Friday, 21 December 2012

Uncommon Ways of Using Common Salt

Salt is one of the most essential condiments in the kitchen ever since time itself. It preserves food, also makes them tastier.

Salt has many other uses eg. a salt soak relieves tired feet, and can also be used in body and facial scrub lotions.

It is said that local medicine-men use coarse salt  among other things, to drive away evil spirits but I myself have never seen this being practised.

And  it seems that to keep rain at bay when holding wedding feasts or gatherings outside, some people swear by  placing a bowl containing some salt and onions in a corner of the house somewhere high like on the roof. You'll see clouds gathering but no rain falls until the event is over.

Maybe faith has a lot to do with that.

On the practical side, here are some uncommon ways you might make better use of our common salt other than the standard pinch or two in your cooking.
  1. If you drop a whole egg on the floor, pour salt all over the egg, let it sit for awhile, then use dustpan, the egg will come right up, without all that mess.
  2.  Sprinkle salt on your shelves to keep ants away.
  3. Add a little salt to your boiling water when cooking eggs; a cracked egg will stay in its shell this way.
  4. Soak wrinkled apples in a mildly salted water solution to perk them up.
  5. Use salt to clean your discolored coffee pot.
  6. Mix salt with turpentine to whiten you bathtub and toilet bowl.
  7. Clean brass, copper and pewter with paste made of salt and vinegar, thickened with flour
  8. Add a little salt to the water your cut flowers will stand in for a longer life.
  9. Use a mixture of salt and lemon juice to clean piano keys.
  10. To fill plaster holes in your walls, use equal parts of salt and starch, with just enough water to make stiff putty.
  11. Dry salt sprinkled on your toothbrush makes a good tooth polisher.
  12. A dash of salt in warm milk makes a more relaxing beverage.
  13. A dash of salt enhances the taste of tea.
  14. Freshen sponges by soaking them in salt water.
  15. Clean your greens in salt water for easier removal of dirt.
  16. A dash of salt improves the taste of coffee.
  17. Salt and soda will sweeten the odor of your refrigerator.
  18. A pinch of salt improves the flavor of cocoa.
Hmmm... I have not tried drinking  tea, coffee or cocoa with a dash of salt before and am not sure if I dare try but right now I do  feel like whipping up some steamy hot creamy sumptuous oatmeal.  I cook it with milk and add a tiny  pinch of salt while it's gently boiling. Squirt some honey over before eating. I can attest the salt gives body to the taste and takes plain oatmeal up to the next level.

It's the only way I will eat oatmeal now. Try it, you'll not regret it.

Just don't take this post with a pinch of salt.

Friday, 14 December 2012

My Poor Co-op.

It almost got dragged under during the economic fallout of the late nineties  Ever since then it is struggling to keep it's head above water.

When I was still working, I had continued with my monthly contributions in good faith.

When I retired seven years ago, I thought I'd submit my notice of resignation as a member and withdraw all my contributions.

But I was told that I could only resign my membership at 55 years of age. At that time I was 3 years shy of being eligible.

However they said I could apply to withdraw 50% of my savings, which I did.

My poor co-op.

It was only after 3 YEARS that they managed to pay me the first instalment.

And then 15 months later a second one, followed closely by a final payment.

Yesterday, after hearing that they now have their own building, I decided to make them settle once and for all the balance in my account.

My poor co-op.

It turns out that to resign, you do not simply give them a notice (as what I had expected).

To resign, you have to apply to it's Board.

The Board will then make a consideration at one of their monthly board meetings.

Trick is, your application will not make it to the meeting this month and probably not the next nor the next as they only consider 30 requests a month, and there is quite a queue.

And once approved, you will only get your money maybe months later, also in instalments.

Oh dear, poor me.

Well at least that lady who explained everything did not say it might take YEARS.

Then she says I have to write an official letter to request resignation.

Got me wondering, if there's really that many of us resigning, wouldn't it be simpler for them to have us each fill a standard form, rather than deciphering our letters later for details.

But, I scribbled a letter anyhow.... right in front of the lady.

Haven't written an official letter in seven long years.

My poor co-op.

I hope you'll approve my resignation and pay me my money.

I'd hate to write another letter...  to appeal.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Lot of Hot Air

Physics say when you blast air with some heat, it rises.

