Thursday, January 31, 2008

Writing notes

Caitlin likes to write little notes simply for fun when she comes across some writing material. Most times, she writes love notes for us with the three words or substitutes a drawing of a heart for "love". Of late, her heart has taken more character with a face and a bow on top. She'll then stick them on our doors or walls.

Just an hour ago while I was working at the computer, I noticed she was busy writing something. She only asked me how to spell "care" so I told her. She then surprised me with what she had written. I must say it was a "proud mummy moment" when I saw it. It said "Tank (thank) you mum for taking care of me and I love u. Caitlin"

I asked how she got the idea to write me that message and she replied with her somewhat sly but sweet smile (just like the one in the pic below): "From my brain."

Okay, mummy is "duh".... Actually I thought she got the idea from some TV show. Well what can I say? Now I'm assured she has a brain and a heart, two very vital organs literally and figuratively...!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Don't Want To Nap

That's the title of a new blog which I just created two minutes ago. I hope you (and your kids) will join me on this roller coaster ride to "Nonap Land"....

We'll see where this ride will take me!

Get your prescription glasses online

I came across this site: Zenni Optical: Sell Rx Glasses $8 with case! and found it pretty interesting.

If you are too lazy to visit your optometrist and prefer armchair shopping, check out Zenni Optical. It offers you a wide range of stylish frames with the option of single vision lens, sunsensor, bifocal and progressive lens. They also offer tinted sunglasses lens and a children's selection.

As for the frames, you can choose easily with just a click of your mouse from their range of stainless steel, titanium, rimless, half rim or full rim ones.

All of Zenni's orders, including their $8 ones, according the them come with anti-scratch coating, full UV protection, quality hard case, microfiber lens cleaning cloth and full guarantee.

Their shipping and handling charge is only a flat $4.95 per order, no matter how many pairs of glasses you purchase.

This post is sponsored.

What I have to do to get a discount...

and I am not talking about shopping here. It sure looks like this week, I'm getting the hassle of a speeding ticket that commensurates with my 21 years' driving experience.

Last week I received a speeding ticket in the mail for doing 23km/h more than I should have on a highway which, according to the police, is limited to only 90km/h. Well, I didn't notice the speed limit sign and somehow I've always assumed that most highways here are limited to 110km/h.

So in order to put my driving record back on track and also to ensure that I can renew my car road tax next month, I jumped into action on Monday. I went to a police station which I'm familiar with (in Petaling Jaya), took a number and waited. When my turn came, I asked if the fine of RM300 could be reduced. The police officer said it could, up to 30%, only if I make an appeal at the police headquarters of the district that issued the ticket.

The HQ of the Subang Jaya district which issued the ticket is located at Bandar Putra Permai, near Taman Ekuine (Equine Park), a new property development off Seri Kembangan, near Serdang, on the way to Putrajaya (the new government hub), through heavy traffic, past old mining town of Seri Kembangan which has about 2 or 3 sets of traffic lights and one-lane roads on each side, after which you go through more windy one-lane roads packed with buses, cars and lorries.....summary, some god-forsaken place.

Yesterday, armed with a map, I ventured into Bandar Putra Permai and found the police HQ. I thought it would be just a straightforward process of submitting the ticket, requesting for a reduction, pay up and be done with the whole thing. I was wrong. I had to fill up an appeal form giving the reason for my speeding and was told to call before visiting them the next day to complete the process.

This morning, I called and they said my appeal has been approved (50% discount luckily!) but the 'boss' has yet to sign it. Try later at 4.00pm to come and collect the signed approval letter they said. There goes my plans this morning to put this behind me. I'm not free in the afternoon so it looks like it'll have to be Friday as I'm not free tomorrow morning either.

What surprised me further is that I cannot pay the fine at that HQ itself. Instead, I have to go to another place located in a mall in Puchong to make payment....

I fail to understand why the Malaysian police force systems and processes is not fully integrated considering that the country hails itself as developed, with "e-this, e-that", blah, blah, blah...

In summary, to get my speeding fine reduced from RM300 to RM150, I would have driven a total of around 80km to and from Petaling Jaya, Putra Permai and Puchong, visiting the police four times, and spending a total of about 4-5 hours on the road and at their offices. And I hope that's all I have to go through. I will find out for sure on Friday.

