Saturday, February 27, 2010

chinese valentine's

Since tomorrow is Chap Goh Mei, I'm reminded of Valentine's last year.

I still remember that cold Winter day when Johann and I sat on a park bench in Yoyogi Koen, trying to make sense of what had just happened. The dark skinny trees and fallen leaves were no comfort, neither was the biting wind.

It seemed like everything else had fallen apart around us, 2 gaijins trying to make an honest living with a company feeling the effects from the global economic downturn.

Between then and now, so many things have happened. What a contrast that day was compared to where I am 1 year later. It's scorching hot in the tropics, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. So bad I almost forget how winter feels like. I'd give anything to be transported back to the white snowy mountains of Niigata.

Those few remaining months in Japan and the various trips were the highlights of last year, I would have never had the time of my life if not for family and friends who have been so supportive. You may not realise it, but your every little actions and thoughts mean a lot to me. Love you all! 仲良し(*・∀・)/♡\(・∀・*)だよ

Monday, February 22, 2010

pearl of the orient p2

When Sookie found out I was going to visit her in Penang, she said she'd treat me to a belated birthday gift - a visit to the spa! I told her that was just what I needed. I had just survived my 2nd week at work, and I haven't had such a treat ever since I left Malaysia!

According to Sookie, Penang's answer to nature-inspired spa is probably the closest they have to the Cyberview Lodge Sembunyi Spa. Danai Spa is tucked in a little corner amongst grand bungalows in Tanjung Bungah, but unfortunately a newly-build hotel blocked the view of the sea.

So on a hot Saturday afternoon, even before I had a chance to rest my feet at her apartment, she whisked me away for a grrlie treat. We reached there slightly earlier so that we could enjoy the facilities before the massage.

We had our feet washed before walking through the wading pool on the way to the jacuzzi. This may not be as classy as Sembunyi, but they do make the effort in making it as cosy as the surroundings would allow.

There are separate pools at the back of the bungalow which faces the sea, and it would have been quite a tropical retreat if not for the hotel in front. I remember being in a jacuzzi in Niigata with another onsen-lover and she said it's good to let the gush of bubbles tone up the butt!

We were quite reluctant to get out of the pool, if not for the full body massage that awaited us. So we quickly sipped the complimentary ginger tea and made our way back inside the bungalow.

This was all that I could take of the dimmed room before leaving the camera aside as I allowed the masseuse to work her magic on my tired muscles.

Even though we were in the same room, we didn't talk much. It was either the soothing music had a calming effect, or we were too much in pain to say anything! We took the Danai Signature Massage which was a combination of Swedish, Japanese and Indonesian techniques. I was quite proud of myself that I didn't start giggling when the masseuse massaged my abdomen.

I was so grateful for the whole experience; if I had such a treat every weekend I'd happily work with whatever stress may come because I would have something to look forward to at the end of it.

In fact, if every weekend was filled with such glorious food and pampering, that would be the cure to all stresses!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

pearl of the orient p1

Not too long after Satria's wedding in Jakarta, I had to miss Cherry's in Laos, so I decided I shouldn't miss Ying's in Penang. After all, it's much nearer and Laiying was going back to her hometown that weekend. It's been a decade and a half since I left the Pearl of the Orient, and I've only been back there once since then.

Ying had just returned to Malaysia after completing her PhD in Japan, and some of our mutual friends would be attending the wedding too. I thought I could kill many (4 to be precise) birds with one stone. Wedding + reunion + catch up with MMU friends + a walk down memory lane.

The logistics proved to be a bit tricky because Laiying's house is in Nibong Tebal, whereas the wedding was held in Bukit Mertajam and the friends I wanted to catch up with were all on the island side of the state.  And I only had a weekend to do all of the above!

On the way there, our car stopped by at Bidor to have lunch. We couldn't get a place at the famous duck thigh noodle restaurant, so we had to settle for these local specialties instead.

Clockwise from top left : curry chicken bun, nyonya nasi lemak, Pun Chun's famous woo kok (roasted pork-filled mashed yam dumplings, deep fried) and cheesy curry chicken rice

We even bought additional snacks which can only be found in Bidor. (Well, these black sesame chicken biscuits, and others, can be bought in KL, but it just doesn't feel the same!)

We even had a chance to see how they made these crunchy biscuits. So this is how they look like before they're baked.

It was really nice staying with the Leong's; they were so welcoming! We had dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town and had an equivalent of a feast.

