Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

Talk about time flying! The twins will turn 12 this year. Is that how long I’ve been blogging??

Meanwhile, enjoy this 6-second video clip of the fireworks over KLCC Park last night, as viewed from Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur’s Club Lounge on the 24th floor.

All the best for 2018!

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Snapseed — My Favourite Mobile Phone Editing App To Date

Now that most everyone has a smartphone with a camera, everyone can take endless pics anytime, anywhere. And with the plethora of free mobile editing apps available in the market, one can easily get overwhelmed and simply rely on ratings and/or recommendations from friends. I went the old-fashioned route and followed the recommendation of my younger brother. With all the praises he’s been heaping on Snapseed, I had no choice but try it out for myself. So I gave it a test drive…and got hooked! Until today, I use Snapseed a lot of tweaking pics on my Android smartphone.

To illustrate how easy it is to edit a pic using Snapseed, here’s a pic that my mum, Lola, snapped today. She is in the Philippines right now for a short holiday with some of our relatives. She sent me several sunset pics and asked me to pick one. I chose this one:
original pic

I told her that the pic would probably look better with the beach cropped out since it’s too dark anyway and does not show any interesting details. I also took a screenshot of the pic prior to the actual cropping, to demonstrate to her the Rule of Thirds.

rule-of-thirds

After opening the pic in Snapseed, I simply clicked on ‘Tune Image’ and adjusted the sliders for contrast, ambience, and saturation. And in less than five minutes, voila! I get this pic:

final - warm

I also tried making a bluer version of the pic (after my daughter commented that the pic above is a bit too warm — my own personal preference) simply by adjusting the colour curves in Snapseed.

final-blue

So which pic do you like better? The warm (orange/red) version or the cool (blue/purple) version? What apps do you use for editing pics in your smartphone? Please share in the comments :)

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Filipino Style Steamed Golden Pomfret with Sesame Oil & Soy Sauce

I just realised it’s been a while since I last posted a recipe for harassed working mothers. I know, I know, “steamed fish” hardly sounds like an easy recipe but trust me, it is.

The star of this dish is a fish known in Malaysia as ‘bawal emas’ or golden pomfret. This fish is known in the Philippines as pampano or pompano. For best results, use the freshest fish that you can find (clear eyes, bright red gills, firm texture)…or, at the very least, cook the fish immediately upon reaching home (i.e. the same day you bought it).

Filipino Style Steamed Golden Pomfret with Sesame Oil & Soy Sauce

steamed_pomfret

Ingredients:
1 pc ikan bawal emas
2-3 inches ginger, peeled and sliced into strips
Daun kuchai (Filipino: kinchay), a bunch about the diameter of a 20-sen coin, washed and cut into ~2″ pcs
Daun bawang (spring onions), 2 or 3 stalks, washed and cut like the daun kuchai

1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Sesame oil to taste

Water for steaming
Cooking oil (preferably coconut oil or peanut oil)
Salt & pepper for rubbing into fish

Directions:
1. Clean and gut the fish. Trim the tail and fins using kitchen scissors for easier handling. Make 2-3 diagonal slices on each side. Pat dry with a piece of kitchen towel. Rub with salt and pepper (I used white pepper) inside and out.
2. Take about 1/5 of the ginger/kuchai/daun bawang and stuff inside the fish cavity. Divide the rest of ginger/ kuchai/ daun bawang into 3 portions.
2. Prepare your steamer. Place an appropriate amount of water. Put 1/3 of the ginger/ kuchai/ daun bawang into the water. Allow to boil.
3. Steam the fish for about 10-15 minutes. You might want to flip the fish halfway for more even cooking but do it very carefully. Place the fish into a serving plate.
4. Heat up some oil in a wok/pan. (I used coconut oil.) Stir fry the remaining ginger strips for about half a minute, then add the remaining daun kuchai and daun bawang. Stir fry for another half minute so as to retain the green colour. Take the spices out, leaving behind the oil; arrange over the fish. Save the oil for later.
5. Pour the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and a bit of water into a small saucepan and allow to boil for about 30 seconds. Adjust soy sauce/sugar/sesame oil to taste. (Note: I used a bit of water which was used to steam the fish since I only made the sauce after the fish was done steaming.)
6. Reheat oil saved earlier until it’s almost smoking, then pour over the fish.
7. Serve immediately with hot rice.

