3…Going Strong

Last week was a bit of rush for me as we held our first free talk. Anyway, that’s done till the next monthly talk comes up in September. (Just in case you want to attend, do sign up! I promise it’s fun and educational.)
The next day, I rushed off to my WomenBizSense lunch to celebrate our 3rd anniversary. This time, it was held at Strada Restaurant on Pulau Tikus. I don’t mind the venue though parking is a hassle especially if we’re talking about Pulau Tikus traffic on a Friday afternoon, lunch hour no less!
WomenBizSense is now 3 years old.

Last Friday, I was truly grateful that so many friends turned up to help us celebrate this third birthday of ours. Most of them were regular attendees of our networking events; all of them businesswomen in their own right.
All busy but all took time to come share this achievement with us. Us as in me and Jo. Jo had the idea to start this group many years ago and when she told me, I said, why not?
The ‘why not’ was also painted with rebellion. Sometimes that’s me. If I don’t like something that I see out there, I’d rather start my own or do something on my own. I’d seen many business groups but none resonated with me. Some rules were plain silly anyway. Instead of griping, I thought, let’s see what we can do about it. And yup, WomenBizSense was born.
But running a women’s only networking group does have its setback sometimes. As we’re a group that meets once a month, relationships may not be as strong as what we envision. And we don’t have membership dues so some women do take us for granted – they attend once or twice and disappear for a year or so. They drop in whenever they like at events. And women always put family first so we work around nitty-gritties like school, kids, holidays and festivities.
And Jo and I cannot be running this group forever. At some point, we need others to pitch in. And of course, grow the group so we can do better things and bring more benefits to the group of women entrepreneurs in Penang.
Right now we’re not publicising ourselves enough. It’s just within the group of 40 or so ladies but that’s certainly not enough. And yes, it’s a voluntary role because we started it out of pure need. We needed a group for women entrepreneurs who are just starting out, who want to get genuine referrals, who want to become friends and at the same time do business with each other.
But realizing these teething problems is one good way of moving forward.
I realize that Jo and I cannot do this on our limited resources if we want to reach out to more women who run small businesses in Penang.
Starting next month, we’re electing a group of committee members to help us out – to plan activities which are more social and recreational in nature. The funny thing with women is, if we’re not comfortable with each other, we cannot refer or send business to each other. Or does this also happen with men? (Men, if you run businesses, I’d love to hear your point of view.)
One day, our dream for WomenBizSense is that there’s a chapter in every city across Malaysia. That’s what one member said to us during our sharing session after lunch was over and done with.
Again, I think, why not? All things are possible.
I’m glad we’ve turned 3. We’re just beginning at WomenBizSense!

Cake Recipes From My Car Servicing Centre

I know. What a title isn’t it? You must have thought I’d gone nuts.
But the title of this post stands because… I really got some recipes from my car servicing centre this afternoon although I did get more than pissed. I got pissed because the people keep telling you to change this and that and when you get the bill for servicing your car, you almost die of a heart attack. The bill’s crazy. (But more of this later*…)
Most car service centres have ‘waiting lounges’ while your car gets its engine oil changed, or its air-conditioner cleaned. Sometimes I bring along my Asus netbook so I can hook up on the free wifi and reply emails during the 1 hour to 2 hour wait.
There’s the TV but who’s watching TV these days right? And the ice cream corner isn’t exactly what I like either. The magazines are rather old and most of them are Malay magazines.
Today I’d planned to read my Pratchett but that didn’t happen. I saw Her World on the magazine rack and decided to poke about – I’ve never been a fan of this magazine (it reminds me too much of my mother’s era!). In fact, I’ve never been much of a local women’s magazine fan unless they’re passed to me by my sister after she’s finished clipping out contest forms!
But surprise. The magazine featured a few very simple cake recipes! Since I tote along my Canon Ixus everywhere and I was too lazy to start scribbling down the recipes, I decided to take some snaps of the recipes! The best thing about technology these days! No pen or paper? No problem. Have camera will travel!
In fact, the cakes were pretty interesting plus they had basic and simple ingredients – Apple Cake with Pine Nuts, Chocolate Raisin Cake, Lemon Almond Cake and Banana Cake.
Here’s one of them:
Chocolate Raisin Cake
This is the second part – where the ingredients are listed:
part 2 of choc raisin cake recipe
And finally part 3 where the instructions are:
how to make choc raisin cake
I’m going to try them out soon! Wait for the results.
(* Oh ya, never let the car service people tell you what YOU ought to change/replace in your car even though it is ‘recommended’ to do so. If you don’t feel you ought to simply change and replace parts of your car, tell them you don’t need the change. We don’t need to be bullied into paying hundreds of ringgit just because someone tells us it’s needed. As a consumer, you decide what you want. Don’t let others make decisions for you.)

