Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rice Porridge and Tofu in Soy Sauce

After much deliberation (pizza, maggi goreng, cereal, chocolate cake), we finally decided on bubur (rice porridge) for our lunch today.

clockwise from bottom: fried anchovies, fried potato dices, tofu in soy sauce, spoon. All on rice porridge.

Rice porridge
In a big pot, put in 1 cup of rice with at least 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil on high for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Let simmer till porridge thickens. Add more water if required. Porridge wont overcook, but might burn if the water is dried out, so watch out.

Fried anchovies and potatoes
Deep fry anchovies till crispy.
Dice potatoes, deep fry till cooked.

Tofu in Soy Sauce
1 box of extra firm tofu (or 2 pieces of tauhu)
1 clove garlic
2 cloves shallots
1 tablespoon of taucu (fermented soyabean, optional, but it tastes better)
3 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce
salt n pepper to taste

Dice tofu into bite sized pieces, deep fry or pan fry to toughen up the outer surface (this also makes the tofu hold on to the sauce better). Set aside.
In a pan, saute thinly sliced garlic and shallots in a bit of oil till fragrant. Add in the taucu and fry for a bit before adding a little bit of water (to avoid the garlic from burning).
Add in soy sauce, salt/pepper to taste, stir to incorporate.
Add in the fried tofu, stir gently as not to break them up.

Multi-tasking (i.e. While the porridge is boiling, cut and fry the tofu. While frying tofu, cut the potatoes and peel+slice the garlic+shallots. When tofu is done, fry the potatoes, then anchovies. While porridge simmering/thickening and potatoes or anchovies are frying, make the tofu in soy sauce), got our lunch ready within 45 minutes.
The kids havent tried the tofu yet, so I don't know if they like it, but it was pretty yummy to me :) it goes well with the porridge.

I think this would be a good dish for a weekend brunch ;)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

movie wishlist

if you don't know yet, there are no movie theatres in KSA. That is one of the reasons why S@udis flock over to B@hrain once in awhile, coz over there they can catch the latest movies, even though they'd have to pay about SR20 for a ticket, on top of costs for travel, pop corn and other meals.
They have pirated VCD/DVDs over here, but they're usually them 4-in-1 thingies (where they cram 4 movies into one disc) and the picture quality is not that good (they're the kinds where you can see the audiences' heads in them). Some are even the russian version (where u see titles come out in Russian, not english). But that doesnt stop some people from buying them, because they don't have a choice.

So everytime someone goes home, i compile my wishlist:

Brokeback Mountain
The Constant gardener
Fun with Dick and Jane
Baik Punya Cilok
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Hotel Rwanda
Big Fish
Walk The Line
Mrs Henderson Presents
Memoirs of a Geisha
March of the penguins
The Squid and the Whale
Le Grand Voyage

The Triplets of Belleville
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Howl's moving castle

(I've actually watched Big Fish and The Triplets, but they're the kind of movies that i don't mind owning a copy of, so that i can watch it again)

So you think, do-able or not?
If i can get like, even 10% of my wishlist, I'd be a happy camper.

oh, no... I've caught the bug!

okay first it was Ben, then Ladyvisine, then YoursTruly, and now I've caught it!
(I bet if bloo isnt too caught up in her impending trip, she'd be doing this too!)(btw, I have not been able to call her 'boing')

What one word do you think describes me?
Leave it in the comments then copy and paste this into your blog so I can leave a one word comment about you.

go ahead, knock yourselves out.
or not.

Monday, June 26, 2006

busy day

woah .. today was kinda busy. I was out of the house almost the whole day.
I woke up really early in the morning to make pavlova again, but I don't know why it didnt turn out crunchy. The crust was kinda soft.. maybe I reduced the sugar too much?? but it was still too sweet for me, so how?
9.45am I packed up baby's stuff and the stuff I wanted to send home to my mom via my friend Sharlee (who's going home to M'sia and I'm not) and we took the compound bus to Sharlee's house.
The kids was so happy to be able to visit their friends. They havent seen them since school closed 2 weeks ago.
The kids played upstairs while the mommies chatted and tried out clothes (Sharlee gave me some clothes that turned out to be too small for her). I felt like charity case, but hey it's free clothes and she seemed so sincere, and the clothes were nice so I agreed to accept a dress (which I can wear when I want to feel glamour glamour at home), a psychedelic long skirt and a really cool NafNaf shirt.
The thing is, I feel kinda close enough to Sharlee that I didnt mind that she even offered. It's almost sister-like coz me and my sisters steal share each other's clothes when we get the chance (and can fit into them) too.

