Hope


This is one of the most amazing photos I had ever seen

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Duck Fest


Last night a bunch of us paid homage to the evergreen classic dish of Peking duck. We were at Simon’s Duck place on Middleborough Road. There were about 20 of us so we were on 2 separate tables. On my table were 6 adults, 3 ravenous teenagers and a 9-year old with a pretty healthy appetite.

I brought along a 2004 Shiraz (Robertson’s Well from Coonawarra). Apparently a Pinot would have been a better match but I didn’t have any at home and it was raining and I didn’t feel like stopping to choose a wine when I had only a very vague idea when it comes to choosing a good Pinot. In any event the wine was superb and went rather well with the meal.

Simon’s has 2 dining sessions – at 5pm and 8pmrespectively. We were at the 8pm one and it was choc a block. We had 3 ducks per table, and since it was very busy, they only carved up the duck in situ for one bird, with the other two arriving ready to serve.

The option with noodles was priced at $63 per duck, which is good for about 15 pieces of the pancake. So 3 ducks for a table of 10 persons give each person 3-4 pieces/servings which were really good.

The duck was cooked perfectly and the meat was soft and moist and the skin while crispy wasn’t dry at all. It didn’t feel too greasy either. The pancake was thin but didn’t tear easily and all it needed was a small sprig of spring onion and a piece of cucumber to round off a perfect roll. Hoisin sauce was smeared on the duck but we really didn’t need it and after the first piece, I had only a touch of the sauce on.

Kiddo enjoyed it immensely and nom’ed all the way home in the car. Auntie Hooi and Uncle Marloney were the experienced diners on our table and they were saying Simon’s Peking Duck is way better than any they have been to, including Old Kingdom. We’ve sampled a few other places as well and we too think that Simon’s is by far a better option. We’d happily bring any overseas visitors there. We strongly recommend the place, especially with a very good 2004 Robertson’s Well Coonawarra Shiraz.

Regards,Ian

Sent from my iPhinity (and beyond)

Changing Constant


It started to rain when I got on the tram last night. It gradually picked up and the rain got heavier. By the time I finished dinner just after 8 it had started to belt down and I think it hadn’t completely stopped till this morning. It was still raining – albeit lightly – when I got off the tram and walked towards the office this morning. The temperature however, ebbed quite a bit. It felt almost balmy this morning – probably hovering around the 12deg mark. So it looks like we’ve retained the good and discarded the “bad” – kept the rain and got rid of the cold… yay…

It is of course, the first day of spring today. Another winter’s come and gone. Another footy finals season is about to begin. Hawks scraped through and will play Fremantle this Sat. Good for maybe a couple more games at best but long on for Grand Finals, probably.

We’ve now gone through six winters since we left sweltering Malaysia. While on the one hand the acclimatization has made it easier to brave the cold, age on the other hand, continues to shake that fortitude. Thankfully a weather report I watched this morning

Last week the central ducted heating broke down and the very next day I took the afternoon off to attend to the repairmen. Leaving if for just a few days was totally unthinkable although we really could have dealt with it by just relying on perfectly effective column heaters. Theresa in particular needed to have the heater going gang busters and my total agreement has a lot to do with a much lower metabolic rate these days and absolutely nothing to do with my thinning top, I’m sure.

Six winters past, sixth spring is here and the windy sunny days of spring in Melbourne beckon. Whereas autumn in Melbourne is a glorious time, spring is less pleasant. Sydney as I remember it, was the opposite. It is sunny and warm there without the gusty winds, unlike Melbourne. For the sixth year we will experience the lashing winds of spring – something Tress gets unsettled over. Every year it is the same. The cold leaves and the winds arrive. Things are continuously changing but remain the same.

Early Father’s Day Present


I ducked into the study for some work last night, just after 8pm. About an hour and a half later I came back out to the lounge and caught Tress sleeping with her new partner again. There they were on the couch and the Simon and Garfunkel tune broke out in my mind… “Oh Theresa, you’re breaking my heart…” Anyway she was curled up on the couch under a blanket and Scruffy the little black jedi, our cute ebony black 1-year old schnoodle was lying next to her, head dangling over the edge of the couch. They’ve been sleeping together recently – in that fashion. That little black twerp looked satisfied beyond belief.

