Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Assam pedas fish makes me slimmer

As always, I consumed a million calories during Chinese New Year holiday.  For the past few years, after dieting and suffering to the brink of depression, I managed to get back to my normal weight within 1 month surviving on bland boiled egg whites, green stuffs and no carb food.  However for the past few years it got harder and longer to loose those extra kilos thus making me wider, rounder and more huggable. 

So this time around, I decided to do more to lose those flabs.  Since I have more free time now, I was thinking of joining an exercise program with a personal trainer at a soon-to-be-opened gym for ladies only.  I was attracted by their colourful flyers : free personal trainers, exercise for only 30 minutes per session, 66% discount, guaranteed results.  Just what I needed..!

Actually I've been a member of a gym near my house for the past 11 years.  The gym is only 5 minutes drive from my house, situated inside a premier beautiful golf course, has a pretty tropical-landscaped swimming pool and has 4 restaurants serving delicious chinese, western, and local dishes.  So, actually there is NO reason for me not to go there.  But somehow I got tons of excuses not to go there.... (although I could never find any reason to not visit any of the eateries...)

Yesterday I went to the soon-to-be-opened women only gym.  I was greeted by a very nice lady in her late 20's. Judging from her toned body I could see that she spends a lot of time on various exercise machines.  I was salivating... imagining that I would have that kind of body 1 month after joining the program.

She told me that she would be one of the personal trainers there.  Great...!!

Just when she was about to explain the program, we were interrupted by a plump friendly lady in her 50's.  Judging from how she talked, I assumed this lady must be the big boss.  Right away she explained the program of the gym and how it is different from another gym.  She said that the program is proven effective in the US.  With guidance from their personal trainers, I would get the toned healthy body I am dreaming of soon.  To make it even better, I would only need to exercise 30 minutes per session, combining cardio and weight lift.

Instead of impressed, somehow I got irritated by her. First, by interrupting the conversation that I had with her staff. Then I got irritated when she said the program is very effective and result is guaranteed. If it is so effective, how come she is still very plump..?? I am waaaaaay slimmer compared to her... I must say that she is borderline obese.

After politely said that I would think about this and come back later, I left the place.  On the way to the parking lot, I shook my head... The company should hire some sales persons or managers who are suitable for its products.  Some people just ignore a simple thing like that. 

Very often when I shopped at department stores I was approached by salesgirls promoting skin care products.  They promised smooth, pimple-free skin, with radiant complexion.  But the sales promoters had pimples, dry skin covered with heavy make ups and tired looking eye bags. How could I be attracted and convinced by the products?

After the visit to the new-to-be-opened gym, I decided to go back to my personal motivator : my husband.  He knows very well how to motivate me to go to the gym.  His usual trick is like this : "Come, join me at the gym at 7pm.  After the gym we can have diner at this new place that I saw at the newspaper today. I read they serve top-rated assam pedas fish.  Guaranteed to make you smile." 

That's what I call selling.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

School blues

My eldest daughter has always had difficulties in her school.  While she adjusted very well when she first started her kindergarten, she cried every morning for the first 3 months of her elementery school.  Yes... 3 full months, every morning, she refused to go to school and I had to literally drag her to school.

I can understand her rejection.... moving from a nice, fun and kind teachers of kindy to a big, old, loud, ugly bathroom and shouting teachers at elementary public school.  After 3 months of crying, finally she adjusted well to the school, doing very well in her study until Standard 2. I was a happy mommy...

Last week she started Standard 3 excitedly in the morning... But only to be traumatized again on her first day of school.  She came home with a sad face saying that she hated her math teacher and didn't want to go to school again.  I asked her why and she said, " My math teacher said that we have to master multiplication until 9.  If we get 1 wrong answer, she will hit us 5x and if we get 2 wrong answers, she will hit us and send us to sit outside the class."

I was shocked and angry... Math is a terrifying subject for most students and this teacher makes it even worse.  How can a child be interested in math if all he/she thinks about is the punishment?  My daughter scored 97% in math on her first and second grades  She didn't really enjoy math but she studied and did well because she said her math teacher was funny.  Now, she really hates math and think that she is bad in math.

I always believe in "Carrot AND Stick" method..... but I found out that carrot works better than stick.  I told my daughter that I would make her a VIP member of Spark City (online girl game) for a month if she got an average of 90% on all her tests in Standard 2.  She studied hard and she got all As.  But a few days ago when she cried (and almost vomitted) for refusing to go to school, I threatened her by taking all her priviledges of using any electronic devices, from TV to Ipad2 to laptop to PSP, she didn't budge... She insisted she didn't want to go and at her age and size, I couldn't drag or carry her to school anymore.  She really didn't go to school, staying at home without watching TV or play her electronics... just drawing, sleeping and reading. I don't know whether it's a virus or flu or stress but she had high fever for 2 days..! (she was happy with the fever because she didn't need to go to school...)

