Creative Outlets…

Dazza's Kitchen Sign...Made from joined pieces of Eco Balsa wood, acrylic paint and kitchen accessories from good old Daiso.

Do you have a creative outlet? Are there times when you have the urge to make something from nothing? I do! And I have found something that I consider to be pure therapy. I’m no artist as I can’t paint a picture from scratch, but I’ve got a steady hand and a love for fonts so I started making signs. So far it’s been for my friends who are kind enough to regularly invite my family and I into their kitchens, but the possibilities are endless.

Can you share your creative outlet. Do you paint, make music, do photography, etc.?

The first one I made for a friend who constantly fed us.. From ham sandwiches to $200 Sunday roasts,  Kim Tracey's Kitchen was a place of comfort for many!

The first one I made for a friend who constantly fed us. From ham sandwiches to $200 Sunday roasts, Kim Tracey’s Kitchen was a place of comfort for many!

I wish you were a little girl…

Roman: “Mommy? I wish you were still a little girl.”

Me: “Really? Why Roman?”

Roman: “Because when I hold your hand I would be able to look you in the face.”

Me: Melting on site and wishing I were three years old again so when I held his hand I could look him in the face too.

Bananas of the world: Unite!

A popular Malaysian experience, banana leaf is probably one of the most eco friendly cuisines on the planet.

1. No plates as all food is served on a banana leaf. Banana leafs are obviously biodegradable and abundant because they grow on the plants that produce our bananas.

2. Traditional banana leaf cuisine is vegetarian. You can top up by adding chicken or mutton or fish but no need as the original offerings are delicious and satisfying. As I always say I could totally be a vegetarian if I were Indian.

3. No utensils needed equals no washing up. Well you will need to wash your hands but spoons and forks are optional (as with most Malaysian cuisine). I generally use a spoon as I find it hard to ball up my rice with my fingers and it does appear to be a skill honed over years of experience.

Banana leaf cuisine, also known as Chettinad or Southern Indian cuisine, is a result of the Indian migration to Malaysia and Singapore. The original offering is vegetarian only and begins with a pile of rice being scooped onto your leaf. They then add some vegetables prepared in different ways. At our favorite establishment, Nirwana in Bangsar, Jalan Telawi 3 (across from Bangsar Village 2) they offer cucumber salad prepared with yogurt, curried dahl, steamed greens or steamed cabbage, fried bitter gourd (this is insanely delicious and worth the trip to Nirwana all on it’s own), and a trio of curry sauces to wet your rice. Our whole family loves it as the boys consume basket upon basket of papadam and their special fried rice (not available on weekends).

Your plate

Your plate

Nom Nom Yum Yum. Selfie? But first let me eat this rice.

Nom Nom Yum Yum. Selfie? But first let me eat this rice.

Left to right, Cucumbers, steamed greens, and fried bitter gourd

Left to right, Cucumbers, steamed greens, and fried bitter gourd

Ok so this time I added some chicken tikka masala. Protein for the wee one in my tummy. Far right is pickled chilis to add that just right touch of spiciness.

Confession time: Ok so this time I added some chicken tikka masala. Protein for the wee one in my tummy. Far right is pickled chilis to add that just-right-touch of spiciness.

The things you see on Pinterest…

And then you try to do at home in general have about a 50% success rate. There are even entire buzzfeed lists dedicated to Pinterest fails and they are really funny! Normally the photos of the failures are captioned “Nailed it” as the exact opposite is true. I love when people air their DIY failings because Pinterest really does create unrealistic expectations.

The stair slide was about a 50% success in and of itself. I managed to get the cardboard cut and secured. The problem was that I wasn’t working with short carpeted stairs, instead we have tall hardwood-on-concrete stairs. I also needed thicker cardboard; like the kind they use to pack refrigerators. But not to be defeated I figured it would at least be good for one run and one photo/video. In reality it was good for about 10 runs and had we owned boogie boards it would have been a right riot.

When Steve saw my crazy idea he was like, ok, this is amazing but remember what you’re working with here. He was torn between admiration at my idea and determination, but a bit horrified at the prospect for a complete fail (and broken body parts). He walked out the door hugging the kids extra hard and saying that he wanted to memorize them as they were – all in one piece.

