No plastic lids, no straws, thanks

No plastic lids, no straws, thanks
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When I order a cup of coffee, it usually comes with a lid. They don’t ask if your order is “for here or to go”. They simply slap on the plastic lid. When I get to my table, I pop the lid off to let the coffee cool down while I eat. This is pretty much my routine and quite frankly, I never thought much about it…

No plastic lids, no straws, thanks

… until earlier this year when it struck me that the lid serves absolutely no purpose except to cover the cup for my walk from the counter to the table. After I pop it off, it sits there, brand new, and does nothing until I’m done and then it gets dumped in the trash with the paper cup and everything else. Which begs the question: why do I even need a plastic lid in the first place?

So now I tell them: No lid, please.

Aah, that’s better!

No plastic lids, no straws, thanks

Granted it’s just one little lid but it’s going straight into that ocean of plastic waste that’s polluting our environment and making our climate go crazy. Which, in the long run, is going to affect every single one of us and generations to come. So if I don’t need the lid, I’m going to tell them no, or pop it off right there and give it back. Simple!

Those stifling heatwaves, devastating storms, prolonged droughts and massive floods that’s going on all over the place sound really scary. And while some folks think it all “just happened to be worse this year”, in reality, it’s no coincidence.

The planet is getting way hotter than ever; the winds, rains and storms are getting much fiercer and the destruction and loss of life and limb is becoming impossible to ignore. And it’s all because our climate is changing. In a really bad way! So that means we really have to get off our butts and start doing something.

So when I was ordering a hamburger (for somebody, not for me) and saw this sign at McD’s recently, it made me smile (the sign, not the hamburger lol). Single-use straws are as harmful as single-use plastic bags although as far as I’m concerned, no plastic bag is ever single use. I recycle them by using them to line my trash bin.

No plastic lids, no straws, thanks

Those of us who’ve switched to recyclable bags for our groceries/shopping and our own containers for food takeout, and who’re saying no to straws, lids, etc should pat ourselves on the back. Not that we’re heroes or anything but at the rate climate change is happening, we really need to get off our butts and do something. Well, we got to start somewhere and every little bit helps. So join in and do your bit. Our planet (and future generations) will thank you. Cheers.

No plastic lids, no straws, thanks

Tissue box auntie

Tissue box auntie
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So I’m trying to pick out a few more boxes of Kleenex facial tissues. Chronic bulk shopper that I am, even with 7 packets of coffee, 6 body shampoo refill packs, 4 jumbo packs of 2 regular packs of 10 bathroom rolls (’cause 80 rolls is just how I roll lol) and 2 packs of 4 tissue boxes already in my cart, I’m still not done. Need to snag 2 more 4-packs. At least.

You’d think I’m running a freakin’ hotel. That’s right, running a household with 3 kids is like running a hotel. I don’t do last minute. I always buy in bulk and stock up. Because heaven forbid, if the Apocalypse should hit tomorrow and we run out of toilet rolls or peanut butter or batteries or something. So I kinda always wanna be prepared lol.

Back to my story. It’s a very busy day at the store, the Kleenex aisle is a moving river of women and my shopping cart is parked nearby. When I happen to glance over at it, I notice a well-dressed “auntie” in her 40’s peering left and right at the contents of my loaded cart.

So I’m like ??

Tissue box auntie

She: Ah, where (did) you get this?

Me: Over there. (pointing)

She goes over and is back in front of me in seconds.

She: Where? Where? (It’s) not there. Where (did) you find this?

Me: Over there. (swallowing hard and pointing again to the same shelf)

She disappears and reappears several more times, looking more frantic each time. I’m starting to think that she wants me to take her by the hand, lead her to the exact spot and place said tissue boxes into her arms.

Not happening!

Me: Well, it’s there somewhere or maybe they’ve run out.

Okay, “run out” is probably a bad choice of words. She might think I’m asking her to run out of the store (which might not be such a bad idea after all, come to think of it lol!). I’m guilty of flinging phrasal verbs around only to realize, wait a minute, I should probably grade my language, just in case.

Me: Err, maybe they’re out of stock.

She: I want (the) same one like this.

What?!?

Tissue box auntie

She wants the same box design that I have? *sweats* I’m like, well, if you can’t find the same exact design, what’s the big deal? Nothing special about these boxes – same price, same size – and they’re just tissues which you use once and throw away. Just pick something else and move on with life. Gah!

Guess what? She reappears, this time waving her cellphone. I’m like, NOW WHAT?

She: I take photo, okay? (pointing to my tissue pack)

Lololol this woman is something else. But I’m a nice person.