I crept up, sat next to them and turned the tele on. The Footy Show was on so I watched Sam Newman rant on about Ben Cousins for a little while. Warnie was a guest too so that’s always worth a viewing. A few minutes later kiddo came out of her room – she was doing some studying too, I think – and started busying herself in the kitchen.

“What’re you doing?” I asked. “Making lunch” she said. I was delirious with that response. She usually buys lunch on Fridays so obviously something was going on. “Making what?” It turned out she was pressing on with her austerity drive in order to boost a little kitty she has started. She had embarked on a project to save Europe from its economic woes – a project for which every cent counts. She was going to save her Friday lunch money – along with other sources of income – and augment that fund.

As icing on the cake, she asked if I wanted lunch made too. I wasn’t going to let that pass so I said yes please. The sight of her packing lunch in the kitchen close to 10pm was not to be passed up without reaching for a ubiquitous mobile phone camera. No, I wont put that picture up but it’s there on my phone now – kiddo packing lunch for herself and … for me! That is certainly a fantastic early Father’s Day present for yours truly.

Pull…now hold it down…that’s it


I had thought about looking for other types of work for a while now. The idea isn’t just about leaving my present place although increasingly the return is fast diminishing. I’d often finish the day without being convinced that I had done something useful or meaningful. The push is really to seek out something which would have a more direct impact on the lives of others.

I’m shallow, yeah no doubt about it. I need to be able to see that direct correlation between what I do and its impact on others. If that nexus needs to be stretched to fit, I wouldn’t be able to see or appreciate it. That’s just me.

So I looked. But try as I do, I keep coming up with roles which are so similar to what I have been doing. It is only a matter of degree as to the effect or impact on others.

Maybe a stretch to fit approach is something I have to live with at least for now.

Cold Winter Morning With World Cup Semi


It’s 3 degree now. Very nippy’. Watching Holland make a strong case in the current World Cup football. Anticipating another busy day at work. Wondering what lies ahead on numerous fronts.

Surely at 1-3 down, Uruguay would not be able to come back.  If they do and Spain manages to beat Germany, it would be the first time a final would not see any one of the big 5 – Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina and France – in a final, or any of those “Second Tiers” – like Holland or England. What a refreshing outcome that would have been.

It’s winter in Melbourne and cold. As always. And I think the World Cup would have at least 0one familiar finalist. I guess in so many ways things will remain the same.

Simpsonesque


Not too long ago kiddo was watching the Simpsons’ movie and I joined her. I used to frown at her for watching too many episodes of the Simpsons because frankly, while I am no prude and Homer Simpson would much prefer beer and TV to sex, you’d have to say Homer Simpson is nevertheless not the sort of role model you’d want your kids to have too much exposure to. I am aware it is a cleverly written series and is usually maddeningly witty. James Brooks is a stalwart TV producer and churns out only the most consistently high quality stuff. Somehow, as clever and funny as the Simpsons series are, it didn’t strike me as the sort of TV I’d be comfortable letting kids watch too much of.

Maybe I am being prudish to a degree. I did laugh at many parts of the movie and I have been having less issues with kiddo watching the series since, especially as it comes on at 6pm on weekdays and I’m almost always still at work then.

You’d never think it possible but Homer does come up with the most profound statements at times. He probably doesn’t appreciate the fact of course (that he has said something profound) but his philosophy of life is just about spot on. I mean how can you fault a guy whose only flaw is an undying love for beer and doughnuts? Even if it rules everything else he does in life…

In the movie, he said something to the effect that all he’d ever wanted to do was to curl up at night beside Marg at the end of each day. On Sunday night it was a bit chilly (for a summer night – it was probably around 13-14 deg and we were still only wearing shorts) and as we curled up on the couch under a blanket, I thought H Simpson had nailed it again.

