Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Playing Cupid

So, the weekend papers were filled with nothing but pages after pages of Valentine's gift ideas (of course they were the same old chocolate and flower gimmicks, only packaged differently this time around, as they always are each year apparently), restaurant recommendations, jewellery ads and so on and so forth. But much to my surprise, there were also articles on the increasing percentage of single people in today's society - therefore, in addition to the pages of V-Day specials for couples, this time around there were also write ups on local matchmaking agencies like Lunch Actually.

Actually, the paragraph above doesn't really have anything to do with what this post is all about - a fab dinner I had last night - except some of us took it upon ourselves to play matchmaker to a friend. So, why pay RM100 for an agency to arrange a date for you when you have friends like us?

Apparently my guy friend, X (friendship at stake - no names will be disclosed) was set up by our mutual friends on Sunday night at a party. At the end of the night - whether by choice or by force, I know not - X and the young lady had each other's numbers programmed into their phones.

Last night at dinner, my friends and I decided to help X make the first move - actually, I decided it was time and conveniently took his phone out of his hand while he was showing me the young lady's number as proof of being set up. We assumed that he was probably interested but was too embarassed to do anything about it. So, I took it upon myself to send her a text message asking her out to dinner this week. Nothing wrong, yes? Well, to my horror, my other friend, Y, had accidentally sent the first message I typed asking the young lady out to dinner "tomorrow" - which is today - Valentine's Day. WHAT AN IDIOT (yes, and if you're reading this, it's your fault!). He thought he had only saved it, but what he actually did was SAVE AND SEND. So she received two messages from X, minutes apart from each other asking her out. How desperate does that look? Honestly, we should have been blacklisted as friends.

But, what's funny is that she had responded to the first message - I will not repeat what it is here - but lets just say that it was nothing less than saying "Yes", only in a very indirect manner. Seconds later, she called (after receiving X's 2nd msg). I don't think I have ever seen X sweat so much. It will be mean of me to say it was funny, but I'm going to anyway. It was funny. By the end of dinner, Y and his wife and I were having a jolly good time speculating the results of our matchmaking efforts. We'll see what comes of it.

The moral of the story - when in doubt, give it a shot, you never know (and if you're too embarassed or afraid, get a friend's help. Just be sure to get competent ones.)

Oh, and Happy Valentine's!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Look, Ma! My "kum" got me a husband!

Day Fifteen or Chap Goh Meh:

The last day of Chinese New Year and the birthday of the God of Heaven. Single women throw oranges into the sea or river while eligible suitors wait below to catch or pick up the oranges. Tradition says the man who picks up the orange will marry the damsel who threw it. Lighting lanterns to generate yang energy and prayers at temples will ensure a prosperous New Year.

By Lee Lee Tan

Today is the last day of CNY (or Chap Goh Meh as we like to call it; sometimes referred to as the Chinese Valentine's Day). If you've checked out the links to CGM, you're probably thinking to yourself, "is SHE going to throw some tonight?" The answer is, "NO!" Are you crazy? I have better things to do. Mum once said to me while I was studying in the States, "Go throw some oranges into the ocean. After all, you're only 2 minutes away from it." Hah. Now, THAT is what I call a joke. I don't think anyone really takes this tradition seriously. Of course, us Chinese have tonnes of other traditions and beliefs when it comes to matchmaking.

For fellow M'sians who missed out on Reggie Lee's view of CGM in The Star today, here it is (click on it for a bigger version):

*Ah Lian

Another funny entry submitted by a young reader in today's Star:

Anyhow, one more day and it's back to reality - no more excuses for putting things aside because "it's still CNY!" or "wait-lah, only 3 more days to go."

So...GONG XI GONG XI one last time. Now... should I use the regular A4 size paper or the 8 1/2"x11" American size paper for my resume?

Too stuffed to blog

Vonessa, you are absolutely right. Chinese New Year seems to last forever. Can you tell I have gotten a little slower with the blog postings on the festival? The consistency of laying on the sofa watching tv and munching cookies MEANT FOR VISITORS certainly don't help either.

