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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sweet and Juicy

Tonight was a celebration of independence, new spaces and all things red. My great friend Akiko had a house warming at her new apartment in Ebisu. It was a fantastic game of fit as many people into one Tokyo apartment as you can. We were all very warm and cozy. We ended up playing the longest most hilarious game of Trivial Pursuit - The Pop Version.
It was a scrumptious night of wine and cheese. Akiko even had some French cheese wrapped in soaked sakura leaves, very special. Seeing as I don't drink wine or eat cheese I whipped up a batch of juicy fruit kebabs made especially to match Akiko's kitchen decor - rich and glowing reds.

Very simple raw recipe packed with vitamins and flavor, looks cute too.
Strawberries (I found these gorgeous mini ones, a whole basket of them for about $5 very cheap by Tokyo standards)
Pineapple chopped up
Shredded coconut (ideally fresh coconut would have been best but those babies are few and far between in this town)
Dried strawberries
Kebab sticks
I think you can work the rest out for yourself.
The ultimate raw party or picnic food. So easy, fresh and colorful. You will get lots of delighted ooohs and aaaahhhhhs and your tummy will thank you.

In terms of food combining, strawberries and pineapple are good friends as they are both in the acid category therefore they tend to work in harmony in your tummy when eaten together. Unfortunately I pigged out on dates at the same time not such a great mate with the acidic foods so things are gurgling around down there having a whale of a time making their way through the crowd. Oh well, it was all very delish!

Ba Kui or Foochow Rice Sticks

One very special food of the Foochows is the White Rice Cake which is sliced and fried with an assortment of garlic,slices of pork, prawns,eggs and leeks. It used to be served only during the Chinese New Year. But today in Sibu, fried ba kui or white rice cakes ,is available throughout the year.

Most Foochow women can make the White Rice Cake from scratch. The recipe is quite simple to follow and each cake is about half an inch thick and 3 inches in diameter. The cakes are steamed and are then ready for slicing. The slices are then fried with the other ingredients. Sesame oil is a must for this dish.

The freshly made White Rice Cakes are available in the wet market in Sibu. All one needs to do is buy them, take them home and slice them. They will be ready for frying. If you know someone who can make them, it is even better as you would then have a good deal, as good home made White Rice Cakes are precious items.

If fresh rice cakes are not available, you can buy the dried type , usually important from Fuzhou, China. They are now available in the better supermarkets throughout Malaysia.

When I was a young bride I was very interested in making this bak gui from scratch but unfortunately I did not know anyone who would want to share the recipe, even at a price. Recipe books were also not easily obtainable in Sibu. So I tried many times to make the rice sticks. Each time I failed, I had to turn the recipe into something else in a creative way...most of the time they became tang yuan or glutinous rice balls. It was a good thing I used only a handful of rice flour.

Almost thirty years later I met a very nice lady, the late Kim Hua, a cook in the Miri General Hospital. She was so kind to me that she not only taught me to make the bak gui,but also a few other traditional dishes. I cannot thank her enough.

The secret lies in a cup of very hot water. I will let you know in another posting.

Here's the recipe for cooking the rice sticks. (for 2 persons)
1. Soak 25 - 30 rice sticks or less overnight for 2 person.
2. When soft and ready to cook, mix the rice sticks with a bit of sesame oil and salt, steam them for about 10 minutes or until soft.
3. The Sauce: 4 pips garlic, chopped finely
4 -5 pieces of spring onions
2 tablespoons of thick soy sauce.
1 tablespoons of sugar
2 eggs - beaten
10 prawns shelled and deveined
4 leeks - sliced thinly
pepper to taste
80 gms of sliced pork
(optional - 2 pieces of Chinese sausages,
sliced very thinly)
some water mixed with a teaspoon of corn starch

4. Just before your meal,
fry the garlic in two tablespoons of sesame oil
add chinese sausages, pork,and then prawns
next throw in the leeks, stir fry quickly.
add the steamed rice sticks,stir fry the ingredients quickly.Add some water
add the beaten eggs and cover the pan for about two minutes to let the eggs settle.
Take the cover off the pan, add soy sauce, sugar and pepper. Give it a quick little stir.
Add the spring onions finally. Stir again.

The dish is ready for serving. White pepper powder is one of the secrets of Foochow cooking.

The rice sticks can replace any pasta . Use the sauce of any pasta recipe and it will taste just as good. We use a lot of these rice sticks because many of my relatives are not encouraged to eat yellow noodles or yew mien medically. And it is a very convenient substitute.

Enjoy the dish!!

Note : It is called Fried Bak Kuih, or Fried Ba Guo if you cannot read Chinese(depending on the dialect of the stall owner) Do not confuse this with another kind of Bak Guo which is Gingko, a famous nut which can give one a longer life.

You can always replace the nonhalal meat with halal chicken or beef and it will taste just as nice. Use more pepper and add chillies too. This dish is not just for the Foochows. It is for all who love food.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Forgotten Unusual 1950's and 1960's School Sports Events

Remember the Slow Bicycle Race? What about the Sack Race? And the Spoon and Potato Race? Three legged race?

I cannot remember when these races were taken off the Sports Day Events list. But I remember we laughed ourselves silly at these races, at our friends and at ourselves.

The slow bicycle race probably went out of fashion in Sibu by 1960's. I cannot remember exactly which year it was when the event was taken out of the school sports day. I remember taking part one year and I was soon on my legs instead of on my bicycle. One lanky girl from another house won the slow bicycle race because she could steadily move ahead, inch by inch, and never for once put her foot down. It was a real test of balance and mental alertness. It is a pity that not only is the race no longer an item, even the bicycle is now something people do not event want to use. I just hope that one day more and more children will take to mountain bikes and ride around to look at nature and be environmentally friendly.