Me: Sure. (holding up the pack for her)

Then she’s gone, whew! For good, I hope. But no, she’s back and asking if she can borrow my tissue pack so she can go show it to the staff. What?! She can’t be serious! My parking ticket is expiring soon and I ain’t paying for another hour of parking just to entertain her needless pursuit.

Me: Look, lady, I don’t have time for this. I can’t be standing here all day. I have to go.

I start pushing my cart and walking away. You know, it’d be nice if people would realize when they’re stretching the limits on other people’s time. And like I always say, throwing in a thank-you and/or sorry is not only the polite thing to do but it’d be really nice. Just sayin’.

To Club Med and back

To Club Med and back
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Hey, I’m back from Club Med. Finally found my way into what once used to be an exclusive club. These days, everyone and their pet emu wants in on a piece of the action, or inaction to those who truly understand what Club Med is all about. From Silicon Valley techies to Hollywood celebrities, everyone’s flocking there like ants to honey.

Indeed the Club Med I’m talking about has nothing to do with the fancy beach resort where you chuck your kids to resident daycare and happily dance off into the deep blue in your bikini. This is the other Club Med. Club Meditation, that is. A clever play on words for a retreat where you pretty much spend all of your waking hours in meditation, one of the central tenets of Buddhism.

While Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder, famously switched off his phone at a 10-day meditation retreat, I chose a non-residential one instead. I figured if I can pull off one whole day of nothing but meditation, I might well be moving one step closer to enlightenment. Maybe. Hopefully.

So! I arrive at the meditation center bright and early. Eighteen minutes early, to be exact, as others are just beginning to trickle in. After checking in, I survey the large hall where thin cushions have been laid out neatly in rows. Okay, okay, I’m feeling all gungho already! Go me!

To Club Med and back

Image credit: depositphotos.com

For starters, we’re told to switch off our cellphones and place our bags on some designated shelves far away. I’m not married to my phone so I was quite happy saying “goodbye, phone, see ya later!” – a welcome chance to spare myself the daily chore of scrolling through and relentlessly deleting dozens of rubbishy messages and videos that I don’t even bother opening.

The day starts with a bit of chanting and brief instructions on meditation. No details are given about the day’s agenda except that we’re to observe silence throughout the retreat. We’re not allowed to speak. Okay, that’s easy enough. I’m probably more talkative on this blog than I am in person anyways.

At 11:30am, there’s a one-sentence announcement to proceed to the dining hall. Each person is allocated a box of simple vegetarian dishes over rice and a half cup of light sweet tea which I enjoy tremendously and wish I could get a refill (but no, no refills). As we eat, bowls of fruit are passed around to each table. I gingerly place 2 pieces of fresh pineapple and a banana on my box lid but pass on another fruit that looks questionable to me.

We’re encouraged to take a half hour to finish our meal, which is wa-ay longer than what we’d normally need to scarf down a meal this size. The point is to eat slowly, paying attention to what we’re eating. Which, of course, runs contrary to how we typically rush through a meal so we can move on to the next thing on our busy, crazy agenda.

As it turns out, it’s not that difficult to do and it feels pretty nice too. Taking my time to chew through each mouthful before refilling my fork and raising it to my mouth, I notice that the burst of flavors is much more distinct and I’m more aware of the taste. Hmm, this is interesting and you know what, I kinda like it!

Meditating for hours on end, however, is a whole new experience for me. I won’t say it’s easy but it’s doable. I went in without any expectations and I’m glad it didn’t feel like too much of a chore and somehow I didn’t even notice the hours going by. I think I did good (don’t you?) and for that, I’m happy. So yeah! or should I say, hooyah!

Humanity at its best

Humanity at its best
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As I watched the events around the Tham Luang cave rescue of the Thai soccer team and coach unfold, I began to realize that this was more than a miracle, that there was something mystical, maybe even spiritual about this whole thing (one of which was the fact that the water pumps only failed after the last person had been rescued and the remaining rescue crew were able to get out in the nick of time).

I also began noticing some pretty amazing things happening on many levels, things we see too little of these days. My observations are based on what I’ve culled from the news, of course and these are merely some of my thoughts.

Humanity at its best

It’s interesting to see how the kids and their soccer coach were a team from start to end. I’m inclined to believe they survived because they worked and stayed together as a solid team, leaning on each other through the entire ordeal. From all accounts, it was the coach who was instrumental in keeping everyone together but it also helped that the boys listened to him and followed his lead.

