I Forgot to Blog About My Birthday

Food. One of my favourite topics. The last birthday was all about food and food and friends and families. The birthday was last month’s the 20th April. I was 18 again. Three cakes within the 48 hours! And, of course, more food, friends, families. (The 3 Fs)

Birthday Eve Dinner

The birthday kicked off with a pre birthday dinner at our regular favourite, Muhibbah Restaurant, Sg Penchala.

Simple yet satisfying meals together – sweet and sour chicken, garlic asparagus and I wanted the fried spicy loh shee fun.

The Day

Right on the day, our company together with an associate consulting firm had organized a forum in one of the hotels in the city. We had about 30 odd CHROs who attended our event and I felt blessed to have such wonderful network.

Being a breakfast forum, we obviously had, what else, but a lovely breakfast spread. Now, this being the Ritz-Carlton, no simple food can look simple in their hands.

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Did I tell you that their nasi lemak was SEDAP?

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Finally as we wrapped up the event, suddenly the front entrance to the hall opened up and I saw several hotel staff pushing a food cart with two cakes and candles. People started to sing birthday song, and I wondered, “Whose birthday?”

Duh.

IMG_20170420_113357Check out the birthday cakes! Aren’t they just awesome!

18447585_10154632537206169_7253276834594800577_nYou can see how surprised I was….

The event ended on a high note with more lunch treat from friend, CJ at the Sentidos, Starhill Gallery. (by now no turning back on the calorie counting).

You want good service? Checked.

You want good food? Checked..

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(above) The juicy shrimps…IMG_20170420_135733

…and the grilled juicy lamb…

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…and tacos…

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and finished off with churros…by this time, I am telling you, I could go on for days without food.

More cake and makan the next day…

The next day we attended tahlil and doa selamat at our friend’s place, Eda. Tahlil for her late hubby, and our good friend, Allahyarham Megat. What I didnt know was that she had also prepared a beautiful cake for me!

(I love you Eda….thank you!)

IMG_20170421_223147Yeah, another one of that surprised look…hahaha…

 

Happy Holidays

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Christmas Eve Dinner

G and I decided to host a simple dinner on the Christmas eve. Simple because it was a pot luck dinner instead of a full cooking session which we had done in the previous years. No turkey and fresh oysters this year as well. Prices have gone up and wallet is thinner. So, roast chicken it was, among other things.

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Garlic roast chicken. Gone in minutes.

nasi-lemak

The neighbour, Shux, brought his delicious nasi lemak. I must tell you that for a single dude, he can really cook. The last he was at our home, he arrived with a couple of ramekins of creme caramel. Seen tucked in between the rice and the sambal was my garlic and herbs steamed fresh clams which another neighbour bought for me earlier at the Kuala Selangor fish jetty.

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My funky rooster plates…hehehe…and the rest of the dishes. I cooked Korean noodles as a filler, lots of garden salad with Italian dressing and green apples salad as another side. Pandan syrup drinks to wash down all these food.

No leftovers unlike the year when we had the turkey. I tell you, we didn’t want anything to do with turkey anymore for a good few months afterwards.

 

The Strange Dreams, Post Umrah

I told G the strange dreams I had since we came back from umrah. Usually it will involve either one of these:

  • me walking towards kaabah from the mosque,
  • George and I doing our circumambulation around Kaabah
  • looking at kaabah from one side of the mosque
  • praying in the mosque facing kaabah
Kaaba
Kaaba

Cats Of Medina And Mecca

I could not find kibbles in Medina and Mecca. I could not believe it. Something so simple and yet…wow! We encountered many stray cats as we traveled from Jeddah/Medina/Mecca. From the stray cats at the airport to skinny ones at the rest stops along the road to Medina and beautiful ones in Mecca. They tend to be unfriendly towards humans but was very pleased to meet a few new “friends” along the way. Those cats that we met on a daily basis while in Mecca were quite friendly towards me. Several would try to climb on my hijab and allowed themselves to be patted and held up. They get to eat rice with fried fish or chicken.

