Sunday, 23 September 2012

Bringing my request to God

        Regrettably, I sometimes tune out when a certain priest conducts Mass because I abhor the way he mixes politics with religion. But when my favourite priest walked down the aisle towards the altar this morning, I was determined to sit up and pay full attention.
        And I am so glad I did!

        "...The fact is you do not have what you want because you do not pray for it. You pray for something and you do not get it because you pray with the wrong motive of indulging your pleasures..." (James 4:2-3)

        This part of today's Bible reading struck a chord in me and I would have easily missed it had I been smiling indulgently at the little boy who sits in the pew ahead or mentally checking the list of groceries to pick up after Mass.
        I have been praying for IT but I have not been praying earnestly enough for IT. It has become a mantra that I automatically add in at the end of my prayers. On hindsight, I realise that I have never seriously sat down to talk to my Lord about IT.
        I often deny that I truly want IT. I opt to thrust the subject of IT to God, choosing the convenience of Him knowing the deepest desires of my heart.
        I now know how wrong it is of me to do that.
        My Father in Heaven is waiting for me to go to Him, acknowledge that I really want IT and tell Him in our daily conversations.

        "Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and the door will be opened to him who knocks." (Matthew 7:7-8)
        I have never knocked, sought or asked. Therefore, I have not received. I shall now knock on His door, seek His comfort and ask for IT.

        "Do not be anxious about anything. In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God."  (Philippians 4:6)
        Ending my prayers with a simple line, as if it is done as an afterthought or as a matter of unimportance, is definitely NOT bringing my request before God. I will stop doing that and sincerely bring my request for IT before God.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Flying the Flag in my Heart

        As Bulan Kemerdekaan (Independence Month) approaches its end, it is apt to dedicate a post to my beloved country. I cannot help but swell with pride as I think of how much progress Malaysia has achieved in fifty five years. From being a little known post-colonial country, she has made herself seen and heard. And for this, we have Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, our fourth Prime Minister, to thank for.
        In recent years, there have been constant calls to fly the Jalur Gemilang, our national flag, in conjunction with Bulan Kemerdekaan. I applaud all the patriotic Malaysians out there who answer the call. My dad, who is one of the most patriotic men I have ever seen, never fails to fly the flag in front of our house.
        However, I do not need to join the ranks of those who fly the Jalur Gemilang, be it in front of houses or atop cars, to affirm my patriotism. I love my country in my own way and fly the flag in my heart.
        As a teacher, I make it my responsibility to instil in my young impressionable charges the love for our country. Come National Day every year, I ask my students what Hari Kebangsaan means to them. I get them to write down their honest answers (after a little brainwashing by doling out examples of answers like "It is a day to be grateful for freedom and prosperity", "It is a day to appreciate the present and work hard for the future"). Then we stick their answers on the class noticeboard as part of the class decoration for National Day.
        Should anyone speak bad about my country, I will not hesitate to defend her. From young, I have witnessed how my dad swiftly rises to the defense of Malaysia whenever a Singaporean relative belittles our country. I do not mind being branded as rude and disrespectful should I answer back an elder when he or she is condemning my country.
        The on-going branding of 1Malaysia to stress on national unity and ethnic tolerance does not stir much excitement in me. And this is not because I do not love my fellow Malaysians of other races. I most certainly do, and already practise the ideology. I definitely do not need a "wake-up call" to stand united and to live in harmony. One of my best buddies in primary school was a Malay girl. I used to go to her house on Saturdays and we would have tons of fun together. In university, one of my closest chums was an Indian girl and the two of us engaged in a lot of mischief together. Whilst teaching in Sabah, I gained two very good friends, one being an Orang Asli from Perak and another being a Malay. After getting our respective transfers nine years ago, we are still in constant contact. When this Malay friend required financial assistance upon her husband's sudden demise a few years back, she turned to me and I did not disappoint her. Isn't this what 1Malaysia is all about?
        I have never taken part in National Day parades or flocked to the stadium to attend concerts held in tandem with the celebration. But that does not make me any less patriotic. I celebrate National Day in my own way.
        Remembering to pray for my country is more important, I believe. This, I do, from time to time, when I lead the prayer during the school assembly on Mondays. This, I also do, on National Day and on Malaysia Day.

        So as we celebrate Malaysia Day on Sunday (16 September), I thank God for blessing our country with peace and prosperity. I pray that Malaysia will continue to enjoy these, and more. And after my morning prayer, I shall have my kopi-o ais and nasi lemak for breakfast, and then buy a big packet of kacang putih to munch on for the day. 
        Happy Malaysia Day!!!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Craving for Comfort Food of Yesteryears

          Lying in bed last night whilst slowly recovering from an agonizing day at the mercy of a menstrual migraine, my thoughts turned to food. It was a relief to be able to stomach the thought of food after a day of retching and being unable to tolerate even a small cup of Horlicks. My poor tummy rumbled a little as I had hardly eaten anything the whole day long. And I found myself suddenly craving for wan ton.

