Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Easy Peasy Dhal

I am a huge fan of Roti Canai with Dhal.
Roti Canai is a flaky, flat bread made of flour and margerine. It is also called Roti Pratha in some regions. I found frozen Roti Pratha at the grocery store the other day. I bought a packet, with the hopes that I would learn to make Dhal (something like lentil curry) someday.
Well, having a packet of frozen Roti Pratha staring back at you everytime I open the freezer to take out something really motivated me to go look for the recipe for dhal. Pre-requisite: It has to be easy and I must recognize the ingredients.
It wasnt so difficult to find, actually. There are many versions for this Dhal. I chose one and here I present the modified, tried and tested version.

Note: I asked Taufik to go buy kacang dal (lentils) and he came home complaining about how everything looked the same to him and handed me a packet of split mung beans (kacang hijau)) instead. I went ahead and used the split mung beans (the original recipe did say you can actually use any kind of beans, even mix them up if you want) and it turned out okay even though it lacked the texture of lentils (I particularly love eating whole lentils in a dhal)( as opposed to mushy dhal).
It takes a while to boil the beans till tender, but otherwise, the other parts didnt take more than half an hour. I guess you can boil the beans in advance and continue to finish off the dish at a later time.

Easy Peasy Dhal

1/2 cup lentils/split mung beans (or a mixture of both)
4 cups water
1 chicken stock cube
1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 large onion (chopped finely)
1 clove garlic
1/2 inch ginger (pound together with garlic)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (can be left whole, or pounded for a more intense flavour)
1 stalk curry leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon curry powder (Add more if you like it spicy, can also substitute all or part with chilli powder)
1 cup of your choice of cubed vegetables (Optional. I used eggplant and carrots. Potatoes works well too)

In a pot, boil the lentils in water till tender. Remove any scum that floats to the top. Add the chicken stock cube and the tumeric powder, simmer for 5 minutes then remove from heat.
In a different pan, saute the chopped onions, the pounded garlic and ginger, cumin, the curry leaves and curry powder in a little bit of oil. The original recipe specified using ghee but I didn't have any. Saute till fragrant. Add some liquid from the boiled lentils.
Add in the vegetables and let simmer till the vegetables are almost tender. (Add more of the liquid if necessary). Once the vegetables are tender, transfer everything into the pot of lentils.
Stir, then season with salt&pepper to taste.

Can be eaten with Roti Pratha, toast (my kids loved it), or as an accompaniment for your white rice and spicy grilled meat.

Sorry no pictures, but it will look really yellow and mushy and ugly, but tastes mm mmm goood.

I kept leftovers in a tupperware in the freezer and defrosted and reheated in a pot with a little bit of water whenever I feel like having summore.

Monday, February 27, 2006


She has not been able to sleep well for the past few days. It wasn't just because the baby was starting to kick more frequently and strongly. It wasn't just because Shah was away on business and the kids were sleeping in their king-size bed with her, either. She just felt restless, anxious ... she felt like something was about to happen.
Maybe she had been watching too much TV. The news, to be exact. The news are filled with nothing but stories of attacks and bombings and riots and insurgencies. When she was back home in her own country, she wouldn't have batted an eyelid at this stories. She would've just tsk-tsked at the news and be glad that nothing like that ever happened in her country.
But now she is here, right where everything is happening.
"Life is safe here", one of the expatriates told her. "We live in a compound.. there's security everywhere. We don't even lock the door sometimes."
She always locks the door.

She heard something. The drone of vehicles.
Her unit was the closest to the main gate, so sometimes at night, when everything is extra quiet and you can hear even the tiniest noise, she could hear the conversations of the army personnels stationed at the gate. She couldnt understand any of them, of course, because most of it were muffled, and because she doesn't understand arabic that well.. only sprinkles of words. 'Ashrab' for 'drink', 'Khalas' for 'done' or 'finished' and sometimes she'd hear them call each other 'ya habibi' and laugh a lot. Tonight they were particularly quiet.
It's not unusual to hear the sounds of cars coming in and out of the compund in the middle of the night. Shops don't close till about midnight in this country, and some of the residents prefer to do their shopping in the evening, when it's not as hot as during the day. So she is used to hearing the drone of vehicles whenever she found herself awake in the middle of the night.

She reached out for her mobile phone and touched one of the buttons to activate the screen. 2:20am, it displayed. That's pretty late for shoppers.
The low growl of the engine didn't sound like a car either. A heavier vehicle. A bus? Or a truck? 2 trucks?
Then she heard shouts.
Then the loud rat-tat-tat of the machine gun.
She sat up in bed. Her heart beating so hard she was starting to get a headache.
She turned on the bedside light and looked at her kids sleeping beside her. Halim was snoring. Hassan's body was contorted and tangled in sheets. Hannah had one of her hands sprawled over Halim's face, almost like trying to stifle the snore.
Shouts. Rat-tat-tat and bang-bang of a smaller gun.
Oh she've watched enough Discovery and CNN to tell the difference.

She jumped out of bed as quickly as she could with her huge belly and headed for the window. She made the tiniest crack in the curtains and peered outside.
Drat. She couldn't see a thing from her window. Only other units, and part of the road from the main gate, but not what's going on outside the gate.
More shouts, more sounds of guns. She could see lights turning on in the other units and curtains pulled aside.
She was breathing so hard, steam was bouncing off her curtains and warming her cheeks.
Then the gunshots stopped.
She heard the drone of vehicles starting up, and saw two trucks driving in from the main gate.
They were not service trucks. And the people in the back of the trucks, do not look like the gardeners and plumbers that service their units. And those things they're holding, do not look like hoes or tools. They looked like guns.

Oh No Oh No she thought.
She looked at her kids.
She thought as fast as she could.
What would they do to us?
They would shoot us.
What could we do to not let them do what they want to do to us?

We run.
Run where? We're in a freakin compound. There are high walls with barb wires to prevent people from sneaking in, which also means there's no way we can sneak out either. Anyways, with a big belly, she can't really climb anything and neither can her kids.

