Dec 30, 2010

Blue Christmas


Blue Christmas sung by Bon Jovi. I particularly like this version than the solemn one that the late Jim Reeves used to sing

What did you do this Christmas eve 2010? I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas with your family, your closest friends and your loved ones. My Christmas was spent like a yearly ritual of food and presents with my relatives. But it paused me to think about the first Christmas I had with Benny.

That was way back in 1986. I was then staying with my mom and the usuals was a home party with food cooked by several aunts and uncles and nieces or cousins. And the merry making of wine and drinks, desserts and cakes. Not forgetting, the presents under the tree.

But it was a quiet one for me. As Benny had to work on Christmas eve. Being in the retail line, he stayed till store closing and by the time they counted the money, close the shop and clean up a fair bit, he came to have Christmas with me...alone.

I remembered my uncle Wong asking me "Where is Benny? Isn't he coming?"

and I said with a bit of solemness in my voice

"He has to work. But he will come later..."

And Uncle Wong said "Then you better keep all the choice cuts of the Roast Beef, the juicy tender chunks of the Roast turkey for him. I think he would like that"

Uncle Wong is my mom's brother in law. And someone I adored and look up to for many years. I was his little flower girl when he walked down the aisle with my auntie some donkey years ago. For years, Uncle Wong doted on me and treated me like his very own. He saw me grew up, and I doted on his 3 children and treated them like my very own siblings. We were a very close knitted family of relatives.

And so it was...all my Christmas spent was spent with my extended families. For years, Benny was never around with me on Christmas Eve. In the recent years, as he rises through the ranks, he was able to go off from work and was able to spend Christmas Eve with the family.

But this year, he was tired and sick. So he stayed at home...and waited for me to return home with packed leftovers of the family feasting.

When we opened shop last year, I wanted our shop to close early on Christmas Eve. And without fail, we continue to do so this year. We had customers ringing us and showing displeasure over the phone and some even berated me for closing early.

On a happier note, this is what I did for Christmas with my family this year

American Carrot Cupcakes with Orange laced Cream Cheese Frosting
Black Pepper Chicken Pies



And had made extras to give to my neighbhours too...


Here's wishing you a Merry Happy and Joyous Christmas with EVERYONE at home and those aboard and A Very Blessed New Year too!

Dec 19, 2010

Simply LOVE


"Try to Remember" Sung by The Brothers Four

After my pineapple tarts class yesterday at Robinsons, I woke up this morning..tired and completely drained. Then Benny told me he didn't have to work today. And ask what I would be cooking for lunch or dinner today. I told him I have to go to the shop to work. And I lamented how exhausted I was having to stand from noon to 8pm yesterday. Although the class starts from 2pm and ended at 6pm, I was there at 1pm to prep the place and had to clean up before I leave.

Seeing my tired and almost 'passion-drained' soul, he said this to me:

"I would take your place in the shop today. You stayed at home to rest. And let's go to the market to buy groceries to cook for lunch and dinner tonight"

So I got off to change and left the house without bringing my purse with me. In the car, he continue to say:

"Its been such a long time we go shopping together or even just to buy food together. "

and I said :

"Yes, we are so busy working. You are always rushing in and out for work. I was busy at the store, or teaching."

Then at the wet market, he survey the vegetable section, while I follow close behind. Like a little puppy, following her owner, I felt like that at that moment. Then as always, he would say "How about cooking this with that? I want to eat this and that." And for me, it was always "yes..whatever you like, dear. I'll cook, we eat"

Then he goes to pick and pay for the items..and gave me money to go to the hawker centre to buy breakfast. Then while I was waiting for the food and paying up, he would catch up with me there. And carry all my little bags of bee hoon or nasi lemak.

Then in our short car ride home, he would tell me how much he appreciated me for the little things I do for him, the sacrifices I had to make for him.

It was a simple gesture, just a 15 or 20 minutes ride to the market and a little shopping here and there. But in this short half an hour or so, he once again renewed this love we have for each other.

Remember what I wrote about our Wedding anniversary and about celebrating it? Well, this is what we do daily..so its like having our wedding anniversary every day, EVERY Moment, and Every BREATH we take together.

The simpliest thing here is the Simply Love and Devotion we have for each other...

So for lunch today, he says in a just.."just eat our breakfast meals from the coffee shop..save your energy for dinner. Go and rest..and I will go to the shop later.."

My love tank filled to the brim, my passion charged and my devotion for him, RENEWED.

Nov 30, 2010

Once in a blue moon

I just love the Marcels and their Blue Moon song. Although it has nothing to do with my story today. All the wine songs are not very interesting.



My post today is about wine. Making it. And the story I was told about making it. All the myths, superstitions and what-noughts. Ever since I found out how to make it, I told myself that I must teach others about it and tell them all the grandmother tales about it are half the truth.

Making Rice wine at home is like going for an adventure trip. You have packed, and read all the notes, literature about the upcoming trip. Planned everything ahead of time. At the starting point, everything seems to be working along fine. Halfway through your journey, things just go wrong. You try to fix it in your best ability. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. At the end of this adventure, you tell yourself this:

"Yay! I made it! Sure, I have 101 problems and I need to figure it out. But hey! Its a pretty good for a first timer!"

This is how I see making wine is. As John Scully used to say "The Journey is the REWARD!".

It took me 10 kg of rice, and several months of trial and error, I finally found the answer to all my questions about wine making at home. Along the way, I met old wine masters (people who made wine as a business for sale or just for home consumption) and learn a thing or two about the perfect wine fermentation process.

Before my grandmother story starts, let me show you what I have achieve in my journey of wine making :

My most precious home made Chinese Yellow wine (Huang Jiu). It takes a year to reach this colour




Cherry wine : Made with Dark Sweet Cherries, pitted. This is just for fun. Took a fraction of the time to make.



2 Glasses of Chinese Wine : Yellow is Huang Jiu, Gold coloured wine is actually Dried Raisins Wine. You really need to have alot of patience to make dried friuits wine.



Black Glutinous Rice Wine..made with Black Glutinous Rice and Black Dates. Not for everyone/anyone. I made this for my friend, Miss Irene Yip of Chef Secrets Cooking Studio when she underwent a series of surgeries and was very weak and anemic. Very potent stuff and she drinks this as a health tonic.


My most prized home made wine (*by my mom, my dear sweet Mother in law, my aunts). Its used for cooking and can be drunk straight. Good home made Bai Mi Jiu is slightly cloudy and not really see through like water. Almost translucent.


Here's the basic recipe to make a bottle of good wine.

Bai Mi Jiu
Recipe by all the Wine Masters, perfected by Gina Choong
For the purpose of detailed documentation, you have to attend my wine making class to learn the full effects.

Yields 750ml wine
Ingredients
1kg white glutinous rice
1 pc of wine yeast
3 tbsp fine sugar

enough water to cook the rice in a rice cooker

Tools you will need:
2 large glass jar with a cover.(1 for wine fermentation, 1 for storing the rice wine residue)
2 clean glass bottles and 2 pcs of cork that can fit the bottles.
1 clean kitchen towel

Method:
1. Wash the rice under tap water. Make sure that there are no bugs, dirt in it.
2. Drain and cook it in a rice cooker, add water based on rice cooker measurements.
3. When its cooked, remove to air it. Make sure its completely COOLED.
4. Pound the wine yeast into powder and mix with the sugar.
5. Make sure the glass jar is cleaned and VERY DRY.
6. Mix the rice with the yeast/sugar mix, stuff into the jar and press it down.
7. The rice should only be 60 to 70% of the jar.
8. Cover with a kitchen towel cloth, then followed by the cover of the jar.
9. Leave it aside, untouched, undisturbed for 21 days.

