Saturday, February 27, 2010

CNY celebration

Chinese New Year is an interesting celebration. The customs and traditions may vary from places to places, but here are a few main ones I find interesting that are passed on from generations to generations.


A few days before the CNY, families will shop for new clothes to wear for the new year and will give their home a thorough "spring" cleaning.
On the new year day itself, it's time for prayers to ancestors. There will be many family dinners, and you can expect calls, emails or visits from friends. Each household will make sure it has enough food for the guests. You'll see loads of Mandarin oranges, which has the significance of luck, and home baked pastries, pineapple tarts being the famous one for Malaysians.


This pineapple tart is baked by MIL. She's a very good cook and baker, one of the best (and the only one from her side of the family). I would very much like to learn from her from scratch, but she doesn't seem to be interested in sharing her cooking after several attempts... so but for now I have to rely on internet, blogs and bits and pieces of her advice instead :). If you have a MIL who is generous enough to teach you how to cook her son's favorite dishes, consider yourself lucky!!! Otherwise, you have to learn by mistake on your own and practice more. (I apologize if I have offended anyone in this post, I did not mean it that way, sorry :)


More pastries bought:
Pineapple tart, gift from a friend (not home baked though):

We received friends for the celebration, and they brought along home baked chocolate chip cookies and home baked chocolate cake. Hmmm, not bad idea at all, cookies and cakes take lesser time to prepare than pineapple tarts, so why not!

The most interesting is the Yee Sang (raw fish salad) tossing (mainly for Malaysians): the higher you toss it with your chopsticks, while saying your wishes, the better your chance of having a year of abundance. The dish is usually composed of fresh salmon, white radish, carrots, seaweed, ground peanuts, crackers, topped with sour plum sauce, and is usually eaten on the 7th day of the New Year. (Sorry I don't have any pictures of the Yee Sang yet... DH didn't have time to transfer them to me *snif snif*, this explains the delay for this post. Next time, I'll make sure I use my own little camera!)

Not forgetting the red envelops exchange tradition, as well as Blackjack with your family and friends... yeaps, it's hard to separate gambling and CNY.


This red envelop is from McDonald's!!! How sweet :)


If you're married, don't expect to receive any red envelops! Unmarried friends and relatives will expect the red envelops from you instead! (I prefer the Japanese tradition, where only students are given the red money envelops :). I've been told that the regular amount to put inside red envelops in Malaysia is RM5-12, of course, you can always give more.

Friday, February 26, 2010

10,000 Hour Practice Rule

The thought of "they all start somewhere" is comforting to know. Looking at the Olympians, athletes, musicians, and other professionals, you can clearly see that they have all put a lot of hard work to get to where they are right now. With Google search, and Youtube, it is easier to observe that not everyone is always good in the beginning. But with practice (lots of practice), they become better (or even perfect), and that's inspiring!


Malcolm Gladwell did well to explain, in his book "Outliers, The Story of Success", that you can be good at a certain skill if you put at least 10,000 hours of practice in it. Hmm... let's say I'm a novice cook and I prepare meals for my family 2 hours a day everyday (that's 730 hours a year). I'll become good at cooking after 14 years (to get to the 10,000 hours), that is if I cook 2 hours everyday, without exception!!! Let's not despair. Let's say I got the opportunity to practice more (because I'm a chef apprentice, example only), at least 6 hours a day, then it will take me 5 years to master cooking. Haha, but that is if I have interest in cooking... if I'm really passionate about it, I would most probably put more hours and more effort in it!

What I think? Do what you like, and you'll naturally seek opportunities for practice. Personally, I find that everyone can be good at something (but not in everything), as long as you have the interest (or passion) in what you do, and that you know your own limits as well.

baked potato with chicken

Baked potato with chicken (recipe here).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Friendship


My dad likes to say that good friends are harder to find than gold. The older I get, I realized that what Dad said was true: it is easier to make a living (so to speak) than it is to find a good friend. Someone with whom you feel comfortable with, who is not fake in front of you, and with whom you can share common interests with. Someone who is not using you, or trying to get something out of you, but rather genuinely cares for you. You simply feel happy to be with her (or him), you can be yourself without fear of her judging you. You don't have to please her, and she doesn't have to please you, both of you can be honest with each other. You also want the best for her, and both of you grow together as better persons.