To me, it seems like they’re a family. We may not normally think of a family as a team but in actual fact, it is. Very much so. So why are there families pulling away from each other, showing little compassion or empathy towards each other and sidelining each other? Food for thought, eh?

Then there were the expressions of gratitude all round. In the first video of the team being found, you can hear the kids saying ‘thank you’ to the British divers without being prompted by anyone. In handwritten letters, parents thanked the coach for taking care of their kids, and the coach apologized to the parents. In hospital videos and the press conference, the kids thanked their rescuers and parents over and over.

What’s more amazing is that the rescuers in turn thanked the survivors for trusting them to pull off a successful rescue. I mean, getting a regular thank you from people is hard enough these days. What more for someone who’s saved your life to thank you for putting your trust and your life in their hands? And to dismiss their heroics as merely ‘putting their skills to use’ – wow, that humility! Man, this is so beautiful *cries*!

Then there were the thousands of random strangers who dropped what they were doing and came running from all over the world to help in any which way they could and I’m just going, wow, just wow. It didn’t matter what they could offer, they just rolled up their sleeves and figured a way to dive in (literally and figuratively) somehow, even risking their own life and limb. I really salute these people.

Those who couldn’t help directly in the rescue found other ways they could jump in. One lady collected the rescuers’ soiled clothing from the cave every evening and stayed up all night doing their laundry which she returned before the dawn of each new day of rescue operations. One man spent his days offering free rides to and from the cave site on his motorbike. Farmers allowed their crops to be ruined by water drained from the cave. So many unsung heroes who made sacrifices for a bunch of kids they likely don’t even know!

So yeah, I think these past weeks have shown us humanity at its best. Most days I don’t bother reading the news because it just gets too depressing and ridiculous sometimes. It’s been refreshing to look away from our daily fixation on food and material life for just a bit and redirect that energy instead to cheering for the efforts of our fellow human beings and praying for a positive outcome to this crisis. My faith in humankind has somehow been restored.

What’s dessert got to do with superheroes?

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?
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I came across a tweet last night that reminded me of Thai food which I happen to love. Yup, like half the world out there, I’ve been sitting here obsessively refreshing my tweet feeds and mentally praying that the Thai cave rescue of the last 4 (out of 12) boys and their soccer coach will go safely, smoothly and swiftly.

So to keep that unstoppable finger off my left mouse button, I figured I’d distract myself and keep my spirits up at the same time by talking about my favorite Thai dessert. Yums.

Well, y’all know me, I’m not much of a desserts person. Never quite fancied how overly sweet most desserts are that’re out there. No, seriously, where do you find a dessert that isn’t diabetic?

And yet, on an unbearably hot day last year, I surrendered to the call of tub tim krob. That’s not the name of a person, mind you, though it does sound like that distant grand-uncle who ruffled your hair when you were six?

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

Okay, okay, so I’ve been having a hard time with the name, calling it tum tim tom, tim tum rom, tim tom kob, no, that’s not right either! Hopefully none of these are vulgarities I may have let slip without knowing their meanings but you get the idea. I just couldn’t get it right.

Yet it’s one of the best things ever. Although tim tub krob looks as scary as your white-haired grand-uncle at first sight with that thick coconut milkiness, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on underneath that mountain of shaved ice – thinly sliced jackfruit, red and green rubies of water chestnuts and whatever else is in there, it’s all good.

What's dessert got to do with superheroes?

This is sweet but not grab-you-by-the-throat sweet. Having all those rubies inside helps cut through some of that sweetness. And of course, in weather like this, I love all things chilled and icy.

So then, back to the newsfeeds. It’s crazy to even try to comprehend what it’s taken to get to this point in a rescue that’s fraught with so many dangers and factors beyond human control.

What’s truly incredible and heartwarming are the stories of kindness, compassion and sacrifice, the many levels of brainstorms, tough decisions and planning, and the thousands of real-life superheroes who have literally emerged from out of nowhere in this time of need. Truly amazing!

Today is an important day in the rescue. They’re trying to wrap up the mission and get everyone out of there quickly and safely before the brunt of the monsoon. Okay, back to refreshing my feeds, sending positive energy and praying (join me, there can never be too many prayers for something like this).

Only words

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First there were the Wordless Wednesdays and I think many of us had fun with it. I have to admit it’s an ingenious way to ‘write’ a blog post without actually writing it! But now I’ve decided on going in the opposite direction – pictureless posts, something that few may embrace though it sounds like fun to me.

