Achar!


This is a traditional and wonderfully appetizing pickle commonly available in Singapore and Malaysia (though I sometimes see this in Indian food stalls too). Recipe is passed directly with love from Mum. As with all pickles, adjust the dressing according to taste. Do remember to always add the minimum amounts first, taste, and add more along the way. Keeps well in the refrigerator up to a week, although this has never sat in ours for more than 2 days!

Ingredients
2 cucumbers, deseeded
1 carrot, skinned
- cut the above into julienne, put into a large mixing bowl and rub with 3 tsp of salt. Then rinse the vegetables and drain dry before mixing in the rest of the vegetables.
1 turnip, skinned and julienne
3 large green chillies, deseeded & sliced
2 slices of ripe, sweet pineapple, cut into cubes
Dressing (taste before adding more to suit taste)
1.5-2.5 tbsp sea salt
3-4 tbsp white sugar
1/3-1/2 cup white vinegar (depending on how sour you like yours)
2 tbsp chilli powder
Garnish
3-4 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
sprig of coriander (optional)

Drain dry all cut vegetables, put into large mixing bowl and add all dressing in its minimum amounts and mix well. Taste and gradually add more. During last few mix, add in chopped peanuts, top with coriander (optional) and serve. Can be served chilled as well.

Tax Planning

As the saying goes, there are 2 things in the whole that’s inevitable. Death and taxes.

Around this time of the year, Aunty Scroogey gets very busy with tax planning. Sometime in March 2011, we would all be doing our tax filing for YA2011. Note that YA2011 is for income earned in 2010. At times, you will hear news about people getting heavy penalties for tax evasion. Aunty Scroogey wonders why they need to evade tax when there are 101 ways to minimise your tax payments LEGALLY.

So what are the tax planning tools that AS uses? For today, I will discuss about 2 of them.

1) CPF cash top-up
(A) If within 2010, you or your employer make a cash top-up to your CPF account, this top up amount qualifies for tax deduction when you are filling returns for YA2011. For example, if you top-up $3,000 in cash, this will shave off $3,000 from your taxable income. The top-up money will go to your Special Account, which earns interest at a rate of 4% p.a. – not bad as a risk free investment and if you were to ask yourself which bank in Singapore will pay you that kind of rate for term deposit. However, the top-up amount is capped at $7,000, which means that even if you make a top-up of $10,000, your tax deduction still stands at $7,000.

(B) Separately, you also qualify for tax deductions if you were to make a cash top-up to the CPF accounts of your family members such as siblings, spouse, parents or grandparents. To qualify for tax relief for cash top-ups for siblings/spouse, the sibling/spouse must have either (i) earned $4,000 or less or (ii) is handicapped.

So, a combination of (A) and (B) above would have helped to shave a total of $14,000 off taxable income, if conditions are met. For details, please refer to the CPF website (www.cpf.gov.sg). In order to effect the top-up, download the relevant form from the CPF website, fill it up and send it in together with your cheque. It’s that simple!

2) Tax deductible donations
The second method is more straightforward and there is no cap. It was announced in Budget 2009 that for all donations which presently qualify for double tax deductions, made in the calendar year 2009, would temporarily qualify for 2.5 times tax deduction. For eg, if you donate $100, then $250 is shaved off from your taxable income that year.

To encourage greater charitable giving in Singapore as the economy recovers, the MInister for Finance has announced in Budget 2010, to extend the tax deduction of 2.5 times for another year for donations made during the period from 1 Jan 2010 to 31 Dec 2010. As to whether it will be further extended, we will need to keep a lookout during Budget 2011, or check the IRAS website from time to time (www.iras.gov.sg). Also, to check specifically what type of cash donations qualify for the tax deduction, check the taxman’s website as well!

Sirius

Last night I paid a sorrowful and teary visit to Sirius at the animal hospital. Just 2 days before, Sirius’ family informed us that he has been warded in the animal hospital because he had a serious fall is now not able to move from waist down. When he saw us he was trying and trying to get up to greet us but he couldn’t. His emaciated frame, bandaged lower back and listless eyes made me exploded with emotions and break down uncontrollably.

We found Sirius wondering along the busy roads one spring day in 2007. He was skinny, scavenging for food, and we never knew whether he was a loss or abandonment case, although many evidence point to the latter. Just like that, he came into our lives and we started to foster him and nurse him back to health. We spent many happy and frustrated moments together trying to understand each other, and fortunately Sirius was quickly integrated into our little family. A second stroke of luck struck him and he was adopted months later into a nice family who cared for him like a child of their own.

As with many of the foster dogs we had, Sirius was like one of our own dogs. We’ve kept in contact with many of our adopter families just so we have our hearts at ease knowing that they are doing well. Sometimes these dogs have a happily-ever-after ending, and sometimes, they just don’t. Such is the cruelty of life, and there’s just no darn thing we can do about it.

All I want for Christmas this year is for Sirius to get well, and for all my love ones to be healthy and laughing.

Ladybird Patchwork Blankie

The initial plan was to make a baby sized blanket with a ladybird theme because ladybirds are deemed to bring good luck. But of course the I let my over-zealousness take over and I ended up with a teen sized blanket.

Who is excessive? Not me! Nek!

Pop up hand-sewn appliques are a nightmare to make but extremely gratifying when completed.

A big part of the project was made with recycled fabric remnants…

pieced together in harmony. Her first baby steps to being green! :)

That’s the back of the blanket…

flaunted by these lovely international dollies.

Well at least her birthday presents for 12 years has been sorted out!