Organised Mess

We have a mezzanine floor which is basically part of the attic. We turned it into our working area. And just a few moments ago I was bored with work so I took some shots around where I’m always at, during working hours (yeah yeah my office where I work is just upstairs from my living room :)), OR during non working hours when I’m just hanging out in my own lala land of cyberspace.

From where I am now.

Work matters

Our sty/library- in which I am planning to camp tonight, can you tell?

More work matters

I chose the colours, can you tell? And oh my Rapunzel window from which I yell “PHONEEE!!!!”

My *cough*neater corner. Heh

Err.. his corner. Can you tell?!?!

The time out bed (now a dumping zone)

So basically, I was bored with whatever I was working on. Ok now back to work! :S

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Let’s talk about Cake

I have not been domestically inclined lately, since the beginning of February. Too many things are going on for me — basically work related and other things I’ve committed myselt to achieve by the end of the year, like the ability to swim, advance a few kyus ahead in aikido and the ability to drive. I’ve committed myself to swimming lessons once a week, and extra training sessions for aikido. I have yet to register for driving, but it will come, slowly but surely.

In bookshops, I used to find the recipe book section having this uncanny magnetic pull towards me. I know I don’t need anymore, but would impulsively come out with one more or two more brightly coloured ‘ang-mohfied’ recipe books. It was a dangerous addiction, because they collect dust and I am allergic. That, or the fact that I hardly try out the recipes in them, choosing to simply ogle at their colourful photographs wondering when will the day come when I can take photographs as beautiful as those.

Recently, I did however try a cake recipe.

I had my silly moment of buying the value pack ‘2 for the price of 1’ tubs of yoghurt from VillageGrocer. Being a typical kiasu ‘from the island down there person‘, I thought I would save a considerable amount of Rm if I were to do that. Well I did. But the goondo me didn’t see that both tubs of yoghurt expire on 8th March 2010. And I bought them on the 2nd of March.

So lo and behold, on the 10th March, I felt like having some yoghurt and I knew I still had one tub left. Then I saw that it was bloated. Still sealed but bloated like a mini inflated balloon? Then I scanned through and saw that the expiry date was on the 8th. Dang!

So now what? I was not about to waste it– no way hosay. Yoghurt is already fermented milk is it not? Hence it is already bad milk is it not? So I decided to make yoghurt cake. If anything goes wrong, it would just be just the husband and I with tummy ache. I could deal with that.

I used the organic soya bean flour I found in the larder. Another impulsive buy, attempting to be healthy (konon!). I found Australian Tatura butter in the fridge which I must have bought since…(oh gawt.. I can’t remember when.. maybe late last year?). I had some kampung eggs in the fridge bought from the day before and I found a yoghurt cake recipe from the recipe book dungeon in my house.

The product was 40% disaster 60% edible. Soya flour is coarser and heavier  than fine white wheat flour. I didn’t know that. Hence the recipe called for some tweaks to be made. And instead of half a cup of yoghurt, in my attempt not to waste it–put half a tub of expired (and quite smelly) yoghurt instead. I cut down on the sugar but added bananas which were going soft due to under-eating (well there’s only 2 of us and the bunch was a big one). I didn’t have any vanilla essence left and that proved to be so wrong. Kampung eggs and expired yoghurt made the mixture smelly like no other. I dipped a finger in. Usually, I relish the taste of sweet pre-baked cake mixture. This time I nearly puked. It tasted blergh.

Ok. Firefighting time. I sat and thought for a while. It was smelly, yes. And probably because of that it tasted yucky? I don’t know. But then I saw peppermint essence at the corner of the shelf and I thought, that should do. So I added a teaspoon of it. And half cup of milk since the mixture was so thick and hard. I then poured the mixture (which looked uncannily like the mixture for cekodok pisang/jemput2 pisang/lempeng)  into the baking tin. Then I was afraid it would still taste yucky. So I grated half a block of white chocolate and sprinkled all over it. Finally, I threw chocolate chips all over.

The recipe said baked for 50 minutes for 175 deg. I set the oven to just that. If gardeners speak to their plants, I did likewise to the cake mixture. Before putting it into the oven, I said ” I know it is not an ideal situation of existence for you, short of important ingredients and made up of smelly yoghurt, but when I put you in there, please just come out nice and edible so I won’t waste whatever I made you with.. please???’ Loony. I know.

