Thursday, November 24, 2005


As I've blogged previously, I've been thinking of dusting out my sewing machine and spend some time to feed my creative soul again. I signed up for a quilting workshop conducted by Jenny Bowker, an Australian quilter currently living in Cairo. The workshop was "Free Motion Quilting", basically what it means is quilting any which way but straight lines!

Free motion quilting of a leaf as demonstrated by Jenny Bowker

Jenny brought along some of her quilts which were stunning! Each of her quilts told a story, a couple of which caused a lump in my throat. These were not traditional quilts for sure. The colours were bold and the quilting added a dimension to her quilts. Quilts made by Jenny were not just visually beautiful, I couldn't help touching and holding the quilts, flipping them over and quite a few of them got me thinking "How did she do it?"

I have always enjoyed making the top piece (which is the piece with patterns) but dreaded quilting. Quilting is essential as it keeps the three layers (top, batting and bottom) together. The workshop today opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of design and how quilting can accentuate the quilt and it need not be a chore but something which can be fun to do. Here is my attempt. Not difficult to see why Jenny is the one conducting the workshop. Hehehe... However, I am determined to be really good at this.

Thank you, Jenny, for your time. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My mother's birthday

If she was still around, my mother would be celebrating her 65th birthday in a couple of days. When she was around, a few days before her birthday, I would be thinking how to celebrate her birthday with her. Old habits die hard.

Strangely, I do not have many happy memories of my mother's birthday because we usually end up having a tiff. One year, I thought I would treat my mother and my brothers to a nice dinner. I was the only one earning a salary. My dad had just passed away a couple of years prior to that. The definition of a nice dinner for my mom was eating in a restaurant as opposed to eating at the stalls or at home. As soon as I made the suggestion, I got a scolding from my mom. "Waste money like that. Eat at a restaurant. You think you're very rich? That's why you don't have savings." I was stunned and speechless. How did wanting to do something nice for my mother turn into an issue about how I spend my money? I couldn't buy her an expensive gift or I will get a shelling again. After a while, I learned to keep quiet about my mother's birthday. I waited for my brothers to initiate the birthday celebration. However, on the day of the birthday itself, our mother got really upset because nobody had said anything about a birthday celebration. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

When my mother was very ill, she actually reminded my brothers and I not to remember her on her death anniversary but to remember her on her birthday and on special occasions. She requested that we set a place for her for dinner. It is two days before my mother's birthday, my brothers have not said anything about getting together for dinner to remember my mother's birthday. Should I initiate again, for old times sake? Perhaps I will just set a place for her on Wednesday when my family and I sit down for dinner.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Got milk?

These are only a few of the breastfed babies I know. I found out the hard way 5 1/2 years ago learning to breastfeed start from before the birth of the baby. For five excruciating weeks, I was dealing with nipple confusion because no one told me not to use a baby bottle to feed a newborn if I wanted to breastfeed exclusively. Not that I didn't have any knowledge about breastfeeding. I was an expert in theory. I subscribed to Babycenter to keep track of my unborn baby's progress. I read up on breastfeeding online, even viewed the video on how to latch on a baby to breastfeed. However, looking back there are so many things I would have done differently if I'd known where to get breastfeeding support.

1. Not to use baby bottle as it leads to nipple confusion.
2. Not to express too soon as the milk supply will get erratic (over supply!)
3. To cuddle and hold my newborn as much as possible and not be afraid of spoiling the baby.
4. Attend breastfeeding support group meetings to meet other breastfeeding moms. Nothing like actually seeing someone breastfeed.

What I know I did right was to read up a lot, whether online sites or books. A couple of books I found very helpful, not just on breastfeeding but on pregnancy and childbirth in general, were "What To Expect When You're Expecting" and "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding".

There are several online breastfeeding support groups in Malaysia, eg, Blessed Mums and Mymomsbest. There are also less formal groups like SAHP where I hang out.

There is never too much information. I found out that I needed to gather as much information as possible from all resources. However, I needed to sieve through what work for me and what don't.

After fumbling for 5 weeks with Laura and going through every possible hiccups with getting breastfeeding right with her, I went to see a Lactation Consultant, Christine Choong. Christine sat, listened and watched how I was holding and nursing my baby. Then she guided me through the proper hold and positioning of my baby. Suddenly, it all worked!

