Dec 8, 2011

I think of you all the time...


I Wish you Love, sung by Lisa Ono

I have been extremely busy with work, with my classes and with family, with the people I love. Ever since Benny quit his day job to work with me in the business, I became even more busy than ever. Maybe because I was able to do all the things I wanted to do for the business now.

But having him by my side meant we saw each other day in day out. We do things together. We have every meals together. And anywhere I wanna go, he said he will drive me there. He told his friend "I am like having honeymoon everyday"..and I told my friends that I am going on a date every day whenever I go to work.

There were things I wanted to do with him when we first got married. When we first met, and loved. But never in my wildest dreams was to have him by my side. Benny was a go-getter, strong headed. I was a risk-taker, bull headed(most of the times!). And I think we couldn't work together.

He reminded me so many times why he took out all his savings to start the shop. It was for him to retire from working for others and he still thinks we can work together. With his vast retail merchandising experience and with my risk taking marketing skills, my teaching skills and I seems to-know-everything skills, he said we could ROCK this part of the world.

In the first month, we argue alot. In fact every other day. I have struggled for 3 years alone in the business. He just joined. I don't care how many donkey years he had in retailing, but I had to have my own way of doing things and he has his too. One big fight lead us to think about us working for the good of the business and our love for each other.

And then, i took a step back. Turn to God and ask Him to show me and to teach me where I have gone wrong.

And God reminded me of my place in his life. That I was always the supporting figure in his life. Someone who stood in the background. Someone who always there when he needed help, when he needed love and attention. And there, I cried to God...

I went to Benny and I cried. And I said SORRY. And we shouldn't fight each other. But we should learn to re-live our life together again. As we need to work together every day. We should take a step back each time we need to raise our voices at each other.

Then Benny told me that at the height of his anger at that moment, he said things he shouldn't have. In turn, he need to go to God and ask for forgiveness too. And God showed him that the Key ingredient to a successful and happy marriage is to be able to fight and argue and still find love in it.

And since that fateful day we fought, we never looked back. Whenever I felt upset of the things he did, I would tell him there and then. And not bottled up inside all the time and let it grow and make a monster out of me. And if he wants things done his way, he learn to say "I need your advice, what do you think?"

and in turn, I became more mellow, more humble ..

They say that Love is a 2 way street...I believe it so. Because if you give and never get, you stop giving. Benny and I have been married for 23 years. In these 23 years there were always moments of love, moments of sadness, moments of anger. The good stuff we keep..the bad stuff we also keep but we never let it go. And that builds up over the years. We just think its okay to just cover it up like a carpet over dust.

But God told us to let it go, let it out. And He made us do that when we worked together.

So now, our business is booming. People ask us the secret of our success..how in 3 years we make good money and started a studio. The answer is LOVE...

So if the business fail, it meant that our love for each other has died. So until then, the business continues to grow and prosper as the love we have for each other grew stronger each day.

And then now, I wish you love...all of you. In your life with your better half. Its when you give and take, the things and people around you prosper. As God has intented it to be.

Peace be with you...

Nov 16, 2011

Fit for a King



Something different for a change as hubby celebrates his birthday last week. He wanted something different than just noodle soup with an egg. *

*Traditionally, a chinese birthday is a simple fare. No cakes, no parties. Just noodles swimming in a rich chicken stock, served with a big chicken drumstick on the side, and a whole egg (semi-cooked). Often served to the birthday man/woman at the break of dawn. To symbolise the coming of age and a year of good things (health, prosperity and happiness). In the past, people are really poor so chickens are like delicacy and eggs are just as expensive as it gets. So to be served with a chicken drumstick, an egg means for one day in a year, you are like an Emperor who is waited upon by his lower subjects and treated like an Emperor savouring an Imperial meal.

But for my Emperor at home, he is waited upon 365 days in a year. Love knows no boundaries.

Ingredients for beef and marinate for 3 to 4 hours
500g Short Rib Beef(sliced thinly)
1 white onion, sliced
40ml worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp coarse sugar grains
1 egg white

35g butter(salted)


Sauce
1 litre beef stock
3 tbsp cornstarch mix with 2 tbsp water to be use as thickener

Blanch and drain the following :
300g bean sprouts
300g chye sim

Ingredients to fry noodles
1kg hor fun(flat noodles)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
3 tbsp cooking oil

Method
1. Heat up wok and add oil, to saute the garlic minced.
2. Add noodles to fry and add dark soya sauce to stir fry over high heat for 5 to 8 mins. Till the noodles are coated with the sauce and turns from white to dark coloured.
3. Dish out and serve in a casserole, set aside.
4. Wash and clean wok and heat up again.
5. Add butter to wok to heat, melt. Add beef and marinates to stir fry over high heat for 3 mins. Dish out beef and continue to cook the sauce. Add beef stock into it to boil.
6. Add thickener to thicken it. Once it thickens, turn off heat.

To serve
Serve generous portions of noodles on a plate.
Add beansprouts, chye sim on the side.
Add a couple of slices of beef on top.
Pour piping hot sauce over it.

Enjoy!

Oct 2, 2011

Wait for me...



Because He Lives (Christian Hymn)

How long do one grieve over the loss of some one dear to them? A week, a month or many years? I really don't know. My best friend, my mentor, my teacher has passed away recently. She is none other than Sister Seok Buay, the one and only person I started Kitchen Capers for. I think you must read for so long that I often talked about Seok Buay and about Kitchen Capers.

But let me write about this again. For one last time.

I created Kitchen Capers a few years after Boon's untimely death. Leaving Seok Buay and Kim San behind, weeping for him. Seok Buay seems to take forever to heal. She was often resentful of things around her and highly defensive when someone spoke of Boon.

One thing I never told anyone was why I started baking. I started to bake soon after Boon's passing. Because Seok Buay loves to bake. Buay took time away from her home, to stay away from Boon's room and his things. And she would take up a baking course in France at the famous Le Cordon Bleu. And she would come back after a few weeks and tell me of her adventures there. Seeing her so joyful, it makes me happy for her.

Then it became my personal goal in life to help her to cope with Boon's passing. I refitted my home with a baking cabinet. I would seek for Buay's advice on how to bake. In time, I pick up website design and met Prashant Patel with whom I learnt website design from. Then I started Kitchen Capers forum as a hobby site to share recipes on cooking and baking. Mainly because I was also learning..and I wanted Buay to find new hope, new purpose in life. As she was totally illiterate in computers, emails or the Internet.

I would go to her house, and suggested that she cook something she likes and to share the recipe online at the forum. In these early days in the year 2004, I started cooking, baking and documenting every recipe she had in her mind. And as she cooks, she talks and laughs at the same time. The food she serves are of course delicious..and knowing her, the love and joy in every dish she prepares can be savoured and enjoyed to the last bite.

With the popularity of social networking aka Facebook, a fellow church member wrote to me to say that Seok Buay has passed away on the 28th September 2011. I was totally in shock, because I knew she was fit as a fiddle. She was happy with life and with Kim San. Despite not having Boon around, she found joy and happiness in the things she does everyday. She found comfort reading the scriptures and peace from God whenever she prays.

And everytime when I know that she is going away to a country to serve the community, I would bake all the things she loved to eat. And that would be the signature Chocolate Walnut cookie I created for her. And she said once to me :

"Gina, wherever I am, I know you think of me. Eating this, knowing you, that's a blessing God gave to me and only to me alone"

I never share this recipe online or anywhere. It was a cookie I created just for Buay. A cookie to remind me of how much I loved her and respected her all the years she taught me to bake, to cook. She taught me to be bold, to be daring. To try out new things and not be afraid to accept failures. She would tell me about Boon and how she would teach him the same values too.

In so many ways, I know myself. I know I would not have dare to venture beyond. Not with Kitchen Capers. I mean, I started my career in computers. I taught computer programming, desktop publishing..not cooking or baking. Buay gave me so much hope which I thought I was giving to her instead.

