Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More pictures of poetry

That's me holding a huge beach bag.

The Sun, the Sea, the Sand

After another eventful year, we finally got to go on holiday again. Our "simple-life" goal has always been to indulge in all the "S"s - last year's trip to Hong Kong was an indulgence in the shops and the stomach - before I got diagnosed with all those allergies.

This time round, we opted to indulge in the sun, the sea, the sand, the stomach and...the Silence!

Have you ever been to a place where there is absolute silence? I have never - not in Singapore at least. Even at East Coast Park, you could always hear - besides the airplanes overhead - sounds of other beach goers, sounds of the cars whizzing by in the distance...and just...sounds.

This was definitely the best holiday we have had so far - far surpassed our experiences at Bali and Phuket.

This is the wonderful resort we went to - the Tanjung Rhu at Langkawi - and those other people on Tripadvisor couldn't have said it better. Someone described it as "heaven on earth" and another described it as "paradise" and none of them are exaggerating. The resort's website says it even better - "1001 acres of poetry". And those wonderful pictures you see on the hotel website are nothing compared to the real thing when you get there.

That's how it was for Tin Hang Zai and me! Here's how we spent our 5 days there on the "S"s - (minus 1 day because we needed to take a day trip to check out what else was in Langkawi)
  • Stomach - we were on an all-inclusive plan where all meals were included and you could eat from any of the resorts' restaurants *unlimited* - and room service *all day*. (now how cool is that?) - and because I had informed them earlier about my shocking allergies - they took great pains to accomodate my meals. I had an egg-free dairy-free selection of 3 different breads baked for me daily and they even told me they had more on standby in case I happened to request it for room service at night!
  • Sleeping - someone described our bedroom as "massive" and it really was
  • Sun & Sea - having 2km of private beach, sunbeds scattered everywhere you might want to lounge around, and a half-empty resort is a good thing!
The Silence? Tin Hang Zai, Little Pixie and I took a walk one day along the entire stretch of beach - to the "Land of Far Beyond" - yes, the resort was THAT expansive - and we sat among some shrubs which sheltered us from the hot sun - and watched the sea and the islands far ahead and just sat still. And listenedto the sound of silence. It was AWESOME. I had never heard such silence before - there was just absolute peace, tranquility - and serenity. We really could have heard God whisper in there!

You've really got to see this place to believe it. It's the first time I've ever wanted to go back to a resort a 2nd time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My First Snowskin Mooncake

Life-post-allergy-discovery - I now have to learn how to make all my favourite foods in order to ensure I don't accidentally ingest anything that might make me sick.
This is one of the few recipes around that doesn't use milk / egg - and tastes just as good. (The commercial baked ones all use milk & eggs - and the snowskin ones - some do and some don't).
This recipe is adapted from Cheryl - the famous gal with those famous bakes. Her pictures look much better and she has even got some nice background as to the origins of mooncakes - so check out her post if you are keen.
Snowskin Mooncakes
115g Hong Kong Flour (steam for 15 minutes, leave to cool)
115g fried glutinous rice flour
210g icing sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
5 tablespoons cold water* I had to use 7 tablespoons plus a few more drops to make the dough wet enough.
1 teaspoon banana essence - I completely omitted this since I'm allergic to bananas anyway. I decided against using the store-bought pandan flavour cuz it smelt so..fake. I have since read somewhere that you could replace all the water in this recipe with pandan water.
2 tablespoons Hong Kong Flour (mix with 2 tablespoons hot water to form hot dough)
1.5 kg lotus paste * I used up approx 1kg of it - since I only bought a 1kg pack from Phoon Huat.
100g melon seeds (baked) - as this was my first time, I decided to omit this - but have since realised that adding this would improve the texture significantly.
salted egg yolks (steamed) - can't be bothered with this - since I'm allergic!
  • Sieve fried glutinous flour and Hong Kong flour, add in icing sugar.
  • Make a well in the centre, add shortening, water and hot dough, and knead until smooth.
  • Roll the dough and wrap lotus paste, press into moon cake mould.
  • Scale - if you are using the small size (which I used), scale at 29-30g for the filling, and 18-20g for the dough - just changed the ratio along the way in order to maximise the use of all the remaining ingredients - since Cheryl's original recipe doesn't give you any exact weight to go by.
  • Knock mooncake out from mould, chill and serve.

Cheryl scales hers at 1/3 total weight for dough and 2/3 total weight for filling, and Zu's recipe scales at something like 30g filling to 20g dough)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Simplicity through the Shops...and the Skin - Organic Skincare

You know I'm a walking encyclopaedia about all the poisons that go into skincare and what's all that hype about "organic" skincare.

