Wednesday 25 January 2012

CNY celebrations

It's the fourth day of the Chinese New Year and we're finally back at work. The celebrations, however, will go on for another 11 days. We've already had several rounds of reunion meals, yu-sheng tossings, steamboat dinners and a picnic. There are a few more gatherings to attend this weekend.

The feasting began last Saturday with CH's family. Everyone cooked something. I made eight-treasure duck and pomelo salad.

There were lots to eat. One brother made a sea cucumber dish and steamed chicken while another made wasabi prawns.

His sister took care of the traditional Hakka dishes like yong tau foo and abacus seeds.

Everyone gathered around the table and tossed yu-sheng for prosperity.

The next day, we had reunion dinner at my parent's home where we tossed yu-sheng again. We all love this annual tradition. Yu-sheng is so yummy, even our dog enjoys it.

My brother prepared lots of food - curry chicken, dried bamboo shoot, chap chai, sea cucumber, char sao pork and lotus root soup. I made Teochew braised duck while mum cooked noodles (for longetivity) and 2 vegetable dishes. Dad's contribution was a huge steamed garoupa fish (for abundance).

On the first day of the Chinese New Year, it is a tradition to visit our parents. Everyone turned up in the morning wearing auspicious colours.

My nieces receiving hongbaos.

Even I made it a point to wear a red top.

Pretty fan made by my sis-in-law.

After all the feasting and visiting, it was nice to spend a relaxing day with friends at Botanic Gardens the next day.

For a change, we ate simple food like sandwiches, fruits and cheese.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Rainbows and puppies

I love going back to my parents' place in the West. They get some of the most gorgeous sunsets. Yesterday, we saw a double-rainbow stretching across the sky in a continuous arc.

It was so awesome that everyone stopped along the road to take photos.

The fact that we were traveling along the country road made the rainbow look even more majestic amidst the greenery. The air was clean and so fresh after the rain and the sun was still shining at almost 7pm in the evening.

When we got out of the car to take photos of the rainbow, a white puppy that belongs to the farm ran towards us for some cuddles. I wish we could bring it home!
LinkIn case you have room for a puppy, do consider adopting this other one. It's currently living in a construction site and my friend is hoping someone could adopt him. Read the entire story here.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Chinese New Year

When it comes to Chinese New Year, I'm quite a stickler for tradition. I spent the past week baking cookies, cleaning house, buying festive goodies, preparing hong paos and visiting Chinatown.

Even though I didn't buy much at the festive market, just being there put me in a festive mood. Everything on sale is in bright colours.

Chinese New Year is also the time to meet up with family and friends. This week, I had lunch with my good friend EE and her daughter EH (who is my god-daughter). EH has grown so much since I last saw her!

The feasting will start tomorrow. We have a reunion lunch and dinner to attend and I'm making duck for both occasions. I have two whole ducks marinating in the fridge right now and a whole lot of cooking to do this weekend.

It's probably the best time to start running again.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

My super mom

I know there are many teenagers who dislike their parents.

"I hope you don't hate me.", I tell my sons. They have no reason to dislike me. I am so good to them.

My kids find it hard to believe when I told them that I didn't like my parents very much when I was a teenager. I was rebellious, disliked rules and being told what to do. But now that I'm all grown up, the love for my parents is so great that sometimes I feel my heart could burst. I often wish they are immortal.

Now, my mom is like a friend and I really enjoy chatting with her. Unfortunately her energy level is not so high lately, even talking tires her out. Last weekend, she spoke about my infanthood and how she came home from work one evening to see my granny's worried face.

Apparently I was running a temperature and had not woken up all day. She rushed to the cot to find my body burning hot. Without even putting down her handbag, she grabbed me and ran barefooted to the neighbour's house about 15 minutes away to seek help. My dad wasn't home and there was no way to reach him (no mobile phones then). Luckily my neighhbour drove us in his rickety truck to the nearest clinic about an hour away.

According to the doctor, I was on the verge of suffering from fits or seizure. Mom said she was frantic and would do anything to save her child. Thank goodness I turned out fine. Maybe my brain was slightly damaged because I always wonder why I'm not as smart as my brothers.

Yesterday I visited mom at home and I could see that she enjoys my visits. When she was my age, everyone complimented on her energy and youthful look. Even now in her 70s, she has a soft, sweet voice of a young girl. To me, she looks like a delicate girl with soft white hair, instead of an old lady.

Luckily the brain tumor did not affect her wit and intelligence. She's quick-witted and her memory is sharp as ever. The only thing I miss are her quick steps. Her movements have slowed down tremendously and her gait is unsteady.

