Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy Belated Chinese New Year

It's been awhile since I last blogged. It's a combination of being overworked at the office and not being motivated to spend time blogging. Well, I'm back!

I had a great time over the Chinese New Year weekend. It started on Friday Night when I went out with a bunch of high school girlfriends. Right after work, I rushed over to Susie's house for some quick pizza with her and Susan. Susan then drove us up to Yuk Yuks in Vaughan to meet up with Michelle & Christine to catch the 7:30 PM show. Susan was a bit disappointed with the YukYuk's show because the featured headliner, Ron Josol, a Philipino comedian, was replaced with a different comedian. The replacement was actually quite funny, but overall, we found that the comedians relied way too much on profanity for their acts. Anyways, it was a cheap night out since the discounted tickets for the show only cost $3 a person. Can't think of any live acts cheaper than that. Afterwards, the girls came over to my place to have some tea, dessert and other snacks. Apologies to my family (Dick, Derek & Colin) for enduring the girls'yakfest which lasted way past midnight. In my defence, I did suggest that the boys spend their time at the nearby 24 hour Tim Hortons, if they'd rather not partake in the Girls' Night Out/Girls' Night In party. But they decided it was best to stay in.

On Saturday, we visited my in-laws downtown, where Dick's mom cooked us a traditional Chinese New Years meal. It was nice to see my sister-in-law and her family and spend some real family time together with them, as we don't see each other as often as we'd like. As usual, Dick's Mom cooked a lot of food. The New Year's Feast included Roasted Suckling Pork, Whole Dace Fish (the kind with a lot of teeny tiny bones to represent togetherness and abundance). There was a dish with black moss seaweed which is a homonym for exceeding in wealth (Fat Choy) Kung Hei means wishing you, thus Kung Hei Fat Choy literally means wishing you prosperity. For dessert, she prepared some sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding (bubble soup) with sweet rice balls containing lotus seed paste - signify having many male offspring. (Well, we did get 2 and I think that's plenty).

On Sunday, we visited my parents at the Senior's Home. We were hoping to meet up with my sister and her family there, but due to the flu season, they didn't make it. We did meet up with my brother and her girfriend though, which was nice as I hadn't seen them in quite a while. I made my mom very happy by writing Chinese Greetings and signing all our names in Chinese characters in the CNY card. She was beaming from ear to ear when she opened the card and was very impressed to see that I have not lost my ability to still write some chinese.

On Monday, Chinese New Year's Day, we had an office potluck to round out the festivities. I contributed with a dish called Buddha's Delight. It's a vegetarian dish consisting of rice noodles, nappa cabbage, chinese mushroom, golden needle, wood ear, gingko nut, carrots, green beans and tofu. (that's my version). The long Rice Noodles represents long life. The gingko Nuts respresents gold nuggets. I actually like gingko nuts, because they look so cute and for the texture but my family doesn't. They all think it tastes too bitter. I don't know if it's because there was way too much better tasting food at the potluck, or if my dish consisted of too many foreign ingredients, but there was a lot left over. Oh well, all's not lost, as it just meant that I had enough leftover for another lunch the next day.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!!!! It's the year of the Ox. So, OXOXOXOX to everyone!!!!!

Celebrating at my In-laws

Paying respect to the gods and praying for a Prosperous New Year

Here are some of the foods presented for the New Year

The whole family gathers around for a Traditional Home-cooked New Year's Feast

Here are some of the beautiful red envelopes (lucky money) we received for the occasion.

My mom was so happy that I didn't forget how to write in Chinese.

My version of the Buddha's Delight to celebrate the Year of the Ox.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why I love the Blogosphere

I love the Internet and I especially love the Blogosphere. The Blogosphere is like a whole new community for me where I can get to share ideas and thoughts with a group of like-minded people, in a fairly anonymous way. Some bloggers choose to remain faceless and some choose to use pseudonyms, but they always have something of interest for me to latch on to, once I have discovered them.

I started out following a few bloggers in the beginning, but that list keeps on growing because I get introduced to new ones through the first ones, or I just stumble upon them while searching on a subject of interest. For instance, I started with a handful of bloggers, such as my friend, over at “Just Maintenance” blogging about his wild adventures in Taiwan, while on a short term assignment teaching English to a group of young school age kids. Then there’s Connie, who is a very talented cartoonist, among other things, blogging about her frantic life as a University student and her secret desire to be a paparazzi? over at Beaversatile, and of course there’s my hubby, recently blogging about his adventures and misadventures? while travelling in China and visiting his ancestral village.

Another favourite blogger is “The Journal of the Girl who loves to cook”. I have been following her blog for the longest. She started out blogging about assorted favourite recipes, usually with an Asian theme, but then progressed to her love of baking and finally to blogging on her fledgling and what appears to be a very successful business of creating pretty awesome and cute looking edible cakes and cookies. Her work is truly AMAZING!!! I highly recommend you check out her Chinese New Years Treat Baskets at:

I could go on and on, but I just want to say that in addition to my interest in all things funny, cutesy and arts and crafty, I also enjoy reading up on anything which is “Green-Issue” related, as well as topics relating to “Early Retirement Planning” and “Financial Independence”. Strangely enough, there is a strong relationship between “Early Retirement Planning” and “Green Issues”. Basically, the simpler you live your life, the less impact you have on the environment (Green Issues) and the faster you can reach your goal of “Early Retirement” since the less you spend or consume, the faster you can save up in order to give up your hours spent working on a job you may not necessarily like. “FREEDOM 55”, HERE I COME! I’m still trying for “Freedom 50”, but it doesn’t look like it’s quite achievable yet in this economic climate, unless I can convince my family to pursue an even more simple style of living.