Their motto (in Bahasa Malaysia) is "Mesra, Cepat Dan Betul" (Friendly, Fast and Right). Well, I give them a passing mark for Friendly, but for Fast and Right, I'm not so sure.

Check out Wikipedia if you want to get more general info about the Polis Diraja Malaysia. The official website is in our national language.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Building your own online shop

Online shopping has come a long way. In the early days, if you wish to set up an online shop, you'll probably have to either write your own shopping cart software or find a clever individual or company to do it for you.

It has now become a necessity and a norm for business owners to offer an online alternative to their customers. A shopping site can be set up very easily nowadays with more and more e-commerce software companies now offering quick, easy and affordable services.

Ashop Commerce is one such company offering a web-based turnkey e-commerce solution. It is a web-based solution which does not require any software installation. According to them, thousands of successful merchants in the United States, from novices to professionals, have chosen to use Ashop Commerce.

Ashop Commerce allows a 10-day free trial without a credit card requirement. The software enables business owners to accept credit card payments, customise the design of their site, update contents easily and quickly at an affordable monthly fee.

Its full service also includes technical support and customer service. It is securely hosted, integrated with all major banks, payment gateways and third parties including PayPal.

I tried out one of their demo stores for a test drive of what the software can do. The site admin functions were pretty clear and user-friendly and allows you a lot of flexibility to manage your online store easily. Just by a few clicks on its clearly-labeled menu, you can check your sales, customers' names, products purchased, payment mode and status and tracking numbers. You can also check your inventory, product prices, change your store front theme and view statistics of your site such as page hits, visitor traffic and even a chart detailing the countries you are doing business with.

It sure looks like anyone can start an online shop now with such easy-to-use and affordable shopping cart software from Ashop Commerce. Their packages are priced from as low as $39.95 a month to $189.95 a month.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Another blog?

I am contemplating starting another blog which is topic-specific. This is in order to produce content that people want to read and subscribe to, and hopefully generate enough traffic to enable it to create more value for readers and myself. Hmmm, I've really got to get the creative juices flowing to strike the iron while it's hot.

I've got a second blog already which contains private content, more for storage purposes until I figure out what to do with the content later on.

I've also embarked on putting my 'creative' thoughts on paper, or rather, on Microsoft Word. What I will do with them is still up in the air.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cool tune

This is a cool tune which we are currently listening to in the car, more for its rhythm. It also happens to be the song from the movie Surf's Up, according to Caitlin. The title is You Get What You Give.

A holiday yesterday

It was a public holiday yesterday, the festival of Thaipusam for the Hindus. This holiday used to be observed by certain Malaysian states only, and the Federal Territory state of which Kuala Lumpur is in, was not included. This year, the Prime Minister declared it a holiday for Federal Territory, much to the happiness of the Hindus and non-Hindus alike of KL. For most Malaysians, a holiday, even just one day, means going out, especially to the malls. Caitlin suggested going to her favourite mall in Mid Valley the night before but we vetoed the idea.

We visited my eight-month-old nephew little Ryan instead. Caitlin, as usual, was all excited to get there as soon as possible. She had not finished her homework so it was a tough struggle to get her to focus. By the time she finished (just one A4 page of Mandarin writing), it was almost lunchtime. So we packed our lunch and headed over to see Ryan and have lunch at their home.

Ryan is growing fast and can crawl now. He even crawled to chase Caitlin when he caught her riding on his new toy, a rider-walker thingy.

Caitlin is very fond of babies. She is always very protective over all her younger cousins. If any adult so much as requests the child to not do something, she would quickly tell that person off asking him/her not to 'scold' the baby.

Big sister Caitlin enjoying a cookie.

Little Ryan wishing he has more teeth to enjoy one too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Get paid for blogging

I had mentioned before in one of my earlier posts that since I'm actively blogging, I might as well look into opportunities to make some money out of it. I have been continuously looking out for blog advertising sites.

A couple of days ago, I did a search and came across Smorty. Smorty links advertisers with bloggers. Many companies now advertise on blogs and they will pay bloggers to write opinions about their products and services with links back to the advertiser's website.

