Saturday, December 31, 2005

on the 365th day


Oh dear, is it 2006 already? Damn! Where did year go?


Hmmm... did I do everything I'd wanted to do this year? I can't seem to remember if I've set out any goals, too busy trying to stay... well, busy. What did I do this year that stood out? What happened? Why can't I recall the details? Everything's such a blur...


Changed jobs, yes... big holiday, yes... finally started biking... met up with some old friends... and oh yes, started blogging! Made a few new chums in blogsphere (yes, that means you). It's a true eye opener, reading other people's thoughts, opinions, reflections, little secrets that wouldn't be revealed to anyone else except total strangers.


I didn't go for a dive trip, I do miss that. The sights of colourful life underwater, the gentle swim of the giant turtles, playful anemone fish amongst the sacs of soft coral, skilful navigation of the reef sharks, the awe of watching schools of barracuda swimming against the currents. The sounds of bubbles, cracks, mechanical breathing underwater. The feeling of weightlessness, floating, a small insignificant creature in the vast ocean.


Some things are yet to be done though. I still need to write that article on Serendah for a friend's site, and oh I almost forgot about that piece on Kinabatangan... do I have to do it? Haven't even updated my other site with the latest information either, I'm such a procrastinator. Haven't finished books that I've read halfway, didn't catch movies I'd meant to watch. I guess all could be done in due time, no rush for those. They don't have deadlines.


Personally I've changed quite a bit this year. I can't rightly put my finger on it, but they're there, those changes. Less outdoors, more indoors. Less carefree. More reflections. More battles to fight inside. More tough decisions made. Less of the old me. I'm just... different.


Hey, what's all this "me, myself and I" talk going on here...? Have I really done anything good this year for other people? Did I make a difference in someone's life? Was I kind, helpful, caring, understanding enough? Oh no, too many Is again! Why am I so self-absorbed? Why do I take things for granted?


What about the world? The tsunami victims, the quake and hurricane survivors, the natural disasters, never-ending war? People who have lost their lives, who are fighting for their rights, who are trying to just get through the day? Could I have done something to help them? To make someone feel more comforted, needed, appreciated? Am I doing my part for society and Mother Nature? Could I have done more? Is it too late?


Hang on, I haven't quite finished what I want to do for the year...


No, no, no... wait, WAIT!

HaPpY NeW yEaR!

I hope I did make a difference.
Happy New Year, my dears. xox.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

short takes 28.12.05

It's only 3 days to 2006. I've decided not to make any new-year resolutions, because if there were any to be made at all, I would've done it a long time ago. Besides, why wait till the new year to start one; now's a good time as any.

Managed to do 6.5 things out of my to-do list before the year is out. #6 depends on the Client; chances are it'll be 2006 before we're done. I'm still deciding which pair of shoes to throw out for #7, and only 1 book was finished for #9 (thus the half). #10 is a perpetual task that'll never end.

Finally sold my apartment, though it's less than its worth in today's market. Bad timing, but I didn't want to wait any longer.

My relatives are up from Oz for a short holiday. I feel bad for trying to avoid meeting up with them but I'm not one for small talk. I'll let my parents handle the social obligation ritual.

Yahoo and MSN Messenger decided not to co-exist peacefully anymore in my laptop on the office network. Either one works or the other, not both concurrently. The only time they make peace and are simultaneously online is at home on broadband.

I have a vanilla-scented candle burning in my room at the moment. I adore the smell of vanilla or anything remotely close to it, like Christian Dior's Hypnotic Poison. It's a scent that makes me feel... mmmmmm.

Bought myself a 200GB portable hard disk drive after months of griping about lack of disk space. Now that I have loads to spare, I don't know what to put in it besides my video files and tunes.

I read in some feng shui book that carrying a red canine around with me will be good luck in the Year of the Dog come 2006. Now almost everywhere I go, a miniature Patrick keychain comes along with me.

Sharpening pencils are therapeutic.

I love it when you look me up for a quick chat. I want to hug you but you're so far away.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

boxing day baking binge

I wanted to keep to my promise and bake something nice for my colleagues to munch, and judging from past failures, I decided to make the sticky date pudding for them as a safe bet (since that's already tried and proven to be good).

Since I've done it before, this time it was a breeze... ta-dahhh!

I'll leave it up to my eaters to comment on the taste of it tomorrow when I feed it to them. My folks have had a slice to taste and they gave the thumbs-up, so it should pass my colleagues' fussy taste buds with flying colours. I won't make the butterscotch sauce this time though, a little messy to take along (plus the pudding is way sweet enough without it). Will leave the ice-cream option up to them.

Ok, since it's Christmas and all, I really, really wanted to make these big soft gingerbread cookies. The reviews it received on the All Recipes were nothing but praises, I just had to get my hands dirty and make some for myself.

The recipe is simple enough to follow. However when everything was mixed together, the dough texture wasn't as what I'd expected - really soft, mushy, almost toothpaste-like and you can't shape it into anything let alone use a cookie cutter to make shapes. But hey, 348 reviewers would've said something about it if the recipe was wrong, right?

