Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year folks! ;)

Jess' Two Js wishes you a Happy and Blessed New Year!

May 2008 usher in love, peace, joy and hope for all.


Noticed I didn't put `resolutions' in my title, but I'm resolute to want to have a better and more fruitful year 2008, compared to a fun but cushy year that's just about to pass in hours.

Had been speaking to some friends about how I felt of my `under-achievement' in 2007, and the confessions of how much time I've wasted on Facebook and also how terribly I have been taking care of my personal finance.. among other disgruntles!

I'm glad to get some useful tips and sound advice as to how I could work towards the resolutions I wanted to set for myself in the new year. Actually my NY resolutions have not been much different at all in the last decade I would say.. or even beyond! Which means something is not right because I never really achieved them.. I could not set more ambitious resolutions because I'm still stuck with the same ones that I'm struggling to achieve.

Take for eg. my owl-like sleeping habit. Or the perennial `favourite' - to diet and lose weight. Of course there are many more pertaining to my career, finance, personal and spiritual life.. And there is no improvement - maybe the other way round - of my status today compared to say 5 years ago.

Which brings me back to my resolute action plan that I'm going to lay out today - on the last day of 2007. I will analyse what went wrong in the specific areas, and then will draw up an action plan. I'm even going as far as to draw up a `daily schedule' out for myself to adhere to - maybe not in the strict sense but at least I'm following a general framework. Being a freelance writer, I have way too much freedom to the extent of me abusing and wasting precious time.. So that's something that I need to set right.

And I will do all these not online but on ink and paper. For I already am spending too much time on the Internet.

My action plan will include these few categories:
  • Daily lifestyle - working time, time spent in devotion, leisure time (including Internet time!) and bed time
  • Work - to record the amount of work and payment as well as to seek for more if needed
  • Finance - to record daily expenditure and to cut down on unnecessary spendings
  • Exercise - to allocate 2-3 times a week to go to gym
  • Diet - to not be greedy and over-eat and cut down on sugar and oil and fat
  • Spiritual - to start a spiritual journal, continue reading One-Year-Bible and daily devotion
  • Ministries - to be involved and be committed in 2 main ministries
Other personal betterment is a little more intangible - basically it involves developing the Fruit of the Spirit as written in Galatians 5:22, especially in the `patience' and `self-control' departments.

Gosh, this looks like the most ambitious New Year `resolutions' I've ever set out to do. So much to write down! Now I can make use of the many unused diaries and notebooks over the years! In the past, I have only listed out what I want to achieve but have never really thought of HOW to achieve it. With my action plan in place, hopefully it makes it easier to work towards the goal. Writing all the bits and pieces down in black&white is basically to make it more structural and clear so that I have something to start with.. and hopefully will be resolute enough to carry it through..

And it all boils down to one word: RESOLUTENESS. And to think that I've always taken the word `resolution' too lightly. It's time to buck up and change.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Last hair do of the year..

I interrupt my new year reflection/resolution posts to do the last `narcissist' post of 2007.

Ok, I know I just had a hair do - cut and colour- before my birthday (I didn't post pix here but in my Facebook profile) and expected it to last me at least till CNY. I was actually quite happy with the cut but it was short lived!

Woe to my natural wavy and coarse hair and the deteriorating texture no thanks to the chemicals piled on over the years.. my hair was becoming too dry, too hard and the ends were sticking out! In short, it was almost unmanageable, not mentioning unsightly! (just look at this `before' pix)

I then remember my hairdresser did warn me that if I cut it short, it would be too thick and frizzy and I probably need to rebond it..

Then on Christmas day, after seeing how nice a friend's hair looked like after she relaxed (a mild form of rebonding) it, I decided to do the same to mine.. It was a necessity, not a luxury!

I haven't done rebonding/relaxing for more than 2 years at least.. yes, it's quite costly, even more than colouring. And the result? My straightened hair feels so much smoother and softer. Ok, it does look a bit flat for I had it cut not long ago.. but my hairdresser assured me that in weeks to come, there will be more body. And from my past experience with rebonding/relaxing, I know how long it could last and my hair would still look good in a long while.. So I take this as a `longer-term' investment.

