Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Family vs Career

How important is your career to you? If I had been asked this question when I was younger my answer then and now would have been as different as day and night.

I’m posing this question because these days many new parents are more than happy to leave their children at the baby-sitters’ full-time on weekdays, taking them home only on weekends. Often, their reasoning is they need enough sleep because they are a working couple but don’t we all? Somehow I sympathize with the children because home for them probably means the baby-sitters’.

I’ve relatives and friends who’d rather leave decision-making concerning their children to their parents or in-laws, almost always telling me that they felt their parents or in-laws know better, and besides, they are too busy with work. I’m sure they do but surely that’s no way to relinquish our responsibilities on them. If our mothers and their mothers before them were able to take care of our needs, surely we are able to do the same for our children.

Why do some women think it’s justifiable for them to place their responsibility on someone else instead? Is it because women these days have no confidence in themselves in caring for their family or is it because they feel that they are inadequate compared to their parents/in-laws? I find it hard to believe that successful businesswomen are unable to handle childcare and thus depend on someone else to do it for them. Certainly some will argue that career is important to them. I have a career too but I will as soon give it all up for my family. After being in the rat race for so many years, I’ve realized that career is not all that important anymore. I’ve learned to set my priorities straight because although it might be good for a while, my career will not last forever. At the end of the day, it is our families we return to and it is our families who will be there for us.

It’s too big a sacrifice to put our careers above our family. I’m not sure if it’s really worth the sacrifice. Do you?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ramadan market @ Bangsar

In a couple more days, the Muslims around the world will be celebrating the Eid-al-Fitri. This post about the delights of Ramadan sold in Malaysia is long overdue, I know.

Although I’m not a Muslim, I always looked forward to Ramadan as it is the month where stalls selling all types of food are set up daily for the Muslims to break fast. In Malaysia these afternoon food markets are everywhere and this is where you’ll find Malaysians of all races patronizing the stalls.

For the past month, we have been going to these food markets on a weekly basis to check out the variety of food offered.

There’s the Singapore Pasembor which is an Indian-Muslim salad with julienne vegetables and crunchy crisps in a sweet peanut sauce.
There’s also the popular Ayam Percik (roasted spiced chicken).

Don’t forget also the Murtabak (roti prata with chicken/beef fillings). I love the smell and sound of murtabak sizzling on a hot grill plate!

My daughter loves roti jala (lacy pancake). The roti jala now also comes wrapped around minced chicken/beef fillings like the murtabak. There’s also many rice stalls selling briyani, nasi lemak, curries, rendang, grilled fish and squid and kebabs.

Everyone’s favourite, without doubt, are the kuih stalls. These stalls sells all types of colourful kuih (traditional cakes) that we all have a really hard time deciding which to buy!

The Ramadan markets are a great place to see Malaysians united by our common love for food.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Children of Cambodia

I've travelled to many countries, each one leaving me with distinct memories. One country that I could not forget is Cambodia. The Angkor Wat is beautiful of course, but it is the people, or more accurately, the street children of Cambodia who left the most lasting impressions on me.
Most of us have no idea how lucky we are to have all that we have now. It is the same with me, unfortunately, that is, until I went to Siem Reap. My sole intention of going to Siem Reap was to visit the world famous Angkor Wat, a wholly selfish reason. I got my wish of course, but I also gained something else. I gained an insight on how tough life is for the street children who had to work to ensure their survival. Most times, it is not just their survival, but that of their families as well. Such heavy burdens on such small shoulders.
The street children of Siem Reap do not go to schools, a luxury unknown to them. Instead, children no taller than 3 feet are out on the streets daily, cajoling tourists like me to buy their wares. "One dollar, you buy?" is but a popular phrase. If the tourists do not understand English, no problem, there's Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Mandarin that they are able to converse in, just take your pick. I am amazed by their will to survive and adaptability, to make that extra dollar that will make such a huge difference to their families. An extra dollar that means practically nothing to us who are so used to our lifestyles. Certainly, their willingness and ease in learning a new language puts some of our local graduates who gripe about learning English to shame.
It's a sad sight to see street children who wait outside the many restaurants and ice-cream parlours in Siem Reap catering to tourists because such luxury is out-of-reach to them. Do we not feel guilty indulging in such luxury, bubble-wrapped in our worldly comforts while the children outside have barely enough to eat daily? How do you even begin to comfort a small child waiting outside with such hope in his eyes? How do you feel seeing a child without legs propping himself on a makeshift trolley begging for your spare change? I am ashamed that on the first day of my visit, I haggled with the lady selling books that are already so cheap. That feeling of shame never left me, so long after I left. How I could have thought that I got myself a good deal, when I am actually depriving them of money that they so needed? Money that is just spare change to me. I actually looked for her on the subsequent days, hoping to redeem myself, but sadly I never found her.
The children showed me so much more than the beauty of Angkor. They showed me that in order to survive, we need to be resilient and driven in the midst of adversity. It is not self-pity they wallow in, it is hope. They have shown me that in times when things look bleak, there is a glimmer of hope. The children have given me much more than I could ever asked for and I am forever grateful to them.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Parenting advices

