Monday, September 29, 2008

How to Get Your House Clean on Your Maid's Day Off

When we came back from church yesterday I realized that though the house wasn't dirty, there was clutter. I actually appreciate that our maid doesn't try to put away every item that is left out. She usually collects things and puts them in a pile for me to deal with. And then they just sit there. No, I do put them away. Eventually.

Well, that had been happening too much, especially in the kid's room and the playroom. So I told the kids, "For every five things you put away in the right place, you can have a star." We have "star jars" which have those little Chinese paper stars in them. The kids get stars for rewards, and when the jars are full they're going to get a big treat. Haven't decided what yet but it's going to be fantastic.

I haven't seen my kids move so fast in a long time. I sat on the couch working on the computer while they raced around, every once in awhile announcing how many things they'd put away. When all was done, they'd both put away 85 things. Gosh, I didn't think it was that cluttered!

So there you have it - an easy way to clean your house for free.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I don't know why, but I feel the need to confess tonight that the lovely picture to the right of this post is not one taken in Singapore. It's actually a shot of Freedom Bay in Phuket, Thailand. But I didn't have a good picture of Singapore so I faked it. Singapore has beaches, it's true, but none so beautifully framed as this one. Forgive me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What to do

Megan just handed me this note:

I need more to do today. and one thing is play with friends. and another thing is read paws off cheder (sic) face. or play junior monopoly with mommy.

So I'm off to play Junior Monopoly.

Brain Teaser

I just found this on someone else's blog. You have to find the names of 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. It's one of those crazy makers that will make you not want to give up until you've found every one of them. And if you can't, I can give you the answers, but you know you'll be disappointed if you have to go that route:

There are 30 books of the Bible in the following paragraph. Can you find them?

This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That’s a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalised. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record. The local paper, the Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, “the books are all right here in plain view hidden from sight.” Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus, there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found.

Holiday mix-up

In the pool yesterday I said to Megan, "Hey, you've never been back in the U.S. for Thanksgiving. That'll be so much fun! We'll have to decorate the table with leaves."

Megan: "Or maybe hearts!"

Me: "Ok . . . why hearts? Are you thinking of Valentines Day?"

Megan: "Um, yeah." She seemed a little disappointed that there would not be hearts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Comparison Shopping

I've always wanted to do a comparison between Mustafa (my shopping venue of choice) and some other grocery store in town. There are several other popular chains, including Cold Storage, Giant and Fairprice. Of those, Cold Storage is generally the most expensive, but also the most likely to carry imported products. So I decided to start my comparison there.

I had a notebook with me at Cold Storage, so I just wrote down 20 or so random items that I typically buy, and their prices. Then this morning I wrote down the prices for the same products at Mustafa. I found that on these 20 items, I would save $17.65 by buying them at Mustafa. Hello! The price differences ranged from 15 cents less to $4.70 less (for maple syrup). There was only one thing that cost more at Mustafa (light cottage cheese - 15 cents more). 6 of the products were more than $1 less at Mustafa. Can you imagine over the long haul how much money I've saved by shopping at Mustafa?

I swear, I'm ready to be their international spokesperson. If you live in Singapore, and you don't shop at Mustafa, you might want to rethink that, at least once in awhile.

No, Just Singapore

A friend of mine received a wedding invitation recently addressed to her in "Singapore, China." I'm not surprised. When I was changing my address at US Bank on the phone, the girl hesitated when I told her Singapore. She said, "Now that's in Japan, right?"

Perfectly understandable mistakes. It's difficult to understand the concept of a single island with a single name, not large enough that it needs to be divided by cities.

This difficulty is most pronounced when attempting to do things online. Websites aren't made for this possibility, so I usually have to enter in
City: Singapore
State: Singapore
Country: Singapore

And then I've had things come to me in "Singapore, Singapore, Singapore."

On Facebook, when I tried to enter in my current location, and I said simply "Singapore" it wanted to place me in Singapore, South Africa. So I'm in Singapore, Singapore.

Sometimes if it's not something that will be mailed to me, I get creative by entering in the neighborhood I live in, like this, "Serangoon, Singapore."

Is there no where else in the world with this problem? And why can't places that ship internationally account for this?

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Smell of Dirt

I smelled dirt recently. It was a good dirt smell - that smell that makes you think of spring and new flowers and life. And also, it made me think of my dad.

I feel badly saying that because I in no way want to imply that my dad smells like dirt. Well, he kind of does, sometimes. But it's just because he has these amazing gardens that really should be featured in some magazine, and spending all that time in them sometimes rubs off on him (at least until he showers).