Harvesting the wine
1. Scoop out the wine and leave it on a sieve which sits on top of a pot.
2. Leaving it alone to drain as much liquid it can. Pour the rice residue into another clean jar.
3. Repeat this process till all the wine are harvested.
4. Pour the wine into cleaned bottles fitted with a cork.
5. Leave it aside to settle and separated. This may take 2 to 5 days.
6. This is considered the FIRST yield and it looks cloudy and murky.
7. When it settles after a few days, this is what you will get..see pic below. The clear wine will float to the top of the bottle..the white residue will settle at the bottom of the bottle.
8. Slowly tip the bottle to pour out the clear wine and bottled it again. This is ready for cooking, or drinking.
9. The leftover residue can be poured back into the rice wine residue to continue with the fermentation.



What can you use to the Rice Wine Residue for?
The most common way is to use it for cooking.
Just 2 to 3 tbsps of this wine rice residue on top of Fresh prawns and off to the steamer for 5 mins. You get Wine Prawns.
Or marinate 3 tbsp with chicken and leave it overnight in the fridge, and fry it with ginger the next day. You get a good Wine Chicken with Ginger.

But my all time favourite way was to use it to make the traditional Huat Kueh
The recipe is long winded.


VERY IMPORTANT NOTES
1. Never put the jar next to the window where the sun shines into.
2. Never put the jar next to the stove..the heat from the stove will kill the fermentation
3. Never shake the jar too often.
4. During the crucial first 7 days, DO NOT open the jar even just to take a sniff at it. This will allow new air to enter the jar and slows down the fermentation process.

Why add sugar?
Sugar is used to help to kick start the wine fermentation. Its not to make it sweeter. If you know how to make wild yeast, sugar was use to mix with water, flour and left out to ferment. It turns sour and thus Wild yeast is 'born'.

Through my experiments at home, I found that without sugar, the wine still tastes the same. Only visual difference is the amount of yield per 1kg of rice. With Sugar, you get 750ml of wine. Without sugar, you get about 500ml +/-. The rice residue is more grainy without sugar, and more 'mashy soft' with sugar.

If you do this properly, by the 3rd day, you will see water emitting from the bottom of the jar. This is the early stages of wine fermentation. This is not really water.




Now the story behind the myths:

Myth no 1
You can only make wine at night.
The truth is…
Too much light will kill the wine yeast and prevent a proper fermentation. That is why winemaking should take place under low light – as in evening or at night.

Myth no 2
You have to do it alone. No one can help you.
The truth is…
In the old days when measurements were vague, wine-makers did not measure ingredients precisely, preferring to go by their instincts, according to quality of ingredients. As the saying goes: “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, and in this case, a single cook is better than two.


Myth no 3

You must be the only person to harvest the wine or it will go bad.
The truth is…
The person who started the wine is the best person to judge its fermentation progress. The wine jar can only be opened after the first seven days, when the wine will have matured. If the jar is opened up too often before that, fermentation may stop.

Myth no 4
You must hide the wine under the bed.
The truth is…
During fermentation, wine cannot be exposed to direct heat or sunlight. You can put the jar anywhere dark and cool, as long as it is not near direct sunlight or heat.

Myth no 5
You must be in a good mood when you are making wine.
The truth is…
This is more like truth than myth. If you are in a bad mood, you may hurry through the process or forget a crucial step. Wine making takes time and attention. And, the best ingredients in any recipe are always the love and passion the cook puts in!

Nov 26, 2010

Tears in Heaven

I am not a big fan of Eric Clapton(song writer and artiste). But a friend once told me he written and sang this song "Tears in Heaven" after he lost his son.



So it seems that this song was often sung or dedicated to folks who lost their little ones. I think its really a very sad song if you put it in that perspective. That is this part in my life as a mother I never talked about... loosing a baby. I never have had lost a baby or child...but I lost 2 in the making.

The first came and was brief, sudden. I was in my early 2nd month of marriage. Still in my so called honeymoon stage. I missed a period and didn't thought of it. Then I told my mom about it, she said better go and check. And I found I was pregnant. I didn't know whether I was happy or sad or excited. I wanted a baby..I think Benny would love to have one too. But we just got married. It would be ideal if we had time to enjoy each other before the little one comes.

But it was the will of God. Or so we thought. I was getting excited and was pleasantly surprised. Benny and I took time to think and plan what and how we should re-decorate our home. We were staying with my mom soon after my marriage. Our HDB Flat is not ready(still in building stage).

Then I started spotting..soon pain came and before I knew it, I lost my first baby. Just like that. All in 3 and half weeks of knowing I was pregnant. I was devastated. I remembered fondly that my late father in law was very forgiving. He said he ask "Pu Zai" (Buddha) to bless me and I will be pregnant again soon. Although I was a Christian, I knew that he meant well and prayed in his own way for my recovery. My mother in law took care of me..cooking tonic soups she said would help me to strengthen my womb for a new baby.

My dad told me otherwise :

"Ting, God gives us the BEST of everything. Loosing a baby its not the end of the world. In fact, its the beginning of learning to lean on God for everything. A child lost this way means its never meant to be. Take heart and know that He only gives the best to us."

Then life goes on after that..and true enough almost a year later, when my body and womb has recovered, I was pregnant again. But Natasha as a baby in me also gave me much medical problems. I was bleeding throughout my pregnancy from conception till I was in my 28 weeks. When the bleeding stops, the gynae found too much blood clot in the birth canal and planned that I was to have a C-section.

I was anemic to make matters worse. And had fainting spells all the time. Once into my 20th week, I fainted in town after walking down the steps fro a bus and a passerby rang an ambulance and send me to the hospital. I never got to say "Thank you" to whoever that send me to the hospital.

Natasha was also born prematured..a month shy of being a New Year baby..she was born on 14 December 1990. But she was perfect in every way. Despite of all the medical problems I had to face. She was a splitting image of her dad. My in-laws adored her. And showered her with kisses and hugs. She was my late father-in-law's favourite grand child.

Years later...I wanted to have a 2nd child so that Natasha won't be alone when we are back with God. I was pregnant sometime when Natasha was about 3 years old. This time, we had plans made and then it happened again. Again, I was planning for the baby to come. I had bought all the new baby stuff and bed. Then I lost the baby again..thru a miscarriage. This time, it tore me up really really deep and bad. I found out that my baby was a boy. Which Benny and I had planned to name him "Jonathan" which has a meaning of "Gift of God". I could feel him inside me. Then I bleed like I did with Natasha too. And I thought, that's normal.

But Jonathan was never meant to be. This time, maybe because I wanted a baby so much. My tears were not comforted. I remembered crying alone and I didn't want Benny to see me in tears. I was working in Jardine Fleming back then. Su, my boss was the only person who comforted me. So she send me off to Malaysia, and to Indonesia to work. So that I could forget.

Then I threw away everything I bought for my baby Jonathan. I gave away his baby clothes. I sold the baby cot. I gave away my maternity clothes to the poor. I don't want to see the things I have prepared for him. Natasha was too young back then to understand.

Then a year later..when the dust has settled. My tears have been wiped...I found out I was pregnant again. This time, I told myself not to get too worked up again. Until the baby is born and I am carrying him or her in my arms, its here to stay. Till then, we just wait and see.

2 months into the pregnancy, I started to experience problems. The gynae suggested a fluid test as I was nearing 35 years old. Which I did. And they found out she's a girl and may be a sick baby with multiple deformities.

I remembered the people around me...crying for me silently and praying for me. I remembered Auntie Katherine and my late uncle Daniel Chen(both from USA)..they prayed for her and for me.

Benny and I cried for her. We told God that we do not want to bring her into the world to suffer if she has all these deformities. We ask God to take her away like He did with Jonathan and my first one. But God didn't. In fact, the specialist doctor told us that the fluid test is not a 100% proof that the baby is deform. After all, one is taking fluid in the womb that had the baby's dead skin cells being tested. Its just to know what to expect and how to react.