So anyway, I used a teaspoon and scooped up enough dough to to make a decent-sized cookie (walnut-sized, according to the instructions). Placing them as far apart as I could but still trying to be space efficient, I popped them into the oven to bake.

Oooh, the smell that came out of there was absolutely mouth-watering! The cookies expanded nicely, and as soon as they turned to a deep brown colour I took them out, let them cool for a bit...

Now for the taste and texture test... *bite*...

Yummmmmmmmmm! The taste is just right; not too gingery although if you'd like it a bit more spicy, add more ground ginger. As most reviewers said, it's really sweet so go easy on the sugar if you don't want it giving you toothaches. I've even skipped rolling the dough in sugar before baking.

The texture is crunchy on the outside, nice, soft and chewy on the inside. Just the way a really good cookie should be *grin*!

p.s. Time to go on a diet after all this binging... *sigh*

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

christmas goodies

"Christmas isn't Christmas without presents!"
(Josephine March in Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott)

Lookit what I got!

Thank you all for the lovely gifts, the gloriously delicious food and best of all, your much appreciated company these few days.

Tee hee!

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Friday, December 23, 2005

my wish for you

My dearest reader,

Thank you for coming, be you a first-time visitor or a returning regular. It'll be Christmas in a couple of days, and the New Year is just around the corner. Made a list of resolutions yet?

I've been reflecting on the past year, what has happened, and what has not. Every year I think, "This has got to be the best and funkiest year ever!" This year... no. It's been a hard, long period for me, for a lot of my friends, probably for a lot of you. Many changes, many moves. Tough choices that made us wonder we made the right calls, hard decisions which broke our spirits, yet we've survived through them.

It's been a tough year, hasn't it? It certainly was for me. Looking back at my posts, I'm startled yet not surprised at how erratic my behaviour has been over the last few months. My life this year has been affected not only by my own decisions, but also by the people around me. More and more have moved or are moving away, starting new chapters in their lives. So much movement, so much confusion, heartaches, trials and tribulations faced by my family, my friends, more so myself.

Through it all, there's always someone saying a silent prayer for us, hoping for our sakes that we'd live through it and make us stronger, better. We know for a fact that there's always someone looking out for us. Thank you for looking out for me. I'd like to return that favour to you, who've thought of me, who've given me the encouragement and support through it all. Know that even if you've fleetingly crossed my path, you've made a difference.

So my dears,

This is my wish to you.

I sincerely wish, that no matter what it is that'll make you happy, contented and at peace with yourself...

Be it to pick up the pieces of your life, win the battles that rage within you...

Be it a new beau, someone to love and care for, and someone who'll love you unconditionally in return...

Be it a new job, a new challenge that'll finally get you on your way...

Be it a financial relief from long overdue debts...

Be it a spiritual pilgrimage to find your inner self...

Be it the help from people who are more than willing to get you back on your feet...

Be it better health and recovery from a bad illness...

Be it the completion of a task, a job, a target you had set out to achieve...

Be it the realisation that despite all that's happened, life has more to offer if you open your eyes and your heart to embrace its gift...

Be it the very simple desire to enjoy what you have right now because life couldn't be better for you already...


I wish it would come true for you.

Merry Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

sorry isn't enough

Dearest Mum,

I'm so sorry I didn't make it home on time for dinner.

I woke up this morning feeling a little unwell and had a tinge of heaviness in my heart. Needless to say these sprouted the seeds of moodiness for the rest of the day. I tried cheering up, tried putting in my efforts in working efficiently but the nags of despair seem to have clouded my mind. I couldn't quite concentrate on work, needless to say.

I had problems with arranging a Christmas dinner for the company; I had to see the restaurant supervisor at 8PM to settle the deposit and made sure that they didn't undercut us on what they had promised to serve. I felt a little huffed after all that trouble they'd given us over the past week, so I took a walk around the shopping mall for an hour to ease my mood. Still, while driving home I had this gloomy feeling that wouldn't go away. I sunk lower in my grouchiness.

That doesn't matter now.

I came home, went to the dining room and saw the lovely dinner you had prepared. A shocking realisation dawned on me, Mum dearest. You had told me earlier we're celebrating guo tung (passing of winter) today, because tomorrow we have to go to Aunt C's house for the extended family celebration. I had tears in my eyes and such sorrow in my heart that I totally, totally forgot about tonight's plans. My brothers, dad, aunt and uncles would've all merrily enjoyed your delicious cooking which you've so laboriously prepared. You even made my favourite mushroom and chicken feet dish.

It was all that I could do to not cry when I ate my portion you'd set aside for me. I hope you didn't see the tears I had in my eyes when you helped me clean up the leftovers and washed the dishes. I've been wrapped up so much in my self-pity these days I haven't done much to help clean up the house after the renovations. And to forget a simple yet important thing such as dinner with the family? It was unforgivable.