After all my years of reading up, I've been using these baby products for myself.

Those brands that claim to be "organic" that you find in Watsons / Guardian are generally not all that "organic" - they merely use a few "natural" sounding ingredients and the rest is all that nasty petroleum-derived stuff).

These are a few brands that I would recommend and some comments about them.
  • Lavera
    If you want lipstick or lipgloss that won't poison you, this is the brand to go for (the rest are baby brands and don't carry makeup). The range of colours is good and very moisturising.

    For sunblock, this brand wins hands down. It's the cheapest for the amount of sunblock in the bottle. And none of the nasty ingredients that go into the other non-organic brands at Watsons/ Guardian.

    However, I have been trying their moisturiser for oily skin - and I'm not sure if it's doing me all that good since I started using it a month ago. It contains alcohol too (a no-no for skincare).
  • Aromababy
    This brand uses the least amount of ingredients for their Newborn Baby Lotion, which means it is least likely to irritate your skin should you have sensitive skin. However, their prices have gone up from when I first bought these products in 2005 - the 125 ml tube used to cost S$12 then, now it retails for S$28 at Robinsons. (!!!!)
  • Buds Baby
    I bought this today at Robinsons because it was much cheaper (cost per unit weight) compared to Aromababy. The list of ingredients is slightly longer, though I would say it's equally safe. (for me, I can't even take moisturisers with vanilla in them!!)
    Their sunblock is equally effective as Lavera's, but not as cheap if you compare the costs per unit weight.
  • GAIA
    I have tried their Baby Massage Oil for Little Pixie and I like it. Very short list of (safe) ingredients and price is the lowest amongst all 3 brands of Baby Massage Oil. Please do not even try Johnson & Johnson's or some other conventional baby brand like Avent or Mustela - they contain mineral oil which clogs pores!

    I bought their moisturiser too because, it is every bit as organic and safe as the rest - and it's also the cheapest. In fact, its advantage over Buds is that it doesn't use alien-sounding ingredients that Buds claim are safe.
Lastly, about the Pureen Fluoride-Free toothpaste. Fluoride isn't as good for teeth as the media would have you believe - at least that's what I read from the back-to-naturals literature. I have over the years tried buying fluoride-free toothpaste from Neways, from organic shops, and the cheapest I'd found was this brand called Nature's Gate (S$10 a tube). So I was elated to find this brand (it actually says : "fluoride-free - safe for baby" - can you believe it? If fluoride is harmful for babies then what makes it good for adults!?!?) selling for S$2.35, and it's sugar-free too!!!

Simplicity through the Shops ...and the Soles

Tin Hang Zai's Cushioned Slippers from Adidas and my Pink Crocs

Those of you who have known me through the years will know I can't stand window-shopping and shopping without a list. Those aimless strolls through the malls make me very nervous - with no promise of any "meaningful" outcome at the end of each trip.
I even think the last time I truly enjoyed shopping with THZ was when we were dating, like 10 years ago. Gasp!!
Well guess what, perhaps with the passage of time and with Little Pixie, I am learning not to be so hard on myself (why must every activity have a tangible outcome anyway?) and to well, indulge in the simple pleasures of life. Today I actually enjoyed window-shopping at Centrepoint with THZ and Little Pixie for like, 6 hrs!! We went to Robinsons, looked at "stuff", went to John Little, and then back to Robinsons, and then to Cold Storage!
About the Crocs - first, I wasn't even looking for shoes (see? that's what happens when you don't shop with a list). Second, I have never even been interested in Crocs after those horror stories about kids losing toes from wearing Crocs . THZ was smitten with the quirky Mary Janes and persuaded me to try them. And I was converted!!! They were so comfy I bought them right away and wore them out of Robinsons!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lousy Spa Experience

Since we're on the topic of spas, I thought I'd write about a past experience of ours.

We're not quite spa connoisseurs - but we had a really bad experience at this place before. The advertising and all those features in Her World magazines - goodness, we figured that the spa boss must have friends in the industry.

The "therapists" gave Tin Hang Zai and I different treatments even though we had both signed up for the same thing.

Mine gave me what I believed to be a Thai massage - his gave him what was supposed to pass for Swedish - we were never sure because they both didn't look trained. We had asked for a couple room but were cajoled into having separate rooms with an adjoining (!!!!) bathroom which the boss said was the "same as having a couple room" - I didn't hear from THZ until the massage was over! The boss insisted that I could have peeped at THZ if I'd wanted to (*roll eyes*)

Needless to say, we didn't have any heated mat on the massage. (The Ultimate Spa does - and that's really important for a skeletal person like me)

The "couple package" consisted of a single jacuzzi tub which we had to take turns to soak in because it was so tiny. So it was like, we took turns being scrubbed by the same therapist, so that the other person who was not being scrubbed would then soak in the jacuzzi. (Is this what is considered a "couple deal"!?!?!)

