Wednesday, November 28, 2007

birthday mummy (still) lookin' good!

When it comes to birthdays, I’m usually stuck with the big question of WHAT present to give. Back to the basics, it’s either flowers, teddies, perfumes, jewelries, cosmetics or anything ‘girlish’ for the gals, and jerseys, high-tech gadgets, neckties, cuff links, hankies, cologne sets, music CDs, and books for the guys. To be on the safe side (indirectly meaning that either you’re too lazy to pick a gift or you really have zero idea on what the birthday person wants), some common gift examples come in the form of cold, hard (and new) money bills, dinner reservation at a hip restaurant/bistro, a whole night of partying, or going to the movies with all your best pals. To me, the most effective and fabulous present you could ever give to a person is something that he/she is really into or wishes to have desperately. For example, I know my good friend Suki is the type of girl who loves to be pampered. I can see this from her collection of expensive body lotions e.g. Crabtree & Evelyn, and her stock of home-made body scrub (which smells super yummy!). So when I gave her a card which said that she’ll get a free treat of French manicure from me, she was ecstatic and told me that it was the most unique gift she ever received. Simple to make a loved one happy, isn’t it? The key is to know what the person likes and from there be creative to create your own ‘customized’ gift especially for your friend/relative/parent/beloved. If you’re not sure about his/her liking, just go ahead and ASK! It wouldn’t hurt to enquire and I’m sure the birthday person will feel more touched as this shows your efforts in choosing the right gift for him/her.

Anyway, getting a gift for my mum (her birthday was last week!) wasn’t that hard. I knew for sure that she simply adored (1) teddies and dolls (you heard that right!), and (2) pretty flowers neatly arranged in a bouquet. After giving some thought, I decided to make a flower bouquet myself for her. As you all know, bouquets made by florists have always been unbelievably pricey. During my 5-day flower arranging course which was organized the previous month, my instructor told me that florists can make profits up to RM50 per bouquet! And since I have some basic of bouquet-making, I went with the idea of DIY. Mum loves white roses or anything white, so I started a search in Donggongon town (flowers are sold much cheaper there than in KK!) for white flowers. At the same time, weddings were conducted almost everyday for that period and flowers were selling really fast. In the end, I managed to get some white, orangey-pinkish, and yellow roses, and a bunch of greens to achieve that ‘full bouquet’ effect. That night, it took just a few hours to create a simple but beautiful bouquet of flowers (for experts it’ll just take less than half an hour of their time). Before hitting the hays, I placed the bouquet carefully on a chair which faced Mum’s bed so that when she wakes up, the first thing she’ll notice is the flowers. Indeed, she did notice them the next day along with the lovely rose scent that surrounded the them. She told me they were really gorgeous and gave me 2 pecks on the cheeks and a big bear hug. I accomplished 2 objectives that day, which was (1) Mum’s happy with my gift for her, and (2) I saved lots from it! Normally for an average roses bouquet it costs around RM60 and above. If you do it on your own by buying the flowers individually, along with the wrapping paper, and ribbons, it just costs you around RM20-RM25!

That night, we went out for Mum’s birthday dinner at this German eating place called Gunter’s. Dad used to be Mr. Gunter’s (the owner) regular when it was still located in Luyang years ago (above The Cottage pub). I was around 13-14 at that time but I could recall the brightly-lit restaurant with its cozy table settings and homey interior decoration. One of the unforgettable dishes over there was the dessert – crepes with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce…SEDAP GILA!!!! Few years after that, it had been replaced by some Chinese eatery and had not heard from it since…until this year. While driving along Tuaran Road, I saw a signboard to my left which had Gunter’s name on it in big letters. I was puzzled as the junction led into a housing area. Then it came to my mind that Mr. Gunter’s mini restaurant could be installed in his own house! We’ve always planned on dropping by for dinner but never had the chance…until on Mum’s birthday! Not wanting to be plagued by the ‘kepunan’ effect (a custom which says that if you don’t do what you plan to do, you’ll get ‘punished’), we went there despite potential threats of heavy rain (it’s the raining season now). The place, a nice double-storied house, was quiet and for a moment we thought that it was closed for the night. Then a girl’s head popped out from the window and asked us to come in. By looking at the exterior and interior parts of the house, it was obvious that Mr. Gunter & family are flowers-worshippers. Outside, it was like a mini park with flower pots on the floor, and flowers hanging from the ceiling. In the inside, there were colorful (artificial) flowers hanging on the window curtains, on the walls, on the cupboards, on the tables, and heck, they even served fresh flowers along with the dishes! Even on a cold night, there were some groups of people, young & old, waiting eagerly for their orders in the air-conditioned room. Being a first-timer in the new place, I decided to have a go on their ‘authentic’ German food which included the special long-as-a-French-loaf sausage (it has a German name but I forgot the word) coated with lots of mustard, accompanied with mashed potatoes, bits of chicken, and servings of mushroom sauce. Mum requested for pork wrapped in egg folds (think nasi goreng pattaya), drenched with mushroom sauce and accompanied by a bowl of boiled potatoes. For dessert (sadly the crepes are not on the menu list anymore…sob!), I wanted something different and ordered the baked apple with cinnamon ice-cream. The apple was good (even though it had been baked into a prudish-looking thing), and we believed that the ice-cream was of ‘the better ones’ as it did not have this soft and melty taste like those cheap ice-creams, and it tasted smooth and blended well on our taste buds. For those who are fans of real western food, skip Chinese coffee shops and head over to Gunter’s for the real deal! Don’t think of the quantity (of the money), but think in terms of quality!

