Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for yearbook

I was searching for some documents in our underbed storage compartment when I came across very old photos of Viv and me from our university days, when he had legendary pimples and I had legendary hair. (A classmate once remarked, "What's up with your hair? You look like Einstein." A compliment that is not.)

I also found our yearbooks! The yearbook issued by the university just had photos and course names, but the other one, the one that our immediate juniors had designed for our farewell had elaborate write-ups! Check out what our juniors thought of Viv and me back in 2002.

Viv's write-up

Legend:
GIGs - The name given to our batch by our Indian seniors. Every batch got a name, which followed this format: [first letter of choice of expletive] + IG (Indian Gang). I'll let you imagination run wild on what the G stood for.

CHIGs - Our immediate juniors

VP - Vice President

OC - Orientation Committee (lame attempt to give a formal and official name to what was essentially organised ragging)

The Baatman - Viv's computer's name on the shared network because Batman is (was?) his favourite superhero


 My write-up

Legend:
Official IG snap rigger - One of my hobbies was to take candid photos of people in the IG and 'rig' them by using MS Paint and Powerpoint to create 'stories' and comic strips, complete with speech and thought bubbles. I then used to share them on the network (my computer was called Sayesha!) for everyone. People used to actually message me asking for more! Ah, glorious days. Wonder where all those files are now.

Sangam - The annual inter-hostel culturals, which often became a matter of life and death. One of the most fulfilling parts of my university life actually.

'Scores of people think she is the most creative person in their batch' - The CHIGs got all the GIGs to vote and determine who was the funniest, who was the most creative, who was the craziest, who was the one most likely to end up in prison, etc. Apparently I was the winner in the 'Funniest female' category, which they announced at our farewell party (but they didn't mention it here, hmmph!) and came second in the 'Most creative' category, losing out to a Photoshop genius.

NTU - Nanyang Technological University, our alma mater

Tarang - The annual tooth-and-nail culturals between arch rivals NTU and NUS (National University of Singapore)

RIGs - Our immediate seniors

spine - This needs clarification. Contrary to how it appears, I didn't whack his spinal cord! The spine (there were two actually - north spine and south spine) was a part of the university building where we had our classes.

My warning message to all IGs - No, really. Our batch was NOTORIOUS. If there was an award for the worst batch ever (in terms of not studying, rule-breaking and the likes), we would win it hands down.



Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for Xena's gyaan

For a long time now, I've harboured the idea of doing a blog post series where each year I ask Xena some 'serious' adult-level questions and record her answers and over the years I see how her answers change, showing the evolution of her thought process. And I thought I'd label the series 'Xena isi ka naam hai' -- a joke my dad has been cracking since forever! (Since 2011, to be precise.)

Obviously, to embark on a project like this, you need your child to be of a certain age. First, I thought I'd start when she turned five, but she didn't seem too keen so I dropped the idea. The last thing I wanted was it to become a tedious chore for her. Now that she's turned six, I thought of trying it out and hey, this time, she really seemed to like this 'fun game'!

I was in the kitchen and she was at the dining table playing with her toys and chatting with me. As we talked, like a court stenographer, I was furiously typing on my iPad, every word she was uttering. (I realised it was too much for me to remember and type later, and I wanted to capture every 'hmm...', and 'oh' and 'hee hee'.)

We had the coolest Q and A session ever. Here it is, all the gyaan, straight from the 6-year-old horse's mouth.

Q: Why are some people in the world sad?
A: Because their daddy is away.

Q: Why are some people in the world happy?
A: Because their daddy has come back.

Q: How much money should a person have?
A: Oh, that's an easy question. (thinks) No, I mean it's a tricky question. Ok let me think. I know, I know! 200 dollars. Mama, I will also tell you how many notes and coins, ok? (thinks) Each person should have ten note monies (sic) and... 48 coins.

Q: At what age should a person get a mobile phone?
A: 28 or 29 or 30.

Q: At what age should a person get married?
A: 30 or 29.

Q: Is it ok if someone doesn't want to get married?
A: Yup.

Q: Is it ok if a man wants to marry a man, or a woman wants to marry a woman?
A: That's a funny question. Hee hee!

Q: But they love each other and want to get married... can they?
A: Hmmm.... Yup.

