Monday, February 28, 2005

Wedding Update

After attending a bridal extravaganza on Sunday,

I have decided that I would like to have a SQUARE cake, like this one :) ...and hope that I win at least one of the numerous lucky draws I signed up for...hehe

Isn't it quite divine?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Texas Hill Country

Most of Texas is flat, flat, flat....

where you can literally step out of your backyard and look over the horizon to see the earth curve around.

But in the heart of Texas, there is a beautiful 14,0000 square mile area with rolling hills, crystal clear streams and towering oak & cedar trees known as the Hill Country, and this was where we travelled through to get to Kerville, 200 miles away, for David's aunt's memorial service.

A lot of the land belongs still to farmers and often, there would be highways that have to criss-cross through the land and we were on one such highway yesterday.
That was the first time I ever had to go on a road where livestock was allowed to roam about without fences, aided only by cattle guards on the road itself! Cattle guards are grills, usually at the gate entrances of farms to keep the livestock in without a fence because the cattle would never walk across the grills for fear of getting a hoof caught between the grills, apparently.

( We even have one at OUR gate! )

Friday, February 25, 2005

Walk on by

The first time I was at a U.S. mall ....

in the States with David, we parked at the parking lot and David started walking to the entrance. After several seconds of waiting for me, he turned around to see that I was still on the other side of the driving lane, with a car stopped to allow me to go on in front of him, and me stopped to allow him to go first.

I guess I was a little dumbfounded that the driver had actually stopped for me to cross to the entrance...everywhere we went, it was the same. Pedestrians seemed to come first. ( I understand that this doesn't necessarily happen everywhere in the states, but still... )

In Malaysia, as pedestrians, we always had to be at the mercy of vehicles in parking lots ( or on the roads ) that would never ever slow down for someone to pass in front of them..not even at a zebra's crossing. There was always a "pass in front of me and you risk being flattened" understanding.

Being an "expatriate", I am always interested in views and experiences of foreign nationals living in Malaysia and read with amusement as one foreigner was astounded at the fact that pedestrians had to weave their way through traffic dodging cars and motorcycles like in the game of "Froggers". Hence the statistics below:

Asia/Pacific road fatality risk (1996)
summarised from the study’s ‘Road Safety Guidelines for the Asian and Pacific Region’ as well as the report on ‘Vulnerable Road Users in the Asian and Pacific Region’ (ADB, 1998)

However, I must add, that there are a lot of mindless pedestrians out there who don't seem to mind skid marks across their chests either

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Well, there's always NEXT year!

Finally, the Chinese New Year celebrations came to an end last night.

Yuanxiao Festival or the Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th ( and last ) day the Chinese New Year's Day, which is also the first night of the new year to see a full moon.

The most popular food for this festival is "Yuanxiao" , a dumpling made of glutinous rice or wheat flour. It is also called "TangYuan", which in Chinese, has a similar pronunciation with characters meaning reunion, and so are also eaten to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.

The filling inside the dumplings are usually sweet, and made up of sugar, walnuts, sesame seeds, osmanthus flowers, rose petals, sweetened tangerine peel, bean paste, or jujube paste. There is also a savoury variety is filled with minced meat or vegetables.

When my grandmother was still alive and able, she would make sure we observed this and would give each person the number of dumplings which corresponded to their age, to signify everyone becoming a year older with the new year. I remember she would also colour some of the dumplings pink with food dye.

Other than this, the displaying of lanterns is still a big event throughout China. Qinshihuang, the first emperor to unite China started the tradition of splendid ceremonies like lantern fairs and drum beating extravaganzas on this day.

While some places may not observe the lighting of lanterns, the custom of eating Yuanxiao dumplings remains. Although I didn't make any dumplings this year, I found a recipe for it online.

Making Your Own Yuanxiao

4 1/2 cups (500 g) sticky rice flourbutter 7oz. (200 g) black sesame powder 7 oz (200 g)sugar 8 oz (250 g)1 tsp wine

Mix the butter with sesame powder, sugar, and wine together. You need to heat a little bit. Make small balls about 0.3 - 0.4 oz (10 g) each.

