Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy New Year!!

Let's usher in the Year of the Dog with a Bang!

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As legend goes, a terrible monster called Nian ( meaning "year" in Chinese ) terrorized chinese villages yearly. So the elders devised a plan to scare the monster away. They passed out drums and brass gongs to children and told them to make as much noise as possible to alert the villagers when the monster approached.

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The women created a lion costume of brightly colored silk with shiny mirrors to distract Nian. The costume is large enough to accommodate two men, one standing on the shoulders of the other. When Nian arrived, villagers threw firecrackers and the lion dancers jumped up and roared at the beast to scare him off.

So, nowadays, Chinese Lion Dancers would dance during the New Year accompanied by loud firecrackers, to the beat of Chinese Drums to usher in the New Year..

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Another tradition is that children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given lai see, little red envelopes with crisp one dollar bills inserted, for good fortune.

We're having Sunday lunch with David's family and after hearing all this talk about red packets from me, I'm sure there'll be some asking coyly for one..hehe

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Tomorrow's Chinese New Year

and although the CNY is celebrated for 15 days (yippee!!), the new year's eve is especially poignant because every family member is supposed to come home to the parents' and have a new year's eve reunion dinner together. Those working and studying in other states would make a trip back home in time for dinner.

I still remember all those years while I was at the university ( that would be around 9 years in all ), where I would have to catch a plane or long distance bus back home or even drive 8 hours when I was working as an intern in another state, and several times, dinner had already started by the time I managed to get home.

This would be the third year I would be missing Chinese New Year with my family in Malaysia and I guess there's a kinda lump in my heart. Us children would be helping to decorate and clean the house, and I would have CNY music playing in the background. It would be a time of much laughter and joy and I know my parents enjoyed all the hustle and bustle in the house. When we were much younger, I remember helping my mom and grandmother prepare cookies and cakes in anticipation of all the friends and family who would come visit in those 15 days. In fact, for some relatives, that would be the ONLY time we would ever get to see them!

Today, with all sorts of thoughts and memories playing in my mind, I woke up early, got the fish, spring chicken and pork out of the freezer to thaw and proceeded to get ready to prepare a Chinese New Year Eve dinner for David and I. Let's see how it all works out... I hope I make my grandmother, the excellent cook, proud!!

Will try to post some pictures BEFORE dinner tonight!

Traditional Chinese New Year Food

* Lotus seed - Chinese food signifies having many male offspring
* Ginkgo nut - represents silver ingots
* Black moss seaweed - is a homonym for exceeding in wealth
* Dried bean curd is another homonym for fulfillment of wealth and happiness
* Bamboo shoots - is a term which sounds like "wishing that everything well"
* Eggs - fertility
* Egg Rolls - wealth
* Fish served whole - prosperity
* Lychee nuts - close family ties
* Noodles - A long life
* Oranges - wealth
* Peanuts - a long life
* Tangerines - luck

Maybe next year I'll get to drag David home to Malaysia and celebrate CNY at home :)

Remembering The Challenger

20 years ago today

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday is Girls'Day Out

After Bible Class,

Cindy and I usually go somewhere just to have some girly time,

and today, we were off to do some chores, i.e. get dog food , groceries, and a trip to the Dollar Tree ( where EVERYTHING is a DOLLAR - GREAT place to browse... hehe )

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For lunch, it was off to Olive Garden for endless salad, soup and breadsticks,

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followed by a movie, End of the Spear.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My Brother is a Real Sweetheart

Jan 23rd was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year..

But I beg to differ, because this is what I got in the mail.....

Belated Christmas Presents...

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and what appears to be an early chinese new year care package
for the spice deprived..hehe

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We had the Rendang Mix today and it was YUMMILICIOUS!!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ever heard of Water Convolvulus?

Happiness is.. LEAFY GREENS????

Every once in a while, Cindy and I go to the Filipino Food Store in Abilene, where, limited though their selection may be, I am able to just soak in Asian groceries, spices, smells etc. There's often many products that are made in Malaysia too!

