Saturday, February 28, 2009

AI2009: Missing the WOW factor

So I've been chatting with a few friends about this year's American Idol. I know I said I'm never watching again after last year's fiasco, but everyone says that, that's why the show's still doing so well after what, 8 years?

Well, we've seen 24 of the top 36 and I'm --- underwhelmed. There's just no WOW factor. From last week, I liked Ricky Braddy, who didn't make it, and this week, I liked Kris Allen, who did make it. Kris gave me a little of the Jason Castro vibe that had me so invested last year, but no one, no one came even close to making me stop on my tracks and just stare at the TV, mesmerised, the way the Dreaded One did when he came out of nowhere and sang this.



There's a serenity about Jason that I hope stays with him forever in this tough industry. It's like light shines from his angelic face --- maybe this video will explain why.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Maslenitsa: Hello Spring!



Although I don't see any sign that Spring is here (temperature is still minus Celsius!), this week is Maslenitsa or Pancake Week, a Russian tradition celebrating the ending of winter and the coming of spring. In Sean's class, they ate pancakes or Bliny (which symbolise the sun), made masks and were allowed to have a snowball fight outside. 

Maslenitsa has pagan and Christian origin; from Wikipedia:
"The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny (Russian pancakes), popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition: butter, eggs, and milk.

Maslenitsa also includes masquerades, snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity: one day for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.

As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blintzes are also thrown on the fire, and Lady Maslenitsa's ashes are buried in the snow (to "fertilize the crops")."


In school this afternoon, they burnt Lady Maslenitsa, to the delight of the kids there.


Spring, you've got your sacrifice, you'd better arrive tomorrow!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

February fun with friends

Last week was February break. The boys spent the first two days recovering from a cold and I spent the rest of the week (till now) feeling downright lousy with bad throat, blocked nose, achy head and body, the works. But I did make time on Friday to take the boys out to meet my Thai friend May and her boys, Kant and Krit, who are Brian's schoolmates.

We first headed for Megamall to ice-skate, well, we the mummies didn't ice-skatelah. The boys did. And they had a great time. Krit was the best skater of all but Brian didn't do too badly. Sean's still feeling his way, hence the extra padding I made him wear with his snowpants and winter jacket.

 

An hour's worth of skating cost 100R per child (about S$5-$6) and kids under 7 go in free. Rental of ice-skates is free, but a deposit of 1000R is required. Extremely reasonable for an hour of fun.

After skating, we hung out at May's place. She has a HUGE outdoor refrigerator, a natural one too, electricity plug not required. Here's the bottle of Pepsi we had just bought placed right outside her house.



The boys mucked around for more than an hour outside, sliding, throwing snowballs and having a great time.



If I photoshopped the houses behind, this will look like they're on a mountain-climbing expedition.


The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Wii...


...and watching Pokemon Spoof etc on the internet. Not quite sure what they were up to actually, May and I were downstairs the entire time.


I like this picture of the 4 boys. They get along swell; May and I think we should go on a holiday together, now it's a matter of convincing the husbands.


Left after a sumptuous dinner of tod mun pla (thai fish cake), squids and tomyamgoong. An authentic Thai dinner to end a day we all enjoyed thoroughly. Ahhhh...lovely.



Area, Volume and Dimensions

Last night, Eddie and I were both lying on the boys' bed just before bedtime. Sean was with us.

He was obviously in a mood to poke fun at Ed's girth:

Here's one way to explain Volume.

Daddy takes up a lot of volume in the house.

I don't take up any volume at all, I only take up area. I'm so thin that I am in a 2-dimensional world.

Actually, daddy doesn't take up any volume. He's so fat he burst into the 4th dimension.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Guilt-free mummies Unite!

Thanks Monica for this excellent post. It was just what I needed. Was beginning to feel guilt creeping up on me...

