Tuesday, 4 November 2014

What is the best solution for a couple who love animals but could not own a house dog or cat because they are allergic to fur?

Answer: Befriend the neighbour’s cat.
 
 
We don't know its name but we have decided to call it Mr.Bojangles (or Bujang, which means 'young man' in my language). No cat expert, but I think it is quite possibly an American Shorthair. He loves a belly rub, rolling on the floor (or dirt) and watching over the wild birds in our garden.
 
Mr.Bojangles has been coming to our house everyday now, accompanying my mum when she's working in the garden in the morning. It is very friendly and although sometimes can appear a bit daft, I am keeping an eye on him as he's getting better at hiding when trying to catch the wild parrots and pigeons at the back garden.
 
Easy, tiger.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sleepless in Sydney

After spending two weeks away, I was quite looking forward to being back home. It had been such a whirlwind trip (though that happens quite often, this time it was going really fast). My schedule has been extremely hectic for the first week with the day starting as early as 5.30am when my body clock decided it was time to hit the gym or from 7.30am when the day full of presentations and networking kicked off until 10 o'clock at night, sometimes even stretched until 1am. That went on for five days in row. Not often my colleagues and I get to see each other as everyone is located around the globe so we did make full use of the time, as you can imagine. I then flew to LA to see a friend for the Easter weekend and then off to Denver where work continued.

So when I was told that I had just missed my domestic check-in time by FIVE minutes when I arrived in Sydney after almost 20 hours of traveling, I almost lost it. I really did. It had been a smooth journey so far (read: no hiccups, apart from the one day luggage delay when I arrived in America) and I was holding on to the fact that today is Anzac Day, which is a public holiday in Australia and New Zealand, and that I could definitely use this extra day to relax when I arrive in Perth instead of just having the weekend. I will be arriving 6 hours later than scheduled, meaning by the time I arrive it will be late afternoon instead of mid morning, and that 6 hours could have been spent doing things in Perth rather than people watching in Sydney airport. As much as I love people watching, I do not prefer it especially after 24 hours of flights.

I sighed loudly. I couldn't hide my disappointment, but the guy behind the counter did try his best to get me on the flight I was supposed to be on. I did not mean to vent my frustration at him, I was just looking forward to be home. "Why exactly am I not getting on this flight again?" I asked nicely. "We do not accept check-in less than 45 minutes before the flight take off. It is the policy, ma'am." I knew that policy very well, but I wanted to let him know that it was not my fault at all that the immigration queue was so long and slow, that I had to pick up my luggage first and to check it back in for domestic flight and that there should be express passes for passengers who have close connection flights to catch. I did not say any of those. I thanked him anyway because he was just doing his job. 

I encounter people who go beyond their job description during my travel. Service industry is what I am in, I know it well enough to know who is doing a poor job, a good job and an exceptional job. Regardless of whether you stand by the doorway, behind the counter or on the phone at your desk, when you deal with your customer, you do your best to make sure they are looked after. If you have done your best but it is not good enough for them, there is only so much you could do. So I understand where the guy was coming from. And I, as the customer, decided that he has done his best and all I could do was to acknowledge his effort by thanking him. I did walk away feeling upset, but at least unlike other guy across the other counter, I was not yelling at the staff just to make sure that they know how frustrated I am. It is not like they don't know that already and raising your voice is never going to make the situation any better.

I went straight to the security, where a lady pulled me aside for a random explosive material test. She asked about my day while scanning through my bags, so I told her. I was after all tired and feeling raw. She emphatized. And then she said "There's plenty of nice shops in the airport. Go get something to cheer yourself up. Things happen for a reason." She was right and she meant it in the nicest possible way but in a retrospect, I realized that I have only missed my flight and it is not the worst thing that could happen to me today. I could have missed my flight from Denver and waited for the next day. I could have lost my luggage during the overlay. I could have been sick like the two kids sitting in front of me during the 14 hours flight. There are so many other could-have-beens, so spending 6 hours in a nice airport is not a bad thing at all.

After the test result flashed green, I picked up all my carry-on luggage and wished the security lady a nice day. I then went to get myself a coffee, read a few chapters of a book, sent out postcards, bought a lotto ticket, fired up the tablet and now writing this. No more blues, just back excited about seeing my husband again soon. Very soon.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Up in the Air

It was another bland airlines hot breakfast, the same one that I used to look forward to the first few times flying Qantas for work. I ate it anyway because it was so early in the morning; 8am Sydney time although what that really meant was 5am Perth time for my hungry stomach. The previous night I went out for an early dinner with my colleagues who were also traveling for work and we all have had a long week. We were summing up our week over the plantain chips with mango salsa and contemporary mini tacos in a Mexican restaurant that we always go to in Sydney for margaritas and tequila infused chocolate shots. We skipped the shots (although really, we don't drink the chocolate shots like drinking tequila. It really is a dessert drink that you have one sip at a time) but I did have my margaritas. It was afterall the start of a weekend. 

I looked across the Tasman Sea, 37000 feet below me as the plane flew across Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand for work. Exactly. What weekend am I talking about?


Auckland from above.


A friend asked recently if traveling for work - considering how frequent it is for me, has lost it charm. I said no. But I really should have said 'half of the time'. It comes and goes, the charm. Work traveling itself is a 'work hard' period for me - a lot of meetings, presentations, technical discussions and social events. If the traveling schedule extends for two weeks, that means I get to see and do non-work things during the overlapping weekend. It is exciting if I get the weekend to do that but often, I opt to go home to be back in Perth after the week ends. That's when I relax and play.

To be quite honest, I have become quite tired of Sydney. But it is only because I have been here every month since May this year. I travel to other places in between but I have had a work commitment in Sydney. And then, the crappy weather. In this last trip, it was actually raining for a few days and the last day's temperature was 16 degrees and wet while my husband went surfing in a 32 degree sun back home. 32 degrees. That's literally 16 degrees more heat. Which is a lot of heat.

