Friday, August 31, 2012

The Indians Are Right

A few months ago some friends were asking me where my 'bee is going to have her confinement. When I told them it will be in Penang, one of them said that I must be very glad to have her back home with me.

From their subsequent comments I knew that they interpreted "back home" to mean that she would be moving back to stay with us so I told them that she would be staying with her in-laws. Then they explained that, in their Indian culture, women who have just given birth are expected to go back to stay with their mothers during the confinement period.

It really makes sense because that is where you can be most at home. No matter how accommodating or loving your parents-in-law are, there are always certain boundaries and courtesies that must be observed. I know because I had a wonderful mother-in-law but there are certain liberties I could take with my mom that I wouldn't with my mother-in-law. Not that she would mind, but it's just not politically correct.

To illustrate how "at home" one can be with one's parents*, just take a look at this conversation I had with my 'bee a few days ago.

* Assuming that there is a healthy, loving relationship between parents and children. 

She could say things like these to us because she knows that we have a good sense of humour. She also knows that we could take it without offence because we know that the things were said without malice.

On the other hand, it would be unthinkable for her to have such a conversation with either of her parents-in-law. Personally I would be horrified if she were to say things like that to them. No manners at all.

When I had my 'bee, we were still staying with my parents-in-law but my mom cooked for me during my confinement period because we were too poor then to hire a confinement lady. I was able to tell my mom outright not to overwhelm me with ginger in my meals and that I don't want to eat the Black Vinegar Trotter. In fact she cooked anything I liked to eat as long as the ingredients were considered permissible under the confinement menu.

However, being a good mom, there was once when she cooked the Black Vinegar Trotter because it is supposed to be good for women during confinement. I refused to eat it but my mother-in-law really had a feast that day.

Now, would I dare to protest or refuse to eat a dish if my mother-in-law had overseen the cooking of the dish by the confinement lady, if there had been one?

Therein lies the difference.  You can just be yourself with your own mom. She can take your idiosyncrasies, even some nonsense, without getting upset or allowing it to jeopardise your relationship. I think the Indians have it right when it comes to this confinement practice. 

Do You Know...(9)

that there is a beautiful blue moon gracing the heavens above on our nation's 55th Independence Day?

A Blue Moon refers to the second full moon to appear in a calendar month. The next time we will see this celestial phenomenon will be in July 2015.

Read more about Blue Moons here and here.

Yummy Birth Month Gift

Yesterday I went over to Gurney Plaza to collect a birth month gift from Clarins.

Three kinds of tarts! I like.

On the Wrong End of the Lens

Last night I expressed an insane wish that I wouldn't mind being the target of the paparazzi. Of course all the sane people around the table started to dissuade me, telling me of all the annoyances and trouble that I would be getting into if my wish were to come true. As if I don't know that.

Actually all I want is to be photographed. That's how narcissistic I am.

I bought a camera, not realising that that puts me on the wrong end of the lens. I don't want to take photographs. I'm actually lousy at that. I cannot even camwhore.

I need a photographer, not a camera. That would be great incentive for me to be well groomed at all times and to keep in shape - cannot permanently tuck in my stomach.

Too bad I don't have one. The photographer, I mean. Not the stomach, of which I already have too much.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Train Your Children Or They'll Train You!

I always appreciate our Song nephews and nieces who make it a point to meet up with us whenever they come back to Penang. It is always a delight for us to see them and their families growing.

Sam and Adeline were in Penang for a visit during the Raya break and they invited us for lunch on Tuesday, 21 August 2012.

Sam, Adeline, Jonathan and Emmanuel
We wanted to take them to Hot Tin Roof (a.k.a. Teik Seng Restaurant at Carnavon Street) but the restaurant was closed for the Raya break so we ended up at CRC Restaurant instead. In hindsight, the change of venue was good because it was more comfortable for us to chat in an air-conditioned environment.

Sam's parents came along on this trip and we were delighted to fellowship with them. They are such gracious people and so easy to get along (my kind of people). Adeline is really blessed to have such wonderful in-laws. 