- for spending my weekends playing consecutive rounds of mahjong till Sean has to come and ask when dinner will be ready...
- when like Brian did some years ago, Sean is now saying I like using my computer more than spending time with them (pain! pain! it's like he's stabbing my heart! the little imp!)...I pretend to bawl and he concedes (not very convincingly), okay you like spending time with us more...
- for not getting back on track with doing academic work with the kids cos was too hooked on a silly spongebob squarepants pacman-like game. So hooked I couldn't blog for weeks; I'm over that now, thank God!
- for spending all my other spare time working on Killer Sudoku instead of chatting or reading with the kids.

Yes yes, it's all about Me! Me! Me! But by being selfish and taking care of ourselves first, we then have the capacity to be selfless and take care of others better. Happy Mum = Happy Kids.

When I was working, SAHMs would tell me I have it good, get to escape from the kids when I go to the office, and how hard being a SAHM was. But when I became a SAHM, I couldn't be more relieved. Some women feel they need to justify their existence by bigging up their role, if you're ready to flame me, then I'm not talking about you lah, why so sensitive! haha (Mon, I hate confrontation and deal with it through avoidance).

Case in point; my friend, really funny lady, would leave her vacuuming and household chores till the end of the day when her husband got back from work, so he'll see how much work she's doing. The rest of the day, we're hanging out in her kitchen, eating and chatting or having coffee at the mall! She does this so her husband will appreciate her more.

I know different people have different circumstances so I'm only speaking for myself. Being a SAHM is the easiest job in the world, these two monkeys give me so much joy and laughter no money in the world can buy; plus I don't feel like I'm giving up anything to be a SAHM. My friends tell me I should emphasise to the boys how much I am sacrificing to be at home with them. But that would be lying, I'm staying home with them because I want to, I'm doing this for Me! They give me more than I could ever give them.

I may jest about the antics my kids get up to (and Sean gets up to many!) but you'll hardly hear me complaining about how difficult it is to be a mom. To me, it just isn't.

I'm not saying I have a charmed life and nothing is difficult. I just don't make things more difficult than it should be. If the laundry piles up, so be it; it will get done, if not today, then tomorrow. If not by me, then by my husband :) If the house gets messy, plan for guests to come by and that will surely motivate me to start tidying up, with help of course (Sean btw is excellent in tidying up, he's my champion, mwak! love you sweetheart!). If we're late getting home and it's past bedtime, then forget about showering, that can wait for morning. It doesn't have to get stressful.

I have utmost admiration for women who have it all; a permanently sparkling kitchen, dust-free home, polite and intelligent children, loving and successful husband, a kind and generous personality. But I'm not gonna beat myself just cos I'm not one of these women. I'm just here for the ride, and being a mum has been like a joyride so far...wheeee...let's just enjoy ourselves and our kids and our time with them...entirely guilt-free!

Monday, February 23, 2009

8 Oscars!...

...for Slumdog Millionaire which I posted about last December, including Best Director and Best Picture.

So glad it won over Curious Case of Benjamin Button which I found to be such a bore.

And Sean Penn Best Actor for Milk whooot! I'm not a Penn fan, find him a bit of an over-actor (his turn in I am Sam made me cringe)...but he was excellent in Milk. Milk is a must-watch too, look out for James Franco in this show, this guy is gorgeous AND can act too.

Too bad Robert Downey Jr didn't win for Tropic Thunder hehe. Loved Tropic Thunder, my kind of humour.

You have my 3 movie recommendations, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and Tropic Thunder. Go watch them if you haven't already.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Ego has landed!

I enter the room and catch Sean typing these words onto google search: 

the great sean




KK 2009: Final pictures

*Pictures from Jan 2009

Just a few miscellaneous pictures I took. Can anyone find Cherry Fanta anymore these days? I know I haven't seen Cherry Fanta, my favourite soft drink when I was young, in Malaysia or Singapore for a very long time. Then I saw them being sold at Giant in KK! They were significantly pricier than other soft drinks though. Still as good as I remembered.
 

This is where my MIL does her marketing. This picture shows about 1/3 to 1/2 of the market. You get really fresh poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits here. And tiny red chubby cili padis, power! I love buying those really tiny bananas (pisang emas) which are super-sweet, Sean loves them too. I buy a big bunch every time I was here (which was almost every day). This is also where my MIL buys the corn-fed yellow-skin chicken, but you've gotta go to the right stall to get the freshest ones.
 