We call for help.
Call who? Dammit. Shah is at least 3 hours' drive away. She can't even remember the number for the police. Would calling the receptionist at the club house help? She was sure that the receptionist on duty would already be aware of the situation by now. The club house would be the first building they see once they get into the main gate.

We hide.
Okay, that's a good idea. Where?
She got out of her room and scanned the house.
Downstairs? Too close to the front door. Besides, the store room and the laundry room are the only ones with doors and they don't have locks.
Uh oh, her living room light was on. She always leaves it on, to indicate someone's home. Perhaps that would not be a good idea now. She goes downstairs, fleets through the front door and switches the light off. Maybe if they think no one is home, they won't even come in. Pray to God that they have not seen it on yet.
She went back upstairs, switching off the lights as she scanned the rooms.
Spare room. Children's room. All no locks.
Closets could be good. She had always found comfort in closets.
The spare room's closet had their suitcases. Damn.
The children's room's closet was too small to fit her and her kids.
All that's left was her closet. She opened it. She had her spare comforter and bed linen at the bottom of it, so it could be comfortable.

She started hearing bangs on doors.
Quick quick.
She pulled her kids off her bed. Halim first, and he started protesting.
"Shhhhh" she said "Halim, I need you to get into the closet. Please just do what I say"
"Arrrgghhhh mom...!" Halim complained.
Halim gasped.
"Please Halim, we need to be really quiet and hide" she tried to tell him in her calmest voice. It wasn't really convincing.
Without a word, Halim obeyed her. Even in the dark she could see the whites of his eyes.
Hassan is next. He didn't make much noise, just groggily got up and went to the closet to sit beside his brother, and went back to sleep.
She didn't know how she did it in her condition, but she lifted Hannah off the bed and laid her in the closet. That girl.. she could sleep through anything.

She ran to the door to close and lock it, but decided not to.
Let's pretend we're not home. The car is not in the driveway (because Shah is using it), maybe they'll really believe no one is home.
She quickly made the bed.
She took her mobile phone, went into the closet, closed the doors and sat quitely.
She felt Halim's hands grab her arm tightly.
"Mom, I'm scared" he said.
"Shh.. it's okay. Let's pray that God will protect us.", she whispered back as calmly as she could, but the trembling in her voice and the sweat that's starting to bead on her forehead betrayed her calm.

She heard more banging. Shouts.
And now and then, sounds of pleading. From women and men. And the cries of children.
But no more gunshots.

Then it came, the banging on her door.

I could continue.. but then it might get anti-climactic.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Somebody out there likes you..

Last week I was flipping through the TV channels (yes, I do this a lot) and I got to one of the sports channels that is aired over here, called S1. They were showing highlights from T0rino 2006 for that week and they were playing a noisy but familiar song to accompany the montage.
I stopped flipping and listened closely and lo and behold, guess what, it was "Spin The Black Circle" by Pearl Jam!
Why does this excite me, you ask?
Well, Pearl Jam songs are not usually used for montages and least of all "Spin The Black Circle", which is probably one of the more obscure (read: not radio friendly) of their songs.
I would understand "Alive" or "Jeremy" or "Daughter" or *gag* "Last Kiss", which an amateur Pearl Jam fan would probably admit to liking and would not be ashamed to play for the public, but "Spin The Black Circle"? .. You've got to be quite a fan to have chosen that one.

I thought, okay, maybe it's a one-off thing. Perhaps it was because most of the highlights contain scenes of the men's figure skating contenders doing the spin on ice, thus the reason for the chosen song.

So I flipped through the channels again this morning and there were the highlights for this week on S1, and guess what was played?
"Given To Fly"!

Someone out there likes Pearl Jam.. enough to use it for his montage.
hot damn! :D :D

Saturday, February 25, 2006

No need to panic ..

I was flipping through the TV channels yesterday afternoon when I stumbled upon this piece of breaking news.

They didn't offer much information. Only that a bombing attempt was foiled at a S@udi Ar@mco complex.
To me, a 'complex' could mean anything. Was it the residential compound? Was it the refinery complex? Was it one the drilling sites?
I didn't panic, but continued to flip between CN_N, BB_C World and St@r News, just to get more information. Finally towards the evening, I found out the foiled attempt was in Abq@iq, at an oil refinery plant. Some guards dead, all attemptors killed.

You've read me mention Abq@iq before, right? It's where those rock structures were. It's also about an hour's drive away from Taufik was drilling.
So the first thing I did was call him up to ask if he heard anything. He said all he could hear is the sound of drilling. They're pretty remote so they don't get news as fast as normal people do. Someone would have to drive through the desert to get to them and tell them the news.
Well, anyways, .. so the incident is like an hour away from where I am, and about an hour away from where he is.
Suffice to say, we are safe. (Alhamdulillah)

The fact that the bombing was attemped on a Friday (a day off for workers over here) and that it was at an oil refinery plant and not a residential area showed that the terorrist wanted to make an economic impact, not a political/violent one. They did not intend to kill a lot of people, so .. that kinda comforts me somewhat..
I mean, if they had wanted to make a statement by killing foreigners or something, they would have brought the bomb-laden vehicles to one of the Ar@mco residential compounds. That would've made more sense. (But they wouldnt have gotten far either because of all the security checkpoints).

The incident also reminds me of how fragile my life really is. Anything can happen.. and boy, am I not prepared.

Friday, February 24, 2006

AI 2006 : ... and so there are 20

I actually abstained from writing about Americ@n Id0l the last few days because of my policy of posting only once a day... But today I have nothing to write about, so might as well write about what I thought about the final 24.

I have said before that I am rooting for P@ris and Kellie. After watching the first round however, I found myself also liking Kat and Lisa. I thought that P@ris, Kat and Lisa were the best performers that night. They exuded confidence and ease, and on top of that, humility. I loved the way Kat apologized to the folks behind her for having to stare at her huge butt. She is so cute.
Kellie does not have the most powerful voice among them, but she is SO likeable and SO humble it's hard not to like her. Her story about her grandpa getting offers of sandwiches was so endearing. She really reminds me of C@rrie Underw00d, which is why I think she might get to the final 5, but might not win.
Talking about humility, Brenna's lack of it make me not like her at all.
I think the 3 weakest female contestants based on their performance were Becky (I thought her performence was really really bad), Heather (the forgettable blond.. I had to look up her name) and Stevie (Ethearal voice??? Hello... okay maybe at some points she does sound sweet, but i thought she lacked control).
And I was right.. Becky and Stevie left the competition today. I think Heather will be leaving next week, unless she sings something awesome.

