What would you take?

If your house was burning, what would you take? It is a conflict between what’s practical and sentimental. What you’ll take is also a reflection of your background, interests and priorities. I was pretty inspired by this so I came up with my own hypothetical list thereafter!

Who: Me

Occupation: Copywriter, Advertising

Location: Singappore

  • Passport in its leather cover
  • Iphone and its Ferrari cover
  • Miu Miu Sunglasses, because it’s a gift and I don’t like to go into the sun without it
  • White leather watch, a daily necessity
  • Red and white polka dots mini book – it’s where I sketch my ideas and pen scribblings – on the go.
  • Book of poetry by Leonard Cohen, because it’s a gift bought at his concert in Perth. Also, Cohen is a very very eloquent man.
  • My list is pretty short, on hindsight. I don’t need much with me really.

What others wrote:

Name: Luca Cavallaro
Age: 34
Location: New York
Occupation: Designer
Website: http://officineottiche.tumblr.com/


  • Alma Lou, she would even be enough.

If I have time:

  • Hard drive, for memories that my brain failed to store.
  • Sunglasses, I feel naked without them.
  • Wallet, a gift from my wife.
  • My father’s old camera, I promised him to take good care.
  • Sneaker, emergency orange.
  • In the black box, my vintage eyewear collection (favorite only).
  • Phone.
  • Vintage leather mask, in case I have to protect my face from the flames.
  • Dieter Rams alarm clock, I don’t wake up on my own.
  • Orange hummer, if i have to brake some windows during the escape.
  • Life buoy ring, in case of flooding. In Italy we say:” le sfighe non vengono mai da sole”, misfortunes never come alone

Name: Sarah Murphy
Location: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Photographer, Jewelry Designer, and Waitress
Website: www.sarahmurphyphotography.com , www.HeyMurphy.com


  •  Handsome, our Dog.
  • Three boxes of negatives, one of which includes all the negatives from 1984- 2008, given to me by my family’s photographer, Beverly Hall.
  • Three hard drives.
  • My 4×5 Wista Camera. It’s not the most practical camera but I love it and it was a graduation gift from my parents.
  • My Yashica MAT 124 camera.
  • My Canon 5D (not included).
  • A whale bone scrimshaw pendant from Nantucket, Mass.
  • An emerald and diamond ring given to me by my mother. The ring was originally given to her by my father when my twin brother and I were born.
  • A sketch book containing ideas for my jewelry line.
  • Two journals documenting a 6 week road trip across the country.
  • My wallet

Name: Kate McAuley

Location: London
Occupation: Writer (i-am-not-a-celebrity.com)

  • Goose, the cat.
  • A broken shell – the first thing my beloved ever gave me not long after we met Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
  • Jade and silver earrings bought by my beloved at the souq in Muscat, Oman.
    Silver cuff bought by my beloved at a market in Douala, Cameroon.
  • My grandmother’s copy of the complete works of Oscar Wilde (most of my books are in storage at the moment).
  • Link bracelet bought by my beloved at a market in Cyprus.
  • Flapjack succulents struck from my mum’s plant in Sydney.
  • Money plant struck from favorite plant in my yard in Dubai.
  • Orchid given to me for my birthday last week (if you could see the flowers, you’d understand).
  • Handful of notebooks where I make plans and write prose for my novels and the other bits and pieces I’m commissioned to produce.
  • Mac book pro with an almost finished novel, photographs and music hiding somewhere safe inside.
  • iPhone (for reasons obvious).
  • Bronze statue bought in the markets in Douala, Cameroon.
  • Silver, glittery Manolo Blahniks.
  • Green woven hat from Sydney.
  • Framed photographs of us at The Grand Canyon and outside The Louvre.
  • The baby cactuses I got in Ikea, just because I love them and I’m so happy I’ve been able to keep them alive for more than a year.

P.S What would YOU take? 🙂

Posted in Writing Tips | 1 Comment

24 hours in Melaka

The heat arrived early in Malacca and stayed long.

The sun beat down mercilessly and bright blue skies make for a pretty sight, nevermind the beads of sweat rolling down your necks. Thank goodness I wore a large straw hat though it seemed to provide little comfort in the sweltering 35 degrees celcius tropical heat in Malaysia.

Jonker Walk was the first place in mind because it is the most happening street and the gastronomical variety it offered is second to none. I had my fair share of the famed ‘Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls’ for lunch, followed by a cucumber smoothie in a tucked away retro cafe nestled in one of the small alleys. It is a common sight to see throngs of people lining up for a seat in these Hainanese Chicken Rice shops; the specialty stemmed from an old tradition of moulding fragrant rice into balls served with marinated steamed chicken slices.

Malacca is a delightful mix of modern and tradition. Antique shops lined the streets, quaint cafes hide in the alleys and street stalls boasting generations of secret recipes beckoned any Philistine or connoiseur. It’s true when they say you can never quite go hungry in Malacca.

The best part of the trip (and most unforgettable) was the bus ride back from Malacca to Singapore. The weather took a sudden turn and dipped to almost 25 degree celcius, the rain pelted down on the window panes and the skies were a gloomy shade of grey. Flanking one side of the road were misty hills amidst thick forests and wisps of fog wafts along the hills.

:: Christ Church in Melaka ::

:: A rather scary way to advertise for natural honey…::

:: At dusk, the skies turned dusty pink and indigo. Jonker Walk comes alive at night as hawkers pulled out tables and chairs selling delectable street foods::

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This is my symphony

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Nihon 日本

*Edit: I just spoke to my friend who is working in Tokyo for a few years. He said the building started to shake that day and his boss told everyone to hide out in the safety room and not to worry because the building has wheels. Japan is a genius in invention.