And, we were also booted out of the jacuzzi before time was up because they had overbooked the room. And, right after we exited the jacuzzi room, they checked another couple right in! I don't think they had the time to change the tub water / sterilise / clean anything! The boss also tried to convince us that the grimy looking stuff in the jacuzzi was from some "wine extracts"! After we saw the next couple walk in, we got the creeps and started wondering if the grime in our tub was from the previous couple! Urgh!

The Ultimate Spa

OK, the heading of this post is NOT an accolade given by me. It's the real name of the spa!!

I am actually quite surprised that I'm recommending this spa despite its lousy counter service. You have to check this place out.

We first went there on Tin Hang Zai's birthday - the masseuses (or therapists if you prefer) are REALLY GOOD!!! We liked it so much after that first time that we actually signed up a short package - $100 per session of scrub + massage + soaking in jacuzzi tub (or what is known as a hydrobath in spa lingo) - you get to choose from a variety of scrub "flavours" and you can choose any massage you want (they have a comprehensive list).

So far we've tried a few more masseuses (I mean, therapists) and I must give this place a thumbs up for having really competent, trained professionals in their team. They are STRONG and really know their stuff.

Barring the lousy counter service (we got our appointments screwed a couple of times), I would really recommend this place if you are looking for good therapists.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bento Breakfasts

Niceties introduced me to the concept of bentos. For various reasons (HFMD, Tin Hang Zai coming home too late, etc) , I've not been making dinners or lunches and have been depending on the Veteran's kindness for lunches and dinners (bless her heart).

Inspired by Niceties and Lunch-In-A-Box and Just Bento, I decided that since I wasn't making decent lunches and dinners for my two charges at home, I might as well focus my efforts on making nice bento-breakfasts that can double up as tea-time snacking and pre-dinner munchies for Tin Hang Zai's frequent late nights at work. (Plus make him feel special and pampered)

Menu for today:
Me - homemade wholemeal bread with NTUC-'s minimal-trans-fat and lactose-free margarine (since I'm allergic to butter now) and organic sausages from NTUC Finest
Little Pixie - Homemade wholemeal bread kosong with a slice of orange and homemade applesauce raisin wholemeal muffin
Tin Hang Zai - Homemade wholemeal bread with margarine and jam, whole orange minus 1 slice and homemade applesauce raisin wholemeal muffin

Artisan Bread Baking Class

I had been blessed with an opportunity to co-facilitate with Paul at a 3-day workshop with an offshore bank.

That paid for this bakery class. I had always wanted to attend some sort of formalised workshop where they teach you properly how to bake bread, instead of reading & fumbling my way through stacks and stacks of bread books at the library. I have been struggling with many bread books for over a year now, and until I attended this workshop, did not know how exactly the "dough window" was supposed to look like.

We focused on ciabatta and baguettes in this workshop - but this is all I need for now! It's a allergenic-person's dream come true - lean dough (no need for dairy stuff like butter or cream or eggs or even bread improvers - which also contain dairy & egg derivatives).

The flavour is ... sensational!! Tin Hang Zai and Little Pixie loved it - and I ended up eating this every day for a week. I'm still making this every week. And, I also learnt that what passes for ciabatta in Delifrance is not the "real thing". Duh.

Nothing beats learning from the professionals. The name of the company is CerealTech, a bio-technology & food ingredients company. Check them out if you are keen.

I was cheated by the Durian Man!!!

Little Pixie and I were on our way to the Goose's Place. As we were going into the lift, this honest-looking man with a heavy Malaysian accent accosted me, telling me he was delivering durians in the neighbourhood and had excess to sell. He claimed he was from Yong Peng, and had these branded durians to let go.

I was in a hurry, and thought I'd buy the Goose and the Gnome some durians just to make them happy. The hawker said he'd come up to the Goose's place to show us the durians.

Well, he and his "accomplice" opened up two durians that smelled fantastic - even the Goose (who usually has NOTHING nice to say about anything) said they were ok, and so I bought both for a whopping $22!!!!

The other side of the durians were either rotten or unripe, totally inedible. Not to mention leaving a sour taste in our mouths.

Once again, I have learnt not to ever buy things from hawkersI don't trust again. Later that weekend, a trip to my regular (and HONEST) fruit man turned up 5 packs of fantastic durians for $10!!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Sun, the Sea and the Sand

Isn't this beautiful? I really like the weather at East Coast. There's really nothing like lazing by the beach, listening to the sounds of the sea and the planes and watching the sailboats go by...

