Monday, February 26, 2007

Some Tenggiri dish

Another attempt by mama23beas to blog about food with her pathetic camera;).
I was looking for something new and I found this in MMB from a mother. She also has a food blog but I'm not sure if she ever put the same recipe in it.
I never made fishball or fishcake at home, and I always have this uneasy feeling about the preservatives or flavor that has been used in the ones that we can find in the market. That made me shy away from buying them.
Well, this one is not exactly fishball or cake, but to me it is close. She calls it Yu Fu or fish tofu.
Following her recipe, but with lesser amount of ingredients I used 200 g of tenggiri flesh, 11/2 egg, a quater teaspoon of baking powder and a bit of salt. I don't have a food processer, and used a blender to mix together.
She reminded that, it would expend due to the baking powder but I just underestimated it. It was a bit out of control, as I used a small pot. The fun part was it 'kembang' to various and weird shape. Think I saw an elephent;). It became smaller after being cooled.
After a few times, I could get bite size from half a teaspoon of the dough.

I just agree with her, it tasted good on its own or with ketchup. I threw some in my very lazy version of vege soup and it was a hit among the girls. Well, they love any kind of soup, anyway.
Now no more worry about preservatives in fishballs since I can substitute them with this new recipe, but still all those chemicals disposed to the sea and get into the fish would always haunt me. Yup, I can be paranoid, sometimes;).

Another dish is also very simple. From my sister, her husband's favourite. Recipe handed down from his grandmother. I'm sure you have seen fried fish sold at Nasi Campur stall, that comes with a lot of what looks like 'crumbs'. I know some of the spices used, but I never found exactly like the recipe.
Smother (dunno if I use the right word hehe) thin slices of tenggiri with salt and tumeric (I use powder), then deep-fry. Using mortar and pestle, I grind bird eye chillies (for a few slices of fish, I use about a fistful), an inch of fresh turmeric and a few pips of garlic, very finely. Hate this part, I don't know if I can get the same result using the blender, I mean for dry ingredients. And last night, Bea3 got a little excited. She sensed a 'beat' from the pounding, and started to dance and even tapped on my shoulder (I was sitting on the floor) to dance with her. Ok, I digress.
Using the same oil, but not to much la...over very slow fire, fry them, occasionally stir till they look 'crispy'. Pour them over the fish. Eat it with piping hot rice, I just lurvvvve it. Hubby finished every bit of the crumb from the plate. Think you can imagine if you like it or not. Since I use a lot of tumeric during my confinement, it would be nice to have this but my mom would definitetely objects as it got oil.
Anyway the thing I hate when using fresh tumeric is, I still got the stain on my fingers!

Friday, February 23, 2007

The trip up north

Long holiday is always perfect for geological fieltrip. This time, we headed up north.

Started off at 1.30 am on Saturday and reached Sg Petani at 6 am.

While we adults catching up on sleep, the kids were fresh and observed longingly at the view from our room. They even rummaged through the luggage to get their swimming attire.

We moved to the northeast to Padang Terap at noon. I did some surveying. Back to Sg Petani and had Nasi Kandar dinner.

The kids generally behaved quite well, I mean they were their usual selves though a bit excited over the new place. I brought a lot of papers for drawing and some color pencils and crayons (which ended up being used to decorate the side table...sssshhh, we already cleaned it).

Had a good sleep. We went up to Alor Star and later to Gunung Keriang. Someone brought me to look around, while hubby brought the kids to a park there. I never knew that 'look around' meant a little climbing along a trail up to almost the top of the hill. Panting, I finally shouted to my host that if I was slow, that was due to I was 4-month pregnant. He almost had his eyes fell from the sockets. I heard about some people in Perlis do bussines by whacking crystals, or deposits from caves but I never thought that the sights of them selling their stuffs at G. Keriang was too heart-breaking. I'm working to conserve caves, so you know what I mean. I didn't get a chance to take pics, anyway I don't really wish to see that again. Had KFC lunch.