Oh mum, I don't know how to tell you my problems. I don't want to tell you my problems; I don't want you to worry any more than you already naturally are about me. Your health isn't improving much, and I know you're worried about it being something more serious than expected, heaven forbid. I pray every day that you'll be okay, and that it's only discomfort at old age.

I'm sorry I didn't turn out quite the way you hoped. I'm sorry for the disappointment and heartache I've given you all these years. I'm sorry I'm not one of those dutiful daughters who take care of the family once they've grown up; it seems you're taking care of me still. The times I felt you favoured my brothers over me, that's just my ugly, selfish side who didn't see and appreciate all the wonderful things you did for me and me alone.

I love you Mum, I'm going to miss you so much when I need to leave.

And I'm sorry I can't tell all of this to you. I can't bring myself to.

Your daughter.

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a postcard...

... for you.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

surviving another day

5 more days to Christmas. 6, if you include today.

People rushing around shopping for last-minute gifts, hunting down bargains. Carols sung in shopping malls, neighbourhoods, radios, portable music players. Dinner parties arranged, food menus planned, guest lists prepared.

If it's like how it was a year ago, I would've started playing Christmas songs on my laptop early December. Old favourites would repeat numerously until the day finally arrives. Although we don't celebrate Christmas, the tree would be up in a corner of our living hall adorned with silver-themed ornaments, including wrapped up empty boxes to complete the look of presents underneath the green umbrella.

This year, I don't seem to feel the thrill of it all. Somehow, the holiday season has lost quite a bit of lustre in my eyes and in my heart. I wasn't disappointed when mum said it’s a little too late to put up the tree now that renovations have finally completed; it'll only be for a week, then everything has to come back down again. Why bother?

I have yet to send out cards to my close friends. I'm forcing myself to do it after this because I know I'll regret it if I don't.

The only times I listen to carols are when they're played over the airwaves or in shopping malls. My iPod still constantly churns out melancholic tunes which, although would set me in an even more sombre mood, helps ease the restless, agitated feelings of boredom. I refused to have a single Christmas jingle stored.

I still get out and about - yesterday's bike hash, friends' farewell party, shopping for groceries and gifts. It helped kill time I felt I had too much of sometimes. I mechanically go about work and meetings and every-day routines. Routine is good; helps keep the mind busy and sane. I'm surprised and a little embarrassed by how much blogging I do. For now (and I think for awhile longer), it's all I have to express this dissatisfaction, disappointment and disgust within myself.

What's there to do to keep a sane mind during this phase of internal chaos? My own reminders...

* Don't stay home. Get out. Even if it's a walk around the block, or out to the garden to stare at the greens and browns. Might even notice a flower that's not there before.

* Be surrounded by people. Friends, strangers, colleagues, family, whoever.

* Exercise. Run, walk, step, aerobics, tennis, badminton, soccer, anything. Keep the heart pumping. The high will last only for awhile, but at least it'd take up a few seconds of time.

* Talk to someone. Rubbish talk, cock talk, whatever. 2-way conversations are better than one's mind arguing with one self.

* If there's no getting out of the house, do something in house. Clean the room. Bake. Cook. Rearrange the books on the shelves. Throw out the garbage. Pack unwanted clothing, shoes and things to give away. Sort out recyclables. No TV, though - this is too passive an activity.

* Write. Blog, journal, letter, doodles.

* Don't stay in bed.

* If there's absolutely no moving that weak-willed body, stay still. Accept the feelings of gloom, bathe in it for a while. Limit the grieving time. Stick to it. 1 hour tops. Get moving again.

* Keep the music playing.

If all else fails... seek professional help.

Don't worry, things are still under control...

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

bimbo went for bike hash!

Remember on Thursday I said want to do 10 things before 2005 finish? Hah, today I got do #3 - bimbo (that's me) got go bike hash today! Actually I don't like bike hash one, very pressure. Always think will be last, and don't want to be last, so got to pedal damn fast to keep up with the fastest. So pressure lor. But since I said I'll go ber-biking again, so go lor.

Met the gang at McDonald's Bangsar, but I don't like mcmuffin 'cos if eat to full I cannot bike after that, sure want to sleep back. So I went 7-11 buy ikan bilis bun, ok lah the taste.

While sitting in car eating ikan bilis bun, guess what I saw? Very cute doggie in next car! Snap picture, see cute or not?

Ok ok, suppose to write about bike hash, not doggie and ikan bilis bun. So ya, today's bike hash was at Sungai Sendat, near Ulu Yam Baru. Quite the far also, my poor car almost didn't make it. Finally reached there, we got ready our bikes, and then we're off!

Before that ya, must tell you I didn't take many photos on the trail. Was busy trying not to slip on mud... Ya, MUD! So blardy MUDDY!!! Very like thick milo on the ground like that, look like milo river coming down. Some more you can hear squish squesh kuish, like how very wet tanah liat (clay) would sound like when you step on it. Or if you chew chewing gum right, and then you chew it really loudly with your mouth open wide-wide, like chiak chiak chiak sound. Like that lah. If you still cannot imagine, nevermind. Not important.

