Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning Thai with Namewee's "Thai Sad Song" and me!

As much as I continue to be impressed by Namewee's endless creativity and talents, I did not expect him to come up with a Thai Love Song Part 2 aka Thai Sad Song.

To be very honest, I found this song a little underwhelming and MV much less tasteful than the first one, but there were a couple of parts of the song which made me break out in laughter, and the new Thai words he used can bring your knowledge of the language up a notch.

So after my first Thai lesson with his previous viral song, here's my second lesson with his follow-up, focusing on some new but extremely useful Thai words (he did repeat some words from the first song, but I will not waste your time on them again).

  1. Dtrong Bpai:
    Do take note of how I spelt these words. Dt would mean you need to pronounce it in between D and T, Bp would mean you pronounce it in between B and P, understand? LOL

    Anyway, Dtrong Pai means move straight, or go forwards.

  2. Tii Nai:
    Depicts location, like "where" in English, and most commonly used with "Yuu" in front.

    For example:

    "Toilet Yuu Ti Nai?" means "Where is the toilet?"

  3. Liao Kwaa:
    Turn right.

  4. Liao Sai:
    Turn left. Combined with words 1 to 3, you are now invincible while talking to Thai cabbies!

  5. Jep Mak Mak/ Jep Jing Jing:
    "Jep" means hurt or painful.
    "Mak" means very and "Jing" means real.

    So the phrases mean "Very Very Painful" and "Really Really Painful" respectively.
    Note that "Mak Mak" and "Jing Jing" can be used frequently with a huge array of words to emphasise your point.

  6. Laew Jer Gan:
    I was about to give up on the song until the appearance of this phrase before the final chorus, which put me into hysterical laughter, especially after seeing how they translated these words in Chinese.

    Actually, Namewee might have made a (purposeful) mistake. If he was meaning to say "goodbye" or "see you again", he should not have used "Rao Jer Gan", as it literally translates to "We meet together".

    Instead, the correct and informal way of saying "See you again" is actually "Laew Jer Gan".


Ok, so now that all of us have leveled up in our command of simple conversational Thai, let's enjoy this pretty hilarious song, hope my lesson has at least helped you understand the entire song!




Friday, December 5, 2014

The Stranger in Bangkok's Father's Day Greeting 2014

3 December 2014

It's past noon.

I waved goodbye to my colleagues and left for home in a hurry, even though some documents I had been asking for would be complete in a few minutes' time. It's Noah's first ever parent-teacher meeting. We should not be late.

3.30pm

We were back home and I was preparing myself to leave the house to run some errands at the banks nearby. Ellie needed to be fed, and Noah, without his nap (becoming a norm this past week), started his cranky behavior, so, the errands had to wait again. The best part of the next hour was spent at his disposal, navigating a phonics DVD he wanted to watch.

Messages, emails (and a couple of calls) were piling in,  from different countries no less, all knocking me for immediate replies. Reasonable. It was still within working hours and I would have expected no less from them.

Noah then threw a tantrum because he wanted Mummy to throw his chocolate wrapper for him and not me.

Why my dear boy? Why because of this? Why now?

Daddy needs to fully take care of 2 companies in a foreign country. Do you not know that it is already a small miracle that Daddy can be navigating your phonics DVD for you at home at this hour?

Ok, you are not even 3, I cannot expect you to understand all this. I really hope one day you will.

I think of my wife, feeding Ellie in the room. She has spent all her days and hours making sure the kids are well taken care of. And I am here in the living room, powerless in preventing hell from breaking loose.

And then there's my mum, visiting for 2 weeks only, but tirelessly going to the market and cooking everyday for us to make things easier. I can't even, as a son, give her a break and bring her out for a good day of shopping and relaxation.

Why is it, that the more I try to become a better husband, father, son, boss, colleague, employee and friend, the more I suck at everything?

Instead, I have become:

A careless husband.

An angry father,

An invisible son.

A part-time boss.

An undependable colleague.

A skiving employee.

And a friend who's always not available.

I am not finding the balance well. No, not at all.

Luckily, my family, employers, colleagues and friends still love me and support me while I find my way.

Anyway, it's the King's 87th Birthday today, may all Dads reading this have a wonderful day with your family.