Even as you gently cook your sunnyside eggs in the pan, the heated air over it rises bringing along the wondrous aroma of breakfast into the bedrooms of their sleeping occupants... provided the doors are open, that is.

If not, then you get reminded of NATO: No action, tidor only

Hello there veterans, it's a bright and sunny Sunday and  the air is already warming up outside (well, it was when I wrote that this morning).

These thoughts of hot air conjures up similarly warm and happy memories of an action-filled time we (the hubby and our two young ladies) had in Turkey last July, not least riding in a hot air balloon.

After that experience I can say now I know how a feather feels floating haplessly in the sky.

Because somehow it felt just like that, no wind in your face, no undertow currents tugging at you... just a nice dreamy floating feeling as we took in the scenery a thousand feet below us, from a basket filled with I think 18 others.

It took place in Goreme in the Cappadocia region of Central Turkey, an area of very interesting albeit arid terrain.

Early morning was when we lifted off before the cold desert air gets warm because balloons depend on the difference in temperature of the air inside it vs. outside for buoyancy.

First the preparations to inflate the balloon.

And then all aboard! Lightweights on one end and the one heavyweight at the other.

Some blastings of propane gas and we have lift-off... 

followed by a feast for the eyes...

Cappadocia is settled on a high, dry plateau in the middle of Turkey. The region is one of hot, dry summers and cold, sometimes snowy, winters. Ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed this region with thick ash, which solidified into a soft rock—called tuff—tens of meters thick. Wind and water went to work on this plateau, leaving only its harder elements behind to form a fairy tale landscape of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys, which stretch as far as 130 feet  into the sky. 
(From National Geographic)

These are volcanic rock formations called fairy chimneys and typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements.
(From Wikipedia)

Hokay... after an hour thereabouts, our skilful pilot took us back to solid ground

 The shadow of our descending balloon

We landed right smack on a farm trailer. Thank God the heavyweight was still flexible enough to lift herself onto the basket's  edge to get off.

Feathers no more

Our fellow passengers

I do like hot air come to think of it, both that we fly with and that we generate in the kitchen.

And quick look at the clock tells me it's time to produce more of the latter.

Up, up and awaaaay....

Sunday, 2 December 2012


There was a time when the expletive "BLAST!" was in common usage where I was studying for my degree.

 I don't know whether it is still in fashion anymore. Probably not.

More graphic swears and cusses are uttered nowadays to show one's annoyance.

Actually BLAST! sounds quite appropriate especially when someone has managed to get you all worked up and you feel like BLASTING him/her off the face of the earth.

Well, current thinking says to go right ahead.

You can B.L.A.S.T this person and even keep your cool doing it.

Here comes the fun part: the most deafening sound that you hear from this is the silence, perhaps just a murmur.

Because what you're going to do are:

B - Pray that God BLESSES that person, because you
L - LOVE him/her and you love yourself, and you
A - APPRECIATE her/him and you appreciate yourself, and say
S - SORRY for the feelings of resentment you've harboured, and say
T - THANK YOU for being your learning tool

This is how to turn around negative thoughts that eat you up inside into positive ones that calm your nerves.

Being resentful is all about our own self-esteem really, and almost nothing about the other person.

When I read this (in a forum that I had stumbled upon), I remembered Prof. Muhaya's take on this in her Wednesday motivational slot on Radio IKIM.

She said that whenever you feel annoyed with anyone, simply recite surah Al-Fatihah and send the other person your love and forgiveness instead.

Insya Allah there is hikmah (a hidden wisdom) in your action that is beneficial to all involved.

 Just thought I'd share.

 Oh and it's Sunday today. Have a BLAST! everyone...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Not Rolling Stones

While on a quick getaway to Rome three years ago, we couldn't even if we tried, ignore the sculptures.

They were  everywhere... outside on the streets, in the cathedrals, around the Colliseum, the museums.

Mostly they were of Roman gods and godesses,  cute little cherubs holding bows and arrows, also statues of citizens of great standing in ancient Rome.


Despite having hung around in the city for more than 2000 years, they were still in good condition, although some have certain parts of their anatomy broken or fallen off but even so, they are really quite magnificent.

Generally the forms were depicted as being in very good shape with perfect proportions and rippling muscles. Even though they were just sculptures, people still gawked at them - perhaps they had not seen something as perfect before in their lives.