However, I didn't get much positive feedbacks - no negative either as people are too polite. Mom commented that the style doesn't really suit me. Well, I kinda agree but that was like the only solution.. unless I cut my hair real short!

So I won't say I love it but at least it's much neater and manageable.. Whatever it is, hair will grow and so the style will change with time.

Self taken photos - yes, both front and back of my hair ;)

p.s. what do you think? The pix was taken after a long tiring day so I know I looked tired..

Friday, December 28, 2007

Saying bye to a happy but unfruitful 2007

Yes, it's the time of the year to ponder back and reflect or what I've accomplished in the 365 days of a year that is soon to pass.. and make (realistic) resolutions for the new year.

To be honest, 2007 has been a cushy year of indulgence and comfort - in almost every aspect of my life. And to be honest, I'm not proud of it.. it's almost like `the year off'. Lets just break it down and see..

It's the year when I have tried my hands in a freelance writing career and had experienced the pros and cons of it. The pros would have outweighed the cons if I was more industrious, hardworking and disciplined. But I have been just too nice to myself - although I did try to seek new jobs, I wasn't ambitious enough to really push myself to the limit. I have as much free time (or may be more) than that I'm occupied by work. Because of the longer deadline period with magazines, I've allowed myself to work at a more relaxed pace compared to how I was working while attached with the newspaper.
One of the newspapers I've been contributing quite regularly with had `dropped' me unofficially since beginning of September. But at the same time, I have been contributing to a couple of new magazines. At the moment, I'm a regular contributor to five publications and hopefully as promised with one or two more to come in the new year..
It may sound pretty good but the truth is, the remunerations are quite meagre due to not much output (one article for most of the magazines a month). Which leads to my next grouse..

Personal Finance
In all my working life, although I've not been able to save from my regular salaries, I usually managed to cover my expenses. But no longer this year. As I exhausted all the payment from my previous company, I realised that my expenses far exceeded my earnings! I KNEW I was earning less, and I've tried to cut down in my spending.. But it was not easy as I could not change my lifestyle overnight... so even with some cutting down such as not eating out so much, I needed help in my finance.. and thank God my parents are great financial planners and had helped me in some investment and financial planning. So without going into details that are a tad bit confidential, just say I've been paying off my credit card debts not from my own earnings but from other financial source. Sigh.. I'm quite sad and ashamed of my financial status.. :(

Spiritual Life
One of the advantages I thought of when deciding to be a freelance writer was that I could have more time to serve God. But did I do that? To be honest, there wasn't any difference in my ministries for God. In fact, I had even taken a break from worship leading from January to September as I was planning to be involved in Missions. But alas, that didn't materialise and I ended up only resuming my leadership role in my peer group - while I could have devoted more of my time in some other ministries..
As far as personal devotion is concerned, I also failed. So I managed to read the `One Year Bible' daily until July - but to be honest, it was just reading and not really studying nor meditating.. Then when I got engrossed with `Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallow' and missed a few days of it, I was too unmotivated to catch up again, especially as I was reaching the more tedious books in the Old Testament.
So the second half of the year was a spiritually dried one although i still appeared `active' in church. I barely even read the Bible and also found myself praying less... even when I prayed it was to heed some prayer requests of friends or I desperately needed God's help.

Fitness and Diet
End of last year I signed up personal training in my gym and even extended the sessions. So I was quite regular working out for some months. But since the personal training ended, my gym sessions also became more irregular. It gotten worse during the end of the year. In November I only went twice and this month only ONCE. And no I don't exercise outside gym at all..
As far as eating is concerned, I've not even tried to diet at all! The year started with a `eat everything but in moderation' principle but soon it regressed into just eat anything, and any amount too! Yes, I've been pretty much a glutton for this year esepecially the last few months. My one-week trip to Hong Kong also saw me put on quite a bit of weight. A few honest friends commented that I've put on weight and I knew that cos my clothes don't lie!

No, I don't mean romance here.. well, because there was zero! I'm referring to my relationship swith family and friends in general.. And maybe in this aspect, I have not done too badly. Because of the flexible time and freedom my work enjoys, I had the chances to spend more time with my parents, especially my dad (only because my mom is so busy with her own programs) And I feel blessed that I'm able to do that and even dad has said so.. He is supportive of my choice of career as I think he also enjoys my company. As for friends, although my social life has not really improved a lot but I also had some time to spend with some friends, a bit more than when I was fully employed. And also get to know some friends better.

