Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mothers' Day

Happy Mom's Day to all mothers, step mothers and those wanna be mothers... may we be blessed with children who love and respect us despite all our imperfections.
I hope I will never see the day when I am refered to by my children as " Hish... orang tua nie! ", like in some scenes we used to watch in drama Melayu. But, we'll never know what the future will bring onto us. All we can do is hope and pray for the best things in life.... InsyaAllah..
My children surprised me today with flowers, a t-shirt with "One in a million Mom" printed on it and a mug with their faces on it! I am glad they remembered.

I called up my mom in Sri Manjung, Perak the day before Mothers' Day here as that would already be Mothers' Day there.. She sounds allright...... but keeps saying; " Alhamdulillah.. macam ni laa..oghang lamaa " Never really complaining what ails her. Constantly looking forward for her daily activities of mengaji, Bahasa Arab classes & marhabban group. A 72-year old retired teacher, ilmu to her is a continous affair. I'ld rather she keeps busy in those activities and retain her feistiness than just mope all day long. I remember her earlier post retirement days when she was really involved in marketing & selling Herba Nona Roguy .. It's not easy to sell a product that has something to do with your bowel movements! But, she proved otherwise in spite of her age... sampai ke Pengarah Mahkota! And that's the max that a dealer can achieve. Of course, my arwah father helped... well, he kept the accounts, and drove her around! Their house became the Stokis for Selama, Perak where many gatherings & ceramahs were held. Bukan nak buat duit sangat, she says... Saja-saja nak buat kawan, kalau boleh nak tolong oghang...:-)
Ooo...you should see her in action when giving her ceramahs! With the microphone in hand, she could not stop!
That's our mom.. Puan Hajjah Bastiah binti Haji Abdullah

Di hari ini hari istimewa
Sekalung kasih untuk mu bonda
Sungguhpun sudah berlarut usia
Hanya pada mu tempat bermanja...
Petikan dari Puisi-Puisi Kamariah Nuri
Sasterawan Perak Darul Ridzuan..

Monday, May 12, 2008

Angkasawan Malaysia in San Jose

So much has happened since I last posted : There was Mother's Day - a day in a year to remember mothers!,... the heat wave in California - the day our house air-cond chose to breakdown!,... the ruling legalising gay marriages made in San Francisco - the day signifying doomsday is approaching fast!... it took place the same day as the heatwave - not surprising, eh!? and ... as you can see.. the day our Malaysian Astronaut - Angkasawan Malaysia, Dr Sheikh Muzhafar Shukor chose to land in San Jose!.
Nadia & Sarah handing him the Congratulations Card. Just look at Nadia's adoring eyes looking at the fine-looking doctor, restaurant owner & also model...:-)
The event was organised by M.C.A at the Convention Center in the Masjid. Dr Sheikh came alone that Friday afternoon, gave his speech and left for L.A the next morning. I think he underestimated the response that he would get in San Jose - especially from the children, and mothers!. His audience were not only us Malaysians but all other nationalities who knew a Muslim Astronaut was coming - the Convention Center was packed up to the hilt! Although not the 1st Muslim to go to space, he mentioned the 9th, I think he is definitely the youngest and maybe the handsome-est ! ;-)
Eager boys greeting him at the door of M.C.A .
His speech was eloquent enough.. I believe he has done & rehearsed it many times for the road-trip. I read somewhere he was previously in Dubai before coming to the US and will be going to who knows where next... Only just 6 months coming back from space, he must be tired out. But, looks like he is loving every minute of it! Dr Sheikh described how he spent his 12 days in the International Space Station (ISS) ...how he performed his solat, how he break his fast (puasa). He also showed how he did some scientific experiment there. He should write a book by now!
Michelle introducing Dr Sheikh on stage. Accompanying him on stage is Pak Mat. Rasa-rasanya Pak Mat & family lah yang paling lama tinggal di US compared to any other Malaysians here.

The children asking questions. One question was : How do you go to the bathroom? Bagus tu...tak terfikir kita nak tanya.

Part of the audience at the Convention Center. In front, leading them is Dr Bakri, .. busy taking notes for his blog, maybe..?

There have been quite a few emails I received before, concerning the status of Dr Sheikh 'astronaut-ship' or 'angkasawan', him being just a 'space-flight participant' instead. He denies it of course, describing what he had to go through in comparison with another person from another country ( I forgot the name..), who secured a ticket by just paying a lot of money! Apparently we got our seat when the Malaysian government bought one point something billion worth of aircrafts from the Soviets. I heard murmurs of " OOoooo.... " when he mentioned that to the audience. Macam technology transfer through free training laa.. which is a norm thing to do in any contractual procurements. Well, I am not sure pulak of any other 'in-kinds' that might have taken place.. mesti ada tuu! :-o
On top, Dr Sheikh wearing a Batik shirt and spinning the gasing in space..

