Womenpreneur Asia podcast – Launched!

Want to announce it here first on my own blog that I have today launched my Womenpreneur Asia podcast!

I am thrilled to bits that the idea that I presented in Hawaii last year has finally become as real as it can be. There is no turning back.

Yes, it was challenging because I had no technical idea how to get it done although I do work with tech a lot.

Audio tech stuff isn’t exactly my kind of thing. Until I decided I wanted to start the podcast.

Even then it was still a nebulous idea.

But the pandemic lockdown pushed me to really do something. I had come back from Hawaii in August 2019 and started on my research of microphones, podcast hosting, how to write a script, how to interview and more. And I didn’t know how to put it all together although I had a vague idea that it must start somewhere.

So that somewhere came at me when I subscribed to Streamyard in March this year when I was about to start my FB Live series. Streamyard enabled me to get a guest into the “studio” and record our conversation easily.

While I was scheduling and planning my FB Live, I was simultaneously scheduling guests for my podcast.

And my learning curve was steep.

And I didn’t have the USB microphone I wanted either so I made do with my Apple ear buds. Yep. You read right. I proudly did it with my Apple ear buds.

So have a listen. Be kind. It’s my first time doing this. (Oh and I launched it today because it is also my wedding anniversary. Been married for 18 years!)

Head on over to womenpreneurasia.com

Designing For Good

I wrote this article below for a friend, Ann who runs the Penan Women Project in Sarawak. I don’t write articles per se as I truly have no time but once in a while, I get into my “yes, I’ll write one for you” mode.

krista goon nic sim
With Ann (far left) at a friend’s birthday party in 2017.

How I know her is one convoluted story.

Nic was her online friend when she was studying in the US back in the mid-90s. They both hit it off as they were both into art and design and yes, both were Kuchingites!

I knew Ann’s brother through his blog called Cooking Engineer which I used to read a lot as he was a funny Kuchingite who was working in the US yet hankered for Sarawak food! (Eddie even tried to grow “mani chai” in his apartment once.) It was only when Ann came home to Kuching in 2005 that we all met up for the first time in a Mardi Gras-inspired party at her house. Her brother, Eddie a.k.a Cooking Engineer flew home with lots of liquor and I think he even cooked us a jambalaya!

Anyway, Ann settled back in Sarawak after getting married and having her twins and she used her design skills for a truly good cause. I wrote this for her to be used in Happenings, a Sarawak-based magazine, but she felt that it was too much of highlight on her. I beg to differ so that’s why I’m featuring her article that I wrote right here on my blog. Note: We sponsored her a website for the good work that she is doing with the Penan women so if you want to help a real social enterprise, visit her website.


Ann Wong would have never believed it if someone told her that one day, she would be using her graphic design degree to help the Penan people of her home state, Sarawak.

Ann lived for 10 years in the US before deciding to come home to Sarawak with her cats in tow. An animal lover and one with a huge passion for everything design, Ann had settled down to married life in Miri where her husband, Winston, was stationed in the oil and gas industry. Soon, her twins came along and she fell into a natural routine of being a homemaker.

Fortuitously, she also met Shida Mojet, another woman who was also at that time living in Miri (Shida’s husband was also working in Miri). The indefatigable Shida, a Kedahan from Peninsular Malaysia, had started a community project to help the Penan women who were skilled weavers.

Shida felt a calling to help the Penan women after she had visited the many destitute, not to mention, unreachable villages in the years that she had been living in Brunei and Miri.  

Eventually, Shida established the Miri Women Weaving Association (MWWA), a registered association in 2016 to help more of these nomadic and semi-nomadic Penans in Limbang and Miri divisions through a structured production and sale of the Penans’ woven baskets and bags.

Shida’s aim was simple – through the association, she wanted to assist the Penans to generate a sustainable income and help their children get an education. The Penan Women Project (PWP) is the association’s project to achieve this aim.

The first sum of money they raised through the sale of woven products totaled RM10,774 and with this first optimistic kick-off, Shida knew she had tapped into something amazing. Wherever they went to sell their bags and baskets, hoards of excited urban women would be enchanted by the woven bags and more so when they heard the story of how the proceeds went back into a fund for buying weaving supplies for the Penan as well as helping them with food and other household needs.

Shida passed the baton to Ann as her family was relocating to The Netherlands, seeing how Ann herself was slowly but surely using her design degree to create unique designs for the Penans to weave.

The traditional designs were familiar enough to Sarawakians but Ann believed that to reach out to more people and to raise the value and perception of the bags as mere ‘market bags’, the Penan women needed to weave stylish, contemporary bags with colours and designs that appealed to the urban buyers.

