A Taste of Hong Kong At Sheng Kee


SK 1UThere’s something about a bowl of oriental dessert that is comforting to the core of our Chinese stomachs. Perhaps it’s about growing up as a Malaysian Chinese that just links all of our childhood memories to the warm bowl of sweet red bean dessert (ang dow zhui) served in the old soup bowl that mom cooked for us after dinner which spoke of her devotion and doting love for us. Perhaps it’s all in the magic of having something to enjoy which brings back the memories of different places we travelled to, their sights and sound, and certainly the distinctive flavours they are known for.

What they serve at Sheng Kee, in a gist.

What they serve at Sheng Kee, in a gist.

Because one of our relatives has moved to Hong Kong, the little pearl of the orient is by now a regular travel destination for the happiest little family. We must have been travelling there once every one to two years since 2009 when I first visited HK for work purpose and subsequently brought the kids along to enjoy its cool weather from October to December. Naturally, anyone who has been to Hong Kong has had a dim sum or Cantonese-styled noodles. And anyone who has a sweet tooth has had at least a bowl of Hong Kong styled mango desserts at some point to beat the sweltering heat of its summer months.

The reason we have not gone broke from all the air fares is because of this simple philosophy that “desperate food craving time call for desperate but cheap measures”. This translates to getting our fix locally. Yes honey, you really don’t have to fly all the way to HK just to get a taste of its authentic flavours. The answer lies in Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert @ One Utama (drumrolls, please, I feel super-smart already).

Sheng Kee Braised Pork Rice served with Mui Choy is a filling, hearty dish prepared using the freshest ingredients and slowly cooked to perfection to seal in the flavour.

Sheng Kee Braised Pork Rice served with Mui Choy is a filling, hearty dish prepared using the freshest ingredients and slowly cooked to perfection to seal in the flavour.

Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert, which has 18 successful outlets in Singapore, has opened their first outlet right here at One Utama Shopping Centre last year to introduce and create the same buzz surrounding Hong Kong snacks and desserts at its outlet located at LG Floor Oval (New Wing) here.

With more than 60 tempting items on the menu, there are plenty of choices for foodies hunting down Hong Kong style desserts, snacks as well as authentic Cantonese noodles and rice dishes prepared with quality ingredients by an authentic Cantonese chef and his dedicated local kitchen team.

Sweetened by Phillipines Mango and the tangy crunch of juicy Pomelo, this SK Mango Pomelo Sago is a summer delight.

Sweetened by Phillipines Mango and the tangy crunch of juicy Pomelo, this SK Mango Pomelo Sago is a summer delight.

Last week, this happiest little family decided to give some of the popular dishes featured at the outlet a try, because we will not be planning for a trip to HK anytime soon and the 25% Cantonese gene in me which is inherited from my maternal grandma was craving for a mango dessert somehow (blame it on the work stress but someone wise did say that desserts is stressed spelled backwards, and I was ready to prove him right).

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Pumpkin Mei-Mei loves her dessert!

Unlike most food outlets on the streets of Hong Kong which are quite cramped and hushed due to the way Hongkies have made space efficiency and productivity a business priority, Sheng Kee outlet at One Utama is comfortably bright and spacious, with much room for sharing of food among family and friends, and the waiting service was satisfactory. We even find the lady supervisor who tended to us that night extremely friendly and would even explain how most of the dishes were prepared to us patiently.

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SK Double combination noodle features Cha Siew amd fresh prawn dumplings that is a favourite classic at Sheng Kee.

With her recommendations, we ordered a good range of savoury and desserts for our dinner and ended the night on a pleasant note. Our favourites include the Crispy Salmon Skin With Meat Floss for starter, SK Signature Combination Noodle (a must-try if you are one who loves chasiew and dumplings served with fresh crisp egg noodles), the fluffy and delicately yummy snowy-bun

Sheng Kee's Snowy Cha Siew Bun is baked in a fluffy bun crust that is unlike any buns I have ever tasted.

Sheng Kee’s Snowy Cha Siew Bun is baked in a fluffy bun crust that is unlike any buns I have ever tasted.

and its yuan-yang paste which is a clever mix of sesame paste served in intricate balance with sweet almond paste, both known for longevity and beauty in Chinese ancient belief.

Yuan Yang Paste

Yuan Yang Paste

With all the stresses busted, we proved that HK desserts did do a good job in comforting the core of our Chinese stomachs. I know, because the SK Pomelo Mango Sago desserts that were ordered by me were finished by the 3 happiest little people in less than the time for me to say “enjoy it, kids”. I should have known. But oh well, that’s what a mother need to sacrifice for, all in the name of love.

 

SWEET TREATS ARE FOR SHARING! Sheng Kee is having a special promotion now just for you. Take this simple steps:

1) Like the Sheng Kee Facebook  at 

https://www.facebook.com/hongkongshengkeedessertMY

2) VISIT Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert @ One Utama and ORDER their favourite mains (try the signatures or anything else!) 

3) Get 1 FREE SK Mango Pomelo Sago with each main course ordered – tell the wait staff “Sweet treats with Sheng Kee” upon settling the bill to claim this. 

Baby B digged right into the SK Mango Pomelo Sago dessert that was supposed to be mine. :)

Baby B digged right into the SK Mango Pomelo Sago dessert that was supposed to be mine. 🙂

*This is an exclusive sweet treat just for your friends and followers! Offer expires 31 May 2015.

*To keep to the authentic Hong Kong flavour, the casual dining restaurant is presently not halal.

Nag Nag Nag


“And the next contestant, we have an Asian mother all the way from Malaysia who has the most unusual talent that promises to blow your mind away. Get your hands together to welcome Seven2SevenMom to the Annual Special of Britain Got Talent!”