16 degrees Celcius and I am complaining. How on earth did I survive five winters in Scotland, I still wonder. Zero degrees. Scrapping ice off the wind shield. Car sliding. Cold feet. Frozen fingers. Numb nose. Rain. Heavy wind. GOD, I do miss Scotland sometimes.

So what is the other 'half of the time' feels like?

The most fun bit about traveling for me is actually the people watching, the interaction with strangers and the new scenery. An airport is the best place for people watching. I may hate the transit, but I love seeing honeymooners cuddling, nervous travellers panicking, family giving goodbye hugs and tears, parents chasing after their kids and foreign travellers going through the security scan multiple times because they don't know that they are supposed to take off their belts or boots or jackets or to empty their pockets... The most boring kind to watch is actually a professional like me because all we do is sit there, read a magazine, do some work on our laptop. 

As a part of the job, I meet new people all the time. Often I meet the normal professionals, sometimes the high-level managements, at times the geeks and every now and then, the eccentrics. And then of course there are the completely different types that you meet outside working hours, at the airports or on the plane. The weirdos and the annoying.

The scenery when the flight is descending is always something that I look forward to when flying. Some places are boring because the airports are located in the middle of nowhere, they look dead. Perth, Kuala Lumpur and London are the common offenders. Other airport locations are breathtaking when surrounded by the hills, water and the different colours of fields. Airport locations in countries like Scotland and Ireland, and a city like San Diego, a hidden treasure like Mulu in Borneo and some airports near the water in the mainland of European cities are exceptionally beautiful. Today I have discovered that Auckland airport has a stunning water and hills view. I wish I hadn't fall asleep when we were about to land. But of course the real scenery itself is the place that you get to see when you arrive.

Alrighty, it's time to board again. I probably should've bought myself a proper latte while writing this earlier but I guess now I just have to settle with the 98% water and 2% 'coffee' that they will serve on my next flight. Urgh. Hamilton, here I come.

Friday, 1 November 2013

I'm baaaack!

Six and a half month of no blog update! That has got to be a record. Consider that as a hibernation period, since it had been a long winter for WA this year. Thank duck it's finally over.

My apologies for the long silence, escapees. Life has been a little crazy since starting the new job back in April. I can't believe that it has been that long, to begin with. My traveling schedule has been a little hectic at times - I was flying in and out of the country as well as interstates in the past months for both work and leisure and things are not slowing down just yet it seems. I am scheduled to be back in Sydney for probably the hundredth time in the next couple of weeks before venturing into another new country. New Zealand is expected to be one of those 'short but sweet' trips. While I do look forward to see a dear friend in Hamilton, I'm dreading all the stopovers I have to do for work.

I love doing what I do, but flying every couple of weeks can be tiring. I get to stay put for three weeks, the most and then I am off again to where ever I am needed next. I would fly out on Sunday for an early start on Monday, but I make sure that I get home on Friday night or early Saturday morning so that I don't miss spending my weekend with my husband. Work is important, but family will always come first.

Speaking of family, we were back in Malaysia recently for a wedding. One of my brothers was getting married and we get to officially welcome his wife into the family. And soon enough, we will be having their little one in the arms of my soon-to-be-retired mum (talk about a perfect timing!). And then, a dear friend back in South America has also given birth to a pair of beautiful twins - a boy and a girl, which officially gives me the title 'Tia Flo'. Venezuela is so far away for a visit, but I am certain that I will meet Lucas and Elise one day - as I also miss their mother's company! I have also been asked to be a bridesmaid for a wedding of a dear friend in December, as well as for another one in March! I am so excited to be a part of their special days, not to mention the chance to be involved in a Malay/Muslim wedding in Malaysia and a holiday wedding in Thailand- the perk of having friends who are from different culture and backgrounds.

Christmas is only seven weeks away now and I can't wait for some time off. We haven't had any plans  just yet but to be frank, I do not mind the slightest to be spending days off putting my two feet up, drinking wine and eat BBQ as I think I deserve it, although that's pretty much what I have been doing every weekend anyway. Hmmpff.

Or maybe I should drink champagne instead for a change.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Howdy y'all

Greetings from the southern state of America!

Houston today.
It's not exactly a sunny day here in Houston as we speak. Very different than what I last encountered back in July. However it is still nice to be back to great hospitality and cheap shopping :-).

Having to live in expensive Perth back in Western Australia, Houston is like a shopping haven. It screams variety, quality and affordability. The exact, same item back in WA would have cost me almost twice its price here in Texas, which I don't understand. Surely if they are all made in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and China, they would be cheaper in Asia Pacific than in Central America...? Apparently not.

I landed at approximately 2.30pm yesterday and after checking-in to my hotel room three hours later - distance from the airport, waiting for the room to be available, late lunch and all that, I went shopping. It's not uncommon for people - especially women, to want to go shopping to kill some time, as you probably know already, especially if they try to stay awake to beat jetlag. I come prepared too this time. I knew what I wanted and I have extra cash on my side pocket too for it... in case of an emergency :-) The last time I was here, I went mental and then annoyed I didn't have enough space in my luggage for a fourth pair of shoes...

Beating jetlag gets easier too over time. I don't sleep before 10.00pm on local time, regardless where I have been flying from so I can wake up comfortably between 6am to 8am the next day. I try to get sleep on the longest haul flight - on and off but it still helps in pushing the sleeping time to a bit later after landing. I normally have a glass of red on the flight to help me to doze off and would listen to an easy listening music (read: boring instrumental stuff!) to distract from the plane noise. I also avoid caffeine too when traveling and I drink plenty of water to keep fresh. So far, all the tricks do wonders for me.