There are three types of friends, those who are there only for drinks and fun (forget about them), those who are good and trustworthy but not very close friends yet, and those closer with whom you share your inner thoughts with and who are there when everyone else fails to believe in you. In a lifetime, you won't find many who are in the last two categories, but if you already have, do cherish them (keep in touch, even if we tend to forget sometimes :).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cupcake 101

cupcake 101 9

I went for a cupcake 101 class, and was very excited about it. I didn't expect to learn so much about baking cupcakes in only two and a half hours. These six cupcakes were my first attempt in decorating them. I later noticed that I missed the purple color butter cream icing!!!

cupcake 101 4

cupcake 101 5

This cupcake is my least favorite... it looked nicer without the green sugar sprinkles.
cupcake 101 7

cupcake 101 6

The "A" on one of the cupcakes is missing contrast... I was too slow!!!

cupcake 101 3

We'll be eating them during the potluck at our place tonight... hehe.

cupcake 101 8

cupcake 101 2

Monday, February 15, 2010

Paper craft

SIL1 has a talent for design and craft. She made these CNY decorations, and stuck them on the wall.

This made me laughed... I couldn't guess which one was me. From left to right (SIL2, me, SIL1).


From left to right (BIL2, BIL1, DH).
 

 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fish origami using red envelop

Was thinking of an ecofriendly way to decorate the apartment for the CNY, using recycled red envelops.

What you need (pic. 1):
  • red envelop
  • pair of scissors
  • tape or stapler
  • hole puncher
  • ribbon (optional)

Picture instructions:

  • Fold and cut the envelop to make a square (pics 1-4);
  • From the picture, the left side has an opening from the cut. From there, cut a long thin triangle (pic 5);
  • When you unfold, you'll get what looks like a fish pattern (pic 6);

  • If you want to hang your fish, you can tape a ribbon inside the fish dorsal fin (pic 7);
  • With the hole puncher, create a round fish eye (pic 8);
  • To make the fish tail, cut from the tip, in the center, halfway (pic 9);
  • Tape one side of the tail, then cross them over to make it concave (pics 10-11);
  • Do the same on the other side, and make sure you stick both tail fins (pic 12).
** Instead of taping the fish tails, you can staple them. It's faster and prevents bad tape from loosening. **

VoilĂ !

Carpe Diem

I was looking at some old pictures in my computer folder, and found this... it brings back good old memories. Introducing Roborovski hamsters: one male and one female, named Cappu and Ccino (they're actually a friend's pet). They look so cute and cuddly, especially with their whiskers and paws. I really miss them.


Don't they look so perfect? Certainly, there's nothing perfect in this world. Happiness is not permanent, nor is sadness. It's the cycle of life, but what you make the most out of the present moment is what's count. From what I know, Cappu and Ccino (and their many cute babies) were very well taken care of by their owner. She loved them to death! There were no regrets.

Live the present moment, and make the best out of it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Car Alarm Remote

DH always has trouble with his Cobra alarm remote. The rubber that connects the car key to the remote tends to break off so easily. He had to replace it too often. Enough is enough!!! So DH decided to keep it in a plastic badge holder instead (trust me, there's no other way to hold this thing!).

I borrowed a friend's car alarm remote to compare the before and after look...


If you're from Cobra and you're reading this, please (beg on my knees) can you find a better way to secure the alarm remote to the key chain?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sake Bottle

A sake bottle set with two cups:


Have you heard that Japan makes sake bottle out of cuttlefish? Here's the link to the article: treehugger.com. Cool isn't it? Eco-friendly, economical, and good for sake lovers.

(The above sake bottle (picture) is not made from cuttlefish, but from ceramic).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Baked potato with chicken

As I grow older (and older), my likes and dislikes slowly changed. I got exposed to different environments, met different people, learned my deserved lessons and expanded my understandings and personal perceptions (hopefully to the better).

I did noticed that my tastes in music and food have also changed. Goodbye sad slow songs, no more sad Korean movies that make you cry like a baby. Food wise, can't stand deep fried food anymore (cough cough), and watch out the dishes that incorporate oyster sauce, fish sauce, black soy sauce, and so on.