Performing the solat ...he had to tie his leg so that he won't float!

Performing a scientific experiment..

Taking a 'sip'.. buka puasa...

With Malaysians and half-Malaysians...
Dr Sheikh was selected among thousands, undergone rigorous training - in Malaysia, Russia and even in Siberia! - , endured the pain & sacrifice and finally he qualified. Body and Soul! He said, it has been his passion to go to space since he was 10. Constantly having to watch his health and be physically fit. Cannot even have a single scar on the body! He used to do model-ing... selain angkasawan, juga peragawan !

The rest of the crowd at the Convention Center...

Me and a few sisters here....debating on where to place the 'fruit bouquet'...:-)

Whatever the controversies are on naming him, to me he is an 'Angkasawan' - a man who has gone to the 'angkasa' and back! With all the fame and attention he is getting now, I don't think he should be traveling alone..... Get yourself a Manager! Dah jadi macam artis pulak... Pity him, tapi kesian lagi looking at a few children's faces yang tak sempat nak bergambar dengan a man who has gone to space! Bukan senang nak jumpa. Kalau dah ada Manager, tahu la orang kalau nak makan ker, nak balik ker, nak tidur ker...dah letih ker.. ! :-)

Finally, one with my children... Pak Aji tak ada..balik Malaysia!


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Earth Day....

April 22nd is Earth Day. I thought everyday of the year should be Earth Day.. Just to proof that I am an 'earthling' , I have recently made some contributions towards it also. Of course not the roses, they are already here when we first moved in. Normally whatever I plant will just wilt and die away... I am convinced that my fingers are not 'green' ... and they are also 'hot' ! I have always admired people with cool and green fingers.. anything they plant will just flourish. My mother-in-law is one of them; and I managed to convince her about my 'hot fingers' too ! She would willingly plant whatever green there was in my garden back home, weed and repair them whenever she comes visiting! Always having gardening advice for me : The best baja is 'chicken shit', siram tak boleh tengah hari, gembur kena selalu. Believe me I tried ! But, they never turned out right, like the way her garden grows. Thank goodness she never complained ( well, none that I know of..so far ) nor compared me to her other 'menantu' whose fingers are as green as the 'rain forest', and have a garden the envy of her neighbours. At least I am comforted knowing that my mother-in-law acknowledges the fact that not all of her sons - especially my hubby ! - inherit her 'green fingers' or have the gardening passion that she has....
Now that I have aaalll the time in the world ( I keep saying that...he..he..he ), I thought I could un-convince myself of my own hypothesis with the help of proper watering system in the backyard and 'perfect' California weather.

No, I didn't plant this....

nor ...this...

Not even this pokok sambung hayat .. which was planted by Rahim ( Rusminah's hubby ) from a tiny, dried up twig which they risk smuggling for me in their luggage when they were here holiday-ing. True to its name - panjang sungguh hayat pokok nie..

My chillies in the 'Made in Malaysia' pasus, basil and mints on the ground in front... hoping not to die.....

My tomatoes...
notice the wire climbers, they are terbalik!.. :-)

Puding Caramel - a flan worthy of being a family favourite !

I have always seen myself as totally lousy at baking, making 'kuih' or even desserts. But, friends of mine have on number of occasions tried to convince me otherwise. I remember Diyana & Rashidah (Ada) and even Rusminah (Rose) saying to me " Resipi yang paling senang K.Ainal.. blend jer !! " Sure, jadi ... I've never tried it in Shah Alam becos as usual, mana ada masa.. ! Now that I've all the time in the world, I tried once in Boston and the pyrex dish I used exploded ! Haa... right inside my kuali (wok ) which I used as part of my equipment for kukus (steaming). So I gave up until I read this article by Aleta Watson in the San Jose Mercury News recently. She mentions that it is a staple dessert in countless Spanish and latin American Restaurants. All the while, I thought it's Malaysian! Well... because of the secret ingredients, of course... evaporated and condensed milk! Which is nothing fancy.. We call it Puding Caramel but Aleta named it Alicia's Flan...after her friend whom she says learned to make it from a woman she stayed with during an educational exchange in Spain. The only problem was the recipe was in Alicia's head, macam Diyana, Ada and Rose ... I guess because it's so simple. Anyway, with Alicia cooking and Aleta taking notes they came up with a recipe that is sure to work every time. It worked for me ! So try it, if you haven't done it yet...