When we first started on our journey to parenthood, my hubby and I had many well-meaning (depending on how you looked at it) relatives and friends who were very eager to share with us tips on childcare. The advices we got were mostly useful, save for some that were completely devoid of common sense.

One of the most ridiculous advices we received was that it’s ok for kids to partake alcohol, as long as it’s done right under our watchful eyes. How anyone in their right frame of mind could have thought of such a thing is really beyond my comprehension. Needless to say, I was completely horrified although I could not fault the person for not leading by example.

Then, there are also some who openly rebuke us for many of our choices for our daughter.

Is it not our responsibility as parents to provide the best we can for our kids, be it in attention, love or care? Although at that time we were first-time parents, we’re well-read and luckily, have the advice of many people who are experienced parents. Our daughter is now a happy 7 year old who is bright and kind. If anything, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at being parents.

I guess we can’t stop people from giving us advices, but I think the key for new parents is to listen to the ones who make the most sense and go with your instincts. In case instincts don't kick in, there's always lots of useful information on the internet that could be relied on. Whatever it is, the journey to parenthood is one of the greatest gifts of all. It's the gift of self-discovery.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Milk powder scare again

Recent news reports about contaminated milk powder in China again made headlines around the world, especially after 4 babies have died and thousands more made sick. This is the 2nd time problems relating to milk powder has happened in China, the first being "fake milk powder" that caused malnutrition to the babies.
It's so frightening these days that driven by greed, companies no longer cared about the consequences of their actions. Greed could be the only way to explain how they could prey on defenceless babies although I am sure it affects other users too. Whatever happened to integrity? How do the people who owned such companies close their eyes to sleep at night, knowing that their actions have caused harm to many?
How do we ensure that this will not happen again? How do we protect the users? I'm not sure if stricter food safety regulations is enough to change this mindset of greed. The truth is, we never know now if we're giving nutrition to our children or poisoning them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Penang food at Simply Penang

We were out shopping at 1-Utama over the weekend and dropped by Simply Penang for dinner, partly because it’s been so long since I had Assam Laksa.

My order of the Assam Laksa came with the rice noodles topped with thick fish gravy, very much like the authentic ones in Penang. My quest for the Penang styled Assam Laksa has caused me to endure endless imitations, none of which were any good. I still haven’t found the best Penang Assam Laksa in KL, but I guess the one at Simply Penang is close enough.

We also ordered a Chicken Porridge for hubby who wanted something light. The porridge came topped with shredded chicken meat, ginger, salted duck egg and lightly drizzled with sesame oil. Hubby thought it needed a dash of soya sauce to liven it up a bit more.

For our kid, we ordered Fried Chicken with fries. She really liked the sweet chicken wings and proceeded to polish off everything. Guess it must be really good!

For drinks, we ordered the “Sar Lei Juice”. I liked the Sar Lei Juice at Simply Penang. It’s not the watered-down version I usually get at the coffeeshops. It sweet and tart at the same time. Really quite good!

Simply Penang is located at F237, 1st Floor, Promenade, One Utama Shopping Centre, 47800 Bandar Utama, Selangor. Tel : 03-77290026.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The loss of innocence

Last week a pretty 16 year old girl was brutally murdered and her body burned by her murderers. It turns out that her murderer is a young man who is known to her. This is not the first case of young children being assaulted, raped or murdered. Who could forget Nurin Jazlin? Unfortunately, I doubt it will be the last.
What is becoming of our world, of humanity? How is it that young people are so reckless in their lives that they now think nothing of killing another?
It is so hard to read about young promising lives brutally cut short. How do we even comfort parents who lose their children this way?
The truth is, we are no longer safe no matter where we are. We have iron grilles in our house, but it does not stop the robbers from coming in. We tell our kids not to speak to strangers, but it is people known to them who do unspeakable things to them. As parents, we fear for our children more than ourselves. But what do we do? What can we do? Who should our children trust? How do we tell them that behind the mask of someone close to them, is a monster lurking within? We want so much to let our children be kids, but the reality is, childhood is no longer a time without worries.
I think back to the time when I was a child and knew that my parents never had to worry about my whereabouts. I had the freedom to live my childhood as only a child should. We could go out and play with our friends, coming home only for meals before dashing off to play again. These days, our children have no such luxury. They are under our watchful eyes at all times because we fear for their safety. In the process, they have lost so much more than their independence. They have lost their childhood, the most precious time of their lives.