Dare I contemplate what was going round in the minds of these oldish men?

Were they wishing she wasn't stone.... but had breath?

No wonder Islam forbids the sculpting of human and animal forms, and I quote from

"It was narrated] from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) [that] he said: I heard Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) say, “Whoever makes a picture in this world will be charged with breathing spirit [into it], while he is not one that breathes [spirits].”

Al-Bukhari transmitted it in Bab man Sawwara Suratan kullifa Yawm al-Qiyamati an Yanfukha fi ha l-Ruh wa laysa bi Nafikh.

The other place I've visited which has statues and carvings around every corner - scary looking ones at that - is Bali.

To me these places are worth visiting only once.

Just because of those un-rolling stones.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Stretch and Relax - Trying Out Yoga

"Actually yoga is all about the body, the mind and energy", said Ariff.

Aside from being an officer in the government, Ariff is also a certified yoga instructor and has practised yoga for 10 years.

Being that he is my daughter-in-law Akma's elder brother, I can truthfully claim that we now have a yogi in our midst.

I had always been fascinated by yoga, ever since a yogi from India demonstrated some incredible contortionist movements at school all those decades ago.

It was only when yoga became fashionable and got incorporated into fitness regimes and were made available on VCD's did I try doing some of the postures.

Well... let's just say, for me in the beginning some were difficult and the rest were hard. But they got easier the more I tried.

When I joined my gym, I attended a few of the beginner yoga classes and always came out from them feeling very light and refreshed. But if you're always the only older and rounder and stiffer one there, you tend to feel intimidated by the Madonnas all around you and not want to attend any more.

So I cajoled Ariff into conducting an introductory class for about a dozen of the clan on Chinese New Year morning, many many months ago.

Apparently there are many systems of yoga, from religious/meditative to purely physical. We are interested in the physical only, and Ariff geared it towards anti-ageing yoga, going by the average age of the group.

The introductory session had three segments interspersed with a time-out module where we lay on our backs with eyes closed and Ariff took us through some relaxing visualisations and awareness of our serene surroundings and the sounds of a flowing stream, a light breeze and birds a-chirping, in the distance the faint rumbling of a lawn-mower.

Basically the first segment was an exercise in getting to know our various joints from the toes, knees, pelvis, to shoulders and neck. 

Joints can be "opened", helping the circulation of fluids that lubricate them hence making them more flexible and less prone to seizing up and fail.

Here is an example of how you can practise self-massage for this purpose:

Yoga: Self-Massage -- powered by

In the second segment we were introduced to stretches. Stretching the muscles associated with those joints helps loosen any tightness hence relaxing them.

Yogi Ariff taught us proper breathing techniques which is essential in yoga and enhances the relaxation effect during stretching and helps calm the mind.

He patiently guided us through these stretches or "poses" or "asanas"as they say in yoga, while reminding us not to over-extend but to listen to our own bodies on how far to execute the poses. A good session should leave us feeling lighter and more relaxed, not the opposite.

And true enough that was what it did, to me at least. After a breakfast of Nasi Lemak 222, I fell into a deep stupor as soon as I got home.

Pictures are from a second session we had some weeks later

The naga asana or cobra pose, said to increase the flexibility of the spine 
and expands the lungs which is therapeutic for asthma

Watching a double boat pose being demo'd 
in what is known as partner yoga

This group, including Yogi,  have been pretty busy with other events and activities last few months, I think now we can find some time to do this again.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Gassy Breaky Mac

Cold emoticonHave you noticed how some people especially those who are not too keen on taking vitamin supplements are quick to succumb to viruses and seem to be perpetually nursing a runny nose?

While there are others who are apparently fit as fiddles and never seem to get sick no matter what they do or do not eat, yet once injured or aged they easily get achey or itchy here and there, and sometimes gassy too.

Machines are the same.

When I had a Dell laptop which was operating on Windows, all kinds of viruses played havoc on its internals when I had let the anti-virus lapse.

Tired of being victimised by the anti-virus conspiracy and the BillGates haters I chose an entry-level Macbook as my next vehicle into cyber-adventure when the old Dell passed on.

Yes, entry-level just like my terra-firma vehicle as I am not one to afford the airs of a pro.

And since a Mac is purported to be the ultimate upgrade from the lowly PC, I didn't even consider buying the extended warranty.