Happy Father's Day.



Friday, November 28, 2014

What to look for in a Confinement Lady - from a Dad's perspective

It's been known to many we flew a confinement lady (otherwise referred to as the CL) in from Malaysia to take care of Li Li and Ellie for a couple of months. Many friends, from Singapore, Malaysia and even Hong Kong have tried her cooking, with varying amounts of praise. My wife has also posted pictures of her everyday meals on her page for reference, which have impressed many as well.

So how good was she?

Spread for Ellie's first month party, prepared single-handedly by the CL (Confinement Lady)

I might not be the best person to judge, as I am out of the house half the time on weekdays, but I can only say that she was not perfect. So let's start with the cons.
  • She talks too much, too loudly.
  • She doesn't help you much when you go shopping with her, aside of telling you what to buy, so it's better to leave the shopping completely to her.
  • Aside of her designated chores, she doesn't do much else in the house to help out unless she's asked to (it gets tiring to ask again and again).
  • She is an online game master (really picky employers can stop this by not giving WiFi password).
  • Her food is usually overseasoned, and she cooks a little too much all the time.
Ok, before you think that I am bad-mouthing my CL, please hold your horses, besides, many friends have already individually contacted me to ask me about her, so I might as well put this on my blog to answer all FAQs.

Now, to the main point. 

In spite of all the above, I feel that she is a GOOD CL.

  1. She keeps to her main role well, that is to nurture both mother and baby to good health during her stint. She cooked balanced meals, made special tonics for my wife and ensured that she did not have to wake to tend to the baby in the night.

    She also loves babies. There was not an instant that I felt she really lost patience with Ellie, which is commendable  as she was here for 2 months, and babies can be infuriating at times. As long as she did this part properly, all the cons mentioned above are really secondary.
                                         
  2. She cooks well. Even though she often over-seasons and cooks a little excess, I think I prefer food to be generally tasty and sufficient, rather than bland or not filling. Within our limitations of a tiny open kitchen with just 2 heating points on our electric stove, she did well.        
                                                                     
  3. She knows her place. And that is to just be the CL. Those who had experience with your parents playing this role, you should understand when I say that your mum will always be your mum, even if she can perform the roles of a CL well.

    Our one knew when to stop when things were not looking right, and when to disappear when she needed to, and that, I feel, is the X-factor that differentiates a good CL from the rest. I do not think it is acceptable if the CL should become the cause of any form of negative energy in the house. It certainly did not happen for us. However, this X-factor can only be known through the form of recommendations from friends, if you found your CL from an agent, this part will surely be a hit-and-miss.

So, there you have it. My very honest assessment of my CL, and a few pointers when you choose your own.

At the end of the day, both Li Li and Ellie were at their most vulnerable when she came, and emerged strong and well when she left. Nothing else matters.



Monday, November 3, 2014

Putting Food on the Table Linky: 8 Tips for Cooking Dads (and Mums)

Since Noah came, I have more or less taken over the job of putting food on the table. It's not always easy (don't get me started on the cleaning up part!), but the end result of watching my family tuck in happily is always a joy.

After nearly 3 years of churning out home-cooked goodness for my family, I realised even though it's still a struggle at times, I have developed a certain kind of momentum when it comes to making meals possible on working days, therefore, I am going to kick off this first ever linky on my blog giving some of my personal tips to cooking Dads (and Mums). Hopefully a couple of these tips will come in handy and make cooking much more of a breeze at home.

Some of the food I put on the table


1. EQUIP YOURSELF WITH YOUR FAVOURITE COOKING ASSISTANTS

This, to me, is the most important. You can have skills of a masterchef, but if you have pans that stick, spatulas that melt once they touch a hot surface or a blender that can never be cleaned properly, you will be frustrated in your endeavors to the point of giving up.

Therefore, when it comes to cooking, having great cooking equipment you are comfortable with is the key. Now this is extremely personal, but let me share what I have.
My 3 trusted kitchen assistants

I believe the 80-20 rule applies to most situations, and that includes cooking as well (80% of the food you cook will be done in 20% of the cookware you own). For me, my essentials are a good non-stick frying pan that holds a lot of heat (I use Scanpan, it's my best purchase ever), a soup pot and an oven. I now also have a claypot that I hope will work its way into my cooking repertoire. That's it!