I attended her wake on Friday, 30 September 2011..I walked and met Kim San, and I just couldn't control myself. I cried in his arms, holding Kim San tightly. And Kim San wept with me. For a moment, I could have swear the world stood still..with Kim San and I locked in each other's arms, in tears and crying out to each other.

The last time this happened, it was at Boon's funeral wake. And I was there, in the same position but it was with Buay in my arms, letting her cry her heart out to me. I had to take a day's leave from the office. I told my boss why..and he just sign my leave form and ask me to go.

Kim San told me that he blamed himself for Buay's sudden death. She was swimming in a private pool in a swimming club. Somehow, something happened..she drowned and no one came to her aid. Until minutes later, they tried to resuscitated her. By the time the ambulance came, she was pronounced dead.

Her body lied in the hospital for a day to find out the cause of death. And he said to me :

"Buay never goes swimming without me. We go together. Every day, we do things together. Going for breakfast, going for morning walks or even just to shop at the nearby market. We would be there for each other.." and then he went silent..and I could see tears forming in his eyes. I put my arms around him and try to comfort my friend.

And then he said :

"She would tell me how much she loved me. And she would openly hug me and kissed me in front of everyone." and then he smiled and continue to say

"But that is not allowed in our society. People think we are crazy"

and then I said :

"No, you are not crazy. To love and be loved is the greatest gift and to show it openly, that's pride. And that's what God intended us to do. To love and be loved...in each and every way we can."

When I left the wake, I thought to myself..okay, life goes on. Back to the office, there's work to be done. Get a hold of yourself..

But when the day ends, and all is quiet, I couldn't help but think of Buay again. When I went online at Facebook, there was a little app I had that says "What God wants you to know" and l click it to see what was the verse for the day. When I read it, I cried again.

And I shared my notes with what was given to me :

"On this day, God wants you to know
... that sometimes it may feel too hard to do it alone. Sometimes it may seem like you can't figure it out by yourself. Sometimes will and strength and courage are not enough. Sometimes in your life you will need to call out for help. Call on God. God will be there."

My response to that was :

Dear God, I have a friend who is going up there to meet you. Please see her at the gates and hold her hand and show her around your place. And when its time for me to see her, ask her to come and meet me at the gates. Tell her how much I am so gonna missed her here. And her name is Seok Buay.

So to all who know me..and knows me for Kitchen Capers..
Live and love life to the fullest each day. Tell the people you loved how much you loved him/her or them. Even if its a pet. Live like there is no tomorrow. For tomorrow may never come. At least you get to say your goodbyes, your expressions and your admiration for that person.

I know I have grieved for many, but Seok Buay will always be that special someone I hold dear to my heart, someone I loved till the end of time. And when I go up there, I know she will be at the gates. Waiting for me. Waiting to show me all the new things up there. Like she always have whenever she sees something new.

Till then, Sister Seok Buay, wait for me. Wait for me.


AMEN!

Sep 23, 2011

I Love You Because



I Love You Because, sung by the late Jim Reeves

I was really busy with my new baking studio, and I didn't have time to blog. But today decided to write something to update you on my life with Benny.

I was swamped with work having to manage the retail business and the new studio. I was feeling unappreciated, depressed and totally drained. All I could do everyday was to sulk or frown. There seems to be a back log of everything I had to do every day in the office.

It pains Benny to see me in this state of mind and soul. Without a doubt he knew what he had to do. He quit his full time job last Thursday, cleared his leave with the company and left. And immediately started work with me in the shop. He would fetch me to work, help me with the simple things. Help me to pack and unpack stuff. Did the labellings, handled the store when new stock came.

Sure I see him everyday when he used to work for others. But now I see more of him every day, every minute. It brings us closer. We talk a whole lot more. And we are reminded of the early days of our courtship together. How much we would tell each other the things that happen each day.

And even though going to work was a door away...he was always in the shop and I am now stuck in the baking studio, he would sms me and 'whispers' sweet nothings. Or sometimes just pop over to the studio to just ask me how I was coping.

I guess I can say I am the happiest and most blessed WOMAN in the world. Having the best job ever and having my 'lover' next to me all the time.

We go to work together. We eat our meals together. And now, he wants to spend every waking moment with me. He would even watch all those soapy drama serials on Channel 8 with me.

And yesterday he told me :

"When the business settles down, I'll take you on a holiday..to anywhere you wanna go. Its been such a long time we went on a holiday together, just the 2 of us."

I was over the moon when I heard that. It will be another year before the shop and the studio settles down. But even so, having him by my side all the time is like having a holiday.

So today I wrote in FB under my profile status :

"Going to work everyday is now like having a date with my one true love everyday. A week has just past, seems like a whole lifetime has just slipped away. So how much more you should never take Love for granted. Live and love as much as you can. Doing the things you want to do, drinking from the same cup of juice or eating from the same plate of char kway teow."

How many men would quit their jobs to work with their wives? I knew only one..Benny. But I knew of many women would quit their jobs for their husbands.

When God gave me a husband, He meant that he would last me a lifetime. And he did. I once heard an old love song which I forgotten who sang it or what was the title of it. But i remembered many of its lyrics which goes like this:

You are my one true love
Say that you never go
You'll always be the one
True love within my heart

You're like an evening star
Shinning from high above
Lighting my life for me
You are my one true love

Okay if I sound super hopelessly in love as if I was a teenager. But how can I not be? Benny makes me feel like this everyday now. Every morning, a smile on his face, hugs me or pats my back. And ask if I had a good rest last night..

Side track a bit...here are the final photos of my baking studio which went LIVE this week.





Aug 23, 2011

My Journey of a 1000 miles


God will make a Way, sung by Don Moen

I am driven to tears as I am starting to write this. Of the journeys I have made in life, I find this particular one, the most endearing one I had to go through. Because I felt His presence all the time when I was making decisions and planning for this to happen.

As you have read(if you have been following my blog), that I was uncontestly pick to host all my culinary classes at Robinsons Departmental store last October 2010. That chapter in my life was meant to be..meant to happen and must happen. It was short..like 6 months to be exact.

Read this for reference :
http://tasteoftime.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-chapter.html
http://tasteoftime.blogspot.com/2011/01/been-there-done-that.html

As a Christian, we believed that everything that happens to us, happens for a reason. Some reasons are easier to figure out on your own. Others seem too complicated to think about. But at the end of each day, you learn to walk on it, move on and start a new day with more confidence.

I want to write about this 2nd journey of mine. After my episode at Robinsons, I felt as if a burden was lifted from my shoulders. A part of me wanted to quit, another part of me wanted to carry on. I was totally confused. And I brought this all to God. Asking for His favour and asking that He teach me what to do. And how to react. And most important of all, to move on from there.

It must have been God's plans that I was to go through this with everyone who had dealings in this project. Everyone..including my best friends, the suppliers, and of course with my girls, and with Benny.

The lease for my retail shop was to end in September 2011. By April 2011, I finished my last class at Robinsons, and closed that chapter in my life. And back at square one, I returned home and taught again. I prayed to God,


'Teach me, bend me, shape me..but whatever it is, I thank you Lord. For showing me the way. For letting me know there is always hope when there is You(*God)."

And every project I do for myself or for others, I do it with alot of passion. I gave my all that is within me. So when I leave, a part of me dies. Sadness devoured me. I took time to re-charge. I took time to think of what I could have better or worse. Constantly battling little demons here and there.

But our Heavenly Father does not like to see us in pain, in agony. It is always in my desire to have my own baking studio, a place I call my own. I teach what I like, when I like. I will put stuff in there like I would with my house. An extension from my home.

The shop next to my retail shop was tenanted by someone who sells baby apparel. I vaguely remembered that they open for business sometime last year around Christmas and for over 3 months, things seemed cheerful for them.

After the festivities(Christmas, and Chinese New Year), business was really bad for them. Many came to browse around, but people leave soon after. After some months of struggling, they closed the shop. For months the shop's doors remained closed. They tried to sublet the shop out to others just to cover the rent. But no one took the offer.

I was on the other hand, eying on this shop. It was ideal to host this as a baking studio. Why? its literally next door to my shop. So when I teach, people can go back to the shop to buy stuff to go home and practice what they learnt.

