If I Had A Magic Wand…

I started off wanting to fill my Saturday with a hatful of projects – some undone, some halfway through, some just biting at my ankles for want of getting started.
Then I decided, to heck with it. I will reclaim my Saturday.
I will give myself a break today. I’ve been working really hard. I’ve had my fingers in too many pots I believe. So much so I am promising myself to take it easy for 2010.
I’m not grumbling.
This year has been exceptional for me. I’ve done many things, accomplished much and put my whole heart and soul out there.
But sometimes, people take advantage of the kind and nurturing Piscean that I am. And then, this amiable woman gets really mad. When I am cross, I am not a Piscean. I turn into my Chinese zodiac, a Tiger. I can growl, I can hiss and I can definitely play hardball if I need to. Just don’t let the Tiger flash her stripes. It’s not a beautiful thing.
I’ve also become a lot more attuned to what I truly want. I suppose that comes with growing older. One starts to reflect on oneself a lot more. Next year, I will be 36. It’s not even frightening anymore. I thought I would rebel at Age, spit at it even with each impending birthday. But I don’t.
Oh sure, I get my share of white hair (whoever gets grey hair???), I think I see some wrinkles here and there on my face (horrors) and I keep slathering body lotion all over just to keep my skin smooth like taufufah.
But I would never turn back the clock. Knowing what I know now, I know that the process or the journey is just as crucial as the destination. Sure, I’ve had strange battles with my family at some point in my life. Sure, I’ve done madly. I’ve had to go through some odd phases in my life.
But would I have done it any differently if I had a magic wand and could go back and change my history?
Not one bit.
Not ever.
Because all those experiences, bitter, happy, joyful, exhilarating, traumatic, made me. It made me into who I am today. Someone who is deeply contented and often grateful for the beauty that Life serves her.
Someone who is able to look at life a lot more squarely in the eye now.
Someone who is able to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
Someone who is able to appreciate that her own unique journey is hers and hers to hold close to her heart.
Someone who can watch and learn at any point in time and put away the stubborn ego (yes, I can be quite stubborn if I chose to be).
I believe I write best when I am most relaxed, most at peace. When I struggle to write, it means I have conflicts unresolved.
In many ways, I started this blog to chronicle my personal journeys. I started this to remind myself to write. I didn’t start this to blog for money. None of that rubbish. It’s a sacred space for me to pour my thoughts into, allow them to crystallize and allow me to smile at them with genuine love once in a while as I re-read them.
If you’ve come by and read what I wrote and it made you THINK, then that would have been the accolade I’ve deserved. We all try to change the world in our own ways and my way is through the pen and now through the keyboard – to a blog.
If you could help change someone’s life for the better, do it. Do it in a way that makes you happy too. I know I am happiest when I am writing and my writing has lifted, helped, assuaged or even provoked someone to change for the better.
That is why for 2010 I am focusing on using my writing for better ends. What about you? What are you planning for 2010? Incidentally it is the Year of the Tiger.
My year.

Remembering To Seize The Day

I’m supposed to be working but I’m feeling a bit too happy to do that right now. I had to blog about this. So yes, I’m stealing some time out to record this before I totally forget. (And yes, Izad, I recorded it in my abundance notebook too!)
I’m as pleased as a cat with her paw in a bowl of kibble.
Li Jin and I go way back.
We met in 2000 when I was a women’s portal content editor, a job I landed when I decided to veer from my copywriter position in an ad firm. She was trying her hand at writing for our women’s portal. The payment was measly but still she contributed.
She’s one of those women I have come to admire because this woman has the courage to live a large life. I call her my soul sister as we both share the same passion for writing and travel. She loves trying new things, never lets life take her down and never ever says no can do.
Is it any wonder that I’ve been enriched by our friendship?
From contributing to our women’s portal, she has gone on to much bigger things in life. She’s done very well for herself and I watch her every step, feeling so utterly proud of her achievements. Mind you, she’s a mother to 4 growing children with a husband to boot.
Yet she has done fabulously – she now writes for so many famous publications I’ve lost count. She’s a prolific writer. She’s warm, friendly, funny and honest. You don’t get many writers like that anymore. She’s also indifferent to society norms – she does what she wants to, when she wants to.
Plus she’s taken my advice seriously too – she’s been travelling with girl pals, travelling with freedom and gusto across Asia over the past few years. Sans family and kids. She’s been good to herself to which I toast completely. No woman should ever blame others for not being able to accomplish her own dreams, married or not.
She has, in her own words, been “travelling more than I probably should and poking my nose in the unlikeliest of places. But then again, why not and why not now, ya?”
Yes, Jin. Why not? Why not live life as fully as possible when you can?
Our friendship has had its own hurricanes and floods. There was a time when we both got mad at each other. When we were both fuming, it was hard as we knew inside it wasn’t anyone’s fault but our pride kept us from apologizing and making the first move. It was such a relief when we started talking again. It’s tough to be mad at one’s soul sister. It’s like you’re mad at yourself.
The pleasure of a splendid friendship means we watch out for each other, encouraging each other to dream big and dream onwards. In a world when so many people are bitchy or plain nasty, it’s heart-chokingly beautiful when we have this understanding that no matter what happens, we can pick up the phone and pour our hearts out to each other.
Yeah, a husband is a husband and he’s probably your bestest friend for all I care but nothing beats having a girlfriend you can sob/cry/high-five every once in a while. I believe that is why women live longer – we have a much better support system!
And both of us have never stopped dreaming. And with each milestone in our lives, we keep each other updated.
We’ve never forgotten to seize the day.
And so when she emailed to tell me that she’s getting her dream home, I was so pleased for her. Some 5 years ago, we stood at the balcony of a semi-detached show unit and like all people, we were ogling at the house.
Yes, Jin, I remember that day clearly.
But I cannot remember if I said this to her but she says I did. Apparently I told her that if she wanted a house just like that, if she dreamt of owning one like it, why not? Dreams do come true.
And finally it has. I could see every diamond of happiness in her email.
And how strange is it that we both found our dream homes?
Whatever your big audacious goal is, if you dream big enough, if you want it bad enough, it can happen. Jin is one successful example of ‘carpe diem’ -ing her way to more delicious moments in life.
Girl, I am so proud of you! I’m so darn proud I’m your friend!