Pastimes and Hobbies
For those who know me, I have basically only ONE main pastime: the Internet (what else?) I don't watch much television, don't read much, and even not listening to that much music - except if in the car. There's just too much for me to do on the Net - emails, blogs, surf websites and in the last half a year - Facebook! I know, I am nearing addictive level but it's so hard to tear myself away from my computer screen when I'm at home.
This year I've been taking singing a bit more seriously. I rejoined the church choir in April and when our small group vocal class ended, I decided to learn singing in an individual class, weekly basis.

Sleeping Habit
My owl-like sleeping hours are nothing new.. have even blooged on it a few times. Since I don't need to get up for work, and unless there are (rare) morning assignments, I normally sleep from 4am to 11am-12pm. Yep, that's my terrible sleeping pattern..

I'm blessed that even though strictly speaking my earnings would not give me the privilege to go for holiday overseas, but I did, albeit in the region only. In January (where I still had quite a bit of money) I finally went to Bali. In July to Bangkok and in August, to Bali again with parents this time. And finally in November, my yearly trip to Hong Kong to visit my sis and family as well as to catch up with old friends.

So it has not been a year where I have accomplished much at all. Yes, it was a good year in the sense that I felt happier and free.. basically enjoying myself most of the time. However, like what I said in the beginning, I have allowed myself to take things rather easily and just enjoyed the freedom that I had. It doesn't sound like anything wrong but I still feel there should be a limit. And I really need to discipline myself and make a plan to achieve something more meaningful and fruitful in the new year..

coming: my new-year resolutions and action plan in the next post..

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cooking up a Storm on Christmas Eve!

Suddenly I found out that I was not going to cook for just my parents and myself but also for my two uncles, aunts and a cousin on Christmas eve! But that was a challenge that I was ready to embrace.

I've always had an interest in cooking Western meals but usually it's quite simple and some times I would refer to recipes.. So this would be the first time that I cooked so many dishes for one meal! Fortunately I had our helpers' assistance - so I functioned as the main chef while they helped me cut the food and do the washing up! :p

The shopping for ingredients took about two hours in the early afternoon. I'm glad to discover Village Grocer at BV had stocked lots of fresh herbs which I needed! I started close to 3:30pm - with almost an hour break to go and collect my car back (yep! my car is finally repaired but not without some minor problems that still needed to be mended..). So it was pretty good timing as I finished by about 7-ish when the guests arrived.

Here's the menu of our Christmas eve `feast' :
  • 1. Roast Capsicum with Balsamic vinegar
  • 2. Cream of mushroom soup
  • 3. Roast new potato with garlic
  • 4. Grilled Portabello mushrooms with garlic butter oil
  • 5. Baked salmon with lime and fresh herb cream
  • 6. Char-grilled prawns (cooked by dad)
  • 7. Chargrilled sirloin steak with garlic spice (marinated by me and cooked by dad)
  • 8. Apple pie with vanilla ice-cream (bought)

To be honest, I was a little stressed earlier in the day. I've devised the menu but then worried that I might not be able to managed the dishes in a few hours! But thank goodness everything turned out well, considering that all of the dishes (except the soup) was totally new for me.

So what was the verdict? My dinner companions seemed pretty amazed at what they saw and tasted. I mean it was not the most sumptuous culinary experience but consider it came from me, it was good enough! :p Even my uncle who was quite particular with his food remarked that they were of 4-star hotel standard (but not quite 5-star)! And that was a nice compliment I thought.. :)

Yeah, cooking is fun! But just don't ask me to do it everyday.. it would then become a chore. I will reserve it for special occasions! :p

Monday, December 24, 2007

a short greeting...

Here is wishing all Jess' Two Js' friends a Blessed Christmas!
May you and your loved ones be filled with love, joy, peace and hope..

Feasting & Fun Week!

It's already Christmas eve!!

It's unbelievable that time passes so scarily fast..! Chinese New Year seemed to have passed not long ago.. but it's coming again in just one month-and-a-bit!

