Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fifth Sewing Project: A Book Bag for Mom

On one of our trips to Kamdar, mom came across some remnant cloth in the curtains and upholstery section and asked me to make her a book bag. So after a few weeks of activities and procrastination, I decided to make the bag.

It took me a couple of days to plan it out (only during my free time), and after all the planning, I only used some of the ideas I had thought of.

The plan

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As I Marvel At God's Timing...

The past week has been like a time bomb. I had a secret that I had to keep until the time was ripe. Every time I had a call, I would jump! I was restless in office.

It all started in December when I happened to chance upon a job ad on the MAICSA website. I had not planned to start applying for a new job until my CFM results were out (which should be next week), but this company had just the right background I was looking for. And although the ad stated that they required the applicants to have relevant experience, I decided to throw that point to the wind and carpe diem! I sent in my resume, after 1 month of deliberation.

There was no news for another month and I pushed the matter to the back of my mind. Just before Chinese New Year, I received a call requesting me to attend an interview the next day. As I was not prepared at all, I requested a reschedule of the interview and was granted one. After ending the call, I was kicking myself for making such an impulsive reckless request but was thanking God that it all turned out well.

So I had a week to prepare for the interview. Besides reading up on the company info, I tried to re-read my Corporate Secretaryship notes and memorise the forms and sections in the Companies Act 1965. I really didn't know what to expect - a technical interview or a general one?

On the interview day, I was almost late due to the jam in Shah Alam and on the Federal Highway. Since I was running late of my schedule, I parked opposite the housing area in Kelana Jaya, hopped on to the LRT and headed to Ampang. Reaching there in the nick of time, I had two written tests - to draft a meeting minutes and write an essay. As usual, I approached the tasks with an 'open' mind (literally open... kosong! panic attack!) but eventually calmed down and finished them. The interview itself was so different from what I had mentally prepared for. I guess my prayers were answered - God probably knew that I'd ruin things if I were asked any technical questions! :) It was a light-hearted Q&A with a majority of briefing by each of the three interviewers - a HR rep, division manager and division VP.

Somehow, I'd got the vibe that they'd actually already decided before meeting me and that the interview was just to double confirm. I had this similar feeling when I was interviewed for my first (current) job and that turned out well. Anyway, that was just what I felt and not based on fact or anything substantial. It ended with them telling me they still had 2 other candidates and that I would know latest by end of the week or early next week. I went back to PJ and discovered that my car had a MBPJ summon flapping on my windshield wiper! Oh well, I considered the summon as an investment in my future.

The end of the week came and it was past 5.30pm (end of working hours) when I got a call. Thank God I was alone in the office at that time - the guys were outstation and the girls were on leave or out of office. Coincidence? I think not. If it were otherwise, I think I would have ran out of office to answer the call (which would look really suspicious). The verdict was in - I'd got the job!

I was really happy and might have accidentally hung up on the HR lady. I don't know for sure. Their offer was what I had asked for. I was praising the Lord! When He opens a door, no one can shut it! Mum was the first to know. However, the CEO had to approve the appointment before an offer letter could be issued. Therefore at that point in time, it was only verbal confirmation. So I did not tell many people about it.

I had to wait another week for the offer letter to be issued. They sent me the softcopy a day after I submitted the medical checkup report. And then came the next headache - How to tender my resignation and try to negotiate a waive over the three-months contractual notice period that I was bound to.

This called for another appeal for help from God. Mum and Ah Yee joined me in prayer for a smooth resignation process. I was so nervous and had not even composed my resignation letter when I saw my boss on Skype (he'd been away from office for most of the week) and requested an appointment with him. Amazingly he had just came back from an overseas business trip and was planning to enter office later that evening.

When he did come in and settled down, he called me into his office. Before I could even state my purpose, he asked me, "Where are you going?"
Misunderstanding him, I replied, "Oh no, I'm not asking for a leave, actually I want to resign."
Then he replied back, "I know, I know. Which company are you heading to?"
I was thrown off track from my plan. I did not even need to broach the subject and it was done!

He then told me something that made me realise how great God's timing is. As he knew I was taking ICSA, he told me I could go with his blessings and advised me to learn as much as I can and perhaps one day, our paths might cross again. And as for the dilemma of my three-months notice period, that was also settled. Stepping out of his room, I really couldn't believe how it all went.

God is great! He has taught me time and again that there is no use worrying and trying to rush things. But somehow I seem to always go back to my mortal habit of over-worrying myself when something I want isn't showing up on time (i.e. in my timing). When He blesses it is always in the best timing - God's timing.

This has been my 'tagline/status' on Skype for more than a year: "God answers prayers, so let go!". It is really true and I have several personal testimonies. The moment we let go of the situation and hand it to God, He opens the door of opportunity that we have been waiting for. When will we start trusting in Him with all the situations in our lives? Hand over the steering wheel to God and let him drive our lives. (I know it is easier said than done. I for one am still trying to do that)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Don't Get Stuck!