Laiying and I talked about differences between urban and rural families. She pointed how in our increasingly harried lifestyles in the cities we all have our own lives and do not come together as a family to eat as often as those who live outside the city.

I didn't notice this even though through my dad's work we've lived in big cities and small towns all over the country. I guess it says something of the fast growth of development we have had since our Independence 50+ years ago, and in our haste to bring ourselves up to par with developed nations, we have somehow abandoned values that has shaped us as a nation.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

virtual memories

That's it. I've taken out my previous commenting app. It's like cutting my own arm off. (T.T)

It served its purpose but since it automatically got migrated to Echo which is only free for awhile, I decided I might as well go back to Blogger's own commenting system.

Well, maybe cutting my arm off was too dramatic an analogy, but still, all those years of comments... gone!

While I was at it, I decided to change the colours to a more spring-based palette. And I'll add this butterfly for good measure. It was my first butterfly earring, but I had accidentally dropped it, and its wings were clipped off. Even after trying to glue it back, it was still very flimsy (the injured not shown here).

Oh well, butterflies to look forward to spring. I know, I'm not even in a four-season country anymore, but it's still nice to have something at the back of my mind. These days it's been so hot I've forgotten how winter feels like anymore!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

cny cupcakes

Secret Recipe has taken cakes to another level with these designer cupcakes for the festive celebrations.

We got them after a sumptuous CNY lunch at Uncle Tony's home. (I must do justice to my Hainanese blood to cook better)

The cupcakes look too nice to be eaten. In fact, my dad asked if the top could be eaten.

Sure enough, the marzipan was edible, and sweet. The top opens up to reveal vanilla and chocolate cupcakes topped with fresh cream. (Taking a picture of the inside may spoil the surprise)

They have done a good job in packaging these little cakes that are easy to be shared around, but I think nothing beats home-baked goodies. But then, who am I to say, I can't bake to save my life!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

home for cny

Happy Chinese New Year & Happy Valentine's :) Hope it's not too late to wish, but spring cleaning and feasting are on top of the priority these days.

This is my first since I got back to Malaysia, my last one was probably 3 years ago. Back then, my paternal grandparents' house in Puchong was so tiny we didn't even have enough standing room! My dad's side with his 7~ siblings and all the cousins and grandchildren would make their way to this apartment every year without fail for a great time of reunion. Save for the eldest Aunt's family who's settled in Kuantan.

Few years ago, Granma Lee was invited to move in with my youngest uncle and his wife so they could take better care of her. Their house is not considered big, but its space sure is a stark contrast to the cramped but merry little space we had back then.

When I attended my cousins' weddings last year, I managed to catch up with some of my relatives. The little kids aren't that little anymore, in fact the boys are almost the same height or taller than me. Some of the older cousins have gone overseas, whereas I have returned. The different seasons in each reminds me how time flies indeed.

Even though the maternal side of the family is less than half the size of the paternal, the family members have grown with cousin Leigh's 2 kids. I miss Granma Wong and her cooking during this time of the year; and even though I never got to say goodbye to her, her legacy remains with us. Even the picture of her in my oldest uncle's house immortalised that Hainanese beauty in her. 

It's always interesting to see which facial features are inherited by which child in the family. Some are obvious just by looking at them; whereas personalities are more difficult to tell first glance. I'd like to think that usually it's the best features that get passed down; either that or people nowadays take great care in how they eat, behave and dress up!

Anyways, times like these are opportunities to catch up with relatives and friends whom we don't get to see other times of the year; in my case, trying to remember what titles by which the older relatives are called in Mandarin and Cantonese lest I incur their wrath and not receive that red packet >.<

Friday, February 12, 2010

ginger ale kit kats

I do not have a sweet tooth, but looking at the amazing variety that Kit Kat Japan manufactures, I wouldn't mind getting a toothache just trying out their many different flavours.

Knowing that Yuri would visit again, I ordered some funky Kit Kat's from her. She brought a lot of summer/autumn flavours for me to try. Yumz!

Even though other countries such as the UK and France have four seasons, they do not have as many varieties as the Japanese do.

I've tried the ジンジャーエール味 (ginger ale) which was quite true to its flavour. Somewhat tangy and slightly carbonated if I may add, it's like consuming ginger ale in solid form! This must have been one of the last few from the summer series.

