Saturday, October 27, 2007

Caitlin is five today!

Caitlin turned five today and we celebrated her birthday with a party with family, her classmates and some friends. I managed to rent her kindergarten school hall since majority of our guests were her classmates. I felt that the venue was most ideal for their parents to not get lost finding the place or worry about their kids being in a strange environment; plus I did not have to rent children's tables and chairs separately.

All in all, it turned out well despite the air conditioning of that place being under efficient in stifling the afternoon heat. The constant opening of the doors (letting warm air in), and heat generated by almost 20 energetic kids all talking, shouting, laughing, screaming at the same time added to the problem.

I'm glad the food was more than enough with everyone being able to take extras home. Between Eugene and I, we managed to pull off the games to the kids' satisfaction. It's refreshing to see how kids can be happy with just the simple things - simple games, with simple rules and simple prizes. If only adults could be that easily satisfied....

Caitlin's cake was hit with the kids. When it was revealed, all those little 'itchy' fingers were raring to have a poke at The Incredibles family and after Caitlin cut it, they went after the sugar stars that surrounded it.

This is the first major party for Caitlin since her 'full moon' party to celebrate her first month after she was born in 2002. Her first to fourth birthdays were celebrated amongst family only. I guess over the years, she has attended enough 'fancy' children's parties and now knows that she wants one too. So we decided to indulge her this time. She was definitely happy at the party and happier when she opened some of the presents later this evening!

Meanwhile, mum and dad are tired out from having to manage so many kids for the first time. I guess tomorrow will be a lazy Sunday.

Here are some pictures which we managed to capture before the camera battery ran out. The next batch of photos were taken with Lynette's (Eugene's sis) camera so those will come later.



Thursday, October 25, 2007

Do you know what RSVP means?

Two weeks ago, I had sent out invitations to Caitlin's classmates and some friends of ours to Caitlin's fifth birthday party. I had clearly indicated my name and phone number in the cards for the RSVP. Now, I'm sure most of us know what RSVP means i.e. "please reply". However, can you guess how many actually were courteous and considerate enough to do so? And even after a reminder to some of them? I was also told by one person indirectly to email his child at her own personal email...well, I hope the seven-year-old understands what RSVP means.

Donna Pilato who has written a short piece in About.com says: The term R.S.V.P. comes from the French expression "répondez s'il vous plaît", meaning "please respond". She continued to say that: I hear more and more often, and have found in my personal experience, that hosts often do not receive firm indications whether guests plan to attend their parties, even if R.S.V.P. is clearly printed on the invitation. This could mean either one of two things. First it could mean that rudeness is a growing trend in our society. Or, as I would prefer to believe, people no longer understand what the term means.

I sure would like to follow Donna and believe that maybe, just maybe, some people do not understand what RSVP means.

In the meantime, I do hope the food I have catered would be enough. If it is not, I shall tell those who did not RSVP that they can only have the fruit punch.

A holiday in Spain

Spain is a country in my dream holidays wishlist. But with the currency exchange, it would mean going on a budget. I have 'roughed it out' before on holidays so this could be one way to visit Spain too. Backpacking could be the cheapest option if we're talking about shoestring budget. And with the Internet nowadays, it would be quite easy to make online bookings and find affordable hotels in Spain .

The areas to visit are on the Mediterranean coastline covering Barcelona, Seville and Granada and of course the food and beaches are a must to check out.

There are many tourist attractions in the various cities in Spain. Some of the attractions include a historical tower, Torre de Bujaco and Muralla de Avila, a wall that surrounds the military Romanesque old town of Avila, located in a Unesco World Heritage Site.

If you choose to start your trip in Barcelona, there are hotels in Barcelona (hostels, actually) going for a low EUR19. One of the hotels listed in this website is Hotel Sagrada Familia which is located in the center of the city, near the famous cathedral of the same name.

la Boqueria is another place to visit in Barcelona and from the pictures and reviews I came across, it sounds like a place to feast your eyes and mouth on. The la Boqueria market is famous.

