Janice’s (R)oast Beef #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.


The January after I spent Christmas 2008 with my sister in Houston, I went further north to Vancouver to visit old friends made during my days at York University. At the time, I hadn’t seen them since we’d left one another in Toronto in 2002.

My first few days in Vancouver, I stayed with Janice and her family, whose house was close to downtown Vancouver. They had a little attic space in their house which doubled as the guest room. It was one of the cosiest spaces I’d slept in though I recall the wooden stairs going up and down creaked a little too loudly.

During one of the evenings, we stayed in and Janice and her mum (who came over to meet me) made dinner. Her mum had come over with groceries which included a significant cut of beef tenderloin for roasting.

“Is there anything I can help with?” I asked, feeling uncomfortable just standing around.

“Sure, you can help slice the carrots for the vegetables which will go with the roast beef,” Janice suggested.

And so, I began to peel and cut carrots, happy to have an active part in coming up with dinner that day, instead of just eating it. It’s always strange to insert oneself into a family’s every day life, that’s what it felt like for me that day, but Janice’s easygoing ways made me feel at ease.

The roast beef I had at Janice’s house was exactly like this. So yum.

After several hours of prep, and waiting for the beef to roast, it was finally time for dinner. Janice pointed me towards my seat at the table, a seat that had my back to their yard, while the rest of her family – her husband, her mother, Janice and their son – took their regular seats. Janice’s husband carved the roast, which was a near perfect medium rare. We had our dinner with a delicious bottle of red wine, and I was grilled by Janice’s husband about who discovered Malaysia. It was a strange, and memorable evening.

Are you a fan of good roast beef like me?


A Beautiful (Roast) (D)uck #atozchallenge

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Food Memories‘.


Did you know?
Beijing roast duck (also known as Peking duck) has been eaten since Imperial times, its first mention dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) when it appeared in a text written by an inspector of the Imperial kitchen. 

It was my 20th birthday, instead of a birthday cake that year, my friends gave me a roast duck cake. They even went so far as to put the roast duck in a cake box. In all honesty though, I didn’t know I was going to get roast duck until I opened it. It was a quarter of a roast duck, and there were candles placed in between the sliced pieces of duck. Two large candles for “20”.

There’s another picture of me, from the same birthday “party”, holding a piece of the roast duck. I’ve got a little bit of fear in my eyes, and I’m holding the duck with just two fingers on each hand, to minimise physical contact. I don’t remember precisely, but I may have nibbled on the piece a little.

Roast duck was the unexpected theme of my 20th birthday because apparently, my name – Amelia (Ā méi lí yà) – when you sound it out in Chinese, translates (very) loosely to “beautiful duck”. Well, that’s what my Chinese friends told me to explain the presence of the roast duck. Unfortunately, what my dear friends were unaware of was that…

…I don’t eat duck. In fact, I may even have detested it a little then because it tasted too game-y for me.

In the end though, after all the roast duck was out of the way, that birthday was one of my more memorable ones. We (there were at least 10 people) started off the night having dinner at our local mamak stall, which led to loud and raucous birthday song singing at the nearby park. The night ended with a not traditional, traditional birthday food fight which saw us (me) running around the park trying to get away from friends trying to pelt me with food e.g. tomato ketchup, soy sauce, chilli sauce intended for the roast duck, flour and of course, eggs. It was the messiest and most fun birthday I’ve ever had.

I didn’t eat duck then, but I’m more adventurous and have the occasional pan-fried duck breast now. Just no roast duck cake, please.

Anyone else not a fan of duck? Or is it just me?

Observing Friends/ Parents

I was at a gathering of old school mates the past weekend.

There were 9 adults.

And 9 kids, ranging from toddler to 7 or 8 years old.

To describe the scene as fairly chaotic would be an understatement.

The amazing thing for me being there was that I had the rare opportunity to observe my old friends, not as my old friends, but in their role as parents. This was enlightening to me because among the group was an old classmate I never got close to and never would’ve imagined ending up as a doting father of two girls. Yet there he was, sitting in the armchair in one corner of the room, his girls running around him and not a raised voice heard from him. They were his princesses. This was the guy who was well known in our class for his short temper and would frequently get into arguments at the drop of a hat. Huh.