Then we mommies watched Last Holiday which made us really hungry so we ordered ppizza and chicken wings and ate while watching. The kids finished up almost 2 large cheese pizzas with bbq wings while the mommies share one whole large extravaganzza pizza and spicy wings. *burp*. I think all the good food in the movie egged us on.
Then we ate my not-so-pavlova, then I wanted to go home coz I wanted to catch Starting Over, but the kids wanted to go swimming, so Sharlee brought them swimming while I stayed at her house coz Izani wanted to sleep but couldnt do it before coz the kids were so noisy.
I think he slept for like half an hour (and I also took a nap), then I finished off my own pavlova. Then I changed Izani coz he pooped. Then the kids came home at around 3pm. They showered and came downstairs to watch Hoodwinked while eating pop corn and Sharlee prepared dinner for her husband.
I figured the movie was gonna end at almost 5pm, so I called Taufik up asking if he could come and pick us up instead of me calling a cab.
So we ended up staying at Sharlee's till like 6pm or so.
I came home, warmed leftover pizza in the oven and made some creamy spaghetti to go with it.

and here I am.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Thankyou, Chef Herbert Sachse*

* In 1935, Chef Herbert Sachse of the Hotel Esplanade, Perth, Western Australia, created the pavlova to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
- taken from Dahran British Grammar School's International Cookbook

o. my. god.
I made pavlova today.
and it. was. SO. GOOD!

The first time I tasted this dessert was at Taufik's ex-boss's christmas party. I think his boss's wife put bananas on it.
The first time i saw it made was in n1gella laws0n's cooking show, and was amazed at how damn easy it was. I swore I would try to make it one day.

I cannot take credit for making this recipe easy peasy, because it is already so easy to make. I wanted to make a small pavlova, coz I didnt want to end up with too much leftover like I had with the chocolate cake, so I halved n1gella's recipe for passionfruit pavlova. (you can also look at what hers look like). I didnt have any passionfruit or any fresh fruits, for that matter, so I used sliced up canned peaches instead.
As I am typing this, Ihsan is eating the last quarter of the one I made, so I doubt I'm gonna get a chance to take a picture of it. Maybe next time, eh?

But because I want to torture you, I'll describe what it tasted like:
The pavlova itself had a crunchy outer crust, but the middle was fluffy and almost marshmallow like. Anis actually asked me whether it was a biscuit coz it was crunchy. The crust that melded with the whipped cream on top didnt become soggy, but addictively chewy. The oh so rich whipped cream topping balanced the sweetness of the pavlova and the peaches gave a nice fruity sweet-sour edge to the whole thing.
I was literally moaning oh my god oh my god with each bite i took. I think I sprained my eyeballs from rolling it around so much. It was *that* good.
I thought mine tasted too sweet though, so the next time I make it, I'll probably reduce the amount of sugar.

okay so the next time I make it, I'll try to take a picture before eating it (coz it does look very pretty) and I'll post the halved recipe here. (nigella's recipe makes an 8 to 9 inch pavlova, mine was only about 6 inches)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Colours of the desert

desert, not dessert.. so you guys can stop drooling, now.

These were taken during our trip to R1yadh. I found it amazing. Even though it was nothing but sand, we were still captivated by the view throughout the journey. The way the shape and colour of the sand dunes changed as we travelled along was enough to keep us in awe. Sometimes we could even see sand being blown off the tips of the dunes by the wind, against the blue sky.
There were also camels of every colour, white, brown, yellow, orange, even black, but cars (including ours) were moving too fast for us to capture a picture of them.

Updated Izani's Blog.

Friday, June 23, 2006

sandwich chocolate cake

heh heh. This is a very very cheat recipe.

As I had said, I made 2 round 8-inch-in-diameter chocolate cake (from a cake mix in a box).
The first one I had put a sweet whipped cream frosting. I put a quarter of it in a tupperware, and on my daily weekly walk, I stopped by at Kak Liza's (the new melayu that just moved in to my compound) house and dropped it off, while I peeped in to see how she's getting along with unpacking her stuff.
Kak Liza had just moved from Om@n. Her husband and her are seasoned expats, having also lived in Edinburgh and Balik Papan (that's in Kalimantan, Indonesia), therefore they had accumulated quite an amount of stuff from their travels. about 130 boxes of it.
yes you can gasp, coz I did too.
it made my house feel SUPER SUPER SUPER bare.
But back to the chocolate cake, coz it makes me feel better than thinking about a bare house.

I still had one more chocolate cake to eat up.
So here's what I did:
. take a knife and cut along the diameter into two round pieces.
. in the mixing bowl, whip up whipping cream with 4 tablespoons of Milo + 1 tablespoon of sugar till stiff peaks form.
. spread the chocolate whip cream on to the bottom piece of the cake, then put the top piece back on.
. voila, a chocolate sandwich chocolate cake!

yum yum yummeh!! ... jangan marah...

"macam beli kat kedai!! " (it's just like the ones from the store) said Ihsan as he gobbled up 2 pieces, one after another.

Definitely will do this again next time.

p/s I didnt tell you that I bought myself a hand-mixer. That's why I've been able to whip stuff up, without batting an eyelid (jangan harap kita nak whip guna tangan, babe!). I bought the hand mixer at the boys' school's Spring Fair. They had a booth selling items donated by parents and someone donated a blackndecker handmixer and it was selling for just 35riyals! woohooo!!!