At their first meeting together, Ann and Shida had an 8-hour coffee session! They were deliriously excited about helping more Penan women weavers and taking the age-old craft of weaving to the next level.

Today, the Penan Women Project has 60 weavers from Long Nen, Long Kevok and Long Latek. Its products have expanded beyond baskets and bags – they now include clutches, knick-knack holders, name card holders and more – designs dreamt up by Ann when she is not busy taking care of her school-going twins.

The designs are unique and each product is an improvement over the next as Ann works tirelessly with her weavers like Juanita (see Juanita and Nelly’s stories below) to ensure the bags and baskets are of the highest quality possible. Ann also has had to make executive decisions about where the Penan bags are to be sold in order to differentiate and position the bags strongly in the urban market.

The Penan bags and other products are made with polypropylene material in lieu of rattan and mengkuang as they are easier to obtain. The polypropylene makes the bags washable and durable, making them sturdy enough for a beach outing and still look chic at any high tea event.

Yet, what you see today are bags that have travelled a great distance. Ann drops off the polypropylene material at the remote villages where the Penan women live – the villages are an eight-hour drive from Ulu Baram. As she drops off the material, she also buys the finished products – the bags and baskets – and pays the weavers upfront before hauling the products back to her house.

One of the rooms in her Kuching house has been turned into a store room for these products before they are sent to selected partners and retailers such as Klein & Fine (Penang), Verdant Hill (KL), Wonderboom, The Pullman Hotel and Poppies (Kuching).

What is clear is that a potent combination of graphic knowledge, an ability to understand the urban customer’s ever-changing needs and the passion to ensure that the Penan legacy lives on through a sustainable product that’s much more sophisticated than the traditional weave appeals to the repeat buyers and ardent supporters of PWP.

Ann says, “It’s not easy. It took me 3 years to get the Penan women to understand what we need from them in terms of a product. We need to remind them all the time to follow the design. Each time I give them an order, I always monitor their weaving.”

Last year, Ann began to give the weavers specially made wooden boxes as she found that the bag sizes would vary from weaver to weaver. “This made our marketing efforts challenging due to the different bag sizes. So I thought, let’s give the weavers each a box that we call an insert so that they can easily measure if their woven bags were a standard size!”  

Other innovative approaches over the years include providing the weavers with colour charts and samples so that they understood what PWP wanted in terms of colour schemes and patterns.

“Once the bags are woven, we check each bag for quality. While it’s easy to say they’re handcrafted we also need to ensure we meet customers’ expectations of quality when the bags are sold,” Ann says.

For Ann and PWP, the most challenging aspect is still marketing and retail. “The Penan women still need us to help them on these two fronts as they’re still learning. But I am heartened that they now can tie the labels onto the bags they’ve made and price the bags. We make the pricing transparent so that they know how much they are making per bag when we sell them at the retailers we’ve identified or at the pop-up charity sale bazaars that we take part in. It’s all part of the process for them to learn about business.”

The guiding and teaching of the 60 Penan women weavers is an ongoing task.

“If I compare the bag quality from the early years, I can see that our work back then was unrefined. This is where I am most proud of as throughout the years PWP has enabled the weavers to not only earn an income for themselves but also refine their handicraft, bringing it to a level of excellent craftsmanship and design. Today’s bags are of such a high quality and we even have each Penan woman weave a little signature detail into the product – it’s not noticeable but it’s there if you look close enough,” Ann notes thoughtfully.

With so much going for PWP and the Penan women, the next foray for PWP is venturing into e-commerce as Ann knows it is the doorway to untapped markets and customers.

Juanita’s Story.

Juanita is currently a leader within her own Penan women group. She is in her late 40s and is married with 5 children.

““I joined PWP in 2017 and as soon as I did, I started to see real money coming in. In the past, I wove products like baskets and sent them to Miri to be sold. Or sometimes I would take a table and sell my products but I never made much profit after deducting table rent and my transport out to the city. But with PWP, I began to see that I could help myself as well as other Penan women. With the money I made, I could go back to the kampung and buy school uniforms for my own children. As a leader of my weaving group, there are many challenges and I try my best to help them. I always remind them that we need to talk about problems openly so that we can solve them so that we can make better products for PWP. Of course, there are times when I can’t solve a problem and that’s when I need to call Ann but I can see that through PWP, our Penan women can earn money for their families.”  

Nelly’s Story.