2. DO NOT STOCK UP WHAT YOU DON'T WANT TO EAT

The beauty of cooking at home is the fact that you know what you eat. Understanding this, the best way to ensure my family does not consume the things I don't want them to, is not to have them at home at all.

For example, I have never purchased MSG before, and I have stopped buying stock cubes. Sometimes my food might be a little bland, but not having these short-cuts force me to improve my cooking skills and use real ingredients to spike up the taste of the dishes next time.

One other thing I do not have in my kitchen is the microwave oven. I have no issues against the marvelous functions of it, sometimes I wish I had one too, but by not having it, I ensure I will not waste precious fridge space on frozen microwaveable meals. What's better than freshly-cooked food?


3. USE THE BEST INGREDIENTS

My cheat to churning out delicious food at home is simple - use the best ingredients you can find. It's difficult to define "best", but it's easy to define "fresh". Grab the freshest ingredients you can get your hands on.

For me, local seafood is still probably the best at the wet market, but when it comes to vegetables, meat and imported seafood, good supermarkets might have exclusive access to the higher-end suppliers.

Personally, I pay a lot of attention to the meat I have at home. Genuine "organic" meat might be hard to find, but I really do prefer meat from animals who spent their lives roaming around on their own feet eating things they are supposed to eat, which leads to the words "Kampung chicken" and "Free-range pork/beef". They cost more, but you can really taste the difference, and if you try hard enough, you will definitely find the most reliable suppliers in your area eventually. The folks in your home (that includes yourself) deserve it!


4. FREEZE FAST, THAW SLOW

Now that you have your hands on the best ingredients, it's time to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

For meat and seafood, freeze them as soon as you get home, but please know that you should NEVER freeze them twice. If you cannot finish using them at one go after thawing, keep them chilled and use them up as soon as possible, freezing them again is the worst decision you will ever make.

Also, the best way to preserve the integrity of your meat/seafood is to adopt the "freeze fast thaw slow" rule, freeze them as soon as you can, but thaw them as slowly as possible. Meat or seafood that is forced to thaw in water or in the microwave will lose some of its original textures. It's recommended you put the frozen ingredients you need into the lower level of your refrigerator one day in advance to allow it to thaw at a low temperature slowly, preferably overnight. Have some patience, it will be well worth the wait.


5. PLAN IN ADVANCE

As Daddies, most of us are working. We do not have time to visit the market everyday nor do things impromptu frequently. Planning in advance is vital, especially if we can only stock up on ingredients once a week. We do not have to plan everyday's menu in detail, but we need an idea of what we want to cook. Things that usually catch me off-guard are rice, flour, cooking oil, soy sauce and small aromatics like onions, garlic and ginger. It's frustrating to wake up early wanting to stirfry chicken to realise I have run out of shallots. Always try to check these things before 'marketing' and don't miss any essentials out.

On a daily basis, it's important to plan what to cook one day ahead. This makes sure we thaw the right frozen ingredients the night before (especially if you are following point 4). Waking up to rock-hard frozen meat is no fun.


6. DON'T OVER-COMPLICATE THINGS

I cannot emphasize this more. The nicest food is usually the simplest (some simple examples are soup and steamed fish). If you had managed to stock up on the good raw ingredients, you don't have to do much to ensure a table of healthy delicious food for your family.

The important thing is not to overcook your ingredients or over-season them. Let their natural flavours run the marathon for you. How to not overcook.... ah....... that comes with some heart, and practice, cook more and you will gain the experience required to shut the stove/oven at the right time.


7. UNDERSTAND WHAT KIND OF DISHES TASTE GOOD PRE-COOKED

If you are like me, waking up early frequently to cook meals for your family, you can help yourself by cooking dishes that will taste just as good (or better) cold or re-heated.

As a rule of thumb, this usually does not apply to fried food, as your family will likely eat them cold a few hours later which is really not optimizing your efforts.

Soups, stews and simple stirfries usually taste great reheated. If you plan to steam fish, I recommend you prepare the fish and ingredients on a plate for your family to steam them right before they plan to have their meal. It's a simple task. Reheating already-steamed fish will result in an overcooked fishy disaster.

