Saturday, November 29, 2008

Market Downturn Comic

Yes, this market downturn has got everyone down, except for maybe the brave speculators with available cash to dive right in, hoping to buy some stocks for deeply discounted prices, or so we think... Well, nobody really knows, not even the experts know for sure where the bottom is or when the markets are going to turn around.

One thing I have noticed is that management is trying to make our department feel better about it all by putting a spin on things. For instance, even though management keeps telling us that due to the market downturn, there will be less market activity, thus our workload should be lighter, that is in fact not true. Our workload has not become lighter, it has become HEAVIER. The reality is that since most companies don't have any cash on hand, there is increased complexity to the restructuring of many companies, resulting in more complicated deals being worked out. In fact, our department will now have MORE work, because we have to sift thru ever more complicated documents to sort out all the mess the highly leveraged companies have put themselves into, not to mention the increase in Bankruptcy cases and Class Action cases we must deal with.

The sad part is that since management have made the decision that our workload is becoming lighter, they now have an excuse to start laying off people and the remaining employees will have to take on an EVEN HEAVIER WORKLOAD. Sigh...

OK, I will stop dwelling on negativity. I should be thankful and I am. I am thankful that I live in a peaceful country (keeping my fingers crossed) and I live in a warm and comfortable home and I'm surrounded by loving friends and family. I hope and pray for peace around the world.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Crafts

So my 2 weeks of holidays just ended. No more sleeping in(sob). I thoroughly enjoyed my time off. I got to do most of what I wanted to do. There were more things I could have done, but my "to do" list is always longer than my "done" list.

One of the reasons why I didn't get more done was because the sewing machine broke down on me right after I completed only one set of oven mitts. Either the motor is dying or the sewing machine needed oiling, I'm not sure which, but I didn't feel much like trying to figure that out. Instead, I decided to create some Christmas ornaments by hand sewing and glue gunning. Forget the sewing machine. It took me longer and the hand stitching wasn't as neat as machine sewing, but I was still quite happy with the results.

So I had to close my Craft workshop on Wednesday as I dedicated most of Thursday to cleaning up the house before Dick's Thursday night return. After that, I just mostly relaxed and visited my parents. Well, it's back to work for me tomorrow. Can't wait til my next holidays, coming up in December.

Here's my sunny workbench

The oven mitts I managed to hand sew after my sewing machine broke down

A row of Santa ornaments

Mrs Claus & Santa

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome Home Dick

Dick and his parents came back from their China trip last night. Dick came back just in time to help shovel snow. Heh heh heh.

They came back in good spirits and happy to be Home Sweet Home. Dick picked out a very silky smooth jacket and some beautiful leaf paintings for me. The boys got yet more Nintendo games and some Nintendo plushies. I'm thinking we should buy some shares in Nintendo now. Dick's mom bought for me and the boys some really cool signature stamps with our astrological signs engraved on the sides. We got some other assorted gifts to bring to my parents.

I felt I already re-lived their trip through postings from Dick's blog, but now we get to listen to some fill-ins of what cannot be published publicly. Those stories are always more entertaining to listen to, but unfortunately, not in mixed company.

Dick and his parents return to a Winter Wonderland in Canada

Grandma waves hi to us

The three amigos are happy to be home

The boys welcome dad back with star confetti

Joan shows off her new jacket and leaf paintings from Dick

Toys for the boys

Assorted gifts from China & Hong Kong

Dick's mom bought signature stamps for Derek, Joan & Colin

Derek is a Rooster, Joan is a Rat and Colin is a Lamb

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why too much plastic will be the death of us.

What's worse than Global warming? TOO MUCH PLASTIC!!! It's downright scary. I know we live in a world surrounded by plastics these days and really we can't get away from it. BUT, we CAN certainly reduce the use of it. If you can spare 5 minutes of your time and watch the video below on Garbage Island, you will understand why Plastic will end up killing us before Climate Change does.

So, I'm doing my part first, by refusing to buy bottled water. Our municipal water is just fine. In fact, I wish the government would ban the product. Second, I also try to reuse plastic bags as much as possible. These are two very easy ways to control our addiction to plastic. The next step would be to avoid buying anything new which is plastic. That would be a whole lot harder, but at least be more aware of it when it comes to buying something new. Can you buy something similar which will have as long a life, if not longer which isn't made of plastic? We all have choices. Some are easy, some aren't so easy. Just think about it the next time you encounter plastic choices.