Overkneaded Dough

All the cookbooks keep warning about not over-kneading dough, but I've never seen what that actually looked like. And I never knew if my own hand-kneaded dough was actually over-kneaded or under-kneaded.

Well, one fine day, I was attempting to make a 100% wholemeal bread, since I had managed to buy wholemeal BREAD flour.

Instead of trusting the fact that the BREAD flour would develop gluten beautifully, albeit speckled with the wholemeal bits, I put it through THREE rounds of the bread-maker kneading, making this a total of 1 hour's worth of machine-kneading.

At the 40-min mark, the dough had looked beautiful. Greedy for perfection, I hit the button for another 20 minutes worth of kneading - only to be greeted by this!

The bread that came out was flavorful, but well, it tasted like Little Pixie's teething ring.

Nice Hospital Food!

Cosmo just gave birth. (Actually this was a month ago, but I've been too ill to do anything else except resting and eating and BSF homework.).

The set meals look so good!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We've got Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD)!!!

So I had been diagnosed with multiple food allergies, and then I had been spending this hiatus learning how to prepare edible allergy-free food from my mom.

And I had been training for a 10km run. And enjoying life without allergy attacks.

Day 1
I felt I somehow wasn't in top form when running. I shrugged it off. I had a mysterious-looking rash on my arm after jogging, which I blamed on a caterpillar that had fallen onto me whilst jogging. I was nursing a very very slight cough that sounded like Airport's cough after he came back from Spain.

Day 2
Little Pixie came back from her Bible Study Children's Group sniffling. And I still didn't feel well enough to do Pilates, let alone run. Little Pixie developed a fever out of the blue.

Day 3
We panicked when Little Pixie's fever continued. I had a ulcer! And I saw a 1-mm ulcer on her tongue! Tin Hang Zai was convinced the hypochondriac me was seeing things. The doctor told us to go back the next day to confirm either way.

Day 4
Confirmed HFMD!!! Little Pixie's fever hadn't gone down, and the rashes-on-hands-and-feet still hadn't appeared. But she had sores inside her mouth.

Day 5
My cough and mysterious rash still hadn't gone away. I was feeling quite ill all over. I developed a nose-block, and post-nasal drip.... similar to symptoms of an allergy attack.

Day 6 (Today)
Little Pixie has rashes all over her face & tummy & back but nothing on arms & feet! We rushed to the doctor's again. He said it's all part of the HFMD. He found sores in my mouth!! So I have HFMD too!!

I can't help blaming myself for this spate of events. I have always assumed that because I'm a SAHM and Little Pixie doesn't go to childcare yet, we'd be safe from all these........... but....

So now we're resting at home, feasting on bread, ice-cream and sweets (the classic cure).

There's a Big Hero who's now bustling around the house looking after his two angels.

Everybody please stock up on Dettol!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

65C Tang Zhong Wonder Bread!

I chanced upon Do What I Like's blog by accident, and was amazed that there was indeed such a bread! With this, my family members can stop complaining about the bricks I keep serving them for breakfast!

This is the half-wholemeal version, and of course, ever since I was diagnosed with multiple allergies - I have made the necessary modifications.

150g bread flour
100g wholemeal flour
110g water/milk or (30g egg + 80g liquid) ( I used all water)
3.5g salt
26g sugar
5g yeast (I used something like 1/2 teaspoon, you can use less if you have the time to spare)
60g tangzhong
26g butter (I used Spectrum's trans-fat free shortening)

Note about yeast:
I personally believe after reading all the classical bread books that too much yeast in the bread is good for neither us or the bread, so unless I'm using the bread machine, I usually use much less yeast than is called for in the recipe. I just compensate for this with a longer proof time. And more often than not, I've discovered that even after proofing for just a couple of hours using half the amount of yeast, the dough doubles quite nicely. It's probably due to our warm weather! (American & European "room temperature" is 21 deg C!!!)

Knead like crazy. I kneaded it with my Philips handheld mixer for like 30 min till the mixer looked like it was going to go kaput. Even then, the dough was still sticky-feeling and the "dough window" refused to appear.

DO NOT add more flour.

I hand-kneaded for an extra 20 min and even then, the "dough window" didn't really appear satisfactory. I left it in a bowl and cling-wrapped it anyway.

Tin Hang Zai then asked me to go out, so I had to shove the entire thing into the fridge and when we came back 4 hrs later, to my amazement it had grown more than double. Since we were going out again (or was it bedtime, I can't remember), I punched it down (it felt so hard that it didn't seem to want to deflate at all), and put it back into the fridge.

