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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ladybird, Ladybug, Ladycow......

Bein' a ladybug doesn't automatically make me a girl!
Where I come from, these adorable spotted beetles are called ladybirds. I think  Americans call them ladybugs. Growing up, I've always wondered if the ladybird was named for any particular female trait it possessed.

Interestingly, today I found out that the "lady" in ladybird refers to the Virgin Mary! Legend has it that crops in Europe during the Middle Ages were plagued by pests, so the farmers began praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary. Soon, the farmers started seeing ladybirds in their fields, and the crops were miraculously saved from the pests. They associated their good fortune with the black and red beetles, and so began calling them lady beetles. In Germany, these insects go by the name Marienkafer, which translates as Mary beetles. The 7-spotted lady beetle is believed to be the first named after the red cloak Mary often pictured in biblical paintings; the red color represents her cloak, and the seven  black spots represent her seven graces and sorrows.

Here are 10 cool facts about ladybirds

1. Ladybirds aren't really bugs at all, they're beetles!

2. In France, one common name is “la bete a bon Dieu” which roughly translates as “God’s animal”.In Russia, a popular name is “Bozhya korovka” which translates as “God’s little cow”, no doubt referring to the beetles’ spots which are not unlike the kind you’d find on certain cows. In fact, one of the alternate early names for the beetle, before “ladybug” or “ladybird” in English was “ladycow”.

3. Even in cases where the ladybird isn’t explicitly linked with God, it was historically considered by many to be a good luck charm or good omen due to it generally being considered a helpful insect. For this reason, it was less-commonly known as the “golden-bug” in some parts of England.

4.  Ladybirds bleed from their knees when threatened.

5. Over its lifetime, a ladybird may consume as many as 5,000 aphids.

6. Ladybird larvae resemble tiny alligators, with elongated bodies and bumpy skin.

7. Scientists believe ladybirds may lay both fertile and infertile eggs.

8. Ladybird adults hibernate, usually gathering in large aggregations in protected places.

9. Ladybirds practice cannibalism.

10. You can't tell a ladybird's age by counting its spots.

Sources - http://insects.about.com/od/beetles/a/10-facts-ladybugs.htm
                http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/04/ladybugs-called/

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Father's Day 2015

Happy Father's Day, pallies!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Baby's Full Moon

Baby Shower Cookies
While decorating these cookies for a friend's 'Full Moon', I was thinking how times have changed! Full Moon gift boxes I receive these days from friends and relatives comprise cupcakes and cookies unlike the traditional red eggs, pickled ginger and angkoos we used to give out and receive. If you are clueless about what that is, a full moon is a ceremony held to celebrate a baby's first full month of life when he/she turns one month old. In Chinese, full moon literally translates as  full month.
According to custom, gift packs consisting of red eggs, angkoos, yellow rice, curry and pickled ginger are distributed to relatives and friends as proclamation that a new member has been added to the family. A party is usually held and visitors arrive bearing gifts for the baby.

Every item in this basket has a symbolic meaning
image credit - http://www.foodpromotions.com.my/2009/02/nyonya-restaurant-baby-full-moon-gift.html
Hard-boiled eggs with their shells dyed red symbolize prosperity and fertility
Angkoo ( literally translates as red tortoise cake ) represents the baby's gender. Plain for males and textured for females, this red sweet cake is made out of mung beans and glutinous rice flour and shaped into a little tortoise. Tortoise symbolizes long life, strength and persistence.
Rice to ensure that there will always be food on the table


A modern-day Full Moon gift box with the obligatory red eggs
A full moon party is kinda like a western baby shower, only celebrated a month after the baby's birth. It also marks the last day of confinement for the new mom. The confinement period is a traditional post-natal Asian practice and is so called because the post-partum  mom and baby are 'quarantined' at home for a one-month period, hence the word 'confinement'. Traditionally, they do not receive visitors apart from close family members until the confinement period is over. You wouldn't want to visit them during that time either, trust me! Chances are, the new mom hasn't washed her hair for an entire month. You can read about that here.
So a full-moon gift box is essentially an announcement by the proud parents of the birth of their newborn and an invitation to friends, relatives and co-workers to welcome the arrival of the baby. Hubby calls that a 'summon' as the receiver of the gift box will then be obliged to visit the newborn bearing gifts!

For more information about the taboos and practices during the confinement period , read here

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My son turns 18 today!

