Living An Active Lifestyle

My husband bought me a new bike for my birthday a couple of months back. It was a serious, manly looking bike and he dressed it up with the most aesthetic saddle and handle grip!

I was pretty stoked to still receive a birthday present from him after more than 2 decades of being together. Well, there was nothing romantic about a bike, but it was something that still makes my heart skip, something that I have been ogling at and would motivate me to get outdoor. I was just thankful he didn’t get me some household appliance.

I started a more active lifestyle a couple of years back. I took up cycling and signed up for running events regularly. Before that I tried to run regularly but usually nothing more than 5km. I still dread running. On days when I am too lazy to run, I cycle and it kind of help to keep me going. I usually felt ill prepared for a run but my husband has more faith in me completing a run than I have in myself.

I can’t say that I have set grand goals, nothing like completing a 21 km in 2 hours. My daily stress revolves around decisions such as whether to slack off, cycle or run. I know it sounds insane and this stress kind of climaxed the last couple of weeks when I caught some infection and was too sick to head outdoors yet well enough to still move around in the house. I still cook, wash and clean and it kind of drives me crazy.

It all started during the June holiday, when I ate too much during our Japan trip. I gained a couple of kilos after the trip and I wasn’t diligent enough to resume my exercise regime. Didn’t help when I thought my husband’s suggestion of eating kimchi, fried egg and rice was a good idea for breakfast. (Geez, what was I thinking!)

It almost felt I was carbo loading when I wasn’t even burning calories! I felt horrible. Not so much because of the weight gain but because of how ill-disciplined I was and how I chose to let go. This kind of guilt eats me up, it devours me!

Then came the Straits Times Run 3 weeks ago. My husband had to miss the run because something cropped up at work. It was unfortunate but I was secretly relieved that he gave me the perfect reason to miss the run. 2 days before the run, I casually brought it up to my family and guess what, my Dad thought he could take my husband’s place!

My Dad is 66, has part of his stomach removed 5 years ago due to cancer. He is cancer free now and he brisk walks and cycles everyday but he has NEVER done a mass run, definitely not a 18.45 km run. He joked that he could walk and jog and he was not wrong. So it was decided. I would run with my Dad.

On race day, it wasn’t difficult for him to arrive at start point on time because he is an early riser. He is usually out in the park by then. My Dad showed up in his simple exercise outfit. Nothing fanciful or high tech or compression. He was wearing one of those free finisher t-shirt we passed down to him. For once, I was glad I wasn’t the slower runner and was expecting a relaxing run.

At 5.15 am the race started. He started off jogging at a pretty good pace. In fact it felt more like a sprint to me but he slowed down to a walk when we hit our first uphill. It was all good and he continued his sprint and walk tactics but I realised I couldn’t do what he was doing! It worked better for me to keep to my usual slow jog. I was with him for the first 10 km and we kind of lost sight of each other after that.

At the finishing line, I waited anxiously for him and finally saw him crossed the line at an impressive 2hr 33min!

That was my Dad, who has never trained for any big run but could complete a 18.45km like any fit and abled young men. I was so proud of him!

As I sat looking at my new trusty steel bike which has neither high end carbon fibre parts nor gears that could go faster, I thought of my Dad, who had battled cancer, who didn’t set off with some grand goals nor spend a fortune on branded gear or own anything Lycra. He is probably happy to be able to wake up each morning to enjoy the sunrise.

My husband has chosen this bike mainly for its frame because he thought the old one was a tad too big for my petite size. I have to admit that I kind of miss my cheery looking yellow bike and have been neglecting my new bike.

It feels harder to peddle or maybe I am just less fit with my recent binging and hibernation. I dread thinking of doing another run and I am not too excited to jump onto my serious looking new bike.

My Dad has come a long way since the day he lay in ICU battling the demon. It wasn’t a one time goal to beat some timing or win some finisher medals but a deliberate choice to lead an active lifestyle with consistent effort and discipline.

I probably shouldn’t think too much about timing, pace and distance. Every workout counts, whether fast or slow, far or near, long or short. And I should just stop giving myself excuses and be more diligent.

It would be helluva cool if I could agree to do a half marathon without skipping a heartbeat when I am 66, just like my Dad.



My 7 Year Old’s Doodles

My 7 year old enjoys doodling. He would doodle random things that comes to his mind or things that he likes such as planes, knights, cars, battleships. Occasionally, I get a ‘get well’ card when I am sick. Sometimes, a confusing picture book on a fight between his good and bad guys or even a scene from the latest book he has read.

It is not always easy to decipher what he draws. But if you ask him, there is aways some ‘stories’ behind his drawings. It is interesting to watch him tell his story with gusto and to find out what goes on in his little head. It is this innocence and enthusiasm that make these doodles so endearing and precious.