Q: How many friends does a person need?
A: 11 to 13.

Q: Why do we need so many friends?
A: To have swim class with, play dates with and to go out with.

Q: Why do some people have cars and others don't?
A: Because I think some people like cars. And others think that it is too difficult to drive a car or they don't know how to drive a car.

Q: What should you do when you feel lonely?
A: Hug your mommy or your daddy if they are there. If only mommy is there, then you hug her. Then roll around the bed.

Q: What if no one is there?
A: Be sad and start crying?

Q: What does a person need to be happy?
A: Hugs, cuddles and squashes.

Q: What are squashes?
A: I'll tell you all three, ok? Hug is like a BIG hug... like this (demonstrates), cuddle is like a small one, and a squash is when you're sleeping next to me and I snuggle up to you and squash you.

Q: Are you a happy person?
A: I am medium.

Q: What does that mean?
A: That means both sad and happy.

Q: Why sad?
A: Because my daddy is not here.

Q: And why happy?
A: Because my daddy is coming back.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for WhatsApp groups

A few months ago, Mom and Dad got on WhatsApp.

I had both the "YAYY!" and "OMG!" reactions at the same time.

"YAYY!" because now they didn't have to wait for any weekly Skype sessions. They could message me anytime.

"OMG!" because now they didn't have to wait for any weekly Skype sessions. They could message me anytime.

This meant that once we were past the daily "What else is happening?" and "Nothing much." messages, the forwards would start.

Last year, I quit my school friends' WhatsApp group because I just couldn't take the forwards -- the 236492365024 jokes a day, the shayari, the "inspirational" quotes, and the daily good morning messages attached to random photos of random babies and random flowers. I was also deeply disturbed to learn from one of my trusted sources that some of the boys apparently had a separate WhatsApp group where any photos sent to the main group were scrutinised in a way that would be considered, erm, unsavoury, by the girls. Ewww. Some of the girls regularly sent selfies to the group, probably in an attempt to show everyone how much hotter they had gotten since our school days (they had, indeed) and knowing about this other boys-only group and their agenda creeped me out so much I made a hasty exit from the group. However, something good did come out of it. It made me put more effort into individually keeping in touch with the school friends that I do want to keep in touch with.

Another kind of WhatsApp message I absolutely detest is from desis in my neighbourhood WhatsApp group who are completely oblivious to the fact that this is a neighbourhood WhatsApp group in Singapore, and even though the majority are desi, there are plenty of non-desis who don't understand or care for your jokes in devnagri, or Happy Saraswati Puja messages or the fact that "UNESCO has crowned the wonderful Modiji with the title of 'best PM ever'". And also the Indian National Anthem as the best anthem ever. And also the Indian flag as the best flag ever. It's all true. After all, UNESCO has said so. UNESCO has nothing better to do in life.

Recently, someone had sent a message alerting parents about "some kind of red candy that kidnappers were using around schools". One of my Caucasian neighbours decided enough was enough and asked point blank, "Is this in Singapore?" The reply came, "No, India."

The group was silent for two days.

Karwa chauth last year was the pits. A group of about 10 women in the group started an animated discussion concerning the moon's whereabouts. They went on and on, and my full sympathies were with my hapless non-Indian neighbours who must have been deeply traumatised to see such sudden and psychotic levels of astronomy in the group. And wondering why these very hungry, very angry women were so hungry and so angry.

Extended family WhatsApp groups have also caused me much grief. I discovered to my horror that some people actually keep track of who complimented the photos sent by them and who didn't, and who congratulated when their kid won some prize in school and who didn't. Gosh, with some 30 people in the group and 389578975943 messages flying across in a day, I don't think I compliment and congratulate every single person! That means I am probably on some people's blacklist already.

So when Mom and Dad got on WhatsApp, I briefed them to the best of my knowledge on how to use it responsibly, causing minimal damage to others' brain cells. When we were in Mauritius, I realised the insane number of forwards, especially videos, both of them were receiving from people. Dad was still okay, but Mom was very keen to "share this wealth of knowledge" with all her sisters, neighbours and friends. I sat down with her and googled to show her how 99.9999999999% of WhatsApp claims are nothing but rubbish. So now she forwards me EVERYTHING she gets and only if I give the green light, she forwards them on. It's painful for me, but at least she spares the world.

