September 28, 2009

There's nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked cookies

Daylight Saving Time started yesterday and I’m so not loving it. Before DST, we were only 4 hours ahead of Malaysian Standard Time. Now, we’re looking at 5 hours. FIVE HOURS. What's the big fuss? Well, that extra hour makes it a tad more difficult to go on skype with family and friends in KK *Sigh*

Daylight saving time (DST; also summer time in British English) is the convention of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn. DST's occasional clock shifts present some challenges. They complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt meetings, travel and sleep patterns.
  - Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia

Because of the chaos of daylight savings, my sleeping habit is a bit messed up too. Before DST, I normally get up at 8.30 in the morning. Today, I got up at 9.30 a.m. Why did I get up at 9.30 a.m? Because the clock said so!

I guess all these DST-related things take a little bit of getting used to.

Despite all my complaints about DST, I was in a very good mood this morning. I woke up wide-eyed, ready to take on the day. My energy level was up and I suddenly had this unexplainable urge to bake - something I don’t normally do on a regular basis. So in an attempt to fulfill this urge, I decided to bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Actually, it wasn’t really a decision. It’s the only recipe I know and thanks to CL and sis, all the ingredients were in my pantry.

So I started. I had this vision of CL’s freshly baked oatmeal cookies, all golden brown and yummy and beautiful. Enthusiastic, I took out the sacred recipe from my hand bag,  measured all the ingredients and followed the instructions conscientiously. There was no agak agak. I even used Alden’s syringe to measure the vanilla essence because I wanted to make sure everything was done according to the recipe. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I was finally done when it suddenly hit me. I had no raisins! The recipe says Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and now I have to omit the word raisin from this recipe? I panicked. No raisins! No raisins! No raisins! What to do?

After a few minutes of contemplation (should I drive to COUNTDOWN and get the sultanas? or should I just forget about baking?), I decided to continue without the raisins. That was probably the biggest decision I’ve made today.

It took me an hour and 35 minutes to get the batter done. 

This is the first batch. The instruction says, bake for eight to ten minutes until golden brown. I popped them in the oven and waited exactly ten minutes. As you can see, it was a near-disaster...I didn't bother checking the oven.

The second batch wasn't so bad...

 When I was done, my assistant helped me with the scraping.....

 doing a really good job at it...

a lot of licking...

and the verdict is....?

They're yummy! His face says it all...

and this is a hidden Mickey just for Alden

My oatmeal cookies didn't turn out the way I wanted but they were delicious nonetheless. For someone like me whose baking skills are limited, I consider this a huge success :-)

You might want to try this recipe. It's so simple!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
170g butter
200g white sugar
2 eggs
5ml vanilla extract
155g flour
5g baking soda
3g salt
225g rolled oats/ quick cooking oats
200g raisins

1. Preheat oven to 190°c
2. In large bowl, ceam together butter & sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs + vanilla until fluffy. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into butter mixture. Stir in oats and raisins.
3. Drop onto cooking sheets.
4. Bake for 10 minutes in oven until golden brown.

*courtesy of Caroline Lee

Good luck!

September 26, 2009

Goofy Saturday

I woke up this morning with the words BIRTHDAY- AMIR - MCDONALDS – PRESENT - flashing in my head. They lingered in my brain, like flickers of words in a digital signage. It was really annoying cause I couldn't make it stop - the whole flashing thingy. After a few seconds of grogginess, I shook my head and somehow managed to decipher the word puzzle. It simply meant: NEED TO ATTEND BIRTHDAY PARTY AT MCDONALDS, AT 10.30 AM – GET A PRESENT FOR AMIR’S SON (Btw, Amir is my office mate).

So it was already 9.15 a.m. and I was the only one up. Hubby and the kids were still in slumberland, snoring away in oblivion. Ahhh...with a heavy heart, I woke them up hesitantly and started getting ready. We showered, dressed, packed baby bag and Alden’s toys, put baby in the capsule and got in the car. Phew! Getting ready with two little people is like going on a packing marathon.

Now where was I? Right. To McDonalds. We still needed to get a present for Sina (Amir’s son) so we headed to Westfield Riccarton. I bought him a Lego-like construction set which was on-sale and wrapped it up in the car. Can you imagine how very kelam kabut I was? Well anyway, we were finally ready to attend the birthday party and I was all excited and smiling. We went into a very crowded McDonalds and headed straight to the function room, where the party was held.