It has been an eventful week.. I could have put up another 3-4 posts but alas, am getting a bit lazy these days.. or maybe my time to blog has been taken up by other things.. So here's a rather brief account of my feasting and party week! ;)

On Monday, dad and mom treated me for my birthday dinner at Max Kitchen & Wine. I've read a few rave reviews from some food blogs so I decided to try it out! The starters were excellent, so was the dessert. But somehow the mains weren't as good as we expected, especially my Tenderloin steak which was a bit bland in taste and not so good in texture. Dad's lamb cutlets were pretty tasty and succulent but the sauce a tad sweet. Mom's cod was prepared with much Chinese cooking influence.. pretty good. Anyway, the impeccable service had more or less made up for it.. and the ambience was charming, cosy and casual at the same time.. We had a lovely time :)

I actually took lots of pix of the food - had in mind to do a food post. But a Flogger I'm not as I've forgotten to even take down the names of the dishes.. ! :p

Our small gang from college finally managed to meet up on Wednesday after a few attempts.. yeah, most of them are real busy career women! So it meant a joint birthday dinner for two of us. Our culinary expert friend chose Vintry at Damansara, which is also a wine cellar, and it was really bustling! We ended up having a 4 1/2 hour dinner - as our most busy workaholic friend was 2 hour late.. and our first order took a long time to come! The restaurant specialised in pork so we had roast pork starter and pork burger with blue cheese. We ended up opening two bottles of wine, and I ended up drinking more than any of them.. and we finished off with cheese platter and lovely Tiramisu cake from Just Heavenly.. I was SO stuffed!

My friends are all camera shy so here're the only two pix I took of the night! (didn't take food pix)

Then on Friday was our peer group's Christmas celebration - this time it was at a friend's house. It was a pot-luck style buffet spread. The host had already prepared quite a few dishes and each of the Bible Study group also brought additional ones.. I think my group had the most variety! I made potato salad and tomato salsa salad - both tried and tested! :p I think there were easily more than 30 different starters, mains and desserts! But of course the highlight was not merely food but our gift-exchange with a difference - where one can `covet' another person's gift! It was kinda fun but most people were either too polite or just not greedy at all.. ;) We also sang a few carols and the rest of the evening was free and easy..

Oh, another highlight for me was playing with my friend's two dogs - Cotton and Sugar! Cotton is white - spitz mixed while Sugar is a miniature schnauzer just like Jelly! Except she's petite and slim.. (unlike my big fat Jelly) They're so cute!! and I couldn't resist asking my friend to take a pix of me and Sugar. I forgot to bring my camera - thus lack of pix - but good thing my friend did bring.

Of course Christmas is just around the corner and the feasting won't stop yet.. some sneak `preview': I'll be cooking a Western Christmas eve dinner for the family - Gotta go food shopping and then be the chef of the day! The next day, there's a annual Christmas party at my friend's house and the spread is lovely..

Gosh, really have to watch my diet soon... but making it a New Year resolution won't be easy for CNY is coming soon!! Argh!! : o

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Singing Birthday Treat! ;)

Yes, I love singing.. so it's great to be able to lung it out on my birthday!! Though as I looked through the song list, I discovered how backdated I am these days with new songs.. I only know of songs that are more than 10 years old.. esp. those in the 80s.

Oh, it was quite fun discovering what songs we know and like to sing.. including some rather unexpected choices!? ;)

We sang quite a lot, and was trying to cram in more songs in the last minutes.. we thought we had to leave by 10pm but a few of us sang on till 11pm and they didn't cut us off!

Thank you, my friends for a wonderful time! We should do this more often!! :D

Oh, and the presents I got. The bouquet was really a pleasant surprise - all the way my friends in Belgium.. So sweet of them. :)

p.s. I must admit that I was really dreading my birthday to come this year.. About two months ago I already hope that time would stop! Why? just say I'm afraid of getting old, and trust me, mine is a rather BIG number. But somehow when it was getting nearer to my birthday, it became `easier' and have more or less come to term with it.. I mean, you can't change anything can you? so might as well just accept it and enjoy the day! So that's what I did finally! ;) And I just want to thank the Lord for so much blessings in my life.. that I know I shouldn't take it for granted..