Friday, September 19, 2008

To teach or not to teach

Our Education Ministry is once again deciding whether to continue teaching Science and Mathematics in English. And once again, our children are the ones who’ll have to pay the price for their decisions.

My humble opinion is that they should continue teaching these subjects (and if possible the other subjects as well) in English. The reason is a no-brainer. English is the lingua franca so it makes sense to equip our children with the communication skills they will require to make it in the business world when the time comes.

I’ve always worked in an MNC (since my first job) and my job requires me to converse in English with our counterparts elsewhere in the world. I’ve seen job applications completely written in Bahasa Melayu and applicants who can barely understand a word of English, let alone write in English. Again, this is a no-brainer. Would the MNC hire someone who is unable to communicate in English? The answer is a resounding no for the reasons listed above.

I had an interesting conversation with an old Malay lady I met at my daughter’s school. She speaks excellent English and as she proudly told me, she has lived in many countries around the world. She is able to proudly hold her head up high wherever she is in the world because she is able to speak English, as well as, if not better, than the native speakers. The best thing is, she was a product of our National schools, when English was the main medium of instruction.

We’ve been given the excuse too many times that the reason Science and Maths should be taught in the national language is because many children from non-English speaking backgrounds are unable to grasp the subjects taught. Let me ask this … if a foreign worker from Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan etc is able to master the Chinese language in a matter of months, surely our children can do better? If the powers-that-be think that for some reason, our children are unable to absorb new languages, I would certainly take that as an insult. The fact is, learning is central to our progress as human beings. It’s whether or not we choose to learn. And I think it is no secret that many are choosing not to learn.

Is it any wonder that many of our graduates are unable to find a job? With globalization, the world is getting smaller and people are getting more competitive. However, it does seem to me that the powers-that-be and our graduates are still sitting comfortably in their shells, oblivious to the fact that if they do not make an attempt to buck-up, they will be left behind. When they do finally come to their senses, it will be too late. And when that happens, who will they blame for this?
If we want to compete with the rest of the world and hold our heads up high, proper education is the way to go. It is not about having the biggest roti canai or the longest stretch of satay in the Guinness Book of Records. We are only competitive when we are able to communicate with the rest of the world in a language they understand.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grilled chicken wings

Last Sunday I decided to grill some chicken wings for dinner. The wings were marinated in a special secret sauce, then grilled in the oven for about 20 minutes.
The result? Sweet sticky grilled chicken wings! I love the way the marinate caramelizes over the skin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hoong Kee Seafood Noodle House, Dataran Sunway

A couple of weeks ago we stumbled upon Hoong Kee Seafood Noodle House in Dataran Sunway. I’ve always loved seafood and besides, my parents had just returned from a week in Norway, so noodles seemed like a good way to get their system back to normal!

We ordered a variety of noodles to share. First up was the Seafood noodles in Tom Yam soup. The noodles came in a bowl filled with big prawns, tofu puffs, fish balls, lala (small clams), fish cake and Chinese cabbage. That’s a lot of stuff in one bowl! The tom yam broth was not too sour or spicy which I quite like.
The fish cake came next. Crispy outside and springy inside.

I absolutely loved the fish balls! They were very springy, yet at the same time I could taste its freshness! We also ordered the oyster soup with vegetables. The oysters were smaller but they’re just as fresh. Next to arrive was the Seafood flat rice noodles with ma-yau fish. Slices of fish fillet were added to the noodles together with seaweed. The fish slices were very fresh and the soup delicious. The fishball noodle soup also came with added seaweed, fishballs and fish cake. The noodle broth was sweet and light. The last to arrive was the seafood noodle soup. It has the same ingredients as the seafood tomyam noodles except that it has a lighter seafood broth. Hoong Kee also serves a seafood steamboat.

I thought the seafood served at Hoong Kee were very fresh and value for money. The noodles cost around RM3.80 per bowl, depending on your choice of seafood to be added.

