December 31, 2009

2009 in review

It's time to bid farewell to 2009 – a time to reflect on all that's happened in the past year, to rejoice in the good things that life brought upon us, to learn from mistakes of the past year, and to face the disappointments thrown our way.

We started the year by enrolling Yiu Yiu for the first year of kindy at Juara Cerdik, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well she adapted to kindy. She has definitely learnt a greal deal, and grown more mature, and rounded up her year by bagging the "Best Conduct" award for her class. We also enrolled Yiu Yiu in art and music classes, and she's enjoying herself tremendously in these classes. She's now also talking about ballet classes, motivated by the pretty pink ballet costume she wore for her kindy's year-end party.

With Yiu Yiu in kindy, I started packing bento for her snack time, so that she gets more nutritious food rather than just biscuits given by the kindy. There were really simple bentos, with simple decorations, a long long way away from all the creatively decorated bentos of other mums. However, with the arrival of Yan Yan, I almost completely stopped packing bentos so she only got commercial boxed cereals, bread and cakes, and the occasional home-made muffin/cupcake/fried rice.

The highlight of the year is certainly the birth of Yan Xin. She's such a joyful baby, and her che-che adores her to bits, and will hug and pinch her chubby face, whenever she gets a chance. Caring for two children without any helper at home is no easy task, especially when hubby has meetings/functions to attend in the evenings/weekends. Many a times, I have no choice but to ignore her cries while I grab a quick dinner or steal a quick shower. In any case, I'm thankful that she's a much easier baby compared to Yiu Yiu, else I would probably have gone bonkers!

Work came fast and furious when I resumed work after my maternity leave, but there were moments of enjoyment too, as I got to travel to Montreal. More travels ensued – to Singapore, Bangkok and Kota Kinabalu, all within two months after I got back to work. Travelling while fully breastfeeding is a huge challenge, but something I do willingly for the benefit of Yan Yan.

We also took a short break to Penang as a foursome. Yiu Yiu enjoyed herself tremendously, while hubby and I gorged ourselves silly with the yummylicious Penang hawker fares.

Younger sister moved in to a house few doors away from mine just a couple of days ago, and Yiu Yiu is delighted to have her cousins close by. And as mum stays with her, hopefully she can lend a hand in keeping an eye on my girls should the need arise.

Other noteworthy things that took place in the past year:
- Hubby and I took two holidays this year, one to Hong Kong and Macau, an extension of my business trip, and another to Yogyakarta with mum and MIL.
- One of my blog posts was featured in an online travel guide.
- We decorated one of the rooms with a Princess theme for Yiu Yiu, but unfortunately, the room is left vacant till today as Yiu Yiu is still sharing the King size bed with me and Yan Yan, with hubby relegated to the mattress on the floor.
- I started baking again, after umpteenth years, though only few times this year. I hope to bake more, and perhaps learn some cake decorating as well.
- Took Yiu Yiu for her first visit to the dentist.
- Won some hair clips in my maiden bloggers' contest.
- Sold my old car, and personally handled all procedures for transferring ownership of the car.

Goodbye 2009, and wishing everyone a better and brighter 2010, filled with joy, happiness and excellent health.

December 30, 2009

Two Pixels First Anniversary giveaway

"We try to grab pieces of our lives as they speed past us. Photographs freeze those pieces and help us remember how we were…"

This quote by Gene McSweeney captures succinctly the essence of photography, and the reason why I'm such a sucker for good photographs. Unfortunately my photography skill sucks coz I simply don't have a clue on pointing the camera in the right direction to get the effect I want. This is why I need help from the gals at Two Pixels, coz they possess the magic touch to capture the right mood in each photograph to elicit the oohhhs and aahhhs from people who see them.

The ladies from Two Pixels took photos of Yan Yan when she was 12 days old, and I used one of the photos on the gift card for Yan Yan's full moon gifts. Many were mesmerised by this unique photo:

Unfortunately the photo session took place on a weekday so hubby and Yiu Yiu couldn't participate, as hubby was at work and Yiu Yiu was at the kindy, so we didn’t have any family shots. So I'm hoping to be one of the three lucky bloggers of their First Anniversary giveaway of a free photo shoot. That would be a really nice beginning for 2010 for our family, to have some gorgeous family photos for keepsake, to help us remember how we were – as Gene McSweeney had put it so elegantly.

And here's to many many more anniversaries for Two Pixels.