The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona showcases the great gothic buildings which marked the high point of the city and its culture during the Middle Ages. You can find the remains of the ancient fortified walls and palaces built by the Romans on the "Mons Taber" such as the temple dedicated to Augustus.

There are three-star hotels in Madrid starting from EUR29. The Prado Museum is one of the premium attractions in Madrid which houses paintings of El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, Hieronymus Bosch, and numerous other famous artists. Prado is one of the few museums that allows visitors to take no-flash photographs of its collection. Also in Madrid, the botanical gardens and the royal palace are must-see destinations.

After writing this, I'm now so tempted to just pack my bags and head to Spain....Unfortunately, I have to knock myself back to reality and continue to work hard and save for this dream vacation....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Random thoughts and feelings

Yesterday, the installer of the broadband service we applied for three weeks ago finally paid us a visit. We are now back to a 'wired' service compared to the unreliable wireless one we've been using the past two weeks.

So far, for the past one hour, I've not had any problems with it and it seems to be running fast and smooth enough for me. Eugene even managed to download three episodes of House (Season Four, yippee!) last night! I just have to find time somehow now to be able to see what's new in this latest season. How is Dr House coping with his self-inflicted loss of all his four competent doctors?

I have just re-committed myself to one of the greatest personal challenges last night towards becoming a better business person. I really don't know how I'm going to juggle this feat to speed up my earnings but if I don't try, I know I would be wondering for the rest of my life. It's going to be tough and painful and lonely at times. It's daunting, scary and overwhelming. It will however be rewarding in more ways than one. Looks like movies and even blogging will have to take a back seat for the time being. For a person like me who has found solace and relief from the Internet and networking online, it will be very hard to be disciplined and not waste time when seated at the computer for work. I will need all the support, encouragement and motivation I can get, so if any of you have any inspirational stuff, please send it my way!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Malaysian in outer space

I have not paid much attention to all the hype since the idea of sending the first Malaysian to space was mooted and eventually realised. If you ask me, I can only recall that the media provided ample coverage of the shortlisting of candidates leading to the two finalists. And finally two days before the Muslim Hari Raya, a Dr Sheikh-something who is also a part-time model, as reported by the papers, joined the esteemed crew, led by an American female (girl power!) commander, on board a space shuttle (don't ask me its name) to blast off from Kazakhstan into space and subsequently board the ISS space station.

Okay, that's as much as I know from not being able to avoid the in-your-face news last week and Astro's constant announcement of their dedicated channel 588 to keep Malaysians posted on Dr Sheikh's outer space experience.

In between, I get forwarded emails from friends mocking the disparity of how our Malaysian is labelled. We have proudly referred to him as our 'angkasawan' or astronaut. From the emails, I learnt that the NASA website calls him a 'flight participant', and of course, whoever authored the original email added "...or tourist?"

One day before Dr Sheikh blasts off, I received an SMS from a journalist friend of mine attached to an English daily asking me to contribute my comments and a message to our 'angkasawan'. I replied to her that I honestly did not have anything to say as I did not think very much of this achievement. This started me wondering what actually would Malaysia gain from sending one citizen out there. How would his experience contribute to the bigger picture of Malaysia's advancement in this field of aerospace technology in the bigger picture? Wouldn't sending a Malaysian team of aerospace experts (if we do have any) to work and learn from the Americans and Russians be better? I don't know so I shall not say more.

Then today, I received another email with this attachment. Call me ignorant or behind the times (I'm sure many of you already knew this) but this takes the cake and prompted me to write this post.



After I read it, something went "ding!" in my head. RM95 million?! I believe my thoughts echo what this news report from The Age Melbourne (15 November 2006) has pointed out so aptly.

As a Malaysian, I'm glad Malaysia has been 'boleh' in some ways but I think, we could have saved some of the 'bolehs' for better causes....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big $$$ for kid's birthday parties

Caitlin will be celebrating her fifth birthday in about 10 days' time. This year, she has specified that she wants a "fantastic" party with all her classmates and friends. And she had also specified the cake design as far as six months back.