I am still roooting for T@ylor Hicks (Why do I keep calling him Tr@vis? Is there a singer named Tr@vis Hicks?), but on top of him, I am also rooting for Chr1s (damn.. what a voice) and Elliot (double damn). They're not the best looking of the lot (Elliot needs braces, man.. or he needs to brush his teeth more. T@ylor needs to stop those spasms. Chris.. meh.. actually he looks okay.) but I think they definitely have the best voices.
Ace may look good, but his voice is actually kinda nasal, which I find kinda irritating. What gets me more irritated is that he knows he's good looking and he is really2 exploiting that fact (His brother is kinda cute too, huh?). He reminds me of C0nstantine (except he's better looking and is a better singer and doesnt come off as fake.).
Patrick has a much better voice than Ace, but loses big time in the looks department. David singing Queen with an Elvis-like voice.. is. just. wrong.
Bobby singing Barry Manilow .. is. just. wrong.
I thought watching Kevin perform was like watching a plank singing. He was so stiff. But yet, still so cute! *squish*.
I thought Gedeon did not put enough soul into Shout. I just didnt feel it from him.
I wanna hear Bucky tackle a more melodious song next time. Then I'll form some kinda opinion about him. For now, I just want him to wash his hair.
I thought the weakest performers were Bobby and David, but I had a feeling David would be too cute to be voted out.
and I was right, Bobby and Patrick got kicked out today.

Ah well...
can't wait for next week!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Nigella? More like Lois...

If you've been imagining me to be living the life like N1gella L@wson, you're mistaken.
Firstly, I don't have the big hair, though I think my butt is probably comparable to hers now.
Secondly, being married to a man whose idea of fine dining is "murah dan banyak" (cheap and abundant) (read: cheap buffet or gerai tepi jalan), you won't see me cooking Pavlova or Salmon or Herb&Lemon Roast Leg of Lamb anytime soon.

I hate to admit it, but I think if you could take a peek at my daily life now, you'd see more of Lois (of Malc0lm In the middle.. what is their family name, anyway?) than N1gella. Or maybe even Mrs Bradford, coz sometimes it does feel like I have 8 kids instead of 3.
I saw that episode where Lois was punishing the boys for not owning up to burning her dress and I was like "Oh.My.God... I did just that yesterday!". Perhaps not as dramatic, but it was close. It was kinda scary.

Everytime I turn around, somebody's doing something or doing something to someone. One day I let the kids plant some seeds in our garden, and they pulled out one of my husband's flowers (I had to replant it real quick before my husband found out. When it died I had to feign suprise and ignorance). I let them play in their room and found Anis covered in streaks of black marker. I let them shower on their own and they took hours, finished half a bottle of shampoo, and almost flooded the whole bathroom.
I can't sit on the couch for more than a minute before someone would call out "Bonda...!!! Look what insert name here did!!".
Add to that the fact that now they're showing the episodes where she just gave birth to a fourth baby.. I can't help but feel like I identify with her. (Except that I don't work at the supermarket, and everyday I pray hard that my kids don't turn out like them. The prayers are not working).

Thank God my husband is not like Hal.. he's more like.. and I know my siblings would agree to this: Tim the Toolman Taylor. Not in the sense that he has ability to get himself in the hospital for his DIY fiascos, but in his blurr-ness about how women feel or think. And they have about the same kind of sense of humor.
You know how I cook something for my tajweed class? Every time, without fail, Taufik would ask "Eh ada Puding Roti/Pasembur/Pulut Udang? Siapa buat?" ("Who made the bread pudding/prawn fritter salad/Prawn Floss?). Sometimes he is *that* blurr.

But I am not complaining, really.
I am just glad I have a husband. And kids.
Coz without them, I'd prolly have nothing to blog about..
ha ha.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Bowl of Noodles

Taufik is away again.. he has to be at the rig for at least 5 days.
For lunch yesterday I made nasi goreng taucu (fried rice with fermented beans) and it was eaten with the leftover sliced cucumbers, which turned out quite good.

I was too lazy to cook anything for dinner, so I rummaged my cupboard and found some Mee Goreng Indomie (Instant Noodles) from our last trip back home and decided to have that.
I boiled 4 packets (one for each of us), mixed it all up in a huge bowl with the seasoning and soy sauce and was about to divide them into seperate bowls when I thought, what the heck..
So I stuck 3 forks and a pair of chopsticks (for me) into the bowl of noodles and brought it upstairs to where my kids were watching Malc0lm In The Middle.
The moment they saw the bowl they were jumping with joy.
I pulled out the coffee table, plopped the huge bowl in the middle of it, sat the kids and myself around it so that everyone gets equal access and we all happily dug in.

They were munching along when I said "Don't tell Ayah about this, okay?"
"Why?" they asked.
"Because" I said.
Actually I wasnt sure why it felt so naughty and why it should be kept a secret. It took me a while.
"well, firstly, it's not nice to eat from such a huge bowl" I explained.
"Secondly, it's not so good to eat instant noodles" I added.
There were a lot of mm hmms with mouth fulls around that table.
"but it's so yummy" said Ilham
"oh,oh, I know, I know. If we tell Ayah, he's not gonna marry you anymore?" asked Ihsan.
"Takdelah sampai cam tu... (It wont get that dramatic)" I replied "He just wont like it that much that I made you instant noodles and didnt cook you a proper meal"
"mmm yummy yummmy" Anis grinned and munched.

Half-way through the bowl, we had to resort to eating in turns coz some of us are not that deft with handling noodles and forks yet so they needed to pull the bowl closer to their body and not let noodles fall all over the place. So we did a round robin thing where everybody gets a chance to eat without having to wrestle for the bowl.
There was a bit of argument of who gets the last bits of noodles. The 3 kids shared the last bits while Anis picked at the shorter pieces stuck at the edges of the bowl. They looked like underprivileged kids..

