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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dot Painting

A friend of mine introduced me to dot painting recently. Making a  mandala out of dots is extremely fun and therapeutic. It really helps you to relax the mind and soul.

I thought it would be fun to try out the technique on my cookies.

Warning!  All that dotting really is addictive and I'm now seriously dotty about this art form!


Dotting the cookies was wonderfully cathartic.

It's probably easier to work with acrylic paints and dotting tools. With icing, it's hard to 'paint' uniform dots. The beauty of a dot mandala lies in the uniformly sized and perfectly aligned dots that form the fractals. I can't even get my dots to be perfectly round! Hence the haphazard, kindergarten-ish look of my cookies!

"The mandala is a template for the mind, a state of peace and order, a resolution to the chaos within."    Carl Jung

A dot mandala tutorial by my favourite artist Kristin Uhrig. Isn't she amazing!



Watching Kristin's tutorials is incredibly soothing!

Go put on some relaxing music, pour yourself a glass of wine and let your creative juices flow!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Kolam 2018

November is that time of the year when colorful *kolams pop up everywhere as Hindus the world over celebrate *Deepavali aka Diwali.

Sharing photos of this year's kolams I've captured at several malls in my neck of the woods.



Starbucks kolam!!


* Deepavali/Diwali also known as the Festival of Lights is celebrated by the Hindu Community to symbolize the triumph of good over evil; the victory of light over dark.

The entrances to Hindu homes are decorated with fresh mango leaves and kolams. It is believed that Lakshmi, The Goddess of Wealth, will only enter a home that is adorned with a kolam.

* Kolam is an ancient Indian art of drawing using colored rice grains or powdered rice to form symmetrical geometric patterns on the floor. The Hindus believe that a kolam at the entrance of a house will usher prosperity and harmony to the home. It is also believed that a kolam wards off evil spirits and diseases.

Another purpose of the kolam is to invite birds and small insects like ants to a home to symbolize man’s co-existence with and consideration for other living things.

Traditionally, the ritual is performed daily by the women of a household early in the morning.

 Fun Kolam Facts

1. The lines in a kolam must be continuous and unbroken so that evil cannot enter the house via the gaps.

2. The patterns are traditionally passed on from mothers to their daughters.

3. Kolam in the Tamil language means form and beauty.

4. As the kolam erases during the course of the day by birds and insects feeding on the rice, people's foot steps and the natural elements, a new kolam is drawn again the next morning, thus repeating the cycle. It imparts the idea that life is renewed daily.


Happy Deepavali to all my Hindu pallies!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Simba

Simba was a feral cat that strayed into the condo where we live. Late one evening when my son Josh was getting out of his car after returning home from college, a bright orange kitty sprang out from behind the bushes and started to rub his body against Josh's legs. Josh said it was love at first sight.

For the next couple of weeks, the moggie would wait for Josh at the car park at the same time every day and greet him with a leg rub and headbutt when Josh returned home from college. And Josh would reciprocate with kitty treats and a belly rub. Josh named him Simba because it reminded him of Simba the lion from the movie The Lion King.

Long story but sadly, at this point of my life, we can't adopt a pet.

Josh would frequently bring Simba up to our unit and we would first give Simba a bath and then fuss over him. But Simba would only humour us for just a little while before he headed for the door, purring very loudly, demanding to go back down to the ground floor where he would wander off to God knows where. You can't find him, he finds you!

Then one day, when Josh returned home at the usual hour, there was no stripy orange cat to greet him. No Simba the next day. Nor the days after. Josh was heartbroken. He combed the entire condo grounds looking for the kitty but he was nowhere to be found. As mysteriously as he appeared, he vanished.
Simba - The feral kitty that strayed into our hearts
Perhaps he would find Josh again someday.

A sweet cat video to share.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Halloween Cookies 2018

I woke up this morning and felt like baking, something I haven't done in a while.

When inspiration strikes....

Boo!

Chinese folklore dictates that if a pregnant black cat jumps over a coffin, it will pass on one of its 9 lives to the corpse and bring him/her back to life as a vampire!


Like my Halloween cookies?
🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Of Ghosts and Bananas

Know what this is?
It's a banana heart!

Also known as banana blossom, this purplish flower of the banana plant hangs at the end of the stem holding a cluster of bananas.

The flower is edible and common in Southeast Asian cuisines.

When we were little, we were forbidden to hang around banana trees as our elders believed that these trees harboured ghosts!