Back in my time, birthday parties were not so hyped up. Those I attended and celebrated for me had the cake, the food, some games, and most of all, the homely feel as they were always held at home.

Kids nowadays are demanding for parties at kid's entertainment or edutainment outlets, fast food restaurants complete with fancy birthday cakes, professional entertainers like clowns, magicians, storytellers, games and activity hosts and the list continues.

This is all thanks to the creative business minds who know that parents would fork out just about anything for their kids and thus began such places offering their venue and services for kids' birthday parties.

What's good about these places is that they take the hassle of organising the party from the parents, from the decor, to the food and games. But of course, all these come with a price high enough to put a noticeable dent in the parents' pockets.

Caitlin has attended and enjoyed enough of such parties in her five years to now know that it is the type of party she would like to have. So my headache has begun. Thankfully, she has not specified any particular location or demanded any expensive activity.


Since the majority of her friends will be her classmates, we've decided to have the party in her school hall and we are giving in to her request for a cake featuring "The Incredibles". As for the food, I have no choice but to cater. And games? Looks like I might have to paint my face and don a red button nose.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shopping a female thing?

With online shopping so easily accessible nowadays, that is actually my preferred option. However, one problem is shipping and handling costs. Most shopping sites are out of the United States, European countries or larger cities like Singapore and Hong Kong within Asia. Being in Malaysia, the shipping and handling charges could in fact cost more than the product you have purchased so armchair shopping via internet is still most feasible only for items you really cannot get elsewhere. Also, for some things which still require the touch-and-feel and try-on experience, if you're not familiar with the brand's sizes and cuttings for clothes and shoes especially, I would still have to resort to walking into a physical store.

I've never been a typical girl shopper. What I mean by 'typical' is those generalised as females who simply love going shopping just about anytime, anywhere and buying stuff they fancy, being among the first to visit the latest mall that opens in town, check out the latest collection by a designer or a great sale in a departmental store. I'm glad I'm not like that. I'd have to have lots of spare cash if I were so, considering all the financial commitments we have. Not to mention that Eugene would have giant headaches everytime I tell him to top up our bank account since I'm currently his dependent!

However, I do have that craving sometimes to just go traipse around a mall and feast my eyes on those 'unmeaningful materialistic possessions' one could have simply by pulling out a credit card or some cash. I guess, the female in me who wants to look nice and have pretty things still surfaces once awhile. On second thought, I should say "my human nature" since the opposite sex also has the desire to look nice and have nice things. Yes, men love shopping too.

Of course, there are men who only shop when they run out of something. They will zoom into the exact aisle in the supermarket or deparmental store where what they are looking for is located and head straight for the cashier. Then there are those who only shop for themselves. They would not want to even be found dead in a women's section getting especially some undergarments, sanitary pads or tampons for their better half. But, there are those too who love roaming the malls window shopping and buying anything they fancy.

So who says shopping is a female thing?

The Law of the Garbage Truck

A friend sent me this short article and I feel that the message rings true.

Want to Be Happier?
Learn the Law of the Garbage Truck

How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you’re the Terminator, you’re probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of your success is how quickly you can refocus on what’s important.

Sixteen years ago I learned this lesson. And I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here’s what happened:

I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when all of a sudden a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, the car skidded, the tires squealed and at the last moment the car stopped just one inch from the other car’s back-end.

And what did we see next? The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started swearing at us. How do I know? Ask any New Yorker, some words in New York come with a special face.

And then here’s what blew me away. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly. So, I said, “Why did you just do that!? This guy could have killed us!” And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck™” He said:

Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you.

So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.

So I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home or on the street? It was then that I said, “I don’t want the garbage and I’m not going to spread it anymore.”

I began to see Garbage Trucks. Like in the movie “The Sixth Sense,” where the little boy said, “I see Dead People.” Well now “I see Garbage Trucks.” I see the load they’re carrying. I see them coming to drop it off. And like my taxi driver, I don’t take it personally; I just smile, wave, wish them well and move on.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their day. What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more Garbage Trucks pass you by?