Josh, my firstborn turns 18 today - yet another epic milestone in his life and mine. As of today, I am now officially the mother of an adult. How did this happen so quickly?
I am not going to lie and say that I enjoyed every second of his growing up for eighteen years. Oh, we had plenty of imperfect moments. At times, I felt like strangling him when he was hellbent on making me murderous and pissing me off. I am sure we drove our neighbors crazy with our shouting matches! And I am most certain, he was the cause of that perpetual scowl on my face! But I am going to congratulate myself and him for coming out of this turbulent journey to adulthood alive, unscathed and sane!

What do I write about this amazing young man who brings out the best and worst in me? He's the most compassionate person I know. He's generous, accommodating, tenacious, considerate, smart and funny though his younger brother, Rodney, will tell you differently. But even with Rodney, his greatest foe, I’ve witnessed acts of fierce  protectiveness and support when needed.

I believe Josh's best qualities, his compassionate heart and thoughtfulness will serve him well in life. The first time I noticed these qualities was when he was three - we were at the traffic lights when a turtle from a nearby pond was crossing the road behind us and a car rolled over it. Josh cried his eyes out and was inconsolable until we convinced him that the turtle was having a better life in turtle heaven. On his 4th birthday, he requested for a pair of terrapins. At the pet shop, he chose a blind terrapin and another deformed one. Josh insisted on bringing them home 'cos he figured that if we didn't, no one would buy them and he couldn't bear the thought of them languishing in the pet store.  Once, while walking down a street, we stumbled upon a lifeless rat. Josh stopped short , closed his eyes and clasped his wee hands in prayer over the dead rodent! Bless his little heart! And when he was in first grade, he would queue up every single day at the canteen to buy food for his disabled classmate. I see the same compassion in this young man still. Josh actively contributes his time and effort to volunteerism and community services. He teaches kids from war-torn countries at a refugee camp. He intends to volunteer his service at an animal shelter during his coming semester break.

If I could rewind time, which part would I play over and over again? It would most definitely be the stage between toddler and boy. And I would most certainly skip the mid teenage phase!  Shudder!

My perfect moments? When he made me my first Mother's Day gift? The times when he would accompany me everywhere  and didn't think that hanging out with mom wasn't uncool?When he bought me cookie cutters with the prize money he won in the first contest he entered? It's kinda hard to qualify some moments as better than others. Just the other day, I visited his former high school to collect his certificates and the teachers were telling me what a fine young man Josh turned out to be. His school counselor congratulated me for raising him well! That, for me, was my most perfect moment, the culmination of 18 years of parenting.

This young man has tested my mettle, grown me in patience and strengths I never thought I had in me. I guess the time has come to cut the apron strings - to let my baby go and grow independently no matter how much it hurts.

Happy 18th Birthday, son!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mermaid Tales

Back in 2009, rumours of a mermaid that was washed ashore on a Malaysian island spread like wildfire across the nation. There was even a short video clip of the mermaid lying dead on a beach.

Be warned that the mermaid in the following video doesn't look quite like Ariel. You may find the image disturbing.

Turned out, the purported mermaid was a sculpture by artist Juan Cabana. Quite frankly, I was a little disappointed. I had wanted to believe that mermaids were real and one was discovered at long last.

And why not? The existence of merpeople  really is quite plausible for 2 reasons.

1.  Mermaid tales have existed across all cultures since time immemorial, long before the different cultures interacted with one another. Paintings, poems and sculptures of these amphibious maidens sometimes found in Indian temples are evident that such creatures are more than just a figment of the imagination.
Growing up, my first mermaid tale was the one Grandma used to tell before tucking us to bed. According to Chinese mythology, sailors loved to trap mermaids to sniff out their tails. Simple minded though beautiful, they were easy to snare. Their tails were naturally purple and smelled of happiness but would turn to red and smell of sadness when they were unhappy. Mermaids in Chinese literally translates as 'beautiful human fish'.

2.The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored. Who really knows what's down there in those bottomless mid-ocean trenches? After all, two new whale species were discovered only in recent years.

