Chinese New Year cookies with SCS

It’s that time of the year for Chinese New Year cookies, and the best ones are made using SCS, the butter of my childhood. Until today, I can recognise that particular aroma of cookies and cakes made using SCS butter, the familiar extra buttery smell that comes with a huge dose of nolstagia.

SCS Chinese New Year cookies - gift box

The kind folks at SCS (and Orchan PR, you have really lovely staff) sent me some cookies made using SCS butter (of course), along with a recipe book in the hope that I would replicate the goodies in my own kitchen.

The fact of the matter is, I am an eater not a baker. So I ate all of these:

SCS Chinese New Year cookies - Pot of Golden Miniature Tarts

Pot of Gold Miniature Tart, my favourite! Baked with melon seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, whole almond, macadamia and pecan, and held together by rich, gooey caramel. This is a winner. Bake me some more, please.

SCS Chinese New Year cookies - Lucky Tangerine

Lucky Tangerines! Hahah these melt-in-your mouth butter cookies were designed to look like mandarin oranges, symbolising good fortune for the festive season. Ingenius.

SCS Chinese New Year cookies - Precious Pistachio Rollover Biscuits

Precious Pistachio Cookies seemed easy enough that I might try this one out for myself. By the way, all SCS Chinese New Year cookies recipes are up on their Facebook page: SCS Dairy Malaysia, along with instructional videos for those who can’t read recipes (like me).

SCS Chinese New Year cookies - Treasure Cookies

Treasure Cookies is pure butter cookies with a lot of icing work. I suppose if you’re an icing noob (is there such a term?), you could ditch the work and just roll with delicious creamy butter cookies.

Thank you for sharing these delicious cookies with me. If any of you tried to make these cookies – again, recipes on their Facebook page – do let me know how it turned out, and I might gather enough courage to attempt baking.

Big strawberry in my hand

At Jaya Grocer’s fruits section, I did a double take – they were selling strawberries almost as big as my hand, a punnet for just RM15!

I was flushed with excitement. Picked one up and put it close to my nose. Gotta have a whiff to know if they’d ripe and tasty. It’s all in the smell.

Strawberries from the USA, the Driscoll’s brand (the ones that are readily available to us) often do not have that distinctive strawberry smell. Maybe because they have to travel further. Strawberries from everywhere else – South Korea, Australia etc are hits and misses. You just have to do the whiff test to get the strawberries that you deserve.

You’re probably thinking, eww gross, Suanie smelled the strawberries that I bought, yuck! Well. Let’s approach this from a couple of angles. Yes, you might be miserable, miffed even, knowing that you ended up with berries I said no to. This could be as bad as finding out that your one last chocolate chip cookie is moldy. I like chocolate chip cookies, especially the ones that my Mummy makes, so I’d be really darn pissed off if that happened to me. Thus I’m able to project my hypothetical displeasure unto a vision of you discovering that you ended up with did-not-pass-Suanie’s-whiff-test berries.

I’m sorry.

Then again, imagine what would happen if *I* ended up with less than perfect berries. Calling all the demons and devils of the universe, hell hath no fury like me finding out that my expensive, imported fruits did not make the mark. There would be storms of anger, brought on by clouds of wrath, unleashing thunders of excruciating pain to… whoever unfortunate enough to be near me at that time. And yes, tables will be flipped.

But really, I don’t think you’ll ever find out if you got my rejected berries. What are the odds?

So I ended up with these BIIGGGGGGGGGGG strawberries and I was SOOOOO excited to eat them! Here’s what one of them looks like in my hand:

Big strawberry in my hand

Are you thinking, what’s the big freakin’ deal? I tell you what the big freakin’ deal is: I HAVE BIG HANDS! SO THESE STRAWBERRIES ARE MONSTERS! Perhaps they are abnormalities, mutations from aliens predators Sigourney Weaver. Whatever.

LOOK.AT.THIS.BIG.ASS.STRAWBERRY!

It was sweet! Ripe! Delicious! The smell? Intoxicating, like the beautiful boy I had a crush on many years ago, where you just want to bury your face in his neck and be happily drugged with pheromones.

This is where it gets a little weird for some people’s standards. At this stage of my life, I’m aware that I’ve managed to get away with slight eccentricities because everyone’s allowed a certain level of oddity.

That was why my next thought was, hey let me take photos of what else I can fit in my hand!

Once you get over the d*ck jokes arising from the gutters your mind, you’ll realise that I am not f*cking around.