If you are into pastas and salads, prepare the sauces and dressings and leave your family members to incorporate the sauces and dressings themselves. These dishes start to die once everything is mixed up, doing it way in advance is NOT recommended.


8. GET ENOUGH REST AND DON'T BE TOO STRESSED

Lastly, if you are cooking for your family, you are already doing a good job. The twice-a-week takeaway and occasional instant noodles will not kill you them.

I do not cook everyday too. Sometimes I just throw everything down and call for a pizza or bring my family out for a simple meal. Don't batter yourself over putting dishes on the table everyday. Get enough rest and don't be too stressed.

While I was preparing this post, it suddenly occurred to me that it is not often that a Dad's contribution to family meals is mentioned, so I have decided to initiate this linky, to encourage my fellow bloggers to share more on this aspect. I am sure a lot of refreshing points of view will be gathered along the way, so do stay tuned throughout November as more and more parent bloggers link up.

Meanwhile, pick up your spatulas and get cooking!






Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tips for parents handling toddlers alone on (multiple) flights

Last week, I made a trip not many Daddies will make, not because they cannot handle it (because I believe many can), but because they either will rather not take the risk, or will not be allowed to by other members of the family.

I took Noah back to Sarawak by myself. It sounds simple, but it's more complicated than it looks. There are no direct flights from Bangkok to Sarawak, taking the easy way out in terms of flight timing choices means I had to transit at KL via a famous budget airlines, which meant my luggage could not be checked through the whole trip. Furthermore, I had to visit 2 cities in Sarawak. It finally translated to a mammoth task of bringing Noah on a 5 day trip which involved 5 flights, 3 cities and more than 24 hours of travel time (including transit).


Noah extremely bothered by the loud announcements at the airport

Having brought Noah back to Bangkok in one piece, I think it should be time to share with other parents my personal tips to handling toddlers alone on such daunting trips.

1. Be fully prepared in advance, don't play games with time

To be extra cautious, I made sure every leg was checked-in online. I went to the airport early and once I got my boarding passes, went through the immigration and located the boarding gate without delay. I would rather reach the boarding gate and relax there with my child than to risk missing the flight if anything went wrong during another activity far away from the boarding gate.

Use the same airlines to complete your journey if possible, as they will be more willing to help you if anything screws up during transit (can also check the luggage through if not a budget carrier). If like me, you have no choice but to use a budget carrier over multiple legs, make sure you allow ample time (at least 3 hours) between flights in case your first flight delays. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Flight 1: Bangkok to KLIA2

2. Choose the right seats

Even though my son is 2, my budget airlines incredibly seated us apart for 2 of the 5 flights. This forced me to pay extra to ensure we sat together. This is a very big reminder to everyone taking budget flights, if you did not check this properly, you might have a lot of unnecessary negotiation to do on the plane itself. Not good with a potentially cranky kid in tow.

My other advice is to not have the child seated by the aisle. Firstly, an aisle seat could give him/her the freedom of getting off the seat and start walking along the aisle (not what you want if it is not your choice). Secondly and more importantly, I would not want to run the risk of him/her getting hit by an unknowing passenger or even the push cart along the aisle. It will also reduce the chances of him/her getting hit by a falling luggage from the overhead compartment to zero (yay).

Flight 2: KL to Sibu

3. Prepare a good carry-on bag

Try to spend some effort preparing a bag which contains all the essentials for you and your child. If you forget anything, don't fret, most airports will have shops to sell what you need (unless you forgot your passport or wallet of course). A simple checklist will be as follow:

- Passports
- Boarding pass (if checked-in online)
- Wallet (money, credit cards and insurance cards)
- Snacks
- Water bottle
- Pen (to fill in arrival/departure cards)
- Mobile phone
- 1 book for your kid (just 1!)
- Extra battery or power bank (you do not want to lose communication at any instant during the trip)
- Little toys (I brought a little car and a turtle soft toy)
- Carrier (if your toddler likes to be in it)
- Extra clothes and diaper (bring 2 sets if possible)
- Tissue and wet wipes

Flight 3: Early morning flight from Sibu to Kuching



 4. Travel light

What? After that bloody huge list I gave above?

