28 Jun 2011

Dancing free.. (watercolour)

Busy week and weekend around here as usual. As I sat down after a long day yesterday, a sense of hopelessness enveloped me again. I don't always feel this way, but I have felt it, off and on, after my second pregnancy.

After I had Jo, I had pretty bad post pregnancy depression that had me crying for days and months. Eventually with the passing of time, my mood improved and I began to feel more like myself. 
Yet somehow, since then, that depressive feeling occasionally finds itself back into my heart and mind  and hits me bad.
It hit me yesterday.

 As I sat there with this desperate, lost feeling, strangely I felt an urge to paint. But instead of a bleak, somber picture, I saw a happy picture in my mind..a picture of me and my girls dancing...perhaps dancing before the Lord. I guess, though my mind was depressed, my soul told me that my hope and joy can be found in the Lord.
The first picture I painted in the middle of the night as my family slept..

A more colourful version..
These paintings are not perfect...just an expression of myself.
Out of curiosity..which version do you prefer?

23 Jun 2011

Watercolour - Turtles

I've not been painting for a while.

Being a full time mum, who works part time, means I'm always busy with something, either doing house chores, cooking, grocery, laundry or working. But recently a good friend dropped by my house, looked at the pathetic old  collection of art on my porch and asked "You've not been painting?"

I shook my head and said "No...no time." I started painting late 2009 and took classes for a while, then I quit, "No time" and since then, I've hardly painted except for bits here and there. Well, my brushes were rotting and collecting dust recently when this dear friend's question really nudged me,  and inspired me to pick up em brushes again. So some work from this week, done bit by bit during some spare time in between my hectic schedule.

Inspired by our recent field trip,  Watching Turtles in the wild on a beach under moonlit skies

THis is a watercolour sketch, done under 20 mins.

I tried sketchin my doggie my hero  .Thought of starting a wildlife drawing collection, but since I can't find a lion or tiger here, I thought, heck, my dog will do. He's hyperactive though (the vet and groomer say so too!) It was tough drawing him, coz he wouldn't sit longer than 3 seconds.

I guess that's it for the week. I might not be around much this week and next. Giving blogging a short break.

20 Jun 2011

Watching Turtles in the Wild

Walk with me as we watch Turtles laying eggs in the wild.
It was a dark night when we arrived. The tour guide said “Welcome”, and after a brief talk produced two baskets of turtle hatchlings, which caused my girls to squeal with such delight. They were given the honor of looking after these baby turtles and we began our walk along the beautiful beach.
It was pitch dark except for the amazing starry sky. Someone shone a dim light to help us find our way at first and eventually that light too was turned off. Our eyes grew accustomed to the black of the night. Occasionally this delinquent tourist ahead of us would take photos using flash photography, and the tour guide would shout “NO FLASH! NO LIGHT!”
 It was heavenly and exciting feeling the sand between my toes while listening to the thundering waves crashing against the shore. Shortly we came to a stop. A mama turtle was trying to climb her way up a steep slope. Two guides were trying to help her climb. They told us to stay away so as not to distract the turtle. Again, that irritating tourist with the flashlight went near. Tour guide shouted “go away, no come near!” she didn’t listen. After a while that mama turtle gave up and swam back to sea.  My older girl followed that mama from behind and watched her disappear into that vast ocean. (She would reappear again later, at a different site to lay eggs.)
A further walk later, we came to a turtle who’d almost done with laying eggs. We watched silently, amazed, as she laid her last eggs, and then she began covering her nesting chamber with her hind flippers. What an awesome sight. We were just awed by such a beautiful, gentle creature, and sometimes Nel laughed, tickled when that turtle flicked the sand hard at the tour guide.
As we sat there waiting again, someone said quietly Moon Rise I’d never heard of that term, but as I sat observing for a while, it really was a moon rise! The moon first appeared just above the sea, and gradually “rose”, illuminating that dark ocean with its glow. How beautiful! At that moment I just thought…What an awesome God who created all this, and what a privilege to enjoy such beauty.
After a rather long wait, (where my hubby dozed of temporarily) we found another turtle laying her eggs. My girls sat quietly behind that turtle watching that mama lay all of her 101 eggs, mesmerized by the entire process and later telling me they’d like to be volunteers at turtle conservation. (smile)
It is a strange feeling when you see a mama turtle head back into the ocean after covering her nesting chamber. I couldn’t help feeling a tinge of sadness as I watch her (the turtle) slowly crawling in that dark night, into the vast ocean, all alone. Yet, when her flippers first touched the ocean water, my sad feelings turned to happiness, feeling a sense that her work has been accomplished, her long journey worth it, her eggs laid. She was now free to go back to her feeding ground. (A Turtle will return to the same beach, approximately every 10 days once, in the time frame of 2 months, to lay eggs after which she’ll return to her feeding ground.)
Finally came time for us to release the baby hatchlings into that ocean.  Again...it was mixed feelings watching the baby turtles moving their way into the ocean. I must say, the babies moved very excitedly, and by instinct found their way. (Baby turtles will always follow the brighter path, and so they will naturally go towards the open ocean. They are attracted by light.) They will return again 20 years from now to lay their own eggs. My girls followed their hatchlings right to the ocean. Jo said "I feel happy mum, and I will see her again in 20 years, if she's a girl." Nel said "I feel sad mum, the ocean is full of danger..I hope my turtle will make it."
What can I say? I’m always lost for words when it comes to experiences like this. Awesome? Wonderful? Heavenly? Indescribable.. unforgettable.
Back to that irritating tourist. She took at least more than 10 shots using flash photography, even right at the eyes of the turtle that was laying eggs. How inconsiderate!! Our tour guide had to keep shouting “no flash! No light!” she ignored it all.
In my opinion, if a tourist wants to go on such an experience, then respect nature and observe silently without disturbing. If a tourist is going just to show been there, done that” without caring nuts about the nature, then DON’T GO.
Finally, we were fortunate to also visit a terrapin conservation program. My girls enjoyed this very much too, and this is where they decided that they’d like to be volunteers.