Many boys loved to be in the sack race because it seemed very easy. But more importantly it was a fun race. We would scream words of encouragement to them. The game was designed so that those who were not athletes could win a race based on skill, not really on speed. So many boys volunteered to take park. I remember the points collected by this race were not included in the total points for the sports house competition. In the race participants placed both of their legs inside a sack and hopped from a starting point toward a finish line.One particular boy was so good that he put his pointed toes into the tips of the gunny sack and ran all the way just like a ballet dancer, tip toed to the end. He won the race easily.

Sack racing is traditionally seen as an activity for children. I have not seen it for a long long time.

An egg and spoon race, or spoon and potato race, is a sporting event in which participants must carry an egg or a potato ,on a small spoon and race to the finish line without dropping the egg or potato.

Synthetic or hard-boiled eggs, potatoes or even ping balls have been used in recent years.

Here's a description of a three-legged race. "It is a game of cooperation between partners as much as it is one of speed. It involves two participants attempting to complete a short sprint with the left leg of one runner strapped to the right leg of another runner. The object is for the partners to run together without falling over, and beat the other contestants to the finish line.

Typically the contestants run over a distance of about 50 meters, with the trick being to coordinate the timing of the partner's step"

It is strange that what was fun in all those long ago days do not appeal to the new generation any more in Sibu.

Today, I would like to thank all the teachers and friends at school for being so sporting during sports have all made our days fun and happy. We really looked forward to sports days in our younger days. Those were truly days when we could breathe a different kind of air, and take our eyes off books, and perhaps get to know others a little better. We did not have the best of shoes or sports wear but we were just grateful to have a chance to develop our athletic skills without fear and discrimination. Sports training were quite inclusive then.

Sibu Scouts at Tenth World Jamboree 1959

1959 was an outstanding year for Sibu Scouts. My cousin, the late Robert Lau King Ching was one of the 8 delegates to attend the Tenth World Jamboree in Manila, Philippines. Mr. David U Duang Ung, former Methodist School teacher,and Arbie Zainuddin, a friend too, who later went to study in Tanjong Lobang School, were the other two from Sibu.

Arbie Zainuddin wrote a very good report on his experiences and as a result, when I was a Girl Guide in the school, I got to read the report and kept it until now.

Arbie wrote:

The Scout world jamboree is usually held every fourth year,though wars and other compelling causes may break the sequence. The purpose is not only to bring the scouts of various countries in the world together for the opportunity of meeting their brother scouts and exchanging their experiences, but also to demonstrate the art of unity and loyalty.....

The site of the 10th World Jamboree , the first ever held in South East Asia,was along the braod slope of Mt. Mahiling which is about 1000 fet above sea level and overlooking Iguna de Bay. It is a well known tourist attraction.

This is the scond time Sarawak sent her scouts to take part in a world jamboree. The first jamboree attended by Sarawak scouts was in the UK.

On 15th of July we took the Cathay Pacific Airways from Labuan and as the weather was pretty bad, all of us were air sick!!

We landed at Manila and were quite fine after the rousing welcome.

We learned the word, "Mabuhay" which means welcome in Tagalog.

....we were placed with host families before the opening of the Jamboree. They were kind to us and took us sight seeing in their cars....

....The Jamboree site was divided into seven sub-camps. The Sarawak contigent was in the Eastern Mindanao sub camp. We had several bathrooms, one ration headquarters and several shops selling refreshments. We were told to keep our own stuff safe and secure . The opening ceremony was on the 18th July.

....we had to cook our own meals and we took turns to do all the routine chores.

....Performances were held to entertain visitors and important people. So time passed very quickly.

....we were invited to dinners by other contingents.

....we experienced bad weather throughout the ten days but we made many friends.

On the 20th of July we left Manila and we brought back to Sarawak many happy memories.


Arbie continued to be a big brother to many of us junior Guides when we were at the Methodist School.

My cousin , the late Robert Lau King Ching became a Queen's Scout. There were very few of them who reached that level. So it was indeed a great honour for Sibu. And I also remember that Mr. U continued to help Sibu develop the Scout Movement for a long long time. He was definitely a very dedicated Scout Master.

As Sibu develops into a huge town, the little efforts of the Scouts and Guides are no longer big as before. But to me, they are still important and very significant efforts which help shape our character: Be Prepared. Lend a Hand.

Mr and Mrs.John Pilley in Sibu

In our ever changing world, it is not often easy to come face to face with a person who truly serves her God and loves a people which is not of her own race. When I was a young teacher, a new mother, and perhaps a new person, I had the honour of meeting up with Mrs. Pilley when she came "back" to Sibu for a visit to her beloved school, which happens to be my own beloved school, the Methodist Secondary School. It was an "aha" moment, a "wow" moment in my children's language. So much of life, so much of service, so much love, all unccountable nouns were embodied in her frail, gaunt body. There was not an inch in her body that spelt "pride" or smelled "money" or proclaimed "high position". And best of all, she spoke in perfect Foochow. Amazing? It was amazing grace.

As an English teacher in charge of the Journalist Club, I arranged for the school magazine committee to interview her and she was such a fountain of information and love. My students , from different racial backgrounds, were very impressed by her. One commented, " How can any one have so much love, and at such an age?" I answered, "Only through God's grace and her love of God. She walked the talk."

Mr and Mrs. John Pilley were both born and educated in China and served as missionaries in Fuzhou, China. In 1949, they were forced to leave their beloved China by the policies of new Communist government which were not favourable to foreigners.