Then we went down to have our beverage of choice (chocolate milk or strawberry milk).
They wanted ice cream for dessert but I suggested that they have a banana instead, and save the ice cream for the next day.
I took suggestions for dinner, and the final decision was spaghetti bolognaise. (ilham wanted meatballs, but seeing as wednesday is Americ@n Id0l day and I will not be able to stay in the kitchen long, I vetoed it).

Ahh... the life of a domestic goddess... ;)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pasembur (Prawn fritters Salad)

I made pasembur yesterday. Originally I only wanted to make prawn fritters, but then the half a kilo of prawns that we had bought yielded just about 200grams of shelled prawn meat so I had to bulk them up with something else.

So just add chopped raw vegetables (preferrably cucumbers and sengkuang, which is like a very large water chestnut.. I really dont know it's proper english name), some blanched bean sprouts, sliced up fried tofu, sliced boiled potatoes and quartered hard boiled eggs to your sliced up prawn fritters, then top it with the peanut sauce and voila, you have Pasembur or Rojak, a very popular snack in my home country. They sell it almost everywhere..

Does it look good?
Well, actually, the one I made last night didnt turn out so good. There were some 'technical difficulties of the human kind' (read: somehow I had problems tasting yesterday and had put in too much salt). Also notice that there were no sliced fried tofu .. I couldnt find it at the supermarket.

I've posted the recipe for prawn fritters and peanut sauce before, so I won't post it here again..
It's actually not very difficult to do, the only tedious part is chopping stuff up.

There were some leftovers from last night, so now I'm trying to think about what to do with it.
Prawn Fritters - no problem, my kids will gladly eat them up with ketchup
Boiled eggs - I already turned into an egg salad to eat with bread/crackers for breakfast
Boiled potatoes - Bergedil, maybe?
Bean sprouts and sliced cucumbers - hm.. can I make a kerabu (spicy salad) with this?

Any ideas or suggestions? I am sure PB banyak idea...

Monday, February 20, 2006


Today was Ilham's Sports Day and since Taufik is home, we went to the school together.
Today the crowd was bigger and there were more students participating because the students from the international schools from other areas were involved in the games as well. Instead of breaking up into age groups like they did yesterday, today the kids were divided into Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow teams, each team consisting of an equal distribution of children from ages 7 to 12 from different schools. Ilham was in the Green team, so he went to school wearing a green shirt (the same one he wore when he was the frog prince).

We came a bit late this time, so we didnt get to sit in the front row so we didnt get to take that many pictures of Ilham .. :(
Ilham took part in the sack relay race (Taufik took a movie of this one), the pick-up relay race (no pictures, they have to run and pick up stuffed toys) and the sprint relay race (self explanatory).
Taufik took pictures as best as he could, so forgive him for the quality of the pics..

We met one of the Malaysian families from Ar@mco and took pictures before we left. Anis decided to go home with Kak F coz she wanted to play with Kak F's daughter. We decided to let Anis go with them since we're gonna meet them for tajweed class tonight anyway (and our kids stay at their house during tajweed class anyway).
Taufik and I stopped by the supermarket where we shared a subway sandwich for lunch and we then bought groceries before Taufik dropped me off at home and he headed off to Ar@mco to meet his clients.

hm.. the house is kinda quiet without Anis around..

Ilham's team cheering for their mates. Ilham is the one waving at the camera.

Ilham doing the sprint relay. Someone commented that he ran in long strides, like a cheetah.

Me, Ilham, Aiman, ABC, Kak F and Anis, after the event. I AM SOOO FAT!!!

They had a few events for parents but I of course, could not participate. Taufik didnt participate either coz he was wearing office shoes. ABD participated in quite a few.. a skipping relay race and a scooter relay race (just like Ihsan's yesterday). He's such a good sport.
Next year we'll go better prepared and will wear more appropriate attire. IF there is a next year.. heh heh.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ihsan's sports day

Ihsan had his sports day today. Together 'competing' with him were the students from Pre-reception, reception and years 1 and 2 from the Dhahr@an British Grammar School, and the students from Nursery, Pre-School, Kindergarten and Grade 1 from the Americ@n School. So basically, they were kids between the ages of 3 to 6 years old.

They had 4 events, the obstacle race (run between cones, go through a tunnel, slip a hoop over your head and body, then put on a hat), a frog and bat race (run to the finish line while trying to balance a toy frog on a plastic racquet), a scooter race (roll on a 4 wheeled 'scooter' bakwards) and a sprint race. Everybody participated, everybody who finishes gets a sticker. No winners or losers.
I guess it was quite fun. The kids loved cheering for their friends when it wasnt their turn. In between events they put on songs from the 80s .. 99 red baloons, saturday night fever, We will rock you - which everybody clapped to in beat.
I took pictures but some of them were kinda blurr coz Anis kept clinging to my dress. She was kinda bored coz she wanted to try each event but couldnt coz she doesnt go the school. Next year, okay, sayang?
Before we left I took a picture of Ihsan with his teacher, Mrs Sne1der (pronounced as "sneeder", she's from netherlands)

So here are the pictures:

Home Alone

Taufik is in Dubai today. He left yesterday afternoon, stayed overnight coz his meeting is really early this morning.
I revell in some of the freedoms of not having him at home, like not having to rush to cook lunch, not having to HAVE to have rice for our meals (I made Curry Noodles instead), ... hm.. that's about it..
I still miss him though. Besides for the obvious reasons (takde geng masa tidor), it's also because living in a country where women are not allowed to drive out alone and the shopping hours are awkward, being without a husband is like losing both your legs.
If I were back home, I could just go drive out to the supermarket or roadside stall and buy food or whatever provisions I need. I could send/pick up my kids from school, without depending on other people. I could basically do anything I wanted to. Here, I'd have to wait for the bus. Or be contented with whatever is available at the compound's mini market. Or cook whatever I felt like eating myself.
I dread to think of what I would have to do if something horrible happened and I have to go to the hospital or something ... hmm.. come to think of it, we never thought of a contingency plan for this situation.