Here’s an air conditioner remote control in my hand.

Remote control in my hand

It’s set at 25/26 degree Celcius because I have complex, stringent requirements for temperature control.

Here’s a calculator in my hand.

Calculator in my hand

Now scroll back and see that strawberry photo again. You will agree with me that it was a big strawberry, yes?

Here’s a bottle of fish oil supplements in my hand.

Supplements in my hand

I should probably start taking them.

Here’s a Douglas Adams book in my hand.

Book in my hand

There is a point to be made! It is…

The Blacksmiths of Sri Gading

There is a smithy in Sri Gading where my grandparents live. Well at least one of them still does, the other lives on in our hearts 🙂

So I’ve always wanted to catch the Sri Gading blacksmiths in action. You mean I’ve never seen men take on tough objects and bend them to their wills? Ha ha ha. No.

But am I excited about blacksmithing? Not quite. My knowledge on this is next to zero, any information obtained is through painful (but admittedly basic and superficial) Internet research.

My interest lies in the men (and some women) who keep at this dying trade, the same folks who labour in the background and contributed to nation building by supplying farm and estate workers with tools to carry out their work.

You see, during my great-grandparents’ time, jungles were cleared to make way for rubber estates, then later African oil palm trees to be owned by Genting Plantations. Back then, every other anak Sri Gading was either a rubber tapper, or farmer, or someone who needs to clear out jungles at some point in their lives, my late grandfather included.

Guess who kept their parang and various tools sharp and shiny?

Blacksmith Sri Gading - shop
Blink and you’ll miss the smithy

The plantation business has since dwindled and people moved out to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Today, along the rows of old zinc-roofed shops, those that remain open supply villagers with bare necessities, sufficient for day-to-day activities.

One of them is the Lais, a Hakka family of blacksmiths that started their business in the 1950s. As a kid, I’d never noticed their shop for the candy store next door was more appealing.

Blacksmith Sri Gading - Lai brothers at work
The business name is Hoe Lee. The brothers are neither Hoe nor Lee

This past Chinese New Year, I found myself spending more time in Sri Gading than usual. So I mustered the courage to go say hi to the blacksmiths, and to get their permission to take photos. Why do I make it sound like a daunting task? Well, I dislike having MY photo taken, so I can’t imagine too many people would be comfortable with it, more so if it’s a stranger asking.

… Then again, I’m no stranger! Or at least my Mum isn’t. Like any opportunistic child, I took advantage of my Mum’s history in Sri Gading to approach the Lais.

“Hi, I’m the youngest daughter of [my mother’s name] who lived at the back of the road, do you know her?”

One of the blacksmiths replied, “Of course we know her, we grew up together HAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHHAA!”

And thus, the ice was broken.

The other blacksmith chipped in, “We know who you are too! But.. err, you look different now….”

Can you blame them though? The last time they saw me, I looked like this:

Young child in the 80s
Sup?

At the peak of the good ol’ times, there were as many as four smithies in Batu Pahat, kept busy with endless demands for working tools. Today, just the Lai brothers remain, taking in orders for tools that require constant repairing. The only relative carrying on the family trade is a younger cousin, blacksmithing some 65 kilometres away in Pontian.

Blacksmith Sri Gading - goods
Tools for sale. They make working tools, they are not artisan sculptors

The elder Lai brother, A-Shan was welcoming. A 70+ years old jolly man, he laughed plenty, was curious as to why I’d want to take photos, then laughed some more and told me that SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO TAKE THEIR PHOTOS, SO MANY!

His wife promptly brought out all the newspaper coverage they received from Berita Harian and some Chinese dailies. There were also framed photos sent by a photographer who won a contest using the same shots.

Blacksmith Sri Gading - starting fire
You pull this thing and the fire gets started. Sounds fun, but it is real hard work!

Blacksmith Sri Gading - coal in the forge

Blacksmith Sri Gading - material

Blacksmith Sri Gading - tools
A blacksmith’s tongs

“They asked for my permission to take photos. I told them, take lah, take lah! I’m just doing my usual job anyway! And then they took from SO MANY ANGLES.”

“They climb on the chair. Then they WENT DOWN and CRAWLED on the FLOOR! Imagine that!” he recalled in disbelief.

Blacksmith Sri Gading - fire in forge
A-Shan laughed every time he told his stories

Blacksmith Sri Gading - Mr Lai pointing at the fire in forge

His younger brother, A-Xiang who was in his mid to late 60s was quieter. He spoke a little with my Mum, who was his classmate in primary school.

