My new blog: For those who came here for the cake pop class, I've created a new blog with updates on classes and photos over at guiri in the kitchen



Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Bird's Eye View of 2008

Let's see, 2008 is coming to an end, and instead of ranting about what I should or should not have done, I've decided do a feel-good post here and write about what I have achieved instead.

1. Visited Hokkaido, Japan
2. Visited Hanoi, Vietnam
3. Climbed Mt. Kinabalu (although not to the peak)
4. Took up Flamenco (and passed the SDI Preparatorio exam)
5. Learnt how to bake and make ice cream
6. Organized my online photo collection, ToaMG - The Vault
7. Climbed the Story Bridge
8. Completed at least 1 charity run
9. Sending my aluminium cans and plastic bottles to the recycling centre

These are the things that I can remember just because I have blogged about them. The rest which are not mentioned here does not mean that they are insignificant - it just means that I have a memory of a goldfish. Now I see how important it is to keep a journal or a diary. Honestly, I'm really glad to have started this blog ... if only I could update it a little more often! ;)

I already have an initial list lined up for year 2009, but I'll keep mum for the moment :) Does that include making babies, you ask? LOL! That's for me to know and for you to find out!

Happy New Year 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 New Year's Eve

The plan was to have a BBQ party right at home. With every family member home for the holidays, what else could be better than ushering in the new year together! Everyone was excited and had interesting ideas for the night ... until dad has to be hospitalised this afternoon for suspected dengue.

Mom is with dad in the hospital, and by the looks of it, he would probably have to do the countdown to 2009 there too. Sis have postponed their flights till next week just to make sure dad is alright before going back to Australia. The last time I had dengue in 1993, I was out from the hospital after 3 days. Hopefully the second blood test tomorrow shows a more positive outcome and that he can be discharged sooner. Will see what the doc says tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SDI Exam 2008

I finally got my hands on my flamenco exam certificate last Friday. It was an early Christmas gift. Yep! I passed my SDI Preparatorio Level, together with Clea, Sania and Manuela. Now that it is over and I have completely forgotten about how nervous I was, I must agree that the entire exam had been fun. All of us were dressed up in standard black leotards, flamenco skirts, with our hair neatly bunned and adorned with a large flower.

As we got closer to the exam (which was on Nov 13, 2008), Joyce organized extra classes for additional practices. Although Joyce insisted that we were doing fine, we were all quite tensed and worried (who isn't?). But what I have appreciated most about having taken the exam is my speed of improvement within a short period of time. Somehow I guess its a human's nature that we can sometimes be too comfortable with our current positions. If things like exam never existed, we would never push ourselves to our maximum potential.

Nicola, our examiner was really sweet. At the end of the exam, she gave lots of pointers to all the exam candidates which I found to be very useful, eventhough it was clearly basic information. She also gave a workshop on Alegrias, which was difficult for us Preparatorios, but nonetheless of great fun. Once Fernando asked me, "Is your flamenco teacher Spanish?". He was quite skeptical about a non-Spanish teaching a Spanish dance but I told him I have a great teacher, and of her being Spanish or not was not of importance, I simply wanted to dance only!

Hopefully next year I'd be able to complete my Primer level too!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt

After getting an ice-cream maker from my mom as a birthday present, I have attempted to make nutella and rum raisin ice cream, both unsuccessful to my dismay. It was nothing serious though, texture was perfect, but a tad too sweet. Then yesterday I saw some fresh strawberries at the supermarket and made another attempt with a frozen yoghurt recipe. It was so simple to make and turned out as yummy as what I had expected it to be, so here's the recipe!

The following recipe makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

Approx 450g of fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vodka/kirsch
1 cup plain natural yoghurt

*Note: Original recipe called for 1 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, but I didn't have any, and it still tasted good

Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka/kirsch, if using, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every now and then.

Purée the strawberries and their liquid with the yoghurt and lemon juice (if you have) in a blender or food processor until smooth. If you prefer to leave some pieces of strawberries in your frozen yoghurt, you can reserve about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of fruit pieces without the liquid and stir them in later. You can also press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Refrigerate for 1 hour, and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can freeze it directly in the freezer, but every 30 minutes while it freezes, check and stir vigourously with a spoon or spatula. Repeat until ice cream is completely frozen. This should probably take 2 hours or less depending on your fridge.

OR YOU CAN TRY FREEZING YOUR ICE CREAM THIS WAY TOO! AN INTERESTING SCIENCE PROJECT FOR CHILDREN :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My First Fondant Cake... a Success!

Yesterday I went to ICCA at Seksyen 14 to source for some ingredients and tools to decorate my youngest sis' birthday cake. I wanted to make an extra special one for her, knowing her favourite soft toy was the Polarbear from NICI.

While I was there, Nancy attended to me, and asked if she could of any help. I told her I was looking at the possibility of making little figurines to decorate a cake and she asked if I've worked with fondant before.

"Erm, the closest I ever got to working with fondant is plastercine/playdoh", I replied honestly. "Is it the same?"

She just smiled and explained that it is not quite the same, and is a little bit more difficult to handle. She suggested perhaps it would be better to just get a 3D shaped bear pan to bake the cake and just ice with white frosting to turn it into a polar bear. I pondered a while and decided to go with using fondant. I was not quite willing to give up so soon. So she showed me all the necessary stuff I need to work with that sugar paste and I got a few other extra things to experiment with. Mind you these stuffs are not cheap :P

And so I found this nice little recipe for Moist and Tender Chocolate Cake from VeryBestBaking.com and yummy chocolate ganache from Martha Stewart improvised a little from there.