I know we all have reusable bags lying all over the house, but how many times do we end up using them? Well, to make it easier, I made myself a reusable cloth bag from the pile of fabric which I have collected over the years. I made the bag foldable into a very compact size which can then be easily placed in my purse. That way, it is always there ready to be used, instead of lying around somewhere forgotten at home. One thing I've noticed about plastic bags is that the sharp corners of facial tissue boxes always immediately renders the plastic bags useless by poking holes into them. So, using a reusable cloth bag makes more sense.

For grocery shopping, I place a whole bunch of bags (plastic or not) into one large reusable shopping bag which I hang onto a kitchen chair. So, by habit, I always grab these bags first before I go out grocery shopping.

Any plastic bags which are still in good shape, including plastic packaging of econo size bathroom tissue rolls, can always be reused for lining waste baskets. I always try to reuse plastic bread bags for packaging sandwiches instead of grabbing a sheet of plastic wrap, or worse, using a ziplock baggie only once.

Does anyone else have good suggestions on how to reduce our use of and/or dependency on plastic?

Using 2 pieces of fabric (2 large hankies), one button and a piece of sturdy string...

I made this compact size reusable cloth bag.

It unfolds into a full size bag (I call it my Maryjane Bag)

On a recent trip to PharmaPlus, I easily stuffed the contents shown below into this bag.

4 boxes of facial tissue, 3 bottles of shampoo and 2 packages of a 6-pack soap

Please watch this video on "Garbage Island". It is very informative.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Craft Day

It snowed today. Big giant pieces of snowflakes came floating down but didn't stick around. Snow days like this I don't mind.

I finally completed one of my sewing projects. To begin the story, I purchased some oven mitts several years ago which the kids love using for retrieving hot dishes from the microwave oven. It was the perfect size for their hands. They were not too oversize like some potholders which can often dip into the food. What I liked about these mitts was that they had magnets sewn into them so they can be easily attached to the fridge door. But after years of use, they became quite decrepit looking.

Time for a new pair. So, here's my version. I searched far and wide the past few days for some magnet strips to go into the mitts, but I never did find them. So, I tried cutting up some old fridge magnet ads (like from pizza places and dental offices)and inserting them into my newly sewn mitts. But these magnets just weren't strong enough to keep the mitts stuck on the fridge. My last resort was to attach a tie on them so they can be hung on kitchen cupboard knobs or hooks instead. I also made a round version of the oven mitt because they are actually easier to make but like the square oven mitts, my kids found them too cumbersome. Even though they are more difficult to sew, the oval design won out. Stick in a cute little Pillsbury Doughboy and it's ready to be part of a gift arrangement.

Another sewing project I may work on later would be the little personalized hanging stocking ornaments. I try to make new ornaments each year to hang on the Christmas tree. The Derek & Colin Stockings are 2 of my favourite keepsakes.

I didn't get around to playing with Model Magic this year yet. I love playing with Model Magic. It's like Playdough, but much nicer to work with and air dries into a soft dry product, perfect for ornament making. The boys and I have made many Model Magic ornaments over the years. One of my favourite is a Beaver I made last year for Connie Tam because that's her favourite animal. I liked it so much that I made one for myself to keep. Colin likes the angry snowman. Derek likes, what else, the christmas turtle.

Big Giant Snowflakes come floating down from the sky .... So pretty

Old pair of microwave oven mitts with fridge magnet inserts

Very old & decreipt looking

New microwave oven mitts

Pop a pillsbury doughboy in

Assorted microwave mitts

Hanging mitts

Hanging Stocking ornaments

Snowman & snowwoman ornaments

Personalized on the back

More ornaments

Angry snowman and friendly beaver

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Home Cooking & Cooking Abroad

Today, I finally started some sewing projects but will not be finished til maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile, I baked some banana muffins, banana bread and some Frosty Flakes Christmas Wreaths. For dinner I made some Shrimp Pad Thai. It turned out really well, but I must give credit to a girl who hails from Bangkok for all her good tips on how to make Pad Thai. If you want to give it a try, I recommend you go to Chez Pim's blog to learn how to make Pad Thai at She goes into very fine details, but it's well worth the read.