Sarawak and Sibu in particular was blessed by their arrival as they were " strong advocates of "Education for all", especially for girls, and for the poor".(Source: Methodist Pilley Insitute Website)

They continued to work selflessly in establishing schools and churches. They served in Sarikei and helped developed the churches and schools there. Later Mr. John Pilley came to serve as Principal of the Methodist Secondary School, where he worked so hard, until his heart failed him. Mrs. Pilley worked as a missionary helping in the various Methodist activities like Women's education, children's home, and general education.

In 1960, Mr. Pilley passed away as a result of a massive heart attack. He was mourned by not only his own family but by the big Methodist Church congregation. He was buried in Sibu.

Mrs. Pilley left Sibu and resided in Nashville, Tenn. U.S.A. until 11 July, 2002 when she passed away at the age of 93.

Although Mr. & Mrs. Pilley served as missionaries in the Methodist Mission in Sarawak for only 11 years (1949 - 1960), the impact of their love, service and sacrifice for the people of Sarawak, especially Sibu and Sarikei will be for time immemorial.

In order to repay Mr. and Mrs. Pilley's love and service in the mid 1960's the Board of Education of the Methodist Church in Sarawak (SCAC) met to set up a private Methodist Secondary School in Sibu to cater for the needs of Form 3 to Form 5 students who did not do well in public exams. The school was unanimously named "Pilley Memorial Secondary School".

In 1991, as response to the changes in the educational policies,the Methodist Pilley Institute was set up to offer tertiary education namely, Diploma in Accounting, Diploma in Business Management and Diploma in Computer Science, and thus becoming one of the pioneer higher learning Institutions (IPTS) in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia.

Recently there has been plans to establish a Methodist University. and perhaps it will become a reality with the help of grateful Church members and Methodist Church leaders at the national level.

In other private ways Mrs. Pilley had in her lifetime influenced and helped so many Sarawakians to pursue further education in the United States. Many have come back to serve Sarawak in various capacities. These in particular have shown great appreciation to her and her children. And the people of Sibu in general also acknowledges the fact that they have shared their surrogate's love and care with her very own children. Mrs. Pilley's children have also been visitors to Sibu lately.

Thus these advocates of "education for all" have walked a wonderful journey on earth and helped so many to achieve their dreams. Today their legacy will continue to enable more to become truly educated, through the Methodist Pilley Institute, which I hope will soon become the Methodist Pilley University.

The youngest orphan who was carried in the arms of Mrs. Pilley would be about 50 years old now!! Half a century! A lot has been done. The ripple effect has indeed taken place.

Fancy Hair Accessories

I used to wonder why accessories stores would sell these fancy hair accessories as if they were popular hair accessories because I had imagined that they were only suitable for fancy daytime events, like for a wedding in a garden or an old-fashioned Sunday brunch, which I supposed not many people attended these days (esp young people.)

But ever since Gossip Girl, I have started seeing hairbands and other similar hair accessories in a different light. (OK, so the huge red bow with Blair's school uniform is a bit over the top, but the others are usually cute.)
So when I went into Accessorize (the UK version of a much better Claire's) last week, as soon as I saw those fancy hair stuff, I rushed over. The first one I held this red rolled sinemay one against my hair. I LOVED it! It was unexpectedly pretty and just so different from what I usually see on myself. Believe me, I've always thought these things were fussy and old-fashioned but I just loved the way the material formed pretty loops on my head.

So I went back to check the hair accessories on Gossip Girl and apparently my preconception that these hair accessories were for brunches weren't completely off -Blair wore one to the grand brunch hosted by Chuck's dad in Episode 102. The one Blair is wearing is so pretty! It's a simple, classic design without being boring.

Here's a similar one to the one Blair is wearing. It's the black version of the red one I tried on. I didn't think the black one looked that great on me because my hair is black -the red one totally stood out more.

Maybe it's the pokka dots, but this one definitely gives off a more dressed-up vibe. It really looks like the ones one would wear to a garden wedding, (where older ladies would wear those fancy hats! Wait, or is it at funerals?)

I couldn't resist including this pink feathers with beads accessory -it's so girly in a non-cutsy way.

This silver sequin and feather accessory looks young and trendy. Perhaps one can even wear it on a fun night out (complete with a 20's styled outfit)?

So yes, maybe I have been brainwashed by Gossip Girl, but if I had a themed party to go to, I would totally try one of these out! Happy Easter holidays people!

Image Credits:,

Used Clothes Shopping in Harajuku

The streets of Harajuku are your catwalk or so the song goes. To me the streets of Harajuku are often smelly, always crowded and merely a path to get from one outstanding used clothes store to another.

I had a little time to kill today in Harajuku so I stopped into my old faithfuls. Hanjiro, Kinji and Thankyou Mart.

Hanjiro, offering a lush mixture of used clothing, remakes and new designs is spreading it's wings at a rapid rate of knots right across the country. Every time I pop in I read news of a new store opening up somewhere. Yay for Hanjiro. It makes me very happy that the cool kids embrace used and remade fashion in such a big way. Big thumbs up to all forms of recycling especially the funky fashion kind.

I managed to pick myself up an original 80s white and pastel zip up Addidas track top for 480yen!

Kinji is on the basement level of the YM building next to the Gap on the intersection of Meiji Street and Omotesando Dori. I could spend hours and hours fondling the endless racks of recycled clothes. What I love most about Kinji is that they group their clothes by style. All the 80s polka tees are together, all the lycra tights are together, all the waist coats are together, all the funky floral dresses are together. Above each of the racks are examples of fashion mixes showing off the layered style that the Japanese do to perfection.

I grabbed an electric blue pair of lycra full length tights for 735 yen and a pair of ultra shiny midnight black lycra tights for the same price which is roughly US$7. American Apparel is great but I have to say Kinji does it better, cheaper and recycled. Good for the Earth and your bank balance.