The audience roared and cheered on as I stepped on stage dressed in a cotton candy pink dress that the stylist backstage thought would make me look at least 5 stones lighter. Lighter or not, I feel my eyes being probed by the high beam from the strip light and as soon as I got even more self-conscious, my heart could not stop from racing like a mad horse. Damn it, I have done a gazillion presentations in front of an audience before, why do I display the worst of stage fright now!

I cannot even control my knocked knees and feel like I am going to throw up just about any time now. Then the superhot British host appeared looking every bit as dapper and sharp as his grey Parisian suit came on stage with his sparkling smile and much as we have rehearsed our banter thoroughly before, I could barely understood what he was saying in his thick British accent.

“Hello, Seven2SevenMom, you know, this is the British edition of the mega franchise TV show and so far with our strict selection criteria of singing, acting, performing or one-of-a-kind talents among the Brits, we have cut out all those we didn’t think qualified for this show. You must have a really superb talent that our producer went completely bowled over and insisted to fly you all the way to the UK, home to some of the world’s most famous and well-loved royalties, superstars, singers, supermodels and rockers, to showcase your unique talent right here before our very eyes, in front of a global audience tonight! You must have that special Talent that the rest of us mortals do not have!”

“Can you share with us just what inspired you when you signed up for this competition?” Mr Dapper asked with a smile.

“I… Sorry, I… I’m not used to all these song and dance and the limelight. It… it’s a little too glitzy for my normal life as just… just a mom with 3 kids.” I stammered.

“It’s perfectly fine to feel a little overwhelmed because you are GOOD but you do know that if you could wow and win the audiences tonight, you get to keep the Ten Thousand Pounds which would makes you so much more than normal when you fly home feeling that bit richer, more fulfilled and definitely On-Top-of-the-World! So again, what inspire you?”

“I guess… I guess anything and everything in the everyday life with the kids inspire me… from fetching them to school, to getting them ready for exams and correcting them when they wander off from being RIGHT… You know, just being the best mom that I can.”

“Very well said! Without further ado, I shall invite your three little assistants to join us on stage as we let you shine on Britain Got Talent!”

The three happiest little people are immediately led onto the stage by a gorgeous lady usher and soon meet me at the centre of the stage where a tiny red car has been placed on a platform with a huge simulator attached to its engine to simulate driving motion as if we are driving back in our homeland in KL. The kids are looking their best with their coordinated outfits loaned by the backstage stylist and I couldn’t help but to think they are the best looking kids in town. I give them a hug and then ask all three of them to get into the passenger seats at the back.

I strap on the safety belts for the three of them as they settle down comfortably. By now they have become somewhat giggly and shy about appearing in front of such a big audience for the first time of their lives. I got into the driver’s seat, buckled up and waited nervously as I feel my cheeks turning hot because I am not sure if the simulator is gonna start soon when out of a sudden, Pumpkin Mei-Mei starts her usual screaming about Cheeky Koko accidentally stepping on her toes. “MAMAAAA! Koko just stepped on my toes and it hurts! What an elephant legs you have, Koko, can’t you just watch where they are going? Gosh, they are sooo heavy!”

“Oh yah? And who screams like a baby? Oh right, it’s my BABY sister, who is super-moody again, like as if it was my fault that she is wearing slippers that exposed her vulnerable toes and emotions!” Cheeky Koko reciprocated.

“Stop fighting you TWO! Didn’t I always say that you should love one another because you are siblings? Siblings take care of each other and never irritates one another because that’s what the enemy does, not good kids, and certainly not God-loving kids! When I was your age, I would … blah blah blah…blah blah blah…blah blah blah

5 minutes into my lecture, I realised that the three happiest little people have all fallen asleep in the back and they are sleeping so soundly that they were snoring all at once! The entire TV station, my parents, Daddy Joe and the panel of judges included, soon erupt into the wildest cheers of joy and they spring from their seats in unison giving me a respectful standing ovation for my brilliant performance!
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I gave off a loud and victorious laughter on seeing Mr Dapper come on stage announcing enthusiastically that my special talent in making my kids launched into deep sleep with my long-winded speech has just won me the special…

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“(Yawn) Money, I know, Mama, I should be more careful with my pocket money next time, because it’s hard to earn even one Ringgit. I am sorry, Mama,” she continued, “and I am sorry that every time you scold us we will fall asleep so deeply (Yawn)” came the sheepish smile and innocent voice of Pumpkin Mei-Mei that woke me up rudely from my daydream at the traffic light stop.

“You guys fell asleep when I was lecturing, again?” I asked.

“Mama, maybe it’s not your scolding. May be it’s because every time when you scold us, we feel so wrong about our actions that we need to meditate on it and then, we just can’t help falling asleep as we process your “Words of Wisdom”! Maybe it’s the air-cond in your car, just makes us take naps uncontrollably, hahahaha…” Came the cheeky reply from my oldest, Cheeky Koko.

I laughed, amused and embarrassed by my “long windedness” as seen in the eyes of my kids.

Don’t think Britain or America Got Talent would ever invite me to showcase this nagging talent either, like ever!

A Smokey, Dusty Christmas Tale


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It was not perfect but the kids saw Magic in our worn-out white Christmas tree!

I heard from the two older happiest little people that Vietnam experienced snowing a few weeks ago. “Mama, the earth is sick already, how can this part of our world experiences snowfall, what’s more in a tropical climate like ours where the sun is BIG and HOT?” The ever-perceptive Pumpkin Mei-Mei asked.

I put down the book I was reading about how to shine in one’s work place and stared out of the window thinking to myself that not just the weather of Vietnam but this Christmas is not quite right in this household too.

