Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My computer monitor is kaput. Writing this using my mobile phone. Not convenient at all. So no news here for the time being until the monitor is fixed or replaced.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Countdown to the parties

The past few days has seen me busily finalising stuff for the two parties on Friday and Sunday. Yesterday, I received the bulk of gifts and stuff contributed by parents for the children's hampers for Children's Day at school. The small bag for each child that I got using part of the PTA's sponsorship allocation was too small to contain the generous contributions, so luckily E brought home some freebie non-woven bags (the recyclable type that's so popular these days as corporate giveaways) for me and last night, we packed all the things into the bags. I'm expecting a few more packages today and on that day itself. The kids will be so happy to get them I'm sure. They'll be getting a lunch bag (with Ben 10 design for boys and Princess ones for girls), an activity puzzle book, a Rubik's cube, some stationery, toys and assorted snacks. The day will start off with entertainment (organised by the school) for the kids in the school hall. After that, we'll have the class party with food and games contributed and organised by parents.

As for Sunday's birthday party, we're expecting a very good turnout from Caitlin's classmates. Almost all of them (20+) will be coming based on the RSVPs. That will add up to about 30 kids (including cousins and friends) dancing and jumping around!I've also finished packing all the party packs and have just to finalise the food for that day. I should get it done by tomorrow as whoever I decide to get the food from will definitely need some notice. It shouldn't be too difficult as I'm not planning a large spread since it's around teatime. Some finger food for the adults and children alike plus drinks should do. Anyway, the venue is a dance studio and does not cater for proper sit-down functions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wedding mini 'vacation'

I am currently sitting in a room in Cyberview Lodge. I think this is my first time staying in a hotel room that comes equipped with a desktop computer with internet access. Other hotel rooms I've stayed in have internet access but no computer. I'm sure there are many hotel rooms that provide computer these days, it's just that I seldom stay in hotel rooms....

We're spending the night here just for a one-night weekend break. E's ex-colleague had her wedding here tonight so we took the opportunity (to spend money we didn't budget for!) to take a weekend break from the routine. Caitlin's school exams ended on Thursday, and we needed a break. After checking in, I went for a massage and facial at the spa while E and C waited for the rain to stop before going swimming.

I was hoping for the wedding to be a garden one. I've dreamt of garden weddings, (even for mine!) but this wedding wasn't one. They had it in the ballroom, a typical Chinese wedding dinner, although the garden area leading to the ballroom was decorated with flower arches and cocktail tables and chairs. As usual, dinner started late. That's one thing I never ever will understand and accept about typical Chinese wedding dinners. That's one of the reasons why E and I didn't have one.

The food is nothing to shout about, being typical hotel wedding fare. Although I don't mean any offence to the bridal couple (they seem like a wonderful, lively pair), the dinner was like any other i.e. start late, show slides of couple from baby, childhood, schooldays to adulthood and when they got together, slides of professionally-taken wedding photos, then the 'champagne' pouring, cake cutting and yam seng. And oh, they had live singers using minus-one accompaniment. One lady was frequently off-key....The decor, however, was nice.

C and I left after the fifth course. C was very tired and sleepy (after the swimming and feeling bored waiting, slow pace of the programme, actually I was bored too, the small talk was not stimulating enough). She was getting grouchy despite occupying herself with two brand new paperbacks. So we left E and took a short buggy ride back to our room. We could have walked but the buggy ride was a better way to get C back into better spirits to get her ready and cooperative for bed. She's now in dreamland and I'm still waiting for E to return. Finally got him after 3 calls. He got carried away catching up with ex-colleagues, didn't hear the phone ring and forgot to inform me....(what's new-lah,right?)

Anyway, sitting here in front of the computer is not making this one-night holiday any different from being at home and the effects of the massage I got this afternoon is wearing off by sitting here, so I'm shutting down the pc now and going to bed.

Hopefully breakfast and maybe a swim in the pool tomorrow will make up for the boring evening.

Poor Rusty, however, is spending tonight boarded at a pet shop where he's getting groomed tomorrow before we pick him up.

Now E is back with one flower arrangement from the wedding which the bride told him to take since she had paid for it. The florist bill amounted to RM12K.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interesting

Chanced upon this when I went into Yahoo!

A Halo Over Moscow
by Mike Krumboltz

And you thought rainbows were cool. A few days ago, a mysterious cloud shaped like a halo appeared over Moscow, and the buzz has yet to break.

We're the first to admit that a photograph of the heavenly cloud appears to be photoshopped. It's just so...perfect. But meterologists have spoken up and said the cloud wasn't digitally altered. However, it wasn't exactly what it appeared to be, either.

When the cloud initially formed, some UFO enthusiasts declared it to be a "true mystery." Some even compared it to the giant spaceship hovering over Earth in the movie "Independence Day." Reality quickly dashed any predictions of an alien invasion. An article from the Daily Mail explains that the "luminous ring-shaped cloud" was simply an optical effect.

An official spokesperson for Moscow's weather department said, "Several fronts have been passing through Moscow recently, there was an intrusion of the Arctic air too, the sun was shining from the west — this is how the effect was produced."

