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Monday, August 24, 2015

It's A Girl!

Most days, I dread reading the newspaper. Yet when I don't, I feel incomplete as if I have missed out on an indispensable part of my every day life. News that often hog the front page are always so depressing - plane crashes, terrorism, earthquakes, our sliding Ringgit and other horrible things.

And it's not everyday that you get to read about happy stuff like the births of pandas instead of my daily dose of dread. First it was giant panda Liang Liang and now Mei Xiang!

Liang Liang who is on loan from China to Malaysia's Zoo Negara, gave birth to a cub last Tuesday (18th August). Initially, there were concerns that Liang Liang and  her mate Xing Xing, were not hitting it off. Well, looks like they have overcome their intimacy issues.

It's a girl!
image credit -  The Star Malaysia

Let's toast to the first panda cub born on Malaysian soil! And to Mei Xiang too, for her twins who were born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C on Saturday night!

Panda Cookies

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wordish Wednesday

Oreo, our guinea pig is five years old this year. Old for a guinea pig but she sure doesn't look it!

Isn't she the cutest thing ever?
According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the oldest guinea pig known was 14 years and 10.5 months old and was named Snowball. The average life expectancy of guinea pigs is about 4 to 7 years. We pray and hope Oreo will outlive Snowball.

This week's cookies

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Legend Of Chang-E


If, on a full moon night, you happen to see the silhouette of a lady clutching a big rabbit in the moon, you would be seeing Chang-E (嫦娥), the Chinese moon goddess. Like all legends, there are many different versions of the story of the moon lady. The following tale is my favourite as told by my grandma.

The Jade Emperor, ruler of Heaven, had ten unruly sons. One day, they transformed themselves into ten suns, heartlessly scorching the earth from high up in the heavens. Unable to stop their mischief, the Jade Emperor summoned Houyi, an archer renowned for his marksmanship. The emperor commanded the immortal to teach his sons a lesson.

Houyi descended to Earth and saw its suffering with his own eyes. Everything was charred and lifeless, and the people were in agony. Filled with righteous indignation, he acted. Plucking an arrow from his satchel, he took aim at the suns. First one fell down, then another. In the end, nine of the Jade Emperor’s sons were dead. Houyi left only one sun alive, to give the earth light and warmth.

Upon hearing the news, the Jade Emperor was furious. He banished Houyi and his beautiful wife Chang’e from Heaven, stripping them of their immortality. They were now forced to live on Earth as ordinary mortals.

The pair found human life hard and miserable. Though a hero to mankind, Houyi had a single wish: to avoid the death that awaited all mortals and return to heaven with his beloved wife. She, at least, did not deserve to suffer.

Fortunately, Houyi recalled that the immortal Queen Mother of the West, who lived on Earth, had a rare supply of the elixir of immortality. The hopeful archer left on an arduous journey to seek her aid.

After countless difficulties, he finally reached her palace on sacred Mount Kunlun. Learning of their plight, the merciful Queen Mother gave Houyi two things. One was the elixir; the other was a warning.

“Drinking half the elixir will grant everlasting life. The entire elixir, however, will make one ascend to heaven as a full-fledged immortal.”

Half for himself; half for his wife. It was all Houyi could have hoped for.

When Houyi reunited with Chang’e, she was thrilled over his success. Yet while her husband was resting from his journey, she could not resist peeking at the elixir he brought back. Her eagerness to become immortal tempted her into drinking the entire potion. Before long, she felt her limbs grow weightless, and she began to float into the sky against her will.

As a banished deity, she could no longer return to heaven. Earth was now beyond her grasp as well. With nowhere else to go, Chang’e drifted to the desolate Moon, where she spent the rest of her days in a lonely palace accompanied by a white rabbit who lives in the moon. She wept bitterly for her husband Houyi, who was condemned to live the rest of his days on Earth as a mortal.

source -  Shen Yun Performing Arts

Here's a video of another retelling of the folklore to share.
You may want to turn up those speakers. The music is  hauntingly beautiful!


Interestingly, did you know Chang'e was mentioned in a conversation between Houston Capcom and the Apollo 11 crew just before the first Moon landing in 1969?

Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, is one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-O has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.
Michael Collins: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Of Birth and Death

As I was decorating these baby shower cookies for hubby's co-worker, I was thinking of the irony of life. While we're celebrating the life of a newborn, somewhere out there, someone is mourning the death of a loved one.
Just yesterday, Josh came home from college, shaken and traumatized. A college student fell to his death just a little distance from him. Josh and his buddies were feeding the ducks at the campus lakeside when they heard a loud thud. At first, they thought the sound came from the construction site nearby but upon scanning the area, they saw a body sprawled on the ground several feet from where they were standing. Their first thoughts were the victim had collapsed from heat stroke which is a common occurrence in our very hot climate but as they approached the body, it was evident that the victim had fallen from a great height. The campus' auxiliary policeman was alerted and the victim was confirmed dead. Later, college officials revealed the case was suicide.

What drove him to such a desperate measure?  Did the pain of his existence become so unbearable, there was no way out but to end his young life? Wasn't there anyone who could have made a difference? I was told that suicide survivors instantly regret their decision the second they jump. Though Josh didn't know the student, he was deeply affected by his death and wished he could have done something to prevent the tragedy. I am still reeling from the incident.