Kon low wan ton
        This was not surprising as wan ton has always been my #1 Comfort Food since young. I had always preferred my wan ton served in its dry version (meaning minus its soup, tossed in sesame seed oil and lots of dark soya sauce). My favourite wan ton hawker, Ah Fatt, greets me amicably and understands exactly what I want when I place my order, "Kon low wan ton, without mee." There was once when I was under the weather. My dear parents were about to embark on the task of bringing food to the house-bound invalid. Mummy asked what I fancied and I weakly answered, "Wan ton." When she relayed this to Ah Fatt, he was all smiles. And the invalid enjoyed (but struggled a little as her appetite was not in full throttle) slurping down the silky smooth dumplings filled with well-marinated minced pork.

        #2 Comfort Food is Mummy's savoury mini omelettes with minced pork and spring onions (photo to be uploaded when Mummy next makes this). It is one of my favourite dishes and every time she fries this for dinner, I'll have a second helping of rice. This dish holds lots of nostalgia for me. Back in the early 90s when I was studying in a college in Kuala Lumpur, I looked forward to Fridays as I could make the 4-hour bus ride back to Ipoh (this was prior to the completion of the North-South Highway). And on Sundays, a teary-eyed 18-year-old would make the long journey back to Kuala Lumpur. Unpacking in the cold and lonely hostel room, I would take out the flask of dinner that Mummy had lovingly prepared. And the tears would flow once again upon seeing the savoury mini omelettes with minced pork and spring onions --- labour of a Mother's love.



These were the sardine rolls that I baked last December.

       Comfort food is defined as food that "soothes the psyche by reminding us of comforting childhood memories". Comfort food is "far from gourmet and generally epitomize home cooking. They invoke feelings of nostalgia, safety and security". I am not sure if my #3 can be categorized as comfort food, but it definitely is very sentimental to me. Knowing how much I love her baking, my journeys home to Ipoh were often greeted by the aroma of Mummy's freshly baked sardine rolls. She seldom bakes nowadays, claiming that the hassle of baking is too much for her weary bones to bear. So last year, when the baking bug bit me, I decided to try my hand at making her sardine rolls. They were not as nice as the ones she used to make, but I hope that my skills will be improved in time to come.

Cute little quail's eggs in their beautifully-marbled shells
        Back in the good old days of the early 80s, cholesterol was an alien topic. And the egg-lover in me tucked into hard-boiled eggs without a qualm. #4 Comfort Food is...quail's eggs. They were a regular feature in the tuck box that Mummy used to pack for me to take to school. And when the bell rang to herald recess, I would gobble down the eggs in no time.

Putu mayam served with brown sugar
        Although I shy away from all kinds of Indian food as I am averse to the strong smell of their curry, surprisingly #5 Comfort Food is of Indian origin. Putu mayam are vermicelli-like noodles made from flour with water and coconut milk. It is steamed and served with grated coconut and brown sugar. My paternal grandmother introduced me to this dish. She often bought this from the itinerant hawker pedalling past her house. And being a wee toddler at that time, I would sink into the sweet string hoppers with glee.


        Growing up in Grandma's house offered other joys too. I especially loved it when Grandma had returned from the market as she would have invariably bought some Nyonya kuih home. Never one to act shy where food is concerned, I would fling open the doors of the food cupboard and take my pick. My favourite Nyonya kuih in those days was the Kuih Lapis (or Nine Layers Kuih in Cantonese). It is made from rice flour and sago flour with lots of coconut milk and some red and pink colouring. To be honest, the child in me relished the delights of carefully peeling out each of the nine layers more than devouring the tasty dessert. Nevertheless, this is my #6 Comfort Food. Speaking of Nyonya kuih, it conjures up images of itinerant hawkers of yesteryears. I still remember an old uncle who used to sell his Nyonya kuih in tiers of baskets fixed to a long pole, which he precariously balanced on his shoulders.

French toast served with kaya
        Another finger-licking gem from childhood days was the French toast made by Third Aunt. She would coat cut pieces of day-old bread with beaten egg and then fry them till they are crisp on the outside. And while they were still fairly warm, I would happily dip them into the kaya that Third Aunt had brought back from her husband's coffee shop. Old Town Kopitiam now serves this 7th Comfort Food of mine and I do occasionally go for it. But the French toast made by Old Town Kopitiam cannot hold a candle to those that Third Aunt used to make.