We had a good time that day. Not only Mum was genuinely pleased with her gifts, she also managed to eliminate any worries of ageing (being older) out of her mind! :)

my self-made flower bouquet for dearest mum!
my special sausage dish...yummy and FATTENING!
mum's pork ala pattaya-style and potato dish
baked apple and cinnamon ice-cream for dessert!that's a fresh flower on the side :)
the beautiful flower deco inside Gunter's restaurant
more nice views of the restaurant

perfect setting for X'mas, don't u think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

slow and steady, baby!!

our first photo 2 years ago hehehe...that's in my car!! and he was drving when i took the pic!! driver gila ;)

our most recent photo at my cousin joyce's wedding. that's us doing the slooow dancing :)

"happy anniversary to us

happy anniversary to us

happy 2nd anniversary to nakal and gatal

happy anniversary to us!" does it feel after being together with this bloke for 24 months? ( i don't know for you guys, but i think the word '2 years' sounds much more 'longer' than 24 months..don't u agree?) usually if u ask any typical couple how can they manage to be together for that long, they'll say, 'oh, it's all about give and take, and being co-operative etc'. as for me, i'm going to share with u on what I personally have learnt from him all this while. ;)

the first lesson for me is...ahem (drum roll please)..i have learnt to drink! ya, as in minum minuman yang memabukkan minda anda hahaha! this is due to the times I have spent with his cousins who drinks during bbq's, who drinks during b-days, drinks during x'mas, new year, or they can just sit down, have a nice chat (do guys gossip?), and then take out the bottles. u name it, i have try it all, and all the weird combinations which actually taste nice! it's a good thing to learn to drink 'cos you know what's your limit and you can maintain up to that level so you can control not to go 'overload'!
apart from drinking (and no, i didn't learn to smoke!), i have learnt how to be frugal too! and that's so important 'cos i know us girls will always, always overspend and find budgeting a really hard task to manage! i used to be an eat-out person who loves eating outdoors almost everyday of the week, but since he always eats at home after work and only goes out to dine occasionally, i pun terikut-ikut la ( we eat out like only once or twice a month) and now i'm eagerly cooking lunch and dinner meals at home and lovin' it! 'cos (1) u save (by enormous amounts!) on your food expenses, and (2) home-cooked are much more delicious and hygienic (u'll never know how the dishes were cooked in the shops!). but as they say, old habits never fade...i'm still addicted to clothes though! but i will only buy them if (1) i really need it, and (2) it has a discount!
lastly, i have re-learnt something which i have underestimated over the years: positive attitude. no matter what happnes, he always faces the situation with ease. Even if he has a really hard of work and got endless complaints from his clients or being scolded by his boss, i have never seen him with a sour face or letting out his anger on anybody. Instead, he just tells me about his unlucky day and asks me about how my day is. To me, that is really one very admirable trait. Huh...kalau saya, even the tinniest thing also I will whine and show my perfectly-trained muka masam. everytime whenever i'm in a dour mood and feel like venting out my anger to anybody i see out there, he'll always give me 2 advice, which is not to be too stressed and always pray to God and hope for the best that everything will be ok. Until now, whenever i'm in a bad spot, i'll think back about what he says.
see?not all relationships are just about love, love, love only hehe! even the worst relationship also, you can learn a thing or two from it. And that makes u stronger, more experienced, and look at the world from a totally different perspective.
relationships rock!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

more good food =)

For us girls, there are many downsides to cooking. Like getting bits of chopped garlic or sticky flour stuck under your fingernails, the stubborn won’t-go-away smells and stains of onions and turmeric powder on your hands no matter how many times you wash them, the painstaking time you need to get all the ingredients in order (especially the slicing, dicing, and cleaning part), the odor from the cooking process which clings to your hair and outfit (and you need to head for the showers again if it’s worse, like cooking sambal or anything that involves belacan), getting minor burns from the hot oil shooting out from the wok ( I hate frying fish!), the tears that you have to endure from cutting all those onions and chillis, the endless amount of times whereby you get your tongue burnt from trying out the taste of the food being cooked (mine’s burning right now from tasting the fried ikan bilis), and the cleaning up process which includes scrubbing dirty pots and pans (ugh!), wiping the kitchen tables, and throwing out the garbage. Phew! Cooking really turns one into a smelly, dirty, not forgetting to mention sweaty girl with chipped fingernails.