Recipe

Ingredients for Moist Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup baking cocoa (I used Hershey's)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
180gms unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup milk


Ingredients for Chocolate Ganache

200ml whipping cream (approx. 1 cup)
250gm semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chopped walnut (or any other nuts you prefer)


Directions:

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-inch-round baking pans (I used only one and then divided the cake into 2 after it is baked). COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with milk. Spread into prepared pan(s).BAKE for 25 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan(s) for 15 minutes; invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the ganache filling, bring cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over chocolate in a heatproof mixer bowl; stir until smooth. Let cool completely. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until mixture reaches a medium stiff consistency, 2 to 5 minutes, checking frequently. If it does not reach this consistency, chill in freezer up to 5 minutes, then continue beating.

To assemble cake: Trim rounded tops of cakes flat. Stir together half portion of the ganache with the nuts; spread over one cake layer. Top with second layer, and spread remaining portion (without nuts) over top and sides. Smooth with an offset spatula.


Chocolate ganache frosted cake


Note: This is already yummy enough on its own, or you can continue to decorate it with fondant like what I did with mine :)



My first attempt to decorate a cake with fondant... yes, it's all edible!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Aunty Shirl


Children and Aunties at SAL celebrating both Aliya's and my birthday :)

This year is the 2nd year I am celebrating my birthday as a married woman *ehem*, and guess what I got as birthday presents from my beloved hubby and family? Cookbooks and an ice cream maker (this was on my wishlist)! Well, I guess that certifies my status as a "si lai". Just can't wait to try out the ice cream maker!

This would also be the last year that I'd be celebrating my birthday at the school, as I have decided to go back to the family's business and help my parents out instead. I know I am going to miss the children very much. And all the aunties too, of course. It is undeniable that your colleagues are one of the main factors that motivate you at work.

My farmyard family, the dog, the pig and and the cow also did a small celebration for me at home. And guess what, thanks to our dinner at Sambal Sushi, we managed to get some free masks for our mass facial session... LOL! It was sort of combi post-Halloween and pre-birthday celebration. Sorry guys, I've decided to put up this photo anyway. But I'll keep your names anonymous ok? :P


Be afraid...be very very afraid...

*Sigh* just the kind of crazy things you won't mind doing anymore after the big THREE-O.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Lagging again

There are so many things that I want to blog about, and yet when I finally found the time to do it my grey matter is just another blank piece of paper. All these late nights are not helping either. Gosh, what am I doing still up at 2:30am?!?!

Right, I was baking. Hmm.. time to get some sleep... the cleaning can wait till tomorrow.

*yawn*

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Decorating Mini Cupcakes

Had fun this morning decorating some cupcakes for Cathy's & Catherine's little ones this morning. Just applying what I learnt from the previous SAL bakesale!


Not perfect but the kids love it ;)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

Thanks to Aunty Lyne* who triggered my baking frenzy, this time I tried to bake a cheesecake. It appears that it was not as difficult as I thought. In fact, I found it simpler than baking muffins or cupcakes. Here's one recipe from cdkitchen.com which worked for me even for the first time!


My very first cheesecake!

Recipe

Ingredients for the biscuit base:

1 1/4 cup digestive biscuit crumbs or approx. 10 pieces (I used McVitie's)
1/4 cup sugar
125 gms butter (softened)

Ingredients for the cake:

500gms cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 can blueberry pie filling

Note: Instead of getting a can of blueberry pie filling, I bought glaced berries and topping (which looked like jam) separately and mixed them myself. It was not intentionally done, I just didn't realise there were can ones available. One plus point though, I get to put as much or as little of berries as I want into the topping since I am mixing it myself.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahr. Mix crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and the butter; press firmly and evenly in bottom of ungreased 9-inch spring form pan (or with loose bottom). Chill for at least 30 mins.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined.

Pour onto biscuit base. Drop about 1/2 cup pie filling by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the cream cheese mixture. Cut through with a knife to swirl the pie filling. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on wire rack. (I saw another recipe book which recommended to leave the cake in the oven with door ajar for 10 mins first to prevent sudden drop in temperature). Chill for 2 hours. Top with remaining blueberry filling.

(Hubby insisted that I put his comment in, "Two thumbs up! Even better than the Oreo cupcakes!")

*Btw, Aunty Lyne is actually younger than me, the only reason why I'm calling her aunty is what I would term as an 'occupational disease' - just like the children we address each other as aunties at school :P

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 3 (The Summit Climb & The Descent)

Although I went to bed early the evening before, I didn't quite sleep well. Our room was next to the kitchen, and right next to the foyer, so noise was inevitable. I was awaken several times during the night by footsteps and voice of (inconsiderate) climbers who couldn't keep their excitement to themselves. I am not a light sleeper, but I guess the over-exhaustion from the previous day climb also made it hard to even catch a wink. I was glad I took 2 panadols before bedtime, which soothed that minor headache I was getting, allowing me to have at least an hour or two of quality sleep (before I was awaken unnecessarily).

After glancing at my watch for the umpteenth time, I decided to climb out of bed. It was a quarter to 2am. The rest were still asleep, so I struggled in the dark to find my 3-in-1 hot chocolate drink. In the background I thought I heard the heavy rain outside; perhaps we won't get to climb to the peak after all. I found out later that it was actually the sound of water gushing down the hillside, as a result of continuous downpour the night before. It was only drizzling lightly and we were allowed to continue our climb.

