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!