If mermaids were real, I believe they aren't the alluring beautiful creatures we grew up imagining and would probably look more like monsters than Ariel. Baby boomers, remember the black and white photograph of a 'reverse mermaid' that made quite a splash circa 1973? I was in fifth grade when a classmate brought the picture to school. The creature in the photo had a fish’s head and the hips and legs of a fully-developed woman. For a very long time, I never knew for sure if the mysterious entity was fake. It did look kinda fishy! It was only until recently that I googled and learned the reverse mermaid was indeed a hoax that originated in or around Yemen during the early 1970s.  The story behind the hoax until today is still undisclosed.
image credit - http://karlshuker.blogspot.com/2011/03/rene-magritte-and-reverse-mermaid-very.html
I believe or rather I choose to believe that mermaids along with dragons, unicorns, werewolves, vampires, fairies.... exist simply because they represent the unknown, the mystical, the supernatural. Maybe they are not what we have in mind but they are definitely out there, elusive, lurking in the twilight place between land and sea.

What about you? Do you think mermaids are real?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Snail Slime

Lately, my odd sleeping hours, bad eating habits and sun damage caused by my disregard for sunscreens (they make my eyes itchy) are showing on my face. A friend who has skin to die for revealed that her secret is snail slime.

Would I put snail slime on my face  in the name of beauty?
My initial reaction was HECK NO! I'd rather die ugly than putting slug mucous on my face! Eeeewwww!

But I so desperately want to slow down the ageing process to a snail's pace. Well, desperate needs call for desperate measures! After overcoming the initial cringe factor, I googled for more info. Looks like snail creams have indeed been crawling into the beauty world. Katy Holmes swears by it!

After much thought, I've decided to give it a go. It can't be any worse that the last gross product I used. It contained avian collagen derived from the connective tissues from chickens. Long story but I have a strong aversion to chickens. I don't even eat them!

Anyway, as I was saying, the snail slime used in the face creams is mixed with other ingredients to mask its smell. Besides, no snails are harmed in the process.

I did it! I bought myself a jar of snail cream from a shop that sells Korean face products. The cream smells and feels just like any ordinary moisturizers. I have used ones that smelled worse. This even costs less than my regular face cream.

Keeping my fingers crossed and  hoping for a miracle....

Have you tried a snail cream before? Would you? What other gross products have you tried?
When I gave these snail cookies to a little neighbour boy, the first thing he asked was, "I think you got it wrong. Aren't a snail's eyes on its tentacles?"  LOL!

Just a thought -  Would I brave a snail facial next?  I was told that snails tend to perch on top of your nose as they love to climb. A faceless slug eyeballing me with its tentacles? Uuuuugggghhhh!

Therapeutic? I think not!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Aunty M

A couple of days ago, Josh asked me if I could help him write a letter to an old lady who's dying of cancer. His classmate, C, is trying to get as many people as possible to write to Aunty M, an inmate in a nursing home who is facing her final days alone. Her family has abandoned her. C visits her everyday.

I'm not one who's good with words so I suggested giving Aunty M a cookie with a short message.

Here's what Rodney wrote.

Dear Aunty M,

Hope this cookie will brighten your day. :)

Your new friend,
Rodney

Rodney came home from school today with the following reply from Aunty M. The letter was written in Chinese but neither one of us can read Chinese so we got a neighbour to translate for us .

Dear Rodney,

Thank you for the lovely cookie. How sweet of you!  I am so touched by the kindness you have shown even though you hardly know me. You certainly have made my day!

I will pray for you always.

God Bless!

Love
Aunty M
What a sweet lady!  We plan to visit her but C says Aunty M does not wish to see anyone at the moment so for now, Rodney and his classmates will just send her little messages and gifts to light up her remaining days.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

With Mother's Day just around the corner, I am thinking of my 91 year-old mom. I've always been my mom's favourite child and she is the queen of my heart.
Born in the 1920s, Mom was very different from the very traditional Asian mothers of  her time. While most women of that era were housewives who couldn't drive  and were illiterate, Mom was a nurse, had her own car and English educated. I remember beaming with pride whenever she drove me to school. And she was quite the dancer too. She could waltz and tango. She really rocked the Foxtrot! Me? I have two left feet!
Although considered very untraditional, Mom was and still is very Asian in her ways. And like many Asian families, big hugs and praises were not openly displayed and given in our family when we were growing up.

I recall the time when my cousin was leaving for college in Australia. At the airport. her conservative mom just gave her a mere handshake and wished her the best! No hugs. No kisses. Isn't that sad?