So together with Benny, we put this matter with God. We told Him what we wanted and how we wanted. And we left it up to God to help us. If it was meant to be, all obstacles will be erased.

When the landlord came to ask if we wanted to renew our lease for the retail shop, I ask them about the unit next door. They said the previous tenant have already paid up and technically, its free now for anyone to take up the unit. But the property agent also told me this :

"Gina, the previous tenant made a big loss. They closed and never made money from it. So when they left, they didn't remove all the fixtures, furnishings, etc as part of the lease contract was to remove all fixtures when you leave. Are you sure you want this?"

And I said, "Let's see what they left behind"

He open up the place and when I step into it, the first thing that came to me was "AMEN! Thank You Lord!"

The flooring was marbled. The walls were painted white. The lights and fixtures are done. The airconditioning was fitted too. And used only for 4 to 5 mths. And all the power points were already fixed. The glass door(slidling) was intact. The light box outside the shop for the signboard was also done.

This alone can save me a good S$15,000 just to fix up.

Verbally, I told the agent..YES. In the meantime I told Benny about it. I didn't wait for him to give me the green light to go ahead.

Next came the finances to fix up kitchen cabinets and appliances(cake mixers, ovens, etc). My sister, Winnie came to the rescue and invested an undisclosed sum to help us kick start the studio's renovations.

And it was just timely that she found a job like 6 mths ago..if not, she wouldn't have the funds to help us with this.

Together we went to God again. Just Benny and myself. This time we said in unison:

"God, thank you for this. We know its from you. Why? and How? Because only You can move mountains, clear the seas to form small rivers and roads. It is only You can make miracles. Things that seem impossible are made possible. We give our Thanks to you. This baking studio will not just teach culinary courses. But it will be a place for us to glorify You. A place where you first showed us that People Learn from one another, just as Iron sharpens iron, Proverbs 27 verse 17. AMEN!

One of the most important thing I wanted to do with this studio was to open the doors to the less privileged folks, the poorly educated people out there. To offer them reduced rates to learn a new skill. And in time hired someone to help me to run it. And that someone has to be one of these people who needed help. So that they can be self sufficient. In small ways, one step at a time.

Because this is what Kitchen Capers is all about. That was how it was started...

Extracted from my KC Website:

http://www.kitchencapers.net/html/aboutus.htm
About Us

How Kitchen Capers was formed

The Kitchen Capers online forum was initially created in July 2004 and dedicated to the late Tan Boon Teik, a young gentleman I never knew or loved. He was Kim San and Seok Buay's only child. He passed away suddenly Kim San and Seok Buay are friends I knew from the church I was attending here in Singapore. As it is with all good friends we should help each other when we can. This is my way of helping Kim San and Seok Buay.

The dream of writing and publishing a cookbook was Boon's idea which he shared with his mom. After his death, Seok Buay could never find the strength nor the courage to carry out his dream. Thus, this website was created. And Buay's vision for the future was to teach cooking and Basic English to poor women around the world. So that they do not have to live a life of poverty and living out their days begging in the streets.

Sister Seok Buay was trained to be an English teacher and she is also a gourmet cook. She taught me many secrets in cooking and baking. Things I would have never known even if I had read a lot of cookbooks.

With that in mind, I started the website and a forum message board to share recipes on cooking and baking. Buay taught me the spirit of giving, of charity. She never holds back anything she knew about cooking or baking. Sister Seok Buay taught me many skills, of which I find the most endearing one was Charity. To share openly and without prejuidice and never to hold back anything you learn from others or by yourself. It is only that when you share, you gain. In friendship and in kind. I am deeply encourage and inspired by Sister Seok Buay.

In the year 2008, I started KC online and started selling bake ware products and cake decorations tools via the website. A year later, I opened my first retail store in Singapore at Kallang Bahru.

And I hope that you share this vision with us too. Enjoy your time here with us at Kitchen Capers.

Gina Choong
Owner and Board Admin for Kitchen Capers

*****
I will share more photos later on when the agent give me the keys.

This post serves to remind myself that God is always HERE for me, for us, for you. That everything in life we go through, God plays an important part. I have always prayed for good times and give thanks for bad times. And in all, He never fails to lift up my spirits, to give me more reasons that despite all the unhappiness, all the sadness in the world, there is HOPE, there is Light at the end of tunnel...and there is LOVE from GOD!

May you be blessed..as you go thru life's tribulations and trials. At every step you take, God takes 2 for you. Why 2? 1 for you, the other He takes in advance. Leading the way ahead. Paving your way.

AMEN!

Jul 2, 2011

My Greatest Fear



That's What Friends Are For, sang/performed by Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Sir Elton John


While chatting with H on happy things, I ask her an interesting topic:

"H, what is your greatest FEAR?"

She said :

"flying cockroaches..!"

And I said to her :

"I fear the sea...the ocean."

H said "I loved the sea..but why you fear it?"

When I was very young, maybe 5 to 6 years. My uncle Bill used to take us out to Changi beach for picnic and swimming. I couldn't swim at all. So he got me a float so that I could go out to sea with my cousin John. But John could swim. And he swam really well. The sea that day was choppy, high winds and all. I was just next to John, then he said "let's swim over there to my dad.." then he turn around, kick his legs and accidentally kick off the float I was clinging on for dear life.

The float drifted away and I was struggling to keep afloat. Then I sunk..I opened my eyes and saw greenish water all around me. I saw bubbles above my eyes as I was trying to scream. And my screams were not heard underwater..I struggled and raised my hands and tried to make sure it was above water so someone would see me.

It must have been minutes but it seem like hours and no one came. My tears were mixed with the sea water around me, and I cried, but no one can hear me. I felt pain in my chest, and the bubbles started to diminish right before my eyes. I knew I was drowning...so in one last breath, I closed my eyes and told God I am coming. Please wait for me.





Then I felt someone grabbing my arms, and carrying me. I couldn't my eyes because the salt sea water have blurr my vision. For a moment I thought I have passed on and was in God's arms. Then I heard my uncle calling me, pressing my chest to revive me and to throw up the water.

When I finally opened my eyes, I could then see, it was my uncle who came to save me. And I knew God's plan for me was to stay here. My time isn't up yet. Since then, I learnt to swim. When I was in Secondary school, I entered the swimming team and won many prizes in swimming carnivals.

But the fear of drowning never leaves me. I took up Survival courses in swimming. I pass the Bronze level and went for the Silver. But when I was told that we needed to spend half a day out at sea to test our endurance in choppy waters, I chickened out. Then I realised that despite knowing how to float now and even how to swim, I could not bring myself to go out to sea again. I could never swim in the open ocean. The fear never leaves me. Even though our swimming coach was around and he had other assistants who are life guards to be on standby. I just couldn't bring myself to go out to sea again.

Some years later, when I working for Jardine Fleming, my boss send me on my first maiden trip to Jakarta. Just a 3 day work week to hold meetings and discussions with the Publications team at our Jakarta office. I was bound to take SilkAir flight out of Singapore to Jakarta. The plane was due to arrive JKT at 8am, then I had planned to be jostled downtown from airport to the hotel and check in and leave for the office for meeting by noon.

When I boarded the plane, everything seemed fine. All systems go, so to speak. Then the plane couldn't lift off..some technical problems. All of us could hear the engine moving but also it make funny noises too. We were stuck in the plane, on ground for over an hour. Then the Captain allowed us to make calls to our families, friends or biz here in Singapore to say that we will be late to arrive in Jakarta. And ask them*our Singaporean family to relay the message to our counterparts in Indonesia.

The captain assured us that we will not be leaving the plane to board another saving us the hassles of moving and transferring. But the ground crew need to check a couple of 'things' before lift off.

Finally at almost 11am, the plane took off and we landed in Jakarta by noon. By that time all my plans delayed. The going home part was smooth however.

When I went back to the office, my boss Su Chzeng said to me :

"Gina, you are on SIA planes, aren't they the safest, fastest around?"