E couldn’t be persuaded to go down head first even though I tried to make him believe the distribution of body weight would make for a faster slide, but of course R was all about it (he’s too young and foolish to realize he’s not invincible and that adults ARE fallible and can be equally foolish). R got stuck in a divot about halfway down that required me to pull him along but he still loved it. The slide also had the smoothness of a ski mogul course.

Like I said, it was good for about 10 runs at which point I declared it a sort of fail and dismantled the apparatus. Will they even remember this? Moms! We really are in a special category of crazy.

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Five Boys, Two Moms…

I know we’re a sight. You can see people doing the math in their heads. It’s not hard to count to five but there’s just something about numbers of small children greater than two that make one feel like they are standing in a herd. It’s probably also the disbelief. “No that can’t be right. Let me count again!”

7 people on their way to mamak. 2 female adults and 5 boys trekking the MOST hazardous 800 meters of Jalan Tun Razak. Honestly you would have thought we were journeying to Middle Earth. Pint-sized Hobbits aged 6, 4, 4, 3 and 2 meandered along as we traversed many an obstacle. We encountered an endless array of grates, a double two-lane highway crossing, sidewalks under construction, entrances to buildings, gas stations, and parking garages, etc.
Did I mention everyone is walking?

We don’t need strollers. We don’t need baby carriers. We’re concrete jungle warriors. A speeding lorry may garner about as much attention as a blink; a weaving sidewalk hogging motorbike a head nod. What would have taken a normal able bodied adult took us twice as long. Not because the stunted legs couldn’t power along but because some members of our crew had the sheer focus of an unchoreographed interpretive dance. Grates needed inspecting (there were no less than 15 of those). Chain links needed petting. Curbs begged to be jumped – with about as much warm up as bravado. But the dance, as frustrating as it was to the adults involved, was a riot for passing pedestrians to witness. People smiled and laughed. Some reached out to ruffle a small head of blonde hair. Others counted with outstretched index fingers (Wait! I lost count).

When we finally made it to our destination, NZ Curry House in the basement of the G Tower, the staring, awed smiles doubled as we were clearly the entertainment of the day for the otherwise bored office workers.

We persuaded our brood to behave by giving them this speech:

“Guys. You see all these people sitting around us. They are looking at us and they are saying, ‘that’s a lot of kids, a lot of active boys, and not a lot of adults. I wonder how they will behave?’ Let’s impress these people! Deal?” (Handshakes of affirmation all around.)

“Oh and you can have ice cream if you’re good.”

Ha! Even we’re human.

P.S. – The live entertainment continued as the smallest among us proceeded to spin in a circle while eating an ice cream cone. This obviously left him staggering like an inebriated miniature hobo as cackling from our neighboring table could be heard. The moms were not much better! I look at my fellow mom and exclaim, “Seriously sometimes I feel like we own little drunk monkeys.”

The World Cup

I feel exactly like John Oliver. We even reconnected Astro (our cable) in order to watch the games. In a complete state of desperation we reconnected it, by the way.

Me: “I haven’t missed a World Cup in like 12 years.”
Steve: “I know. I’m not sure these highlights are going to cut it.”
Me: “I think we need to reconnect Astro or I’m gonna be at a mamak stall (24 hour outdoor eateries that would be chock full of foreign laborers also watching the game) at 2:30AM!”
Steve: “Yeah, we probably should reconnect Astro.”

This video is worth every minute by the way!

I quit FACEBOOK!

Why? (Not a comprehensive list)

1. I can’t control what I view. This is probably the number one reason. Facebook has turned into a place where memes copied from the internet have become the norm. I’m not a hater of a good, funny meme but the one that demands I type Amen, or claim that most people won’t share this because they don’t care about cancer, etc., really drive me up the wall. Let’s not even get into the image of a malformed child that claim FB will donate 5 cents for every like and a quarter for every share. I find myself questioning the intelligence of the individuals who share these, so therefore it’s just not worth it.

2. They made me dependent: hook, line and sinker. They’ve reeled us in and now they’ve got us where they want us. The glassy look in people’s eyes when they contemplate leaving FB is telling. It’s why I decided to quit in all about 15 seconds flat. I couldn’t give it any thought. I couldn’t give warning. I simply had to let it go! I sang that in my head as I chose the permanently delete option.

