Thursday, November 24, 2011

Moving on...

Sunset @ Lake Macquarie
Photo taken from the flickr stream of -yury- announced in my last post.

I first moved into Blogspot in June 2008! Its been a great adventure for me. But it is time to move on into a new format not only to keep me on my toes but also to give myself a new challenge. Baroque Moments will now be sent direct to your email in what I hope is a more visual layout. If you wish to continue to receive updates, please fill in the form below.

For those who choose not to continue receiving news from me, farewell.
    May the road rise up to meet you,
    May the wind be always at your back,
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    and the rain fall soft upon your fields,
    and until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

memories for another time

i need to explain the silence.
i was experimenting if i could stay away.
i was trying to see if i could stop blogging. not that blogging was becoming addictive but because i was always thinking in blog posts. in snippets. it bothered me. thinking in those terms.
so i decided to stop to see if i could stay away.
needless to say, after almost three months of virtual silence. i am busting with news to tell and wonderful stuff to show.
but the hiatus gave me retrospect. a chance to review and rethink the reasons why i blog.
i have come to the following conclusions:
  • my friends and family miss me. i mean even after all those weeks of silence, i still had visitors hoping for an update. i will write for them.
  • i was definitely getting more sleep without having to stay up to post but i was fading into gray very quickly. i will write for me.
  • most of all, i was creating memories for my children. i will write for them.
so what does this mean? i have decided to take my blog offline and into another format. if you'd still like to receive news from me, let me know.

photograph taken by timography

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grandmother Story by Zedeck Siew

My younger brother is a writer of sorts. He is currently working on what probably is his biggest writing project yet. In amongst that writing, he wrote this little piece which I'd like to share with you because I truly do love it. The simplicity in the writing, the Malaysian nuances and the true-to-life translation of Poh Poh's voice (Poh Poh means "grandmother" in chinese). Most of all, I'm sharing it with you because I'm sure there are many of you out there that will experience a wave of nostalgia.

Poh poh with my brother in the background. (Photo courtesy of my cousin, Chrysler Cheong)

Grandmother Story
by Zedeck Siew

“Your Poh Poh has been giving away her jewellery, and visiting Kong Kong’s grave,” my father informed me, last Chinese New Year. “If you want to record her stories, you better do it soon.”

Apart from looking like a typical grandmother (tiny, wrinkled like a shar-pei, constantly in a samfu) my Poh Poh is also known as a chatterbox; it’s difficult to spend time with her and not be spun some outlandish yarn.

These stories are always about family – and, as visits to the cemetery where her contemporaries are buried become more frequent, they reach further and further into the past. Poh Poh told my father and I the following tale after reunion dinner:


The Pregnant Woman and The Coconut

“My father was a respected man in our village. He owned a lodging house, and also supplied people with simple medicines, and people came to him with their problems.

“One day, a villager was out collecting coconuts; it so happened that a coconut fell on his pregnant wife’s head, so much so that her head sunk into her shoulders, like tortoise. So the man went to my father and said: ‘My wife, she’s like this,‘ – he hunched his shoulders – ‘How? Can you help?’

“So my father said: ‘Call your brothers to come.’

“He got the woman to lie down, then rubbed herb oil into her neck. When the husband and his relations arrived, he directed them to hold the wife’s legs and arms. My father held on to the head.

“ ‘One, two, three,’ my father counted. Then, with a jerk, he pulled the woman’s head out. And out it popped.

“After applying some kung fu oil, the woman made a very good recovery – some time later, she even delivered a healthy baby.

“ ‘Thank you,’ said the woman’s grateful husband. ‘How you know what to do?’

“ ‘Actually I didn’t know anything,’ my father said. ‘It was just an experiment!’


When I listen to Poh Poh I am listening to narratives of subaltern history. Folk Remedies of Pre-Independence Malaya, for example. Recording her stories is part of a family history project – and such a personal endeavour is useless without some sort of wider relevence.

I ask Poh Poh what kung fu oil is made of.

“It’s kung fu oil,” she answers.

This has been a frustrating process, and it’s not even my idea. The project was something that my parents proposed, mainly because they had a writer and journalist in the family. I accepted, mainly to prove to them that I actually cared about family.