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the banana ghost folktales I grew up on.

Hantu Pisang (Malaysian)
According to the Mah Meri (an indigenous tribe of Peninsular Malaysia), the banana heart transforms into a beautiful young woman when it is pierced with a nail attached to a thread. She seduces men and then takes away their souls!

Ba Jiao Jing (Chinese)
A wailing female spirit who appears under a banana tree at night, sometimes carrying a baby.  It is believed that gamblers can summon the spirit to ask for “lucky numbers” in the hope of striking the lottery.
A red string is tied to the banana heart and the other end of the string is tied to the bed of the person invoking the spirit. At night, the banana spirit will visit  her captor and begs to be freed. In return, she will bestow them a set of winning numbers. A horrible fate awaits those who fail to release the spirit after winning!

Nang Tani (Thai)
A lady ghost who dwells in wild banana tree groves. She is supposedly very beautiful and wears a green traditional Thai costume. Hiding in the day, she will only appear at night when the moon is full. Generally, the Nang Tani is not malevolent and will only harm bad men who mistreat women.

Men who cheat on their wives, BEWARE!

In Thailand, it is not uncommon to see banana trees tied with colorful satin cloths — an indication that the trees are inhabited by Nang Tani. Cutting down these trees will incur her wrath.
A clump of wild banana trees tied with colorful cloths
 image source - https://thaivillage72.wordpress.com/

A late cousin of mine  was told that if she smeared her blood onto a banana heart, she would be able to see a banana ghost/spirit. A very curious teenager then, she conducted the experiment. Nope, she did not see the banana ghost/spirit but she was never the same again after the incident. She fell into a deep depression, turned to drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide a couple of times. She died of cancer at the age of 43. She was diagnosed with bipolar by several doctors but our elders believed that she was cursed by the banana ghost/spirit she invoked. Really, who's to say?

When I was in college, I stayed in a rented house with 3 other tenants. And yes, there was a banana tree in the yard. One of the tenants claimed  he heard a female voice singing at ungodly hours on several occasions. Yes, the sound came from the direction of the banana tree! The rest of us didn't hear anything though.

We never knew for sure if he was just pulling our legs but he did move out in a hurry!

BOO!



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Happy Hour

Reminding you to spend at least an hour each day doing something that makes you happy.

My Happy Hour today — cupcake and English breakfast tea.

What is yours?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Murmuration

Question: What is a huge flock of starlings called?

Answer: A murmuration.

I was fascinated by this cool hanging sculpture inspired by starlings in murmuration at a community mall aptly named The Starling.

365 individually crafted birds were used in the installation to represent each day of the year.

An extra special 366th bird was added to symbolize the leap year the mall was constructed in.

A murmuration video to share. Uncanny. Almost extraterrestrial, don't you agree?



God's screensaver!
image credit - Daniel Biber

When starlings flock together before dusk to roost, they often swoop in murmuration — a  phenomenon that results when the birds shape shift in the sky as if  they were a single ginormous, gyrating entity.

But the spectacular aerial display isn't for fun.The presence of a predator like a hawk or peregrine falcon often triggers the behavior and the flock's synchronized motion is based on evasive maneuvers. The swarming and complex twisting movements are a defense mechanism to help protect the flock by confusing the predator. He can't lock on to a single target. Safety in numbers!!

I've always wondered about the science behind the murmuration and a recent video I watched hypothesizes that a starling in the flock just has to follow 3 simple rules!

1. As you fly, stay towards each other
2. If any of your seven neighbours turn, you turn
3. Don't crowd each other

When millions of birds do it in unison and at a speed that's 10 times faster than any human pilot, the results are astounding!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Thit Heo Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemon Grass Pork Chops)

I love lemon grass. It's lemony, zingy but doesn't quite have the tartness of a lemon. Chop it up, toss into a food processor with a few other ingredients and you have the best BBQ marinade ever. Perfect for your summer cookouts!

The first time I made my Lemon Grass Pork Chops, I almost set my kitchen on fire! I attempted to grill them over an open charcoal stove indoor, inside my mere 1208 sq ft apartment! The closet-sized kitchen was smoking like a chimney! Sparks were flying everywhere!

What was I thinking? Hubby rushed into the kitchen and doused the stove with water. Needless to say, the chops were ruined!

The cleaning up was a nightmare. There was soot everywhere.

I wised up after that incident and learned that firing up the grill indoor really isn't  an option.

