Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday camp over

This week just flew by in a wink of an eye. Today marks the end of the second week of the school holidays and the last day of Caitlin's holiday camp. The past two weeks, she had enjoyed herself tremendously at school. They ended the camp today with a slideshow of what they did for two weeks and the children performed some song-and-dance to entertain parents who were invited for the simple show and buffet lunch. She also got a certificate of attendance and brought back all the things they made.

The theme for the camp was the Underwater World. They learnt how to rear fish in an aquarium, did some art and craft related to the aquatic world, made environmental enzyme, baked cookies, listened to stories and learnt about extinct ocean creatures, why the ocean is salty, why a ship can sail on the ocean and how to protect the sea creatures. She also got to experience making fish balls by helping the teachers scrape the flesh out of fresh fish, participated in fun water games in the school playground and pool and the highlight was an excursion to Aquaria KLCC.

Everyday without fail Caitlin would tell me excitedly what she did at school the minute I pick her up. If only normal school days are as exciting...

I too learnt some things like the saw-tooth fish has become extinct, there are now only 19 types of sharks left, how to make environment enzyme and what it's for. I also got a lecture one afternoon on why I should bring a recyclable bag for grocery shopping! As we were getting out of the car upon reaching home from school, Caitlin saw me getting some plastic bags of groceries out of the car. I had bought some groceries before fetching her from school. Immediately, she chided me exclaiming "Mummy, you must not use plastic bags! You must bring your own bag that can be recyled! It's not good to use plastic bags. If the sea turtles eat them, they will die! Bring your own bag and ask the cashier to put the things into the bag...."

Ok, I must make an effort to be more green.

Caitlin's environmental enzyme

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Rose



Some say love, it is a river
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
and you its only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
that never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
who cannot seem to give,
and the soul afraid of dyin'
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long,
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed that with the sun's love
in the spring becomes the rose.

- sung by Bette Midler

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dermatoglyphics

Caitlin's Mandarin language centre had a seminar on dermatoglyphics a few days ago. Unfortunately it was conducted in Mandarin and I wouldn't have been able to follow the talk even if I went. Dermatoglyphics is the study of fingerprints which allows you to find out your learning style and dominant intelligence.

According to this website, it is through Dermatoglyphics that one can uncover one's congenital intelligence, character traits and discover one's hidden potential.

Here's more:
Dermatoglyphics refers to the branch of science in the study of the patterns of skins (dermal) ridges present on the fingers, palms, toes and the soles of human. It reveals the congenital links between our fingerprints and our intrinsic qualities and talents.

Dermatoglyphics is coined by Professor Harold Cummins in the 20th century.

Since 1920s, there have been numerous research papers published in the study of Dermatoglyphics in the medical field, especially in relation to some genetically-linked diseases.

Dermatoglyphics has absolute scientific basis, with 200 years of research. It is analyzed and proven with evidence in anthropology, genetics, medicine and statistics.

In recent years, U.S., Japan and Taiwan have applied Dermatoglyphics to educational fields, human resource management, employee recruitment, etc.

Fingerprint patterns are unique and are heavily influenced by one's genetic make-up. In 1892, an anthropologist, Francis Galton discovered that fingerprints are individually unique and will never change throughout one's entire lifetime. It has been shown that our fingerprints are closely related to the development of our nervous system. In other words, dermatoglyphics can reveal one's intelligence. Traditionally, IQ is used as a means to quantify a person's level of intelligence. In recent times, it is realised that man's intelligence is multiple, and everyone has different kinds of intelligence. Dr Howard Gardner introduced in his book, Frames of Mind, that man has at least eight intelligences - namely, interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial-visual, logical-mathematics, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, linguistic and naturalist intelligences. As each person's genetic make-up is different, so is his intelligence.


This is something new to me. The principal of Caitlin's Mandarin centre shared that she had the analysis done for her children and found that it was accurate in determining their learning styles. The report for the analysis is in Mandarin since the people who conducted it were from Taiwan. The test, however, is rather costly, it seems. But if it is accurate and can help you plan the learning path for your children, wouldn't it a worthwhile investment?

Thanks to Google (as always), I found an outfit in Singapore that is involved in dermatoglyphics. Their website contains more information about this field, how it can be applied, etc etc.

And even better, there's a company in Malaysia that provides services in dermatoglyphics. Their company profile can be found here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Aunty' talking business - part 2 (see below for part 1)

Wah, this 'aunty' suddenly on a roll on this topic... Actually I just want to set some records straight lah, especially for those who think they know a lot about network marketing although they've not been there and done that and make loose comments or accusations. I'm not promoting nor defending the network marketing industry and I'm not saying I'm an expert since I've been there, done that technically for only about a year up to last year.