Nelly is a Penan weaver from Ba Purao. She is 24 years old and already has 2 children, a boy who is 6 and a girl who is 7. She dropped out of school when she was in Form 2. Nelly was a full-time housewife but now she earns a good income from weaving bags for PWP. In the past 2 years that her husband has been jobless, she has been the main breadwinner for her family. Nelly is smart and conversant in English and Bahasa Malaysia so she often helps Ann with translation when Ann speaks to the other Penan women. Nelly has also come a long way because PWP also sponsored her driving lessons, enabling Nelly to drive. This is important as Nelly needs to send the village children who are sick to the nearby clinic. “I am happy that I am able to make a living for myself without needing to depend on my husband. I also enjoy weaving and in the past, we were always in financial difficulties. Since I started making bags for PWP, I have become more financially stable. I really hope PWP continues because it helps us, Penan women, a lot.”

The Joy of Making One's Own Soap

I started learning how to make soap from Soap Cart about a year or more ago. I have always been fascinated by the idea of making soap so I signed up for Soap Cart’s class one day.
When I told Nic that I was going to a soap-making class, he said that soap is so affordable. Why do I need to make my own?
I like making things with my hands. I like learning how to make things. And soap was something that I felt like doing at that time.
And I am stubborn. I never listen to my husband anyway. (This is what happens to girls who are brought up in households with strong mothers. My late mum never bothered much with dad’s opinions. She just went ahead to do what she pleased. I guess I am more similar to my mum than I’d like to believe!)
So I did. I found it incredibly fun to take sodium hydroxide (a caustic alkaline) and mix it with oils and make soap. It was both science and art. And the end result is something I could use.
The basic idea for soaps is to take sodium hydroxide and mix it with either water or milk. Once the sodium crystals have melted, the solution can be added into oils of your choice such as olive oil, palm oil or coconut oil. Then all you have to do is whip the whole thing until it thickens like pudding. Once it comes to ‘trace’ (when you drizzle the batter on the surface of the batter and the strands seem to stick to the surface), your soap is ready to be poured into moulds.
I found a loaf silicone mould from Mr DIY (that’s my kind of store for all types of knick-knacks and useless made-in-China household gadgets but I love going there) and have been using this mould since. It’s actually a mould for cake but silicone is so easy to unmould, compared to the harder plastic moulds. I think I bought it for RM12.

olive oil soap batter in mould
Olive oil soap hardening in the silicone mould. It takes about a day to harden.

When I first started making soap, I was much too nervous. I feared that my soap batter wouldn’t emulsify. I feared that I wasn’t precise enough with my measurements. And I got nervous when my soap wouldn’t unmould properly after a day.
I believe all these are newbie issues. I took soap-making too seriously. I felt that I had to be perfect at every step of the way.
And after many times making soap, I figured out a faster way.
I didn’t have to beat the soap batter continuously. I would now whip it a bit, leave the batter for 15 minutes, come back and whip it a bit and repeat this process over an hour. When I leave the soap batter, it thickens slowly on its own. It was such a refreshing way to learn that some things need time.
And if my soap couldn’t slip out of the mould after a day, I just popped everything into the freezer for 30 minutes. After that, the soap slides out easily! No more pushing and pulling the silicone mould like crazy. Sometimes it’s like life. No point forcing things along. And at times, you need to ‘freeze’ some stuff in life too. Deal with it later.
curing olive oil soap
Sliced up olive oil soap bars. They need to be “cured” for 60 days at least. The longer you cure your soap, the better it is. Curing means letting the water evaporate off from the soap. 

Of course, the soap needs to be sliced and cured.
I am a rather boring soap maker.
I only make 2 types of soaps – pure coconut oil soap which is superb for washing oily hands and pots and pan; and olive oil soap which is an incredibly moisturising soap for the face and body. All without fragrance/essential oils. Just plain Jane soaps. Both soap recipes came from Soap Cart and I’ve stuck to them religiously.
The olive oil soap needs a curing time of 60 days minimum but even the soap sceptic of a husband now raves about the olive oil soap.
It has helped him reduce the oiliness on his face and even moisturises his skin, leaving it supple. The soap contains olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil in different ratios as well as fresh milk.
If you ask me why I make soap when I can easily buy them off the shelves, I say I like knowing what goes into my soaps. I also appreciate the effort that goes into my own soaps and they’re pure and good for me.
Homemade soaps that are cured properly lasts a long time, unlike commercial soaps. They don’t soften or melt that fast in the shower. And when I make a batch of soap, they last me a year!

