Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Red mulled wine recipe

Mix the following:

Spiced apple cider mix
1 cup of red merlot
1 stick of cinnamon
1 cup of iced lemon tea (mix is fine)
1 pomegranate
Lemon juice (optional) 

Slow fire for about an hour

Add the pomegranate to cups before spooning hot mulled wine in teacups. Serve it before dinner as an aperitif.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My first Christmas Facial

I’ve just had my first facial.

Goodness gracious. In your middish 40s! Yes, I did. I went into Azure Skin Care with a bucketful of hopium that what goes on this face will not come out red, botchy and bumpy. This was so undeniably “not-me”. I’m never lured by advertising (I was in advertising before so I know the shenanigans that go on behind closed boardroom doors), I am skittish with steaming open anything (billetdoux are fine, but least of all, one’s pores) and the cost of disambiguating the term “exfoliate” would be better served on someone who has thickish, leathery skin. An elephant leaps to mind.

I am not a gambling woman even though the first and last time I went into a Las Vegas casino I lost a quarter to a one-arm bandit only to gain $50 in dirty quarters. The reason why I found myself in Clayton Heights was because of my iPhone. It’s one of those things that seem to hit you at happier, more whimsical moments in your life when you decide a Groupon App is good for a chuckle. Then you click on it “just to see” and some startling discount catches your eye and the Christmas season coupled with no-homework-assignment completely pull all your No-More-Spending guards down. Before you know it…POOF! you have made an appointment and you are standing before a white-robed beautician.

So, there was Brittany- punctilious and professional. I was looking at my face doctor.

There’s something very soothing about having someone who looks nice work on one’s face. I’ll never get over the odd feeling that I’ve just met a stranger and the next minute I’m taking nearly all my clothes off. At least until down to the bottom half of my skivvies. I found out later that a bra strap is a horrible obstacle when one’s neck and shoulders are being massaged but I’m getting ahead of myself here…

It is mandatory that anyone in the aesthetics industry must be good at conversational fluff. The reason is because there are awkward long pauses that should be filled either by a) Classical (nothing Beethovanesque thank you very much) b) Barry Manilow instrumentals (surprisingly relaxing), c) some kind of shiatsu Japanesey bone-melting massage sursuration or d) intelligent confabulation.

Back to my face.

First the cleanser. I told Brittany that I came out with no makeup at all thinking I’d spare her having to wipe it all away again. I pulled a 404 on her. (completely clueless- File Not Found) Luckily for the cotton pads covering my eyes, I’m sure I couldn’t see her face showing mild mortification that a woman my age would dare step into the world without her face armour. Suffice to say, the cleanser came on and my face was just beginning to enjoy the effects of being treated like royalty. 

I called the thing with the long arm connected to the bottled distilled water and minerals a Face Humidifier. It isn’t, of course, but that never stopped me from calling anything what I fancy. It steams open one’s pores causing the breathable craters (euphemistically called “large pores”) on my face to release every smidgen of toxin it has accumulated since blackheads and hormones were first introduced. It had a profound effect on my respiratory system as it was steaming open the alveoli sacs in the pit of my lungs giving it a tingly eucalypty fragrance. It might be the only time my lungs smelled this good.

Next were extractions. We all know about addition and subtractions but extractions are only to remove the debris (face gunk) from the capacious pores the same way I suppose one extracts juice from an orange. To spare you the details, I’ll just say it involved a healthy dose of squeezing.

Imagine me on my back, white flourescent magnifying every square millimeter of my face and Brittany doing a face map. For a scant nanosecond I felt like the earth being scoured over by the google camera to map out an accurate GPS of my features. It took a lot more vulnerability than I thought I had. It was a good thing Brittany was a fount of much aesthethical knowledge for she clued me in on what massage she was going to do, what booster she was going to apply, what masque she was going to paint on and finally, what moisturizer she was going to slather over my over-dehydated mug.

By the end of nearly 90 minutes, my face freshly toweled for the fifth time, moisturized and lovingly massaged emerged more youthful than ever. Alright, it didn’t obliterate the crows feet. I had told Brittany I had earned every single one of my wrinkles, barring the few that were caused by raising my teen.  He caused most of the laugh lines, so I’ll close one eye for the worry wrinkles. The liver spots will need more than an exfoliation to rid. I don’t know why they call it a chemical peel because as a wordmonger, it screams “acid burn” to me.

