Camp Nanowrimo, day #3

Precisely what it says.

It has begun. 

Based on my past track record, especially with Nanowrimo, I have not ever finished what I started before. So, it doesn’t bode well for me. But hopefully this time around, something will change and I’ll actually make it to complete my goal. I’ve set myself a very low one this time: Write 31 pages in July, with a spotlight on creative writing. 

I’ve managed to keep up to target so far with an average of a page a day. What would be great is if I can write ahead of time and complete a few pages at once so I have some buffer to spare when I start falling behind (which will almost certainly happen at some point). 

Should I share what I have penned down on this blog? I’m not sure yet. Would it bore you to read 31 days of random, unrefined writing? Let me think about it a bit more before I decide. Perhaps I’ll just share the link to the Google Doc version or something.

Anyway, just a brief description about my Camp Nano project: It’s called Imperfect: A Creative Project and is based around the said theme. I don’t intend for it to become too melancholic, although for the time being, it seems a bit slanted towards that based on what I already wrote. I intend for it to be more of a hope giving, mindset busting kind of thing, but let’s see if I can actually achieve that. Will need to inject some sunshine and humour into it on the next page I write. Hehe. 

Meanwhile, it’s awfully late (isn’t it always?) and I’ve got work commitments. See you later. 

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Booked

BookXcess store at The Starling, Damansara Uptown

It’s been a pretty chillout time over here for our family, since we’ve got a four day weekend to enjoy right now, thanks to Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays. Instead of cramming activities together and rushing about with almost zero downtime (as would happen for us on a typical weekend), it’s nice to have the opportunity to take a more leisurely approach for a change. 

One of the things we’ve done so far was to visit the relatively new BookXcess store at The Starling, thanks to the hype created by this particular says.com post. (If you aren’t familiar with the name, these BookXcess guys are the ones behind those epic Big Bad Wolf sales that we often enjoy over here). 

Our main aim was to hunt down more Thomas & Friends books to add to Jamie’s collection. And I am happy to report we did achieve that goal…

 

Thomas & Friends books for our little boy 🙂

Books, particularly those from overseas, are an expensive commodity here in Malaysia. Not sure about how it is where you’re from, but here, paperback novels cost anywhere between RM20 – RM40 (and in some cases, perhaps even more than that). So budget-wise, it’s rather costly to frequently purchase new books. 

But thanks to people like BookXcess, we are able to obtain books that are brand new but yet at a much cheaper price than their original retail value. Apparently the books are sourced from places where there has been excess stock that was difficult to clear or something like that, hence the ability to offer it at a discounted rate to hungry readers out there like us. 

Look at that price slash. It makes such a huge difference to parents like us.

For parents looking to continuously expand the bookshelves of their young children, this is an infinitely good thing. Just you look at that difference in the price tag. Mind you, these are not even hard cover books. So a normal price of RM32 for a short, thin children’s book like that is just absurd. At RM7.90 or RM9.90 though, it all seems like a more reasonable amount to impose on our wallets. 

So thank God for stores like these. It gives Deric and I a chance to rejoice, because finally we have new material to read to Jamie every day, instead of those same few tales that we have already been reading to him ten thousand times. 

Anyway, since we are on the topic, let’s talk a bit about my own love affair with books. 

I guess you could say my passion for writing stems from my interest in books because if there was no desire in me to read books, I think it’s highly unlikely that I’d want to endeavour to write them. (I have yet to successfully write a book though, but that is another long story for another post/day). 

It is because of my parents that I developed a love for books, and for that I am grateful. It was to the point that I would literally pick up anything and read it. The only limitation to that being more of whether it’s something that I deliberately wanted to read about or otherwise. 

What I do regret though is not having read enough books by this age. I should have been more well read by now, and it would have done wonders for the way I write. But unfortunately, I didn’t do more back in the days when I had more time on my hands. Right now, I have more books on our shelf at home than I can cope with, and that’s kind of sad. I want to be able to buy new books, but I feel it’s not justified because there are so many in my possession that I haven’t even read yet. 

Guess I should make it a priority to devour all the unread books I have as soon as possible. Perhaps nursing time is a good opportunity (while that routine still lasts for Jamie and I). 

Anyway, I’m proud to say that Deric and I seem to have passed on a love for reading to Jamie and it seems to be a habit he loves, at least for now. Let’s hope it sticks in the long term. Fingers crossed. 

A trip on the craft side 

It’s late (again) and I shall need to scoot real soon to catch some much needed snooze. But I thought I’d just drop by to share this fantastic Pinterest song parody that I pretty much identify with because I have always been a crafter at heart. 

I think I haven’t said it enough on this blog actually, but these things have their roots all the way back to my childhood. I remember crocheting and knitting in primary school while sitting it out during P.E. period (hehe a long story as to why, and which I shall address in a separate post). 