 Also, my dear friends who know how crazy Jo is about mermaids? Well During our night at the beach, I found her in an old turtle's nest, flipping her hands and legs like crazy. She said "I wish I was a turtle mum. You know how much I love mermaids right mum? Well..now I think I love turtles more." As for Nel, she longs to go back soon to watch more turtles. Perhaps it's because she's older, she has mixed feelings. Like me, she is happy for the turtles, yet sad that they meet so many predators out there. Sad that there are still people stealing eggs to eat, destroying their habitat.

My girls taking care of turtle hatchlings before releasing them later on

The Beautiful Moon Rise. (That's Jo silhouette)

Couldn't get a clear picture. This mama laid 101 eggs.
The first turtle we came across

Isn't a turtle beautiful....just so beautiful

Conservationist will collect the eggs and take them to a hatchery where their chance of survival will be better.

Releasing the babies..a mixture of sadness and happiness
At the Terrapin Conservation Program, headed by
As you can see, Jo's almost in there..she asked "mum, can I swim with them?"

River Terrapin

Baby Terrapins are tagged (by clipping on shell), weighed and measured
Jo trying a hand at tagging the terrapin, while Pelf guides very patiently (what a wonderful teacher )

Nel my child who wants to be a vet  (for now), helping Pelf at tagging. Post trip, she now says, she's considering marine biology. haha..

In between turtles and terrapins, Jo found a new best friend.


For more information on Turtle Conservation, visit

(We revisited Mak Nik to watch turtles again, and to explore Terengganu further. Post found Here

16 Jun 2011

Is it ok to push your child? Stopping Piano is not the end of the world.