So ya, we went on this uphill and downhill for quite a long time till we reach some 4x4 jamboree camp. Quite a lot of jocks there also with their 4-wheelers. Big one, small one, ugly one also got. All trying to manoeuvre on the mud, but end up splattering more mud around only lah. Why want to rev up the engine so the high, waste fuel, pollute the air and ruin the environment, I also dunno.

Lucky we reached a river, have to cross the other side, might as well wash all our muddy bikes. Wah, the amount of mud on my bike, can make very nice mud pot or something. Too bad no such thing as mud pot, only clay pot. So cannot make pot.

From there on, ride very nice lah. Still got mud, but not as bad as the earlier section. And no more big uphill, yay! We follow the triangle paper trail for short route, about 15km. Too lazy to go for long route, about 30km. Got one section very stony, downhill some more, so when fly downhill that time very bumpy, head also rattle like guh-guh-guh on the trail.

Bimbo (that's me) finished the trail in under 2.5 hours, not bad lah. Didn't intend to go fast anyway, just a nice and easy ride to finish the year. But then ah... got to wash my bike and my car after that, aiyooo!

Got home, straightaway did my best rendition of Jessica Simpson's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" video and washed down my bike and car. But with sports top and shorts lah. No bikini. And only audience is my doggie. Not glamour also, with sweat dripping down my dirty face, ha-ha!

p.s. Ah Ma told me later that Ah Pa went for camping, 4x4 at Ulu Yam also. Oops... that means he was part of the "macho" 4-wheeler gang, and I ketuk kao-kao some more, aiyak! (sorry Ah Pa...)

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

lemon cheesecake, anyone?

I decided to skip making another sweet dessert this week and opted for a more tangy alternative. I didn't really want to spend all that time keeping check of the oven in case my creation gets burned either. Hmm... time for a little no-bake cheesecake today.

* * * * *

Recipe from: All Recipes website
Original recipe yield: 1 - 10 inch round pan or 9x13 inch pan.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 3 Hours 20 Minutes
Servings: 24

3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 (3 ounce) package lemon flavoured gelatine mix
1 cup boiling water
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and confectioners' sugar. Mix well and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Turn off oven.

Dissolve lemon gelatine in boiling water. Let cool until thick, but not set. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, white sugar and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip evaporated milk until thick and stiff peaks form. Pour in lemon gelatine and keep mixing until well blended. Fold in cream cheese mixture.

Pour filling into crust. Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.

* * * * *

Wanna try making it? Read this first:
  • Graham crackers are similar to our local cream crackers. Any brand will do.
  • You can also use digestive biscuits instead to give it a more cookie-ish base instead of a crunchy one.
  • Whipping evaporated milk for me was a 50-50 chance of success (read the reviews for the recipe). Mine turned out to be the bad 50%. It didn't peak after 10 to 15 minutes of whipping, so I quickly switched to whipping cream instead (thank goodness for a leftover pack from my previous food venture!).
  • Make sure you chill the cream / evaporated milk (should you still opt for it) before whipping, along with your bowl and beaters. Helps peak faster.
I didn't beat it long enough for it to peak well, so my cheesecake wasn't a light, fluffy texture as it's supposed to be. The gelatine helped enough to set it, but I think you'd need more than 3 oz (maybe use 4 to 5 oz) to hold the cheesecake together better. Looked quite flat if you ask me, ha-ha!

Either way, it still tasted really yummy!

Friday, December 16, 2005

where's the joy?

postcard from PostSecret

No, it's not because of the holiday season.

It's unfair to say that.

But I have to blame it on something.

This restlessness I feel.

This constant sighing, wondering what to do next.

Is it too much coffee? I doubt so. The days I don't indulge in the bittersweet beverage, I still get into a weird mood.

There are little (in this context, few) things that give me the satisfactory pleasure or contended happiness these days (please, no funny thoughts on that statement).

Chocolates? Nah. Been binging on it a bit and it's not giving me the "good" vibes.

Exercise? Apart from the feeling that I might've burned a very small amount of calories, I've given up on the notion that endorphins will make me feel comfortably numb. Now it's purely to keep my heart pumping at a regular pace.

Shopping therapy is therapy no more, especially when I don't have the money to spare. Even if I did, what's there to buy when I don’t really need any of it? Apart from what's on my list of things to ease my life or keep me entertained... nope.

I've been keeping up with some social obligations. But that's just all they are. Social obligations. Please don't be offended by it. I need them to a certain extend.

You might've noticed that I've gone on a baking frenzy. I've not been domesticated as commented by a friend of mine. You know how you try to look for something new to do, to see if it brings you an ounce of joy? Honestly speaking... it didn't, really. I was ok with my creations. I was glad I didn't burn the kitchen down. It's great that I didn't have to eat all the food myself and grow into a fat pig. But I'm getting bored very quickly with this temporary hobby of mine.

I don't want to go out. I don't want to stroll in some shopping mall. I don't want to read my books. I don't want to watch TV or movies or even anything I've downloaded. Only thing that's not been banned is my iPod, and even then the tunes have to be the right ones that wail in my ears, otherwise they're at the mercy of the "foward" button.

