Monday, November 29, 2010

A great effort to be charming

Trying to be a charming hostess, while managing your own limitations such as tiredness, exhaustion, sleepiness, thousands of to-do-lists, could be a real challenge. One would need a good helper to manage the chores, while keeping you sane and support your back. In my case, I'm more than thankful for having a very helpful sister cousin when I need her the most. And with a quite challenging pregnancy going on, I really in great need of good pillar support to help me with every details to make sure the events going perfect.

I started giving instructions to my sister cousin as early as a day before, for her to prepare the ingredients needed (which I wrote earlier) to cook the dishes, and asked her to prepare the meat and the chicken to the size I needed. Sometimes she did manage to amuse me, when unexpectedly she'd ran from the kitchen, carrying with her a small chunk of beef with question, 'Is this the size you need?' to which I found very funny. She always said that these sort of 'kitchen's helper' somehow giving her the training ground to practise her hand in cooking.

Perhaps some of you might think why I asked her to do the kitchen's stuff. Since this pregnancy, I somehow couldn't handle the smell of uncooked meats, or chickens, or fishes, prawns.. Let alone handling them. To be exact, somehow I despise the smell. I am not blaming the pregnancy (sorry baby). I am more than thankful, Thank God for this pregnancy. And to have a sister cousin helping, it is really truly a Bless.

Since I pre-occupied her with the ingredients preparation, I busied myself polishing the cutleries, the plates and glasses, the bowls, the jug, polishing the dining chair, cleaned the dry sticky biscuits off the chair legs, removing the chocolate stains from the wall, wiped the panel of door so it'll sparkling white, polished half of the marble floor so it'll felt smooth to feet, dust away the book racks, wiped the tele, and all those small details which may not became a big deal during the night. But then, I was expecting the guests to be quite a perfectionists and all small details might matter to them. I was letting the unbelievable inner obsessive perfectionist of me to come out, as I was hoping our family could make an impression to these guests, and good image does important in my husband's career. I never want to portray the sad image of incapable diplomat's wife, although there were moments that image was quite true.

And that was the day before my son second's birthday! I was so exhausted, and I just couldn't find any energy to bake him a cake. And in Europe, 6pm in 25th November is equal to 1am in 26th November as in Malaysia. Which means it was the date of my son birthday! When my husband came home later that night, I sheepishly suggested him.. let's eat somewhere, and buy Umair a nice cake, and celebrate it outside. And guess what, my husband agreed, and we have a nice Chinese dinner, and got Umair a nice chocolate pie, and bring along two candle sticks for him to blow.

I thought I could prepare a dessert to keep in fridge a day (or a night) before the expected dinner, but I was so full after the delicious dinner and I came out with lots of excuses to not preparing anything that night. After a good night kiss and birthday kisses for Umair, and after 'skype'ing with his grandparents at 12am (it was 7am in Malaysia), I sang him good night song, and I started to make a mental to-do-lists first thing when the morning comes.

I woke up at 5.00am. After the morning prayer, I get back to bed since my son needed me to keep him comfy. I ended up that morning smiling, when my son he hugged me on my neck, as if I was a big pillow for him. Aww.. and with him on my side, hugging me, came an unexpected surprise when my husband hugged me from the other side... Aww... when two people hugged you, feels like you owned the world..

That morning, my husband promised he'll be home earlier that evening, to help with the arranging and managing the preparation for the dinner. I started my morning by preparing a dessert, 'bubur pulut hitam' - sweet black glutinous rice porridge, and it took almost 2 hours to complete cooking. Then I proceed cooking 'daging rendang jawa' - javanese beef rendang, at the garage as I need to cook the dishes in a big stove in a big pot, so it'll cook quickly and evenly. That morning was so cold, I think it was around 2 or 3 degrees and I was imagining I was an Eskimo man cooking at the North Pole, warming himself with the fire.. It was so cold as I wore my winter clothes cooking at the garage, and the garage door was slightly ajar to let the cooking 'smoke' comes out. It took me about 2 hours to completely cooked the dishes. I couldn't let it cook by itself, slowly as it needed to be constantly stirred to prevent burning. I filled my time preparing some green vegetables to cook later in the afternoon.

