Monday, March 16, 2015


Ever since the break of my marriage, I have taken a lot of trips home.
What used to be a journey  that was taken every 2-3 years became an almost yearly occurrence. Weddings, special occasions, seasonal holidays...and sometimes, because I just NEED to be home to be amongst my family and friends. 

Because it takes a lot to pretend that life here is exactly all that I have envisioned -- actually, I don't think I have ever succeeded in convincing myself ever of that. But I persevere, because I tell myself I am doing it for my kid, because the opportunities are better here, because the standard of living is better here. 
All of which are probably true to some degree, but the main reason is because I am a coward. 

I don't like change. 
I don't like uprooting what is comfortable. 
I don't like making too much of a splash.
Because what if the end result ends up taking me to a situation that is worse that what I started with?
Best not to risk it.

And so I trudge on in life in a cloud of mediocrity, just....existing and taking it day by day.  But that takes its toll and eventually, I am in desperate need to be enveloped in the warmth and humidity of my country.
And that could not be more true during the early years of the break.
I went back twice that first year and I took a lot of videos during one of those particular trips. I wanted to ensure that there was something that Isabel can go through when she was older because chances are, she will have no recollection of those events. And I took it for myself too, because I needed it as something to hang on to: a reminder of my family to help me pull through when times got unbearably hard when I returned to the States and back to the shambles that was my life at that point in time.

I don't know if it ever occurred to me then that these videos will serve as a memory of my family members for when they've passed on - as a way to remember the sound of their voice and laughter, to remember them when they were so alive and vibrant, to see them interacting and remember.

At least, not so soon. 

My aunts are very dear to me.
They were my "companions" during my formative years. I "hung out" with them, I learned from them, I laughed and joked with them -- in short, they played a big part in raising and shaping me.

And this past Friday, one of my precious relatives passed away.
The youngest of my mother's siblings, she was one of the most welcoming, most gracious person I know. If someone was meeting my family for the first time and they needed to be put at ease, she was the one who would naturally step up to that plate and she will do it like the pro that she is. 

She took me on vacations with her family because my mom doesn't really do vacations, she always gave the best presents because being "younger" gave her an edge of knowing what moody, ungrateful teens might prefer, she was the "cool, put-together" relative that won't embarrass you.

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She counseled me, comforted me  and guided me when I was going through difficult times as a stubborn pig-headed teen. She cheered for me, encouraged me, and was there for me when things were falling down around me. She prayed for me and have always tried to gently encourage me to the way of the Lord.
In simple words, she loved me.

I am so grateful and so blessed to have known that love. And I am so incredibly thankful that my child has known that love as well, even though she may not remember much of it. The videos, however meager of a substitute they are, will serve as a reminder. 

Yee Chai -- I know that you are in a better place, that you are whole and beautiful and healthy once more, that you are safe and happy and reunited with loved ones previously lost. I pray that I will find the strength to be a better person than who I am now. A braver person, a more loving and kind person,  in hopes that I will make you somewhat proud. 

I love you.

Friday, February 28, 2014

My Love

I haven't taken many photos with my actual camera in a long time. Probably because I don't feel that our lives are special or exciting enough to lug around a bulky DSLR

But this year, I am making it a point of trying to take more and share more

Cue our first photoshoot (complete with hair and wardrobe) in years, to get into the Chinese New Year mood...

And one can tell that I am Isabel is out of practice, because it took an eternity to get the shots that I wanted...

But I had lots of goofball prepared to be bombarded...

Wait...let me think of how to pose...

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Is this good?

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Is this better?
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Oh, snaps! This is hard!
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How about... 
Are we DONE, momma?!
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I did manage to get some precious gems...though they are not the type that will make it to the short list of the "acceptable Christmas card photos", they are probably my favorites

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I'll Have Some Toast With That, Thank You...

Homemade Kaya Recipe with Gula Melaka photo IMG_5298_zps3d9b7ad0.jpg

Made kaya for the first time ever, despite having intentions for years. It was simpler than I thought, and I finally found a use for the gula melaka that has been sitting in my pantry forever...

Homemade Kaya Recipe with Gula Melaka photo IMG_5307_zpscd568222.jpg

Recipe taken from here, although it came out a tad sweet for my taste. I shall probably reduce the amount of gula melake to 2 tbsp rather than 3.

- 4 egg yolks at room temp, well-beaten 
- 45g palm sugar/gula melaka, or 3 rounded tablespoons
- 45g white sugar, or 3 rounded tablespoons
- 200ml undiluted coconut milk, fresh or canned 
- 4 fresh pandan leaves (I used a few drops of pandan essence instead)

Beat 4 egg yolks thoroughly with a handwhisk 
Add the palm sugar, white sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves in a pot over medium heat. 
Stir constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture begins to simmer. Turn off the heat. Slowly pour 1/2 of the coconut milk into the egg yolks, stirring at the same time.
Pour the combined mixture back into the remaining coconut milk in the pot, turn on the heat back to medium-low / medium. Keep stirring for the next 10-15 minutes. 

The kaya will thicken gradually over the next 10-15 min. Remove the pandan leaves and transfer the thickened kaya into a clean sterilized glass jar, leave the jar lid open to cool down completely.
When it is completely cooled, close the jar and keep in the fridge.

 Meet my harshest critic...
She has developed quite a taste for kaya and butter toast from our recent trip back home to Malaysia
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It met her standards. 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Many Faces of Isabel

Apparently getting older leaves Isabel with mixed emotions...

Stage 1: Disbelief that she is getting that old

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2) Shock as she finally acknowledges the fact that she IS getting older
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3) Acceptance --- with a touch of humor..else she might end up crying?

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The cake was a surprise -- baked by a good friend (who is crazy and sets the bar so far up that I can't even see it)

 Grateful for all the family and friends who turned up (most who met Isabel for the FIRST time, which is crazy...and makes me kind of sad)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Elf-ette on the Shelf - Day 10

Charlie followed us East...but the humid tropical weather proved too much for her as she was found with her head stuck into a pot of water....presumably to cool her down

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Elf-ette on the Shelf: Day 8

Looking with interest at the crap that has exploded in my bedroom, in the name of packing.

Probably wondering if she'd be able to hitch a ride in the suitcase instead of finding her own way to our destination

Instagram: #adventuresofCharlietheElf