Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Most Nyonya Chap Goh Meh Ever

Chap Goh Meh started off with me preaching a Sunday message dressed in my new crimson kebaya that is embroidered with phoenixes.

Going through my sermon notes during breakfast. It was so embarrassing walking into the coffee-shop all decked out in my nyonya finery.

That sounds really showy but it has been a tradition in our church for the ladies to wear kebaya on the Sunday nearest to Chap Goh Meh. Normally we would sms each other to make sure everyone knows "The Plan" but this year Chap Goh Meh happens to fall on a Sunday. I would think that it is pretty obvious that those of us with kebayas would come dressed for the occasion.

Unfortunately the obvious did not occur to the rest of the kebaya ladies in church and so I ended up being the only one that was clad in kebaya! And with it being a crimson kebaya, I was really the focus of attention.

After lunch, I barely closed my eyes for 10 minutes before it's time to dress for the State Chap Goh Meh celebration. I started dressing at 3.30pm because it takes a really long time to don the many layers of the baju panjang or th'ng snar (long garment), to put up my hair in a sanggul (bun) and to put on all the accessories.

You really need the assistance of a maid to dress you up properly. I had trouble putting the flowers and my fake chiam mar (hair-pins) in my hair. Thank God, I was wearing my new set of krosang. I would have been in great trouble if I were wearing my mom's krosang.

There is no way I could have pinned on those old-style krosang myself. There are no clasps on the krosang of yesteryears and the pins are attached in such a way that you have to pull the two layers of the garment through the centre of the krosang before you can put the pins through. This ensures that the krosang does not accidentally drop off because there are no clasps that will open and release the pins.

Baby Sis came to pick me at 5.30pm and we were on our way to the Cheshire Home where we parked the car and boarded the Dondang Sayang bus for the State Chap Goh Meh celebration at the Esplanade.

The Dondang Sayang bus was all decorated and lighted up for the festive occasion

I was assaulted by a wave of nostalgia when the Dondang Sayang bus ferrying us to the Esplanade wove its way through the streets of Penang and people started waving to us. When I was still a little girl, my grandfather would drive us in his Hillman (a British car) all over town chasing the Dondang Sayang bus.

This year the Main Wayang singers from Singapore sang for us on the bus but back in those days there would be a baba and nyonya couple who would engage in playful banter and sometimes provocative repartee with each other through song. Their witty remarks were in pantun (poetry) form and were composed on the spot! It's a lost art.

We performed two dances and I must say, with all honesty and without prejudice, that the choreography for our dances were more than a notch above those of the other two nyonya dance groups.

Dayung Sampan with umbrellas
Getting ready to bob a curtsey. Yes, nyonyas still curtsey like in the good old days. 
Our fan dance
Our final pose for the fan dance
Dressed in th'ng snar, we were a novelty to locals and foreigners alike. We were asked to pose for photographs at every turn and it was our delight to oblige.

I also danced along to the joget that the Main Wayang group taught the audience

The event was a huge success although, from the point of view of a performer, I found it terribly disorganized: there was no proper programme, we had to stand (total 4 hours) while waiting for our turn to perform, there were no drinks provided for the performers and there were not enough food vouchers to go round.

The young lad in sunglasses was performing the Oppa Gangnam dance when some nyonyas appointed themselves to be his back-up dancers and they are all over 70 years of age! There are two 81 year olds on stage, one on the extreme left and the other on the extreme right. The tiny nyonya beside the young man is 76 years old. Evidence seem to point to the fact that nyonyas tend to lose their inhibitions with age. The lady at the back is not a nyonya, but a younger Miss Kebaya contestant. 
At the end of the night there was a spectacular fireworks display as our bus left the Esplanade.

This is my most nyonya Chap Goh Meh ever. The only things missing that would complete my Chap Goh Meh is my mom's pungat (a dessert made of sweet potatoes, yam and pisang rajah (king banana) in coconut milk)!

I am sure my mom would be most happy to know that her daughter had finally reclaimed her heritage.

A photo with god-daughter who came with her hubby to take photos and video our dance. She stood amongst the crowd for 4 hours in order to record my 5 minutes of fame. How can I not love her? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lovely Night Out With My Lovelies

First we went in search of thin crust pizza for Jewel and found it at Lunarich. The pizza was fantastic although it was pretty pricey. Baby Sis paid more than RM40 for the one pizza we ordered.

We decided that we should bring Baby Brother here on our next sibling night out because they have pizzas that are suitable for vegetarians. I'm bringing Hubby here 'cos they have tenderloin steak. Or we could go to Angus House for Japanese chargrilled steak

Baby Sis and Jewel with the pizza taking centre stage

We wanted to sit inside but I felt that the tables and chairs were placed too close together and with military precision. They look as if someone had measured the space between the tables to make sure that they were the same distance apart and at right angles with one another.

I wasn't the only one who felt that way. When we compared notes on our unanimous decision to sit outside, it was due to the same reason.

We actually planned to take in the lights at Kek Lok Si after dinner but changed our minds when we saw the jam at Jalan Air Itam. Instead we went for mille crepe cake and coffee at Humble Beginnings at Straits Quay.

Then I received a delightful surprise when they sent me home. Jewel presented me with a lovely set of kerosang to wear with baju panjang. It's a thank you gift from her and Joshua for my taking care of their mom while they were away.

What a timely gift! We're wearing baju panjang for our performance on Chap Goh Meh and I needed a pair of kerosang.

Thank you Jewel and Joshua!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Refreshed At Refreshing Spring

Four days sitting under the tutelage of a wise Christian leader would have been worth the trip but I was blessed beyond measure at the training conducted by Rev. Wong Kim Kong.