When everything was done and packed, I asked my sister cousin to take back all the stuffs I brought to garage to kitchen, along with the pot of beef rendang. Then I started to prepare lunch for my husband. Then I get myself some rest, and my sister cousin helped with the 'ayam goreng berempah' dishes - spicy fried chicken. It took less than 1 hour. (thanks syiqin..)

After lunch, and after my husband returned to work, my sister cousin helped me with cleaning the washroom, while I busied myself preparing the ingredients needed for 'ikan kukus limau' - steamed fish with lime. And I pushed myself to bake a cake, Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake for my dearest Umair. I promised him the night before. While waiting for the cake to bake, I cooked Mixed Vegetable, and preparing the sauce for the fish. And the cake was done at 5pm. I cut a slice for Umair, and he was so liking it! Will do it again next time, and that time, will snap a pix as proof. Oh, talking about pix, I forgot to snap the pix of dishes I prepared that night, was so busy and couldn't find time to do pix.

My cousin sister help with the table setting, and my husband he bought some flowers to decorate the dining area and pressing some lime juice as drinks. After a while, I left my cousin sister and my husband to arrange the table and clean the kitchen area while I went upstairs refreshed myself and changed. Then I continued prepare 'nada mojito', a non-alcoholic mexican lime cocktail drinks. It's very easy to make, and since I was run out of time, I blended everything instead of crushed the ingredients.

By 7.30pm, everything was prepared and we were ready to accept our guests. And I was so exhausted I swear I could sleep at the very moment. And how my backaches really killing me, and was so stressed I remember the feeling I want to blow any time. But then there they came, and there was I, smiling as gracious as I can.

In the end, the dinner went well, and our guests left our home looked satisfied, and to my surprised, the lady guest said her son never took rice for dinner, but that night he ate 2 plates of rice. I was speechless (and of course my energy was totally drained). They loved the mojito drinks we've prepared, and I packed some beef rendang for the son as he liked it so much. I was overwhelmed when the lady guest compliment my dishes, and said that I am ready to invite special guest over for a home-cooked sit down dinner. I was so glad that all the efforts put for the night was really worthy.

And now here I am, am so thankful, grateful and really appreciate the help and the support from everyone near me, my husband with his help in decorating and arranging the dishes, my sister cousin with her help in preparing ingredients, house-cleaning, kitchen cleaning, and Umair with his attentive with his own toys and capable to play alone, understanding that everyone was busy busy busy... Alhamdulillah...

Who said being a diplomat's wife is easy? When it comes to entertain special guests, lots of effort needed to make sure that one is as graceful as the culture accept it. And I swear to myself, I will refine my skills in cooking, baking, house cleaning, flower arranging, table setting, small talks, dressing, speaking, all that essential in supporting my husband's career. And at the same time balance my role as a wife, and as a mother, and as a member of Ladies' Organisation Abroad. It's quite a challenge, and I know I need to improve my language skills especially my English, I needed that skills to adapt into the local culture of husband's work.

Again.. please excuse my grammar..

And, wish me luck!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy TWO years old!

It's been a while since I last update my blog. And this morning I found a great opportunity to start a new post. And I believe with today's technologies, everything are possible. (why did I said that?)

My dear, dear son finally turning to TWO today! yay! but not exactly the same, as we in Europe has different timezone, we decided to celebrate his birthday following Malaysian time.. which means, we are now 25th Nov, but in Malaysia, it's already 26th Nov.. haa.. kinda sneaky, but who cares.. I knew he's exactly TWO when it's 5am here in Europe. (do the maths please..)

I remember writing in my previous post that I'll make him one good cake for his special day, and guess what? I just couldn't find myself one good time to bake him one.. I hope my son will forgive me then.. (notice my face a bit tired, thanks for the make-up.. :p) But that doesn't meant I forget about his 2nd birthday, in fact I successfully managed to make doe-eye to my husband for us to celebrate his birthday at a diner.. hehe.. and daddy bought him one nice chocolatey pie for him last night. We brought along two sticks of birthday candle and lighted it on top of the pie for him to blow. And what an achievement! He managed to blow the candle, with his nose... (a bit weird, but it really works! proven!)

We had dinner at one chinese restaurant, and the owner said a lot of embassy people come here to enjoy their meal.. And one of my favourite, and Umair's too is the Crab Soup. Yummeh! I swear I could almost clean the bowl, and I did! haa.. and then we had a nice seafood fried rice, with a mixed vegetable cooked in soy sauce.. Voila! Am so delighted!