My dad said "If God gives you a baby and He doesn't take it away, then the baby is meant to be yours forever! Learn to lean on Him and pray for deliverance"

And so we did...for 5 months till her birth, we prayed..together with Brother Kim San from our church. Brother Kim San lead a group of Christian brothers and sisters and prayed every Thursday for her. They ask for God's healing and strength.. For months, no one knew what to expect and along the way, many grew weary. Brother Kim San stood on his ground and lead the group to pray with faith put on God.

My little girl was born prematured..at 30 weeks. The moment she drew breath, the doctors wheeled her into the incubator. They drew blood from her tiny body to check if she had blood disorder and X ray her to see if she had any deformities inside her. After going thru a battery of tests, scans and X Rays, they found her PERFECT in every way.

When I was awoke from the c-section, Benny and I returned Melody Lim to God...and Thank God for giving her to us to care for and to love. That every breath she takes, is a gift from Him. And every word she speaks, she would speak of His Glory to us all.

Now moving forward.... my Little Melody is 12 years old. Just finished her PSLE and came out tops! Her sister, Natasha is in her first year in University.

When I looked back in time..I knew of the many tears I have shed in silence for Jonathan. I dont' talk about him to anyone. Because it still hurts. So I can understand any woman out there who tells me that they still grieve over their lost baby. If Jonathan is alive, he would be 14 years old now. But I know deep in me..he is in Heaven. Waiting for me and Benny.

Till that day comes, my tears for him will still run..silently, in moments here and there.

To all who frequents my blog and read it with comfort or in sadness...do know that God oversees us in everything we do. He will give you a child of your own some day..some time. Just learn to lean on Him.

Be Blessed...AMEN!

Nov 14, 2010

Swinging on a Star



Song sung by actor Doris Day..A song I loved as a teenager when I use to be in the school choir. Our choir teacher use to teach us to sing this song. I don't like Birthday songs..so I decided to use this for my birthday post.

I literally swinging on a star now..coz my king at home is happy with the Birthday noodles I made for him on his birthday, that's yesterday. I couldn't post yesterday because I had to go to Robinsons at Centrepoint. To assist Chef Halimah in her first class there.



Benny ask for Tonpo Ruo(Stewed Pork Belly) for lunch this weekend. And I thought it was such a good way to use that for his birthday noodles. Litrally breaking way from tradition for a while.

Here's my recipe for this..very elaborate and long winded. But the time is not wasted when someone you are trying to cook this for, appreciates it.

Tea Smoked Tonpo Ruo with noodles
Recipe by Gina Choong

Ingredients

1kg pork belly
5 pcs Slab brown sugar
30ml Dark soya sauce
100ml Light soya sauce
2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 tbsp Tie Guan Yin(Chinese Tea leaves)
800ml water
200g spring onions

Ingredients for Smoking
1 cup rice(uncooked, raw)
2 tbsp Tie Guan Yin(chinese tea leaves)

Method to cook the pork
1. Heat up a pot of water to briefly cook the pork for 5 minutes. Discard the water, wash the semi cook pork in tap water.
2. Using a large claypot or big casserole, lined the bottom with spring onions.
3. Put the pork belly(side side down) on top of the spring onions.
4. Stuff tea leaves in a tea bag and also the pepper corns in another tea bag.
5. put in on top the pork.
6. Pour in all the liquid ingredients and making sure the liquid covers the pork.
7. Turn on the fire and leave it to boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot to simmer for 2 hours.
8. Check on the liquid, add hot water occasionally if the level drops below the meat.
9. Test for tenderness of the meat to make sure its cooked through.
10. Turn off fire, remove the pork from the sauce and leave it on a plate.

Method to smoke:
1. Line an old wok with aluminium foil.
2. mix rice and tea leaves together and toss it all over the foil.
3. Put a wire rack/steamer rack on top.
4. Cover the wok and turn on the fire at high heat. Wait till you see some smoke emitting from the sides of the wok, then turn off the fire.
5. Place the plate of pork on the rack, cover the wok again.
6. Leave it to stand(without turning on the fire) for about 1 hour. This allows the meat to absorb/fused with the tea smoke.

Method to serve :
1. Cook noodles over hot water, drain in cold water.Toss it with sesame oil.
2. Add it into a bowl. Place sliced Tonpo Ruo on top of the noodles.
3. Pour hot stewed sauce on top of the noodles.
4. Serve immediately.

Notes:
I use Tie Guan Yin tea because its 'greener' despite being dried. And it emits a nice robust tea flavour in cooking and smoking.

If you have the patience for smoking, go ahead and try it. Use it to smoke any kind of meats(only after its cooked).
If not, just omit the smoking part.

I mentioned old wok because I have a wok that is heavily scratched/spoiled by the domestic helpers I have in the past. I never throw it out. But use it for such purposes.

Nov 12, 2010

Love Is.. An Anniversary



Today is our 22nd year of wedded bliss..yes, Benny and I were married on this day, 22 years ago, in 1988. The day after, we flew to LA, USA to have our honeymoon. It was also his birthday.

I remembered our first anniversary, spent in our first home. We were broke after spending all our savings on the wedding, the holidays and doing up our first house. Back then, I couldn't cook a decent meal. I was literally an amateur in every aspect as a home maker. Being old fashioned and old school, Benny wanted no cakes just a bowl of noodles soup with an egg and maybe a chicken thigh on the side. And that was what we had.

To make it look romantic, I tried to put up 2 candles, and I bought sparkling juice to make up as champagne like the kind we see in fancy Hollywood romantic movies.

It was the most memorable day for me that day, 21 years ago. Why? Because I can't cook, I think I was a lousy wife. And I cook that noodles straight out of a pack of Instant noodles with the soup base pack. The chicken wasn't even there. Just a soft boiled egg swimming inside the soup.

When he came home from work, he knew I was up to something. After all, its our first anniversary. He sat down to have noodles with me and drunk up all the juice. He was smiling at me. But I couldn't bring myself to smile. I was really miserable. And then he said to me :

"Love, why so glum? I want to remember us in all the years to come that you are my wife, the one I married because she loves me and cares for me. Never mind if she can't cook very well. But she meant well, and tried her best."

by then, I was almost driven to tears. Free Emoticons. And then I said to him:

"Ben, I am such a failure. I promised to cook something you like to eat. But all I could do was instant noodles and an egg. I couldn't figure out how to cook the chicken till its tender like those Hainanese chicken style. I am sorry if this meal was not what you expected"

And then he said:

"Its you I need by my side, all the days of my life. And all the things you can think of and plan for me. Even though you couldn't do it properly. From this day forth, let us not celebrate our anniversary. But showed each other our love, attention and care every moment of our lives together. Its better that way than to wait for that one day to celebrate. Because we do not know what the future holds for us. We should love and care for each other every moment."

So here it is..we kept true to that promise. We are not celebrating in any way our Anniversary. Because we have been celebrating it every day, every moment, every minute of our lives together. In everything we do. In every breath we take. We tell each other of happy things Free Userbars and sad things and angry things we do everyday, the people we meet..the places we been in our day past.



This song "I Can't Smile Without You" By Barry Manilow was a song Benny use to sing to tease me, whenever I was trying to do something that was beyond me..mainly it was to cook something for him and I can't do it well.

May you have a Blessed life and wedded bliss with your better half..!

Oct 30, 2010

Sing a Song of Six Pence



That old nursery rhyme :

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?

In this case, my king at home wants an unusual dish for dinner this week. I was watching House on Channel 5 2 nights ago and suddenly he came and say this to me :

"Shall we have CCF with Curry Chicken?" (CCF stands for Chee Cheong Fun, a kind of flat noodles rolled up like a swiss roll. Its made of rice flour, water and salt..delicate to make but very delicious to eat..!)

I said :

"I am trying to watch House..what kind of weird dish is that?"

and then he said :

"Well, something different for a change. I am sick of eating the same old dish every week. I want some variety. I just thought of this. Its just cut up the CCF and pour the piping hot curry chicken over it. Like that!"

To him, everything I cook its simple enough or "like that!".



