Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sweets And Stress

Recent desserts assembled by G at home, regularly feature these vanilla biscuit sticks and grated chocolate with ice-cream or mango or melon. Served in a martini glass, they look especially elegant. And the glasses are good for portion control too. Considering the fact that we both can grab a handful of fat in the tummy area, we need to further step up on the portion and/or frequency control in the dessert area. No mean feat for people with a sweet tooth like us.

Today at a cafe in Cremorne after some property inspection, we stopped to rest our weary feet and for a caffeine infusion. Halfway through coffee, we decided that we deserved something sweet to go with the aromatic brew. I picked out this orange flourless cake which was particularly good. We shared just one of course. We have some self-control. At times.

The other day when I was nursing my swollen ankle and working from home, I threw together a quick lunch of baked beans with some lean minced pork. And I ate it with a chapati. It was a simple yet delicious meal.

Apart from nourishing my body, today I nourished my soul with some tidying up and decluttering. Sick of shoes, shoes everywhere in the bedroom, living room (I am not the culprit for these heinous crimes of course) and shoes piled willy-nilly in the hall closet, plus overspilling to the space opposite the closet, I have been telling G for ages that we need a shoe rack. He is vehemently opposed to that idea, only God knows why. Perhaps he likes the surprise of a lucky draw when you randomly fish up whatever footwear from the pile. But this has bothered me for months and finally at Ikea today, I bought this bright red shoe organiser and stuck all my shoes in it. I feel so much better after doing that. I can feel my stress level slowly ebbing...

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Food Heaven

I have been pretty well-taken of recently by my friend from work, Shazz. Food-wise that is.

Last Sunday, she invited 4 of us to her lovely 100 year-old house for a 3-course lunch. As my camera batteries failed me, I had to take pictures with my phone which is a little complicated to download, hence the lack of visuals. We had a yummy entree of prawns in a tomato sauce, I just wanted more bread to mop up all the sauce but restrained myself to save room in my tummy cos I knew there was more delicious stuff to come, knowing Shazzy's culinary reputation.

The main course was a very creamy vegetarian lasagna. It was so rich, I was so full and tried to compensate by consuming more of her grilled pear and rocket salad. But that didn't really help... I was stuffed to the gills at this point. But then, dessert goes into a different compartment in my stomach. How can I say no? Especially when dessert was sitting stewing away on the kitchen counter which I had noticed straight away when we sat at the counter drinking wine and eating crackers with dips while watching Shazz whip up the entree. They were strawberries marinated in caramelised balsamic vinegar and sugar with a dollop of mascarpone. Vinegar and strawberries! What unlikely bed partners but oh so sweet. It was an unlikely marriage made in food heaven.

Then we nibbled on chilli bark, thin slivers of dark chocolate with chilli seeds embedded. It went down smoothly and then left a slight burning feel at the back of the throat, it actually is quite pleasant even though you wouldn't have expected it to be, looking at the chilli seeds. We cracked open the dessert wine I brought and I suppose for someone who has a sweet tooth, that is my favourite type of wine.

We practically had to waddle home that Sunday, we were all so stuffed. It was such a good meal, in beautiful surroundings and amongst great company.

Shazz continued her culinary generosity on Tuesday by bringing me lunch of Jeera rice, a short-grain Indian rice which I have never heard of, but so yummy, topped with lamb curry. I looked at the huge portion she had packed me and figured it was too much, but because it was so good, I scoffed down the whole lot and cleaned up every single grain of that. I was inspired to go hunt for my own Jeera rice now. Basmati rice is nice, but Jeera rice is better!

And today, she came with a scrumptious vegetarian quiche for my lunch. I couldn't believe my luck. This woman is an angel and a darned good cook to boot. I am now also inspired to make my own quiche. Shazz assured me that it was a really simple recipe and I just can't wait to try it.

This week so far has been Food Heaven. Mmmmmm...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Better Late Than Never

With just about a month or so to Christmas, I finally received my complete 2007 Christmas present from G.

I had wanted a retro standing lamp last Christmas and we successfully bidded for this wooden standing lamp at the auction house last year. I loved the solid dark wood with the curves on the mostly plain leg.

I also liked the old-fashioned cream lampshade, which was probably inspired by a wasp-waisted corsetted lady's torso, but G just hated that sort of granny shade so he absolutely refused to let me have the lamp out with that shade. So for a long time, the lamp had no shade, plus it had no plug either until a new plug was wired in many months after the purchase. We improvised with a shade from a table lamp, it was way too small for the standing lamp but we made do.