There was also the ex-class clown who passed on his silliness to his firstborn and to see him interacting with his son as if his son was such a wondrous gift from Heaven…well…there were moments that I had to blink furiously to dispel the tears that hovered at the corner of my eyes.

Then there was the girl who was my partner in crime with whom I’d get into tonnes of mischief with, who is now a mother of three. I think watching her with her children was most fascinating. She retained that youthfulness and playfulness about her even when she was reprimanding her kids for running around on a full stomach. And her little boy…oh, I almost brought him home with me.

Then of course there were the high school sweethearts – whenever they speak about their kids, I get wistful. Their kids were so energised, I got tired just watching them but it was their youngest girl that held me and I imagined her future when she’d realise she has such wonderful older brothers to protect her as she navigates life and I thought what a lucky little lady.

I drove home that day with so many thoughts in my head and a smile in my heart, grateful to bear witness to old friends who are an amazing group of parents with their equally amazing bundles of joy.

Originally posted on the 19th of August, 2013 at Stories from Sonobe

That’s What Friends are For

I pressed `PLAY’ on the VCR, leaned back against the sofa and got ready to watch the tape.

The opening credits began – Memories of Redang…1st to 5th July 1997. For the next 140 minutes, I was transfixed, watching someone else’s version of my memory.

Dhalita, who came up with the idea to record our entire mini-break, came onscreen and said, “Say something lah, in 50 years when I watch this video, I want to know what we did today!”

Cheese, the self-appointed leader of our motley crew, obediently began to narrate the mundane, “This morning, we woke up, brushed our teeth, had breakfast…”.

I giggled. I’d forgotten he could be funny.

As I watched the video, I alternated between smiling, laughing, going “Haiyoh!” and slapped my forehead with the palm of my hand. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting from myself. I was almost enjoying reliving the events that happened on the trip so long ago. Every single time the faces of the people I used to love came onscreen, I expected my heart to contract a little, but it didn’t. Instead, I watched their young selves and smiled at the memory of the people they were, the people I knew.

I didn’t even remember that we had a thank you-gift giving ceremony for Leen who’d single-handedly organised the entire trip for all of us. But there we were on the screen and Leen had just accepted our gift of a super-comfortable pillow that she hugged the whole bus ride back. “Say something lah,” we urged. “Thank you,” she said into the camera. “I shy” and she hid her face with her brand new pillow. Typical Leen.

I surprised myself.

For all of 138 minutes, I didn’t shed one tear.

Then the montage came on in the 139th minute and Dionne Warwick’s `That’s What Friends Are For’ played in the background. As she reached the lyrics…

And if I should ever go away
Well, then close your eyes and try to feel
The way we do today
And then if you can remember

Keep smilin’, keep shinin’
Knowin’ you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

I rested my head on my knee that I had bent to my chest and cried a little.

Not long after that trip, our motley crew drifted apart. I’m no longer on speaking terms with almost all of those people that I went to Redang with and I sometimes lie awake at night and wonder why. Now, whenever this song comes on the radio, I’m transported back to those carefree days and nights on the island and a tiny, tiny part of me wishes that I could be with all of them for all their good times and bad, to be on their side forever more and to show them that that’s what friends are for.

Daily Prompt: Fierce

In response to the Daily Prompt’s Daily Post: Fierce



The sea was fierce the day we made the attempt but we were on a schedule. “Moderate waves with fairly frequent white horses,” the Offshore Installation Manager told us, “My guys will monitor the sea conditions. If it gets worse, I’ll instruct the boat to turn back.”