He drew this one day and wasn’t too happy when I couldn’t recognize his Star Wars characters.

He went onto the internet and found some step by step tutorials on how to draw Star Wars characters. He was so determined to get it ‘right’ and the amazing thing was he could remember all the steps. Empowered by his new skill, he spent the afternoon duplicating storm troopers and Kylo Ren. I tried but just couldn’t seem to remember all the steps!

Recently, he learned about Keith Haring during art class in school. He likes the artist’s graffiti-inspired drawings because they are simple, colourful and cartoony and I think it pleases him that he could actually reproduce some of these quirky drawings. He was so excited to tell me about the artist ;and how he got started by spraying paint at NYC subways.

We spent more time googling about the artist which led us to a conversation about graffiti in our country and how people got punished doing it. It was a challenge trying to explain what is perceived as Art and what is vandalism. Frankly, I have no answer but we all agreed that the metro stations and tunnels in Paris were much more interesting because of graffiti and perhaps they should do so for our MRT stations!

He probably spent a lot of time thinking about Haring’s work because he made all these Haring inspired doodles for the next few days. He even made me a Haring inspired get well card that week when I was sick.

His Haring’s inspired doodle kind of culminated to this piece which he did for his Dad’s birthday while he was away.

It was a colourful surprise for his Dad when he came home. The kind of present that would put a smile on any parent’s face.





Learning Watercolour Painting

My husband and I finally fixed up some wall shelves on one of our empty walls during the school holiday. This is how the wall in our lounging area looks now.

A mini collection of my amateurish artwork and it is kind of satisfying to see them framed and displayed neatly. Part of the satisfaction comes from knowing that I am capable of learning something new at this age!

So a friend saw some of my watercolour paintings and was quick to recommend me to her painting teacher.

Leach is a very talented self taught artist who is also very passionate about teaching. She conducts painting classes at her home studio regularly and on demand. On top of that, she runs a beautiful website and regularly posts her work on her Instagram account.

I’ve attended a couple of art jamming sessions before and I’ve done some painting on my own by following YouTube videos. While it was fun mixing colours and filing up blank canvases with my limited ‘artistic instinct’, it wasn’t enough to provide me a good understanding of the fundamentals of watercolour painting.

I still felt overwhelmed when I walked into ArtFriend and I still couldn’t figure out what art materials to buy. I ended up buying the cheapest paint and paintbrushes I could find at Popular bookstore.

Well, there may be nothing wrong with using cheap art materials but it would be good to know what a 100 dollar paintbrush can do that a 10 one can’t. Leach was able to enlighten me on this.

Over the 4 sessions, apart from learning how water, paint and paper interact to produce the different effects, I learned about the importance of buying high-quality paints, brushes, and paper instead of buying cheap supplies.

Just paper alone, there are different qualities of cold pressed, hot pressed, and rough watercolor paper. I learned about the qualities of the different weights of paper available and the effects one can achieve with each. I also learned during the lessons the different pigments used in each colour, from generic historical pigments to the modern ones and the binder used ultimately determines the type of paint – oil, acrylic, watercolour etc. I seriously felt like I was back to attending lecture at LT27. There was so much theory to know even before picking up the paintbrush to paint! It was mind boggling.

Thankfully Leach has thoughtfully prepared these notes which summarized what was being taught in class. She must have encountered students like me, whom after years of child bearing and rearing, have quite lost their abilities to grasp new knowledge.

I realised that painting can be laborious and effortful. Colour is diligently controlled by dabbing exact quantities of paint and water. Every brushstroke is deliberate. Every careless flick of the wrist can cause water and therefore colour to flow where you don’t want it to. The shades and tones can change inadvertently. Too firm a brushstroke would change the texture and feel. Each painting is made up of hundreds if not thousands of such deliberate brush strokes. To perfect my skills, I couldn’t be as carefree as before. Mastering this delicate, subtle and very fluid painting medium is not easy. I felt myself crippled by my own fear. A fear of making mistake.

Leach being an experienced teacher understands that. She has been very encouraging with her kind words and patience. Her witty humour also helped to lighten the mood during class and made learning less stressful!

The other day, I came across this picturesque Norwegian riverbank on Instagram by @doting_dad (who blogs at Life’s Tiny Miracles). I was so inspired that I got it sketched and painted in one sitting.

It was therapeutic to be fully absorbed and focused at working with this spontaneous and free flowing medium. It was a joy watching the water and colour separate and coalesce on the paper. But without constant deliberate practice, my technique was far from perfect and the painting was quite a mess. The journey was blissful but the outcome was far from desired.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. I came to the conclusion that while I should strive for perfection in my basics, there are times where I should just let go, don’t worry so much and just paint.

To find out more about painting classes with Leach, you can visit her FB page – Art Workshops by Leach.
To feast your eyes on her beautiful artwork, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

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