There's a weird feeling that starts from my stomach which bubbles up to my chest every now and then, settles down for awhile, back up again, and the cycle repeats itself continuously. I really don't know how to describe it. It's definitely uneasiness but not the physical type that makes you want to go to the loo. Not a knot either, it doesn't resemble a tightly knitted entanglement which can't be undone. Sometimes at its most overwhelming point, it almost makes me want to cry.

Maybe it's just PMS. But I never put the blame on it, it's a lousy excuse.

I need an escape route from myself.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

before the year is out

Only 16 days left. Where did the year go?
Ten things I want to do before 2006 is finally at our doorstep:

#1 - Sell my apartment. Haven't had any luck lately in finding a reasonable buyer, and it's been out on the market for the past 2.5 months. Might be able to close no-loss-but-no-gain deal next week, depending on my luck.

#2 - Sort out my finances. So many bills to pay, so little money to go around... sigh.

#3 - Go out for a last bike ride somewhere, be it FRIM or RRI, or even if it means letting my friend talk me into another dreaded bike hash which I so dislike.

#4 - Buy a gift for a random person. Oh wait, we're doing that already for our company's Christmas party. I'll make it a very nice gift then, maybe something from Ikea. No chocolates or biscuits.

#5 - Bake something for my colleagues. I'm going to (force) feed them with my failed marshmallow brownies tomorrow, I'd better make up for it and cook up something more acceptably edible.

#6 - Finish a project at work which has been pending for the past 3 months. I want to be able to end the year a little more satisfied and a little less stressed.

#7 - Throw out at least 1 pair of shoes, 2 if I could find the heart to let go of the comfortable but tattered ones. I really need to lead a less cluttered life, and getting rid of shoes seems like a reasonable (re)start in getting organised.

#8 - Send out Christmas cards. They're going to be late to their recipients, but better late than never.

#9 - Finish reading 2 books.

#10 - Talk to you, and you, and you. I haven't been doing that enough, I apologise. Hope we'll communicate better in days to come.

And what're your 10 things to do before the year is out?

Monday, December 12, 2005

short takes 12.12.05

My mind is all over the place. I hate it when that happens.

A few friends of mine have already planned their holidays for next year. Mount Kinabalu, Chiangmai, Sipadan. My plans are not to have any holidays. I can't afford to.

I had a weird dream last night. I dreamt that an ex-colleague fell through the very narrow space in a spiralling stairwell, knocking himself on the railings as he plunged down. He was alive but unconscious. I woke up feeling disturbed. I don't know what it meant. I should classify it as a nightmare.

Ways to blow RM104.19 in a day.
- Lunch with mum: RM43.70
- Batteries for 5 watches: RM40.00
- Parking: RM4.00
- Gift purchase: RM9.90
- Jell-O lemon gelatin: RM6.59
And another RM42.40 on credit for adaptors and a lock for the house.

I can't decide whether to buy a hard disk drive or an external DVD writer. Maybe I won't get any till next year. I might never get around to buying that iBook either till January 2006 rolls around and see if any of the "mactel" launch rumours are true.

Recent book purchases:
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
- Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins
I've not started on any of them. Still on the first few pages of The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom which I bought months ago. Truth is, my reading habit has slowed down immensely since I've got broadband installed. That's such a lame excuse.

I still have not replaced my spoiled DVD player with a new cheap-o one. Why buy when you can download. And I hardly watch the movies and TV series I download anyway.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not taking any interest in politics, business or what's going on in the world today. I feel like a small 5-year-old child when people around me talk about current issues and I know nothing about them. When big names are mentioned I pretend to know but I really don't. And sometimes... I just don't care. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

According to feng shui, I should have a pretty good year 2006. Don't know why, but I'm not really looking forward to it.

I miss my late uncle. I wish I knew him better.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

return of the bagels

Last week I had a bagel disaster. Yesterday, it was an episode of marshmallow brownies strike back. Today... it's the return of the bagels!

Yes folks, we will see the end of disastrous baking. I was totally dissatisfied with how the bagels turned out at my first try, I simply could not tahan and tried another recipe, this time from the All Recipes site.

Early in the making, and I had already hit a semi-crisis. The leftover yeast I had from last week wasn't proofing - no bubbles, no sizzle, just flat and calm surface. I cried foul and rushed to the nearest Giant supermarket to get some, but they didn't have any in stock. Made a stop at the TTDI dry market and as I had predicted (but I had to try my luck), the bake shop was closed too. I ain't giving up now! Headed to reliable Tesco and bought 2 bottles of yeast (to be on the safe side in case something went wrong again. Don't ask me why I didn't just go there in the first place).

After 1 hour yeast-hunting, I started over again from the beginning. To my horror the yeast didn't proof as well either. Hmmm... could the water be too hot? One last try. This time I let the hot water cool a little more till my fingers could comfortably dip into it. This time I could see tiny bubbles surfacing. I rechecked the recipe and searched other sites for yeast-proofing. After a bit of R&D I concluded that perhaps it's ok to have just a bit of bubbles instead of a whole cup of foam, probably because I'd used less yeast that the last time.