After our most excellent meal, we sat down to watch "Chef Abroad". Tonite's episode featured Chef Micheal Smith dining in Tokyo restaurants. It turned out to be a horror show for Derek as they were showing us how turtle soup and turtle sushi were prepared. Derek coudn't bear to watch this portion of the show. He finally resumed watching when they switched the topic to eating Fugu Sushi. Fugu (blow fish/pufferfish) is a fish which contains deadly poison in the organs. Fugu sushi is the World's Most Deadly Feast. We witnessed Chef Michael Smith eating it. He was extremely hesitant, but he did it. He was quite worried when he said he felt a strong tingling sensation on his lips. We think this might be his final episode. Just kidding of course. He was quite proud that he survived the Fugu Sushi eating challenge at the end of the show. Way to go Chef Michael!!! He's one brave soul.

Banana muffins, Banana Bread & Frosty Flakes Wreaths

Yummy Shrimp Pad Thai

I got 2 thumbs up for this dish

Derek couldn't stand watching his beloved turtles being butchered for soup. Even Colin was crying about it

Okay, it's safe to view again

Fugu Sushi Chef

Cute Fugu (Blow Fish/Pufferfish)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Life at a slower pace

Here's a recap of my first week of holidays at home with the boys, sans Dick.

I love waking up late every morning (around 8AM), so much better than 6AM. I love that there's no need to rush here and there. I can take my time doing whatever I want, whenever I want. No schedules to follow. I love it! love it! love it!!!

So, 2 whole weeks of indulging in all my favourite activities: cooking, shopping, crafting, baking and surfing the net.

First, the cooking. I love surfing the net, looking for ideas for new recipes or to just improve on old ones. On Monday, I made Korean Beef for dinner, always a family favourite, especially for Derek. He loved it so much, he had a helping of the leftover beef each morning for breakfast. Tuesday was my first attempt at making Hainam Chicken. It's basically chicken boiled with salt, garlic, ginger and green onion, served cold with a sesame oil coating and a green onion & ginger paste. It's a very simple and tender way to serve chicken. I got the thumbs up from the kids on that one. On Wednesday, I made 2 styles of pork. One portion was marinated with Chinese BBQ sauce (another family favourite). The other portion was marinated with soy sauce, ginger, garlic and lime leaves. The lime leaf portion had a nice flavour, but came out a bit dry. I also roasted some potatoes, squash and onion along with the pork. That provided enough food for 2 days. Friday was good’ole pasta night.

As for shopping, I ventured out to the Mall on Tuesday just looking for Christmas Gift ideas. I got sidetracked at Zellers when they kept announcing that they were giving away free kitchen gadgets. And of course, I'm always a sucker for free gadgets, so I stayed to listen to the food demo. I didn't stay for long tho, as I didn't want to be suckered into buying more useless items. I did try out the free gadget at home, but it never works out as well as how the demonstrator shows it. I swear they must use extra soft fruits and veggies for their demos, because I had a hell of a time trying to remove the core from an apple when I got home. I struggled with it so much, I ended up using a regular knife to cut it up and then removing the core the old fashioned way.

On Wednesday, I broke down and used the old lady cart to cart back some groceries. I noticed that we were halfway through the bag of rice and since there was a sale on our favourite brand of scented rice… Well, I had to pick a bag up, but there was no way I was gonna lug that thing back using a shopping bag alone. I also bought a GIANT bag of Mini Marshmallows since the kids love having those with their Hot Cocoa and Colin enjoyed the Frosty Flakes Squares so much that I will have to make another batch for him this weekend. I also picked up some Baby Bok Choy which the dopey clerk insisted was Shanghai Bok Choy. I didn’t argue too hard back because I got a better price on it anyways. I tried to be helpful, but she seemed to think she knew better.

Thursday was a doozy. I promised my in-laws that I would water their houseplants and pick up their mail every Thursday, which worked out well when I was already working downtown. But since I was uptown this week, I had to make the loooong trek down to their place. Well, I thought my daily commute to work was hellish, this beats it. It took me nearly 2 hours to get there! On top of that, when I went to pick up their mail, I actually pushed the whole pile too far back and all the mail fell into a gap at the back wall. Needless to say, I was devastated. When I checked with the front desk what to do, he suggested that I wait until around 12 noon or 1 PM for the postie to come by to retrieve my mail for me. It was only 11AM, so I decided to head over to meet up with my niece for lunch first. As always, I had a nice time chit-chatting with her. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stay as long as I had hoped since I had to head back to my in-laws’ place to retrieve the mail.