Last night Lyne wanted to opt out, but I managed to talk her out of it. I convinced her that if she really didn't feel that she was up to it halfway through the climb, she could stop anytime. Since we had 2 guides, one of them would be able to bring her down to Laban Rata. It would be a complete waste to stop right there before even giving it a try to the summit. She finally agreed to join us.

I wore a sleeveless-T under a long sleeve shirt and a windbreaker. To protect my ears from the cold I wore a beanie and I put on a headlamp to see in the dark. I also wore a pair of gloves (which was not waterproof nor colourfast - at the end of the day my hands were purple). Instead of carrying the entire backpack with me, I left it in the room and only brought my waist pouch along with a camera and a water bottle. And DON'T EVER FORGET to bring your climb permit, it must be presented at the Sayat-sayat Checkpoint. We also put on our poncho since it may rain again later.


Dark rocky mountain slope


We set off at about 2:45am, and it was really dark outside. The first 500m was a steady climb on clearly defined steps with handrails, but as we progressed, the climb got more interesting. Soon we were holding on tightly to ropes and no longer surrounded by any vegetation. There were only plain ascending rocks. The air also got thinner, and I had to stop every 20-30 steps to catch my breath. It continued to rain, and that made the climb even more difficult especially when I was wearing my glasses. We also had to be very careful with each step as it was quite slippery.

Lyne gave up after only 500m from Laban Rata, but Cornelius didn't think she was serious, held her hand and continued to pull her up for another 1km. In fact, both of them went ahead of us at some point. Just as both TW and I passed the 7.2km mark, we saw them coming down again. Her Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) apparently worsened and she had to descend as soon as possible. Cornelius brought her to the Sayat-sayat checkpoint to rest while to went up to look for the rest of us.

Although we continued our climb, we saw small crowds slowly descending from the top. I was sure they couldn't have reached the peak already. The sun was not even up yet! Then we heard shouts telling us to turnaround and make our way down. It was too dangerous to continue as water was already gushing down the slopes. Both of us looked lost, but we abided anyway and followed the group down slowly.


Water cascading from the top

So near yet so far. We were only less than 1km from Low's Peak but were forced to descend prematurely. The guides told us, it is better to be safe than sorry. We can always return in future - perhaps not during a rainy season. March and April is said to be a better time to climb.

Descending a rocky slope with water flowing at your feet was not an easy task. We had to be very careful not to be washed away by the strong current. We heard that the day before, a man slipped and broke his crown. :O Whenever possible I tried to hold on tight to the ropes. My gloves were completely soaked and my fingers were freezing (the next time I must remember to get a pair that is waterproofed). I had to remove it several times to squeeze out excess water, but that was not helping much. My hands, fingers and nails all turned purple, not because of the cold but because the black gloves I had just weren't colourfast.

Curious, I asked Cornelius if it was common to have people coming down in such a bad weather and bad condition. He casually answered no, and said that I should grab this opportunity to take more photos! How could I have forgotten about my camera? And so both of us took the opportunity to pose in front of the waterfalls :P


Say cheesseeeee!

We continued our descent slowly and waiting at the checkpoint for few other members of our group. TC was nowhere to be seen. He was well ahead of us during the climb, and we found out later that he was one of the very few that managed to reach the peak but unable to see anything because it was raining and the wind was very strong.

Anyway, to cut a super long story short, all of us managed to reach Laban Rata safely. TC was the only one from our group who successfully conquered the peak. The rest of us were just wet and tired. Lyne's condition improved after taking a supplement for colds and after a short qi gong session with Kuan.

The weather also improved as soon as the sun was up, which made our descent to the starting point much easier. In fact, after the breakfast I was a fully-recharged Duracell bunny and hopped my way down. I just couldn't wait to get back to KK. We arrived the Timpohon Gate at about 3pm.


All's well, ends well

And yes, for the next few days all of us walked like we've got piles. But I still returned to my dance class just 2 days after...itchy feet :P

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 2 (The Climb)

The very next morning we had our breakfast at the lodge before departing to the Kinabalu Park at 7:30 a.m.


Lyne loading her bag into the van

The journey took about 2 hours, and while the rest were quietly resting and saving their energy for the climb, Lyne and I, the two biggest chatterboxes couldn't stop talking. She taught me how to play "sap ng yi sap (15, 20)" and then we switched to "So you think you can spell". We went on and on, spelling words that start with the last letter of the previous word. Each time it got tougher as we kept coming up with words that end with the letter 'e' and 'y' :P Mind you we got quite noisy back there :P


Lyne & I camwhoring while the rest get comfortable at the back of the van

As soon as we arrived, we registered with the Kinabalu Park HQ to get our climb permit. It took them quite a while, so while waiting we roamed around and took some photos. This was the time where some came to offer us walking sticks for RM 5 each, and since we are getting 7, we managed to negotiate for RM3 each. Around the area where we parked was also a big signboard that marks each stop in the Summit Trail and with the distance and height from the starting point.


The Summit Trail

Still left with nothing to do while we lingered, we took our bags to weigh at the scale. The porters charge between RM7-RM8 per kg. My backpack weighed about 6.5kg while TW's was only 5.3kg (he had his water bottle on his waistpouch while mine was in the backpack). We decided to carry these ourselves. Also we had some bulky warm clothing on a separate backpack, and that weighed about 3kg. This separate backpack was given to the porter.