On with the show.

I made sure I added enough flour this time to make a pretty stiff dough, firm yet elastic enough to stretch without breaking. I left it to proof for 1.5 hours (instead of the recommended 1) to be on the safe side. Ahhhh... when my fists punched down the raised dough, it felt right this time - nice and firm! This is going to be good.

Took my time making the bagels, proofed for another 20 minutes and simmered them in boiling water. When the bagels did the right "sink-down-and-float-up" bit, I heaved a sigh of relief. And they definitely have a smoother texture than the last batch!

Now for the final test - in to the oven they went. I watched over them like a mother hen to her chicks. The first sign of browning I pulled them out, turned them over, back in again, waited till they browned again, turned them over, in again... until...


Aren't these bagels just bee-yoo-ti-ful?

Awww... My babies! (I gotta stop taking pictures of them)

p.s. They taste absolutely divine!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

marshmallow brownies

500g/1lb 2oz caster sugar
150g/5oz plain flour
60g/2oz cocoa
150g/5oz marshmallows, chopped
240g/8oz butter
150g/5oz dark chocolate
5 eggs, beaten

Ok, looks like I have everything. Ah, almost forgot the eggs...

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Line a 30cm/12in square tin with baking parchment.

Hmmm. I think I'll preheat the oven later. Now, where's that baking tin? Ah, here it is.

Melt the butter and the chocolate together very gently.

Ooh, this looks sinfully good...

Mix the cocoa with the flour and the sugar and, off the heat, mix this mixture into the butter and chocolate.

Here we go... Mix in the castor sugar first...
Kacau... Oh my gosh, that looks good enough to eat already...

Add in the flour and cocoa...

Must... not... lick... finger... Arrgh! *JILAT jari*

Ok, ok. What's next?

Mix in the eggs and fold in the marshmallows.

Oooh... ooooooohhh... This looks better and better! Now I REALLY want to dip my finger in and... eh, stop stop stop!

Add in marshmallows... one for me... one for you... one for... oi, just pour the whole thing in, and stop pinching them marshmallows!

Turn the brownie mixture into the tin and bake in the oven until the surface has set but still feels squidgy underneath. This will take about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and slice.

Pour into the tin... Must... not... lick... spatula... Aarrrghh! *LIIICCCCKKK!*
Alrighty... ready or not, here we go!

(7 minutes later)

Wahhhh... marshmallows are puffing up... kembaaannnggg!

(10 minutes later)

*Sniff*... *Sniff*... oh, that smells soooooo goooooood...

(20 minutes later)

Ok, texture check. Crusty top, squidgy bottom... You're done!

(Note: I'd advise to ease up on the marshmallows, I think mine had too many despite following the 150g amount. It just turns your brownies into one big, gooey... err, almost volcano lava-like texture, eek! That's actually the melted marshmallows; now mixed together with the chocolate. Almost like chocolate spread.

Best thing to do is pop it into the fridge - after the tray has cooled completely - for about half an hour to set a little faster and make the goo less runny. Ah, guess I'll have to try another safer, more conventional brownie recipe. Either way, it still tasted yummy! )


Recipe courtesy of BBC.

Friday, December 09, 2005

goodbye, routemasters

So long, dear Routemasters. We'll miss the red icon of old London.

BBC news here.

Yahoo news & photos here.

(It's 9:52PM and I'm still in the office. That's no fun.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

no free t-shirt or cd ka?

This is so funny I just had to blog about it.

This morning I was on my way to Cyberjaya for a meeting, and as usual my radio was tuned to It's a refreshing change from all the other radio stations; they just get so stale sometimes. Well actually, tends to repeat the songs once too often, but Fly and Natalie in the morning perk things up for a fresh start in the morning.


The time was about 9:20AM or so. The topic of discussion was "how to break up with someone", and only guys were invited to call in, being the sweeping assumption that it's the guy that usually does the break up. Some had their juicy stories to share, of course.

There's this guy who called up, saying that he's been trying to do stupid things to cause the split. Seemed that he didn't have the heart to do the "honourable thing" earlier in the relationship after realising it's not going to work out. Now after just 6 months of marriage (they dated for 6 years prior), they're heading for divorce, sob story, etc.

Things get a little depressing, the tone of his voice gets low, even Fly and Natalie gets into a sombre mood. They took the call offline after that and continued with the music.

The show continued and some 20 minutes later, that same guy called up again. At this point it got a little funny - he asked Fly, "Fly minat kari tak?" (Do you like curry?).

And Fly went, "Kari apa ni, kari ayam ke...?" (What curry, chicken curry...?)

"Kari daging," replied the guy. (Beef curry.)

"Yea, yea... I like kari daging," said Fly. "Kenapa tanya?" (Why do you ask?)

"Oh, sebab nak jemput Fly datang ke rumah makan," said the guy. (Oh, because I want to invite you over to eat.)