I now broil my chops in the oven instead. I don't get that coveted smoky flavour but  the chops still taste amazing.



Thit Heo Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemon Grass Pork Chops)

Ingredients
5pcs thin-cut pork chops, preferably blade end, with plenty of fat and marbling

Ingredients A
3 stalks lemon grass, sliced
1 tbsp sliced shallots
1 tbsp chopped garlic

Ingredients B
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 tbsp sugar
ground pepper

Directions

1. Place Ingredients A in a food processor. Blend to a fine paste.
2. Combine the paste with Ingredients B and mix well to form the marinade.
3. Marinate the chops for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
4. Grill/broil/pan fry  the pork chops.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

10th Blogaversary


A decade ago, when I started this blog, I didn't have the faintest idea what I was doing or where it would take me.

I still don't! Haha!

When I hit the  publish button on that first post back in 2008, I never thought that ten years later, I'd be blogging still! That post, along with many of the earlier posts, was deleted in a fit of  panic, when I freaked out at the thought that people whom I know outside my virtual world might be able to find my blog! I think I might have deleted a third of my posts! Very stupid of me, I know and I have regretted since.

Whoa! 10 years is a long time in blogosphere! It feels like a blink + a lifetime all in one. However, I did disappear from blogosphere in 2017 for about 8 months when life was bombarding me with lemons. I had too much to deal with and blogging was the last thing on my mind. When I came back, I didn't know what to expect and thought that my bloggy buddies would probably have forgotten about me.

Thank you, pallies, for sticking with me. Mwaaaaaaaaah!!! ❤️❤️❤️

The blogging landscape has certainly changed with much less commenting and even much less posting on blogs as most bloggers have ditched their blogs for Instagram. Many of my favourite blogs have now been in hibernation for a long, long time; some gone private and a couple of bloggy pallies had even passed on. But others have popped up in their place.
It is foreseen that traditional blogging will eventually die a natural death, no thanks to mobile devices. But as long as Blogger isn't retiring its service, I will continue to blog until I drop!

So why am I still blogging?

I GET TO WRITE
I love to write. Having a place where I can write my heart out without judgement is like I have finally found my voice. The process of my thoughts translating into words and leaping off my fingers onto the keyboard when I write a post feels like  magic!  Empowering, if you will.

I GET TO CONNECT WITH  BLOGGERS FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE AND ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Interacting with bloggers from so many diverse backgrounds has been awesome. I've forged friendships with people whom I would have never known. I've learned about cultures I would have never understood, and have virtually visited places I never knew existed. Blogging has opened a portal to a whole new world.

MY BLOG IS MY OUTLET, MY JOURNAL, MY SECRET SANCTUM...
This blog is an outlet for my creativity and all the things I want to share. I'd like to think that my blog is a legacy to my sons. And if I should croak suddenly, my blog could be a place my boys would find solace. They would know exactly what I was thinking and feeling watching them grow up. I've chronicled their milestones. I've posted photos of them when they were little. I've paid tributes to their beloved pets who had passed. And I have and will continue to post recipes of their favorite dishes on my blog.
Perhaps my future grand kids would want to take a peek one day and read about their crazy grandma and her one-time obsession for cookie decorating.

Someone said that some of the only things that give life value are the things that take sustained effort over long periods of time. This blog is one of those things for me.

To those who have been with me since the early days, I THANK YOU! You have all been amazing bloggy pallies. I hope we will get to meet in person someday.

To those of you who are newer to this party, you are loved here in this bloggihood.




Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Batu Caves

Sharing this photo of Batu Caves, one of Malaysia's most iconic landmarks that has gone viral since the famed 272 steps leading to the cave temple have been given a colorful paint job recently.
image credit - Seenivasan Rajoo

Batu Caves is the site of a Hindu temple and shrine.
A colossal statue of the Hindu deity, Lord Murugan, guards the caves. Standing at a height of 140 ft, the statue is the second tallest Hindu deity statue in the world.



The stairs before the paint job

I think it's a job done with flying colours.

What do you think?


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Jungle Walk

While we were at the Club Med resort, we discovered a jungle trail that lead us to the beach.

Rodney
Along the ten-minute walk, you see animal sculptures like these.



A hornbill
Josh spotted turtle tracks on the beach earlier in the day which indicated that turtles were coming ashore to nest at night as it was turtle-landing season. To witness a sea turtle laying her eggs up close would be an amazing experience. But that would  mean we had to use the same jungle path after dark to get to the beach as the shuttle buggy service closed after 6:30 PM.

