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.


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.

Sep 13, 2010

Spicy, Sour and a hint of Sweetness

We had mee siam again last week. Benny wanted it for weekend meals which he can have as midnight supper as and when he likes it. Here's the recipe my mom learnt from CC(Community Club run by People's Assn) donkey years ago.

We grew up eating this version and now we don't like those serve in most food courts. Its unique because this version has coconut milk in the stock.

These are packed for my parents, sister, brother in law and my niece. Yums!

This dish to fight for:

Serves 10 persons
400g mee siam paste
50g chives, chopped
100g soya beans
10 hard boiled eggs
20 pcs of small tau pok/dried bean curd, diced
250ml tamarind juice (2 tbsp tamarind pulp mixed with 100ml water)
7 tbsp sugar (more or less according to your taste)
300g bean sprouts
10 small limes
600ml coconut milk(or Evaporated Milk)
900ml water
2 kg fresh grey prawns
2 packets of rice vermicelli(bee hoon), soaked to soften

Mee Siam paste:
10 cloves garlic
22 shallots
120g dried chillies (soaked to soften)
50g belacan/dried prawn paste (toasted and pounded)
120g dried shrimps (soak in water, soften)

400ml corn oil

Method for Paste

1. Put all the ingredients except the oil into a blender and blend into a fine paste.
2. Heat up the wok and add oil. Add the blended paste to fry over low heat till it is fragrant. Leave it aside till its cooled.
3. The paste should look very oily.
4. Note that though there is a lot of oil remaining, do not throw away this oil. As it is fragrant and to be used for frying the mee siam noodles.

Method for the rest
1. In the wok, add 200g of oily mee siam paste to heat. Add softened rice vermicelli(bee hoon) and stir fry till its dry and cooked.

2. Add bean sprouts to fry. Remove and set aside.

3. In a large pot, add water to boil. Add prawns to cook over high heat for 2 mins. Drain and remove all shells/heads of prawns, wash and devein. Set aside.

4. When the prawn stock comes to a boil again, add rest of mee siam paste to boil.
5. Once it starts boiling, add coconut milk, tamarind juice, soya beans and sugar. Turn heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
5. To serve, add hot gravy on fried rice vermicelli and garnish with egg, fried bean curd, prawns, chives and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Sep 5, 2010

New Moon

Not the title of Twilight Saga part 2. More like someone like me would bother to make mooncakes. Trust me, and if you really know me in person, I am definitely not a Mooncake person. But I had to try out these new jelly moulds which I am selling in my shop. Many customers ask me "will the beautiful imprints on the jelly mooncakes?" or "will the jellies break when I remove it from the mould?"

I spent my lazy hot afternoon making these...yums! Now packing 4 big ones for my Mother-in-law. I made 2 flavours, Ume Plum (Green) and Strawberry (Pink).

Here's the recipe for it.

1000ml water
150ml Evaporated milk(I use Carnation Evaporated milk)
2.5 tbsp konnyaku jelly powder
200g fine sugar
2.5 tbsp Pastarom Strawberry Paste(*)

* Substitute with Jupe Ume Plum Concentrated paste for the green colour

1. Add jelly powder into the water and whisk till it disappears into the water.
2. Add sugar and turn on the stove to boil till everything is melted.
3. Turn off the fire, stir in the milk and fruit paste till its evenly pink or green
4. Pour melted jelly into plastic moulds and leave it inside the fridge to chill till firm.
5. Remove the jelly and serve cold...


For Variety, you can use other flavourings from the Jupe range or even the Pastarom types. I prefer not to use essences because the taste is very artificial and more 'plasticky' if you put in too much. Plus, if you use essences, you need to add food colouring. Whereas if you use Jupe fruit pastes or Pastarom, you do not need to add colouring.