No, I've not given up on it but just taking a breather to recoup what I've done so far, not in the biz, but in life in general. Call it 'joyfully turning 40 soon' or mid-life crisis, whatever... Moreover, being a housewife takes up lots of time, effort, emotional and mental energy. Or are these just excuses for my lack of drive, focus and lethargy? Truly don't know and I'm just probably psychotic. Ha ha. Caitlin asked me the meaning of this word (psychotic) yesterday after hearing it used in the movie Madagascar.

I had been an employee for 14 years to big-time Malaysian entrepreneurs up to age 36 before I decided to be boss (or should it be slave?) at home. My bosses, directly or indirectly, included the Loys, Ananda Krishnan and my favourite, Tong Kooi Ong. They are the millionaires, billionaires or gazillionaires (who knows their real net worth?). I was one of their thousands of employees climbing the ladder from junior exec to assistant manager to manager. Some titles I carried sounded expensive, but it only stopped there, sounding expensive I mean, not being expensive. None of us are millionaires (yet?) as far as I know. Any ex-colleagues reading this who have become millionaires by solely working for existing millionaires, please remember me ah...

Okay, back to network marketing. In my little experience, I've encountered the good and bad. The best being friends and strangers who were truly open to listen but declined graciously or to my surprise after my lousy sharing, signed up or bought something. The worst? I've yet to experience I believe.

The not-so-good? Friends and strangers who put up a wall, said No even before I said Hi. You need to be thick-skinned to 'sell'. You don't need selling skills. Some people I've approached declined saying "No, I can't do sales, I don't have the gift of the gab, I simply can't talk..." Don't you sell everyday? You sell yourself at a job interview, at work to get your ideas approved, at home to get your kid to eat the greens....I don't view it so much as 'selling' selling. I view it as sharing a concept, an idea, a benefit. It's easier when you speak from your heart and not think of it as 'selling'.

As I mentioned in part 1, many of us have been conditioned with school-degree-good job-retire happy idea. To change this conditioning to help others see otherwise is not easy. Majority of people only know how to trade their personal time for money. Network marketing helps you leverage on other people's time for money. Some view this as not right, unethical, but if you look at businesses, aren't they similar? The entrepreneur is leveraging on his employees time for money too. Well, the debate can go on about this with many perspectives but I'm not here to argue.

Another not-so-good one is getting postponed or ignored, not because I had done anything wrong, but because some people didn't have the guts to decline and simply say they're not interested. Aiyo, adult already but don't know how to treat people with respect ah? Like I will take offence if you say no nicely? Gimme some credit lah...

One that hurt was being left out of a gathering (among friends obviously, otherwise who gives a ****) only to find out later that me and my new venture were featured over teh tarik. Forgive? Forgiven. Forget? Hard to do but must one day. Maybe it was unintentional and done in my best interest albeit inappropriately. Best to give benefit of doubt. I've got bigger things to worry about in fact, like if Caitlin will become a rock drummer, diva or zookeeper when she grows up. Right now, rock drummer scores the lowest as she's been showing less interest in drums :( Zookeeper is the flavour of the month for now.

The world is your oyster when it comes to finding your niche in the business world. A spark of an idea could turn into a wildfire given the right conditions. Again, dream the dream and as they say, aim for the stars and maybe you'll reach the sky.

Other inspirational sayings for this:

Whatever you are, be a good one - Abraham Lincoln

Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts - Winston Churchill

'Aunty' talking business

This is a rather 'cheong hei' post so if you think I'm writing rubbish mid-way reading, stop lah...
I'm becoming more and more convinced over time and looking at things and people around me that doing your own business is a better way to achieving freedom, not only financial freedom but freedom to live life the way YOU want and not how your EMPLOYER dictates.

I know I'm delving into a topic that involves many schools of thought, many perpectives, sub-issues, and opinions etc but well, I'm writing here in my journal (which just happens to be a public one), turning my thoughts into words, that's all.

Between my second and third year (I'm touching fourth year now) of being a stay-home mum or what is proudly termed more commonly as 'housewife', I considered and ventured into an industry that is still, despite its 50-odd years' history and proven track record, perceived as a housewife's business, 'aunty' business, scam, no-class business. I'm sure if you've been around long enough in this world, you'd guess right what business I'm talking about lah! Some call it another sales pitch, another fly-by-night business or simply put, a pyramid scheme. Ding dong, now it rings a bell loud and clear right?

It's right in some cases as like in any industry, there are the legitimate and there are the illegitimate ones. Do you buy original-only DVDs or three-for-RM10 night market ones? Or wait, there's places like Pirate Bay and the likes now too! Some get original Windows from Microsoft, some get copies from their neighbourhood IT shop. Or hold on, your Proton spare part costs twice the OEM-but-'Proton'-branded one, but both serve the same purpose so which one do you get ah?

If you go to a restaurant and found that the food is superb, what do you do? Tell your friends and family of course, especially if you are a food-loving Asian. Found a good deal at the supermarket? Share it with your housewife neighbour over the fence while you put the laundry out together. Your paediatrician has worked magic on your sick child? Before you know it, all your mummy friends will flock there, especially if their child have the same illness as yours had.

Aiya, word-of-mouth marketing lah... Does the restaurant give you a free meal the next time you show up because your aunty told them you recommended their food to her? Did the supermarket give you a discount because your housewife neighbour said she bought that box of cereal from them upon your recommendation? And does your paediatrician give your child free treatment for life because he's got more business now from all your mummy friends?

Direct selling, multi-level marketing, network marketing, and whatever it's called, is one way for ordinary Joes and Janes to start a business of their own with a small, affordable investment, unlike the Warren Buffetts, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or closer to home, Ananda Krishnans, Lim Goh Tongs and other business tycoons of the world. Even they started from somewhere, even from scratch for some.

This industry in general operates on the idea that when you sell or recommend their products for them, you earn, and if the person you sold to also started recommending to others who end up buying, they could earn and so would you. If the resaturant business operated this way, then you'd have earned that free meal when your aunt told them it was you who recommended its good food to her.

In fact, quite a number of businesses have jumped into this sort of marketing to increase its customer base and hence its bottom line. Take for example AAM. They give you a member-get-member form and if you fill it up, they'll give you a free toolkit. Or Reader's Digest, fill up their form with a list of your friends' names and contact details and you get a free address book. Even Citibank and some other financial institutions have followed suit. Refer a friend who signs up for a credit card with them and you'll get a rebate, a free gift, something in return. The network marketing business as I choose to call it, usually 'pays' by giving you future discounts, vouchers, redemption points, and of course cold hard cash.

It becomes a business when you make it a business to sell to others who also make it a business to make it a business for others. I hope I've illustrated it simply and not too confusingly. Soon you'll have a network of business people directly or indirectly within your business circle. Different companies sell different products and services, and offer different types of remuneration schemes. As I mentioned, some are legitimate and some like any other business may not be. Some research and testimony plus consideration as to where your interest in terms of product and service lies should be done in order for you to find the right fit if you choose to delve into it. Just like looking for a salaried-job, would you become an accountant if your interest actually lies in teaching? What are you looking for in that job? Lots of money in lieu of personal growth, freedom and happiness or a balance between job satisfaction, growth, freedom and sufficient monetary reward?

But if the company keeps paying out to your ever expanding business network, wouldn't it go bust? That's what's likely to happen to the pyramid-scheme type of companies which many have fallen prey to. For a network marketing company to sustain, it must have systems in place to avoid overpaying its business reps. It must structure its reward scheme properly, legitimately according to the law relating to this industry, and have set requirements for its reps to meet in order to qualify to reap the rewards. Just like how a bank cannot simply pay customers high interest in order to boost its depositor base and how it has to adhere to the laws regulating the banking industry, or how it has set a minimum balance for your deposit in certain types of accounts before they start calculating/paying you interest.

Go in with eyes wide open. Be open to listen to others who have been there, done that, and listen to as many people as you can from as many companies as you can. Take in all the good and bad and do your own thinking. A smart kid would have talked and discussed with practising neurosurgeons if he was serious in wanting to study neurosurgery and become a brain doctor, wouldn't he? So what's the diff if you're serious about going into business?

That's where I sometimes wonder why people shut network marketers up, shun them and object before they can even explain their intentions. Network marketers tend to bear the brunt of the bad image the industry has received from the unethical, unscrupulous practices of some bad apples. It's something unavoidable but manageable.

Having said that, I feel that those who haven't the slightest inkling or experience with this type of business should be more open. There's nothing to lose in getting more information. No one is pointing a gun to your head to say you must do the business. But in many cases, when one is approached and asked if he/she would be open to simply listening to a new business idea, most times, the person's mind immediately puts up a wall with the notion that it's a hardsell to get them to jump into the business and get cheated.

Most of us have been conditioned that our life evolves from going to school, getting a degree and then a good job and earning a high salary and you've got it made to retire rich and happy. Not quite right. More millionaires and billionaires have emerged from doing their own businesses compared to those who rose from the ranks in employee-dom. And a majority of those in employee-dom who are millionaires are so not because of their great salaries dished out by their businessmen bosses, but from their extra-curricular pursuits in some investment/business or other.

So, having said all this, be a businessperson or employee? I'd say do your own business unless you have a super-unique talent or skill like Michael Jackson (his idiosyncrasies aside). If you have lots of money, start a business that is expandable as your experience and capacity to grow it expands. If you don't have lots of money but still want to venture into business, the network marketing industry is one of many options. But like any business venture, big or small, you can make or break. The difference is how resilient, focused, determined, disciplined you are in chasing that dream, no matter what it takes.

That's where you differentiate the Protons from the Rolls Royces. It's the quality of your inner self that plays a part in determining how high you reach and how far you go, not only in business per se, but in life. I'm sure everyone who has a brain already knows that lah...

Cooking

I cook almost everyday except for weekends. I enjoy cooking, trying out new recipes from books or online or concocting my own. Sometimes I find cooking fun, sometimes therapeutic but sometimes a chore. Today, I totally have no idea what to cook for dinner tonight and it feels like a chore having to search inside my fridge and freezer and figure out what I can do with those items in there.

I actually have a daily meal plan to make life easier. I'm supposed to cook spaghetti bolognese and celery and mushrooms tonight. The easiest menu for the week but I'm getting tired of the meal plan and don't feel like following it today. Time to change the meal plan I guess.

It's times like this that I dream of being super rich and have a Michelin chef at my disposal or own a jet to fly me to Paris for a Seine river dinner cruise.

Dreams can come true actually. Many people have realised their dreams. They have firstly dared to dream and then acted on it. Keyword here is 'acted'....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kung Fu Panda performer



Invitation


This is a banner hung at a traffic light junction (I believe without permit from the city council) somewhere near where I live. It's an invitation to the public from a 'mamak' shop nearby in conjuction with its opening.

The English text reads "Everyone was invite to feast...". Hmm, is it Manglish or Mamak-glish?

"Let us make you smile"

I don't know about other countries but in Malaysia, in order to own/drive a car, you need to insure your car and pay road tax. And the road tax sticker issued to your car after you prove you have car insurance, must be displayed specifically on the lower left corner of your windshield.

I received a letter from my car insurance company today giving notice three months ahead of the expiry of my insurance policy in February 2009. This means very soon, I will have to cough up some money to pay them the insurance premium. What's funny is that on the front of the envelope, they've printed this picture.


Yeah, right, let them make me smile? How can I smile when I have to part with my money? Ha ha, very funny...

So many things, so little time

The few days since I last wrote a post here have been busy ones. We made numerous trips to several tile shops to get some tiles for our new home. Many that we saw didn't seem to hit the nail on the head and after much looking around and consideration, we finally placed orders for the ones we decided on yesterday. We also visited the Homedec (home reno & deco) exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Saturday afternoon, leaving Caitlin at my bro's home with my parents, nephew baby Ryan and sis-in-law Ee Ling.

She was okay to be rid of us since Pa had brought along from Seremban two stray pups that we've 'adopted', one of which Caitlin has said she wants as her own. She's named her Jenna (remember, all her friends, pets etc must be female!) after Jenna the husky in Balto) and the male one Chestnut (after the great dane in a movie by the same name).

Eugene and I spent over three hours at Homedec but did not commit to purchasing anything from there. Our home is currently undergoing minor renovation to the wet kitchen, front porch and we're also painting some walls and addding more power sockets. Once this phase is done, we'll move on to fitting in the kitchen cabinets, fixing the iron grilles, autogate, lights and airconds, and all the other minor fittings like curtains etc. Then only we can move in bit by bit. Date of moving? Big question mark. We are not setting any dates. We live one day at a time.

On Sunday, we treated Caitlin to the latest kids' movie, Madagascar 2, at TGV KLCC. She enjoyed herself thoroughly with popcorn and water, while bopping about on her seat and laughing crazily at the funny parts.

Over the weekend, we also missed my car Elmo which was admitted to 'hospital' on Friday. The thermostat went bust without me realising it. I usually drive short distances around our home and did not notice the engine overheating. When I did and sent it to the workshop, enough damage had been done to present Eugene with a hefty repair bill of over RM4K! :(

We have spent a lot on unexpected things plus home reno this month. We expect to spend a lot next month too with a trip to Langkawi which was planned with Eugene's family months ago, Christmas, Caitlin's entry to primary school (uniform, shoes, books, supplies), home reno and moving.... I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Eugene's year-end bonus will help ease the cash flow.

There are many things on my to-do list these days with all these happening. Luckily, Caitlin is still going to school these two weeks for a holiday 'camp'. December will see us spending time with both sides of the family. Mine with my elder bro and his family visiting for two weeks from the US, and Eugene's with the Langkawi trip and Christmas. We also have an Orientation Day to attend in December at Caitlin's new school.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hurray, hurray, it's a holi-holiday!

Yippee! Today's the last day of school for 2008! Caitlin's in party mood. Last night we made some brownies for her to take to school today for her class party. School is dismissing early today and all the kids can wear their favourite party clothes to school instead of their uniform.

The teachers are in party mood too. This morning, at the daily morning assembly where they sing fun songs to start off the day, their songs were even catchier and all the teachers and kids were grooving away. What a nice way to start off the day and celebrate the start of the holidays.

Caitlin will however continue to go to school the next two weeks for a fun and activity-filled holiday camp. The highlight of the camp is an excursion to Aquaria KLCC. I can imagine all the fun she'll have. It makes me nostalgic to recall my schooldays and how much fun my classmates and I had on the last day of school.

Since we were in primary/secondary school, we still had to wear our uniforms but we had really fun parties. We were always excited, bringing party food, board and card games and toys, and we'd decorate the entire classroom with streamers and draw nice pictures and patterns with coloured chalk on the board. When our class teacher arrives, we start the fun with food and games and have a jolly good time joking, talking, and exchanging autographs. Aah, those were the fun, carefree days.

See how Caitlin's school set the mood for today. The video quality is rather poor because I had not planned to stay on after sending her and didn't go prepared with a proper camera. The shot was from a balcony upstairs hence the bird's eye view. See if you can spot Caitlin bopping about in her light green halter neck with striped tights and marine blue ribbon on her hair (she's got weird sense of fashion). After she dressed herself up, she proudly paraded in front of the mirror and said, "Wow, I look like a fashion model..." That's Caitlin!



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gym class

Yesterday was the last gym class at school for Caitlin since it's the school holidays next week and also Caitlin will be leaving the school for her new one next year. Her gym teacher Mr Chan, wrote his phone number on all the palms of the kids for them to contact him to remain friends. How sweet and cute. Caitlin copied the number down on a piece of paper which she plans to keep safe (I hope).

I asked her if she had fun at gym and she boasted of how well she performed. She said she "really focused, and did the forward roll and landed very well"...and everyone said "Wah..." Then she continued telling me that everyone else did well except for N, a girl in her class who is bordering on obesity. She said "N needs to practise a little more because she is fat. Mr Chan had to help her by pushing her 'bum bum'!"

I couldn't help but laugh actually. But I also had to tell her what should her appropriate thoughts be on that. Aiyo...my kid...I truly hope she will not grow up to be the typical know-it-all, full-of-herself, only-child kind of kid (no offence meant to anyone in particular who is an only child). Sigh, that's where the effort and skills in parenting come in I guess.

Normal?

My mornings this week have been totally taken up with errands to get things going for our new home. At first, we hoped to move in by November but it's definitely not happening now. The defects have yet to be fully fixed by the developer. We have hit a snag for the slightly uneven flooring upstairs as the developer's sub-contractor appears to be dragging their feet.

These days, my life revolves around making phone calls, dropping in to the site office, tile shops, kitchen fittings and other suppliers' premises. I sometimes wish I have a camper van as with all the driving around, I'd might as well live in my car. In between, I've to make sure lunch and dinner are ready, the laundry is done, and I'm keeping in time with Caitlin's schedule. Forget about tidying up or cleaning the floor. Our place is a real dump right now.

The phone calls and visits to the site office to enquire and get some commitment to an estimated date of completion for rectification of defects has been in vain so far. That's the problem when the developer is not one of the big players in the industry who has an image to maintain. But then again, if it were, we'd probably have paid double the price for that house in a prime location. As they say, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys but what to do, peanuts are all we can afford.

Multitasking is tiring when you have to do it everyday, non-stop for years. Sometimes I wish I am employed or running a full-time business. There's a salary or profit to earn, with sick leave, medical and other fringe benefits and paid holidays. As a stay-home mum, there's no income, you're on call 24/7 and you work come rain, shine, hail, sickness, for better or worse. It's a choice I had made, however, over three years ago. Family comes first and yes, there are rewards, the kisses and hugs from the kid, a healthier and happier child in all aspects, the jokes, teasing and tickles we share, the assurance that your child is safer to some extent instead of being transported to and from school and extra-curricular activities by strangers....so I guess, it's not right to compare apples with oranges.

There must be a balance however in the work that a stay-home mum does. She should have some personal time for herself, her own interests and pursuits. Easier said than done. I'm no supermum. There's no such thing as supermums in fact, in my humble opinion. You can't have it all, something's gotta give whether you choose to believe or live in denial of that fact.

I think working mums and dads have it easier to achieve the balance due to the nature of their lifestyle. They leave the house in the morning, focus on the job they've been employed to do, leave the workplace and 'switch modes' to become mum or dad when they get home and over weekends. Stay-home mums are always in mum-plumber-chauffeur-cook-cleaner-administrator-contractor-designer-disciplinarian-teacher-nurse-doctor-blogger-feelancer-grocery shopper-etc mode all at the same, same time all the time....

You know you are burnt out when all you crave for every other day is a long, long holiday in a far, faraway place with nothing but a book in bed or by the poolside all day, or spend the entire holiday luxuriating in a spa, not even shopping, sightseeing or other touristy stuff. You know you really need a break when all you crave for is good, tasty food cooked by someone other than yourself. A family holiday with spouse or kids or extended family is the last thing you'd dream of, as much as you love them and enjoy their company at 'normal' times.

That's why I always take my hat off to stay-home mums who have many kids and yet can manage to keep everything in place without the help of one or more maids and still have a somewhat perfectly balanced life...no hang-ups, character defects, grows old gracefully... Anyone like that out there who's willing to share her secret? I truly doubt. So I guess I'm normal...lah!

('lah' is a frequently-used adjunct-type word in Manglish aka Malaysian English).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cupcakes

Caitlin spent the whole time at school today making cupcakes. She brought two home, one butter and another chocolate flavoured. Her teacher told them yesterday they would be baking today so she was very excited.

She said the butter one is for me, but she actually ate the whole thing in the car on the way home. I only got one nibble of it. This chocolate one is reserved for daddy when he comes home late tonight from Kota Kinabalu.


She plans to write a note and place it next to the cupcake on the table before she goes to bed tonight to surprise him. Caitlin enjoys coming up with ideas to surprise people.

Here's a recipe for cupcakes which I got from this website dedicated to cupcakes.

Ingredients
• 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
• 1 1/3 cups sugar
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup shortening
• 1 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 large eggs


Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening, milk, and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Scrape side of bowl with a spatula.

Add eggs to the mixture. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Scrape bowl again. Beat on high speed for 1 minute 30 seconds until well mixed.

Spoon cupcake batter into paper liners until 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 5 minutes in pans then remove and place on wire racks to cool completely.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, frost with your favorite frosting recipe or decorate as you desire.


Although it's one of the simplest of cakes to make, I've yet to actually try making them. The last time I made cupcakes was ages ago in home economics class in school! They can be really nice comfort food, especially if decorated prettily.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Our big day seven years ago

Seven years ago today, on 10.11.01, Eugene and I got married at his family's church in Klang. What I remember about our wedding and the days leading up to it:

Our parents meeting for the first time over dinner at our reception venue and getting a preview of the place. It was a pleasant and cordial dinner with slight awkwardness which was to be expected. Eugene and I had fun playing 'intermediaries'. I remember wearing a black dress for the dinner.

Getting fitted for the wedding dress, getting trial make-up and hair do. Time-consuming yet exciting but I doubt I'd want to go through anything like that again! I'm not the type to sit in a salon for hours to get dolled up.

Getting caught in a terrible traffic jam in Klang's Little India on the way to church for the wedding rehearsal. It was at night on a weekday very near the Deepavali festival when the Indian community flocked there to shop. Upon arrival at the church, we found it locked and had to wait for it to be opened by the caretaker. The rehearsal ended later than expected with everyone hungry for dinner and we proceeded to 'sapu' (sweep up) all the 'bak kut teh' at a popular shop. My poor older brother who had just arrived the day before from the US tagged along and was probably bushed from that episode.

Irritating my close friends to the hilt by being over-anxious about the arrangements which they were helping me with. They didn't dare tell it to me in my face but I sensed it via body language. I appreciate their patience and help.

Dinner and a mini bridal shower among close friends at my place. Hmm, I wonder what happened to all the props and 'notes'. SE, if you are reading this, I remember you were in charge...

Waking up early that morning to get my face and hair done, walking out of my place accompanied by family, bridesmaid and best man to the bridal car for the drive to the church. Thankfully, it was early enough on a Saturday morning for me to avoid too many stares from neighbours and other residents of my apartment as I took the lift and walked out of the lobby to get into the car.

Arriving Klang a little too early and having to tell the driver to pull over and wait for a while before proceeding to the church. I felt so conscious as passing cars were just peering in to see what the bride looked like! I must admit I do that too sometimes when we pass a bridal car. Ha ha!

The cue for the processional music was given without checking if the priest was ready, or rather PRESENT upfront! So my bridesmaid, dad and I walked down the aisle confidently with happy smiles towards the front of the church only to notice the priest scrambling in from outside! Aiyo...

My dear friends MC (Michael Chan)the MC (hmm, how appropriate) and IC (I'Ching) the EC (event coordinator) pulled a brilliant job in getting the reception going with some fun, games and dancing.

The wedding cake, fruit cake with sugar-paste flowers, which we had frozen leftovers up to last year, I think...

My good friends who owned/ran a wine shop letting me down at the last hour by delivering one case short. You know who you are...but I forgive you lah.... only my poor guests didn't have enough to 'yum seng'!

My parents, whom I later found out would have prefered a grand dinner instead of a tea reception, commenting that guests didn't have enough to eat. The typical Chinese wedding involves a banquet of at least 8 courses to treat guests to their fullest with delicacies including shark's fin soup. Eugene and I didn't want the hassle of handling seating arrangements and felt that a dinner was just too passe for our liking. We wanted something casual and light minus the formalities. Later, I also heard over the grapevine that some colleagues of mine commented that they didn't have enough to eat. Oh well, we can't please everyone, especially those who are not open-minded or gracious enough to accept practices outside the norm or attend our wedding to share our joy instead of expecting to eat their angpow's worth (not that they were that generous). Food is featured very prominently at celebrations among Malaysians, that's the problem, and if food is below expectations quality- or quantity-wise, your event gets the thumbs down most times. We served wine, fruit punch, and Malaysian teatime favourites like satay, chicken, cake, samosas, mee siam, sandwiches, mini pies...

Our witnesses/sponsors arriving a bit late for the church ceremony. We didn't see them at the pews when the proceedings started and quickly turned around to check if they were there when the priest said it was time to sign the papers! A few seconds of uncertainty but relief took over when the dear couple and young son stood up from among the crowd and came forward. Hmm, you guys got us there for a bit.

Not having enough time to meet and chat with my old classmates, some of whom travelled from outstation. I got held-up being introduced to respected 'elder guests'.

Arriving late for the tea reception thanks to my make-up artist. He was supposed to only touch-up my make-up and change my hairstyle quickly but after I emerged with my dress for the reception, he was so inspired that he re-did my make-up entirely and spent ages perfecting my hairdo...

Returning to our Mandarin Oriental room to 'lepak' with some close friends of mine from my campus days. Some ended up watching 'Friends' the sitcom, probably releasing stress from putting up with me, while a few others were catching up with each other. Removing a great bunch of hairpins from my hairspray-crusted hair and then slathering like half a bottle of conditioner on my head before shampooing it, a good tip someone gave me for 'bride's hairdo syndrome'.

Feeling hungry at midnight and going out in the hotel's bedroom slippers (too lazy to go to the basement parking to get proper footwear out of our car) to Tengkat Tung Shin for the popular beef ball noodles.

Fast forward seven years, today has been pretty much like any other ordinary day. We received some well wishes via Facebook today, and had a simple cake cutting do with Eugene's family yesterday (parents' and all siblings' wedding anniversaries are within the first 10 days of November).

Our first official dance together

Happy anniversary Eugene. "Bubbles". That's our short code for "I love you". You must wonder why but that's another story which I may or may not tell here in this blog!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Exclamations

Caitlin has been reading the Geronimo Stilton series and finds them very entertaining. She enjoys Geronimo's dramatic exploits and finds his ratty exclamations fun to repeat. This morning, she was telling us some of the things he said in the latest book which she read yesterday: 'Holy cheese!', 'Rancid rat hairs!' and 'Rattlesnake-munching rats!'...Kids pick up the weirdest things....

This means we must be careful with what they read, see and hear.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm alive!

This morning as we were walking to the car to get to school, we heard a short burst of siren nearby, very nearby. At first we thought it was someone's car alarm but we then saw a police truck driving past us. I noticed through the open back of the truck that it contained a black body bag on a gurney. Eugene and I exchanged suspicious looks.

A few hours later, Eugene messaged me with the info that what we saw was apparently the remains of an Indonesian maid from the 17th floor of my apartment block. He got the info from his colleague who also stays at the same place as us. Whether it was suicide, foul play or an accident, we don't know.

What I know is that someone in Indonesia has lost their daughter, sister, or wife if she was married, and mother if she had kids. Life is precious, life is fragile. Echoing my post preceding this one, when our lives are dissected to see what matters most, we will realise that it's the things money cannot buy that matters most.

I'm glad I'm alive when who knows, I could have easily been just like that Indonesian maid or any other person who lost his or her life due to whatever circumstance. Only God knows when my time is up.

Is this post a result of a tired mind or a person approaching mid life? Ha ha, I'm truly confused!

Maybe I should make this my theme song come Christmas eve when I have officially lived four decades.

Spend time with your kids before it's too late

I visited a fellow mummy blogger's site where she pointed out this article she read.

Just after I had written the post before this one (see post below), I started reading the article - a good reminder to me that in all that busy-ness these two months, it's also the school holidays for Caitlin. That means while as a stay-home mum I already get to spend time with her on 'normal' days more than other employee* parents do, the school holidays now present the opportunity to spend even more time with her. How shall I make that count?

*(I prefer to use 'employee' or you can substitute that with 'wage-earning' or 'businessperson' parent instead of 'working parent'. 'Working' parents also refer to people like me in case some forget that stay-home mums do work too!)

The writer of the article shared that he had chosen to take sabbaticals and time off to spend time watching his kids grow, foregoing big-time jobs and remuneration. Maybe not all of us dare do such a thing. Actually we are only limited by our thoughts. We say we can't due to financial commitments, situations etc. Changing our mindsets and fear of the unknown, insecurity about how the next meal will appear on the table are the usual hindrances. But the writer has a point when he said this:

I have two important things to say: Firstly, I want my kids to remember me as being a big part of their lives. Not like my own Dad who regrets every day that he never spent any time with his family when we were still young. The best time to spend with your children is in the first 10-12 years of their lives. As teenagers, they begin to distance themselves from you, so make the most of it when they are young, when they want to hug, sit on your knee and love every minute of your company. (Teenagers, I believe, are less inclined to participate in these fantastic things!). Secondly, careers can wait. We live in a world of plenty, unless you are so greedy that you want a plasma tv in every room of your 20-bedroom mansion. Live within your means and value time more than anything else. (No man on his death-bed says that he should have spent more time at work!) And, do you know what? The great job will still be there when you are in your 40's and 50's. If you want it enough and have the humility to start from scratch every now and then. And this applies to women as much as men. Don't get in the "I'll get left behind" trap. You're only fooling yourself.

Set goals for the kind of parent you'd like to be and work out what you have to do to be that in the eyes and heart of your children. (And remember to do some customer research every now and then to assess satisfaction. You may find that they want something else from Dad other than the latest Playstation or Mobile telephone.)


Busy, busy, busy

The days have just flown by with me lagging behind in updating this blog. Not that I don't have ideas or thoughts but I just lack the time and energy! The weather has been crazy. Just recently I complained about the heat but now it's back to a yoyo fight between the sun and the rain. A couple of days ago, an unexpected heavy (really heavy) downpour hit us as I was sending Caitlin to Mandarin class. It got me wet and I now have a slight cold. I feel sluggish. Hmm, I think that's how that word came about. If you're a slug, you move slowly....but why not 'slothish'? The sloth moves even slower.... Caitlin is recovering from a cold and is coughing while Eugene just mentioned this morning that he feels like he's coming down with something too.

Then there's the energy spent on trying to finalise stuff for the new home, meeting contractors here and there, sourcing for materials, pondering over floor plans and costings, and dealing as tactfully as I can with people who don't take their jobs seriously.

Timing is not on our side either. The delay by the developer in rectifying some defects is now pushing back our move-in date. We've decided to go ahead with our minor renovations which will take about one month. This makes it a tight squeeze to move in before Christmas. We might have to look at moving in after Christmas or even later in January.

Then there's the school holidays (i.e. Caitlin at home) to manage plus the preparation for her entry to primary school next year. With the move, everything will be pretty chaotic physically. I'm already shuddering at the vision of sorting stuff and packing boxes, driving to and fro between present and new home to oversee contractor's work and moving small boxes of stuff using the car, shopping for light fixtures and other fittings and appliances, getting curtains, organising furniture, going to the new school to arrange Caitlin's uniforms and books, sending and fetching her to and from her kindy for her two-week holiday camp, keeping up with my fortnightly contribution of parenting articles, spending time with my elder bro and his family visiting from the US in early December, going on a weekend holiday in Langkawi with Eugene's family, Christmas preparations, and unpacking and decorating once we finally move in... busy, busy, busy.

Just this weekend itself is enough to make me sweat. Deepavali lunch and meet-up with long-time-no-see ex-colleagues, early-morning baptism mass for a nephew followed by MIL's birthday lunch in Klang, then rush back to meet up with a couple of old primary school classmates (one of them is visiting from the US where she now resides) and in between we hope to squeeze in visiting our supplier to finalise some stuff for the new house.

Breathe, Anna.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Keywords for the day

Lunch and dinner
Bills
Registered letter
Ironing
Haircut
Floor plan
Electrical stuff
Paint colour
Tiles, photos, source
Measurements
Oven, sink
School transition camp
Sorting and packing
Writing
Discipline
Hands
Doctor

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How about a holiday home in Panama?

Latin American music puts a spring in my step most times when I listen to it. Panama is one such country that comes to mind with its famous Panama hats, canal and of course lately, if you're a fan of Prison Break, that's where the heat was turned on by Michael Scofield in Season 2.

The sunny country tucked in the narrow isthmus connecting North and South America brings to mind bright yellow bananas and their tasty empanadas (that's about the only food I know of and think I've tasted once!). A holiday home in Panama sounds just right if you're one who loves to travel and spend months getting to know a place, or if you're lookng for a place to retire at.

In the Casco Antiguo region of Panama, Hotel Casco Antiguo appears to encapsulate what I have just pictured about the country, with its bright yellow shades over its sunny balcony.
Hotel-view01-old
Register for an eBrochure Here

Prior to the global financial crisis, Panama was experiencing a property boom, with many Americans especially, looking to purchase second homes, holiday or retirement homes as it's a great place with many tourist attractions, hot weather, beaches and mountains.

Casco Antiguo is located in Panama City and should be a nice investment if you have the extra cash. It boasts of five-star amenities with rooftop terrace, bar and pool. There are 34 units of the condo hotel for sale.

Post?slot_id=24132&url=http%3a%2f%2fsocialspark