My boys, on the other hand, are complaining that I am overly demonstrative and are constantly embarrassed by my generous hugs! Such an outward display of affection is met with disapproval by my mom-in-law. "You should always love your kids from the inside or they will grow up spoiled", she reminds me every now and then.

I may be open with my boys but my sisters and I are still challenged by the awkward PDE (public display of emotion) policy with my parents.  With my parents' days numbered, I am hugging them more but still find it very uncomfortable and awkward especially with my dad.

Here's a very uplifting video on things Asian parents say/do in place of "I love you".
Ha! Like most Asians, we are very proficient in reading cryptic gestures like  mom picking the last piece of meat with her chopsticks and putting in on your plate at dinner. Or Dad staying up until the wee hours of the morning until he heard the sound of the key turning in the door, assured that you were safely home from a party before he silently went to bed. It meant "I love you"!



As blogger Cindy writes, “Chinese families know how to love fiercely. They do it through immense generosity, unwavering loyalty, and a lot of food. We love differently, not better, not worse, but definitely different.”
Happy Mother's Day, Pallies!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bake Sale

Rodney's school held a bake sale recently. Every class, society and club was required to set up a stall.
Rodney and his classmates baked emoji sugar cookies. He asked me to give their stall a boost with my decorated cookies. As it was a last minute request, I could only come up with 9 pieces. Can you spot my teddy cookies on the cupcake stand? They were sold out pretty fast!


The Science and Math Club
The  Art Club
The Japanese Language Club. Their stall raised the most money.
Rodney clowning around as he peddles the cookies
All proceeds from the sale went to their school's building fund.

This week's cookies for Mother's Day.
Forever Friends Bears

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Deng Deng

Hankering for paratha (Indian flatbread), the hubs and I hopped into a restaurant called The Paratha Kitchen. Funny, but there was no paratha on the menu!  A man who was seated next to our table complained loudly, "It's like going to a cafe named The Apple Pie that doesn't serve apple pies". Yup, I couldn't agree more.

Anyway, I ordered something unfamiliar called Beef Deng Deng.
Beef Deng Deng
Turned out, the beef was scrummy. The meat had a melt-in-the-mouth texture with just the right hint of spices in it. I learned from the waiter that Beef Deng Deng Balado is an Indonesian dish from Padang, West Sumatra.

According to Wikipedia:
Dendeng refers to thinly sliced dried meat in Indonesian cuisine. It is preserved through a mixture of sugar and spices, sun-dried, then deep-fried and simmered in a spicy sauce. It is similar to jerky. Dendeng was originally founded by the Minangkabau people. At first they made Dendeng from beef, drying it so it could be eaten for days and bringing it with them when they traveled. Balado is the sambal, a sauce made from  a mixture of cooked large bananas, red chili peppers and shallots and seasoned with salt.

Deng deng!  I thought it rang a bell !

This week's cookies

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Love-hate The Internet

I was just reading an article about the author's love-hate feelings about the internet. I share her ambivalence.
I love that the internet has connected me to so many wonderful people all over the world especially bloggy pallies and fellow cookiers. Without it, our paths would never have crossed! Used to be, "friends" were people we actually knew and saw  face-to-face and people, had, at most, a few dozen.
While I love my online friends, I kinda miss my 'real' friends who have morphed into virtual buddies. The internet has turned them into recluses.

Back in my days, "news" was something you found out about the day after it had happened, in a newspaper. When I wanted to check a fact, I had to hop into a library and hopefully find a book that might have the answer. If I wanted to research a country I was visiting, I had to buy a guidebook. If I wanted the lyrics to a song, I had to rewind the tape and play the song over and over again. Remember the song "Love in the first degree" by Bananarama? I  used to think the words were "guilty, guilty as a bumble bee" when the actual lyrics are "guilty as a girl could be"! LOL!

Like everything else in life, the internet has a dark side. I hate that it has turned people into voyeurs, exhibitionists and narcissists. It has unleashed unlimited freedom and power for haters, trolls, bullies, bigots, extremists ...  who delight in spewing evil, venom and hate as these cowards find it easier to say things like that behind the anonymity of a computer.

Had it not been for youtube and cookie forums, I could NEVER, EVER have been able to make these cookies.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stained Glass Cookies

I wanted the stained glass effect but these turned out more like mosaic.
As fellow cookier Laegwen kindly puts it - An artist does everything on purpose!


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