I created a family group for my parents, sister and me, and it was hilarious how my parents would send messages to the group and then send the very same messages individually to us. Another briefing was needed to fix this little glitch, and we were all set. They have also realised and gracefully accepted the fact that there is nothing much to say on WhatsApp on a daily basis. And that is perfectly fine and you DO NOT need to fill the silent days with forwards.

I do send lots of our photos on the group though, so that keeps them happy. My sister rarely sends photos. She's just not the kind, and we all know it. One day, I was so thrilled to see a family photo from her. I thought my parents would go over the moon. And just then, my mom replied with a "Only one photo????" GRRRRRR... I was OUTRAGED on behalf of my sister. She lives in the US and must have been sleeping then, but I wasn't ready to let go. I started yelling on WhatsApp itself. "She finally sends a photo and THIS IS ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY????"

When my sister woke up, she still didn't react, but she went a little ballistic around Easter and sent 48 photos of their neighbourhood Easter egg hunt, with only one photo featuring her kids. Mom was livid. "Why are you sending so many photos???" She asked. "Photo bhejo toh problem, na bhejo toh problem." I did a little narad muni act. What drama. Gosh.

Mom still sends me jokes and shayari from time to time. I am hopeful that my stoic silence will one day signal to her to stop it. I once made the mistake of sending a laughing emoji to a joke an acquaintance sent me. Out of nothing but sheer politeness. Now she sends me an average of six jokes a day. She's a really sweet person, and I don't know her well enough to yell at her like I do with others, so I don't know what to do.

And don't even get me started on the health-related forwards. I'm certain I'm considered public enemy #1 in all the groups I'm in, because I immediately challenge any nonsensical health-related forward anyone sends.

Vigorously cough your way out of a serious heart attack. Homeopathy your way out of cancer. Achieve painless and successful suicide by consuming mango along with Coke. Apply raw egg whites to serious burns. Government has issued red alert for three days. Mean temperature will be between 45.1 to 48.5 degrees Celsius. Please drink 6-7 litres of water a day. 

Thanks to me publicly calling them out, now everyone has become a little more cautious when it comes to sending random pieces of health advice on WhatsApp. But it still happens from time to time.

Now I have found my brahmastra. The next time I get anything like that, I'll reply with this photo, which is pretty much the only 100% Science-backed, 100% accurate, 100% reliable health advice I've ever received on WhatsApp.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for visitors

Every April for the A-Z challenge, I like to do a post sharing some stats about my blog's visitors. Frankly, it's the easiest post to do as all I need are some screenshots, but I still have fun doing it and analysing the different aspects. Now it has kind of become an annual tradition.

The sis-in-law tells me that whenever I include a link to her blog, her stats shoot up. I feel happy and amused at the same time. It amazes me that people are still reading blogs in the age of quick fixes. That too, my blog, which features mostly personal anecdotes and Xena stories. In the instant gratification era, the fact that people go through the tedium of reading someone's blog, is both surprising and touching.

I started blogging more than 12 years ago, and I always thought that one day personal blogs would die out and no one would read or write them anymore. However, my love for blogging kept me going and I was determined to keep blogging instead of switching to something like Twitter. I always tell myself that I am my own motivation, whether it's blogging or fitness or any of the things that I want to do in my life. But I can't deny the fact that when the blog stats show that people out there are reading it, it does give me a boost.

I feel really grateful to have you guys read my blog and I do apologise for the hazaar typos and grammatical errors my posts often have. (I type way faster than I think, and I'm guilty of not proofreading my posts once I type them out. When you edit and proofread stuff for a living, you don't feel like editing and proofreading your own blog posts. Strange, but true. Or maybe it holds true only for me. Not a valid excuse still. But lately, I've been trying a little harder to get a little better.)

Thank you, my dear visitors (or bewdas of the bar, as I like to call you), for all the love, support, comments and emails all these years!

Where do you live? (All-time stats)


Where do you live? (This month's stats)


How did you get here? (All-time stats)


How did you get here? (This month's stats)




 Which posts did you read the most? (All-time stats)


 Which posts did you read the most? (This month's stats)


What were you searching for when you landed on my blog? (All-time stats only, as this month's stats have nothing)



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for unusual

I can be quite the purist when it comes to masala chai.