3. I spent too much time thinking about things that did nothing to enhance my life. That doesn’t need any further articulation because you know exactly what I mean!

Since I quit Facebook I no longer use my phone as my exclusive downtime tool. I look for purposeful ways to spend that time. And I am actually looking for more creative ways to stay connected and it’s working. In reality, if I already talked to you, I’m going to talk to you anyway.

By the way, I just realized no one will probably ever see or read this post because I don’t have a Facebook page on which to promote it! *Grin* So this is what blogging into the ether feels like!

Click here for instructions on how to permanently delete Facebook as opposed to just deactivating it.

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How people look at me. I totally understand because it seems impossible. Until it’s not!

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I know! I know!

A Sassy, a Nova, and the circle of life

Sassy is her name. She’s a white Volvo. New enough to have the nerve to have power windows and a Blaupunkt stereo, but certainly vintage enough to have window motors that have gone on strike and an aircon system that recently quit in Malaysia’s unrelenting heat. And we’re riding in Sassy. The wind is whipping in through one of the 3 operable windows while the aircon blows tepid air.  3 kids under the age of six occupy the back seat in an array of forward and rear-facing seats. We’re hollering and laughing as we speed down KL’s highways and byways. We’re laughing because the wind is currently flinging our hair into innumerable configurations and hollering because the howl of the wind is deafening.

Heidi asked before I even boarded the vintage express, “Are you sure you want to ride in Sassy? The aircon has quit.” I assured her it would be my pleasure. Heidi, this is the point where I tell you why.

The location is Añasco, Puerto Rico circa 1987. My parents (like Danny, Heidi’s hubby) have never believed in new cars. If a car isn’t at least 10 years old it hasn’t started to live, so why waste the money? Their belief system was taken a bit to the extreme when the 1970 Chevy Nova became their car of choice. We never named her, oddly enough (I don’t think people were as attached to their things back then), but if I were to give her a name today it would be something super unoriginal like the Orange Machine, or Sunkist. Yes, she was very orange. An oft repeated urban myth of marketing failure, the Chevy Nova is rumored to not have sold well in Latin countries like Mexico and Venezuela because “no va” means “doesn’t go.” I was surprised to discover that this urban myth is not true and explains why so many Novas circulated Puerto Rico at this time. But I digress.

It was almost cliché  that she had a vinyl, perforated, tan interior that grafted itself to any exposed skin in Puerto Rico’s humid, sun pelting heat. She had no aircon, unless of you course you wanted to count the rusted out floorboards, long ago stripped of carpeting, that bore holes the size of baseballs and generated some air flow. Those holes were legendary. Back when littering wasn’t uncool, that’s where we would dispose our bits of trash and whip our heads around to see it become a dot on  the asphalt horizon. It also served us well when a friend fell sick shortly after a Ruben DJ concert. He had to vomit so my mom instructed him to vomit in one of the holes. Said holes were also responsible for us having to raise our feet when crossing over one of Puerto Rico’s many flooded bridges during the rainy season. “Kids, pick up your feet,” was said many, many times in the Nova.

She was a two door which meant the only way the people in the back were going to be able to breathe oxygen was to scoot all the way forward in their seat and squeeze their head between the headrest of the front seat and the narrowed triangle end of the front window. Obviously, that left absolutely no chance one would be wearing a seat belt while riding in the back. Oh yeah, that’s right, it didn’t have seat belts ! I think they were optional that year of the Nova. To be fair my dad installed some he rescued from a junk yard after we were pulled over by a well-meaning police officer who couldn’t believe that people still allowed their kids to ride around unbelted.

There was always a rag kept in the car for when it rained. The windshield leaked like a sieve and fogged up to blinding, so it was always someone’s task to be the interior windshield wiper.

That car, nonetheless, was famous. I was never embarrassed by that car because my mom used it to take us EVERYWHERE – Us AND all of our friends. She never used it’s hoopty status as an excuse to say we couldn’t go somewhere because it was raining or too hot. Mind you, she was the lone adult who schlepped 6 kids to a Ruben DJ concert (“La Escuela” and “El Alcohol” were his top hits); something most other parents weren’t even remotely interested in doing (Yes, that’s 3 people in the front and 4 in the back).Till this day if you ask anyone that knew the Orange Machine you will see their eyes light up and a trip down memory lane will follow. A trip filled with a ton of heartfelt laughter.