45 minutes later, I went down to check on the cake and oh my gawt! It was dark brown and 40% away from being burnt.

I took it out, cooled it. Later on, I cut it into squares. I took my first bite. Well, it was, as I hoped for–edible. It tasted like a cross between lempeng pisang and jemput2 pisang cut into squares with a strange peppermint taste and a sweet chocolatey top. Strange but edible. Just like how I asked it to before I put it the oven. It listened, I guess. heh.

Pizza on Flat Lebanese Bread

I read somewhere once, that you do not meet people. They are sent to you to fulfill their roles upon you at that particular point of time. Even for people whom you have known for a long time, their roles upon you (and you upon them) will only be fulfilled when the time is ripe. Good or bad. The good for our benefit, the bad for our learning– (which at the end of the day is still to our benefit.)

For example, sometimes you seem to have known someone for the longest time, and then after some time, they drift apart or lose touch. That means they no longer have any beneficial value upon you or you upon them. Likewise, someone you have known for only a short while leaves such an impact upon you. That means, the person was sent for a specific function for that specific reason at that specific time.

Today, I remembered the lesson above. I cannot remember where I read about it, or perhaps it was not even from where I read but from lessons from my teachers (was it aikido? or was it sunnipath? or was it from the Sunday classes? bahhh can’t remember!).

Anyway, today I said a prayer of thanks for a group of wonderful ladies whom have been sent along my way, for teaching me the meaning of total selflessness. Most I have known for a long time, one I’ve only met this year. But I have been observing and learning from them every step of the way since we began giving our services to the orphanage/halfway home, which another dear friend of mine, Haslina aka ‘Senah’ alerted us to. And selflessness was the perpetual lesson I kept learning from them week after week.

So dear ladies, you know who you are. As you all are very well aware of, I am a very ‘bo-chap’ person, so I can’t see myself giving out dainty tea sets and pink roses and sweet thank you cards (ho ho ho :P). But you do know that from the bottom of my heart how much I appreciate whatever you people have been doing since the beginning, for the lessons, for the company, (for entrusting your kids to me to teach– ho ho ho), for the food and laughter and your service to charity.

So as a gesture of thanks, this post is dedicated to you wonderful bunch of ladies (who lunch!) and henceforth, to the existence of this ‘ye ye orh’ blog of mine.  (which I never told any of you because you have seen enough of my nonsense in real life, you need not read about it. Heh :P)

And oh.. about the title of this entry, it’s just what I learnt to make today. From them. Which I replicated immediately upon reaching home, which saved me 45 good minutes of cooking time, which I used to go back to EAT, PRAY, LOVE. I’m so loving this book. Am at the India episode now.

The Balancing Act of The Busybody

I wish I had read this book earlier.

Because now that I am reading it, I can’t put it down. I will write more about my feelings of ‘connections’ with the book later on in another post, but in this one, I just want to simply reflect upon the art of balancing and managing our busy selves, as addressed in many parts of the book.

For me, it all started with a twit from Is, which I have been following:

i realise pple like to be busy for e sake of bein so n boasting abt being busy.

Which I found to be true, especially in the rat-race back in my hometown. My gainfully employed mates, boast with great pride almost daily about how ‘busy‘ they are– doing this and that (craftily doing it on the pretext of whining and fretting. Nevertheless, the tinge of pride is not invisible, even to my oblivious self) .  And Is went on to say in another twit

work life balance is a myth.if u want 2 be very good at something,there is no such thing as balance.else we just be good enuff/mediocre

To that, well–maybe.

And which she followed with a very eloquent entry on balance.

In the book above, the writer– Liz quoted from my favourite Sufi poet-Jalaluddin Rumi in which he asked his students to list 3 things they want most in life. If any item on the list clashes with another, then you are destined for unhappiness.

So really, can we serve our time on this earth being in total balance, having it all and yet excel in it, while not being too busy to have time for ourselves? Is that state of optimum equilibrium remotely possible?

I can’t say that I am an example because I am mediocre in everything (except eating. that one, I win hands down. Champion to say the least).

