Friday, December 13, 2013

The Secret Supper Club Series

Baby Sis always has in-roads into the many interesting activities happening around town. Last week she booked me for 3 nights to attend the In-Between Arts Festival that is sandwiched between George Town Literary Festival and Penang Island Jazz Festival. 

The In-Between Festival kicked off with a Baba & Nyonya Supper & Play at Ren I Tang Hotel on Monday night. Smart move, 'cos you really cannot go wrong with Nyonya food. 

Pearly Kee's Kacang Botol Kerabu really whetted my appetite. I went back for more! I can say that her otak-otak is one of the best I have ever tasted and I was delighted to find a big piece of firm and white fish meat in the otak-otak. She really doesn't stint on her ingredients.

Her Sambal Goreng was also fantastic and she surprised us with Spicy Savoury Parcels which are actually fried wontons with sambal hare bee (Dried Shrimp Sambal) filling. That's so creative. 

Look at my plate piled high with all the yummy dishes!

Clockwise from top left: Kacang Botol Kerabu, 5 Spiced Chicken Roll,
Jiu Hu Char, Nasi Ulam, Otak-Otak, Blue Rice, Kari Kapitan,
Spicy Savoury Parcels; and Sambal Goreng in the middle

The food was great but I could not say the same for the entertainment that followed. It was such a disappointment. A couple was so fed-up that they left half-way through the playlet. 

Apparently, the Penang Players had only one practice before the show, and so they play-read instead of acted. They were also sharing mics which makes it very difficult for us to hear much of what was being said. 

Towards the end there was a part where certain members of the audience (including my Baby Sis) were asked to insert punctuation marks into strings of words in order to make sentences. None of the sentences made much sense to me. 

I checked with Baby Sis and she said that they were already cued 
on where to insert the punctuation marks. There were no mistakes 
with regards to the order of the words on the placards 
held by the actors. So what happened?

On the second night, we had a royal Moghul feast prepared by Dr Tripat Narayanan. The location was Salsas Restaurant at Gurney Paragon Mall. I thought it a very odd combination to serve Indian food in a western food outlet. The Indian atmosphere was lost. 

I love the attention given to the table setting and the sit-down arrangement. This was the only meal that was not served buffet style.  

I couldn't stop eating the dry roasted cashews
and almonds. They were super crunchy
and not sweet 'cos they're fried
with chillis, cumin and brown sugar

Baby Sis was dressed to the theme while I looked so tired
in my work clothes. Going for dinner straight from work
is not a good idea.

I couldn't resist taking a photo with Tan Twan Eng,
the author of "The Garden of Evening Mists." The book,
published in 2012, 
won the Man Asian Literary Prize,
and the 
Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
Tan was born in Penang.
The starter: Cardamon scented Lamb Kebabs with Mint Chutney
served with small parathas

Raita, Chicken Kurma, Pan-fried Cauliflower with Tomatoes,
Saffron Basmati Rice, and Sweet Hot Mango Chutney
for dinner with Rose-scented Apple Kheer for dessert

Spiced tea and a digestive mix of crushed almonds,
rock sugar and fennel seeds to end our meal

Our entertainment for the evening - an Indian dance
 by dancers from the Temple of Fine Arts

On the third night, the spotlight was on Malay food and the menu was supposed to feature P. Ramlee's favourite dishes.

Clockwise from top left-hand corner: Rose Sherbet;
Chef Shuk showing us the spices used in the Beef Rendang
demonstration; Bubur Kacang; Chef Shuk's son stirring
the Beef Rendang; my dinner plate with Singapore Beehoon,
Kacang Panjang, Hang Tuah Beef Rendang, rice,
and Fish Curry with Roti Bengali;
Chef Shuk's Beef Rendang served on baguette
 This was the worst dinner of the lot. The place, Jawi House Cafe Gallery, was small and cramped. They were obviously short of workers. They kept telling us that they would get around to serving us our drinks but the drinks never came. Eventually one of the guys from our table decided to take things into his own hands because we were dying from thirst. He simply went to the service area and hijacked some bottles of water.