Once, I met this lady who told me she loves masala chai tea (grrr....) so much that she went to Mustafa and bought the masala tea mix (GRRRR....) so she could make authentic (GRRRRRRRR...) masala chai tea (STOP CALLING IT CHAI TEA ALREADY, YOU FEMALE WOMAN!).

Already offended on multiple levels, I still got myself to tell her how to make authentic masala tea the proper way, by boiling the actual spices in the milk+water mixture and using tea leaves, not tea bags. I'm not very sure she was listening though, because very soon after, she was subtly trying to check if I'd accept Jesus as my saviour.

Lady, I have masala chai in my life. You really think I need a saviour?

There are very few things in life that I revere as much as a well-made cup of masala chai. Which is why I found it very uncharacteristic of me that when I came across the concept of masala chai cupcakes, instead of going 'What the...?!", I went, "Why not?"

"Omg there is such a thing as masala chai cupcakes!!!" I messaged the family WhatsApp group, followed by a "Omg where are you ALL when I wanna try making them????"  😭😭😭

The sister-in-law, who is sweet enough to always indulge me when I say really weird things reacted with a "Oh!!" followed by "But also ew?"

(She's a chai-lover, but not a dessert-lover, so the idea of masala chai cupcakes must have short-circuited her brain. Kind of what happened to me when I found out about vodka pani puri.)

I was a little sceptical at first, but strangely, I was feeling quite open to the idea of masala chai cupcakes. Compared to the weird teas I'd been offered in different points in my life (tea with pepper powder, tea boiled with green chillis, and of course, Starbucks chai tea), this seemed like a safe bet. I figured I'd make a small batch so that if it was as disgusting as I'm sure it sounds to many people, I could just toss it without feeling bad. But here's the thing with baking stuff that needs eggs. You can only go down to one egg when reducing your batch size. And that still makes quite a big number of cupcakes.

Anyway, last weekend, I threw caution and cynicism to the wind and made them! Xena sat at the dining table, reading her book (and silently judging me). She looked quite disturbed at the sight of the tea cooling on the table and more disturbed when I told her I was going to add it to the cupcake batter, but at the same time, she was filled with relief because she knew that the presence of tea meant that she wouldn't have to sample the cupcakes at all.

With Viv in the US, and the in-laws back in Bangalore and with no guinea pig sister-in-law, I knew it would come down to me to finish off the batch. And I was willing to take the risk.

What a relief that the cupcakes turned out to be totally... edible! I wouldn't call them fantastic (yet) because I still want to tweak the recipe (use a bit of baking soda to counter the tea's acidity, and use more tea leaves so that their flavour comes through more strongly).

The masala chai flavour was quite subtle, but it was there all right and it didn't seem to disagree with the idea of being in a cupcake. Phew!


***


Bonus:
Okay, I absolutely have to share this punversation the sis-in-law and I had over WhatsApp last night as we tried to find her a suitable topic for her U post. She had recently posted about how much she missed the pun wars we punstars and pundits used to have on her Facebook wall (gosh, I miss them too!) and so it was so fun to get back to punning, even though it was just the two of us! We need a gigantic group pun war soon!   

***



Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for tenacious

We were shopping for groceries at the nearby Fairprice, when we realised that the volume of our loot far exceeded that of the shopping trolley we'd taken along to lug the stuff back in.

So Viv and I started splitting up some of the bags between ourselves to carry in our hands.

Never the one to be left behind, Xena immediately offered the power of her tiny muscles.

Xena - Mama, can I carry one of the bags? This one?

Me - Oh, that's so kind of you. Thanks, baby. But I think it might be too heavy for you to carry all the way home. The straps of the bags might cut your hands.

Xena - Hmmm... Mama, I have a great idea.





Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for six

Every once in a while, I look at Xena and go, "Oh my goodness, she's SIX."

Seriously, sometimes I can't believe I have a six-year-old on my hands. She seems so -- for lack of a better term -- 'grown-up' sometimes. Was I like this at six?

And then I got down to thinking -- what was I like around that age?

