Making the most out of leftovers from Chinese New Year

Excess food and items are often the by—products of the holiday season after a robust month of cooking, eating, visitations and gifting. Tempting as it is to shove them into storage or toss them out, it is a terrible wastage of perfectly useable products and does your wallet a great injustice. There are some things you can do to get these out of your house.

First and foremost, make sure that your surplus food and items are in good, edible or useable condition. Check the expiry dates on food containers, and toss out food that has already expired or smell and look strange. Take note of items that are approaching their expiry dates and place them in more noticeable and accessible areas as those are items you would want to utilise first.

Appropriate storage is crucial to ensure that your items retain ‘ their quality as much as possible while you ‘ work on reducing their presence in your house. Festive goodies should be kept in air-tight containers and stored in cool cupboards. Left-over cooked food items should be stored separately in the fridge in airtight, leak-proof containers or wraps. Uncooked meat, fish and chicken should be kept in their original store wrapping. They should also be placed on trays or plates to prevent liquids from dripping onto other items below. Fruits and vegetables should be kept in separate, unsealed and perforated bags. Do not place different fruits and vegetables together as they give off gases that can cause other items to go bad. Do not wash before refrigerating as dampness can cause mould. Ensure that there is space in the refrigerator for cool air to circulate.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Offer your snacks, drinks, hampers and other unused items to neighbours, friends and colleagues. But don’t forget to be sensitive to their needs. I recall a neighbour who wanted to throw out their plant a year ago. Today the plant is growing well in my office because there are green thumbs here. If your neighbourhood has a Facebook account, that is a good place to ask if anyone would like your surplus.

Charities are often inundated by item donations post- holiday season and some of them may cease accepting these until further notice. This is a strong indication that we buy far more than we should and we really ought to watch what we are buying! That said, some smaller and less-funded charities, orphanages and homes might appreciate food and functional products that are in new condition. Do contact the charity beforehand to check if they will accept your donations. www.giving.sg has a relatively comprehensive list of all charities and homes in Singapore. If you have bulky items like furniture and electronic appliances to give away, you may try http://www.passiton.org.sg to find a suitable match for your donation. The Food Bank Singapore has been taking in new, unopened Chinese New Year goodies for distribution to beneficiaries.

If you wish to monetize your items, local selling platform Carousell is handy for all sorts of items. But considering how easy it is to purchase items for cheap online or get them at low cost or even free from those who have bought too much, you might have better luck with a give away.

Last but not least, take note of how much you actually use during the holiday season, and refrain from buying more than that amount next year. Adopt sensible buying habits so you never have to cope with the heartache of wastage and spending excessively, and the headache of managing your surplus.

Picture by Alpha

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.


Book Review: Known and Strange Things

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole

Known and Strange Things is a collection of 55 short non-fiction pieces from an approximately eight-year travel period of almost constant writing. Many of these have been published on mainstream publications, with some going viral. They span across a wide variety of topics covering books, movies, photography, travel, politics, personal accounts on race, war, and colonialism.

Cole grew up in Nigeria, has travelled extensively, and currently resides in the US. He is well-versed in the arts and politics, and his writings are fiercely intelligent and highly-opinionated. Cole is a person of colour, identifies as internationalist, and has a deep affiliation with Western culture. As such, his essays on politics and travel are a fascinating and reflective read.

There is a section on photography, and interestingly enough, that turned out to be the most outstanding section in his book, as agreed by other readers. Who would know that the beauty of photography could be conveyed in text? In these essays, Cole shares about the history and aesthetics of photography, virtually rendering a crash course on the background of this art form. Social media enthusiasts will no doubt be interested in what he thinks about lnstagram and Snapchat.

But not every essay might be one’s cup of tea. Certain essays and chapters felt particularly technical and may require multiple reads to digest the information. Even then, they may be over-whelming. Some articles may be deeply appreciated by art enthusiasts and historians, but would otherwise be akin to playing piano to the cow. 0n the other hand, I really enjoyed the ones about his personal experiences related in his accounts of his travels and life. Anyone who enjoys travelling or learning about the world through others eyes are likely to concur.

That said, not everyone would enjoy every piece of writing in the book, but finding at least one enjoyable essay should be easy.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.


There’s a Time and Place for Everyone; Your Future is in Your Hands

You would have heard or read about SkillsFuture, which is one of the best things that the government has implemented to help everyone develop his/her potential to the fullest. The government is stretching its hand to help Singaporeans to look for a whole suite of training courses to help you master the skills of your choice.

This skills mastery is more than about having the right paper qualifications. It is about helping you to be good at what you do currently and how to continually strive towards boosting yourself to reach greater excellence through knowledge, application and experience.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a student, or just taking the baby steps in your career, or you are in your mid-career or silver years. The Council for Skills, Innovation and Productivity (CSIP) is here to offer a list of education and training providers, employers, unions, to help you chart a brighter future with skills mastery and lifelong learning. For example, as a student you may want to plan a route that allows you to pursue the right educational programme that fits with your interests, skills and abilities. If you are in your mid-career deepening your skills, knowledge and experience can value-add to your “l expertise and help in your career advancement.

So, why aren’t you doing yourself a favour by going into the SkillsFuture website and explore what’s in store for you?

All eligible Singaporeans 25 years old and above will receive a letter informing them of the activation of their SkillsFuture Credit Accounts in January 2017. It will include a booklet to explain where they can find the list of approved courses and how to use the credit. For those who are turning 25 years old in subsequent years, they will receive their SkillsFuture Credit Account Activation letter by the first quarter of each year. For new Singapore citizens aged 25 years old and above, they will receive their SkillsFuture Credit Account Activation letter within a quarter after they receive their Singapore citizenship.