Hoong Kee is located at No. 3-1 Jalan PJU5/12, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. They open daily from 9:30am to 4pm, 5pm to 11pm and are closed on Mondays.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jelly mania!

It's been awhile since I made jellies so a couple of weeks ago, I took out my jelly moulds and got down to work! Jellies are always a favourite coz they are light and best of all, colorful so it's always a hit with the kids.

I found the rainbow jelly recipe on the internet and decided to give it a try but alas, it didn't quite come out right. The bottom part was too watery so it didn't hold while the top part was perfect. I separated the parts and the top part was delicious. Too bad it didn't turn out as I expected it to.

I also made the cocoa and corn jelly which I brought to the office for our pot-luck. Chocolate is a favourite of mine and I do love sweetcorn too. So this jelly is the perfect combination of my two favourites. Luckily this jelly turned out perfectly!

Finally, these colourful konyakku jelly are flavoured with apple and grape flavours and filled with fruits and nata-de-coco.
Don't they make a great treat for a hot day?

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Asian Chinese upbringing

I am currently reading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s autobiography and I must say I admire her for her tenacity and her passion. I’ve always found strong women like her fascinating. It is women like her who leaves their mark in the world.

My mom grew up in an essentially traditional Chinese household where girls are taught to be respectful to their elders. They are not allowed to speak out as that would be contrived as rudeness to your elders. They are not allowed freedom to mix with their friends. Their role simply belongs in the kitchen.

Growing up, I had a mixture of the modern and traditional Chinese upbringing. My mom understands the importance of education of which she was denied, but she didn’t understand the need for the young to speak out and be heard because all her life, she has been taught that the very act of speaking out is of extreme rudeness to your elders.

I, on the other hand, having been exposed to books when I was young, do not understand why I have to do something simply because I was told to. I guess it’s something that’s inherently in my personality. Like any child these days, I am inquisitive. To make matters worse, I do not like to be told that there is something that I cannot do. Needless to say, our personality clashes do not make things easy, either for her or me.

It took me a long time to finally find my footing and to finally be strong enough to stand up for myself and what I believe in. We are still trying to come to grips with our differing roles as women of different generations. I certainly hope that the generation gap between my daughter and I will not be this great. As it is, I am already encouraging her to find her own voice. Her opinions are always welcomed, not frowned upon. She knows that there are no limits to what she can do. Like Hillary said, there are millions of cracks now in the glass ceiling.

As time passes, my mom is beginning to understand that women don’t just belong in the kitchen. They belong everywhere. And it is alright to speak out and be heard.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


By now most people would have read about the local politician who stirred up a hornet’s nest last week by uttering racist remarks. It’s a pity really that after all these years of living together peacefully we all seem to be more divided than ever. Or at least that’s what our politicians will have us believe.

My daughter came back from school excitedly last week, declaring that she’s just learned a great song where children from all races sing together in unity. That title of the song, coincidentally, is “Bersatu” which in English means united. I can’t help but feel the irony of this, because it was just last week that the act of an irresponsible politician threatened the very fabric of unity in this country.

Parenting is no walk-in-the-park. It’s hard enough as it is and our politicians are not making things easier with all the remarks they make. I wish they would just make up their minds on what they really want for the country and its people because on one hand the kids are being taught to stand united together, and on the other we have politicians ripping apart the fabric of our unity.

How do I explain to my daughter the actions of the irresponsible politician especially when she’s been taught at home and at school that we should respect one and all irrespective of their skin colour and religion? Or perhaps it will be easier to just send the politicians back to Standard One to re-learn everything they have obviously forgot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Angels of the world

In the course of my life, I’ve met all sorts of people. The ones who left the deepest impressions on me are those who would not hesitate to offer their help whenever I needed them.

At a time in my life when all I needed was a simple word of kindness to lift my spirits, these people were there for me. These beautiful people who did not expect anything in return for their kindness are my family and friends.

I thank my lucky stars each day that I am blessed enough to have them in my life. I would never have to imagine that I am alone in this world because no matter where I am, they are always there for me. They do not question me, nor do they judge me. All they do is offer a listening ear and a helping hand. That simple act speaks volumes of the kind of people that they are.

If only there are more people like that in our world. What a world that would have been!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Is marriage no longer sacred?

It used to be that marriage is sacred, a match made in heaven, so to speak. However, these days the sanctity of marriage means nothing more than a piece of paper.