I liked the way my face smelled at the end of the session. I liked the squeaky cleanliness of a rehydrated, remoisturized, post-extraction-of-blackheads-lurking-since-two-decades face. Sorry…TMI. Cucumbers on one’s eyelids are beneficial (officially Brittany- approved) to remove puffiness and one of the reasons for puffy eyelids is because one eats before sleeping. For those of you reading this entry and having an A-Ha moment, I’ll just wish you stronger disciplinary measures for yourself this Christmas.

Some people have facials once a month. It’s a complete luxury of course. I’m intrigued by this practice and am now certain which ones of my girlfriends go through this millennium old tradition of beautifying oneself. I probably can’t afford to go every month, but when spring comes around, I’ll go for round two with a girlfriend who’s got $60 sitting in her purse. Any takers?

Monday, November 21, 2011



Who said Christians don't have a sense of humour?
There was a feud between the Pastor and the Choir Director.
It seems the first hint of trouble came when the Pastor preached on "Dedicating oneself to Service" and the Choir Director chose to sing "I shall not be moved"
Trying to believe that it was a coincidence, the Pastor put the incident behind him. The next Sunday, he preached on "Giving". Afterwards, the Choir squirmed as the director led them in the hymn "Jesus Paid it All"
By this time, the Pastor was losing his temper and the Sunday morning attendance swelled as the tension between the two built up. A large crowd showed up the next week to hear his sermon on the "Sin of Gossiping". Would you believe it, the Choir Director selected "I love to tell the story"
There was no turning back. The following Sunday, the Pastor told the congregation that unless something changed, he was considering resignation. The entire Church gasped when the Choir Director led them in the song "Why not tonight?"
Truthfully, no one was surprised when the Pastor resigned a week later, explaining that "Jesus had led him there and Jesus was leading him away" The Choir Director could not resist and led them all in singing, "What a Friend we have in Jesus"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

License to Trample

Luke 10:18-19 He (Jesus) replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you."

These 2 verses tell me:

1. Satan fell like lightning. Lightning travels at 93,000 miles per second (according to the US Dept. of Energy) which is roughly equivalent to travelling around the earth's equator 4 times in one second. That's PDQ. Satan fell. (Thanks to all grammar classes, I recognize this as the past tense of "see".) Jesus saw him and that was at least a couple of millenia back.

2. A few milligrams of the venom from the Belcher's sea snake can kill 1000 men. The Death Stalker scorpion (let's not pussy foot around this) may not cause instant death but excruciating pain. O joy. But note...Jesus said "I have given you authority..." Past perfect tense. Given out and not retracted.

Today I pit my very worst current battle against the very cornerstone of my belief centred upon these verses. I am not the type that goes out looking for trouble, (so I won't be packing to Australia or Africa to look for snakes and scorpions to stamp on any time soon) but today, this passage struck me in a different way. Jesus had sent his 72 disciples out two-by-two to preach the Good News. And when you go out on the mission that He sends you out on, you are going to meet with snakes and scorpions and other creepy crawlies. Sure, you weren't going out to look for them, but they will be found along the way. Hang on a second...here's the juggernaut...depend on the certainty that God gave you the authority to overcome the enemy (creepy crawlies, poisonous crunchy beetles and slithery belly-dancing vipers, satan's minions) who likes nothing better than for you not to deliver the Good News.

I know some of us are going through whatever is equivalent to a scorpion's spiritual bite, so I'm praying for you based on the realization that God has given you to me and I'm trusting God to see that His Authority working not just on Top Secret level three FBI security clearance but Willy-Wonka Golden Ticket kinda clearance! I am writing specifically to each one of you to tell you that God has you on His mind and I'm praying alongside you.

We are so incredibly well-made to trample on dubious poisonous creatures that try to beset us, but let's not fall prey to that. We have been given the license to trample. Let that soak in for a bit. I don't know about you, but while I am trampling, I'm going to add a bit of a shake, twist and swivel just to get that sucker good.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Clauses have a subject and verb.