Went back to Padang Terap, and I did more work there. Back to Sg Petani, and seriously we were really keen on having authentic Kedah food, but all we saw was Nasi Kandar and more Nasi Kandar.
I think I had not fully recovered from climbing stairs, and a bit of crawling in Gua Tempurung on Wednesday. The 'walk' up to the cave entrance in Keriang took a toll on me. I wished for a private jacuzzi, but the university does not pay for that. Well, a nice warm bath would be great but hearing the 'battle' hubby was fighting with the girls, I settled for a 10-minute hot shower. Before kids, I think I never savoured any 10-minute shower that way! I hope you know what I mean.
On the last day, I 'kasi can' to the kids and let them take a dip at the pool. They didn't really like it, mayde due to its being a bit crowded. And I saw little black things floating in the water. I was glad the kids were done in less than 20 minutes.

We moved up to Padang Terap again, and I did some samplings. We were invited by a couple of friends (husband and wife) to Kulim. The wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl that early morning and was already home. We arrived at 7 pm. I just let hubby napped, while letting the girls tired themselves up with new friends (the couple's 3 other kids) and toys.

We made our journey back at 12.30. A slow and steady drive and arrived my in-laws kampung at 4.30 am. We decided to stay and only drove to PJ in the evening.

Glad that it went well, though I would have to go back to Padang Terap, hopefully before the new baby is here. I'm still trying to get used to the new version blogger, I hope my pics arrangement is ok.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Kicking baby and hoping for some rain.

I just did what I like most at the moment yesterday, the second scan at the new baby.
With all the 3 Beas, I sensed movement at around 14 weeks. Same wriggling kind of movement. But for this one, think I felt it as early as 12 weeks. I could be imagining, but I still get the same feel even this morning. It is different, it's more like poking or kicking.

Yesterday, I saw more. First we saw both hands at the sides, then we went to the legs, and when moved the back to the head, the baby moved both hands up to the head.
It looks a bit cramp in there already. From the side we could see the mouth, and nose clearly now. Beautiful.

I only have only two pants that I can buttom up. A few days ago, I tried putting on the maternity pants and hubby yelled "NOOOOOOOO...." as I would really look ridiculous as it is still too large. This is the period that I hate. A little too big for normal pants, but too small for maternity. I felt comfortable wearing only near the 7th month.

Anyway, I'm going for a day-trip to Ipoh on Monday. Won't be seeing the girls during lunchtime. We were supposed to really watch the monsoon rain that day, but the timing was just not right.

We are collecting dripwater from the stalagmites in caves. I got a bit worry about the warning for coming drought and started to pray for some rain. Well, it just did and I'm happy. I hope it rained in Ipoh too. The water should be retained a while in the limestone before reaching stalagmites. Hope will be able to catch something in this few weeks. There is drip even without rain, but the rate can be too slow.

After that, another day-trip also to Ipoh on Thursday. Friday night we will cabut to to Kedah, my work is in Padang Terap but we will be staying in Sungai Petani after reading some bad reviews of hotel in Alor Setar. This time, of course with the whole locomotive in tow. We may make a detour to Penang...can't wait!

Have a great weekend everyone, and take care!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fancy for a trip to Antartica?

One of the things I like about my job is it takes me places. What makes it even better is I have a husband who just loves to follow me around.

But I knew, it would be completely different with the arrival of the kids. I have mellowed down tremendously. I now plan my work carefully to accomodate or to suit the family.

And again, in terms of research (which I think now can take about 60% of the workload) it is quite flexible that we are free to choose what we want to do, plan our own schedule etc.

This year, I'm planning for at least two trips with the family in tow. They are overseas trips. The limitation is of course money and hubby's leave days from his office. Say, if nothing works out, I just plan to let them go. It is just easy as that.

But it does not sound that easy when someone came knocked on my door and asked "Would you like to go for a trip to Antartica?". He just came back from a this year's trip, and already plan for the next one. When the team decided they needed a geomorphologist, the only person he could think of was me.

The plan is the research team will leave in Mid Dec and return in February. That's the ONLY time to be there. He enticed me with the story of it is a once-in-a-life-time experience, how nice the place is, how the place is all volcanic rocks of Cretaceous to Recent age (he knows my current research interest), he talks about the sun, amazing flora & fauna....I didn't really get it as I was just thinking how to drop a bombshell.