Watch out for these recipes in the future:
no bake chocolate cheesecake (for bear+diah) and pavlova (thanx to nigella).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

fat facts part 2

i think there's something about this house that wants me to be fat.
For the past few days I have been getting a whif of someone baking chocolate cake. In the middle of the night.
it drives me crayzee!

so yesterday I baked 2 chocolate cakes (coz the mix was for 2 eight inch round pans).
we had some for dessert after dinner.
this morning I whipped up some cream with a bit of sugar and my kids and I had chocolate cake with whipped cream frosting for breakfast.

how to kurus like this????

and I still have another cake sitting in the cool oven waiting to be eaten.

I think i'll bring it to my neighbour instead.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The fat fact.

updated on izani
aren't you guys like, sick of him yet?


I believe I'm going to be fat.

You see, I've been breastfeeding while lying down.
Firstly, because Izani is getting to be really heavy. My arms get tired real fast when I breastfeed him while sitting up.To get a picture of how this feels like, try cradling a 5kg sack of rice in your arms for 20 minutes. See? And he's actually 6 kilos, not just 5 kilos.
If i lie down, I don't have to support his weight, only his head.
Secondly, usually he falls asleep after feeding. So rather than having to lift him up and put him on the bed and risk waking him up for another feed, I could just unlatch him and carefully remove my arm from under his head.

He's been feeding quite often nowadays. Sometimes I get 2 hours between feeds (that is if I give him the bottle), but most of the time, it's only 15 or 30 minutes, or an hour, tops. Sometimes I'd feed him, put him down, go the loo, and find out he wants another feed the moment I step out of the bathroom.
Sometimes I'd only have time to put something on the stove before one of the older kids (or all 3 of them all at the same time) would yell down "Bonda...!! The baby wants milk!!".
At least 3 times a day, I would just finish my breakfast or lunch or dinner and the baby wants milk, so I would have to lie down after a meal, which is a sure fire way of getting f.a.t.

And don't tell me that breastfeeding would help me lose the pregnancy weight, coz I don't believe you. I've been breastfeeding 3 kids, okay? and I'm still fat. Nina and TDB did not breastfeed their babies as much as I did, and they are reed thin. So I think it has nothing to do with breastfeeding at all.

And I've been lying about the daily walk.
It's not really "daily".
It's more like "only when I get the chance to cook dinner early". Which is only like .. urm.. twice a week or so.

And I don't know if doing housework is effective at making me lose weight either. Especially when I do it halfway and have to stop to breastfeed every now and then. (it also does not help that i spend most of my free time on my a** in front of the computer... heh heh).

Let's just face it.
I'm gonna be fat.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Battle of the Bedrooms

updated izani's blog.


After 2 days of Ilham going back on his promise that if he plays with the PS2 he will sleep on his own, the day before his excuse was that the leaky tap was noisy and kept him awake (therefore he has to sleep in our room). So yesterday I got the tap fixed. When he still did not want to sleep in his own bed last night, it was the last straw. I firmly (read: raised my voice) told Ilham that he has run out of excuses. I pulled their comforters and chased them out of my room into theirs.
I ordered them to get into bed and pull the comforters up to their chin and to go to sleep. I asked them whether they wanted the lights on or off (Ihsan wanted it on), the door opened or closed (Ilham wanted it open). Ilham whimpered please please but I stood firm and said goodnight.

A few minutes later I heard a soft knock on our bedroom door.
"Ayah?" Ilham called softly.
"Yes Ilham... I am here, go back to sleep" Taufik answered
"Ayah.. you're a kind man.. please let me sleep with you" Ilham pleaded.
I sternly told Taufik not to cave in. To say nothing else and let me handle it.
I marched to the door and opened it.
I stood with my hands on my hips and glared "Hah! Apa lagi?? kenapa tak tidor lagi??" (What else do you want? Why aren't you asleep yet?)

"But Bonda, I love you.. I want to be near you" Ilham tried to explain while I poked and pushed them back to their room.
"Ilham," I started, "You're a big boy now. You promised me that you would start sleeping in your room when the holiday started. But you broke that promise. Then you promised me that if you played PS2, you would sleep in your own room. You broke that promise too. Then you said the leaky tap was the reason, but I fixed the tap, and still you wont sleep in your room. I am really dissapointed, you know? and I am really angry that you broke your promises. Now tell me the truth, what is the problem? So that we can fix it and you can sleep in your room. Bottom line, I want you to sleep in your own room".
"I don't like my room" he said.
"Why. Why don't you like your room? Coz it's messy? You made the mess. Tomorrow you clean it up. tonight you're still sleeping in it." I argued.
Ilham was at a loss for a moment, while Ihsan sat on one corner of the bed, smiling his sheepish smile. Ihsan didnt seem to have a problem. He sleeps anywhere his brother sleeps.