Fast forward to modern day and I find myself doing market research on luxury mini vans. Seven seaters just won’t do. I think I need 9 seats plus. And I think to myself how far I’ve come. From the Nova to now. But then I wonder, how do I give my kids those same kind of memories? The memories that force you to face your modern day luxuries and be ever thankful for them.  How do I help them to understand that nice things aren’t a right? That they are a privilege that SOMETIMES accompany hard work and dedication. And I think that maybe like Heidi and Danny I should drive around a Sassy. A car that when they do upgrade will cause their kids to appreciate the cool breeze of aircon and the wonder of functioning power windows. There may be less laughter, though, because who laughs at a perfectly operational car?

I must admit that It’s pretty poetic the current car I drive, though. What’s it called? Wait for it…A Toyota “Innova.” Phonetically in Spanish it means, “And, it doesn’t go!” And the circle of life continues.

 

 

Daiso A.K.A. The greatest shop in the world

This post is dedicated to my friend Heidi who upon leaving Daiso one day texted me, “Tell me you’re doing a Daiso post on your blog?’ Heidi, this one is for you!

Daiso. Oh Daiso. I’ve been singing your praises since the first day I spent 5RM in your shop. Ha! As if i’ve ever left my happiest place on earth with only purchasing one thing. What’s Daiso you ask? Oh, it’s like a dollar store BUT 100% BETTER!

Daiso is a Japanese one price shop that I (and Heidi) refer to as simply the “Japanese Solutions Store.” Depending on what currency you are utilizing the price of everything in the store is 5RM or about $1.55. For now, as there is a black hole of crafting shops in KL, this is the place where I get crafting supplies for school, darning needles for quilting projects, supplies to wrap gifts, plastic storage, etc. etc. etc. My most recent fab purchase was microfiber workout-sized towels. $1.55 for a microfiber workout towel? I would say that’s quite a bargain!

And as much as we ladies love it, it’s pretty safe to say nearly every guy I know hates it! Steve loathes Daiso. As a financier he’s quick to point out their brilliant business model, that I choose to ignore. Not everything in Daiso is really worth 5RM. He says it’s like Costco to Americans. You go in to buy detergent but come out with an electric dog washer. Who cares if you don’t own a dog. You may some day! That being said, you know what he loathes more? When I show up with a truly fantastic Daiso find that makes him go, “Well, how did we every get on without this brilliant little life solution?” Seriously, he hates it.

Enough with words. Let me show you the place where the exacting Japanese affinity for order and quality meets cheap!

I grin ear to ear every time I see this sign!

I grin ear to ear every time I see this sign!

It's the presentation that matters.

It’s the presentation that matters.

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What kind do you prefer? Chopsticks galore!

What kind do you prefer? Chopsticks galore!

The world's tiniest sauce bottles! A must for any bento box.

The world’s tiniest sauce bottles! A must for any bento box.

As well as divider papers. Can't have those bento box items touching and sticking now can we?

As well as divider papers. Can’t have those bento box items touching and sticking, now can we?

How many kinds of tea strainers could you possibly need. Many. I repeat. Many!

How many kinds of tea strainers could you possibly need. Many. I repeat. Many!

Just in case you're opening your own shop and need some cheap signage.

Just in case you’re opening your own restaurant shop and need some cheap signage.

Origami for days

Origami for days

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Pre-cut felt. I think I have every color.

Pre-cut felt. I think I have every color.

5RM yarn bundles

5RM yarn bundles

No self-respecting Japanese shop would lack a Hello Kitty section

No self-respecting Japanese shop would lack a Hello Kitty section

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How would you like your gift wrapped?

How would you like your gift wrapped?

Where were you when I was using sharpies and rulers on a white board to track results?

Where were you when I was using sharpies and rulers on a white board to track results?

This section of teeny tiny zip lock bags in all sizes paralyzes me. I think I need one of each.

This section of teeny tiny zip lock bags in all sizes paralyzes me. I think I need one of each.

 

When you're feeling like having a double eyelid day.

When you’re feeling like having a double eyelid day.

