Thursday, February 28, 2008

Balloon Fashion

It's amazing how creative some people can be with balloons. All I can do with balloons is blow them up, draw funny faces on them, use them as decor for parties or bounce them in the air as a game with Caitlin.

Nowadays, sculpting balloons is pretty common, twisting and tying them into various shapes like flowers, animals, etc. These are done mainly by children entertainers, clowns, magicians at kids' parties. Many shopping malls now also hire these people to become crowd pullers during weekends. Families with kids are often seen making a beeline and queueing patiently at these balloon stands.

Some balloon sculptors set up a stall along high pedestrian traffic areas in malls to sell their creations. These balloons don't come cheap and most parents give in when their kid pleads for one. We have been 'victims' many a time when Caitlin asks for one. Some of these balloons are well made and can last up to a week. Some, however, are not well twisted and quickly unravel once the balloons begin to deflate.

Some balloon sculptors have become even cleverer and more creative, turning their balloons into funky fashion. Take a look at these pictures. Aren't they amazing?








Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sick (because) of the weather

The weather has been hot and dry for at least a month or more now, typical of the Chinese New Year seaon. No rain, except for a downpour at 2.00am two nights ago. It didn't make a difference.

Many people are down with some flu-related virus, Caitlin included. She caught it at school from her numerous classmates who have been having drippy noses and phlegmy coughs. She had fever for two days last week and was fever-free for one day. The fever, although mild, returned for another two days and her nose has been clogged with thick, gooey mucus for almost a week. It's moved down to her throat too, producing a phlegmy cough....

Based on the many experiences over the past few years since her pneumonia scare, she takes a long time,averaging over a month, before her cough subsides. She had been well for quite a long period prior to this. Normally she'd get sick almost every month or two. Just when I thought I could stop her inhalers, she's coughing again....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow


I was reading Caitlin's Ratatouille storybook this afternoon and came to the part where Remy got lost in the sewer. August Gusteau came alive in his imagination and told him, "If you focus on what you've left behind, you will never be able to see what lies ahead."

How wise and true. In that story, Remy then climbed up and reached a rooftop to discover that he was just under the city of Paris, with its beautiful night scene taking his breath away. And the icing on the cake was that he was right at Gusteau's resataurant. His dream came true.

I guess in real life, not all dreams come true the very minute you look ahead. But things will turn out to be better somehow, someday sooner or later most of the time.

This brings to mind an old song which Caitlin said sounded nice to her when it was playing in the car yesterday:

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?


If the bluebirds focused on their nest and did not venture out, they would not be flying over the beautiful rainbow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Do you keep your word?

What is a promise to you? Do you keep your word or follow through with an assurance you have given someone? In my experience only four out of five people genuinely mean what they say when they say "I promise to...", "Don't worry, I will..." and the likes.

Most times, it depends on who they are responding to. If it is a loved one, a respected elder or your boss, then you'd tend to keep your word. Otherwise, people think they can get away with it. I've been guilty of that too myself. If you are in the sales line, you would have been on the receiving end of this so many times that you tend to let it go out the other ear and not hold your breath for these people.

In the corporate and business world, it is important for one to keep their word. If an agreement has been made, be it verbally, in writing or with a handshake, it would be in the person's best interest to uphold his integrity in order to be respected and trusted. If you are a professional and provide a specialised service, it also makes sense to be careful what you promise your customers and prospects.

I get disappointed when my 'friends' tell me "Not to worry, only for you, because you are my friend..." or "I'll get back to you in three days' time", and then disappear from the face of the earth i.e. don't answer or return calls (thanks to caller ID), give excuses and plead forgetfulness and busy-ness when confronted etc.

In this world, sometimes, it is not who you are, but what you can give them in return that gets them to keep their word (As they say, what's in it for me? There's no such thing as a free lunch!). It is not what you know or can do, but who you know that gets you where you want to be....

We live in a fallen world indeed....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friendship between man and woman

Do you think that a man and a woman can be close friends without any romantic or physical involvement? I believe it is possible. I have male friends whom I can confide in and talk with. We share information, ideas, problems, feelings and talk openly about just anything without any reservations. It is a friendship between two mature human beings that does not discriminate personal beliefs, opinions and of course, gender.

Is it easier or harder if they are single or married? It all depends. In my experience, it could be one or the other. I find it less complicated if both are single, and well, the friendship could eventually lead to something deeper such as courtship and marriage. If either one has a partner, then it would help if the partner understands and trusts that the friendship is solely platonic. It would be wonderful too if the partner, or partners, also end up as close friends to form a small circle of good, supportive friends. And if they are married with kids, wouldn't it be great for the kids to get together too? I believe this can happen in real life, and no, I've not watched too much "Friends",the sitcom!