Christine helped me when I faced hiccups with nursing Adam too. Just when I thought nothing would go wrong, having breastfed Laura for 28 months and provided support to lots of moms who faced breastfeeding challenges, I found myself facing challenges nursing Adam 'coz he was born with a tongue-tie. I was devastated 'coz I thought I won't be able to nurse Adam. Fortunately, with support from my online buddies and Christine Choong, I was able to. Adam is going to be 29 months old soon and not showing any sign of weaning.

My son had his first taste of bowling a few days ago. He is quite good at it too. Laura started talking at 8 1/2 months and spoke in complete sentences by the time she was 1 1/2 years old. Do I think breastfed children are smarter? Without meaning to sound biased, I do.

My passion...

Farm baby quilt (2001)

Close-up of Farm baby quilt (2001)
(with paper-pieced animal design by Margaret Rolfe)

Noah's Ark Quilt (2001)
with paper-pieced animals design by Margaret Rolfe

Andy with his boat T-shirt

Laura wearing a T-shirt with a lion patchwork

My hands are itching to sew again. It's been some time since I've indulged my creative side. Time to dust my sewing machine and start making something! This month, I'll be attending a workshop by quilter/teacher, Jenny Bowker. Check out her beautiful quilts!

Eventually, I will like to explore the different designs and artforms in Malaysia to create something which is uniquely Malaysian. Recently, I saw a "kolam" design which is of a stylized peacock. Beautiful! Now to translate that into a quilt. Wow!

Friday, November 04, 2005


My 5-year-old has been asking questions about death. She asked me yesterday how do we get to heaven when we die? How do we know where to go? Who takes us? Does someone drive a bus or do we need to go on a plane? Is it far?

Yesterday was also when we told her her godfather in America is very ill. Ron was first diagnosed with cancer about 3 years ago. He was given 6 months to live when first diagnosed. Ron managed to beat cancer the first time around but his doctor had also warned him they will come back. Since his initial diagnosis, he had been through chemotherapies, several surgeries and at the end of September, his doctor found some more cancer cells. A couple of days ago, we found out that Ron was not well. Ron was admitted to hospital yesterday for dehydration and intestinal blockage. When Laura heard that Ron wasn't well, she went to the balcony in my room to talk to the angels. She asked the angels to take care of her Uncle Ron.

Today, Laura asked if older people die first. Both sets of grandparents have "gone to heaven", you see. She asked if of both her parents, will papa die first because he's older. Sigh... Why lah such questions from a 5-year-old? I do remember being 5 and having nightmares about losing both my parents. I remember waking up in the middle of the night sobbing too but didn't tell my parents for fear my nightmare would come true. At least my daughter is talking about what she is thinking.

I must confess that I have also thought of my own mortality. I've thought of the need to "put my papers in order". I've been meaning to write a will and to make sure the name of beneficiaries in my EPF account and insurance get updated. I had a chat with my friend a couple of weeks ago, which made me realise that getting the will written and sorting paperwork is the easy part. My friend and I have young children. What next after the will have been read? Who is going to take care of them? What if both parents were to go at the same time or when they are still young and not ready to take care of themselves? Will we have someone who will take care of the children, someone who shares the same value we have? Someone who will love the children as his/her/their own?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Photos taken by Laura

Laura took these photos at the KLCC today:

For someone who's only 5, she composes photos quite well! She is definitely better than her mother....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What a city! What a trip!

This is the only photo I have of my trip to Bangkok! The photo was taken with my phone camera on board a tuk tuk and the person on the photo is Christian, one of the friends I was with. I didn't bring my digital camera with me 'coz I knew there will be someone with a camera in the group.

My mission for going to Bangkok was to have a few days break and to indulge myself. Mission accomplished? Errr..... yes and no.

I learned a few things on this trip - about Bangkok, about myself, about being away from my family, about travel companions. Bangkok is such an awesome city! So full of contradictions and contrasts. So chaotic, yet there is some system in the madness.

Service in Bangkok is so good! On arrival in Bangkok, I suddenly realise that I didn't find out how to get to the hotel from the airport. I went to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) counter to find out what was the cheapest and fastest way to get to the Royal Orchid Sheraton. At the counter, they could give me several options. I could have taken a bus for 100 baht. Unfortunately, Sheraton was not in the bus route. Take a metered taxi plus pay 50 baht surchage or take one of the luxury taxis available. I knew my friends were waiting for me so I opted for a luxury taxi for 660 baht. On hindsight, I could have taken the metered taxi and paid approximately 300 baht including toll. The luxury taxi was very comfortable. Sitting in the back of the Toyota Camry, I felt like a tai tai with a personal chauffeur. I got a map of Bangkok from the TAT counter too.