Usually, the blogger will have to meet some simple requirements such as including certain keywords, links or pictures related to the advertiser, as well as a minimum number of words in the post. Smorty requires a mimimum of 150 words and not more than 400 words.

The sites that I've come across so far pay in US dollars via PayPal. When in search of blog advertising sites, one has to be careful as there are some which are scams. Like any business, especially e-commerce businesses, there are legitimate/legal ones and there are those which are out to make a fast buck or cheat customers.

I checked some other bloggers which have joined Smorty and the reviews seem to come back positive (i.e. no complaints about their ethics and payments) so I guess it should be a safe place to do business.

If you have a blog and want to make some money, Smorty and other blog advertising sites could be one way. Smorty takes about two to three days to approve your blog. When you sign up, you just have to make sure your blog meets their requirements, some of which are: indexed in Google and Yahoo!, must be at least three months old, must not contain violent, hate or adult content, and must be active and contain two new posts per week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reading vs. writing

The scale is tipped way over on reading for Caitlin right now. Since having acquired the know-how on reading on her own, she's just been reading and reading and reading anywhere, anytime....

When it comes to writing, oh boy, all I can say is it's a nightmare for me. She simply does not like writing and it clearly shows in her writing. Even her teacher has commented that she needs to "practise writing more" and "could be tidier". Since school started this year, she's been getting one page of writing homework everyday. This is a major step from one page of homework every week last year.

The bigger challenge lies not in writing English words (although I wish they could be more neatly written) but in Mandarin. Her impatience and lack of interest in writing produces roughly written words which are out of shape and sometimes almost illegible.

Meanwhile, reading in Mandarin is usually greeted with almost equal enthusiasm as reading in English....

Anyone out there has tips on how to make writing more interesting for this kid of mine?

This is how I feel at the end of today

While having my dinner and reminding Caitlin to chew her food and swallow it faster, I realised that I felt drained of energy. I started thinking about what I did today that caused me to feel that way. I came to the conclusion that it can be oh-so-aptly summed up by this video clip which I recently received from a fellow mum who posted it in my Facebook.

Every word in there is just so real. Although some parts apply more to mums with teen kids, I can still relate to them. I just have to substitute "Ipod" with "tv", and "texting at the table" with "reading at the table" for eg!

Are you a Helicopter Parent?

I subscribe to Babyzone's newsletter and the latest I received contained a quiz for you to check if you are a helicopter parent, i.e. if you, according to the writer, "hover over their children and become too involved in their lives, including interfering in college or career decisions later in life".

It is a fine line and a tough balancing act to ensure that we give our kids the proper guidance without depriving them of learning independence, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Try the quiz just for fun and see how you score. It scores between 1-30 and I scored a 15 :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Visiting the dentist

We plan to take Caitlin to the dentist later this afternoon. We discovered a cavity in one of her upper molars after she requested to go to the dentist last night. At first she told us she simply wanted to go but after asking her again, she said her tooth sometimes ached when biting.

I'm glad that she is not afraid of the dentist. I feel that it is important how a child's mind is conditioned when it comes to visiting healthcare practitioners such as the dentist, paediatrician or doctor of any sort. I remember during my schooldays, the school provided free dental care and when the dental nurse came a-calling, we would all be gripped with fear of having our teeth drilled or extracted. I don't remember how the fear originated.

Children's books about going to the doctor and dentist helped us give Caitlin a positive feeling. Most books picture it as a fun and good experience by injecting some humour with the educational elements. We also prepare her for the experience by giving her a heads-up on what to expect and include some of the fun or interesting stuff, such as the tools they use and what they are for, and how the dentist's chair can go up and down, etc.

Caitlin loves visiting her paediatrician and has more than once requested to visit him even when she is not sick. She says she "loves" him and would sometimes draw a picture just before leaving home to present it to him.

August 2007, Caitlin relaxing on the dental chair, waiting for her filling to set.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Only in Malaysia

Imagine queueing up for three hours simply to pick up your kid from school. This is the situation in a newly-located popular Chinese school in Kuala Lumpur as reported by a local daily. Only Malaysia 'Boleh'.

