What I Made Them Do, Or Their Estee Adventure, Part 2

Soh Peng and Gim Hwee are actually Nic’s coursemates from those days in USM.
They all did Pendidikan together. Except that now you know which one didn’t end up a teacher. He was always a rebel and in a way, that’s comforting!

Soh Peng & Gim Hwee the night before
Gim Hwee & Soh Peng the night before

Anyway, both of them have not been back in Penang for a long time. When they arrived, it was food all the way.
From durian which I packed for them from Paya Terubong to Lorong Macalister’s famous chee cheong fan, we were on a foodie getaway the next 3 days of their stay in Penang.
And we ended with a Makeover.
I managed to convince these two teachers that they needed something totally un-routine, un-teacher-like. Particularly for Gim Hwee as she loves hanging out in her t-shirt and shorts.
I’ll let the photos do the narration.
I made sure they signed up for the makeover
I made sure they signed up for the makeover

Gim Hwee looks nervous
Gim Hwee looks nervous

After the photo session
After the photo session

Isn't she transformed?
Isn't she transformed?

Soh Peng works her magic with the camera guy
Soh Peng works her magic with the camera guy

I put up more of the behind-the-scenes photos and of course, the FINALE photos of these gorgeous friends in my Facebook page! 😉

My Estee Adventure, Part 1

I wanted to join the Estee Lauder Model Search a few years ago but never really found the time or had the guts to do it. Of course, I have been blessed with other opportunities similar to this but this has been on my mind for sometime now.

We all want to be Christy, Naomi, Heidi & Tyra...right?
We all want to be Christy, Naomi, Heidi & Tyra...right?

When my sis called me and asked if I wanted to join, I immediately said yes. We planned to rope in our two cousins but in the end, it was just me and my sis.
I think there’s something about growing older that makes one more daring. I never would have dared to do this when I was in my 20s. Age must be catching up with me, or thoughts of mortality are!
Coincidentally the Estee Lauder Model Search was happening in Queensbay Mall (and which I proclaim to everyone that it is just 2 minutes away from my apartment) during the 10 to 13 June weekend. My sis, the teacher, came to Penang at the right time. It was the school holidays.
I’m not that stupid to think that it is not a marketing thingy. It is. Estee Lauder knows that every woman wants to look gorgeous, even those who never admit it to themselves. I’m vain enough to admit that I like dolling up and looking good. Well, I’m only 36 once in my life.
This is me with my smokey eyes
This is me with my smokey eyes

The deal was, you paid RM280 for the whole package: they put makeup on you, styled your hair, get you changed into Eclipse clothes. They then put you in front of the camera for 10 minutes. You get to pose for 20 photos. Then you sit with the digital artist as you pick your best photo from 20 photos. The digital artist then does her magic – Adobe Photoshop magic that is – and airbrush your imperfections out.
This is Mei, her BEFORE look.
This is Mei, her BEFORE look. She's a teacher by the way.

That is how those picture-perfect models on magazine covers get so drop dead gorgeous. That is how regular women like me and my sis get our 5 minutes of wannabe model aspirations realized.
This is Mei, after her makeup session
This is Mei, after her makeup session

You will look ravishing and delicious and hot. You get to go home with this instant A4 print-out. (They also try to sell you all sorts of packages – 4 touched up printouts for how much etc.)
It was pure fun though it lasted less than 10 minutes
It was pure fun though it lasted less than 10 minutes

I had made up my mind not to buy anything else but I was quite surprised that my husband wanted all the 20 digital images and paid RM150 for the CD. He said he would do the touch-ups himself – that’s the Photoshop artist in him talking.
Of course, we also get RM230 in a redeemable voucher for Estee Lauder products which we had to redeem on the day itself. There’s also an option – if we decide to join the Model Search or not. Guess which option my sis and I took? We took the chance to enter ourselves into the model search. After all, why not? The worse we could do is end up as a semi-finalist haha.
My youngest sister and I took the Estee challenge
My youngest sister and I took the Estee challenge