Then we finally found our way to Ikea and bought a fire-engine red shade which we felt would add a welcome splash of colour to the room. However the metal ring which attached the shade to the base was too big and didn't fit the lamp. So that was discarded and we finally got this geometric-patterned shade from Freedom Furniture. G loved it at first sight but I initially disliked it, but when I saw it again at the second Freedom Furniture store, with the lamp turned out, the glow sort of changed the visuals of the shade, and I thought it wasn't that bad after all and agreed to G's getting it to complete the long-awaited Christmas present, just before this Christmas! A case of better late than never?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

How One Responds To Fear

I have been trying to think with both my head and my heart when evaluating what direction my life should take after I am done with my corporate life. Today I attended a workshop for starting a small business, not that I have any immediate plans to do that, but I was interested to learn about the tax structure and other requirements for a small business and any other tips I can glean.

At the end of the workshop, I think I came away with the same feelings I had gone in with, starting a small business is an onerous decision. However, selling one's labour and skills through a small business may not be as risky as selling products through a small business. In fact the business coach confirmed that we should be retailing services and not products.

I came away still thinking that leaving the safety of the corporate job and the financial security and taking the leap into the unknown is an emotional decision because one's rational mind will tell you that there is relative safety and security in doing a corporate job that one is familiar with. However, I say "relative" because in today's world and corporate environment, what sort of security are we talking about? Like my career coach says, it is just an illusion of security, and when faced with a choice between freedom and security, one should choose freedom because the security is not real.

Robert Taylor, an instructor at Trapeze School New York, heads for the nets on the roof of Pier 40.

So with all these thoughts and words of wisdom, I did some research online. The results were very interesting. On Security vs Freedom, Robert Kiyosaki (of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" fame) says, "In fact, in many ways, freedom and security are exact opposites. The people who have the most security are people in prison. Prisoners have the least freedom and the highest security. People in prison do not need to provide housing, food, recreation, health care, or education for themselves. They have a lot of security but at the price of their freedom."

Prisoners! They have the highest security... how true. As corporate prisoners, we are enslaved to our jobs and work routines, but we don't even "enjoy" this "highest security" that the criminally incarcerated have. I suppose corporate prisoners make more than $1.50 an hour that the prisoners make in the prison laundry, so that more than makes up for the lack of security.

Now back to the head vs heart. Back up a couple of paragraphs. I had been thinking that to stay in the relative security of the corporate world is a rational one, while leaving is an emotional one. Kiyosaki explains that one had to be in control of one's emotions and to think rationally. Ok I got that, and I agree with that, hence I think staying is rational, leaving is emotional. It seems that I've got the wrong end of the stick. Kiyosaki's theory is that "When it comes to money, it is the emotion of fear that keeps most people poor. Most people live in fear of losing money or risking money so they say things like 'play it safe’ or 'don't take risks.'" And that is the primary difference between successful people and unsuccessful people, how they respond to fear.

If I pick the relative security of the familiar corporate world because of fear, then I am making an emotional decision. Hmm, that turns my entire thinking on its head, doesn't it?

I guess I still have to do a bit more thinking, but to think from a slightly different angle, a fresh perspective, out of the box?

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekend Food Escapades

Saturday night after 7 pm and looking for a restaurant in Surry Hills, is never a good idea. Every single decent restaurant is full, hungry-looking people are standing in line, frustrated folks are seated but not served.

Craving for Indian food, we peered into 5 or 6 Indian restaurants on Cleveland St but were thoroughly discouraged. Finally we stepped into one which didn't look too crowded. After sitting down for 3 minutes and not even given a menu, plus checking out the other tables which had customers with no food whatsoever, we decided to cut our losses quickly and run.

We finally ended up going to Emon, a Japanese restaurant which we have always passed over in favour of our all-time favourite, Komachi. Emon is slightly pricier than Komachi but their presentation is good, so is the food. The prawn gyoza was tasty and so was my main course, the kingfish teriyaki. The only drawback was the very sweet teriyaki sauce was fortified with MSG, which subsequently caused me to react to it with leaden arms and constriction in the left side of my chest. But I think I will still give Emon another chance, but just order something which is not so "saucy".