This year, Umair already got his advance birthday present.. to be precise, two weeks before his exact birthday. We bought him a nice good size Lego for his collection, and one cute fishing game from Le Grande Recre. And he's been playing with them ever since, fishing, and building lorries..

One delightful and memorable moment during Umair's birthday celebration, we were greeted with a nice flakes of snow.. wow! snow as early as November! that was really exciting, and Umair learnt new words.. 'ennoww' which means to be 'snow'.. haha.. Good boy!

Next year, if God's Will, he'll celebrate his birthday with new brother or sister. I wish he'll become a good brother that loves every member of the family, and grow to be a smart and great person. May God Bless you dear child..

And he completed his 2-year breastfeed session. I never plan to end his breastfeed session, and I was thinking to let him breastfeed for as long as he wish, but since the latest bump, I have to somehow take control of when he should be weaned completely. Am so sorry dearest one, mummy is reserving some space for your little sibling dear. I know you'll get through this. On the bright side, mummy's little darling is already BIG now! And getting brighter and more clever everyday! I love you dear.. am so loving you.. and so do you little one inside mummy.. :)

Tomorrow, mummy going to be very busy. We were expecting important guests for a sit-down dinner. I hope I could pull myself through it.

Again.. Happy Birthday Dearest Umair Iskandar! May God Bless you.

And to families and friends, wherever you are, thousand of thanks for the wishes. I'm sure Umair will cherish every wishes, and again.. please pardon my English..

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Autumn Notes

It's early, it's morning. I just had my morning shower, and morning prayer.. It's 6.20am but it's still dark. Really different than summer, when it was so bright as early as 5am. And it's cold too.

This morning suddenly I crave for 'Secret Recipe's Cheesecake'.. huh.. am going to somehow try to bake one today. Fingers' crossed. I don't think I know the exact recipe to bake one, but I'll try my best. I know some simple cheesecake recipe, but that's not the thing I longed for right now.

I'm going to attend my forth OBG appointment in few hours. Am going to have a 'thorough scan' all over the baby I carry to see the growth of the baby. There'll be calculations to be made, measurements to be taken, and some other important details I'm sure you all know.

In just a few weeks, my dear son will turn 2! Yeay.. my once a small little baby is now a big baby! (and always my baby to me) Next year, he'll going to be a big brother, and I wish he'll be the most loving brother ever. We are now psychologically train him to start loving his coming sibling, and to assure him that we'll always love him no matter what. We keep reminding him that he's big enough and clever enough to understand things. We showered him with lots of praises and kisses and hugs everything he manage to do things we ask, such as rearranging his toys, help with rearranging cushions, putting back the cordless phone to the base, sit properly during mealtime, build a tall tower using blocks.. and so on. I always ask him to 'kiss the baby' every night before he's going to sleep, and wish the baby 'good night'. It's so cute to hear 'Night baby!' each time after he kissed my tummy.. owh..

This year, I think I'll just bake muffins for my dear son, and planning to decorate them in lots of different style. Will post an entry about that. I just wish I had the energy to make one big cake, but who knows. I might be able to bake one once I manage to get over this queasiness once for all, as they said will normally end by second trimester. Thinking that he's going to turn 2, somehow I started to miss my son's babyish behaviour, the moment when he learned to babble, when he learned how to crawl, taking his first step.. but no matter what, the fact remain that we humans grow with time. I will cherish every moment, watching him grow in front of my eyes. And again, I'll be having second experience soon, handling small baby, the thrills of looking forward how the baby grow, but at that time, there'll be two of them, in front of me. I just can't wait to see how my son shall behave when the time comes, will he be exemplary, I will look for that.

Oh, really sorry if this entry is a little bit dull, I misplaced the gear to start writing, but I do have the feeling to write. It's autumn, and since it's still dark, it somehow drained my energy away. I need my breakfast, and after this I shall grab few crackers to ease this growling tummy. Or maybe it's just the pregnancy.. Oh no, I shouldn't blame the pregnancy for causing all this, it must be the hormones.. yes, the hormones..

Dear baby in my womb, mummy loves you so much.. can't wait to watch you again during today's scan.. and although you haven't see me I know that you love me.. and your dear brother also loves you, and Daddy, he's so happy and can't wait to watch you and your brother play together. We love you baby.. and be strong.