The previous Tsunami in 2004 affected many parts of Southeast Asia such as the beautiful beaches in Bali, the coast of Penang and the like. It was a tragic moment for our neighbouring friends in the region. This time round, it hit Northeast Asia, particularly Japan.

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the amazing Northeast islands and its people.

The grief, the loss, the pain.

In an instant, everything is gone.


The following international sites are recommended:

American Red Cross
Canpan Fields (Japanese NPO)
Save the Children
Non-Believers Giving Aid (scroll down the page for Japan earthquake relief)
NGO Jen (in English and Japanese)
International Medical Corps

/Photo by TimeOut Tokyo

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A quaint water town: Xitang

There is mist in the mornings, endless days, and a traditional Chinese teahouse forming the facade of a guest house along the quaint alleys, the charm of this water town hovers so long in my memory, until something more precise comes along, such as the odour of age and a strange sense of settledness. A part of me that was once so indestructibly alive and more distinct, becomes a second self that now sits back and observes with detachment, like a tourist in a museum.

This water town is Xitang, China.

What lives undimmed in my mind more than two years later, is the unstirred lake, the verdant courtyards filled with old men playing chess, the endless supply of time in that place at that time, and sunsets that seduce photographers, artists and writers alike.

Xitang is one of the seven quaint water towns in China, still relatively unspoilt by the crass destructive power of tourism. In my visit to my brother who was then living in Shanghai, I took a two-hour train ride from Shanghai to Xitang. For what it’s worth, Shanghai was nice, bustling with modernity, bursting with cafes and malls, but it is a conglomerate of upwardly mobile consumers strapped with cash.

Move aside Uncle Sam, the dragon has been awakened.

Traversing from Shanghai to Xitang proved to be a sweet escape, whisking me away to another world, one far away from the dusty city streets, from the glaring neon lights and from the enticing promise of a brave new world where cash is king. 

Here in Xitang, artists, poets, writers, photographers meet in unison, to express, to share and to soul search. There is conveyance between the artist and the writer, the writer and the audience. Skip the obvious drawcards and you will see that this place is an oasis of labryinthes, quaint alleys and serenity.

(Fun fact: ‘Mission Impossible’ starring Tom Cruise was filmed here)

#1 Beautiful lush courtyards where people sip tea and play Chinese chess to while away time.

#4 The tearoom in the guesthouse. A traditional way of guest reception?

#5 Quaint Alleys. 长廊 . 走着走着流浪到了这. 谁又知道这段路是如此漫长, 何为终点?

#6 My humble abode in Xitang

#7 Balcony and sun deck of the guest house that I was staying in. Pretty with all the crawling plants and sunlight spilling in.

#8 Flower-petals bicycle that’s forever parked outside my door!

#8 The view! A little shabby but that’s the beauty of it- rawness. My only fear living there was the falling tiles on the roof from other houses.

#9 The evening glow that drew plenty of photographers and painters in its embrace.

流浪到了烟雨长廊, 西塘.
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Wednesday Giveaways: Forever 21 and Accessorize

#1: Earrings: dangling rustic silver wings with diamonte from Forever 21

#2 So whimsical – clouds, stars, lighting and hearts! From Accessorize (retailing at $17.50)

Update: Congrats to Wes! 

ONE lucky reader walks away with these two free pairs of earrings! Today’s giveaways are earrings from Accessorize and Forever 21. These are pretty established brands so there need no introduction to them. Reveal the boho chick and the sweet pea in you!

To win:

1. Be a facebook fan of {whenpenmeetspaper}

2. Enter a comment with your name, email and URL (optional)

3. For extra entries, follow {whenpenmeetspaper} on Twitter or retweet this giveaway! (Remember to leave an extra 2nd comment stating that you have followed on Twitter or have retweeted this)

Contest closes on 20/2/2011, Sunday 18:00 (Singapore time). Good luck!

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Wednesday Giveaways: Bunny Necklace & iloveu Bracelet

Update: Congratulations to Wei Jia and Gemma!

This week we have two giveaways in anticipation of the upcoming Valentine’s Day and also because it’s still within the 15 days of Lunar New Year. In other words, I’m still in a celebratory mood. I hope you are too.

Michelle Chang Jewelry has kindly sponsored a unique piece of jewelry from her shop, made entirely by hand. This Sterling Silver Bunny necklace makes for a perfect fit since it’s the Rabbit Year don’t you think? Michelle (based in New York City), is a jewelry artist, interior designer and an illustrator. The necklace retails at 48 USD but one lucky reader walks away with it for free!

#1 Handmade Sterling Silver Bunny Necklace (retailing at 48 USD)

The second giveaway item is a charming gift for any Vintage lover and a perfect way to express three heartfelt words to your Valentine. This bracelet consists of a unique Vintage ‘iloveu’ charm and a tiny, shiny round gold-toned locket. Bracelet is adjustable and comes in a Tiffany-blue inspired gift box.

Two lucky readers will walk away with these two lovely items randomly (sorry, no choosing).

To win, simply leave a comment below with your name, email address and URL(if you have). It’s that simple! Two lucky winners will be selected by a random generator on Sunday morning, 13/2/2011, 12:00 am (Singapore time).

To earn extra entries, follow {whenpenmeetspaper} on Facebook or Twitter or retweet this giveaway!

Good luck folks!

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