"Are you afraid that we wont love you anymore if you're not sleeping with us?" I finally offered.
"Urm.. yes" Ilham said reluctantly.
"Ilham, I don't sleep with nenek, does it mean I dont love her, or nenek doesnt love me? I still love her, but I'm a big girl, so I do not need to sleep with nenek anymore. I still know that she loves me even if we are not near each other." I half-explained-half-nagged.
"But I am a special boy, I need to be near my parents" Ilham made another excuse.
"Because you are a special boy, I think you are strong and brave enough to sleep on your own. I want you to be independent. We would be so proud of you if you could sleep on your own. I know you can do it. You just have to try" I said.
He looked at me with tears slowly drying from his eyes.
"So, if I sleep in my own room, it will make you happy?" he finally said.
"Yes, it will make me happy and proud" I said.
"Okay. I will try" he said.
wahhh so easy ah?? why didnt I think of this earlier?

So we said our goodnights and I love yous and we hugged and I tucked him into bed.
After much lecturing, threatening, begging, cajoling, negotiating, explaining and nagging, it finally took a good scolding and forcing to make them really do it.
We woke up this morning and they were still in their own bed.
Taufik decided to write Ilham a little note before he went off to work:

"Dear Ilham,
Congratulations! You made it. You slept in your room. We are so proud of you. I love you too.

I gave Ilham the note when he woke up and told him what a good job he did.
I heard him singing "Ilham is the bravest and best boy" in the shower this morning.


I hope I'm not jinxing it by writing this.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

the REAL domestic goddess

I was surfing for no-bake cheesecake recipes coz the one I tried to create on my own turned out to be too cheesy (not enough sugar) and too soft and I discovered her: The REAL domestic goddess.
Her site made me feel really hungry and ...urm... amateurish. *shame*

I am sure ben would be pleased to find out that she's canadian. ;)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Easy Peasy Summer Coolers

I have updated on Izani's latest progress.
I'm amazed that you guys arent bored yet.

It's starting to get really hot here, the temperatures hovering between 37 to 45 degrees Celcius. So I had lotsa excuses to eat ice cream and make smoothies.

Peaches are starting to be in season, so I bought a few the other day and made Peach Almond Crumble. I followed the same recipe for Strawberry Almond Crumble, but since I was using a smaller baking pan, I halved the topping recipe (an added crushed peanuts, coz I had some lying around). Ate the Peach Crumble with a dollop of Vanilla Ice-cream before and after going on our daily walk. ;)

Top, Left: fresh peaches, Right: cut up and mixed with sugar
Bottom, Left: The whole concoction, Right: Served with vanilla ice cream

I also had an extra bag of frozen strawberries from when I made the Strawberry Almond Crumble, so I decided to make strawberry smoothies.
The first one I made turned out almost like a sorbet coz I added only a little bit of water (and sugar, of course). The next one I followed Ilham's suggestion to add some milk and it turned out into a delicious smoothie!
Easy Peasy Strawberry Smoothies

2 handfuls of frozen strawberries (Only defrost for a few minutes at room temp, dont let it go soggy)
water or milk (I used about a quarter to half a cup.. i didnt really measure. Use less to make thicker smoothies)
2 tablespoons of sugar (Adjust to your liking)

Put everything into your blender, smooth using pulse mode. Pour into glasses. Enjoy!

The Sorbet and The Smoothie

Anis thoroughly enjoying a cooling treat

We had to drink/eat ours with a spoon coz they were so thick.

the ps2 plan ...


Last night before bed i reminded the boys that they were supposed to sleep in their room, since the played with the ps2.
Ilham said "okay, i wont play with it anymore"
"are you sure??" i ask incredulously.
"I can live without it" he said, though not so convincingly.
i looked at Ihsan, "how about you ihsan?"
Ihsan just smiled sheepishly.

i said okay and let them sleep in my room. While they were asleep and I was waiting for The Apprentice, i unplugged the dang thing and stored it in an undisclosed location.
I spent the commercial breaks thinking about how to get the boys to sleep in their own room now that I dont have the PS2 bargaining chip anymore..

So this morning I lovingly told Ilham why he needs to sleep in his own room, that he's a grown up, he needs to learn to be independent, that it does not meen I love him any less, it may even mean i love him even more.
He was like, "uh, okay..", I wasnt sure whether he really comprehended.

After breakfast they came upstairs and realized that the PS2 was really gone.
They came to me pleading "please please please I wll sleep in my own room tonight" and I said they'd have to prove they'd sleep in their room before they could get to play with the PS2.
More pleading and promises and excuses ("It's Ayah, he's the one who wants to play!") later, Taufik got fed up of them bugging him to ask me to take out the PS2, and asked them to promise promise promise they'd sleep in their room from now on and they said they promise promise promise.
So i told them the general location of the PS2 and made them go on a treasure hunt of some sort.
They found it within a minute.
kalau mintak tolong ambik blanket adik, duduk depan mata pun tak jumpa..