Best of all, the SkillsFuture Credit is given to you and the government will credit your account with S$500 to pay for the courses. Your credit will not expire and the government will provide periodic top-ups, so you may accumulate your credit. Why wait? Go and visit the website: http://www.skillsfuture.sg

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Image from Pixabay


Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Even the most successful and self-assured of us is guilty of self-doubt. That’s why Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection resonates so well with readers.

Dr Brown is a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging. She has done a decade of research on Wholehearted living. Wholehearted living means putting our best foot forward to lead a meaningful and productive life, and retiring to bed at the end 0f the day feeling satisfied and worthy, even if the day’s work isn’t up to your expectations. Learning to accept and live with imperfection, in a nut shell. For many of us, this is easier said than done. But Dr Brown effectively changes readers’ perspectives by relabeling attitudes and experiences that are often the culprit of us sabotaging an otherwise satisfactory lifestyle.

The book is divided into ten guideposts, aimed at helping readers to identify and hopefully let go of unhealthy ideas, and instead, replace them with encouraging, motivating ones. Each guidepost is different; t ere is one about cultivating self-compassion, one on cultivating play and rest, another on cultivating meaningful work, and so on. How relevant each one is to the reader would depend on the individual, but the issues addressed are universal and could be relevant in helping readers to empathise with others.

Dr Brown backs her words with scientific research, which makes the reading material reassuring and credible. She also puts herself in the book, describing the vulnerabilities that she struggles with as a person, and a woman, allowing readers to relate. One reader suffers from Dermatillomania, a skin-picking disorder that was damaging on her emotional health and physical appearance. Despite making substantial progress in her treatment, she would blame herself after each relapse. The constant pressure caused her to keep picking her skin and make the condition worse. She revealed that this book has helped her to feel worthy and take pride in the progress she is making, and to be less hard on herself. She has been recommending it to the patients in her support group.

This book is slim and makes an easy and efficient read. In a high-pressure society, it is important to learn to be compassionate to oneself, and in turn, others around you, and this book hits just the right spot.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.


Year-End in Colourful Europe

Flamboyant lights, bustling Christmas markets, creamy hot chocolate, powdery white snow and gorgeous landscape photography… Christmas in Europe is something entirely different for those of us who have been accustomed to tropical weather. With the strong Singapore dollar, a Christmas retreat in Europe can be within most budgets.

Photo buffs can never go wrong with castles in mountains, and the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Germany is said to be one of the most picturesque in the world, surrounded by the Alps and acres of Bavarian forests. If architecture is more to your taste, Estonia’s capital Tallin is home to Old Town, one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

For snowy mountain landscapes without having to climb mountains, Aiguille du Midi, in the French Alps is accessible via cable car from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, a commune in France. The commune itself is a Charming ski resort and one of the oldest in the country. If you love wide spaces and vast flat lands, the endless pastures of Yorkshire Dales in England are blanketed in snow, dotted with glowing dots of lights from cozy pubs,and you might see ponies and sheep wandering around covered in warmer garb by their farmer masters.

However, you would want to take some precautions with your cameras. Batteries run out of power very quickly in cold weather, so bring spare batteries, and wrap your batteries and cameras in a warm padded pouch when not in use. Condensation on the lenses is the more crucial problem so look out for it and make sure your lenses are dry before you keep them.

Within the cities, you’ll find Christmas decorations and lights just about anywhere. National Geographic recommended Austria’s Vienna, Belgium’s Brussels, Spain’s Madrid and Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens for their great lights and atmosphere. But just about any European city is delightful in winter. Don’t forget to l00k in the shop windows; aside from displaying the newest winter fashion, they are also adorned with lights and Christmas displays, sometimes animated. If you visit Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro, the famous designer shopping district in the evening during this period, you might spend more time admiring the windows than the luxury collections.

The Christmas market is one of the biggest charms of wintry Europe. These markets usually last from mid- November to early-January, but it varies with the market and city. You can fill your stomachs with delicious food and drinks which are sometimes unique to the season, relive your childhood with games and attractions like the carousel and Ferris wheel, buy unique handmade crafts and souvenirs. The markets themselves are often beautifully dressed up for the occasion. The massive ones may even have spaces for performances and dancing.

Germany is the place to be if you want to get your fill of Christmas markets as this is the country that Christmas Markets originate from. According to European travel website ”European Best Destinations”, recommended cities and communes include Aachen, Leipzig, Nuremberg, ‘ Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dresden and Cologne, Other winners are Croatia’s Zagreb, France’s Colmar, Lille, and Strasbourg, Austria’s Vienna, and Belgium’s Brussels where you can indulge in the chocolates they are so famous for.

The UK has atmospheric Christmas Markets and London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a popular Christmas destination with plenty of rides and attractions on site.

For a cozier choice, Christmas is a beloved theme in p0p culture, and many stage productions will have something just for the season. London’s West End is famous for its high quality plays, and there is the benefit of them being in English. If you happen to be in Milan, don’t miss the opportunity for some Christmas operas. There is a good reason for the La Scala Milan being a world-renowned opera house.

Europe is gorgeous and vibrant in winter despite some inconveniences, such as, the early sunset (as early as 5pm), and the intense dryness. Plan your itinerary accordingly, stay hydrated, use moisturisers and pack the right clothes so that you can fully immerse yourself in an enjoyable winter experience.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Picture from Pixabay