Even though I am enjoying my current role at work now a lot more than my previous two roles, you’d think surely there would still be niggling issues at times. Someone once said your first 3-6 months in a job are your honeymoon months – after that you’d have the ugly sides rained on you, warts and all. It’s a bit like the joke which made its rounds in cyberspace some time back, where Microsoft appeared like heaven in a recruitment drive but is really like hell once you accept their offer and go to work. Someone recently adapted it to apply to the BN government in Malaysia – during campaign period you’d think they are like heaven, but once elected they make your life hell.

Well my honeymoon period ended a long time ago but recently, more and more issues have come up at work. They are all purely work related and I am still enjoying my work but the increasingly long hours and the relentless surfacing of legal related matters (thus swamping us in the Legal department unceasingly) has made life more anxious and I have started worrying about stuff at work a lot more. Since I returned from our holidays in Malaysia I have not left work early (except when I had to pick kiddo up after her school camp) and the late nights and frequent weekend work have added up to make life at work a little less enjoyable.

This past weekend has been especially bad. Last Thursday and Friday saw the legal department caught in the middle of what’s akin to a mini turf war between a departmental head and some other senior management personnel and yours truly was smacked in the middle. It has caused me grief right through the weekend.
In the midst of this work stress, as I curled up next to Tress in front of the TV on Sunday night, suddenly H Simpson sounded like Khalil Gibran with his glorious words of wisdom. No matter how miserable I am or no matter how much turmoil there is around me, only I can take away the moments of love, warmth and enjoyment which I’m blessed with.
Earlier that day Tress suggested we drove into the city after church, to drop into Ikea at Richmond. We had talked about picking up the odds and ends of household items like spice jars, water tumblers, squeegees, etc as well as look for a larger dining table to host more meals for more people in our house. As we walked around the typically humongous shopping floors of Ikea, my mind was on work (of the office type as well as the mountain of clothes at home waiting for me to iron and the dry cleaning to be picked up) so I stayed very quiet. I then decided that as I was going to spend the couple of hours or so at Ikea with my wife and kid I should decide to spend it positively.

I started talking rubbish with the both of them, throwing flippant lines and generally behaving in a more glib way as we offered our respective views on the virtues of rectangular versus oblong dining tables and techniques of opening up extendable pieces. We enjoyed ourselves more I thought, and the drive home, though fraught with detours arising from a combination of road closures and unfamiliarity with detoured routes, was fun as I made a fool of myself while queuing behind lollipop men.

I made a choice to be happy with my family. I thought it helped. I suddenly remembered how miserable my brother, sisters and I were as children whenever our father was angry or miserable. I was reminded again of how much we can influence our family’s state of happiness by just being happy or miserable ourselves and often, whether we were happy or miserable can be a matter of choice.

On Sunday night I made another choice – to cherish that moment with Tress. We sat on the couch and watched “Sons and Daughter” (with Sally Field and Calista what’s her name – that Ally McBeal girl who broke up Harrison Ford’s hitherto strong marriage) with intermittent switching of channels to catch up with the cricket score between Australia and India (yes, they are STILL playing – this summer, as far as cricket goes, feels interminable). Right through, I was conscious of how blessed I am. It was a bit strange because the thoughts about issues at work were constantly present but I was able to be calm and relatively not unhappy at the same time, because I chose to. I think that was possible because firstly, things fell into a better perspective when I considered what my work means in eternity. My work includes taking care of family and that means doing what I can to make them happier. Knowing God will take care of both me and the family goes a long way to make that happen. And, I think the glass of wine helped too.
H Simpson must however take the greater share of credits. Like him, often what I want to do is to simply curl up next to my Marg at the end of each day. He said it without any pretension because it was true for him. Marg really did make things worthwhile for him and he actually loved her. My Forest Hill might as well be Springfield. Thankfully my Marg has a more acceptable hairdo. That aside, my Marg looks heaps better too. But all the same, thanks Homer. You’re a genius.

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Work really does define a man. Over the weekend I saw this clearly played out. The contrast between 2 families I know is really stark.