So yesterday, he shop for all the ingredients needed for his unusual dish. Here's my simple and anyhow do dish. Hope you like it too..

note : There are only 5 persons at home. I always have to assume my King is x2.

Curry Chicken with Chee Cheong Fun
Serves 6 persons

Ingredients
1 whole chicken, about 1.8 kg
1 can of Evaporated milk(I use Carnation's Full Cream)
500ml water
500ml Coconut cream
4 medium red onions
6 local ripe red tomatoes
8 local potatoes, skinned, cut into quarters.
1 tbsp salt

Curry Paste ingredients
10 pcs dried chilli(soften in water)
5 pcs chilli padi
3 small red onions
1 clove garlic
50g dried shrimps
1 pc Lemon grass
1 tsp belachan(previously roasted, pounded into powder)
2 tbsp Curry powder

100ml corn oil

Method:
1. Wash and cut up chicken into smaller pieces.
2. Heat up wok with 50ml corn oil , add onions to saute till soft
3. Add cooked paste to fry for a while.
4. Add chicken parts to fry over high heat for 5 mins.
5. Lower heat to simmer for 5 mins.

6. In the meantime, heat up a large casserole or pot with water. Once it starts boiling, add potatoes, tomatoes.
7. Turn off wok heat, pour contents into soup pot.
8. When it starts boiling again, add milk and coconut milk, lower heat to simmer till potatoes are cooked. About 15 mins over low heat. Add salt to taste.
9. Turn off heat, serve over steamed CCF or rice or roti prata.

Method to Cook the paste:
1. Blend paste ingredients except oil in a blender till smooth.
2. Heat up oil in wok and add paste to fry till fragrant and it should turn slightly darker orangey red.
3. Set aside for later use.

Notes about CCF
The King bought it from a market somehow..have no idea. Costs S$2 for pack of 10 strips..enough for 2 persons. So he bought 2 packets.

To serve, just steamed the CCF over rapid water for 10 mins or until soft.

Oct 21, 2010

A Summer Place



Sung by Cliff Richard..also the theme song for a hollywood movie under the same title. : A Summer Place.

When I was a teen, I was always wanting to know about true love and wanted to see if such romances really do exists. I remember asking my dad about it. And because he spoke English, he would tell me in a mix of English and Hokkien about his one true love and how he won her heart.

My dad said my mom was his first true love. He met her when he was working as a relief teacher at the Yock Eng High School(Chinese school at Tanjong Katong Road). The form teacher was away and the school was looking for a relief teacher to teach for a period of time. My dad said he was teaching English back then in her class.

After a few lessons, he had started to notice her. Then she stopped coming for classes. He ask the other students about her and they told him that she has dropped out of school permanently. Due to poor family backgrounds.

My dad said he found out where she stayed and visited her in her kampong..some where near Kim Chuan Road/Tai Seng Road area. And would ask her to return to school to continue her education. My mom quit school when she was in Secondary 3 so that her younger siblings had a chance for school and education which promised them a better life and future.

My mom has always been an inspiration to me and to all her siblings(my uncles, aunties). My dad thought that it was such a noble act to give up education for her siblings. He said he would visit her and gave her tuition if she wanted to learn but couldn't afford it.

Of course on the pretext of learning...but my dad used this 'excuse' to get to know her better.

The rest of the story..well, my dad never did tell me how he woo her..but one thing is for sure, its being PERSISTENT and stick to it.

Here's a picture of them together ... in the old days of Black n White.





And when they marry..


and then there were Three..my sister Winnie was born. The old usual way was a family portrait..



A few more years down the road, I was born. But because I was a sickly baby, my mom wanted to wait till I was rosy-cheeked and healthy enough for a family portrait..so here it is..



The threads of time passes by... I was 12 years old, my sister was 18 going on 19 years...



And then that Summer Place repeats for me and my sister...now with our families together celebrating my dad's 70th birthday some 8 years ago...




My parents are in their autumn years..my dad's already 78 years old and my mom is 74 years old. In the recent years, my mom's health deteriorated so my dad quit his full time job as a English/Chinese translator with the Church of Singapore to spend all his time with her and take care of her. He wanted to learn to cook recently...because my mom is a perfectionist when it comes to food for the family. So that he could whip up a meal for her.

My dad is a quiet man. He hardly spoke unless he was spoken to. If he had to teach, then he would speak. Most of the times, he won't hear him say much. He is a wonderful father to us and a loving grand dad to our girls and to my niece. He would tell them stories..the same ones he would told me when I was a kid.

He would watch Bugs Bunny or Yosemite Sam or the occasional Tom and Jerry or Road Runner with them. When we went to Disneyland USA in 1996, my parents went with us. My dad joined in all the rides and was a part of every fun ride we took.

When I met Benny, I told him that my ideal man is someone like my dad. Someone who loved his wife, his kids and the family. Someone who grew up with his children and be a part of their lives. And God answered my prayer..Benny was someone like dad. Benny wished I was like my mom because she could tend to the family needs very well. I don't think I could measure up to my mom..but my aunts told me in some ways, I am doing the things my mom use to do when she was abled and healthier.

My parents now lived with my sister and my brother in law and my niece too. They sold their HDB apartments some 24 years ago and bought a house with shared income. Over the years my sister bought their share and gave them money to keep. All these years, my sister and my brother in law took it in them to care and provide for them.

Benny and I shared in their provision with my sister and my brother in law. In everything we do, we do it for them : our parents.
Our family are very close and knitted tightly like a woven cloth. And the same values are taught through our kids and we can only hope they continue to be like this for a long time to come.

Yesterday I spent a day with my girls..downtown Singapore shopping, eating and just walking around. But I stood from afar, observing my girls..and I saw a reflection of me and my sister when we are their age..sharing and caring and loving each other.

It left me deeply satisfied and encouraged as my girls tell me in time to come when I am as old as Po-Po(their granny, my mom), they would spend all their days taking care of me.

Dear God, thank you..! For every little thing you have done for me. And many more in the future that I cannot know or see. But I know in my heart, You have already provided them for me.

AMEN!

Oct 18, 2010

Chilli in my Rojak Part 8

We Are Family (song) sung by Sisters Sledge

Recently my cousin Connie sms me asking if I could bake the Rose Petals Chiffon Cake for her tea party at home. Of course, I say "YES!". And I told Benny about it. And he said :

"Serve friends with cake? why no food? Does she need anything? Maybe cook some food for her to serve her friends too."

I replied:

"Mei Mei knows me too well, she wouldn't want to work me too hard. She just ask for a cake. "

I call Connie as Mei Mei or younger sister. I have been calling her Mei Mei since her birth. We grew up together. I spent all my school holidays with her and her brother, Mun Pun.

And since we are having Hainanese Chicken soup and all the side dishes, Benny decided to get 2 very plump chickens to make sure we have enough for Mei Mei too.

But I did a little more for her. I baked 3 cakes for her little tea party. And served her 2 portions of Chicken rice, soup, nonya Achar, chilli sauce. Why 2 portions of rice? Well, I wanted to settle her with lunch and dinner so she doesn't need to go out after serving her friends and cleaning up her place.

She came at 11:30am to pick up 1 cake but went home with these...


I baked a Blueberry Yogurt Creme Cake, no pictures, too rush to take one.

This was for her tea party last Saturday, 16 October 2010.
Earl Grey Tea Chiffon Cake.


Rose Petals Chiffon Cake. The burnt spots on top was actually the rose petals..


Chicken Rice Set with Achar(home made)



I posted these on Facebook and she replied to me via FB. She said

"tk U GIna for the packed lunch & dinner, they really warmed my stomach & my soul ;>"

I remembered when she was looking for an apartment, she was looking around Hougang zone. Her mom, my aunt rang me to ask me for advice about the neigbhouring blocks near my place. In the midst of chatting, my aunt ask me for a favour.