I was breathing dust like a vacuum cleaner the whole of last week working at a construction site from dawn to dusk, preparing the site to look reasonably good and acceptable for an event. And in the midst of buying the toilet rolls, fresheners, a water pail, sticking parking direction and signage and setting up all of the sound and light systems and acted as the emcee for the event, I had no time left to buy Christmas gifts or plan for Baby B’s 2nd birthday celebration and my anniversary with Daddy Joe.

Over the weekend, I took out my favourite baking recipe book that my sister got me for last year’s Christmas and thought I would bake some nice Christmas cakes and cookies for the little ones but oh, what a bummer! I forgot that my oven wasn’t working because just over a month ago, Pumpkin Mei-Mei had accidentally burned down my poor old oven! Our little drama started as she was pre-heating the oven when a small spark started tracing up a dangling rubber piece inside the oven which triggered a small fire that quite literally burned down the oven and shattered its tempered glasses all at once. It was absolute pandemonium for the next few minutes! After some panicky screams and dousing off the flames with water, the kids sat down laughing cleaning up the messed up kitchen which also left the entire apartment smelling of smoke as if a Thanksgiving dinner had gone overtly wrong.

We were supposed to fix the oven before Christmas but was told by the manufacturer that our unit was out of its warranty period, plus they no longer produced this model nor kept any of its parts anymore that they would gladly offer a trade-in for a new model at an additional RM1300, which Daddy Joe being the economist of the family was not willing to part with after he worked out the frequency math that his wifeythe working mom” had not touched the oven more than she had typed on the keyboard in a year which meant we would be stuck with a non-functioning oven for a while until Daddy Joe receives his great enlightening.

We wanted to get a real Christmas tree from Ikea just to deliver a magical Christmas atmosphere for the happiest little people but ended up recycling our white fake tree with really old ornaments because the working mama has barely survived a torturous working month that seemed no end to piling work and endless deadlines. Heck, I didn’t even have the time to take the small set to the mall to choose their own ornaments — a family tradition that we have observed since six, seven years ago!

So quite frankly, this is by far the lousiest Christmas I have ever had in the last 15 years of working or so. Even so, even so, I thank God for such things as a loving family that has supported me all the way through, although I have put in more efforts in decorating the work place than my own home or have had to answer to work-related phone calls more than calling home to chat with the kiddos this holiday season.

There is certainly no roasted turkey for entrée this year, no hot butter cookies in sight and the Christmas tree did not come bedecked in the most spectacular ornaments in our family room, but despite a less-than-perfect Christmas backdrop, our home is aglow with the love, joy and peace of the season. I may not be the most organised mommy out there but surely making them tree-shaped pancakes for the morning, followed by worshipping in the house of the Lord and playing Santa on Christmas Eve to make sure that each kid wakes up to his own special gift under the tree will more than make up for the other holiday traditions that are missing this Christmas.

If you are one of the guilty parents like yours truly, well fret not, you are right home with me! Cheer up, here’s a toast to all the little imperfections that make us PARENTS. 😀

Merry Christmas to you all! May the love and peace of our good Lord bring you and your loved ones everlasting joy!

Up Among The Stars


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Pumpkin Mei-Mei looked into the starry night and when she found the biggest, brightest of the stars, she closed her teary eyes and whispered into the night, “Ah Ma, I really miss you, thanks for taking care of me and Koko. You are gone now but I know you will always be up there watching over us and God will take good care of you from now on.” With that, we all echoed, “Good bye, Ah Ma!” into the stars as a form of closure for all of us. Slowly, Daddy Joe drove out of the parking next to the playground we have driven to earlier for stargazing.

The rest of that night sometime in October 2008 was as silent as the grave as we rode in the car heading home, each lost in his or her own long trail of thoughts of what had been the worst 3 months we had experienced for which the word loss existed. For weeks, I couldn’t look into Daddy Joe’s eyes without feeling the sorrow that was present all over his entire presence as he lost his dear mother to the cruelty of the big C.

My late mother-in-law or Ah Ma, as Cheeky Koko and Pumpkin Mei-Mei used to call her affectionately as grandma in Hokkien, lost her battle to colorectal cancer at the age of 69, all within a short three months from diagnosis to her last breath in 2008.

It has been five years now whereby by God’s grace, we have moved on in life with a remarkable addition and the joy of the family Baby B, who would never get to know her as the doting grandma that she was, and we have also moved on in bringing closure to that chapter by moving to a newer, though smaller place across town that we now happily call home. I guess a big part of us wanted the fresh new start after dealing with the losses we felt at that point of our lives and moving on signified a promise fulfilled to my late mother-in-law who knew that we would soldier on our lives victoriously, for God, for her and for ourselves.

Just like her own children, my mother-in-law was a woman who hardly talked about anything – not what she had just bought at the wet market, not the conversations she had with her siblings during her trip back to her hometown in Kota Bharu, nor anything about those worrying signs of ill health she was experiencing even though she was staying with us.

When several distressing signs started to show up outwardly, such as when she started getting very angry and agitated easily or becoming more and more forgetful, we thought it was all part of a natural aging process. After all, this drastic outward deterioration didn’t take place very rampantly and wasn’t obvious to anyone, not even us. She was still a doting grandmother to the kids and she still cooked together with me on the weekend and somewhere in our messy kitchen, we shared many warm exchanges of our favourite family recipes and caring words with one another.