Clauses are either Independent or Dependent.

Keiko ate the seeds that we bought for her last week.

The subject: Keiko (Our pet cockatiel)
Predicate: ate the seeds that we bought for her last week.

Our predicate has 2 verbs: ate and bought
Clause 1: Keiko ate the seeds.
Clause 2: That we bought for her last week

Clause 1 can stand alone, so it's an independent clause.
Clause 2 needs to be attached to the first clause to make sense so that's called a dependent clause (or Subordinate clause) usually by a relative pronoun (that, which, who) or a linking conjunction or connective adverb like after, although, as, because, before, if, since, unless, until, when, while, so that...

Dependent Clauses (Subordinate Clauses)
Has different functions:
1. Act as an adjective (Adjective describes or modifies a noun)
2. Act as nouns
3. Act as adverbs

1. As an adjective: Example: The painting, which was a priceless piece of artwork, was stolen from the museum. (which was a priceless piece of artwork modifies the painting) Rule for Adjective Clauses: Usually right after the noun.
2. As a noun: I can't understand what she said. (what she said is the object of understand) Rule for Noun Clauses: Generally goes after a verb and can be introduced by that, what, which, who, whom, where, when, whoever, whatever
3. As an adverb: I felt horrible when I found out Keiko died from seed poisoning! (when I found out Keiko died from seed poisoning! modifies the verb "felt; it tells when I felt horrible) Rule for Adverb Clauses: Usually before or right after the independent clause and tend to explain time, manner, purpose, cause, result, effect, concession or contrast

Prepositions are usually at the end of the clause:
This is the part of Grammar which we are most frustrated with.
This is the part of the test which Paul is most anxious about.

Monday, November 07, 2011

What determination will help you do...

Here is a 1 minute video I recorded to remind me what I had set out to accomplish 10 months ago.

I had written: "What determination will help you accomplish if you don't give up." - Shirley, a right hander

Sunday, November 06, 2011


I remember
Those days when I sat on the window ledge
And dreamt.
I wish I was far away
So that nothing could distract the castles I built.
Now that that window ledge is no longer there
And it's but a memory of  my childhood,
I long to find
A substitute.
But there is none that could be
My little standing space
to see
Through the window of my bedroom
With the eyes of a child
Who only wished to be
Far away.

Entry: 8 February 1988, Pasadena, California

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hot-spotting connections

So there I was in Tim Hortons, looking through my courses online and doing student-like things such as getting on top of homework and posting my thoughts to my Linguistic' class forum.

It doesn't happen often but when a stranger comes over and says "Hello Shirley, how are you?", I confess every antennae is sweeping the entire perimeter for bugs, spies and secret service agents. (Why would they be spying on me I 'll never know!) I am not a person easily surprised but this is where you insert the emoticon of a wide-eyed, I-just-got-found-out, scared-witless face. But there was something about his face that said "friend" instead of "foe".

I asked how he knew my name. He said he had hacked into my account (my nerves went into bungee-jumping beserk mode again!) then he smiled and said "Shirley's iPhone4" since I was hot-spotting from iPhone to my my laptop. He lifted up his iPhone and his iPad. His companion, an elderly man smiled. His name is Stephen and he introduced his friend Alf, from Queensland, Australia. What ensued was a rather delightful conversation (about work, ministry, Power to Change, ESL and churches) all because he saw my electronic "ad" for a hotspot connection. (Note to self: Should I put my name on the iPhone so everyone knows my name? Hmmm...)

This short dialogue made me think how many ways can one find out about others and how easy was it to have a conversation? After answering his question about what I do for a living, I took a risk by using my observations to suss out who he was. I said he has a demeanor of a pastor to which he looked at me with new eyes. *That's* the look that I get when I use my eyes, ears and heart to look at someone. Tit for tat. He said he was "an evangelist" and we went on to talk about our church backgrounds and even found out we had a mutual friend from a Chinese church by the name of Gideon.

Before I left for class, he said that he knew when he saw me working on my sausage-country-biscuit-and-hot-chocolate, that I was a Christian. Let me be shallow and admit that I was rather suspicious of such a line however, he clarified by saying that Christians are known by the Spirit who lives within them. It made me think and it brought part of a Sunday school song back to mind.