"Ting, help me to watch over Mei Mei. She will be moving out to live on her own now. Uncle and I will moved in to stay with Mun Pun. "

I told Auntie

"Aunty, yes of course I will.You forgotten that you have ask me to watch over her for you since she was born some 30 odd years ago. When she was very young, I use to baby sit her and play with her. I read her stories and watch cartoons on TV with her. I help to wash her hands before meal time and put her to bed for afternoon naps. All these years, I have grown but I have never stopped loving her and caring for her. "

When Mei Mei said those words on FB..it also warmed my heart and my soul. Knowing that despite being a generation gap away, we are still very much like a big family..still caring for one another.

So let's sing the happy song by Sisters Sledge...

We are family, I got all my sisters n me..and also all your brothers, cousins, uncles, aunties and their extended family.

Oct 14, 2010

A Recipe for Love

Is there ever such a thing for a recipe for love? I once saw this poem written and printed on cards, some were made into a wooden plaque and others framed in a nice picture frame. A gift for newly wedded couples or someone you know who is celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Here's the poem:

Recipe for Love
Author, unknown.


Ingredients


2 Hearts Full of Love
2 Heaping Cups of Kindness
2 Armfuls of Gentleness
2 Cups of Friendship
2 Cups of Joy
2 Big Hearts Full of Forgiveness
1 Lifetime of Togetherness
2 Minds Full of Tenderness

Method

Stir daily with Happiness, Humor and Patience.
Serve with Warmth and Compassion, Respect and Loyalty.

********************************************************

Well, my recipe of Love is somewhat similar. Only that it is also edible. I go to great lengths to make Benny happy. Happy to know that he is home, happy that he knew his tummy will be filled with the comfort food he loves to eat and happy to know that all he needs is just to tell me what he wants.

Last week, he wanted the buns I taught my friend Janice Yu when she came from the Philippines. He wanted a more spicy version. It was a Susie Bun with char siew pork recipe. I use the basic Susie bun recipe but tweak it and added curry powder in it. For the fillings I didn't have pork meat so I use canned luncheon meat..mashed it and fried it with onions, peas and curry spice.

This is My Recipe for Love..for him. Sharing with all, my so-called secret recipe.

Curry Spiced Buns
Recipe by Gina Choong




Ingredients :
500 g plain flour
270 ml water
1.5 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
100 g castor sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp curry powder(I use Baba's brand for Meat Curry)

30g melted butter(salted), for brushing /glazing

Method :
1. Mix sifted curry powder, flour, yeast, salt, castor sugar into the Mixer bowl(kitchenAid)
2. Turn the dial to no. 1 and slowly pour in the water.
3. Let the mixer knead the dough for 30 mins.
4. Add melted butter and knead for another 5 mins till evenly mixed.
5. Stop the mixer. Remove the dough and place in a greased bowl.
6. Cover with a wet cloth and place in a warm place to let it double in size.(about 60 mins or 1 hour).
7. Shape dough into 50 g balls. Flatten each dough ball and add 1 tbsp of curry meat.
8. Cover and seal the dough. Place on a grease loaf pan.
9. Brush with melted butter. Let it proof again for another 10 mins.
10. Bake in preheated oven 180C for 20 mins.
11. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Curry Luncheon meat
Recipe By Gina Choong

Ingredients

1 can Pork Luncheon meat(removed from the can), mashed it with a fork
2 medium red onions, peel and chopped
1 tbsp cooking oil
1.5 tbsp curry powder
100g frozen mixed veggie
1 tsp sugar

Method
1. Heat up the wok with oil and add onions to fry till soft.
2. Add mixed veggie, curry powder and fry over high heat.
3. Add mashed meat, sugar and stir fry quickly to mix evenly.
4. Remove to cool completely.

I made extras like 25 buns. My students who came for the Chiffon cake I had last week had a sampling of the buns. And I gave them one each to bring home to share with their loved ones.

Enjoy..!

Oct 13, 2010

Waiting 'round the bend



I use to write often as a child. Short stories here and there. Then as I grew older, I didn't have time to write so I drew on paper with a 2B pencil. Scribbles, doodles all the time. I never kept them. Now I have to re-write them again. Hopefully, in my blog, it stays archived too. So I won't lose it again.

Many who read my blog commented that I wrote very well. That credits my dad. Who was a great influence to me when it comes to reading books, both fiction and non-fiction. He also decides what I should watch. As a child, my dad use to love to go the cinemas to catch a movie during the school holidays. Since he was also an English teacher in a school in Singapore, school holidays meant he didn't have to go to work.

When I was in Primary school, all my peers read Enid Blyton's fairy tales or the Children's classic stories like Goldilocks or Cinderalla. I didn't. My dad decided what I should read and check on me to make sure I read them. He would test me with questions about the characters in the story and see if I knew or just pretended to read the book.

My dad listens to the radio but only tune in to BBC or British Broadcasting Channel. For years, in his car as he drove...we only get to hear BBC and that British accent. My dad thinks its the best English with all the right pronounication. He was quick to correct me all the time when I spoke and pronounced words wrongly.

I remembered when I was in P6(12 years old), my dad bought a condensed version of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the sea". A child's version for me to read. And he said :

"Ting, read this book. No skipping between the lines and tell me what you think of the Old Man. I also need you to tell me why this story is unique as compared to all the others you have read"

Good grief! I can't read a book like most kids can. My dad never allows me to read a book with a lollipop stuck between my gums. Or popping in biscuits. He said when your mind is pre-occupied with munching, chewing something, you will be distracted and cannot fully comprehend the story.

If you have read this book, you will know what I mean here:

Its the worst book I have ever read in my life. Its the most BORING book I have come across. As a child of 12 years of age, I have no idea why my dad would want me to read such a boring book. I can't think of anything to tell my dad about the book or the characters in the story.

But there were lessons to be learn..from this old Boring Classic. Something that most people won't think of. My dad said :

"Yes, its boring. Its boring because there seems to be no plot or hero to be mentioned or talked about. The story is about an old man who went fishing in the big wide ocean. He managed to catch a very big fish...a Marlin(a fish with long sword like horn on the tip of its nose) in his little row-boat. And the story is just about him, and the sea and the fish and the after math when he rowed back to shore.."

And he continued to say :

"Why is it important to read this book? What is so great about it? Its the background of the story..look at it this way, there is no big plot, there is actually no big story or excitement at the end of it. What I wanted you to read was the way it was written. About the way he describe his journey, his 'adventure' on sea, how he explain the loniliness, the sea, the weather, and later the excitement when he caught the fish.

This book is all about illustrations..in the literal form. The next thing to do now is to watch the movie. Do you know that it is often difficult to act out an emotion written ?"

It was through this simple boring book that sparks off my ever lasting journey of what I often call as "Reading a Movie". Means you read the book, then watch the movie. If you manage to watch the movie before you read the book, you will not appreciate the book and the way the author is trying so hard to write his/her thoughts.

I chose Moon River as my song for this post because its one of the movies I use to watch with my dad. Brings back many many wonderful memories of my childhood days. "Moon River" is a song composed by Johnny Mercer (lyrics) and Henry Mancini (music). And was use in the movie which I think everyone knew "Breakfast at Tiffany's" . The title of my post is one of the lyrics(lines) in the Moon River song..

You know..if you have been following my stories here at my blog, you would have read about my ex boss, Ms Su-Chzeng. When she interviewed me for the job, one of the things she ask me was "what kind of books I read when I was a kid". This was my list to her:

The Old Man and the Sea
The Time Machine
The Pearl
Black Beauty
Frankenstein's Monster

And I also told her my dad use to make me read poetry by William Woodworth. Su Chzeng used to think that no kid would read the above books..and if she ever found someone who reads that, that person must be one to work with her. Because Su Chzeng use to teach English Literature at Oxford University in London before she quit and worked as Editor for literacy works and book publishers.

Now that PSLE exams are over, Melody tells me her grandfather, (my dad) is bringing her out on a shopping spree...to buy story books to read.