Monday, December 17, 2007

a thanksgiving dinner..

On Dec 20 last year, two of my friends were badly injured from a car accident.. the car was totally wrecked and they were fortunate to have cheated death, but they had to go through multiple surgeries and hospitalisation, and prolonged treatment and physiotherapy. It was a traumatic and very challenging time for them...

Fortunately now one year later, Pat and Tesa have recovered well enough to function almost normally. At the one-year accident anniversary, they had decided to host a thanksgiving dinner - to thank all their friends for their help and support, and also, to give thanks to God for His blessings and love.

I was honoured to be their emcee for this special evening, held last Saturday at a hotel. Besides inviting about seven tables of their friends, they have also invited some children from a handicapped home who gave two dance performances. The guests were encourage to donate to the home rather then giving the hosts any gifts..

Pat and Tesa giving a moving and heartfelt speech. There was also a slide presentation that had pictures of the accidents and their recovery process.

The dinner was also a time to catch up with our common friends..
With some of the people at the main table - among whom are Mr&Mrs Yong and Siew Yean who were present at the accident scene and helped Pat and Tesa.

With old friends Kington, Faith and their younger son Luke

My table who consisted of our secondary school friends from boarding school.

Towards the end of the dinner, Tesa gave a beautiful rendition of two Chinese numbers (the pix turned out too dark) After which, I kicked off the karaoke session with the song `Hero' to dedicate to my two friends..

So my dear friends, I'm glad that you've both recovered well and I thank God for your testimonies, and also for an inspiring and meaningful evening.. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

For old time sake..

Sha-la-la-la-la, sha-la-la in the morning.. sha-la-la-la-la..

Yep, it's the evergreen `oldie' band The Wynners! And they'll be here for a New Year Eve countdown concert!

You can't blame me for being excited.. Though I was too young (ahem :p) to be a Wynners fan, but almost everyone knows that I'm a hardcore, devoted fan of Alan Tam!!

And yes, if you don't know this shame-on-you, Alan Tam was the lead singer of this group and he went on to pursue a most successful solo-career - the indisputable King of Canto-pop in the 1980s! And while many artistes from that era had already faded off from the scene, Alan is still very much in it, making his presence felt.

Ok ok, I'm not here to write about Alan Tam but The Wynners. :p

Although it was a last-minute notice (I only knew of the time of the press conference a day earlier when I covered Michael Wong in Genting) but it is one PC I can't miss! I wanted to go, whether for work or not! Then it turned out that I was to cover it for two of the publications I contribute to - one mag, one paper.. So it's killing two birds with one stone so to speak.

Just for the record (for the young and ignorant :p), The Wynners - touted as The Beatles of Hong Kong - consisted of Alan Tam (vocals), Kenny Bee (vocals), Bennett Pang (guitar), Danny Yip (bass guitar) and Anthony Chan (drums).

For their promotional tour to KL last weekend, Anthony - chariman of a listed company in China - couldn't make it. But the four of them were sufficient to provide lots of jokes and laughters and made it such a fun and hilarious press conference. Needless to say, the chatty Alan was the one who spoke most followed by Kenny Bee. Bennett Pang had some dry humour too while Danny Yip was his usual rather timid self. But the way they made fun (in good humour of course) of each other was like watching a comedy. Alan even dubbed themselves as the `The Spice-men' - in Cantonese `Lat Gung'!

They may be well into their 50s but The Wynners was probably more youthful at heart than those half their age! And it was heartwarming to see how close the band members are after more than 3 decades! Although they have gone separate ways by 1980, The Wynners never officially disbanded thus the five of them would get together like every five years for their anniversary concerts. This is their 33rd year anniversary reunion.

So for the sake of my idol, I'm doing extra publicity plug here :p <
easy WYNNERS 33 Anniversary Countdown Concert>
will be held at Stadium Negara on December 31, 2007 starting at 9pm. For details, click here.

The last time I watched The Wynners in concert was 9 years ago at Genting Highland, and yes, it was a great show! So don't ask what I'll be doing on New Year's Eve.. you know the answer!! :p

update: you can read my article here