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Christmas 2021 Recap: Of Food, Friends and the Spirit of Gifting

Anddddd just like that, another year has gone by.

I have much to be thankful for as I bid adieu to the old and welcome the new. Although it wasn’t a great start to 2021 – what with extended lockdowns due to the pandemic, job uncertainty and a general feeling of being stuck in limbo – things picked up towards the final quarter; the highlight being that my husband and I were finally able to reunite after almost two years apart from each other. He had to spend Christmas in quarantine, but we were able to usher in the new year together – and that for me has been the best present ever.

While waiting for the hubs to finish quarantine, I busied myself with preparations, finishing up work for my old job (I’m starting a new job tomorrow!), and catching up with old friends – which helped keep my nervous energy to a minimum. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

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November to December is typically monsoon season, and floods often occur on the east coast of West Malaysia, due to their proximity to the South China Sea. It is rare for serious floods to occur on the west coast, where I live, as we’re protected from most bad weather, thanks to the Indonesian islands. On 18 December, however, a continuous heavy downpour (it rained almost non-stop for more than 24 hours) caused by a tropical depression caused parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to be inundated by floods.

The flooding was so severe that in some cases, homes in low lying areas were completely submerged up until the second floor. In total, 50 people across the different states lost their lives. People were extremely angry with the government, as they were ill prepared and the response was slow – leaving victims to fend for themselves, and some lost their lives while waiting for help that was too slow to come. But where the government failed, it was heartening to see how ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life banded together to help each other, with volunteers risking their lives and bringing their own boats to help with search and rescue.

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My brother and I did our own little part by volunteering to pack vegetarian food, to be distributed to victims at relief centres. The activity was organised by the Kuala Lumpur Chung De Confucian Association, of which my brother’s ex-lecturer is a member – that’s how we came to know about it. We were up early to head to May Yen Vegetarian Restaurant in Kepong, KL, where we joined a group of mostly young volunteers to pack 900 packets of lunch boxes.

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The kitchen was sweltering hot, and there was little space to maneuver about. It was a bit chaotic in the beginning, but once we had coordinated the roles, things moved quickly – there was a team assigned to ladling food (tofu, mock meat, vegetables and rice) into plastic containers, another team assigned to putting garnish and sealing off the lunch boxes, and yet another in charge of packing them into plastic bags for transport. We didn’t really have much chance to mingle as everyone was focused on completing their tasks as quickly as possible, but it was a good experience nonetheless.

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As of the time of this writing, flood victims are still in need of help, so it would be good to donate either monetary assistance or in the form of goods, if you’re not able to be on-ground for relief efforts.

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That aside, I’ve been taking time to catch up with old friends. Shopped for gifts for a few close friends, and also met up with G, a high school friend of mine whom I’ve been friends with for over 18 years. We don’t always get to hangout since she’s based in Ipoh, but we managed to have a quick catchup session. I think she badly needed some alone time that didn’t involve bringing her kid along.

Motherhood is an immense sacrifice – I think a lot of mothers give so much of themselves to their child, that they lose who they are as a person. I’m not here to judge, but that shouldn’t be how it is, even though society often expects it of mothers – and it’s sad that in Malaysian society, we still have this mentality. A healthy environment should involve a mother having the proper support to raise her child, but also the freedom to stay true to her own dreams.

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Anyway, I brought her to 1Utama and we ended up at Rocku Yakiniku, a Japanese-style BBQ buffet that offers free flow of various cuts of meat and seafood, including lamb, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and squid. I’ve been here several times, including once solo for my birthday celebration (yes, I celebrated my birthday by gorging on a BBQ buffet alone. lol), and they’ve never failed to disappoint. This time was no exception, and I think we got back our money’s worth.

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We got to 1Utama pretty late, so I was starving. While waiting for the charcoal brazier to heat up, I got some quick bites – stir-fried udon, samosas, hams and fried dumplings. I know you’re not supposed to eat a lot of these at a buffet, coz they’ll fill up space in your stomach quickly, but the fried dumplings were exceptionally good.

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Two things that I recommend: the enoki mushrooms, and the scallops. They come served in small aluminium bowls that you can heat directly over the grill. The former has butter, which brings out the rich, natural sweetness of the mushrooms; the latter comes swimming in a clear, sweet broth, with sizable scallops that squirt juice forth with each bite.

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Another thing about Rocku Yakiniku: the shrimps are huge. Just eating the shrimps alone will give you your money’s worth, since shrimps of this size are usually expensive. They’re not marinated, but they’re fresh and juicy, and the grill highlights the meat’s natural sweetness.

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The meat selection is great too, especially if you eat it with fresh lettuce, which cuts through the greasiness.

Our meal for two came up to RM120, inclusive of drinks. Quite a reasonable price, given the amount we ate, the variety, and the service.

ROCKU YAKINIKU (1UTAMA)

F.355, F.356 & F.357, First Floor, Rainforest, No. 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM (Daily)

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Dropped G back at her house and took the chance to play with her cats.

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And that was how I spent my Christmas! It was a great one, all things considered.