So they're now playing with the PS2.
If they don't sleep in their room tonight, I swear, they're gonna get an earful from me!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

First day of holiday

Today is the first day of holiday for the boys.
It's actually the last day of school, but since the other two boys from our compound who goes to the same school did not want to go to school, we thought that it'd be better if our boys didnt go to school as well, coz then then bus wont have to waste time and fuel to send and pick up only 2 boys. Plus today was a half-day, class ends at 11:30am today.

Ihsan woke up at 6:30am as usual and the first thing he did was turn on the TV. I heard Taufik woke up to talk to Ihsan and the next thing I heard was the theme song for Sonic Heroes.. he had set-up the PS2.
I told Taufik to have Ihsan brush his teeth, shower and have breakfast first before he plays anything, and he obliged.
Ilham then woke up, and I gave him the same instructions. No PS2 until he has brushed his teeth, showered and had his breakfast.
They know not to mess with me, coz I have clearly warned them yesterday that I will not hesitate to take away the PS2 if they misbehave..
heh heh..
I decided to add another rule this morning, when I was tidying up my bedroom.
I told Ilham that in exchange for them getting to play PS2, they'd have to sleep in their own room.
heh heh
am i cruel?
ah... what the heck, I dont care if I sound cruel.. I'd do anything to get them sleep in their own room. Right now I have the PS2 card to bargain with, dammit, I'll use it.
At around 10am they had a chat with their cousins Adam, Aiysha and Aliya (mokciknab's kids), and I put izani to sleep and then went to do dishes and prepare for lunch and dinner. About an hour later I heard the TV so I had to come upstairs and show Ilham how to give a proper goodbye to Adam, coz he just left Adam hanging online..

It's kinda good to have the kids around, at least they can look after Izani while I prepare lunch.
By popular request, I made porridge today, and since I had some leftover ayam masak kicap (chicken in soysauce), I also made cashew chicken.. yum yum.

I only remembered to take a picture after I've taken a few bites...

I still have to draw up a schedule for the kids.. this time I want to add a session for Quran lessons (tajweed and hafazan) (I am more confident to teach them now, since I've had lessons myself), and proper times for solat (I didnt put that in the last time, but encouraged them to join me when I performed mine, which I performed.. urm.. anytime I please.. *shame*).
I think it's gonna be tougher on me this time around coz I have izani around.. we might have to do a lot of ad-hoc re-scheduling since my time revolves around Izani nowadays..
I'm still gonna have them do reading, arts&crafts and cooking sessions though. And I also have to squeeze in some time for bonda to blog.. (I also need some 'me' time what.....???)

Any other tips or suggestions?
Wish me luck!

Monday, June 12, 2006

DBGS Summer Concerts

okay I didnt post this earlier coz I thought the pictures were terrible.
But then I heard what happened to lollies at her son's concert, and thought maybe I could make her feel better.

Ihsan and Ilham had their Summer Concert on the 4th and 8th of June respectively. We came early for both concerts because we came with Izani and wanted a spot where we could park the stroller and not be in people's way. Plus, we wanted to get strategic seats so that we could take pictures.
Unfortunately there were other parents who are more kiasu than us, who had arrived waaaay much earlier and had taken the front seats. So we still ended up sitting behind people.
In each of the concerts, our child's stage time was maybe about only 5 minutes. For Ihsan's concert, which was held early in the morning, we stayed for the whole thing because it was comfortable enough to do so and also because kids between the ages of 4 to 7 are so cute to watch! For Ilham's concert, however, we waited till it was Ilham's class' turn and we left right after coz they held it at 1pm (it was hot hot hot) and the older kids were not that much fun to watch anyways.
Since there were so many people, the pictures that we managed to capture weren't really of boasting quality..

Ihsan's class sang 3 songs, with actions which were so cute. "Little Red Caboose" had a little train action going. "On a Log" had them imitating a frog, a snake, a bee and a goat. Then they did a little hand jive thingy with "Knick-Knack Paddywack".
Ihsan gave a shy smile when he saw us, and I couldnt hear his voice in spite of us reminding him to open up his mouth as wide as he could and sing as loud as he could during breakfast that morning.

Ilham's class sang 2 songs. The first one was "Ebeneezer Sneezer", which was kinda funny and Ilham had a hard time pronouncing Ebeneezer Sneezer so everytime the chorus came, he kept trailing behind. The second song was "There's a Little Wheel that's turning in my heart", which was such a cute song and Ilham sang so loud that we instantly picked up his voice. We were so proud of him because the last time he sang on stage, we couldnt hear him at all.

From attending the kids' concerts in the past year, what I picked up was that they sing the songs that they had learnt in Music class throughout the term, so basically they're singing songs that I had heard them sing in the shower several times before. It's nothing new, it's just a way for them to show parents what they have managed to learn so far.
I have also learnt that concert pictures are never ever clear. They're always blurry and your kid's face is but a tiny speck in a crowd of faces.

