Monday, December 31, 2012

Thank you, 2012

Before the clock strikes 12, I would like to finish that box of Ferrero Rocher sitting on my kitchen counter. I think the riesling in my fridge would go very well with it. Oh, and perhaps some of that Maggie Beer burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice cream, too. When the clock does strike 12, I would be in front of the black box watching the thousands of dollars worth of taxpayers' money paint the night sky with colourful firework artistry. So, to assist me in my quest to rid off all the above-mentioned food, I thought I'd use some brain juice here...

Dear 2012,

How are you? You have had a year filled with challenges and with achievements of sorts. There were school shootings and there was the London Olympics. For me, you prepared something slightly different compared to other years.

You first sent me to Melbourne for some family time over Chinese New Year. It allowed me to touch base with my aunts and cousins, and also to meet my nephew for the first time.

Then there was the frenzy over getting an approval from  the HREC board in uni. Without their green light, I would not be able to purchase that flight back to KL for the first part of my research.

When I arrived home, you gave me a slap in my over-confident face with setbacks in participant recruitment. Very timely slap, I would have to say, as it brought out the worst in my stubborn self that needed some fine-tuning. This fine-tuning received support in the form of emotional support from family and friends like Max, Jeunn Fuh and Edwin. Also, there were references that came from unexpected people, like Miss Chia, Miss Yong and Raymond.

I was fortunate to attend the Holy Matrimony of my best friend, Jon, the wedding receptions of ex-classmate, Yew Fon, of CPU juniors, Alan and Lian Shien, as well as the whole wedding day fun of ex-high school juniors, Guek Ming and Hwee Lee.

You gave me the honour of flying on the flight that my ex-student, Chee Kin, was first officer. I had the chance to visit Singapore after my first visit 18 years ago.

There were new people you introduced into my life, too. There was the AsiaWorks bunch of good buddies, like Evon and Henry. There were the two new additions to our Honey Bee family in the form of Rainey and Carrie. Not only did you introduce new people, there were new cats! Elphar and Remy, and then Bubur and Chacha.

You graciously gave me the opportunity to celebrate (for the first time) the birthdays of Jeunn Fuh and Rick Kee.

Being part of cousin Samantha's graduation was also an event that meant quite a bit to me. It was my first attendance at a graduation of a family member. It felt really good to see her all grown up and pursuing her own interest.

I was also given the chance to re-visit Malacca and Penang, both being 2-day/1-night getaways in Dad's oh-so-comfy new car. Speaking of cars, you allowed me to ride in many of my friends' cars and if I get to take my pick, I would rate Ray's my favourite ride.

After returning Down Under, you gave me even more support in the form of friends like Xin Wen, Jenny and Michael. Housemate issues really did not bother me much and even that was a learning curve that I have benefited much from. I look forward to welcoming Karen, who is replacing Ai Vee to live with Jie and I.

I cannot thank you enough for the privilege to have my abstract accepted for and to present at the TASA Conference. And because of the trip to Brisbane, I had the chance to see Jwu Yng's place and also catch up with ex-student, Li Xin (even made friends with her friends).

Despite all the happenings, reconnecting with old friends and their families would have to be the best gift you prepared for me. A big thank you goes out to all that has been part of my life in 2012.

all my friends in my professional network, especially scott, ah boon, steven, miss chia, mrs. pang, ah wei
all my 'virtual' friends, especially boey, brandon, melissa
all my cpu friends, especially justin oei, justin mong, alan, lian shien, benjamin, wan feng

all my asiaworks buddies, especially henry, evon, alicia, kein, bocao, phylicia
all my herbalife friends, especially sonia, brent, michelle, charlie, jenni, oscar, sandy, yiran, leo, charles

