Thursday, December 31, 2009

My year in review..

TIME FLIES..!! I mean, 2009 really really has flown by in a wink!

I just can't believe we're now in the last day of of the year.. Tomorrow it's a brand new year - and a brand new decade - if you have celebrated year 2000 as the turn of the millenium!

As with the custom since I started blogging in mid 2005 (gosh, has it been more than 4 1/2 years already?), albeit having really slowed down in the last few months, I don't want to miss out writing this `momentus' year-end post that includes both reflection of the year that has been, as well as setting `resolutions' for the coming year..

Ahh... resolutions! The big `R' word which many has a love-hate relationship with - and yours truly is one who believes in setting resolutions yet always almost never achieve most of them! Having said that, it is important I feel to have new goals for the new year, and also re-examine old ones that one has not realised - and try to make them work again!

Ok.. besides turning the Big 4-0 in the middle of this month, I shall recap of the significant events and things that have happened in 2009 - not a top 10 news of the world thing, but what has happened in my life - of course, this is my personal blog! ;)

1. Grandma passes away at 90, just after CNY after deteriorating condition of suffering a stroke for 10 years. We were sad but of course her death was not unpredicted. In fact, it was a relief for her as well as for us.. she was already in semi-conscious state and before that totally bedridden for a year plus.. She could even hardly spoke for some time already. There was no quality of life. The extended family, relatives and close friends turned out in full to pay her last respect. RIP Ah Nei - I still miss you..

2. The set-up of my SoHo/ home office - complete with new furniture and paint, and got my first iMac! That idea has been brewing in dad's mind for some time but due to lack of proper room space it was not done. But since grandma's passing, the room downstairs has been vacant so it seems a good idea to turn it into my `home office' - since I mostly work from home as a freelance writer, and working from my bedroom was not really conducive. That explained why I frequented Starbucks for a while! The conversion was an easy process and not expensive too - and by August, I had a proper SoHo to work in - and even got a new iMac which I heart!! Ya, now I always work (and play) in my private SoHo :p

3. I sat for my first vocal examination in June. After taking up personal vocal lesson proper (the ones I took in the past were infrequent and group classes) since November 07, I took the plunge and sat for the First Concert Certificate exam which required me to sing 4 songs by heart! It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience as my legs actually trembled singing in front of the examiner! Being pushed by my teacher, I was aiming high - but was quite relief to get a Merit and not less.. (Distinction would be great but oh well..) And with the exam preparation, I felt my singing has improved quite a lot this year!

4. I took up Italian lesson since beginning of this year.. but progress has been slow. Found my tutor Giovanna online and enjoyed learning.. however, the language is so tough and my brain matter (ie memory) is getting so much weaker these days.. I won't say it's a waste of money although I can hardly master much of the language after a year.. and she's leaving for Rome so I am not sure of the continuation.. :(

5. I was blessed to be able to travel to a few interesting places this year - some of which I didn't even blog about like my Shanghai trip in October - which I really had fun! We went on a family holiday to the scenic Wuyishan in Fujian, China - my parents, my sis and me like old time :). The following month, we did our annual `pilgrimage' to Hong Kong to visit sis family - particularly the three kids! It also turned out to be a shopping spree for I had lost some weight then (read more about my weight-loss achievement below) In July, I had my first World Rianforest Festival experience in the cultural village of Sarawak - which turned out to be pretty `memorable' for some wrong reasons! And then finally in mid October, I went to Shanghai by myself and was the guest of my Malaysian friend who lives temporarily. She drew up a concise itinerary for me and we did so much in a week - food and shopping being the highlight. I LOVE the cosmopolitan of Shanghai and want to go back again.. But alas, my blogging momentum took a dip after that so I didn't blog at all - it would have been a super-long post! However, photos that speak a thousand words can be seen in my Facebook album.

6. Ok, regarding my work.. hmmm.. what can I say? It has been VERY different from the last two years of being a freelancer. Oh ya, as of November this year I have been on my own for THREE whole years already and with God's blessing, i'm still at it. But now I'm doing only half editorial work and the rest is corporate/other forms of writing and translations. But for the first 2 1/2 months of this year, I was attached to GardnerAndWife Theatre and was helping them to write press releases and publicity materials that led up to their first production of the year - Wicked Wizard. That was quite an interesting jobe experience. But even if translation work pay prompt and copywriting pay more, my first love is still writing feature articles for papers and magazines and I pray I can still be doing that in 2010!