Anyway, on Fridays, if you venture into the "back" of the store, there will be a variety of Asian vegetables. I'm always complaining that I can't find any "Asian vegetables" here in Abilene, but last Friday, my eyes almost fell out and I went "OH MY GOSH" when I discovered they had KANGKONG!!!

After I had brought it home and showed David what "gem" I had gotten from the store, he looked at me and asked, "what IS that, spinach?" I didn't really know the proper English name for it so I looked it up....

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Ipomoea aquatica

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ipomoea aquatica is a semi-aquatic tropical plant grown as a leaf vegetable. It is also called water spinach, swamp cabbage, water convolvulus, water morning-glory, kangkung (from Malay), kongxincai (from Chinese: 空心菜; Hanyu Pinyin: kōngxīncài; literally "hollow vegetable"), or ong choy (from the Cantonese pronunciation of Chinese: 蕹菜; Hanyu Pinyin: wéngcài). It is not to be mistaken with watercrest. It is often a highlighted source of food.

Some of the yummilicous ways to cook it are...

Kangkong Belacan aka Water Convolvulus ( I LURVE that word..hehe ) with Shrimp Paste

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Sotong Kangkong aka Water Convolvulus with Cuttle Fish

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An addition to Penang Hokkien Mee aka Penang Shrimp Noodles

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Cultural references

There is a belief in Chinese culture that discourages extensive consumption of Ipomoea aquatica as a staple food crop (in contrast to rice) with the explanation that the hollow stem makes the person weak and hollow like the plant, although this belief does not advocate refraining from eating the plant entirely. But the elderly, for example, are discouraged from consuming it.

This belief probably derived from ancient observations following attempts to replace consumption of rice with the relatively resilient Ipomoea aquatica during times of food shortages and war and noting loss of muscle strength, probably due to the fact that Ipomoea aquatica contains less food energy than rice.

My grandmother just told me it gives you "Wind"

Monday, January 16, 2006

Awards Fever

We've been trying to catch up with the Big Ones..

and so far in the past couple of weeks, have watched...

Memoirs of A Geisha

I gotta be proud of Michelle Yeoh, our very own Malaysian Miss Malaysia/Bond Girl.

One thing that I have in common with Michelle is, ironically, she still cannot read Chinese and she has to have Chinese script read to her and memorizes them phonetically to some extent. Er..well, I can read SOME elementary chinese but I'd get lost in China without some kind of subtitles.

I CAN CONVERSE in Mandarin and at least 2 other Chinese dialects, but READING chinese characters is something I need to work on.

Thing is, they had Chinese women play all the main Geisha roles, not that they didn't do a great job, but it just begs the question, "Why didn't they get Japanese actresses?"

Gotta go find out.

p/s: Great movie, visually stunning. And with music from John Williams, with a little bit of Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Pearlman for good measure, you can't go wrong.

Cinderella Man

Tagline: One man's extraordinary fight to save the family he loved

Cinderella Man is a great movie about humanity, hope, triumph and is possibly one of the best movies about the Depression since The Grapes of Wrath.

p/s: I had to hold my hands to my ears during the boxing scenes to keep from hearing all the bone crunching special effects sounds, and took solace in the fact that even Rene Zellweger has "full" cheeks

Great acting from everyone, great direction from Ronny Howard

The Matador

Love this quirky movie with an even quirkier very-unBond-like Pierce Brosnan, produced by his own production company - one of the reasons he gave for why he could now branch out to NON Remington Steele and James Bond roles

I hate to call this a "buddy flick" but Pierce and Greg are great together as an unlikely duo in their respective roads to self discovery.

The Constant Gardener

Synopsis : A widower is determined to get to the bottom of a potentially explosive secret involving his wife's murder, big business, and corporate corruption.

Good movie, just ultra sad in the end, with very stark representations of Africa ( we thought Cindy would appreciate that the most, as she goes on a Medical Mission to Zambia every year )

As Ebert and Roper say it, " "The Constant Gardener" begins with a strong, angry story, and peoples it with actors who let it happen to them, instead of rushing ahead to check off the surprises. It seems solidly grounded in its Kenyan locations; like "City of God," it feels organically rooted. Like many Le Carre stories, it begins with grief and proceeds with sadness toward horror."