Ingredients - serves 10-12
6 large eggs
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar

1. Place eggs in 5-cup blender jar and whirl 10seconds. Pour in condensed milk and whirl 10seconds. Add evaporated milk and whirl 10seconds. Fill empty condensed milk can with water. Add vanilla and enough water to fill blender jar to brim. Whirl on low speed a couple of seconds. Set aside while you make the caramel.
2. Place sugar in 10-inch skillet and over medium-low heat, tilting pan now and again to help sugar melt evenly, until it liquifies and turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Do not stir as it will be clumpy. Watch mixture carefully as it cooks to avoid burning. Don't ever put in any liquid such as water!!

3. Carefully pour caramelised sugar into a 1 1/2- quart souffle dish. Slowly pour egg and milk mixture from blender over caramel. Seal dish or flan pan tightly with foil and place in roasting pan or soup pot large enough to hold dish and cover with lid.
4. Pour water into larger pan to a level about a third of the way up the dish. Cover pan with lid and bring water to boil on stove. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, one hour.
5. Remove dish from water bath and let cool. Refrigerate overnight and turn upside-down on a plate to unmold and serve. must be well-chilled to unmold in one piece.

I don't have a 'periuk kukus' so I use a round metal cake mould placed on top of a small metal rack which is put inside a wok. I cover the whole thing with the 'wok's cover'. If you don't have the metal rack use something, - like empty milk cans - that can raise up the mould so that it doesn't touch the water bath but still low enough to be covered.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Adult Community Education (ACE)

Chef Suzanne in action at her Chocolate Candy Making Class which I attended for 2 sessions - 3 hours for each sesion. I love the idea of utilising existing facilities and infrastructure in more ways than one - as what is being practised by the Union High School District (Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah). School facilities are being used during night time and also weekends to cater for the education of the adults community. There are many-many courses to choose from and these programs are accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges. So, a person who for some reason or another did not finish high school and opted to work instead, can continue their education at ACE and then go to a Community College and get transfer credits for a degree at a local university. That is what we call Life Long Learning - Pembelajaran Se-panjang Kehidupan. The 2 guys are my cooking mates getting ready to coat the mashmallows. The mashmallows were not 'halal' so Nikki ( my daughters' violin instructor ) got my share. Kevin made sure he took home the cherries which were marinated with brandy - how thoughtful of him! The 3 ladies are mother & daughter team (Ellen & Jean) and Janine. I got to know about ACE when a brochure arrived in our mailbox, so I signed up! The courses offered under the Career and Technical Education are either I am already good at ( ha..ha..) or too specialised like Nursing, Security Guard Training, Cosmetology, Nanny ( funny, right? but they offer it ), Accounting, Building Maintenance, Programming courses ( Unix C/C++, Perl, Bits to Java..), Electronics, Computer Tech and more.. All of which certs issued. Fees..? It ranges, but one example : Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate Program costs in total $525 for 25 sessions. Whereas, for Intro to Computers for Older Adults costs $45 for 7 sessions. One session lasts for 2 to 3 hours... Rasa2 nya worth it la tuu..! Then there's Citizenship classes and they are ...free! The class is to prepare a person for the citizenship interview. The instructor for Soap Making Made Simple with a sample that she made. Go visit her blog, its interesting. Tak kedekut ilmu dia nie.. http://homemadebathproducts.blogspot.com .
Adult Secondary Education is also free and it prepares a person to pass the High School Exit Exam in order to obtain a high school diploma. English as a Second Language pun ada... What do you think of Parent Education... ? Motherhood 101, Sibling Solutions, Wiggles & Rhymes - lagu2 nursery rhymes.. Everything needs to be taught these days, and has to be paid for too ! One of the sisters of mine here who join me in this class, putting in coloring and fragrances in her soap before pouring in the moulds.. Classes untuk Active Adults 50+ which are way cheaper ( which I am not eligible yet, honestly...tak boleh join! ), ada dancing.. languages.. painting.. literature.. writing.. yoga.. taichi.. quilting.. sewing.. finance.. and many more under this category. A few of the soaps that I made.. cantik & wangi ! Interested? Boleh order... no problem, payment to my M'sian account.. ;-) Seriously.. they are decorative soaps, jadi bagus untuk dijadikan hantaran ! Kalau nak guna untuk mandi pun apa salahnya... Memang 'halalan toiyiban'. Hmmm, apa lagi yer...ada Community Enrichment classes - Arts & Crafts, Cooking, Health, Home, Music & Dance, Physical Fitness. Yang paling best tu under Special Interest : 1. How to Play Mah Jong, 2. Single? Attract & Choose a Lasting Relationship That Works, and ... last but not least ... 3. " Anybody can Blog! " :-)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Monta Vista High School SBS Tutoring Program