We stayed on the 28th floor (highest floor) at the Royal Orchid Sheraton which was one of three executive floors. My stay was sponsored by my friends, Graeme and Cynthia. Thank you so much! *Muah* The hotel had a beautiful view of the Chao Phraya River. The view from the Executive Lounge and our room was awesome! Cynthia was supposed to take a photo of the view with her camera before leaving for Bhutan this morning. Every evening from 4pm - 8pm was cocktail hour at the Executive Lounge. I didn't spend that much time at the lounge for happy hours lah. Got shopping to do!

The first day I had breakfast in the lounge. Quite a nice spread of fruits, cereal, assortment of breads and a honeycomb hung tilted, so there was fresh honey collected in a bowl. Yumm! The coffee at the lounge was really good too! Since Cynthia was still sleeping, I thought I would walk around the hotel area. What a pleasant surprise to discover that we were at Chinatown! I walked around and found lots of interesting food stalls and coffee shops in the area. I wish then I hadn't had breakfast in the hotel! Found a stall selling mango and pulut, so I packed some to share with Cynthia. YUMM!

Near the Sheraton were also lots of shops selling old metal parts. Walking along the roads there reminded me of Jalan Bendahara in Ipoh, where my father's family home is. The greasy shops filled with metal parts of every description. Men with greasy hands pulling apart screws and nuts for recycling. The smell of the place really brought back so much memory of the Ipoh that I know. There was also a small market in the area. I passed more stalls selling all sorts of interesting fare. Some were familiar like braised duck and meats (Teo Chew specialty) but some were quite foreign. I made a mental note to go back to that area for breakfast the next day.

Cynthia remember a place called Siam Village in the Silom area which she said served good Thai food. We went there only to find out it's now very touristy. Food prices was reasonable (by tourist standard) and was very tasty. There were shops selling crafts and stuff and a cultural performance was on during dinner. I would describe the place as a nicer version of Saloma Cafe in KL. It was Christian's first visit to Bangkok, so Graeme and Cynthia thought he should visit the Patpong area, just to check out what it's like. He was in culture shock. My shopping mode was in high gear. Later, I stayed back to do some shopping while they went to meet some friends for drinks. I saw a stall which sold jeans for children, so I asked the price. It was soooooo expensive! Just then I realised the prices of stuff in Patpong won't go very low as the traders probably pay a premium in rent to secure a place there. I was the first customer for that stall, yet I paid what I felt was too much for copies of Levi's jeans. That was when I decided to go back to the hotel to rest. Charge up for real shopping the next day!

My poor friend was jetlagged, so she slept in till past noon. She hadn't stirred since I left the room, I was ready to call an ambulance! She was just so tired, having arrived from London the same day I got into Bangkok. I was itching to start my shopping expedition. Getting into the shopping belts of Siam and Sukhumvit was a bit of effort from the riverside area. The hotel concierge told me there was a hotel shuttle to take me to the BTS (skytrain) station Sathorn Thaksin, which will connect me to Siam. I waited for 40 minutes and no sign of the hotel boat shuttle. In the end, I hopped onto one of the river taxis (more like a river bus), paid 9 baht and I was on my way! The skytrain was very comfortable. I was imagining my children laughing if they were there to hear the announcement. Some of the places had names which would have induced the giggles in them. One of the names was Sala Daeng (pronounced in a sing song tone "sa-la deng"). I had been to Bangkok and to the Siam area (where MBK is situated) with a Lintas company trip 11 years ago. Nothing prepared me for what was waiting for me there. Siam - the chaos of Sg Wang/Bukit Bintang area, the mess of Georgetown, the size of Picadilly Circus and the walkways and pedestrian bridges of Orchard Road all rolled into one! I wanted to cover as much of Siam as I could but ended up spending 5 hours in MBK alone. I was exhausted!

We went out to Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 for dinner. PT's daughter, Melisa lived in Bangkok for several years. She recommended a place on Soi 33/1 which served excellent Thai food. That is an area frequented by Japanese, and had lots of Japanese restaurants on that stretch. We walked up and down the street several times before we found the place. "Jungle" was a no-nonsense looking place, with lots of trees (sappling) between benches and tables. We stopped to ask someone if we were in the right place. The locals do not know the place as "Jungle" apparently. I was looking forward to some authentic Thai food. We found our table and sat down. Sharon and I flipped open the menu and I saw "Fried Cobra in Chili" as one of the items listed. Cynthia is petrified of snakes, so knowing there are snakes in the area made her very uncomfortable. We ended up at a Japanese restaurant in the area. Food was yumm!