The most important thing is, Mei and I had lots of fun. It was the first time I wore fake eye lashes (it was irritating as hell as I was wearing my glasses then and it brushed against the glasses all the time). My mom, dad and aunt came to support our little adventure that Saturday afternoon. Oh yes, Nic too. He almost walked past me as he didn’t recognize me in all that makeup!
The best thing was, I managed to drag two good friends, Soh Peng and Gim Hwee, to the Estee makeover the next day. They were visiting us over the weekend.
I knew Soh Peng was game but Gim Hwee was shy, even reluctant! Both are teachers and I knew Gim Hwee would be absolutely beautiful with makeup. (She thinks she looks good in her t-shirt and khakis but dear girl, you don’t know the beauty you have in you! All it needs is a bit of makeup and glamour.)
Come to think of it, all women need a bit of makeup and glamour once in a while.
Catch Part 2 where I show you how Gim Hwee and Soh Peng look like after their makeover!
Pssst..the secret I found out is that the makeup artist really highlights your eyes with intense colours and fake lashes and plays down the lips. The lips get the gloss which makes them all pouty and shiny. Hair is also important. Styling one’s hair dramatically changes one’s look. So the focus is on the eyes, the mirror of your soul. Corny? Yup. Oh we are such suckers. Sigh!
More photos at my Facebook page.

Design For a Good Cause

Starting from last year, I’ve been volunteering to tweet every Tuesday for The Pixel Project.
This is a project that I got involved in when I met Regina at the Great Women Of Our Time Awards presentation ceremony.
Regina is the founder of The Pixel Project, an initiative to raise US$1 million for Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation and the U.S.A.’s National Coalition Against Domestic Violence by getting a global audience to collectively unveil a million-pixel mystery collage of Celebrity Male Role Models at US$1 per pixel.
She contacted me a few months after the event and we got talking about violence against women and this pet project of hers. Regina mentioned that the global recession was hitting NGOs hard, particularly our own Women’s Aid Organisation. She wanted to do something to help and asked me if I would like to contribute our company services and do something for women worldwide.
For one, I’ve always been supportive of women’s issues.
Even when young, I had wanted to be a lawyer but then I changed my mind when I realized just how much studying that involved! (My best friend did law and even she got disillusioned by the state of law-lessness in Malaysia. She decided to teach law instead of practise law.)
Anyway we volunteered our services first to help The Pixel Project get its website up and running.
This was one of our pro bono projects last year. I always feel that doing good is its own reward (in fact, we don’t even have the customary “Designed by Redbox Studio” at the footer of the website).
Initially it was designed to be a HTML website. When I realized that the Pixel Project team was growing bigger and bigger and everyone had their part in updating the website, we had to make a quick decision to switch to WordPress. It was a headache because of the huge amount of content. We were basically struggling with a growing mini-portal!
Anyhow, we managed to change over the design from the backend. From a HTML website to a WordPress blog, content, images, banners and all. Tiffany and Vern worked side by side to port it over completely from the ground up as a WordPress blog. They both worked hard despite it being one of our busiest times last year.
Right now, the Pixel Project team spans a few continents and different timezones. The Pixel Project website is now in the able hands of the team and I’m on the team still but as a volunteer tweeter each week. We play twitter tag where we have round the clock tweets going out as we are assigned our time slots. My time slot is Tuesday afternoon till 6pm. When I clock out, Emily in the UK clocks in for her session. This is how we go round the clock, tweeting news about violence against women, hotlines, helplines and more.
I can tell you that I’m still doing this because our tweets do help women leave their abusers. Just a few weeks before we heard great news. Someone emailed and said our tweets had helped their family leave an abusive relationship. She sought help finally.
It is this kind of news that gives me hope that what we do does touch someone out there. Especially when we combine it with technology and social media tools like Twitter and Facebook.
If you want to volunteer with the Pixel Project team, please do so. You can help tweet, like me. Or you can help in many other ways. But whatever you do, you are contributing positively to help raise awareness about violence against women.
Sometimes we may not know the effect of our volunteering but you may have helped prevent a woman from dying in the hands of her husband-boyfriend-lover-abuser.
You would have saved a life.

The 10 Second Chicken Wing Fight

I didn’t believe it when I heard it. And I still don’t get it but I have seen it.
Have you seen grown-ups rush for chicken wings? And in 10 seconds, all the BBQ chicken wings are gone. An amazing sight.

Plenty of food for hungry people

Cecilia, BL and Noel are regulars at this steamboat joint each time they are in Sunway.
And they said that there’s a mad rush when the BBQ chicken wings are brought out by the waitress. The tray of chicken wings are so finger-licking good that everyone just stands and waits for this dish to appear, only to tussle to get a piece! (Some unfortunate bloke won’t even get a piece if he’s not quick enough!)
BBQ chicken wings worth fighting for

This corner shop steamboat joint called Yuen Steamboat is a truly bustling eat-all-you-can place, all 3 storeys of it, opposite Sunway Pyramid. I think the shop is located near the Mentari Business Centre. If you can find StarEast Wedding, you’ll find Yuen.
Cecilia and I with our seafood first course