That's my dad..and that is one of the many reasons why I loved him and respected him. He teaches us and brings out the best in us.

Oct 12, 2010

I Feel Pretty



Recently I became extremely upset with someone. Which I will not relate in public like in a blog. When we were kids in school, we were taught to sing this happy song : "When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!"

So when you are unhappy, what song do you sing? And what song makes you feel happy. I find the only song that makes me happy is this one from the movie "Anger Management" where Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler sang "I Feel Pretty". Its funny to watch as the two men acted out the scenes and makes a lighter tone to the hilarious movie.

Here's the real song version by the late Natalie Wood in the original movie "The West Side Story"



So when I am really really upset or angry with someone or something, I would play this song by Adam Sandler...

Enjoy..!

Oct 8, 2010

Endless Love


(Note: The movie wasn't censored. Some nude scenes..!)

Endless Love was a love story movie made in the year 1981. I was still in Pre U back then. I remembered watching it at the cinema with a few friends. It made me cry at the movies. Because of the ending. I use to be so crazy about the theme song, also called Endless Love sung by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. I would listen to it all the time. Before iPod or iPhones became popular, there was the Sony Walkman (cassette in a mini player). That costs me a good S$50.00. Back then $50 was like now $100 or more..

2 years later, in 1983, I met Sidney. I used to think he was my 'Endless Love'. But he was never meant to be. It was Benny that became my Endless Love. Next month, Benny and I will celebrate our 22 years of marriage and 24 years of knowing each other. Its been a tremendous journey. Natasha is in her first year in University and she's studying psychology. Melody is in Primary 6 this year. While many says we are enjoying the fruits of our labour, our kids have grown, I still think we need to struggle another decade more to see through Melody finishing school once and for all.

Each day as he drives me home from work, we talked fondly of our many yesterdays, of wonderful memories of being in love and watching our girls come into our lives. And watching them grow and being who they are now.

Sometimes our conversations turn a bit teary eyed as we talk about our friends or the people we met along the way. The ones who have loved and lost. The poor and the forsaken. And how much we can do for them if we had tried.

Though we never spoke of one subject again, we are often reminded of it. That one subject or topic was "Till Death Do Us Part". He will talk about anything under the sun but never about either one of us being left behind should one leaves this world sooner. He used to tell me, when that day comes, we will see what happens. And every year, while we spent all our time making sure the family is fed, kids go to school, we find time..whatever time we have to show each other how much we loved each other. In things we do for each other..

Tomorrow, Willie will take half a day off so he could work full day this Sunday. It was intended that I was to work with Natasha at the shop tomorrow. But Benny says to me yesterday, while on the road, driving home:

"Have Natasha stayed at the shop. I will go there at 7pm to close the shop. You stayed home and rest. You have not been resting for over 3 weeks now. And you can do your own things and not have anyone bother you "

"My own Thing" to him means to have time for myself..its me-time. To go for a haircut or to go shopping for a pair of new shoes or some clothes perhaps.

This is why Benny is my Endless Love. If I stopped loving him, the whole universe will disappear and the stars will stop burning. And with each day, I find no excuses not to love someone who cares for me in more ways than I can ever need.

May you find your one true "Endless Love"

God Bless you...

Oct 3, 2010

Take my hand...

Yesterday Singapore mourns the passing of a leader's better half, his left and right person, his confidante, his beloved. Our Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew's wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo. Although I never knew her in person, or saw her in public. But I knew her through the media and the way Mr Lee fondly talks about her.

As I watched the News on TV Channel 5, I cried when the news reporter talked about her life with MM Lee Kuan Yew. Her passing meant MM Lee a great loss for it seems like their union was made in Heaven and his life and the way he shaped our country was all with a woman who stood by him through thick and thin. She was there for him in the early days in his political status in Singapore and was there for him when their children came into their lives. She was there with him in all his public appearences, in every way, she tried to mingle with his 'social' crowd.

She is a mentor to many of us : Women who are married to our better halves who lead a hectic work schedules and have to cope with home and family and tend the fort. My mom cried when she heard her passing yesterday. She said she kept watchful eyes and ears to read and hear about her overall health over the years. And was saddened to know she has passed on. We all wished that she left without physical pain and wished MM Lee Kuan Yew and PM Lee Hsien Loong and their extended family our deepest condolences and may God bless them as they lay the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo to rest.



This hymn sang by Jim Nabors is appropriate for this post.
Words & music by Thomas A. Dorsey

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I’m weak, I’m lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my life is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

May God bless you and keep you..Madam Kwa, until we meet again on the peaceful shores.

Sep 30, 2010

A New Chapter

After months of to and fro, up and down, left and right with the trainers,Robinson and Wiltshire...finally, the birth of a new chapter awaits..



Alongside with us, my good friend Miss Violet Khoo, owner of Genius R Us will also be hosting her classes there. She runs kids baking classes and will run a series at Robinson too. I met Violet some 2 years ago when she and her hubby came to attend a private session with me on how to mould fondant figurines. After some practice, she decided to incorporate fondant modelling in her classes with kids.

And when I open Kitchen Capers retail store, Violet was most supportive and I shared many tips about how best to run her classes for little ones.

By February next year, we will be having a new Chef trainer to join our team. She is Miss Shinni Tock from Baking Cow. Shinni will be running her popular Macaroons baking classes with us. Over time, she will introduce more baking classes at Robinson too.

Till end of October 2010, my classes are still held at home as the studio in town is still under Lynette's charge. However, you can view all the courses available from our KC website and be able to register even now. Payment is done online, via Paypal.

Goody bag will be given out to all our students. I will not tell you what the contents are..its a surprise sponsored by Wiltshire and also by KC aka yours truly. Just a hint : by KC its often ingredients, by Wiltshire its often something bake-ware related.

With each class, we may get different sponsors and we may hand out more freebies. And I will make it a point that freebies are things we can use in our home kitchen. No tissue papers or book marks or ball point pens.

These are our gesture of thanks for the support you have given to me all these years, to attend my classes and also to have faith in me for this.

God Bless you..

Sep 20, 2010

Miracles are made for...


The above song is sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston for the animated movie "The Prince of Eqgyt". The song is called "When You Believe"

This is the Animated version of the Song..


I use to think that miracles are like a fantasy of dreams that goes unfulfilled. I was born with many medical problems. My parents sheltered me for a lot of things, harsh and otherwise. At the age of 6 months old(a baby), I had my first surgery on my chest. The doctors removed a diseased rib from my rib cage. My dad told me I stayed in the hospital for long periods. My mom would visit the hospital every day to nurse me. She feared hospitals, the smells and she often had to walk past the mortuary and she fear the unknown. But she braved it all for me.

My dad wasn't a Christian back then. Only my mom was a Christian. My dad told me later, it was his 2 sister in laws who prayed with him and brought him to Christ. They are my aunts. Auntie Katherine who now lives in USA and Auntie Toa Payoh(as we affectionately labelled her because she lives in Toa Payoh).

My dad gave me back to God..and he said :

"I return Ting Ting back to You. If it is in your divine plans that she lives, then let her be a testimony to You and all the mighty works You do. But if she is not, then take her home with You and let her suffer no more"


This is ME! before the surgery.

A prayer which most parents won't dare to say or commit to God. And especially to a God they don't believe or have faith in as yet.

But my dad was different. He believed. And it is thru this little mustard seed of faith he had in God that I was healed. Years later, when I was older, my dad told me all this. And said that I have small little big shoes to fill. To be a testimony for God. That Miracles do happen, only when you believe.

When I was a child going to school, I didn't do PE(Physical Education) or be involved in any sport events. I was exempted with a Medical certificate from the family Doctor, late Dr Steven Tan. This medical certificate was to last 6 years from the time I started Primary 1 to 6. By the time I was in Secondary School, I had to another medical review to access my health status.

