Friday, January 30, 2009

The Memory Remains

It was my grandmother's birthday yesterday. When she was alive, my sisters and I would call her and wish her. In the evening or over the weekend, my mother and her siblings will usually throw a small party for her with cake and some nice food. It's been 4 years since she passed away and though I don't like to think about it, I can still remember how I cried at her funeral. I never realized how much I appreciated having her around until she got bed-ridden and was hospitalized for a few months. Watching your grandmother waste away in a hospital bed is one of the most difficult things you have to do. I am actually glad that she passed away because I don't even want to think of the sheer amount of pain she was going through. I don't wish that kind of suffering on anybody.

I still miss her though. I have quite a few memories of her making coffee for me, reading the newspapers, watching the news in Tamil, laughing at some joke, etc. It would have been nice to call her and wish her for her birthday. She would have been 78 years old if she was alive. Strangely that does not sound like old at all - I have friends who have grandmothers living till 90. How come my grandmother did not get that chance? Life's unfair sometimes huh.

So, just to celebrate her birthday, I made a simple butter cake (recipe from here) and shared it with my many nice colleagues at work. The butter cake turned out pretty good, and it only took 20 minutes to put together and 25 minutes to bake.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fixing The Self Image

I have always dreamed of being thin. I am not obese but I do have a belly that I have hated for the past 5 years or so. I am glad to be able to buy clothes off the rack and living in almost-Europe, the clothing sizes here definitely soothe my pride. Nevertheless, I still wish I looked a little less out of shape.

Recently, I signed up for gym. I've been going there for the past 2 weeks. No change yet, but hopefully there will be some change in the next 4 months or so. I have a 6 months membership. I didn't want to take a year's membership in case I fell off the wagon. Hopefully I will lose some weight I guess.

Strangely, I don't eat much junk food but I think I don't really move around much either because I am a computer geek who just sits down all day. The cold winter makes it difficult to take long walks (fresh snow is beautiful, old snow == slush, is not beautiful).

Perhaps someday I will be happy with the way I look. I have read that once you reach 30, you start to accept yourself more. So there's 5 whole years to improve!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things Are Looking Up Again

After a lot of hiccups, the year is starting to look a bit better again. I wanted to title the post as "a little bit of sunshine" but the weather today is not sunny..AT ALL. It's pure sleet outside (like rain but little pieces of it, or maybe "wet snow" makes more sense?). It's not fun walking in that weather. I had to walk to the bus stop this morning and it was pretty cold.

*Googles for today's temperature* Hmm, about -2 to 0C. Not fun. I don't mind the cold, I wear woollen tights inside my jeans. It's like my weapon against the cold. But getting wet is not fun. I wear a beanie, scarf, etc., but it is still wet.

But, I digress.

As I was saying, things are looking up a bit. Work is tough though - sometimes you really have to fight for what you believe in. You'd think it is common sense to most people, but you'd be surprised how little common sense some people have :)

Oh well.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Italian Tomato Soup

As I write this post, I am halfway through cooking Italian Tomato Soup.

As a child, I never liked cooking. I was always afraid of the stove as in Malaysia its a real flame stove and I just found it dangerous. I could not understand how my mother could stand in front of that stove and fry chicken with the oil splashing everywhere. I used to be really really nervous about hot oil and the cooking flame. The most I did in the kitchen was make instant Roti Pratha and microwave Maggi Mee or Campbell's soup.

It was in Australia that I discovered the joys of cooking. In the beginning it was just to see what it was like to make myself a meal because food was provided in the residential college that I lived in. Later I moved to the block where food was not provided and had to share a kitchen with 3 other people. That's where I used to cook daily. Usually the simplest meals were the tastiest - pasta, stirfried noodles, fried rice, fried fish fillet with rice and japanese rice seasonings, instant noodles - the staple food of the average student. Slowly, I started to make more difficult dishes like chicken curry (I made fish curry once and it was a disaster. Took me 2.5 years to attempt to cook it again and now I can safely say it is tasty, but not as good as my mother's fish curry.) and fried beehoon.

Now, in Oslo, I cook a lot. I try to eat in at least 5 days a week because the cost of living in Oslo is expensive, hence, eating out is expensive too. Lately my favourite dishes are Tomato Soup, Veggie Nachos, Pasta with Chicken Tikka Masala (don't knock it unless you've tried it ;)), Chicken Curry and Mint Rice, Chilli Prawn Linguini, etc.