Thank you mart, also known as the 390 yen store is jam packed with glistening goodies. Aside from the over sized jewels and must try wigs they have a selection of used clothes. It takes some dedication to dig through but can often be worth the trouble. There are 3 Thank you Mart stores in very close range in Harajuku so you are bound to come away with something.

Today I found two red sweaters. I love red and I have a fleecy sweater fetish. The first one I scored has a dancing Native American image on the front, studs down one sleeve and a very trashy silver buckle on the arm, 10 points on the kitsch scale due to the fringed sleeves. Sounds hideous? Oh it is, just the way I love em! The other one is a little Londoner rock. A 3/4 sleeve sweater with a black abstract kind of check print.

Some photos for you!

An Uncle and A Cock Fight

Cockfighting is an ancient and perhaps cruel sport found in India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam,the Carribean Islands, Malaysia and Indonesia. Perhaos unkown to many, the United States also has a long history of cockfighting, and where good fighting cocks are specially bred for sale at top market prices. In England cockfighting is an exciting sport. Shakespeare's "Henry V" made mention of the sport. Many kings, princes and noble men have long been in favour of
of this sport.

Check this out -!!!!! Yes there are so many websites dedicated to this ancient sport.

I have an interesting story to share with you.

In the 1970's when folks were still unpretentious and every day was a working day if possible, most families I knew paid attention to how much they spent and how much their fathers brought home. Most people in Sibu lived very very frugal lives. Saving money was a great art. Spending money unnecessary was almost a sin.

ONe day, my third uncle was invited to go along to a fun place just to "look". Normally my third aunt would make sure that he had only a small bit of money in his pocket, so that he would not buy beer or stay too long in town.

On this occasion, unknown to my uncle, his brothers-in-law actually took him to a secret cock fighting stadium where betting was going on in a heated manner. My poor innocent uncle placed his first ever bet and he dared not even look at the faces of the other gamblers. In about 2 minutes, the bird belonging to his brother-in-law was killed and he lost all his money.

Now he was terrified because his brother in law asked him to hold the dead bird, which was bleeding very badly. My aunt definitely knew how much the bird was because it was specially purchased by her own brother for breeding in the farm. Furthermore, if the police came, he would have been the first one to be arrested because he had the best evidence in his hand.

While his brothers-in-law continued to bet, he quickly took a taxi to our house. He asked my mother to cook the chicken and he sat down at a corner to think of a way to tell his wife how he lost all his money. Definitely he was not going to tell his wife about the cock fight. Every one involved would get into trouble.

It was hilarious. My mother and my sisters and he had a big laugh together, saying that he should never have told a lie about where he was going. Now he had to admit to his wife that he had lost his money.

The chicken was not easy to cook as it was very tough. However, it was quite tasty.

When it was time for my uncle to take the boat back , my mother slipped some money into his pocket. Furthermore she also put some food and other things into a basket for him to bring back to his wife, saying that all those should be considered as bought by him.

My shy, timid uncle finally went back with stooping shoulders. He never went to another cockfight again.

To this day, I still remember how hilarious it was for him to come to our house in a taxi, carrying a limp bird and with a scared look.

It was very difficult to replace that expensive fighting cock. It took his brothers-in-law and he almost a year to save up enough money to buy a similar bird and start breeding again. His brothers-in-law were so certain that they had a winner. But instead the cock took only took two minutes to fall. My aunt was a very stern and serious woman. And she would stand no nonesense from her husband or her brothers.

His brothers-in-law continue to secretly gamble on fighting cocks. But he never went again. Because he could not face the music!! And any losses would have been too much for his heart.

My uncle after all was a loving husband and he did not want to upset his wife in anyway. Gambling is never in our family's blood.

Special notes from Wikipeadia:

On May 3, 2007 President Bush signed into law the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which criminalizes the transferral of cockfighting implements across state or national borders, and increases the penalty for violations of federal animal fighting laws to three years imprisonment.

In 2006 the United States Virgin Islands passed a bill which outlaws the use of artificial spurs. Thus far the bill has not been enforced.

Cockfighting has a higher level of social acceptance in Puerto Rico than in Louisiana. It also has a much larger human population and pool of fighting cocks than the Virgin Islands or Guam. Metal spurs causes a high mortality of birds. With the interstate transport ban Puerto Rico is likely to be the last holdout. The United States Virgin Islands government is trying to move the sport towards Gamecock Boxing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Back with more meeting doodles

New batch of older doodles from meetings past. Havn't had much of a chance to scan them till now.

Easter Eggs made in HI_ClubCraft

can you guess which egg belongs to who?

Mark McKay
Chris O'Connell
John Pearson

Marion Cotillard Hot Babes

Angelina Jolie hot picture

Marion Cotillard Hot sexy

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The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum Agra, India, that was built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered as the principal designer of Taj Mahal. - Wikipedia

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Remember the first kerosene refrigerators in Sibu? What about some families who owned kerosene fans in those long ago days? They were the envy of their neighbours. I remember my Malay friend owning the most beautiful oven which sat on top of a lovely kerosene stove. And her mother made wonderful sweet and colourful cakes for Raya.

Horrified mothers would wash the lice out of their children's hair using kerosene. Catching lice at school was like getting a punishment and there would be a ritual to get rid of the creepies. It was indeed a painful procedure and it hurt the scalp and the hair. But in those days we did not have the lovely scented lotion which can help delouse a child's head.

Kerosene is called "Western Oil" or Yong Yiu in Foochow.

The Sibu population depended a lot on kerosene in the early days. Although fewer people are dependent on kerosene today, those living on the outskirts of Sibu still depend on it.

Kerosene, sometimes spelled kerosine in scientific and industrial usage is a flammable hydrocarbon liquid. The name is derived from Greek "keros" (κηρός wax).