I never knew my medical condition, but I believe its something to do with some form of bone degeneration of some kind. I was weak, and I cannot run. Even when I walk, I can just fall and come home with deep cuts, and bruises on my legs, hands and bleeding. So my parents dotes on me. My sister, Winnie too. They never allow me to do anything. I never had to help out in housework.

When I met Benny and we were set for marriage, my mom told Benny about me. And ask him to take care of me for all the years to come. She said I was weak, physically.

From birth to date, I had 8 surgeries done on me. Not counting the numerous times I was in the hospital for a near fatal accident or a fall.

Of late, I watched Discovery Channel and saw many children from around the world with different medical problems surviving 10s of surgeries done on that..I measured up as a fraction of that pain they had to go through in life. I marvelled at how their parents had their lives turn rollercoaster up and down. And though I pitied them, but I applaud their courage to see through each day for their kids.

In all of that they often said "We don't fix what is not broken". They believed that their kids who are born with many rare medical problems as nothing to be fix because nothing is broken. But they fix whatever they could to make them adapt to life on their own when the parents are gone. To allow better movement or better breathing without the tubes.

When I looked back, my dad did the same thing too but in a different way and context. He cannot fortell the future nor understand what the world can do for me. So he left it up to God to decide my fate.

I live today because God lives in me. And each breath I take, I take it with alot of blessings from above. Because it is only when you believe, miracles do happen.

Be inspired and be blessed. For every trial and tribulation you are going through now in life, is part and parcel of life itself. Without faith, without love and without God, nothing is possible.

AMEN!

Sep 19, 2010

Amazing Grace



here is the Cantonese version, which my dad loved..because my dad preaches in our church to the elderly, many uneducated Cantonese folks.




You probably heard this hymn sang by various song artists or in church and on TV sometimes with different movies and shows. But have you ever witnessed a song that draws into your inner soul? This was the song that converted Benny to Christianity. It was sang in church during one of the holy communion we had at the Church of Singapore at Joo Chiat Road. I attended this church since young and after knowing Benny, I brought him to this church too. Though Benny had been introduced to Christianity and once even attended the late Billy Graham's crusade rally at the National Stadium in the late 1970s, he never accept Christ as his personal saviour.

Some how, something probably just snapped! The words from this hymn reaches out to Benny. And before him, I have known many who accepted Christ when this hymn was sung.

For me, Christianity is my life. From the day I drew my first breath, my parents 'decreed' that Christianity is my religion. On paper that is : in my Birth Certificate. By the time I was in my teens, I attended our church's Bible Camp. My dad says its the only way for me to know Christ myself, first hand. It was a week long camp outside our comfort zone, our homes.

We stayed in one of schools. We slept on the tables lined up and stacked against each other. We are allow to bring a small pillow and blankets were provided.

We were divided into groups and tasked to handle the kitchen, bible study sessions etc.

I remembered it so clearly , even till today, how I met Christ and accepted Him to be my personal saviour. When the hymn was sang during the service, I knelt to pray and ask God to accept me, for all my past bad and past failure in things I do. And when He did, I broke down in tears...and suddenlly, I felt His presence, above my head, I felt like a piece of cloth covering my head, and I could hear the waves from the sea rushing to the shore(although the camp site was miles away from the sea) and I heard birds chirping away....

And there and then, I was His child...cleansed and made new again. That I might live my life now, renewed, refreshed. So that was my wish for Benny when we met and fell in love. That he might experience Christ the same way I did. So I brought him to Church. 6 months in our relationship and many Sundays in church later, he accepted Christ as his personal Saviour, and on the same hymn that brought me to Christ too.

How cool is that? And as my wish to God was answered, I never ask for the same hymn either. But God touched Benny the same way He touches me.

This morning, as I had my quiet time, Benny was reading the Bible and he suddenly said :

"Get that old hymn and a couple more, burn it in a CD and put it in my car. So I can listen to it everytime I drove. To remind me how much more I should praise God every day for His divine love and blessings for us!"

Benny and I belong to the 'old school' of music listeners. We don't have iPod or iPhone so we listened to songs in the car and I listened to it while at work in the store, playing in the background in my Mac laptop...

AMEN and be Blessed as you go thru each day and may His undivided attention and love seeks you out wherever you go and whatever you are doing!

Sep 17, 2010

I Wish you Love...



A post dedicated to my Forever Boss, Miss Ong Su-Chzeng. A lady who till today, earns my deepest respect for being boss and friend and confidante.

There is so many things I could write about her and how she inspires me but I am just sharing some thoughts here. And photos of my time as her staff.

My friendship started with Su in the year 1995. She was the Regional Director for Publications in JF Tokyo. And was to leave Tokyo to start a new division in Singapore's office. She interviewed me over the phone. Read about her again here.

Su has high expectations of me and my work with Publications. But she was also like any loving mother who nurtures her child to the fullest potential. Working for her meant long hours in the office. She would expect me to start my day at 8:30am and go home by 8pm. In the beginning, it was difficult to juggle my time as a career woman and to be a wife to Benny and a mother to Natasha. We had no maid working for us back then.

Su taught me many life skills which at the time I was working for her, I found to be too intimidating but now, I realised she was moulding me to what I am today.

She would send me off to our Asian offices in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan, and also Indonesia. I travelled frequently to these countries to access the work flow. And all these time, I travelled alone. I had to learn the local language(some how), figure my way around the local transport system in that country and find my way to and fro the office and to the hotel I was staying. Su allows a day or 2 extended in my business trip each time. So I could go shopping, unwind and enjoy the company with the office staff outside working hours.

She used to tell me :

"Gina, work is important. During office hours, we WORK WORK WORK! But after office hours, cast off your work shoes and hats and let your hair down. Go and drink, have fun and enjoy the company of new friends!"

She taught me how to drink for business and for pleasure. But I usually don't drink at any business meeting. She taught me what to say and how to say in meetings with 'serious' officials.

I remembered my first maiden trip to Hong Kong. I was literally scared of my wits because I have NEVER travelled alone. Somehow, Su senses that. She booked a flight on the same plane with me. Told me the day before we leave :

"Gina, I am on the same plane with you to Hong Kong. But I will be in the Business Class, you are at the Economy Class. When we land, you go your way, I go mine. I will be staying at Furama Hotel and you will be staying at the Esceislor Hotel"

In a subtle way, she is watching me from afar. Some people find this an intrusion of privacy, others would have felt that the boss is not trusting her staff to do the job. But to me, I find this most encouraging. Here is Su, standing at a distance..watching and waiting. If I needed help, she's nearby, like a stone's throw away. In a reassuring way, her presence made me feel so much at ease.

At work in the Hong Kong's Jardine House, it was all work and no play. All too business like. But after that, she would chase me out of the office and say :

"Gina, go and figure out the MTR and find your way back to the hotel. I will meet you at 7pm at my hotel's lobby and we will go for dinner together"

I remembered in the next trip I made to Hong Kong a few months later, Su would make me change hotels in a matter of 2 days. Why? So I learn what to say to the hotel staff who are trying so hard to please me to make me stay back. Telling white lies here and there. Sometimes we need to lie a bit here and there. But lies that are said shouldn't get people into big trouble or problems.

I never could understand the rationale of changing hotels. Why make yourself comfortable in one and next day, you have to pack up and leave for another hotel further down the one you are staying? Only to find out years later when we were on a holiday in Genting Highlands, we had to change hotels due to run-down, poorly run or disorganised tour agency who took us for a ride!

My time in Jardine Fleming was 42 months or slightly over 3 years. When I tendered my resignation, Su had mixed feelings. Because one part of her wants to wish me success, another part of her wanted me to stay on. The year I left JF was also the years for many "Bear Runs" in the Stock and shares industry. She was tasked by our HQ to pick people to retrench and she had a talk with me and ask me to help her to choose who should go.

We sat down, and run through the short-listed personnel. And couldn't decide who should go. Because everyone was important to the department.