However, cooking also is a very effective way to de-stress and to calm your thoughts down (unless you’re arranging a dinner party for a hundred!). And to see the happy look on your guests while trying out your food gives you that satisfied feeling, as if you have done something good in return for them. Anyhow, here are some more of my first-time dishes which are all my favorites ( I adore veggies and fish) =)
p/s- do you know how easy is it to cook steamed fish??!! Just get a fresh fish and some itty-bitty ingredients like sesame oil, garlic, soya sauce, and salt. It costs you less than RM10. If you makan di kedai, nah RM30 gone!!!!

kangkung with dried prawns
ladies' fingers with cummin seeds (left) and steamed fish (my favorite!!!!)
sayur daun with oyster sauce and fried garlic (i like oyster sauce!!!!)
sweet and sour fish (left) and taugeh (beansprouts) with dried prawns (yum!!)
sup sayur of leafy veggies, carrots and spring onions (i always order sup sayur and white rice at mamak stalls) =)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ain't nuttin' like V in the kitchen =)

I’ve been a good girl lately, doing what every girl should at least have a hands-on – cooking yummy dishes! Well, actually I’m pretty bored of Mum’s plain ol’, same ol’ fish and veggies recipes. When I was away in uni, I’d be eagerly cooking up my own dish even after late-night classes which ended at 10pm. I was dead tired, but I had to do it ‘cos no one would be waiting for me in the kitchen with good food set on the table. My other flatmates would either just order some takeaway or get on with some ‘fast’ food like the trusted Maggi mee and frozen mini pizzas. For those whose hometowns are just a mere few miles away, they are lucky enough to bring back Mum’s ever-delicious chicken curry or tuna pasta, just waiting to be reheated. I know I can just heat up a bowl of instant noodles within 5 minutes, but I just don’t like it that way. I think everyone should have a proper meal whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. The finer things in life that simply can’t be missed is exploring and trying out the wonderful variety of food out there. With simple ingredients like ginger, sesame oil, garlic, onions, pepper etc, the most delicious food in the word can be created. Anyway, Mum’s not a really keen cook, interior decorating is more her taste she says. While I was away also her common meal usually consists of bread, health drinks, and veggies (mau diet konon!). So when I came back here, I rummaged through Mum’s old (but still effective) cookbooks and did my best in trying out the recipes available. I’m for one not an expert and all the dishes that I’ve cooked up are all my firsts. I haven’t tried desserts like cakes as we don’t have an oven at home =( I’d really like to have a try on making a fluffy blueberry cheesecake, my favorite! Have a look at some (not particularly impressive though!) of the pics that I took of my own homemade dishes hehe…bon appetit everyone! =)
fish in teochew sauce
sup calung of fish balls, potatoes, and soh hoon

egg noodles with chicken, mushrooms, and mixed veggies
assam fish

Saturday, November 10, 2007

a penny for an orchid, a nickel for a rose!

Giving flowers for your loved ones has always been a favorite among all. I think flowers are like food for the soul. Just look at the reactions given by those that you know who received flowers in the past...some will squeal in delight, some will smile non-stop, some will burst into tears of happiness, some will scream as if they've never scream in their entire lives, some will just go speechless and their mouths form a big 'O'. I know that feeling. There was once when I was given flowers by my aunt during my graduation. Even though the ceremony had ended and did not get the flowers 'till dinnertime, I was gobsmacked. 'Pink roses!!! For me???!!!' And it's just not a couple of roses..but in thirties of my ultimate favorite flower. At that time, I felt happy, dizzy, giggly, and just can't get that grin outta my face. And flowers aren't just for girls, it's okay for guys to receive flowers too. There was one time when I (secretly!) sent flowers to my Gatal at his workplace. Needless to say, he was embarrassed (apparently the whole org. talked about it and that he was the first male to ever receive flowers there!) but I know he's pleased at the same time hehe!
Anyway! I've always wanted to learn on how to make your own flower bouquet 'cos let's not deny it prepared by florists are really hitting the roof! So when mum told me about a flower-arranging course (FOC!) sponsored by JPSM (Jabatan Pembangunan Sumber Manusia), I immediately wasted no time in registering. It's a five-day course (but ended in four days' time!) which started from 9am-5pm. Macam panjang tu masa kan..but we had so much fun that time passed by really quickly and we didn't want to leave 'cos we were not done with our flowers! Our teacher was this really sweet and patient florist called Florence and she owns Justflo-rist. Those who stay in Penampang, her shop is located at Donggongon near the BP petrol station, same row with Snow Studio. She taught us lotsa things like making flower arrangements for decor at home, office, hotel lobbies or just about anywhere, flower bouquets, corsages, bridal bouquets (I especially like the 'falling' type. In Malay they call it the 'juntai' style), flower girls' baskets, flowers for the cake, and even funeral wreaths. Surprisingly the methods are quite simple but it needs lots of practice to make the flowers look in perfect order and not to use too much materials or else you'll exceed your budget! From the course also I get to know new friends and we really had some good time together =)
One tip for you guys out there. To make fresh flowers lasting, change the water everyday and you can add just a tinny bit of Chlorox to prevent insects in laying their eggs there. Also cut (in a slanting way, or 'serong') the ends of the flower stalk to ensure the flower is able to absorb the water. And don't throw away dried flowers, you can make them into potpourri! There you go...if you're hungry for more, just join a flower-arranging course! =)
this is our messy 'creative' workroom! At AKMA, Penampang