It’s not like I don’t like my tribe. It’s a language issue: they speak Hakka; as an Anglophiliac child of a middle-class household, I refused to learn any of the Sinitic languages – an indulgence my parents regret.

Ditto my Poh Poh. Conversation is possible, if we both speak in Malay: but this difficult, between my schoolyard bahasa and her Kelantanese loghat. Talking to her properly requires my father’s presence as a translator.


Poh Poh was born two months premature; she was so small her parents didn’t think the baby would survive. Only a year later did they register her birth. Poh Poh’s certificate says she was born in 1927, in a place called Sungai Yu.

(Domestic dynamics of pre-war rural households.)

It was virgin jungle, then. Before becoming a quack doctor, great-grandfather was a foreman for track-laying work; he was directly responsible for about six miles of the northeast railway.

(Industrialisation of North Malaya.)

He fell into the job because of a scandal. Our 23-year-old hero, then living in Kajang, had gotten in trouble for striking up an affair with a married woman.

“My father was tall and handsome, you know,” Poh Poh says, in explanation. “And your great-grandmother was quite short.”

“Anyway, he got this other lady pregnant, so her people wanted to get rid of him. So he had to run to Kuala Lipis. But not far enough, so my aunt got him a job as a railroad mandur, to lay track all the way to Kelantan.”

The interview pauses as my father and his mother have an animated discussion in the mother tongue.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“This is the first time I’m hearing about this!” my father says.


During the war, with the Japanese at their doorstep, Poh Poh was tasked with hiding away the family’s belongings. She gathered up all the household money and valuables, put them in a bag, and started into the jungle.

On her trek she happened upon a cave, and in exploring it found a suitable cavity to stash the fortune. Covering the hole with rocks, Poh Poh marked the spot, the cave, and the way to the cave with various secret signs and marks: sigils only she could recognise.

The occupation happened, much tapioca was eaten, Kong Kong barely survived a mass execution. When the war was over, life got in the way, and Poh Poh never returned to her hidden riches.

“She thinks she still remembers how to find it,” my father translates, laughing. “Buried treasure. Don’t know la.”

But Poh Poh’s treasure maps have worked. By listening to her accounts, my father managed to track down his mother’s long lost sister:


The Stationmaster’s Daughter

“Your Poh Poh has been repeating that story about her sister – who was sold to the Kajang Railway stationmaster, because the family couldn’t afford to support so many children – since I was little.

“So we decided to look. This was about 1980. We took your Poh Poh to the Kajang Station to enquire about the old stationmaster. They remembered he was a Christian fellow.

“So we went to see a priest, who consulted the church directory to give us an address. The stationmaster’s family was now living in a kampung near the new Kajang Jail.

“ ’You, I still recognise you!’ the old man told Poh Poh, when we met him.

“He told us that my Aunty Rose was married and now living in Ipoh. She and her husband owned a laundromat, and had a son named Paul.

“So we went to meet Aunty Rose. When we turned up, the workers in a nearby beauty-parlour commented that I looked like my cousin.

“The reunion was very touching. Aunty Rose and Poh Poh look very much alike.”


Listening to Poh Poh’s stories, I realise that I have lost the ability to see my family as anything more than opportunities to make points of national substance.

I’ve been trained to think that, in my country, stories are told so they can be taken as parables of tolerance, patriotic vision, or socio-political ambition. Of gender, class, race relations. We are a young nation; if what we are doing isn’t in the business of nation building, it is not important.

But Poh Poh’s stories take place in a different country: where daughters are given away and tearfully reunited; where herbal oils cure a woman’s posture; where there are wild-boar traps and buried jewellery in the jungle. And stories about these things are told merely because they happened.


The Man in the Wild Boar Trap

In his free time, Great-grandfather liked to lay traps for wild boar. He’d trek into the jungle, dig a 12-foot-deep hole, and mark this pit with a rotan fence so that other humans would know it as a snare.

But chopping one’s way through the jungle-brush with a machete can be a soporific affair: step, step, cut, cut, step step, cut cut. So perhaps it was inevitable that the 70-year-old hunter Tok Late, stepping and cutting, chopped right through the makeshift fence and fell down this 12-foot deathtrap.