Of Unseen Faces, Unheard Voices

I wrote the below on 8 March but only published this today.
All photos below were taken by Hau Chern, who also took part of the photos for the Unseen Faces, Unheard Voices exhibition. I was waiting for his photos to include with this post.
Look out for Part 2 for the interview I did with Mak Lan of the famous Lidiana nasi campur in Tanjung Bungah.
I worked on my birthday which was 2 days ago. I don’t normally do this because each year I try to give myself a break and a pampering session. After all, I work pretty much all the time even if I am nowhere near a computer.
Well, it was for a good cause.
I was preparing and revising some 100+ slides for today’s International Women’s Day celebration. Mariam had roped me and 3 others into this mini photo exhibition of hers in early January. I thought it’d be fun to try out a project. I am crazy like that. I like challenging myself. Yep, the madness of me.

A photo exhibition of 5 women food vendors of Penang
A photo exhibition of 5 women food vendors of Penang

When we first got together like a merry band that we were, we had no clue what we were going to do. We talked about it and finally settled on women food vendors.
Given that we were all working (with the exception of Mariam who is a retiree), it was crazy juggling our timelines.
We had to factor in Chinese New Year (and that all of us would be away or busy), the availability of the women hawkers we wanted to interview and photograph and of course, our team’s schedules (one team member had some major upheavals in his life while all this was happening but he was such a team player and did his best and another team member went MIA for a bit).
We did pull this off even with budget constraints. (Yay to resourcefulness!)
visitors to our unseen faces unheard voices exhibition at whiteaways arcade, beach street
People who turned up to view the slide show

What was supposed to be a super mini photo exhibition turned out to be quite an interesting project – something which we all learnt from.
We focused on women because of International Women’s Day and also at the same time, food because Penang is a food haven.
But how many times do you truly appreciate the hawker who makes and serves the food you love so much? (As an aside, you must read my curry mee vendor who died but that is a different story. Still, that incident reminds me that we should never take our food vendors for granted.)
What do you know of your favourite hawker?
What is her story?
Do you know her as much as you know her food?
Well, that is what our photo exhibition titled “Unseen Faces, Unheard Voices” tried to capture in its totality. Remember, we had limited money to print up the photos. So we turned the rest into a slideshow, to explain more of the story that these 5 women were telling us.
Everything came together excellently despite the paltry funding we had. That’s how I came to work my butt off on my birthday when I should’ve been having a facial or a pedicure or a foot massage.
Bah, the things I do.
But the reaction of today’s audience to the slideshow and the photos reinforced my belief that our work did mean something. Of course, many became utterly hungry after watching the slideshow – after seeing huge bowls of curry mee, nasi campur, Hokkien mee, vadey and more, who wouldn’t? Some told me they were going to try out the food.
post it note messages
The encouraging comments penned by the public

I think the title’s apt, thanks to Jana. These women food vendors finally had their stories told. I always believe that each one of us has an interesting story to tell. And we assisted them in telling their stories of resilience. The life of a hawker is unbearably tough but these women are stoic, accept their circumstances and do the best they can. Do they want any help from the Government? No. Do they want any perks? Not really. They do what they can with what they have.
The "unseen faces, unheard voices" team - from left: me, Jana, Hau Chern, Mariam and Sandra
The “unseen faces, unheard voices” team – from left: me, Jana, Hau Chern, Mariam and Sandra

I made sure I was at the exhibition today, mainly because I wanted to gauge the reaction of the people who visited and viewed the slideshow. Many were positive with their comments which they wrote on Post-It notes and stuck to the comment board.
One lady even told us that we should make this into a coffee table book, highlighting even more women hawkers.
Krista Goon and Nic Sim and Janarthani Arumugam
I’ve known Jana since I was in Standard 3. We’ve done school projects and debates together. This time, we did a photo exhibition.

Jeya, the vadey lady attended today’s exhibition with her daughter, Sandra. She was pleased to be the subject of an exhibition and as a thank you gesture, she brought piping hot vadey for everyone.
As an aside, I am sometimes taken aback by some people’s reactions. I spoke to a 40-something engineer about these women hawkers and he said, “Why is it always about women, women and women?”
I replied carefully, keeping my voice even, “Because it is International Women’s Day and we’re celebrating women’s work and efforts”. This outburst was so uncalled for that I was a bit pissed. What’s wrong with celebrating women? Then again, some men have a chip on their shoulder. They may be jealous of the attention that we women get. They get upset that there’s no worldwide celebration of International Men’s Day.
Jeya, vadey seller
Jeya, second from left, in front of her photo. She came with her family to view the slideshow.

