My April A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal 2017

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My theme this year came to me immediately after I was done with the challenge last year. In fact, I even started brainstorming some post ideas! So, this year, for 26 days, my posts will be centered on the theme

Malaysiana

I’m excited to write about the food, culture and everything else about Malaysia. So far though, the posts I’ve drafted are food-related 😀 Which isn’t surprising because we Malaysians are food-obsessed! Can’t wait to start posting as well as reading everyone else’s posts!

All my children

Recently featured on WordPress Discover, Glenn talks about being a blog parent. He has three blog kids, so far. I have ten (I think)! 😉

ROAMIN' GNOMIALS

As the parent of multiple blogs, it seems the youngest one always gets the most attention. As the parent of multiple blogs, it seems the youngest one always gets the most attention.*

When I started Roamin’ Gnomials, I envisioned a one-size-fits-all publication that would easily encompass my scattershot approach to life. If a particular blog post didn’t resonate with one reader, I felt confident she’d come back for the next thing, which would surely be more to her liking.

Eventually, however, it sank in that no matter how much I might wish it otherwise, some things — like death and politics — just weren’t going to fit inside, so the man who long-resisted friends’ urging to write a blog now has three!

Blogs are like children, and as any parent knows, sometimes one child needs more attention than the others, which is why I’ve been away for so long. I’ve been a neglectful father, and while that’s not good, it may also be understandable. Anytime…

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Anticipating A to Z

2017 BadgeWe’re already in the second week of March. Where the heck did time go???

In a few short weeks, April will roll around and for some of us, we’ll be knee deep in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I’ve been doing the challenge since 2012 and always look forward to each challenge since.

This year though, it seems the organisers are doing things differently. There’s no sign-up list for the Theme Reveal on March 20th and also no sign-up list for the actual challenge. A departure from the norm indeed! My immediate thought was “How will I know who else is doing the challenge???!!!”

After I calmed down and continued reading the posts on the challenge site, I realised that perhaps I’d overreacted a wee bit. Hehe. This year, fellow A-to-Z-ers are encouraged to leave links to their posts as comments on the challenge Facebook page  or site. Those with twitter accounts are also encouraged to tweet their posts and use the #atozchallenge hashtag. Even without a linky list, the organisers have laid out all these avenues to find fellow A-to-Z-ers and read their posts!

So, what’s next in the lead up to April? The theme reveal, of course! I’ve had a theme idea since last year’s challenge ended and I can’t wait to get started writing! YAY!

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Celebrating the Day of the Full Moon in the Tamil Month of Thai aka Thaipusam

Last year, a friend from Canada came to Malaysia and was in the country in time for the Thaipusam holiday. She’d already made plans to go to Batu Caves, one of the main hubs of the celebration, to observe the procession and asked me if I’d ever been. I had to confess that I’d never gone to Batu Caves to participate in the Thaipusam celebrations. Thaipusam is one of those festivals that I wish I knew more about and since the celebrations started yesterday, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share what I do know already and also what I recently found out:

#1. We get a holiday – Any festival that results in a holiday is a worthy one to celebrate, in my books. However, not all of the states in Malaysia declares Thaipusam a holiday so boo hoo to those states that have to work on Thaipusam.

#2. Batu Caves becomes a sea of people – The Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple located at Batu Caves (or Rock Caves) is one of the main places where Thaipusam is celebrated. There’ll be masses of people, locals and tourists alike. Apparently, this year, 1.6 million people are expected at Batu Caves.

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Thaipusam is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Murugan. That’s him in gold.

#3. It starts with a procession – The night before Thaipusam, Hindus gather at the Sri Mahamariaman Temple along Jalan Tun HS Lee (Chinatown/ Petaling Street area). From there they will leave around midnight on a 15 kilometer (approximately 8 hour) walk. During this procession, devotees pull a golden/ silver chariot. Penang, another location that celebrates Thaipusam on a grand scale, apparently has a golden AND a silver chariot procession this year.

#4. There are piercings everywhere – During this festival, devotees choose to honour Lord Murugan by the carrying of kavadi. I’ve always thought that the kavadi refers only to the elaborate framework that is attached to the devotees bodies via hooks or piercings. Now, I know that a kavadi can also refer to a metal pot filled with milk, carried on the head or shoulders. Seeing a kavadi-bearer pierced multiple times can be pretty gruesome.

#5. Coconuts are everywhere too – A whole lot of coconut smashing goes down during Thaipusam as well. The coconut is an auspicious fruit for Hindus and apparently, the action of smashing a coconut on the street is to cleanse the street before the chariot passes through. This year, an additional one million coconuts had to be imported from Indonesia to cater for the demand during Thaipusam.