all my friends in serdang, especially sook fong and jason, ken lie, peter, chin dy, mohas, eniza, kimberly, jason, king mui, kian fei
all my sydney friends, especially jenny, michael, xin wen, stellina, shaun, thaddeus, may, rachel, othilia, ai vee, jie, keith, elvin, jeng yie, edison, dominic, galven, audrey, ming yow, diane, pek lynn, vanessa, daniel, ta seng, selina, ke xin, terence, karen, eugene, alex, charmaine, michaeline, shannon, jeff, elvan, evelyn, victor, alvin
all my friends, colleagues and mentors in uni, especially jocelyn (and family), nicholas, heather, kelly, lisa, nanditha, dora, rosemary, grace, helen, zinnia, sanobia, doranna, sally, jennifer, alex, julie, rebecca, marina, sheila, shirley, marianne, jane, manjula, belinda, amanda, cathrine, clare, fay, jackie, ellie, peter
all my research partipants in sydney and kl and my usm mentor, prof. anna christina
all my ex-teachers from desa, especially mr. bong, mr. karuna, puan wong
all my friends from desa, especially jeunn fuh, paul, max and cathryn, yew fon, su ee, yee teng, dorothy, hui wei, natalia, kean giap, weng lok, rick kee and felicia, kenny and lee chin, yuen chai, eva, lee sih, han hsuing, kin seng, wai seng, robin, tommy, yan loong, raymond loh, edwin, jon and ee lane, yin lee, ai ling, chee kit and sandra, soo ting, mei yen, sabrina, guek ming and hwee lee, swee fong and queenie, jwu hoe and chai ling, fuh ming (and his mum), raymond chong (and his family: aiwee, nelson, simon, rhyann, aeris, kingston, aunty and uncle), yun hau, how ran and siew ching, pin kean, yee khai, voon khong
all my current honey bee students
all my ex-honey bee students (and their families), especially lih herng, lih jie, wan xin, wan qin, li xin, jian jun, munn yee, charl yee, shin yee, chui mun, chui yee, jie hui, chee kin, justin, chon seng, chon jun, siu suan, siew qi, yew weng, ruihan, ming suet, yuk khey, zhi qiao, su xin, su ting, vincent, vivian
all my ex-honey bee staff (and their families), especially miss yee, miss ng, miss ong, miss lew, miss lee, miss wong, puan emi
all my current honey bee staff (and their families), miss yong, miss chang, puan nora, miss puanes, puan nisma, miss teoh, miss saras, miss chin, miss nancy, miss yam, miss tai, miss ang, miss foo, miss carrie, miss rainey, uncle chow, aunty yen
my extended family, especially aunty pat, cousin petrina, jason, brianna and olivia, cousin lik shan, aunt yoke wan, aunt yoke mooi, cousin woon bing, aunt yoke chin, cousin meng cheng, uncle ah fong, aunt siew peng, cousins pei shan, yon tian and pei qi, aunt shiu ying, cousins pei shin and pei yiun, aunt shiu yeen, cousin eunice, uncle sim fatt, aunt siew choo, cousins samuel and samantha
my two cambodian domestic helpers, who absolutely adore the cats at home
my four-legged furry cuties, remy and chacha
my fantastic family, bro, mum, dad

For better or worse, each and every one of you have helped me become more of who I am today, become a better me in future.
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." - Buddha
And therefore, 2012, thank you for everything.

Most sincerely,

Happy 2013, everyone...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sydney Basket Brigade Packing Day

One Thanksgiving Day many years ago, a young family awoke not with a sense of gratitude many associate with the holiday but with a preoccupation of where its next meal would come from. Too proud to contact a local charity and too frustrated to celebrate the gift of togetherness, the parents lashed out at each other, turning the holiday into a day of devastation. The oldest son could do nothing but watch in despair. 

Then, destiny intervened with an unexpected knock at the door. The family was stunned to find a man standing there, grinning broadly and carrying a huge basket brimming with Thanksgiving delights.

In that moment, this young boy's life was forever changed. He learned with this simple act of kindness that hope is eternal and that people, even strangers, really do care. He was overwhelmed with gratitude and swore that he would someday become successful enough to give something back to others.

On Thanksgiving some years later, the boy, just 18, went with his scant earnings to begin to fulfill that promise. He bought bags and bags of groceries and delivered them to a woman with six children whose father had abandoned them. The woman was elated, and the children shrieked with delight.

The young man was moved to tears. In that moment, he realised that his horrible day years ago was actually a gift that had brought him the fulfillment he now felt, and he knew with absolute certainty that whatever challenges came about now would be turned into valuable lessons.

The boy, was Anthony Robbins, and the moment marked the birth of the Anthony Robbins Foundation's International Basket Brigade. Inspired more than three decades ago by one simple act of generosity on the part of one caring person, the International Basket Brigade has blossomed into an astounding collective effort that now feeds more than two million people in 74 countries. Throughout the holiday season each year, Basket Brigade volunteers in all parts of the world deliver food, clothing, and hope to those who need it most.

There currently are ten Basket Brigade teams across Australia who help thousands of people every Christmas with food and toys. Entirely run by volunteers, Basket Brigade works with local grass root organisations that work with families on a regular basis to assist those that are truly needy. Basket Brigade has no religious or political affiliations and anyone is welcome to donate to the cause, may it be in the form of funds, products or services, or as a volunteer.

I got to know about Basket Brigade through the most effective social networking website - Facebook. A member of Malaysians Sydney Chapter shared a video of last year's Packing Day, which she was a part of. Packing Day is the day volunteers meet up at a designated warehouse to pack these Baskets.

It looked and sounded like lots of meaningful fun to me so I checked my diary to make sure that I did not have an interviewed scheduled for the day. When the online registration link was accessible, I logged on and registered. An e-mail then arrived, confirming my participation and providing the when and where details of this year's Packing Day.