This recipe is adapted from Overseas Pinoy Cooking.

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The Peak Coffee – My Favourite Local Café

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you would have noticed my tendency to post lots and lots of food pics. Here’s a little fun fact about those food pics: good number of those food pics actually come from the same place — The Peak Coffee! It goes without saying that the food is fantastic, but I also love its cozy, family-friendly ambience (they even have two separate sections with kid-friendly couches).

 

twins
The Peak Coffee is the brainchild of two young men, Mujahid and Isa, who both love food. Both of them have traveled the globe extensively and from such travels, they’ve met like-minded individuals…and to cut a long story short, they’ve drawn inspiration from their travels for a café of their own and, thus, The Peak Coffee was born.

 

This is one of my favourites at The Peak Coffee — the luscious, scrumptious Sriracha Burger. It’s a ginormous piece of deep-fried chicken breast, topped with cheese and lime, smothered in cilantro sriracha sauce, served on a toasted bun.  Incidentally, Sriracha Burger was also the pick of TV3′s ‘Jalan Jalan Cari Makan’, which featured The Peak Coffee on October 2016. (Good choice, JJCM!)

 

sriracha burger

 

Pastas are also a firm crowd favourite at The Peak Coffee. My favourite is the soft shell crab pasta, an out-of-this-world pairing of East and West, with a creamy sauce that gives you bites of chili padi heat and the unexpected taste of curry leaves, which goes very well with the perfectly cooked pasta and the crispy-outside-meltingly-soft-inside softshell crab.

 

crab
A close second favourite of mine is the Grilled Chicken Pasta, perfect for those days when you can’t make up your mind between meat and pasta (why not have both?).

 

pasta
Do take note that The Peak Coffee no longer serves that set meal offering (as mentioned in that particular Instagram post), as they regularly update their menu and promotions, in rapid response to customer requests and expectations. The on-going promotion is the Buy 1 Free 1 offer, which runs until 26th May 2017.

buy1free1
Craving for more local flavour instead? Fret not, as The Peak Coffee has rolled out a new selection of Malaysian delights:

Malaysian_delights
The Peak Coffee serves a wide selection of fantastic freshly brewed coffees (including affogato!), Tamek fruit juices, and delightful milkshakes (the Oreo Milkshake is a definite must-try!!!). In addition, The Peak Coffee also offers a variety of sliced cakes supplied by renowned local bakers.

 

TPC is located at Jalan Changkat Permata, Taman Permata, 53300 Kuala Lumpur and is open Tuesdays to Sundays 3pm to 11pm (closed on Mondays), except Fridays 4pm to 12 midnight. For inquiries and reservations, call 013 272 2093.
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Online Learning Survival Tips

Online learning is on the rise, even if the concept is still considered relatively new in Malaysia as of 2017. Its main benefit is, of course, breaking the time/distance barrier. You can be taking an open course from MIT, an Arabic class from Bayyinah’s Dallas campus, or a cake decorating class from London from the comfort of wherever your PC/laptop may be.

online_learningI probably never mentioned this before but my MBA was an online program even though, technically, it is a hybrid online program. Classes, presentations, and midterm exams were all conducted online, but I still had to fly to Penang at the end of every semester to sit for my final exams.

Despite the undeniable benefits that such an online program afforded me, I was painfully aware of the challenges that come along with online learning especially since it took me seven long semesters (3 1/2 years) to finish my MBA due to work and family commitments. And now that I’ve finally completed my MBA, I realise that I would probably benefit other people if I shared some topics on how I managed to survive online learning.