a bridal bouquet made by the teacher...nice rite?

the 'basket' is actually used for agricultural it can be used for flower arrangement!

here's my collection of handmade flowers! flowers for decoration, bridal bouquets and flower girls' baskets!

Monday, November 5, 2007

tHat sHip!

Do you ever have those childhood memories whereby you still clearly remember some of the itty-bitty parts but have a vague impression on where was it being held and when? Well, I had lots and one of them was little me standing in a large ship at night and surrounded by hundreds of books. Few weeks ago, I was driving along the highway from Sembulan to Donggongon when I saw a big billboard with a picture of an enormous ship with the caption ‘the world’s largest floating book fair’. Just by one glance triggered that memory of me being in that huge ship. As a self-proclaimed bookworm (and proud of it!), I nagged my mum, my guy, and my aunt in accompanying me to pay the ship a visit. In the end, my aunt and my guy & co. willingly volunteered (hehe thanks guys!). Just for some info, MV Doulos (the ship’s name) was built in 1914 just 2 years after the Titanic and claimed to be the world’s largest floating bookshop with over 8000 titles (whoa! That’s a LOT). There are over 350 volunteers on the ship from around 50 different nations (that’s one heavily multi-racial vessel!).

When we reached there, I was so glad I didn’t go alone and mum didn’t come along ‘cos (i) to find a parking space was practically impossible (unless you are willing to park 10 miles away from the destination), and (ii) the vast amount of visitors (even old grannies!) made the queues long and winding (‘cos there’s a limit on how many people can be onboard) and I just simply can’t imagine mum waiting in line under the hot, searing sun.

When we finally got our turn to get on the ship, I was expecting air-conditioning for some refreshing. Unfortunately, this was not the case in the books area. Imagine hundreds of sweaty people trapped in a small area meant for less than a hundred. Eww, I felt like being in a sardine can! Anyway, the good point was that I’m surrounded by BOOKS! But after a while, I discovered that majority were of books on spirituality, and others consisted of kiddies’ books, cookbooks, books of hobbies and interests, and very little on the business side. Sadly, there were no chic lits to be found ( I know, I know, I’m a sucker for modern romances with witty sentences). My aunt got some books for our little cousins and some colorful cookbooks for herself, and I got myself one (about CVs, that is. The only interesting book I would buy!) and a motivational book from a spiritual perspective for mum (I’m gonna read that one too!). The cookbooks were really cheap (it’s double the price in bookstores) but I’m like, ‘You can always get free recipes from the Net’. I was grateful when the weather had changed to cloudy when we left the ship and stopped by at a coffee shop to quench our thirsts before heading back home.

That night, Dad suggested that we eat out for dinner and Mum chose the Indian restaurant, Chettinad Anjappar, at Asia City (the one with tusks deco at the entrance, facing Api2). We had dinner there twice before and agreed that the place is worth going back. The food that they served is really rich in taste, which I think is the REAL Indian cuisine. We had thosai ‘tissue’ (must-try!), lamb masala, butter chicken, veggies, and tomato soup. One cute thing about the restaurant is that the food is served in small portions but is actually very filling (due to the pekat-ness of the gravy)! The masala chai (some kinda tea) and the coffee are also recommended. They are served in really tiny cups but are worth of it ‘cos of their rich taste. The prices are also reasonable (last time me and Mum went for dinner, it cost us around RM30++) and the atmosphere there is quite comfy (acceptable dim lighting and their cutlery sets are nice to look at!). For me, I’d give it a rating of 4/5.

Anyway, I might not get that much books from the book fair, but it’s the experience that counts, right? =)

that's the massive ship! and look at the interior of the ship (below), ain't it looked hot and stuffy?!

the super-long and super-crunchy thosai 'tissue'!

look at the tiny dishes! aren't they cute? =)