5 Things I Learned This Year

I got the idea for this post when I read this GigaOM blog when I was surfing the Net recently.
Although it doesn’t necessarily need a heart attack to get me thinking, I know that by counting backwards (and looking at the good and the bad which have happened this year) I am in a better shape to move forward in 2009.
1. I am in much better shape now than I was in 2007.
Which is strange but true. I have always been doing yoga since 2001 but in 2007, when we finally moved office, I decided we needed to whip our staff into shape. She’d been gangly and thin and methinks a bit unhealthy so we made it a point to go collectively go for a Friday evening walk, encircling the lake near the Harapan students’ hostel in USM.
In the end, I benefited because I became such a walking freak that I’d go three times a week. My goal was to keep in shape, lose the flab and get into my old clothes. Initially I couldn’t even do full sit ups and ab crunches. Now I can do them all with ease, 3 sets of 10 ab crunches in less than 10 minutes. Man, am I proud of myself. (Why 3 sets? Workout enthusiasts will encourage workouts in sets as this is more effective than a single set. I suppose it gets the muscles stronger with repetition). And I got myself a hula hoop so I could do some hula hooping when I was watching TV.
All this because I am vain but also because I love myself and I didn’t want to look like a tired 30-something and look old before my time.
I was going to be fit and healthy.
And to make it sweeter, I joined the 10km StarWalk on a whim and completed it under 2 hours.
Next year, I am planning to join the Competition category for StarWalk. A friend has been asking me if I wanted to go climb Gunung Kinabalu. We shall see.
2. Certain friends have expiry dates.
I realized that people whom I called best friends or great friends weren’t so fantastic after all. I’ve always felt that good friends will come through for you no matter what. I guess I am the only one with this idea.
I became quite disillusioned with three friends, especially after one of them admitted that her husband and daughter came first and no friends came close to that.
Boy was I pissed.
I mean, do you say that to your good friends? That hurt and hurt deep. Or how about friends who promised you they’ll be there but never turned up? No sorry, no nothing.
That’s why I am going to focus on friends who appreciate and value my friendship. Not friends who take me for granted.
3. I can live without checking my email.
I used to spend weekends and public holidays checking email and getting sucked into work all over again. I used to get antsy if I were not near a PC and couldn’t do work. I felt a bit disoriented if I didn’t log on to check my Gmail every now and then.
But this year, I found that I could live without checking my email.
The problem with email is that it destroys productivity especially if you keep checking it all the time.
Now I set some ground rules for myself. I will only check email 3x a day so I can focus on completing tasks and real work.
I will not check email on weekends or public holidays. So friends and clients, do bear with me if I don’t reply you on weekends. It’s nothing personal, it’s just me and my principle.
I will not run to the nearest PC on rest days because I can do a host of non-IT stuff which helps me re-balance my life (such as reading all the books I bought this year, beading, crocheting, writing, learning, cooking, exercising, spending time brushing Margaret, lunching with family and friends, phoning family and friends for chats, going for walks, being silent).
I love my business and my clients but I know that if I am healthy and balanced, I am in a better shape to run my business.
4. I am worth it.
I often used to feel guilty if I did something for myself. I used to think that I should be doing things, pleasing others and getting them happy. I always treated myself like some second-rate citizen, refusing to give in to little pleasures which made me happy.
I think I grew up thinking that being a martyr was my lifelong work.
I felt guilty if I wasn’t an A-student, I felt guilty if I wasn’t using up every bit of time to do ‘productive’ work, I felt guilty saying yes to myself (like buying something expensive or eating something frivolous).
But this year, I have stopped these feelings of guilt.
I know I’m not the only one…it’s the same with most women – my sister buys the best for her children yet scrimps on herself.
We can splurge on expensive gifts for our friends and families but we would never (or at least if it’s only me), I would never be able to justify why I needed that thing.
But no more. I tell myself that if I don’t take care of myself, don’t reward myself for the good I do, don’t appreciate myself, then no one can either. Because I work hard for my money, I deserve to splurge now and then. I’m worth it and so are you.
We have one life to live so make this extra special. (But moderation people. I’m not responsible if you max out your credit cards in one go.)
5. Love and thanks compound well
The act of saying grateful thanks for every day well-lived is something I acquired this year.
I have conscious moments when I give grateful thanks – before I have my meals (something precious which I learnt from my Christian friends), when I start the day after my morning Buddhist prayers, and at night, when I write down 5 things I am grateful for.
I also make it a habit to read my affirmations (printed and tacked to my wardrobe door) each morning.
I have had wonderful and amazing experiences this year and I know you probably think me silly, but I attribute the good to my ‘messages’ of love and thanks.
More and more being positive is not some temporary madness but a good way to live life and in the process, touch others.
But I think it’s also in my genes – this upbeat, can-do attitude. Many people scoff at The Secret and its teaching of the law of attraction. Whatever. If it helps and does not harm me or others, I shall try it. And if you still aren’t convinced, discover Dr Masaru Emoto and his thoughts on water, vibration and thoughts.
So there, 5 things I learnt this year. I hope you will look back on your past year and tell me what you learnt. There’s much good to be had from sharing life lessons! After all we are all beings on this journey together. So let’s learn together yeah?
I won’t be partying tonight – it will be a quiet evening at home. I somehow need time to recharge and get ready for 2009.
If I have not thanked you yet, I am thanking YOU now for coming back again and again to read the mad ramblings of a 30-something woman who still feels like she’s only 21. I thank you for leaving comments. I thank you for being a friend.
Above all else, I thank YOU for sharing your life with me. Mayakirana treasures every comment, every gesture of friendship and every time you log on to visit this blog.
Muchos gracias people!