Today is Ihsan's sports day in school and luckily Rhadha (the only other mommy in my compound whose kids go to the British School) also wants to go, so I could hitch a ride to and back with her.

I am also so used to having Taufik take care of the kids in the morning. He is usually the one who wakes them up, nag them to brush their teeth, take a shower, get dressed, hurry-up-and-have-your-breakfasts, put on their socks-shoes-jacket-cap and then kiss your Bonda .. while I would prepare their lunch boxes and make sure their bags are all packed with the necessary stuff.
Without Taufik around, I had to plan ahead. I made sure their bags are packed last night. All their clothes laid out. I warned them to sleep early (we slept at 9:30pm) and get out of bed as soon as I wake them up coz I would have no time to nag them and watch them "like Ayah does". I warned them that if they occupy me too much, I would not have time to toast their bread and peel their apples for their lunchbox. That would mean soggy sandwiches and a whole apple, with skin on and seeds in for lunch.
God bless their souls, they were such good kids this morning.
Even Anis woke up early and brushed her teeth. It was a good thing too, coz I got an emergency phonecall from Noran, asking me to be the bus monitor this morning.

I really can't wait for Taufik to come home this evening.
heh heh.. yeah, he's just gone for one night, and I'm making such a big fuss over it.. :P

Friday, February 17, 2006

Four Me Meme

I was tagged by Zan.

Four Jobs:
1. erm I don't know what I was called, but when I was a senior, I opened/closed and monitored the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Lab at UIUC on weekends coz it was just across the street from where I lived.
2. Research Assistant at Tuls@ University Drilling Research Project in Cat00sa, Okl@homa. Remote, cold, lotsa hauling of drilling mud, and singing Pearl Jam in the middle of nowhere (outloud, to the squirrels) just to entertain myself.
3. Process Engineer for the Military Operations Department in M0t0rola. Ah.. those were the days..
4. Senior Software Engineer in charge of the most complicated (and getting even more complicated) Factory Management System ever created in the history of mankind.

and now I am a Domestic Goddess.

Four Movies
1. The Usual Suspects - a bit violent, and I can't understand half of what Benicio Del Torro is saying, but yet still damn entertaining. I live for that last moment when the detective looks around the room and sees everything.. "Kobayashi".
2. Singles - If I dont get to catch the whole movie, I would at least catch "A compliment for us, is a compliment for you" ;)
3. Iron Giant - i have a thing for animated movies.. and this one is just one of my favourites. I had the pirated copy, then I bought an original copy in a tin container. I'm gonna look for the DVD next.
4. Anything with Johnny Depp, or Anything by Tim Burton, or anything WITH Johnny Depp BY Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride.. and even Ed Wood.).

There's so many actually.. anything with Jim Carrey. Any movies with either P.Ramlee or Noordin Ahmad. Outsiders.

Four Places
Let me just simplify this by region/country:
1. East Coast of Semenanjung Mal@ysia - Kuala Berang, Kuala Trengganu, Kuantan
2. West Coast of Semenanjung Mal@ysia - Sec 17, SS4, SS3 all in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
3. United States of Americ@ - Urb@ana & Champ@ign ( I have lived in both sides of the university town) Illinois, Tuls@ Oklahoma, H0uston Texas.
4. Kingdom of S@udi Ar@bia - Al-Khob@r.

Four TV Shows
Hm.. I guess I will just list what I love watching now, coz it changes by season and region and availability
1. Discovery Channel - mythbusters, extreme machines, fifth gear, that insect show with Rudd.
2. American Idol ... tee hee.. I am rooting for Kelly Pickler, Taylor Hicks and Paris Bennet, by the way.
3. The Weakest Link - Ann annoys me but yet I still watch her.
4. The News on BBC World, CNN and Star News.
can I add.. cartoon network?

Four Vacations
Memorable ones?
1. Pulau Kapas (on a whim) & Pulau Perhentian (slightly better planned, but still it was free&easy)
2. Club Med, Cher@ting.
3. Langk@wi, Kedah
4. The Gastronomical Vacation i just had in December. We didnt go anywhere special, just to my mom's house and my in-laws' and visited some friends.. but still the food was just fantastic.

Four Dishes
This is a wrong question to ask a pregnant woman.
Those that I can cook:
1. Steamed Rice, Soup (chicken or beef or bone or oxtail or even camel), tenggiri jeruk fried with thinly sliced shallots+garlic+chilli and raw cucumber.
2. Crunchy Sambal Tumis Ikan Bilis eaten with anything
3. Pasta in creamy sauce and chopped parsley
4. Mee Udang or Mee Kari (Prawn Noodles or Curry Noodles)
Those that I cannot cook or cannot make as well as the original:
1. My mom-in-law's Kari Ikan (Fish Curry), with fried fish, sambal belacan and assortment of ulam (raw vegetables)
2. My mom's Tepung Boko (tapioca pudding with creamy coconut milk topping)
3. My mom's Nasi Kerabu
4. Laksam (who ever's, but I prefer Kak Ani's)

Four Websites
1. Yahoo
2. Blogs listed in my links, plus a few which I did not link yet
3. gmail
4. Mesra.net

Four I wish I were there
Actually, I'm quite contented with where I am .. but for the sake of fantasy lah kan..
1. M@laysia - nak makannnnnnnnn
2. Makkah al Mukaramah
3. Italy
4. Lebanon

Four Bloggers
I'm gonna choose 2 pregnant women and 2 single guys..
1. Lioness
2. Tynn
3. Russell
4. pizzofmine

So you people can try to beat mine in terms of boring-ness..

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Daddy's little girl

I'm not gonna blog tomorrow, so I'll just write this today

Sometimes I am jealous of the relationship that Anis has with Taufik.