A group photo after lunch. Sam's parents are at the back.
We wanted to pay for the meal as this is "our territory" but Sam beat us to it. And Sam's mom said that it is "yeng koi," meaning "right and proper" in Cantonese, that the younger generation should pay for the meal. Haha, we have reached the age of pay-back time.

Adeline's two children, Jonathan and Emmanuel, are now five and two-and-a-half repectively. They are simply adorable and such angels.

Emmanuel was very tired and so she slept in the car on the way to lunch. When they arrived they woke her. She may not be in a mood to be friendly but neither was she grumpy or grouchy. She still greeted us when her mother told her to.

Initially she was just a tad clingy with her mother but she eventually perked up. As the photo below shows, she very quickly warmed up to us.

Look at Emmanuel's kissable lips and the cheekiness on Jonathan's face.
Kenny, as usual, was a child magnet. Somehow children instinctively gravitate to him. Before long Emmanuel was asking him to draw animals on the napkin.
Draw an elephant Chek Kong!
Every time I go out with either Adeline's or Terence's families I am always impressed by their parenting skills. Their children are obedient and well behaved at all times. There is no banging of plates or screaming or shouting or running around during dinner. Without such disruptive behaviour from the children, the adults were able to carry on a decent conversation while keeping a watchful eye on them. 

Even when they are tired or bored they don't get cranky and neither do they whine or throw a tantrum. Towards the end of dinner Emmanuel, who had had her nap disturbed earlier, just climbed onto her mother's lap to suckle and then fell asleep. No drama at all.

These are normal, healthy, intelligent children so there are bound to be occasions when they misbehave. All that was needed was a sharp reprimand from either parent to make them toe the line. No screaming or issuing of threats or offering bribes. Just a simple "Stop it." The parents are to be commended for exercising such good discipline and as a result their children are so easy to love.

“Discipline is a symbol of caring to a child. He needs guidance. If there is love, there is no such thing as being too tough with a child. A parent must also not be afraid to hang himself. If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”
- Bette Davis

What many parents fail to realize is that they are doing their children a great disservice when they do not discipline their children. Nobody likes little monsters or spoilt brats. Unfortunately there are too many super-indulgent parents nowadays who do not set limits to bad behaviour which are very annoying for other people have to put up with them. These parents may not know it but they are on their way to raising social misfits and irresponsible adults.

They excuse their children's naughtiness by saying, "My child is too young to understand." Yet in the same breath they also say, "My child is so clever. He knows how to do this or that in order to get out of trouble." I can assure you that children who can lie, cheat or utilize deception or manipulative behaviour to their advantage are fully able to understand limits as well as consequences, whether good or bad, that result from their actions.

If condoning bad behaviour is not bad enough, some parents are actually rewarding and reinforcing bad behaviour by giving in to the child's demands when they exhibit unacceptable behaviour. Of course the children are going to learn that this is the way to get what they want.

I ran a kindergarten and day-care for five years and I have learned that children are natural psychologists. They are able to read adults like a book and somehow they intuitively know the right buttons to push for the different adults they meet in order to get their way. Trust me, if you don't train them, they are going to train you instead!

When it comes to raising children parents should do well to remember that...

"It's easier to build boys and girls that to repair men and women"
- Bill Wilson

Friday, August 24, 2012

Personal DNA Report

A long, long time ago 'bee did a personality test and the results were pretty accurate. Out of curiosity, I also took the test. The results came and after a cursory look I filed it away. I came across the report again a few days today. This is what it says about me.

You are an Analyst

  • Your attention to detail, confidence, sense of order, and focus on functionality combine to make you an ANALYST.  
  • You are very curious about how things work, delving into the mechanics behind things. Along those lines, how well something works is usually more important to you than what it looks like. 
  • You find beauty and wonder mainly in concrete, functional, earthly things. 
  • You are very aware of your own abilities, and you believe that you will find the best way of doing things. 
  • Accordingly, problems do not intimidate you, as you believe in yourself. 
  • You trust yourself to find solutions within the boundaries of your knowledge.
  • You don't spend a lot of time imagining how things could be different—you're well-grounded in the here-and-now.  
  • It is important for you to follow a routine, and you prefer the familiar to the unknown. 
  • You're not one to force your positions on a group, and you tend to be fair in evaluating different options.
  • You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.
  • Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.