We passed this road on our way to breakfast one morning and all was fine. An hour later, when we passed this road again on our way home, we see this bent lamp post. Like that also can!
 

What can I say, Malaysia BOLEH!
 

Till my next KK trip, that's all I have of the Land Below the Wind.

KK 2009: Diamond in the rough

*Picture from Jan 2009

Now being the cheapo I am, I just lurve this next restaurant, a true diamond in the rough. The name is Diamond Restaurant and it's located maybe 5 minutes drive from the waterfront/city area in a suburb called Luyang. The restaurant is really, really dated and looks like it hasn't been refurbished in 30 years at least. But who cares when the food is this good AND CHEAP!!



This is the signature dish, a kingto pork-rib dish. My Canon point-and-shoot has really sucky performance on low lighting, so sorry about these crappy pictures.
 

Kungpo Prawns
 

Dou Miao


Sambal kangkung
 

Sweetsour pork
 

And I think there was another egg or tofu dish for Sean. Guess how much the bill was (it was us and my MIL so 3A2C); RM60!! Drinks included!! And the food was good too. If it were cheap but crappy, I wouldn't be raving about it. This is a hidden gem though I did see a Caucasian woman come by to pick up her order of porkribs.

Of course, you have to have a cold heart to eat when you're being stared at by all these creatures in the tanks right behind you.

Don't the prawns look like they're begging to be released. When there's an order of prawns, the waiter actually gets a net and sieves the prawns up...the boys watched, absolutely fascinated. I put on my best petrified-prawn voice, going, "Noooo, not meeee, ppppplease....." Seriously, it was as if the prawns knew they would meet their demise soon, they'd be jumping up and down right after a net of prawns is taken away, before calming down again. Really strange.
 

I have no idea why these fish kept going towards one corner. They were like this for a very long time, Sean had to go right up to look at them. I told the boys they were trying to watch TV.

KK 2009: Ocean Seafood, Api2 Centre

*Pictures from Jan 2009

We were back for only 8 days and didn't patronise many restaurants. At least 2 or 3 nights, we had home-cooked food, which I much prefer but gotta give MIL a break some days lah since I don't help at all. Ocean Seafood, a Halal restaurant located next to Promenade Hotel along KK waterfront, was one of the places we did go to.

We had dinner with SIL2 and SIL5 (youngest) in this newly-renovated restaurant one evening. We liked everything we ordered so if you're ever in KK, do give this place a try. This is SIL5's daughter and SIL2's son with Brian at the restaurant.


The restaurant is spacious but just as large was the back of the restaurant which houses tanks after tanks after tanks of seafood. The photos I took below don't cover the entire area!

 
 
 

See this little bugger here. She costs a hefty RM380 per kg (or something like that I forget). Told you guys KK is not cheap. The one we ordered was RM250 per kg I think. Still pricey, to me. But very sweet, meaty yet succulent.



The other dishes were pretty reasonable though, eg a plate of chilli clams was about RM30. So if you don't wanna burn a hole in your pocket, just order the fixed-priced dishes on the menu and forget about picking seafood from the tanks BUT if you feel like splurging, the seafood's really, really good. Oh, and avoid the other much-hyped Portview Restaurant along the same waterfront, truly overpriced and food is barely so-so. It'll be Ocean Seafood again for me the next time I'm in KK.

Friday, February 20, 2009

KK 2009: Tea Time!

*Pictures from Jan 2009

KK-ites take their Tea Time seriously, maybe even more so than the English! I say this cos I notice coffee shops are busiest around 330-5pm. I was puzzled at first, cos don't people need to work? There's no tea time culture where I'm from in Malacca. Often, we are so stuffed when we have tea in KK that our dinner is completely spoiled.