The next morning, I was dismayed to find that the punched down dough had stayed...punched down!! It looked like a crumpled heap. I left it on the counter and as usual, forgot about it whilst I went about my household chores.

A couple of hours later, it had doubled nicely! Bake at 180 deg C for 25-35 min. I left it for 40 min and it was a tad dry. So I figure 30-35 min should do just fine.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Food Allergy Attacks!

For the longest of time, I only knew I had serious lactose intolerance. I just didn't think it was anything more than that - a simple intolerance which could be easily rectified by taking lactase enzymes if I so wanted. I continued feasting on my own homemade butter cookies and goodies.

After a lot of reading up over the past few years and months, I came to the realisation that the occasional bout of "allergic rhinitis", respiratory and skin ailments that had plagued me all my life - was not triggered by just my environment, but also (horrors) by my food.

I had settled on two possible tests - the ALCAT test and the ELISA test, as early as last year. My preference was the ELISA test - but the only place I knew which carried this test here was this rather sleazy-looking importer of fish oil, without even a qualified doctor on its premises. So I didn't do anything for almost a year. By a sheer stroke of God's providence, Tin Hang Zai's boss has a super-allergic daughter too, who had once done the same test which I sought - at this place at Gleneagles - the Gilead Ear Nose & Throat Centre. (what an apt name!)

After 2 months, my blood test results came out. Tin Hang Zai and I were overjoyed for a few hours (finally!!! I can stop eating foods that make me sick!) ... and then the reality set in.

Here's the list:

Severely Allergic
  • Eggs (think: Char Kway Teow, Carrot Cake, Oyster Omelette, McDonald's Breakfasts, Sunny-side eggs, pandan chiffon cakes, lor mee, egg prata...goodness, all the things I love!)
  • Milk and all its derivatives - I have to check if prata is cooked in vegetable oil or in ghee !! (ghee is a milk derivative)
    No more chicken-in-a-biskit! Loads of snacks are now out! And no more KFC coleslaw!)
  • Vanilla (can you believe it?? So even all my homemade biscuits, cookies, muffins, pancakes and cakes which were already egg-free and milk-free had also been poisoning me because of the vanilla essence!!!) - I found out that even commercial versions of all the Chinese kuehs (9-layer cake, wa ko kueh, pak tong ko, fatt kueh) all use vanilla!!
  • Banana (ok, I can still live without this)
  • Asparagus (ok, I can still live without this)
Moderately Allergic
  • Cabbage - uh oh, there goes all my favourite dishes like fried bee hoon from the market (which has sesame oil & oyster sauce too), no more KFC coleslaw!
  • Cucumber (so it wasn't the wheat or yeast in that Subway sandwich that made me sick, it was the cucumber!!)
  • Pineapple (there goes my Hawaiian pizza, which is already minus-the-cheese-and-milk, or that Wu-Xiang Xia Bing Sauce!)
  • Oyster
  • Sesame Can you find a tze-char dish that doesn't have either oyster sauce or sesame oil!?!?! Or any other Chinese food for that matter? If it's not in the gravy (think Char Siew Rice, Duck rice, Bak Chor Mee, Lor Mee), it's in the marinade (chicken rice), or in the soup (pig trotters vinegar) or in the sauce (Wu Xiang Xia Bing, Rojak)
Have you fainted yet? Help! I'm losing weight much faster than I'm eating!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Vines Steak & Seafood at Novena Ville

Isn't this neat? We splurged at Changi Village on Tin Hang Zai's birthday, and we continued our celebrations at The Vines in Novena. We brought along the Gnome, the Goose and their kind new helper.
The place looks very cottage-like, and the menu looks somewhat like Jack's Place. However, the similarities stop there.
The Vines gives a lot more value for money (for the same price, you can get much more at The Vines than at Jack's Place), service staff are more courteous, and the food tastes better generally. You don't get those crummy desserts at Jack's Place (those jellies that taste as plastic as the cups they come in, or horrid pieces of butter cake that taste like they were leftovers from Jack's Place cake counters) - we got apple crumble that night.
And even though there were no credit card offers, Tin Hang Zai got a free slice of yummy blueberry cheese pie with ice cream!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Senses & the Stomachs


It's Tin Hang Zai's birthday. To celebrate, we indulged by going to the spa & pigging out near the sea.

As a single-income family, it had been a loooong time since we wanted to go and splurge on things like spas. But well, what the heck. It's his birthday!

So we checked out The Ultimate Spa at the Civil Service Club (since it was so near our place), and we used some Maybank offer to get ourselves a cool 2 hrs of pampering (scrub, massage, hydrobath) at something like S$150+. And they give you some fancy drinks & dessert after that.