If you want to be different:

  • Try to embrace the imaginative, creative part of your personality more often. 
  • Try moving beyond the things that you find comfortable—open yourself up to a broader range of experiences.

You are Faithful

  • Your trust in others, respect for tradition, and caring nature make you FAITHFUL. 
  • Maintaining a few intimate relationships is more important to you than knowing a lot of people, and you share a lot with your close friends.
  • Those who have managed to get close to you value your camaraderie, and they know that they can trust you with anything; you're a good listener. 
  • While you can usually see several sides of an argument, you often have a strong opinion as to which side is correct—the order of things is usually clear to you. 
  • Your perspective on the world is based on careful observation, and you know a lot about how people feel in—and react to—many situations. 
  • Your exploration of others' feelings has led you to believe that although people generally act appropriately, having clear social rules is very important to a functional society. 
  • Time alone for reflection is important to you—you are introspective and aware of your own feelings. 
  • Faithful is as faithful does—you expect those with whom you are close to be loyal to you, and you take betrayal of your trust very seriously.

If you want to be different:

  • Some of the alternate perspectives that you understand may have more value than you give them credit for—keep in mind that right and wrong aren't always so clear-cut.
  • While you are able to reap the benefits of your time alone, and may see interacting with a lot of people as more tiring than exciting, remember that there is a lot to be learned from experiencing things and not just reflecting on them.
Is it accurate or not? Some comments from people who know me well will help to balance the findings above.

Before You Speak

A good reminder to me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Do You Look Before You Cross The Raod?

I came across this quote which got me thinking.

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined,
and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
- Stephen Hawking

God is sovereign but He has given us a great gift, the freedom of choice. We can simply sit there and accept what life throws at us fatalistically or do something about it.

Most of the time we rise up to the occasion and do something about it which is why “life is a sum of all your choices” (Albert Camus).

So what about you? Do you look before you cross the road? Or just step out and leave it to God to get you over to the other side?

Birthday Presents 2012

I love birthdays! The narcissistic part of me simply loves the attention that I get once a year. I love the parties, if there are any, and I love receiving and opening the presents.

This birthday I received...
A lovely blue kebaya from my colleagues and sarongs from Baby Sis
Hair clips from Day Bi and his darling
Chocolates from Night Bi and his sweetheart
A box of Aesop goodies comprising Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser, Geranium Leaf Body Balm, Violet Leaf Hair Balm and Rosehip Seed Lip Creme

The Gift of Friendship

Melissa invited us for a home-cooked dinner on Monday night. Since we eat out everyday, an invitation to a home-cooked meal is always something we eagerly look forward to.

We were full of aniticipation and we were not disappointed. In fact we could not believe that the sumptuous spread before us came out of a home kitchen. But that should have been expected because Priscilla is an extraordinarily good cook.

What a yummy spread! Restaurant standard home-cooked food.
We dined on Dry Chicken Curry, Tau Eu Bak cooked with lean pork (the kind we like!), taukua and eggs, Assam Prawns, Jiu Hoo Char with lettuce, Fried Broccoli with Mushrooms, and Beef Soup with Radish and Carrots. 

CK is a really blessed man. Imagine coming home every day to restaurant-style cooking. After dinner the two girls cleared up, leaving the adults to chat. So ho mia (literally "good life" in Hokkien)! This is the blessing of having many children and having them around (no use if they are far away).

We had a wonderful evening with the family together with BA and Jessy. We went home with a warm feeling of appreciation for this rare and special blessing of the company of good friends that we are privileged to enjoy. 

This is what real, genuine, authentic friendship is all about – when you can be so comfortable with one other that things like lack of hair, skinniness or fat in the wrong places can be brought up freely in conversation because comments are made without malice and received without offence. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them!" We can just be ourselves.