I think all KK-ites will know this place. It's my favourite Tea Time coffeeshop, in Damai. This picture was taken at about 130pm, before peak period. The fella who prepares coffee/tea does it solo! He's paid a handsome salary by Malaysian-standards to do this, cos the orders come fast and furious. This shop is also famous for its kaya toast; you can have it toasted...but I prefer having the bread untoasted, cos its just so soft and delicious the way it is. I found someone who blogged about this place and there are photos of the soft, fluffy, bread here ooooh...

 

What we pack back home on a daily basis. S.I.N.F.U.L.!!
 

My favourite kind of nasi lemak, simple no-frills.
 

The meesiam is so fragrant too, but I think the standard has dropped from past years. In the past, I could eat 4 packs of these at a go.
 

I'm a sucker for economical beehoon, and this shop sells really delicious "keng chai mai fun". Only RM1 a pack without adding any stuff. You can opt to add curry taufu, and lots of other stuff, which Eddie and his sisters like to do. I like mine plain, so only RM1 :)
 

Fried mee and chicken wings are good too. Just across this shop though, a few Malay boys set up stall at 2pm everyday, selling bbq chicken wings which are ooooh so fantastic, forgot to take pictures, I usually start eating them in the car on the way home!
 

I have Iced Teh C for tea every day, this shop makes really kick-a$$ drinks! I'm craving for a sip of Iced Teh C right now.



Lest I give the impression that food is cheap in KK from the RM1 beehoon, I have to emphasise KK food is bloody expensive! Even more so than KL. Drinks in particular are really pricey. A bowl of kueyteow for breakfast costs about RM6-7!! In my beloved Malacca, I can have breakfast for RM3-4, drinks included. Not knocking KK or anything, the food is delicious, but coffeeshop prices are outrageous. Restaurant-pricing is actually more reasonable...will recommend a couple of restaurants later.

KK 2009: Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

*Pictures from Jan 2009

One of my sisters-in-law works at a tour agency and she recommended some day trips to us. An interesting one to me was a river cruise to see Proboscis Monkeys, there are apparently hundreds of them as you cruise by. But we would need to drive a few hours to get to the start of the river cruise, so that was no go by Eddie...I wasn't that keen for the long road journey either.

She then arranged for the group of us, 3 families, to go to an island and spend the day there. That sounded fun for everyone. Bummer, the morning of the island trip, the weather was really bad. Eddie called his sister at 7am to cancel the trip, fearing the waters would be too choppy. We bailed out too early cos by 930am, the weather cleared up and it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

So we ended up taking the boys and their cousins to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, about 15km from KK town centre.




Sean wouldn't go on the elephant ride. Instead of 21kg Sean, these two big buffalos went on the poor little elephant. I'm sure I heard the elephant groan.


I may be wrong, but I don't think there are any animals here that can't be found at Singapore's zoo...but Borneo is home to the Proboscis Monkey. This is one ugly fella. Very ya-ya looking too.


We thoroughly enjoyed the animal show, very good emcee, English-speaking of course, so no worries there. Many of the performing animals were actually rescued from homes of idiots who think nothing of keeping endangered animals as pets.

First up was a coconut-opening competition between this orangutan and...


...this chap from Hongkong.


No prizes for guessing who won easily.

When the emcee asked for another volunteer, Brian eagerly raised his hands. His task was to prevent the macaw from finding something (can't remember what) under the bowls. He had to switch the bowls around.


Full concentration! And of course, the macaw managed to find that something despite Brian's best attempt at switching the bowls around.


More pictures from the animal show. This bird was flying above us swooping food thrown at it from 50 metres away.


This orangutan performed some nifty moves.


A little snake, also rescued or abandoned (I can't remember now, it's been many weeks.) The wonderful emcee, who persuaded the audience to try stroking the snake, assuring us that contrary to what we think, it's not cold and clammy at all.


The older boys went straight for the snake at the end of the show.


Ever cautious Sean surprised me by touching the snake too. A first for him, definitely.


Lok Kawi is a fairly new park but don't expect Singapore Zoo standards. Already, there are signs of poor maintenance...it's also a pretty small park. But if going there helps the upkeep of these endangered animals, visitors to KK should consider this for a half-day tour.