As is bound to... nope, make that PROGRAMMED to happen very soon after the expiry of every manufactured product's  limited warranty, including an Apple product, some part or other will get weary or worned out or simply die. It's another conspiracy I tell you.

The only appliance that has lasted as long as my 30 plus (can't recall off-hand how many) years of marriage is my Made-in-Malaysia National rice-cooker. Alas they don't make things to last like that anymore.

Yeah... so after being left unused for a whole week the Mac's battery stopped charging, which was OK by me since like the Dell I use it plugged into the wall socket  practically most of the time (which now I know with Macs I shouldn't have had).

And then the  trackpad got moody and wouldn't click which made me resort to using a mouse - no problemo.

Sometime later though the trackpad lifted up off one side of the Mac's top casing, and soon after the other side, ending up it looking like an gaping vent window with a chipped frame

Inside I could see something in three sections wrapped in thick black plastic.  (Sorry, picture is rather unclear).

So what gives, Apple?

Only after some googling did I realise that beneath the trackpad sits the Mac's lithum-ion rechargeable battery pack. In other laptop PCs the battery usually lies towards the back and you can lift it out easily after unlatching the lid in the bottom casing. However in the Mac it is sealed within the inside and though you can see it, it is not possible to get it out from under the trackpad.

What then had caused the trackpad to lift itself revealing its hidden treasure?

Haha...  just like a pregnant woman's cervix dilates during labour, this trackpad got itself opened up by a heavily pregnant Li-ion battery. And this is something I totally did not expect:  that for Macs and apparently Macs alone, its battery pack can get heavily bloated due to gases emitted by the chemicals in the battery cells themselves.

Now this is a worser case than mine

Almost like a worn-out  person huh?

So off I went to the Apple service center at Mid-Valley and had them removed the battery. Buying a new one to replace would have set me back RM500, and with a new trackpad and casing. everything would have cost a total of RM1,500! For that money I could easily get a brand new entry-level Windows laptop with some handy bells and whistles to boot.

OK, had I bought the extended warranty at RM800 thereabouts, I would probably have gotten the fixes for free, but most likely not since I read that they do not recognise the bloating as manufacturing defect anyway.

So would I consider purchasing a Made-in-China Macbook ever again?

That's a question that needs no answer.

However a Made-in-China Sony Duo Hybrid running the latest Windows 8  looks deliciously tempting. Played a bit with it the other day at Harvey Norman's and was quite taken by it's high resolution touchscreen, built-in front and rear camera, no touchpad, slimmer and lighter than the Macbook and thus better portability for granny.

VAIO Duo 11

But at RM4,000 plus an additional RM300 for a three-year extended warranty....  hmmm, out you go to the back burner, baby. Achey, itchy and gassy granny will make do with her plugged in mouse-navigated Macbook for the time being.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Persistence Makes Sense

(A copy-and-paste from my Facebook status)

Somehow word pairs leapt up at me today like eureka moments.

First there was Sense and Sensibility, mentioned on the Cashcab show on TV.  Got me thinking that there may be a lot of sense behind some of our actions but sometimes not a lot of sensibility as to the timing of their execution. Nothing to do with Jane Austen's book... hehehe, but worth some consideration for the sake of peace and understanding.

Then there was Persistence and Consistency. If you're out to achieve a desired goal eg. losing 10kg forever, consistent action like working-out regularly is one pre-requisite for success. But it is the persistence to continue AFTER the achievement of the goal is what makes the new weight and body stay. I should make Persistence and Consistency my battle-cry....  whoop,whoop. This is the link where I read about it:

And at usrah the other night, while being distracted by the presence of ustaz's baby boy, I heard him mention the arabic words "mudawama" and "istiqama" in the context of performing quality solat. The latter is very familiar and means "consistency" but the former was new to me. Something clicked after reading the link I mentioned above, and upon googling, is it any surprise that "mudawama" also means "persistence", and  "regular practice"?

Yup, we can be consistent in practising solat 5 times a day but we need to be persistent to do them within say 20 minutes of azan for better rewards perhaps? That was probably what ustaz was telling his mainly distracted audience.

Woh... sorry for the extra long status, but facebook did ask what was on my mind. Maybe I should revitalise my blog with this entry, and then start being more persistent at updating it with consistency.