Here's a dish that I did (for the first time), and amazingly passed the test of DH's harsh food critics (especially when it comes to my cooking). A year of home cooking did pay off after all!

  

I got the original recipe of "baked potato tuna" from my favorite site (allrecipe.com) and did a bit of changes.

First, I replaced the tuna with chicken breast that I minced. Then, I stir fry it in a hot pan with butter and 1/2 c. of diced onion (to get some flavor). Pour the cooked chicken in a bowl of mashed potato, which was sliced steamed for about 20 min. Add 2 eggs, 3 T. of Parmesan cheese, cream and a bit of water (or replace it with 1 cup of milk). Pour the mixture in a baking pan, and top it with another 3 T. of Parmesan cheese and 3 slices of cheddar cheese. Bake it in the oven for around 45 minutes @ 200 degrees Celsius.

I prepared Tabouli salad to go with it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Calamansi

From the outside, the calamansi looks like a tiny lime (actually tinier than the regular lime size), but the inside looks like an orange. It's also called acid orange, and tastes like a mix of lime and orange (hmm).


Mix the calamansi juice with honey and hot water, and you'll get a great 'honey-lemon' juice. It's a good alternative to lemon and lime when you need to make a dish or sauce that requires more liquid with less acidity.

I like to squeeze calamansi in a glass jar and keep them in the refrigerator. I can quickly grab it when I need it for my cooking.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bakuteh

Let's eat out tonight! It's been a while we haven't eaten Bakuteh (or Bak Ku Teh), a popular dish in Malaysia. Not sure if it's my own brain simulation, but I find that the best Bakuteh dishes are usually the family owned restaurant near the road side.

Every time we eat the Bakuteh dish, there's this unconscious ritual where DH would verbally pray for a Bakuteh restaurant back in Canada. DH goes, a hot meaty tea soup during the winter season would be so nice! And yes, every time I drink the soup I burn my tongue. But I didn't mind much, because the Bakuteh soup has this herbal taste that keeps you spooning for more.


Next to our table was a group of tourists enjoying their hot Bakuteh with a bowl of kimchi (of course, the shops do not provide kimchi, so I deduced that they're from Korea). Wow, not bad at all, even tourists know what specialty to go for. Should bring my friends here when they come over.

Bakuteh shops are only open at night. The total bill for about 3-4 persons arrived at RM61, which include Bakuteh, with 3 side dishes, 1 vegetable plate and tea.

Spaghetti recipe book

At first glance from afar, I thought it was a box of spaghetti. When I got closer, it was actually a pasta recipe book.



Can be difficult to keep the pages in place when you want to read the recipes though.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bakeneko

My friend sent me this link (http://neutralx0.net/tool/bnmk.html). This Japanese website has a tool where you can customize your own Bakeneko / Bake-neko or a cat with supernatural abilities in Japanese folklore.

I did this quickly and here's what I came up with.


Considering that the Chinese New Year is just around the corner, I turned him into a tiger!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Big Huge Labs

I found out about a great site: Big Huge Labs (bighugelabs.com), where you can play around with your digital photos and create tons of interesting things, such as magazine covers, calendars, posters, framer, wallpaper, cubes, CD covers, billboard, slideshow,  etc.

It's all free. I created a February 2010 calendar for my friend (Jern) who likes the Stitch character (especially for you ^_^ xoxoxo).

calendar Feb - KTMF

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Coin Bank

Cute coin banks.

Campbell's coin bank:

coin bank 2

Mouse coin bank, slip the coin in the slot... his mouth:

coin bank 1

This door stopper should not be under this post, but I find it amusing as it's the same friendly mouse :)

door stopper

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wedding couple figurines

I was so happy when DH got me a SB600 flash. He said that a DSLR is not DSLR without an external flash. Is he so right.

This is my favorite picture so far: a very cute Japanese wedding couple figurine. I guess the background does make a big difference too.

wedding couple 1

Chinese wedding couple figurine.

wedding couple 2

Walt Disney wedding couple figurine.

wedding couple 3