This should be an interesting one, 充実野菜, which directly translated means complete/perfect vegetables. I think it means this is equivalent to eating vegetables; it contains flavourings of the following vege/fruit : apple, carrot, grapes, lemon, celery, capsicum, asparagus, cabbage, angelica, kale, rape, parsley, spinach, radish

The Ito En brand produces the Juujitsu Yasai series of vegetable juice which can be easily found in 100yen shops and supermarkets. I'm not too sure of its vegetable content, but the colour of the juices are pretty intense themselves!

The 黄な粉おはぎ味 is supposed to taste like a rice ball coated with sweetened red beans. Yup, that perennial favourite - the mochi. So if I can't have mochi now, the closest I'll get will be this one from Kit Kat!

Monday, February 08, 2010

unexpected goodies

Over the long weekend, Butterfly's company A had a CNY dinner. She went alone. She didn't know she'd be the odd one out like that.

Apparently, most of the people in A work in bigger teams than Butterfly, whereas she work with A's big sister company, A1, which is the world's leading consulting company. Her team consists of an A1 project manager and another A1 colleague. So she had the best of both worlds, somewhat.

A1 is known to have no work-life balance whatsoever, and there are people who's sold their souls to A1. And for better or worse, they're okay with that.

Whereas, since A is like the little sister, they don't get all the stresses that comes with A1. Some people have even left A1 to work with A just because it's not so krazy here.

So that night at Xenri, as Butterfly was mingling with her fellow comrades whom she have never met before, just because they're all on projects and not based at our office, she realised perhaps it's true after all, that people at A are more relaxed and not high-strung as those in A1.

After feasting on Japanese food, it was time for lucky draws. Everyone went home with a prize, and Butterfly won herself one of the top prizes! Butterfly told them, if this is what they get at every dinner event then she'd wanna join them too.

They also had group games, and Butterfly's group won the first prize! She didn't know if this would come in handy since she's fine with watching movies on her trusty laptop.

Not bad eh, for someone who didn't know anyone in the first place, to be getting so many goodies at the end of the night. Butterfly even got herself 2 guys fighting to get her into their projects.

But that's because Butterfly told them she was supposed to be rolling off this current project by end March, and she did purposely make it sound as if the client might want her there instead so they'd better get her on board theirs soon!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

halo, are you out there?

Darn. Haloscan is dying on me. In fact, it will shut down in about 2 days' time and I have to go back to Blogger's own commenting board. Argh. And lose all those lovely comments you peeps have left here throughout the years.

(Sorry if I haven't replied to any of your comments lately, I felt like it would be futile...)

According to Haloscan, I have 2,611 comments and I can either import them or migrate over to another system.

At the moment there is no Haloscan comment importer for any of the popular platforms but they expect that "some will emerge soon". How soon, I don't know.

If I migrate to Echo, the trial will only last me a month and then I have to start paying.

I'm in a lose-lose situation, and delaying the decision ain't gonna solve things. I wish I can close my eyes real hard, and when I open them a solution will somehow appear!

Anyways. can you all from now on please comment on my Blogger commenting system instead. I'm quite sure I have it enabled even before this, but I can't seem to see it from my side. Thanks :)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

interesting textures

Last week was the peak of all the LT visits. A couple of Leadership Teams were in KL for high-level discussions and to see the mass interviews that were being held for our new Centre.

We also played host to various hiring managers from the respective centres who flew down from UK and US, with our recruiters making full use of their time by cramming as many as 60+ interviews in a span of 2-3 weeks.

As many as 5 different teams came during that period. We had more than double the number of visitors of the previous LT visit. Thus it was befitting to have a group dinner just before the long weekend.

Usually they would have their own dinners, after-dinner drinks and local tours, but this time they invited us. We helped them choose the Bangsar Seafood Garden out of a list of recommended restaurants which were the closest to our office.

Since BSG offered some New Year Promotion, we decided to share with them a little of the Chinese culture in Malaysia. We took Set Menu C which was neither too expensive nor the least pricey.

Our visitors seemed to be amused by the Lou Sang ritual as we all stood up, tossed the Snow Pear Salmon Yee Sang and made a mess of the table, making wishes for the New Year.

Overall, the food wasn't that great. Maybe because their specialty dishes like the crabs were not in the menu.

We certainly could tell how much they liked the food because when I asked the Manager sitting next to me what he thought of the Double Boiled Soup with Chicken and Dried Seafood (which I lurved!) and the Chilled Lin Chee Kang with Pearl Jelly, he replied, while slowly sipping, that they both had "interesting textures"!