Exploring Penang On Foot

This post is a bit overdue. But it is an example of what Nic and I love about Penang. There’s much to see, explore, appreciate and love.
Visiting art galleries is something we do when we’re free. It’s great to check in on the latest artists, especially up and coming ones. I still nag Nic about going back to his art. He really ought to. He does very well when he paints. And I am most certainly NOT saying this because he is my spouse. I say this because I’m going to be a very Rich Woman in my twilight years because I get to pick and keep the best art pieces in his collection ;-). LOL.

Visiting Galeri Seni Mutiara in Armenian Street
Visiting Galeri Seni Mutiara in Armenian Street

When we visited Galeri Seni Mutiara a few weeks back, it was an exhibition of watercolour pieces by Ong Choon Hoe. From the art, you can glimpse the soul of the artist. This one certainly loved boats and the sea. Every piece seemed to be about fishing boats of Malaysian fishing communities.
Ong Choon Hoe's watercolour piece
Ong Choon Hoe's watercolour piece

Another stopover once we were done with gazing at watercolour art was to this quaint tea house along King Street. I’d found this place when I was involved in a charity treasure hunt a few months ago. (It has now moved to a more happening address; now it’s the same row with the Pitt Street Goddess of Mercy Temple. Look out for a bright green shophouse near the flower/garland stalls).
Nic chatting to the tea master, Mr Oh
Nic chatting to the tea master, Mr Oh

Mr Oh’s little tea house was quirky! Laminate tables and plastic chairs. Cobwebs on the ceiling. Totally old world feel. He brews his medicinal pu-erh tea in his slow cooker. You can have pu-erh tea by the glass jug at RM1.20. He also sells pu-erh tea cakes and pu-erh tea in loose leaf form.
Pu erh tea cakes - the older they are, the pricier they get!
Pu erh tea cakes - the older they are, the pricier they get!

Pu-erh is a warming tea with a signature dark colour unlike most chinese teas. Mr Oh’s master (or sifu) is the original tea master who uses specially concocted pu-erh tea to help people who suffer from illnesses and ailments. He was not shy in telling us that his master helped cure a man who had prostate cancer by getting the man to drink pu-erh tea daily!
A jug of pu erh costs RM1.20
A jug of pu erh costs RM1.20

I know that pu-erh tea is good for slimming (not that I want to grow slimmer!). It’s also a good tea to drink as it is not cooling unlike jasmine tea. Pu-erh tea is great after a meal of oily food. In Chinese dim sum eateries, you can get a type of tea called “Kuk Po” which is a combination of pu-erh tea leaves and chrysanthemum flowers. As pu-erh warms and chrysanthemum cools, marrying both is essentially a Chinese method of ensuring proper yin and yang! Too yin creates health problems like chilly hands and feet while too yang creates an overheated body system. That is why balance is important especially in food!
Nic sipping tea in a quaint tea house.
Nic sipping tea in a quaint tea house.

Mr Oh chats in English and Hokkien so you can drop by anytime for an affordable cup of tea. He probably has some 60s music playing too.
What a strange combination huh!