Pine Nut Fetish

I don’t watch Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef cooking series for a few reasons.
One, I cringe at his lisping. Or else, he’s got a damn huge tongue that won’t fit his mouth.
Two, Nic hates his guts – says Jamie disrespects food. More specifically, Jamie disrespects his ingredients by simply whacking them to tatters. Which is abominably true when you look at how Jamie throws, yes, literally throws ingredients into a pot or a pan.
Third, the cameraman makes me dizzy with the quick shots – from food, to Jamie, from Jamie to food again. So pening!
But one night while channelsurfing Astro, I chanced upon Jamie Oliver.
Oh, we all do that, don’t we (the channel-surfing)? Admit it that there’s really nothing new on Astro anymore. I’ve watched the same Oprah reruns so frequently that it’s getting downright ridiculous.
Which is also why I’m terribly tempted to disconnect our Astro subscription when we move to our new apartment. Why spend good money on reruns when I can turn off the idiot box and spend time reading? Hear that, Astro?
OK, back to Jamie. He taught a recipe called Pine Nut and Honey Tart. It caught my interest because I’m a big pine nut fan. Oh heck, I’m mad about nuts and you’ll always find a variety of nuts if you raid my fridge (walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, almonds etc). They’re for cooking and snacking.
His recipe was really fast and simple. And if you look at this recipe and this other recipe, you know I am all for simplicity! The simpler the better!
The beauty of the online world is that you can find anything you want. And I’m really good at searching/sniffing out stuff online ever since I used it extensively when I was conducting my Masters’ research back in 2004.
The big disclaimer is this: I have not tried out this tart recipe yet. I’m going to pack stuff for the Big Move these 2 weeks so I don’t have much time for cooking but I will try it once I’m cosily settled in at the new place.
You try it and let me know the results? As with all tarts, it has 2 sections. The pastry section and the filling section. It looked luscious on TV. I might even start liking Jamie a bit, if this tart turns out incredible.
Pine nut and Honey Tart
By: Jamie Oliver
4 oz butter
3 1/2 oz icing sugar
1 pinch salt
8 oz plain flour
2 egg, yolks
2 tbsp cold milk or 2 tbsp cold water
Pine nut and Honey Filling
9 oz pine nuts
9 oz butter
9 oz caster sugar
3 large eggs, preferably, organic
4 tbsp Greek fig tree honey
4 oz plain flour
1 orange, zested
lemon thyme, picked
1 pinch salt
1. You can make the pastry by hand or in the food processor – cream together the butter, sugar and salt and then rub or pulse in the flour and egg yolks. When the mixture has come together, looking like coarse breadcrumbs, add the milk or water. Gently pat together to form a small ball of dough. Wrap and leave to rest for an hour.
2. Carefully cut thin slices of your pastry (or you can roll out if you prefer) and place in and around the bottom and sides of your 12 inch (30 centimeter) tin. Push the pastry together and level out and tidy up the sides. Cover and leave to rest in the freezer for about 1 hour.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C), and bake the pastry for around 15minutes until lightly golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).
Pine nut and Honey Filling
1. While the pastry is in the oven, toast the pinenuts under the grill.
2. Using a spatula, or a food processor, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Stir in your pinenuts, add the eggs one at a time, then fold in the honey, flour, thyme, orange zest and salt. Spoon in to the tart shell and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
4. Add a few uncooked pinenuts to the top of the mixture for decoration.
5. Serve with caramelised figs (grilled with a little sugar), crème fraiche and a little lemon thyme.