It is unfortunate, but of late I seem to be hearing more often of young couples getting divorced. They no longer see marriage as something to be worked at. As soon as either party is unhappy, either over a serious or trivial matter, it’s off-to-the-courts-we-go.

I’ve had an acquaintance who told me in the weeks running up to her marriage that if things don’t work out, she’ll just get a divorce. I’m not one to force my opinions on others, but I could hardly contain my disappointment. Why even get married in the first place if you’re already thinking of divorce? Whatever happens to “Till death do us part” or working out the problems? Granted, every marriage has its problems. That’s perfectly normal considering two very different people trying to live together.

I’m not sure exactly if men have the same problems, but I guess one of the biggest problems for some women is that they go into a marriage in the pre-conceived notion of “happily ever after”. They seem to think that real-life marriage is a mirror of all the fairytales they read when they were children. As such, they expect their life-partner to be the perfect Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet, that there will be no fights, and all will be merry. Life will be just peaches. As soon as first sign of trouble begins to brew, they are ready to give up because it’s just not part of the fairytale.

I also know of some people, men and women, who do not show the other party their true self, that is, until after they’re married. I don’t know how they must have felt living a life full of pretensions, but it is something that I definitely could not do. I don’t think that’s being fair to the other party. And anyways, how long can they go on pretending? It’s quite possible for a year or two, but a whole lifetime? How sad life must be for them!

Certainly, there are level-headed young couples who venture into a marriage prepared for the many bumps ahead. I’m just sorry not all couples who say “I do” really mean it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend of pampering at Le Meridien KL

We spent a weekend of pampering recently at the invitation of Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur. It was something that we didn’t need any persuasion for.

We checked in on Saturday afternoon and was informed that we’re being given a Le Royal Club Suite with a view of the swimming pool.

Our suite came with a living room, LCD TV and a separate bedroom and bath. It’s absolutely luxurious! How surprised I was to find a personalized bathrobe on the bed … We were also sent a plate of fresh fruits, dried nuts and chocolate covered dates. Yummy! As content as I was to just luxuriate in the room, our daughter was very eager to check out the pool. Le Meridien KL shares a pool with KL Hilton. The free-form pool is big by KL standards and comes with its very own slide. No prizes for guessing how popular the slide is with both kids and adults alike! There’s also a mini waterfall and a grotto which adds to the landscape around the pool. Later that night we attended a dinner hosted by Le Meridien where we were served the Chef’s creations. The dinner was definitely unique and yes, delicious! I’m kicking myself for leaving my camera in the room so I didn’t take any photos of the food but imagine this … quail with chocolate! And apple cider vinegar and caviar served in a test tube. How unique is that?

Next morning we were treated to a buffet breakfast at Latest Recipe. Separate food stations for Japanese, Indian, Malay, Chinese and Continental were set up for guests. The food were scrumptious! There were also rows of fresh fruits, breads, pastries and cakes for those with a sweet tooth. In the afternoon Latest Recipe also has a chocolate fountain and ice-cream teppanyaki where guests can add all sorts of condiments such as nuts, candy etc into the ice-cream. Absolutely decadent! We had an absolutely delightful weekend at Le Meridien! It’s the perfect oasis of serenity from the madness of KL city.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wisdom of children

Children never cease to amaze me. I’ve always loved their innocence and seeing things through their eyes has been quite an eye-opener for me. It is something for which I count my blessings each day.

My daughter said something to me last week that I’ve promptly shared with my friends, and we all couldn’t agree more with her.

I bought some cakes last week for her and as usual, reminded her how lucky she is that we try to give her the best of everything. At times, we sacrifice our needs for hers. This time she pondered over the information slowly, then said, “But Mommy, sometimes you need to buy something for yourself too. You deserve a treat yourself too.” Such pearls of wisdom from the mouth of a 7-year-old! Come to think of it, she IS right! It took a child to remind me that sometimes I need a little treat myself too.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Krabi street food

One of our favourite street food in Krabi is the roti (or prata) that's filled with fresh fruit. We found this particular stall in Ao Nang beach that serves the crispy treats at THB20 each. This makes a delicious snack any time of the day.
First the lady cuts the fruit or nuts of your choice (banana, mango, pineapple, raisins ... the choice is endless) ...
Then folds it into the roti that's frying to a crisp on the griddle ....
Then folds it and voila! The perfect snack!

Some enterprising stalls also sells sandwiches which I guess is to cater to their Western clientele.
Others sell local treats like BBQ chicken, young papaya salad, sausages and desserts.

The choice of street food in Krabi is endless and best of all, cheap and delicious!