For too long, we’ve given in to our photo-snapping obsession and allowed our pictures to tell our stories for us. Some folks have even gone so far as to trade in their blogs for insta’s. Nothing wrong with that but there’s a reason why I never bothered setting up an account!

Personally, I’m not a fan of using my photos to do the talking, or blogging, for me. I’m someone who rarely pulls out my cellphone to show people my pictures or plaster them all over the internet. I actually prefer to describe stuff to folks whether they like it or not.

We-ell, it could be because in real life, I’m a nerd lol. So yeah, it’s all very well that technology has made it so much easier for our pictures to paint a thousand words but for me, I still prefer to write a thousand words.

I think half the fun of blogging is the writing itself. To some, a post without pictures is like driving without a steering wheel. I get that! But somehow, that’s not me! Sure, photos add a nice backdrop but ultimately, I think it’s the words themselves that speak the loudest.

More power to the written word! Hear, hear!

Indigestion, disappointment and pork ribs

Indigestion, disappointment and pork ribs
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What a week this has been! Had indigestion and lost my appetite Tuesday night. Woke up the next morning to nausea and a huge tummy upset. For sure, it wasn’t what I had for dinner. More like something toxic was in the air.

Well, I’m sorely disappointed that my appetite’s been slow to return. The weather report says the air quality is at its worst and won’t be improving any time soon. I figured if I was going to snap out of my misery, a well-deserved comfort dinner is just the thing I need.

See these gorgeous pork ribs? This was dinner last night.

Indigestion, disappointment and pork ribs

We picked up this ready-to-eat rack of ribs off the shelf and carted it home, reheated it when we were ready to eat, mashed some potatoes and plated some veggies, and that was dinner right there. Go Cali!

Indigestion, disappointment and pork ribs

These ribs were moist, juicy and flavorful but not fall-off-the-bone tender. In other words, perfection and exactly how ribs should taste.

Indigestion, disappointment and pork ribs

What’s the point of eating ribs if all the meat came off the bone and you’re left eating just the meat? Then you might as well be eating a piece of steak. Half the fun of eating ribs is being able to hold the bone like a caveman woman and strip the meat off it with your teeth. That’s the way you do it. Anyone else with me on this?

Some bones to pick

Some bones to pick
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One fine Saturday morning, while on our grocery run, we had to appease some rumbling tummies and so unanimously agreed to forget the groceries for a while and hurry over to our regular Thai restaurant.

We ordered the fried fish curry (and one other dish but that’s not important right now). As the owner/chef was approaching with our order, I noticed she was holding a plate rather than a bowl. I thought that was a bit strange. Our order of fish curry usually comes in a bowl.

Turns out our dear server (her son, a stoic individual who has an MBA but obviously missed the class on customer service with a smile) didn’t ask, and we forgot to mention we wanted the fillet, not the fish. We-ell, we thought he knew but apparently he didn’t.

Anyways, the owner (she’s not the friendly lady I mentioned here) was quick to defend her son, “But you didn’t say fillet!” And we were like, it’s fine, we don’t have time to argue, our tummies need food, we’ll just go with this.

Some bones to pick

To be honest, I’m a little rusty where fish bones are concerned. I mean, isn’t life busy enough as it is? Who needs to bother with bones when you can have fillet instead, right?

Still it was a fun challenge picking our way through this obstacle course of bones, fins and gills. The fins and tail were the best parts, so crispy we chomped everything down to this. Please excuse the mess.

Some bones to pick

We did good, huh? I think we did. But I’m definitely more of a fillet person. I just want to enjoy my meal and not have bones to pick with a squeaky shoe, know what I mean? *winks*

Hip2bMom’s professional hair cutting shears

Hip2bMom's professional hair cutting shears
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Just as I was congratulating myself on having successfully palmed off my hair cutting duties to Nick the Pro, he absconded on us. I’m really disappointed in you, Nick! I hope your hair turns algae green when you bleach it blond 😉.

Well, as I recall, there’s a piece of sweet wisdom that says – when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. So off I went and hohoho, what did I find?

My first pair of, dare I say, professional hair cutting shears! And just like that, I’m back at my old job as the family’s official hairdresser!

Hip2bMom's professional hair cutting shears

I figured if I can’t claim to be a pro, I can at least pretend to be one with these professional hair cutting shears lol! My old stainless steel pair has served me well through my kids’ growing years. But now that I have to deal with way more hair and length, I need a bigger pair that takes off more hair at one go and won’t slow me down.