Finally..." know what? I'm pregnant!"

I'll be 16-week soon, but at the moment I still look like a skinny woman with a little tummy problem. I would stay like this for another 2 months

He was surprised but upon learning the baby will be 6 months old at the time of the trip, he further convinced me I could do it. He bargained, he would put up another RM15k for a trip to bring me out early, if all I could do is one month.

He missed the first two weeks of his baby's life when he was there, should I be tempted?

Really, really tempted, I was. I was not really there at the school door when Bea2 talked about what she ate, when she peed, she washed her hands ...she talks about anything, anyway.

At the babysitter's, I gathered some courage and told her over and over that I might not be serious but finally asked if she would love to take care of my 6 month old baby for a month. The other 3 will stay with the father at nights. She said, of course she would do it.

I weighed the pros and cons the whole afternoon. I'm positive the cons score higher. Spending the 6th month of my 4th baby with her/him is also a chance of a lifetime, so as the 27th month of Bea3, so as being with the two other girls for their 6th and 4th birthday. Besides, Bea1 would stomp her feet hard and say "Nak ikutttttt!", and Bea2 would echo.

I have not told hubby as I don't want that to sound that exciting. He'd be green with envy as he can't follow. But knowing him, I know all I get is a nudge, a little push to just go ahead.

It is nice to know that now it is all up to me. When the time comes, I would just say 'no' and maybe 'I help you find someone else'.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday is a baking day!

Before kids, no one really bother if I bake. Well, my mom and sisters do ask me to bake cookies and cakes for Raya, and that's all.

But now, Bea1 can sense if she does not get that fresh nice smell from the oven for a while. She was adamant that it'd been a looooooooong time since the last time we baked. It was the last Eid Fitr. That was only about 3 months ago.

I was reluctant, but she made puppy-eyed plea. Very well then, I might as well try something new. But it must be cookies and a simple one!

I was bloghopping and I found a cookie recipe with cornmeal here. I never did that before, a cornmeal cookies. Must have a different taste. Was a bit excited.

Didn't ask as I thought cornmeal could be found easily. Sneaked out of the house after fixing lunch to the nearest supermarket. Looked at the flour section, and the staff said he didn't know what that was. Went to cereal section, also nothing there.

A bit dissapointed, I gave Bea1 a choice: Ikea or stay home to bake (to give me more time to look for cornmeal). Baking won!

Asked hubby if he knew about it, he suggested cornflour. I said, I didn't think it was flour. I explained we have oatmeal, so cornmeal must be something like oatmeal but from corn. Mr Knows-it-all sighed "Then, it must be cornflake"...isk!

Reluctantly, I just crushed some cornflakes. 2 hours, a lot of mom-kids-in-the-kitchen-moments later, it was done and kids love it. Bea3 finished 4 pieces soon after they cooled from the oven.

I love it too, but still I thought I'd rather have my ass on the sofa and spent a few bucks on some cookies. But I brushed that thought off after seeing my happy Bea1, gulping milk after one cookie and another. She giggled and called herself a cookie monster!

Next, off course cookies with real cornmeal.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Cracking for a PhD with a newborn in tow

I had all material ready for thesis writing, when I had my firstborn Bea1 in my arms for the first time. I admitted I was a little jittery, despite all the positive thoughts that I would make it. Well, I was jittery also when I decided to marry hubby. I just converted the masters program to PhD. One of enterviewers, during the interview (to qualify the upgrade), reminded me that a Masters was like a big BSc thesis, but a PhD means much bigger commitment. If I failed, I would not have both. That's the risk.

I was working as a research assistant then, with a peanut salary. I was on a short contract, no security on when I would get another job plus with the supervisor retiring. And once the contract finished, I would have to be on my own, also the fees on my own. I was determined to breastfeed her, but I did not have one single soul, to share/get info about working and breastfeeding or expressing etc. I was only dependant on babycenter.

Then an idea just popped out. I thought I could have the baby with me for half day in my office, so that I would not worry so much if I didn't get much milk during expressing. Besides, that would save some money on babysitting.