1. Get your mindset right. The right mindset will see you through all the challenges of online learning. You cannot control situations but you have absolute control over how you respond to those situations. Ultimately, you are the only one who can see yourself through this journey. This is very important because there will be numerous times when you’d want to give it all up and it’s only you who can convince yourself to go on. There will be times when you’d get fed up with remote discussions with your groupmates and, again, it’s up to you to go on and find a way to make things work. There’ll be times when your final project seem impossible but only you can get yourself grit your teeth and just go ahead and deal with it.

2. Break it down. Set your goals, identify what needs to be done in order to achieve them, then break everything down into smaller, more manageable chunks. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and, at the same time, will help you manage your time better by identifying which things to prioritise and which ones to (possibly) delay.

3. Make the most of networking. Even though this is one journey that you have to do on your own, remind yourself that you are not alone. Make friends with everyone, especially your seniors, as they would be able to give you invaluable tips on how/where to get things done. Be active in your MBA WhatsApp group or your group mailing list, whichever is applicable. Make friends with your lecturers and your program director because they would be able to advise you, as well.

4. Document everything. The mind is a strange thing. It can remember the oddest minute details but can leave out the most critical ones.  Follow up discussions with email summaries, or at the very least, by text/WhatsApp.

5. Set multiple reminders everywhere. Use sticky notes, Google calendar, Evernote, whichever works for you. And set multiple alarms. Do this for everything — discussion dates, thesis submission schedule, meetings with your supervisor, homework deadline, robe pick up date, graduation rehearsal, flight schedules, everything! For more critical tasks, set an alarm, say, a week in advance, plus three days in advance, a day in advance, and an hour in advance. It may sound redundant now but you’ll thank me one day.

6. Avoid the recordings. Most online courses offer the flexibility of accessing recordings, in case you can’t attend the live class. Listen to me and listen to me well — attend the live classes as much as possible! It is always tempting to avoid the live classes and just listen to the recording, but trust me, you’ll find you’ll hardly ever access the recordings. The added benefit of joining the live class is, obviously, the ability to ask questions right there and then.

7. Back everything up. This one’s self explanatory. Create multiple backup of files in your hard disk, a portable hard drive, a USB drive, and your regular backup drive.

8. Prepare for the worst case scenario. In case your internet connection at home fails, can you use your mobile phone as a wifi hotspot? In case of a blackout, is there a 24-hour cafe with internet access that you can go to? In case any of your groupmates have issues with their microphones during a presentation, make sure everyone prepares scripts of their portion and share that with everyone else so that the group leader (or any group member) can take over that part of the presentation.

9. Cover your camera and turn off your mic by default. Accidents do happen and when they do, you wouldn’t want your classmates to see you in your pyjamas or hear your child crying in the background, would you?

10. Check email and your online learning portal at least once a day. Online classes rely on emails and portal announcements and you wouldn’t want to miss a crucial announcement, would you?

graduation11. Ask questions. One of my favourite teachers once remarked, “The only stupid question is the one you do not ask.” For all you know, that question burning in your mind may just be the very same question that everyone else in class is dying to ask. Just make sure to first read the syllabus, course notes, instructions, what-have-you before asking your question.

12. Email your instructor. All online classes that I’ve attended so far always provide an email address for any queries. You can always email your questions if they are too long or if they are very specific questions that will not benefit anyone else in class.

13. Get organised. Keep all your textbooks and notes in one place. Create separate folders for every class so that you can save files specific  to that class to that folder — notes, homework, additional reading, etc.

14. Learn to say no. Even though online learning gives you the flexibility of learning at your own time, you still have the same 24 hours in a day. Just like any other class, online learning will take up a huge chunk of your times, thus, you’d have to learn to turn down  unnecessary social commitments or cut down the time you normally allocate to certain hobbies/activities.

15. Life happens. Finally, keep in mind that there will be times when real life just has to take precedence over your online class. Sure, it may be the final 30 minutes of your last class of your toughest subject, but your child is burning with fever. Attend to your baby and set a reminder to watch the last 30 minutes recording afterwards.

I sincerely hope these tips will help you with your online learning journey. It will definitely not be easy but I assure you that it will all be worth it in the end!

P.S. I did not merely survive my online MBA; I succeeded. I made it to the Dean’s List and had my first journal article published soon after graduation ;)

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