It's not that the relationship is special or that it's different between me and her. She dotes on me as much as she dotes on Taufik. She'd hug and kiss me and Taufik (or whoever whe wants), as often and whenever she wants. Sometimes she choses me over Taufik, and sometimes she choses Taufik over me. (And sometimes I am relieved that she choses Taufik over me, coz I had already spent the whole day with her .. tee hee)

I guess what I am really jealous of is how Taufik treats her.
How he lets Anis kiss him in public, but not me. How he hugs Anis whenever he wants to but not me. How sometimes he would call Anis and actually asks for a hug and kiss, but he never asks from me. How he would spend time combing her hair, disentangling it gently and putting on the hair tonic so that it doesn't get tangled again but it's been months since he combed my hair (the last time was when he gave me a haircut). How he walks in the door with a toned down "Assalamu-alaikum..." and then switches to an excited "Hello!!!" when he sees Anis and Anis would shriek out a giggly "Ayah!!!" and run up to him (and I'd hear him go "ugh!" as Anis hugs him tight).

picture taken by ihsan, hence the poor quality


But then again, at night in our bed, when he's got his arms around me and hears Anis call out to him and all he does is bury his head deeper into my bosom and only respond to her with an annoyed grunt,
I know that I'm still number one in his heart :)


ihsan's first book

***WARNING: This post has a lot of pictures***

One day, Ihsan came home with this book he had made in school.

Note: "dadi" = "baby" and "taya"="tyres"

I thank God for gracing me with kids with a morbid sense of humor, because or else I'd be bored..

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Savoury Bread Pudding (Puding Roti Berlauk)

You know I always cook up something for Monday night's Tajweed class... so on Tuesdays expect a Culinary Jam post :)
(But actually, I'm thinking of cooking something not so special next week coz I'm afraid of being labelled Muka Puding Roti (The bread pudding lady) .. I better vary my dishes a bit.. tee hee)

Okay as usual, background story:
Everytime I see a bread pudding, I had always wondered whether we could make it savoury instead of sweet. So once I got a reliable recipe for a sweet bread pudding, I decided to try to modify it to make it savoury.. substitute fruits with meat, sugar with cheese and vanilla with salt&pepper. And the result is as follows..

Tested an approved by Ar@mco Tajweed class of 2006 :laugh:

Savoury Bread Pudding (Puding Roti berlauk)

500grams mince meat I used beef, but I guess you can subtitute with chicken or even tofu
1 tablespoon curry powder or any other spice of your choice, like seasoning for chilli or kurma
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 medium sized onion chopped roughly
1 can pieces and stems of mushrooms saves time ;) .. you may use fresh mushrooms and chop them up
100grams cashew nuts or your choice of nuts, chopped/ground roughly
1 tablespoon or 1/2 a cube of stock beef, chicken or vegetable.., dissolved in a bit of water
salt&pepper to taste
a handful of raisins (optional)
olive oil for sauteing

Bread pudding proper:
6-8 pieces of bread
cream cheese I use Kr@ft
shredded Mozarella cheese I used a whole packet of 200grams
250ml Evaporated milk
250ml whipping cream
3 whole eggs

Prepare the filling:
Marinate the mince meat with the curry powder and oyster sauce for roughly 30 minutes. Saute onions in a bit of olive oil till wilted and slightly browned, then add in the meat. Add the stock liquid. Cook well before adding in the mushrooms, cashew nuts and raisins. Season with salt&pepper to taste. Can be prepared a day before and kept in an airtight container in the fridge. (also good in toasted sandwiches.. yummy)
To make the bread pudding:
In a bowl, mix well evaporated milk, whipping cream, 3 eggs and salt and pepper. Set aside and ready to ladle.
Butter well your baking dish at the bottom and sides. Spread cream cheese on one side of the bread, cut off the crust (save the crust) and then cut the remaining bread into small pieces. Arrange bread in a layer, cheese side up. Ladle on the milk+egg mix till bread is covered. Layer on the meat, then the mozarella cheese. Then put another layer of bread (cheese side up), ladel milk+eggs, meat and mozarella and so on till you almost reach the top of the baking dish. Arrange the bread crust on the very top layer, pour the remaining milk+eggs mixture over.
Let stand for at least an hour while you pre-heat your oven to 350deg Farenhite.
Put a few dollops of butter on the top crust, then bake for 45minutes to an hour.

The arranged crust gave an interesting look to the finished dish, and gave a crunchy texture.
I made some gravy to go with it, but my friends said it was good enough to eat without the gravy. (Gravy: saute finely chopped garlic till fragrant, add half a cup water, 2 chicken stock cubes and a bit of soy sauce for color. Add cornflour mixed in water - adjust for your desired thickness. Season to taste. Strain before serving for that smooth texture)(Or use a gravy mix that u can find in the supermarket .. tee hee)

We had the savoury bread pudding for supper, but I guess it could be eaten for breakfast or tea or even dinner (with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables on the side perhaps?). I had some leftovers for breakfast with some ketchup.. :p

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Am I raising sissies?

Reading the comments on yesterday's post about Ihsan's lost shoe reminded me of the time when he came home from school crying.
I did not get on the bus to pick him up that day, so I don't know what exactly happened, but he came home and said Hyun Bin and Ziy@d had called him 'nugget boy' and laughed at him.
After calming him down, I asked him what he was feeling and he said he felt like hitting those kids. I told him that that was not a nice thing to do, irregardless of what those kids did to him. If he had hit those boys, the boys' mothers and I would be very mad at him. We finally settled on walking to the boys' houses and me having a chat with their mothers. That made him feel better.

The next day I rode the bus to pick him up from school and chatted with Noran (the other bus monitor) about what had happened to Ihsan and I told her about Ihsan wanting to hit the boys and what my response to Ihsan was. It was meant as a funny anecdote, but I was really suprised by her reaction to it.
She said "No.. you should let them have their revenge. It will make them feel better".
I, of course, disagreed with her, but only in my heart (because being a Malay, we are often taught not to offend other people).

I am the kind of person who believe that being defensive is better than being offensive. So I would rather equip my kids with skills on how to avoid a potentially dangerous situation and how to handle being 'attacked', rather than how to exact revenge.