Take 1/2 cup of sticky rice flour. Add water into the flour and make a flattened dough. Cook it in boiled water and take out until done. Let it cool down. Then put it in the rest of the sticky rice flour. Add water and knead until the dough is smooth.

Make the dough into small pieces about 0.3 - 0.4 oz (10 g) each. Make it like a ball using hands first and then make a hole in the ball like a snail. Put the sesame ball into it and close it up.

Cook them in boiled water. Make sure to keep stirring in one direction while cooking. When they float on the water, continue to boil for about one minute using less heat.

They are usually eaten with a sweet gingery soup.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Not another Puppy!!

No, not just one, but TWO more!

About 3 weeks ago, we were at David's niece's house and there was an Australian Blue Heeler hanging about outside their door, which made her husband quite irate. Since the dog had a collar on it, David guessed that she had to belong to someone and was most probably lost because Stephanie didn't recognize it as any of the dogs in the neighbourhood. So we took her home and put an ad in the paper, hoping that someone would call and say that she was theirs.

No such luck.

Several people called though, to say that if no one had claimed her, that they would want her. And she really is quite a sweet dog.

Then 4 days ago, she had puppies. TWO of them.

I guess we're stuck with her for a while... *smiles*
What AM I gonna do now?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Chinese Valentine's Day

Believe it or not, we're still celebrating Chinese New Year.

It lasts 15 days and the next festivities in line would be the last day of the Chinese New Year, which would be on February 23rd.

Several traditions are observed on this day, and one of them apparently originated from the island of Penang in Malaysia, called Chap Goh Mei ( translated as "The Night of the 15th")

Similar to Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei is marked with the blast of fireworks, a family feast and lanterns. The Hokkien community of Penang commemorates this day with a procession (Chingay parade)with stilt walkers, dragon and lion dances, and acrobats, to the beat of gongs, drums and cymbals.

However, the highlight of Chap Goh Meh, which is often regarded as the Chinese Valentine's day, has got to be the throwing of oranges into the river, sea or lake by young girls. According to tradition, the girls will write their name on the oranges and make a wish for a compatible and good husband before they throw it. Somewhat like tossing a coin into a wishing well.

Apparently, in the past, Chap Goh Meh was one of the few occasions where eligible young ladies, were allowed out from the confines of their homes and thus able to "interact" with the opposite sex. Bachelors could only admire from afar as the ladies were always accompanied by an entourage of the fiercest looking aunts and amahs (servants)!

While many no longer believe in the legend, it is still a fun thing to do. The tradition still prevails to this day. I myself probably have also been "guilty" of orange-throwing once or twice in the past...

The OTHER "last day of the Chinese New Year" celebration will be explained tomorrow..and it involves lanterns and yes, FOOD!!!!.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Wrong Side

David bought his dad a new car..

and so now i have his dad's old car to practise driving on the wrong side of the road with. I have only driven manual transmission ( as opposed to automatic ) cars and it freaks me out that when i put the car into D, it goes without my even stepping on the gas...AND there is NO clutch pedal! PLUS, when I try to put the blinker on, because everything is on the wrong side, I end up shifting gears.

About a quarter of the world drives on the left, and the countries that do are mostly old British colonies.
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.

Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road.

In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver's seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.

In addition, the French Revolution of 1789 gave a huge impetus to right-hand travel in Europe. The fact is, before the Revolution, the aristocracy travelled on the left of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right, but after the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent events, aristocrats preferred to keep a low profile and joined the peasants on the right.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Henry Update

I had never had a dog of my own..

Back in Malaysia, there was the family dog, Yoyo, but I was hardly at home enough ( away studying ) to have anything to do with its ( lack of? ) training and general well being.

With Henry, however, I'm learning about him just as he's learning about me and although he's a wonderful puppy, i wish he'd just "chill" sometimes! *laugh*

I wonder what he's thinking

Friday, February 18, 2005

Chinese Wedding Dinner


I think we've narrowed down the place to have our Chinese Wedding Dinner... Ecko's Chinese Restaurant. Cindy's in the picture, marvelling at all the Chinese lanterns.