When it was time for dinner we had to bring the plates from our table to the buffet line to collect our meal. We thought the Fish Curry with Roti Bengali was a weird combination and true enough, it tasted weird. I'll settle for Chicken Curry with Roti Bengali any time. And the bubur kacang was also the worst bubur kacang I have ever tasted in my whole life. 

The only consolation was the entertainment. Viv Adram & the Northern Jazz Unit were really good. Unfortunately Baby Sis was not feeling too good and so we left early. I would have loved to joget the night away. 

Born Free: Oon Suan See's First Solo Exhibition

Warning: This is a long overdue post. It may be old news, 
but it is something I may want to refer to in the future. 

Mrs Khoo or Suan See is the lady who choreographs all the Nyonya dances that we have been performing. I was told that she is also an accomplished artist who has participated in many art exhibitions over the past 50 years or more. 

One day she asked whether the Sayang Sayang dancers would be able to dance at the opening of her first solo art exhibition. Of course, we responded with a resounding "yes." How can we not show our support for her when she has been such a blessing to us all?

And so we danced at the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

Suan See is the one in black kebaya and green sarong.
I hope I look as good as she does when I am in my late seventies.

We were all astounded to receive a letter and a huge angpow each after our performance. What a gracious and generous lady she is!

Keep on dancing!

I went to the exhibition with high expectations and I was not disappointed. Suan See paints in a variety of styles and uses different media and even ventures into mixed media. 

These are her signature roses. Very feminine like the artist herself. 

In contrast this is a bold piece with vibrant and striking colours. Is it supposed to represent an impassioned bursting forth of pent up emotions? 

I am attracted to the happy colours in this painting. 

And there's also a painting to feature her nyonya heritage 
and to showcase her interest in dance. 

Baby Sis and I took photographs with some of our favourite pieces that happened to be colour coordinated with our kebayas.

And then we adjourned to Hainan Town for tea and to enjoy the sea breeze before dinner at Via Pre. I think the diners were a bit startled to see two nyonyas coming in for Italian food. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Grinch Lost

I was horrified to hear that we won't be putting up the office Christmas tree this year. At first it didn't occur to me to do anything about it since I am not the one who puts up the tree every year but as time went on it began to bother me. It bothered me so much that finally I took it upon myself to put up the tree and decorations single-handedly. 

Because I believe...
The reason for not putting up the tree was because there would be no official exchange of gifts this year. Yes, the tree may look a bit forlorn without gifts under its boughs but gifts do not a Christmas make. Anyway, who is to say that gifts would not appear once the tree is up! 

For me, putting up the Christmas tree symbolises hope in the midst of dark and trying times. To say that there is nothing left to celebrate is to admit defeat and to surrender to discouragement. I always believe that when our hearts are heaviest that is when we need to be reminded that our lives have been touched by the Divine. Hallelujah! Instead of looking at what we lack, we can and should choose to rejoice and to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the many good and wonderful gifts we have been blessed with. 

Yes, the Grinch tried his best to steal Christmas this year but I am glad to say that I foiled his dastardly plan. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Is A-Coming

...and I can feel it a-creeping up my toes!

I have snowflakes and glitter to decorate my Christmas tootsies

Monday, December 2, 2013

Grandson's First Birthday

I remember him crying his lungs out while flailing his skinny arms and equally skinny legs when the confinement lady was dressing him. It was the day after he came home from the hospital and he had just been given his first bath. 

All too soon we were celebrating his baby dedication and Full Moon on Christmas Day. And before you know it, we were giving out our first angpow as Grandparents to him on his first Chinese New Year.

After that, the days passed by in a blur as the family adopted a nomadic lifestyle. Some of the time he would be in KL and for the rest of the time he would in Penang. And when he is not in Malaysia, the little high flyer would be on holidays in Taiwan, Perth, Melbourne and Singapore; all within his first year. So ho mia (Hokkien meaning "good life")!