Amir and his wife welcomed us cheerfully and got Alden a chair. It was obvious that the party was meant for kids and kids alone. All the parents were standing up, watching their little tots sit together, having their own little happy meals. A really cute sight! Alden was a bit uncomfortable with the crowd because most of the kids were bigger than his usual 3-year-old acquaintances in Pre School. But after awhile, he was okay. Alva was in her own baby world, happy and contented.

 *Now I’ll switch to BM coz takut nanti tu kawan sia terbaca ni blog.

Dukacitanya, kami semua tiada makan breakfast jadi kelaparan gila la kami (kecuali Alden and Vava). Ibu bapa nda kena kasi makan. Kena suruh datang bawa anak saja, tapi I wasn't aware of this. Kena kasi sedia kupi 3 in 1 sama air panas and biskut dlm tin bulat saja. Doi dogo. Style layan diri la ba ni. Mcm dua org saja parents pi minum tu kupi habis kena letak di saaaaaaaaaaana pelusuk ba, susa mau ambi. Semua pun mcm kelaparan and nda sabar mau pulang habis mau dekat lunch time suda and org datang dari 10 am lagi. Lain kan???? Kami expect mcm birthday party McDonald di KK la, ada makan for ibu bapa. I mean, normal la ba tu kan? Culture shock juga, tapi nda apala, kami tahan lapar ja. Kalau kami order something, nanti awkward juga tu situation coz kami suda masuk tu function room and susa mau keluar. So after 1 jam, kami said bye bye, Alden dapat party pack and then kami tapuk tapuk pi tapau McDonald. Kami beli yg sana Drive Thru. Hehe. 

So we were home and we had our own little feast. Hubby and I talked about the party and the cake and how awkward Alden behaved. He didn't enjoy himself at the party. That was obvious. I knew he wanted to join the other kids, but was too tensed to do so. But it’s okay. At home, in his comfort zone, he sort of relived the whole party scene and spent the whole day goofing around with his dad.

In reflection, today has been quite an interesting Saturday for me. I learned a thing or two about birthday parties and that is: to prepare early when attending one and never ever go with perut kosong :-)

September 23, 2009

Pilot work

So it’s official – I’m going to start my pilot study tomorrow! I have gotten the green light from the Academic manager of College X and ten international students enrolled in an ESL course will become my samples. So far, everything is going according to plan. I know it’s no big deal, just a pilot study with 10 students, small scale really. But knowing how dramatically tensed I can get over the smallest thing, I’m not taking any chances and will make sure every aspect of this study is looked into. There’s no margin for error. If I sound pathetic, it’s just my way of saying "I'm freaking out!". After all, it has been quite some time since I walked into a classroom.

Everything has been prepared since Tuesday; the handouts, questionnaire, stop watch, candies (for reward), attire and my black stilettos that shout “I mean business!”. Today, I could’ve just stayed home. But it just didn’t feel right. I thought I should be doing something productive rather than spend time babysitting at home. So after dropping Alden off at Pre School, I headed to the office and to my delight, saw this on my table.

The tulips cheered me up. Marilyn (in pic) brought them because I told her I had never seen real ones in my life. So being the kind soul that she is, she brought a few varieties of tulips and put them on my table. Isn't she sweet?

I spent 15 minutes oggling at the tulips, paying more attention to the one with the crinkly petals. When Marilyn brought them in this morning, they were still closed. But as the temperature in the room got warmer, they began to open. According to Marilyn, they are closed in the morning, evening, and in the shade. They will only open in the sun or when the weather gets warm. Anyway, my favourite is the one in bi-colour; purple with tinges of white.

After revelling in my own sakainess for about an hour, I decided it was time to do work. It was already 3.00 p.m. and I only had 90 minutes before Alden got off from school. I started doing some revisions, looking at my measures and rehearsing the procedures for tomorrow. After 15 minutes, I was done. A chunk of the afternoon was then spent on the internet; chatting, reading blogs, yahoo news and checking my mails. What have I accomplished today? Pretty much nothing ;-)

At 4.50 p.m. I got out from the office and called it a day. A very short day.