Feeling adventurous, the 4 of us agreed to take on the jungle walk after sundown to see the turtles.

At about 8:00 PM, we left our hotel rooms and headed for the jungle path. Armed with only the torch from our phones, we had underestimated the utter darkness of nighttime in the woods. Traipsing down a trail in the inky blackness didn't seen like fun after all. Besides, we were a walking buffet for mosquitoes. It also just hit me then, that this is the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival — that time of the year when it is believed that the gates of hell are open for an entire month and spirits from the underworld are allowed to roam the earth in search of food or seek revenge on those who had wronged them!

The hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up and my body screamed for us to turn around.

Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me in the abyssal darkness but I thought I saw a pair of glowing eyes in the distance. I seriously freaked out at this point and wanted to turn back but the three of them vetoed my decision.

Suddenly, we all heard a movement in the brush.

Need I say, we scurried back to the hotel like scared little girls?!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Macaques Are Jerks!

I am not a big fan of monkeys, macaques in particular. I am cool with orangutans and chimpanzees and could even love King Kong. But macaques? They’re evil. Pure, pure evil.

When I was in primary school, we had a teacher who wore a glass eye. Word had it that a macaque scratched out her eye.

And thus began my aversion for macaques.

A terrifying encounter with these nasty little buggers when I was little kicked my dislike for them a notch higher.

We were on a road trip to Penang to visit my aunt when Dad decided to stop at the Botanic Gardens for a break.
Inside the car was a big bunch of rambutans we had brought along for our aunt.
We got out of the car to explore the gardens, leaving the fruit behind.

Upon our return to the car park, we were shocked to see a gang of marauding macaques inside and atop our car! Rambutan shells and seeds were scattered everywhere! Evidently, the monkeys were having a party, chattering loudly and feasting on their loot!  Dad must have inadvertently left one of the doors unlocked. Those sneaky little devils managed to open the car door and nick our rambutans!

When Dad tried to shoo them away, they started shrieking loudly, baring their fangs and thumping their chests! One even threw *poo at us! JERKS! They really scared the crap out of me!

*I've read somewhere that monkeys use their feces as weapons!

My dislike for these obnoxious critters upped another level when I was at the Uluwatu Temple in Bali with my cousin. A macaque sneaked up behind me and my unsuspecting cousin, snatched the sunglasses off  my cousin's face and skittered up a tree! We were both traumatized by the incident and my cousin has since developed a phobia for monkeys.

Interestingly, did you know that the macaques in the Uluwatu Temple are a monkey mafia of sorts?!! These nefarious monkeys steal stuff, then barter for food!

A video to share



I had yet another run-in with these thieving little buggers during our recent vacation at Club Med.

Returning to our hotel after a walk on the beach, we opened the door to find two macaques inside the room and they were going through our luggage!

The hubs scared them off but one of them had already grabbed a tube of Pringles before fleeing!

I was (still am) certain that I had closed the sliding door to the balcony before leaving the room, very well aware of the presence of  these accomplished burglars in the resort. Somehow, they got in.



This one hissed and flashed his willy at me when I nervously tried to chase it away! What a charmer!
A long-tailed grey macaque
I have been cautioned  that macaques are vindictive and you seriously don't want to mess with these vicious, conniving imps. A friend of mine  told me a macaque hopped onto his shoulders from a statue behind him and peed on him when he was in a temple in Thailand!

Yep, I  hate, hate, hate macaques!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fred

Rodney and I were chilling at a cabana in Club Med when a ginormous lizard that looked like it had just crawled out of Jurassic Park approached us.
On any ordinary day, I would have freaked out big time and out-sprinted Usain Bolt to safety! But I had earlier read about the presence of these friendly monitor lizards in the resort and was actually looking forward to meeting one.
The stuff horror movies are made of

These critters are everywhere at the village resort. They don't look too friendly, do they? Apparently, they are not interested in humans as meals despite their scary appearance.

Rodney named it Fred because it looked like a Fred!
Fred seemed to enjoy our company and hung out with us the whole morning. He even snuggled up to Rodney's feet!

While I was reading a book and Rodney was messing with his phone, Fred dug holes around our cabana, presumably looking for food.  Now I know why there were curious holes all over the resort grounds!
Fred allowed me to touch him! His skin felt kinda scaly and hard; not my idea of a warm and cuddly pet though!