Anyways, I happen to have discovered another blogger which is sure to become a favourite for me. I found his link from a recent “No Impact Man” post which talks about how the Japanese manage to live very happy lives by using only 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the average American. After checking out this blog:, I’m totally convinced that living a SIMPLE LIFE is my GOAL for 2009. Once I have achieved “Financial Independence”, meaning I no longer depend on a weekly paycheck, my next GOAL may be to live out my life in semi-retirement, teaching English in some quaint town/village in Japan.

I leave you to admire some of the utterly enchanting photos I found on this latest favourite Blog depicting “Simple Living in Rural Japan”.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Holiday Festivities continue....

To recap, my family and I pretty much spent almost everyday between Christmas and New Years attending dinner parties and eating, laughing, eating, laughing and more eating and laughing.

Special mention goes to a fabulous dinner hosted by the Nakamotos. My hats off to Terry who slaved over a hot stove, making a very delicious Chicken and Potatoes dish stewed in Coconut Milk, as well as Garlic Shrimp, and Pan-Seared Scallops. Hmmm... sooooo soooooo goooood. She also made some very fancy appetizers made of crusty bread slices topped with smoked salmon. Hmmmm, another big hit. We contributed with some Rumaki appetizers and chocolate & lemon squares.

Dick and our 2 boys had a great time being in a virtual (All Girl Band) playing Rockband with the Nakamoto girls (Annette & Rachel). Dick had the most fun doing the singing part, as did I. I gave the drums a shot and did pretty good for my first try, but it was hard work. I was all sweaty after performing "Eye of the Tiger". It looks like Rockband is this seasons favourite among the teens and the young adults. Rockband was first introduced to me at the Seto Christmas Party, but I much preferred the Nakamoto Girls' "All Girl Band" version which featured music more to my liking. I wasn't too crazy about the heavy metal music played at the Seto Party.

I was most impressed with how gracious Rachel & Annette were as young hostesses. They certainly kept us entertained while Terry prepared dinner. Annette always had outrageously funny stories to tell us. Rachel was quite concerned that Derek was sitting on the sidelines at the beginning, reluctant to join in with the Rockband fun. She then engaged him in conversation, asking if he would like to visit a neighbour's pet ferret instead. By the end of the evening, the girls somehow persuaded Derek to join in and they had a blast playing the drums part as a 3 person player, each taking turns, one playing the left hand drums, one playing the right drums, and one person stepping on the drum pedals.

After our delicious dinner, Ian insisted that we drop by their neighbours' house a short walk away to go feed a couple of ferrets. The Nakamotos girls were asked to take care of the ferrets while the neighbours were on vacation. So all eight of us bundled up to pay the ferrets a visit. But alas, we didn't get to see them, because it turned out that the ferrets were already having visitors. At first we thought that the neighbours returned from their vacation earlier than expected, but they had asked some other friends of theirs to feed the ferrets as well. Those are certainly some very trusting neighbours as it appears they have given house keys to pretty much everyone on the block to go in and check on their ferrets!

While we were out, we decided to take a short tour of all the Christmas Lights that lit up the neighbourhood. Some of the Christmas Lighting were very impressive indeed. My favourite one was the house decorated with a inflatable Homer Simpson. A Classic!

Later on in the week, we visited my parents at the Seniors Nursing Home, where we briefly met up with my sister Cathy and her daughter. We exchanged gifts and stayed a bit snacking on some chinese buns and some putos (Philipino stlye steamed cupcakes) that the boys and I had made. My mom is not a very big eater and so she made me eat up a big portion of her lunch. It was very good food, considering it came from a nursing home. It was a plate of rice served with very tender chicken pieces and gailan (chinese broccoli). Yummy.

Well, another year has passed and a Brand New Year has arrived. I hope that 2009 will settle down to be a calmer period than the turbulence we experienced in late 2008. My family and I did not feel too much of the negative effects caused by the Global Financial Crisis, but still it was a little unsettling to hear of some of the doom & gloom experienced by some others all over the world.

I was very fortunate to have spent New Year's Eve with some very good friends who are just like family to me. A home-cooked meal featuring Roast Beef (with generous portions of rare beef made especially to suit our carnivorous family), Korean Beef, Stir-fried Shrimp, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and much much more was lovingly prepared for us, not to mention all the various homemade appetizers like crackers with hummus made from scratch, crackers topped with brie cheese & caramelized, a baked brie cheese wheel covered with a savoury coating and topped with cranberries, and of course a sushi platter... to be followed by assorted dessert dishes and Champagne. After midnight, we chatted some more, while the kids watched a movie. We had such a great time that we didn't realize it was already past 3AM in the morning!!! This is the latest I've stayed up in a long time. Good Friends, Good times. Life really doesn't get much better than this.

I'm pretty sure this will be the last of all the over-indulgence and we will return to our regularly scheduled healthier and lighter meals. I must say, I feel very grateful to have been surrounded by such loving, warm and funny friends and family while ushering in the New Year. Much as I would have loved to post some photos of the occasion, my friends were too darn shy to allow it, so I'll have to keep these happy memories close to my heart sans pictures.

Chocolate & Lemon Squares and some personalized ornaments for the Nakamoto girls

It's a Homer Simpson Christmas

It's Rockband Time