Dear God, help me with this pregnancy, and give me strength to become a good mother, and a good wife. amen.

And oh, forgive my English..

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Wife's Role, Abroad..

I just read a book titled Culture Shock: Successful Living Abroad, The Wife's Guide by Robin Pascoe. The book is full of interesting insights and guidance of the role of a full time housewife of a family that lives abroad.

Allow me to share some of my own experiences, being the spouse of a young Malaysian diplomat living in Belgium. I never thought, that I would marry a diplomat and reside in Brussels. Living abroad comes with its own set of challenges in getting accustomed to the new surrounding what more to blend in. It's somewhat demanding, yet exciting to explore different environment and lifestyle. Notwithstanding, my home soil, Malaysia remains dear to my heart.

A common question from friends and colleagues back home would be, 'what are you doing there? are you studying?' And my standard reply would be, 'no, took a long break from my career to follow my husband abroad'. Then come the next question, 'what does he do there?' to which my reply would be, 'he's a diplomat posted to our Embassy here in Belgium'. But then they would usually asked further, 'what exactly is his job?' Ahhh.. then that's difficult.

Somehow, I could never really figure out the exact role and function of a diplomat, but somehow I do see the need and importance to have our diplomat abroad. I don't think could fully understand his work what more to explain, what does he do he. But I do know that he's always involved in lots of paperworks, meetings, conference, reports arranging important visits by our ministers and officials to Belgium, and so on..

I could still recall my first official outing as a spouse of a Malaysian diplomat. It was last year during Malaysia's National Day reception. Dressed-in purple kebarung with purple selendang, pale greyish heels to match grey handbags, and brooches, accessories, make-up, and smile and greetings.. oh! what a style I must be then.. I stood among the crowd to greet Ambassadors and diplomats from another country and played the role of gracious hostess of that reception. It was indeed a test of my courage to stand perfectly charming as I never been expose to that kind of experience before! Those people were really tall! (I am only 148cm in height) And they looked straight to the eyes, and shook hands really tight. Their voices were clear and loud, compared to my small and soft voice. But nonetheless, as one of the hostesses, I realized that I have to keep a straight yet welcoming face and try my best to 'charm' the guests.

These people are the working people in this continents, and I know nothing of their particular works, and sometimes I really have no idea what were they really talk about, or maybe they were bragging, I was not sure. When the conversation circled about the political aspects or economical aspects of Malaysia, the role of Malaysia in EU, I really can't come out with any what's what to talk about. And that was really tough, to remain as charming as I could. I learned that from that experience, I was expected to always portray the image of Malaysia's culture and lifestyle. The passion, the good nature of our people, the warmth and the lively personality we have in Malaysia. Some of them had never ever been to Asia, let alone Malaysia. And some Europeans I knew expressed their fear to live in Asia, as Malaysia is geographically known situated near to Pacific Volcanic Rings (Lingkaran Gunung Berapi Pasifik). It was quite a challenge to counter these negative perceptions. But the Europeans do genuinely 'amazed' with the diversity of our cultures and customs, our traditional dresses, our hospitality, and I believed these were imprinted in their mind by Malaysians they've met before and from hearsay. These good image could help our country to be known as good place to be in, and to be with. Somehow during the conversation I ended up talking about the difference in our culture, how every races can live together, how our food taste better, and promoted our country on behalf of the 'Tourism Malaysia' for them to come to Malaysia.

As such, I really need to sharpen my conversational skills, particularly in English, and be as witty as I could, as charming as I should, and look as pretty as I can be. For God's Sake, it's not easy to be the image of your country! Even when I am doing groceries, chances are there for me to bump among the European that know who I am, and which country I come from, and whose wife I am. And I have to maintain the good images wherever I go. To think that this is my first experience being a spouse to a diplomat, there will be lots of opportunity and rooms waiting to be explored. As my husband said, 'You shall need to tailor lots of baju kurung, baju kebaya, and buy selendang, and handbags matching with shoes...' I found that idea is really appealing, yet really necessary as I don't want to look in the same dress on every event I attend, as I seldom meeting them in such occasions.

So far, I have encountered quite a number of VVIPs, and from what I saw, there's always a need to learn more about Protocol and Ethics. I was told that every spouses that need to join the husband abroad, would normally required to attend some preparatory courses before leaving the country. I never got the chance to attend any courses, and I knew there must be a good reason why as God may wants me to learn through experience. I am looking forward to learn more from my stay here..