People waiting inside the registration office


Just when I thought that the weight I had was manageable, TC told us that we had to carry our own lunch! And that alone weighed 1.5kg (consists of cheese and ham sandwiches, springrolls, fried chicken, hard-boiled egg, a bottle of water, a can of Sprite and an apple). So I ended up with 8kg to carry until our lunch stop :O.


Some of the items in our packed lunch

Lyne and Amy preferred to walk empty handed and so they gave both their loads to the porter. Only TC and Kuan did not use the porter service (these are our 2 champions, always ahead of the team during the climb). We finally get to set off about 10:45am, and the van drove us to the entrance of Timpohon gate (about 4km from the Park HQ).



All set to go!

We started about 10:45am, which was considered a little late, so we had to stop for our lunch before the Layang-layang Hut (5th stop). These were the distances between each stop:

Starting Point (10:45am) - Timpohon Gate (1866.4m above sea level), approx 700m to first stop
1st stop (11:20am) - Pondok Kandis (1981.7m a.s.l), 441m to next stop
2nd stop (11:42am) - Pondok Ubah (2081.4m a.s.l), 750m to next stop
3rd stop (12:20pm) - Pondok Low II (2267.4m a.s.l), 920m to next stop
4th stop (1:25pm) - Pondok Mempening (2515.47m a.s.l), approx 800m to next stop
5th stop (2.10pm) - Layang-layang Hut (2702.3m a.s.l), approx. 1100m to next stop
6th stop (3:26pm) - Pondok Villosa (2960.8 a.s.l), 417m to next stop
7th stop (4:00pm) - Pondok Paka (3080.42m a.s.l), 550m to next stop
8th stop (4:48pm) - Laban Rata Resthouse, for our dinner (3272.7m a.s.l), approx 300m to GLH
9th stop (6:20pm) - Gunting Lagadan Hut, overnight stop (3323.5m a.s.l)



A small descent before the real climb begins (still happy)

After our stop at Layang-layang Hut it started to pour, but only for a short while. We continued our journey with our poncho on, as there were still occassional showers after that. Lucky for us the wind was not very strong.


Varied track conditions at different height

In total, we had to walk about 6km distance from the gate to get to Laban Rata, and by the time we arrived we were super exhausted. The last 1km was most difficult of all, as we were completely drained of our energy, and instead of taking approx. 40 minutes for each km walk, we were taking twice as much of time to cover the same distance.


Lyne still looking fresh while I am completely drained
(together with TC, she arrived Laban Rata 10 mins before TW & I)

We arrived just in time for dinner (only served from 5:00pm - 7:30pm)! It was a buffet, and the food was not too bad. Temperature at Laban Rata that evening was about 10.8 deg C. Some of us however, had started to feel a little headache, so we rested for a while before climbing another 300m to our overnight stop at Gunting Lagadan. We also refilled our bottles with water from the restaurant.


Our room in Gunting Lagadan with 8 bunk beds

It started to rain quite heavily that night, and we could only hope for the best the very next day. Frankly I did not shower that night, it was just too cold. Yes, heated showers were available, but it was really limited and we had to wait long time for it. Instead I boiled some hot water and used it on a towel to wipe myself clean before changing into a new set of clean and dry clothes. After packing what I need for the next day, I swallowed 2 panadols and went to bed about 8:30pm.

Next: Mt. Kinabalu - Part 3 (The Summit Climb and the Descent)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 1 (The City)

When Choong told me sometime early this year that he would be climbing Mt. Kinabalu, I immediately asked if I could join him (since it coincided well with our school's term holiday). And lucky for me, both MAS and Airasia were competing with free air tickets. When else could be a better time to get the tix?

We spent approximately RM920 per person for accommodation, flight, and airport transfer and some meals.

Return flight KL-KK : RM240
Mt. Kinabalu climb (2 lunches, 1 breakfast, 1 dinner) : RM600
Airport transfer : RM20
Accommodation at
Beach Lodge : RM40 (2 nights - with a/c)
Porter fees -shared (3kg) : RM24
Walking stick : RM3


On the morning of 6th Sept, mom sent both of us to the KLIA (thanks mom!). We got ourselves MAS tickets for flight to KK, as it was slightly cheaper than Airasia. We had a pleasant surprise too, as I was not expecting a meal on board a short distance flight. I thought we'd probably just get some juice with peanuts or maybe the best it would be a sandwich. But I had roti canai (which was quite good), and TW had omelette, and both lunch boxes came with yogurt drink, bread and biscuits.


Our lunch boxes on board MAS flight - not bad

Another unexpected surprise was a short stopover at Labuan, my birth town! I don't remember having a transit stopover when I bought the tickets. But anyway, I haven't been back there for at least 25 yrs or more, so that stopover was definitely welcomed, even though we arrived KK perhaps 30 - 45 mins later than the original scheduled time. We got out of the plane for a walk in the airport... just to get a breath of Labuan air... he he he...


TW posing at the Labuan Airport


As soon as we arrived KK airport we called TC who arrived very early in the morning with the others on a separate flight. But he was already in the ferry with his friends to Pulau Manukan!!! And he didn't wait for us :( . Anyway, both TW and I took a cab straight to the Beach Lodge to check in first. I asked the taxi driver about the new shopping center in town and he told us about 1Borneo. That'll be a nice place to visit on such a hot day!

