Category Archives: Fun

Service without a smile

You can find anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant*…and Singapore’s Mustafa Centre.

A veritable Aladdin’s Cave of things edible, cosmetic and electronic, plus jewelry, pharmaceuticals, and more, Mustafa Centre is open 24/7. First-time visitors will be exhausted just checking out a fraction of the goods. At 2am, you can find insomniac families wandering around.

Store front image:


Mustafa accessories


Mustafa greengrocer

Mustafa shoppers like the variety available – many items can’t be found anywhere else. Deciding on toothpaste or tea can be mind boggling. Take sweetener as an example. Choose from organic or non-organic sugar. Or Lion Date Syrup (800g, $8.50), Pure Harvest Rice Malt Syrup (500g, $6.50), Cecil Coconut Treacle (180ml, $2.50), not to mention Southeast-Asian palm sugar and neatly packaged jaggery (Indian palm sugar).


Mustafa chocs


Mustafa electronics

The fact that I find Mustafa Centre irresistible despite the sucky service is a tribute to the store’s merchandisers. Perhaps service can take a back seat when the goods are the draw. That doesn’t seem right, but how else can I explain why I keep returning when service is at-best casual indifference?

Last week to my amazement, I ran into one staff who appeared keen to serve. Maybe he was a promoter in the health section. That’s how used I am to the usual dour faces.

It was 3pm on a Friday. I brought my basket to a cashier with no queue. Her expression could have curdled cream.  Sorry, I must have interrupted her reverie.

My worst experience was some years ago in the jewelry department where I waited 10 minutes for the woman behind the counter to fish out gold earrings – a gift for my then helper. I tried to get her attention by waving. I said, “Er, excuse me….” She pointedly ignored me as she leisurely pushed earrings onto a display board. I wouldn’t have minded if she’d just looked up and said, “Just a moment, let me finish this.”  Finally, when I wouldn’t go away, she snapped, “Yess!” in a whaddya-want tone.

I’m ranting. Enough.

Even vinegary countenances won’t keep me away. Other stores have something to learn from this.

*Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie’s musical monologue

Reflections – So smart

When I asked for the Nokia Lumia 925 a few months ago, the telco service executive asked three times whether I was absolutely certain that was what I wanted. He couldn’t believe his ears when other customers were opting for the usual suspects – Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy.

My son talked me into buying the Nokia Lumia when I was looking for a smart phone. He’s a faithful Lumia fan, extolling its virtues despite Nokia, of late seeming to have lost its hip quotient. He loves the design and features, and the attention to detail.

I must say I have no regrets after four months of Lumia gazing. It’s user-friendly and the camera has been all I’ve needed for shots of our pets, plants, holidays and for this blog. With the built-in Microsoft Office, it syncs with office mail and all my work appointments are updated with reminders dogging my day.


The worst thing about it is the frequency at which new models appear. For instance, the Lumia 1520 comes with a bigger screen (6”) with a 20MP PureView camera, optical image stabilization enable sharp images evening he dark (some of my photos in this blog could have been better if I had this). Dang!

Also, better audio with four microphones. There’s also a 1320 with something called MixRadio that is configured for ad-free music. I don’t care as I don’t need it but the maps and free cloud storage feature sounds useful. Pre-orders start from 27 November 2013, so if you’re shopping for a phone, it’s truly worth considering.

FOOD – Mistakes Made Good… and Sweet

From Hwee Hwee Laurence in France:

Have you ever been afraid to try cooking or baking because you think you are not good at it?  That if you make a mistake and the dish or cake turns out a flop, nobody will eat it?  That it will be a waste of time and money?

But do you know that some of the most famous foods arose from mistakes? In the early 1900’s, the Kellogg brothers were working at the Battle Creek (Mich.) Sanitarium.  They cooked some wheat, left it out and forgot about it. The dough went stale, but they rolled it out anyway.  It became flakes, which was toasted and made crispy.  The crispy cereal was a hit amongst the patients of the sanitarium.  The Kellogg brothers then experimented with other cereals and their most famous product – Kellogg’s Corn Flakes – was born.

In France, one of the most well-known sweets is the Carambar.  In 1954, a sweet factory tried out a new recipe, unaware that one of the machines was malfunctioning.  What resulted was the long chewy caramel bar that still exists today.  Carambar is now produced in more than 15 flavours and is as popular as ever amongst children.


So what do you do if you make a cooking or baking mistake?  Don’t just throw out the dish, unless of course, it is really inedible.  Use some imagination and think of what you can turn it into.

Last week, I baked a chocolate cake that turned out to be too dry and the taste too flat.  The kids ate some, then lost interest.  So what did I do?  I broke it into crumbs, added some strong coffee and a dash of rum and mashed it into a doughy consistency.  Pinched off pieces, rolled them into balls, then coated them with sugar.  And voila!  I hereby present to you – Rum balls. 

They were all snapped up for dessert at the next meal.

FUN – Wine, Vernon and Song

The Wine Arcade at the quiet end of Mackenzie Road closed on Saturday, 9 November and will only reopen when the entire block is refurbished. The building is rather ancient and like everything old in Singapore, it will either make way for a condominium, shopping mall or office block, or be relegated a heritage site and preserved. We’re lucky if it’s the latter.


My photos are pathetic because I couldn’t find the flash on my camera phone last night – probably the result of too much wine. But a good time was had by all with boogying on tables and enthusiastic singing-along to Vernon Cornelius’s rendition of old-time hits that gave away the vintage of the patrons. Besides lovely bossa-nova and jazz numbers with great guitar work by Tony and Ted, Vernon had the house roaring with Teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini and The Young Ones.


If these make you nostalgic, do watch out for when the Wine Arcade opens its doors again – they have no idea whether it will be in 3 or 5 months but definitely it will be 2014. Hopefully, Vernon and band will still be playing on Saturdays.

in the meantime, Vernon will be appearing with Riem de Wolff (half of The Blue Diamonds, famous for the song Ramona) at the Press Club Ball on 23 Nov 2013.