Day Nine:
Make an offering to the Jade Emperor as today is his birthday. Go to a temple and pray to him to grant your wishes. The Jade Emperor's wife is the Lady of the Nine Heavens who first introduced feng shui to humans, and she will favour those who honour her.

Day Ten to Day Thirteen:
Telephone friends and relatives whom you seldom see and convey your New Year greetings. Reaffirm family bonds with siblings and children. Don't use utensils made of ceramic or stone to avoid discord.

Day Fourteen:
Clean the home in preparation for the Lantern Festival the next day. Ensure a supply of golden mandarin oranges. A good day to hang "Double Happiness" symbols for romance or conjugal happiness. Wear rose quartz rings or jewellery for love.

Lets put it this way - I did none of the above in the past week. I did enjoy a steamboat dinner with some high school friends and that is much better than a two-minute phone call.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Hong Kong - Stanley Market

Day 2, Friday Jan 27.

After all the times we visited Hong Kong, we finally took a trip to the infamous Stanley Market, your one-stop Chinese arts and crafts shopping paradise. Took a double decker bus as it is the most convenient way to get there. Along the way, you will pass Repulse Bay - famous for its long beach and multi million dollar condos. Property prices here start at a few million dollars at the least, and can go up to the hundreds of millions. Here is a picture of a very well known property due to its spectacular feng shui. Properties that are built with its back facing the mountains and the front facing the ocean are considered to be the best. Take note of the hole towards to the right of the building below (I watched a documentary on Hong Kong a few days ago and they explained the significance of the hole) It was created based on a feng shui master's advice. As the building is built between the ocean and the mountains, this hole is created to allow the 'dragon' in the mountains to get to the ocean for water. Pretty interesting. I am not a feng shui fanatic. In fact, I have done many things that have considered to be bad feng shui throughout the years, like sleeping facing a mirror for three years when living in Malibu (which according to feng shui masters and my Caucasian friends brings bad luck). Bad luck or not, I am still healthy and in one piece.

Hole in the middle of a building - Dragon passage to the ocean?; the ocean view of the condo

Stanley Market sign; rows of shops selling a variety of oriental goods at bargain prices

Entrance to Stanley Market; souvenir shop

Fine Art shops where I got some cool oriental artwork; these Chinese stamps are a gem - there are hundreds of crafted jade designs to choose from and you can have your name engraved on the stamp in just about 20 minutes. Made one using our family name that came with a really cool dragon crafted on the jade block. DO NOT buy these at duty free shops like Galleria - they are three times more costly there

And when you get a headache, you can purchase an instant reusable heatpack at the market. Dad bought it for fun. This heatpack is filled with some sort of liquid that will crystalize. Once it is fully crystalized, it becomes hot and will last for a couple of hours.

On the way to Stanley Plaza; The Boathouse - for those who fancy Western food (there is also a pub a few doors away)

Little prayer huts along the streets

Temple at Stanley Plaza

"Ti Kong"

Day eight:
If Hokkien, have another reunion dinner and at midnight, pray to "Ti Kong" or the God of Heaven. A sunny day means a profitable year and a rainy day means care must be taken to avoid losses.

--Lee Lee Tan

My dad's side of the family is Hokkien. When I was kid, we used to Pai Tin Kong (or Bai Tian Gong in Hokkien). My sister and I will accompany dad to Seremban just to buy a roasted pig for this ceremony. A table is set outside the house with various Chinese foods meant for the gods. A little before midnight, friends, neighbours and relatives will come over and we will eat, drink and chat till dawn. After the midnight prayers, the roast pig will be sliced and served. In the morning, we will give some Chinese cakes and the likes to our neighbours. It was really fun and exciting. I remember looking forward to it every CNY. We don't celebrate this day anymore, the last time was back in the 80s.

Tonight, we anticipate a massive jam outside our place. There is a huge temple about three minutes away from us - Thean Hou Temple - and the traffic there is horrendous during CNY. Anyhow, we'll be avoiding that disaster by going up to PJ to see some relatives.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Chinese raw fish salad

Do's and Don'ts of CNY By Lee Lee Tan

Day seven: Invide loved ones to dinner. Serve long noodles mixed with seven types of vegetables to denote longevity. A great day for yee sang or raw fish salad. Everyone at the table should stand and toss the salad together.