So Lollies, don't feel bad.. you can ask Haziq to give you a private concert at home..! :)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

*knock knock*

*knock knock*

anybody home?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

Before I start, just wanted to announce that I have updated Izani's blog with the latest post: Sibling Smooches.

I borrowed this book from Sharlee, and read it while breastfeeding Izani. It took me about a week to finish reading it.

I thought the book was beautifully written. The language used is simple and not too bombastic, and I like the way it sounded like a woman was telling the story.
I absolutely loved the descriptions of the sceneries, the smells and sounds of the okiya and the teahouses, and of course the kimonos.. oh the kimonos..! It made me want to own one!
The story was quite intriguing. I kept on reading, wanting to know what happens to Chiyo/Sayuri next. I thought the author fleshed out his characters well. Chiyo was not potrayed as a simple, good girl, victim character, but she also had a stubborn and mean streak in her. I did however, grew tired with her obsession with The Chairman, and thought the ending was too common, like the ones you would find in every Mills&Boons book. I felt sorta cheated, like the book was actually really a Mills&Boons disguising itself underneath all the silk and cherry blossoms and complicated Japanese traditions.
I also found some of the things that geisha's go through quite appaling, especially about mizuage, selling a little girl's virginity to the highest bidder (it's borderline paed0philia!) and then danna, selling a woman's physical loyalty, also to the highest bidder. Just because all these are glamorized by the donning of expensive kimonos, hairdos, make-ups and strict procedures, the world considers it 'cultured', but the covering of a woman's hair using a simple veil is considered 'oppresive'. What double standards!

After reading this book, I found myself trying to do things more elegantly , imagining myself wearing a kimono and serving my husband in a teahouse.
The other day I had to put on my batik sarong because Izani peed on my last pair of clean pants and I found myself admiring the bold colorful prints and felt kinda .. hm.. feminine in it, almost like a geisha. And I subconciously try to walk and talk more softly and gently..
damn.. this book is evil, i tell you.

I'm want to watch the movie, just to see the splendid images.
rotidua: cue for u and firhad to look for this DVD.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Easy Peasy Strawberry Almond Crumble

The original recipe I followed was for Apple&Blackberry Crumble, which I got from thecookbook that the boys' school's Parent Volunteer Group compiled (and I contributed 2 recipes to) and sold.

I don't really like apples and I couldnt find blackberries so I decided to use strawberries instead. There weren't any fresh ones (Plus fresh ones are a bit expensive) so I used frozen ones instead (only SR5.20 per kilo).
I also didnt want a plain crumble topping, so I decided to add some almonds into the topping to give it a bit of an edge.

Easy Peasy Strawberry Almond Crumble

500g fresh strawberries sliced or cut into small pieces(or any kinds of berries/fruits you like, I used 1kg of frozen strawberries, reduced to 500g after defrosting*)
100g castor sugar

150g flour (i used plain white, self raising flour)
100g finely ground almonds (either buy them ready ground ones or just put some almonds thru your spice mill)
half teaspoon baking powder
100g unsalted butter
100g brown sugar
a handful of roughly chopped almonds (optional)

Pre-heat your oven to 375deg Farenhite.
For filling: Mix the strawberries with castor sugar thoroughly. Taste and add more sugar if necessary (coz some strawberries are more sour than others). Spoon into a 1.7L baking dish.
For crumble topping: Mix flour, ground almonds and baking powder thoroughly in a huge bowl. Rub in butter (with your fingers) to form fine breadcrumb-like mix. Carefully stir in brown sugar and chopped almonds.
Sprinkle crumble topping over the filling till it is completely covered.
Bake for 30-40 minutes till the top is golden brown. Set aside to cool before serving.

* Note: Since I used frozen strawberries, I had to defrost them first and they turned out to be quite soggy. In an attempt to reduce the sogginess, I decided to cook the filling over medium heat. When that didnt work too well, I added 2 teaspoons of corn flour to thicken it. It turned out okay. If you use fresh fruit, you do not need to cook them first. I think at least it'd retain its 'crunchiness'

This was served on its own or with a choice of vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream. YUMMEH!
The topping was nutty and crunchy and crumbly and buttery with just a slight sweetness, while the filling was fruity sweet and tangy and really soft.

Happy trying!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

busy busy bee

okay I can't write much today coz I've got lotsa things to do.

1. I just updated Izani's blog: "Grandad Loves Me"
2. I have to cook lunch coz Taufik's coming home for lunch. I made kari telur yesterday, so today I'm gonna use the leftover gravy to make mee kari.
3. Taufik is coming home for lunch because right after lunch we're gonna go to the school to watch Ilham's summer concert.
4. Tonight I have a dinner invitation at Shalee's, and I'm in charge of dessert. I'm gonna try my hand at making strawberry almond crumble. sounds yummy? I hope so. if it works well, you know I will post pictures and recipes..

tomorrow is the weekend, I dont know whether I'll be able to blog, so see you whenever I see you :)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

what did I do to deserve my kids?