Blacksmith Sri Gading - making the fire
Blazing fire in the forge, softening the iron tools to be repaired

Blacksmith Sri Gading - forging on the anvil
Years of experience in A-Shan’s eyes

At first glance, it looked fool-proof – two men using fire to soften metal, then shaping it by hammering the s- out of it on the anvil, then cutting the end bits as finishing. What could be so difficult about it?

Turns out, metal shaping requires real sifu skills. If you shape a metal that is too hot, you will instantly spoil it. But if the metal is not hot enough, it will not be shaped properly and will even break.

How long do these repaired tools last? “THREE MONTHS!” A-Shan gleefully replied, because he was adorable like that, “THEN IT GETS BLUNT FROM ALL THE WORK THEY DO. THEN THEY HAVE TO COME BACK AGAIN!!”

Blacksmith Sri Gading - brothers

I watched as the brothers worked, marveled at how well they moved in and out of each other’s way to get the job done. It was almost machine-like, the flow graceful and effortless as they danced to each other’s rhythm without slowing down their pace.

Blacksmith Sri Gading - pounding iron on anvil
Old school blacksmithing is team work

Blacksmith Sri Gading - light moment
That was my Mum making a joke

Blacksmith Sri Gading - own made cutter
Cutting the metal. They made this cutter themselves, one of its kind

Blacksmith Sri Gading - light moment 02

That was a fun hour with the Lai brothers. They cheerfully told us that once they are gone (i.e. depart from this world), there would be no one left to continue the trade in Batu Pahat. Well well! No one like the two of them, that’s for sure.

Go make a trip to see them and say hi to them in Sri Gading. Take lots of photos, they’d love it!

Hello 2016!

I’ve had this draft post with this photo since mid-December of last year. With all good intentions of wanting to write frivolously – for fun not profit, I’d meant for it to be a 2015 round-up. Then the small things in life became not so small, furiously demanding for attention and more hours than they rightfully deserve, like an emotionally-broken boy who reached out and cried love.

Then it was too late and too awkward to reminisce what the Goat had brought to my table. Okay, it’s never the end of the world until we decide that it is, some underground band leader said so. Let’s turn this draft into a motivating piece about my resolution for the Monkey year then! Nothing more promising than a full-hearted pledge that would run its course in 2 months, if lucky.

As it is, the transition between the two animals left a momentary gap as to who sits on the celestial throne. This brief absence of a ruler shredded the fabrics of time, space, animal kingdom. It felt like this: blink and it’s 1.5 months since you first drafted this blog post.

So here we are, no recap to the year, no resolution to be shared and ceremoniously forgotten. Instead we’re left with words formed on the fly, and the dreamy – I hope – imagery of a pot of beautiful white roses.

A pot of white roses

Let me tell you about this pot of beautiful white roses. A beautiful birthday gift it was, from my artistically talented friend Haze Long whom despite her insanely creative, stimulating, aesthetic-blessed inclinations, had no qualms leaving a living thing in my questionably-caring hands.

These roses, along with a pot of chilli plant gifted by a friend’s mother have long met their Maker, whom curiously I imagine to be an ethereal version of Tom Bombadil. Nevertheless their brief existence serve as a painful but necessary reminder that I should not be trusted with pots, plants and the like.

A box for those who love

What is this inviting box doing on my table, screaming “OPEN ME OPEN ME”? What could be in it??

MCIS Zurich - package

Dark chocolates from a silent (imaginary) admirer?
Self-help books to kick my procrastinating arse to a great start?
A brand new FREE smartphone just because it’s Tuesday?

Or my ultimate dream fantasy gift … a retractable James Spader that unhesitatingly launches into a diatribe against all the injustice of the human world?


….

Turns out, it was an exclusive Zurich True Love package, FILLED with care items! Hah, I’ll take that!

MCIS Zurich - package content

A power bank! This will come in handy when I’m out and about, and the device is needin’ juicin’. They haven’t invented a smartphone battery to keep up with my requirements, so power banks are potentially life savers!

MCIS Zurich - power bank

Gloves! I don’t like gloves. I find the stale, rubbery smell of gloves nauseating. But sterilised gloves are mighty important, especially when you’re receiving follow-up treatments from surgeries.

MCIS Zurich - gloves

Face mask! Oh yeah, the haze season will be upon us soon. Consider yourself warned.