I still think of DIY and craft projects as a brilliant way to unwind and to serve as my creativity outlet. I may not be that capable in the things I produce, but somehow just working on something is hugely satisfying for me. I shall attempt to blog more about this undying passion of mine (which seems to be surviving even better than my love for writing, ironically). 

Okay, gotta dash. See ya! Meanwhile, enjoy the video! 

Rain and cupcakes 

Rainy week it has been. Today is no exception to the ongoing streak. I don’t mind, really, since I love rain. 

Jamie does too, except once the thunder and lightning get too much. I decided to keep the curtains drawn and had some music playing on Spotify to keep him distracted today when it was pouring. But I think it wasn’t as dashyat as yesterday so he didn’t seem to be affected. 

Yesterday, he would have this slight look of terror every time he saw a lightning flash. He can now anticipate that after that comes the thunder. (We had an episode last weekend where our neighbours in the landed homes beneath us had a fireworks party and it absolutely terrified Jamie because it seemed as if it were just outside our balcony. He has been extra nervous about thunder ever since). 

Well, he’s asleep… for now. I am having an early coffee break. Not a common occurrence in this job of mine as Work-At-Home-Mum. I’m eating cupcakes that I baked yesterday. Also while it was raining. There are 2 left. I *should* be leaving one each for Deric and Jamie… but it’s tempting to just have another… No one would know… *rubs hands gleefully* 

On a more serious note, I’m actually feeling a little melancholic today. Perhaps it’s the recent challenges of breastfeeding Jamie at night (he has been having more midnight awakenings, teething perhaps?) and also the mundaneness of chores and work. I don’t even feel I’m perky enough around Jamie (and I have always tried to be since I want to raise him to be a cheerful boy and not melancholic like me). 

I had sketched out a plan to write a book. It’s currently on hold as I manage my workload. My work is sort of on pause mode because I feel I’ve hit a wall for one of my ongoing jobs and am dawdling while waiting for the client to reply me on the issues (I generally do not like to talk about work issues on this blog so that’s all I will say about it). 

Quick lament to say that for some reason lately I seem to have lost the spark for writing. I can still do it, but I find little delight in it. It’s like I’m on autopilot. Muscle memory. Responding on reflex. This is worrying. What should I do about this? 

I still daydream about selling handmade stuff of mine. I tested out a modest little motif for some hairpin design I thought would be good to start off with. I need to work out costing. I can’t because I need to go out to check out the materials. 

I want to do craft projects but there never seems to be the right time. Or I put other things as more of a priority over it and never get round to actually doing anything. I have so many planned and pending projects! I’ve told my husband countless times that I might die buried beneath all the tools and raw materials I’ve purchased for crafting. 

Meanwhile, my ukelele’s only function at the moment is to entertain Jamie. He will frequently exclaim, “Guitar!” and gesture towards our study where the uke and Deric’s guitar and other miscellaneous music instruments we own are stored. Once in awhile, I will relent and take the uke out for him. I still haven’t progressed from learning chords from the C key (in fact, I think I’ve forgotten what F chord is like). 

Sigh. My music interests seem to have dwindled too. Even choosing songs on Spotify to play for myself is such a difficult task. What tunes do I like nowadays? Why can’t I figure it out? 

More rain now and a very loud burst of thunder. My heart nearly stopped worrying Jamie might awaken in fear in his bed. He didn’t. Back to my coffee. Forgive my long post. It’s been awhile since I shared my thoughts. 

Shorter stories next round. I promise. 

 

Corny matters

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Easy to make and safe to use around a toddler. Yay! 🙂

I have been putting off mending the books that Jamie has ruined for a very long time. My concern was that he might end up eating whatever form of glue I used for my repair work. 
I actually took time to scour the Internet for some homemade alternative that would be safe for toddlers. And to my relief, there were actually tons of options out there. 

I finally settled for cornstarch glue as it seemed the least problematic (no warnings about mould as what I had seen mentioned for glue made from regular flour) and was fairly easy to make. Plus I had everything I needed already stocked in my kitchen. 

So, after much procrastination, I have at last repaired those poor, neglected books and they are back on the shelf for Jamie to wreck havoc on once more. Hehe. 

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What freshly made cornstarch glue looks like.

There is now also a jar of leftover cornstarch glue ready and waiting for a reason to be used. I wonder how long it will keep actually… I fret about mould appearing, but so far, so good lah. 

The books I’ve mended are holding up pretty well thus far. And I haven’t got a thing to worry about if Jamie is decidedly peckish one of these evenings and chews on some of those spots I glued back on. 

In case you had similar concerns about using regular commercial glue products on toys or books that your toddler uses, you can check out the cornstarch glue recipe I used here.

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Cornstarch glue resurrected from the fridge turned out to be a little hard and lumpy. Boohoo.

Just a little note: Since the first time I made that batch of cornstarch glue, I have pulled out the leftovers to use at a different time and it turned out to be pretty hard and lumpy. I tried adding hot water to it to get it to be more liquidish, but it didn’t work out very well. In the end, I resorted to popping in the quantity I needed straight into the microwave for a quick heating session. That worked out better. 