My mother-in-law and few friends suggested I talk to the teacher and tell her how her method of teaching effects my daughter.  However my husband told me not to.  He believes that my daughter should be thaught to be brave and confident.  If I keep on "rescuing" her, she will always be timid and scared of everything.  His solution is to toughen her up and build her self confidence.  Let her be punished... anyway, he said.... it's not a big deal to be hit and sit outside a class.  He knows that the hitting will not be bad or else the teacher will be in trouble.

I don't know which one is the right one.  I was punished a lot of times during my elementary school... I had to stand in front of the class, I had to clean the school compound, I was pinched, I had to squat under the blazing sun, I was hit by a ruler, etc... I went thru all those and my mother never ever went to school and complain. I turned out to be OK..

As of now, I will do what my daughter requested : She wants me to send her to Kumon because most of her friends who are excellent in math go there.  She forgot that she scored 97% for the past 2 years without Kumon.  But I will still send her to Kumon... I just want her to be confident.  If she thinks Kumon will prevent her from being hit by the teacher, let her be...

My mother-in-law insisted on talking to the teacher.  She will go to school tomorrow and have a talk with the teacher because she knows that I am reluctant to talk to the teacher.

Siiiiggghhh.... My childhood karma is coming back to me now thru my daughter.  I always scored A's in maths. In fact, math has always been my favourite subject. But I also had no self confidence.  When teachers asked me to go infront of the class, whatever numbers and alphabets in my brain would be gone with the wind.  I only did great in written tests but not in oral tests.  Now this is happening with my daughter....

Sometimes I wonder how my mother handled this... but I forget how and if I asked my mom, I am sure she also forgets.  She has been a working mom with 5 kids, so it;s impossible for her to remember this "small thing".

Being a mother is really full of challenging problems.  I think universities should have classes majoring in Motherhood, instead of only child education.  The teaching will be used more widely than anthropology, meteorology, or any other logy....  It will also be useful throughout life because mothers face problems with their children for as long as they live. 

If only psychologist fee is cheap and covered by insurance, I would have visited them everyday now...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Seasonal No More...

Few days ago my mother-in-law brought home a traditional Kelantanese delicacy called Surra. It looked unappetizing with "dodol-like" greyish rubbery texture. There were some yellow strands and beans sprinkled on it, making it just a bit interesting. Initially I was reluctant to try the ugly stuff but she insisted that I had to try this as people don't make this food anymore. She got it from her friend who made it by herself. I asked her what's so special about this Surra and what's it made of.

Long time ago, in Kelantan (one of the nine states in Malaysian peninsula) people made Surra only on Fridays during fasting month. The cooking was usually done in mosques by volunteers. On Thursday people would go to the mosques, each bringing a container of ingredients for making Surra. One person brought rice, another brought chicken, another brought eggs, some brought bird, some brought spices, etc. Everyone in the community would contribute something. It's like potluck in the US but instead of bringing food, they brought in raw ingredients. On Friday morning the volunteers would cook the Surra in a huge "kawah", a huge black metal wok for a few hours. After Friday prayers when the Surra was ready, everyone would get their containers back with the freshly-made Surra in it. The tradition stopped long time ago. Nobody does it anymore and it's very difficult to find Surra because people are too lazy to cook a dish with a lot of ingredients.  My mother-in-law said to make one nice surra, we need at least 20 ingredients.  Some of the ingredients need to be soaked over night before being cooked for more than 5 hours with constant stirring.

With a story like that, of course I eagerly tried the dish. Taking the first bite, the taste was very new to me. It took me awhile to get used to it... It was savoury, very rich in flavours at the same time I could taste some sweetness in the shredded chicken. After the second bite, I couldn't stop... But of course I had to stop because my mother-in-law only had two slices of surra to be shared with the rest of our family members.

Eating the Surra reminded me of all the food I used to eat when I was young.  Some still available, some are gone, some are modified.  I am a huge fan of traditional food so I feel sad when traditional food is forgotten.

Growing up in a Chinese family in Indonesia, I used to help my late grandmother made Onde on the 21st of December. She would gather everyone in the family to pound suji leaves and extract the juice to colour her dough green. Late in the evening she would have her rice-flour-dough ready for shaping.  Children would shape the dough into tiny colourful balls while adults shaped them into larger balls filled with sweet ground peanuts.  The morning of 22nd December she would boil the Onde and put them into bowls with hot syrup made of brown sugar and ginger. 