Others we've seen over time:

Kung Fu Hustle ( Best Foreign Film contender, believe it or not!)
Chronicles of Narnia
King Kong
Syriana ( well, David has, but I'm so a-political, he watched it on his own )

Gotta watch movies....gotta watch movies.....

Monday, January 09, 2006

On Days Like These.........

I have a hint of a smile on my face all day long..

When we were growing up in Malaysia up till now, our family has never had a dishwasher.

Hmm.. let me correct myself. We had FOUR dishwashers ... Letti and her 3 other siblings , that is.

Anyhow, when David and I got our house and it had a dishwasher, I felt like it was such a luxury and extravagance and to be completely honest, I felt almost guilty at having one... till it died on us.

While it's waiting to get repaired/replaced, I've been washing dishes by hand, soaking them overnight and doing the dishes in the morning. Most of the time, I don't mind doing it, but on occasion, I have been known to grumble a little (just a little) about it.

Which is why I just HAD to run back into the bedroom this morning, jump into bed and plant big kisses all over my hunny's face, because I had walked into the kitchen, in my robe, dragging my feet towards the sink, only to find that all the dishes had been cleaned and stacked neatly to dry on the counter.

*smiley sigh*

Friday, January 06, 2006

Let's go eat and get someone ELSE to pay

Cindy invited me out for lunch 2 days ago,

and because my favourite noodle house was not open, we went over to China Star, a very popular Chinese Food Restaurant ( which had won several of the "best of the best" awards - that term cracks me up, still.. they even had a picture of JIMMY CARTER eating there, up on the wall ) and had a yummilicious lunch.

I was guilty of gluttony, unfortunately.

Anyway, I had told Cindy that lunch was on me and so I got ready a $20 bill and we headed off to the cashier.

Turns out that it was a futile move because the manager lady was Cindy's ex-student (Cindy teaches English at a local college), and handed the $20 bill right back to me.

Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Of Pets and Plants

Henry got waaaay too big for the bathtub many months ago..

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and it's gotten to be quite a challenge to give him a bath, little stinker that he is.

So, when we found THIS on the shelves at Sam's the other day, it was a VERY good day.

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So our kitchen doesn't smell as bad now.

ALSO, our Christmas Cactus has finally bloomed after a year of dormancy...

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

35 Years in the Making..


USC's epic winning streak is over, and Texas -- powered by the unstoppable Vince Young -- is the new national champion, after pulling off a 41-38, comeback win over the Trojans giving the Longhorns their first national championship since 1969.

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You can imagine how much shouting and cheering there was at our house..all by ONE person. Phones were immediately ringing after the game..


Sunday, January 01, 2006

More Pandemonium and Tragedy

Texans evacuated as winds, dry conditions fan flames

(excerpts and photos borrowed from Abilene Reporter News and CNN)

January 1, 2006
Posted 7:47 p.m.

At least 20 grass fires sprang up in the Texas Panhandle, rapidly consuming thousands of acres and forcing some evacuations and road closures.

In Eastland County ( refer to county map from 2 posts ago ) near Carbon, helicopters with the Texas Air National Guard aided firefighters battling an 8,000-acre blaze that threatened up to 200 homes, said Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Traci Weaver. Billowing clouds of light gray smoke hung across the horizon for miles.

The blazes were spreading quickly because of high winds from 24 to 50 mph and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, according to the National Weather Service.

Residents of about 200 homes were forced to evacuate ahead of a fire near the town of Carbon, about 130 miles west of Dallas, said Sparky Dean, an Eastland County government spokesman.

I took a nap this afternoon, and woke up to David watching a football game on TV. I looked at the clock, and it showed 6:10 and I looked out and it was dark, and I thought to myself, "WHAT in the WORLD is he watching on TV at 6 in the MORNING to make him shout like that", but it was actually evening. It just seemed soo dark because of all the dust stirred up by the gusting winds..