And of course you've got options!

And of course you’ve got options!

Pump bottles. Again, spoilt for choice!

Pump bottles. Again, spoilt for choice!

And here some people used balled up tissues!

And here some people used balled up tissues!

Oh, hello. You're new. A DIY parent could certainly make their own block set with these bad boys!

Oh, hello. You’re new. A DIY parent could certainly make their own block set with these bad boys!

Have you seen cuter zip ties?

Have you seen cuter zip ties?

I'm starting to think the Japanese sweat a lot. Lucky for those of us who live and work in SouthEast Asia.

I’m starting to think the Japanese sweat a lot. Lucky for those of us who live and work in SouthEast Asia.

These elephant watering cans have brought our boys hours of entertainment at the pool. Obviously I already own them.

These elephant watering cans have brought our boys hours of entertainment at the pool. Obviously I already own them.

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When those pesky little furniture pads just won't cut it.

When those pesky little furniture pads just won’t cut it.

For when the formal table leg chair covers are just overkill. Enter the casual collection.

For when the formal table leg chair covers are just overkill. Enter the casual collection.

Hooks are so handy when organizing kids closets and play areas! And of course they come in every size imaginable.

Hooks are so handy when organizing kids closets and play areas! And of course they come in every size imaginable.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is simply melamine. So Daiso of course offers them in every size imaginable. For when just a tiny square will do.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is simply melamine. So Daiso of course offers them in every size imaginable. For when just a tiny square will do.

I mean seriously. How else can you deep clean a window frame during Spring cleaning?

I mean seriously. How else can you deep clean a window frame during Spring cleaning?

Sticky rolls. A size roll for every sized job!

Sticky rolls. A size roll for every sized job!

Cotton buds. Who needs this much variety?

Cotton buds. Who needs this much variety?

Them lashes. Gotta get them 5RM falsies!

Them lashes. Gotta get them 5RM falsies!

This is a girl rising…

I am struggling. No! I am BATTLING. Battling to find my way. Find my way into the impoverished communities that are drawing my heart. Drawing my heart to see, to REALLY see who they are. See who they are so that I may understand how to best serve them and how to best stand WITH them. With them. Not apart from them.

As I habitually (you can say out of self-preservation) draw my circle of life and existence to exclude the suffering, I find that circle lacking. Lacking because my faith is nothing without works. Works to clothe the naked. Works to feed the poor. Works to help the sick. The orphans. The widowed. My holy scriptures demand that I do them. Not because my works will be what saves me, but because works and good deeds are a natural outpouring of someone who has been saved. Saved when they were clearly undeserving. Saved by grace. No one fights more to save others than those who themselves have been saved. You can say they have been freed. Freed from poverty, from slavery, from the drudgery of a life without purpose.

I am struggling because I want to draw that circle. I want my circle to be free of pain, of illness, of suffering. Can I be so cavalier to draw said circle now because I and mine are currently not ill, not poor, not suffering? And I wonder. Wonder what will that do to my children. If I craft this world for them that never exposes them? It’s not a real circle is it? Pain and suffering will come no matter how hard we try so to attempt to exclude it from our lives, and no one carries the burden more nimbly than those already carrying it on a daily basis. Can we not learn from them? We’re so convinced there is so much they must learn from us.

I was on the verge of surrender. Trying to make pathways into a community where I didn’t speak the language. Charged with communicating complex ideas without my most sharpened of tools – My words. I confessed to my fellow volunteers that I didn’t see how I could make a real difference being mute. Relying on others to translate my heart’s message. My heart’s burden for my youth. Youth who simply want a breath of the winds of change. Youth with empty tummies and eyes full of injustices. But all along God has been speaking to me. I hear Him saying. Show up and shut up. SHOW UP. I’ve always had a way with words but amongst my youth I am silent. Only able to communicate with my touch. With my presence. Understanding now there must be something I am to learn from them.

Only God knows what the natural extension of this burden on my heart will produce. This struggle that addles my mind day in and day out and never leaves me quite alone. For now, though, He is saying. Don’t start then quit. Quitting is no longer who you are. COMMIT, PERSIST and keep SHOWING UP.

See below for a video on compassion and kinship that has renewed my fervor for working with those on the margins.

 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17