With all the running here and there, I hardly have time to spend with my baby Grandson, to enjoy him and watch him grow. Yup, I feel that I am a severely deprived grandmother. 

All too soon, one year had passed. Gone are those spindly legs. They have plumped out to be the chubbiest arms, fingers and legs ever. He is no longer a baby. Caden is now a little boy. 

I just love those chubby arms and legs, and the hands and feet and the fingers and toes!
See how he points with his fingers and the way he rubs his feet together and play
with his toes when mommy reads to him? So adorable!
He has really grown so much and in so many ways in the past twelve months. I can see Luke 2:52, my proclamation over his life, being realised as the days go by.

As his birthday approached, I was cracking my head to find a suitable present for him. It cannot be a run-of-the-mill present because a first birthday, like a 16th or a 21st birthday, is  a significant milestone. 

If I give him clothes, he will outgrow them. Likewise if I give him toys. He will play and then tire of them.

Then I had a most brilliant idea, even if I say so myself. *beams* My present to him on his first birthday was a photoshoot to commemorate the occasion. These photos shall be with him for the rest of his life and, who knows, they might even make an appearance on his wedding day! 


Once the photoshoot received the stamp of approval from his parents, I was given the task of finding balloons and a suitable cake for him to bash

The cake for Caden to bash now fully revealed.
The boy was more interested in the candles
 his mom had provided and the decorations
on the cake than in bashing the cake.
So on Caden's birthday, we went for the photoshoot in the morning. Unfortunately, the ban on publishing his photos is still on so all you will see here are parts of him. Sad case, I know. 

This is what he loves to do when he is exploring
something new. Point, point, point with his pointer.
Don't you just love those fingers!

After the shoot 'bee rushed home and spent the whole afternoon cooking a sumptuous dinner for both sides of the family - a total of 14 adults and 3 children. On top of that, she also made birthday cakes for her son and special jellies just for him so that he has something to eat on his birthday. 

It is so obvious 'bee got carried away baking a birthday cake for her son.
A cake ended up being an array of the most yummy-licious cakes. 
My 'bee is a wonderful mother but she was so exhausted and so busy that she didn't have the energy nor the time to enjoy her son's birthday. Next time we should just go out for a simple choo char or order in some pizza and reserve the cake cutting for the highlight. 

And so that was Grandson's first year and his first birthday. Our little boy is growing up so fast.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Celebrating Advent Purple-ly

Today marks the beginning of the Advent season celebrated by the Catholic Church that begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which is today for this year, and ends on Christmas Eve. I may not be Catholic but I have always found the rhythms of the church year as practiced by the Catholics to be very meaningful.

Advent candles. Imagine how pretty they will look
sitting on the Advent wreath!
I first learnt of the Advent season and the tradition of lighting the Advent candles in my teenage years. That was long before I was a Christian, when I was reading a book on the Trapp family on which the musical "The Sound of a Music" was based. Even then, with my unrenewed mind, I have always thought that it's a beautiful tradition to have a season of hope and anticipation that culminates with the celebration of the birth of Christ. 

As Pentecostals, we do not celebrate Advent but this morning, on a whim, I decided to wear a purple dress to commemorate the first Advent of 2013; to welcome the coming of the King. I may not be able to celebrate Advent properly, but I can surely celebrate it purple-ly!

To my delight there were so many TOPians dressed in purple today! God really moves in mysterious ways and He makes us happy even in the silly wishes of ours that we dare not even utter for the sheer foolishness of the request. Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

In Search Of A Cake To Bash

I am totally bushed from running all over town looking for a plain vanilla sponge cake covered with plain white fresh cream cream for Grandson to bash on his first birthday.

Nowadays people are so sophisticated that the plain vanilla sponge cake has been shunted off the shelf in almost all the cake shops I went to. Taking its place are its more glamorous and well-dressed cousins such as the Tiramisu, Black Forest, Cheescake, Opera, etc.  