The cloud loomed last week, but the searches are still soaring. Lookups on "halo cloud" and "moscow cloud" are both booming, and a video clip has garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. You can check it out for yourself below...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vaccines

I'm of two minds about vaccines. My biological science background taught me that they are good as they make your body increase or build immunity against diseases. But of late, with all the information available around us, I've been wondering if vaccines really help. Maybe they do, if these vaccines have been thoroughly researched and tested till no end before they are pushed out to the market. The testing, however, is another area of concern - testing on animals i.e. cruelty to animals, testing on humans i.e. people used as guinea pigs and getting paid to participate in drug trials, but otherwise, how to test?

Vaccines may have side effects. Some could be mild and tolerable but some could be serious or fatal. Till today, vaccines administered during the toddler years, have been debated about as to whether they cause conditions like autism. And recently, the cervical cancer (HPV) vaccine has been reported to be the cause of serious and even fatal incidents among teens and young women. With the influenza A(H1N1) virus attack not letting up, and even a second wave expected during the coming winter spell, pharmaceutical companies and scientists had rushed to develop a vaccine. It is now available and there's much debate about that too, as to whether in the rush, testing was done sufficiently or not since viruses can develop resistance or mutate (like the avian flu virus), and if governments have the right to 'force' people to be vaccinated, and penalise those who refuse it.

An 'alternative' health and medicine website, that promotes health through natural means that I subscribe to online, often bashes drug companies and their government links for their push to medicate and vaccinate for financial and economic reasons. Some of what is written makes sense.

Here are some samples of their articles:

Top researcher who worked on cervical cancer vaccine warns about its dangers

Teen girl suffers permanent brain damage after cervical cancer vaccine

Historical facts about the dangers (and failures) of vaccines

Diseased African Monkeys Used to Make Swine Flu Vaccines; Private Military Contractor Holds Key Patents

Some other links I found on my own:

HPV Vaccine Researcher Blasts Mandatory Marketing

'Dangers' of the fast-track swine flu vaccine



The public should be made aware of the possible side effects of any vaccine, and any durg/medication. Most times, especially here where I live, clinics do not explain or highlight these possible side effects to the patients. Some general practitioners dispense generic medicine in bulk packaging types of bottles or their clinic's personalised bottles and plastic envelopes. These carry labels informing the patient about the dosage only. Patients don't even know the names of the pills/medicine they are taking, let alone the possible side effects. There are only some doctors/clinics who are conscientious and responsible enough to take that extra step to explain thoroughly to the patient about the drugs he/she is given. Is there no guideline by the healthcare authorities in ensuring all healthcare providers conduct themselves in the rightful manner?

Ask the person dispensing you your medicine the next time what you are taking and if they cause any side effects. Or if the medicine is in its original packaging, it should have a pamphlet inside detailing it's drug content, recommended dosage and possible side effects. Some sections may contain pharmaceutical jargon but the recommended dosage and side effects should be easily understood by the man in the street.

So while we ponder about whether drugs/vaccines do more harm than good or vice versa, it's still best to stay healthy by natural means, i.e. eat well and exercise and be mindful of our general health. Prevention is better than cure, as the old saying goes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Parties

These two weeks will see me busy coordinating two parties. One is on the 23rd and the other the 25th. They are just two days apart... It was wishful thinking that I need not do much for Caitlin's birthday party, the one on the 25th. Just when I came to terms with the idea of needing to get things moving for Caitlin's party, I got a call from her school's PTA committee member.

The school is celebrating Children's Day on the 23rd. Every year, parents of each class will be given the 'honour' to organise a party for the kids of their class. It seems that many parents (mothers) of Caitlin's class declined to be the class rep (to coordinate the party) citing various reasons. I personally think that some of the reasons are quite lame. If one wants and is willing to do something, one can actually work around things, tweak their routine a little temporarily. After all, how many man (or woman) hours do you need to just organise a small class party, and your child is also in the class? And the PTA is sponsoring RM20 per child so if the budget is managed well, parents don't even have to contribute a single sen to top up any extra costs. So, rant aside, the martyr in me agreed to become class rep...

Now I'm faced with the task of rounding up at least a few parents to work with me to get the food, party packs, set up/decorate the classroom, and organise games on that day. I've got the list of parents' names and contact numbers. The big question is how many would be willing to help. I'll find out once I make the calls, which I dread in fact, given the background notion that they're not too interested/willing.

As for Caitlin's birthday party, she has requested to invite her classmates. So this year, we're having the party at the arts studio where she learns capoeira. They host and organise such parties regularly. We'll be having a dance 'workshop' cum games party led by one of Caitlin's teachers who is an accomplished dance, yoga and capoeira instructor. I hope the turnout will be good as I think, "the more, the merrier". While this party is slightly beyond budget, I guess (and hope!)it's only a few more years we have to do this for our only child.

Children these days, especially in urban areas, have such grand birthday parties. I blame it on the parents. I feel modern day parents organise grand, lavish parties for the kids for the wrong reasons usually (this can be a separate discussion altogether). After a kid attends a few of such parties, she'll be asking her parents for a similar one for her next birthday.

These parties do not come cheap with hired clowns, balloon artists, magicians, puppeteers, a large buffet spread by hotel or caterer, party packs, hall rental etc. We've been to one where it was a theme party. The birthday child's (and siblings')costume was tailor-made. There was a clown cum magician, buffet spread and nice presents for participants (adults and children) for every game. The contents of the party packs had nice (but trivial, in my mind) items. The child's mother said she spent a few thousand ringgit on the party packs alone every year, and spends hours at the toy wholesaler's shop picking out the items. This is a mother who has more than one child, mind you, and I'm sure she does the same for all the other children of hers. They also hired a professional photographer and videographer.

To me, it's not whether you can afford it or not. The question is whether the child is able to appreciate the value of such an expensive party. At the end of the day, all a child wants is to feel loved and to have loads and loads of fun on her birthday, and that can be shown without throwing a celebrity-status type of party. What happened to home-made food, daddy, mummy or uncle dressing up as clowns and organising games and party packs containing healthy snacks and useful items instead of junk food?

Having said this, we've been guilty also in jumping into the bandwagon, although not so lavishly. It's a difficult position to be in. It's not easy to balance between sensibility, holding on to your own principles and ideas of how a child's party should be, and making your child happy on her birthday.

It would be great if birthday parties could be done with some meaningful intent of instilling certain values in children. Why not a birthday party at an orphanage, instead of a hotel, celebrating your child's birthday with orphans whose birthday falls in the same month? Friends and classmates can still be invited, the clown can still be hired and how much more would you spend on food and party packs for a small group of orphans? How much more does it take for us to share our bounty and bring cheer to others and at the same time open up our kids' eyes to the world around us?

Good food for thought and consideration, I believe, for Caitlin's next party....

Monday, October 5, 2009

Imagination and illustration

The pictures are self-explanatory... I hope. It's a page out of Caitlin's moral lesson exercise book. As you can tell, her handwriting reflects her impatient and strong-minded character (sigh...) It made E and me laugh when we saw how she illustrated Ephesians 4:32. She loves drawing pictures in comic style, with those speech balloons and sound effects ("Piak" - the sound of someone being hit!).



Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend meals

We usually eat out or 'tah pau' (Chinese for 'takeaway') on weekends. Last weekend we splurged on lunch at Bubba Gump Restaurant (the second time this year on guess who's request) at Sunway Pyramid.

C had the Kid's Meal of fish and chips which came served in a paper boat lined with pseudo newspaper for the fish and chips and dessert of blue jello. I personally didn't like the colour of the jello, maybe it was to go with the 'sea' theme. The jello was actually agar-agar. There was also one slice of orange (it was sour). The fish and chips tasted all right (if they can't even get this basic right, the paper boat would surely sink). For her drink, she wanted the raspberry smoothie (nice, just the right level of sweetness and consistency of the liquid) which I shared with her.




I ordered the grilled barramundi with shrimps in creamy sauce, on mashed potatoes with thin slivers of nachos. I like it as the fish was properly marinated. The mash was also well done, and the slivers of nachos embedded inside gave a nice crunch to what is usually plain boring mash.

E had the baked seafood rice. It was topped with cheesy cream. The serving was a bit much that it made you feel slightly sick once you've had too much of all that creamy sauce.

Some pics of the decor at Bubba Gump:
An unique sink to wash your hands
All sorts of hot chilli sauce
Waiter's attention not required
Waiter's attention needed
Well said
I agree

This weekend, for dinner tonight, we checked out a Chinese restaurant in Puchong. Found out about it in Flavour's (foodie mag) food guide. It's called Restoran Kepala Ikan Jalan Lima (Road Five Fish Head Restaurant). According to the food guide, this place was inspired by the famous and popular steamed fish head place in Jalan Sungai Besi.

Their specialty is various types of freshwater fish heads (actually it's the head plus neck and part of the belly area) cooked in several ways - ginger paste, black bean sauce, curry, assam.... We ordered the black bean sauce version. It was good, fish was fresh and the flesh was soft and smooth, not overcooked. The sauce was a bit too thick for our liking. They usually add some fresh chilli into the sauce but since C can't take even the slightest tinge of spice, we requested them to leave out the chilli. Thus, the gravy became a bit too sweet and was less aromatic.

We also had tofu on hot plate. It was on the whole tasty. I would have preferred it if there was more of the mince meat mushroom gravy and the raw egg (which eventually got cooked from the heat of the hot plate) was cracked in the middle of the hot plate and not at the side. Another thing which I didn't like about the hot plate dish was that they provided a plastic-handled ladle which melted slightly at the point of contact with the hot plate (a health hazard).

For drinks, we had old-fashioned Chinese tea while C had plain water.

Our vege dish was stir fried celery, one of C's favourites.

If there were more people eating with us, we could have tried the ginger paste fish, their pandan claypot chicken (recommended by the food guide) and their crabs (which I noticed quite a number of other tables having). The bill came to RM43.70. RM18 for the fish, RM12 for the tofu and RM8 for the celery. Miscellaneous charges were for the tea, plain water and three plates of white rice. Okay pricing in my opinion.