2 months later...this same SilkAir plane plunged into the Palembang River, Indonesia, killing everyone on board. Su Chzeng was in shock..she told me "I take my words..!"

A brush with death..but God kept me safe..

Some years later, our family went for a short 4 day trip to Phuket. Benny couldn't join us as he couldn't take leave. So I went with my girls, my parents, my sis, her hubby and my niece. We did all the sea sports. I had to face up to my own fears. In one occasion, we went scuba diving. The guide was good and gather us around. We swam in small groups. Melody was barely 4 back then. A dip in the sea is just too much for her. The wind was extremely strong that day. The sea current wasn't too forgiving. She wanted out..and sat on the boat and watch us.

The guide told us to gather together as the currents are getting too strong. I heard him, and as I was about to swim my way to him, the current proved too strong for me..I drifted away...with the scuba gear on my back, and my fear got the best of me..I struggled vigorously and shouted for help. But the wind carried my voices out to sea..and I was starting to drift further away from the group. Although I was still afloat, I could only think I was dying again.

Thank God, my brother in law, Francis was nearby. And he waved to the boat driver. And he drove the boat around to pick me up.

Another brush with death and its with the sea again. That incident left me somewhat shaken. I shuddered to think what the future is for me with the sea. But still I was thankful that God saved me again.

A month later, Tsunami hits Phuket, wiping out the village and the tourist spots. And Tsunami hits that very same spot I was in back then.

When I told H, I realised for so many times I have that close brush with death. Almost dying but life given back to me. My greatest fear to date is still swimming in the open ocean. But never about anything else. I live my life loving everyone, everything. All the time.

Why?

Because I REALLY do not know what the future holds for me. What will happened next. How many times have you had that close brush with death. ?

Like in the movies "Final Destination"...I cheated death so many times over. How much longer can I do this.?

So live your life to the fullest. Like there is no tomorrow. Mend old hurts today, not tomorrow. Rekindled old friendships now. Say you love your mom or dad or mother in law or child today, every day. Show you care. Because your next breath of life may be your last.

Jun 20, 2011

Purple Glasses



I Won't Let Go sung by the group Rascal Flatts

It was something I use to say or recite when I have to say something that has a different viewpoint with others. It was a poem of sorts I read somewhere, but never knew who wrote it. No amount of googling, I still can't find the originator of this poem.

The Way I See It, may not be the way you see
But no matter how, let's share it
Your glasses are pink
and Mine are Blue
but someday we'll all have a pair of purple glasses too.


Recently a friend shared online at FB of a news article about women who are still grieving over the loss of their newborns or stillbirth. How the women found solitude by buying a life-liked doll that looks like a baby, complete .. Read the full story here

http://www.themoneytimes.com/featured/20110530/lifelike-babies-offering-hope-grieving-mothers-id-101701710294.html

When I read the article, I thought it was really creepy. Having gone thru 3 miscarriages and although I never had a baby in my arms and he/she died, I still find this very creepy to read.

Personally, I still feel that the best way to grieve over a loss of a loved one is to cry over it. To learn to come into terms with the loss and to move on. And to move on would mean you find new hope in other forms. Like a new hobby, maybe new friends or a new job sometimes.

But having a life like doll is not the answer to this. Maybe it heals for a period of time, but it doesn't really solve the problem. I know its quite controversy to talk about this. Different people healed differently.

Pain and suffering is part and parcel of life on earth. Everyone has to go thru it at some point of time in their life. Either with a loved one, a loyal pet, a best friend or having to walk out even from an abusive family. We have to leave behind, always something we loved. If it doesn't hurt, it means nothing to you. If it hurts, you know you have loved and given so much and expected nothing back.

Although I sympatised with the many women who are grieving over lost loved ones, I would find it disturbing and studded my healing process to get a doll of some sort to help me heal.

When my Beauty died in my arms, I cried for many hours. At night before bedtime, I cried for her. I raised her in her puppy days. I taught her all the doggy tricks. Although many would tell me : "Gina, she is just a dog. Not like she was your own baby"

Yes, she was just a dog, my pet dog. But she was there when Jonathan died inside me. When I was pregnant and into my 1st trimseter with Jonathan. My baby with whom I never get to hold or to see or to smell his baby hair. Beauty was with me and she saw my pain. And she stayed by my bed for days.

Sometimes I would stare into space and my mind starts to wander off. And Beauty would sense it all. And she would come to me, wagging her tail and her ears drawn back and expecting a hug and cuddle. As if she knew. I like to think that she did.

So she was just a dog. She was like my guardian angel. While I was grieving, my 'girl' comforted me. Not that Benny couldn't comfort me..but he was also grieving.

The pain and suffering eluded me for months. I was so miserable that I gave up trying to have another baby after Jonathan. My prayers were answered...later. Melody came to me a year after I lost Jonathan. In the process of healing, God showed me that I needed to heal properly, not just internally, but also spirtually and emotionally. So that I can be a better testimony to myself and to others.

I know also, that not everyone has the same blessings as me. Not everyone had a successful pregnancy or birth of their kid soon after loosing one.

I remembered years ago, when Natasha was still a baby, a friend of mine lost her husband to Dengue Fever. Her world of perfection fell apart almost immediately. After the death of her husband, she found it too painful to stay in the home they build together. She was in tears all the time whenever she was home alone.

So she moved back to her mom's place and stayed for a while. When she was still grieving and mending the pieces, she found that she was pregnant. And maybe because she was busy with the funeral and arrangements at home, she neglected her health. Through this unhappy times, she lost her baby too.

She hated herself and wanted to end it all. And she felt it was her fault that she lost the only thing that kept the memories of her hubby alive in her. No amount of crying or consoling her helped. She went into depression for a few months. And finally, she told me :

"Gina, I am selling the house. And everything in it. But I have with me, my memories. Of all the days I have know him and loved him. Even with the baby I have lost. I'm packing up, moving on. Leaving Singapore and going to USA. My boss was kind enough to offer me a job posting in USA's office. I don't know what the future holds for me there. But if its something new, I look forward to it. And can at least closed this chapter in my life here in Singapore. I thanked God for friends who stood by me in my time of need. I don't want to keep in contact. If I think I am ready, I will write to you again."

Sadly, to date, I have not heard from her. I wished her well. Hope that she has recovered. I have shifted from my first home when she used to have my address.

My post is not about how you should grieve or how you should move on. But a post to say that we learn the same things, but we may or may not agree or do the same things. The knowledge is the same, the practice of this knowledge is different. But whatever you do, you do it in the best of your knowledge and what your inner self cheers you on. It is all within you that you are what you are..the DNA and the chemistry of it all.

The most important thing at the end of the day is you are happier..with the choices you made in life. Though some works, and some just don't. But you are better each time when one didn't work. Because you learn from it. What needs to be fixed and what just are not meant to be fixed. And each time you learn how to cope, and to move on.

I still cry over a sad movie. And if I see something that reminds me of my past hurts, I still weep a tear or two. But that is just human nature. Not because I have not moved on or coped. We should still hold on to the memories of the past, of things that made us happy.

Because it is such memories that pushes us on...for a better tomorrow and a brighter yesterday.

Jun 16, 2011

Over the Rainbow


Over The Rainbow, sung by Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole

I seemed to have disappeared from blogging for a while. Too much heartbreaks and work and with a new maid, I was wearing so many hats in a week that I thought I could pull it through.

When my niece Tricia was still in her late teens, her boyfriend, Michael brought her a puppy. It was a long coated Chihuahua.



Tricia stayed with my parents, her parents in the same house. In our family, every new pet that comes into the house is treated as one of the family. We invite them with open arms, tender love and we have parties at home to gather our extended family, our best friends to welcome them(the pets).

Tricia named him Bambi. Because he was adorably cute. Aren't all babies cute?



He grew up in that household, loved and adored..then Tricia went to Australia for 2 years for her studies. Michael would come over and took care of Bambi..to shower him with love and kisses because Bambi missed Tricia terribly. He use to sleep in her room, on her bed, next to her face.