More Books From My Fave List

Here are more books from my fave list. In case you missed out my first book list, you can check it out here.
11. Waiting for Your Cat to Bark by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg
This is for website junkies only. When I read this book, I totally understood what they said because that’s what we practise here in Redbox Studio. It’s all about communication, psychology and logical design. It does not matter how many hits you get if your hits don’t convert.
12. The Greatness Guide by Robin Sharma
Yes, I met Robin Sharma recently and yes, I bought this book for Nic (had it signed by Robin himself too). But I started reading it and found it enthralling, with short reminders about living a great life. With 101 stories, I found that I could pick it up, riffle through a few pages of stories and continue another day.
13. 1434 by Gavin Menzies
I did not manage to read his first book, 1421 but that didn’t stop me from buying this second book. Gavin writes non-fiction so this is a book about how the Chinese ignited the Renaissance in Italy. So now we know it wasn’t really the brilliant Italians that started it all – they copied off the Chinese! The Chinese, led by Admiral Cheng Ho, brought with them the tools and technology to share with the Italians. All of a sudden, dear old Leonardo da Vinci seems redundant! If you’ve never liked history, after reading this, you’ll want to be a historian. (Update: I read that “Doing Da Vinci” the documentary that gets a few engineers together to build some of the machinery which Da Vinci wrote about but never built will be shown on ASTRO. Hah. For all we know, Da Vinci copied those OFF the Chinese. Look at the similarities the Italians have with the Chinese. Noodles/spaghetti?)
14. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
I don’t have to retell the story of why I love this eye-opening book. It throws all you know about money and finances out of the window. See my little story of this book.
Other equally notable books by Robert are: The Cashflow Quadrant, Retire Young Retire Rich. All teach you how to take control of your financial future. It’s one of the best and most influential reads of this century!
15. Brand You 50 by Tom Peters
Tom Peters’ book is about branding but written in short, quick quips and tips. Formerly from McKinsey, Peters’ books can be a shock to your visual senses. He loves using typography and colours to underline his points and boy does he have plenty of them. I can only take so much of Peters’ books before my eyes get tired. His ideas are radical and cool though. I suggest dipping into them maybe 3 pages a day!
16. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker
I read this book before I saw the man live on stage. I much prefer the book to the real man, sorry to say. I’ve even bought his books for friends because what he says is true – if you don’t change your blueprint for money success, it does not matter how much money you have, you won’t be able to keep it or do much with it. Starting with the right money attitude and blueprint is essential if you want to live well and rich. Most of us live with the money blueprint of our parents. We inherit the blueprints and if we are not careful, they could ruin our chance at success. This book is a life-changer. A must-have on your bookshelf.
More excellent books:
Seeds of Greatness by Denis Waitley
The Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer
Success Built to Last by Porras, Emery & Thomson
Coming up: My best-loved fiction list!

The Question of Filial Piety

I had debated with myself whether or not to write this. By writing this, I am opening up and divulging secrets -which probably is only important to me. Still they are secrets.
Reading about children abandoning parents in hospitals and old folks’ homes recently kept me thinking. The newspaper story kept reiterating stories and interviews with old men and women in their 70s and 80s who were uncared for, dumped without a care at hospitals, never to be fetched home again.
I do feel sorry for the old people. Of course, it is terrible to be left alone when one is aging and unwell. And yes there’s bitterness underlying their words. After all, they were the parents who had brought up their children and now this is what they do in return.
And this stirs up the reader’s anger too towards these ‘children’ who are all grown up, married with families of their own. There’s a Chinese saying that goes like this: a parent may be able to take care and bring up 9 children but it is not for sure that the 9 children will be able to care for their parent!
In so many ways, this is becoming true.
And MCA is now asking itself – whatever happened to filial piety? Didn’t schools drum this into kids? Aren’t we Chinese/Asians/Malaysians the filial sort? What happened to THAT?
Let me go out on a limb here.
In the course of interviewing these abandoned old people, did the journalist once ask if these old people did or say anything to their children that made them difficult or horrible to live with? Did these old people honour and respect their own parents? Did they love their children and shower them with affection instead of break into unreasonable threats like ‘respect me because I’m your father’ or ‘because I said so’?
How can a child grow up to be filial when his own parents aren’t filial to his grandparents? How can a child grow up to love and cherish his parents if his parents have never loved or cherished him?
And have you ever wondered how tough it is living with aging people? Their needs are different, yes, but their moods, their sarcasm, their grumpiness – these can suck the life out of any family!
My late maternal grandparents lived with us – that’s my parents and us three sisters. They were suspicious of everything and everyone. My grandfather was not an easy person to live with. He had a long list of what other people must not do in front of him. This included whistling!
And once in his many fits of anger, my very own grandfather had threatened us with a chopper – he wanted to kill us all! I was about 11 then, and my dad herded us all into the master bedroom and locked the door. We were afraid.
Due to that incident, my parents decided that since my grandparents couldn’t live with us, it was best we rented them a room near us and let them live there. My mom cooked and brought meals to them twice a day. They were happy initially but after a while, they decided they wanted to come back to our home again. And so my parents relented and let them come home.
We tried not to enrage our grandparents – my grandma was like a faucet. If we said something that she felt was an insult to her (even though we weren’t even talking about her), she’d start weeping! She would do strange things that made mom livid – like washing her hair with FAB, the clothes detergent although we had shampoo! Hygiene was also not my grandma’s strong points. She would not bathe at all for a few days until we detected it.
But in the end, they were with us till both of them passed on a few years ago.
So I know what it means when we talk about crazy old folks. I lived with them when I was young. I know it’s really difficult. Sometimes I suspected my grandfather suffered from schizophrenia although he was never diagnosed as such. I always admired my dad’s tenacity through it all because it would have been so easy for him to send them to an old folks’ home. They were, after all, his parents-in-law. And my mom was an adopted daughter so really, there weren’t any blood ties. But he stuck through it all, even footing their funeral expenses when they passed away.
So when we talk about filial piety, someone has to get facts right. Ask those kids who’ve ‘abandoned’ their parents and ask them for their side of the story. What made them move away from their parents? What made them make that decision of sending their parents away? It couldn’t have been an easy decision to make. Of course there are those callous sons and daughters who wouldn’t care at all. I’m not siding those people.
If you’ve loved your children and treated them well when they were growing up, there’s no doubt that they will care for you when you grow old.
It is when you were a tyrant to your children when they were growing up, is there any way they wouldn’t be tyrannical to you?
One of the universal tenets is this: treat others like how you would like to be treated. This applies to family relationships too. Treat your children well, teach them well and you won’t be all alone at the end of your life.