Fast forward to today. I woke up early to take a bus to Epping. Due to track works, I took a Cityrail bus to Strathfield where I took the M90 to Chullora and walked the rest of the journey to the warehouse in Greenacre. I was welcomed graciously at the gate and was directed to the registration counter where I handed in my paperwork. Right after the lady behind the counter strapped my left wrist with a red paper band (those that are waterproof and really hard to tear off), my lovely friends from Malaysians Sydney Chapter walked up the ramp.

I take my hat off to the committee who made the event possible. During the briefing session, we learnt that one committee member did some of her liaising from South Africa. Talk about dedication and commitment. We were also reminded to work at a leisurely pace to prevent injury and more importantly, to ensure that all Baskets (boxes, actually) contain the right amount of content according to the labels.

Let me share my first Packing Day experience with you. I was part of the human production line, where I started with an empty box that was gradually filled to the brim at the end.

There were so many boxes. In fact, over 2,200 of them! However, due to fewer sponsors and donors, this amount is no where near the 4,000 boxes packed last year. Everyone is feeling the economy pinch, I suppose.

Each box was either painted on or decorated with hand-drawn Christmas drawings and greetings.

Just to let you gauge the atmosphere in that warehouse...

I was not even halfway through the line for the amount of food in the box below...

... and no, not lying because look, tell me if you are able to see the end of the line...

There was little room left in the box for the presents (they go according to gender and age of the recipients) and in some cases, no room left at all!

The presents were carefully wrapped by volunteers working in a special wrapping section of the warehouse.

The committee stressed that the Baskets are given anonymously. The only note for the recipients asks them to take care of themselves and if one day, they find themselves in a position to help another, then we encourage them to do so - the "pay it forward" concept. This note was placed inside the box right before it gets taped up by other volunteers. The Baskets were then moved onto the floor space and sorted according to area, for other volunteers to deliver.

To me, what made the day all the more meaningful was the sight of parents with children in tow, young and old, groups and individuals, friends and strangers, all working together for one cause. Everyone showed enjoyment in their expressions regardless of their 'jobs'. Some carried  and distributed boxes, some the food items, some wrapped presents, some taped the boxes, some cleaned up, some manned the barbie. But all of us were happy to be there knowing that part of what we did this morning will put a smile on someone's face.

Thank you for sharing it with the group, Michaeline. It was so much fun to have your girls there with us, too, Charmaine and thank you for the ride to Chullora. And it was a pleasure getting to know you, Yasmin and John.

N.B.: All background information taken from Anthony Robbins Foundation's International Basket Brigade and Magic Moments Foundation Australia websites and Facebook pages.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Concert & Graduation 2012: Colours

This year, the theme for our annual Concert and Graduation at Kembangsari was 'Colours'. Therefore, the material used for all the performances had something or other to do with colours.

Preparations began earlier this year, as I was around then to give ideas. As I was only there during the very initial stages, the educators (and myself, admittedly) were very nervous about putting up a good show. Preparations not only encompassed training the children in singing the songs but also the choreography of the songs, as well as matching and designing costumes and props.

Nearer the big day, Dad would draw up a draft of what the stage would look like.

Some of the educators then arrive on the night before, and more come on the morning itself to help with setting up the stage.

For particular educators, the night before also involved getting some of their props ready...

We received positive feedback for the stage this year, with the 3D effect created by the pieces of cloth that floated midair from the front to the back of the stage.

To see the hall seated to its maximum capacity and full from beginning to the end of the show was also a very encouraging sign. We really appreciate the support from everyone in the crowd - thank you!

You have no idea the amount of work that goes into making a successful show. And when I say work, I do not mean only the training and preparation for the performances. I also mean all the effort invested into grooming the children into the confident individuals that they are.

Like the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child", it takes the hard work and sweat of all the teaching and non-teaching staff and management, parents and the individual child to see the results we see in the children. It takes time and patience to guide children to become a team player who is respectful of themselves and others. It takes belief and perseverance in cultivating the habit of learning from mistakes with a positive attitude. It takes skill and enthusiasm to promote enjoyment for learning and doing new things.

The event, in my opinion, was a success. The children outdid themselves and performed better than everyone imagined. The parents were respectful of each other and were very supportive of all children. We are very honoured to have all of you with us.

Hope you will enjoy the DVD and we look forward to putting up another spectacular show for you next year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy birthday, Mummy and Little Bro!

If only I was home this year for my own birthday, I would then be able to celebrate Mum's and Bro's birthdays, too. Apparently, Dad brought them to Bumbu Bali Restaurant in Bandar Puteri Puchong for a treat. Argh, missed yet another sumptious meal!