Bandung air was still chilly at that time so it was a total bliss to have piping hot Onde for breakfast.  Nowadays people can buy the Onde anytime from roadside stalls, no need to wait until 22nd of December.

Then there was "Bak chang" festival where every house would make its own version of Bak Chang, a triangle shaped rice stuffed with meats. For the whole week we would exchange Bak Changs with our neighbours and relatives, trying their versions.

During that time, food was not just a thing to satisfy hunger and appetite but it was more like a glue that connected family members, relatives, friends and neighbours.

Malaysians used to have Lemang only during fasting month of Ramadhan. The smell of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk inside bamboos over charcoal fire made the nights of Ramadhan smelled heavenly.  The morning of Hari Raya everyone would be eager to have the Lemang and Beef Rendang as their first meal of the day.

Now we can find Lemang almost everyday in night market. To make it worse, we can even buy instant Lemang in plastic casing in supermarket. We just need to boil it. While some people say it makes it easier and faster to eat lemang, I just hate that idea.

To me, authentic seasonal food keeps traditions alive. When seasonal food becomes commercial and available all year long, it just lost its soul. When the soul of food is lost, eating is less pleasurable... It's not special anymore. 

I remember what my husband told me this morning : Too much of a good thing is not good, no matter how good that good thing is. (siiigghhh... the whole sentence is so complicated... typical of him..;).  I have to agree with him on this...

Now... I am waiting patiently for my first Yee Sang of the year.... I really hope they won't start making Yee Sang available everyday.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

No new year resolution for me.. Just wishes on the wishing well

I never really knew what a resolution was until I went to US and people asked me what my new year resolution was. Almost everyone I knew there made new year resolutions so I thought I also had to make one. But unfortunately I didn't achieve much. Many of the resolutions were undone thus repeated again on the following few years after that. Even after more than 20 years I still can't fulfill certain resolutions such as exercise regulary for at least 3x a week, stop my addiction to coffee, put on night cream on my face everyday, put on mask every week, etc etc.

I stopped making resolutions about 15 years ago because I was just too embarassed, upset and dissappointed that I didn't have the strength, courage, determination and ambition to achieve them. Besides, life was not as fun anymore... The very purpose of my life was so focused on achieving my resolutions, my targets and my goals that I didn't enjoy it anymore. I planned everything to the details and when the plan did not turn out as expected I would be moody, sad and depressed.

So, when I went for interview 6 years ago and asked,"What is your goal 5 years from now?" I was struck mute.. I couldn't answer at all. I didn't set any goal anymore, I was in zombie mode. At that time I was struggling between motherhood and work, never had enough time to cook, to take care of my daughters, to work, to keep the house in order while doing my best to make my employers happy. So my goal (or I should say my wish) was : I would like to have a balance life. I didn't want to juggle anymore (if I were to juggle, I should be a professional clown). I would like to ENJOY my life as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and an employee. But how could I say that goal during my interview? I also couldn't lie to the interviewer that I set my goal to be the General Manager in that company because honestly speaking, I didn't care at all. I went for the interview to get a job because I needed to work, just to keep my mind sharp, to get out from the house and meet people, to not feeling guilty for wasting my parents' money on my education, to get some pocket money for my cravings of steak and cheeses and to have an excuse to put on make up.

As expected, I failed the interview...

Fast forward to now... I just realized that I had reached my "silent" goal. I never really worked towards that goal. It just happened. The goal was achieved coincidently. I quit my full time job and started workimg part time. By working part time, I have ample time to cook and experiment new dishes for my family, I can go to parks with my daughters, I can have my piano class, I can meet my friends over lunches, I can have lunch dates with my husband, I can visit my mother and sisters more often... at the same time keeping my brain functioning and earning some pocket money to treat myself for a good rib-eye.

I guess it's true when people say "Be careful for what you wish for..... For your wish may come true."

My simple wish did come true effortlessly.... I am still sceptical about the theory from "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne and I am not totally agreeable with Jack Cranfield. While I do agree that our lives are determined by our state of minds, I do not agree that if we want to achieve something, we just say it in our heart, put it in our mind everyday and it will come true without having to do anything about it. I do believe that if we want something we have to work hard for it.

However, when I looked back and saw my experiences, I have to admit that maybe their theories are true. I am still doubtful though... I will need more proofs...

So, I have to start to make a wish list... Let's see if they come true...

Do you have some personal experiences on this? Do you agree with Rhonda Byrne?