She (Preteen) came in shouting, venting her anger, cursing her mother with vehemence. “Stupid! My mother is stupid!” She walked mindlessly towards my hall table, dumped her books and continued “Why does she pack things without asking, Because of her, I couldn’t find my piano book. SO I have no book today, And then she, my mum, likes to nag nag nag.” She continues while making a face, moving her lips to imitate the nagging of her mother or rather to further insult her mother.
I did not answer to her anger, instead I said firmly “Enough. Get to the piano and open up whatever book you’ve brought. You don’t speak about your mother like that.”
I know, some might think I should have lent her a listening ear, counseled her, but I didn’t. I’ve counseled her before, but not this time. I thought, no, I will just not tolerate such speech against her mother. No pity or empathy needed this time. Preteens can manipulate others into think their mothers are bitches just to spite their mums, to cover their (preteen’s) own fault.
It was a horrid class, she was in a bad mood, I was tired of her lack of practice. When her mum came by to pick her up later, her mum asked to speak to me in private. The preteen stared at her mum, hung around the gate and refused to budge. I looked at her and said “Privacy please, for a moment.” She glared at us, then walked slowly, meanderingly towards the car, ears strained our way. This was really the first when I’ve been so firm with her. Usually I enjoy talking with this preteen and we have a pretty good teacher-student relationship.
Her mother’s story was different from preteen’s. She said “I’ve been having trouble with her lately. She sulked before coming for class, she kicked up a tantrum and refused to come. Partially it’s because she doesn’t have time to practice coz she’s very very busy with all extra classes and tuition.”
This was my opportunity to tell her mum the truth. I’ve been waiting for this moment, always debating with myself whether to give up this student or not. I want to give her up so badly, and the only reason I've continued teaching her is because I don’t want her thinking “Another teacher gave up on me.”  So I’ve persevered. She’s musical, this preteen, but she’s got no time to practice, and she struggles with learning new pieces on the piano, struggles a lot more than others. And I've discovered she loves singing, has a good singing voice!
So I poured out my heart and told her mum that though preteen was very musical, it was and is a struggle to teach her and that she'd ace in vocals.
“What should I do then?” asked her mum.
“Perhaps take a break, or learn  a different instrument so she can express her musicality through other means. Try the drums, vocals, or even a Chinese instrument.”
“But she plays beautifully when she’s in the right mood.” replied her mum.
“I know she does, but the truth is, she struggles to most of the time. For instance the piece she's learning, an average student takes 3 weeks to learn that, but Preteen has taken up to 6 months! She plays it lovely now, but it's been such a struggle for her.” I replied.
“So you think we should stop? Let us know when is a good time to stop.” I sensed that Preteen's mum said that without really meaning it.
I was tempted to say "You can stop her right now!" But instead I replied “Discuss with your preteen first, have a heart to heart with her. You could always allow her to explore different instruments, stopping piano is not the end of music education. There are so many beautiful instruments out there.”
I sense her mum agreeing, and yet disagreeing, considering how much investment she’d put into her daughter’s piano education, secretly hoping a miracle would happen and that daughter would suddenly excel at it.
“But seriously, not learning piano is not the end of the world. Go talk, and allow your girl to explore.” I said again. I looked at the tired mother with bags under her eyes and secretly wish the best for her, and hope she manages to have a heart to heart with her preteen (not easy, I can imagine). And we parted ways.

Generally in my years of teaching, there are 3 types of parents. The first is the type to push and push the child no matter what.  I’ve known a few die hard parents. Their child has flunked more than 1 piano exam, is struggling, and they insist “No! I will never allow my children to give up, I will push them no matter what! I will make sure they get to grade 8 no matter what! Even on my death bed, I will push! I must teach my child that one must never give up just because it's tough. This is good discipline.” I pity the child of that parent.
The second type is the type that allows the child to quit at the first sign of distress. “Mum, playing the piano gives me headaches.”    “Oh really?  We better not continue then.” A soft parent? and possibly one that allows the child to manipulate and determine everything without boundaries.
The third is the wise parent. Knowing when to push, when to let go.
Pushing a child and not allowing her to give up is often (but not always) good, it builds character and discipline to  certain extent. Pushing is necessary sometimes in the pursuit of mastery and achievement, especially in the case where the child is talented (but lazy or distracted by other more interesting activities like internet and games). Pushing is also sometimes necessary, for in the course of learning, one  will  encounter many "steep hills" where the going gets tough for a while till the hill/mountain is conquered. (This is very true in piano learning). I give you and example. Teachers said I was talented, but I told my mum "I'd rather die than to learn the piano anymore." A few swift strokes of the paddle on my behind cured me of further complaining. My mum refused to give up and recognized talent and insisted on pushing pushing. I admit, i hated it then,  but I went on to pursue music all the way and am thankful she didn't give up pushing.
 But if learning that extracurricular activity is a continuous uphill battle with a child who’s reluctant to learn, and has no real potential or talent (seek teacher’s opinion on this) then there comes a time to decide if it’s worth pushing or not? If it’s becoming a battle that strains parent and child relationship severely, personally I would think its time to take a break from the activity.
If your child is becoming depressed, or often flunking at this activity and the teachers hint difficulties, perhaps its time to explore something else.
I’d rather spend the money on an activity which the child enjoys and has strengths in, and help that child attain achievement and a sense of pride while at it, rather than push a child in an area of weakness and battle it all the way, just for character and discipline's sake.

14 Jun 2011

I love to throw, hubby loves to keep

I love to throw old stuff while my hubby loves to keep stuff.

So how do we settle this?

Well, I throw when I think he's not looking, and he retrieves when he thinks I'm not looking.

So how long will this tug of war last?   I'm not sure.
Perhaps till we have no more storage space and my hubby gives up and admits

"Honey, you were right."

Or till someone comes along and claims that we have antiques in our storage and pays us a bomb for them. In which case my hubby will say "See I was right!"  :)
What bout you? Do you keep or throw old stuff?