I almost cried when she told me about a near accident recently. After visiting the doctor, the maid and her were at the pedestrian crossing, waiting to cross the road. The traffic light must have been faulty because the 'green man' didn't appear after a very long wait. When other people started crossing the road, they decided to follow suit.

While they were making their way across the road, the stationary cars started moving and blasting their horns. Poor mom was so nervous, she froze in the middle of the road amidst the moving cars. Nobody gave way to an unsteady old lady! She was so shaken up by the incident that she couldn't sleep that night.

Even when recalling the incident, she sounded traumatised. I remember how she used to hold my hand to lead me across the road when I was young. She was my super mom. Now she has lost that confidence. How I wish I were there to protect her instead.

Monday 16 January 2012

Here's Rusty again

Rusty has such a happy face, we look forward to going home after a long day of work or school just to hear the pitter patter of his feet behind the main door. Having a dog is just so rewarding.

Thursday 12 January 2012

New beginnings

Just look at Rusty! I wish I could relax like him all day.

Work has been really stressful lately. 2011 was not a very good year for our industry but luckily we had several projects to keep us going. Well, those were the same projects that kept me awake on many nights. As they spill into this year, I am still having sleepless nights.

I am not complaining really as it means we have work to do. On the homefront, there are several milestones. SK did well for his GCE O Levels and will be pursuing his studies. YK is preparing for enlistment in the army and also checking out his options for university education.

As for me, I had a haircut. It has been years since I had a real haircut. I was sad to see inches of my hair being snipped off but my head feels lighter now.

Chinese New Year is just days away and I am not at all prepared. The house is messy and the rug needs to be dry-cleaned. I'm going to make the kids tidy up their rooms while I tackle the rest of the house. Hmmm, I wonder if there is time for me to make pineapple tarts and cookies?

Monday 9 January 2012

Kinabalu Park - Mesilau Trail

The last time we went to Kinabalu Park was 7 years ago, when SK was still young. I remember it was rainy season and the ground was wet and soggy.

Now that SK is older and has developed an interest in plants, we decided to make a trip to look for the largest pitcher plants in the world - the Nepenthes Rajah. The wet season should have been over by now but still there were a couple of rainy days during our trip.

Thank goodness the weather was perfect when we arrived at Kinabalu Park entrance after a 2-hour drive from the city.

At 1,500m above sea level, the air was chilly and misty. This is the starting point of the trek for most visitors. We had done this before, so we opted for the Mesilau trail which is rich in plants and wildlife.

We hopped into the coach for a drive up to the Mesilau Gate at 2,000m above sea level.

This trail was opened to the public in Oct 1998 initially for scientists and researchers. We had to register and pay a fee at the Mesilau Gate. Besides, we had to engage a guide who specialises in plants to bring us in.

Indeed, there are lots of fascinating plants and trees covered in spongy mosses and liverworts along the trail.

Some of the common plants here include the wild peony and begonia.

We crossed a hanging bridge which overlooks the Mesilau River.

The terrain on the other side is completely different. From here, the trail follows the ridge, rising steeply, up and up in a series of steps.

That was when we saw the first pitcher but not that of the Nepenthes Rajah.

Then we stumbled upon the Rajah!

And our guide spotted even larger pitchers.

So large that my head could almost fit into a pitcher. The largest pitchers can hold up to 3.5 litres of water!

The fine weather was threatened by a thick cloud moving in our direction. We had to descend quickly before the swirling clouds obstruct our visibility.

Going downhill is always more challenging. One slip will send you tumbling down into the gorge below.

SK was still shooting away on the way down.

The attraction of the orchids and wild flowers was too strong to resist.

We managed to leave Mesilau before the rain came. By the time we got down to the Kinabalu Park entrance, the buildings were shrouded in mist.

We took a short tour around the Botanic Garden and left Kinabalu Park with fond memories.

On the way back, we stopped by some roadside fruit and vegetable stalls.

Some of the local fruits in season include rambutan, langsat, mangosteen and chiku.

We tried the strange looking fruit called Talap and an unusual looking 'mata kuching' with scaly skin.

I spotted the edible fern and wished I could buy some home.

Most of the local farmers grow cabbage, cauliflower and bak choy.

They're famous for the local honey too.

Everything grows better in the cool environment. Just look at the size of the amaryllis flowers!

Chowmahalla Palace

During our week in Hyderabad, some of the places we visited include the Mecca Mosque, the Charminar (the icon of Hyderabad), Sufi Shrine, Bi...