Presenting My Rosemary Raisin Bread

Doesn’t my bread look glorious?
Yup, after 35 minutes in the oven (160 C), it came out nicely baked. I brushed some butter on the top while it was still warm. Made them into 9 buns as you can see.
But the texture was perfect unlike my other bread experiments.
Thanks BG for giving me back my confidence in breadmaking, using the traditional kneading method!
Here’s a tip from BG: Homemade bread will not be as soft as store bought bread. It will harden if left out in the open. It’s best to keep this bread in an airtight container in the fridge. To eat, just bring it to room temperature or warm it lightly in the oven at a very low heat. This homemade bread will be chewy but nothing beats homemade bread – it’s the satisfaction that you have made this bun/roll/bread on your own that makes it taste so damn good!

Back into Bread-making Mode

Since today is a public holiday, I decided to make some bread. Yes, I am back into THAT mode again. I think it’s because BG gave me some kind words and encouraged me to try his pre-ferment or biga or sponge method which he says is easy peasy.
OK, and since I love easy peasy breads and since my other attempts were so-so lah, I decided to try again.
You see, I hate failing. I know. No one likes failing right? But me, I think I do not deserve to fail especially when it comes to something like breadmaking. Granted, I am not the best chef in the world but I can bloody hell cook other stuff….sarawak laksa, boil soups my grandma would give the thumbs up to, make curry puffs the old fashioned way – you know, using fingers to fold the edges one by one and not using some plastic curry puff crimper (a legacy of my mom’s I assure you).
So why not bread?
Today, I made pre-ferment bread. I haven’t baked it yet as it’s still rising. But I will alert you the moment it comes out of the oven. It’s worse than waiting for PMR results man. Nailbiting intense.
OK, to make this pre-ferment bread, you work on it the night before. I won’t repeat BG’s instructions so you head on over to his blog and steal his recipe haha.
I did add 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (which I dug out from somewhere in the cabinet) and a handful of raisins.
And I kneaded vigorously, so vigorously that BG would be extremely proud of me. For 30 minutes, I pulled, pushed, twisted the bread dough. And sweat I did. It was a workout for the arms!
So now it’s merrily rising away for an hour before I take it out, punch it down and give it a second rise for 45 minutes before it goes into a preheated oven for a good baking.
This time though, I used plain flour for the pre-ferment stage but I bought high gluten flour (Nona brand, called Top Flour) to try out.
Let’s all cross fingers for my Raisin Rosemary Pre-Ferment Bread!
* But before I forget, a big shout out and thank you to Dotty who posted to me a lovely Anne Geddes Baby Names Keepsake! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are too sweet.

** I was surfing about for bread recipes and stumbled onto this white bread recipe which is terribly funny and very detailed on each ingredient.

Putting You In A Great Mood

I love classical music but this has to be one of my personal favourites.
For a quiet, undemanding Sunday of Internet surfing. For a good deep breath. For a great way to relax without doing the retail therapy grind (which I have been doing for the past few days and eating myself a bit silly).
For a delicious way to wind down the year and get ready for the new one.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major – absolute heaven. Enjoy your Sunday!