On another note, I met an 80-something gentleman who, after watching the slideshow, advised me to interview the woman who sells spices and curry paste in the Pulau Tikus market (apparently her business allowed her to send her two children overseas for their education). He also said that we should also record an interview with Jimmy Choo’s mentor, an old man who used to run a shop in Muntri Street but has now relocated to Kimberly Street. His elegant wife pulled me aside to inform me that the shoemaker’s custom shoe price is getting higher and higher each year!
The exhibition and slideshow is still going on at LUMA Gallery, Whiteaways Arcade until 31 March. On 1 April, we’ll put up the slideshow online so you can view it too.
Never mind, I’ll put it at the end of this post so you can view it. After all it’s only a couple of days before 1 April. I might forget!
whiteaways arcade, george town, penang
We’ve decided to add on a few more women food vendors plus I managed to get some photographers interested to help us with Phase 2 of the project. A foreign artist was also enamoured by the kuay teow th’ng couple – so much that she wants to paint them as a mural somewhere in George Town!
Honestly, I am satisfied that this pilot project touched so many Penangites in so many ways. It’s not just about the food we crave but also knowing the stories of hardship and toil of the common man and woman makes us appreciate our food heritage more.
unseen faces unheard voices exhibition penang
Here I am talking to people and getting their feedback on the exhibition

I don’t know where this project will lead us but I am sure we will continue recording these stories. Part of what makes Penang unique is our mixed bag of stories intertwined with our favourite food. I believe honest stories like these are far better than pretend critiques of food! (Most people don’t critique anyway – otherwise they won’t get called back for another food review!)
If you’re a storyteller or a photographer or just eager to help in any way, join us in documenting our food heritage!
Nic of Redbox Studio
Yes, I got Nic to help me out too on the exhibition day. That’s what husbands are for, right?

If you’d like to participate in this project, please write to Mariam at ufuvpenang@gmail.com
We need people who can speak the local language, ask questions, write, create slides, take photos and more.
Enjoy the slideshow below! And leave me some comments too – I’d want to hear what you think!

T-Shirt Into Tote

This is something I learnt while hanging out in Pinterest (which is highly addictive). I only dare to go into Pinterest on the iPad after dinner and even so, I end up getting goggle-eyed and inspired by all the interesting stuff.
This is what I learnt last week and since I had an old t-shirt I didn’t like wearing (got this t-shirt free when I joined the Charis Treasure Hunt a few months ago).
You know, some t-shirts are just too awful to wear – the cutting is ridiculous, the collar’s too tight and the overall look is plain silly.
And I don’t like using t-shirts as rags or rugs either.
Here’s an idea I tried out and it worked. Although it’s much faster if you have a sewing machine, it’s ok to hand sew it too (like I did). It took some time – maybe 20 minutes or so – but I was darning a few other things (Nic’s pants with a button missing) so it wasn’t so bad. When I batch process stuff – meaning I do ironing in one entire batch, or folding a big bunch of just dried clothing, or patching up a couple of items – it’s a lot less tedious. I don’t feel so aggravated.
Also I thought a t-shirt transformed into a tote or shopping bag is a great idea for a few reasons: the cotton bag can be tossed into the washing machine if it gets dirty (unlike those non-woven bags you get these days) and it’s foldable (you can carry a few easily) and it gives you a way to upcycle your old cotton t-shirts without guilt.
And cotton is much better for us and the environment.
We always get cotton t-shirts right? When you participate in a jogathon, marathon or any sporting event, you end up with oversized t-shirts which some people use as night wear. I don’t because I love wearing nighties to bed, not huge t-shirts.
OK, onto the instructions.
First, you lay the t-shirt flat on the floor. Smooth it out nicely.

Recycle your t-shirt and make into a shopping bag
Lay t-shirt flat, prepare to cut off sleeves

Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut off both the sleeves. Leave the joint seams intact because this gives your tote added strength. Next snip off the collar. You can be precise and lay a plate to get a nice round shape but I was lazy and just snipped it off in one go.
Cut off sleeves and collar off t-shirt
Cut off sleeves and collar

Then pin up the bottom of the t-shirt and sew away. It’s faster if you have a sewing machine. I did it by hand and it still looked OK. After that just turn the t-shirt inside out and what do you know, you’ve made yourself a cotton tote for shopping! I don’t like advertising brands so this below is how the finished tote looks like. If you like the brand on the front of the t-shirt, then you can turn the t-shirt inside out and sew up the bottom part. It’s all up to you.
Sew bottom of t-shirt
Sew bottom of t-shirt and turn it inside out

If you’re really the neat sort, you can even sew up the sleeve part neatly but I wasn’t too bothered. It’s a rough and tumble sort of recycled bag, right?
It’s the kind of weekend project that takes all of 30 minutes to do.
Happy crafting!