I bring this up just to point out how strong our associations with certain smells can be. And it's funny how sometimes you don't even realize it until you smell them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Don't Take it Personally

You may notice that I do not have a blog roll, or whatever they call that list on the side of your blog that links to everyone else you know in cyberspace. I think there's a good reason for this: I don't want to leave anyone out. But I visit a lot of blogs on occasion, and I don't want to have a list a mile long of all those people. I could be really honest and only include the people whose blogs I really do read on a regular basis. But that feels exclusionary. So if you've put a link to me on your blog, thank you so much. I really do appreciate it. I don't plan to return the gesture, but it's nothing personal, ok? Just wanted to clear that up.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Controlled change

I don't much like change, unless I have complete control over it. But when the controlled change involves creative pursuits, like rearranging my house or decorating it, I am all about change.

So I'm changing my blog template. Thanks to visiting another homeschool blogger's page (one of the many new activities I find time for now that I have a maid) I found this great website with tons of free blog templates. There are so many fun ones that you shouldn't be surprised if both my blogs change on a weekly basis.

Now, right now you might be staring at a light pink screen with barely readable print. That is not my ultimate goal. Because I am so computer un-savvy, even though I am following the directions as best as I can see, sometimes the new template shows up and sometimes it doesn't. This is true of my homeschool blog as well. If you don't see the cool new template, just wait - once Erik (the computer whisperer) gets home, all will be well and we'll all be enjoying the new look. Until I change it again. Probably sometime next week.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Conversation with Megan

Megan and I were sitting on the couch together yesterday with shorts on. I commented that our skin was the same color (she actually disagreed)

"But you have hair on your legs and I don't," I said.

"You can make the hair on your legs go away for up to three weeks," she told me.

"How do you know that?"

"There's something you can use to make it go away," she replied.

"Where did you find out about that?"

"Starhub." (the local cable channel)

Absent-minded ballot

I have tried and failed to vote by absentee ballot in the last two presidential elections. In 2000 I opened my ballot to find I had only a state ballot, not a national one. I don't know how that's possible, but since I hadn't been in the U.S. for a year and had no idea who was running, I couldn't in good conscious vote for any of the people on it.

In 2004, we had just moved to Singapore, so I had my dad go to the court house and request an absentee ballot on my behalf. Something didn't go through, so I requested another one online. It showed up in my post box on the day of the election. I still have it. It will make a good social studies lesson one of these days.

This year, I will not fail. I have just gone online to request a ballot, and I was confronted with this interesting question:

Last Residential Address
a. I know my exact address
b. I will describe my former address
c. My last address was a rural route.

I was tempted to click on the second option, just to see how they wanted me to proceed. How do you describe your former address? Do you say, "Well, it was this kind of slate blue craftsman style house about a block past the Blockbuster downtown"? Or describe like, "We lived in this suburb outside of Minneapolis. I want to say it started with a P. Does that help?" And the person on the other end of cyberspace goes, "Oh, ok, yeah, I know just the house you're talking about!"

And how cluttered does your mind have to be that you don't remember your last known address?

Well, I do know my last known address, so I'm right now ensuring that my husband will also be permitted to vote this year. Speaking of the presidential elections, you have to watch this funny clip from David Letterman.

Monday, September 01, 2008

House Elves

Here is a question on the online orientation class you must take in order to employ a full time maid:

If your maid is not doing a job the way you asked, should you:
a. scream at her until she does it right
b. beat her
c. calmly show her again how you want her to do it

Ok, so it was worded in a more polite way, but that's the gist of it. I don't know, maybe if you answered a or b you get red flagged as a jerk and they send someone to your house regularly to make sure you aren't doing them. Unfortunately, it still happens all too often. There are stories in the Singapore Straits Times frequently about maid abuse. Despite the regulations about how you are to treat these women regarding what you provide for them, time off, etc., you hear about women who have to sleep on the floor of the kid's room, or in a chair in the kitchen. I interviewed a girl who got one Sunday off a month, and the man of the house made advances toward her all the time. We're "required" to give them eight hours of sleep a day and a few breaks during the day. But I have heard of maids who are up at 5 a.m. and work until midnight (none of them work for my friends). And all this on measly pay.

Basically, these women are like the house elves in Harry Potter. So I feel a bit like Hermione, wanting reform, though I won't be organizing any clubs to make that happen. It's so ingrained in the culture, and so many of these women come to expect it, there's little hope for change. Plus I have bigger fish to fry. But I can at least provide a good environment for my maid. It's hard though - I have to keep telling her to slow down, take a rest, eat, don't work on her day off. I took her with me to Mustafa yesterday because she wanted to come (and eventually then I'll be able to send her by herself once she's able to navigate that gargantuan place) and she insisted on pushing the cart while walking 10 steps behind me. That felt bizarre and I don't really want to do it again.

It's a whole new world we've entered, where human nature (and by that I mean sin) finds a way to rear its ugly head. And another opportunity for us to live in a way that is contrary to the world.