Whenever I visit my parents, I would go and look out for Bambi. And I would call his name " Bambi, Bambi". He would dash out from where he is at...and jump up and down with delight asking for a cuddle. Which I would do all the time. I would hold him, cuddle him for 10 to 15 mins. Sometimes I would talk to him as if I was talking to a child. Because I have never treated him as an animal..but more of an extended family member.


And without fail, all the years that have passed, whenever I visited my parents, I would always do the same thing..after greeting my parents, I would go and seek him out first..then followed by all the other pets in the house. Because Bambi knows his packing order..He was the first pet..followed by the cat..then came Winter, the Bull Mastiff dog which Tricia rescued from the Puppy mill. Winter was used for breeding only. She never saw the lights of things outside her cage. Only saw the handler who took care of her when she was pregnant or when her puppies were born.

Tricia loved animals..all creatures big and small. From the tiniest of insect to the creepy crawlies to the scaly snake and down the furry animals. Even the cat was an abandoned feline..she would bring him home and loved him.


This is Winter, the Bull Mastiff. Also loved and adored in our homes.



This is Summer, the cat that was abandoned and also rehomed with Tricia. Its me carrying Summer.

In the last couple of 2 years on..Bambi became ill. First he went blind. Tricia was working late almost every night and my sister took it upon herself to care for Bambi in his last days. Michael would come and visit and help to tend to Bambi every weekend.

Poor little Bambi, gone blind but tearing each time..so they had to put the cone on him all the time. Even so, being blind, I would still visit him and would still call his name. And he would listen to my voice and navigate his way around and find me. But he could no longer jumped like before but his tail never stop wagging and I know in my heart I just need to hug him, to cuddle him and to show him I am here. And I still loved him all the time.


When his eyes went blind, the vet told my sister that his days are numbered. Through a scan, they found a tumour in his tiny brain. The doctor gave him only 6 months or less..but he survived for a year..completely blind.

Then he became extremely ill, frail and either vomit every other day or had diarrhea. My girls never grew up to like him. Because Bambi is terrorised everyone at home. He doesn't like children or adults. He doesn't like my mom or my dad. He definitely didn't like my brother in law who is Tricia's dad. In his last days being ill, he didn't like Tricia anymore. If she would to come close to him, he will snarl and snap at her.

You may think that Bambi is ungrateful for the love Tricia had for him or doesn't know what is right or wrong. Who feeds you, who loves you, who doesn't?

But if you put yourself in Bambi's eyes and life, you would understand how he felt. When he was well and happy go lucky dog, no one respected him or gave him a pat on his head or cuddled him. Tricia worked day and night..sometimes she would just come home to change, sleep. My mom used to joke to us that although they all lived in the same house, she doesn't know if Tricia is home or not..! much less Bambi.

Then last month, sometime in May 22, my sister sms me to say that Bambi is in the animal hospital at Sunset Way. That's like the other end of Singapore! She said he may not survive the night and she hopes that he dies peacefully in his sleep than for them to give him the jab to end his suffering. He was found to have kidney failure and the kidneys are failing..one dead, the other was also failing. He was unable to eat or drink and was put on a drip for days.

I had to go and see him. Just to say goodbye and to tell him things again. And so I did...I ask the nursing staff at the hospital to take a photo of me holding him...


When I look at this photo, it tears me badly..he was struggling with all that is left in him to sit up..and putting his head resting on my chest.


When I entered the cage, I call his name again : Bambi, Bambi.
And though he was sleeping, he heard me calling him..And he tried so hard to lift up his head and I slided my palm under his chin..





I whispered to his ears and said to him :

Bambi, Wait for everyone to come and see you, then go..Go in peace. And know that I always have a special spot in my heart for you.!

Then I put him back into the cage, I stroked him and planted kisses on him. And I told him I had to go. But my thoughts are always with him.

The next day, he passed away peacefully, in the arms of Michael and Tricia. They wept bitterly for him.

And for a week, I couldn't get things done at home or at work. And started to think..

This is not my dog. He's Tricia's. And he doesn't live with me. And I don't see him often. So why should it tear me just as much as my own pet's dying on me? Then I realised that all these while, all these years, I have given him a part of me. A love from afar.

I shared with a friend of mine..and then she said to me..:

"Gina, even a dog knows you are sincere. You give everyone, human or animal the same kind of respect and the same kind of love. So its only natural that should one leave, the other hurts."

And then I realised that my extended family are like me too..in this context. When my Beauty(shetland sheepdog) was ill and dying, sms was sent out to all. I remembered my cousin ringing me and crying on the phone. I remember my Aunty Aileen sms me and comforting me.

This is FAMILY, this is LOVE.

Treat everyone, every living thing with love, with respect and in return, the world seems a happier place.

Rest in Peace, Bambi..until that day comes, meet me at the gates of Heaven.

Jun 14, 2011

Lonely Me...


I'll be Loving You Forever sung by the group West Life.

This is going to be a very lonely week for me at work. For the last 2 years since we open shop, Benny always spends his after work hours with me. Without fail..every day. This week, starting from tomorrow, he is sending his car for servicing and he says he won't be able to come. Then on Thursday and Friday, he was invited to 2 different dinners outside. So won't be coming too.

It suddenly dawned on me how lonely I felt. How miserable it was to spend my days at my shop alone. Even though he only comes in the evening..at around 7pm and within an hour, we closed the shop. He would help me to close the shop, pull down the shutters and drive me home. In the car, I would tell him things ..anything and everything. Some silly things, some happy things. But we often talk about our girls. That ride home is only 15 to 20 minutes. Yet it seem to be very long.

For the past week(last week), I noticed that he was making it all up for projected lost time. He took time off work to spend with me at home. And he bought me lychees and stuff to eat. Benny is not a man of many words..but he is definitely a man of Action. If you love him enough or more like the way I did with him, then you understand the things he does..he does it out of love.

In many ways, I talked about stress and sleeplessness. My friends ask me if I were stress at work. I always say I am not. Because I enjoy what I do every day. And even if I have to come home and cook just for him, I would do with it with so much energy and zest for life.

And he would ask me to ring up the house on our ride home from the shop..to ask the maid to steam up food or heat up the soup I have cooked the day before. But I would say to him...

"No. We would reach home, and while you bathe, I would prepare the food for you. "

I know most people wouldn't have bothered and would just ask their maids(domestic helper) to get it done. But I see this simple gesture as my way of bonding with him. I am dead tired after a long hard day at the shop. And Benny sees that too. He never dare to ask me to do anything for him after work.

But if Love is all I have for him, its the little things in life I do that brings out the best of me for him.


In the summer of 1997, we went to USA for 14 days. But Benny couldn't extend his leave to 14 days and ended his holidays with us in 10 days. We went there with my parents, my niece and my daughter Natasha. Seen in this photo, this photo was taken at The Golden Gate at San Francisco, USA. We later travelled to CA, USA to stay with my aunt and uncle for the last 4 days.

When we were apart, holidays doesn't seem too happy for me. And Benny was miserable throughout his air travel from LA, USA back to Singapore. Even when he was home, he felt a pain in his heart as if it was stabbed with a knife.

Since after that in 1997, I swore to myself to be there for him always. In more ways that he would have thought of. Even the simpliest of all things, prepping a meal which the house maid could do or getting him a drink or even just making hot tea..I would see to it that I do it for him.


Our 14th Wedding anniversary, celebrated in the month of November, together with my aunts/uncles who are also celebrating theirs in November. When our girls are still really young...

In the little things that counts..these are things that counts. When my friends see that I go all out to cook for him. And to satisfy all his cravings on any kind of food, they often say "Benny is so blessed. " Because Benny completes me and blesses me just as much.

In ways he knows best..the things he does for me daily. I know.

May 22, 2011

A Road Less Travelled


I Know Who Holds Tomorrow , old Christian Hymn

For many years, I self taught myself, many many skills. For many years, my dad reminded me that to take up the cross of God meant that He must call me to the field. Its not the same when you choose to leave your job or current status and go into the field to do missionary work.