I actually wrote to a rescue group which is based in Jeddah. I also realized that animal rescue is not a big thing in Saudi as I had difficulties in contacting a few other groups for advise especially on getting cat food. Or could it be a language barrier? I have no idea. But those who are travelling for hajj or umrah, and you are a feeder yourself, please bring along kibbles with you as I can tell you this – you cannot find kibbles in the shops at both places. Even if you ask them about cat food? They will laugh at you…soooo……..;-(

IMG_20151225_040042.jpgA tom cat with his pretty girl friend in the surau of Jeddah hajj/umrah terminal airport.

IMG_20151225_064531.jpgTwo cats we saw (among many…) at one of the rest stops from Jeddah to Medina. The night was cold. Maybe about 15C. These cats were outside looking for food. I felt bad as I did not have anything to give them.

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In Mecca. Cats we met nearby our hotel.

See the black boy at the left side? He is blind on one eye.

We met these two regularly as they were always near our hotel. The one on the right has beautiful Bengal-like spots.

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Handsome Tom

Each time we walk to Masjidil Al Haram, we would bump onto this handsome fella. One of my favourites as he was very friendly. He has many other friends outside of the mosque. Not sure how they survive…

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One of the nights on the way back from our second umrah, we went out to feed the cats. Plenty of hungry cats….big and small.

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As I was preparing for Maghrib prayers at the outer court of Fatima Az-Zahra (The Floating Mosque in Jeddah), I saw a black cat at the upper wall of the mosque.

 

Please Bring Your Own Wet Tissues And Toilet Rolls

No kidding.

Toilet experience can be VERY challenging over on this side of the pond especially for women. Try to do your “business” back at the hotel. Big or small business. If you are on medication which is diuretic (like mine), make sure you time the intake well so that you can do your stuff in the hotel.

Be prepared to bring your own supply of wet tissues/wet wipes, hand gel and some supply of dry tissues. To have a bottle of mineral water is always a good idea.

I tell you why.

Toilet in Arafah
Toilet in Arafah

Many ablution places are nearby toilet area. That makes the area to be generally wet. Do not expect toilet rolls to be available to you. Or flush system in some cases. Or someone aiming well into the toilet hole. Which is generally squatting toilet. Unless you walk into the malls’ toilets. Which is, again, generally wet. In some places, women toilets are smaller than men’s. Dont ask me why. So, when prayer times come and you are racing with other women to take your ablution, you will find yourself fighting for that space to do it. Never mind the long, sweeping robe that you have to make sure dry and not sweeping some unthinkables off the floor.

Pressing moments require creative solutions. I generally carry a bottle of mineral water to perform simple ablution. Go to one corner of the toilet compound if you can, and perform the necessary stuff. No point in fighting, pushing and making all the other Sisters (and yourself) annoyed.

The wet tissue is important too as the toilets generally do not come with hand wash basins. I also carry a small bottle of hand gel.

Toilet in Abdul Aziz International Airport (umrah/hajj terminal)
Toilet in Abdul Aziz International Airport (umrah/hajj terminal)

My theory is this.

Medina and Mecca receive millions of people from all over the world on a daily basis. With them, they will carry all kinds of ways and culture when they arrive. And that includes toilet etiquette. Or the lack of it. Some do not even have a proper toilet at home, let alone knowing the difference between a shower cubicle and a toilet cubicle. Or how to use a toilet roll when papers are so scarce?

Aiming properly while doing your business might also be a challenge. I still do not have a proper theory for this…

Get That Food

Yes, let’s talk about culture shock.

The reason being is that, during umrah course, all they mentioned was – do not get into argument with the locals, be patience, respect the local law, respect other people’s spaces.

We Malaysians are really good bunch of people.

What we were not prepared was in essence, was a lot of things. Food, attire, the officials, weather, toilets, language, ways of doing things…

You can take out a kampung girl from the kampung, but you can’t take the kampung out from her.