My Utopia Care professional hair cutting shears arrived in a neat portable case that’s great for storage and even better for travel. The shears are just the right size, very sharp and with finger inserts for a better grip. I don’t use the inserts as I like to be able to slip the shears on and off quickly. The blades are 100% stainless steel so no worries about rusting or tarnishing.

Hip2bMom's professional hair cutting shears

So far, we’ve used these shears for 2 rounds of haircuts and we’re lovin’ every snip. I say we because Hip2bDaughter1 is now my trusted hairdresser. Yup, you heard me. My baby now styles and cuts MY hair and she does an amazing job.

Somewhere along the line, you guys are probably wondering, so why don’t you just go to another hairdresser? Well, yes, that would be the logical next step for many people. Not for me. I’m a very hands-on mom who enjoys doing stuff for/with my kids. It’s what I call seamless bonding.

Personal experience also tells me that dream haircuts don’t always turn out the way you envision them, even after forking out those big bucks. So I’d rather steer clear of any potential hairy situations and take matters into my own hands.

Thankfully my amateur haircuts are turning out okay. This week alone, the girls have had 3 random people complimenting them on their cute haircuts at school. I heard that these 3 people when told they are Mom’s home haircuts, and not pro cuts, were impressed and gave the thumbs up.

Many people here cut their own hair or for their families and are proud of it. Others applaud and encourage them. That’s the spirit. Many of us have never been to hair school but have simply learned the techniques from watching videos. All you need is a good pair of shears like my new professional hair cutting shears which gives me the precision I need to do a better job. Who would’ve thought some of the best haircuts in the world are free?

(I wasn’t paid or compensated in any way for writing this post (though it’d be nice if Utopia would send me a free pair of these amazing shears, hint hint) but it does contain affiliate links. Opinions are entirely mine. Thanks for clicking on these links.)

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles
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Happiness is finding a new place to add to the Pearl (Picky Eaters’ Approved Restaurant List). We stumbled on this great little Korean fast food place that passed our taste test with flying colors. Well, stumbled isn’t exactly the word. We’ve walked past it a million times and even scoffed at the menu a few times (that was before the Great K Revolution, of course).

The million dollar question is this: How could we have walked past so often and never thought to stop? Well, we couldn’t tell from the pictures on the menu if the food would be good. Thing is we’re not in the habit of staring openly at people’s food as we walk past their tables. It’s rude to stare especially when people are eating. My children were trained never to do that and if they did, they’d no doubt have heard from me!

I’m not sure what made us step in. As with all new places that we’re trying out, we didn’t order much. The Chicken BBQ came with rice in a K bowl (no less), seaweed soup and 3 side dishes  I wish it came with a Korean name as well, like maybe 치킨 바비쿄. But even without that, the grilled chicken is flavorful, mildly sweet and not too salty.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

The 닭 볶음 (dak bokeum), or stir-fried chicken in chilly sauce had a good mix of veggies in it. It’s reminiscent of 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew). The tangy, spicy sauce was lip-smackin’ good till the last drop. Even the Colonel would agree heh!

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

As for the 3 반찬 (banchan, or side dishes), there’s 김치 (kimchi), 밀치금 (anchovies) and a random third dish. The kimchi isn’t as crunchy as I’d like it to be but I love the anchovies.

The 파전 (pajeon, or Korean pancake) may look unassuming but don’t be fooled, there’s hidden squid in the batter, and veggies you can actually see. Most restaurants would just serve this ‘blank’, and charge more for the loaded version. I like the light crunch in this pancake. The sauce is okay, a bit too salty so we dip it in the dak bokeum sauce.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

On another occasion, I surprised myself by ordering their 비빔 국수 (bibim guksu). Remember I swore off cold noodles the first time I ate them because to me, there’s only one way to eat noodles – piping hot.

Then one fine day, I found a stash of buckwheat noodles in my kitchen (I didn’t buy ’em), concocted a meal with them and fell in love, either with the noodles or my own cooking, I don’t know which 😝. Yeah, that was random even for me. But I ended up loving every mouthful of those buckwheat noodles eaten warm, of course, not cold.

Fast forward to when I saw bibim guksu on the menu and jumped at it without even thinking. Thankfully they weren’t served cold but were room temp instead. Awesome, I wouldn’t have had them any other way. Yums.

Of staring, fast food and not so cold noodles

So it’s happy days. We’ve been back many times, and now even the restaurant staff know our faces and orders and give us a special discount. Yes, they have a customer-friendly team unlike the usual ones with fake amnesia. “Why you not early today?” the cute waiter asked when we strolled in on a weekend lunch hour and couldn’t find a table. He found us one pretty quick. Now that’s service for ya!

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