Did You Have A Merry One?

I had a quiet but busy Christmas yesterday. Actually I started early as I was shopping the whole of Wednesday, Christmas Eve. Which was odd considering I am not Christian!
(If you like warehouse sales, head on over to the PISA/Metrojaya Warehouse Sale. Lots of household stuff, lots of clothes, lots of cosmetics on sale. The prices are comparable to the warehouse sales in KL and PJ. It’s on until this Monday.)
I spent Christmas day by getting out of the apartment and having an Italian lunch with my aunts and sis at Ecco Cafe on Chulia Street. It wasn’t my first choice at all but Edelweiss Cafe was closed. And my aunts didn’t want any old Chinese food. They wanted something different. So we ended up having pizza and pasta and in usual style, my aunt chatted with the chef/owner of Ecco’s.
We later went on a butter-buying spree at the newly opened supermarket, Pacific at Komtar. It’s like a reincarnation of Super Komtar. Suddenly Komtar had come alive.
Unfortunately, Pacific reminds me of the departmental stores of yore. Yes, it was all shiny and new but the clothes department was not enticing at all.
Miffed, we headed down to the supermarket section only to be overwhelmed by 2 things – the crazy crowd of people packing every aisle like they’ve never seen a supermarket before (Malaysians love a new supermarket!) and a terrible stink from the fresh fish section. Yucks!
Call me a snob but I much prefer Jusco at Queensbay Mall or even my neighbourhood Tesco. (I couldn’t even find fresh button mushrooms at Pacific!)
But grab butter we did. In fact, between my Aunt Jo and I, we bought about 20 blocks of Anchor butter for baking cookies for Chinese New Year. She’s intent on baking them but my butter is for hoarding…. for breakfast!
I hope you had a good one yesterday… and if you’re still in that holiday mood, well, wishing you more of that too!
Belated Merry Christmas then!

The 2 New Men In My Life

I think I go crazy once in a while. And Nic tolerates that coz I am often more sane than insane.
But this time, he caused it.
He has been watching The Legend of Bruce Lee on 8TV on most weekday nights (if you don’t know, it’s from 8.30pm to 9.30pm) and he started getting ME interested in Bruce. The series is in Mandarin and it just kills me watching Caucasians speak Mandarin (dubbed of course).
It’s still on so if you are a big Bruce Lee fan, you should sneak a peek at this series. It chronicles the life and times of the Jeet Kun Do legend.
Yes, Bruce is smug and overbearing at times but he did win in the fighting bouts most people challenged him in. I suppose you can be smug and overbearing and haughty if you have the expertise and skills. Anyway, according to Nic, the walking wikipedia on Bruce and all Bruce trivia, Bruce jogs 10km each day without fail. Everyone wants to be Bruce Lee but no one can do the stuff he does, including the self-punishing regimen he puts himself through.
And through Bruce, I get to know about Yip Mun – the man whom Bruce learnt his Wing Chun style of martial art from. Yip Mun is Bruce’s mentor.
After rushing to GSC in Queensbay just two days ago to catch Ip Man (it’s pronounced Yip Mun okay? Not I-P Man as the GSC ticket seller said. Not I-P Man like Rocket Man or Yes Man, okay? Sheesh), I am now totally in love with Donnie Yen (who plays Yip Man) and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, that very suave Japanese guy who plays the baddie General Miuru. (Nic says he looks like David Blaine without hair).
Watching kungfu films does this to me. If I watch Jet Li again, I know I’d sit through the whole damn thing and end up swooning over him even though he’s now getting rather old for his craft. A Jet Li movie fest – his kungfu movies only of course – will make you want to run out and sign up for martial art classes. Men with pigtails never looked so hunkilicious.
But it’s topped by this new movie, Ip Man.
Ip Man is about the grandmaster who really doesn’t want to be a grandmaster. Living in Foshan, he’s wealthy enough not to work or do anything physical except eat, drink tea and practice Wing Chun. Which isn’t really a bad way to live actually. Foshan is a town where new kung fu centres sprout almost every other day and one day, one barbarian (that’s what all Northerners are called) comes to challenge the kung fu masters, only to be defeated by Ip Man, the gentleman kung fu maestro in a truly humorous way.
Still Ip Man is not swayed even as the townspeople urge him to set up his own kung fu centre (I am not sure if Ip Man is being humble or just wants to get out of doing work).
Of course, the war arrives and the Japanese invade China, Foshan included. He is now reduced to pawning his possessions to put rice on the table for his wife and son.
He ends up fighting the Japanese and of course, ends up a hero. It’s that sort of Chinese patriotic movie. This thing Chinese have for the Japanese is still all enduring – this hate runs deep. In every movie made to showcase Chinese heros, a snub is always made at the Japs. I think it’s also deeply strange that a nation of gentle people could be so violent and brutal at one time in history. I wonder how the Japanese feel each time they see themselves portrayed like this? It’s like they turned into monsters and then turned back into docile creatures.
You have to watch this movie because the best scenes are the fighting scenes. I’m probably going to watch it again as I want to swoon over Donnie and Hiroyuki while Nic just wants to enjoy the fighting, executed a lot better than the other Sammo Hung movie, Wushu (now this Wushu movie is too corny and crappy for words – so much so I am NOT going to waste words blogging about it).
Wing Chun is a special martial art as it was a woman’s martial art, and story has it that it came from a woman called Yim Wing Chun who learnt it from a Buddhist nun. It is close body contact fighting, something that Bruce is famous for. Thank God it’s a delicate, poetic name like Wing Chun (Forever Spring in Cantonese).
No one would want to learn it if it’s called Fei Mui (Fat Lady) or something trite! See, names are important. And I still take offence that it’s not spelled Yip Mun!
And now, for the yummy trailer!