I only remember snatches of my life back then. Some of it is hazy and some of it crystal clear. But boy, was it a big contrast from Xena's life as a six-year-old.

My dad had just gotten posted to Patna. An alien city in an alien state with an alien language. I had joined Std I in a school which was about 150 metres from my house. (Distance was the most important -- and probably the only -- consideration when it came to choosing schools in those days.) The nearest big and important road to my place was called West (or was it East?) Boring Canal Road, or just Boring Road as most people preferred to call it. Only now do I see the humour in it.

I used to walk to school every morning. There was one particular point in the lane in front of our house, where I would pause and look up at the living room windows of my home. Mom would always be there, waving. I remember one day I was mad at her for something and I didn't look up and just kept walking. (I had no idea how hurtful it must have been for her. If Xena did this to me, I would be heartbroken. Sorry, Mama!)

My best friend in school was the class teacher's daughter who used to be top of the class before I joined. Then I took over, but somehow we still remained 'best friends' in spite of the competition. She was Muslim, and I remember thinking that that made her qualified to answer my inane questions such as, "So tell me, what's the difference between ikhtiyar, ibtida, intehaa, imtihaan, istakbal and inteqal?" I still remember the horrified (and sometimes terrified) looks she used to give me. You see, Hindi was very new to me, and so was Urdu, and I was just trying really really hard to pick up the languages, using whatever means I had. I used to listen to a crazy amount of Hindi film music and would spend a lot of time dissecting the lyrics and trying to really understand them.

In the evenings, I used to attempt to play badminton with the bhaiyas and didis of the colony. I also insisted on playing cricket, and because "girls were not allowed to play cricket", the boys would say "iska doodh-bhaat hai" which pretty much translated to "she's totally inconsequential, but we can use her to fetch the ball and stuff". I did that for quite some time and then I got really good at fielding and then they just had to let me bat. (I had paid my dues after all.) Woohoo! Highlight of my year, I tell you.

Soon, they let me in, and tried to teach me how to fly kites and play marbles and spin a top (I got surprisingly good at it. Haven't spun a top in decades though.)

Every evening, I would go downstairs to play and come back only when it started getting dark. All the kids did that and none of the parents worried. In spite of the fact that no one, including ourselves, knew where we would be heading each day.

Our landlord lived in the same building as us, and he had this huge dog called Jimmy. And because it was always leashed, we would dance in front of it, singing, "Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy! Aaja aaja aaja!" (Remember the song?)

We didn't have a phone. In fact, there were only two phones in our building, and we were really fortunate because one of them was in the apartment just opposite ours. But we had strict orders from our parents never to give out the number to anyone because we had an understanding with the neighbours that we could use their phone for "making and receiving very urgent calls only".

There was an aunty in the neighbourhood who had a mehendi tree in her courtyard. She would pluck the leaves, make the paste and invite us to go nuts over it. She had a tenant who was newly married and used to put the mehendi on her lips. I kid you not. She looked scary, sporting the mehendi-orange lips.

Some evenings, the dosa wala would come by. He would use his steel spatula to make loud clanging noises on his griddle, and all the grown-ups would rush down and surround him. Buying authentic dosas from a Tamilian in a small colony in Patna. It was the real deal. It was a big deal.

It got really cold during winters (I think the lowest was about 6 degrees), and sometimes some uncles would collect newspapers from everyone and make a bonfire in a side alley! I think it was just for the heck of it. I mean, no one needed a bonfire. But it was such an event. We would huddle around it, all excited, warming our hands.

Maybe it's time to share with Xena what her mommy was as a six-year-old. I can already imagine her baffled look when I recount all this.



Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for rebel

I should have seen it coming.

One of the games Xena has been playing since she was really tiny has been waking up each morning pretending to be a new animal. So on some days, she'd go, "Mama, I'm a snail today. My name is Snailie. You're Mama Snailie and Dada is Dada Snailie."

The very next day, if I'd address her as 'Snailie', she'd protest.

"I'm not a snail today, Mama! I'm a snake called Snakie!" And this update would be reflected in all of the drawings she'd make that day. Take a look!



Of course, she'd quickly undergo metamorphosis again.