7. Some of my church friends had been battling the `big C' this year. An dear faithful servant, an auntie from church at just 60, has passed away in November while there were many new cases - including a close friend who was detected with stage 4 lung cancer which doctor and was only gave her months to live. However, her strong faith in God had seen her battling with medical means and prayers, and we were so glad that God had worked a miracle in her body and life - that her tumour has reduced and all cancerous spots were cleared from other parts of her body! It also spurred her to become an avid blogger who regularly updates her spiritual blog here. Now we are praying and ministering to another brother whose condition has worsened lately..

8. Farewell CCF. Ironically just 3 months after the nostalgic and wonderful CCF Alumni camp, the church's peer group fellowship that I've been a part of since 1994 has disbanded after being there since 1991. It has seen the coming and going and of course staying-on of many young adults over the years and has built up strong friendship as well as Christian foundations in many lives.. It was kinda sad but from its condition in the last two years, we know we need to move on. So since middle of this year, I have joined a home/cell group and also enjoying new fellowship with more mature friends and studying the Word together..

9. Woe to the Net addict. Sigh.. although I posted that in February, my addiction on the Internet had gone from bad to worse.. i think! Ok, maybe it had `maintained' since I also spend some time watching HK drama series on Astro. My work also demands the heavy usage of email and google and other Internet tools, and on top of that, I have somehow succumbed to the temptations of the many Facebook games - the ones I'm current playing actively are (ok, hold your breath!) Sorority Life, Cafe World, Petville, Pet Society, Word Twist and Restaurant City (RC not so frequent). This is on top of managing and sending messages, checking friends messages and status and all other 1001 things Facebook offers!! I'm a real Junkie but on the plus side, FB has helped me in my work too!

10. Last but not least.. if I have only been given one thing that is significant to review this year, it would be this: Since February till September - I have successfully shed off 15kg of weight - that's like 5 1/2 inches off my waist (no need to go into details of the other vital statistics). And the good news is, I have maintained that weight in the last three months - without having to go on a diet anymore.. It has been so obvious that so many people whom knew me before had commented - and then it has come to this stage that I had to get rid of almost all my old clothes! Especially jeans and pants.. and also most dresses, shirts and blouses!! No wonder I have been spending a lot - cos I had been shopping locally, in Hong Kong and also Shanghai for new clothes and now I decided also to alter some of the old ones that I like.. So how did I do this? Of course some of my friends would have known already.. but since there are lots to tell, I shall follow by another post soon in the future - dedicated to this `Big Loser' lol - and also with photos of `before and after' to show!

So you had my top 10 list of 2009. My next post that hopefully I would write later today.. or on Jan 1, will be my aspirations and plans. I shall not use the word resolutions anymore - for the year 2010.

Ya, it has been an eventful and unforgettable year.. And it's kinda hard to say goodbye.. to 2009..! :(

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Memorable Birthday of `Adventures'

So finally.. I've entered into the milestone I've always dreaded in the last few years... :S

But guess what, just like how I entered the last year of my 30s last December.. turning 40 wasn't a big deal anymore!

I mean, it's kinda `big deal' in the sense I did plan something to treat myself.. and ended up having a birthday celebration that I've never experienced before!!

But first was a surprise birthday treat by some of my good friends from church, which involved a big cover-up story and then I was blindfolded in the car all the way to the restaurant! Imagine on a busy Sunday evening, I was made to walk from the carpark into a shopping complex and then all the way into the restaurant and to our table blindfolded - and of course holding on to my two friends. And on top of that, since I thought we were going to play games in my friend's house, I was in my casual wear with slippers!! And then, they even fed me with some `samples' of food and made me guess what I tasted.. before all was revealed when I was allowed to see again..

It's near Christmas and some of my group of friends who turned up for my last birthday do could not make it.. so it was just five gal-friends and me but it's really nice cos it's cosy and I know they actually took the pain and trouble to plan for it.. so that I didn't even suspect. Well, I did suspect in a way since it was just three days away from my actual birthday, but my guess was they may just bring out a cake when we play games.. the mastermind and the main partner-in-crime were just so clever and `crafty' at this `game' that I actually fell for it..!

So yes, for the first time in my life, I had a surprise and blindfolded birthday treat!! And on top of that, I was treated to a sumptuous Japanese meal, birthday cake and pressies.. but most important was their company.. So thank you gals, you know who you are.. don't want to name names to embarrass you although I just had to post a few photos here for memory sake! ;)

After that part was over... came the part which I have looked forward since months ago when I decided to treat myself to spend my birthday in a five-star hotel!