Sometimes, however, due to misunderstandings, insecurities, differences in opinion and belief, people with partners find it difficult to have or keep platonic friendships with people of the opposite sex. In this article titled "Can Men and Women Be Friends?", it mentioned that friendship is not equal opportunity: Not until high school does puberty really draw boys and girls together, which then continues into college. But as people develop serious romantic relationships or get married, making and maintaining cross-sex friendships becomes harder. "Even the most secure people in a strong marriage probably don't want a spouse to be establishing a new friendship, especially with someone who's very attractive," said Monsour.

The number of cross-sex friendships continues to decline with age—not surprising, because most older adults grew up in an age where consorting with the opposite sex outside of wedlock was taboo. According to Rosemary Blieszner, at Virginia Tech and author of Adult Friendship, elderly people rarely form new friendships with members of the opposite sex. Her research shows that only about 2 percent of the friendships elderly women have are with men.


The article also mentioned that men benefit more from cross-sex friendship...but women benefit too. Wanna know more? Read the article. I found it interesting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Food for thought

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) American Essayist & Poet

Monday, February 18, 2008

Donuts

We had a taste of the much-raved-about J.Co Donuts yesterday. These donuts have been the talk of town since they arrived on Kuala Lumpur shores from its original birthplace of Jakarta, Indonesia. Now, one would think that nothing beats the well-known Dunkin' Donuts, but somehow, I've never ever seen a long queue at any Dunkin' Donuts outlets. Since J.Co opened at two malls (Pavilion and Sunway Pyramid), the queues snake out onto the outer corridors, be it a weekday or a weekend.


J.Co outlet at Pavilion.


This is considered a short queue.








This reminds me of the Rotiboy Mexican bun craze some years back when everyone just had to have it and also queued till kingdom come for them. The demand was so great that production just barely kept up to pace with the buns being plonked straight from the oven into its brown paper bag and into the hands of the buyer. But now, there are no more queues and no longer my top-of-mind recall item.

As for J.Co, the craze is still hot since it's only some months old. I had just mentioned to Caitlin as we arrived at Pavilion and walked past the queue that people must be pretty silly to waste their time queueing over some donuts, no matter how delicious they could be. Having said that, I guess when it comes to Malaysians, they've been known to even swim the seven seas to get to the supposedly best bowl of prawn noodles in some unknown village!

On the way to Pavilion in the car, I read the latest issue of Flavours (a foodie mag) which happened to feature Food Republic and J.Co to get some tips on what's good at the foodcourt. Caitlin caught sight of a picture of a pink (her fave colour...) donut called Heaven Berry in the mag. She is somewhat of a donut fan actually. So after dinner, she requested for Heaven Berry. "I just have to have it, mum, I'll try to be patient" was the reply when I told her it'll take a long time in the queue. Gosh, I wish she would give such answers all the time when we tell her to wait before her demands are met!

Anyway, I left Eugene and her to queue while I checked out other outlets nearby. I had expected Eugene to purchase one Heaven Berry and another donut for himself but I should have known better. The sweet-tooth father and daughter team left the queue with a box of six donuts (More value for money was Eugene's reasoning....).


The six-pack we got.









Despite having just eaten an unusually heavy dinner of Taiwanese beef ball noodles, Caitlin said she wanted to eat Heaven Berry immediately. So we found a cosy table and I was ready to observe and document the two of them enjoying their donuts (I don't have a sweet tooth and donuts are just donuts to me even if they are J.Co).

They did not finish all six (to my relief, imagine the consequences...two kids bouncing off the walls) so I had a taste of one this morning. They are quite good actually, the dough is light and soft while the topping is not overtly sweet.

Would I go back for more? Probably yes, if an occasion or craving calls for a donut and I happen to be in Pavilion or Sunway Pyramid. But no, if the queue is ten miles long!


Eugene stealing a bite of Caitlin's Heaven Berry


This is not a posed shot but rather a spontaneously original expression of a fan of donuts and all things pink!

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

At the park

Yesterday, as Caitlin was playing with her toy cardboard park, she asked if we could go on a picnic at the park. So we went this morning. She eagerly helped to pack some cookies, fruit and water, and we made some ham and cheese sandwiches. She said we needed a blanket to sit on and brought her 'pets' (stuffed toys) along.

Upon arrival at the Taman Tasik Perdana park and playground, she wasn't too keen on the picnic anymore as the colourful playground beckoned.


The playground of every kid's dream...








It was a good change from our usual Sunday morning as we spent it outdoors, soaked in some sun and bonded with nature. The air however was not super fresh since the park was in the heart of the city.

When we got there, the park was already quite busy with many families, fitness enthusiasts, and joggers. Caitlin shared some bread crumbs with some pigeons which were loitering around. After pushing her on the swing and sitting on the see-saw, I left Eugene to accompany her on her adventure while I people-watched.


Whee, I'm flying!


Caitlin's
'neglected pets' decided to get a suntan...