CK and Priscilla are our old friends. We've known each other for 30 years but we weren't really that close for most of those years. We were all busy raising our children, taking care of our aged parents and making a living to spend a lot of time together. It is only now when our children are grown, our parents have passed on, and we are quite settled in life that we have the time to nurture our friendship and reclaim those lost years.

We have gotten very comfortable with one another, like a pair of old shoes. That night we even went to the extent of suggesting the possibility of some potentially unsuitable suitors coming to call on CK's two daughters.....just to see his reaction. All I can say is: Don't mess with him when it comes to his precious girls.

At the same time, a long history is not really necessary for a great friendship. We've only known BA and Jessy for 10 years, or slightly more than that, and along the way we have found them to be kindred spirits who are sharing, caring and very easy to get along. 

I think the key to a great friendship is the degree of "easy-to-get-along-ness" you share.

Some people are not easy to get along and most of the time it's because they are ultra-sensitive, taking every innocent remark personally. This makes it very difficult to have a normal conversation with them because you feel like you are walking on egg shells. 

You have to choose your words so carefully that you either end up not saying anything of substance, or not saying anything at all. Everything becomes very contrived. Even after taking every precaution and choosing every word with care, anything you say can still be and, very often, will be misconstrued.

Titus 1:15 is so applicable to people like that: "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled." 

They think 
that people think like that 
they themselves 
think like that!

I get very frustrated and demoralized around these people because nothing I say or do is accepted in good faith. But most of the time, I pity them. They must lead such sad lives – behind the high walls of defensiveness and across deep, wide moats of aloofness – always thinking that people are out to get them. 
As much as I want to be friendly to as many people as possible, I find it wiser and less troublesome to minimise involvement with such "prickly" people. Instead I try to spend more time with people who are easy to get along with and who don't have such hang-ups. More fun, less stress, live longer. 
You may think that this is contrary to the Great Commandment but I beg to differ. Notice that the Lord's commandment is to love our neighbours (including our enemies), not to like them. There's a big difference between loving and liking. I can sincerely say that I love them, that is, I wish them well, I will pray for and with them, rejoice with them and weep with them, but that doesn't mean I want to be stranded on a desert island with them! 

To quote Robert Louis Stevenson, "A friend is a gift you give yourself." Would you give yourself a gift that brings you sorrow? 
The Lord has blessed me with many good "gifts" in my life. I pray that I too, am a good "gift" to them as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chemerry Baking Class 2

Today I learned how to make Portuguese Egg Tart.

Here are the tarts ready to be baked.

And this is what they look like when done.

They look a bit "cacat" and not as pretty as the ones sold in the shops but they taste just as delicious.

Next, we prepared the filling for our chicken pies.

We cooked the white sauce using fresh chicken stock and cream and used it to bind the onions, carrots, celery, peas, mushrooms, and chicken.

Here are the pot pies fresh out of the oven.

They look fantastic!

And these are my handiwork.

I came back with a headache because there were more learners today and we were cooking over the stove and using higher oven temperatures but it was worth it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chemerry Baking Class 1

A few days ago I happened to find out from Facebook that there are cooking classes being held at a place called Chemerry. I called up for their class schedule and yesterday, in a spur of the moment decision, I signed up for the class today to learn to bake three types of tarts: Blueberry Cheese, Egg and Fruit.

Here are my pastry shells ready to go into the oven.

And this is what they look like "baked but not crispy."

They can be stored like this, unrefrigerated, for a week or two - so ideal for advance preparation before a party.

Here are my Blueberry Cheese Tarts.

And these are my Egg Tarts.

I'll only be collecting my Fruit Tarts when I go for my second lesson tomorrow. I had to rush off for dinner and so I did not wait around to decorate them.

Don't they look pretty?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Western Spices Goes The Second Mile

While everyone else had cake for dessert, Chef Nick Lau served me Poached Red Wine Pear with Ice-Cream & Sauce. Yay!