After one too many times of helping her to recover her misplaced wallet in the fridge and in her own cupboard, we decided that we would take her to see a doctor to diagnose for suspected dementia and to check if her high blood pressure were the culprits of her change in her personality. Before we could do that, one afternoon when I was away for my part-time work, our helper called me from home to inform that mother-in-law who had been having three days of fever had tripped in our living hall and could not get herself up from the floor. Daddy Joe and I rushed home from work and sent her to the hospital when we were told that her X-Ray test was showing what seemed to be cancerous cells in her bones. A few more lab tests and diagnosis later we were informed that she was having a 4th stage colorectal cancer that had spread into her bones and brain, which explained the sudden change in her mood and personality.

It was during this critical time that our helper went back to her home country in Indonesia and much of the caregiving job of mother-in-law were shouldered by Daddy Joe and me. Being a mother as well as having a mom who was once a nurse did prepare me well enough to care for an ailing person but I was not prepared for her emotional dependence on me during her down days when she would weep and at times got angry over her own disease. Somehow I managed to crack some jokes with her and comforted her as I took on the primary caregiver role of feeding, bathing and changing her daily and somehow in that short journey, we made up some lost time and our bond grew stronger, connected by the same love we have for her son, Daddy Joe. With Daddy Joe and his brother’s help, we managed to wheel her between the dining room, bathroom and her bedroom as a way for her to enjoy the company of her grandchildren. We really tried to make every effort to make her feel normal, much as the disease nor the eventual death were not normal in every sense of the word.

Her pain came in swiftly and unbearably furious at that stage of discovery. Looking back, we are glad that it didn’t last that long for her because not being able to do anything except for giving her our support, care and love as the cancer swiftly took away her body defence and bodily function in stages rendered us a sense of helplessness and sorrow that was extremely hard to bear. In the next three months or so, she was in and out of the government hospital for more assessment and eventually a final surgery was arranged to remove part of her colon as chemotherapy and radio therapy was really not an option anymore.

She never really got well after the surgery because the surgical wound could not heal and slowly we sensed she was giving up on fighting as she slipped into partial coma about a week after the surgery. We had her moved back to our home in early October so that she could have the comfort of being surrounded by her loved ones as she made the final passage to the last stretch of her life. One night just shortly after I sang her some prayer songs and whispered to her that we all loved her and that she had nothing more to worry about because her children have all grown up, she nodded slowly and fell into a deep sleep. Few hours later, she woke up to take a good last look at all of us once more, especially her sons, and left peacefully into eternity.

That night Daddy Joe endured yet another painful departure of someone so dear to him to cancer. 20 years ago when he and I were in college, we also lost his sister aged 15 then to a relapse of childhood leukemia.

Much as sad memories such as the death of a loved one leave much pain in life, they also teach us to appreciate life more and be less critical of all the imperfections and flaws of life. Cancer also is the ultimate test of one’s personal strength in that I was privileged to have come to discover that my late mother-in-law though was silent, was a strong and resilient fighter through her last journey in life.

As for us, the big C was a painful memory and rob us of those we loved but we had to learn to move on and live stronger and help those who may be undergoing the same journey. Daddy Joe and I have since been able to bless others by praying along with them and sharing about what we know about living well, alternative cancer treatment as well as our own experience of caring and supporting our loved ones whom we lost to cancer with the help of organisations such as NCSM, AXA AFFIN and Hospis Malaysia.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the means of treating their cancers in the private hospitals, and this is where help is needed that can be provided by some of these organizations. AXA AFFIN for example, runs a cancer outreach campaign in collaboration with National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) to support cancer patients currently undergoing chemotherapy. By signing up the AXA 110 Cancer Care, AXA AFFIN offers early pay-out upon cancer diagnosis and 10 years of coverage in the event of cancer for the insured. The best part is that it will also help fund the chemotherapy daycare usage for those who can’t afford the expensive chemotherapy fight off the disease. Doing good while protecting yourself never came in a better package.

Hospis Malaysia, on the other hand, is a charitable organisation that offers professional Palliative Care to patients who are suffering from life-limiting illness, and who live within Klang Valley. Palliative care provides relief to patients suffering from a life-limiting illness, primarily through pain management and other symptom management. The goal is not to cure, but to provide comfort and maintain the highest possible quality of life for as long as life remains.

I realize that everyone’s life is a line that goes on in one direction that ends in the same eventuality of meeting our Maker one day. Sometimes the journey is a bed of roses and sometimes it’s a thorny path. But life can also teach us many things when we know how to care, love and support those we came to cross paths with. In loving memory of my late mother-in-law, I pray that as you read this, you will be blessed with a life well lived, and one that always seeks to love, help and forgive others. Last but not least, if you are battling a cancer right now, do know that there is a fighter in all of us and that God loves us enough that His mercy and grace will be more than sufficient as we trust in His healing from inside out.

Love and cheers to life.

Love Is In The Flour and Salt


Sometimes I do feel that being a mother is the same like running a Corporation.

You set a target for your family for the year, perhaps a healthier resolution (that’s when you try in vain to shovel a bowl of rainbow-coloured salad topped with some hard boiled eggs and crabsticks made of fish fillet down the throat of your 9–years-old who has just listed allergy-to-greens as her newly discovered disorder), a financial goal (cutting out all the unnecessary splurge because instead of “lusting” for Prada you now buy disposable diapers that are more “lasting”) or better KPI (including ensuring that your 11 years old pre-teen’s conversation is not peppered with an annoying overdose of  “I am like…”).

Except for a few privileged ones, we are all running a very tight ship where the winners are parents who despite the limited resources, managed to bring up God-loving and respectful children who would one day chart their own course in the rough sea of life and champion the talents and inner gifts within them to good use that will help them live an independent, fulfilling and successful life.