We had a great time, and we finished off by going to the neighbourhood foot reflexology for another 45 mins!

Evening time, we picked Little Pixie up and headed off to the far east to pig out at the Saltwater Cafe at Changi Village Hotel. I wasn't expecting too high a standard, but the food was amazingly fantastic! I'd always thought we'd outgrown buffets long ago, and certainly our last few buffets in 2007 weren't fantastic. (Think Merchant Court's high tea (yucks - you just don't want to pay more than S$20 to eat nothing but kuehs & kuehs) and Paris at Marina (just too much rich food in a day).

But this was different! I had everything I wanted to eat. The BBQ section was decent (I got to eat my favourite lamb chops - something I can't eat with Tin Hang Zai at home since he doesn't like lamb), the seafood was decent, and so was the sashimi! The desserts were decent too, so were the soups. The cold seafood selection was very decent too. All in all, I haven't (and we haven't) been so satisfied in a loong time. I finished up all the keropok the moment they were laid out (freshly fried). The poppadums were nice too.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

God is a Matchmaker! (Part 2 of 2)

Lasik and I have known each other for, er... 18 years. (!!!!!)

She first knew me as a flirt (I think). Perhaps one of the class muggertoads (hey! This was Muggertoads Girls' School what!)

I don't know if she was also a muggertoad. But I first knew her (and remembered her!) as the tall girl at the back who complained that my cough (real) sounded fake!

Lasik is the most conscientious and precise person I know. You can really depend on her to see things through. And I mean, REALLY see things through. And she is a dear friend to me. And she has been through some really miraculous times as well. And, after 18 years, she still looks like the way she did 18 years ago!

Meeting Mr Corny-and-sometimes-bad-Jokes for the first time was a funny experience. He's one of those folks who makes you feel that it's okay to make jibes at him about his erm, physique. But he is a very deep guy as well, as I found out over the past year or so.

Even though his jokes can be really bad, he does seem like the Creator's perfect "let your hair down" complement to Lasik's "we MUST get it RIGHT" style.

Congrats, Lasik & Mr Corny-and-sometimes-bad-Jokes !!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

God is a Matchmaker!! (Part 1 of X)

Do you believe in miracles? I do. This is one of them.

I've known Miss Sweet-and-Gentle-Spirit
since, er, 2001. She is the prettiest, er, school chaplain I have ever seen, and she has the most beautiful heart too. Full of compassion, empathy, and all the good things you can ever think of.

Our Prison Group was very sad to see her go when God called her to the mission field. I supposed she was one of those that Paul referred to in Corinthians about "making eunuchs of themselves" - because whilst I had never doubted her attractiveness as a potential mate, I had never heard her mention anything about desiring marriage. So I assumed that she, well, wasn't interested.

Indeed, Miss Intellectual told us that when she went to the mission field, she "gave up", because you couldn't imagine finding a mate in that particular field. Turns out, God had other plans. It sounded exactly like what I read about in this book.

Guess what, the Honest Guy whom our Matchmaker had prepared for her (and her for him) appeared miraculously in that place, for a medical appointment that never happened! Instead it was an appointment with the Master Surgeon - who was showing him the "rib" that had been taken out of him!

Each was all that the other had been praying and waiting for all these years. And more.

Can you imagine waiting for "the one" till you are 37 or 42? She who had never believed in whirlwind romances has been blessed by our humorous God in the "twinkling of an eye".

We are all so excited!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The day I did something nasty to my good friend...

L is my good friend since 2002, when we were both working with the straitjacket organisation.

Values & Friends
Over the years, I have come to realise that those I remain friends with, people you "pick up where you left off", tend to be people who share the same values, ethics and principles as me, whether in personal relationships or at the workplace. L is one such person.

Last November, I was at the "crossroads of Damascus", about to take a long break off a project I had been on for the best part of 2007, when I met up with L. On the spur of the moment, we decided to do a test project together, which involved his friend X. For me, it was a sort of a swan song (albeit for the time being). Reason being, as 2007 drew to a close, I had increasingly felt very distracted, and that I wasn't putting "first things first" (like what Covey says). The failure to put "first things first" was really causing me a lot of low-level anxiety and stress.

So 2008 was to be for me, a year of focusing on my "first things" - in this case, God, Tin Hang Zai, and Little Pixie.

Stress & Anger
Anyway, back to the story. As the date drew nearer to the event, "things" happened. We got stressed, and we quarrelled.