It was only a day later that my great-grandfather returned to check whether he had managed to catch a delicious non-halal dinner. When he heard Tok Late’s panting and groaning issuing from the hole, he couldn’t believe his luck.

“Wah,” he thought. “That’s a big boar!”

Great-grandfather released the safety on his rifle, crept up to the pit’s lip, and took aim. When Tok Late saw the gunbarrel pointed at him, he cried out – and Great-grandfather, startled, nearly shot him.

When he recovered from shock, Great-grandfather pulled Tok Late out of the wild boar trap. He carried the old hunter on his back for the entire mile-long journey back to the village.

On their arrival, Tok Late’s son thanked Great-grandfather for returning his missing, injured father.

“What happened?” the young man asked.

“Your father fell down my wild boar trap,” Great-grandfather answered.

“Oh,” said the son. “Please wait here. I’m going to bring my father up into the house. Then I’m going to come back out and beat you up.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mabona Origami


WOW is all I can say. You already know that I really love origami and particularly non traditional paper foldings.

You really have to check this out!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A month in pictures

So it's been a month. I've missed posting but life has been a blur with so much happening I just haven't had a spare moment. To update you, here is my month in pictures.

We went to watch The Gruffalo live on stage. It was the second time we've watched it and it's still great! So much fun and entertainment for both the kids and adults. When Zac asked to go watch it again, I didn't need much persuasion when I heard that it was at the State Theatre Centre in the Heath Ledger Theatre. I really do like the State Theatre Centre. Despite the criticism it has attracted for not being as big as it should, I do like the intimate scale.

On the same day, we had a great time walking around the cultural centre. The kids particularly liked the wetlands. It was also my first time walking in the urban orchard and I'm really impressed that it is so well managed. Go to the link and you'll find out lots of other family activities and harvesting days.

Our house has recently been over-run by Lego. I don't mind. I like Lego. To be completely honest, I think the adults of this household are currently enjoying it more than the kids! By the way, when Zac saw the dog pictured above, he said that he thought it was a sheep that just had been sheared.

Amelia has been experimenting with my camera and the two shot above are hers. I'm pretty impressed. She has also been enjoying baking with her cupcake extraordinaire Top the Cupcake auntie.
And Zac has been enjoying the tradition of licking the batter! Amelia's development has been going in leaps and bounds and the below is her way of trapping her brother in the bathroom. Bathroom door is to the right. Ingenious, don't you think?

Talk about ingenious, about three weeks ago, our guppy above gave birth to babies and we watched the birthing process. We learnt all we could about caring for the fry and we currently have 6 out of the 11 that was born. I haven't been able to get good pics of the babies. At three weeks, they are showing their spots and markings already. Amazing.

And know what is more amazing? The below:

Astounding, really. What a gift and responsibility for us as parents. The psychologist also said that siblings only differ about 5-10 points in their IQ. I guess we have double trouble then! We're still reeling from the news.

On other news around the home, we have been crafting. Below is a Angry Bird thank you card Zac made for a classmate.

Above is the visual plan he drew for a Lego marine park project he worked on with his dad. I'm constantly impressed with his drawing ability as can be seen by the drawing below.

Other crafting by the kids below.

I've been doodling again and below is a start of an idea for some softies. After successfully making the rabbit for Hannah, I am ready for something new.

I'll finish this massive post with the song that is on repeat loop at home. I do like the Glee version. Have a great week ahead! "Hey baby, I think I want to marry you!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You and I by Ingrid Michaelson

I love this song in the early morning as I ride in ear-plugged solitude on the bus or train. It makes me happy as it always floats images of my lovely husband still warm in bed with the kids to me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The crafting weekends

Weekends around our house are now becoming quite crafty weekends. Suits me just fine except for the aftermath. Anyway, these pictures are from two weekends ago where the kids were introduced to pompoms, pipe cleaners and wooden beads, googly eyes, PVA glue WITHOUT instructions other than "go for it kids!" So they went for it, out of the mess were these two I want to share with you. The first one below is Zach's fish tank, complete with fish, star fish and coral/sea anemone. The second one below is by Amelia with a little gluing help from me. I marvel at her need for perfection. The little pompoms had to be at particular spots and the eyes at certain points. Her tortoise is just so cute!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Premium graffiti canvas

Thought I'd share with you some pics from a recent visit to an amazing site in Perth. It is probably really really old news for those who follow graffiti art but this site has become a premium graffiti canvas. The stuff on the walls were really good. Look at the layer upon layer of colour. Simply breath taking!