At this point, Fly and Natalie were a little speechless. Then Fly asked, "Is this why you want to break up with your wife?"

And the guy answered, "Yes."

Now, what do you make of that??? Natalie burst out laughing non-stop. You could tell Fly just couldn't believe what he was hearing. I wasn't sure how to interpret that answer, but thoughts and assumptions were whirring in my mind. No matter, Fly declined his invite politely while Natalie kept laughing in the background.

Now this is the best part.

The guy then asked, "Eh, tak dapat free t-shirt atau CD ke?" (Hey, don't I get a free t-shirt or CD?)


This guy assumed that if he confessed on air, he would get a freebie, a t-shirt or CD or whatever. Yes, radio shows tend to give away freebies once in awhile, but this is really too much! Imagine the cheek of it all, thinking you could ask for a freebie just because you told your sob story on air! I mean, c'mon, do you expect a freebie from them at every show just because you contributed a little in their entertainment slot?


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

homesick but not quite

I had the strangest feeling last night while I was sitting on my bed, surfing the net, looking for something to occupy my idle mind.

I felt homesick.

And I was at home.

Funnily enough, I was homesick for a foreign country. Don't get me wrong, I love where I am right now, enjoying and appreciating what life has to offer here, hoping that I'll never ever forget my roots and where I came from.

I made a trip to Ikea after work, braving an-hour-and-a-half traffic jam, only to discover the boxes I'd looked forward to buying (they were going for half the original price of RM25) had sold out. Ambling around the huge warehouse stocked with home-ware, kitchenware, furniture and whatever it is that makes the crowds flock there every weekend, my mind begin to wander and daydream about how I'd furnish my own place some day. Where no one would dictate what sort of couch I should buy, or what colour curtains would match the furniture.

I made a quick stop at Cold Storage after that, to buy marshmallows for this weekend's attempt at baking marshmallow brownies (the recipe looks simple enough so chances of mucking this one up are pretty slim!). As you'd know, the supermarket stocks all sorts of imported food items which you'd rarely find at your local supermarket - varieties of biscuits, pasta, desserts and cakes... yes, even marshmallows. It almost felt like a different place altogether, although they're just everyday essentials and items you'd buy, just not that particular brand.

Maybe that's when I started having that homesick feeling. It wasn't for the house I live in currently... but more of homesick for a foreign land. You're probably thinking, "Geez, this girl really needs to get her head screwed on back right again! What's she doing missing some foreign land? What, this place not good enough for her any more? Is she turning into some snobbish bimbo who thinks anything foreign is better?"

No. I sincerely hope not.

For some reason, I miss the hustle and bustle of Sydney, and of London (although that city is way too crowded). I miss taking the train and bus conveniently everywhere instead of having to drive. I miss being bundled up in layers of clothing and feel warm all over whilst the chilly winds are blowing on my face. I miss eating ice-cream in winter and enjoying a really hot cup of coffee, blowing a little stream of steam out from my mouth. I miss walking on the beach in summer, watching the white seagulls hover effortlessly above the waters. I miss walking in large parks, stopping and sitting under a tree or park bench and enjoy a packed lunch. I miss the hues of autumn and the dreary showers which never seem to stop, yet not wet enough to dampen my spirits.

I just miss the whole shebang of it.

Looking back at my previous post on 9 reasons why I'm still here, I'm suddenly re-thinking why I shouldn't be packing my backs and leaving already. Sure, I have some commitments to fulfil and loose ends I need to tie up, but the yearning to start afresh has sparked a small flame in my heart yet again after being snuffed out for so long.

Just a little longer here.

Then it'll be time to leave.

But for now...

Home sweet home.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

the bagel disaster

Today was bagel day despite the messy kitchen. I couldn't wait another week till the house was in a better order to start making the chewy bread; besides, my bagel was calling me.

I won't put up the ingredients and instructions here, it's way too long. This recipe for Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels was what I referred to for my bagel baking.

Being a little (ok, ok, quite to the core) anal about things, I followed the recipe close to clockwork. Started with "proofing" the yeast, mixed in the flour and salt into the foamy, beer-smelling liquid and started mixing it.

I used the entire 8 cups of bread flour, however my dough wasn't as stiff as I thought it'd be. (Ok guys, I know what you're thinking already, it's not that kind of stiff lah!) Then again, I've never made bread before, so I wasn't sure if it was the right stiffness in the first place. Hmmm. I decided to just stick to the 8 cups instead of putting more, in case it turned out too dry later on. Left the dough to rise for about 20 minutes. Wah, kembang quite a bit also. I was concerned that the bowl wasn't big enough, so I'd split it to 2 bowls instead.

Now, this was where the disaster started. Or rather, not putting enough flour into the dough before I'd let it rise. Thinking back about it, I'm pretty sure now that the dough was way too wet and not stiff (here we go again) enough. I should've put in more flour, or perhaps used less water in proofing the yeast. Oh well... too late now! The dough was still sticky and too elastic by the time it was ready to be bagel-ed.