At RM20.80 per person (excluding drinks), you can eat all you can. The variety is not bad for that price. Lots of seafood (large prawns, flower crabs, clams, cockles etc), vegetables, ice cream and of course, the piece de resistance, the BBQ chicken wings, which appear at 20 minute intervals throughout the night. And it’s pork-free so it’s quite a muhibbah scene with every type of Malaysian digging into their steamboat.
See the crowd? There are 3 floors of this action

But I can understand that fighting for the chicken wings is part of the fun, the crazy camaraderie which makes dining in Yuan such an experience. It’s all in good fun and no one gets hurt, except maybe some egos get bruised when they don’t get their chicken wings!
The chicken wings were quite tasty, soaked in a dark caramelised sauce. It’s definitely worth jostling for!
Restoran Yuen Buffet Steamboat is at 32A-1, Jalan PJS 8/6, Mentari Plaza, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Open from 5pm to 12 midnight. Bookings recommended as it gets quite full very early on!

The HK Sojourn Part 2

This continues from this HK sojourn Part 1. It chronicles my trip 10-day trip to HK. I’m the dissecting sort so I plan to take my own sweet time to journal these good bits of my travel.

Among the many galleries on Hollywood Road
Among the many galleries on Hollywood Road

SP told us that Hollywood Road housed a good many art galleries, many of them showcasing contemporary artists. As we’d just eaten a good dim sum lunch, we felt we could stroll down the streets of Central HK with ease. Everything looked and smelled fresh and new to us, who had just gotten off the plane early that morning.
Unfortunately many galleries weren’t open on a Sunday. We contented ourselves with peering through the glass, looking at quirky artwork.
One of those things I really love about HK is the ease of getting a glass of herbal tea. Of course there are modern shops like Hung Fook Tong or HerbalWorks which sold herbal teas (HK$18 per 500ml bottle, roughly about RM9) for every ailment you could possibly have – just ensure you know how to read and order the drinks in Cantonese.
Then there are those quaint shops which smelled like centuries old, dishing out herbal teas. (During one of our jaunts in Mongkok, we found more reasonably priced herbal teas at HK$6. But then again, Mongkok is one of those working-class neighbourhoods.)
Chinese herbal tea shop in Central district
Chinese herbal tea shop in Central district

One other thing I marveled at was the enormously expensive apartments.

Here’s a real estate advert I snapped off the shop window of a property agent’s shop. Tiny lots (which we call flats) are priced in the millions. Even the moderate 500-square foot apartment where SP is renting costs around HK$1.4 million (she’s living in east Kowloon so that’s literally the boondocks to HK folks). This advert for a 379 square foot flat costs HK$2.48 million. You know how small 379 square feet is?
The one shop SP dragged us into was G.O.D, the acronym for Goods Of Desire. In Chinese characters, G.O.D translates into Zhu Hao De or Live Well. This shop, says SP, is one provocation indeed. All the kitschy and kooky are sold side by side with common yet uncommon.
“You have to take a look,” she beckoned, drawing us into one shop that sold tongue-in-cheek items.
Apparently, the founder-owner-artist-provocateur Douglas Yeung has quite a history indeed. Educated abroad as an architect, he came home to HK and decided he wanted to pay homage to his HK roots. Like most people who’ve lived away from home, HK represented something strange yet familiar. Of course he was wealthy to begin with. His grandfather ran one of the bus companies in HK.
Douglas turns the familiar into something that’s worth a second look, and a snigger, and a giggle. He turns everyday pieces into conversation starters, or at least makes tongues waggle ferociously. I think he’s really clever and he enjoys a good joke.
Like the bum-shaped mooncakes sold during Mid-Autumn Festival, a collaborative effort between G.O.D and Kei Wah, a famous HK confectionary. A lot of what he does is tied closely to the Cantonese love of word play. That’s why it’s so hilarious. You’ll need to be an English-speaking Chinese person, immersed into the Chinese context, to grasp his subtle and not-subtle jokes encased in his products. If you don’t know why his bum-shaped mooncakes sold out, go ask a Chinese friend when Mid-Autumn Festival usually occurs.
He also takes a jibe at common HK emblems such as the Chinese T’ung Shu, a book which no respectable Chinese household in those days would be caught dead without. I still remember my Grandma having one. She refered to this book for picking auspicious dates. She used this book to learn English (imagine a word like ‘Mother’ – the T’ung Shu made it easy for the Chinese to learn English by putting 2 Chinese characters – ‘ma’ and ‘de’ which sounded like Mother!). The T’ung Shu is so recognizably Chinese; in the G.O.D shop, you can tote the T’ung Shu around because it is made into a woman’s clutch! I would’ve bought it if the price wasn’t so crazy.
Aside the jibes and jokes, G.O.D is as much as a controversy-stirrer as it is a retailer. I suppose that is extremely clever marketing because how else can you explain that Douglas and his employees were taken in by the police for questioning when they found out his shops were selling t-shirts with the words “14K”?
In HK, 14K is the name of a notorious triad. He says he didn’t know about that – he just wanted 14K because it was referring to gold, not to the triad. In HK, strangely, you aren’t allowed to wear anything, t-shirts included, insinuating that you belonged to a triad. Whether he knew or not, the t-shirts sold like crazy. Douglas’ point was, what logic held that you can make movies about HK triads but you can’t wear a t-shirt which seemingly has the same name as a notorious HK gang? Good point.
But he’s not stupid. G.O.D has made a name for itself in the area of décor and stylish living, whether the police love him or not. They’re quite famous actually despite their price points.
And inside G.O.D (yeah, one has to be cocky enough to name one’s shop G.O.D and then turn around to say it’s just an acronym!), there’s a line of products called Delay No More.
Again you have to be Cantonese and a bit filthy-minded to figure out what he’s really saying. Try saying “delay no more” in typical Cantonese fashion and a lightbulb will go off in your head and you’ll go, Oh I see! Oooh, that’s dirty.
Here are some of the photos I took inside the G.O.D shop. See if you get the joke behind each piece or item.
Welcome mats with caution