 It is sad to note that over here in Asia, the parental pressure on their kids to achieve the BIG success is starting to look like a pressure cooker reaching its superheated  temperature where the family’s first and last dinner conversations always centre around academic achievements. Heck, even the morning embraces before the kids go to school are bantered with the usual line of “Study hard, son!” instead of a genuine, loving greeting to start off the day with a smile. The never-ending comparison between their children’s academic performance among social circles is starting to make all of the constant bickering among the reality TV stars of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills who are antagonistic to each other looks really pale in comparison.

It is not wrong to set boundaries and even a certain expectation for our children. A wise person told me years ago that children raised without discipline is akin to letting cars traversing on a highway next to a steep slope that are without any barriers — dangerous and erratic. Children thrive under the safety wings and protection of their parents. But raising up children focusing only on academic achievement based on societal definition of success will only make children function like the steam in a pressure cooker waiting to escape through the wrong means of outburst.

I am fearful of my own parenting journey because no one ever knows what becomes of our children until they reach there twenty years from here. And if there is anything I pray most often of, is that of making sure that I do not make so much mistake that they will turn out in the opposite direction of where I want them to be. I want them to be really happy, God-fearing, responsible and kind-hearted and that’s all that there is to my parenting goal. I may not be able to give them a privileged childhood but I try my best to give them richness of happy memories that hopefully can last a lifetime. Things like craft sessions, silly experiments, meals cooking, picnic, playing and even baking together are worth every second of our time instead of expensive tuition and enrichment classes.

One of the craft things we have done regularly at home is in making our very own home made salt dough for lots of kneading and imaginative fun.

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You can get tonnes of such modelling dough recipes from the web, but I find the one from rainydaymum the easiest and fool-proof. To make this safe, easy-to-make dough:

1)      Prepare 1 cup general purpose flour + ½ cup salt + ½ cup water.

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2)      Pour salt and flour into a mixing bowl.

3)      Add the water slowly into the mixture and knead until they are soft and pliable. Do add a bit of water if the mixture is too crumbly. If it is too sticky, add more flour instead.

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4)      Have fun kneading the dough into whatever the kids fancy.

5)      My kids like the texture of soft dough and love to pretend that they are pastry chefs baking soft cookies.
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As such we never take it to the next step of baking. If you want, you can also shape or cut into shape with cookie cutters to make ornaments for fridge magnets, jewelry and holiday decorative items. You can then dry it in low heat in an oven for 2 hours or within minutes in a microwave oven. Paint the creation and finish it with a coat of gloss and your little Picasso would have created their very own masterpiece that they can be proud of!

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6)      We also let the older kids freeze the unused dough in a plastic bag and feel the cold, harder and dried texture after a few days. Sometimes we let them add water and other ingredients found from the kitchen and see what will happen after that. A little imagination adds that much more fun and dimension to a simple arts and craft project for the kids.

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Parenting is a humbling journey because believe it or not, much as they come out from the same womb, our kids are not cookie cutters of the same kind. Some can count before they know how to talk, some are Picasso in the making. Some reach out their hands to shake that of their peers on the first day of kindergarten, and some cry through the first year. Some find instant connection with the outdoor sports and won’t hesitate to go on their first flying trapeze; some take one year to learn to ride a bicycle.

Our role as parents is to spark that imagination and the love for learning that will culminate in positive attitudes towards life. When they grow up, they may not remember what they actually learned from the classroom, but surely they will remember what joy they had playing with just flour, salt and water with their mom over those many beautiful rainy days.

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Mothering Journey


Wishing I could make time stand still ...

Wishing I could make time stand still …

Pumpkin Mei-Mei and I carefully climbed into our bed lying quietly next to Baby B like two trained Ninjas guarding their master Shifu who was meditating under the open skies. We watched in silence as Baby B’s round tummy rose up and down in a calming rhythm of deep breathing, afraid to interrupt the exhausted toddler who had finally snoozed off after spending the whole evening playing, snacking and babbling non-stop.

“Mama, was I as cute as Baby B when I was a baby?”  Ever the perceptive child since she was just a baby, I knew this was one of Pumpkin Mei-Mei’s “middle-child moments” again. “Of course you were, darling, you were the prettiest baby girl I ever saw and fell in love with right at the moment you came out of my tummy. You had so much hair, skin as fair as your papa and the sweetest biggest, roundest eyes… unlike your Koko.”

“Oh, the fact that he super-irritates me sometimes, he must be an ugly baby” she scoffed. “Oh no, sweetie pie,” I chuckled, “you cannot say like that about your big brother. Well, he just looked “Chinese”, like mama… small, slanted eyes and darker skin but even then, I thought he was the most handsome baby because he was my first born. And I have loved him, you and Baby B right when each of you was still in my big tummy.” I said with a smile then tucked her into my bed. It was her “family bed night” which meant she got to sleep with us for the night. “Mama, you remember how each of us was when we were a baby?” she asked thoughtfully.

“You know, there is a special place in the deepest part of every mommy’s heart that helps her remember every special journey and time she has spent with her child. And in this special place, it’s where I store my love for each of you and all of the special memories of you guys: Your unique characters, things you all said and did that always bring out a smile in me,” I kissed her good night as she swiftly drifted off to snooze land.

I love you when you were in my womb. I love you now. I love you forever!

I love you when you were in my womb. I love you now. I love you forever!

Later when Daddy Joe came into the room I announced chirpily that I finally decided to just stop at having 3 kids.  He literally turned pale hearing this. “What, you were actually STILL thinking of this? I thought we have agreed that we are not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie!” His voice quivered. “Certainly dear. But don’t you miss the cuddly hug of a baby, the sweet scent that smells so good and the pint-sized clothes and pillows? I just love to feel these things all over again. May be I am just nostalgic!”  I said longingly.