Just like Is, in the beginning part of my career, I struggled really, really hard as in worked really, really hard and many times, I didn’t know what it was for. I mean, teachers can’t claim overtime pay so it was not for the money. And I was not the Mother Theresa of the teaching industry to do it all for the holistic ‘i-sell-my-soul-for-education‘ kind of teacher. Heck, it was not even my first choice of career to begin with.

But I worked too hard, had too little time for myself and my family/friends. Once, for some reason, I only had to report to school later in the afternoon. So I came out of my room early enough to catch breakfast with my father before he left for work. He took one look at me at the dining table, turned to my mother and sheepishly asked ‘ Is this our new tenant?’

That was how hard I worked.

Now looking back, I realised that it was not for the money, it was not for the passion of it, it was just because everyone else was doing it and it was expected of me to do so. It was imperative for me to jump into the bandwagon because everyone else was busy. It would be weird if I idle, ain’t it?

So at that time–yes, I had to agree with Is that work/life balance is a myth.

But now, as I am typing this down, I no longer think so. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would like to quote, from the teacher of someone whom I had a crush on a very, very long time ago ( Karate Kid), and I think many remember him as Sensei Miyagi. Heh 😛

Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

I had my own taste of this with my own sensei.Last Sunday, during training, I was sparring with my sensei as he was teaching the ki extension in the shihonage technique. I was chided, in the midst of it and had him knocking down my hands a few times with ‘You are too busy!‘ and ‘Stop being busy! Be here!’ But I am here!!– I thought. I’m right in front of you, sweaty, tired and exasperated and trying to do the shihonage right in front of you because I am here!– I felt like telling him but he’s my sensei so I just kept my mouth shut.

He then scolded me by saying I was too busy thinking about what to do for the following step in the technique, without concentrating on the present step I was doing. I was multi-tasking, my mind- thinking and planning on the next step (future) without paying attention to what I was doing in the present (step). And because of that, my center was not balanced, it was easy for him to topple me down and I was down and out before I knew it.

Call it a bizarre flashback but I actually had the twit from Is about balancing being a myth crossing my mind in a cartoon text bubble ( I did say I have a hyperactive imagination,no?).   And at that moment, I knew that I am on side of the camp that says that life can be balanced, if we want it to be. And the key, as I learnt in martial arts– is about being focused in one’s center.

The concept of center in martial arts is not easily explainable in one paragraph of a martial rookie’s blog. But my understanding of it is that in life, our centre is our inner spirit which wills what we do and how we do things.

If we say that achieving balance in life is all impossible, then Prophet Muhammad is a myth. He was a political leader, a warrior fighting side by side his army, a teacher, a spiritual leader, a husband who did housework, a father, a grandfather who had time to play with his grandchildren Hasan and Husin and a father-in-law who churned out advices for marital problems. And he had time to also look after stray cats?! Oh my, what a busy body he was! Were all those possible?

Well, he was as human as us in flesh and blood. A man like any other. Ok granted,he was a messenger chosen by the One up there, but then again, he was not a wizard or an angel. A person. A person whose life was so balanced he became an example to us. And he excelled in all his roles, so much so that even ancient and contemporary academicians/scholars from the world over, wrote volumes of academic papers on his ability to do everything excellently, based on facts and historical records. Not myths or old wive’s tales.

So in relating my lesson on balancing our center in martial arts and applying it to our lives like some figures history had showed us, I do think life balance is not unattainable. It has already been depicted by successful personalities in history. I learnt that we can actually get that balance which we need when we focus on what we are doing at that present moment. Plan for the future but leave the future to the future when focusing on the present. Learn from the past but leave the past in their places while concentrating on what we are doing now. Leave out distractions and do one thing at a time in accordance to our priorities. The myth in question here is not balance, but the habitual multi-tasking.

When I was doing that technique with my sensei, I was busy thinking of the next step and the next step, while looking if anyone else was attacking me. I failed to focus on the fact that he was attacking me because I was not 100% there with him and he off set my balance too easily. Not only my techniques came out mediocre, I was easily brought down. Just like the Malay proverb which says ‘ Apa yang dikejar tak dapat, yang digendong, keciciran’.