"And they'll know we are Christians by our love..."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Understanding Teaching Methodology

Traditional learning (1000+ years ago)
Meta-Orientation:  Transmission
Curriculum: Product
Student: Receive info
Teacher: Found of knowledge (full control)
Language: Structures
Assessment: Scientific

I went to one of the most straight-laced, academic, Government-subsidized high schools in Singapore, so the traditionalist’s way of rote learning was all I had ever known. Back in the mid 80s, one’s learning was measured by what output you could regurgitate during the formidable Cambridge U.K. ‘O’-level exams when you were 16 years old. Every teacher would stand before a class of 40 to deliver instruction so to ensure our best chances to get distinctions was to learn how to write exams. It worked for many as my alma mater has kept its reputation for having the highest numbers of alumni who are CEOs, ministers, scientists, engineers and doctors today. This has been a great disservice for I had not learned for learning’s sake but for the elusive grades I hoped would direct my career path. I believe this style will serve those better in Science and Math (much less leeway for creative thinking) than Arts, which was what I had chosen. 

Learner-driven (Present)
Meta-Orientation: Transaction
Curriculum: Process
Student: Choses info
Teacher: Facilitator
Language: Negotiated
Assessment: Performance

            My son is 16 years old and now goes to a private Christian High School. The way his school conducts lessons is certainly more learner-driven than anything I had been exposed to. There is more room for dialogue and for negotiating course projects. I’ve also had the privilege of staying closer in contact with the teachers as well as keeping abreast of his curriculum, performance and problematic areas.  My son has been blessed with wonderful musical talents, playing several instruments and having an ear for music notation, editing and producing. His strong leanings towards both Design Arts and Music production would most definitely be stymied under the old, traditional regime. He chose to take more Media-arts classes this year in Grade 11 which I believe will help chart a course he’s willing and more prepared to follow.

Critical (Present implementation in some Universities) 
Meta-Orientation: Transformation
Curriculum: Praxis (Affecting the world)
Student: Apply info
Teacher: Guide (Interpreter)
Language: Power (gives student power to transform)
Assessment: Portfolios (see visible changes)

            Of all three meta-orientations, my favourite has to be the critical approach. I find this most relevant in my role as mum to my son. Having been widowed for 14 years, my role as single parent is only rewarding now when I play ‘coach’ (instead of teacher) in his phase of seeking self-identity and purpose in life. We have experienced a great deal of disagreements, conflicts in our interpretations of issues and heated debates over countless numbers of topics the past 2 years. We may exert our differences with the strongest statements if only to do so kindly. I have found that the best way empower him is to relinquish my prior control/ influence over his personal choices so that he takes the full responsibility of his decision. Nothing is more wrestle-worthy than seeing my personal convictions and deep transformations whether it be by my active sharing or my passive showing. With this approach, the biggest advantage is both student and teacher benefits mutually from seeing each other’s inward process of challenge and outward product of change.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Napkin Notes #5: The art of seeing past the man in order to observe the person

“The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton 

I’m intrigued about people. I’ve always been. When I get to know someone, it borders on being slightly intrusive while maintaining a veneer of voracious curiosity.  People compel me. They can be distracting, befuddling, irresistible, cantankerous, discursive or polemic. There’s always something exacting about someone and I’ve learned to discover lots about a person from the best gumshoe who never lived- Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes was created in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887. One of the riveting things about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s remarkable protagonist must be the fact that he was based on an actual person–Dr. Joseph Bell, who was Doyle’s old teacher when he was still in Medical School. A short excerpt from A Scandal in Bohemia will illustrate what I have come to love about people-watching.
Holmes: “…You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up to this room.”
Dr. Watson: “Frequently.”
Holmes: “How often?”
Dr. Watson: “Well, some hundreds of times.”
Holmes: “Then how many are there?”
Dr. Watson: “How many! I don’t know.”
Holmes: “Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen.”
We see people everywhere but we seldom observe. The homeless are arguably some of the most invisible members in society. If I had to ask myself why, perhaps it might have to do with feeling uneasy (Oh uh, he’s going to ask me for money!) mixed with self-righteousness (Well, why isn’t he working like everyone else?), a tiny bit of sympathy (How long has he not eaten?) and a whole carking stockpot of quasi-guilt-slash-helplessness (Well, God, what do you expect me to do, give him money so he’ll get more liquor? Drugs?!) The above palaver was brought to you by a weak generalization of such stereo-types in our society. I too, stand convicted and guilty. I see homeless people but I don’t know how to, or dare approach someone because I don’t know what he or she may need specifically from me.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection,and take delight in honoring each other.” -Romans 12:9-10