“But we gave you THAT just over a year ago and here, the whole bundle of cuddly joy with the scent so sweet dressed in a pint-sized pyjamas is sleeping right next to you now, in case you haven’t noticed!” He pointed at Baby B then briefly admired his own mini-me who had kicked away his blankie in his sleep. “Anyway, I’m just saying that I miss each of them when they were a baby. May be it’s a working mom’s guilt or something. How do I get over this bit of gloom feeling like I never get to spend enough time with them and that I have missed some of the important milestones of their growth, like their first steps, the first time they tasted puree, because I was at work. I was in the OFFICE possibly typing something completely insignificant when my baby tried his first taste of food!” My dramatic self was bursting through the roof.

“Someone out there should invent something where I can go back to the time when these precious moments take place.” I continued, then remembering that indeed, SOMEONE has already done that!

“Dear, what’s past is a past. You are a very devoted working mother and the kids love you. That’s all that matter,” Daddy Joe assured me before stepping into the shower.

I snapped out of my daydream and quickly tiptoed to my desktop so that I can test out this new app developed by Friso Gold, called the Friso Gold JourneyCam App. It is this uber-cool app for busy mothers like me to easily convert photos of time spent with our kids into a neat video. I always have big expectations for kids-related apps in general — they must be mommy friendly, easy to install and won’t act up or crash easily. I already have a white-noise app I used to get Baby B into a deep slumber, a few life-saving recipes apps for those “no-idea-what-to-cook dinner night” and a few other moms-friendly apps that have made my busy life waaay better… Come on, we already have 80 things to multitask in a day, so in my opinion, apps in general absolutely CANNOT take more than fifteen minutes to work or requires complicated installation. If not, somewhere between fetching the diaper and nagging the happiest little people to finish their homework, I would have lost all of my sanity and creativity.

This Friso Gold JourneyCam app is my new love! It allows me to upload a maximum of 7 photos and convert them to a short, smart-alecky video via Facebook. I decided that I would go with a travelling theme considering that we have had many amazing family adventures locally and regionally. I managed to upload the photos onto the app easily and from then on, it was a cinch to add a few fun captions, funky frames and then ta-da… I have made a fairly cool video for our travel tales in 15 minutes pronto.

Now I could relive my travelling moment with the kiddos over and over again, and I can even show this video on each of their wedding day as Daddy Joe and I deliver our heartfelt speech to some well-heeled guests, all the while shedding a happy tear or two. OK… I am going a little too far but this is fun!

One can create as many albums or videos as one likes but the best is yet to come. Friso Gold is even rewarding app users with a chance to win generous prizes, Yay! From 19 August to 15 September 2013, the first 20 participants of each of the 4 weeks stand to win a personalized photo album. There are also 8 grand prizes which is essentially, gasp… A 3D2N stay at the luxurious Westin Langkawi  Resort & Spa for a family for 4 ( 2 adults & 2 kids) which also includes outdoor experiences!

Friso Gold JourneyCam App

Win cool prizes when you use the Friso Gold JourneyCam App!

If like me, reliving those special motherhood moments and capturing them in some form of video albums are vital to your wellbeing and sanity, here’s what you can do:

Step 1 : Like Friso Gold Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/FrisoGrowingUpTogether

Step 2: Upload 7 photos, from FB album or desktop

Step 3: Customise your frames & include captions

Step 4: Complete your registration form

By using the app during the contest period, your video will automatically enter as a contest entry. One can even opt to download the video once completing all steps. How cool is that.

I must have looked like I was in a trance. Daddy Joe came out from his shower and seeing that I was in my “element” as he liked to call me whenever I was really into something I love doing like blogging or reading at night, he just sneaked out of the room quietly. I bet he was happy that I had found an outlet to preserve these special memories instead of dwelling further into the possibility of The Brady Bunch. 🙂

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/praveenvenugopal/7287869856/”>PRAVEEN VENUGOPAL</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/47789465/”>Alain Bachellier</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Tree Huggers


The sun had barely stretched its first beam of lights and lifted its rounded belly off the eastern horizon when we woke up to pack for our first trip to the National Park located at Pahang just a few weekends ago. Correction: We DID pack our bags the night before but you know how a mother with three kids would never pack enough?

me&bb

So while I was still deciding if I should wear the black Dorothy Perkins leggings or my old faithful Gap jeans for the jungle trekking, Daddy Joe had already shoved us out of the front door grabbing both pants and my rattan basket filled with snacks in one hand, while cradling Baby B who was still fast asleep on the other hand and drove us Northeast bound for a wonderful 3D2N trip of discovering the hidden marvels at Taman Negara, one of Malaysia’s oldest and most pristine rainforests that boasts of lush tropical greenery as well as a variety of animals and insects.

With my brother’s family joining in the school holiday trip, the entire scenic self-drive road trip was filled with endless cheery chatters and silly jokes shared between five wonderful tweens / teens, four grownups and of course a babbling toddler.  After a four-hour drive, we reach the Kuala Tahan jetty when all of the kids could not contain their excitement anymore when we told them that we would be going for a boat ride.

River Taxi

River Taxi

The boat ride lasted only for a minute because it was merely to cross the river to the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort which was just across the jetty but still, the half-dozen city kids were thrilled!

We have booked two adjoining chalets overlooking the green forest at Mutiara Taman Negara. There was a little deck at the back of the chalet and we discovered wild boars track which was a little like a thrilling Indiana Jones moment for the kids. There was some shrieking, some oohs and aahs but mostly, with their wild imaginations of the possible danger, they quickly ran back into the chalet before one could even say Run!

First, a wild boar appeared right in front of our chalet, then a group of them made a happy gathering out of our place!