It is commonly called paraffin (sometimes paraffin oil) in the UK and South Africa (not to be confused with the waxy solid also called paraffin wax or just paraffin, or the much more viscous paraffin oil used as a laxative); the term kerosene is usual in much of Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

Kerosene is widely used to power jet-engined aircraft, but is also commonly used as a heating fuel. It is obtained from the fractional distillation of petroleum between 150 °C and 275 °C, resulting in a mixture of carbon chains containing 12 to 15 carbon atoms.

Kerosene was first described by al-Razi (Rhazes) as a distillation of petroleum in 9th-century Baghdad. In his Kitab al-Asrar (Book of Secrets), he described two methods for the production of kerosene. One method involved using clay as an absorbent, whereas the other method involved using ammonium chloride (sal ammoniac). In 1807, kerosene was refined from a naturally-occurring asphaltum called Albertite by Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner, founding the modern petroleum industry in the process. Gesner went on to establish his Kerosene Gaslight Company to market kerosene around the world in 1850. Scottish chemist James Young built the first truly commercial oil-works in the world at Bathgate in 1851, using oil extracted from locally-mined Torbanite, shale, and bituminous coal. Polish chemist Ignacy Łukasiewicz discovered the means of refining kerosene from the less expensive seep oil in 1856.

Interestingly,the widespread availability of cheaper kerosene was the principal factor in the precipitous decline in the whaling industry in the mid- to late-19th century, as the leading product of whaling was oil for lamps. Our literature students would be interested in re-reading "Moby Dick" a novel with a setting on the whaling industry.

At one time the fuel was widely used in kerosene lamps and lanterns. Many fires in the late 18th century were caused by defective kerosene lamps. Today,its use as a cooking fuel is mostly restricted to some portable stoves for backpackers and to less developed countries, where it is usually less refined and contains impurities and even debris.

As a heating fuel, it is often used in portable stoves, and is sold in some filling stations. It is sometimes used as a heat source during power failures. The use of portable kerosene heaters is not recommended for closed indoor areas without a chimney due to the danger of build-up of carbon monoxide gas.

Kerosene is widely used in Japan as a home heating fuel for portable and installed kerosene heaters. In Malaysia and Japan, kerosene can be readily bought at any filling station or be delivered to homes.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland kerosene is often used as both a cooking and heating fuel in areas where there is a limited gas supply.

today in the less developed countries like like India, kerosene is the main fuel used for cooking, especially by the poor. Kerosene stoves have replaced the traditional wood-based cooking appliances that are unhealthy and inefficient. The price of kerosene can be a major political issue; the Indian government subsidises the fuel to keep the price very low (around 15cents/litre as of Feb.2007).

Kerosene is also used for fire performances such as poi (New Zealand) and staff because of its low flame temperature when burnt in free air, making the fire low risk, should the performer come in contact with the flame.

It is often used as a fuel for fire dancing. But it not usually used for indoor fire-dancing as it produces an unpleasant odour which becomes, in sufficient concentration, poisonous.So methanol is often used instead, but it can be a more dangerous fuel because of its lower flash point, and it also produces less "impressive" flames.

In the olden days many countries had used kerosene to treat pools of standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, notably in the yellow fever outbreak of 1905 in New Orleans, USA.

Today many collectors are looking for kerosene fans because they were the rage in the 1950's and they are indeed very pretty and elegant. Good enough to grace any living room!

Kerosene has indeed helped many people of Sibu. It can not and should not be considered something lowly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Love with a Japanese Guy

Last week over at Julie in Japan, Julie wrote an article entitled You asked for it...foreign girls dating in Japan. It seems she was getting quite a few emails from foreign girls searching for tips on the art of dating a Japanese guy. As always her article was sweet, interesting and thought provoking. It had me thinking about our love match and even prompted me to go digging around in old Flickr archives searching for photos of when Masao and I first met.


Every couple gets the "How did you meet?" question thrown at them I am sure. The bonus question of "Where did you meet?" is always thrown in if it is obvious that you are not from the same country. Generally we skip the "how did you meet?" and answer the "where?" with something along the lines of "at a cafe called Sign in Daikanyama" This technically is the truth as I clearly remember waiting with a friend of mine to meet Masao at Daikanyama station. He had a friend djing at the cafe that night and had invited me along. The "how" part of our meeting, while certainly not dramatic, is a little long winded so we have been known to give out the modified version. It all seems like a very long time ago now but Julie's post had me thinking that perhaps there are a ton of girls out there wondering how to meet Japanese guys. Similar to Julie I have no full proof tips, I think life goes in the direction that it is supposed to, but I can tell you our story.

at home together

I came to Tokyo in January of 2004, initially for one year. If people ask me why I came I often say it was a childhood dream. Honestly I am still not sure exactly why, I felt an extremely strong urge to move to Tokyo at that time. It wasn't for the money, as I had a great job and wonderful life in Australia. It wasn't for the language because as yet I have not mastered even the basics. It certainly wasn't for manga, kimonos, Sony, tea ceremonies or any of the other Japanophile loves. I just had to come. My spiritual self would look back now and say that I came to fulfill many dreams, ones that I was not consciously aware of back then. I came to fulfill independence, I came to meet Masao, start TOKYOMADE and become a hoop dancer. I came to learn about the world and my place in it, to meet the outstanding people that I have. The mystery of why I am in Tokyo continues to unfold everyday. It is a fabulous life!