I caught a dinosaur!


On the swing again!


I found a tunnel, dad!


View of the Parliament building from the park.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not enough sleep?


Caitlin has hardly had any afternoon naps this year. I guess she is outgrowing that need although I do wish most times that she would nap so that I could have some quiet time for myself.

These past few days have not been different. However, she has started feeling tired and sleepy a little earlier in the night and goes into Dreamland by 10.30pm, sleeping longer hours too. Well, for parents whose kids sleep by 8.00 or 9.00pm, you must probably think 10.30pm is really late! Caitlin normally goes to sleep around 11.00pm or a bit later sometimes. She has always been difficult to put to bed since young. And I remember at age 2, she defied sleep and our frustrated pleas, waking up at 2.00am wanting to play with me till about 5.00am, allowing me only about five hours sleep in preparation for a stressful day at work.

These two mornings, she has woken up later than usual and arrived at school even later than usual....I wonder if this is her body's way of getting more sleep to make up for the 'discarded' afternoon naps and non-stop mental and physical activities she tends to indulge in.

I've been feeling sleepier than usual and waking up late like her too these few days. Maybe it's too much feasting over the Chinese New Year. Too much meat. I guess I should start my partial vegetarian diet again....

Online gaming reviews

With the internet, the world is your oyster. You can do just about everything and anything nowadays via the internet. You can even play at an online casino! I personally do not gamble as I have no interest in it but I am fascinated that technology is so amazing nowadays that programmes can be written to enable gamblers to play online without having to leave the comfort of their home. One of the benefits I can think of is that this helps them from being distracted by the cheap but sumptuous buffets usually offered by the casinos; thus preventing them from overeating!

Did you know that there are even websites that review online casinos so that if you wish to gamble online, you'd know which is good? One such site is Pro360.com. According to this site, there are about 3000 online casinos. Imagine how you would filter out the ones that you like and are good. Pro360.com reviews the casinos and provides information on the game experience, bonus structure, the graphics and also trust scores. It gives a ranking of top 20 casinos out of 75 casinos reviewed, providing a full review plus listing the maximum bonuses, ratings by editors and players, and whether it allows US players.

If you simply wish to zero in on a particular game such as blackjack, poker or craps for instance, you can check the reviews of all the casinos for that game too. And if you are new to online gaming, this site provides you with information including online casino FAQs, beginner's guide to online gambling and online gambling tips. I recommend players to read the online gambling tips as a reminder to not go overboard.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Love


I am overhearing a conversation Caitlin is having with Eugene right now. She's telling him she wants to make heart-shape Valentine cards for all her 'old' friends. I guess she realises Valentine's coming from the short conversation we had with her drum teacher this afternoon asking about his plans for that day.

Her teacher had jokingly asked her if she has a boyfriend to celebrate Valentine's Day with. She said her daddy could be her boyfriend because she loves him. There were times also that she had said she wants to marry Daddy when she grows up (as well as a boy classmate she was somehow fond of last year!).

Looking at love through a sweet, innocent child's eyes is simply amazing. Love is unconditional and knows no limits. It's just purely and simply loving the person. Period. There is no 'because'. Not because he or she is good looking, rich, intelligent, highly educated, titled or famous.

With every festival and celebration becoming extremely commercialised nowadays, we tend to get caught up in the 'glamour-isation' of the event and lose sight of the history and true meaning.

Christmas is one good example. Parties and presents are foremost in most peoples' minds when in actual fact the Bethlehem story and its significance should take centrestage.

What about Valentine's? Lovers, romantic candlelight dinners (good business for restaurants!) and roses (ridiculously priced!) come to mind. There is indeed history and meaning behind this day albeit several versions when I checked Wikipedia.

What stood out for me is the legend of this priest St Valentine who was persecuted for his faith. And before he was executed, he performed a miracle, healing the blind daughter of his jailer...

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (I Corinthians 13)

Have a laugh!

I received this today via email and I do agree that Chinese names can be confusing. I've heard of other (vulgar) jokes involving Chinese names in fact. As for my own name, Anna Tham, it' been mistaken as an Indian name once when I spoke to "Sam Wan" (someone) over the phone and gave him my name. He subsequently sent me a fax addressed to "Anatham"! I remember I had spelt it out for him but I guess he didn't listen carefully enough.