I'm not so rich after all.. it's because of the Starwood Privilege membership that I've joined a few months earlier (where I also got to treat dad to a discounted birthday dinner at Prime) that had a coupon that offered me a free night stay in one of its five-star hotels in KL. Out of the three hotels - Le Meridien, Sheraton Imperial and Westin, I chose Westin due to the great location. I just thought of having an escapade in the city and pamper myself by sleeping in a five-star hotel room that is famous for its `heavenly bed'! For dinner, my parents would join me to dine in Prego - which also entitled to 33 per cent off for three diners.

The icing to the cake however, would be a two-hour luxurious spa treatment at the famous and very pricey Spa Village. Since I couldn't afford to experience the famed Spa Village at Pangkor Laut, the KL one is good enough. And surely after checking it out two weeks ago when I had an assignment in Ritz Carlton, I fell in love with it.. just look at the photos on its website here. hmm.. heavenly!!
I was almost all packed by the time I went to bed on Tues night (or rather Wed morning) and was really happy and touched to receive a meaningful Hallmark birthday card from dad and mom, with an `angpow' enclosed! ;)

After doing some renovation shopping with dad for the condo and a yummy `ipoh hor fun' lunch in PJ, I checked into Westin KL around 3:30pm (postponed my spa treatment to 4pm). While the room wasn't super luxurious for 5-star standard, it was nice and roomy and comfy.. and the bathroom was quite impressive - can't get the shower and the WC areas inside the photo!

And the bed.. ahhh.. it's definitely one of the most `heavenly' beds I've lied on.. it was soft yet firm and the pillows were so comfortable too.. words can't really describe. Couldn't help but lied on it and took a photo myself (not very flattering angle but who cares :p)

After refreshing and unpacking a bit, I headed for the spa. Conveniently, Ritz Carlton is just at the back of Westin. The YTL flagship hotel is another class altogether.. but no, I don't have free room for this one..

I chose the 60/60 package - an hour of body scrub treatment and an hour of Balinese massage.. Each treatment room is like a luxurious hotel room and best of all, open up to a private garden that has a open roof shower and a bath.. all built for privacy of course. And each room has attached bathroom and some with steam room.

My therapist was a local lady, and one of the better masseurs I have come across.. the service of course was superb. I felt so relaxed during the massage that actually managed to not think of the many things in my mind.. and almost drifted into sleep.. I shan't go into the details of the treatments.. :p Suffice to say, I have been to a few spas locally and more overseas but this must be the most luxurious ever, and probably the best experience.. How I wish my spa treatments could last longer!

I know I was on `holiday' so to speak but I still needed to be connected! And so went online a while and saw a flood of birthday greetings on FB! :D Dad and mom arrived soon and we dined at Prego. The food was not great but not bad either and the ambience was nice.. cosy, warm and relaxed.. Got a free bottle of red wine with my coupon, and a cake as well from the hotel.
We shared our food as usual and my main courses - shared with dad - were spaghetti Arabiata and a pizza which I forgot its name, recommended by the captain.

Uncle's family came to join us after dinner and we went up to my room to chit-chat, had the cake and some drinks.. before they left around 11pm. They bought me a bottle of wine.. and we opened it!

While continuing my Internet-ing - but I had to go to the lobby lounge as Internet access costs a bomb in room! And then I found out that there was free drinks for ladies at Q-bar, and just couldn't help it to help myself to a Sangria. On top of the many glasses of wine, and a frozen magaritta I ordered at the lobby lounge! I over-estimated myself.. my head got pretty heavy by the end of the night and finally after a hot bath, I tugged myself into my heavenly bed..

It would have been a PERFECT escapade if not of the terrible incident early in the morning!! At 7:30am - while I was still in dreamland, I was rudely awaken by a loud drums playing! It sounded like a band of drums and indeed it was! They were practising in front of Pavillion which was where my room was facing. I couldn't ignore it so I called the hotel reception to complain. I was assured that they would ask the drums to stop. But no, the drumming continued, sometimes intermittently but it got worse and I had to call again, this time the manager on duty actually went over to try to solve the problem.. However, he didn't succeed.. and finally.. he apologetically offered me to change room that's on the other side. That was the only solution so I took it, groggy already being awaken for about an hour. So, in my bathrobe and slipper and only with my glasses and handphone, I followed him to another part of the hotel which was the apartment residence.. and he gave me a studio - which also had a king-size heavenly bed.

Due to the disturbances, and with a headache from hangover, I had difficulty falling asleep immediately again.. and finally when I did it was probably 10am.. and then I had to miss the movie preview I planned to go at Pavillion GSC! Sigh..

(I went back later to the studio residence and snapped some photos for blogging sake!)