        My poor tummy rumbles again. This time, it is not as a weak protest of not having eaten, but it is a reaction to the thought of all these lovely comfort food. Mmm...should I raid the larder now?                                                                     

Saturday, 4 August 2012

De-stressing At The Hot Springs

        I am ashamed to admit that, despite staying literally at the doorstep of the Lost World of Tambun, I'd only been in the theme park once. And that was way back in 2005! It's sad to acknowledge that we often venture far away for scenic sights and thrilling times, only to miss equally exciting experiences right in our own backyards.

        All that changed last Wednesday when my colleagues and I proceeded to the Lost World Hot Springs & Spa after school. We'd been talking about trying it out ever since Elaine, newly transferred to my school from Johor, waxed lyrical about the place. Yes, you read that correctly. It took a non-Ipohan to entice four Ipohans to try out something in our own city. Even more embarrassing was, out of the five of us who went there that evening after taking advantage of the fasting month early school dismissal, Elaine was the one who stays the furthest away while the other four of us stay just five minutes' away.

The ancient-looking facade of the Lost World of Tambun bathed in evening lights

       There were slight initial complaints when we had to pay RM15 for the entrance ticket as well as a refundable RM10 for a magnetic wristband to scan ourselves in. 


        But any morsel of dissatisfaction dissipated upon setting eyes on the beautifully-landscaped hot springs. Covering an area of 80,000 square feet, a whopping RM2 million was required for this latest addition to the theme park. Opened daily from 6 to 10 p.m., the hot springs and spa boasts of several attractions.

Luminous lights at the Saphira's Lair
            After changing into our swimsuits, we excitedly made our way to the first pool, the Saphira's Lair. It was an ideal introduction to the world of hot springs as the temperature of the waters here range from a comfortable 37 degrees to 40 degrees Celsius. Saphira, by the way, is a loyal and wise female dragon from mythology. Soaking legs first, followed by bodies, in the warm waters was most enjoyable. Our aching shoulders and back muscles also benefited a lot from being pounded by the water jets of the numerous gargoyles. 

The Geyser of Tambun erupts every hour over the Infinity Pool with subtle lighting effects and sprouts thermal hot springs water 40 feet up

          Next up on our exploration list was the Infinity Pool, with water temperatures at 40 degrees Celsius. At one end of the Infinity Pool was a pizza, sandwiches and hot dogs kiosk run by Italia Mia (the aromatic smells wafting in made our stomachs rumble a little) and at the other end was a volcanic waterfall. Submerging in the healing waters of the Infinity Pool was truly terrific as we were accompanied by the calming sounds of the cascading waterfall. And at every hour, the Geyser of Tambun erupts (reminded me of the Pohutu Geyser at Rotorua, New Zealand) and treats visitors to a spectacular display of lights. 

Reflexology pebbles fitted to the floor of the Foot Spa
        We adventurous souls then went on to brave pain at the Foot Spa. Walking one round on the reflexology pebbles was not an easy feat and there were sounds of "ouch", "aww" and "aiyah" from time to time. The knowledge that the tormenting pebbles help to reduce stress, cleanse the body of toxins, trigger the release of endorphins and stimulate the lymphatic system steered us to complete the walk. Clap! Clap! Clap!

One of the three massage huts at the Crystal Spa
         The soothing smell of lemongrass beckoned us to check out the Crystal Spa. A range of massages was on the menu. I was quick to note that a 45-minute aromatherapy massage would set one back at RM80! This is a little steep compared to what I would normally pay for a massage. But there may come an occasion (say a birthday self-pampering) when I decide to indulge a little.


The Crystal Pool --- specially designed with crystal tiles that glimmer
         We then stumbled upon the highlight of the evening (and in my opinion, the Jewel of the hot springs) --- the Crystal Pool. Nestled amidst luxuriant greens, the Crystal Pool offered a sense of privacy. Although the waters are supposedly at 40 degrees Celsius, we thought it was a bit hotter than that. But it was incredibly relaxing to lower our bodies into the thermal waters. The gorgeous lights on the trees gave an illusion of shooting stars, adding to the magical atmosphere. We stayed there for quite some time, alternating between enjoying the therapeutic waters and lying on the cool tiles.

         Sadly, soon it was time for us to leave, but not before plans were made to return for another round of relaxation before the fasting month (which equals early school dismissal) ends. For me, the return to the hot springs came even earlier as dearest hubby was jealous that he had been left out so on the following evening, we had a date there.

          It was undeniably romantic to relax under the stars with your loved one. Needless to say, we spent a long time at the Crystal Spa, where we were away from prying eyes and had the "world" to ourselves. Hubby fell in love with the place  :)

The Steam Cave, which acts as a sauna
        With my knight in shining armour holding my hand protectively, we walked below the cascading waterfall at the Infinity Pool to enter the 45 degrees Celsius Steam Cave. The sauna-like steam cave was touted to eliminate toxins from one's body. Being enclosed in the quiet and softly-lit cave was thrilling and romantic at the same time. There was nothing to be feared yet I was most glad for the presence of my hubby. He led me on to the opposite end of the cave which yielded an exit for one to be cooled down by fresh air. Again, there was absolute privacy at that small pool so we were ensconced there for a while, before venturing through the steam cave again and back out to the Infinity Pool. 