Or is it the other way round? Consistent and then persistent?

Whatever lah... 

May Allah grant me the sensibility to be persistent in doing good...  Ameen.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Azam Tahun Baru 2012

Fancy Ustaz wanting to talk about making new resolutions in the new Masehi year.

We were a little taken aback, half-expecting him to launch a tirade about us following these practices of the so-called ignorants.

Rather it turned out to be his recommendations on "what best to change" if indeed you have resolutions for 2012.

As for me, as always I do not have any life-changing paradigm-shifting resolutions to keep.... but  I suppose I can always strive to be a "better" person this year.

It goes without saying that we cannot be perfect but if we make small improvements in those aspects of our selves that Ustaz touched upon (as per notes below), we stand a better chance at being accorded Allah's blessings in this world and the Hereafter...   Wallahua'lam

The Notes (in Malay)

Azam menurut definisi iaiah:

Kemahuan seseorang untuk melaksanakan sesuatu perkara di masa hadapan yang tidak bercanggah dengan syariat Islam dan mengikut kadar kemampuan diri (kalau tak mampu maknanya khayalan).

5 tujuan keazaman:

  1. untuk memberi dorongan dan motivasi diri
  2. untuk mendapatkan kemudahan untuk melalui kehidupan
  3. diberikan Allah kesabaran untuk melalui rintangan dan halangan
  4. dikurniakan Allah nilai pahala kebaikan
  5. dimudahkan jalan menuju syurga

7 keazaman dalam kehidupan yang patut ada dalam diri seorang Muslim:

  1. Azam kehidupan berasaskan duniawi menuju ke ukhrawi
  2. Azam kebatilan menuju kepada kebenaran
  3. Azam haram menuju kepada halal
  4. Azam kemalasan kepada kerajinan
  5. Azam kejahilan kepada ilmu pengetahuan
  6. Azam perbalahan kepada kasih-sayang

Time to put on my thinking cap and come up with an action plan.

It looks hard....   any ideas anyone?

Friday, 6 January 2012

Up Straight

Nowadays if you announce that you've become STRAIGHT.. you won't get a straight-faced response.

Rightly or wrongly you'll get teased about your... "orientation", be it your sexuality or integrity i.e whether you're gay or crooked.

But if you previously had been curved, though not necessarily cur-VY, then the fact that you have become straight or straightER is the literal truth.

That was what happened to my niece Dini.

Looking at her here you wouldn't know that she was actually un-straight.

But if you look at this picture of her spine, you'll know what I mean.

It looked like below the neck her spine ran out of space and had to curve.

In fact it wasn't just curved from side-to-side, it was also twisted slightly frontwards, much like a reversed hunch.

This condition is known as adolescent idiopathic scoliosis meaning a crookedness (from the Greek word skoliosis) of the spine of no known causes (idiopathic).

Dini's doctor who monitored her condition over a few years noted that the angle of curvature was progressively increasing - from 20 degrees to 50 degrees.

If left uncorrected, he feared that as she grows older the spine might slowly project into her lung area and adversely affect her breathing. I wonder if this is one of the causes of adult-onset asthma.

So last school holidays Dini underwent a 5-hour surgery performed by 2 orthopaedic surgeons to correct her crookedness. Apparently one surgeon would have taken double the time.

If you imagine the spinal column being made up of spiky donut-shaped bone material (vertebrae) stacked one on top the other with the nerves traversing from the brain through the "donut holes", you will realise how delicate this kind of surgery is.

The surgeons basically restacked these "spiky donuts", which looked like they were falling off, and pinned them into place with rods and screws.

They started from the lower end all the way up where the curvature was quite acute. They left the last vertebra at the waist unpinned to enable Dini to bend forwards, otherwise she won't be able to perform solat in the usual manner.

The surgery was a success. The surgeons managed to correct more than they had expected but took slightly longer than promised, which made Dini's mama very anxious at the time.

It was relief all round when Dini came out of surgery wiggling her toes.

Thanks to the skill and judgement of the surgeons Dini made a very quick recovery and was off holidaying in Langkawi a couple of weeks later.

But she's not allowed any robust or athletic activity for a whole year to allow new bone material to form round the pins.

And because Dini's spine has been corrected, she can now tell people that she has gained a couple of inches or so ...overnight.

And keep a straight face.