One evening while entering a noshery for dinner, I couldn’t have missed seeing Daniel (not his real name) sitting by the front door. If I had, I’m quite sure I would’ve tripped over him, and hurled myself headlong into the fengshui fishtank neatly placed in my flight path. There was something about Daniel that betrayed his grimy exterior that nagged at me throughout my meal. I felt as if God was compelling me to take note of something truly important and if I don’t stop to understand this person, I was going to miss a valuable lesson.

There was a person not-so-hidden behind the man.
In the twenty minutes I took to listen to Daniel’s story, I observed two different persons emerge. Daniel was injured while at work in a construction site, whose life unravelled when he could not work, who didn’t blame his wife taking their young son away because he was suffering from depression followed by alcoholism and other –isms which hastened his crow-on-a-wire look and lifestyle.
The skeptical woman in me warned not to be taken in by his sob story. I wasn’t sure how to react to what he was telling me, so I simply asked God to show me what he needed, despite the obvious and the not-so obvious. As Daniel talked, I listened and as I looked, truly looked, (which meant sitting on the floor with him) some things became quite evident.

He wore his hair neatly, even though it was long.
He wrote his name on his clothes, his duffel bag and on the few belongings he had.
He kept pulling back his shoulder periodically and held his stomach in a painful way several times as he spoke.
He had curried stains on his tee-shirt and a brown paper bag of what smelled like curry beside him.
When I asked if I could pray for him, I took a small leap of faith to pray for the things I thought he needed.

1. I thanked the Lord for him, and that by his own admission, God loves him and still has a good plan for his life. Praise God he had remained sober the last two months.
2. I said his name several times and prayed for his wife and son by name.
3. I laid my hands on where I felt he hurt most and prayed for his injuries to heal including what I believed was an upset stomach.
Immediately, Daniel told me about the curry a family had left for him the night before but he had gotten a stomach ache from it. From where I stood, it reeked from not being refrigerated. I ended our time together by handing him my uneaten spring rolls (and chucking the rancid curry). He accepted it but what did Daniel need specifically from me? The last thing he thanked me for was calling out his name. He had forgotten when the last time was someone called him by his name.
The first person who emerged changed was Daniel. The second person to come away changed was me. God sees Daniel and He simply wanted me to see his son as precious, someone who needed to be loved and honoured.

“Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine St. Exupery, Le Petit Prince

Earlier this year I chanced to watch a movie called “Happy-Go-Lucky.” I like Mike Leigh’s Aesopian-type films, always insightful, polymorphous and chock-a-block full of real human sentiments. (Secrets and lies, Vera Drake, to name a couple. ) The story revolves around Pauline “Poppy” Cross, played by a nonplussed Sally Hawkins as an irenic 30- year old woman who sees the good in every person. One powerful scene that stood out for me was Poppy having a conversation with a batty homeless man in London, yaffing about “the rubber knocker man, she’s she’s she’s, she’s, ya know what I mean?” He definitely has a dozen bats in the belfry, but there’s a heartbeat of understanding from her, and she looks him in the eye and sincerely says, “Yeah, I do.”
All the punch from that scene was delivered in those three words where she simply connects with him before he goes off muttering to himself again. Sure it’s celluloid quirkiness at Mike Leigh’s braggable Golden Globe-winning best, but what the scene conveyed to me was how it impacted her.
Our hearts are fragile and myopic. Only when we focus outwardly to risk loving others will we be able to turn inward to see ourselves clearly in God’s grand scheme of things. God loves us whether we are tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man or mad man.

“Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” – Mark 6:34

We are lost. Essentially, that’s how Jesus sees us. We are like a sheep without a shepherd. The lost cannot lead the way. Someone who knows the way must teach it and teach it, Jesus does, because His compassion drives him to love.