December 29, 2009

Penang food trail

Food was another important aspect of our trip to Penang. Armed with The Star Street Food Guide, we went in search of all the famous hawker fares in Penang. My colleague was very kind to drive us around to all the famous stalls, some of which were listed in the book, while some were her personal favourites. Below is a round-up of our meals in Penang just so we know where to go in future:

Saturday, December 19
Had home-cooked Siamese laksa and steamed fresh flower crabs, prepared by my colleague's godmother. Since we had that rather early, we went for supper later at night. But Yiu Yiu was already sleepy and since we wanted her to eat something as she didn't have the laksa and crabs earlier, we just headed to the nearest hawker centre in Tanjung Tokong. We had char kuay teow, oh chien, loh bak and tang yuen, while Yiu Yiu finished a whole plate of wantan noodles. Food was nothing to shout about.

Sunday, December 20
We were supposed to go for breakfast at one hawker centre in Pulau Tikus but it was closed so we ended up at Restoran Bee Hooi. We had the famous Jones Road loh mee curry mee, mee suah, loh bak, and pie tee. The loh mee was really good, while the rest was pretty ordinary. Yiu Yiu had wantan mee again – I didn’t have a taste but there was a newspaper article hanging by the stall so I guess it should be rather good.

In the afternoon, we had the famous Penang Road Teochew cendol. The stall is actually located at Lebuh Kwee Kee, adjacent to a restaurant which serves good asam laksa and char kuay teow but we didn’t eat there as we couldn't find any parking. My colleague waited in the car while hubby and I, together with her godmother lapped up the cendol by the roadside :-)

We then adjourned to the Cecil Street Market Hawker Centre. There were so many stalls there and it was mind boggling trying to decide what to eat. My colleague asked the vendor who sold us the drinks to recommend her favourite char kuay teow stall there, and it turned out to be excellent. We also tried the Chinese pasembur (I've never seen Chinese selling pasembur but apparently it's quite common in Penang) and apam balik. Yiu Yiu had duck kuay teow th'ng, which was also superb.

We had dinner at Kedai Kopi Sin Guat Keong at the corner of Kimberley Street and Cintra Street. The char kuay teow and desserts (糖水) stall outside the restaurant, and the kuay chap stall opposite the restaurant are the famous eats. The kuay chap was quite remarkable, but I find the char kuay teow a tad too moist for my liking.

We then tapau some ham chim peng from the famous stall opposite Tai Thong Dim Sum on Cintra Street. Can't really comment how good they were, coz we only ate them the next day, and naturally, they had turned a little hard by then.

Monday, December 21
We had late breakfast in the hotel, and so skipped lunch (two meals wasted, haha). My colleague took us to her favourite Hokkien mee (prawn mee) stall at Presgrave Street Hawker Centre, several doors away from the Kwang Wah Yit Poh office. And true enough, it was wonderful. And you can add other goodies such as roast pork or pork ribs into the noodles. The ice kacang, topped with a scoop of of ice cream, was super yummy too. The ice was so finely shaved that it melts in your mouth. My colleague had warned us not to order anything else as we would adjourn to another place for char kuay kak but hubby couldn’t resist the oh chien, so we had a small plate with plump, juicy oysters. I didn't care much for the oysters though, as I normally just eat the egg, which tasted pretty good. Yiu Yiu again had wantan mee.

We had char kuay kak from a pushcart parked along Burma Road, opposite the Public Specialist Centre. There was still a short queue, even though it was already way past dinner time. The kuay kak was fragrant, and not oily.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Gurney Drive Hawker Street, and hubby tapau rojak from the famous GP Soon stall. According to my colleague, this stall is so famous that the vendor only opens from 9 – 10pm onwards, and despite that, there's always a long queue. The rojak was really delightful, and I love the crunchy Chinese crullers.

Tuesday, December 22
Breakfast was again in the hotel, and we went in search for food after checking out from the hotel. We wanted to try the famous Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng along Burma Road. We had to abandon the plan as we couldn't find any parking. We then drove to Penang Road to Kek Seng Coffee Shop for the jawa mee, operated from a pushcart in the side lane. We ordered both the normal version with gravy, as well as the dry version, which I've never seen before. Though the normal version was good, I prefer the dry version, which was more flavourful and had a distinct tanginess. Hubby couldn't resist the asam laksa and loh bak, while Yiu Yiu had kuay teow th'ng – and we were not disappointed with any of them. There were newspaper cuttings on the ice kacang sold in the shop so we ordered one to try. I didn't like it - the rose syrup was too strong for my liking, and the shaved ice was a little too coarse.