All these years, I have been waiting and waiting and watching and waiting. For God to call me, to do His will. In the midst of it all, I did things I enjoy doing most. Loving the people around me. Learning to be like my mom. Who selflessly learn to cook and to bake and to feed others. She would give without expecting anything in return and often she would say "I want you to be happy." So to see a smile, means the world to her. For years I grew up in her household, and seeing the joy she had when she gives to others.

And I told myself that one day if I can be like someone important or special, I just want to be like her..like my mom is to others.

In the process of learning to cook and to bake, I started to feed others. With the help of friends like Ray Khoo, he taught me many skills and reaching out to the less privileged. In the process I met many people..most of them in halfway houses, away from their homes with a past. It is thru this, I met Benny Seteo, now the boss of the chain of restaurants named 18 Chefs


This is Benny Se Teo, seen here at one of his restaurants.

I met Benny Se Teo (side note : he is not my Benny! LOL~) at Highpoint Halfway House at Lorong 1 Geylang. Ray brought me there to mingle with the ex-convicts. They had funding from the Government to run business. So they wanted to open a restaurant. In the initial days, we spent time talking about food, creating recipes, perfecting it. Benny Se Teo was to be the Head Chef and to create and design new dishes for the restaurant. My job was purely just to taste his food, be a critic and give him pointers on how to improve and with Ray, we taught them various skills for the restaurant.




The restaurant was named Goshen. The region of Goshen is located in northeastern Egypt, in the The Delta of the Nile River, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The Sinai Peninsula is just to the east. To the south are the famous Pyramids, and the Valley of The Kings, where many Mummies have been discovered.

Why Goshen? I would questioned Ray. He says Goshen is a desert area, a place where no crops will grow. But God made good of it and all who dwell there bring forth goodness for generations to come. A restaurant named Goshen meant that our brothers in Christ(ex convicts) are left to fend and make good of the skills they learn and bring wealth to themselves and happiness for all.

When I first started working and helping out at Goshen Restaurant, my mom feared for my safety. Those who volunteered, are men. No woman dared to work there. Mainly because these folks are ex-convicts. Many had a past..some went in and out of prison several periods in their lives.

But Ray taught me to look beyond and past that. He taught me to love them. And when you love them, all the goodness and blessings you get from God comes out, in turn, you are able to accept them with all their problems and all their insecurities. And care for them as much as you would with others.

It is this road I walked on, and travelled on it for those years that made me realised that my calling from God was to do this. To help these folks get back on track. It is through the universal language of LOVE evolves into food that my calling from God meant for me to help others.

And at the same time fulfilled my dream of what my mom had always been doing. Loving and caring for others, strangers and all.

My post today talks about a Road Less Travelled. Or uncharted waters. Something not planned, some roads you take in life that seems weary and long winded. Surrounded by harsh forest or frightful weathers. But if you travel on this road, God walks with you daily. He holds your hand and silently paces with you, by your side. As you stumbled each day, He picks you up and He clears that rock or pebble in your path so your next step is smoother.

And as you walk each day, you learnt to look up ahead. And if you see that rock or pebble ahead of you, you know what to do. You either clear it and if its deeply lodged into the ground, you learnt to hop over it. So in life, it is the same. Some things just comes smack into you, others block your path. And each day you learn to cope and each day the road that was less travelled becomes worn and leaving foot prints..of all the days you walk on it. And all your footprints left on it reminding you of your first step, and of your second step. It shows how you hop over a stone, kick that pebble or move that rock.

And the next time you become more bold and walk another mile for that winding, dark road..pucked up with courage and with God still holding your hand, you walk that new road, more boldly, wearing a smile on your face.

This is not a post to be boastful of the many journeys I made in my life. But to share with you and to encourage you that in life, we all must walk on one road that is less travelled and as we walk, we learn. And as we learn, we are smarter and better each time. No one is born into this world knowing what is next. But if you have God by your side, you are rest assured who holds your Tomorrows..and the path that leads you each day.

AMEN!

May 15, 2011

Amazing Grace : Milestones with Christ


Amazing Grace (English version) sung by Gaither Vocal Band

I know I have talked about this before and hidden in bits and pieces of past blog entries here. But I wanted to share a bit more about this wonderful grace that God gives to us. And the milestones I have gone thru since birth with Christ.

From as far as I can remember, I knew for a long time, my life was created by God. He could have taken it back from my parents when I was a baby, but He chose to give it to them to keep and to nurture and to grow. To be in His likeness, in every way my parents could.

I was born with many medical problems. At the tender age of 6 months old, I went for my first surgery. To remove a diseased bone from my right rib cage. My dad told me that I spent several weeks in the hospital and my mom visited me at the hospital every day. When I was discharged, my mom hated hospitals and the smell of disinfectant. For some unknown reason, I grew up hating the smell of Dettol too.

When I was old enough to stand on my 2 feet, I started falling even just by walking. My mom would scold me if I run. In a way, that studded my growth, and I became slow in everything I do. I was never allow to run in the field or play vigorous sport of any kind. I never play tennis or basket ball or even the simple child's game of "catching". I can walk and suddenly my knees will just give way and I would fall.

As a child, my Uncle David would pick me up from school..on his back. He would carried me home. My relationship with Uncle David was extremely closed. I always see him as Big Brother than an uncle.

And then it happened when I was 4 years old. I went to the toilet at night, came out and just fell and hit the corners of the cabinet. That causes a deep cut on my forehead..just above my right eye. I bled non stop ...I was dressed in a white sleeping gown which my mom had painstakingly sewn by hand for me. I remembered my dress was in red..covered in blood. My dad rushed me to the hospital. And after that, my life changed completely.

The doctors back then said I lost alot of blood, and not enough oxygen in my brain, so my brain wasn't 'functioning' at full steam. It meant that I would become forgetful and I cannot remember short term things. Like studying for spelling or trying to remember a date or short term event.

Who would ever thought of learning Phonics back in the early 1960s? Most unheard of back then. My dad took up Phonics on his own and he taught me to read and spell using the phonics way. That requires no memory on my part and no extra brain work to do.

All my years in Primary school in Singapore, I spent hiding in my classroom. I cannot go for PE(Physical Education), no jumping of hoops, no running, no sports. I stood and watch from the window from my classroom where all my class mates run and play in the open field. I lead a quiet life you might say. I took on new hobbies..hobbies that doesn't require me to run or be in sports. I learn to draw, to colour, to paint. And I took up piano lessons too. I spent all my school holidays with my dad, with my cousin John. My dad would take me to watch Disney's animated movies or to the travelling circus(yes, Singapore used to have that too..!).

By the time I was in Secondary school, a new medical 'illness' plaque me. I had the lazy eye or squint eyes. And I had to go for surgery at age 14 years, or Secondary 2.

When I left secondary school and studied Pre U, my knee finally call it quits on me. I went for a major surgery on my left knee. That removed cartilage under the knee cap. It meant a life time of no vigorous exercise or movement on my knees. If I had a fall and I fell on my left side, I was to go for X Rays immediately to see the damage internally. That was also the reason I quit my job as MIS Manager with Batey Ads Singapore. An advertising agency in Singapore. I have over exert myself in the 3.5 years working for them. I quit to stay at home to nurse my knee. The doctor said "surgery or home therapy". Surgery is not a cure, just prolonged the expectancy of the knee. Home therapy is just slow and painful physiotherapy on my leg muscles.

When I left Batey, I couldn't even walk properly. That was how severe it got. I didn't quit to start Kitchen Capers or go into the culinary field. I did that out of boredom. After spending 25 years working non stop, suddenly I had nothing to do. And I haven't reach my retirement age yet as my girls are still young and school going age. I needed to work and have money for things.

Then in November 2007, I went for surgery for Appendicitis. 2 months later, I was in the hospital again. For hernia(from my appendicitis). Thank God for friends, my students who kept me safe and prayed for me when I was in the hospital. And the doctor who operated on me told me more unhappy news...

Due to my many health issues, he told me to stop taking a few food ingredients. Most of these are preservatives used in food preparation and all chemicals associated with baking. And I also found that I was allergic to artificial colouring used in colouring food. I would wheeze and had shortness of breath.