One is a close mate. His business in Malaysia is generating sufficient income to make work here unnecessary. All he needs to do is to periodically return to ensure various matters are properly attended to. While here however, his time is spent helping his wife take care of his young children, keeping the home in good condition and occasionally catching up with his mates. He still puts in a fair bit of work when he is looking after his young family and pottering around the (considerably large) house to keep it in a good state.

Such work however, is not work as we commonly understand it. It is certainly not work as he has understood it through his adult life in Malaysia. It is also not work as I understand it, unfortunately. That is of course inaccurate and work is whatever God places in our path to do. If it yields an income of any sort which puts food on the table, well and good and it accords with our common understanding of what work is all about. We have to however, come to an acceptance of work as something which God wants us to do, not what we think ought to be.

That can be a very difficult lesson especially if the world looks at us differently if we are not doing work as it expects us to.

This mate of mine has not looked his usual positive and jovial self. While I see his happiness and hear his glowing accounts of the time spent with his children, I also sense a subdued spirit – one that is facing a difficult time and is struggling to adapt. He does however, appear to be adapting so that was good to see.

The other family I know less well. The man found a job and has been working for about a couple of weeks now. I saw in him a man who is more at ease, more settled and less subdued. Because I know him less well, I cant have a mental comparison of what he used to be like, in Malaysia. All I see is someone who is more at ease with himself and his surroundings, compared to my mate. Work defines a man, I guess. If only man see work the same way I think God sees it.

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My Real Home


I was sitting at our dining table early this morning, having just read a few chapters of the Bible like I regularly do. It was still pitched dark outside but it was not cold – the summer warmth was almost balmy and I was clad only in my shorts and t-shirt. As I put the bookmark back where I stopped reading and took a sip of my coffee, I realized that bookmark was dated February 1987.
 
It was a bookmark I gave Tress when she first went to Armidale in northern NSW, where she attended the University of New England for a year before moving up to Sydney the next year and joined me in my university.  It probably feels awkward now for young courting couples to be sending each other stuff like that – it is more likely that emails with pretty attachments are sent instead or small fortune spent on some fancy dinners. I wonder where young people get their money from these days. Whatever we earned from weekend and other part time work went to university fees and daily expenses. All I could afford were cheap bookmarks into which I crammed lines of written messages.
 
I have known Tress since we were both very young. I first noticed her when we were in the youth groups of our church, probably in our early teens. A few of us guys – all maybe 13-14 year olds – went over to her house once during a “job week” to do some odd jobs to raise funds for the church. At that time she was just another schoolgirl from church. I must confess I didn’t feel anything then. That happened a few years later.
 
A few weeks before the Christmas of 1984, we had a church camp in Singapore. It was to be my last church camp because I was leaving for Sydney for my studies, in February 1985. A mate and I went to Singapore a few days earlier, as I had wanted to get some shopping done in preparation for Sydney. I wasn’t involved in the organization of the camp as a result and didn’t know what was in store. In fact I was drifting in and out of the camp program, without really participating.
 
The done thing in church camps of that era was to hold a talent night. Everyone was expected to be part of a performance. Tress was asked to read out a poem. I don’t know what the original plans were for her item but someone asked me to back her up with this and read it out together with her. I went through the piece with her and something clicked. During practice and later after the performance, I realized something.
 
I felt fantastic when I was with her, and felt a sort of peace and relaxed state of mind which is completely agreeable. I felt like I didn’t have to say or do anything in her presence, to feel great. It was almost like I instantly realized this was a person I could – wanted to – spend the rest of my life with.
 
That was in December 1984 – more than 23 years ago. My feelings for her today are no less intense than they were in 1984 – probably more. She has been the best thing to have happened to me.
 
If any one asked me therefore what trait one should look for in a potential spouse, I’d have to say it isn’t so much the traits a person possesses as it is what that person make you feel like. Tress makes me feel totally at home. I am so relaxed and comfortable every time I am with her. It’s like I’ve come home, every time I’m with her.