Tips for Eco-friendly Weddings

I’m a big greenie, thanks to being influenced positively by Don and Mylene.
I love conservation and yes, I am a member of MNS (that’s Malaysian Nature Society) whereby I am privy to interesting emails about conservation and ecology, particularly on the Yahoo Group that I am on. For a minimum of RM60 per year, I get updates from MNS about the state of our country in the form of gorgeous journals. (What is RM60 to you? It’s probably a night out in the city and probably not even enough to buy a pair of stilettoes but imagine, your RM60 for MNS can help protect those who cannot protect themselves.)
Sometime ago, MNS members started giving ideas about how to organise a green wedding successfully.
Did you know that weddings often leave huge carbon footprints? With everyone flying in from almost everywhere for the big day, and all the gifts and wedding decor, I should think it’s a mammoth print.
With permission from the thread originator, Ee Lynn, below are some tips to go green and have an eco-friendly wedding (hey, even birds are considered!).
Ee Lynn has these ideas:
1. Limit the size of your guest list. Instead of obligating the attendance of family members and friends from out of town, create a wedding website they can visit and leave comments in.
2. If you have many members of the family in a particular state, say, Penang, instead of having 12 of them drive down to KL for your wedding, host a delayed family-only wedding dinner there the next time you go to Penang.
3. Don’t have organic flowers or chocolates airflown from some distant country just so you could have a pesticide-free wedding. Always choose local.
4. Help plan your guests’ transport arrangements. Have them carpool by designating meeting areas and pick-up points.
Non-travel related tips:
1. Have lots of vegan dishes, not just for the vegetarians. Go for spring rolls, sauteed vegetables and salads. It’s sad that most of us celebrate a happy occasion by taking the lives of small animals :o( We should try to limit the number of animal lives taken.
2. Practice the 3Rs: Rent, don’t buy, your outfits, the chocolate fountain, and anything that you probably will not be using again.
3. Inform the caterers/restaurateurs that you don’t want a polystyrene arch or backdrop!
4. Get your guests involved. Ask if they could bring their own homegrown flowers to contribute to the arrangements. If you have a colour theme already, do let them know. Best to encourage potted plants e.g. orchids, otherwise they’d just go out to the nearest florist, buy a big bouquet and defeat the whole purpose.
5. Or have a blank scrapbook ready with stacks of photos. Each guest brings enough scrapbooking material to decorate a page, pen a personal note and choose a photo to go with his or her dedication. Let guests know in advance via text message, e-mail or direct communication, so they can compose their poems and congratulatory notes ahead of the wedding. Each contributor can be given a token of appreciation later.
6. Instead of throwing rice and confetti, use birdseed to make a big heart-shaped pattern on the ground in front of the church or wherever the daytime ceremony is to be held. Apparently rice can swell in birds’ stomachs and kill them, but birdseed can’t.
7. You could either choose to do without wedding favours, or go for things like potted 4-leaf clovers, magic message bean plants, organic spa soap and natural potpurri in cotton muslin pouches.
8. Communicate your message: Let others know what you believe in. There’s nothing worse than taking the noble step of opting for a green wedding and then having duhhh-case friends accuse you of being mean or stingy. Remind them of the theme throughout the wedding by playing songs with a green message (“Big Yellow Taxi”, anyone?), leaving environmental literature on the reception table for their perusal or displaying No Sharks Fin Soup campaign cards on the table.
What do you think? Many of my friends have already gotten married but it’s not only for weddings. Consider these tips too whenever you organise a party or a family celebration or birthday dinner.
Reduce your carbon footprint, whatever you do. Live wisely!