If you have met me in person, visiting me at my shop, you may think I looked healthy. But beneath all that, I am quite "unhealthy".

I had so many surgeries done on my body, the nerve endings on my body have been severed. I had no 'feelings' or 'sensations' of pain or heat if I am hurt until someone tells me..Should I stand next to a fire stove and the fire catches on my clothes, I won't be able to know..the nerve endings near my tummy area has been 'cut'.

Yet everyday, my life is a testimony. A living testimony that God decides when, and how and what.

My dad told me the day I accepted Christ as my personal Saviour that I am a Living Testimony for God. That whatever I do or say, testifies that God still believes that the world should go on. And that lives out there are still worth gathering in His name and tired souls and broken hearts are still worth mending.

If you noticed..maybe now you will, the next time you see me at my shop, I am actually walking on a limp. My left knee is still swollen and my right tummy area has a "pouch". As I live each day with the extras, my life with Christ remains strong and steadfast. Despite all my body offers to me, I am still in awe of Christ and all He has provided me.

AMEN!

May 4, 2011

I love you, Because


I love you Because sung by the late Jim Reeves

I had a private cooking class last Wednesday. My student is a young wife. Newly married and settled into her first nuptial home with her hubby, she wanted to learn to cook for her hubby and also for her family. She told me she grew up on her maid's cooking. Despite being of Teochew dialect, she didn't know much about the cuisine that goes with it. Nor have any family heirloom recipe stashed away any where in her maternal home. Her parents went to work, and left her at home with the maid. The maid took care of the household, cleaning, washing and preparing meals 3x a day.

Well, to be frank, she was one of the many young wives I used to teach cooking to. So many similar stories I have heard of them never knowing their roots and some never got to know what binds them to a family. There never seems to be any family bonding.

I shared with her my own story. How my mom raised me. And I grew up on home cooked food my mom prepared for the family. My mom taught me many skills. May not be all food and cooking related. But she told me about our heritage, our culture and what it means to be Chinese. Despite being Christian, she says we must never forget our roots, though anti-Christ it may seem, as long as we follow the Bible teachings, lived by it, practiced what the Bible says, we just observe our heritage, that was good enough.

My mom says that when you travel to faraway lands, your skin colour is no longer something that proves to others your heritage or culture. Its what that is within you.

So whenever I teach cooking, and especially with cooking, I shared a bit of our Chinese culture, its deep rooted heritage to my students. The very things that made us Chinese. A cut from the rest of the other races.

But it is also love that binds us together. I shared with her many of my family's recipes, re-created for our modern home. With 'advance' or more "user friendly" kitchen utensils. But I also taught her the old way of how things are done and why it is done that way, and moving forward to new age and time.

Since she was teochew, and Benny was also Teochew, I decided to teach her to cook a traditional Teochew dish..the humble Teochew Bak Kut Teh or Pork Ribs Soup.

She asked me "I thought its black in colour, the soup I mean. Why is this soup cleared?"

I told her "the Black soup was cooked with chinese herbs and that's Hokkien. The Teochew version was clear soup cooked with the most minimal ingredients. So you get to taste the sweetness from the bones of the pork."

Here's the recipe to share with all. Something I learnt just by listening to my uncle Freddy's rave about the Teochew Bak Kut Teh soup.

Teochew Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Soup)
Recipe By Gina Choong



Ingredients
1 kg pork ribs(ask the butcher for soft bone, chopped into smaller pieces)
5 pcs of garlic cloves, smash to break it open, retain the 'skin'.
1.5 tbsp white peppercorns
salt to taste
2 litres of water

Method:
1. Heat up water in a large casserole pot(claypot)
2. Add garlic, peppercorns and pork to cook for 5 mins over high heat.
3. Once it starts boiling(bubbling), lower the heat, cover the pot to cook over low heat for 45 minutes.
4. If the water evaporates till half the pot, just add water to refill.
5. Add salt to taste.
6. Serve hot with freshly sliced chilli and some soya sauce.

A traditional dish served with just plain warmed rice. Benny's favourite, all the time. Now its also our girl's favourite soup dish. Simple and yet refreshing.

May 2, 2011

Something Stupid, Something Good


Something Stupid, sung by actress Nicole Kidman and song artiste Robbie Williams


Yesterday we close the shop at 7pm, instead of 8:30pm. So that we could go and have dinner with the family..Benny's side of the family. At a restaurant near our shop and also near my mother in law's home. It was May 1st, her birthday. She's either 87 or 89. How come I didn't know? No candles on the birthday cake. And the siblings were 'fighting' over what number to say when they lit the candle. One say "Chinese birthday is plus 2", the other say we live in the real world, it should be minus two.. And I thought last year she was 87?? oh well, like they say "its the thought that counts.." To come together as a family, extended with all her 4 children, their spouses, kids in toll, to celebrate it with her, that's important.

This year I decided to make a special cake for her..Vegetarian all the way. No eggs, no flour, just sugar and water and jelly powder..yes, a jelly cake. It didn't have to be big, its just for her. I just assumed that she would like it. Our girls bought a stalk of a red flower for her. And it seems that our girls are the only grandchildren who got her something.

This is what I made on Saturday , fussing over it.



To be frank, the center was supposed to be a red flower jelly. During the pouring of warm jelly into the layers, the flower melted and smudged/fused into the jelly. When its done, I realised the top was just a smudgy red spot. So I have to improvised quickly. I use a round fluted cutter and press into the center at the top. See this photo of it...see how ugly it was?? =((




And luckily I have a few cans of fruit cocktail at home..so I opened one, picked out the peaches, grapes and cherries and put it into the hole ... and viola! a new jelly cake is made. O:)



When I presented her the cake, and told her it was a jelly cake, she said out loud :

"we have this for cake cutting later, I don't want the other cake..!"

Benny was seated next to his mom and he told her "She made this for you, to bring home and enjoy. This is not a real birthday cake, we should cut the one the others bought for you.."

And she told me "Gina, I like jelly cake. I am happy"

That certainly made my day..and it ended very well for me.

After the dinner, we drove to her home and did the usual photo taking, candle blowing, cake cutting, birthday song singing, etc. I hid the jelly cake into the fridge.

We left after the cake was served as it was getting late. On the way home, Benny told me that our day ended with so many blessings from God. Our sales shot beyond our target last night despite closing an hour and a half earlier. And we got to have dinner with his mom and how much he appreciated what I did, the littliest effort I tried without having a maid at home to help me to wash, clean up etc.

I overheard him talking to his mom(pretended not to hear!) he told her "Gina is very tired, very worn out. She cannot visit you like she used to have. She does everything herself, mans the store, run the household. And we have no maid. And she still finds time to do little things here and there. So I could rest and sleep very well each night. Not having to worry about things. She kept everything intact. And gave me nothing to think about, nothing to worry"

My mother in law smiled..and she looked at me and said "Gina, le chin ho, aye hiow jia ko kay"..This is my anyhow do pinyin of her teochew words. It means "Gina, you are good, you know how to run the house".

Benny is my mother in law's favourite son. For years, she used to wonder if I could keep the house together and take over her duties to take care of her precious son. Because Benny used to tell her I grew up a spoilt kid, never had to do anything at home.

May 1st, ,2011...The Matriarch says I passed with flying colours :x

Apr 20, 2011

Rain or Shine


Rain drops keep falling on my head Theme song in the Hollywood Movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"

I seemed to have run away from blogging. Well, I almost did. My days now are spent waiting for the Sun to come and watching the skies to make sure the rain comes after the clothes are dried.

My domestic helper aka maid has run away sometime last month. She woke up very early in the morning on a Sunday, wash the clothes, hung out to dry and left..the main door was left unlocked. Luckily Benny had woke up at 7am, and left the house. It didn't occur to him that the door was left unlocked..!

By the time I woke up, I noticed the house was super quiet. And I call out to her "Yati" and no reply or response. I search the kitchen, the toilet, the rooms and found her no where in sight. I check her luggage and personal belongings..all intact. And its obvious that she just bolted out and left.