I have been so blessed.. Masya-Allah, Alhamdulillah

I was watching Starting Over while breastfeeding Izani a few days ago when Anis came to me excitedly.
"Bonda, Bonda, come see what I did!" pointing towards the children's bedroom (which they dont sleep in, but has all the 3 kids' stuff in it).
I asked her to wait till izani has finished breastfeeding and she patiently said okay.
When the show was over, I put izani to bed and walked to the children's bedroom, expecting to see a sculpture, or a stack of books (coz Anis loves stacking stuff up), or a completed jugsaw puzzle (the only one we have and therefore the one she always plays with) or maybe a drawing on the computer or something.
To my suprise, she showed me a clean room.
I mean, a really clean room.
There were no clothes on the floor. The towels all neatly hung on the towel rack. The boxes and books neatly stacked on the desk. There wasnt a thing on the carpet of the whole room.
I screamed in delight "Oh thankyou so much, Anis!! That was so nice of you!!"
You should've seen the look of pride on her face when I kissed her.
and for the next few days, that was all I would hear about. How she cleaned the room all by herself.

Yesterday I was bit stressed out coz Izani didnt want to take a nap and all he wanted was someone to hold him all the time. It was Monday and that usually means I have to get dinner ready early coz Taufik had tajweed classes at 7:30pm. Furthermore Tajweed classes means I have to make something and I had wanted to make creme caramel. On top of that, there was a stack of dishes sitting in the sink since morning.
So I was like going back and fourth between the kitchen and the bedroom, doing stuff halfway, having to turn off the stove everytime I had to go see what Izani wants, and finally I brought Izani downstairs and put him in the carseat in the kitchen while I cook.
Izani still wouldnt settle down and the boys came back from playing in the park and Ihsan wanted to learn to rollerblade using his dad's rollerblades, which was of course to big for him and got me all agitated coz I started imagining him falling down and twisting his ankle. and my goreng pisang was burnt black!!
Somehow it got too much that I made the boys go upstairs watch TV and I sat at the kitchen table with Izani over my shoulder and I cried.
The phone rang and I heard Ilham pick up. From the way he talked, I figured he was talking to his dad.
After he put down the phone he came downstairs to the kitchen. The moment he saw me in tears, he stopped in his tracks.
He then proceeded cautiously and said "Um.. Bonda.."
I said "yes..."
He looked kinda nervous when he said "Um.. Bonda.. Ayah said his arabic class is cancelled today, so we can eat whatever you've made"
I said "okay".
Ilham sat down and looked at me quietly for a while.
"Bonda, what's wrong?" he finally asked.
"Nothing," I said, "I'm just tired".
"Oh" he said and twiddled his fingers.
I sniffled a bit and patted Izani who was finally going to sleep.
We sat in silence for a while.
Then suddenly Ilham decided to get up, walk to the sink and wash the dishes.
I put Izani back in the carseat, continued frying goreng pisang, checked on my creme caramel in the oven, then marinated the chicken for dinner.
I gave Ilham a hug and said "Thankyou so much, sayang" when he was done with the dishes.

Ihsan helps with arranging the shoes at our front door, but there's no interesting way to tell that story, so I'll tell another one about him.

We were having dinner and discussing about how everyone's day went. Taufik asked Ihsan what he did for Show and Tell and Ihsan said he showed a picture of Taufik and I when we were in Chicago. (it's a picture of Taufik and I on the shores of Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline behind us)
Ihsan said
"I said, This is my father and mother.
Mrs. Snieder asked, where were they?
and I said they were in Chicago.
Mrs Snieder asked where is Chicago and I said I dont know
then everybody said where Chicago is (meaning everybody started guessing where Chicago is)
then Mrs Snieder said it is in Americ@.
Then I said my father did not meet Oprah when he was in Chicago
and Mrs Snieder laughed."

We had a good laugh about that.

I should remember this when I'm nagging and screaming at them.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I believe I can fly