I punched down and rolled the rather squishy dough into balls, poked a hole in the middle and let the bagels proof for another 10 minutes. Again, not knowing how much the dough will rise, the size of the bagels varied depending on how much dough I pinched out, ha-ha! Ada yang besar, ada yang kecil; ada yang just nice juga. Trouble was, they're all lumpy and sticky, and by the time they "proof" for another 10 minutes on the pans, the bagels looked quite deformed.

Next on the instructions - boil the bagels in simmering hot water. I carefully lifted the bagels off the pans, but they stretched out of shape when I peeled them off. And after boiling, they looked even more ugly! Nothing like those lovely, glossy bagels in pictures or even those bought from stores. Haiya!!! Just weird looking bread with a hole in the middle of each. Nevermind... teruskan je.

The next mistake I made was putting them on baking paper instead of baking sheet. Haiya!!! Since I wasn't a baking expert, mana tau baking sheet is not baking paper, but a baking tray lah. Bodoh-nya! I realized my blunder after the first batch - the paper stuck to the bagels at the bottom, thus burning them too. Was still a little smart enough to put the rest onto normal non-stick baking trays after that.

I think I made about 20 bagels in total (lupa nak kira before makan tadi), of which only about 6 came out ok. They still didn't look like them lovely, shiny bagels in pictures, but they were the least ugly looking, and they didn't have paper sticking to their burnt bottom. Pretty chewy, quite tasty too, especially with cream cheese.

Not satisfied!

Gotta make another batch of bagels... but not today lah.

Lessons learnt this round:
  1. Put less water, or add more flour to get the right dough texture and (this is the last time) stiffness.
  2. Boil the bagels in a gentle simmer instead of bubbling hot water (I did that to 3 bagels and they looked like they had gigantic warts coming out of their skins).
  3. Don't put the bagels on baking paper to bake!
If all else fails, buy the bagels. Frozen pack of 4 available at Cold Storage supermarket, Bangsar Shopping Centre.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

bringing down the house

The living hall furniture and TV are in the dining room.

The dining table is in the kitchen.

The satellite decoder is upstairs hooked onto the smaller TV.

The floors are covered with a thick mixture of dust and plaster of paris.

Some strange men (no, they don't look yummy) are working on the ceiling, the wiring, and fixing up the new air-conditioner.

Renovations began yesterday at our house. After some consultation with a feng-shui master (recommended by my second brother who's quite a believer) some months ago, my parents decided that it was time to give the house a new facelift to renew the energy of the house and its inhabitants. New plaster ceiling, new lighting, new door front, new skirting, new tiles for the floor. We've already made a few preliminary changes before this, with a new sofa set and moving of the cooking stove to a smaller corner of the kitchen. Mum didn't like the idea much; she now has to trek further to the sink if she needed water for cooking. But hey, it's all in the name of feng-shui Not that we're great believers of feng-shui, but you know what they say, "better to be safe than to be sorry".

Mirrors moved, sleeping positions altered (including mine!), oh yea... the aquarium full of guppies need to have a new view too, but that'll be later when the hall's ready. I hope it'll all be done in time before Christmas so I could put up my tree and indulge in decorations (no, I'm not Christian but I like the novelty and spirit of the season).

In the meantime, I've kept myself behind closed doors in my room, trying to minimise the amount of dust going in and out of my little sanctuary. I wish I could bring my dog in here too but she'll just get bored after awhile, and whine and scratch her way out (plus she'll leave fur all over, haiya!). Really gotta give her a good bath after this ordeal's done.

My car is at the mechanic's - the break lights are all not working, probably faulty wiring (well actually, the third break light bulb's fused and needs replacing). Time for its regular servicing and oil change too. There's a leak at the front windscreen but I can't be bothered getting it checked, since it only drips when the car is at a very odd angle of sorts.

I need to stock up on toiletries which all seem to be running out at the same time.

Looks like a hefty December bill...

Oh yea. And I can't make my bagels this week because of the works.


Friday, December 02, 2005

such great heights

I am thinking it's a sign
that the freckles in our eyes
are mirror images and when
we kiss they're perfectly aligned

and I have to speculate
that God himself did make us
into corresponding shapes
like puzzle pieces from the clay

and true, it may seem like a stretch
but it's thoughts like this that
catch my troubled head when you're away
when I am missing you to death

when you are out there on the road
for several weeks of shows
and when you scan the radio
I hope this song will guide you home

they will see us waving from such great heights
"come down now," they'll say
but everything looks perfect from far away
"come down now," but we'll stay...

I tried my best to leave
this all on your machine
but the persistent beat
it sounded thin upon listening and

that frankly will not fly
you will hear the shrillest
highs and lowest lows with the windows down
when this is guiding you home

they will see us waving from such great heights
"come down now," they'll say
but everything looks perfect from far away
"come down now," but we'll stay...

Artist: Iron & Wine
(Postal Service cover)

* * * * * * * * * *

Finally watched Garden State last night. Some liked it, some otherwise.
I loved it. Reminds me of... you.