This month, as an act of love and healthy people-watching curiosity: Let’s observe our friends, our family; what they wear, what they talk about, what music they are listening to, how they react to things, to us and have a ball of a time deducing their unsaid (and often unmet) needs and offer to pray with them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Napkin Notes #4: Summer Fêtes> Unposh nosh easy on your dosh

I cook five days a week; six, if I am entertaining on the weekend. Improvement is the necessary incentive to keep both meals interesting and I, interested in cooking.
I am a firm believer in good book-lending practices so I frequent the library twice a week. Anyone who’s ever been in my home will tell you I cook by sight–foodography is a kind of stomach pornography to me. To entice the senses, the best cookbooks are easily 95 percent big glossy prints and 5 percent instruction. I tend to think verbose chefs lose their audience unless they’re on tele and actually have something instructive to say. Take Michael Ruhlman’s The Elements of Cooking. Not a photo in 245 pages of circumlocution. I would have had more stamina to sit through a year’s subscription of Opera News than read that. Well, maybe not a year’s subscription. Maybe two months.

Remember Chairman Kaga–the original host of Iron Chef, Japan? Darting eyes, flaring nostrils, and frilled cuffs (with Bill Bickard’s campy English voice-over)? How the knob did that series survive 2,000 dishes? Oh yes, it was because of the droolicious rations that whet your stomach juices into industrial strength pressurized jet sprays when the cameras linger on the finished dish. It doesn’t matter if the secret ingredient was cabbage or potatoes; they looked like they would cost $300 more than the actual cost of the ingredients. I suppose that’s what happens when you ply on the foie gras or bedaub everything with caviar. So much of what we eat begins with our hungry eyes, noses, mouths and stomachs.

So, after surveying the Surrey Library shelves for the glossiest spine that will preface some cuisine whose ingredients are not beyond Canadian grocers, but not finding any, I decided locally gotten fresh ingredients are the panacea for all guests with a persnickety palate. I turned to the pages of my 1994 travelogue lunch notes in the old quarters of Nice to one of the simplest fares my tastebuds had ever had the presence of mind (if tastebuds did such a thing) to enjoy and recall. There was the least fancy dish called socca which I had mistakenly believed was made of cornmeal when it was made with chickpeas. We also had Farcies a L’assiette (“farcies,” meaning stuffed; hence stuffed tomatoes, stuffed zucchinis, stuffed onions) and moules-frites (mussels and fries).
I coined a new word that day – “Delumptuous” to mark a meal that was good and fresh and simple. Everything we farcied into our faces was delicious and sumptuous.

These bygone memories make up my kitchen homilies. The most successful parties, in my humble but accurate estimation, only have two outcomes:
1. People know they are loved.
2. People want to come back.

It’s summer and I’ve a Throw-down à la Bobbeh Flay for you. Find your foodict friend who squeals like a Billy-o when you hint you’re having a delumptuous party for five using only five ingredients from the farmer’s market within 5km of your home. (I’m making this stuff up as I go along …)
Strawberries are in season in Surrey, BC where I live, as are summer squash, kale, basil and thyme. Nothing has to be fancy nor expensive and sit-down meals are entirely overrated. One need not be careless about liquor if the host’s intention is to compliment the dinner and not catastrophize it. Crushed fresh strawberries with a splosh of wine cooler is a refreshing winner when you garnish it with basil mint and flowered chives. I grow these in my backyard because they’re hardy as mahogany.

It’s mind ba-lowing what anyone can get away with when the food is tasty and the company connects well with each other. I’ve also gotten away with food piled high and pan drippings resemble a Rorschach gravy blot of two people dancing. It’s lovely when the biggest headache your guests winge about is whether to have more quiche lorraine or kale with walnuts? That’s a champagne problem: having to choose between two ideals.

Questions for your guests to make the fête funnily memorable:
Make a list of things you don’t know. (If you are like me, I would suggest a less comprehensive list of 20.) Give your guests your problems. Here are some of mine:
1. Why do we need a turkey baster when it’s impossible to clean and what’s wrong with using a big ole spoon?
2. Why do clothing manufacturers sew their labels in such an uncomfortable place?
3. How do you tell someone with very bad breadth, that?
4. How do you think they make clothing out of banana or bamboo fibres?
5. How do you tell the person who can talk the hind leg off a donkey, that he/she talks too much?