It's hard to imagine that I was actually attending a wedding ceremony in Glasgow this time last week. My husband and I then went back to Australia and I had just over 48 hours to recover from the 23 hours journey before jetting off again to, literally, the other side of the globe. 

A drive from Perth airport back home after a long flight.

We were in Scotland for a brief holiday but it was so good to see family and friends once again. I have always loved going back to Scotland despite the freezing temperature. We went back to where we first met in Aberdeen, where we used to live and just could not stop whining talking about the weather. It went from sunshine in Aberdeen to hail, rain and snow en route to Banffshire and back to sunshine again as we arrived in Gardenstown and Crovie? Madness. It is so different to where we are now and yet it gave me a certain kind of warmth to think of those special places still. I keep a photo of winter time as my wallpaper on my phone to remind me of what it was like driving to work everyday three winters ago.

My everyday's drive to work between Banffshire and Aberdeenshire one winter. Taken using my cameraphone over a very slow drive in case of a reindeer crossing!
We got to enter our old house back in the small village by the sea (that's how I always refer to Crovie to people I meet now) and reminisced the good old times - and how size is not everything! I am glad I spent some of my happiest times in that small cottage which is now the size of our back garden in Perth :-D. I am happy where we are in WA but I do miss putting dry logs in the fire place...

The granite city, Aberdeen. April 2013.

I reckon the sun will not be out today in Houston from the look of it butI have had a long 10 hours sleep and now feeling quite fresh to be doing things. I have done a bit of shopping for myself yesterday and now thinking to look for a 'little' souvenir for my husband. The last time I got him a present from Houston, I received a lot of special treatments and admiration from cabin crew when carrying the mini Taylor with me. This time however - and thankfully, it is something relatively compact and light, which means more room for my new things. Yippee! 

Until next time... good morning, good afternoon and good night, escapees.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Slow and steady

It's a crazy time, if not a crazy timing for many, many things. More details on that next time but we have kept calm, nonetheless and still carrying on.

While the house move was as smooth as we could ask for, the unpacking of the boxes could have been better. Having moving houses for so many times in the past, I always made sure I packed everything in the room in the same box, properly arranged and labeled. However, having to only move my stuff back then, it was easier than having to deal with twice as many boxes, plus more now that there are two of us. How is it that we are able to accumulate so many things in such a short period of time that we are here in Western Australia? I have no idea. The packing system still works, although the labeling isn't so relevant anymore as we finally ran out of old boxes to use... So by eventually trying to fit everything into available boxes has now costing us extra time in unpacking unsystematically. Well, that's my excuse anyway.

My superman husband has been working extremely hard with the house moving, packing and heavy lifting while I tackled the 'easy' things like, you know, rearranging kitchen appliances to where they belong in the old rental house, wiping surfaces for the hundredth time and doing the checklist. We just wanted to make sure that we leave the property as how the real estate agent expects it to be, if not more. If you are familiar of how the real estate agents are around here, they are not exactly everyone's favourite people on earth.

The new house, on the other hand, is slowly shaping up to be a home. Paper crane trees are still finding their spaces around the house. The first furniture was built on day three of moving in, which took my husband less than ten minutes to do while I stood and watched :-). The fridge fits nicely in the cabinet space. The washing machine works. The boiler is back up running and the water reticulation for the lawn seems to be coming on as timed. A few other things still need sorting but we are not really in a rush to transform everything overnight and make the house to look like a showroom. 

... or do we?
The bookshelf. As Aleksandr Orlov says... simples!
For a couple of evenings already, we lied down in the hammock and watched birds drinking water from the bird bath, eating from the seed feeder hanging from the tree and pecking on the fruiting fig tree. So far we have had many kinds of birds stopping by for the food and water (and perhaps also checking us out?). One lime tree seems to bear some fruit too and is soon to be harvested. The flowers are blooming - although I could only recognize the roses, and I have a cheeky wee plan tomorrow morning to cut them to be put in a vase. That's $15 a week saved from visiting the florist. Cha-ching!

Juicy figs, freshly picked from the garden!
Despite already having proper trees around, the plan on having my own vegetables patch and herbs garden is still on. I managed to get some cuttings of rosemary, thyme and lavender from the old house to grow around this new home of ours. I am hoping with the plenty amount of sun that we have, they will grow in no time but of course, it will also depend on the time I have in hands to look after them. 

So it is all coming together, slowly and steadily. Hopefully with the plenty amount of time I have in this next couple of weeks, I am able to sort out the boxes and start the gardening. Not a bad way to spend the remaining of the annual leave.

... Now, in which box did we put the gardening tools in again?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Holy crepe!

Dinner tonight.

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp caster sugar
2 eggs
Vanilla essence

1. Sift flour and mix with caster sugar.
2. Pour in milk and mix well.
3. Add eggs and vanilla essence and whisk gently.
4. Wipe olive oil on the pan and pour a thin layer of the batter. Leave until slightly brown before flipping it. Once done, put aside and repeat with the remaining butter. You will probably have 8-10 pieces.
5. Serve and eat!

Serving suggestions:
Sprinkle of lemon juice and sugar
Banana and peanut butter or Nutella
Vintage cheese and ham
Maple syrup

I love crepes! I am having all the serving suggestions today before giving up four things for 40 days: cakes, chocolate, crisps and alcohol. So, you folks in Scotland better be ready for some feasts when we arrive for Easter.

Have a great Shrove Tuesday, escapees... and all the best for the next 40 days!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Hoose

Never mind the 'til death do us part' bit. We just bought a house together. This is bigger than huge!
  