Confusing Chinese Names

Caller : Hello, can I speak to Annie Wan (anyone)?
Operator : Yes, you can speak to me.
Caller : No, I want to speak to Annie Wan (anyone)!
Operator : You are talking to someone! Who is this?
Caller : I'm Sam Wan (Someone). And I need to talk to Annie Wan (anyone)! It's urgent.
Operator : I know you are someone and you want to talk to anyone! But what's this urgent matter about?
Caller : Well... just tell my sister Annie Wan (anyone) that our brother Noel Wan (no one)has involved in an accident. Noel Wan (no one)got injured and now Noel Wan (no one) is being sent to the hospital. Right now, Avery Wan (everyone) is on his way to the hospital.
Operator : Look if no one was injured and no one was sent to the hospital, then the accident isn't an urgent matter! You may find this hilarious but I don't have time for this!
Caller : You are so rude! Who are you?
Operator : I'm Saw Lee (Sorry).
Caller : Yes! You should be sorry. Now give me your name!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Back from the hols

We had a long weekend for the Chinese New Year and tomorrow Eugene goes back to work. Caitlin goes back to school on Tuesday. This year, the festival was a little quieter. This means Caitlin's 'angpow' haul was smaller too, heh heh....We spent it with both sides of family in Klang and Seremban. We made a day trip down to Melaka to visit my grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins.

I didn't do very much the past four days except eat and laze about. I didn't have access to the Internet too and am surprised I did not suffer any withdrawal symptoms! I only checked email using my mobile phone. The Internet speed was very slow via the phone so no point surfing any sites. Moreover, the screen of my phone is just not wide enough to comfortably view any pages.

I cleaned the floors of our apartment the minute we arrived home as I couldn't stand to feel the dust on my soles and see the bits of stuff like hair and eraser dust (courtesy of Caitlin's constant use of the eraser while doing her homework!)on the floor. Thankfully more than a year ago, we invested some thousands of dollars on a super duper machine that sucks up dirt, dust, and dustmites very efficiently. It leaves the floor almost squeaky clean that you don't really need a wet mop after that. Later, I unpacked most of the baggage and did two rounds of laundry.

Eugene, meanwhile, cleaned and changed the water for Caitlin's fish tank while Caitlin supposedly kept her five goldfish company while they were isolated in a temporary basin. He then changed our bedsheets.

Now, Eugene has just helped Caitlin shower and is trying to get her dressed while she is escaping his clutches by riding around in her toy scooter in the nude....This comical scene happens pretty regularly in our household.

It is my turn now for a shower before we figure out what to have for dinner. I certainly am not in the condition physically or mentally to cook dinner tonight!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year of the Rat. To all my relatives and friends, we wish you "Gong Xi Fa Cai" (Congratulations and Be Prosperous) and Caitlin says "Hong Bao Na Lai!" (Please give me red packets!)

'Hong Bao' or red envelopes containing money are traditionally given to children/younger generation, and unmarried relatives and friends during the Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of good luck and wealth! Yup, we need as much blessings and wealth as we can get!

Hope you enjoy the festivities and the holiday!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My English teacher

One of my childhood friend's mother passed away yesterday morning after living patiently with Parkinson's for the past 12-13 years. I was blessed to have known her as my English teacher in Standard 6. My friend, Ann Marie, was my classmate from Standard 2 right up to Form 5 and we became very close friends, together with a few other girls in our class. Till today, 23 years after leaving Form 5, we are all still in touch with each other.

Ann Marie's mum, Mrs Chandy, was a good English teacher. She made learning English interesting. I remember her as firm yet patient. She helped us put up a Hansel and Gretel play for our year-end concert and was one of the teachers who guided me, Ann Marie and another two girls when we participated in the inter-school choral recitation competition. She was also very kind and always gave me and a few other girls (Siew Lin and Elaine) a lift to school together with Ann Marie when we had extra-curricular activities. I also got a ride from her for piano lessons when Ann Marie and I shared the same teacher when we were in secondary school.

After Form 5, Ann Marie's family moved to their hometown in Klang. We still kept in touch and wrote to each other. Mrs Chandy continued teaching. Over the years after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD), Mrs Chandy continued resolutely to live life as normally as she could. Even as PD 'progressed', she travelled overseas for holidays, wrote an autobiography, and visited me at my new apartment nine years ago with Ann Marie and her two kids. She even attended my wedding and visited me when Caitlin was born.

In the recent years, her mobility became limited and a few friends and I would visit her occasionally. I visited her and Ann Marie a bit more often in the past few months when her condition deteriorated. Although she could not move or talk, I could tell she still had that kind and motherly nature in her, especially when she responded to Caitlin asking her how she was.

Today, Mrs Chandy will be on her final journey home to be with the Lord. May God welcome her into His arms and reward her for her patience and perseverance with PD, and for being the wonderful person and teacher she was here on Earth. I'm sure many of us who were privileged to have known her have been touched by her one way or another.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Fun Sunday

The family had fun last Sunday. It started out with Caitlin having fun with her cousins Isabelle and Katrina at their home. They played, went swimming, watched TV and did some art and craft together.














Dinner saw Eugene and Anna meeting up with some old friends. It had been just too long that we had not got together for a meal to catch up. We enjoyed the good food and company at Delicious at Bangsar Village II (I recommend their pasta, lambshank marsala, and chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream).