Saturday, September 30, 2006

Very timely

A week after I posted about star gazing when I was a teenager, this came out in The Star newspaper today.

I remember seeing fireflies at night when we first moved to SS2, PJ in the 70's. No need to drive all the way to Kuala Selangor for that! Now, sometimes we can't even see the Twin Towers from Jalan Tun Razak because of the haze. *sigh*

Friday, September 29, 2006

People watching

The past month or so, I've been spending a lot of time at the Damansara Village Steamboat to help out. One of the things I do is to take orders and when doing so, I encounter lots of interesting families.

One family I served were parents and three teenage children. The children obviously wished they were somewhere else. One had a handheld game in front of his face, one had a novel and another was sending messages on his handphone. They all moved from the entrance to their table without looking up from whatever they were doing. Then they sat down, I approached the them to take their order. The parents wanted to find out what their children wanted to eat, asked them and didn't get a response. Asked them again and without looking away from their gadgets/book, they mumbled something which resembled, "Anything". Finally, after some time 'coz the children weren't contributing and their parents were adamant in finding out what they wanted to eat, their food was ordered. This family sat through the entire dinner without uttering a single word to each other 'coz the father then produced a stack of newspaper from a plastic bag. What was the mother doing? Stared into space most of the time.

The scary thing is, this family isn't unique in their behaviour. I've seen teenagers bring their homework to do at dinner time. Can't even spare an hour with the family? Maybe she's on the way to becoming a rocket scientist!

One would think most teenagers outgrow that phase when they grow up. I'm sure a lot of parents who have indulged their children with computer games hope they do. Well, here's some bad news. They don't. A 20-something man sauntered in with a stack of newspaper under his arm with his parents trailing behind. He plonked himself on the chair and proceeded to open up his newspaper. His parents saw me approach and was going to order. Father turned to son, "What you want to eat?" No response. "Son, what you want to eat?" No response. I was so tempted to whack the guy with his stack of newspaper! He finally mumbled, "Up to you lah" in a disinterested tone. Blardy hell! In his 20's, shouldn't he be the one taking care of his parents needs? Or at least look more interested?

Of course, there are families who are very close to each other. Children and parents joke with each other and there seem to be lots of laughter during dinner. These children (teenagers) usually have a sparkle in their eyes which is missing in the "Game Boy" kids. Of course, I've not had a chance to see the eyes of those "Game Boy" kids.

Once, when I produced the bill for a family of 3 (parents and a 10-year-old boy), the boy scrambled to pay the bill! He had won a prize of RM50 from school for excelling and he wanted to treat his parents. The bill came up to close to RM60, so he didn't have enough. His parents chipped in the rest but they thanked him for the meal. His chest was puffed up and he was really proud to have given his parents a treat. His parents were very proud too that he thought of doing that.

Ever wonder why some children are picky eaters? This may be one of the reasons....

A whole family of about 10 people (adults and a few children) walk into the restaurant only to find out only steamboat is served. They had already sat down. Elderly lady says, "Aiya, steamboat only ah? The children won't eat lah." I was eager to please so asked if the children will eat fishball. Kids who were obviously hungry looked at me, nodded their head and said, "Yayayayaya!" Aunty "No lah. Won't eat lah" Then I suggested fried dumpling or fried chicken wings. Satay? Kids, "Yayayayaya!" Aunty "Won't eat lah. Come lah. We go somewhere else" All the kids looked at me with a bewildered face!

Once, I served a young couple. Very obvious from the time I approached the table that going to the restaurant for dinner was the lady's suggestion. Her boyfriend, who looked like he was waken up from a nap and was dragged out for dinner and really isn't into steamboat, had a dark cloud bigger than Australia over his head. The lady wanted to make sure she ordered what her boyfriend would eat. He made it very clear he wasn't pleased. He was also rude to the staff. Totally grumpy. I was sooooooo tempted to pull the lady aside to tell her to run as far as she could from the jerk!

Fortunately, most people appreciate the service they get. More families who get along then those who don't. Maybe that's why those who don't get along stick out and get noticed.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Memories and feeling melancholy

My parents place have been put up for sale for a few months now. Today, it was sold. The buyer has paid a deposit on the place. The realisation that someone has bought the house has gotten me thinking about my childhood, my parents, my brothers and my growing up years in the house.

When I was a teenager, I used to have a room upstairs. The window faces the backyard of my neighbour's house. The houses in the back were higher, so my window looked into the kitchen with a limited view of the sky if one looked at an angle. I had this room throughout my teenage years. As going out was only allowed if it was organised by the school or school related, I joined a lot of activities and societies just so I would be out of the house. At night, I spent most nights thinking and dreaming. As a teenager, I thought a lot. Some of the questions which floated in my head were Is there a God? Why was I born? What is my purpose in life? How do I fit into society? Why doesn't that cute guy know I exist? Oh no, the guy I like has a crush on someone else.

My father bought us a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. I used to read them from cover to cover and that was my form of escape. I imagined myself in the castles in Scotland, visiting the safari in Africa and watching polar bears in the North Pole. I learned about the constellations and about shortwave. So some nights, I would sit by my window and craned my neck to get a glimpse of the sky. These were pre-haze days and PJ didn't use to be so busy, so we had clear night skies to look at the stars. I remember dreaming when looking at the stars. Again questions popped in my head How far are these stars? Are there lifeforms in these faraway places? If there are, why was I born in Earth and not Mars or Venus or Pluto? Why was I born a human? Is there life after death? Or I simply gazed at the stars to see how many constellations I can spot from my limited view.

One night, as I lay awake dreaming some more. I heard fluttering insect wings. Then I noticed there were a few cockcroaches at the window. I got up to close the windows and next thing I knew, the whole window was like something from a horror movie. Hundreds of cockroaches were crawling on the window and flying about. I am quite sure I was not asleep and dreaming.

My writing desk was against this window but I rarely used it for my studies as I preferred to sit on the floor, cross legged with the book on my lap. Err... I've fallen asleep on my book sitting cross legged on the floor. Ahh... The days when I was more nimble. My mother was convinced sitting at my desk would be more productive. One night, a few days before the exams, I listened to my mother's advise to study at my desk. I looked up at one point and saw a face on the window. Shit! We're on the fucking upstairs and someone is outside my fucking window! Fuck fuck fuck!! Blardy hell... It was my own reflection! Good thing I didn't scream. I wouldn't be able to live this down with my family.

I used to have a bunk bed in my room even though I had the room to myself. Whenever my mother's former teacher visited her, she was given the lower bunk where I usually slept and I slept on the upper bunk. One night, I had to use the toilet in the middle of the night. I swung my feet off my bed as usual to jump up to get to the toilet. I found myself falling and landed in a heap on the floor. The thump woke up our house guest who asked if I was alright. I simply picked myself up, still half asleep, mumbled "I'm ok" and went into the loo. Fortunately, being half asleep I wasn't injured or bruised.

I used to have a radio in my room (no cassette player) which received SW, AM and FM. Some of my favourite programmes were Kee Huat Radio Fantastic Facts & Fancies (yes, with Patrick!) and Just A Minute with Derek Nimmo. Some nights, when I couldn't sleep, I tuned into SW to BBC World Service or Voice of America. I can hear in my head now the station signature "BBC World Service" and "This is the voice of America". Sometimes, I also tuned into Radio Australia. Later I got myself a radio cassette player which I bought with savings from my first job. Paid a handsome sum of RM145 for a Sony. My salary was RM320 a month, so that was a lot of money to spend on a single item.

Later when my father fell ill and needed care, I moved into the store/utility room downstairs. Maybe today, that'll be called the Maids Room. That room was about 1/2 of my room upstairs. Just enough space for a single bed. I can't remember now if I had a cupboard in that room! To subsidise our family income as we were paying hefty hospital bills, my former room upstairs was rented out. Later my mother renovated the room, made it bigger and she shared the room with me. I seem to have blocked off these years from my memory as these were years when my father needed kidney dialysis and care before he passed on.

Thank you, Papa, for having the foresight to buy this property when you did. Having paid off all the loans long before he was diagnosed with kidney failure, we had a roof over our head and not have to deal with paying a mortgage on top of hefty hospital bills.

Now, my parents' place would have been sold as a super-link as it has a big land area. Whoever buys it will probably knock it all down to build their idea of a dream home. I have contemplated moving in with my family to live. However, too much memory attached to the place - pleasant, painful and bitter - has stopped me from doing so. Time to let go of the place and start anew. Star gazing, short wave radio, Sunday morning on the Blue Network, my mother screaming at my friends for sending me home late, my brother and his wife's tea ceremony, then-boyfriend in the house when parents weren't home, giggling with girlfriends in my room,...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ahhhh.... spa

Today was my first experience in a spa. Kurt and Andy gave me a gift certificate for a spa treat on my birthday and I finally used the voucher today. My treat was to Mandara Spa in Prince Hotel KL. The description of my spa package in their brochure:

Nirvana Massage:

Choose any 50-minute massage, with an additional 30 minutes to enjoy the serene ambience of your suite and the detoxifying benefits of our herbal stea. Your massage ceremony begins with a footbath ritual, a symbolic cleanse to wash away the world and prepare you for total relaxation. Spend time in the steam shower - infused with a concoction of aromatic oils, herbs and spices designed to cleanse and invigorate - enjoy a Tea Ceremony and take time out to relax in private luxury. Finally, enjoy a blisfully relaxing and rejuvenating massage.