Surely I am not the only home owner who is more excited about starting my own vegetables patch, flower beds and herbs garden in my new house than getting nice furniture and decorating the walls. Since buying a house that I can finally live in, I dream about coming back from work every evening to attend the garden and picking vegetables by going 'that's dinner for tonight'. We even made it as one of the main criteria during the house hunting: to have a back garden that is big enough to suit our lifestyle. Never mind the average looking bedrooms or small bathrooms or no swimming pool. We want a proper backyard with trees to hang the hammock from and soil for gardening and livestock. 

That's right. 

We want fresh chicken eggs. We could have some fresh milk too if we want to but I am pretty sure a cow isn't allowed in a residential property... moo. So we will stick to a normal fresh milk from the shop for now.


The interest in having my own functional garden and a mini farm is not new. I grew up in a small house with a small backyard with parents who thought we definitely could afford a rooster, some chickens and ducks, tortoises, an outdoor cat and at one point, I think a pig. The backyard was no more than 10sqm but my mother managed to grow cassava trees, kangkong, cangkuk manis, a rambutan tree and some sweet corn. And mind you, she was working full time in the office and travelling a lot too. She still works with the Department of Agriculture to these days but I think her passion actually originates from her late father, a full time farmer whom according to her "could plant an apple seed in a pot and it would still grow". The love for gardening could be something that I inherit but a green thumb, unfortunately is something I don't have. 

Not just yet perhaps. 

Years of living in high rise buildings and rented houses with occasional dehydrated indoor plants is not quite the right field to test my gardening skill. With my own house soon, I think this is my chance to properly get committed and turn the garden into my oyster.  

There are a few things that I want to have at the backyard:
  • Fruit - Lemon & lime trees, melon, strawberry, a papaya tree and a mango tree
  • Vegetables - Tomatoes, beans, kangkong, sweet corn, pak choy, carrots
  • Herbs - Parsley, rosemary, thyme, lemon grass, basil, coriander, ginger, chives
  • Flowers & plants - Hibiscus (comes with the house... yay!), lavender, aloe vera
  
Apart from the plants and the animals, I am also excited about some DIY projects around the house. Since we want to limit the amount of cheap IKEA stuff and expensive furniture we want need to get, I reckon a proper saw, hammer, sandpaper and paint could actually give us some originality. We need a picket fence to keep the chicken away from the vegetables patch for a start. We also need an outdoor table for the alfresco area if we could buy some woods from Bunnings (B&Q equivalent - a note for my UK friends). How hard would it be to built a furniture? And wooden pallet as a coffee table, anyone? My husband may laugh at my ambitious dream but when that coffee table is built, he can have his coffee on the kitchen counter while I have mine in the living room with my beautiful coffee table, perhaps with a DIY foot stool too for my feet.


The list goes on. 

I want a tree house too but that can wait. I don't really care about the extra bedrooms for now. They are meant for visitors and future family members but until the day comes, a couple of surfboards, spare mattresses, unopened boxes from the moving and spiders are going to be their sole occupants. I was really excited about the wedding last year but this, for some reasons, feels like a lot more special than that. 

I told you this is bigger than huge. This is humongous.

I. Pure. Cannae. Wait. 
All images are courtesy of Yahoo!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

83 days until...

Scotland! Oh, yeah... Who's counting? Me.

Happy New Year first of all, my dear escapees. Hope you had a lovely Christmas and new year's break. I know I did. It was roasting like chestnuts on an open fire. In case you haven't heard, Perth had its warmest week over the holidays with the new year's eve recording the hottest day of the year at a staggering 42 deg Celcius. That's 107.6 degrees for my fellow Yanks. How ones live in a climate that extreme still baffles me. In our case, numerous visits to the beach seem to be the answer. We are slowly running low on the sun cream but we rather go broke on buying quality SPF30 than die of skin cancer.

Perth isn't massive on new year's celebration so we didn't really organize anything apart from 'celebrating' at the beach, watch the premier of Life of Pi in 3D - which is awesome by the way, I hate to think that it could be better than the book itself that I might need to read it again to make sure - went out for dinner and then just chill... I was working the day before and after the new year therefore the spirit wasn't exactly newyearish. Nonetheless, we had a very relaxing break during Christmas where we had turkey, pigs in blanket, home made Yorkshire puddings, roast vege, Jamie's-new-fav-vege Brussel sprouts sauteed in garlic and served with freshly grated cheese... and loads more. I was trying to make our first Christmas as husband and wife memorable you see. "Hey, remember our first Christmas turkey with aaaaall those food...?" Yup. We even had sparklers at our back garden. Uber cool.

Yours truly on Christmas day, Mullaloo Beach.
So... Australia Day is coming, which is on 26th January. Gathering from the no-firework-event for the new year like this year and the year before, I predict Australia Day's fireworks in Perth are going to be massive again. Last year, I had my first taste of celebration by picnicking with thousands of Perthians by the river. It drizzled a little but who remembers? Me. It was one of the best fireworks display I had ever seen - absolutely beautiful, although I think they can do better with the music and the PA system. I sure look forward to bringing our picnic mat and our outdoor chairs and sit by the river with thousands of spectators once again. Western Australia will have the following Monday off and that will be my next and last break before Easter, where my other half and I will be flying back to Scotland!

Holy moly am I excited. Time sure flies as if we had only bought those tickets yesterday. We are attending our dear friends' wedding and will spend some time with our family in Glasgow as well as seeing some friends in Aberdeenshire. It will be our first time going back together after moving to Australia and to be quite honest, although I know April in Scotland is generally a lovely month, I am actually freaking out a little that it might be a wee bit chilly for a weather snob like me... Lassie, yer spring now is our winter ken? Ha ha ha. Bite me.

