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Friday, February 27, 2015

Green For Luck

2014 wasn't a great year for me and I'm hoping that 2015 will be a better one. I'm not really into Fengshui and all that Chinese hocus-pocus but I was told that wearing green this Year Of The Sheep will enhance your wealth luck. I could really do with some wealth luck!
Anyway, green is my favourite color and I look really awful in red though wearing red during the Chinese New Year is believed to be auspicious. Ha, maybe that is exactly the reason why I've never had wealth luck for as long as I remember. I don't wear red! Growing up, we wore red every Chinese New Year as it was a family tradition. We were like walking 'ang-pows' !
image credit - http://www.oldshanghaionline.com
Ang-pow literally means "red packet" in Hokkien  and are those lucky red envelopes with money in them that are given out as gifts during festive occasions like weddings, birthdays, and throughout the fifteen days of Chinese New Year. Traditionally, they used to depict images of good luck - blooming flowers for prosperity, school of fish for overflowing wealth each year, children for laughter and happiness, and sail boat for smooth sailing in business and life. But these days, it's not uncommon to see images like angry birds, hello kitty or even Olaf on them! Heck, they are not even red! Why am I not surprised?
image credit - http://www.lelong.com.my
When we were in primary school, we would 'house-hop' for ang-pows during the Chinese New Year. We would go in a group, unsupervised, from house to house in the neighbourhood, on foot and sometimes riding on our bicycles to collect those little red packets from the parents of friends and even from people we barely knew! I guess times have changed. The word 'pedophile' was unheard of then.

Speaking of green, I made this St Paddy's doggy for an extra dose of good luck. Green and shamrocks, how wrong can you go?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chinese New Year Break

As I'm typing this, we're on a road trip back to our hometowns to celebrate the Chinese lunar year with first, my in-laws In Penang and then my parents in Ipoh. On a normal day, it takes about 3 1/2 hours to reach Penang but judging from the heavy traffic ahead, I think it will take us all day. Last year, we were on the road for 8 hours! Not fun especially when you're incontinent. The annual exodus to hometowns for family reunions celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday already started on Saturday. All that haste and urgency is because everyone's presence is expected during the reunion dinner on the eve of the Chinese new year.
Chinese Lunar Year Cookies
Happy Chinese New Year, pallies!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Li-Chun

I know it's just a myth but I couldn't help doing that egg standing thingy on Wednesday, February the 4th. That day was Li Chun, the first day of Spring in the Chinese Calender.
I was told that this urban legend originated from China when American Annalee Jacoby witnessed a peculiar ritual while she was in the capital city of Chungking at that time. A crowd of people came to balance eggs. It must have been quite a sight, and so she wrote about it for Life magazine and it has gone viral since.
image credit - http://www.dajiyuan.eu
According to Chinese legend, it is easier to stand an egg on its end on what they call the first day of spring in China which is a month and half before the first day of spring as recognized by Americans.
A teacher instructs children to erect eggs in a kindergarten in Linyi City, east China. Many places in China follow the tradition of erecting eggs on vernal equinox. It is said that due to the sun's equidistant position between the poles of the earth on the first day of the spring, special gravitational forces apply.
image credit - http://news.cultural-china.com
However, science has proven that the balancing of most eggs on their broad ends is not particularly difficult at any time of the year. No physical influence of other celestial bodies on the egg can affect its balance to the extent required by the folk belief. Gravitational and electromagnetic forces, in particular, are considerably weaker and steadier than the disturbances created by the person's breathing and heartbeat. I guess it just needs heaps of patience and very talented fingers.

I've never once succeeded.

One broken (it rolled off the counter) and 2 cracked eggs later,  my effort ended up in these hedgies I made.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Josh

Josh started pre-university about 2 weeks ago and he seems to be enjoying college life. The Dean awarded him a scholarship in the form of a tuition fee waiver for the Foundation in Science programme. Josh intends to pursue a degree in Biotechnology.

While sorting the laundry this morning, I saw Josh's lab coat in the pile for the first time. Don't know why but it made smile. It seemed like only yesterday I was sorting out his white high school uniform!
Yes, we are still living under the same roof! The university is a ten-minute drive away and after doing the math, it works out that it is more practical and economical for him to stay with us than to move out. I am secretly doing the happy dance! I think he is less than pleased though.
I asked him what's the best part of college life so far and he says it's the food! :smack:  He enjoys his meals at the restaurant that are prepared by the culinary students from the School of Hospitality. It's a restaurant that is run by the students for the students. I had lunch there once and the food was fantastic. The variety is amazing and the prices really affordable. The School of Culinary Arts in his university is among the best in the country. How lucky! The canteen food in the college I attended really sucked!
Teddy Bear Cookies for Josh's new college mates

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lion Dance

Lion Dance cookies I made this week for the Chinese Lunar Year.