First a wild boar appeared right in front of our chalet, then a group of them had a happy gathering at our place!

In the evening before we headed for our dinner at the Seri Mutiara Restaurant by the resort, we saw a group of wild boars appeared out of nowhere in front of our chalets. We were quite worried that they would charge at the kids who were frightened of the boars getting so up close and personal with them, but they were fairly peaceful and stopped at just sniffing around near the porch.

We had a good laugh during the dinner when we finally discovered that they had possibly come because Daddy Joe had unknowingly packed Baby B’s soiled nappy in a plastic bag and left it at the front door which he planned to take along to throw into the giant rubbish bin at the lobby. No wonder the plastic bag with the soiled nappies were gone! (On the hindsight, if the wild boars had really gobbled up the content of the soiled nappies, well… at least they were fresh and organic, weren’t they! :P)

The next day we were up for the real deal in the green. We completed a two-and-a-half-hour jungle trekking and discovered many magnificent tree species and wonderful tracks and traces of animals which made the entire experience the perfect geography lesson for the kids.

We went nuts spotting a Tapir next to our restaurant!

We went nuts spotting a Tapir next to our restaurant!

This National Park is also home to many wonderful home grown herbal medicines. Somewhere between hiking and paying attention to our trekking guide’s detailed explanation about the different plants we spotted, I thought the trip has made a good biologist out of my kids who now understood that the ginger flower was used to cure fever and that there was a type of leaf with antibacterial action that the locals used to stop bleeding and cured all types of pain.

Now if height is not your cup of thing, you might find it daunting that there is a canopy walk that stretches 400 metres in length and is suspended about 30 metres from ground. To us, it was the highlight and the ultimate experience of the trip as some of us conquered our fear of heights and did our walk in the sky. It was also exhilarating to soak in the bird eye view of the entire forest and felt in awe with God’s creation all at once!  

Do a deer, a female deer...

Do a deer, a female deer…

We also took to the river for an exciting thrills and spills time as the boat that we were in went past six mini rapids causing quite a delightful splash and cooling sensation!

To beat the heat, we ended the day with a really cold dip in a river called Sungai Tahan.

At this trip we found ourselves relax just by being away from the city, and it was good to let the green-loving giant in each of us awake amidst acres of lush jungle greenery. We learned a great deal about tropical forest and most of all, created a fond memory of being one with nature for the kids and grownups alike. rapid3

Balik Kampong to Kota Bharu


I am married to a Kelantanese boy and admittedly being a city gal, I am jealous of him growing up on a beach-front town. Coconut For the most part of his childhood, he used to ride his bicycle regularly to a beach we still frequent these days called Pantai Cahaya Bulan to watch the strong waves lap against the heady outcrop of rocks by the beach side. Now this appeals to the romantic side of me because I can only recall growing up with buildings and automobiles and inhaling the polluted air of the city as part of my childhood!

Of course, being his wifey, here’s where the perks and privilege come in as to being able to leave our footprints (started with us two, then when the kids slowly came along, all 5 big and small pairs of footprints) on just about every beach in Kelantan over the years. One of our favourites is Pantai Irama near Bachok which is a lesser known beach there. irama

Kota Bharu (KB), which is the state capital of Kelantan and the hometown of Daddy Joe is a captivating gem with the serenity of a laid-back town quite unlike the others. It is a bit of an old meets new here with the old part being the many century-old wooden houses and the slow-driving drivers in their twenty years old Protons that clog the streets and come to a sudden halt to swing by the many small Keropok Lekor (think sliced, fried fish cake one eats by first dipping into sweet chillis sauce) and fresh coconut juice stalls along the roads. This is also an old town that is remarkably dotted with as many green padi fields as small obscure road signs hidden wearily behind the bushes.

Daddy Joe teaching local kids we have befriended on how to fly a kite!

Daddy Joe teaching local kids we have befriended on how to fly a kite!

The new being its own Tesco hypermarket, KB Mall, famous Thai and local Malay food restaurants at the commercial hub of the city to meet all the gastronomical and daily necessities needs of the locals and tourists alike. Somewhere in between are the royal palaces, several museums, batik stores and local night markets which add vibrant colours to the landscape of KB.

Being Malaysian, there’s always the food part – a must try is Nasi Dagang and Nasi Kerabu, which are the favourite rice-based food of the happiest little family on earth. Even Baby B loves them with his drooling stamp of approval.

Baby B is fascinated with how the grainy sand move under his feet.

Baby B is fascinated with how the grainy sand move under his feet.

While its landscape and town-planning are not exactly primed for major touristy attraction, the friendly smiles of the locals may just make it up for the unhurried and even a little sluggish pace of the town. sunset

This school holiday I am definitely heading for the beaches again with a fresh coconut juice in hand and watch my kids fly their kites over the clear blue sky of KB. I can finally stop being jealous as I partake in Daddy Joe’s love of nature with my own account of seaside indulgence albeit for just that few hours of admiration.

Breathtaking (Bath-taking)


medium_2318822078We were young then and deeply, nay, madly in love. After the wedding bell, the exchange of our love vows blessed by the pastor, witnessed by God and our loved ones, we realised that we had only but a few dollars left in the piggy bank for our honeymoon!

So we rang up a few local resorts and finally decided on Avillion Port Dickson for our honeymoon, given that it had the best promotion that fitted our budget then. Yes it was no Maldives but still, it was a sweet honeymoon for two very contented love birds.

Throughout the honeymoon one romantic feature of the resort stuck on me — the Balinese open shower concept where one could indulge in a nice shower under the Azure blue sky and be in one with nature and the perfect symphony of tranquillity. We left the chalet with my heart etched vividly for a dream to have a wonderful shower to escape the daily stresses of life just like the one at Avillion IF we could finally afford it one day.