Part of what has kept me here is an intensely love filled, calm, inspiring, balanced, powerful and happy relationship with a Japanese man. Masao and I met in the spring/summer of 2004, if you ask him he will know the exact day and time but I am just not good with that kind of stuff. It is true we met in Daikanyama, a very cool part of Tokyo known for it's cafes, clubs and boutiques. The way that we met was completely conspired by the universe. I was not looking for a boyfriend, although I found Japanese guys to be shockingly gorgeous and divinely preened to perfection. What I was looking for was somebody to help me create some short films. I had no experience with the language and very little insight into the culture but I saw an overwhelming need to capture the essence of Tokyo. I was obsessed with Japanese obsession. I wanted more but I needed someone to help me.
I put an advertisement in a magazine called Metropolis. I think it read something along the lines of "Aussie girl looking for friends to help make short film in Tokyo." I seriously cannot remember. Again you could ask Masao and he would recite it word for word. I got some awesome responses. Met some very cool people a few of which I remained friends with and who really added to my experiences here. And then there was be honest in the beginning I would never have thought we would be together for so long. In actual fact I thought he was a little strange ;). Not used to the low key, cool and calm ways of the Japanese boy I thought he was far more into boys than girls and so part of why we hit it off in the beginning I believe is because there was no pressure of thinking about it being a relationship.

kids in a candy shop

Back then Masao lived with his Dad, a very common thing in Tokyo many young people live with their parents, so we would see each other whenever we could. He would take me to all these very cool places that he knew and I would get my fill of Tokyo fun and scenery. We had met a few times with friends and in a group. This is also very common in Japan. Often you will think you are heading out on a "date" only to find that a truck load of friends have been invited. This can make it tricky to "get to know somebody" in the beginning. Perhaps a tip for others thinking about dating Japanese guys is to be patient in the beginning. I think in many relationships in other parts of the world people like to rush, rush, rush, they have expectations built up about what they should know and what should be done. In Japan it is a different game and patience is a virtue, being friends first is a common step, being friends with his friends is sometimes equally important. I remember being very nervous when I knew I was meeting him for the first time "alone", I am not sure why, but I had kind of figured that this was a big step and had real potential. I also figured that dating a foreign girl must have been very knew for Masao when he asked me as we stood under the glow of the Shibuyan crossing "Don't you shave your face?" (Face shaving is the done thing for many a Japanese girl!) It was a steep and fabulous learning curve for both of us from that point on!

Not long after the face shaving question we moved into a VERY tiny apartment in Okubo where we stayed blissfully for 2 years. In that time we traveled around Europe, went to Australia to meet the family, had my mum come and stay, started TOKYOMADE, Masao went from being a salary man to being a stylin' entrepreneur, our lives changed daily for the better, we made so many wonderful new friends all in such confined quarters we had really put our love to the test. If there were going to be any bust ups it was sure to happen then. Luckily it was smooth sailing, aside from the time we decided to order office furniture online I managed to smash Masao in the forehead with a piece of wood causing much bleeding and hysteria. Oh good times!

getting ready

We now live in a much roomier apartment with our own spaces to do what we do. Masao in his office and me in our tatami room hooping. There has been a great deal of learning to do which may be part of what keeps our relationship so strong. There is no doubting that in any relationship where the partners are from very different backgrounds there is going to be intense amounts of learning and coming to understandings. Another tip I would offer up if you are thinking of dating a Japanese guy or anyone who was not born in your suburb/state/country is to be ready to question what you know to be real and true, be ready to learn about a new way of life, be willing to explore other lifestyles and customs. Of course this should go for your partner as well. We are super lucky in that neither of us are particularly bound by any forms of tradition, past or nationalistic pride. I rarely think of Masao as "Japanese" and me as "Australian". We have really created our own world and left all the past stuff behind. This is an important step I think in any relationship.

Naturally I can only speak of my experience with one person it is very hard to generalize. I have no idea what other Japanese guys are like to date or live with. I could only speak of exterior, superficial stuff (which is all pretty FINE in my opinion! mmm ) I have heard some horror stories of demanding, old fashioned stubbornness but nothing could be further from my experience with Masao and all of the Japanese males that I know as friends.

My tips...
Hang out at places you love. There are endless destinations in this city to hang out and meet people.
Be yourself. Trying to be something you are not is not appealing to anyone. Being your individual, unique self is very attractive.
Don't try too hard. You know when you are searching too hard you often can't find the perfect dress, same goes for Japanese guys. ;)
Make friends with Japanese people.
Visualize positively what you would like your life to be like, if that includes a Japanese boy then so be it! They are very beautiful, that is definitely a positive visualization. ;)
Let go of any us and them thoughts.
Join some clubs, learn something new. Oh a Japanese yogi, a Japanese salsa dancer, an artist, coin polisher, manicurist...whatever you are into.
Learn Japanese! (although I never did properly there is always time)
Have an interest and put out an ad to get people to help you. Be sure to meet new friends with other friends, don't go alone. It is not very common in Tokyo for people to invite you to their apartment especially on the first meet up, some friends in this city NEVER see their close friends apartments. So be clued up and NEVER go to apartments alone - goes without saying.

Good luck, have fun, send us your purikura! ;)

Sakura Sakura

Spring is in the air. Walking through the streets of Tokyo you can spot some of the early blossoms starting to get ready for the spring festivals.

To celebrate the warmth and beauty of Spring in Japan we are giving away a Sakura Pod Canvas over at TOKYOMADE. This little beauty is hot property and has had it's pretty petals featured all over the internet. Grab one for free this month by joining the Tokyo Fan Club. Enter your email address and be in it to win it!


Keep the pretty petals of the Sakura with you all year round with the NEW Sakura Pod Canvas.

A sweet, strongly adhesive seal for the back of any regular shape iPod. Film coated for long lasting durability and fade resistance.

Dress up your iPod with the latest Pod Canvas design from Japan.

Single seal.
length = 9.5cm (3.7 in)
width = 5.5cm (2.1 in)


Curses of Past Generations

An distant aunt and another friend came to visit recently and brought some bad news about a "medium" lady we used to know when I was younger.