Here’s to a great 2022 ahead!

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DIY Scented Candles Even A Noob Can Make

Like most of my ‘projects’, my first time making DIY scented candles started with a whim: I had a long Christmas break and thought it would be fun to make my own candles at home. Lazada sells convenient candle making kits, most of which are from China. I ordered them in early December, and they came just in time for Christmas!

Although I like artsy stuff, I am not someone who is skillful with my hands – I’m clumsy af, so I suck at things like sewing, weaving, painting, crocheting, embroidery, etc. Fortunately, making candles is relatively easy, or at least easy enough that even I couldn’t mess it up too badly.

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The kit cost me RM65, and came with everything I needed to make eight medium-sized candles, including metal containers (they sported bright, colourful designs), cotton wicks, four packets of soy wax (200g each), a stainless steel jug for melting, sticky tape to fasten the wick to the bottom, wick holders to keep them in place, a stirring spoon, dye blocks as well as four bottles of 10ml fragrances. I think it’s a reasonable price, as after making the candles I still had a lot of wicks left over, and I since I can reuse the equipment, I’d only need to buy wax and fragrances the next time I want to make candles.

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I didn’t want the kitchen smelling like fragrances, so I used the portable butane stove we usually reserve for hotpots. Didn’t have a big stainless steel pot either, so I used a clay pot (necessity is the mother of invention) to double as my boiler. The jug should not be heated directly over the flame as the heat would be too intense for the wax, which would cause it to scorch. Using another pot filled with water helps to ensure a low and steady temperature.

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While waiting for the water to boil, I trimmed the cotton wick and fixed it to the bottom of the container using the included sticky tape. The wick holder can be placed across the top to hold the wick in position when you pour.

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Using the spoon, I stirred the wax until it was completely melted.

Professionals who make candles to sell usually use a thermometer while making their candles, since different types of wax (beeswax, soy wax, paraffin) have different melting points. As I didn’t have one, I just winged it (ie making sure the pot wasn’t bubbling too much).

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Once everything had melted, I added my desired dye and stirred it until the colour was even. Once it had cooled down a little (but not to the point of solidifying, I poured the mix into the containers.

I made a couple of mistakes here.

  1. I added the fragrance right after the dye had melted. The temperature must have been too hot, which caused the fragrance to evaporate (?), so the result was that the throw (how far the scent carries across the room) was pretty weak.
  2. I poured everything in one go, which caused the candles to ‘sink’ in the middle once the wax had cooled. Apparently this is because the wax cools down faster at the sides, since the container is cooler. To avoid this, you’ll either have to keep the containers at a warmer temperature, or use the double pour method, where you first pour 3/4 of your mixture, allow it to cool, then top up with more wax to make the surface more even. I think this is quite a hassle though, as it means you’ll have to keep some of the wax. In my case, I couldn’t do that as I had a bunch of different colours and scents to work on, and only one jug.
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Despite the flaws, I was pretty happy with the end results!

I had four scents: lavender, vanilla, rose and lemon. The scents were actually quite pleasing when I held the candle up to my nose, but as I mentioned, I think I put them in too early so when I lit the candles I couldn’t smell much of the fragrances.

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Gifted a few to a friend as a Christmas present!
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Making my own candles was surprisingly fun (although it did take me three hours and my back felt extremely sore from having to sit on a low stool – sorry lah I’m old lol) , and I did feel a sense of accomplishment even if they didn’t turn out perfect. Maybe once I’ve had a couple more practice runs, I can start making more luxurious candles – like those pretty ones with flowers and stuff.

My candle making kit from Lazada : link

Have you tried making your own candles? Share your tips with me below!

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Christmas Meetup with the Midnight Gang

SO I met up with the Midnight Gang on Boxing Day. 

Nah, we’re not some Asian mafia…. it’s just a nickname the four of us came up with as students in the UK, because we used to hangout way past midnight in our apartment to gossip, make pancakes and have fattening suppers of fish n chips and garlic mayo ‘dabao-ed‘ from the nearby kebab shops. It’s been two years since our last gathering  – I mean, I’ve seen Mabel around since she works with a company that my newspaper deals with a lot, but I haven’t seen Jo and Eenoch for a long time. Since the latter was in KL for a couple of days, we decided to have a quick meetup session at The Curve.

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Catching up on how everyone was doing… and then it was time to exchange presents!  I was really touched that they got me things that I actually liked.. (the forever dilemma of buying presents for someone is wondering if they’ll like it or not. I usually just ask them what they want). I guess they weren’t my classmates for four years for nothing.

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Bel, me, Eenoch and Jo. We talked about the good ol’ student days.. it wasn’t that long ago, but in between working and just living life, it seemed like years. We’re all a little older and wiser, but I think deep down inside, we’re still the same. And that’s a good thing!

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Handmade heart card from Mabel.

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A notebook with custom stamps from Jo, bag, and a cutesy owl mug from Typo from Eenoch.

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Mabel gave me and Jo an accessory set with these lovely earrings! Altho the piercing on my left ear has closed.

 

Merry Christmas, guys!