The dirt road leading to the resort
Selina and I in the carriage drawn by a tractor that took us into the resort
Refreshing Spring Resort welcomes us
When we arrived at Refreshing Spring Resort, we were awed by the natural beauty of the place. We were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by 40 acres of lush greenery and fruit trees - cempedak, rambutans, pulasan, longan and durians.

We ate our first durian before we even checked in and we continued to feast on the creamiest durians ever every day. Unfortunately there weren't many of them. Only one or two each day because our training was held in the third week of January, which was the end of the durian season. Chiak beh liao ar ("eat until cannot finish" if translated literally from Hokkien) for participants who manage to plan their training there to coincide with the durian season.

Our first durian upon arrival. Simply fantastic!
The rooms were clean and simply furnished with attached bathroom. My room-mate was Jin Choo, Pastor Choon Huan's wife.
I stayed in one of the terrace rooms - like terrace houses except the door opens into the room. There were other accommodations like this wooden longhouse.
Someone told me that this is the owner's residence
We spent the first afternoon break exploring the place: plucking rambutans and ambra from off the trees, dipping our toes into the river running through the resort and visiting the hot spring. There were lights at the hot spring and so we were able to enjoy a warm and relaxing dip the next night before bed-time.

Elisa plucking rambutans for us
Ambra for your picking
Longans just outside our rooms
The river that runs through the property provides a cooling respite for the hot afternoons
Still waters
There are fish inside this pond beside our rooms.
At the hot spring. The lady holding an umbrella forgot to bring her sun block. That's why it's much better to soak at night.
For the young and active, there is paintball and wall-climbing for them to work off their excess energy.

Wall-climbing that led to a few sore arms the next day
Refreshing Spring Resort is a leisurely 3-hour drive away from Penang and is an ideal place for a church camp because:
  1. there is no 3G connection and wifi there is very slow. You can be sure your participants won't be surfing the net while sessions are on.
  2. it is very secluded. The journey out to the nearest town, Kalumpang, takes at least half-an-hour and part of the way is over a dirt road with no street lights. No running out to get your teh tarik or internet fix, especially at night.
The food is just basic home-cooked dishes except for the last night when we were treated to a barbecue. According to those who had attended other sessions there, venison may even appear on the barbecue menu if they happen to catch a deer that day.

Dinner on our first night
Barbecue on the last night
If you like a peaceful, relaxing holiday in a natural setting then this is the place for you. If not, the tranquility and lack of connectivity may just drive you crazy. Of course, we were there during the off-season so there's no telling how peaceful it will be during the school holidays when the place is full.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New Shades

This year - to my surprise and great delight - I received a Valentine gift from hubby.

New shades to replace those that were lost, scratched, or missing a bling or two!

Yes, I admit it. I am very careless with my sunglasses but I'm sure gonna take good care of this pair.

Hubby helped me pick them. See how they look on me.


Monday, February 11, 2013

I'm Bursting

Recently I've put on quite a lot of weight. It sort of crept up on me and I've ballooned.

When 'bee saw me bursting out of the seams of my dress at our company's CNY dinner, she asked in shock, "What have you been doing?"

My quick reply was simple. "Nothing!"

If I had been doing anything that requires more calories being expended I wouldn't have piled on all that excess weight so easily.

Now I really have to do something about it.

Starting Chinese New Year With A Bang

We had a combined CNY service at TOP this morning. It was hard dragging ourselves out of bed in order to be in church by 8:30am for Hubby to attend worship practice.

In recent years, the first few days of CNY are for sleeping in because we've no high-priority visitation duties to fulfill ever since the passing on of our parents. Hubby and I have attained seniority and moved up in the pecking order and so now it's the duty of younger family members to visit us.

Anyway we were blessed at the service with the word of God and also two oranges and an angpow each - the real thing with RM10 inside - from the church.

Last Sunday Pastor Gideon encouraged the ladies to come in cheongsam on New Year's day so, being an obedient church member and someone who delights in dressing up, I jumped on the opportunity to wear a red cheongsam that I had bought two years ago but had not found an occasion yet to wear.

I really like this red cheongsam. The colour, material and fit are fantastic.

After service, we were on our way to buy Subway for lunch when we hit a car that was illegally parked by the side of Patani Road. I didn't know what happened because I was busy answering CNY greetings that had come in during service.

All of a sudden I heard a bang and when I looked up I saw that the rear-view mirror had been knocked out of position. We parked the car in front of a shop-lot and when we inspected the car we were shocked at the extent of the damage to it.

We had to call Baby Sis to pick us and send us home to get my car. She came with Jewel and Poh Lin. Three beautiful angels to our rescue!

By the time we waited for the tow truck to arrive, went to make a police report and send the car to Auto Bavaria it was already past three. We just couldn't wait to crawl into bed to catch up on our much needed sleep.

Our poor baby!

So you can say that we literally started the year with a bang! Thank God no one was hurt.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Successful Char Siu

My first try at making Char Siu was a huge success when it appeared at last night's Reunion Dinner.

The recipe calls for Sam Chan or pork belly meat. We seldom eat pork and we also religiously avoid fat in all our meats so it was with deep reservations that I decided to ask the pork seller for Sam Chan.

When I saw the three fatty strips, I almost changed my mind but the pork seller assured me that without the fat my Char Siu would be tough.

I was pleasantly surprised at the result. The fat shrank during the cooking and diners could easily cut it off leaving the tender, succulent meat. Yummy!