Have yet had my share of yee sang this year. You don't necessarily have to have it on the seventh day of CNY. Any day is fine and just as good. It's really fun and everyone tries to top each other by tossing the yee sang as high as they can.

Busy day today. My god family came to visit - cannot get over how adorable my god children, Alex and Shannon are. Later in the evening, my family went to visit my grandma and uncle. It's ten and Mel and Khim are popping by in about half an hour.

Alex enjoying a game of catch the finger with the lion's mouth with my dad, behind are my godparents.

Enjoying my chinese wind fan; Lisa, godsister cum childhood buddy, and hubby David; baby Shannon

Godfather and Shannon

ps: The seventh day of Chinese New Year is also called Yan Yat which means Everybody's Birthday. So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY everyone!

Hong Kong - Introducing the fabulous Octopus

To those who are looking forward to detailed description of Hong Kong's top tourist attractions, I fear you might be a bit disappointed. Whenever my family goes, it's really just to be out of town, to enjoy different food, and to relax. As we know our ins and outs of the place, we did not sign up for any 12-hour day tours which starts with a complimentary 6am morning call. However, we did make it a point to visit a few places we've never been to on this trip.

Day 1. Thursday, Jan 26
Get yourself an Octopus card. This is one of the most efficient and helpful thing to have as a traveler in Hong Kong. You can use it on all of Hong Kong's transport systems - MTR, buses, ferries; fast food restaurants, supermarkets, 7-11, cinemas, vending machines, etc.. You can reload your card at any time should you run out of money on it. It will save you a lot of time from having to buy single tickets every time you travel on the MTR (which you will be doing a few times a day). The MTR is connected to practically every and any main buildings/hot spots you need to get to. Everything is just a few minutes walk away. Ocassionally you may have to take a bus or taxi, but it's cheap enough that you won't mind the extra cost. The underground connections between the entrances to these stations from the buildings/streets are really clean and cool (they're mostly air conditioned). Also there are bakeries, 7-11s, and lots of shopping that can be done while you walk from the station to your destination. Do not fret if you don't speak Chinese, everything is written and translated into English as well. There is no way you will get lost.

Arrived in the evening so we didn't do much but have dinner and walked along Victoria harbour on our way back to the hotel.

Buying an Octopus card; single/round trip ticket machines; the train is here

In the MTR; map indicating the train stops; an example of the MTR station connector

For Christie and Vonessa (Starbucks is everywhere. I failed to locate a Coffee Bean though); tram and bus

Friday, February 03, 2006

Anyone has a sweet tooth?

After a relaxing week in Hong Kong, we finally got home yesterday. Today is the 6th day of Chinese New Year. Thought it might be interesting to post the do's and don'ts of the 15 days of this festival. (This is from an article written by Lee Lee Tan in 2003. Lim in this article is the head of retail at the World of Feng Shui shop)

Day six:
Time to go visiting again! It's very auspicious to visit friends and relatives from the sixth to the tenth day. Bring kum or golden mandarin oranges to give to loved ones. Never recycle oranges given to you, says Lim. "Give oranges you bought. You shouldn't give away oranges which were given to you as you would be giving away all the good wishes and luck meant for you."

Well, I didn't visit anyone. Tired, and it's too warm to go anywhere. My aunt and cousin popped by tonight. Spent the day cleaning cookie jars and filling them up with the stuff that we've bought to offer visitors. It was fun - what's better than nibbling at goodies while you work?

Cookies: Peanut, green bean, almond, chocolate, bee hives, coffee

Left: Sweets - Chocs in ancient 'gold' money form, pineapple cookie, chocs in 'gold' oranges, Japanese cookies, chocolate pigs, and more chocolates!
Right: Japanese cookies, chocolates wrapped in paper with auspicious words, Japanese jellies, peanuts, dried ginger and cranberries, japanese biscuit

Putting cookies into jars; very cool ang pow packets for children which didn't exist till the last couple of years; the more traditional ang pow packets