When it was time to say goodbye, we were kinda sad to leave our newly acquainted friend.

Fred's buddy. This one had a huge belly and was chowing on pancakes!
Fun Facts

Monitor lizards (Varanus Indicus) are carnivores. They use their venom to kill their prey. Fortunately, the venom has a relatively mild effect on humans.
These lizards are naturally shy and would rather stay away from humans. Like most wild animals, they do not attack unless provoked. As long as you keep your distance and leave them alone, you will be fine.

On the rare occasion that you are bitten, seek medical attention immediately. Although their venom is not fatal, the main cause for concern would be bacterial infection from the bite.

Another one of Fred's buddies
Some of these lizards can grow up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) long!

The above photos taken by my crummy phone don't do justice to how a real monitor lizard looks like.

Below is a photo I snagged from the internet just to give you an idea how formidable it really is.

In Chinese, we call it "four-legged snake". It kinda looks like a cross between a snake and an alligator.

Often, these monitor lizards are mistaken for Komodo Dragons, their more aggressive cousins. Those, you don't want to mess with. Trust me! Their saliva is extremely venomous
image credit - Smithsonian.com
That forked tongue! 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Turtle Release

Today, I checked an item off my bucket list!

I adopted a turtle hatchling and released it into the sea!

My son Josh and I went on a turtle release excursion at the Rimbun Dahan Hatchery, Pahang.

Pak Su (Uncle Su in Malay) and a couple of  marine biology students run the place.

The hatchery
Eggs from the mama turtles' nests are reburied in artificial nests like these. Each 'nest' is marked with the date, number of eggs, and anticipated hatching date. Chicken wire is used to protect the eggs from poachers and predators.

The incubation period of a Green Turtle lasts 45 - 60 days.

Lending nature a helping hand
Tree roots and soil compaction (caused by rain on sand that's too fine) hamper the hatchlings from digging themselves out.
Green Turtle hatchlings
These little guys  can live up to 100 years! But sadly,  only 1 in 1,000  will survive to adulthood. 
The sex of a Green Turtle is determined after fertilization. The incubation temperature of the developing eggs defines the sex of the offsprings. This is called temperature-dependent sex determination, or TSD.

As Ben Guarino of The Washington Post reports, at roughly 85 degrees Fahrenheit, turtle nests produce equal amounts of males and females. A tad cooler and the clutch leans male. A little warmer and embryos develop as females.

You can't tell the sex of a hatchling. Until the turtle is fully grown, it's hard to sex a turtle.

I named my baby Penyu (turtle in Malay) and prayed on it before releasing it.


Although a short distance to the sea,  it is a long, perilous journey for the vulnerable hatchlings and they have to get into the water as soon as possible. This is a very important step. As they navigate towards the sea, they imprint where their natal beach is and will return back to the very same beach as their mamas did before them to lay their eggs. This is the reason why you just can't pick them up and plonk them into the water. Crawling towards the sea is part of the imprinting process.
We were told that a tagged hatchling traveled as far as Japan and returned  15 years later to the same beach to nest! What brilliant navigators!
Crabs and birds see these little fellas heading towards the sea as easy meals.
Almost there, little buddy!

Yayyy!  Penyu made it! Suddenly, an eagle swooped down and snatched one of the hatchlings that was already far out in the water. I saw the little guy's itty bitty flippers dangling from the bird's talons as it soared back into the sky. Poor baby! Nature is cruel. Such is the circle of life.

Josh's hatchling appeared to have a deformed flipper. We watched sadly as the little fella staggered slowly towards the sea, far behind the others. With a survival rate of less than 1%, sending a handicapped hatchling to the open sea is like giving it a death sentence. Mother Nature is a bitch.

Goodbye, little one!

Being a part of Penyu's journey from the moment it struggled out of the nest and ensuring that it made its way safely to the water was, unquestionably, one of the most profound and emotional experiences of my life.

It breaks my heart to learn that the battle for survival has only just begun. Many will drown in the pounding waves. Hungry fish are ready to strike. And a myriad of other threats await them in the ocean. 

The emotional send-off
With hearts full of hopes, we watched our babies disappear from the shoreline and into the sea 
When I lie awake at night, I think of Penyu. I pray that God watches over my little buddy. If it's female, I hope she will be back on this very beach where I was standing to lay her eggs.
A juvenile Green Turtle

Remember Crush from Finding Nemo?  He is a Green Turtle.