This video from National Geographic shows how Thaipusam is celebrated in Malaysia (Warning: Piercings pretty much dominate)

 

10 Things To Know About Chinese New Year in Malaysia

Chinese New Year is this weekend and where I’m from, it’s a major festival. Every one joins in the celebrations in one way or another, and you don’t even have to be Chinese to enjoy the festive occasion. Here’s what happens in my neck of the woods when Chinese New Year rolls around.

#1. We get a holiday – Though Chinese New Year falls on a Saturday this year, the entire country is granted a holiday the following Monday which means it’ll be a 3-day weekend for me!

#2. Stalls selling Mandarin oranges pop up – It’s customary to give out Mandarin oranges to colleagues at work and to folks who visit your house during Chinese New Year. These oranges are typically sold at supermarkets and roadside stalls which pop up specifically for this festival. There are often multiple stalls along the same stretch of road, all of which peddle these oranges and all of them would be able to turn a profit.

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So many oranges. So many. (Source: The Star Online)

#3. Lion/ Dragon dancers are every where – They’re in shopping malls, in the back of trucks on the streets en route to their next gig and even at your local watering hole. You know Chinese New Year is fast approaching when these dancers with their white t-shirts and colourful pants that supposedly mimic a lion’s/ dragon’s legs show up almost every where.

#4. Streets in the city centre are exceptionally clear – This is one of my favourite things about Chinese New Year. Traffic jams in the city has gotten from bad to worse and it’s only when folks leave the city for their hometowns that I’m willing to drive into the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

#5. Highways leaving the city centre turn into parking lots (almost) – During Chinese New Year (and all other major holidays), commuters returning to their hometowns pack the highways. A regular 2-hour trip home can turn into a 5 hour journey from hell! The congestion is so bad that one year, authorities issued a Travel Time Advisory which recommended times to get on the road depending on where you’re heading. 

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Imagine getting stuck in that traffic with no toilet in sight (Source: The Malay Mail Online)

#6. Retail stores and banks give out (almost) free ang pow packets – Giving ang pows (red envelopes stuffed with money) is a key activity during Chinese New Year. Well, other than eating, drinking and playing mahjong. In recent years, shopping malls and banks stock ang pow packets for their customers and these are where folks tend to get them from. The packets aren’t entirely free if you intend to get them from shopping malls though. Shoppers would need to spend a pre-determined amount before redemption of the ang pow packets are allowed.

#7. Folks exchange their old bank notes for new ones – It’s traditional to use crisp, new notes when handing out ang pows. Hence, the long lines at the banks before Chinese New Year as folks come in with stacks of old bills to exchange for new ones. Apparently every year, the central bank has to print an additional 500 million pieces of the smaller denomination banknotes to meet the demand for new notes!

#8. Almost everyone organises an open house – Eating is a national past time and open houses are basically an opportunity to eat all you can for free! This tradition encourages family and friends to visit one another’s homes to celebrate together. Even companies and government agencies have started organising open houses to which the general public is invited.

#9. Eateries serve some variation of yee sang – In the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, expect to see some variation of yee sang or the prosperity toss in any eatery you visit. Apparently, this cultural activity is unique to both Singapore and Malaysia as it’s not practiced as much in other countries.

#10. You hear firecrackers eventhough it’s illegal – Yep, fireworks are illegal in Malaysia. Unless you have a permit. I don’t think the homes in my neighbourhood who light up their firecrackers applied for one though. Yet, I go to sleep on the eve of Chinese New Year listening to a barrage of fireworks. All night long.

Thing 1: Biting into Black Pudding

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This post is part of my #40thingsat40 project to celebrate the fact that I turn 40 this year

My brother loves black pudding and for many years he’s tried to persuade me to give it a try. The first time he asked me to try it, I poked at it and said “Why’s it black?” To my utter disgust, he answered “Blood, mainly.” Since then, every time he tried to get me to try a bite, I’d pull a face and respond “Ugh, no.”

On December 9th 2016, before heading into Kew Gardens, my mother and I decided to grab a breakfast at Tap on the Line, a pub located right at the Kew Gardens Station of the London Underground. It was one of the prettiest-looking pubs I’ve ever seen. It had a domed glass roof and extensive outdoor seating. As it’s right on the train platform, from inside the pub, you could see trains come and go, passengers embarking and disembarking. I could sit there the entire day, sipping tea.

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A lovely place to sit outside in the summer with a pint

We perused the simple breakfast menu and I immediately knew what I wanted to get –

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The breakfast menu

Full English, pork sausage, Mrs. Owton’s bacon, Hampshire black pudding, beans, tomato & mushroom, free range eggs to your liking, toast.