"Ecko, originally from Taiwan, and her husband, Gary Barbian met while he was stationed at a Taipei airbase. He was a flight engineer, while she was a mess hall supervisor. The pair bounced from base to base until they ended up at Dyess Airforce base.

Barbian was encouraged by a group of other Dyess airmen's wives after they tasted her cooking at a potluck luncheon. She started small and opened a catering business in 1975. Within a year, business grew so much that she was able to open Ecko's Restaurant, once located in the Wooten Hotel. The restaurant, now at 2701 S. 1st St., is one of the longest surviving Chinese restaurants in Abilene. "

Henry update coming up tomorrow..

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

All Hail the Jade Emperor

The 9th day of Chinese New Year....

has been seen as the most important day to the Hokkien ( a.k.a Fujian - a province in China; also a chinese dialect ) people as it was on this day that the entire clan of Hokkiens were spared from being massacred.

The story goes that a long time ago, another ethnic group attempted to kill all the Fujian Chinese causing them to flee into a forest of sugarcanes, hiding there until the 8th day of Chinese New Year when their enemies had gone.

On the 9th day of the Chinese New year, they went home and re-celebrated their Chinese New year. Preparations begin on the morning of the 8th day, by buying all the essential items needed for the celebration – sugar cane stalks, roasted pigs, cooked meats and fruits which will be laid out in front of the houses as offering. At the stroke of midnight, they give thanks to the Jade Emperor, also known as the God of Heaven.

Firecrackers are let off and the night sky is ablaze with fireworks. Businessmen of the Hokkien community take the festival quite seriously – their bountiful offerings are both for thanksgiving and in anticipation of a prosperous year ahead.

Although I'm hokkien, I don't celebrate this anymore, but I just thought I'd share some of my heritage

Wedding Update

If all goes well today,

I will be off to the Asian Noodle House to make reservations for the Chinese Wedding Dinner and pick up my Veil that Judith's sister made for me...I already have the shoes - a simple beauty at PayLess Shoes.

High enough so i don't look like a midget next to David's 6 foot 3 frame
Low enough so i don't fall and break my neck.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Happy Birthday EVERYONE

It is the 7th day of the Chinese New Year..

and according to traditions, it is everyone's birthday, the day when everyone grows one year older.

The seventh day of the New Year is also a day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion and noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.

Nowadays, the vegetables, noodles and fish are made into a special dish called Yee Sang, where people get together to toss the colourful salad and make wishes for continued wealth and prosperity.

"Yee" means fish
"Sang" means not only raw but also rising and alive

Monday, February 14, 2005

I'm Melting..I'm Melting...

Well, actually I'm not.

I come from a tropical country that is almost on the Equator with blistering hot sunshine. So, we would often wonder about the state of mind of foreigners who came to have their vacation at our beaches and yes, to sunbathe.

NOWADAYS, I find myself GLAD to have some sun on my face after days and days of drizzling and overcast skies...especially in Winter.

These folks seem to be in more need of the sun than I do, though.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Valentine's Came Early

Happy Valentine's everyone..

David got me a little Valentine Bear last month and some flowers last week ( he didn't want to get them last minute only to find that there weren't any left ) and I made him a card and some mini cheesecake cups with heart shaped sprinklies.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Happiness Is...

A Puppy that will Poo Outside!

The I-am-soooo-guilty Look

Ever since we got the new puppy, I have had to change the newspaper in his crate AND clean the kitchen floor all the time because although he DOES pee outside, he seems intent on pooing in his water bowl, hard to reach crevices in his crate and yes, on the kitchen floor (this is one time that i am thankful that we have NOT put in the new kitchen floor laminates as yet ).