Going Bald For Charity

Not me lah.
While I would love to say I’m THAT gutsy, I am not. I am a vainpot and love my hair a bit too much to go bald BUT hear me out.
I’ve got a gutsy friend who will be shaving off all her hair for charity come this November. I spoke to her two weeks ago and she wanted me to help her.
So this is the email I sent out to my friends:
Dear friends
My friend, Nancy will be going bald for charity come 1 November. I know her personally and she’s one big-hearted woman, putting in lots of hours in raising funds for the sick and needy.
Nancy is the Development Manager of Penang Adventist Hospital (PAH). She will be raising funds for PAH because as you know, PAH sponsors heart patients, and those who are suffering from serious illness (cancer, chronic kidney disease, accidental head injury, tumour, major burns, major organ transplant, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, cleft palate repair and major amputation of limbs).
In a nutshell, Nancy will be going bald for charity on 1 November to collect funds for PAH.
Yes, bald.
She is shaving off all her hair in aid of charity come this 1 Nov. during the PAH organised charity food fair. This is one courageous woman!
The charity fair will feature about 85 food stalls offering vegetarian, non-vegetarian and even halal food inclusive of games store. There will also be entertainment, games, lucky draws and “Penang Greatest Shave” and many other interesting activities.
Of course you don’t have to shave off your hair to help – but you can contribute in your own way.
You can support PAH by:
1. Setting up food stalls
2. Sponsoring a food stall (RM500 and above)
3. Major supporters with a minimum contribution of RM5,000 will be acknowledged during the event and on the backdrop of the stage
4. Donations in form of food, lucky draw or game prizes
5. Cash or cheque donations. All cheques should be made payable towards “Adventist Hospital & Clinic Services’ for Dr J Earl Gardner Fund. Tax-exemption receipts will be issued.
6. Helping sell or buy the charity fair tickets at RM20 per booklet.
If you and your business can help, please email Nancy [ nancyong @ pah.com.my ] directly.
What’s more, help tell as many friends as you can. PAH needs all the support it can get. 😉
In case you wanna know how Nancy looks like now, here’s the bubbly lady with her hair intact.
This photo was taken the night we sat talking at her office – she is one hard worker who works late into the night, emailing people who can help her when it comes to raising funds for Penang Adventist Hospital’s much needed coffers.
So please help if you can.
Most of us cannot imagine where our money goes sometimes when we give a donation. With this, you will know.
It goes towards giving another human being a chance at life.

Want To Be Another Kind of Apprentice?

I found out about this programme from Fidel, a friend who is the PAPA Programme Coordinator. I’ve known her for a while now and she and her husband are very supportive of heritage arts and events of Penang. Her two children are active in Anak-anak Kota, a brilliant programme for Penang school children. In fact I know quite a few outgoing youth who used to work with Janet Pillai on her highly commendable Anak-anak Kota Programme (which also netted Janet the DIGI Award).
This is Fidel, the programme coordinator
Anyway, I had been meaning to write about this PAPA or Penang Apprenticeship Programme for Artisans for some time now. It’s a great initiative under Penang Heritage Trust to ensure that dying trades have some form on continuity. History and culture are after all intertwined. Especially in Penang.
penang apprenticeship program for artisans
To take part in this PAPA Programme, you have to dedicate a good deal of time (4 hours a day I believe) as you will be taught by the the masters themselves. Their target group is essentially people who will learn the crafts and use these newfound skills to help themselves earn a good living. It is certainly not for people like me who want to learn it as a hobby! That’s a no-no because it defeats the original purpose of the apprenticeship.
rattan baskets made by the apprentices
As some of these teachers are aging, it is a sad fact that when they pass on, their skills pass on with them too. Their skills are another kind of assets which matter a lot to our history and heritage. While I am wistful about this fact, it is heartening that PHT is taking the first step to ensure these amazing arts are not lost.
know your rattan 101 - different rattan for weaving baskets
For instance, Fidel tells me that a professional took a sabbatical from her stressful career to focus on learning how to weave baskets from rattan.
chinese carving programme is also available
You can also be an apprentice to a master carver for Chinese signboards. I am interested but I am not eligible for this programme for various reasons. As it is, I don’t read Chinese. It will be hard on me even if I am qualified to take this programme.
interested in making manik or nyonya beaded slippers?
Nyonya beading, a patient and intricate art, is also available. I’m hopeless at such delicate art and craft so this is definitely not my kind of apprenticeship.
If you are interested or know of friend who would be keen on this PAPA PHT Programme, get details, get the form and get cracking. 😉
Or call Fidel at 012 456 5867 for details.
UPDATE (15 Oct 2009): PAPA is now housed in the quaint row of pre-war shophouses along Lebuh Acheh (look for No. 66) where the mosque is. It’s open on week days so you can pop in to buy their products or learn more about the dying arts and crafts of Penang. We bought a rattan lamp for RM40 recently as decor for our new apartment. They can also make bespoke rattan items if you wish. I’m ordering a cat basket for Margaret soon and a laundry basket for myself.