           After sweating it out at the Steam Cave, we summoned up our courage to test out the last attraction of the Hot Springs --- the 43 degrees hot Top Of The World Jacuzzi. It was completely deserted as not many can brave the super hot waters. Toes were dipped in, slowly followed by the feet...the waters were really far too hot for my liking...but hubby prodded me to be braver. I inched myself in, and promptly skipped out after a minute. However, the sight of my valiant hero submerging his entire body into the hot hot waters, lured me in again. And this time I made it!!! Once my body had overcome the initial shock of the heat, it relaxed and soon I found the experience quite invigorating. I could literally feel the knots in my muscles melting away. But we were mindful of the advice not to soak in there for more than 5 minutes.

        I really give the Lost World Hot Springs & Spa a big thumbs up and it will definitely be a regular respite for my weary soul. The fact that the thermal waters at the hot springs come from a natural source (minus the pungent smell of sulphur) and that it is not recycled (the waters flow out into the Kopisan River) lays to rest any doubt of the lack of hygiene. It truly is the ultimate relaxing, de-stressing and therapeutic experience!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Saying goodbye for now

The end came
Swiftly,
A part of life's game
Claiming me inevitably,
Saying goodbye for now.


The tears flow
Freely,
Mourning loss of life's glow
Clasping your hands quietly,
Saying goodbye for now.


I lived, loved and gave
Happily,
From heaven above I wave
To my dear ones lovingly,
Saying goodbye for now.


From you, I learned and grew
Wondrously,
Clinging to memories of you
Tenderly,
Saying goodbye for now.


We have to let go, however hard
Unwillingly,
But over you, I will guard
Unwaveringly,
Saying goodbye for now.


In my heart, your words will remain
Eternally,
I will let go but my love for you will never wane
Infinitely,
Saying goodbye for now.

This poem is for my dear friend, who buried her beloved father today.




Sunday, 18 March 2012

Accepting praises graciously

        Whilst in the midst of consoling a friend who had recently lost her mother, something she said struck a chord. Throughout the last eighteen months that Mona had been nursing her mother, she never failed to tell her mother how much she was loved. Mona lamented that her mother had been very modest and she doubted that her mother had realised what a joy she had been. "I often wondered if she truly believed that she could generate so much love and affection," said Mona of her mother.
        Likewise, my mum always plays it down when I praise her for this and that. She would protest whenever I compliment her on her cooking. She would look at me increduously when I tell her that her beauty radiates from within. And she thinks I am lying when I say she is the kindest person I know. 
        Most people around us tend to negate praise or even turn positive words into something negative. I am equally guilty. When people attributed my securing a scholarship to my exam results, I smiled uncomfortably and answered, "I was just lucky." When friends heaped flattering remarks on my new hairstyle, I squirmed in embarrassment. When colleagues patted me on the back for some good work that I had done, I was quick to dismiss it, "Oh, it was nothing."
        Worse, at times we may even suspect that the person has an ulterior motive or may be slyly insinuating the opposite when a praise is given. When I was told that I read very well, it crossed my mind as to whether that person was trying to get into my good books. When praised for a new blouse that I was wearing, it occurred to me that the person could mean I look like a fat cow. When an ex-student made it a point to express his gratitude to me for bringing English alive to him, there was a fleeting thought as to whether he had been bored to death in my class.
        All these could stem from a low self esteem or a super active suspicious mind. Whatever reason it could be, I have realised that I am not being fair to myself as well as to others. By rejecting a compliment, I am denying myself the opportunity to feel good about myself. At the same time, I am robbing others the joy of having made someone's day with a sincere praise.
        I resolve to make a conscious change. The next time I am complimented, I shall accept the praise graciously. I will not eye the person suspiciously and dissect the praise. I shall not negate or dismiss the compliment. I will not downplay my achievement or ability. Instead, I shall smile sincerely, thank the person and go on to feel good about myself.
"The more you praise and celebrate your life,
the more there is to celebrate."
- Oprah Winfrey 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Visiting the Land of Cleopatra

When hubby chose Egypt as our holiday destination in December 2010, I was less than enthusiastic. Although the promise of iconic pyramids and imposing tombs of pharaohs would delight the history buff in me, Egypt had never been in my list of must-visit destinations. But I am truly glad that we went ahead with the trip for we returned with fond memories of an exciting experience.