I am so glad that my husband is 'sporting' enough to teach me how to deal with this group of people, and always support the way I carry myself during such events and advising the way I dress and talk, and other stuffs. It's not that simple, literally, when the reality that, when we are in public, we are the images of 'Malaysia's Harmonious and Unique' family. What you say will be judged as the whole Malaysian would says, what you wear will be seen as what the other Malaysian in Malaysia would wear, what you smirk, will be looked as what the rest of Malaysian would smirks.. So one has to keep open mind while living far from their homeland, and appear to be as pleasant yet independent as one could and should be.

At first, I found it really difficult to put in mind, the standard of images I need to depict, and there were always bad times or embarrassing moments happened. But as common a mistake is, there'll always people around advising, 'There's always room for improvement', and I always try my best to look at the bright side. I am still learning, and I wish to be the most adorable wife to my husband, the indispensable and desirable all the time..

Again, please excuse my English..

Honey dear, just so you know, I am now willing to put myself fully in this role, as I always supporting you, and that's how I show you I love you, by being your most gracious companion to stand by your side, always.. though there'll be some ups and downs, but I'll always by your side.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another 6 months to go..

I happened to wear the SEA BAND for almost a week now, and seems like it did help my nauseousness, no more running for toilet bowl syndrome, yeay! no more vomiting, no more unpleasant taste after meal, and I really can't fully comprehend how did it work! I can say it's 90% works for me. I still have some little 'gassy feeling', some little 'tummy tension', some little 'heartburn', but no vomiting, which I always hate the 'after' feeling. There were times when I almost forgot the nauseous feeling. thanks to SEA BAND! And in fact I wear it 24hr a day, even during sleep, and only take it off when I need to wash myself. So I strongly suggest those with the same problem as mine to try the product, may it help you as it did to mine. Though it may cost as much as RM 40.00 ++ in Malaysia (I guess), and Euro14.00++ in Europe, it seems it worth to try.

Thank God, I am 3 months, and still counting. My gynae did said last time, normally the morning sickness will subdue by end of first trimester, and I am really hoping that I'll be one from the lucky group. I did some reading, and I found out some women somehow did have the prolonged problem of nausea, some never get through it until after delivery. I don't know how sure I am with the fact, but from most advice I heard, they always reassure me that it'll pass soon, without I really know it. Let's pray it'll be true..

And now, I have new 'pregnancy symptom', I seem to have an annoying headache, only in the evening. It started from the eyes, and followed by half of my frontal head. And I did experiencing slight heartburn during the 'headache attack'. I did some research, and I believe what I had is what normally a migraine sufferers had. Some women experienced it during pregnancy, and after delivery, they turned completely healthy. Some said it happened because of poor diet, too much coffee in a day. And I am a bit puzzled of that, I skipped my daily coffee after I know I am pregnant, and I only drink one or two cup of light tea a day. I eat as normal as I could, with smaller portion every 2-3 hours with light crackers as snack, eating fruits in between mealtime, drink plain water.. and I still have the headache.. but it's still manageable, but it's kind of annoying when I have some house chores to be done, and when my son really seeks my attention during the evening.

I think, this band I'm wearing did lessen the 'accompanying' disturbance with this headache, helps with the nauseousness, and I believe without it, this headache could be worse.

Next week I'm going to have my next appointment with my gynae. I am going to have a special 'thorough scan' to see the condition and the growth of my second baby. It's is required in Europe, to make sure that the baby develop as normal as it should be, which I found really compelling. I do agree the quality of healthcare in Europe (from what I heard from most Malaysians living here, and from what I experienced) is really over the top, and every developing country should look upon how did they manage the 'clients' and how serious and professional they are in healthcare industries.

And tonight, I feel a little fresh after a short nap I had earlier. I think writing a post in my blog might be a good idea to kill some time before I continue to the dreamland. My son is already asleep, together with my husband. I think I'll be joining them pretty soon after this.

Again, last words.. by the way, do I have to put last words tonight? Naahh..

Maybe a simple greetings will do.. Good Night!

Oh, please, do pardon my poor English..

Ah, and not to forget, I wished to all my friends that celebrating Deepavali today, Happy Deepavali!

Special tribute to my man: Just so you know, I love you, with all my heart I do love you.. May God Bless Us..