I'm a musician

I sit here transcribing songs again. I’ve been doing this for years, listening to songs in preparation for Sunday. Believe it or not I’m been playing music for church since the age of 9.

When I was 9, sight reading that thick Baptist hymnal book at church was a challenge (and I hated my classical piano lessons). So I’ve always chosen to play by ear instead.  I started playing by ear ever since I can remember, probably at age 4?

I remember friends and adults asking me, “how do you do that? What chord did you just play? “ My answer was always “I don’t know what chord it was, I just know how to play. I listen, I feel, I play.”

Now many years later, I’m a music lecturer, and I know the name of the chords I’ve been playing. I try to pass this knowledge on to a few. Some catch it, some don’t. I do realize one thing though, that when you use your talents for Him (God), He expands it, He increases it.

So, now I know the name of chords and stuff, do I analyze this stuff when I’m on the piano? No. When I’m on the piano, like I said, “I feel, I play.”                                                                   

What do I feel?

 Well…I feel His love envelope over me, I feel my heart overflow for the One who gave me this gift, I feel thanksgiving in my heart. And I offer my love to my Creator back in the form of music, which speaks more than words can.

Well.. almost three decades now since being a musician for Him. I’m still no world class musician, and probably will never be. But I know, when I serve God with my music, I give Him my best, and hope it is as sweet incense to Him.

A funny moment to share...

We had a minor blackout last night. As the lights went out suddenly I said "Oh no" and sat there without moving, too tired to think.

Little Jo came up to me and asked "May I borrow your handphone please? mum?"

I asked "what for?"

"Just trust me mum" said my little one. So I handed her my phone. She turned it on and off she went, out of the room.

A few moments later she returned with a flashlight. She switched it on, shone it all round the room, frowned and looked very serious. (I knew she was in acting/pretend mode again, like she often is)

Then she spoke with a put on, lower and serious voice "Everybody ok in here??" (like a police officer)

I replied "Yes."

"Good! Coz I don't want nobody getting hurt." She continued in that low, serious voice, (with an American accent too!). haha... cracked me up. LOL

I just grabbed her and tickled her and shortly after the lights came back on. :)

11 Jun 2011

Shopping in Thailand

During our recent road trip to Thailand , I took time to indulge in some Shopping, since I don't do that very much back home. Shopping in Thailand is heavenly (if you can bear the heat and crowd). Things are amazingly cheap and usually of good quality.

However, I'm not sure if it's because of my Love for Colours, or Rush for time, or Food poisoning that veered my better judging skills, and I ended up with garments which would have me looking like either...... Ali Baba's apprentice,..... possibly Aladdin's other sibling..... or Sindbad the sailor.

Here's pics of some purchases

A very colourful patchwork pants (like Aladdin's). But I admit, I love this purchase. Unique, colourful, comfortable.

Something that looks like a pirate's pants? And when I wear it, I do look like a pirate.LOL..but rugged and comfy nevertheless.

This top, I like. Only 25RM (less than 10 USD).

Not sure why I bought this...it will be home wear but again, cotton and comfy for a hot day.

Bells for my ankles

and Shells for my top.

Ok, kidding. My children played with this when we stayed at the  village  in Thailand. They were creating quite a ruckus together with their cousins. Well, actually a pretty good drum percussion team, but I had food poisoning so it was ruckus to me. So to stop all that noise, I told my girls "Tell you what, stop playing that for now, but I'll let you take that back to Malaysia, where you can use it as your percussion instrument." So that's how I ended up bringing these shells back with me. (like we don't have them here! haha...)

There are several more other favourite purchases. But I shall stop this post here and enjoy the weekend with my gals. Oh..and we just bought Nel a brand new bicycle. Not from Thailand, but from here.

10 Jun 2011

Children reducing clutter

Our 2 weeks of school break is almost over. We thoroughly enjoyed our road trip to Southern Thailand and will definitely plan another to that country again sometime next year. The rest of the holiday has gone by so very quickly, spent mostly catching up with dear friends from near and abroad.

I've also had little guests staying over the past few days, and you can guess the mess. But it's cool coz I'm not working much this week. Other than that, I decided that there's too much clutter in this house. So today I told my kids we'd be donating some stuff. Their job was to look for 20 clothing items and 20 toys/books to donate.