This lady passed away not long ago leaving behind two daughters who are still unmarried and already in their thirties. And although one of the daughters is a career woman the other is a little abnormal.

Having no relatives to depend on, my aunt said that the daughter who is often sick had to be sent to the "mental hospital". And she wanted to know how the Mental Health Association could help.

Apparently there is a long story behind all these incidents of her poor mental health.

The "medium" lady was practising her craft in a little temple in a rubber garden in Sibu and had earned quite a bit of money from helping suffering women to talk to their dead relatives. She was also able to predict some fantastic outcomes for those who gambled with numbers. Every Chinese new year, she would receive a lot of red packets. So that went on for many years.

However, her husband apparently did not treat his grandfather and grandmother well. The family was not filial at all as all his own brothers and sisters had not taken pains to look after their elders well. Furthermore they have squandered the family wealth away by not working properly and often they gambled and ran into heavy debts. Thus when the grandparents passed away, their spirits came back to torment them at night and caused the family to have a lot of trouble in the day time.

Perhaps that was the beginning of the poor mental health of the daughter, who is already the fourth generation of the family.

And this problem also resulted in the girls not wanting to be married off.

Before the lady medium passed away, she had gone to another more powerful medium who took more than four hours in his trance to find the cause of the daughter's poor mental health. He found out that the great grandmother would want to take her away "to serve" her in the other world.

Actually after the visit to this more powerful medium, the lady medium passed away suddenly.

By then the wealth of the family had also declined and one misfortune after another occured. Many friends and relatives distanced themselves from them.

I am not sure if you would believe in this story but I am very sad to know about the poor condition of the mentally troubled daughter. For as long as we are on this earth I believe that we just need to be extra careful with our elders and respect and love them as much as we can.

In Britain today many very senior citizens volunteer to help babies who are in the hospital to stay alive by just offering "cuddle time". Apparently this short sessions of cuddling do help the unhealthy babies to recover. I am relating this because many people do not have grandparents to help them at times like these. But when we have our very own grandparents, shouldn't we love having them around?

Singapore is encouraging three generations to stay together to reduce social costs and to improve social health.

Our community should really look into all the ways and means to improve the life style of older people. We cannot afford to abandon them just as we like. Churches are making more and more effort to carry out activities for senior citizens. And many senior citizens who are still healthy are doing great social work!!

As my son at aged four, in all his innocence, said, "Grandparents should not have an expiry date....."

A Trip to New Zealand

Usually on a holiday, one of the main attractions for me is the shopping. Even if it is the usual department store stuff I can get back home, I still do it. When it comes to the actual tourist attractions, likes views and such, I am the type to just take a picture with/of it and be on my way. But lately, I've been feeling a need for change of scenery, probably because I've been living in the concrete jungle,where whenever I step foot out the door there is shopping- and they're not even on sale yet!- for too long.

My trip to Auckland, New Zealand was just the retreat I needed! It was all so incredibly peaceful and tranquil being there. So refreshing to not be accosted by shop after shop of merchandise tempting me. In fact, the experience was completely different from my usual vacations. Instead of finding the prospect of being outdoors very scary and frankly rather boring, for once I actually stopped and appreciated it all- and it was nice.
Our first stop on my arrival was a drive up Mount Eden, which is an inactive volcano in the middle of Auckland. Now you can only see the the crater of it covered in grass, with cows grazing in the center of it (left). Tourists are not allowed down into the area, because it is really quite steep (not to mention tourists would errode the grass). Mount Eden also happens to be the highest point in Auckland, and as you can see (right), affords us a very nice 360 view of the city.
The next morning, we went for the America's Cup Yacht Sailing experience as part time members of the crew, helping roll the sails up/down and taking a turn at the wheel- its hard work! And even though the weather had been summer-like all week, out on sea, it was surprisingly cold. Not at all what I'd imagined sailing weather to be- good thing I brought a sweater!
Despite the unexpected weather, it was a wonderful 2 hours. The weather was perfect and the view was absolutely breathtaking. Shown here is the view of Auckland downtown and the view of the Rangitoto Island- which my friend tells me looks like this from all around. How cool! I especially love how the white clouds/ blue sky compliments the scenery (I have a thing for blue skies and white clouds).
Seeing as how I was in the land of the sheep, I thought it was only appropriate that I went to see a proper sheep show (even though one can see sheep/cows practically anywhere over there). It was surprisingly interesting. Basically they put on a show very much like the one in Babe (the movie), except using dogs instead of pigs of course (left). It was impressive how well the dog is trained, it was like a robot! Then we were shown how a sheep is sheared (right). It was really quite cool! And afterwards we even got to feed the lambs and they were just darling!
That night, we then went to Parnell for dinner. Its an adorable old quaint street full of cafes etc. Unfortunately by the time we finished dinner, it was already pass 10pm and the Chocolate Boutique Cafe was closed. It is the most darling-est place ever, luckily I got to go back later for a cup of hot cocoa, which was divine.