"Mama, I'm not a snake today! I'm a scorpion! I'm Scorpie the scorpion. You're Mama Scorpie and Dada is Dada Scorpie!"

The next day, she'd be a worm called Wormie, and so on. Crickey the cricket. Grassy the grasshopper. Cammy the camel. You get the drift. I was quite amused that in addition to the cutesy animals that most kids want to be, such as bunnies and squirrels, she also had some very odd choices.

For the last few weeks -- ever since we got back from the Science Centre hatchery actually -- she's been a chick. A chick called Chicky. Obviously. And I'm obviously Heny/Henny, while Viv is Roosty. This has been dutifully reflected in the drawings.





She asked her teacher to draw a Mauritian Fody so she could colour it. The hapless teacher had to google what on earth a Mauritian Fody was first. 

Yesterday, when I logged into the school portal to check her learning portfolio in preparation for the parent-teacher meeting, I almost fell off my chair laughing. The learning portfolio features photos of work that the kids do in class, and most of it is 'serious' stuff, to showcase to parents how well their kids are doing.

There was a project called 'A look into the future', where the other kids had ambitiously described how they wanted to be doctors and astronauts and superheroes when they grew up.

My dear child, on the other hand, had written the below.

Bas itna sa khwaab hai?






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for questions

"Mama, we should have brought the dinosaur cards along!"

"Why??"

"Then we could have played with them while we waited for our food."

We were at Blooie's with the in-laws for dinner. Strangely, Viv had also made a rare appearance. Xena had been pulled out of a serious dinosaur card game she had been playing with her grandma, and it was making her restless at the restaurant.

"Why do we need dinosaur cards? We can play something else." I suggested.

"Like what?"

"Like... Questions!"

"What is that?"

Now that I had made up the name of the game, I had to quickly make up the rules.

"Umm... Each person asks the others one question each, which he/she doesn't know the answer to." I hoped it made sense.

Apparently, it did.

We spent the next half an hour playing Questions. And even though the questions were really basic, the whole experience was quite an eye-opener.

I found out that my mom-in-law had majored in Economics and my dad-in-law in Physics! 

I found out that my dad-in-law's favourite food is puri with aloo ki sabzi (and I've never even made that for him!). 

I found out that Viv travelled in a train without his parents when he was 7 years old.

I found out that as a kid, Viv would ask all visitors as soon as they had stepped inside, what time they were going to leave. Not because he was rude or wanted them to leave, but because he wanted to know how long he had them to play with.  

I found out that my mom-in-law's favourite colour is turquoise. 

I found out that dad-in-law never really liked being a banker. And he was a banker all his working life! (In contrast, imagine the freedom newer generations have when it comes to picking a vocation!)

I found out that Xena's favourite school lunch is macaroni soup.
(It seriously is the world's most awesome preschool menu ever! Everything is all wholemeal and super-healthy, and they grow their own herbs in the school garden. The dishes follow a 30-day rotation, which means each dish is not repeated until the next month. Wowza.) 


I found out that Xena's favourite food at home is idli-oh-no-mama-it's-not-idli-it's-dosa-no-wait-it's-not-dosa-it's-actually-pizza! Okay then.

And it wasn't just stuff about the others I was discovering. The rapid fire format made me discover things about myself too. There were many, but this one stood out, because the answer was quite unexpected.

I found out that if asked what my most favourite thing to do was, I'd say 'baking'. I'd have never guessed. Baking? Really? Reeeeeally? 

Yeah, maybe. 

Do try playing Questions at your next gathering with family and close friends (i.e. people you think you know really well) and see if you make any interesting discoveries!




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for party

I live in the east coast of Singapore, which is a popular area for many expats. Most condominiums in this area have a good mix of locals and expats. The diversity in ours is pretty mind-blowing. And that is one of the biggest reasons why I'm always so gung-ho about organising pot luck parties. Most communities kind of stick to themselves, and these are the only opportunities when not only does everyone come together, the entire world's cuisine also comes together.

I've realised that most people are always happy to attend such events, as long as someone is willing to do all the organising. And everyone knows I'm always willing to be the willing one. And there are always enough enthusiastic people who are happy to join the organising committee and put their talents to good use. And boy, do we have some talent in our neighbourhood or what.