It wasn't easy for them to decide what to keep and what to give. Initially they brought me broken stuff, bits of straws, plastic, underwears and cardboards. (see how much rubbish they found around?) I told them those items were thrash and not counted, and they would still have to find me the 20+20 items. So they searched, dug into their cupboards and shelves, and after about 2 hours, they brought the items to be donated. :) 

Other than that, see the resemblance between the 2 pictures? Jo drew a pic of my perfume and added bits to turn it into a princess.

We also made these puppets below. Brief instructions found on my other blog.
That's all the updates for this week. Looking forward to the weekend which starts right now. :) cheers!

7 Jun 2011

Floating Market -Road Trip Thailand Part 3

Another amazing place to visit, a floating market of course. Lots and Lots of good food, which I didn't dare to try, because unfortunately I'd eaten something wrong the day before and was down with horrid food poisoning. Some pictures below. Hope you read  Part I  (A Remote Village and SongKla) and Part II (Patthalung, amazing beautiful wetlands) of our road trip. Part II (Pathalung is especially beautiful.)

Sunrise in Patthalung -Road Trip Thailand (Part 2)

 This post is a continuation of our Road Trip to Thailand. Click Part I to see pics from the first part of the trip when we visited a beach and a remote village. Then there's Part III which consists just a few pictures from a  floating market  May take a while load because of the pictures.)

Patthalung (located about 2 hours from HatYai) is an amazing amazing Wetlands. You have to visit the place to understand the beauty that I'm talking about.

The View as we approach Pathalung

While on the very very long bridge, we saw these buffaloes grazing on the wetlands. A large part of Patthalung is like this, patches and patches of wetland. Beautiful scene.

The best time to see glorious Patthalung is very early in  the morning. I'd recommend waking by 5am, and being on the boat by 6am, no later.

Sunrise here is VERY breathtaking. As we were on the boat ride, I just enjoyed the cool morning breeze and the beautiful sunrise. The feeling of watching such beauty is beyond words...
On our boat journey

Our boat man took us past fields and fields of lily pads, and at 6am in the morning there are just so many species of birds everywhere! See the Egret on the lily pad?
Water Lillies bloom as the sun rises


We also sailed past areas like this, and some areas where there were water plants growing very close on both sides of the boat..all made a very interesting journey. Lots of fisherman up very early on the wetland
A Fisherman's Net

I think this man was catching crabs

One of the most exciting parts of the boat trip was when we came up close to these water buffaloes. Actually they were everywhere and our children were just thrilled with excitement. :) So was I! Oh yeah.
more of em...on these little pieces of land

Local children

If you venture beyond the main tourist street, you'll find a whole village on water.
linked at Happiness is
All pictures copyright of Martha @ Poundthegarlic.blogspot.com

A Road Trip-Southern Thailand (Part I)

Just last week we were on a road trip through Thailand. How fun it was! I won't write much (and I'm still recovering from food poisoning) but here are some pics from the first and second day, where we drove from HatYai to Songkla, and then to a remote village on the third day. (may take a while to load, many pictures.)

TutTut in HatYai. We did go on a ride, just for fun.

See these insects? Three brave people ate them. Jo, Lo and I. We didn't get food poisoning from these by the way. And yes, they were crunchy and delicious! haha..

We had a really DELICIOUS dinner by the beach here where we celebrated my dad's birthday.

As we were wondering by the beach in SongKhla, Jo jumped into the water, and found this live starfish!!! It's legs were still all wriggling. Children had a fascinating time touching and feeling it before letting it go.

Here you see them all running, coz a fisherman came by and made waving signs with his hands. We looked out to sea and saw a school of Dolphins!!! Ah how EXCITING! we followed them for a while till the dolphins disappeared further out

2nd day we headed for this very very remote village. See our children running already? :)
I'm glad then when we arrived, some of our children said "Mum, This place is LOVELY!" That was wonderful to hear. :)

This is the house we stayed in. See the large water jars? The villagers use these to collect rain water for drinking purposes. No boiling or cooking, just drunk straight as it is.

late 80's and going strong!

River beside the village. My children and cousins spent many hours running around, chasing chickens, disturbing the cows and watching stars at night.

Padi fields everywhere surrounding the village. The tall palms are Sea Coconut. Villagers plant them to mark land borders

The room where we stayed, where we were swarmed by 100's of mozzies. Umm...whatever repellent we bought from pharmacists certainly DIDN'T WORK!

A family on this machine which is used to plow the land

this farmer kept smiling everytime he passed us by. See how the Egrets are swooping in looking for food

The 5 exploring a Tiger Prawn Farm

On Route to Patthalung we stopped by to visit a friend's aunt.

NEXT STOP  Patthalung  (BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING WETLANDS!) followed by a floating market
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