Our lease ends some time in March so that leaves us with just over two months to find a new place. We have been house hunting for a few weeks now but I think it is time to get serious or we'll end up sleeping in our vintage Falky (that's our Aussie version for Ford Falcon). Ok, maybe not to that extent but I would hate having to make a decision on a place to stay just because time is running out rather that because we really love the place. That's right. All the decision is now we-based. Baaaah. After all, we are in search of a home for a family, not just a house for two. *cue the 'awwwww...'*

It seems like it's going to be a lot of working in between now til Australia Day and then Scotland for us. It helps to make the time goes by quickly I suppose. Plus the house isn't going to be paying by itself come April. It helps that we have a few things lined up to add to our skill too in between working... don't we all always want to learn something new come the new year? I will explain in details when (or if) I am successful at it soon.

That's all for now, folks. Until next time, to all my tropical friends, drink plenty of water and don't forget the sun cream. To everyone in Europe and everywhere else below 15 degrees, keep warm and carry on. God bless!

Lots of love,
Flo xxx


Thursday, 20 December 2012

The day before the world ends

Apart from hoovering and mopping the floor on a weekday for the first time today and painting my nails purple, I actually have not done anything to prepare for the end of the world tomorrow. No oxygen tanks. No underground escape. No food stockage. People around the world are going nuts in planning ways to save themselves from being doomed. While some have headed to south of France to be rescued by the aliens, others gather food, water and weapons before the world falls into pieces.

But gosh, I do hope the world doesn't end yet. I have so much to look forward to. For instance I am planning to bake kuih lapis or layered cake this weekend. And how about those unopened presents under the tree? Surfing plan on Christmas day. Our new Gold Class cinema tickets. The champagne-breakfast-for-two voucher. A trip back to Scotland. A proper honeymoon. An unopened bottle of wine. And the list goes on.

The idea of the world end is not new to me. Being brought up a Catholic, it has been embedded into my mind that one day, the world will end. Dum dum dum. But 'when' it is going to end seems to always be the bigger question than 'how' it is going to end. I supposed it is easier to imagine that the way the world ends is how it has always been pictured in the movies: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes eruption, hurricanes. Oh wait. I think the end of the world might be happening already. So people start to go back to asking the Mayans. The scientists look out for any incoming object that might hit the earth. We look out for any obvious signs. Nada. 

It has somehow emerged now that while the world might not literally ends, it only means the end of an era thus a 'new world' is about to start at the beginning of sunrise tomorrow, says the Mayans. WHAT. After all that?! Apparently the new epoch is "brighter" and should be celebrated like how we celebrate a new year. 

Whatever, man. I am going to bed. And after work tomorrow, I am going to buy the ingredients for baking my kuih lapis. Until then, Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy real New Year. 

Lots of love,
Flo



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Here comes summer

Right. Where were we...

A lot has happened since the last time I blog but I feel like I need to be more selective of what I want to write this time. However, that is only because I have a very short span of free time, or rather the time I am willing to sit down for 30 minutes facing a computer screen when I am not at work, and not because I cannot be bothered talking about no-news. 

Firstly, I was back in Malaysia for eight days last month due to an unforeseen circumstance. My dad contracted malaria and was in a serious condition that I had no option but to buy one-way tickets home to be by his side. It was a big scare for everyone back home, not to mention our friends and family who know my dad but needless to say, it was all good in the end. Throughout the whole ordeal, I kept close contacts with all my family and close friends who were concerned (but extremely positive), especially everyone back in Scotland. I, hereby would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who were there for our family physically, mentally and emotionally because as cliche as it may sound, I believe he has made it alive because of your thoughts and prayers. Nothing to do with the doctors and nurses. Ha ha.
 
Secondly, we went to see Russell Brand a weekend ago doing his Australian tour of Russell Brand Live: I am a Walrus. It was a great night and we had our first taste of the provocative Perth Arena, the infamously bloody expensive building that you would either love or hate architecturally. I am not going to go into details on the cost of being in the newly (but unnecessarily a long time to) built for a couple like us to enjoy a decent night out but love it or hate it, I think the relatively traditional Perth actually needs an interesting looking building like this. It is an impressive structure all around, despite the complaints about its 'small' seats but MY GOODNESS ME they are going to make a lot of money out of Perthians, even after paying those entertainers and their entourage their million dollers cost. Elton John, Matchbox Twenty, Jennifer Lopez and Nicky Minaj are amongs the entertainers who have been gracing Perth Arena since its opening last month and there are many more big names expected to head to this side of the globe. Cha-ching!
 
Thirdly, I am excited about the royal baby news. I am betting on the names like Isla Caroline Frances if it's a girl and Henry Michael Spencer if it's a boy. Who cares, right? Well... I DO.
 
Our humble, non-pretentious-10-minutes-to-set-up Christmas tree.
 Fourthly, although our Christmas tree is up and blinking, I am not sure if the spirit is quite there yet. Santa has been visiting (and left the wrapping paper on the kitchen table) but despite being born in a tropical country and celebrated 25 years of Christmases in the sun, I do miss a bit of snow and a fire place still. It will take a bit of getting used to, I supposed but we have been optimizing every bit of the sunshine by doing outdoorsy stuff including snorkeling this time around. It was only recently that we have discovered that we would have plenty to see when going snorkeling at a beach in WA called Mettams Pool beach, 12km from our house or a 15 minutes drive if along the west coast. I did my first snorkeling in Australia a few weekends ago but I could not help being slightly nervous about being able to see things under the water, an alien concept to someone who did her scuba diving course just over two years ago in Borneo. However, there is a big difference, though being 38m underwater in Celebes Sea than being on the surface of a very sharky Indian Ocean. Despite having helicopters hovering around WA beaches looking for any sightings of sharks, I still snorkel within the range that I feel I could still make a quick escape in case of emergency :-D. We have not been surfing for a good couple of months as it has been either choppy or flat like a pancake but I could feel that the urge to get on the surfboard and being in the water is building as the weather gets warmer and warmer each day.
 
There are plenty other things lined up for us to do this coming summer that I am telling myself maybe this is how life should be, married or not. Just slow and easy. Yes, we work hard most days but come evening and weekend, we look forward to doing relaxing, random but exciting things together. It does not need to be expensive either as Perth offers plenty of free events all year round, it is a matter whether you want to get out of the house to do it and get proactive... or not! 
 
Right, that's my 30 minutes over. I better scoot and start emptying the dishwasher and prepare some dinner soon. By the time I am writing this, it had gone from 35 deg afternoon to a rainy 23 deg evening outside... thank goodness I did not water the garden today - an important fact that if left out of this entry would have made my life less defined. Also, a Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is slowly becoming my favourite bird as one has been making itself distinguished at our front and back garden every few morning and evening... and as we speak.
 
Until next time, escapees... cheerio. Oh, don't forget to leave a glass of milk and some cookies on the table for santa!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

There was a bottle of Mo√ęt & Chandon in the fridge...

....a whole chicken roasting in the oven and a candle on the table. It felt like a special occasion - despite noting that it was after all exactly one month after we got married, but it was just another ordinary Saturday evening spent at home.

I thought about blogging the little details of the big day but then realized that it would have taken the sentiment of something intimate out of it. I have shared some of the best photos on Facebook for my family and friends back home but keeping the rest for ourselves. In a few words though, it was the best three weeks of my life having our family and friends here in Western Australia. We only had 46 guests, where 42 of them actually had to fly from overseas, quite literally all corners of the world to be with us for the special occasion. We were overwhelmed, to say the least but mostly humbled by the love and support that we have.


Everyone was getting to know each other and having fun leading to the big day: there was a picnic in the park, a visit to the wildlife park, a few afternoons at the beach, a karaoke/BBQ/stag/hen do at our place and many more events even after the wedding including group surfing lesson and a day out in Fremantle. It was a stretch of an occasion but a great way for our family to get to know our friends, and for our friends to get to know each other. It may have been a small wedding (equivalent to a birthday party in my Asian culture!), but who needs 500 guests if you can have the most fun with 46 of the most important people in your life?
 
Now that the wedding is over, I have a more important thing to focus on: the marriage. I am slowly getting used to being called Mrs.Harris, referring to Jamie as my husband and ticking a different status box than what I used to when filling a form. There is still a lot to get used to as much as to learn about and I am eager. It may have been 14 months ago that we have arrived on this side of the world, but it sure feels like life has only just begun for us. I am definitely look forward to this stage of life where I have somebody whom I can always talk to, laugh and cry with... and someone who will always say 'Yes, dear'. 


Now, tell me if that is not something I should be very excited about! :-)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Rantings of a spoiled rotten woman

I turn 31 today. That is an old woman's age back when I was a teenager. You are expected to be at the peak of your career and married to the most handsome man in the world being in your thirties - having two or three kids in tow perhaps, being driven in a limo and live in a mansion with many helpers and a beautiful garden full of butterflies. Fortunately enough, I am too cool and too grown up for all that pish. Afterall, it is 2012, not 1972. Youngsters, take note.

Although I love doing what I do and about to be married to the most handsome *cough* man in the world in exactly four weeks time, I have changed my ideas on what women in their thirties should be like. As a start, I would like to clarify that having number three at the start of your age is not a curse as above all things, it is a blessing. If you are lucky, you get to increase that number every 10 years. If you are really, really lucky you will get to a point where that big number at the start of your age will go back to one and boy, wouldn't you be glad that you have lived a hundred years?

We must not be scared of being silly. Or wrinkles.

Having lived through some years being so naive and cocooned in the idea of how life should be, I am glad I have become what I have become. Gratitude is not a sufficient word to express how I feel about things that have been taking place in shaping my perspective towards life and attitude towards others. I am mostly humbled by the people I have met and friends with, and even by the most brief encounters at the most unlikely place. 

Over an early but wonderful birthday meal with Jamie yesterday, I spoke of the most memorable dinners that I have had since the past years of traveling through leisure and my job. There was this random, the most quirky meal and restaurant in Marseille, an overly large meal portion (and generous service!) in Texas and a blind/dark restaurant in Zurich which I had the opportunity to share with my dearest friends Kath and Aneli. But of course there was also an impromptu breakfast of Spanish pastry with a stranger - who is now a friend back in Spain in 2007; an introduction to the most petit - although not exactly bizarre by my Borneoan root standard, escargot entree by a French acquaintance back in 2005; the tastiest empanadas a year ago in Venezuela with a group of new, amazing friends; a 'morning glory' dish in Phuket with two of my best girlfriends, which turned out to be Malaysia's common vegetable called kangkung; the most famous, and tastiest crunchy hotdog I ever had in Lisbon - not to mention one of the most amazing Portugese steak I had on my birthday in 2010 - thanks to the ever hospitable Goncalo; a glass of giant beer and pretzels in Munich with Kath, as well as wonderlicious seafood and sangria in Barcelona; and the last but not least, the most delicious and freshest lobster meat I ever had in the fishing village, Crovie in Aberdeenshire last year - cooked by yours truly in butter and lemon with lots, and lots of love and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to mark nothing but an ordinary dinner with a loved one.

Now how did that happen, from talking about gratitude to food?

The point that I am trying to make is, I would never be talking about those thing - or dream of talking about those things if I were who I was ten years ago when I was too scared at the idea of changing, commitment, being hurt and not knowing. And yet here I am, fully committed to the one person that I truly love after being heart broken for stupid reasons - which is OK; not having any big plans for the future apart from wanting to live truly and be happy; and although fundamentally I am the same person, I have finally changed for my own good a loooong time ago and boy, I am glad. 