Isaac's Tips for Getting Your Own Mojo Style

I like Isaac Mizrahi simply because he’s funny and gay and not ashamed to be who he is.
It could be I adore his name, which is quite a marble in the mouth.
I think I started to really pay attention to him when he appeared on one episode of Project Runway.
I’m still very much into style and fashion and over the years, I’ve developed my own sense of dressing.
I don’t subscribe to brands just because they are there. I just want to wear clothes which fit me and look like I’m wearing them, not the other way round.
That’s why I’m really not brand-conscious at all. I can wear some pasar malam stuff, or I can wear some boutique stuff. I can carry clothes happily by turning them into a style of my own. I add some accessories and mix and match and in no time, I’ve got my own mojo. Plus I love making my own accessories!
I read Mizrahi’s How To Have Style book and loved it, just as I enjoyed Nina Garcia’s book, Little Black Book of Style. (Here’s a tip: find useful style and fashion tips from books and blogs. Don’t follow blindly but follow what makes your body shape look enticing.)
Style is really confidence – it has everything and nothing to do with clothes.
I read a quote which stayed with me over the years – this was a great booster in times when I wasn’t too sure about myself (yes, I have had a bad perm before, I have also been gangly and tall and thin and I used to wear specs!) – it goes: “If you are not yourself at 30, you will never be yourself at any age.”
We all need to learn to be comfortable with ourselves and I don’t mean physically but emotionally as well. When our foundation is strong, we can handle anything that comes our way.

Does Your Home Have Mojo?

If I have not been all together blogging much, do forgive me. I’ve been tied up with website projects and recently with all manner of stuff related to our new apartment.
Well, it’s not exactly new as in brand new but it’s finally some place we can call Home. Which is very surprising to most friends who’ve visited our present place – they think we own it because we spent a lot of time decorating this apartment as if it weren’t rented. Even the postman had to get a closer look the first time he delivered our registered mail to us!
I must say that no matter where we are, rented apartment or not, Nic and I strive to make each place as cosy and comfortable as we can even when we were on a limited budget in the early years of our marriage (let’s see, that was about 10 years ago!).
Especially when I know I married an Artist-Geek-Designer-DIY-Hobbyist.
It’s easy to take things for granted when I have had so much decor fun with the art we have at home, the knick-knacks we’ve collected from our trips abroad, our diverse hobbies and our sense of what we like, rather than what convention or styles dictate.
Nic’s art hangs on most of the walls of our current place. His Sarawak bric-a-brac and native craft (dayak parang, dayak war shield, sarawak pottery, sarawak lamps) inhabit nooks and crannies. It’s very Sarawakian, and the very ethnic look is a testament to how much he loves his home state!
On the other hand, we both love our Chinese and Buddhist roots which account for most of the Oriental leanings in the apartment – from our Kwan Kung figurine (love his fierceness!) to our very special Buddhas (one was handcarried back from Bangkok a decade ago and the other was from Burma, also handcarried by a good friend!).
We used to have a skull of a cow (a real one!) hanging above our aquarium! Yes, it scared half our friends to death. We have realistic looking plastic geckos on the wall which again scares half my gecko-fearing friends. I don’t mean to scare people but they’re crazy fun additions to an otherwise regular apartment, though rented!
But what I am getting at is this – a lot of house redesigning is about accommodating personal tastes. And since Nic and I have been poring over decor magazines, I see that half or most of the homes featured are too contemporary for our eclectic tastes! One exception though – pick up DWELL – it’s fantastic! Chockfull of practical, simple, easy home design ideas.
Like fashion togs, a home must reflect the owners and their likes. Mixing and matching is a must, something new, something old, something inherited maybe.
I don’t want my home to look like a showroom apartment! They’re too cold and clinical, too lifeless. A home must have some oomph, some pizzazz, some mojo. It has to have a soul of its own. It has to be an extension of the owners.
More to come in the next few weeks on our new home! Even Margaret’s excited!