Honestly speaking, I thought I was one of the lonely few who had this dilemma of questioning life at this age of mid-twenties. I'd even nicknamed it 'quarter-life crisis' and joked about it with my peers. When I read this article from RELEVANT Magazine (a friend had posted it on Facebook), I found some parts of it resonated with what I had been asking myself lately. And all this time I thought these questions were popping out from an idle mind - too free for my own good.

With the daily going-ons of life, it is sometimes more convenient to brush these insecurities off and instead try getting ourselves busy - ignoring the innate check and balance we have in-built into our brains. We drift through life in our comfort zone, trying to minimise changes - as they disrupt the predictable daily pattern. And when we finally realise that so much time has passed, it is too late to retract and redo what we missed out on.

What struck a note of recognition in the article was the part where when there is a get together with friends, we always tend to talk about our schooling days. Somewhat "stuck" in our younger days. Unconsciously we tend to gravitate to that direction. Why is that so? I don't want to be "stuck" in my past. I need to make a conscious effort to move ahead.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fourth Sewing Project: Little Wallet

A couple of weeks ago, while I was in the midst of my designer cotton-craze shopping spree, I found a locally-based cotton blogshop - d'amani cottontherapy - and coincidentally they were having their first giveaway! Three Valori Wells Little Wallet kits were up for grabs, and I was just so enamoured with the Matryoshka Russian Doll kit (together with the lovely Michael Miller Garden Pindot Cherry fabric piece). What we, visitors, had to do was become a follower of their blogshop and Facebook account, and leave a comment on "what do you love about being a woman". So I did precisely that. And surprise, surprise... I was one of the three winners!

The kit arrived right on my birthday and I was hoppity happy it was the Matryoshka Russian Doll kit (my first choice)!

Look how matching they are!
I know it only takes an hour or two to complete this project, but my schedule was just crazy with CNY around the corner, my (then) upcoming interview, numerous promises to be fulfilled and friends meetups to attend - all congruently successfully diverting my sewing frenzy away from the path to obsession.

I finally managed to complete this little project yesterday night. This is a brief (by my standard) narrative of how it went.

Arranging the cloth pieces and imagining how it would look like after sewing.
After sewing across the top of the pocket pieces. I think my interfacing was a tad bit too stiff - made my life difficult later.
All the wallet fabric pieces sewn together inside out. I know the sewing is a little out of line. I might have over-stretched the linen while guiding it under the sewing machine needle.
Turning it inside in/outside out. The stiff interfacing made this step very difficult and caused a bit of fraying to the linen.
This is how the Little Wallet looks after pressing, sewing up the side and adding a press stud.
I added a bow to the design, to cover up my 'messy' press stud sewing and also to embellish it (as usual, I have a knack of over-doing things!) 
I made another Little Wallet with remnant cloth chucked to me by mum's friend. I couldn't sew a press stud on the Batik one due to the fragility of the foil-like fabric.
P.S: Thanks d'amani cottontherapy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Time When I Went Fabric Crazy

Since sewing my first dress, I've been dying to sew a Buttercup bag or a wristlet with a zipper. And in preparing for that feat, I have bought a number of fabric pieces through online blogshops, as well as from the conventional brick and mortar stores. I managed to dig up some of the remnant fabric from many years of my mum's kindergarten concert costumes - although not all are usable, some are pretty neat to use as embellishments.

These are some of my stash:

loving polka dots, lace and stripes!
 Next, I need to find the time to make all I want to make! I must stop buying fabric until I finish my stash.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Now We Can Make Homemade Coke

Apparently the leaked Coca-Cola recipe has been floating around for some time, just that no one really knew it was authentic or not! This here is an interesting read on how the recipe's history (or some sort). Anyway, this is cut and pasted from that Gizmodo article (Just in case you wanted to try making it at home):

The recipe:
Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 oz
Caffeine: 1 oz
Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
Water: 2.5 gal
Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
Vanilla: 1 oz
Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color
The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol: 8 oz
Orange oil: 20 drops
Lemon oil: 30 drops
Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
Coriander: 5 drops
Neroli: 10 drops
Cinnamon: 10 drops

However, before you start, just a pointer to take note of... there is a very high chance that you may never get hold of the fluid extract of Coca in your lifetime. So if you're expecting to be the next hit with an imitation Koka Kola or something, you'd better forget about imitating that special Coke taste! hehehe

Monday, February 07, 2011

Did you know Barbie and Ken had split up? I didn't!

I was browsing through my Fb news feed when I came across this link. It was about a public vote on whether Barbie and Ken (Yes, the Mattel dolls!) should get back together! I didn't even know that they were 'together' (I thought Mattel just made a pair of dolls without much story behind the toy) or that they had split up in 2004! If you were one who's childhood revolved much around playing with Barbie dolls (like me!), you really should read Barbie and Ken's history together. Or even if you're not a Barbie fan, check out the pictures - you get to see how Barbie's face changed from the original 60's version to the modern one, and also the numerous facial changes Ken underwent (if he were a human man, he'd probably beat MJ hands down to the King of Plastic Surgery title!). And if you're hyped up after all that education, you can try your hand at creating Barbie & Ken history by voting on whether Barbie should get back together with Ken, or not.