Yes! I had everything in my slingbag and my bag did not weigh over 4kg. Note 1 missing item in the list, the laptop. The smartphone is more than capable of addressing our emailing needs and if you are going to be the one and only caretaker for your toddler throughout the entire trip, you probably will not have time/energy to be at your laptop anyway.

You need to travel light because your toddler is heavy, and if you have check-in luggage your hands are going to be full in between flights.

Flight 4: Afternoon flight from Kuching to KL, sleepy-eyed Noah snoozed for the entire hour and a half

5. Keep the kid well-rested, full and hydrated

As I have shared in a previous post about bringing a toddler for a staycation, I have to emphasize again the importance of keeping your kid well-rested, full and hydrated. Diet training can resume tomorrow. If your kid wants only fries, cookies and cupcakes, my suggestion is not to let them go hungry.

I was fortunate enough that Noah sleeps pretty easily on planes as long as he's tired enough. It kept him in decent spirits throughout the long journeys and I recommend that you do your best to find a suitable environment for your kid to sleep as well.


6. Keep an eye on your toddler at ALL times

I can never forget my wife's warning. In one of our discussions leading up to this trip, she told me, "We cannot afford to lose him."

I shuddered as I read it, and it reminded me to be extra vigilant. I am usually a very trusting person, but we really do not know the dangers lurking around the corners of international airports. Losing contact with your child, even for a split second might result in irreversible regrets. So my final reminder is that, your phone can wait, your messages and emails can wait, Mark Zuckerberg will always be there. Treasure every moment with your child and use it as a precious opportunity to build an even stronger bond with him/her. Don't lose sight of your kid, it's not worth it.

Flight 5: KL back to Bangkok. His worst-behaved flight of all, but it overlapped with his bedtime so it's understandable.

During the descent of our final flight of the odyssey, Noah suffered a major breakdown. He started wailing for Mummy and refused to sit on his seat and put on his seatbelt. All of a sudden, the plane went through a period of the worst turbulence I had ever experienced in a plane (trust me, I've sat in a lot). Noah finally relented and sat motionlessly in his seat, holding my hands tightly. After 10 minutes of roller-coaster style excitement and shrieks of fright from fellow passengers, I could finally catch my breath.

Impressed with Noah's great behaviour, I thought to myself, "Maybe this has been the very best training for Noah of the importance of putting on a seatbelt in the plane." Then I looked at him again, close-up. He had long fallen asleep! So much for the training!

In any case, I hope my experience will help you in some way or another. Just be prepared, and everything will be ok. Happy flying!


PS. Noah, if you ever get to read this, Daddy wants to say thank you to you for being such a great boy during this very tiring adventure. We could get through this more because of your good behaviour than my competence as a Dad. I hope our bond has gotten stronger along the way, and here's to many more father-and-son escapades in the future!



Friday, October 17, 2014

2 teddy bears warming Daddy's heart


Last night, I asked Noah to help me open a present my colleagues bought for Ellie on her first month.

It turned out to be a walker that's way too advanced for Ellie now. That's ok, because Noah can play with it in the meantime and not feel left out even though the present was not meant for him.

The cute walker happened to have 2 large adorable teddy bears bouncing up and down as it moved.

Interested to know which lady Noah likes, I cheekily pointed at the blue teddy and said, "This is Noah." to which he quickly acknowledged.

My subsequent question was of course, "Who is this?" while pointing at the pink one, expecting names like Ruirui, Aida, Ellie,Unna or even Mummy to pop out.

"Daddy. Noah and Daddy," was his shocking reply!

I couldn't describe my feeling when I heard that, still can't now. I just know I have to write it down before I forget about it.

Who says Daddy shouldn't wear pink? I am a happy pink Daddy Eddie!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The daily selfie with Noah

Since I took over the job of sending Noah to school, I made it a point to take a daily selfie with my dearest son, who totally cooperated with me, well, most of the time anyway.

It's been a really tough couple of weeks with him recently, with him battling the many changes of going to school, having an unfamiliar confinement lady at home, and of course grappling with the appearance of a baby sister.

I do not expect him to understand completely what's happening, but some days get really really bad.

The daily selfie compilation

After a particularly difficult night, I decided to make a collage of our nice selfies together, to remind myself that for every difficult moment, there are countless beautiful ones.

May today be a better day.