I am speechless.

Predict your child's height

Check this place simply for fun to get an idea how tall your kid will be when he's all grown up.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Caitlin's 'knock knock' joke

Knock knock
Who's there?
Apple who?
Apple in an underwear.


Caitlin's explanation:
It's a joke because real apples don't wear underwear. That's why it's funny.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Remembering the Everest conqueror

Sir Edmund Hillary, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were the first conquerors of the world's tallest mountain, Everest. He achieved this at age 33 in 1953, an amazing feat considering how poor mountain climbing knowledge and technology was back then compared to now. At age 88, he died of a heart attack a few days ago.

Remembering a jazz legend

Oscar Peterson, the great jazz pianist, died on 23rd December last year. His fingers did amazing stuff on the ebony and ivory keys....

Remembering The King

I haven't heard this Elvis song in a long, long time. Hearing it again just brings out the sentimental me. It's just so different from his rock 'n' roll numbers! This song goes out to my friends who are finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come
To show the way
I believe, I believe

I believe above a storm the smallest prayer
Can still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word

Everytime I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why, I believe

Everytime I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why, I believe

Plastic containers

Bisphenol A is a chemical found in some plastic containers, drink bottles and the lining of cans. There has been a debate that it is linked to cancer.

According to this month's Reader's Digest, while the European Food Safety Authority concluded earlier this year that the levels of exposure were within safe limits, a US study has now challenged this and a decision is due on what to do.

In the meantime, you can lower your exposure to bisphenol A. Website suggests you discard cracked, old items, and only refill plastic bottles with the original type of liquid.


Caitlin enjoys reading very much and since acquiring the skills to read on her own, she's been reading almost anything she sees that has words - billboards, labels, signages, fine print on boxes (she knows now that some of her toys are made in China!), and of late, comics.

A New York Times article recently mentioned that comic strips as an 'alternative pathway to literacy' are catching on in the United States. It cited growing efforts in using comics to promote literacy after pilot programmes yielded promising results.

"Proponents of comics in the classroom say that they can lure struggling readers who may be intimidated by pages crammed with text. They also say that comics, with their visual cues and panel-by-panel sequencing, are uniquely situated to reinforce key elements of literacy, like story structure and tone."

One day, the attractive graphics and colours of my Archie comics caught Caitlin's eye and she picked one up to read....I don't think she cound really to relate to the American high-school Archie, Betty, Veronica and gang's antics but she sure did enjoy the funny things she saw and read about in there.

I've been looking out for more age-appropriate comics for her lately and discovered that they aren't in abundance over here. Some I've come across are the Winx Club, My Little Pony and Scooby Doo ones.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Weight loss

I consider myself pretty fortunate to not have a problem with my body weight. It is however an issue that many people around the world face. Being overweight, fat, or obese could be due to various reasons and reasons as simple as not taking care of your diet or simply having it in your genes.

Remedies for weight loss are abundant from herbal ones to exercise, pills etc. Some could be dangerous. I've read of cases of liver failure, fatalities and other problems when people are not careful with the steps they take in order to lose weight.

I would think that it's best, if you have a weight problem, to get a proper medical examination and consultation from a qualified medical practitioner.

Medical science has advanced so greatly that now, there are even surgical methods for la weight loss. One of them is the Lap-Band System by JourneyLite. It is an outpatient laparoscopic procedure where you can be discharged from hospital a few hours later. It is a gastric banding procedure that is adjustable and reversible. What it does is it restricts food intake without interfering with your body's normal digestive processes. According to JourneyLite, this procedure is less invasive compared to a gastric bypass as there is no cutting or rerouting of the small intestines, so risks of complications are greatly reduced.

JourneyLite specialises in bariatric medicine, the surgical treatment for the disease of obesity, and offers its services currently in California, Texas and Florida in the United States.

According to its website, some of the benefits of the Lap-Band System include long-term control, low risk of complications, reversability, adjustability, shorter recovery period and weight loss of one to two pounds per week.

This is a sponsored post.

Friday, January 4, 2008

What do you eat?

I came across this CNN article titled "Bad foods that are actually great for your waist". The power of the media is amazing. We all have to be very smart nowadays in deciding what's good for our health.