Which tour to Egypt would be complete without marvelling at the many pyramids around? Our tour included a stop at the Pyramid of Djoser, believed to be the first pyramid to be built in Egypt. Some argue that it is not a true pyramid for its sides are stepped and its top is truncated with a flat surface. Nevertheless, it did take our breaths away, as did the magnificent Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one remaining largely intact. Standing before the enormous Pyramids of Giza, one cannot help but marvel at the ingenious architecture used by the Egyptians in those days.

What else comes to mind when Egypt is mentioned? Surely visions of the sandy desert and its ultimate desert transport would surface in one's mind. Gritting my teeth to endure the scorching hot weather and dusty sand conditions, I joined my tour members in riding a safari jeep across vast desert plains, up and down sand dunes to arrive at a Bedouin settlement. The highlight of that excursion was a thrilling camel ride. Praying hard that this invaluable animal of the desert would not take a dislike to me and decide to fling me off its sturdy humps, I braved myself to go on a ride. For a moment, I felt transported back in time and fantasized being Lawrence of Arabia!
 






Who can dispute the significance of the Nile River to ancient Egyptians? They prospered because of it and modern Egypt is still dependent upon it. The Nile River also plays an important role in the Bible, being where baby Moses was placed in a waterproof basket and having its waters turned to blood during the Exodus. Therefore, when I knew a cruise along the longest river in the world was included in the itinerary, I could not contain my excitement.

Why is a cruise along the Nile an excellent opportunity to immerse oneself in Ancient Egyptian civilization? It is because the cruise is tailored to stop at a large number of monuments and temples, many of which are superbly preserved and maintained. One such
monument is the majestic and massive Great Temple of Abu Simbel, built as a lasting memorial to Pharaoh Ramesses II. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even one who scorns the belief and worship of ancient Egyptian Gods cannot help but be awed by the Temple of Kom Ombo, an unusual double temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Horus. Many of 

these temple ruins still house intricate wall carvings, as can be seen here at the Temple of Horus, Edfu. I was indeed impressed as I wound my way around the temple to admire the pictures and hieroglyphics left by the ancient Egyptians.

Where can one go for a hot air balloon ride? One answer lies in Egypt, over the Valley of the Kings. Our hot air balloon ride coincided with the morning of Christmas and it was a remarkable way to spend Christmas with a loved one. Compared to the view over Cappadocia, Turkey, the view of the Valley of the Kings, Egypt, is nothing to shout about. Nevertheless, it was a great feeling to be floating over the hundreds of tombs of past pharaohs. Give a holler and Tutankhamun just might hear you from down below!
    
What other memorable moments did we experience during our Egypt tour? One such unforgettable moment was, without a doubt, belly dancing with the busty lady during our cruise. Hubby definitely had the matching belly, albeit not the boobs. Another unique experience was our semi submarine ride on the Red Sea. Yet another much-cherished moment would be savouring the sunset in the arms of your loved one on the upper deck of the cruise ship.



These and many other things seen and done in Egypt are why our holiday there will always hold a special spot in my heart. Thank you, darling, for suggesting Egypt  :)







Friday, 16 March 2012

Perfecting the art of multitasking

        "Could you stop doing that and listen to me for a minute?" implores hubby, as he waits impatiently for me to cast aside my exercise books. I reluctantly put down my pen, swivel around with an interested smile plastered on my face and listen to him share the latest e-mail.
        Being a man, hubby is multitasking challenged. He is unable to do more than one task at one go. When forced to perform two tasks at the same time, he often gives up midway in frustration. Neither can he accept the fact that others, namely his wife, are able to successfully multitask. He is often irritated when I persist in handling more than an action at a time, as he is of the opinion that I will fail to accomplish both, despite being proven otherwise time and again.
        Now before I arouse anger in any male reader, I must emphasize that I did not conjure the theory of women being better at multitasking than men. Many studies have been carried out and all the results prove this. A neurologist at the University of California has confirmed that the nerve connections in the female brain are thirty percent more developed than their counterparts in the male brain. These nerve connections are responsible for allowing information to flow more easily from one side of the brain to the other, thus enabling women to focus on more than one thing at a time. I do not need these scientists to hand me the proof; both my dad and hubby are the living examples!
        There are many, usually men of course, who do not favour multitasking. They argue that when your concentration is spread around, less quality is achieved. As a modern day career woman,  I depend heavily on multitasking to fully utilise time. Fortunately, I am fairly good at it and practice does make perfect.
        Some examples of multitasking in my daily life :
1.   Clearing the clutter on my dressing table as I blow dry my hair
2.   Folding laundry and then reading the newspaper whilst watching tv
3.   Washing dirty dishes during intervals of stir-frying and simmering
4.   Keying into my phone the list of things to buy on my next trip to Tesco whilst sitting on my throne
5.   Calling up for appointments or deleting messages as I wait in the car for my parents who have gone to get something from the shop
6.   Applying lipstick or pinning on my name tag as I wait at the traffic lights
7.   Sorting out the junk that has accumulated in the glove compartment while waiting for the lights to change
8.   Scrubbing and spraying water on the bathroom tiles and shower screen when I am in the shower
9.   Watering the plants as I wait for my ride to arrive
10. Wiping the kitchen counters or washing something as I wait for the microwave to ding
11. Replying text messages and participating in face-to-face conversations while waiting for the food to arrive at the coffee shop (this is something that I am not proud of and vow to stop doing as it is unforgivably rude to engage in other tasks whilst talking with a friend or family member)
12. Thinking of 101 things that need to be settled as I wait in line at the supermarket cashier or at the post office
13. Keeping a conversation going on the phone and at the same time, marking my students' work
14. Replying emails or checking facebook notifications in between marking exercise books
15. Replying or deleting text messages whilst on the treadmill
16. Running to the bathroom to brush my teeth or wash my face in between commercial breaks
17. Mentally preparing the following day's teaching lessons and maintaining a look of serious concentration as I sit through assemblies and meetings (keeping my fingers crossed that my boss never stumbles upon this blog entry)
18. Planning the next dinner menu or the next day's agenda as I pretend to listen attentively to hubby drone on and on about his latest bug photos and contribute appropriately to the one-sided conversation
19. Catching up on the latest with my good friend at work as we both mark our own books and occasionally attending to students who come to us for one thing or another
20. Pondering on what to write for my next blog to take my mind off the pain as my facial therapist squeezes out my blackheads