These are some of my favourites.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hello and goodbye to my very first bunny

Say hello to my very first bunny.

It's been doubly sewn to make sure that my little niece won't be able to tear it apart. My favourite bits are the knotted ears and cute little tail.

Now say goodbye as it boards the plane tomorrow and makes its journey to Singapore.

My kids love it so much, they have made me promise to make them one each. I'll get a pattern together and post it here soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My first draft

I have never done trials when I make things. I just jump in and hope for the best. Tonight, I made my first "draft" for a softie I am designing for my niece that will be welcomed into this world in about a month by my brother and his wife. All very exciting.

I like the "draft". When I finished. It sat on top of my computer and stared at me. Almost trying to stare me down, daring me to make it into something. I like the shape and the balance between the body and the head. I like the ambiguous nature of it. I can see a cat, a bunny, a dog, and all the permutations from those. I think I'm going to make it the base shape for the next few softies I make.

The first one off the production line will be a bunny for my niece. I thought it most fitting as she will be born in the year of the rabbit. I'll have to make the rabbit tomorrow night as the bunny will have to jump on the plane on Sunday.

Wait for the photos.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"My! My!"

This week, I've started doing dictation with Zach. I know he is only 5 but he loves it! You should see the satisfaction in his eyes when he spells a word correctly. I have started with the words in the Dolch word list. I don't do any drills. I don't insist on him memorising the words. I'm sure the need for that will come in time but for now, he simply enjoys the ability to form the words both verbally and then translate it into letters. It is such a confidence booster for him.

This is his Dolch word list as at Wednesday night. Here's how it works. I separated the list of words into the appropriate levels as suggested by various different educational websites. Each level corresponds to a star below his name. When he gets an entire column (level) in red, he gets a gold star and a reward (to be negotiated). To get a word in red, there are two ways. The first way is rather incidental. If I find that he is reading a word on the list without hesitation or sounding out during our nightly story book reading session, the word goes red and I confirm it by asking him to write it. The second way is simply asking if he knows how to write a certain word during dictation and if he writes it correctly the first time, the word goes red.

How did I make the chart? It's rather simple to the point of almost embarrassing. I copied the list from a website. There are hundreds out there if you search "Dolch sight words". Printed it out on to A3 paper and then laminated it. I then printed the word list separately on red paper. I've been cutting each word out and using double sided tape to stick it onto the laminated chart. Simple but all so effective. Zach gets a kick out of seeing the words turn red and wants to work through the words quickly.

It's been really fun for him as he sets the pace and I simply follow his lead. He does get a little frustrated when he can't spell a certain word and I refuse to turn the word red if he didn't get it the first time around. I want to instill in him the need for attention to detail and perseverance. One thing he often says now is, "Practice makes perfect, mummy." But the dictation sessions are always fun and in true Zachary style, you never know what to expect. This is what I got on Wednesday night when I asked him if he could write the word, "my".

I got a drawing of a regular nightly scene at home when I am herding the kids into bed. I'm piggy-backing laughing Amelia whilst Zach is chasing us crying out, "my my!". Translation: He is being a seagull in Finding Nemo, calling out "mine mine". Ah, the joys of teaching my son to read and write.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making and playing

The best thing about having kids that love to draw and create isn't the oodles of paper all over the house or the cut out paper animals blu-tacked/taped to the walls or the "wallpaper" that decorates our glass doors. The best thing is the 10% of that "mess" that floors you. Zach's been on fire lately with his creating. He is more than compensating my lack of crafting lately,

On Monday, he exclaimed as I walked through the door after a day at work, "Mummy, I found some fossilised bones!" He raced through his dinner so that he could get to "working" on them. I watched as he pieced the pieces of fossilised bones together with sticky tape. Occasionally, he would look up and say, "Paleontologist work is difficult."