Somehow the chocolate sponge cake managed to hold on to its tenuous distinction of being the standard no-frills birthday cake in one or two shops. Maybe that's because it is not as plain as its vanilla sister. 

In one shop, when I insisted on a half kilogram plain vanilla sponge cake, I was told that I must pre-order and that the minimum size for the cake must be 1 kg. Is the demand for plain vanilla sponge that low that it is no longer feasible for the bakery to make a half kilogram cake?

Thank God! I eventually found a shop selling mini sponge cakes at RM12 each but they have all been decorated. The least decorated one was a chocolate sponge cake with plain white fresh cream and a few cherries for decoration which we could remove to leave a plain white cake. 

It was a dilemma for me. Chocolate inside and plain white on the outside after we have discarded the cherries, or vanilla cake inside with fresh cream and some colourful decorations on the outside?

When Grandma is undecided, ask the Mommy. So, after consultation and a FaceTime session with 'bee, she decided on a plain vanilla sponge cake with some decorations that are quite appropriate for a little boy's first birthday cake. 

Finally, Grandson has a cake to bash on his birthday. :) 

At this point in time, I don't think I will have the energy to do this for my other grandchildren on their first birthdays. Despite the daunting thought, I know I will do it for all my grandchildren as long as the Lord enables me to. After all, that's what Grandmothers are for.  

After all the trouble I went to I cannot resist giving you a sneak peek of the cutest cake ever. Although it looks big in this cropped partial shot, the whole cake could actually fit into the palm of my hands!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

An Impromptu Girls' Night Out

It all started with Baby Sis buying a Groupon deal for dinner for four at 1881 Chong Tian Hotel. As is usual with all these discount vouchers the tendency is to leave it until the very last day to redeem the deal. 

Well, Thursday, 7 November 2013, was the very last day to redeem that particular deal. Baby Sis couldn't make it so it was left to Big Sister to come her rescue or the coupon would have gone to waste. 

Let me tell you, it is not easy to get people to join you for dinner at the last minute and it was really last minute. I was informed at 3pm and dinner was at 8pm. Hubby, who was just recovering from a bad cold, wanted an early night so he couldn't make it but, thank God, I managed to persuade these two ladies to join me. 

Esther and Melissa
That's what friends are for, right! To be there for you 
at the last minute and to help you eat! 

So that's how we ended up with an impromptu girls' night out with an impromptu hostess (me!) and impromptu guests (Esther and Melissa) who sacrificed their plans for the night to accept an impromptu invitation. 

The place was decorated pre-war style with rosewood furniture, ornately carved room dividers and lovely embroidery pieces. Unfortunately the choice of selection for the piped-in music jarred with the old world atmosphere. 

We were so disappointed with the food - taste-wise, presentation-wise and price-wise. The meal was supposed to be worth RM165 but we felt that it was not value for money. It wouldn't have mattered so much if the ambience had made up for lacklustre quality of the food but both were equally disappointing. Despite such shortcomings, the 3 of us managed to finish a 5-course meal for 4!

Will we return? Certainly not for the food but we might for the sake of visitors who want to have a peek into the lifestyle of the rich and famous of bygone days.

The menu: Puay Leng in Supreme Stock, Curried Prawns,
Curry Chicken, Barbecued Spare-ribs, Fish Head with Yam
and an unidentifiable Dessert
(yes, it was that terrible!)

I was not really dressed to complement the old-world furniture. 

Caden's First Drawing

Today is a very special day. We received our very first drawing from Grandson. 

See how artistic he is. 

Such bold strokes, such confidence. He's an artist in the making!

Wait till he discovers how much more fun it is to draw on the furniture, on the walls and on himself. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Prawn-mise Fulfilled

A week ago there was a morning when Hubby had to go over to the mainland to meet a client. As usual I waited for his call to notify me whether I were to go for lunch on my own or wait for him.