Seeing Through Holes

Can’t see without them. 90% of what we get from the world we get through our eyesight.
When I was at St Nicholas Home for the Blind recently, I was truly grateful for my vision though I wear contact lenses. It’s like, sure, I don’t have perfect vision but these children are blind. Some of them don’t even know what a rainbow looks like.
Actually right about this time, we’re also involved with a new website development project for a new client from The Adventist Hospital. Coincidentally, this division deals with laser eye correction surgery or what we all know as LASIK.
As we’re also involved in producing copy for the website, I’ve been researching about laser eye surgeries from PRK to LASEK and then to the newest technology called iLASIK. I’ve read so much about the pros and cons of these vision correction surgeries that it’s eye-popping (pardon the pun).
I’ve had friends who have had this corrective eye surgery done and they’ve been raving over the results. Finally they say, they can see without glasses and what a change in lifestyle it has been!
I’ve been so tempted to try this laser surgery myself but I’ve still got so many pairs of disposable contact lenses. I would need to wait till my stock is finished.
But then Nic, who is all about natural healing, tells me to try the Bates Method. Apparently, your eyes can heal themselves. The issue is, they can’t heal if all we ever wear are glasses and contact lenses (which are like crutches for your eyes). Bates is the name of the man who popularised this method of training the eyes to heal by wearing pinhole glasses.
Bates pinhole glasses - not the most fashionable eyewear in town!
So Nic decided last week that he wanted to try the natural way of bringing back his 20/20 vision. He got out and bought the Bates pinhole glasses. They’re not cheap. A pair of this costs RM78. It’s just a pair of dark glasses, much like your plastic sunglasses, but with pinholes scattered on the area where the lens are.
I was a bit of a skeptic but I tried them on anyway (had to remove my contact lenses first). I could actually read the words on some books about 3 feet away!
I have shortsightedness and since 11, have been wearing glasses till I found contact lenses when I was 19. Although my prescription has stabilized at 4.5 diopter and I can use contact lenses now (and I don’t have dry eye problems unlike most lens users), I still want good vision. Vision without spectacles. I’ve done a lot of stuff wearing contacts lenses such as swimming and other outdoor activities but I still wished I didn’t have shortsightedness.
Back to the Bates glasses.
Can it cure my shortsightedness?
The idea is to train your eyes to heal themselves naturally. I’m supposed to wear the glasses while watching TV or reading.
The first time I wore them, it was a bit annoying. My eyes have to get accustomed to the pinholes. I have to focus correctly otherwise I will see overlapping images. Once I get the correct focus, I can actually see well! I can watch TV clearly and read the subtitles without squinting. I can see most objects clearly without problems.
The only thing I didn’t like was reading with the Bates spectacles. As I am shortsighted, I usually don’t read with my normal glasses on. I usually take the glasses off when I look at near objects like books. If I read with the Bates spectacles, it is also irritating. Maybe it works for people who have longsightedness.
I can’t bear to wear them when I work on the PC because it’s just too weird for close objects. For me it works best on objects about 3 feet or more away. Anything nearer and it makes me giddy looking at double images!
Accordingly, it is best to wear and ‘train’ one’s eyes for a few hours a day. This way, our eyes can adjust and correct themselves. I should be seeing an improvement in my eyesight after 2-3 weeks of using them.
Let’s see what happens over the next few weeks or whether I need LASIK surgery after all!

Can You Change A Life?

Medalin called me this morning, to thank me for spending time talking to her 20-something son. He had taken over the family business just a few years ago.
He’d come around yesterday to our office and we shared with him our beliefs and philosophy of running a business. Actually he had come to ask our opinion about something he wanted to do but in the end, it became more than that.
We spoke to him for almost 2 hours.
Perhaps it was the first time he met 2 highly positive people who think that business is not about making money. Business is about serving others, bringing them value, giving them a reason to buy from you. Business is about sharing knowledge, helping each other unconditionally.
Medalin called to tell us that her son was inspired by our words.
That he felt grateful for our advice.
My philosophy is simple – I am here to help other people help more people. If I can share an idea and get them thinking to do more good or touch someone’s life positively, my time on earth will be worth it.
And I’ve been lucky to have known a number of inspiring people who inspire me to work on myself so that I can play a role in creating a better world.
I know people who work tirelessly to help create a better environment by recycling and being green. They are the most hopeful people I know.
I know people who are genuinely kind and happy, willing to lend a hand without asking for anything in return. They just want to be of service.
I know a person who will travel all the way to Penang just to give a 3 hour talk so that other youths can have a chance to apply for a scholarship and lessen the burdens of their parents. Recently I was very pleased to know that 2 young people who attended this talk (which I helped put together) had received scholarships to study in the USA.
I know of people who with the handicapped and disabled, teaching them patiently. And when these teachers see their young charges sing, dance and perform onstage, it’s all worth it.
I know of a successful millionaire who was terrible at school. He used to be the last in his class because everyone called him dumb and stupid. No one cared for him. He was poor, had very low self esteem and always failed in class. His life changed a teacher showed she cared by buying him a bowl of hot noodles. In that small simple act, he felt the world wasn’t so bad after all. He decided to study hard to repay his teacher’s kindness. Today, he is a multi-millionaire and he has never forgotten that lesson.
If you care, you can change lives.
Can you change a life?
Of course you can.
It doesn’t take money sometimes. It could be a kind word, a few minutes of your time, a phone call, a letter, an email out of the blue. You just have to show you care.
Far too many people are selfish these days and will only do something for others if they get something in return. These people will never get anywhere in life with their limiting beliefs.
But when you show you really care (and it cannot be faked), you give hope to another human being.
You never know where that might lead.
The other person might go and infect others with this positive ray of light.
If we have more positive rays of light and love in our community and gradually the world, don’t you think that it could create a more peace-loving and harmonious world?
If it has to start somewhere, it has to start with me.