Since it was a Sunday, the maid agency will only be opened after 1pm. I just rang them and left a voice message. By noon, the agency rang me to say that Yati is there with them. I went there later that day to sign her out of my household.! She told the agency that she cannot work for me anymore and she told them I never seems to be satisfied with her work.

The agent told Yati this :

"Your madam has been our customer for 10 years. To date, no maids has come here with problems. All came and went after the contract is over. Her last maid was with her for 4 years. Your madam has a good track record and there were never any high expectations she wanted from anyone. You are the first..so we think you are the main problem here"

Well, I don't want to dwell on this subject anymore. My new maid will come in a week's time..I hope. For the past 4 weeks, we have been living like squatters at home. Food was served in plastic plates or paper disposal plates. To ease with the washing, cleaning. And I cook one dish meals instead of the elaborate 4 course menu.

I spent my mornings waking up to look up at the sky..asking God, "Shine today? or Rain today?". And He answers my prayers knowing how much soiled and smelly clothes I have in my laundry basket. By the time I washed it, hung out to dry..and kept later..the rain would come and cool off the house.

So when it rains, I ironed all the clothes. My girls helped me with the other chores in the house. They would come home from school in the evening to help to feed the pets, cleared their poo/pee and sweep the floor and mop the floors for the whole house.

I would come home late at night around 9pm, have our dinners which my mom cooked for us. And my girls would help us to clean up and wash up.

AMEN for them.

Lately, I have been tired and ill. Natasha took it on herself to help me to wash the toilets..scrubbing down and cleaning it. I told them to bear with the extra work they have to do for another week or so.

I slowed down on my classes this month. Just too much work at home and at work and I don't have time to rest. So the next time it rains, I think that God is giving me a good weather and a signal from Him to say I should slow down and rest. And when the sun comes out, He is telling me to get up and work.

So be it, Rain or Shine, give Thanks to God. For He is good and He endures us forever..AMEN!

Mar 27, 2011

A Bag of Flour


The Candy Man sung by Sammy Davis Jr..one of my favourite songs as a child...!

What do you do with a bag of flour? Most people would use it for baking or mixed into a thick batter to dip seafood and meats for deep frying. That's provided its still all good, before the expiry date. But what if its expired? Most I know would trashed it.

But I would put it to good use..outside food. Since I can't make it edible, at least I can use it for something else.

A Salt Dough. Just flour, lots of salt and water. Mix it all up to form a dough. Leave it aside to settle and then mould it, bend it and shape it. Either you use it to make 'clay' figurines or like play dough for kids, you don't have worry about poisoning should the kids swallow it. Because they won't. Its too salty. Or worry if the ants will come either. Salt is a natural preservative, and this salt dough keeps for a lifetime or until someone breaks it.

This is what I use my expired flour for..I put into a mould which I recently got from Guangzhou. Its a silicone mould, intended for ice sculpture and chocolate moulding. But I bought it for making 3D Fondant figurines instead. Since I had some leftover flour which is near to expiry date, I decided to use it for this purpose.


A pekingese dog which was a favourite with the Chinese Emperor

The Lion Dog which is often seen outside a rich man's house..guarding the gates. This figurine of the lion dog is sitting on a pile of Gold coins.



The mythical Chinese Dragon guarding its Crystal ball...



The dough once taken the form of the mould, was removed and baked in preheated oven at 200C for 30 minutes. So that its dried up and harden. Unfortunately, I only had food colouring at home, no poster paints. So I can't paint these.


Here's the recipe of the salt dough

Ingredients
1 cup of flour(expired, any type of wheat flour )
1 cup of salt(fine salt will do)
60ml to 70ml of tap water

Method:
1. Put flour in a large mixing bowl
2. Add salt to stir and mix
3. Add water and knead into a dough.
4. The dough may feel grainy due to the salt. Now its ready for use.
5. Shape into patterns or roll out on the table like you would with cookie dough.
6. use various cookie cutters to cut.
7. Bake in preheated oven at 200C for 20 mins.

* even if it gets burnt, no worries. No one is going to eat it anyway! Decorate it with oil paints or poster paints. When its dry, paint nail varnish on it to make it shine.

You can use salt dough to make any figurines or even ornaments like bracelets, brooches or any art and craft work you need to make with your kids..

Here's the ice sculpture I did recently..





Mar 19, 2011

Why me, Lord?



Why Me Lord, a hymn sung by The Gaither Vocal Band.

A dear friend of mine recently had a baby. Who isn't due till end of March 2011. But the doctor had to deliver her soon as my friend's blood pressure suddenly shoot till very high. A ultraviolet scan also confirmed that the baby wasn't growing and fearing still birth, she was delivered by c-section. While mom was recovering in her ward, the baby was whisk away in an incubator where she lay and seem to be struggling too.

Words reached me about her untimely birth while I was still in Guangzhou, China for a business. Not knowing head or tail of all that has happened, I only know one thing I could do for her. And that is to pray for them.

A bit of sharing with my friend and me, I found out that her blood pressure went awry due to some family problems. Which I will not relate here because that's too personal. But all I say is that it causes her much anxiety and fear of the unknown.

Now she has been discharged from the hospital but her baby is still in the hospital.Friends rallied around her, praying for her baby. And while I chatted with her online, I told her my own story...

Of once upon a time..some 20 years ago. I was pregnant with Natasha and she was due to be a New Year baby but she came earlier..all because my blood pressure shoot to 220/120. I was rushed to the hospital and the doctor had no choice but to deliver the baby as it was life threatening.

At the operation table, I was under GA..and didn't know anything. But when I came out of it, I found out that I almost died on the operation table. My heart stopped...and I lost much blood. The doctor had to revive me. I remembered overhearing Benny when he spoke to his best friend :

"I don't want to have another child. Seeing how Gina went through, I can have no kids, but I cannot have another wife. She almost died at the operation table.."

Some of the underlying reasons why Natasha and Melody are 8 years apart was also due to this reason. I took a long time to convince Benny that if God saved me once, He will saved me again.

The reason my BP went up so high was that I was working at that time. And overheard my boss saying that he would retrenched me before I give birth so that he doesn't need to pay me 2 months leave(maternity leave). He dragged my probation for almost a year not wanting to confirm my job when he found out I got pregnant. I needed to work, to have an income so I could pay for things, medical and all that. And though Benny could support me, I didn't want to weigh down our family income.

I was retrenched during my confinement month..the first month after Natasha's birth. In my 2nd month, God found me a job and soon after, I went to work. My boss, though single, was a kind man. I worked for him and was loyal to him for over a year until I left and join another company. We remained good friends even after Ieft the company.

And if you think I have forgotten what God has done for me once, yes, I did. After all, I am still human and to make errors like this, happens just too often too. When I had Melody, history repeats itself. But this time, I emerged as a heroine. I put my name down for retrenchment instead..thus saving 2 of my colleagues' jobs in the same company. And having gone through one retrenchment, this time I was much prepared and God proved to me again..

How much more He loved me because He is also the same God who clothed the flowers and feed the sparrows. Melody was born at 33.5 weeks, a premature baby. And I was out of a job again. And again, in my 2nd month of maternity leave, I was head hunted for a Regional Support position in Singapore.

My ex boss was an Irish man..one of the co-founders of Quark Xpress software..the renowned DTP software at that time. He interviewed me, gave me the same salary I had in my last job and God restored everything I thought I have lost when I was retrenched from my previous job.

So this post serves to inspire you. The next time you think of the darkest moments in your life, when the world seems to have collapsed, your life all broken and messed up and you ask "Why me? Lord!"...take a moment and know He was watching and waiting for you to call Him. And when you do, He will come and deliver you for all your pain, your sickness, your sorrows and your tears. And He will wipe each tear from each eye, give you rest for your tired soul and lift you to higher ground.

May you always be reminded that while the world seems to be wasted away...someone up there, up above the clouds, is watching over you and waiting for your call.

Be comforted to know that He cares for you, much more than you will ever know and understand.

Be blessed, be comforted..be inspired.

AMEN!