Once they get on the bus, I tell them to keep their hats and jackets in their bags, so that the other kids won't even think of playing with their hats or jackets.
I tell them to keep their toys in their bag till they get home, not only because I don't want them to lose them, I want to spare them the heartache that they will get when other kids see it and take it away from them.
I try to teach them how to ignore teasing and taunts by thinking good thoughts in their heads instead of talking back to the teaser (though that does not always work).
I tell Ihsan to wear sandals to the park so that his feet doesn't get sweaty and hot and he won't have to take off his shoes (and other boys won't play with his shoes and throw it up a tree again).
I teach my kids how to 'trade': when they want something some other person has, offer them something you have that they might like.
I try really hard to teach my kids that hitting someone is very very bad. (unfortunately I am not very good at teaching them this)

Sometimes I wonder if I am raising my kids to be sissies. Am I?

But then again, when I watch the news nowadays, I think I'd rather be raising my kids that way rather than see them burn buildings just because some bully somewhere rattled their cage.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The 100th day of School and The Lost Shoe

The 100th Day of School
Today is the 100th day of school and the kids are allowed to go to school in plain clothes. Since this whole week was Book Week, they are also expected to come as a character from their favourite book or a fable/tale/traditional story that they like.

Keeping in-line with the frog prince bookmark that Ilham made , he went to school dressed as The Frog Prince. We don't have a frog suit, so Ilham just put on khaki-green pants, a green t-shirt and we made a frog prince hat.

Ihsan had brought "Have You Seen My C@t?" to school as his favourite book, so he decided to dress up as 'the boy who was looking for his cat'. (I asked him whether he wanted to be a cat instead, coz then I'd make him a cat hat or mask or something, but he insisted on being the boy). So he put on regular clothes and I made him a sign saying "Have You Seen My C@t?" and he drew a fat cat on it. He brought it to school instead of putting it on straight away, because he was afraid he would accidently tear it on the bus. He's going to ask his teacher to help put it on his shirt when he gets to school.
(oh, Ihsan also went to school with a tupperware of cucur keria (sweet potato doughnuts, which he will share with his friends).

The Lost Shoe

I was in such a bad mood yesterday, I don't know why.. I think I'm still a bit off today.
Anyways, the kids went to play at one of the playgrounds while I was preparing tea. When they came home, I found Ihsan missing one shoe. He said one of the boys threw his shoe up a tree and now they can't get it.
I told them to go to Moham@d Jund1's (that's the boy's name) house and tell his mother about it. From my kitchen window I saw them run past the boy's house and towards the park instead. It was starting to get dark and I was starting to get really irritated that they didnt follow my instructions, so I put on my head scarf and went out to look for them.
They really got an earful from me. It was like question after question and their answers were too slow and were never good enough.
They showed me the shoe up the tree. It was really high up on the date tree. They had propped up one of the plastic slides against the tree but they couldn't reach it.

We went to the boy's house, but nobody answered the door and the house looked dark. I guess they had gone out while we were at the playground looking at the shoe.
I berated my kids again.

Why did you take your shoes off in first place?
Why did you let Moham@d Jund1 play with your shoes?
Why didnt you go to his house like I told you?
That's it, you're never going to the playground again.
Wait till your father comes home.

Well, Taufik came home and injected some rationality into the whole situation. He suggested we call the parents and just ask them to retrieve the shoe for us, in a calm and rational way. I said okay, but he would have to be the one making the call, because I wasn't in the mood to be calm and rational.
Unfortunately, the Jund1 household were out the whole evening.

This morning I was mulling about the the shoe, and I decided, I am definitely not in the mood to call Moham@d's mom. I don't think I am in the right mood to be able to talk to her without sounding accusatory and creating animosity.
So I decided to call the grounds security. I told them what happened and asked them whether they could help me get the shoe. I had to go to the playground and show them exactly where the shoe was. They said they will ask one of the gardeners to help get it and send it to our house.

A few minutes ago the doorbell rang, and there was the gardener with Ihsan shoe.


But wait till I see Moham@d Jund1.... I hope I will be in a better mood by then

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Serunding Udang (erm.. dried fried shrimp floss?)

If you also read lollies, you'll notice that we expat mommies are always cooking up something. As she said, we really don't have a choice, coz
1) We can't really stand eating ar@b fare day after day. We very the melayu one!! nasi kena ada kuah, masak kena guna bawang.
2) We have nothing better to do anyways. Dok saja karang.. gemuk lak
3) If we don't cook, who will? Our moms are so far away from us. Kalau tak I dah lama telpon or jalan kaki pegi rumah mama aje.. which was exactly what I did when I went back home last time
4) If you're pregnant, like me, and you crave for something that's not even sold here, you have no choice but to cook it yourself.

Another point that lollies brought up was that whenever there are a gathering of Melayus, you are usually expected to bring something. I don't really feel the pressure of being judged by my cooking, but I do know that I get slighted very easily when I see my dish go unfinished (even at home). Plus, I try to vary what I bring, for fear of being labeled as the Makcik Cekodok, or Minah Nasi Goreng or the Pasta Lady.
So that is why you see me trying out new recipes almost every week. Usually I would crave for something, then I would search for the recipe and I would try it out and if I think it's edible, then I would bring it to gatherings to show off test it out.
Slowly, slowly, my repertoire is building.. :)

Anyways. This week I was craving for Cucur Badak (sweet potato balls with spicy shrimp+coconut filling) coz Ihsan asked for Cucur keria (sweet potato doughnuts) so I made some and I had leftover filling, which in turn made me crave for Pulut and Serunding Udang (glutinous rice with dried fried shrimp floss ) ...
Long story short, I ended up making lots of Serunding Udang, so I brought it to my tajweed class last night (together with glutinous rice) and found that my test subjects classmates really liked it. Well, at least they liked it enough to ask me for the recipe.

So you can say that what I will put here is the tried and tested recipe for Serunding Udang..