By the third day, I was dying for something familiar – my fried fish, sambal and ulam. Ok, second option? Noodles. Try looking for anything that resembles noodles in this part of the holy city? I could not find it. I dreamed of eating fried tuna fish, hot steaming rice accompanied with spicy sambal belacan and ulam. I salivated over the thought of tomyam noodle, laksa curry, mee mamak basah, hokkien mee.

Damn.

Good thing I brought my emergency ration from home (dont laugh!) – noodle in cup, a jar of sambal, soup in sachet and my favourite drinks such as Milo and Aik Cheong coffee. Somewhere in between the days when the caterer served the three-times daily meals at the hotel, that I saw fried fish, sambal and ulam. (grins)

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There were some nights when we just wanted something to nibble on. So, G would go out to buy some Arabic bread and cheese. We had our little picnic in the room by spreading a plastic sheet on the bed and we had our bread, cheese, fruits and mint tea. It was so basic that it felt so romantic and awesome.

IMG_20151229_033253On some days, George just wanted his comfort food. That means having to go to the ginormous malls that surround the Masjidil Al Haram and….visit these places…

KFC in Mecca
KFC in Mecca
Burger King in Mecca
Burger King in Mecca

His regular Americano and muffin cost from Starbucks twice as much than in Kuala Lumpur. Sigh.

Starbucks in Mecca
Starbucks in Mecca
Expensive coffee in Starbucks Mecca
Expensive coffee in Starbucks Mecca

Would have been interesting to try out the Mc Donald’s but the nearest outlet was a tad too far for walking.

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On most days, we ended up at the food court where I tried out strange food to my palate such as liver sandwich which was surprisingly, yummy! (sorry no pix). Otherwise, be prepared to spend about between SAR10 to SAR30 for food. Portions are big though. You can share with at least another football team.

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The Art Of Finding The Soul Mate

This piece is dedicated to a dear friend, Mohsin who is a game changer, explorer, adrenaline junkie, single & available and is on his quest to look for The One.

All of us grew up watching Disney movies where the Prince and Princess will live happily ever after at the end. The movies are always accompanied with beautiful songs which are so Disney-esque.

And still did not see it in the real world.

Beautiful, I thought. But I never thought that true love would happen to me. Finding that elusive soul mate is just a fairy tale. I grew watching so many loveless marriages and shattered relationships that the idea of true love just eluded me.

The Never Land

Being single at one point of my life taught me a few important things, and I call this my Never Land:

  • never underestimate your own strength of living through life
  • never have the “I am a victim” mentality
  • never “settle” as you deserve more. Psychobitches and psycho bastards are abound and difficult to shake off.
  • never disregard your bull shit detector/gut feels that God gives you
  • never accept “half loaf of bread”
  • never be needy and desperate
  • never compact your life in a small box. The world is your oyster, go explore.
  • (this is for men) never let your dick do the thinking as it has no brain for rationalisation.

Some friends ask me how do G and I achieve a balance in our own marriage. Being so different and yet so compatible. Well, I do not have all the answers but one thing we agreed upon is that we both have had life experiences before we met each other. If we had met years before we were destined to meet, I do not think we will even tolerate each other, let alone being married! Being the practical people that we are, we treated the relationship as a business similar to merger & acquisition. We prodded, examined, asked, validated everything from divorce papers, salary slips to health screens to legal papers. Then we opened up the “closets” and think about whether we could live with all these information with a knowledge and acceptance that history was done. That this person is here, now, present and he/she cannot undo what has happened in the past. The acceptance is important because this is where the trust comes in. The trust that whatever you found in the closets will never be used against you in the future. This is where the NDA (non disclosure agreement) comes in. Next step is to sign the M&A or in this context, the pre nuptial agreement.

But, one of the key things is this – your “customer service” must be opened, 7 days a week, 365 and a quarter – ever ready to serve your “client” (spouse/partner/soulmate). Come rain or shine, this customer service must be grounded, neutral and objective.