The CNN story quotes dietitians and research findings. Hmmm, are you convinced that meat (saturated fat), processed meat (chemicals), and ice cream (articial colouring, flavouring, sugar) are good? It mentioned that ice cream is good because "a recent Swedish study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that women who have at least one serving of full-fat dairy products a day gain less weight than women who don't. Researchers aren't entirely sure why, but it's believed (italics mine) that a compound in milk fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may aid weight loss". They covered themselves with the word "believe".

Health Ranger Mike Adams who advocates natural fresh food, vegetables, fruits, fresh juices etc has lashed out in his website in this article CNN Health Story Promotes Pizza, Ice Cream, Burgers as "Great for Your Waist".

I agree with fresh and natural food, more vegetables and fruits, and less meat, fats and sugar. "Everything in moderation" and "you are what you eat", as they say....Plus exercise, of which I am still guilty of lacking!

Back to school

School re-opened yesterday. Caitlin was eager to go. She woke up on time by herself at 7.00am (we have to leave home by 8.30am as school starts at 8.45am). I was pretty surprised as in the past six weeks, she would wake at around 8.00am as she goes to bed very late. (Attempts to re-train her to sleep earlier in order to wake earlier were not succesful.)

She was cooperative in getting dressed and having breakfast. She even reminded me that she had to brush her teeth and told me that the "long hand is past six" indicating it was past 8.30am and we needed to get moving to go to school.

She said she likes her new teacher, Teacher Kai Ling, and her new class. A number of her classmates from last year are with her. Her class size is larger this year. I hope the teacher can manage all 24 of them.

We have put her in the Mandarin stream, hopefully to 'acclimatise' her in a Chinese-speaking environment in preparation for primary school next year. She said she did not really understand what Teacher said yesterday but Teacher also did speak in English. (Most instructions are in Mandarin). I noticed from the list of names that there are non-Chinese, like Malay and Punjabi, kids in her class too. Many non-Chinese parents are sending their kids to Chinese schools nowadays.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Day Outing

ACE did two new things on 1 January 2008. First, we visited for the first time one of KL's latest malls, Pavilion. (It is built on the site where the old and famed Bukit Bintang Girls' School once stood. When the school was scheduled for demolition for this development, there was much hue and cry and protests to protect its honourable history).

Pavilion is the epitome of modern-city malls. It has wide open walk ways, lots of glass, contemporary design, and well-planned layout to cater to the (expensive) tastes of affluent KL-ites. You can find most designer-brand outlets there. The supermarket on its lower ground floor even has a designer-type name, Le Mercate while its food court, Food Republic, has earned my praise.

Food Republic caters to local and international taste buds, featuring a good spread of various countries' fare on one side, local fare in open 'islands' in the centre and restaurants and cafes on another side. Tables are aplenty. We managed to find one quite easily at peak lunch hour yesterday, a public holiday; while I noticed those who had to wait for others to vacate their table didn't have to wait too long. The place is clean and spacious. There seems to be enough workers to clear the tables efficiently as I did not see any table piled high with used bowls and plates or food scraps. Even our table was promptly cleared just before we got off our seats.

The main entrance of the mall descends via two deep flights of stairs into a grand concourse area which is currently decorated with a five-storey high Christmas tree-like centrepiece. A wind ensemble entertained shoppers-turned-spectators who sat on the steps to enjoy their a medley of Christmas and well-known tunes. Caitlin enjoyed the performance too.

After checking out the mall, we proceeded to Lake Titiwangsa where The Eye On Malaysia (a scaled down copy of London's Eye) is located. It costs RM15 per adult and RM8 per child (age 3-12) for a 20-minute ride in its air-conditioned gondola (which can seat up to eight people) for a view of the city skyline. While the cloudy weather helped us feel more comfortable (we got there in the afternoon), some of our photographs had to be compensated by the use of fill-in flash. We enjoyed the ride as it was Caitlin's first time on a ferris wheel and Eugene and my first time together on one. Here are some pictures.

Daddy, please, please, pleeease, may I have one balloon?

Mmmm, I guess my pleading worked and I got the most expensive (RM7!) one.