In the end, I offered to leave. And I gave her the excuse that Benny was earning well and he could support me. Though I was about to give birth to Melody, I needed to have an extra income too. I told her I could easily find jobs anywhere, its only whether I would want to work or not. An act of courage, Su thought I was being too modest and she started calling all the software companies to take me as their staff.

It is through this, she found a job for me. After my maternity leave, I would work at Quark Media House..the company that distributes Quark Xpress software in the region. I met my Irish Boss who heard so much about me from Su. And all he was interested in was how Melody look like, asking me for photographs of little Melody.

Like a chip off the old block, I would think that my Irish boss was like Su when she first interview me. She only ask about Natasha and photos of her. And everything outside work, just only interested to find out more about me!

I knew for sure, this is the place I should work after Su, after JF.

The day I left JF was a sad day in JF. Su and I couldn't bring ourselves to say Good Bye to each other. We were moping around in the office. The office staff thought she was cold towards me , after all, she often praise me in front of everyone.

The next day, Su went into the office, at 8:45am. The time she would often be in the office. Jennifer, our department's secretary would put her cup of coffee there..warmed for her. But somehow, Su felt it was cold, not the coffee. But her desk was empty. And she would often looked up and across the room and she would see me sitting at my desk. But I wasn't there. Not anymore.

It suddenly dawned on her that I was gone from the office. Su rang me later that day just to tell me this:


"Gina, my desk is empty. You always knew when I was sad and you always surprise me with little things. Now you are no longer here with me. How am I to go thru every day..."

It was the start of my long emails to her. Every other day, I would send her an email about life, about things and we kept in contact all these years. My friends wondered why I kept in contact with my ex bosses..all of which ended up as good friends. I believe that when you work someone, you don't just work for money or to gain experience. But along the way, you should find a friend in the many many streams in your life.

In one of the many inspirational notes I used to write to Su, this was one of her all time favourites.

God's Boxes
(writer, unknown)


I have in my hands two boxes
Which God gave me to hold
He said, “Put all your sorrows in the black,
And all your joys in the gold.”
I heeded his words, and in the two boxes
Both my joys and sorrows I store
But though the gold became heavier each day
The black was as light as before
With curiosity, I opened the black
I wanted to find out why
And I saw, in the base of the box, a hole
Which my sorrows had fallen out by
I showed the hole to God, and mused aloud,
“I wonder where my sorrows could be.”
He smiled a gentle smile at me.
"My child, they're all here with me."
I asked,"God, why give me the boxes,
"Why the gold, and the black with the hole?"
"My child, the gold is for you to count your blessings,
the black is for you to let go."

I later crafted the two boxes. And painted one black and the other gold. One Christmas, I gave these 2 boxes to Su and printed the above poem in a nice fancy paper for her.

I continue my notes to her via email for many years that followed. Then when I started blogging, I started writing these again. And I would send her an email to read my blog if I wrote about her. There is so much I have to say but for now, this is it. I would write again, maybe in a few day's time.

Sep 16, 2010

In memory of...

A famous love quote that goes like this:

Better to have loved and lost than never to have love at all.



It took me a while to get what it meant because when I was younger, I have always been loved and still loved until one day that person I loved left me suddenly. Too late for goodbyes, no chance to say how much I adored her and loved her. This person is my late granny, my mother's mom.

I am not allowed to talk about her death in public like a blog. All I can say is that she died suddenly, and horribly. Why did I write this post today? Because next week its Mid Autumn Festival.. we celebrate this every year with her. Because its her birthday too. After her death in 1984, we stopped celebrating Mid Autumn Festival. We stop eating moon cakes altogether, always in memory of Ah Ma.

When she died, my world of perfection fell too. My Ah Ma was EVERYTHING TO ME. Although she couldn't speak English nor Mandarin. She spoke to me in Hokkien. And I learn to speak Hokkien from her. She told me all the time :

"Ting Ting, I will always love you. You are a very good girl. Very filial. And continue to be like that."

It took me years to get over her death. In the early years it was really difficult. It was even more difficult when I had Sidney who didn't understand what I was going through. All of us(my mom, relatives and all who are related to her by blood) grieved differently.

I know I have prayed at least a 1000 times asking God to heal me and to let me go on in life. Many friends rallied around us, giving us all kinds of support. But no one could understand our grief, our pain. A year later, my grandfather left us to meet his wife in Heaven. :(

My mom cried every day, and every wakeful moment she had. It was painful to watch this every day. I had to work and I come home to cold food or sometimes no food. My mom had no energy left to do anything.

Till today, sometimes certain events or things remind her of her parent's passing, she would bring it up again and talk and cry.

Some 25 years or so have passed...and we are still grieving..why? That's a clear sign how much you can love someone and still cannot let go.

When I sometimes "blog-hop" I get to read about a death of a loved one, I was compelled to write a long email or a comment to comfort that blogger. But I guess its best I write this in my own blog for ALL to read and understand what a person goes through when someone they loved just left them.

I still don't know what to say to someone who lost a loved one. But this much I can say :

Take time to cry. And Cry as much as you want to. Don't be worried how everyone sees you. Because no one can understand how much this person means to you.

And if it takes forever, then forever it will be. Because you do not stopped loving that someone. In fact, you loved them more. Because the days will pass by, empty. And its only natural for you to think of that someone. The things you use to do, or the things you plan to do.

Of all the goodbyes, good mornings, good nights you missed telling that someone and all the "how much I love you" that was missed, some are said and heard. And felt when that someone was still around.

Let no one decides how you should heal. We all heal differently. Some of us are better at it. While others are still coping.

As a friend, its often said "A friend in need is a friend indeed". To be a friend for your friend who has lost someone closed to them, is to lend your shoulders for tears, a hug with no words spoken, a tear shared together.

To me, that is what I called a Friend Indeed!

But at the end of this, I learn to thank God for putting me thru it all. I was able to understand and feel for others who went thru Hell on Earth when someone they loved left them.

It is through my pain of loosing Ah Ma taught me to be there for Sister Seok Buay when her beloved son, Boon left her. And my way of helping her to cope was to start Kitchen Capers. So she can use it to learn about email, Internet and write recipes to help her to cope. There is something to look forward to.

But alas, Sister Buay is still grieving..she is still coping. Boon has left her some 9 years ago.

Seen here : Bespectacled boy is the late Master Tan Boon Teik, next to him is Sister Seok Buay, his mom.


Boon was Sister Seok Buay and Brother Kim San's only child. I remember spending much time grieving with Sis Buay. I just stood there and cry with her. It was the best thing I could do at that time. And all she did was to repeat herself over and over again, telling me how she watch him breathe his last and passed on.

Years before I was working at Jardine Fleming, I met my boss Su Chzeng who also lost her better half some years back. When she came to work in Singapore, I could see her grief, through her 'heart'. And in small subtle ways, I would drop notes on her desk and send her inspirational poems or stories to help her to cope.

Her husband, the late Alan Booth, passed away in January 1993...2 years later, she came to Singapore to set up 'shop' with me at Jardine Fleming. I was the only person she employed to work with her at that time. By the time I left Jardine in 1998, our department grew to 10 persons.

Su Chzeng is still finding time to let go. And many people who never had loved ones leaving them could never understand why you need so long a time to get over it. Sometimes just out of the blue, Su would ring me and talk about past. And she knew that as always she could tell me anything and started tearing if she had to. And I wouldn't probe or poke fun at her. In fact, I may end up crying alongside with her.

I told Su that I haven't stopped crying for Ah Ma sometimes. Things I see, or do reminds me so much of lost time I could have done with my Ah Ma too.

I kept Ah Ma's memory alive by telling my younger cousins about her. What she was like and what she would want us to be. Its been 2 decades now..and I still cry for her once in a while.

To all my friends who reads my blog, I hope this post helps you to come into terms about grieving. If you have lost someone closed to you, you are not termed a weakling just because its been years and you are still crying.

In memory of..all who have lost but have loved..That's not lost. That's LOVE eternally.