Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Drive to Remember

I dreamed of Nicolas Cage doing a new adventure movie (waiting for the third National Treasure over here!) and I woke up late with a pair of wobbly legs, feeling disoriented. That's what you usually get after a road trip and a hilly, bumpy hike.

I love road trips but only when the routes are new to me and somebody else is driving. The local food that you take your chances on, the antics you see on the road, the continuous slideshow on your window and the random stops for some fresh air. It has been a while since we were on the road in a car, last time was in Hungary where we drove in a sedan of strangers to hike a mountain near the border of Slovakia. So when our landlady offered us a drive to one of most beautiful places in Denmark, we said yes. Our destination was the limestone Cliffs of Møn in the island of Møn in the South-East of the country.

Travelling with a 65-year-old can actually be fun. We had a number of pit stops understandably, where we picked fresh peas and wheat and had bottles of homemade juices and warm herbal tea. We drove through a quaint town called Stege and into a forest where at one point in the rain with no other car in sight, I seriously thought we were lost until a glass building emerged out of nowhere which happened to be a museum. In the middle of a forest, go figure. 

Wheat fields, wind mills, rain, sun, white cliffs, forest, little towns, families in caravans, tattooed men driving big trucks, rich folks with yachts... it's a drive to remember.

Monday, 25 July 2011

One for the Books

Trying to finish writing a proper book that has a slight chance of being published demonstrated that proof-reading three times does not guarantee error / boredom-free. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. Alright, I naively thought it was like writing a blog but with more focus and length (also less whine). Not only you have to make sure each sentence is grammatically correct and complements the whole paragraph of which should complement the whole chapter, you have to confirm the facts and at the same time sound interesting. This is going to take longer than I anticipated, eight months may not be so realistic when I'm only doing it part-time. But well, if it's a process that I have to go through before that glimpse of light, then that's that.

Time for a break and eat some cookies. They have been serving pork as the main dish for many days now that I'm more starving after lunch than before. This growling tummy of mine with a mind of its own isn't helping with the writing.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Cooking Up a Storm

Being the eldest daughter and having a father who's picky about his food made me a mediocre cook. I had to help my Mama in the kitchen and sometimes stepped up to the plate whenever she went outstation. My Ayah is a really good cook but he's not fond of survival cooking. He's more of the AFC kind of fella, a gourmet. 

My husband, as lovable as he is now, was a terrible cook. He was raised in a house of testosterone with three other brothers and to top it off, my mother-in-law loves cooking more than I love cats. And that, is saying a lot. None of them had to cook at home.

We then got married and moved to the apartment to live on our own. His first attempt was surprisingly a success, if you could get past the raw bits of chicken. I cooked for fun once in a while but we mostly bought our meals because in Malaysia, it's cheaper to buy for two than to cook a proper meal.

Six months later, we moved to a foreign land where things are five times more expensive. We wanted to save for travel, so we both started to cook. At first it was more like cooking to survive, then gradually it progressed into cooking to enjoy and we try healthy cooking as much as possible such as using non-fat milk instead of coconut milk or stir-fry / grill / bake instead of deep-fry, etc.

With my classes and work, Rafiee has had a really good practice at culinary and this was especially proved during Eid last year. He made beef rendang, ayam masak merah (chicken in chilli sauce?) and sayur lodeh from scratch.

They were amazing, I didn't miss Malaysia at all in the presence of the cuisine. The funny part is we seldom cook together because we have our own system. Usually he waits for me to finish before he starts. The arrangement is vital in order to keep the peace in our household. Last weekend however, we collaborated on a stuffed roast chicken.

It's his favourite dish to make as it's so simple and yet tastes so good you want to lick all your fingers down to the plate. I'm not a big fan because I feel that only the skin tastes great, the chicken meat is well, chicken meat. He makes gravy most of the time but when I saw the big opening in the chicken, I suddenly felt like filling the void. And voila, I made stuffing!

The best part is it didn't take long. The marinating task probably takes 10 minutes then you just leave it. The stuffing takes another 10 minutes. Then you just stuff it in. I made my own bread crumbs then mixed them with chicken broth, butter, milk, herbs & spices, spring onion, mushrooms, fresh parsley, salt, pepper and finally a beaten egg. You can have so many variations! Next time I'll put chillies and garlic.

Over the years, we keep updating our mothers how we fare with cooking. I think they may be expecting some demonstrations when we get home. That's quite nerve-wracking. We never tried cooking under pressure so that may be a problem. Well, I guess we just have to keep experimenting then... hmm, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hey There Love

I woke up from my afternoon nap yesterday to Rafiee watching a movie while playing with my toes, the same toes he claims abnormal because of their various shapes. Gosh I love that guy.

They say to truly know a person, you have to live and travel together. I should truly know him after moving in and out of 6 homes and backpacking to 20 countries. Friends find it baffling that we can stay home for days but one thing that I can't seem to explain enough is that we simply enjoy each other so much we can actually live in a box for a long time without getting bored. 

Like yesterday evening when we played badminton and our version of football to decide who would clean the dishes and do the laundry (which by the way, I won all of them fair and square), I had to climb onto his shoulders to get the shuttlecock from the rooftop. He then pretended to be a camel and with me clinging to his sweaty head, he ran and skipped around the lawn... twice!