I was famished and couldn’t wait to try my first bite of black pudding. “Why do you suddenly want to try black pudding?” My mum questioned as she’s perfectly aware that for years, I’ve resisted. “Well, at least once I try it, if I still think it’s ugh, at least my future protests will be an informed one.” To my ears, that sounded like a perfectly logical and reasonable reason. My taste buds were getting ready to be ugh.

My breakfast came and without wasting another minute, attacked the black pudding. I somehow thought that it would be crumbled but instead it was served sliced, like two hockey pucks. I broke off a little piece and popped the black pudding made mostly with blood into my mouth.

It was DELICIOUS! 

Like sausage, slightly game-y and the edges of the black pudding, which were toasted (I think), tasted crisp. Yum!

So, I tried black pudding – yay me! – and I definitely will again!

(I polished the entire plate)

Project #40thingsat40

This year I turn 40 years young! Yes, 40. Forty. Empat puluh*.

Mostly, I’m okay fine coming to grips with it but there’s a not-so tiny part of me that’s still in denial.

The tendency, when you hit one of those landmark ages i.e. 18, 21, 25, 30, 35, is either to celebrate it in a big way or pretend you’re not celebrating a landmark age. I’ve done both.

For many years, I was 29. The year I turned 30, I convinced myself that I was turning 29 Part 2, and the next year was 29 Part 3, the next 29 Part 4, etc…By the time I turned 35 29 Part 7 35, I’d come to my senses and said “Fudge it! I refuse to be ashamed of my age any more!” and since then, I’ve tried to do something memorable every time my birthday rolls around – drove cross-country alone, traveled to Siem Reap.

So it’s June 2016, and feeling a little glum that in 6 months I’ll be turning 40, I thought perhaps I’ll just pretend again that I’m not hitting another landmark age and instead tell people that I’m turning 39 part 2. A voice inside me shouted “No! Don’t be so pessimistic! Embrace this age!” I told that voice to shut up.

Seriously though, that voice kept coming back and that’s when Project #40thingsat40 came to life. I somehow convinced myself that instead of being depressed at turning 40, why not commemorate this year by learning, experiencing, doing 40 new things and then tell the world (realistically, those handful who read this blog) about them!

Thus, the journey begins.

40thingsat40

*Malay for forty

Pre-‘Guidelines for the New Year’ Post

Every year, I write a Guidelines for the New Year post. Not on this blog but on my other blog where I’ve been posting more regularly for the last 12 years. This year however, I’ll be posting my Guidelines post here.

While I was happily writing that post, I suddenly realised that I had forgotten what my own Guidelines were this year! Not only that – I’d also realised that in all the years writing my Guidelines post I’d failed to reflect on whether or not I’d lived that year according to the Guidelines I’d painstakingly set out! I was appalled at myself. Appalled! Nevertheless, this pre-‘Guidelines for the New Year’ post is where I’ll rectify that humongous oversight.

This is where you can find this year’s Guidelines.

So, this year, I reminded myself to say yes, which I think I’ve done a pretty good job of abiding to. One of the things I’ve said yes to, which at other times in my life, I would have said nuh-uh, was agreeing to freelance work (while holding down a 9-to-5 job).

The guideline to be mindful every moment of the things I say, do and feel was a reminder to be present in and appreciate each moment and I don’t think I did that as well as I could have. I also didn’t practice gratitude as often as I should when truthfully, there’s a lot that I’m grateful for.

I’m positive my 9 day trip to London and Paris in early-December qualifies as my one grand adventure for the year! (More on this later)

To learn at least one new thing. Does learning to not detest escargot count? 😉

And finally, the guideline to remember and to remind myself that this is my life to do with what I wish which means I can keep it this way, or change it to how it deserves to be, is why I’m at another crossroad in my life and will be making a leap in January 2017. Joyfear.

So, reflecting on 2016, I have to admit that for me, professionally, there were more downs than ups and the ups were mainly from the freelance work I said yes to. On the other hand, personally, it’s been a fairly memorable year – new friends, the grand adventure – which makes me a little eager to see what 2017 will bring. Just a little eager because, you know, joyfear. Also, I’m looking forward to more blogging next year. Much, much more since I already have several themed posts up my sleeve 😀

So, before I end my pre-Guidelines to the New Year post and also because this post recommends I “prompt my readers (yes, I’m looking at the both of you) for their thoughts when I’ve finished my roundup, tell me – which of my posts this year that you’ve read made you go “This woman is awesome! I want her to be my BFF!”?

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May next year be half as sweet as these candied apples at the Christmas Market, Champs-Elysees