Bring weird/wonderful kitchen doodads and ask them what else they can be used for. See #1 above.

Value-add your evening soirée by giving them tips. My suggestion is make them ALL up. It helps to put some Unhelpful tips in with the mix too. My favourite? Chew gum right after you’ve eaten seeds or nuts to clean the grit lodged in your teeth.

Introduce your friends to dubstep; if they fail to appreciate that, play Kajagoogoo, Howard Jones, David Bowie, AHA or anything from the 80s.

Remember, anyone can throw a successful party when pigs fly. And we all know, pigs fly when they have enough love and thrust!!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April Fresh Fish 2011

Last Sunday Napkin Notes for SheLovesMagazine

Napkin Notes: How to say “No”.
On shaving blind, self-respecting “nos” and reading tell-tale parenthesis

Six months in the gym and I get 8 calluses, 2 reddened bunions and not too many visible signs I had actually rowed, biked, and tread-milled. (Unless one counts the uploaded photos of a certain mileage counter on FaceBook.) Sometimes all the hard work can only be seen in the subcutaneous layers on a molecular level too biological to go into without experiencing the heebie-jeebies. While at the gym one day, I wend past all the heavy-duty ironman equipment to try the bench press. There are steel donuts of all sizes and a young muscular man sidles over to offer help. Now, I’m no weakling (I’m no Irene Andersen either…) but when he asked if I needed help, I said “yes”. He locked and loaded the scrawniest 5 kg on either side. It behooved me to internalize the universal question: “Why is it so difficult to say no?”

I say “no” as frequently as I take afternoon showers. This reminds me of something quite untoward as I had my second 3pm ablution this year. I never shower with my glasses on, a bit of information that does nothing but inform you reader, other that I’m quite blind while reaching for sharp instruments, like a razor. Can we say “hematophobia” (Fear of bleeding)? No, because it’s not a real word, but it has never stopped me from using it indiscriminately. It’s a matter of time before it circulates to an unfamiliar boondock in Australia where a word-embracing tautologist will use it in a blog and voila!- instant acceptance in the slanguist’s dictionary.

Not forgetting my point at the beginning of this sentence, (Call me “meanderthal”)- it’s fairly difficult for many of us to say “no”, mean “no” and follow through with a clearly defined, absolute irrevocable- “no way”, “not happening”, “the opposite of yes.” I find this a particularly female-prone malady, do you?

Take another example my little naughty excursion to dessert last night at Sammy J. Peppers with my womanpal. Now most women would read between the lines (or skim around my parenthesized thoughts). This is going to come to a complete, utter, no-win, sorry, self-deprecating end. A chocolate mousse cheesecake by any other name is sweet re-toxification! The internal commentary went like this:

I’ve just had Rack of Lamb Paidakia. I’m stuffed!
I still have some space in my stomach.
We said we would be done at 930pm and it’s 930pm!
I hadn’t had dessert for a long time; I can afford this.

I brought this home to my 16-year old son Myron who sliced through the fog of my bimbling like a hot knife through herbed butter.

“Mum, you really don’t know yourself and you care too much about looking like a good person.” Ouch. Trust a tweenager to deliver the coup-de-grace with a sledgehammer. As I said before, I’m no weakling (especially in the verbal jousting department), so I pressed for clarification. He made several poignant and brief points that only a tight-lipped, 16-year old of the male species can. His observations:

1.     Think with your brain, not with your stomach. (we can also think with other organs but that’s another blog entry) If you look at my internal dialogue again, it’s brain-stomach-brain-stomach.
2.     It’s about knowing yourself.
3.     It’s about respecting a person’s choices.