        Although I am a compulsive multitasker, I am well aware that at times in life, I need to just sit back and relax. I know life is too short and should be appreciated. Therefore, I do take time to savour life by enjoying a dinner with family members without interruptions, exchanging news on the phone with mummy dearest, delighting in a good book to wind down at the end of the day and having a quiet moment with my Lord.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Missing Toad In The Hole

        Although many people criticize British food as being bland and boring, I beg to differ. Whilst staying with my host parents in Plymouth, they had introduced me to many a local dish, one of which is the toad in the hole.
        Aha! Gotcha! You thought I was going to talk about a certain animal in my garden hole, didn't you? I have no love for toads, as well as their cousins, the frogs, having inherited the dislike for them from my dear dad, who suffers from ranidaphobia. So when I first heard of this peculiar name for a dish, I was most hesitant to try it.
        But one integral ingredient in this traditional English dish caught my fancy. It was the Yorkshire pudding batter that triumphed over the aversion to the unappetizing name. Being a stickler for all kinds of batter, I could not say no to this toad in the hole, which is essentially sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter. It is often accompanied by vegetables and onion gravy. One bite into it, and I was hooked. I remember having my fill of the toad in the hole during my last days in England as it would be difficult to find this dish being served outside the country.
        How on earth was this icky name bestowed upon this delightful dish? Nobody knows for sure but one reason could be due to the dish's resemblance of a toad sticking its head out of a hole. But then again, the Brits do have some weird food names like Bubble And Squeak, as well as Pig In The Blanket. Ah! This is fodder for another blog. Both dishes, as well as many other traditional English dishes, are simply scrumptious. Anyone who claims that British food is unimaginative and unpalatable needs to have his or her head examined!
        The Internet, as always, is a wealth of information. I managed to google many different recipes for this wonderful toad in the hole. And since I am missing the toad in the hole, I am going to try my hand at making this dish one of these days  :)


       