Finally I woke up around noon, still groggy but at least had some sleep.. joined my media friends for lunch at Pavillion food court before going to Ritz Carlton for my work assignment. Actually I am thankful that the assignment location was just perfect for me.

Since it's entertainment assignment, it was also more fun.. and this time to interview Tony Leung Ka Fai and Fan Bing Bing who came to promote the new movie `Bodyguards and Assassins', which according to those who watched, was a great movie! (and i will get to watch only later.. at least the distributor promised me free tix)

I have requested for late check-out. I planned to leave around 5pm when my work finished, but by then, I was really too tired from alcohol effect and lack of sleep so I got my room extended again.. and the kind manager, who already wrote me an apology card and gave me a small box of chocolate, agreed.

So I rested for an hour or so as I was totally exhausted but had some coffee so I couldn't really sleep. Then I went to the poolside for a while and then had nice long shower before I packed up and left the hotel.. concluding my 30-hours escapade at Westin KL...

Whatever way you look at it, my milestone was certainly some kind of adventures and experiences that's worth me blogging all in a breath till 1am!

Time to hit the sack now, on my own familiar `heavenly' bed.. ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The long day closes...

This was the last song we sang.

It felt kinda surreal and sad that it has come to an end.. when I know many of us still have so much passion and devotion to continue to sing in this choir.

I have joined Cantus Musicus for exactly two years now.. although it's only short two years, I have really enjoyed singing every Wednesday evening with a group of fellow singers and music lovers of diverse background; and also performing in the ambassadors' home and functions, and of course the parties and feasts that were part of them all.. And over time, I have also made many friends from the choir, some of whom I've grown quite close to..

What made Cantus Musicus different from other local choirs is the types of music we sing. From school days to university and church choirs, I have never been acquainted with such rare, beautiful and challenging repertoires - we sing much of the music in a capella, always in SATB parts, and I have never sung in so many different languages in my life!! Just at the top of my head, I've sung in German, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Irish... etc.. At first it was quite daunting but soon, I found it very interesting and refreshing and happily welcomed them!

We may not be the most `hardworking' choir.. for I know certain choirs have many rehearsals prior to performances.. we are after all an amateur choir but we always rose to the occasion and have done our best in each of the performances - and they have always been well received by the host and the audience.. and I, daring to speak on behalf of my fellow choir mates, there's this indescribable feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment having been able to belt out melodies from our hearts for our audience and ourselves.

(recap: these posts were just some of the concerts last year that I blogged about.. )

Besides feeling sentimental about the ending.. for I know I will miss singing with the choir every Wednesday.. some of us also feel it's a pity and a `waste'.. for I know there are many gifted singers and musicians among us who are passionate and committed in singing in this choir - many can be rightful soloists. Yes, of course we could join other choirs, but it won't be the same. There is only one Cantus Musicus which is totally unique.. not in a boastful way but we all know that.

I know we all shared the feeling of melancholy last night despite putting on a brave and cheerful front. Although we already were expecting it as there had been hints and warnings, I guess we were just hoping that this would be a temporary break.. that this current choir - which has grown to be very big - will need some form of `revamp' or `reformation'.

But from what we were told, it really seemed like a proper closure. `Cantus Musicus' is official no more.

As a fellow choir mate said: `Que sara sara, whatever will be, will be..' I guess that's part of life.. we know our choir director, who has invested so much of her time, energy and blood, sweat and tears into this choir, needs a break. And she has her reasons and we all respect that. But somehow I and many of us in the choir still harbouring the hope that this is not a permanent end.. perhaps some time later, a choir will be reformed in the same spirit of that of Cantus Musicus, and all the true Cantus Musicusians will gather together again to do what we love to do - crooning unique and beautiful music again..

We sang the rather depressing `The Long Day Closes' while we were having our last `Room 5 party' (yes, it was a wonderful feast again and I shall miss that too! :( )

No star is o'er the lake,
Its pale watch keeping,
The moon is half awake,
Through gray mists creeping,
The last red leaves fall round
The porch of roses,
The clock hath ceased to sound,
The long day closes.

Sit by the silent hearth
In calm endeavour,
To count the sounds of mirth,
Now dumb for ever.
Heed not how hope believes
And fate disposes:
Shadow is round the eaves,
The long day closes.

The lighted windows dim
Are fading slowly.
The fire that was so trim
Now quivers lowly.
Go to the dreamless bed
Where grief reposes;
Thy book of toil is read,
The long day closes.

Guess it's like what they say, all good things will come to an end.. Just that I feel this `end' has come too soon.

And I will always cherish the experience, the fun time and the memories of my two years with this wonderful choir...