Here's the recipe I use for the Italian Tomato Soup:


1 can chopped tomatoes (approx 400 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil
100 grams of mascarpone
1 onion (medium sized)
2 cloves garlic
500 ml of tomato juice
3 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs (I use a combined version containing basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste
A little bit of basil pesto (for garnishing)

--- Serves 3

Chop onion and garlic.
Heat oil in cooking pot. Fry onion and garlic until fragrant and soft.
Add in tomato puree. Stir until the onion and garlic bits are coated in the puree.
Add in chopped tomatoes and herbs. Reduce the heat, let it cook well, till the oil comes out.
Add half the tomato juice. Simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
Add in mascarpone.
Use the remaining tomato juice to adjust the consistency according to your liking.
Add salt and pepper.
Stir and simmer for 2 minutes.
Blend the soup mixture in a blender.
Garnish with pesto and serve.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Things I Learned Lately

When I was at university, people always told me that working life is more difficult than student life. I didn't believe them, until now. Here are some of the things I have learned in the past few years:

Chocolate always helps.

Sitting on my couch, huddled under a blanket while eating chocolate always makes me feel better.

There will always be things about people you dislike.

I have a lot of friends, but from time to time I find myself getting a little frustrated by their behavior. It's not that I am perfect but some days it gets hard to be friends with some people. I guess at some point, you have to accept that nobody is perfect and making do with your friends' quirks and eccentricities is part of friendship.

Always save for a rainy day.

I picked this one up from my Dad. His favourite line when we discuss money (over MSN - my Dad's cool like that) is "Save for rainy days". In Malay we say "Sediakan payung sebelum hujan" meaning that you should prepare an umbrella before it rains. I try to save money every month - I do have months when I don't save a cent, but most of the time, there is some transaction going into the savings account. I do try not to obsess about it though - I'm not sure about my bank's interest rates - seems to fluctuate quite a bit, so I don't worry about it. As long as I am saving, I'm fine. Hopefully I'll get to buy an apartment by the time I am 30. *fingers crossed*

Plan your finances.

I don't have the spreadsheet with my daily expenses - I tried and failed miserably many times. However, I have successfully managed to plan my meagre salary enough to avoid the "N days to salary countdown". One of my fears is living from paycheck to paycheck.

Be careful what you wish for.

Sometimes, when you get what you wished for, you start to feel that you were better off before you got your wish.

No matter how bad things get, life goes on.

I have days where I am totally down in the dumps. Yet somehow, someway, I find myself still being able to do work, go shopping, walk in the park. I keep thinking I can't do it, I can't move on from the crap that is surrounding me, yet I still manage to do it. So there has to be some form of magic left in life that lets you move on with the next day despite today being such a bad day. You ask yourself "can it get any worse?" and it does get worse, but then a few days later... you are back in form, doing things as if nothing happened a few days ago. That is the beauty of life - it keeps on going. Either that or I have really short term memory.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year

This post is slightly belated as I spent my new year's eve baking a cheesecake for the New Year's Eve party at a friend's place. I also went on a cleaning spree - doing lots of laundry post vacation and slowly but surely reorganizing things in the apartment. I spent the 1st of January slightly bumming around, watching some old Tamil movies and cleaning even more. was 2008? I'd say it was a rollercoaster. I had days when I was exuberant, jubilant, and very happy; I also had days when I was really depressed and contemplating lots of problems with very few solutions. All in all, it was a good year, though. Here's a quick recap:

2008 Events Unordered

  • Got a new employer

  • Developed my writing skills

  • Got a small promotion

  • Visited Germany (Konstanz and Ueberlingen) for Easter

  • Spent 40 minutes in Kreuzlingen, a small town in Switzerland

  • Actually visited Zurich

  • Moved to a beautiful new apartment

  • Visited Berlin for work - 3 full weeks of being an expatriate and shopping a lot

  • Vacationed in Malaysia for 3 weeks

  • The birth of my extremely cute niece

  • My younger sister graduating and becoming a real lawyer - not that she needed any training ;)

  • Bought a MacBook with my own earnings - my previous laptop was a gift from my Dad

  • Saw real snow

  • Got back to reading

  • Learned to make delicious tomato soup

  • Bought a macro lens

There are tons of things I want to do in 2009. I hope to achieve at least half of them.

So, here's to 2009 *clinks glass with apple juice*!

Note: Those of you who know me well will know where I work but my employer will not be mentioned here as I like maintaining a barrier between who I am and where I work. I do not want to be searched one fine day just to have my personal blog appear in relation to my employer.