Serunding Udang

5-8 pieces of dried chillies (or 2 tablespoons of chilli powder, adjust for spiciness)
5 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of lemon grass
½ inch gallangal root
3 handfuls of dried shrimps (the fat ones, roughly 80grams, but the more the tastier)

Don't pound/blend:
50-100grams dessicated coconut (or freshly grated coconuts if you can get them)
½ can coconut milk (err.. roughly 1 cup, i guess?)
2 handfuls of the thin dried shrimp (udang kepal? They are very tiny and thin and almost transluscent)
salt and sugar to taste (I used brown sugar coz it gives a great color in the end)

In a big wok or frying pan, saute the pounded ingredients in 2 tablespoons of oil till fragrant. Dump in the coconut, coconut milk, and the dried shrimps and stir to mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Under the lowest heat you can possibly manage*, continuously stir ingredients until all the liquid is dried up and the ingredients are fried to your desired crispiness. (Personally, I prefer it really crunchy and crispy). Just before everything is totally dry, taste again and add salt/sugar if necessary.

*Note: You have to constantly stir the ingredients to avoid burning it. Believe me, it takes a while for it to dry up and get crispy. Choose a heat level that you have the patience to handle (The lower the heat, the longer it takes to dry up).
At some point you're gonna feel like it's NEVER gonna dry up.. don't give up, coz a perfect end result is so rewarding!
If you need to stop for any reason (e.g. to go watch American Idol, for instance), turn off the heat, take the pot off the stove, and stir until the pot is cooled before leaving it. When you're ready to continue, stir everything while the pot is heating up on the stove.

Eat with cooked glutinous rice (1 cup glutinous rice, 1 cup coconut milk, cook uncovered under high heat till boiling, then cook covered under low heat until it's tender) or even on a buttered toast. YUM YUM YUMMMY!

Variations of this dish that I can think of:
Use anchovies instead of shrimp.
Make it entirely out of the un-pounded thin dried shrimp.
Add fried peanuts? hm.. could be interesting.

Happy trying! ... and don't forget to tell me if it turns out great. (Or not).

Monday, February 06, 2006

Learning to write

We were in the kitchen and Anis was practicing her writing while I was cooking when she asked me,
"Bonda, double you macam mana?" (Mom, how do I write double-u?)
"Turun bawah, naik atas, turun bawah, naik atas" (Go down, then up, then down, then up again), I said.
"oh macam ni?" (oh like this?)
and she proceeded to write the letter W successfully.
"Yes! that right! pandai anis.." (Anis is smart..) , I patted her head.
"macam shey eff see shan?" (it's like shey eff see, right?), she grinned at me.
"KFC? macam mana lak macam KFC?" (KFC? How can it be like KFC?) , I was confused
"macam shita mashan burger, fries.." (like where we go to eat burger, fries) , she explained.
"oh... you mean macam McDonald's!! That's an M, sayang" (oh you mean like McDonalds!! That's an M, love.)
"Bonda, M macam mana?" (Mom, how do I write M?) she made a quizzical face
"macam double-u tapi terbalik. Start dari bawah.. naik atas, turun bawah, naik atas, turun bawah.." (it's like W but upside down. Start from the bottom.. go up, down, up, and down again) I showed her how
"Yay!! Shey Eff See!" she raised her hands in triumph.
"M lah! Bukan KFC" (it's the letter M, not KFC)
"oshay...." and she starts to scribble something else.

"Bonda, cuba tengok, apa anis tulis.." (Mom, try and see what I wrote) and she held up her writing book to me
and guess what, next to her M, she had written an E, an O, and a W.
"Meow?? Anis, you just wrote 'meow', sayang! Pandainya!!" as I pointed to the word she had inadvertantly wrote
"Yay!! Meow.... masham shat" (Meow, like a cat) and she went off and started meowing all over the house.

my little cute kitten

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Last Thursday there was a football (soccer) match between the team of under-9 year-olds from Mal@ysia and the team of under-9 year olds from Ar@mco. We woke up really early to go to Ar@mco. I brought a tupperware of cucur keria (sweet potato donuts) for breakfast. As always with any gathering of melayus, there will sure be plenty of food and it turned out to be a picnic of some sort. We ate fried rice and kuihs and drank hot tea before we went to cheer the team.
Even though the team lost 6 to 1, the kids had a great time coz later on someone brought over a huge pot of fried noodles and orange juice, and yoghurt..
(Ilham did not play in the actual game, by the way, coz he only started learning how to play soccer at school, but he did play with some of the other boys after the game was over)
(sorry, no pictures.. I am too embarassed coz I am SO huge!)

After the game we had to send one of our friends to his office on the highway to Abq@aiq. After dropping him off, we got on the highway to make a U-turn further on, but Taufik said, "Hey, why don't we go for a drive?". Anis and Ihsan was asleep by then, and Ilham agreed, so we stayed on the Abq@iq highway.

So there we were, on our tiny trip to the middle of nowhere...

Roughly in the middle of the journey, we started seeing huge rocky outcrops (which was quite stark compared to the dunes and desert), so Taufik took the junction to Shedgum, and when he saw interesting hills (and when the terrain looks safe), he drove off-road. Thank God for 4-wheel drives..
There were patches of sand, but the rock formations were amazing!
We saw rocks that has been eroded by the sand and wind that was shaped like an elephant, a short man with a big head, and a head, among other things. Ilham saw faces in almost every rock urm face.

The kids woke up just in time to take pictures :)

and I managed to take some pictures of the more interesting rocks (and the very blue sky)

(can u see the elephant and the short man?)

After all the running around, we got a bit hungry, so we drove to the nearest town, which is Ud@iliyah, but the town is so small, it only had one traffic light and 2 restaurants. One restaurants was closed, so we had no choice but to go to the only restaurant that was open. This restaurant did not have a family section, so Anis and I couldn't eat there. Taufik bought us burgers and juice and we ate in the car instead, while he and the boys ate rice.

I didn't mind, actually, coz I didnt feel like eating rice anyways. The burgers were quite good. They served it the ar@b way: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, fries, ketchup, meat and cheese, all in a toasted sesame bun. Yes, the fries are served in the burger bun.

After lunch we made the hour drive back home, where everybody but Taufik slept all along the way...

All in all, it was a good adventure. The kids just loved looking at the pictures we took.
I wonder where our next detour will take us next...