My heart breaks for his family  and I grieve for his mother. No parent should ever have to deal with this. I can't begin to imagine the pain they are going through. I want to pray for his soul and for God to give the people he had left behind the strength to brave through their sorrow. I want to hold my sons a little closer every night and remind them no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, suicide is NEVER the answer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Indian Wedding


The bride for whom I made these cookies was a flower girl at my wedding 23 years ago! Time does fly!

Did you know that a traditional Indian wedding lasts an average of three days!!!??  On the first night, a priest will perform the ganesh pooja, a ceremony that usually happens at home with only the couple, the bridal party, and close relatives in attendance.

The second day begins with a mehndi ceremony. For this, the bride and her female friends and family members will have intricate henna patterns drawn on their hands and feet. That evening, the sangeet takes place. Every wedding guest is usually invited, and it involves an introduction of the couple's families, mingling, a meal, and dances or other performances.
A mehndi party
On the third day, the main ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception take place. You may be invited to the last day of the events, or to any part of the three-day celebration. Your invitation should clearly state what you're being asked to attend.

Expect to see the groom arriving to the wedding ceremony on a decorated white horse! Over here where a white horse is nearly impossible to find, the groom makes his entrance in a fancy car instead. Guests dance around him to the beat of the dhol, an Indian drum. After that, the bride and her family greet the groom, and the couple exchanges floral garlands to wear around their necks to symbolize their acceptance of each other.

image credit - http://www.indianweddingsite.com/
During the ceremony, the priest, groom, bride, and bride's parents sit beneath a mandap, a canopy similar to a Jewish huppah. The ceremony starts off with the kanya daan, in which the bride's parents give away the bride. Then the couple joins hands and circles around a small, enclosed fire (the agni) in a ritual called the mangal phera.

The couple will next take the saptapadi, a seven-step ritual where each step corresponds to a vow the groom makes to the bride, and a vow the bride makes to the groom. Saptapadi is performed near a fire, which has religious significance. After each of the seven oaths to each other, the groom and bride  walk around the fire with part of each other’s clothing tied to each other.
Finally, the groom will apply a red powder to the center of the bride's forehead and tie a black beaded necklace around her neck, proclaiming that she's now a married woman.
image credit - https://www.chennaihalls.in
source - https://www.theknot.com/content/hindu-wedding-guest-qa

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ratzilla

Have you seen the following image of  the giant rat that went viral on social media a couple of months ago? The photograph was taken at a rat catching campaign that was organised in a suburb not too far from where we live. My first thoughts were......OMG! It must be the genetically modified foods our rats have been feeding on and they mutated! Either that or our city has beome so filthy, it has pretty much become rat heaven and our rodent friends have gotten big and fat from all that partying and feasting!
Turned out, Ratzilla was just a regular sized rat and the image was either photoshopped or captured by the photographer at an angle that made it look ginormous. Apparently, a Facebook user has uploaded  the image to make a point - that the standard of cleanliness in the precinct was sub par and a breeding ground for rodents and other pests. In defense, an image was later uploaded by a spokesperson of the municipality showing the actual size of the purported rodent at a different angle. Phew! However, residents are still claiming to have seen rats the size of cats in the area!

A huge rat, nonetheless!
A scene from the movie Ratatouille
I was going to make Remy (the would-be-chef from Ratatouille) cookies but I just couldn't get the image of Ratzilla out of my head. While I have no qualms about cute talking rats who wear chef hats and know how to prepare five course meals, Ratzilla isn't that  kind of rat I want  invading my lovely neck of the woods.  Thank God, I live in a condo and the only rodent you find in our home is our big fat guinea pig!

I don't mind these invading my neighbourhood though!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Blog Break

On a blogging break for the next while. Back soon.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Selamat Hari Raya AdifFitri

In a week's time, Muslims worldwide will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr. In Malaysia, we call it Hari Raya Adilfitri. Hari Raya in Malay literally translates as ‘celebration day’ and Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the day that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of dawn-to-sunset fasting.

Over here, the festival is a major public holiday and offices and schools officially close for 2 days.
On this day, Muslims don new clothes and go for prayers in mosques at dawn. Then it’s off to see the parents. Muslims traditionally ask for forgiveness from their elders for any wrongs committed during the year. More visits are made to see relatives and friends and a lavish spread of food awaits Some even have 'Open House' - a Malaysian concept  like no other anywhere else in the world! Open Houses are  held during religious and cultural festivals like Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Christmas and Deepavali. An Open House event connotes that anyone , regardless of religion or race, can visit the home of a friend or associate during a particular celebration. When we were kids, we used to hop from house to house and stuff ourselves full with all those yummy cakes and cookies!

It is customary for Muslims to wear traditional clothes on Hari Raya. The men generally wear Baju Melayu (a loose shirt with trousers) with kain samping (a short sarong) and a songkok (cap), while the Baju Kurung is often worn by the ladies. Families usually dress in the same colour to represent unity.


Those green thingies are ketupat, a type of dumpling made from rice packed inside a square pouch that is woven from coconut leaves. Ketupat to Hari Raya is what Easter eggs and bunnies are to Easter. Images of ketupat are often used as decoration to celebrate Hari Raya or Eid ul-Fitr.
From the 20th day of Ramadan, oil lamps are lit in homes and mosques and burned until the end of the festival
Ketupat - a Hari Raya staple

Friday, July 3, 2015

Red, White And Blue

Wishing my American bloggy buddies a very happy July 4th!

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

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