Looking back at those things making me realize how I truly appreciate small and big moments, simple gestures, how things are different from one place to another, how people are different from one another, that circumstances brought me to where I was, that jumping off the clift is only done by the courageous, not the careless and how change is not necessarily a bad thing at all. So change, commit to something, get hurt and embrace the unknown. In other words, live - because you must have heard the saying 'it is not the number of your age that counts but rather the years that you have truly lived that do'. That, in my opinion is how every woman from the age of 30 should have lived their life by any standard.

I would like to dedicate this post to my family whom I thoroughly love, my closest friends whom I cherish, my new family - the most wonderful in-laws ones could ever ask for who are extremely kind and generous, and last but not the very least, to Jamie who despite having to deal with my occasional craziness, obsession with spread sheets, horrendous guitar and singing skill and a beyond-explainable midweek behaviour, manage to still love me and still wanting to marry me more than ever. I thank you all for your kind messages via phones, emails and Facebook. As much as I feel truly spoiled, I am humbled by all your kind words and thoughts on this beautiful start of spring day in Australia.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Let it bee!

There is a tree behind the lavender bush at the back garden that also stands next to our 'Christmas tree'. When we moved into the property 11 months ago, it was unlike any other trees around it: looking a little dehydrated and had very little leaves with no flowers. I asked Jamie if he knows what tree it was but who was I kidding? Nevertheless, I always wonder what it was everytime I water the plants around the garden, hoping to know that one day before I move somewhere else, I get to know what it is.

And that is why, after waking up from a long lie today I was ecstatic at being greeted by this upon opening my bedroom blinds:


It's a cherry blossom tree! I had to get closer to be sure. Afterall, I have always thought cherry blossom trees only grow in Japan. Doh! I grabbed my camera (read: Jamie's camera...) and went out to the back garden in my pj's, in awe to such a wonderful sight.


It is indeed a cherry blossom. There were bees, though... lots of 'em. It must smell really nice for bees to be having a congregation on it. So what does it smell like, I wondered? I had never seen a cherry blossom upclose. After picking one from a branch that had very little bees on it, I managed to sniff one. And well, well well... it actually smells like roses. 

I stood there looking at it, almost proud. And I have no idea why. Was it because I never gave up wanting to know what it was? Was it because I always hope that one day it will give us 'fruit'?  Or was it because after almost a year of being the most understated looking tree in the garden, it now looks like the most magnificient of them all?

I went back inside the house and made myself a cup of tea. I had a sip and looked further around the back garden where I noticed how all the other flowers have come out too and there are bees and butterflies everywhere. Well oh well, I thought, I supposed spring comes early this year in which case... bee it!

The lavender smells nice too and keeps the insects away although attracts bees.

P.s A cherry blossom in Malaysia is known as bunga sakura. Bunga means flower and sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Yum cha


3-4 bags of black tea
6 cardamon pods
12 cloves
4-6 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of ground ginger (or a few slices of fresh ginger)
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Milk & sugar

Blend/grind all spices then boil in 3-4 cups of water before adding black tea, milk and sugar.

And that, my friend, is how you get chai latte.

I bought a box of instant chai the other day and have been a chaiholic since. Strangely enough, this is not my first time drinking chai. I accidentally drank it once thinking that I picked up a green tea instead and ended up having to force chai down my throat after. It tasted disgusting. There's always something mediciney about it - to me it's just full of spices which is definitely fine for cooking but not for drinking. I didn't hate it but disliked it enough to never tried it again and so I stick to mainly sugarless tea and coffee until a few days ago. So I guess taste buds do change.

I like eating food and drinking drinks of fresh ingredients so to discover that I can make chai myself and omit the sweet, overly priced instant chai and the bignames branding altogether makes me feel good. I'd say for a two-months of silence, giving you guys a free recipe (and a good one too) is the way to make it up. Have a go at it and see if you have become a hippie* like me too. Yum cha**!

*Only because my brother, W once told me that I am a bit of a hippie. I am not though, and those candles and incenses and aromatherapeutic music that I have are purely for bubble bathing purposes. 
**Although yum cha actually means "drink tea" in Cantonese, chai latte is yummmmmy. Defo.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Multiplatipluszillion is not a word

... but it should be. Sorry for the long silence, folks.

Being the self-proclaimed most occupied person in the world does not make an ideal blogger, especially if your day job contradicts with what you normally blog about. However, that could just be my excuse of being blogzy. Being busy may be overrated (as well as wedding planning - more on this later) but it sure has been exciting. So, what's new?

First and foremost, let's talk about the weather. Perth is in the middle of winter and before you could rejoice in glee, my dear British friends, it's a mild winter by UK standards. We, Perthians (you read that right), wake up to 8 degrees rainy mornings and afternoons of sunshine in just below 20s before it cools down to 13 or 14 deg Celsius in the evening. We also had over 100km/h wind the other day - once in a decade storm so they say and we even had a mini tornado, but having lived by the sea in the north east of Scotland before through crazy winter, I'd like to think the Western Australians need to toughen up a bit... or live a little! Nonetheless, snuggling back into bed at 7am when it is cold, grey and wet outside sounds more attractive than driving in horrendous traffic on the Mitch (...  that's Mitchell Freeway. I'm speaking Perth now yo! Ha ha) among sleepy Aussie drivers.

Upon returning from Europe, I was back to the usual chores and more. I was in Milan and Berlin for work for what seemed like the longest time to be away from home - three weeks to be exact. I managed to make a quick detour to Scotland to see my dear friends and lovely Jo on her birthday weekend. It was only for 19 hours but with the amount of old friends I managed to see within such a short period of time in Aberdeen, I'm actually tempted to do it again in the future. That amount of time being away almost took me the same amount to get back on my feet too. I don't mind the long hours of being up in the air; it's the multiplatipluszillion of airport transits that I am not a fan off.