The best kind of dictionary for language

Finally, we got tired of G.O.D (imagine!) and decided to rest our legs with an early dinner. The sky had grown dark although it was only 6pm. The cold was descending too. A warm dinner would do wonders. This shop which called us was brightly lit.
Outside Ngau Kee Food Cafe, No. 3, Gough St, Central, HK
Outside Ngau Kee Food Cafe, No. 3, Gough St, Central, HK. Note the 3 stools on the left. For you to wait your turn when the tables are full!

Small with hardly enough space for two elephants, we were happily welcomed into Ngau Kee Food Cafe by the efferversent owner, a lanky Cantonese. We looked a bit lost so he happily rattled off his recommendations. We had to try the famous HK milk tea or ‘nai cha’ (HK$18 per mug) – it’s similar to our Teh C but with lots more smoothness with each sip. Don’t do any currency conversion because if you do, you’ll never want to drink their milk tea at RM9!
Our dishes arrived – claypot beef brisket stew, stirfried kailan and fried bittergourd with salted egg. I’ve never had such homely food and I never had such a good appetite.
Stirfried kailan HK style & beef brisket stew
Stirfried kailan HK style & beef brisket stew

It’s true that HK food, even those served by shacks, are very tasty. Our beef brisket stew was to die for, thick and rich beef chunks in a robust broth good to the last drop. The brisket was tender and smooth.
The kailan was firm and crunchy to the bite and not oily at all. And I’ve never had such good fried bittergourd either. Price-wise, it wasn’t cheap (HK$200 +) but taste-wise, I’d go back again!
Only later we discovered that this little shop on Gough Street, Central, was famous, having been featured in newspapers. What a serendipitious discovery!
Next: Up the Peak, down the Garden!

(While you wait for my Part 3 to roll around, why not go here for a map of Hong Kong and then take a look at the 40 best foods of Hong Kong.)

Remember This Game?

If you remember this game, I know your age. And you know mine.

Pac Man - Good enough to be eaten!
Pac Man cupcakes! Thanks to Jo who sent me this pic...

When this game first burst into the scene, I was a pre-pubescent kid.
In those days, the best I got was that we had a video player! Imagine. That was our technology back then. And a phone. A house phone where you had to turn the dial a few times! But that was our technology.
And then ATARI came into my life.
And with it, came Pac Man.
You must know Pac Man celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and Google paid tribute to this game which back then enthralled me to no end.
I fought my sisters to play this game on our ATARI set, a luxury back then.
Don’t you love classic games like this?
Speaking of games, tomorrow I’ll be joining some (younger) friends to go play DOTA at Infinity, a cybercafe here in Jalan Sungai Dua. I’ve never played DOTA. It looks daunting. But then again, I’ve never really played these network cybergames either. It will be an experience!
If digital games are a clue to our evolution as humans, we’ve come a long way!