Then we headed to our next stop (yes it was a LOONG day)- the Minus 5 Bar.
Basically it was a small room made of ice, decorated with ice sculptures that is very very cold. Even the cups they served drinks in were made of ice! It was VERY cool. I absolutely loved it. Way better than the little "ice room" we have here at Balalaika in HK. Unfortunately even with borrowed uggs (they have hygiene socks- thank god!), gloves and coat, it was still very cold, so we didn't stay for too long. Kind of reminded me of my days waiting for the bus to come during the Chicago winters. Haha.
The next morning (Sunday), we woke up at 7.30am and participated in the Round the Bays charity walk/run! This is definitely not something I'd usually do in my home town. Definitely unique. I heard that so many people on the streets at once is not a common Kiwi sight. Luckily the weather was really good, cool and cloudy- perfect for a walk. We completed the 8.4km walk in 1 hour and 33 minutes!
After THAT we recovered with a 3 hour nap and a few further hours of laziness at the Piha beach, munching on pizza, reading and waiting for/watching the sunset. Its a truly beautiful beach a hour away from the city. The sand is supposedly volcanic dust or something, so its darker than usual. Not a swimming beach though, cause the waves are too strong. But its fun to walk along the shores. It was soo nice, I actually wanted to stay there forever- and I'm not even a beach person! I do believe I am now a newly converted beach at sunset/out of direct sunlight person!
And on my last day in Auckland, I jumped out of a plane. It seemed the thing to do in Kiwi land. Once I got there of course I started freaking out. The idea of defying years of well trained instincts and jumping out of a plane seemed like an insane idea. What if the parachute doesn't open? What if I die? But then I figured that I've come half way across the world for this and its now or never. If I do it when I get older, I have a higher chance of dying from a heart attack! So I paid and before I knew it, I was strapped and was on an one-way plane that will take me up to the height of 12,000 km. One way because it wasn't designed for landing with passengers (no seatbelts!). 20 minutes later I was up there. And then, before I knew it, the door was opened and I was pushed out into the sky. After the initial shock/scare though, I realized that I was falling down in the sky and the feeling was INCREDIBLE. I'd imagined it to be like one of those things in the theme park where they drop you down from a height x 100, but no, this was nothing like that. Your heart stays inside your body and there's just this RUSH coursing through you as you fall. And too soon, the parachute was opened and I was floating comfortably down to land. It was AWESOME. I am so glad I did it. The experience was totally worth all the nerves and scare going up!

Sigh I wish I was back there! Now I think I know what "retreat" means and why people want to go to the middle of nowhere and just relax and enjoy the scenery and be away from the hustle bustle and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the city from time to time.

Ps. Click on the images for a better look!

New Yelle

My favorite Yelle song JE VEUX TE VOIR has a new video and I love it just as I knew I would. These babes can do no wrong!

The oversized head bows, the fluro Reebok high tops and the leg lifts - heavenly.
Show love and become a Yelle fan on Facebook. Rock the French electropop style.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sun Dresses For A Sunny Day Out

OK, so my title is misleading: obviously you can wear sun dresses on non-sunny days too, but it sounded catchy. Plus, in some ways it does make more sense to wear sun dresses on sunny days because the skirt of the dress is so full and volumous that you would probably get yourself (or at least the skirt bit) wet from the rain, since as well all know, umbrellas don't cover us up 100%. Oops, I'm rambling. Moving on...

Isn't this such a cute picture? I'm pretty indifferent to Sienna Miller (as an actress or suppsedly style icon,) but I can't help but think that while Sienna and her dog certainly look cute, her dress really makes the whole image even more pretty and complete. I mean, imagine her in skinny jeans -the picture wouldn't look as pretty right? Since I've seen this picture, I've started noticing sun dresses around. They just seem like a nice S/S08 staple to one's summer daywear selection. Check these out:

Sienna Miller is of course, the Miller sisters' fashion line, Twenty8Twelve's best PR + walking manequin. And since I'm mentioning this, it's only fair to show this pretty front frill dress by Twenty8Twelve.
But since I'm not willing to pay that much for a sun dress, I move onto high street stores. Top Shop's got this simple sun dress for 25 pounds. The bright blue is very 'in' for this season and perfect for those of you think a white sun dress is too basic. (Although note that Top Shop does make a white version.) I like the button details in the front because those little buttons just seem to make the sun dresses less cutsy.
And for those who don't want plain coloured dresses and want some details, the new Kate Moss Top Shop collection (-so new that it was just released today,) has these black or white lurex dresses available. To be honest, from my past experience of seeing the Kate Moss Top Shop stuff in the stores, the clothes tend to look a bit cheap -maybe not cheap looking but probably not worth the premium they added for Kate Moss' name.

Anyways, don't sun dresses just look so cheerful and perfect for a sunny day out? I blame the full and swirly skirt.

Image Credits:,

Anthony Minghella 1954 - 2008

Well it's a sad day as one of my favorite filmmakers dies at the age of 54 after apparently suffering from a brain hemorrhage during a routine check up on his neck. Minghella is the director of two of my favorite movies: The Talented Mr. Ripley and The English Patient. I know that the latter film is not universally loved, but it did a great job of adapting the difficult novel into a something that was entertaining and would be the visual blueprint for Joe Wright as he made Atonement (that's my analysis, I don't know if that's true or not). I have seen it at least five times and have grown to love it more each time. It's a film that never feels as long as others have made out to be. Although the joke about the film on "Seinfeld" was great and much deserved for all of the (over)hype the film was getting at the time. But it has aged well.

I will throw a review up here of The Talented Mr. Ripley soon as I have been meaning to re-watch it, and now I have even more of an excuse to. Although under less pleasant circumstances. The film is the best Hitchcock homage ever made and has a truly creepy performance by Matt Damon. Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't suck for once in her life and this is the film where Jude Law kind of broke through and made a claim for himself as a bankable actor who would go on to star in two of Minghella's later film Cold Mountain and Breaking and Entering. The scene with Law and Damon in the row boat is one of the most chilling things I have ever seen in a movie. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I love this movie and it still holds up and has always been one of my favorite films of all time. I still prefer it to Ripley's Game which has a great performance by Malkovich, but Minghella hit a home run with this film; unfortunately a film so good that he would have trouble matching its awesomeness. It was probably the second or third best film of 1999 behind Magnolia and Being John Malkovich, which is great company to be in. I didn't really much care for Cold Mountain or Breaking and Entering but they were better than your average film that was released.

Here is a list of his films courtesy of imdb.

Well...I will try and get a review up a soon as I can.
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