A street performer in Milan doing a different kind of  'being up in the air'.

The three weeks of intensive work - with a bit of play, also meant a little break from the wedding planning. The big day is only in October but because Jamie and I are so far from our family and friends, everything is mainly OIO (Organizing It Ourselves) since we both opposed the idea of hiring a wedding planner. The OIO started as early as February this year which includes a lot of phone calling, emailing and driving around doing venues booking, dress shopping, kilt hunting, menu and cake tasting and all sort of hiring, just to name the very few. It may be a small wedding but an OIO wedding is undeniably a big job.

Doing things as early as we did help the process of settling in too. We did promise each other to not let the whole wedding planning to get in the way of enjoying our new life in Perth. So we still spend our times exploring places, doing things and meeting people. Not so much of beach activities anymore though, as I am still challenged by the idea surfing in wintery cold water after getting used to the idea of warm water back in the summer. Uhuh. My wetsuit hasn't been worn since leaving Scotland too (two-pieces swimwear is the way forward, people!) and the thought of checking if the gloves and surfing boots are spider-infested is not that appealing. However, I am convinced that I will be back in the water soon enough with the persistence push by my other half.

Apart from all that, another business trip is approaching. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite go through Europe this time. It is just another new country that I need to 'sink my teeth into' and 'get my head around' in order to make a living (of course saying it that way makes it sounds more serious than it already is with added pretentiousness). Given the industry that I am in, it is quite easy to predict where I should be heading next, with the exception of Milan. If you are working or related to someone who works in oil and gas industry, then you should be able to guess the missing place in this group: Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Dubai, Aberdeen, The Hague, Stavanger and... ? 

Otherwise, I supposed you'll just have to wait for the next blog post of myself wearing a hat and leather boots. Until then.... see ya later, cowboys!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

From Thurso to Margaret River

Telstra Drug Aware Pro 2012 is one of the most prestigious events on the Australian leg of the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) Worlds Tour. It gathers the world's best surfers and was held from 19th to 25th March at a world class surfing location, Margaret River. The surfing paradise is also a well known wine region and located 3-hour drive from Perth, around 260km away down south.

Kelly Slater was already eliminated from Round-24 by the time we got to Surfer's Point, Prevelly Beach in Margaret River. In case you are wondering who the fudge Kelly Slater is, he is an American pro surfer and even though currently 5th as per 2012 world ranking, he is a 11-times ASP World Champion - the most wins ever by a pro surfer.

I had the opportunity to see the event, meeting the current world no.1, Taj Burrow, Western Australia's home grown, and saw the world's best surfers in action, as well as see Kelly Slater up-close. Although Taj (or TB as they call him here) was eliminated during Round-16 and broke his board, he was a good sport, taking photos with his fans and remains the crowd's favourite. Kelly Slater returned for the expression session with a bunch of other surfers after the men's final (John John Florence vs. Olamana Oleogram, in which the former won) very much to the crowd's happy cheers and excitement.

It was a far stretch from going to O'Neill's Coldwater Classic last year in Thurso, clad in my jumper, jacket, hat and gloves to this year's ASP tour event in warm, sunny Western Australia in summer tops and shorts and seeing Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow, Josh Kerr, John John Florence and the likes, up-close and personal. Both were amazing experience, nonetheless and I would definitely go to another surfing event in a heart beat in the future, except no more sleeping in a car but a proper tent or a camper van instead (note to self: plan in advance!).

Kelly Slater doing what his does best during the expression session.
Currently world's no.1, Taj Burrow and my monkey face.

John John Florence, Telstra Drug Aware Pro 2012 champ after winning Round-24.

Kelly Slater walked pass myself and another star-struck fan.

Until next time, stay rock and roll.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Sculpture by the Sea

Cottlesloe Beach I

Sun worshippers

Sculpture I

Young admirer

Cottlesloe Beach II

Sculpture II

Cottlesloe Beach III

Cottlesloe Beach, Western Australia,
March 2012.
Title: Sculpture by the Sea (Photo Series)

It is officially autumn in Australia. Not the kind that I am used to, but it has gone from scorching 40's degree Celcius to 30's to say the least. These photos were taken today in search of waves at Cottlesloe Beach, but how do you surf when surrounded by hunners of beachers?

An exhibition called Sculpture by the Sea was on so I decided to have a look at it. The show is a free outdoor event with artists works displayed along the beach and around the park. I am no artist so I found some mind boggling contemporary artworks that I couldn't even be bothered to figure out. Nonetheless, there are some impressive artworks that are worth looking at and pondering about. If you are in Perth, check it out. Sculpture by the Sea is on from 1-19 March at Cottlesloe Beach. Oh, and don't forget your SPF30!

Monday, 13 February 2012

...crawled up the peg



At the back of the house, WA
January 2012
Title: Itsy bitsy spider


It has been a while since I put a photo entry. Here's one taken one summer morning when I was about to hang some laundry at the dryer outside the house. A cheeky wee spider was found hiding and nesting in a cloth peg, so small it could actually fall on top of your head, inside your freshly cleaned clothes or inside your mouth and you probably wouldn't notice!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Somebody was in the local newspaper recently...

And it was not me.





Since self-appointing myself as his agent a few weeks ago, I have been busy marketing his talent to corporate world and art galleries around WA. I wonder if any agents feel as proud as I am when people tell them, 'Amazing stuff' about their artist's works. It gets me every single time.

Jamie is having his first solo exhibition in Australia titled Deep Blue this Friday 3rd Feb at The Blend(er) Gallery, Joondalup. To view more of his artworks, go to www.harrisjam.com.

Wish us luck!