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Giving thanks for life

     Friday 2 March 2012 began like most mundane Fridays. I woke hubby up for work, then got ready for work myself. On most Fridays, I have to go to school early for my Catholic Society meetings. Never a fan of canteen food, I prepared my lunch to take to school, in spite of a slight headache clouding my day.
     The headache began to take a turn for the worse as I used the laptop to revise Luke's gospel with my charges. I felt my head spinning and nausea threatened to throw me into embarrassment. I prayed for the dizziness and nausea to ease so that I could finish my meeting. Fortunately, I managed to plough through the entire one hour and forty five minutes. Dismissing my boys fifteen minutes early, I went back to my table to rest.
     My discomfort yo-yoed its grip on me throughout the day. At times, I had to rest and at times, I was well enough to carry out my lessons in class. But towards the end of the day, the toll was too much. The dizziness and nausea returned with a vengeance. Driving home was an agony. To make matters worse, it was pouring and traffic was down to a crawl. Throughout the journey, I was praying hard to be able to reach home safely as I was truly in no condition to drive. I kept telling myself that as long as I reached home safe, it didn't matter how late or if I had vomited in the car.
     In the end, God did deliver me home safely. But before I could swallow my painkillers and sink into the comfort of my bed, I had a phonecall from hubby. He was supposedly on his way to Kuala Lumpur as he had a photography workshop over the weekend.
     I was shocked to hear that hubby had been involved in an accident. He didn't furnish me with further details, apart from telling me that he was all right and that he was coming home. My first instinct was to worry, but I was physically unable to do that as I needed to reach for my painkillers and stagger to my bed.
     Lying on my bed, willing hubby to call so that I can glean more information, I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would bring him home safely, just as He had delivered me home safely a while ago. Soon my phone rang again. Hubby had called to update me on the latest and he was able to reveal more about how the accident had happened.
     Folly had got the better of him and he confessed that he had been speeding in the rain. His car had skidded and had spun a full circle, crashing into the dividers left and right. His front bumper had been savagely ripped off and flung to the back of the road. He had a flat tyre and was now hobbling home.
     But the most important thing was he was physically unharmed. At that moment, I was convinced that God must have been watching over him. There is no other explanation how hubby had escaped such a perilous turn of events, unscathed.
     It was close to midnight when hubby finally arrived home. He told me to brace myself before I went out to take a look at his car. An icy cold fear gripped my heart when I saw the condition of his car as that proved how much danger he had been in.
     In those mere seconds, my hubby could have been lost to me forever. He was, and till today, still is, shaken. I have emerged from Friday, 2 March 2012, with renewed awe of God's power and grace. In moments like these, you realize what is of paramount importance. All of a sudden, physical discomfort, money, looks, job, race, politics, reputation...none of these matter much. Life is about more.
     Life is about giving thanks for every breath in our bodies, being thankful for every morning that we can wake up. Life is about spreading cheer and good will whenever we can, bringing smiles and smoothing away frowns. Life is about cherishing every moment spent with loved ones and anticipating the next time we see each other again. Life is about sharing something that we know with others, thereby enriching their lives. Life is about dismissing petty issues and savouring the joys life offers. Life is about building bridges that transcend the boundaries of gender, generation, race and religion.
     One day later, I again discovered how true this is. I learned that my niece's boyfriend had suddenly passed away on Friday morning due to a clot in his brain. He was a young man of 23, recently graduated, poised to start working, had a gorgeous girlfriend. The world was his oyster. How could he have known that his life was to end so abruptly and prematurely?
     He didn't know. I too do not know how much longer my Lord wants to lend me to this world. But for the rest of my time here, I will give thanks for life.
  

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Valentine's Day Tribute To The One Who Means The World To Me

        Contrary to what many youngsters think, Valentine's Day is not solely dedicated to the partner or spouse we love. It is a time to pay tribute to people who are dear to us, and to tell them how much they mean to us.
        She is the one who has stood steadfast beside me all these years. Her loyalty to me has never wavered. Even at times when others doubted, she never questioned. When I was teased or bullied, she rallied to my rescue. And even now when I can stand up for myself, she is still my pillar of strength, in whom I can lean on to take a breather when times are trying.
        She is the one who held my hands and steadied me as I took my first steps. She taught me my first words, and went on to read with me the Ladybird series. She tirelessly taught me arithmetic, assigned worksheets for me to work on and revised other schoolwork with me throughout primary schooldays. In my secondary school years, she sat with me in the nights as I did my homework or revision. Even as her eyelids grew heavy, she valiantly tried to stay awake for fear of tempting me to doze off as well.
        She is the one who devotedly nursed me back to health every time I was ill. I can clearly remember the times she played card games to cheer up a moody sick child. And the time she bought me a doll and waved it in front of me as I woke up groggily from a fever-induced slumber. During the agonizing chicken pox days, she was a rock. She soothed the itches and tolerated my screams when she washed my hair and burst some blisters on my scalp. And when it was all over, she drove me out to paint the town red after the imposed confinement. Even though I am now an adult who is capable of looking after herself, she still frets and fusses whenever I fall sick.
        She is the one I turn to for A to Z. She knows my deepest desires and innermost secrets. We share everything under the sun. We instinctively know what the other is thinking and we often finish each other's sentences. I know it may sound a little uncanny but we can sometimes even feel what the other party is undergoing. We are very much a part of each other. On days when I do not see her, I do not feel 100% alive. At times when I feel a little under the weather, the sight of her and time spent with her can be a more effective cure than Panadol and Piriton put together.
        So Mummy dearest, this tribute is for you. You are the one who means the world to me. I love you  for always believing in me, for always encouraging me to believe in myself, for giving me a solid foundation, for incessantly being there for me. Thank you so much for being my Mama. Happy Valentine's Day to my beautiful mother!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Feasting on Chap Goh Mei

In true 1Malaysia spirit, this long weekend is rendered extra special because all the three main races have their own stakes in the celebration. Yesterday was a holy day for the Muslims as it was Prophet Muhammad's birthday. Chinese New Year formally ends today with Chap Goh Mei. Devout Hindus will throng the temples to give thanks and fulfil their vows on Thaipusam, which falls tomorrow.