Cakes Etc, My Secret for Freshly Baked Cakes

I first got to know about Ai Tee from Kim.
Kim’s one of the ladies in our business women networking group and she’s a big foodie (just like me!). Kim had ordered a durian cheesecake from Ai Tee for our WomenBizSense 2nd anniversary and from that moment onwards, I was hooked.
Then I got the idea of belanja-ing my staff this cake, especially since JM was finishing up her internship with us a few months ago. See JM’s blog for a review of the cake.
And just a few days ago, I got an updated listing from Ai Tee.
I couldn’t help but order some muffins – banana and white chocolate chip. RM20 for 12 muffins is a good deal, don’t you think? Especially if one craves muffins and not in the mood to bake any!
Banana and white choc muffins by Ai Tee
In fact, the muffin powered me up for my StarWalk on Sunday. That 1 muffin plus 1 cup of Nesvita gave me enough energy to complete the 10 km walk.
Some of the stuff which Ai Tee makes include: Cempedak Butter Cake, Sugee Cake, Durian Cheesecake, Cempedak Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, New York Style Bagels, Traditional Buttermilk Scones, Peach Pie, Dobos Torte and lots more. Prices range from RM15 to RM45.
Anyway, get the complete list of the delicious cakes, bagels, muffins and etc that Ai Tee makes by emailing her: aiteeken [at] yahoo.com or call her at 016 454 8984. Say you came from Krista! 😉
You do have to pick up the orders yourself but she lives centrally so it’s not really a problem. Prices are reasonable plus it’s all homemade and scrumptious.
Cakes Etc for homemade cakes, muffins, bagels and pies

Meet Mr Cooking Engineer

It’s great when friends appear in the newspapers (positive news of course!).
This one is an interview which The Star did with Eddie, who is a friend of mine and Nic’s. He is a cooking engineer which means he is an engineer but he also cooks. He’s also based in the USA.
He was featured in Monday’s Malaysians Abroad section of The Star and I almost guffawed when I saw the photo.
That is so Eddie! He tries to look ferocious but really, he’s a sweet guy. (And single, so ahem, if any ladies are interested in moving to the US and having a man cook for you, Eddie’s the guy!)
Actually Eddie’s on my blogroll and I met him yonks ago at this Mardi Gras party he and his siblings had at his home in Kuching.
But go read the spiffy interview and then go visit Eddie’s Cooking Engineer blog.