So you can imagine my shock and delight when I brought him out this morning and later this afternoon....AND HE POO'D OUTSIDE IN THE YARD....BOTH TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can you just see me doing my Snoopy Happy Jig right now?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Chinese New Year Food ( Part II )

I have not been surrounded by so many Asian people...

since the last time I was in Chinatown, San Francisco in summer 2003.
There was a gathering of mainly Asian students tonight in the home of a local Abilene Church of Christ member and it was lotsa fun, meeting new people, having chinese dumplings and receiving ang pow ( red packets )!!

Can't wait till the 9th and 15th day of the Chinese New Year...(stay tuned)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fast Fast Fast

Ever lined up for hours at a bank?

Well, I have. And often while I lined up, wondered if my parking meter was running out, or worrying that i had to be back at work in the next few minutes etc., but reluctant to leave my place in the line..

We never used to have drive-thru banks in Malaysia, but every which way I turn here, there are so many of them! I guess this makes me sound like a hick, but the only times I ever saw the "chute" thing whizz by was when I was at private hospitals in Malaysia where samples and results were beamed up to the respective departments.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Okay, Meme Time

Agnes tagged me with this one...

1. Total amount of music files on your computer : 120
2. The last CD you bought : Christmas music - el cheapo deluxo at Ross'
3. The last song you listened to before reading this message: Leaving on a JetPlane - Eva Cassidy
4. Name 5 songs you listen to often or that mean a lot to you: Eek..right now it's wedding on the brain so any wedding song!
5. Who will you pass this stick to and why? My sister, cos she won't kill me..blood is thicker than water..*laugh*

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Chinese New Year Food

Reunion Dinner for Two

Even though it was just David and myself, I tried to bring a little taste of home into dinner today

Fried Noodles with Prawns, egg and bean sprouts
Fried Fish (with tomato sauce & onions )
Won Ton Soup with Scallions
Stir Fried Mixed Vegetables
Happy Chinese New Year Everyone

Critters of the World Beware

I never noticed much roadkill...

in Malaysia before except the occasional dog or cat,
but because we live about 7 miles out of the city, each time we go into town or to David's dad's, I can't help but notice all the ROADKILL that is out there!

It is even a game with some to keep count on family trips etc..Maybe it's the large amount of semi trucks/18 wheelers that travel the highways of America as well as deer and skunks that have not ever been schooled in road traffic rules..but I really hope this picture is a joke.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Superbowl XXXIX

I've survived my second SuperBowl..

Although I can't really understand all the hype ( which has nothing to do with last year's wardrobe malfunction ) or the Superbowl culture (yet), I tried to be supportive as David roared at our TV.... and with his suggestions, cooked up some SuperBowl fare....

I even sat down and watched the game with him....!

Chinese Wedding Traditions

The Double Happiness

I am making my own invitation cards and feel compelled to inject some Chinese essence into the whole wedding. Hence, the double happiness character will probably be featured over and over in our wedding.

Each half of the symbol is the standard character for happiness, written "hsi" or "xi," and pronounced "she" in Mandarin. Therefore, two "hsi" characters together represents the wish for the two young newlyweds to have happiness together. The double happiness (pronounced "shuang-hsi" in Mandarin) is a special Chinese character used for marital happiness

Being in charge of this wedding has been an adventure in itself and has made me research chinese customs to enrich the experience. Instead of a (western) rehearsal dinner, I will be having a traditional chinese wedding dinner/banquet with the added feature of the customary tea ceremony, which I am sure will thrill my family and David's to no end...but those are things for another post :)

Sometimes I feel lost, though, and wish my mommy was here...

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Search continues...

Reasons for 2 days of bloglessness

Reason #1

Searching for a place for a wedding reception. Apparently the church where i'm having the wedding doesn't allow any food because someone trashed the place once with food and smeared cake all over the upholstery.

After some deliberation, I have decided on the "Loggia" at the Grace Museum here in downtown Abilene. It's gorgeous with glass doors on either side so it's bright and cheery, and a beautiful painting at the end wall and beautiful skylights and chandeliers in the ceiling :)

Reason #2

A new puppy called Henry...till we think of a better name

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Barbie moves to Texas...

...with an 18 wheeler in tow.

I could not help myself from taking a picture of this house while we were out today..

Only in America?