I was given a tiny room in a lab, shared with a female student who was not there most of the time. There was a fridge (for keeping breastmilk) there, as the lab used to be a "tea room" for the staffs. The babysitter was just 3 minutes drive away, I could just 'drop' the baby off;) in case of 'emergency'. That sound perfect. She followed me to the office when she was barely 6 weeks old. But, would I be able to work with a newborn around?

I was just lucky as my baby seemed to understand me. She was like the easiest baby on earth. Everybody agreed with me. A professor was doing his job for 21/2 hour just outside my room. I went out to get the baby to the babysitter, and greeted him. He was almost speechless, saying that he didn't know there was a small baby in that room. No sound, nothing.

She slept in the carrier/carseat on my messy table. Friends laughed when I related the story to them. She played on the floor. I just let her on her own, and for some breather, we played together.
She loved sucking the ear of that green soft toy that she used to call 'ketek';). (Don't bother the line above the pic, I scanned it and don't how it gets there)
I sent her to the babysitter in the afternoon, as normally I have meetings later in the day. Some days, it just dragged till past 3 pm, and the babysitter, jokingly asked if I was really serious about getting her help to care for the baby. We were always the first one to arrive early in the morning. As she grew bigger, I found it a bit harder, as every morning I had to bring her in the carrier, together with my handbag, breastpump to climb the stairs plus I had to open a few very heavy doors before reaching our little room.

I made a point not to work at nights. Hubby worked on Saturday, so Saturday was spent totally with her. But I worked a few hours on Sunday, either leaving her with hubby or a lot of times, hubby did outings with her in a backpack carrier.

After a year, the thesis finally began to take 'shape'. My supervisor read my thesis on voluntary basis as he had already retired. It was hard, when supervising time was limited. My work contract was done and I was offered a new job at another university. With a full-time job, I got a bit more slower but my ex-boss really wanted me to finish off and gave me a lot of 'room' for me to complete it.

We were quite confident about finishing and decided that Bea1 needed a little playmate;). I submitted the thesis about one month before Bea2 was born. I also was just offered a new job as a research fellow, back to the same U. I was called for the viva/thesis defence two months after that.

I had been really careful in doing the corrections/nitty gritty part of the thesis. I applied for two-day leave to do the corrections for the final submission. I only took two hours. The feeling of reading the kind remarks, encouraging comments and lots suggestion from the external examiners was undescribable. We received the scroll when Bea2 was 7 months old. (Please forgive me for my pathetic photographic skill)

I thought I had it planned all well. Marriage only after I completed my PhD, kids only after 35 as I wanted to build my career first. It turned out, marriage at almost 29 and only had 'frame' of the thesis, and soon to have 4 kids at 35;).

And I never thought having it all was much more meaningful when I have more love and support around me. To me, my prayers have been answered. I constantly prayed that I would finally meet my 'jodoh' or Mr Right;) the easy way. Later I prayed that I would be persistent, even with kids. But I never prayed for them to 'arrive' this early. Some people asked, if the presence of the kids caused the delay. I said not at all, they said I tried to be kind. A mom would never admit that. I insisted, I made the desicion to do it on my (or our) own pace. Nothing to do with the kids.

Some people just have a special place in my heart. Those who are here or away now overseas, doing their Masters or PhD with the whole family in tow. The situation or challenges might be different but I can relate to part of it. A few of the people I know, who registered at around the same time as I did are still at it. My friend gave birth to her second baby in September in the UK, had to extend her contract there for another year. They are struggling now, as the allowance has been cut. The husband has to work, and they are having problem for baby-sitting.

During a little bad patch, one of my lecturers cheered me up saying that even fishes in the ocean prayed for those who seeks knowledge. He said he got it from some hadiths or a verse from the Quran. He had his share of hardship doing his PhD, also in the UK.

Thumbs up and way to go to sweetlelainie, who blogged her journey to PhD. She calls it Permenant Head Damage. I wish we have blogger during my time;).

And the experience of me with my little baby, working on the thesis in that little room would always remain a memory that I hold to dearly, forever.

There, a long rambling for your weekend reading pleasure, my wonderful, beautiful, lovely readers (yes, two of you there!).