Dark Chocolate, Cranberry & Raisin Muffin

I like making muffins because they’re so easy.
Just mix the dry ingredients into the wet and spoon into muffin cases and bake. No need to use a handheld mixer.
The hard part is, if you over-mix your batter, you may end up with tough and dense muffins.
Recently I found a muffin recipe in a magazine. It called for frozen cherries and dark chocolate. Well, I have lots of chocolates in my fridge but frozen cherries? Nope, nadda.
I kind of pride myself on being the queen of substitution.
I rummage a bit and find some stuff in my fridge to substitute the frozen cherries. And you know what I found? Dried cranberries. Raisins. Why not?
I was about to add my ground flaxseed into the muffin recipe but I stopped myself. (I think a bit of Omega 3 from the flaxseed will do me a world of healthy good but nah, this is a hedonist’s muffin recipe.)
I took some of Nic’s NZ Whitaker Dark Chocolate with Almonds too as the recipe called for dark chocolate. After all, he can’t be eating too much of the whole bar of chocs right?

Dark chocolate, cranberry & raisin muffins
This batter makes 12 scrumptious muffins.

Here’s what you need for these devilishly delicious muffins. Best eaten warm from the oven. The dark chocolate bits are divine! This muffin recipe is not too sweet because the sweetness comes from the dried cranberries and raisins and it is offset by the delicious, semi-melted dark chocolate chunks!
Freeze the extra muffins. When you are ready to eat them, warm them up for a few minutes in a toaster oven.
Dark Chocolate, Cranberry & Raisin Muffin Recipe
Dry ingredients (mix in a bowl):
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients (mix in another bowl):
1 egg, beaten
180 ml UHT milk
125 ml corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Dark chocolate, 100gm, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Using a spatula, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Work quickly with swift strokes to blend them well. It’s OK to have lumps in the batter. Add the chocolate, raisins and cranberries but do not over-mix.
Spoon into muffin cases and bake in a pre-heated oven (180 deg Celcius) for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
This recipe makes 12 small muffins.

The Draw of Daiso…

Had a tiring but totally fun weekend in PJ, meeting up with old friends, checking out the food and of course, shopping at my two favourite places – Daiso (at The Curve) and IKEA.
Daiso was one of those lovely discoveries because CC bought me some excellent and practical household items from this shop where everything goes for RM5. Which is cheap but then again, one always blows one’s budget because one loses count of the number of items! Our brain is wired to think, aiyah, it’s only RM5. But when the basket is full of items, errrrrgh!
When I was in HK, I ended up at Jusco’s version of Daiso too (HK$10 store). And to think we only found this section in Jusco HK on our LAST day! Still we grabbed quite a bit of items which I still can’t find here. That includes lugging home a chopping board holder!
Anyway, after that I got terribly hooked on Daiso. So when I was in PJ, I visited Daiso at The Curve 3 times in 3 days. And each time, embarrassingly I bought something and even introduced my best friend to Daiso! She’s now as addicted as I am, as she found some hard to find toys for her children. CC told me there’s a new Daiso at One Utama but she concluded that branch was too small to be of interest to me. This Daiso was bigger and better and had lots more interesting items.
Example, how about a ladle holder? I always don’t know where to put my soup ladles but this gadget solves the issue. The ladle stands happily with this holder.
Or how about a silicone pastry brush? Easy to clean and you don’t lose hair over losing bristles from your pastry brush.
Or a very clever way of disposing cooking oil? There’s this substance which you stir into your used cooking oil and it hardens the oil, allowing you to lift it out of your pot and dispose of it. This beats pouring the oil down your sink. (Actually you can re-use your cooking oil to make soap. I learnt it’s very easy. I am going to learn it from a friend soon!)
And finally on our last day in PJ, I managed to get my friends (the ones who drove us down to KL) to visit Daiso.
And how could one go to The Curve without going to IKEA?

Ya, we even bought the IKEA bag to cart home our buys!

Oh yes, what a lot of stuff we bought. I keep wishing IKEA comes to Penang but I last heard that we in the Northern region don’t have buying clout. Which is strange because almost all Penangites I talk to are happy to drive down to PJ and cart home boot-loads of flat-packed furniture!
Kvart lamp for my work table - finally!

I think I love IKEA because the solutions are so smart and practical. They make decorating one’s home so easy and so convenient and so well-thought out!
IKEA is also about food – I sometimes think they make pots of money from their food too (beside the furniture). Their 99 sen breakfast specials are always a big draw (with free coffee from 9am to 9.30am). When we were there yesterday, they served fried spring rolls and char kueh teow. CC told me the breakfast specials are always changing so it’s quite fun to try different offerings each time.
For lunch, I always enjoy the Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce and french fries. Somehow I cannot be tempted to try other dishes. I fall back on this over and over!
But the best has to be their curry puffs. Best eaten when they’re fresh and hot!
Managed to snap photos of the characters from Star Wars who were at The Curve doing some promo work for the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back