Within 15 minutes we arrived at the door step of the Beach Lodge. TW was clearly put off by the condition of the place from the outside. Not forgetting to mention that it is on the 3rd floor with no elevator! The gate was locked when we reached, so we rang the doorbell. We were greeted by a nice chap. And it didn't look too bad inside too... as advertised in their website, its a little laid back, but everything was clean :) For me cleanliness was very important. Towel and blanket are also provided. What more can you ask for only RM20/night? ;)


View of our room at The Beach Lodge, clean and comfortable

As soon as we settled down, we asked for directions to 1Borneo since TC and gang won't be back until later that afternoon. From the lodge, it would take about 15-20 minutes depending on the traffic. We decided to take the bus, well... to be exact it was me who decided to take the bus (TW hated the heat). Most of the public transport were just vans but they were called mini bus. We had to take the City Bus in order to get to 1Borneo.


The City Bus that travels to 1Borneo

After just 5 minutes of waiting TW wanted to take the cab instead (which will cost about RM20/way). I suggested to wait for another 5 minutes, and finally we managed to board the bus (only RM1/person). Anyway we had to take the cab back as it was raining quite heavily after that (what a change in weather!) and we didn't want to get wet.


1) TW squinting under the hot sun, 2) TW posing in the bus

When we got back to the lodge that evening, TC and gang also arrived. Lyne only arrived about 8pm that evening. After dinner we debated and discussed on what to bring and what not. Lucky for us, Kuan's sister brought us an additional backpack to stuff some of the heavy warm clothing. We decided to leave that backpack to the porter.

We went to bed between 10.30 -11.30 pm that night.

Mt. Kinabalu - Part 2 (The Climb) next!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I survived!

I did not make it to Low's Peak on Mt. Kinabalu, but I lived to tell. More updates later!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Yummy Oreo Cupcakes

Our school is having a fundraising activity this Friday as part of "Our Neighbourhood" theme. Apart from letting the children experience fun baking at school, it's the act of kindness that we would like to instill in them. All proceeds from the bake sale will be channeled to an orphanage.

And so all the teachers got really excited and tried various cupcakes recipes - some plain ones (so that the children could decorate them), and others with a variety of ingredients e.g. orange poppy seed, pandan, etc.

I managed to download a recipe from VeryBestBaking.com, which looked relatively simple. Instead of using chocolate morsels as recommended, I replaced it with Oreo instead. And the result was simply delicious! A must try!


Mmm...heavenly ;)

Recipe

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
220 gms butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 packet of Oreo (150g) - crushed into small pieces

Preheat oven to 180 deg C or 375 deg F.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Meanwhile, beat the softened butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in crushed Oreos. Spoon into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full (you'll get about 20-22 cakes with a 60mm size cups).

Bake 18-20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

**You may reduce the sugar by 1/4 or 1/2 cup if you prefer them to be less sweet.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Chance to Rub Shoulders with Bryan Watson & Carmen Vincenlj

BW & CV fans in Malaysia had their chance to meet the 9 times World Champion in Latin Dance (1999 - 2007) yesterday evening. The couple mesmerized us with their Paso Doble, Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba and Jive. We weren't allowed any videography during the performance but at least Sharon, Peggy & I managed to get an up-close photo with him! :D

Monday, July 21, 2008

One Happy Aunty

I've always underestimated the power of a teacher. I never understood why some parents always think we are a know-it-all, always seeking for advice on how to discipline their child at home.

Today one of the parents sent an email to thank the teachers. In her email she said that her daughter is now snacking on baby carrots because Aunty Shirl said that carrots are good for eyes. She had previously tried to encourage her daughter to eat more veggies but had little success. I read the email in disbelief. I've only mentioned it probably once during the class this morning, and that little phrase left an imprint on her memory. She added that her daughter also tries to remember to cover her mouth whenever she sneezes and says please to her requests - all thanks to the aunties who constantly remind her to do these.

Nothing's more rewarding and satisfying than to get emails like this. Just the little things that make your day :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

You are not beautiful!

Just early this morning Isabella's mom told me , "Isabella thinks that you are beautiful" and I felt really flattered by that comment. After all, children only tell the truth right? ;)

And the very same afternoon, Nika (who doesn't speak much English) walked up to me and said quite loudly, "Aunty Shirl, you are not beautiful!" I was completely taken aback, speaking of frankness! I asked her why, not without a pouting lip, of course. She replied, "Nooo....no this one" and gestured that I remove the piece of hairband from my hair. Aaaah... I see, she didn't like my hair being tied up. I quickly removed the hairband. She smiled and walked back to her lunch place contented :)

Children... ;)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I finished 2 books today!

I have this habit of reading several books at any one time; leaving one in every corner, e.g. my bedside table, car, toilet, etc. And today I completed 2*; the one in the car and the one next to my bed.

Apart from having the convenience of not carrying the same book everywhere I go, I keep my feet firm in reality and not get my grey matter all confused with a world of fantasy. Yes, I have on many occasions mixed up reality with fantasy. I'm not sure if this happens to those who read a lot too. Once I told it to Moo moo and he simply hushed it as nonsense. He said that the fun of reading a book is actually to get yourself immersed in the world that the author has created. Well, thanks but no thanks, I'm already dreamy enough even without living in an imaginary world.

Tomorrow I start on two new books... he he he :D

*Why I Hate Flying by Henry Mintzberg (got it for 80% off from Popular Bookstore sales) and Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (also a bargain from Popular Bookstore sales)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

13 years

That is how long I've graduated from secondary school. Gosh, it does seem sooo long ago!

SMK St. Mary staged a second musical after moving in to their new premise in Taman Intan Baiduri 10 years ago. This time they chose to do Phantom of the Opera. The main lady had a great voice, costumes were extravagant, overall it was good but there are a lot room for improvements. It does remind me a lot of the musical Annie Get Your Gun, staged in 1995, where I was a part of the stage hands and prop master. Those good ol' days!