Last week had been a busy, busy one. Other than the planning for the big neighbourhood Easter party, I also had to make Easter cookies for Xena's class Easter party on Thursday. I decided to experiment with wholewheat, low-sugar cookies. Thanks to the very cute Easter cookie cutters I have, you totally couldn't tell that the cookies were healthier than regular ones. The wholewheat made the dough not very smooth and the edges were not as sharp when cut, but the cookies turned out fine. According to Xena's report, the kids gobbled them up in no time.

Aren't they kayoooot? This is the recipe I used, but I cut the sugar in half. 

Cut to Sunday. Our neighbourhood Easter party. The skies looked dark and we looked troubled. We had spent an incredible amount of time and effort on the decoration, egg hunt plan and games, and even though we had an indoor back-up venue, it just wouldn't be the same if we didn't have it in the open bbq area, which was right next to a playground and had lots of space for kids to run around and adults to mingle.

Just as we were putting up the decorations on the trees, we felt the first drops. "Make a call," said one of the organisers, "Let's move in now. The decorations will be ruined if they get wet." I was very reluctant to move in. There were some clouds but the other parts of the sky looked really blue. I'd also checked the cloud cover for 240 km around Singapore (and also 480 km; yes, I'm crazy like that) and it didn't look like any dark clouds were headed to our island to wreak any havoc that evening. So I told everyone to stay put and continue, keeping my fingers crossed that my gut feeling wouldn't let me down. Thankfully, the little drops that had fallen on us were the only ones that evening. Phew!

One of the ladies had made these cheerful Easter cut-outs, which looked lovely on the trees.

I'd drawn this basket of Easter eggs on the side of a giant cardboard box, and a neighbour had painted it. 

We also had some standalone 3D eggs in the bushes, which a talented neighbour had made. Xena and I painted the pink one. She used a paint roller to whitewash the egg (as it was made from an old brown cardboard box) and add the pink layer, and I painted the designs.

More cardboard box Easter decor items! 

My amazing neighbour who juggles three kids and part-time studies somehow found time to make this hockey game station for the party. 

Obviously, the kids had a real ball with it.

Another lady had done up a 'Pin the tail on the bunny' game and kids of all ages loved it. We had decided that both games were just for fun, and would have no prizes. Kids these days are too used to getting prizes for every little thing and we wanted to break that trend. 

One of the ladies had set up an Easter craft station where the kids made little Easter bunnies using toilet paper rolls and craft items. Xena is posing with hers. 

Then came the egg hunt. Since we had a whopping 72 kids, I split them up into three groups according to age. We used the same set of plastic eggs (and they didn't have any candy inside, of course) for all three groups. Each kid had to find at least 2 eggs to claim a yo-yo, so we got all the eggs back after each group was done. That way, we didn't have to buy, like, 144 eggs. 

The egg hunt was hilarious. We had it in the playground and the hiding places got progressively tougher as the age range went up. 

The 4-6-year-olds, for instance, not only had to find the eggs, but they had to sit down together, pull each of them apart into two halves and then put them together by colour. Xena had helped me the day before to scramble up the halves of the eggs.

I felt that the oldest kids would find the egg hunt a bit too juvenile for their liking so I made theirs into a group activity involving teamwork. They had five minutes to do these tasks: (a) find all the eggs; (b) exchange the eggs with me for some jumbled letters; and (c) unscramble the letters to form three Easter-related words. 

I didn't really time them; it was just a threat to add some drama, but the kids felt very important when they solved the puzzle 'just in time'. 

We also had a game for the adults. Each adult picked a chit with one half of a Hollywood celebrity name, and they had to find the other half. And because we had close to 100 people, it was totally chaotic. Just as I had hoped and expected, and a lot of fun. 

The winning couple's chits 

And of course, what is a party without food? There sure was a LOT of food. And it was of all kinds. 

ATTACK!

At the end of the party, the kids were scrambling to get their hands on their decor, especially the cardboard cut-out animals. We were only too happy to let them take them home, considering the time and effort we had put into them. 

Everything went very well, and everyone ended up making new friends. People were amazed at how little they knew about their neighbours. In fact, every other face seemed to be a new one. We really need to have more of such gatherings with our neighbours. 

Happy belated Easter!