Growing up, few things were as exciting as a lion dance. The sound of distant drum beats would get my heart a-thumping - it meant a lion dance troupe was making its round in our neck of the woods. Shouts of excitement "Moe See, Moe See" (lion dance in Cantonese) could be heard as everyone in the neighbourhood would dash out of their houses to watch the majestic lions parading down the streets, prancing about lively as the martial artists beneath cavorted and  gyrated in a whirlwind of motion to the clamour of a ginormous drum, gong and cymbals. The sound of exploding firecrackers and scent of burned gunpowder in the the air always added to the fun and excitement.

Interestingly, the lion is not native to China and only existed in myth, Yet the lion dance is such an integral part of the Chinese New Year. There are many legends surrounding the mysterious origin of the dance . A more popular one tells of a monk who dreamed that China was about to be plagued by many evils. On waking, he prayed fervently to the gods for a way to avert the coming catastrophe and his prayers were answered with a vision of a lion, the king of all beasts that would protect the people and overcome the evils. Because the monk had never seen or heard of a lion before, he created his own from many other mythical creatures including the dragon and unicorn. This certainly explains why the ‘lions’ used in the dance don’t look too much like real ones!

Lion dancing has evolved over the years. Today, lion dancing has become  one of the most breathtaking forms of performance arts in traditional Chinese culture as lion troupes from all over the world compete against one another at international level. It’s jaw-dropping not only because of the life-like movements and expressions of a lion that are mimicked by its dancers, but also because of the element of danger that is present. Performed on high poles (some as high as 16 feet and with a mere diameter of  8 inches), a pair of highly-trained experts blanketed under a heavy costume, leaps from pole to pole. The lion even balances itself precariously on the high poles on its hind legs meaning that the rear dancer has to raise the lead dancer high in the air! A slight error in judgement can easily cause both dancers to fall down from a great height, yet they somehow manage to coordinate their movements so effortlessly.

I am thinking - the rear dancer must be having a more challenging role as the lion's hind legs. I mean, the back guy is bent over the entire time! He is required to duplicate the lead dancer's stances while remaining in an awkward, stooped posture with restricted vision. I was told that all he could see are the pair of legs in front of him! He 'sees' by following  the lead dancer's steps and jumps as best he can, thus ensuring that the lion moves as a single unit. This dancer may also be called upon to lift the lead dancer high in the air like a lion on hind legs. It can't be easy having to bear the weight of the lead dancer and the very heavy lion head atop a pole that is 16 ft tall ! On the contrary, Hubby told me that the lead dancer plays a more important role. In addition to some fancy footwork, he has to bear the heavy lion head, simultaneously working the mechanisms inside the head.  He has to wiggle the head, flutter the eyelids, open  and close the mouth and flap the ears to express the lion’s mood.
image credit - http://modelmakingresearchiadt.wikispaces.com/
Watch this video. Our Malaysian team won the World Champion Trophy back in 2004. It has a slow start but be blown away at the 4:42 minute mark when the lion leaps onto the poles.  It's truly awesome!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Brotherly Love

Running late for a dental appointment and with my cellphone low on battery, I borrowed my son's (Rodney) phone and left the house in a cab for the clinic. When my appointment was over, I was to call my elder son, Josh, to pick me up. I couldn't find Josh' s name in Rodney's phone. I keyed in 'brother' and it wasn't on the list of contacts either. I thought I had to go through the entire list. Starting from the top, I scrolled down the screen - Adam, Amira, Anne, Asshole, Aquila.......  I had a hunch Asshole was it. Yep, Josh answered the call when I hit the call button under Asshole!  LOL! I wonder what Rodney is listed as in Josh's phone!

Cupig

This week, I made cupig cookies for this year's Valentine's Day. What do you think? 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Year Of The Sheep

The year 2014 ended for Malaysians in a sombre mood. In March, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 aboard. Officials believe that the plane is somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Now, nine months later, MH370 still hasn't been found. In July, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard. And just before the year was over, we mourned for our third aviation tragedy when QZ8501 crashed in the Java Sea due to bad weather.
Besides the plane tragedies,we had a prolonged drought in March and were hit by the worst water-crisis ever. Then recently we were inundated by the worst ever flooding in the history of our country with more than 200,000 Malaysians displaced from their homes.
image credit - http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/
image credit - http://www.thestar.com.my
image credit - http://www.theborneopost.com
School children wading in flood waters.

Luckily for us, our city has not been affected by the heavy rains but my heart goes out to all the victims. I can't begin to imagine their anguish and pain. The floods have receded for now but the grim task of rebuilding their homes, villages and lives has only just begun.
2015 is the year of the sheep. The sheep is docile, meek and mild, symbolizing peace, harmony and tranquility. Hopefully, this means a better year for Malaysia.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Kokeshi


I am sure you must have seen these cute kokeshi dolls floating all over the internet.
My fascination for these dolls started when I first received those paper ones from my Japanese pen pal when I was in secondary school. I was smitten at the first sight of their kawaii-ness ( kawai means cute in Japanese).