MCIS Zurich - face mask

Bandage and band-aids! Okay, plaster to you local folks. You should ALWAYS carry band-aids with you ‘cos you never know when you’re going to need it! Especially if you have kids, or am surrounded by the young ones.

Children tend to get all scrappy and stuff.

MCIS Zurich - bandage

A pre-loaded Starbucks card. Quite nifty for those days when you forget to bring any money, but desperately need a caffeine boost. I can very well recall some of those days…

MCIS Zurich - Starbucks card

There you go, things that you need for “just in case” situations. Just like insurance. Oopps, was that too hard sell? Nah. I believe in life and medical insurance, having used the latter before in an undesirable situation. It’s pretty much a no-brainer for me, and that’s why:

a) I’m real good at maintaining my insurance policy, i.e. pay the monthly premiums on time!
b) I told the Zurich PR guys I’d write this post.

To check out Zurich Insurance Malaysia, go to www.zurich.com.my

For my Uncle, he met his Maker

I didn’t know him very well; in fact until last year, we’d never spoken unless it was for me to call him ‘Uncle’ and him to acknowledge with a nod.

My father’s youngest brother, he was the spitting image of their father. He worked hard, he loved his family and his family sure damn well loved him.

Uncle celebrated his birthday

Goodbye my uncle. Goodbye.

8 Chinese New Year Malaysia commercials for 2015

Can you hear it?

It’s the sound of budgets across the nation being slashed like angry vandals to forgotten tyres. That means fewer Chinese New Year short films to tug at your heart strings.

You have not seen anything by Petronas this year, have you?
(Update 13/02): Petronas re-posted their 2012 CNY ad for this year. It was a really good ad. Sorry about the budget cuts :P)

Interrupted legacy aside, there are some who still make the effort (and approved the budgets, thanks!) for work designed to make you tear up like Yasmin Ahmad did in her days.

Here are a few that I managed to find.

1) MUDAH.my – Letting Go of the Past Can Bring an Unexpected Surprise this Chinese New Year
My first thought was, “did you just explain the video in your really looonnng title?” A story about reconnecting with friends. Slightly overdone, but good effort showing how easy and effective MUDAH is. If any of you MUDAH.my folks are seeing this, HELLO HEYYY I USE YOU GUYS BUT YOU SHOULD REALLY RETHINK YOUR ENTIRE SITE NAVIGATION.

2) Malaysia Airlines – Blessings
There’s a story here, overshadowed by lacklustre performance. I feel for any airline crew who have to miss out on important events because duty calls. But the undertaking of the roles could be better, and the entire short could be tighter. No, I can’t make a better one, and I’m sure you’re all very nice people, and there are some who praise your work, so you win some and you lose some.

3) Virtigo Studio – Going Home
The folks who did THE PROMISE last year. Four friends sat together and talk about going home (or not) for Chinese New Year. Humorous angle with an important message about appreciating what you have, before you lose them.

4) Filming Art – The Most Precious
Wait, a story about eating sharks’ fin and reminding you what is the most precious thing about Chinese New Year? Funny combination in this politically-correct day and age 😉

A couple of the best TVCs, my favourite is redONE. Super cheesy and cute, hits all the right spots.

5) redONE – What a parent really wants

6) Tune Talk – Lift Your Head Up

7) Smirnoff Ice – ONGSOME HAPPENS
4-episodes where Choy San Zai; the son of God of Prosperity introduces his family and friends. The whole thing builds up to a music video in the final webisode. Stars Kuah Jenhan, Patrick Teoh, Point Blanc and that funny writer from Cilisos. Not quite an emotional wreck but it’s nice to have something different for a change!

8) TNB – Share the Lights
A HILARIOUS story about neighbourhood rivalry! My favourite for 2015… so far. Because you win the video war this year, I shall endeavor to pay my electricity bills on time. Nah kidding, I don’t owe TNB money…

— *** — *** — *** —

BONUS: Videos from other countries!

9) CCTV – Celebrating over 4,000 years of tradition
A touching look at the humble chopsticks and what deep meanings they carry. Funny, I remember watching this last year, but it seems that CCTV is rehashing this video for this year #savecost

10) McDonald’s China – You Are My Chinese New Year

11) StarHub Singapore – Know Your Family

12) Chinatown Singapore – Er Sao
Old people reminiscing. My weakest point, I melt and will do anything for them.

13) Chinatown Singapore – Madam Mak

Well, festivity videos makes me happy. Happy Chinese New Year to you, and be safe in your journeys.