A Funny Little Thing Called Home

We were at our new home yesterday evening, taking measurements as we had forgotten to measure certain parts of the kitchen.
I am slowly getting used to the idea that soon I will be living in this ground floor apartment unit as opposed to my first floor apartment.
I’m thinking of reasons to love being in this new house.
Actually I don’t have to think of many – it has a lot of potential to be diamond. Right now it is a diamond in the rough. An unpolished gemstone.
I love the location. It is 5 minutes away from my favourite mall and when I say favourite, it does not mean I am a shopaholic, it’s just that Jusco and Borders are both in the same mall. I can imagine popping into Jusco or Borders just for fun.
It’s also a brief walk away from cafes and restaurants. Penang is not a pedestrian-friendly place, I admit it. So to be able to walk to get my food – now that is a new approach to being the eco-urbanite that I am.
In front of my new place is a huge park suitable for jogging. With basketball court, stationary exercise machines, children’s playground and even monkey bars. In our current residence, we have a gorgeous swimming pool. So we had to think really hard about this when we decided to buy our current place. Could we change our exercise habits from swimming to walking or jogging? Was that a sacrifice?
But what made me love our new place is the idea that it feels like a terrace house, with a car park lot right in front of the house and a wisp of a garden at the side and back. The kitchen has a back door! I cannot tell you how strangely fulfilling it is to know that I can unlatch the metal door and walk out to the back of the house! (I could never do that in my present apartment).
Some things become so precious suddenly! Years ago I would’ve laughed out loud if anyone told me I’d be better off with a back door and a garden.
I’m also terribly excited that I can now fulfill my role as a good citizen of the earth by having space for composting. I can have my compost bin out in the garden. I can keep recyclables easily without messing up the kitchen (as I do now as I stash almost everything under the sink).
The best part? I can plant all the herbs and flowers I want because it’s a garden. With SPACE. With lots of earth under my feet.
I am thinking – let’s have basil, lemongrass, pandan, maybe even some chives and spring onions. And I can plant bamboo!
And there’s even space for a little deck out at the back. With a deck, we can put up our feet, count the sparkles in the sky while sipping pu-erh tea. A brilliant plan for utter hedonism!
Of course, all these are in my mind. The contractor has not even given us a proper quote for the kind of remodeling we want. He considers it minimal remodeling as we won’t be tearing down walls or putting up awkward structures. A thought crossed my mind – I really wouldn’t mind painting the house myself (with Nic of course). It’s not alien to the both of us. We did paint the current residence we are living in right now. I consider that a little elbow grease never did hurt. It would be backbreaking though.
And decisions to make on all sorts of things – things I had never bothered about. What colour for tiles? What kind of lighting? What colour for the walls? What type of kitchen? Galley? L-shaped? What type of furniture to match what we currently have? What style do we want? And where do we put Margaret’s bed? Her cat litterbox?
It’s funny how a new home gets people dreamy!
Do you have any tips to share for new home owners like us? What to do? What not to do? I’ll really appreciate it!