A special dessert for the birthday girl
 One of my guests made a boo-boo that night. He forgot that he had ordered Salmon and ate Chicken instead. Poor Hubby, who ordered Chicken, was left with no main course. When we asked them to prepare another plate of Chicken for him, the waitress told us that we had to take away the extra Salmon. :(

At the end of the meal, Chef Nick came over to tell us that we don't have to pay for the extra Salmon because it won't taste good takeaway. How nice of him! What great PR!

I definitely recommend Western Spices if you are looking for a nice place to have a dinner party. There's also a singer to provide nice life music...and you can watch live games, if you want to.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Birthday Celebrations 2012 - Part 3...At Western Spices

When I planned this party I didn't know that the whole of Malaysia would be glued to their television sets on the night of 5 August 2012 watching Dato' Lee Chong Wei face his nemesis Lin Dan at the finals of the Olympic Badminton Men's Singles. Such great timing :(

At first I was quite upset that he was stealing the limelight but I figured that since you can't beat them you might as well join them. So I posted the following birthday wish on Path

and Facebook.

Sometimes it is amazing how things fall into place. I didn't know and never expected Western Spices to be showing the badminton finals live but they did. You can imagine Hubby's delight when he walked in and saw the tv screen.

Half the night was spent following the game and we were so caught up with the excitement that we even came up with an impromptu cheer: Dato'...Lee Chong Wei, Don't Let...China Win!

Actually Dato' Lee was doing very well in the third set until the singer started to sing a Chinese song, her one and only Chinese song for the night. Call it coincidence or what, but after that, China gained the upper hand. I was so sad for our champion when he lost after putting up such a good fight. 

Anyway, dinner was served. The set dinner came with Ebiko Scallop for appetizer, Onion Soup, and a choice of Main Course, ranging from steak to chicken. Dessert was cake of the day which turned out to be Tiramisu Cake although some of us were served Sesame Cake instead.

Stinco di Agnello, or oven-braised lamb shank, was my choice for the main course.
Of course no birthday party is complete without a birthday cake so I ordered my favourite White Chocolate Macadamia Cake from Secret Recipe. It was such a disappointment - not the cake, which was delicious, but the decoration, which was terrible.

They only piped "Blessed Birthday" on the cake as per my instructions and that's it! And the handwriting was horrible. I expressed my dissatisfaction, "Macam mana mahu tangkap gambar. Kek ini begitu botak! Bubuhlah sedikit bunga."

So they stuck on some cheapo and garish multi-coloured plastic flowers – the type that look like floating candles but much smaller. I said "No" and demanded that they pipe some flowers on the cake instead.

Then, believe it or not, they asked ME to pipe the flowers myself because they couldn't do it! Never, ever buy your cakes from Secret Recipe, Straits Quay.

I had no choice but to ask Baby Sis to bring some fake flowers to stick on the cake. This is not the first time that she had to rescue my birthday cake from disaster. Maybe I should take up cake decorating and do it myself next time.

The cake after the last-minute rescue operation
Cake-cutting is always a fun affair
The theme for this year's birthday is Beautifully Blue inspired by the grandson I'm going to have end of this year. Everyone obliged and came dressed in some shade of blue.

A group photo before we called it a night
That's enough of the blues, the theme for next year's birthday party shall be...

Shocking Pink!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Birthday Celebrations 2012 - Part 2

My second birthday party was at Delicious, Straits Quay, on Saturday, 4 August 2012.

It was a very private party and we didn't even take any photos because 'Bee and I weren't looking our best on that day :(

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Living one's life around people who don't plan is very annoying and frustrating. It's much worse waiting for someone who is waiting for someone who is waiting for someone who is waiting for someone to make a decision before anything goes. It makes one feel that one is at the bottom of the food chain.

Most of the time is spent waiting in anticipation for a decision and when nothing happens you get disappointed. But when you decide to get a life and do something else instead of wasting time (and life) playing the waiting game, suddenly things get moving and you have to scramble like crazy to make adjustments.

I have nothing against spontaneity and enjoying the moment. In fact I enjoy the spirit of adventure that spontaneity brings but it should be within some form of structure.

We live in community which means there are other people involved in every decision you make or don't make. Such behaviour is just plain selfish.