I have jotted down the date that I made the cornstarch glue on the jar and I will update this post when I notice it going bad in any way so you’ll know how long it can keep if stored in the fridge like I did. 

For a future batch, I would like to try a slightly different glue recipe/tutorial which incorporates some form of preserving agent like salt or vinegar like this. Or I may even go out on a limb and start experimenting with other types of homemade glue too. 

Well, whatever the case may be, rest assured that I’ll be right back here to report on how that works out when the time comes 🙂 

Prawns, at last

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Now that I’m at home daily awaiting for the arrival of little Jamie, there is a need to whip up my own lunch food (so as to avoid having to go out just to buy some).

Just last week, I finally got to make something scrumptious that I was extremely satisfied to eat: A dish containing prawns.

Prawns! I haven’t had much of that since getting married. The reason being that Deric cannot take things like seafood because it has a high uric acid level. This is in addition to his inability to take too much carbs in his daily diet.

I’ve been doing my best to keep within the confines of a domestic diet that meets his needs, but I cannot deny the fact that there are certain foods that I miss.

The cookbooks that we often refer to have quite a few of seafood dishes in them, often involving prawns, and I have always wanted to try them out.

So, finally, since I would only be cooking for one (ie ME), I got the long awaited chance to try out a prawn dish. Yay 😀

This one came from a cookbook called Easy Chinese Stir-Fries by Helen Chen (ISBN: 978-0-470-38756-6) which Deric bought at a discount during one of the bazaar sales held at his office (if I didn’t remember it wrongly). We’ve been using the book pretty often even from the early days of our marriage (which is coming to 3 years now, so fast!) and it has never failed to impress us with the outcome of the dishes.

The author learned her culinary skills from her mother who pioneered Asian restaurants in America, apparently. For people who are based out of China/Asia, it’s pretty cool that the dishes resemble the ones we have here in Malaysia quite accurately.

So anyway, the dish that I tried was called Yangzhou Slippery Shrimp (prawn, shrimp, sama lah :P) and it was really simple to follow. I already had all the ingredients in my kitchen, plus Deric and I had bought a bag of frozen, shelled prawns at Jaya Grocer some time back which weighed 200g and was just the right amount for my consumption.

Original recipe called for 1 pound (approximately 453g) of prawns, but I found that the recipe was still alright if I still followed the measurements for the other ingredients at their prescribed quantities.

The resulting prawn dish is as what you see in the above picture. It was really tasty: A little sourish and sweet, but not too much, and garlicky too.

I also cooked some baby spinach to eat together with rice and the prawns. For that dish, I used garlic, oil and half a cube of Knorr’s chicken stock, coupled with my own veggie stock that had been frozen into cubes and stored in the fridge. The flavour from the homemade veggie stock was really obvious, even more distinct than what the commercial chicken stock usually provided.

I think I just might make more homemade stock in the future. Seems to be worth the effort as it is able to produce better flavours.

It’s really great to be at home and to have more time to chill right now. I look forward to other culinary exploits in the kitchen soon. As soon as I clear my remaining stories for work though. I want to get them out of the way ASAP so I can be worry-free when it’s Jamie’s time to come out.

There’s plenty of other things I hope to accomplish around the home besides cooking too, and I hope to share that with you once I get round to them.

It’s such an exciting time. I really like where I’m at in life right now. 🙂

 

 

“Mugged”

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So the story goes that last Christmas, my family was given home decorated mugs as gifts. As a result, my Mum’s interest was piqued and she asked the giver what she had used to design the mugs. 

This eventually led to my Mum being lent the very marker pens that were used to draw on the mugs. And she was even given several of the extra plain undecorated mugs that the giver had on hand (leftovers from the ones she had bought to distribute as Christmas gifts). 

And so, my Mum ended up deciding to give Deric and I each a plain mug and to allow us to decorate it for ourselves so we could use it as our dedicated mugs whenever we had dinner at my parents’ place. 

A cool idea, no doubt, which especially appealed to a person like me who loves craft activities in general.   

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But Deric and I put off decorating those mugs for a very long time and it was only recently that we actually got down to it. Part of the main challenge was deciding what to draw, but thankfully there was Pinterest to help us in making that choice.

There was another limitation that we soon discovered the moment we started drawing on the mugs: The marker pens that we were to use had thick tips and the ink in them wasn’t flowing too well either. 

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These limitations made me decide to stick to mug designs that were mostly text based rather than image based, because it would be difficult to draw precisely with markers in the condition that I had described. 

Hence, this is how I arrived at the decision of putting “Coffee – A hug in a mug” and the words “CAFFEINE”, along with the diagram of its atomic structure on my mug.

As for Deric, he decided to go with a superhero theme and picked a design focussed on Green Lantern. 

All in all, it was a pretty fun activity (decorating our mugs) and I think both of us would be open to doing it again. Only with brand spanking markers that had thinner tips and flowing ink supply.  Hehe. 

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