Sunday lunchtime, we went on the hunt for food again. Again, we sat down in an Italian cafe which didn't look very busy. With a sense of deja vu from the night before, we waited in vain for the menu (at least start with giving us some hope - and a menu!) and suddenly an influx of people from the streets descended into the cafe to either order takeaway coffees or pay their bills and we were forgotten. So once more, we decided to cut our losses and leave.

A safe bet was the COFA cafe (actual name is the Cafe on The Other Side) but since it is on the other side of the College of Fine Arts, for short, it's always been referred to as the COFA cafe. The coffee was good, service was reasonable and the beef and tomato pie I had was yummy but small.

G was not full from his tomato and avocado sandwich and after some mega shopping-hunt for jeans, he needed a pitstop to fill that void in his stomach. So we trotted down to the Maltese cafe for some homemade ravioli, fat pockets of freshly made pasta stuffed with ricotta, doused with homemade tomato sauce. It was a deliciously large portion for a small price.

And so another weekend of eating, another new work week starts.
But now that I've been pink-slipped, the impending work week doesn't have the same knell of doom and gloom as it usually does on a Sunday night. How very ironic indeed...

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Land Of Convicts And My Convictions

Question: How do you ensure quality applicants for your country's residence program?
Answer: By making the process so cumbersome, tedious and expensive that it automatically weeds out the faint-hearted, the weak-minded and those financially unable to cough up the multitude of fees before you even lodge your visa application.

I suppose it is a good method for ensuring that those who apply, really, really, really want to become residents of your country. To the extent that they have to endure:-

1. Trawling through 10 years' worth of stamps in one's passport, religiously and patiently trying to match each and every single stamp (fading, unclear, marks stamped over another) for the country visited, dates and reason for trip taken. 3 hours' worth of trying to overcome one's frustration when confronted with colourful, blurry stamps on every single page, trying to figure out which trip was for what reason and how can 2 trips merge into the same period, trying to bear in mind the larger picture that would make getting all cross-eyed and wrinkles on the forehead from frowning, all worth it.

2. Paying $42 to get finger-printed like a common criminal at a police station for a police check to obtain a certificate confirming that one does not have any criminal convictions. And being told to try one's luck by rocking up to the police station (no appointments necessary) to have that done "when we do not have anybody in custody because that would be a security risk". What? I have to be in the same holding cell as the person in custody to get finger-printed? So this would be erm... for my own protection? Geez.

And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. But then again, I already know how to sing "Waltzing Mathilda" - somehow that was in my mother's repertoire of nursery songs (even though completely inappropriate considering it's about some cattle thief drowning while escaping from the scene of his crime) to teach your children during my childhood.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Pink Slip

I am collateral damage in this global economic crisis, 1 of 7,000 employees worldwide who have been given the pink slip by the company, a company I have worked for two-thirds of my professional life. I got started in my career there, made firm friendships, cried and laughed with the people I meet in the office, sat on project teams which launched various products - some with great success, some which flopped spectacularly and got written off as a "pilot" which never transcended into production mode, I had the best bosses in my career there, I wore the culture of that work-place like a second skin...

Would I miss the people? Without a doubt.
Would I miss the work? After 11 years, I seriously doubt it.

So perhaps this is the time. The time to sit back and have a good, long look at past achievements, the prospects of continuing with the same, and evaluating what sort of fulfilment it brings me. And if the answer stares back at me, with mournful eyes and tired arms, of great difficulty of getting out of bed in the morning, then I know. Perhaps the moment is now, to consider the original 40 year-old plan which had been shelved earlier, as I inch towards the symbolic 40 year-old mark, fearing that what I have squirrelled away, is not enough. I fear that is never, ever going to be enough anyway, if one looks critically, detachedly and with a logical mind, blocking out what the heart wants and just thinking with one's head.

For me, who has always had to struggle with both head and heart almost equally, that is no mean feat. Duality and being almost completely, equally balanced, can be a blessing and a curse. Decisions would be so much easier if one were more inclined either way, to go with one's head or one's heart, as with many people I know.

So perhaps with some logical, clear-thinking expert advice and support from the good folks at the career management services, I can think with my heart while I outsource the head thinking to the experts and come up with a new direction in life. As the Chinese characters for "crisis" denote, they are both danger and opportunity. And with that, one needs to find that opportunity within dangerous times and make the most out of life in the most satisfying manner possible.

There will always be hope.