Customer Service
L told me that the event was closed to foreigners after I had confirmed & registered one such person. The reason was one of those rubbish government-body reasons, and after calling up the government hotlines, I failed to get a good reason and all I got was "we cannot answer over the phone even though this is the XXX hotline. Please send us an email". (what the @#$@#$ the event is 1 day away!)

I disagreed with L over how to handle this person. In the end, L told him that we were bumping him off because of "oversubscription". The guy was pissed, and I explained to Hedgehog (who had referred the guy to us) the real reasons.

I felt very bad about the way we handled this, so I called up Mr Foreigner to explain the real reason and to apologise once again. Mr Foreigner was super-pissed, and he said he would "never attend any event organised by your company again". I was so traumatised by the entire episode. I was!

That's when L blew up at me " why didn't you check with me first before telling your friend the real reason? "

I shot back "Excuse me! In good faith, my friends publicise my event for me because they trust in the quality of my work! Do you think you would publicise events for friends who turn out shoddy work!?!? And if there's such a customer-service boo-boo, I don't want my friends wondering why I screwed up and questioning my work ethics in future!"

L shouted "ok, whatever it is, I reserve the right to make the FINAL decision on the event tomorrow".

With that, I shut up, clammed up, and completely disengaged myself emotionally from the event. I refused to participate anymore, or to try to contribute anything more. Since he wanted control of the final decision, fine, I'd just take instructions and not try to be smart.

It turned out that Mr Foreigner was actually working in a VERY IMPORTANT COMPANY and well, I don't dare to think about the potential biz we could have gained (but which we had now lost). L said "we already got 50 participants what, why you bother about that one guy?". *I rolled my eyes.* One deal from this VERY IMPORTANT COMPANY was worth many of the type of participants we were getting. And I mean, many.

Anger, Rage & Revenge
I was consumed with anger the next day. But it was no excuse for what I ended up doing to L. It_was_NO_excuse. When he asked for any words from me in closing the event, I had nothing to say. I was blinded by rage.

L said "you want to say something?"
I said "something".

I was blind to the 50 plus audience around.

WL tried to smooth things over for me by saying "she means, thank you".

I felt very guilty about it. I had a huge quarrel with L after the event, over this and over other issues.

Forgiveness & Grace
And I apologised to L and asked for his forgiveness. L forgave me, and I'm so grateful. But it doesn't stop me from feeling so guilty that I did that to my friend. I mean, whatever he did that made me mad, I had NO excuse to humiliate him, or embarrass myself in that way. I was not only sabotaging him, I was projecting a very poor image of myself at the same time. And I am feeling SOOOOO guilty. That's why I'm blogging about this to get the nasties out of my system.

Our friendship was salvaged. Thank God! A good friend who shares the same ethics, values and principles in life & work is hard to come by. Harder still is someone who forgives you after you have done something as mean as I did to L. And I nearly lost this friend out of my own doing!

But the feelings of regret, and guilt I now have, is certainly not worth the empty feelings of whatever fake triumph that limp attempt at revenge gave me.

I am so humbled by this whole episode. I really am....

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Baby" Risotto

I can't believe I made this! This looks exactly like a risotto, but it wasn't meant to look like this. Everything was rather "accidental". And it's unbelievably healthy. It's 90% vegetables, virtually fat-free, and you feel so full you won't believe there's hardly any meat in it (again, another accidental thing - I just didn't put in enough meat).
In fact, I think it beats those awful dishes I tried at the only organic restaurant I ever went to.
The original title of this dish is "Tasty Rice with Meat & Vegetables" and was taken from Annabel Karmel's cookbook for toddlers.
As usual, I modified it with whatever vegetables I had on hand, and everything was done "to taste".
Here's how I came to be dishing out these "accidental" dinners:
Lately, I have been getting very frustrated with having to make frozen dinners for Little Pixie, rush to feed, bathe and put her to bed before 7pm each night, and then rush to the kitchen to make dinner for Tin Hang Zai and myself. My main quibble was that if I made stir-fried greens for Little Pixie at 5pm, they would turn yellow by the time Tin Hang Zai reaches home each night at 830pm. Not to mention I have to wash dishes till 10pm each night thanks to this routine!

So I have been trying out these one-dish meals that just one-time cooking at 430pm, and then a 5 min reheat once Tin Hang Zai returns home late at night. 90% of the dishwashing is completed before 7pm. No more dishes to wash except for 2 serving plates, 2 sets of cutlery and a tiny pot.