After a little while, he exclaimed with such genuine excitement, "Mummy! Mummy! The fossilised bones were part of a plesiosaur! I discovered a plesiosaur fossil!"

On the weekend, the kids made hand puppets with some store bought hand puppet socks (you can buy these in Riot Arts and Crafts, if you live in Australia), googly eyes, some foam, felt and crepe paper. Zach made a crocodile. I'm surprise he didn't say it was a dinosaur!

Also on the weekend, he made these funky monkeys from some wooden beads and pipe cleaners. You'd recognise these from the Chicken Socks book called Fuzzy Little Monkeys. The kids and I simply love the Klutz series.

They are so simple to make. I went out and got some wooden beads and pipe cleaners for next weekend to see what creations, he will come up with.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Marwa Fahmy

Remember my favourite sculpture from Sculpture by the Sea? The one with the origami boats? Well, one of the artists who collaborated on that piece, Marwa Fahmy, has won the opportunity to have her design to be made into public art.

Here's a little piece I found in Urbano, a publication from the East Perth Redevelopment Authority, about Marwa. It includes a little picture of what the designs look like. I like the whimsical nature of the houses. I already have a soft spot for Japanese motif. So all in all, liking this very much and can't wait to see it installed. I promise to have photos when its up.

Click on the image above to read the article.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Journey so far...

Almost a month ago now, I embarked on the journey of taking a photo a day with a simple camera (no zoom, no aperture adjustments, a simple point and shoot camera). Joy in the Everyday has been a therapeutic daily ritual. Here's a quick photo mosaic of the most recent photos.

Follow my journey as I try to find beauty in the ordinary things of my everyday. It's been an eye opening learning journey so far. I must admit it is difficult some days but as I have charged myself with this task, I always something beautiful. Try it for yourself. Things will start looking more than ordinary.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Extraordinary mondays - artistic abilities

My dad use to tell me that my late granddad was quite the artist. He taught my dad how to draw. I know for a fact that my dad is quite the artist. So if those smart people studying genetics are right, I should be quite the artist too. Well...I wouldn't go that far as to call myself an artist. I'd say I have creative genes flowing through me, untrained and unharnessed. I'd say I'm an artistic dabbler.

Now, to complete that equation then with Khoa's artistic DNA, our kids would be artists-in-the-making. I thought I'd share some of their recent drawings with you.

Zach's prefers his monotones. I'd love it if he branched out into technicolour but no, for the last few years, it's been monotones all over. But check out the accuracy and details of his shark, giant squid and lantern fish.

Amelia, not wanting to be left behind in the drawing game, drew this fantastic 'dog'. She's been drawing smiley faces for a while now with stick arms and stick legs. This is her very first drawing of a complete animal. Check out the little body in side profile complete with little tail to the right. Isn't it just the most gorgeous thing you have ever seen? Well, probably not. But for me, it's the beginning of beautifully formed creatures and animals from Amelia. I can't wait to watch her drawing ability blossom.

They aren't child prodigies but I can see in them the same need I had when I was younger to draw and produce stuff. I wish I knew how to train and mold their creative abilities. Please send me suggestions and recommendations for books to read on how to nurture a child's creative ability.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mother's day crafting

I can't believe Mother's day came and went and now is almost a distant memory. I've been planning to tell about the special day I had but never got around to doing it until tonight.

I had a pretty good day. There wasn't breakfast in bed but I was allowed to laze in bed until I wanted to get up which was really wonderfully delicious. That was such a luxury.

When I finally did get out of bed, we had a ton of fun with a pack of air drying clay and a pack of white Crayola Model Magic. All of us joined in, including Khoa, Tina (who had slept over), Zach and Amelia. Check out all the cool stuff we made.

Because we only had a pack of white Model Magic, we used food colouring to create the colours we wanted. The kids loved kneading the colour into the Model Magic and see it change. Khoa and Zach made dinosaurs, snakes and flowers, Tina made that little bespectacled dinosaur and white flower. What was most surprising for me was Amelia's raw talent. We hadn't played very much with playdough or modelling clay until that morning and look what she made! A cute little creature that looked like an owl with a mustache.

I made myself a little something too to remind me of the day. A little baby sunshine complete with a pacifier. Very fitting, don't you think?

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