownership is at the center of the economic problem that we are facing. Who is to blamed? Three groups that have been blamed for this situation are: people who bought homes they could not afford, banks, brokers and mortgage companies.

Each group shares some blame. But as a layperson and homeowner, I believe that a large part of the problem started when banks and other financial institutions began to see people’s homes and housing loans as a commodity to be traded on the open market.

It used to be that you obtained your housing loan or mortgage from a loan officer in the bank. You meet him in person, and build a relationship with him or with the bank in the years you live in the house. But in recent years, the bank treated housing loans as just another commodity, something to be bundled together, like tobacco leaves, and to freely sold and traded to investors.

I’ve heard stories from people who thought that a particular bank was their lender. Then one day, they received a call or a letter from another company that they have never heard of telling them that the company now owns their loan.

And then there is also the use of “no document loans” by brokers and mortgage companies. All the loan applicant need to do is to state or write his income, and the mortgage broker does not ask for any supporting evidence or document. I wonder how did the banks process and approve these loans without documentation. I thought banks have very strict procedures about this. In my experience at least, you have to produce copies of tax and income documents when you are dealing with the banks.

The words that people have historically associated with banks are `safe’, `solid’ and banks are supposed to be prudent institutions. But the above practices indicate that they have been cutting corners with prudence, and worse, they have treated people’s homes with a cavalier, reckless attitude. It is no surprise that people have lost a lot of trust in banks.

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