While I still have not found the means to afford such a close-to-nature way of taking a bath at my own home, my daily shower has somewhat redefined the 5 stars standard of any good bath.

Like any 5 stars hotel, my bathroom is well-stocked with heavenly scented shampoo and conditioner that promise to give me a shiny black mane and a good pharmaceutical-grade body scrub that promises skin as smooth as a tofu every fortnightly.

It is also equipped with an amplifier that blasts a nightly symphony that sounds like this…

The base tone is my 15 months old banging loudly on my bathroom door, shrieking, whining and screaming at the top of his lungs for ‘moooom… moooom’ that the neighbours might think that a mad calf has stormed into my home looking for his lost cow-mommy. (I still do not understand if he is in fact learning to call me Mama but sounded wrong since he has not learned how to utter any word just yet, or he is demanding to be breastfed since he knows his walking milk bottle is in the process of deep cleansing at that time.)

Just as I bubble up using a soap bar that has a lovely organic name called Songbird (how ironic), the vocal solo of my 9 years old would break through my bathroom door a few times mostly because she had a need to find out if I was done so that she could update me on what had just happened at the nightly Chinese love drama on Astro 324 that I have missed out. Last but not least, my 11 years old would steal the finale from Beethoven by trying to tell me about his school homework from outside my bathroom as I had not paid much attention to his speech earlier while having my quick dinner.

This medley goes on nightly despite my best intention to soak in some much-needed sanity after a honest day’s work at the office. I guess the dream of a good shower has not fizzled all these years but it has definitely moved on to the next level of tranquillity only a MOTHER gets to enjoy nightly. Bath-taking… (no pun intended).

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Raising Mangoes


medium_72981712The first Mango hopped off the transporter’s vehicle and started crying as he reached his home sweet home. Despite being younger in age, the second Mango rattled off a long lecture about the importance of studying hard and getting good academic grades because “the old mangoes have to slog away at work to bring food to the table”. “So Koko, the conclusion is, you have to get better grades next time, don’t give up!” the second Mango said. “I don’t deserve to be a Mango, I should just be a Banana,” the first Mango whined.

“Banana? I gave you a chance to be a Banana last year when I asked you if you wanted to change to another school since you think and talk like a Banana but you wanted to stay on in the Chinese school because of your friends,” the older female Mango said. “Son, you have got to be certain where you are heading to in life, make good choices for your life not because where most your friends are, but because you care about where you will end up at.”

In a sulk as if it really was the worst day of a typical 11 years old, Mango no. 1 stared at his own 58/100 score for Chinese essay paper. As if the entire Mango Orchard was not dramatic enough, the long lecture continued when the older male Mango came home with the conclusion that Mango no. 1 will have to receive his punishment if the rest of the other exam papers do not bring up the average score to 80.

Our family is raising Mangoes. medium_266621859

Our kids go to the Chinese primary school which instructs, conducts lessons, converses in Mandarin and teach kids the virtuous teachings of Chinese ancestors from over 5,000 years ago and valuable traditions that a Chinese must observe that reflect the true essence and beautiful discipline that uniquely make Chinese, well, as Chinese as a Mango (inside yellow; outside yellow because one knows how to speak his own mother tongue). I did not want to raise Banana (outside yellow; inside white as in Chinese who does not know how to speak his own mother tongue.)

When they were much younger, Daddy Joe and I thought hard over the choice of schooling for them – there was the Kebangsaan school, which was the country’s national schools that instructs in Bahasa Malaysia (BM), our national language. There was private schools that teach the national curriculum in BM; private schools that teach the international curriculum in English; and there were home schooling centres which teach international curriculum in English. The choice was aplenty!
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Daddy Joe and I were raised up in Chinese-speaking family (Hokkien for him and Mandarin for me), attended Chinese primary school and took Chinese classes in secondary school and even went as far as sitting for the Chinese subject in the national exam papers for SRP and SPM. We do not think that we are far more superior than any Chinese who came from other educational background, and growing up, we were both embarrassed at some points that we could not vividly express in English or BM as eloquent as our counterparts from the Kebangsaan schools.

Of course, being the simplistic and practical parents that we are, first of all, we could not afford to send them to private schools which cost five-figure fees per annum. But above all, we like how we were raised up to embrace the Chinese discipline and culture of respecting the elderly, of recognising that family ties never break and last but not least, to live frugally for oneself and yet, be generous in treating others. If you ask me, hey, these are the cool stuff I want my kids to have in them and I mean, really, really nailed deep and hopefully, they will walk this talk like this pair of older Mangoes.

We also like that we can easily belt out any Chinese pop songs from Taiwan or Hong Kong and just as easily switch to a Michael Bublé or Taylor Swift number or croon to a popular hit from Siti Nurhaliza.

Later that night, while watching a romantic sitcom from Taiwan on the Astro channel, I tugged my first Mango close to me and together we laughed hard when the main characters did something silly. “I know you are struggling in Chinese even though you have tried your best,” I said to him, in Mandarin. “But one day when you are that much older and taller than I am now, you will look back and think just how knowing this language opens few more doors and gives a different perspective in life. By then, son, you will be grateful that you are a Mango.” small__6580415133

“I know mommy, I already think it is awesome that I can understand Chinese shows and enjoy them together with you and papa,” my little Mango said softly. “Yes, and we can now sing and even dance to a silly Chinese song too,” I said as I tickled all the little Mangoes who screamed and begged for mercy as the older female Mango kicked up her legs and did a Gangnam style dance that was so hilarious the night lit up.

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