BAU Again


The home group of our church resumed last Friday. Mel and Hooi put together a quick arrangement and agreed to meet up at Jason S’ and almost everyone turned up. That showed we have all missed it over the past 2+ months. We carried on till almost 10.30pm before heading to church to pick up kiddo who has also just kick started her youth program. We all headed home just after 11pm and hit the sack not long after that.
 
Saturday was another day of throwing me around the house with the Hoover (actually a “Nilfisk” or something like that). I had resigned to a long term relationship with the vacuum cleaner and each time I tap on this relationship, I had to comfort myself that the house does look and feel cleaner after the bout. Notwithstanding the recent cooler weather the cobwebs continue to threaten. Every time I come across one of those long thin legged spideys, I literally sucked it up with venom because I so dislike the cobwebs. Somehow kiddo’s room attracted a disproportionate share of spiders in the house. I picked up one each in our room and the guest room but had 7 of them in Kiddo’s. The undrawn blinds and many of her stuff strewn about in different heaps were the obvious reasons so I shot off another round of lectures. The bathroom and toilets got their treatments with the cleansers, scrubs and were ducked good and proper in addition to the vacuum and a good 4 hours later it was time to clean myself up.
 
Tress and I then went to the nasi lemak place near the corner of Canterbury and Springvale roads, to catch up with an old family friend. He had just moved to Melbourne from KL less than 6 months ago and we had caught up with him soon after he came over. His wife and 2 kids joined him about 2 months ago and he rang on Friday night. His wife had worked for a high profile corporate figure. When she walked in the shop and saw Tress (shop was only round the corner from our home so we arrived there early) she immediately recognized Tress from Arthur Andersen days (now defunct accounting firm, Enron-ed). I think that explains why I still have the hots for Tress after all these years – she hasn’t changed very much at all.
 
After lunch we dropped Kiddo off for her class, did some shopping and when that was done we got home around 4pm. The ironing was a lot to go through so that took us to 6pm.
 
When we finally settled down to some rest all I could do was put my feet up and reach out for a cold one I had popped open and had left there on the coffee table for close to half an hour. We watched a couple of DVDs – Sweeny Todd, Tim Burton’s bloody but brilliant piece with Johnny Depp (watched large chunks of it while ironing) and Simpson the movie. To my chagrin, I found myself laughing at Homer’s gaffes as well as some very funny scenes (like the one where a polar bear kicked away a wolf in disgust after being denied its lunch in Homer). Tress had cooked some bah kut teh (with chicken) and after we ate some of it, we watched the Iron Chef. We went for another DVD after that and watched Stardust. De Niro was very funny and I thought the movie was very enjoyable as a whole – definitely a great family entertainment piece.
 
I reluctantly crawled out of bed just after 7 on Sunday. There was to be a lunch after church and I had to cook something. We had decided to do an eggplant and prawn sambal so the hardest part – figuring out what to cook – was done. Tress and I washed, peeled and cut and I guess because we are more or less used to all of this by now, most of the steps and processes were second nature to us and very much within the hour the dish was done and we could still have our normal weekend brekky of freshly ground and brewed coffee with toasts and make it to church very much on time. That was important to Tress, who had invited a few people.
 
We finished church and lunch just after 1.30, stopped by the shops to pick up a few stuff and got home just after 2pm. I buckled down to do some work and closer to 5 we made our way to Ruffey Lake Park in Doncaster for a picnic meal with some old friends from the church in Klang. Quite a number of families showed up and the kids ranged from tiny tots to university going youth. Loads of food, kids playing soccer, cricket and just mucking around with the playground facilities. We were all making use of park facilities and ensuring that the park fees we paid through our water utility companies provided some returns. We left the park close to 8.30 just as it was starting to get dark and a little chilly.
 
We got home, I fixed lunch for the next day and Tress helped kiddo with the last minutes touch-ups with the packing. Kiddo is off to camp this week. Tress and I will enjoy the quieter times but I guess only for the first day, or including day 2 at best. We’ll miss her sooner than we think. Already I’m looking forward to when she gets back on Friday afternoon. In the meantime….the silly season is slowly but surely closing out; business-as-usual has in many ways, returned