This is one of them.
Directions (Original Recipe) (My modifications in Blue)
1/3 cup white rice (3/4 cups white short-grain Calrose rice (that's all I had at home!))
4/3 cup chicken stock (3 cups water)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped (1 red and 1 green bell pepper - just felt like buying more at the wet market!)
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen (no peas at home, just lots of supersweet frozen corn)
1/2 onion, finely chopped (used 2, because we love onions)
1 carrot, finely chopped (skipped, used leftover shitake mushrooms which I'd soaked for another dish but hadn't used)
1 cup lean ground beef (used pork slices cut up finely with scissors, cuz that's all I had in the freezer, seasoned generously with salt)
1/2 tablespoon ketchup (Just poured in as much as I felt like it, plus some Prego's Pasta Sauce)
a few drops Worcestershire sauce (just poured in as much as I felt like it)
Oil for sauteing
Spring onion (my favourite vegetable seller gave me lots this morning) - this is what gives the dish a bright cheery green because the green pepper loses its bright-greenness after prolonged cooking.
  • Put rice into saucepan, cover with chicken broth. Bring to boil, cover & simmer for 15 min (please monitor carefully, my rice sputtered all over the stove!)
  • Add red bell pepper and peas and cook, uncovered, 6-7 min, or until rice is tender and no liquid left (ditto above - but I had to add salt to the rice and some Prego's sauce at this stage to give the rice a bit more taste)
  • Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, saute onion and carrots in a little vegetable oil for 5 min. Add ground meat & cook, stirring, till browned. Stir in ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and cook over gentle heat for 10 minutes.
  • When ready to serve, mix desired amount of rice & meat and cook over gentle heat for 3-4 min.
  • Cut up spring onion into small bits and mix into rice just before serving, for unsuspecting guests
  • Freeze the rest.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Our First Day at "School"

I titled this as "Our" because it was equally 'traumatic' for me. Being a bit unrealistic about timing as usual, I thought I'd be going jogging after dropping Little Pixie off at her first day at Flexi-Care. (Beats me why they call it "flexi" since there is nothing flexible about it. You turn up from 0900-1200 every day, is there anything flexible about this!?!?!). And then have a leisurely breakfast, followed by grocery shopping at the wet market, and then prepare a "lunch from scratch", maybe even do some quiet time alone (peace! silence!) and come to pick her up. It couldn't have been further from reality!

For some months now, she has been displaying signs that she was 'ready' to socialise. Always the first one to say "hi" or to hug stranger kids on the streets, I thought it was time for Little Pixie to get to know more kids. (That was my only goal for this programme - other than that, I have no intention of hothousing her, and would like to try my hand at home-schooling, after my dear friend Clare pointed me to her friend who is homeschooling FOUR kids!!)

Little Pixie was overwhelmed by the number of new faces around her. Especially since it was her nap-time and she was outdoors at a time when she was supposed to be happily snoozing at home. And the fact that other kids were wailing and crying their hearts out (one girl cried for more than 2 hours straight after her mother left her there and was still crying when I left) seemed to make her think that there really was something to cry about. And cry she did! There was no way I could leave the centre to do all the aforementioned errands! (Hey I didn't even eat my breakfast!! And forget about the dinner I'd planned to cook!)

Bringing her her Linus bolster was a bad idea. Some rogue kid (who punches every other child in turn) snatched it from her and she cried. And didn't stop till I took her home half hour before time. After a quick trip to the market to buy lunch and leftovers at the butcher, feeding her, I was BEAT. I didn't know that listening to 4 kids crying for 3 hours can be so tiring and I have a newfound respect for those childcare teachers. They are indeed overworked, underpaid!

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better....

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I miss Hong Kong Food!!!

The one thing I really miss about the holiday is eating at this very tiny but cheery, orange-hued Cha Can Teng called the Happy Kitchen. What attracted us was the owner's claims that their street fare had no MSG.

And did we keep eating there for our 5 day stay! Everything I ate there was fantastic!!! And if you knew just how critical I am about food, you'd want to go there too!

There was a dish which stuck in my mind, but no search on the Internet would find me any recipes for anything remotely labelled "Hong Kong cuisine". Back home, I could not stop thinking about the Curry Beef Ramen I ate at that fantastic shop! (it's so tiny, their shop space is probably the size of my study, not a very big space).

I found a useful substitute at Happy Homebaker's Blog , and this is what I also used. Of course this dish above looks very gross compared to hers - it's not the Curry Beef Ramen I fantasized about, but a last-minute throw-together using S & B curry sauce mix from Cold Storage, potatoes, carrots, fresh shitake and onions, to be eaten on rice. It was good, but I think I'll try making my own sauce next time. Better still, it doesn't cause any fumes in the kitchen - where my laundry hangs. Definitely a keeper. (Meantime I have conveniently downloaded the remainder of the curry sauce to the Veterans).
eXTReMe Tracker