Photo taken from here. I used to dream of collecting enough 'ang pau' money to buy this collector's item Barbie when I was in primary school. She was so different from the ones we could buy off the rack in Toys'R'Us in Subang Parade. Doesn't Ken look a bit like Carson Daly?

Photo taken from here. The first Barbie I remember having (or a better word would be 'inherited') was this 1984 Dream Date Barbie. I think my mum bought it even before I was around - she thought the dress was lovely! Anyway, I think I might have thrown that doll away a couple of years ago, but I remember keeping the dress. Being a kid, I'd naturally messed up Barbie's hair into a knotted tangle well before I realised it was a collector's item. Damn!
Photo taken from here. This is the latest version of Barbie and Ken (2010). Doesn't Ken look like a young Ryan Philippe?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year 2011!

Gong Hei Fatt Choy! Ang pau (or 'li xi') from 1st & 2nd day CNY
For the Chinese, this lunar new year brings forth the year of the Rabbit. However, for the Vietnamese, it is the  year of the Cat that has dawned.

This year's CNY was pretty much like the years before, but this time we visited aunty Sally's new penthouse in Mont Kiara. The view was spectacular! I don't want to mention too much personal stuffs here but from all the extended family we have, I think this aunty is the friendliest amongst them.

Spectacular view from the penthouse. And we didn't need to go all the way to Lookout Point (near Hulu Langat)  to get this view! You just need to have a lot of $$$ hehehee
And another special thing this year is... I got to see a real cherry blossom flower!!! I don't know where my aunt had bought it or imported it from, but the smell was quite mild and it looked great!

Cherry blossom in Malaysia! The flower arrangement was really nice, but I don't have a photo of it without people in it.
I wore the dress I made on the 2nd day of CNY. Nobody believed that I had actually MADE it. hahaha...

Anyway, instead of rambling on about what I've rambled similarly about in past years, here's some info about the Vietnamese New Year I've very recently learned about:

The Vietnamese New Year or Tet Nguyen Dan is celebrated concurrently with the Chinese New Year, as it is the start of the Lunar new year. The word 'Tet' literally means the node adjoining two internodes in the bamboo culm (stem), which signifies the beginning of a new year. The tradition of Tet is similar to that of CNY, richly influenced by Taoism and Buddhism (I think), with religious and cultural rituals. Red packets or 'ang pau' (li xi) are also given out by the elders to the younger generation during Tet; but instead they are called "mung tuoi".

A traditional Vietnamese Tet food is the Banh Chung or sticky rice cake. It is very much similar to the 'ba chang' (I call it "ham yoke chung") we have in Chinese culture. But instead of the triangle or rectangle glutinous rice dumplings we are used to during Dumpling Festival in Malaysia, the Vietnamese version is a squarish in shape. It has the same ingredients as 'ba chang' - glutinous rice, pork and mung bean - but the dumpling is wrapped in 'dong' leaves (whereas ba chang uses bamboo, pandan/screwpine or lotus leaves). Another difference is the rice is coloured green when we cut into banh chung - grandma made them when we visited her in Ohio last year!

Banh Chung. Photo taken from here.
The Vietnamese new year decorations also include the Chinese calligraphy scrolls and alter offerings of 5-8 types of fruits. However the feature that I don't think I've heard of in my CNY celebrations so far, is the New Year Tree or "Cay Neu". Cay Neu is a long bamboo pole stripped of its leaves, but leaving the top tuft on, and lucky red paper with colourful ornamental paper carp fish, clay bells, gongs, bows and arrows are tied on to it. Cactus will be used for the thorny base of the Cay Neu - I couldn't find in my brief Googling what this is for, but am assuming the thorns scare away evil spirits/devils. The ornaments are meant to chase away the bad luck of the previous year and red is supposed to scare off evil.

Cay Neu. Photo taken from here
There is a legend behind the Cay Neu. Long ago, the devil used to rule the earth. He took the rice field harvest and the people were literally starving. In a particularly good harvest year, the devil decreed that only the roots of the rice plants will belong to the people. Upon Buddha's advice, the people planted sweet potatoes the next year and the devil was cheated of his pillage. In revenge, the devil came up with another rule that the roots and the grown plant will belong to the devil. In the next crop cycle, the people planted corn and beat the devil at his own game, for the corn cobs grows in the centre of the plant. The devil then decided to take away all the land. With the farmers at their wits' end, Buddha consoled them and told them to make a deal with the devil, giving him gold for a promise that all the land under the shadow of the bamboo tree will belong to the farmers. As the years went by, the bamboo trees grew taller and in the end the devil had no land for himself anymore, and was driven out to the sea. The devil retaliated by attacking the village with his wild and ferocious beast subjects. The people managed to win the battle with Buddha's advice of making bows and arrows from the forest trees and mixing water with garlic and lime to splash on the enemies' faces.

Therefore farmers plant the bamboo (neu) tree in front of their house, as the shadow symbolises the land man acquired in the legend. The sound of the bells and gongs in the wind on the Cay Neu symbolises man's right to own the land and the bows and arrows remind us of the weapons used in the battle. You can read more details about Cay Neu here.