It was early morning, we stepped onto the transfer basket, our bags and safety helmets secured in the designated space in the centre. We clutched the ropes tightly, positioning ourselves on opposite sides for stabilisation. The bosun’s walkie-talkie crackled. He lifted it to his ear and gave us the thumbs up. The crane lifted us up above the platform, swung us out gently so that we hovered for a minute above the South China Sea. My hair tied into a ponytail was whipping back and forth. The smell of exhaust fumes from the crane seemed out of place here, far out at sea. The both of us looked across to one another and grinned as we savoured the view. Then we were lowered, the basket swaying slightly, to the tug boat waiting below which was bobbing a little too much for my liking.

The basket landed on the boat with a soft thud and I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. When we stepped off the basket and onto the deck of the tug boat, I asked her why she was grinning earlier while we dangled probably twenty stories above the rough water. I licked salt water from my lips while she re-arranged her tudung which had gone askew. “I looked at you, and then thought to myself how in the heck I ended up here!” She exclaimed, laughing. I joined her in laughter, nudged her shoulder and told her I was thinking the same thing.

Then we sat back, held tight and let the wind snatch away our fears and worries that day.

#BEDM Day 12: Old Roommates

Today’s #BEDM topic – What Do You Miss? – was taken from this blog, which lists the topics I referred to when I did this challenge in 2013. 


When I was 18 and starting A-levels, I stayed with 3 other girls in a hostel. The room we were assigned wasn’t very large, it was long rather than wide. It reminded me of a corridor 🙂 It was the first time I’d be staying with strangers and I didn’t know whether to be excited or scared.

The first roommate I met was ML. She wasn’t a stranger, much to my relief. We’d met a year ago when we attended the same tuition centre. Though we weren’t BFFs, or even quite Fs, we were more acquaintances, she seemed tolerable. So far, so good.

Then there’s F, who turned out to be super-extroverted, predictably unpredictable and loved shocking people with her words and antics. I’m still certain that if we weren’t roommates, we would not be friends. She was Ms. Popular, I was not. Our orbits never would’ve intersected.

Finally, there was KH, she was our resident genius who was also emotional and had an amazing singing voice. She was born on January 7th, which automatically made her our older, wiser sister.

We were such a motley crew.  Truly, no four could be more different yet somehow we fit into one another’s lives like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I remember one night, weary of the monotony of study, someone switched off the lights in our room. I was at my desk focused on my textbook, hoping that the information would migrate into my brain via sound wave. My desk faced the window which meant my back faced the light switch so I didn’t know who switched off the lights that night. I’m guessing ML since she was always the one that came up with the most outrageous ideas. Then the music that was humming pleasantly in the background was turned up.  This sounded more and more like something F would do.  I was getting up from my seat, when hands grabbed me and the next thing I knew, I was being forced to wriggle to the beat of the music!  Everyone knew that I don’t dance, yet there I was in the middle of the room being forced to sway my hips like its never been swayed before.  I was gyrating, making unnatural shapes.  This dance torture didn’t last long though (phew) because I managed to escape from my captor’s grasps and planted myself on the floor, making sure no one could drag me to do more gyrations.

In the end, all of us ended on the floor and we laughed our asses off. The lights were still switched off. We needed that spontaneous dance-off; the daily grind was slowly wearing us down. Moments like those kept me smiling for days afterwards.

Of course, there was the flip side to all the fun and funny antics.

My nightly ritual was to have a cup of coffee or tea after dinner before I settled down for revisions.  One night, after a particularly weary day, this ritual brought a sense of order to my chaotic thoughts.  I had already brewed a cup of tea and left it covered on my desk while I popped off to the washroom.  Returning, anticipating my tea, I reached for the cup.  I lifted the lid and as I laid my lips on the rim, my eyes were drawn to 3 pieces of orange cheezels floating in my tea, leaving oily trails.

I was shocked – my tea! My precious tea! Tears welled in my eyes, the stressful day and my ruined tea overwhelmed me, as I turned towards the obvious culprits – ML and F who were giggling behind their text books. Did they think it was funny?  The tea was un-drinkable! All I wanted was a quiet night. I hated them then, at that very moment.

And now, having lost touch with all of them, I miss them. A little.


My What Do You Miss? post from 2013.