We past a massage place name Wat Po massage. Hoping that the masseuse were trained at the Wat Po temple, we went in for foot scrub and massage. We paid up at the reception and was promptly led out the back way. Huh? Then we were led to another shop lot. Two rows of leather (?) armchairs were laid out. Several people were having their foot massaged. I was assured we were in the right place 'coz the other customers were all so relaxed, they were asleep! The next 2 hours were the most relaxing couple of hours I've ever been through.

The next day, I woke up earlier than my travel buddies again. I went down to the market area for my breakfast. I had an interesting dish. The sign was in Thai, so I don't even know what it was I ordered. I just asked the lady for one, indicated I want all the ingredients which were to go into the dish and waited to see what I got. I was prepared to pay tourist price too, coz the day before, I was charged 50 baht for mango and pulut when the board with price tag didn't have 50 baht on it. What I got from this stall was something which looked like jue cheong fun with a dark gravy with small pieces of tofu on it. It was delicious! On the way back to the hotel for coffee, I stopped at a stall which I had passed several times the day before. A 60+ year old man was slow frying something in a small wok. He had a stack of bowls made with dried lotus leaves or something like that. I asked him what he was selling in broken English, he replied in Mandarin! The eldery man told me he took Mandarin lessons but hadn't had much opportunity to speak it. We had a nice chat while I ate the "jui kueh" sprinked with fried chai poh. It wasn't fantastic but the chat with the eldery man was nice.

Later, Cynthia, Sharon and I went to the Chatuchak market. I've heard lots about the Chatuchak market but nothing prepared me for it. Fortunately, I've had some training in the Pudu wet market where I do my main grocery shopping. Of course Chatuchak wasn't wet and smelly lah, nor as chaotic. Just so much to see! Again, my attention was diverted to food stalls there. Ice lollies being made before your eyes. A round cauldron of ice with metal (aluminium) tubes with a stick in each tube in the ice. The vendor twists a cauldron within a cauldron back and forth to make the ice lollies. Noodle stalls with their signboard all in Thai, where the locals were taking a break and having a snack before continuing with shopping. On the other side, there were stalls with fancy table cloth and a board listing out what was offered in English. The Thai stalls offered a bowl of noodle for 25 baht. The stalls catering to the foreigners charged 75 baht onwards for burgers, hot dogs, pancakes, etc. There were several stalls selling ice cream made with young coconut. Non-dairy. Three scoops of this ice cream and topping of your choice. Topping choices were palm nut (atap chee), sea coconut, beans, peanuts, etc. It was very good. I stopped for a roasted young coconut. The juice from a roasted young coconut is like drinking santan-flavoured water. Slurp! I managed to get my Christmas shopping done too! So many interesting stuff in the Chatuchak market but I couldn't get a purple boa for Ribena Berry.

From Chatuchak, I took the train to World Central. I remember the place from the Lintas company trip too. We stayed in the Anorma Hotel which is right smack in the middle of shopping complexes. By this time, my feet were already tired, then I saw a banner advertising Wacoal underwear sale! I dragged my feet towards Isetan. Yup, the Wacoal bras were very cheap (from 110 baht onwards) but cannot try on lah. Also, the Thai made bra cup sizes were different from the ones I've tried on in KL. I went back to the hotel empty handed again. Only with the stuff I bought from Chatuchak earlier.

The last night I was in Bangkok, we went for drinks at Vertigo which is on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel. The view from the top was awesome! As Christian described Vertigo, "... panoramic view of the Bangkok skyline. Looks like a place where James Bond would hang out, or something from the Thomas Crown Affair..."

I had a great time in Bangkok. The "me-time" break was great. Four days was just nice 'coz by that time, I was ready to go home to my family. I missed my children so much! I think I missed them more than they missed me. Hehehe... For sure, the next time I make a trip to Bangkok, I would do some things differently. Accommodation closer to public transport being one of them. Also, find out what shops are where. Eg, Siam area is more for shopping for cheap, fashionable stuff as one would go to Sg Wang for stuff like that. I didn't have a chance to shop in Sukhumvit. That is probably the place I would have been able to find something for myself.

Last night, when Adam woke up in the middle of night. I asked him if he missed me. He replied, "No". I was crushed! He didn't miss me? I asked him again "Did you miss mama?"

Adam: "No"

Me: "Why?"

Adam: "I happy"

Me: "You didn't miss mama?"

Adam: "No. I happy."

Then he cupped my face and said, "I happy you come back"

Awww..... Makes my heart melt!