After that, I made my way up to Chinatown where I did some quick browsing. There were so many shops there, I couldn’t decide which shops to go to. Time goes by so fast when there are so many places to visit. While there, I wanted to buy some Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli). There was a bunch piled on top of a table and I started to pick through for the best selection but the vendor comes by and tells me that I can’t pick and choose but he will bag some up for me. I asked him why can’t I pick and choose and he said because I CAN’T. So I thought, fine, I won’t and left. I saw he did the same to some other customer. I guess some people don’t really want to sell their stuff?!?!. I ended up buying some Thai Basil, a package of firm tofu and some tamarind paste. I’m gonna make some Pad Thai Noodles later this week. Wish me luck.

As I travelled north up Spadina, there were so many shops I wanted to visit, but alas, it was getting late and I didn’t get to spend time at Gwartzmans Art Supplies Store. That was an old haunt of mine from my U of T days when I thought I could make a go at being an artist. Then I dropped into one of the numerous Chinese Knick Knack shops and I knew if I entered one of those, I’ll be in there for hours. But because I also wanted to scout out the Sickkids Hospital, I forced my way back out after only spending half an hour in there.

So off I went to Sickkids. I thought about visiting a high school friend while I was there but because it was getting late, I decided to just check out the exact location so that I won’t get lost, should I need to take Derek there for his upcoming Job Shadowing assignment. Michael Tropak was kind enough to offer the time to show Derek around his lab working as a Research Associate for Sickkids. He is only available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to do that, so I hope that Derek’s teacher will allot one of those days to be the Job Shadow Day. Otherwise, Derek will end up job shadowing one of my colleagues at the Bank instead.

On the way back to the subway station, I came across the “New” Ryerson University Business School sitting atop the Big Canadian Tire store on the corner of Yonge & Dundas. Ryerson, my Alma Mater. I attended it when it was known as “Rye High”. Such memories. Those were fun times. Oh well, time to go home. Gotta get back before dinnertime or the kids will be wondering where I’ve been all day.

Korean Beef

Hainam Chicken

Roasted Veggies

Useless Kitchen Gadget. It's suppose to be a fruit corer, among other things. I'm sure I'll fiddle with it some more on another day.

My saviour - The Old Lady Cart

Baby Bok Choy, Shanghai Bok Choy

Ginormous Bag'o Marshmallows

A hangout from my U of T days

Knick Knack store in Chinatown. I can spend all day in one of these stores

The "New" Ryerson University Business Building sitting on top of Canadian Tire

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cookies, Crafts & Shakespeare

I was in the mood to do some baking today. Since we still had some candies leftover from halloween, I decided to make cookies with them. It's basically a chocolate chip cookie base filled with Smarties and chopped up KitKat and Coffeee Crisp pieces. I made some Frosted Flake Squares too, a variation on Rice Krispies Squares.

Since a few of Colin's friends were coming by today to practice their script for a Hamlet Play, I had to basically make myself scarce because there's nothing worse than having a parent around to ruin a bunch of teenagers' fun. I decided to hide in my bedroom to do some reading and to spend time in my Craft Room to do some crafting. I had made a Japanese paper washi doll artwork a few years back but wasn't entirely pleased with it. So, I re-worked it by adding in some dried leaves and berries from the dried plant collection I had gathered earlier last month. Dick likes to refer to my dried plant collection as "yardwaste" and doesn't understand why I need to collect so much of it. Well, I am finally finding a use for them. I may find more uses for them in the upcoming weeks.

Oh, besides being a possible source of embarrasment for Colin and his friends, I was also told that I can't hang dry our clothes in our family room. I had to move the clothes rack to an insconspicuous area. So, I had no choice but to move it into my bedroom.

Derek and I had fun making these treats

Japanese Paper Washi Doll Art (This was what it looked like after I removed the previous dried up looking cedar needles. They were looking tired and faded)

Japanese Paper Washi Doll Art (After addition of dried leaves & berries)

Clothing Rack had to be moved into my bedroom ...
So that Colin's friends can practice doing their Hamlet Script in the Family Room.