Many fine things can be done in a day if we don't always make that day tomorrow. This is quite right. But in my case right now, those fine things will have to wait till tomorrow. I'll wake up early, spend an hour getting ready, meet my samples, follow all procedures and end the session with a box of Cadbury candies. I should be okay...que sera sera...

September 19, 2009

A day of celebration - 19.09.09

I was six years old when my mom brought home our very first birthday cake. It was for my sister’s 10th birthday celebration and we had this small little party at home. Until today, the image of the cake is still vivid in my memory - a round cake covered with chocolate butter cream and sprinkles of chocolate rice. Cakes in those days, the 1980s to be exact, were just butter cream. They were yummy to the eyes but not to the taste buds. Regardless of that, my sister’s birthday marked a very important event in our household. It started the birthday cake tradition and introduced us to the rituals of blowing candles, making a wish and unwrapping gifts. And that was exactly 25 years ago – 19.9.1984.

Ever since my mom started the birthday cake tradition, I have been infatuated with birthdays. I love celebrating birthdays and I used to be so obsessed with the idea of having a perfect birthday, getting the perfect gift and wearing the perfect outfit. But now that I’m in Kampung Riccarton, I realized what I miss most is not the party, the gifts or the cake. What I really miss is that moment we sing “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl/ boy. That moment of togetherness and joy you share with your family and friends. That’s what makes a birthday special.

Today, as my sister celebrates her 35th birthday (sorry to remind you sis!) I will be here, cheering from afar. I may not be able to share that moment of togetherness this year but I’ll sure be there next year. Have a splendid birthday!

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. - Jack Benny

And what does your birth date say about you? - 19.09.09- Here are the answers...
  • You are resilient, and no doubt your resilience has already been tested. (True!)
  • You've had some difficult experiences in your life, but you are wise from them. (True!)
  • Having had to grow up quickly, you tend to discount the advice of others. (Only those who pandai-pandai advise)
  • You tend to be a loner, having learned that the only person you can depend on is yourself. (Hmm..what do you think cha?)
  • Your strength: Well developed stability and confidence (Ya...and being meticulous)
  • Your weakness: Suspicion of others (Betul oh ni)
  • Your power color: Eggplant (Enda tau la ni)
  • Your power symbol: Spade (This is crap)
  • Your power month: October (Maybe la)
If you want to find out the meaning of your own birth date, click on this link  

September 17, 2009

The Enchanted Little Alden

In an effort to avoid the flu bug, we gave Alden a two-week break from play school and let him recover from a terrible cold. After almost two weeks of 'quarantine', Alden got better but started misbehaving every chance he got; shouting at mom and dad, throwing tantrums and pinching little Alva. I guess being absent from school and not being able to socialize with other tots made him a grumpy little man. Yesterday, I decided to cheer him up with a fun outing. The destination? Air Force Museum of New Zealand. Not exactly the most exciting place to visit but to my boy Alden, it's the ultimate playground.

Strategically located at 45 Harvard Ave, Wigram, the museum is only a stone’s throw away from home. Admission is free and guided tours for pre-booked groups are available at a cost of $6 per person.When we arrived, I was particularly excited for Alden because he is sooooo into airplanes, helicopters and space shuttles. The moment he saw a replica of a WWI airliner at Harvard Ave, his eyes sparkled with glee as he shouted "mane! mane! mane mane! mane! mane! mane! mane! mane!". Saying that he was over-excited is an understatement. Alden was ready to jump out off the car to get on the aircraft! Hehe. Good thing he was strapped on the car seat. By the way, the word mane here means PLANE ;-).

It took us at least 10 minutes to park the car, get the stroller out and coordinate baby and overly-excited boy. Since Alden wasn't happy to see little Alva in his stroller (jealous + manja), I had to carry him and scurried to the entrance before things went out of hand. I wasted no time and started taking a few shots.

Alden's new hair cut...

Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch keeps the national collection of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). The collection is varied and includes objects used in the early days of New Zealand military aviation, from the time of pre World War I, post-war period to the present day. As we entered the atrium, we could see five different types of aircrafts, each representing a different era in the history of aviation. 

 Seeing this reminded me of the movie Night at the Museum 2.

Alden was absolutely thrilled when he saw all the aircrafts. The word "mane" echoed in the quiet atrium but no one seemed to mind. Thank goodness!

     Pilot wannabes....

Sampai Alva terbangun.....
Inside, there were more "manes".....