Why I Am A Big Advocate of Pre nuptial Agreement

Donald Trump, one of my big time idols advocates pre nuptial agreement. “It’s a hard, painful, ugly tool,” says Trump. “Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it. But there comes a time when you have to say, ‘Darling, I think you’re magnificent, and I care for you deeply, but if things don’t work out, this is what you’re going to get.” It is worth noting that he was married twice before Melania Knauss and both ex wives tried contesting the pre nup with no success.

See what happens when the love is lost? When you are still in love, you want to give and give and love and care the other person. When the love is lost, trust me my friends, even a single sen will be dug out from the past – where was it gone to, what have you done with it, etc etc.

It is also a show of responsibility especially when you have a business to run. Pre nuptial agreements ensures the company’s sustainability which in return takes care of its employees. Do not punish the employees for your own stupidity when the company is split into several ways upon your divorce. Imagine 10s, 100s or thousands of employees who are out of jobs when this happens.

The Check Boxes

Sure, you can create as many boxes as you like as you go along but remember all these boxes must also be a reflection of yourself. Would you check all these boxes for yourself?

So Where’s The Art In This?

Be brave, listen to your gut feel, open up your mind and do not be gullible. It is easy to fall in lust and confused it with love.

Ramadhan Al Mubarak 2015

Ramadhan2

Ramadhan is here again. It was “just” recently that I felt we celebrated Aidil Fitri and now the fasting month starts tomorrow.

We went out for a family dinner earlier this evening at The Curve. Just something that we try to do every week or so. Ramadhan, to me, is a month of reflection and contemplation about life itself. Somehow, it also brings back my childhood memories. Never fails. Year in, year out.

Fasting month during my childhood days means having to wake up very early. The entire family – my parents, grandparents – will wake up to start preparing a full meal. That means we will see rice, a few types of dishes and dessert. There will be sambal fish, gulai ayam, more sambal, vegetable. Dessert can be anything from bubur to fruit from our own orchard.

In my mind, I could still see my grandmother sitting by the steps after the meal, just resting and waiting for the sun rise.

This will be my 5th Ramadhan with George. It will be a busy month too as we prepare for our second half of the year with business activities.

What Legacy Would You Leave Behind?

It has been a long day for G and I today. He was busy with his client’s coaching session and I was in a meeting with a client who is now soon fast to be a friend and hopefully, a business associate. It was amazing at how things just happened.

Several months G and I were involved in an exciting project on behalf of a client. The project involved us developing video scripts, both in English and Bahasa Malaysia. The project soon evolved to be like a real movie! The things you learn what goes on behind the scenes were so amazing and we both loved it so much.

Today’s blog was not so much about the video project but it is about how I met about this someone.

The video taping took place at an office somewhere in the city centre. The first night we did the shooting, the General Manager of the company came in to have a look at what we did. It just so happened that he brought his entire family along – his wife and two twins! – as they were on the way out from the city heading towards the East Coast for a short holiday. The one hour he said he wanted to stay turned out to be several hours. He was literally mesmerized (as we did) with the entire major production.

In between the shooting, someone introduced me to his wife. After exchanging some pleasantries, we chatted about the weather, the holidays, the usual stuff. The conversation was not long, could have been about 30 minutes ago. But too long to be away from behind the camera as I was supposed to be coaching the actors with their script.

That 30 minutes chat apparently turned out to be a life changing event for this person. She is now less stress, more relaxed and sure of her daily decisions about career, family and life. She is leaving her current job which pays extremely well but has been giving her grief mentally. She is, in her words, pursuing the greater things in life.

Just the other day, we spoke on the phone and she told me exactly that. What she said, gave me goosebumps. I could not recall what exactly was I said to her but here it was…

Apparent the life changing question was this,” What legacy would you like to leave behind?”

Michael Buble In Kuala Lumpur!!!!!

Reliable sources says that one of my absolute favourite artistes, the suave looking Canadian singer-writer, Michael Buble will be in Kuala Lumpur.

The date, I was told is 27 January 2017.

Michael Buble

This piece of news, uh, is PRETTY exciting!