According to Wikipedia:

“Kokeshi (こけし kokeshi), are Japanese dolls, originally from northern Japan. They are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face. The body has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow, and covered with a layer of wax. One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs. The bottom is marked with the signature of the artist.”

Fun facts
  • The dolls may originally have had a spiritual significance with the kokeshi representing a wish for a healthy child.
  • It has also been suggested that kokeshi, with their round heads and limbless bodies probably made in an unpainted form originally, were used as massage tools by spa bathers.
  • Kokeshi are generally bought by Japanese as mementos. In addition to being ornamental, they are also seen as charms to prevent fires or even ward off evil. Mizuki, the wood often used to make the kokeshi doll's face, literally translates as "water tree". It is a very moist wood and some Japanese believe that having a kokeshi in their home helps prevent fire. A kokeshi doll, therefore, is considered a lucky charm and is often bought in the belief that she will protect a home against fire.
Kokeshi, celebrated today as one of Japan's folk arts, are of two types, traditional and creative.

Traditional kokeshi
image credit - http://www.japanya.co.uk/kokeshi.aspx
Traditional kokeshi, produced only in the six prefectures of Tohoku, are very simple in their design with round heads and cylindrical limbless bodies. The floral and linear patterns painted on their kimonos have been developed and passed down through generations of kokeshi makers and are distinctive to the area where they are made. The traditional kokeshi, shown in the picture here, come from Naruko.

Creative kokeshi

image credit - http://www.japanya.co.uk/kokeshi.aspx
Creative kokeshi, relatively new having only developed as an art form since the 2nd World War, retain the limbless kokeshi characteristic. However, they are more contemporary in their design with perhaps a more shapely body, added features such as hair, as well as colourful exquisitely patterned kimono. Creative kokeshi are 'created' by artists, and have features and styles unique to their own particular artist or creator. The majority of creative kokeshi are made in Gunma prefecture. The creative kokeshi, shown in the picture here, are a small selection of those sold by Japanya.

Kokeshi making regions of Japan

Source - http://www.japanya.co.uk/kokeshi.aspx

A video to share

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

May you all have a year that is filled with love, brightness and hope.

Wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a Merry Christmas filled with love and joy! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas...

"What's your best Christmas memory?", a bloggy buddy asked. With 51 Christmases behind me, I  say the best Christmas I ever had so far, would be my first and only white Christmas experience in Lake Tahoe. My son said that sounded so racist! LOL, he didn't know what a white Christmas meant! :smack:

Somehow, Christmas doesn't really feel like Christmas minus the snow over here in the tropics.
If a genie were to grant me just one wish now, I would love to visit the Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Lapland. This has been on my bucket list for a very long time but with life getting in the way all the time, I am guessing this wish will remain unchecked on my list along with many other wishes.  File:icon sad.gif

Santa, if you're listening right now, I wish for a white Christmas just once more, please..... before I get too old and too broke to travel.

So, what's your best Christmas memory?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Gingerbread Man

'Tis the season of gingerbread! What smells more like Christmas than gingerbread men baking in the oven?
Run, run, fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!  

While I was baking these, Rodney asked, "Why is gingerbread called gingerbread  when it is not a bread at all?" Interesting question. And I have always wondered too, about the history behind the gingerbread man other than the fairy tales I grew up on.
On googling, I learned that originally “gingerbread” simply meant preserved ginger, the English word being related to the Old French gingebras – the last syllable of which became corrupted to become “bread”.
I had a Hungarian boss who used to give us gingerbread hearts every Christmas. In Hungary, traditional gingerbread hearts have been given as gifts for centuries. Did you know that the oldest gingerbread moulds found in Hungary were made more than two thousand years ago? That time, gingerbread cookies were made as gifts for the gods.
There are so many fascinating facts and stories surrounding the history and origin of gingerbread and below are just a few I've recently learnt.


  1. The crusaders are believed to have brought gingerbread to Britain in the Middle Ages. The first English recorded recipe for gingerbread was produced in 1390. It involved soaking breadcrumbs in honey and ginger.
  2. The first gingerbread men are said to have been created for the amusement of Queen Elizabeth I. They were moulded into the image of her favourite suitors and courtiers, decorated with gold leaf then devoured at royal feasts.
  3. By the early 17th century gingerbread men were selling like hot cakes at fairs across England. By 1614 Ben Jonson's play St Bartholomew's Fair featured a gingerbread seller.
  4. Gingerbread men were, however, soon taken up by witches, who used them like voodoo dolls. They would bake effigies of their enemies and eat them.
  5. Fear that gingerbread men were agents of the occult spread to the continent and in 1607 the magistrates of Delft in the Netherlands made it illegal to either bake or eat the biscuits.
  6. In the North East of England it was traditional for maidens to eat what were known locally as gingerbread husbands on Hallowe'en, to ensure they would snare a real husband.
  7. In the 1990s, a US computer giant was forced to ban a poster of a gingerbread man popular with its female employees. The caption read: 'The ideal man. He's sweet, he's quiet - and if he talks back, you can bite his head off.'
source -  MailOnline

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