First he called to say that he was in his way back. Then he called again to say that the client was taking him to eat Udang Galah. :(

When he came back he was singing the praises of the fresh and delicious prawns that he had for lunch and he promised to take me there. Well, yesterday he did! It was a prawn-mise fulfilled.

The town of Nibong Tebal situated on the edge of the muddy Kerian River

Another view of the river showing the thick swathes of nibong plants along its banks that gave the town its name

The unpretentious facade of the Lim Aik Chew, the shop famous for its prawn dishes

Poor things! These fresh water prawns eventually ended up on our table.

Lunch is served!
Top left to right: the famous curry and steamed garlic prawns.
Middle left to right: chunky slices of bread to mop up the curry with sugar-cane drinks (in the background) to quench our thirst on a hot afternoon; fish fried to perfection and served with 3-flavoured sauce.
Bottom left to right: simple stir-fried Yau Mak and a cup of thick, smooth local coffee to complete our meal

The colours for the pictures of the food look a bit off because I accidentally activated one of the colour filters. And I didn't realised it until Hubby pointed it out to me. So blur.

I normally don't drink local coffee so I was pleasantly surprised that I like taste of the local coffee here. I also don't eat bread that is not toasted and I have not touched the fake plastic stuff called margarine in years. Imagine how amazed I was that I enjoyed the taste of bread with Planta and kaya.

Enjoying bread with Planta margarine and home made kaya

Maybe it's the novelty of eating at a new place or the excitement of taking a road trip and going out of the island. I don't know. But whatever it was, the four of us, God-daughter, God-son-in-law, Hubby and I, really pigged out on our meal.

It was well worth the trip.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Patterns And Textures

A few months ago 'Bee and I were at the (then) newly opened Paragon Mall when Grandson started to fuss and demanded for his feed. We looked around and eventually managed to find a secluded spot with enough privacy for 'Bee to breast- feed him.

Just as 'Bee was getting ready to nurse him, he caught sight of the floor tiles. Immediately he forgot all about his hunger, turned himself around to face downwards and started examining the pattern made by the floor tiles.

Nothing we did could turn his attention away from the distraction. The little boy loves patterns and textures.

Grandson studying the pattern made by the floor tiles

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Empty Chair

I saw this empty baby chair and was overwhelmed by a longing to see my Grandson, touch him, and cuddle him.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Boy Bites

Yesterday at lunch Grandson was overcome by a desire to suck his Mommy's finger. Suddenly he lost control and bit his mom!

The little boy now has teeth and the bite was quite hard so it left a scar.

Motherhood is indeed fraught with dangers unexpected and unknown.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bits of My Mom

Last night, we went for dinner with Grandson. To my delight he was all smiles when he came into the car. He was even smiling when he was having his feed.

How my heart melts when he smiles!

Again it struck me how his features resemble my mother's whenever he smiles. And I'm not the only one to say this.

It’s nice to see bits of her in Caden.

My mom

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Giggly Pink Ladies

We found a very accommodating photographer at the pink party Baby Sis invited me to recently. Sunny Tan took our photos, and surprise! surprise! he also emailed them to us as promised! 

This is a very rare occurrence for Baby Sis and me because we have been "conned" so many times by photographers taking photos of us in our nyonya attire that we have become very skeptical when photographers say that they will send us our photos. That almost always happens when we are dressed as nyonyas. I wonder why? 

Anyway, thank you very much Sunny! You're the best. You keep your promises. And we love the photos.

We started out trying (unsuccessfully) to put on a bored look...

...that soon fell apart when the giggles burst forth

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Real Reading

Tonight is one of those rare nights when I get to curl up in bed and catch up on my reading. Such nights are too few and too far between to satisfy a true blue librocubicularist like me.

I read a lot but reading is only reading when I have a physical book in my hands. Reading from a screen, whether of an iPad, phone or computer is simply not the same. Reading is really reading only when I have a real book with pages I can touch and feel.

The book I am reading now