A Little Christmasey Do at Penang's 32

Another successful year for WomenBizSense! Another year to celebrate.
WomenBizSense Christmas Luncheon at 32 The Mansion, Penang
That was how I felt on last Friday as we had our super early Christmas luncheon at 32 The Mansion. As a co-organiser/co-founder/head of emailing/all round Jill, I am thankful that 12 ladies showed up too. We have 45 ladies in our group but not everyone attends all the time.
When I started this with Jo in 2006 (wow, that sounds like a long time ago!), we were afraid we wouldn’t find enough women entrepreneurs in Penang to join our little networking group. And that was our nightmare. What if no one joined? Would we still forge ahead? Where do we meet other business women?
In the end, our fears came to nought. In fact, we keep meeting women entrepreneurs all the time! We keep our eyes peeled and our ears sharp, ready to introduce ourselves to the next lady about our networking group.
The feedback has been positive because women love sharing! Our group has shared business contacts and friendships which makes me a little sentimental about the power of true giving.
And we have not become a silly coffee clutch of ladies either. We’ve been actively doing good for each other and raising money for the community. (Last year, we raised some money, not a lot, not millions but enough to know it came from the heart for the Persatuan Lupus Malaysia Penang chapter. This year we’re hoping to sponsor a 17-year-old girl enrolled at the Handicapped Children’s Centre at Grove Road.)
From a meeting each quarter to a meeting every month now, I must say Jo and I have done an amazing job of keeping WomenBizSense alive.
I’m proud of how distinct we are from other business networking groups – we only admit women, we’re all business owners, we don’t allow MLMers or insurance agents and there’s nothing wrong with mixing friendship and business, there’s nothing wrong with caring for a family and running a successful business and there’s simply no better gratification than having a bunch of friends who understand you completely.
And now, please enjoy the photos!

I Succumbed… and Went to the PC Fair

I don’t like admitting this but I actually willed myself not to visit this year’s PC Fair (which ended yesterday at PISA). But I did. I succumbed and plunged into the crowd of IT-mad people, pushing and jostling each other to get their nerdy fingers on the latest technological gizmo.
I didn’t want to go yesterday (a Sunday) because Penangites will wait till the last minute to shop for bargains. The belief is, you get more for your money on the last day of the 3-day fair as the sellers will mark down most stuff (bigger and bulkier stuff like printers) as they won’t want to cart such stuff back to their shops and warehouses. Which means you will see MORE people lugging boxes of printers and IT gadgets out of the fair on the last day.
Anyway, I knew if I went, I’d just go and salivate over the iPod Touch (again, for the millionth time) and the folks at Apple Switch centre (in Gurney Plaza and Queensbay Mall) have seen Nic at their stores so often, it’s embarrassing!
But yes, I did mosey over to the Apple Switch booth and yes, I did fiddle about with the iPod Nano and yes, I did linger around a bit too much there! I would love to get the iPod Touch but I know I will get tired of it in a month’s time.
I’m not a biggie music downloader nor am I a biggie Youtube fan. I cannot bloody justify to myself why I would spend that obscene amount of money on a thing that’s more of an envy gadget. (Envy gadget means you will envy me when I whip it out….cue dracula music and some evil sounding laughing).
As it is, I use my Sony Ericsson phone for almost everything these days, from listening to audio books, to my Buddhist chanting to keeping photos of my niece and nephew. So really, practical me says, what the heck do I need the iPod Touch for?
I’d rather go splurge on food and books.
Nic and I promised each other we wouldn’t buy anything at the PC Fair. In the end I bought this.
silicone keyboard
A silicone keyboard (RM 18)! I can roll this keyboard up if I want to.
You can fold this keyboard up
It’s a full-size keyboard which I can attach to my Asus Eee PC. The Eee PC keypads are a little too tiny, even for my womanly fingers. So I need this silicone keyboard to type properly.
Pliable keyboard hooked to my eee asus mini laptop
Nic also wanted his wireless headphones (RM30) but he soon forgot about them! Ha. Plus there were good bargains on Celcom Broadband and even WiMax had a booth. WiMax will be rolling out next year but they wanted our names and other data. Fat hopes.
We saw lots of pirated iPod nanos – one booth was selling lookalikes for RM65! Even the packaging looked similar. Of course, they weren’t called nanos, they were called MP4 players. Clever. I guess if one’s destitute but had a wish for an iPod, even a lookalike would do. Buying a rip-off is a bit like lying to yourself. You know it’s a fake but you say, never mind lah, I saved a bundle.
But buying the real thing – now that’s pure pleasure.
I’d go for the real Apple iPod any day, if only I could justify why I wanted that thing. Such a snob right?
* I know I had been missing a while now from this blog. Went home last week to Banting to spend some time at home with my Mom and Dad. It’s good to just go home and chill a bit though Banting is becoming more and more unfamiliar to me. My first love is still dirty, loud and noisy Penang.