We took loads of pictures. At one point, Alden finally got tired, sat limply on his stroller and just marveled at the airplanes silently. No running, no outbursts, no more shrieky noises, no more "mane! mane! mane!". Just silence.

The tour was a hit. Alden was exhausted but he was once again his charming self. On the way home, he was all smiles and kisses. No more grumpy little man. I guess this means I should take him out more often :-)

September 12, 2009

Punishment should fit the crime

Remember my elaborate entry about my lost parcel? The one with the sort-of happy ending? Well, this is a sequel to that. I received a letter from the NZ Ministry of Justice stating that the offender in my case has appeared in the Rangiora District Court and has been convicted and ordered to pay me a reparation of NZ$300.

NZ$300 ONLY. The parcel was worth AUD$300!

Naturally, I'm outraged. The thief should pay me double, get a few strokes of the cane and spend at least a year in prison. Now that's JUSTICE. What do you think?

Knowing that he doesn't have to suffer for what he did reeeaaaalllly SUCKS. Yesterday, as I thought about this, I came up with a very good plot to sabotage him. One filled with vengeance and revenge. You see, since I still have the spare key to the old house, I could do a lot of damage to David Gordon. I could duplicate the house keys, attach his address and place them at "strategic locations" around the city. Locations where boy racers and crime offenders hang out. Evil huh? What happens next? These boy racers will then invade his house (while he's out for a beer) taking all of his belongings including the sofa in the living room.  They take EVERYTHING. Can you picture that? He is now broken and penniless. As he sits alone on the floor of the now-empty house, he sobs "Why me? Why me?".  Out of nowhere, a Morgan Freeman-ish voice echoes "My dear David, this is what you get for stealing Alice Wong's parcel. Have you learnt your lesson now?" The little thief freezes in shock and involuntarily pees on his pants. Scared for his life, he then mutters "YES! YES! YES! I have learnt my lesson. I am soooooo sorry. I will never ever steal again". The End.  Well, that's just my idea of a sweet revenge.

Soooo, what do you think of the plot? I told hubby bout it and of course he didn't approve. Not that I'd do it if he did  ;-).  Anyway, just so you know, the reparation of $300 will be paid by installment in the sum of $45.00 a week. Downright ridiculous kan? By the time he finish paying, he would've forgotten all about it. I guess punishment doesn't always fit the crime. With that perspective in mind, I guess i'll have to settle for $45.00 a week. Hai....

September 9, 2009

More Blossoms

Since I'm still having the blossom fever, I thought it's a good idea to show you other versions of the Sakura. This was taken last week...near the Christchurch Botanical Garden This is a white Sakura. Since hubby was facing the sun, the picture didn't come out as it's supposed to. This was taken this afternoon as I was driving to campus. Just couldn't resist taking a few shots. Close up The ground was covered with a blanket of pink petals I think the pictures say it all. I shall stop here and make this my shortest post ever. Hehe.

September 8, 2009

Spring has Sprung

Spring is finally here. It’s a pleasant 17° ceclsius outside and people have started walking around barefooted. Yes, BAREFOOTED! Just this afternoon I saw a pretty girl strutting around kaki ayam at the campus, wearing a cute yellow sun dress, happily showing off her perfect pedicured toes. People going around barefooted is just one example of the telltale signs of spring. Other signs include budding of the trees, warming of the temperatures and the blooming of cherry blossoms and daffodils. I’m not particularly crazy about daffodils despite its status as the most popular flowering buds. But Cherry Blossoms, now that’s just the most gorgeous flower.

The first time I saw the cherry trees, I just went gaga. They were soooooo beautiful, looking exactly like the Cherry Blossom trees in Memoirs of a Geisha. Why was I so sakai? Well, in my previous life, the closest I got to a Cherry Blossom came in the form of a flower-themed calendar. Untouchable. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the first cherry blossom in Christchurch. I had to ask hubby to do a U-turn (illegally!) so I could get a closer look and take some good shots. I think I got too carried away, what with the spring fever and all, and like some woman with psychiatric disorder, I started plucking the blossoms excitedly. Pathetic huh? I think I would’ve plucked more if it weren’t for hubby’s obvious embarrassment. He was waiting by the sidewalk, saying “Bah dear, capatla…” So, I stopped plucking and took pictures instead. Working hard.... Checking to see if anyone's looking... Mission accomplished!