Last night I had the most exhilarating dream.
I dont know about other people, but I have this ability to tell myself I'm dreaming. Sometimes I can even detect a dream within a dream, like you're dreaming that you're asleep and dreaming another dream.
Last night I was fading in and out of wakefulness because I was coughing and also breastfeeding Izani on and off.
But at one point in the night, I dreamt that I was dreaming and at first I was chased by some evil guy who was shooting at me and I was running away in a box-cart (don't ask me why) and I was watching the road turn from asphalt to gravel to dirt to grass then back to asphalt to gravel to dirt to grass.. like the revolving background of a cartoon where the animators were too lazy to bother with details or think the audience won't notice.
I think I got shot or something coz suddenly everything stopped and I was looking at this serene lake with white cranes on it and the cranes started to fly off into the sky and as they did, i felt my soul soar with them.
And I mean i felt it really soar, like something tugging at my chest and sucking the air out of my lungs and throat. and I remember in my dream telling my sleeping self to clutch at my chest and my dream sleeping self did, but I don't know whether I really did.
Anyways, so I started soaring and flying over the trees and houses and I could see streets and rooftops and playgrounds and hills (funnily enough, it looked like PJ). And I remember feeling so elated and exhilirated that I thought hey i've got to remember this and write about it.
But i thought I needed proof (that it realy happened, coz I actually believed my soul was flying) so i reached out my hand at a passing tree and grabbed one of it's tender twigs. It tugged back at first, but then it soon released itself from the rest of the tree and I could smell the bitter sap and notice it had tiny white flowers and oval shaped leaves on them.
I braced myself for a sharp fall, but amazingly i didnt fall sharply. I sorta landed in a swoop, almost like a bird, into a wooden house, in which I woke up, with no twig in hand and a small kid (Anis) tugging at my arm asking me to bring her somewhere.
We were crossing the street when I told myself I should look at the signs to identify where I was so that I'd know it if I saw it again (coz, like i said, I really belive my soul was travelling) and I saw this sign: "SMK Pendang", and I actually said it outloud to Anis, "Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pendang?", as we zig zagged through park cars.
Then I can't remember what happened in the dream.

Next time I come home and we drive back to Alor Setar, I'll ask Taufik to drive me to Pendang.

In other news, this morning I bopped about the room to Pearl jam's World Wide Suicide with Izani on my shoulder, and he seemed to like it :)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fishy cooking

For a change, this is not a true culinary jam post.
Meaning, I won't be the one giving out recipes and cooking tips.
(I am not a true goddess after all.. but I am still a goddess.. a fake one, but still a goddess!!)
(by the way, this reminds me of the start of Neil G@iman's Americ@n G0ds .. if you've read it, you'd know what I mean.. that goddess that swallows guys through her .. you know what)

I digress.

Yesterday Taufik bought a few huge ikan kembung (fish. don't know what it's called in english. nice fish.). I deep fried 2 yesterday (garam kunyit, seasoned with salt and tumeric), so today I decided to do something different, something that I've never tried before but like very much.
I decided to make ikan belah belakang (slice the back of the fish and stuff it with paste made of ground shallots+chillies+tamarind juice), because the fish is big enough for this method.
I seasoned the outside of the fish with salt and turmeric, and decided to deep fry it, coz I read in one of the recipes on the net that I could deep fry it.
Bad Idea.
The paste started falling out of the fish, and got fried in the hot oil. It later burnt and turned the oil and my fish black. and my kitchen smells too.
In the end I didnt have enough of the paste to go with my fish. I think I didnt make the slit at the back deep enough as well. Coz only the top half of the fish were flavoured with the paste, the bottom half remained quite bland.
It was still yummy though, by my standards.

So my question(s) to you, my dear readers, is(are):
1. How deep should the slit be? I don't want to accidently filet the fish..
2. How do I keep the paste from spilling out while I deep fry it?
3. I don't have a grill, can I pan fry it with just a little bit of oil? Will that work?
4. How else can I cook it? Can I wrap it in foil and chuck it in the oven? (Temperature? for how long?) (No banana leaves, please. They're damn expensive over here) and how do I avoid it from getting watery (coz the steam gets trapped in the foil).

Appreciate your suggestions!
If your tip works, I promise to take pictures and post the successful result here!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Why so short?

Coz I'm sick... :(

I have a horrible throat infection. Which made it difficult for me to sleep last night. I went to see my gynae and she checked it out, and prescribed me antibiotics and this horrid brown liquid to gargle with.

I had just updated on Izani's Progress.
and since many people have been asking me when I'm going to come home, I'll write a bit about that as well.

Okay, the situation is this:

1. We just applied for Izani's passport 2 weeks ago (was it 2 weeks? or 3? nevermind). It usually takes 3 months for his passport to be ready. After we get the baby's passport, we need to include him into Taufik's iqama (work permit). Only after the baby is included in the work permit can we apply for a multiple entry visa for him. So till he gets his passport, I will not be able to go aaanywhere. Not even to Bahr@in. Do u think we'll get everything ready by July? You do the math.

2. We booked tickets for a flight home on July 22nd. That booking has been confirmed, but the flight back to Bahr@in has not been confirmed. Summer is like the peak season for travelling in the Ar@b countries, and as both S@udis and M@laysians will attest, these people will flock KLCC, Sunw@y Lagoon, Langk@wi, Pen@ng and Melak@ during the summer holidays. Do u think we'll get flight tickets? We doubt it.

3. They just announced an increase in flight tarrifs. bummer. Put that on top of it being peak travelling season, double bummer. A friend who wanted to holiday in scotland discovered that it was cheaper to fly from KLIA to Glasgow than from B@hrain to Glasgow, even though she's already halfway there in terms of distance.

So I think it is safe to say that we won't be able to go home till december.
Once Izani gets his passport however, we might take a short vacation somewhere somewhere.. Maybe even drive to Q@tar, since gas only costs 60 halallas(cents) per litre. Boleh tak, Lollies?