And my taxi driver was right. I am happier.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Singapore shots


The 'old' girls and their kids


Caitlin with two of her Singaporean cousins, LeReyne and Elroy

Monday, October 8, 2007

Rhythm of the drums


Caitlin's drum set arrived on Saturday. Now she can practise. Drums are relatively loud instruments and her teacher says she is a loud, rock drummer. She has a set of ear plugs to use at her lessons but now the whole family needs ear plugs too to protect our hearing when she practises.We do not have a soundproof room. Hopefully the neighbours will enjoy the rhythms and not complain!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Purpose Driven Life


I am currently re-reading this book "The Purpose Driven Life". The last time I read it was two years ago when I had just quit my job to be at home. I find this book helpful in providing direction and inspiration. It takes you on a 40-day journey with daily chapters which are short enough for busy people, and yet its contents really get down to the heart of the topic covered for that day with points to ponder on.

Despite the criticisms mentioned in the Wikipedia link above, I believe it is up to the individual to determine if the book has been helpful to him. After all, it is only a guide and ultimately, how one lives should be guided by one's heart, his relationship with God and His Word.

If you visit the website, it provides related resources and even has the first seven chapters available online.

Chapter 3 of the book stood out to me when I read it about 10 days ago. It's titled "What Drives Your Life?" and the two quotes at the top of the page were meaningful:

I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! Ecclesiastes 4:4

The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder -- a waif, a nothing, a no man. Thomas Carlyle


One of the benefits mentioned in this chapter about knowing your purpose is that it simplifies your life. Knowing your purpose "defines what you do and what you don't do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren't....Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at that moment. People who don't know their purpose try to do too much -- and that causes stress, fatigue, and conflict."

Time for me to ponder now about the stress, fatigue and probably, conflicts, I sometimes experience!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Handbags

Ever since I became a work-at-home mum, my need for a chic or business-like handbag to go with my office wear has diminished. However, recently, when work started picking up and required me to go out more, I suddenly realised that my old handbags were deteriorating from lack of use and were somehow not to my taste anymore.

Thus, I'm on the lookout for a bag or bags that are versatile enough for work, casual outings and to also hold all the necessities a mother of a five-year-old would need to carry along when she goes out with her kid, and still look good!

Coincidentally, I was directed to an online shopping site which features a really good range, thousands in fact, of handbags and wallets, among other things.

Checking out the site, I found that it is user-friendly with pictures of the items, pricing, description and store that carries it. This site carries many brands of handbags, from cheap no-name ones (some of the bags ARE nice), to designer labels such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana.

You can search by categories of price range (below USD30 to above USD260), stores, brands, material and even closure (zipper, flap, etc). I saw quite a number of bags that I like from affordable ones to the ones I can only dream of....

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ratatouille tastes good!






I'm glad I bought a copy of the Sept/Oct issue of Flavours, a Malaysian publication for food lovers. In this issue, it featured Ratatouille, a French dish made famous by the recent Disney-Pixar movie by the same name. For those who have yet to watch the movie, I would recommend it, and although the cute rat is featured so prominently with the movie title, we must remember that his name is Remy, not ratatouille!

According to Flavours, "the real ratatouille, as served up in homes around Provence, looks nothing like the elegantly-plated, thinly-shaved layers of vegetables fanned out to form a mound that you see in the animated movie; it is the most unglamorous-looking of stews - a floppy mass of mushy vegetables."

After reading the article, I was inspired to try out the recipe as it looked idiot-proof and the ingredients were easily available, plus it's so versatile that it can be eaten and used for many different other dishes; on its own, in omelettes, as a pasta sauce, on baguette like a bruschetta, as pie filling or even a crumble.

Last Friday I made it and we ate it with spaghetti. I must say, for a lousy cook like me, it tasted good on its own and with the spaghetti too. Unfortunately, Caitlin wasn't keen on it as it's a vege dish and tomato-based (she prefers creamy,white sauces like carbonara or herbs and cheese with her pasta).

It's great too that this dish can be made in a big batch and frozen to be used for various occasions and can be served warm or cold.

Here's the recipe if you are keen to try it out. Bon apetit!