Spring is indeed a magnificent season. It's only the beginning of September but I've already noticed a remarkable change in the landscape around the city. Flowers are blooming everywhere and trees which appear to be dead during winter have come alive. Even the birds are behaving differently. Recently, I've noticed that the birds around my neighbourhood begin to twitter noisily at 4.00am, every day! But that's okay. Compared to what I had to endure in the cold winter months, that's really nothing. Now that winter is over, I can look forward to sunny days and cheaper electricity bills! I can hang my clothes out on the line and have the smell of fresh air on them! Yes, being able to hang your clothes on the line to dry is a luxury here. Kasian me, I know ;-)...Well now that spring has sprung, I better enjoy it as much as I can :-)

*The Daffodils I saw today reminded me of this famous poem.  

"Daffodils" (1804)  
I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud 
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils; 
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 
Continuous as the stars that shine 
And twinkle on the Milky Way, 
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, 
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. 
The waves beside them danced; 
but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay, 
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought 
What wealth the show to me had brought: 
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood, 
They flash upon that inward eye 
Which is the bliss of solitude; 
And then my heart with pleasure fills, 
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

September 6, 2009


My dear friend Octavia tells me that the office is a place of solace for her. I can't help but agree 100 percent. Now before you knit your brows and burst “S-O-L-A-C-E? Are you insane??” let me first set the parameter for this perspective. It only applies to moms who get no peace at home, are sleep-deprived and have more than 1 kid to handle. Moms like me okay? Before I became a mother of two, I’d never thought I’d see my office as a secret getaway from my chaotic home. Now, I see it as a place where I get in touch with the outside world and get a grip of sanity. You see, at the office, things are always organized, neat and quiet. There is no annoying background music of Little Einsteins or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playing in my head. There isn’t any shouting or screaming that is loud enough to burst my ear drums, causing suicidal behaviour. NO. None of that. To me, the office equals TRANQUILITY. 

Having said that, I must admit not the same can be said about all offices around the world. In fact, most people, no matter how much they love their job, complain about their workplace all the time. The reasons for these complaints are many but two prominent ones are negative behaviour of staff members and social conflicts. Now I'm sure most of us at some point during our working lives have been affected by conflict and negative behaviour in the workplace. The kind of conflict I'm referring to doesn’t take the obvious form of a WWE, hair-pulling fight between colleagues. On the contrary, it is often subtle (hush hush) and may only be visible to those who have been affected by this over a period of time. According to Vivienne Patterson, director at EQ Consultants Christchurch, subtler form of conflicts and negative behaviour can be manifested in many ways: - unfriendly or disparaging comments - minimal communication - ignoring or attempting to ostracize others or simply not wanting to be helpful My friend NS for example, is often ridiculed when she wears something fancy to work. Her colleagues would eye her critically and say something like “Ko ni mau pi menyanyi ka mau pi office?”. This kind of remark is then layered with a smile and a devilish smirk, making it even more irritating. Another friend of mine CL, has to put up with her colleague’s habit of taking stuff from her desk without permission. To maintain harmony in the office, CL has to bury her instinct to strangle the cow (her nick name)and seethe silently. A torture really. I feel for you CL ;-). To both NS and CL, the office is NOT a place of solace. It’s a war zone where façade and diplomacy become weapons for self-defense. The better the façade the safer you’ll be. 

Sooo, where am I getting at? How do we sweep away low-profile conflicts at the workplace? Does a perfect workplace exist? An office where everyone loves everyone and everything is pink and peachy? I think you and I know the answer to that one. Wherever we go, there's bound to be a jackal (or two) who’ll make our lives miserable. And what’s more, we may not be able to kill this jackal because that’s just not the norm. The norm is to ignore conflicts and let them resolve on their own. So what are we to do? Well, we do what’s right. We work our butts off to make a living and focus on the positive sides of things. When we’re down, bored or going insane, we FACEBOOK and play FARMVILLE. Yes. That's what you've been doing right? Okay, if farming in cyberspace doesn’t appeal to you, there are many many more games to choose from in the internet. The point is, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s just not worth the effort. We gotta live a little :-) By the way, FACEBOOK is a powerful tool that can either make or break you. Look at this: Be careful with your status updates in FB :-)