The SBS Office is located in the library. It is equipped with a PC installed with all the necessary MVHS and Microsoft Office applications.
Study Buddy Society (SBS) Tutoring Program at MVHS was initiated by a parent several years back. And currently it is run and coordinated, on a voluntary basis, by four mothers - including me! It may soon be reduced to just me and another lady. Mary - the Taiwanese lady with the twins I story-ed in my previous posting - has gotten a job at her friend's company and might not be available for the voluntary work anymore. The red flower-like daisies remind me of the 'straw flowers' which used to be a craze some many2 years ago.. Doris and Seema would also be leaving since their sons are now seniors and will be graduating this coming June. The two ladies have been coordinating the program ever since their boys were in freshmen year. I was Doris's 'intern' only for a few days before the ex - HP Director (also originates from Taiwan) decided to let me hold the 'fort' on my own. Doris is a wonderful trainer - I've never met anyone who is so 'systematic' as her. This picture was taken several weeks back... right now pokok2 yang 'togel' ni dah berdaun banyak..At first I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of work that the SBS Office has to handle. But, like all other jobs and everything else in life, we will get the 'hang of it' once we set our mind into it! Anyway, the workload is made easy by sharing them among us ... I just pray it won't be 'warm-warm chicken shit' for me...:-) Working on the office application files (excel, word) and email-ing is nothing new. But, when the students come in with their queries or when conducting workshops for the students on the program or even when talking to the teachers..... time tu lah lidah jadi berbelit2! Intonasi pun jadi tunggang langgang ... he..he.. Where can speak 'Manglish' waaan... using our famous fillers like... lah.. maa... will make them even more 'confuse'. If we pronounce it the way we normally do ( the British way, lah ) dia orang tak paham, but when we roll our 'Rs' ... and 'Ds' our 'Ts' ... or cakap sengau2 through our noses ..... paham pulaak.. Yang pelik tuu, most of them bukan nya 'mat salleh' pun.... almost 70% of the MVHS students are of Asian heritage! This tree on the left is on top of a hilly ground.. with all the leaves it's having now, it looks so biig, strong... and shady! Even Doris & Seema yang bertahun2 tinggal disini pun masih ada slang from their mother-land. Mary on the other hand is now taking a course in 'speaking'. That sweet lady ( who looks more like a Japanese rather than a Taiwanese ) doesn't even want to pick up any phone calls and just let me handle them instead. I will miss her when she's no more with the SBS Office. I remember the times when she'll pick me up or even send me back home. Once, I had tea at her apartment while both of us waited for our children to finish their tutoring class. Her twin boys Jonathan & Eric are in the same tutoring class as Atiqah. And according to Atiqah, the twins are cheeky ( selalu kena usik la tuu.. !) and asyik cakap cina jer..:-) Tutoring classes are held after school from 3.15 till 4.15pm and theirs are every Mondays & Wednesdays; the days which I pick to be at the SBS Office too. There are 8 tutoring classes with not more than 10pairs of students and a host teacher in every class. The teacher doesn't do anything much, just take attendance and supervise the students. Their overtime will be paid by the school district and as proof, SBS Office compiles the students attendance and forward to the school district every month. On the right bunga pokok pear... At the bottom, bunga pokok apple.... at the moment, pokok2 ni kat belakang rumah dah ber-putik... banyak sungguh bees..! Must be sweet.... Anyway..., students with GPA 3.5 and above are eligible to be Tutors. They are matched with the Tutees on a 1 to 1 basis depending on the subjects which the Tutees need help with. At the end of the year, SBS Office will provide the necessary recommendations and credentials; which is going to be of added value in the Tutor's College applications. On the other hand, with assistance from their peers or seniors, the Tutees academic performance will hopefully improve. Currently there are over 100 Tutees but the number will dwindle as a few will be dropped from the program for bad attendance or just plain not interested! Usually parents ( yours truly included ) are the ones that urge their children to attend the tutoring program. After all the SBS Tutoring Program is free! Other Tutoring classes out there cost around 60 to 70 dollars an hour! In addition to the SBS Tutoring Program, Atiqah is also home tuitioned by one of MV Senior whom we pay $15 an hour. Cyonee Mukhopathaya comes every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Dah terpaksa, kalau tidak dia akan asyik tengok YouTube drama Korea or even Akademi Fantasia yang sikit pun tidak memberi apa2 pembelajaran. Alhamdulillah, her results are beginning to look more promising and I am hoping to see her achieving GPA of 3.5 and higher.