Having only each other to rely on through sickness and in health for two years and waking up to see the same face without fail every single morning, it feels comforting that we can still talk and laugh endlessly like when we first got married. And probably more. Some nights we stay up just talking and some mornings he annoys me by purposely letting the sun in when I'm still sleeping. Granted, it may already be 8 in the morning but a girl needs her beauty sleep! 

What I like about our relationship is how we are so many things to each other. The two and a half years of marriage with the additional four years of dating only confirm how we complete each other.

I thank God for letting me have him in my life and even as our European honeymoon may be coming to an end, God willing we'll have so many other honeymoons together!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Home is Calling

Two weeks before Ramadhan, one and a half months before leaving our longest home in Europe and two months before going back to Malaysia. The last two weeks in Europe will be a hectic transition of Denmark - England - Ireland - France - Hungary - Spain - Turkey. It's getting more real each day.

Last Sunday was spent in a colleague's house, having a really lovely meal. It only made me feel like going home even more so that I can start cleaning the apartment, planting some flowers at the window boxes and hosting a lovely meal myself for the in-laws.

Isn't the window garden just charming?


Playing a happy homemaker on weekends!

Although, that lady may look a little too excited and surprisingly really clean for the role.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Political Affairs

I used to be one of those ignorant people who think that they have nothing to do with politics. Then a Chinese friend of mine made me think when he said "Why do I care about the politics? This is my country. If our people don't bother then who else will?" He made me think hard and now I'm less oblivious.

To be honest, I wasn't clear what Bersih (Clean) 2.0 was about until on the historic day itself and it was only because I asked my Ayah while we chatted on Skype. I didn't even take a minute to read the news. I dismissed all political headlines. Facebook since then has become a virtual battlefield. First, a man died during the rally and the policemen just watched the unfortunate event unfolded. Now, the whole thing is said to be a conspiracy and that the so-called deceased is still alive. Who knows what new stories will emerge tomorrow. So whose side I'm on?

None and both, it's back to the classic lesser of two evils law. While I believe that not all of them mean any harm, there are still enough folks who manage to get their hidden agenda intertwined. So let's try not to be foolish and fight for a side on extreme level before considering and verifying all the facts, shall we?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ignorance is Bliss?

I was running out of TV series to watch so I watched the second best thing; documentaries. From A Lion Called Christian to Elsa: The Lioness that Changed the World, I was reminded by the kitten I named Elsa about 15 years ago. Even back then, I've always loved big cats. I remember now that I knew the name from the 1965 movie Born Free based on the true story of Elsa, a lion raised in captivity. Those are some of the beautiful love stories between men and animals.

Navigating through the maze of YouTube, I stumbled into a movie called The Bang Bang Club based on the amazing true story of four photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa. One of them took this heart-wrenching photo that won the Pulitzer for Featured Photography in 1994.

The starving toddler was crawling to a feeding centre with a vulture nearby as if it was waiting for her to collapse. Nobody knew if the poor girl managed to get help in time. The photographer became so depressed that he committed suicide three months after he won the award.

The other two friends didn't get a happy ending either. One was killed in crossfire and another lost both legs in an Afghan mine.

I don't know if I should stop reading news and watching this type of documentaries. I'll be a lot happier in my little safe bubble. They are inspiring in a way but very disturbing in many. Here I am comfortably writing from my lovely cottage when most people are struggling with life and death for a better future. I guess it's true what they say, what you don't know can't hurt you. But still, I'll take my chances for that little ray of hope. Hiding from the truth does not make it any less real.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


I had a productive week so all is well again.

Work and thesis are progressing smoothly.

One proposal is done, another one can wait.

Book is almost done, well the first draft anyway. A lot of work still has to be put into it before I can actually show it to someone.

Healthy eating all week except for the BBQ (think I consumed a little charcoal, don't ask!), a bag of crisps, a vanilla pudding with chocolate sauce and raspberries (freshly picked from the garden, yummy!) with wait for it... cream. Nobody's perfect.

Supposed to go running every other day but always too lazy / hungry at the end of the day. I still can't enjoy Danish lunch, no matter how good it is to the locals. Inevitably with the decreasing metabolism, I gained weight. It's now 47 kg but as long as my BMI is in the healthy range, I won't bother too much.

Hmm, what else? Oh, I've started eating tomatoes! I'm proud of myself, I hated the red, sour fruit / vegetable. I still do, but it's undoubtedly the healthiest kind so I keep thinking about the nutrients while I literally shove it down my throat.

And I'm switching to organic products! They're freaking expensive everywhere so I'm trying at least paraben-free for personal care. The organic obsession came after reading numerous articles about the long-term negative effects of chemicals. Better late than never eh.

The weekend so far has been wonderful. It's raining and gloomy even though it's the middle of summer but I really don't mind, it's my favourite weather here. I guess because it doesn't make me feel guilty for staying home. I just got a message from our friend asking if we're going to be in Copenhagen today because it's the much awaited Jazz Festival so at least I can blame the rain for my idleness. I stayed up late last night so even though there was no sound of the neighbour's cat (too cold for the little guy), I could still hear the trains so it may be only Saturday but I'm already revitalised.

11.45 am. Should start preparing hubby's favourite Pakistani chicken biryani. Then more TV / movies / books and perhaps a nap later. Lovely.