Now that the school in a location so foreign to me, going back there felt so distant, and yet at the same time, there is this warm fuzzy feeling deep inside that tells me it is still the same old school. I took a glance at some of the yearbooks (way past my graduation years) displayed near the reception desk and I saw familiar faces; my Maths teacher, Pn. Charngeet, my Biology teacher, Mrs. Ng, my Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Liew and my English teacher, Ms. Wong. They are still around! Excitedly I pointed them to my husband, who was obviously less enthusiastic about it.

As I walked towards the school hall, I saw her, and she looked back at me with a smile. "I recognize that face!", Mrs. Ng said to me. "But I'm sorry I cannot remember your name", she added apologetically. I told her my name and that I was in the same batch as Elizabeth Lek - I was sure that she won't forget the top student's name, and I was right ;). She was equally excited to see me, and took down my contact details before showing me to the seats.

During the intermission I filled up the guest book for ex-St. Marians, and there I met Pn. Charngeet! Really, these teachers were just as I remembered them .... such a good thing that they don't age as much as I do... LOL! She too recognized me, and got my name half correct :) I tried to take a photo with her, but the cam failed on me and she had to rush away :( .... lucky for me I managed to at least take down her contact info.

Well, they are planning on the school's centennial event in 2012. I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wuuuaahhhhhhh..... :D

A wonderful 1h 15mins dance performance by Iberica de Danza!

The cast of Iberica de Danza who performed at KLPAC

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Estupendo!

Spent 3hrs + at KLPAC today with a bunch of Spanish dance enthusiasts. We started with a group of about 30, but as the workshop progressed, little by little started to quit. It was a little tough for those who have virtually no background in spanish dance at all. It was very difficult for me too, but I stayed put....after all, we were there to have fun!

The workshop was organized by the Spanish Embassy and conducted by Iberica de Danza to promote Spanish culture in Malaysia. Yesterday they had the beginner's workshop, but the timing clashed with my arrival from Brisbane so I couldn't make it. I was hesitant to attend today's advance workshop but I'm glad I went ahead with it! :D

We started with a warm up, brazos (arm movements), pies/zapatos (tapping action with the feet), castanets, and then to Sevillanas!!!!! It brought back so many good memories from Spain. We did the primera copla, which I did quite alright, I think. And for the segunda and tercera I just screwed up.... ha ha ha. We didn't have time to do the fourth one, but it was fine. Don't think I'd be able to remember all of them anyways.

The last half an hour we were introduced to a Galician dance, a fun folkloric dance from the northern-west part of Spain. It looked easy yet so tough! I guess its best to leave it to the experts to do it :D They will be performing tomorrow and on Tuesday....and I got free tix to watch them... Hoooraayyyyyy!!! Hopefully I'll get to see them in the backstage too :)


Photo 1 - From L to R: Olivia, Joyce, Raquel Ruiz (Iberica de Danza), Me
Photo 2 - From L to R: Me and Manuel Segovia (Iberica de Danza)


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hot, hot, HOTTT!!

After spending a week in the Land Down Under with a temperature between 14-25 deg C most of the time, the weather back home really didn't make me feel welcomed :( The moment I stepped into the house it felt like I was walking into a giant oven. Why am I complaining? I've never been quite a fan of cold weather anyway.... *sigh*

The past week has been a great bonding time with my sisters, Yi San, Yin San and Sean San. They took really good care of me during my stay and made sure that my welfare (especially my stomach, he he he) is well taken care of. Not to mention that they never failed to remind me to spend more money (ehem...with instructions from my darling hubby). My used-to-be-little sisters are all grown up now.... *sniff* *sniff*

Thanks sis!!!! Also to Wei Yong and Joseph for being my part time chauffeur. Big huggies to all of you :) See you all soon back here in Malaysia!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Time to go home

Decided to give myself a weigh too after packing my luggage and confirmed that everything is within 20kg. Guess what? I put on 2kg! Where on earth did that 2kg come from???






Hurricane's Grill website
Max Brenner's website

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Guiri @ Brisbane

After 2 days filled with supertiring rocks* in the rough sea and walks and climbs in Sydney, my sisters finally left me alone (they had to work). Today SS is going drop me off at a shopping mall then come home to do her revision. I only have 5 hrs anyway, since they close sharp at 5pm. Will have plenty of time to update my blog tonight.


*rocks as in a verb to shake or disturb violently and not a noun, a stone of any size.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Madness at Petrol Kiosks

This evening's announcement had everyone flocked to the petrol stations causing massive traffic jam at every corner in town.

Starting from 5 June 2008, the price of petrol is increased to RM2.70 from RM1.92.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bling bling at SAL

Last Friday the school hall was all bling and colourful for the annual SAL International Day. For the past week, everyone was busy with either preparing the costumes, the deco or rehearsals for the day. And I thought it would be a nice idea for teachers to have their very own t-shirts to wear on that day too. So I took home the silk screen which we used for the children's Alphabet-T and embellished the front with the initials of the teachers using crystal rhinestones. It was time consuming, and I took approx. 30-35 mins to silk-screen each T but the result was satisfying.