Photo credits: All the above photos were "borrowed" from here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. We didn’t manage to take any picture coz we were always pre-occupied – I had to carry/sling Yan Yan, while hubby would be busy tending to Yiu Yiu and ensuring she finished her meal, so no luxury of time/hands to take pictures :-) But a food post without photos would be soooo boring, so I resorted to "borrowing" these pictures.

December 27, 2009

Holiday in Penang – Part 2

Monday, December 21
We slept in late and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before hitting the pool and beach again.

By the time we got ready to go out, it was already close to 2pm. We headed to the Butterfly Farm and both girls fell asleep in the car so we let them sleep for another 30 minutes or so before waking Yiu Yiu up, and the still sleeping Yan Yan in a sling. The last time I went to the Butterfly Farm was probably with the school trip when I was 12, haha! But I was really impressed with how well kept the farm is.

We caught the Insect and Reptile Show at 3.00pm where visitors can get up close and personal with, well, insects and reptiles. To my utter surprise, Yiu Yiu had no qualms handling the creepy crawlies or the scaly reptiles.

Clockwise from top left: Dead leaf mantis, milipede, moving leaf, monitor lizard, gecko

On the way back, we stopped by Hard Rock Hotel to look see look see. The pool area is totally awesome – kids can easily spend whole day frolicking by the pool. Too bad we couldn't get a room there - I was told that the hotel was fully booked right up till January.

We then headed back to our hotel for more water play at the pool.

Yan Yan was a little afraid of the water when we first put her in the pool

After a little while, she started to enjoy herself tremendously

Water baby

Tuesday, December 22
After breakfast, we hit the beach coz Yiu Yiu wanted to ride on the horse. She had been yelling "Hello" to the man with the horse each time she saw him passing by. We paid RM30 for the 10-minute ride along the beach.

We spent some more time building sandcastles and picking seashells by the beach, before going for a final round of water play in the pool.

First time stepping on sand

After checking out, we headed out to town for lunch, before bidding farewell to Penang. It was a wonderful, relaxing break for our family, and I'm really glad we decided on this last minute trip.

December 25, 2009

Holiday in Penang – Part 1

Saturday, December 19
We left home at about 11.45am after picking Yiu Yiu from her art class. We stopped by McDonald's along the NKVE to tapau some chicken nuggets and fries for Yiu Yiu, in case she gets hungry along the way, before starting the long drive to Penang. Hubby and I got hungry somewhere after Taiping and we contemplated having a really late lunch at Bukit Tambun but since it was already close to 3pm then, we decided to just grab a quick bite at the Gunung Semanggol rest area. We reached Penang at about 4.30pm, and went to the hotel to try our luck to see if they've any room available for the night. Unfortunately the hotel was full, and so was the one next to it, so we reverted to our original plan to spend the night at my colleague's apartment. Coincidentally, the apartment's residents' association organized a Christmas party that night so Yiu Yiu joined in some of the games. However, since the games were meant for older children, she got bumped out early and was pretty upset about it.

Sunday, December 20
I had planned on visiting the Botanical Gardens but my colleague suggested that we go to the Youth Park instead, as there would be more things to keep Yiu Yiu entertained. True enough, she happily ran around and kept herself busy with the slides, swings, see saws and various other equipments.

We then visited the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, the opulent home of a rich Chinese Kapitan, Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee. The mansion has been restored to its former glory and well worth a visit, and the current owner also exhibiting his collection of antiques. This was also the main site for the filming of the acclaimed Singaporean series "Little Nyonya", with purportedly 70% of the entire series being filmed in the mansion. Surprisingly Yiu Yiu enjoyed visiting the mansion too, and kept asking to take photos of her sitting on the stools in the garden/rooms ala Yue Niang (月娘), the protagonist in the series.

The main room that is used for business discussions

While the men made money, the women of the house spent the money playing mahjong in the adjacent room

The main dining hall for the family (left), and the guest dining hall for serving Chinese food (top right) and Western food (bottom right)

The ancestral altar, which is still being used by descendants of the Kapitan to pay their respects (left) and the wall carvings on either side of the altar depicting scenes from Heaven (top right) and Hell (bottom right)

Yue Niang wannabe

Main entrance

We went to the hotel at about 5.30pm and check-in was a pain. There were two long queues at the reception and it took us almost 30 minutes before getting the key to our room. The room was very spacious and clean but sparsely decorated. We wasted no time in getting Yiu Yiu changed into her swim suit so she could enjoy some water play before it got too dark.