I found our little jaw-jaw most enlightening. The fact that I feel more obliged to preserve harmony at the expense of internalizing guilt and regret is a viciously debilitating thing. A dim 15-watt slowly got replaced with the Cree TrueWhite light bulb and it made an impact in my brain the same way the chocolate mousse fell to the pit of my stomach with a dullish thud. Strangely enough, it brought to memory the lasting words from Polonius to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

By "true" he means loyal to your own best interests and by "false", disadvantageous or detrimental to your image; so, cut to the chase and put this down on my chocolate-smeared napkin before I lose the plot: which makes perfect sense when one begins to respect and know one has the God-given freedom to choose; one would inevitably respect that someone else also has the same. Next time you have to say no, if it’s in your best interest to say “no”, then by golly, that’s all the valid reason you need have in order to say it.

As the old adage goes, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So remember to smile, and with a gentle tilt of your head, deliver your most deliberate and firm, “no”. Give it a go. I’m fairly certain you will be able to comment here, and live another day to tell someone else the liberating, self-respecting, non-offensive way to say what you mean and mean what you say.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Change does not seek my consent, nor does it challenge me. I have to get to that place where I understand change is not what I have to submit to. Change is either something I embrace or something I run from.

The reason why I am living in Canada right now has to do with one small incident on 18 February 1982. While serving the Singapore Air Forces, my older brother Sam was involved in a freak accident where he perished along with 3 other national servicemen. This led to an undisclosed amount of what my father called "dirty money" collected from the insurance company which was spent sending me to the US to study. After my studies, instead of going to Chicago for my dream job in Leo Burnett, my mother insisted I return home where I spent the best and last 2 years of her life being her best friend before she succumbed to colon cancer. While home in SGP, I met and married my husband, who excelled in Product Design and planted the wonderful notion to go to Switzerland for 3+ years. Eventually it led to my birthing our son before watching my husband lose the battle to lung cancer. Returning to the US go get away from the depression of seeing my husband's shadow in every restaurant we had visited, I chanced to meet an old friend who invited me to revisit Vancouver. Before you can say “unpack”, I’ve arrived in Canada and have since lodged here for 10 years 11 months and 6 days. I’ve not measured these occurrences according to its size of change for me, but I’ve measured them in whether I’ve 1. Embraced them or 2. Rejected them. Where I have embraced changes, I’ve lived a happier life. Where I have denied or resented those changes, I’ve wallowed in personal and prolonged grief. Not a good thing, I assure you.

Whether or not one chooses to believe in a higher power, as humans, change is inevitable. I’ve learned not to struggle as changes come, but to ask what it requires of me? What lessons are waiting to be learned? I personally believe that in my relationship with Jesus comes a benefit unparalleled and unsurpassed. I don’t care for the changes that come, but I do care for His companionship through the new and ever-foreign landscapes of my life. It is in those powerful moments of living with God at the frayed edges of my sometime insane and inscrutable life, that makes change ever so welcoming. It’s the front row seat of seeing Jesus reveal most about Himself and also about my growing understanding of me in Him.

Change is not the most fearful thing in my life. My greatest fear is going through life without God making it all worth my salt while earth-bound. And Jesus put to eternal rest, that doubt and nauseating fear, that I would never go through this life or any other life, alone.

Epicurious Scotch Eggs

It's been some time since I last put a recipe here that's worth sharing. I came across this word "epicurean" and of course we all know that it means a person devoted to sensual enjoyment, esp. that derived from fine food and drink. I love words and would eat a new word heartily every morning if possible. I decided to make a dish I seem to recall having eaten (scotch eggs) when I visited England donkey years ago.

According to Wikipedia (I've no reason to doubt them here), scotch eggs were first sold in Fortnum & Mason in London in 1738. It was on no account because it was Scottish or even remotely Scot-like. It's as English as scones and Devonshire cream. The word "Scotch" is a throwback to the archaic word "scotched" which means "encased" or "wedged with". I'm terribly curious about most things remotely food related so here's another new word to add to your Foodictionary. Epicurious (I'm curious in epic proportions) about food in general. While some people are foodies, I am, however, a foodie who enjoys cooking for the eaties.

5 large hard boiled eggs
400gm Italian sausage meat
1 beaten egg
Fine breadcrumbs
Oil for deep frying

Take Italian sausage meat to wrap around the boiled egg. Roll it in flour. Dip it in beat egg wash. Roll it in fine breadcrumbs. Gently deep fry for 10 min on med low.
This makes an excellent picnic with pickles or sweet onions on its side.