Lyne on the other hand spent like what...5 or 6 hours? just to construct the word "SAL runway" on the wall with 1 cent coins. The rest of the teachers, Pei Ting, Mie Mie and Eileen were marvellous with the children's costumes. The rabbit's masks and fairies wings were just like those in a fairy tale. Overall the show went quite smoothly, with a few minor hiccups here and there and a few stunned children (who did so well during rehearsals but were just overwhelmed by the crowd). We had also a wide spread of international cuisine, all contributed by the parents. Just to name a few, we had Kalam Polo (Iran), Croque Monsieur (France), Pavalova (NZ) and of course my favourite Nasi Lemak and Roti Jala (Malaysia).

This coming week will be our last week for Term 2! Am really looking forward to spend my holidays in Brisbane with all my sisters! :D

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Popular Bookfest @ KLCC

The annual bookfest organized by Popular is on from 24 May 2008 till 1 June 2008. Go splurge...I just did! :O

And guess what? I got the hot laminator that I wanted *grin*

The after-effect: This morning I woke up with a shoulder ache :( Try walking from the convention center to the parking at Suria with about 15kg load!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

MYOS**, Uncle!

Sorry, seriously I hold no grudge whatsoever against vertically challenged people. But this uncle at the dance studio really gets on my nerves.

I would normally avoid partnering with him, due to height problem (it's really difficult dancing with a guy whose stature barely reaches your shoulders). But that is not the main reason why I'm avoiding him. He likes to correct other people's mistakes. Mind you, I'm not all high and mighty and refuse to take advices from veterans, but first look at yourself and see if you are the one who needs correcting in the first place. It's always, "You should be doing this, you should be doing that, don't take such big steps, I can't keep up, blah blah blah". Unfortunately today there weren't many guys around to partner with, and I got stuck with him :S

I am probably just a little too tensed as we are now in the midst of getting ourselves ready for the upcoming ISTD Gold Star Latin exam. Being such a scatterbrain, I really don't know how I'm going to remember the choreography for 5 dances!

Nonetheless, there is no way I am going to partner with him again in future classes. NO WAY!

**Mind Your Own Steps

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Waterscreen Spectacular @ Putrajaya

For those who missed the show at Putrajaya recently
video

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Up and Running!

Mission accomplished! :) From now on please refer to http://guiri.site.shutterfly.com/ for all my photo albums and more ... will no longer be updating http://sitheng.shutterfly.com/. Update your bookmarks, thanks!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Re-organizing Photo Collection

Am in the midst of trying out the new beta sharing service by Shutterfly. So far I like the features.....if only the site was a wee bit faster. Anyway, for those who keep track of this blog, please do visit http://guiri.site.shutterfly.com/ and let me know what you think of this new arrangement.

Cheers!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cycling at Putrajaya

Today marks our 3rd cycling trip in Putrajaya. Ever since our little adventure in Hoa Lu - Tam Coc, TW got hooked. He was quite determined to turn it into a hobby and so he got us a bicycle each. I was skeptical. Why? Because he is the type that gets all hyped-up over something, spends a fortune on it then put it into cold storage. But then again, I'm glad that he has at least shown some interest in a sport activity....so as a wife I must give a bit of support lah.


Mirror reflection of clouds on the lake

And so we sacrifice our sleep on Sunday mornings - waking up at 5:30am just to go cycling. Of course we don't cycle all the way from home (we are not up to the mark yet). We got the bikes hooked onto the back of the car and drove it there. The first 2 times we arrived just as the sun rises (great photography opportunity). Today we got there while it was still dark. So far we have done 12km on the first try (no hills), about 9km on the second one around and in the Botanical Garden (a little slopes) and today we did 11km (more hills and slopes). I turned purple going uphill to Taman Putra Perdana (near Shangri-la). Reminded me of those days in Chambéry while cycling up to Jacob-Bellcombette. It was not that tough really, just that we have not been doing enough cardiovascular exercises. Come to think of it, it wasn't that bad for me, unlike "someone", I didn't have to push my bike up...ngiek ngiek ngiek :P



We missed the sunrise but this was not too bad :)

What I enjoyed most about cycling there are the fresh air, clear roads and breathtaking view at dawn. Not forgetting to mention dedicated bicycle lanes too. I am sure the night view is just as good, must make an effort to go there one of this nights.... apparently they have a spectacular showing on evenings of 15 May - 31 May 2008. Hopefully I'll remember to go!



One of the bridges there...can't remember which one

Also I enjoyed taking photos while I'm there. And Mr. Vain always know the right place to stand whenever I took out my super compact camera. Despite having an SLR, he prefers to keep it in his dry cabinet at home. GRRRRrrrr ..... Anyway, all his perasan photos are in my Shutterfly album :P

We'll probably do a few more rounds in Putrajaya before we dare to go off road. Let's see how long this hangat-hangat tahi ayam can last!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How I Got Rid of the Ganglion Cyst

I banged my wrist on the table today (intentionally) in hope of bursting that ganglion cyst (or bible cyst as some may call it) that has been bothering me for months. And it WORKED! Ok, that was probably not a recommended treatment, but the last time I had an aspiration performed on it by a doctor, it recurred.

How did I end up with this "gangly" thing? I suspect that it's due to my injury last year to my left elbow. The elbow is still weak, and very often I tend to exert more pressure to my wrist and shoulder without even realising it. On several occassion I had really stiff shoulders due to over exertion.

Anyway, hopefully after this self-administered treatment there will be no future recurrences *fingers crossed*

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Flamenco Workshop

I had a great time this morning at Cyberjaya Community Club with Angel in a Flamenco workshop organized by Joyce and Arte Flamenco. I must say he is really entertaining and fun to work with. I've lost count but there were probably about 30 flamenco enthusiasts present that day, fully geared in their beautiful flamenco skirts, flowers to adorn their hair (ladies only of course) and flamenco shoes.