Being my first time in a spa, I walked in not knowing what to expect nor what to do. The reception was very pleasant. Gurgling water from a fountain, smell of essential oils permeated the air and soft Balinese music played in the backgroun. I was asked to sit down near the reception. On the table was a wooden tray with four little bowls and some herbs and spices. A lady named Dolly brought some ginger tea and knelt down in front of me. Huh? She then used a little stick (which resembles a tiny swizzle stick) to drip a little oil on my arm and explained that in each bowl in the tray was essential oils for different functions. I chose the one which she said was the most popular. She spoke very softly, and what I could make out was it was an oil which relaxes, heals and even help with jetlag. I thought I couldn't go wrong with what was the most popular.

Then I was led to the changing room which is equipped with lockers. I was given time by Dolly to change. She explained she'll come back to bring me to my treatment.

Next I was led to a room with two massage beds. In the room was also two armchairs with a big bowl of water in front of one of the chairs. I sat down on the chair and enjoyed a foot bath. After the foot bath, I was given ginger tea again. Then it was into the steam room. It was nice being in the steam room. The concoction of aromatherapy oils was pleasant.

Then it was the moment I've been waiting for. Massage! I love massages and have only experienced Thai massage. The last time I had a massage was in Bangkok last October. What a horrible experience! I had a choice of Warm Stone, Ayurvedic or Balinese massage. I chose Balinese. What followed was bliss.... Every tired muscle was kneaded to relaxation. Dolly was very good. She applied just the right pressure for me. I could feel myself relaxing and my mind concentrated on the sensation of Dolly hands. That and the combination of the oils.... Mmmm.... Zz... huh? Finish?

Thanks for the experience, Kurt and Andy. You guys know what a girl wants!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Mama Min blog

I've started a new blog for Mama Min. Lately, I've noticed that I've been posting mostly photos of cakes and such on this blog. From now on, photos of games, projects and cakes will be posted on the Mama Min blog. This blog will remain a place for me to ponder, think aloud, rejoice and rant.

Mama Min is the brand which I am developing. Mama Min produces hand sewn games for children and the young at heart. Games which do not require batteries to operate. Games which we will remember from our childhood. Games which develop hand-eye coordination, teaches children strategy and also encourages bonding between children and parents.

I've had so much on my plate lately, that it shows in my writing. My mind is darting about every which way trying to cope with multi-tasking. I must find some time to sit back and chill for a bit!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Safari Cake

The happy birthday girl with her safari cake.

Safari cake before and after the pond has been filled

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sugar paste Icing

a&a's mom requested for me to "teach" how to make sugar paste icing wor.

Buah cempedak di luar pagar,
Ambil galah tolong jolokkan;
Saya budak baru belajar,
Kalau salah tolong tunjukkan

I've been curious about using fondant and sugar paste icing on cakes for some time now but only recently mustered enough courage to try. I've even bought a book by Carol Deacon and also Wilton's yearbook. So I thought, nothing to lose lah. I had all the ingredients on hand. Rummaged through my cupboard and found some under-utilized cookie cutters, so experiment away!

This is a recipe from Carol Deacon's book:

Gelatin Icing

Gelatin icing is an extremely useful icing to have in your repertoire because it sets very hard. It can be used to make things that you want to stand proud from the cake (from delicate flowers and leaves to flags, sails or even turrets). It can also be moulded over objects and left to take on its shape. It can be coloured in the same way as sugarpaste and also has the added benefit of being usable straight away.

TIP: If, when you come to use it, you find that either the gelatin or modelling icing has become too hard, you can soften it by microwaving it on full power for just 4 - 5 seconds.

60 ml (4 tbsp) water
1 sachet (approx 12g/1oz or enough to set 60ml/1 pint) gelatin powder
10 ml (2 tsp) liquid glucose
500g (1lb 2 oz/ 4 1/2 cups) icing sugar
1 - 4 tbsp cornflour

  1. Place the water in a small, heat-proof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and leave it to soak for about two minutes. Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
  2. Put about 1 cm (3/4 in) of water into a saucepan. Stand the bowl in the water and heat gently until the gelatin dissolves.
  3. Remove the bowl from the water and stir in the liquid glucose. Allow to cool for a minute.
  4. Tip the gelatin mixture into the centre of the icing sugar. Using a knife, begin to stir it in. When it has bound together, knead it into a bread-dough consistency adding cornflour as required. Store in small pastic bags until required.
Have fun experimenting! I shall post photos of my niece's safari cake tomorrow.