Here is to wishing my beautiful and capable mother, as well as my charming and popular brother HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love you lots!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Happy birthday, Michael!

When I asked you out for dinner, I did not expect you to choose to have a mamak dinner. I was expecting something like Japanese or Thai. But never mind, it's your birthday so you get to have the last say.

My dearest sai lou, may the coming year be another year of personal growth and achievement for you. 

Happy birthday!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Happy wedding, Junda and Sharon!

When my friend Junda from UTS, enterprising owner of PappaRoti Australia and Petaling Street Malaysian Hawker Food Sydney Branch extended a wedding invitation, I could not say no. And so, along with three other lovely ladies, I went to Doltone House for a very purple evening.

Each of us received a personalised shot glass each...

I have to say, the food was not too bad. However, some of us were comparing a Western-style wedding dinner to a Malaysian-Chinese-style wedding dinner. No competition really. One is a three-course while the other is at least an eight-course.

Thank you for the invitation, Junda and Sharon. Congratulations and wishing every best for your future together as Mr. and Mrs. Khoo!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Life #11

Hello, my favourite month of the year. How have you been? You seem well. You brought with you splendid weather. You brought with you endearing endings and exciting beginnings.

Ah yes, it has been a while, has it not? A whole year has gone past without us realising. I suppose that is a good sign, no? A sign of us living life to the fullest and really enjoying our earthly pursuits.

We tend to take life for granted, do we not? Life, as in even the 'free stuff' that Mother Nature provides. Take now for example.

I see the flickering of the shadows made by the leaves on the trees playing peekaboo with one another.
I see the golden rays of sunshine, which provokes a sense of warmth.
I see birds of all kinds taking flight, making full use of the cool breeze that helps them fly with less effort.

I see all but I see only when I take the time and effort to slow down and pause to observe and ponder. This stopping to ponder, to me, is an important process but I am not suggesting that we do it every minute of the hour. I hear you ask, "If we stop to ponder so much, how does that help the year go past faster?" Ah, now, the answer to this question would differ from one individual to another. And for me, this process of reflection helps me shape my thoughts and to help me become.


Yes, become. To become more me. To listen to myself more. And when I am more skillful in listening to who I truly am, I am a more genuine person.

The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?” ― Yann Martel in Life of Pi

Do not get me wrong. There is not intention to become the perfect being. This process of becoming takes plenty of effort, and life lessons. And I think, it also involves taking time to stop in our normally fast-paced, technology-packed tracks to just be grateful for everything and everyone.

So yes, my favourite month of the year, I am grateful that you have arrived. And thank you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

MasterChef Billy's Halloween Dessert Degustation

When Jenny asked if I was interested to go for Billy's Halloween Dessert Degustation, I was surprised at how quickly I said yes. I transferred the amount required to her and two spots to the event were booked. With limited seats and in collaboration with two other food bloggers, Karen Low and Phuoc Huynh, I did not need to think twice!

We shared a cab to Studio Neon in Waterloo. Other guests started arriving in their own Halloween costumes. Some really bothered dressing up.

First thing, grab ourselves a drink. After trying all the drinks offered, we settled for a Scarecrow Mojito, which was a mixture of Bacardi with a dash of lime juice, thyme leaves and pumpkin puree.

Although it was handy to have these placed right in front of us, it was also very dangerous - we kept popping one or two into our mouths!

And then, the dessert feast began! The six-course of four sweets and two savouries started with petit fours of pineapple marshmallows, balsamic vinegar strawberry pate de fruit, and black sesame & charcoal powder macaron with pumpkin and Fromage blue cheese filling. The combination of blue cheese was a little strange but was not hard to accept.

This was followed by Phuoc's deconstructed apple crumble, which I really enjoyed. Perhaps it was due to the apple and green tea sorbet and the popping candy mixed with the crumble...

When I heard the word 'moscato', I did not bother listening to what else was in the tube. I know there was a lychee in it but whatever else there was... nah, it's moscato so all's good.

Then it was Karen's turn to plate up. Her dish of chocolate parfait with fisherman's friend chocolate dirt had everything a chocolate lover would want. I looked at Jenny and said, "I am not going to have chocolate for at least a month".

Frankly speaking, I was full by the time the Mexican smoked pulled pork and Asian style chilli and soy lamb ribs with the sides of balsamic braised red cabbage and cauliflower puree were served. I did not have much of them but the puree was smooth and had just the right flavour.

The pumpkin soup with red pepper oil pork crackles on the side had both of us sold. Oh my goodness, this was orgasmic!

The grand finale was the Snow White. Billy had this white ostrich egg looking thing placed in front of us. We watched the thing melt (some more gracefully than others) as hot raspberry coulis was poured over it.

We little red devils really enjoyed ourselves!