The techniques session lasted about 2 hours, and then we had a nice buffet lunch at the cafeteria. The intermediate and advance bailaoras (and bailaor) stayed for the advance choreography, and there are some of them who stayed just to watch. Unfortunately I had to leave to the airport to pick up my sis who was coming back from Brisbane so I didn't get to see the second half. :(

Here's a short video on what happened this morning (nope...I'm not in it, have to hold the camera!)

video

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I love shopping

Don't you just love walking down the aisle in hypermarts or even furniture stores? There are just so many things that will ONE day be useful in your home. Yes, not now, but ONE day. It's all part of a woman's instinct you know, we plan and lookout for the future, like the old saying, Sediakan payung sebelum hujan.

The only problem lies here: how often does one need payung in a desert?

As I walk down the stationery aisle, I'll go, "Oh, binder clips! I don't have any at home. Maybe I'll get some". And in the trolley goes a box of 1/4 inch binder clips, a box of 1/2 inch ones, and subsequently a box each of 1 inch and 2 inch ones. As I continued to stroll, "Hmm, coloured papers, I'll need those too! Who knows when I'll be needing them to make cards?" And the trolley would be filled with coloured papers and cards with all possible colour that you can imagine. "Hey, a laminating machine! I need one too!"*

The same goes with all the other sections - be it kitchen gadgets or toiletries (yes, you don't have to remind me....my face is quite yellow by now). The only department I avoid is the hardware, because my beloved hubby is already stocking up on his own, and the last thing I need is 10 different type of power drills in the store.

Being a lazy cook, I also have 1001 types of bottled sauces in my collection. It's just sooo convenient! Each time I'm off for grocery shopping I find something new. Well, not exactly, I just refrain from getting too many in one go. I have to persuade myself, "No, I don't need them now, so put them back. I can get them when I REALLY need it". However, the very next visit to the store I find myself succumb to the forceful desire to buy what I didn't get the last time.

So, how do I save money??? Saving is supposed to be in the blood of every woman, right? Well, I keep my eye open for special bargains on the shelves from time to time. Big words that say "Promotion", "Super savers", "Lowest price guaranteed", yadda yadda yadda... you get my point. Just the other day Chips 'X' was going for RM0.99 at Store 'G' when the normal price is usually RM1.10!!! Imagine how much I can save if I buy 10 packets!!! *GRIN*

*I still haven't bought that laminating machine yet, may get it when the next sales is on

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Un saludo a todo

A los que lee mi blog de cuanto en tiempo, muchos besitos a vosotros. Yo sé que no os he escrito hace mucho tiempo, como siempre estoy ocupada con cualquiera cosa en cualquier tiempo. De todas maneras, os echo muchisimo de menos, perdonadme que no pueda escribir a cada uno un email privado (porque me cuesta un huevo con el español... ja ja ja ja).

Claro, mi buzon de correo esta siempre abierto, si me quereis dar de nuevo o enviar de algo .... os prometo que voy a intentar a contestar lo antes posible :D

Un abrazo fuerte de la chica con laptop

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hanoi Photos

Just realised that I have not shared out my Hanoi trip photos yet.... how forgetful! Not to mention that I have not even posted stories of my Hokkaido trip and more of the Hanoi trip. Procrastination..... *sigh*

One step at a time-lah..... go to Shutterfly for the Hanoi photos - you'll have to excuse me, with more than 400 photos, some photos are not properly labelled.....lazy-lah!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

明日香さん、ありがとうございまうす!

Last week I received a note from Poslaju (EMS) saying that I have a package from Japan. Unfortunately I was not able to collect it until today, leaving me in suspense for ONE whole week.

Finally got my hands on it... what a surprise!! It's from Asuka, my sweet sweet chum from Japan who also came all the way to attend my wedding last year :) So thoughtful of her, she sent me a little gift in conjunction with the Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) festival in Japan.


The courier unpacked and its contents - ornamental dolls with candies and crackers!

Thank you very much my dearest Asuka! :D

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Frog Can Crusher

My little toy just arrived today! I was waiting for it since Monday once I found out that the package has cleared customs.

I was a little disappointed when I saw 'Made in China' right at the bottom of the box. Frankly I have lost faith in 'Made in China' products. Anyway, I opened the box to find to big round eyes staring back at me :D It was really cute and just as I had expected it to be.... and I regained my hopes.


The frog can crusher with its arms and legs extended

So how does it work? I washed down a can drink so that I could try it out immediately! The frog's head look quite solid, but the movable parts was kinda flimsy. I put an empty can right underneath the frog's head and stomped hard. Voila!!!


The crushed can inside the frog

Why a can crusher?? Well, I am not exactly an environmentalist, but I try to do my bit too. So, intead of just chucking these empty cans into the bins, I separate them to be sent to recycling centers. One problem though, I don't go there very often, so they are taking up space in my kitchen! Once I asked TW to look for a can crusher from a local hardware store, and what did he get? The salesperson told him, "Guna kaki lah" (Use your feet!)

So I searched in eBay and there was a whole list of can crushers for me to choose from. There were probably many others that are more practical than this frog (which cost me USD9.99), but I've set my eyes on him since more than 5 years ago on a site that sells novelty gifts (they didn't deliver to Malaysia then)....and now I've found him again. How can one resist a long lost love? *grin*

Probably for the next few days I'll find myself drinking a lot of canned drinks... just to step on the frog's head. Wonder how many stomps it will be able to take before the poor guy has to retire?