It has indeed been a fruitful long weekend for me, a welcome respite for the weary working soul. Although I was slogging around the house on Saturday and Sunday, I enjoyed surveying the fruits of my labour. In preparation for hubby's guest, who will be checking into our humble abode in a fortnight's time, I have been sprucing up the house. When the urge and mood kick in, I can vouch for how therapeutic tidying and cleaning can be. Witnessing the transformation from messy and dusty to neat and sparkling clean can certainly boost one's spirits and esteem.

After all the hard work, I decided to celebrate the Chinese version of Valentine's Day with Suet Fun, who is like a sister to me. To digress a little, I'll explain why Chap Goh Mei (the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year) is akin to Valentine's Day. In the olden days, fair maidens headed to rivers and lakes where they would throw in their mandarin oranges. It was believed that the man who picks up their orange would be their future destiny.

Being of the practical sort (and also because we've already found our own destiny), Suet Fun and I had no plans to pollute the Kinta River with our mandarin oranges. Instead, we opted to fill our bellies with a sumptuous meal at Restoran Rasa Lain in Bercham. It was Suet Fun's first time there and she thanked me for introducing her to such good food. We shared a claypot of tung hoon (vermicelli) with deep fried fish meat and a platter of steamed la-la (clams). Restoran Rasa Lain is famed for its claypot tung hoon with crabs but we dainty ladies did not deign to dirty our hands cracking the claws. So we chose to have the claypot tung hoon accompanied by fish meat instead. When the claypot arrived, it looked like a really huge amount but we hungry souls were not in the least worried. And because it was so delicious, not a drop of the soup nor a thread of tung hoon was left. We also attacked the steamed la-la with fervour as they were succulent and scrumptious, being accompanied by garlic, ginger, spring onions and chillies.



Tonight's dinner cost us RM26 each but given the amount of seafood, it was truly reasonable. But more importantly, it was dining with the right company that made the affair truly memorable. Happy Chap Goh Mei, jie jie!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Indulging in a full body massage

     The week-long Chinese New Year break draws to an end. It's back to the grind again tomorrow. To end the break in style and to cushion the woes of working again, I decided to indulge in a full body massage.
     I vividly recall the last time I went for a massage. It was in Chiengmai last October. Together with a bunch of good friends, we tried the ever popular Thai massage one evening, and loved it so much that we returned for another round the following night. There was nothing seedy about it. Prices were extremely reasonable and the masseuses were excellent!
      Many beauty salons in Ipoh offer spa and body massage services as well. Prices can range from RM39.90 to above RM150 an hour. Being careful with my pennies, I have scouted around and found one that offered a fairly good deal.
      Pushing modesty aside, I lie down on the bed, revelling in the scent of aromatherapy oils. Soft music was being played in the background. Lights were dimmed. Jemmy, my masseuse for the day, proceeded to knead my aching muscles. She started with gentle cautious strokes and after confirming with me, her massage gathered momentum and pressure. At one point, it was so relaxing that I even dozed off for a while.
       At the end of the massage session, I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated. The tired, aching and knotted muscles will soon return (as they always do, after a few days of hard work) but at least, for now, I can say that I'm recharged and ready for battle. Unlike the tai-tais, I cannot afford to go for weekly massages of course. So when the body screams and protests in pain again, I'll opt for another tactic, "Darling, I'm aching all over! You love me, don't you?"  ;)

       

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Tossing to good health

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      "Lo hei, lo hei!" or tossing of the "yee sang"... that's what my parents and I did this evening. We were given a box of "yee sang" by the proprietor of Public Restaurant (he's a relative of ours) and we tossed to good health in the comfort of our own home. Thank you, Uncle Kok.
     As a child, I never delighted in this Chinese New Year must-have specialty. I detested the smell of the coriander and raw fish. So when my grandparents, aunts and cousin dug into the dish with ardent fervour, I picked out only the crispy bits. 
Funny how one's taste buds can change. As an adult, I had somehow developed an interest in this "yee sang". I still keep the despicable coriander at arm's length (or is it chopstick's length?). But I now dig and toss the "yee sang" in search of the elusive raw fish! Sharing "yee sang" with my dad is a bonus as he still shies away from the raw fish. So he'll rummage through his scoop for the raw fish and transfer it to my pile. Mmmm...
         
 Well, this has been my fourth "yee sang" for this year (the first was courtesy of my boss, the second was eaten at the family's reunion dinner and the third was part of a dinner given by hubby's aunt). I doubt I'd be having any more for this Year of the Water Dragon. So whilst performing the obligatory "lo hei, lo hei", I tossed to good health. Good health for not only myself, but more importantly, for my loved ones  :)