Monday, 31 August 2009

Selamat Menyambut Hari Ulangtahun Kemerdekaan ke 52

Merdeka post on the way - ~Insyaallah!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Return of the Prodigal Son

He burst through the cat flap and ended 25 days of agony. Tabby came back yesterday, hungry and demanding constant attention.It was as if he never wanted to leave AG's side. Alhamdulillah he is back!!

Syaer untuk Tabby

Sukanya hati tidak terkira,
Tabbyku pulang membawa berita,
Mengubat hati yang duka lara,
Tiada lagi hati sengsara.

Tabby ku pergi tanpa kata,
Merajuk agaknya tidak terkata,
Membawa diri merata-rata,
Ke sana sini tak tentu hala.

Kami di rumah gundah gulana
Menggigit jari, hati merana,
Mencari-cari ke sini sana,
Tak tahu lagi hendak ke mana.

Semalam dia pulang membawa cerita,
Lapar dahaga tidak terkira,
Dahagakan kasih daripada tuannya
Yang lama sudah rindukannya.

Dipeluk dicium, malam dan siang,
Terubatnya rindu bukan kepalang,
Tidur sebantal, makan tak kenyang
Selamat pulang Tabbyku sayang!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Something to share

My new toy came in the post two days ago and I was itching to share the good news. I tore the package open, and there it was all gleaming and nice and inviting.

"Hi, I am calling from my new Blackberry Curve," I said, barely able to contain my glee.

"Mama, you mean you called me just to tell me that you've got a Blackberry?" asked the second sayang mama at the other end of the BC.

"Yes," I said smugly.

"Oh, there goes your hassanah. You're not supposed to boast during Ramadhan," she added.

Oh dear, have you ever felt like a deflated balloon? I felt like that. I know The Curve is getting out of fashion and I am just getting it because I was due for an upgrade and while in Malaysia I stepped (yes, stepped) on my old faithful Nokia and the screen cracked and it went all black. (So those who had sent me sms'es while I was there, will know that there was no way I could read any of my messages.)

And now I am the proud owner of the Blackberry Curve. I still don't know what else I could do with it other than making and answering calls and sending messages, but I've been looking at it in case it vanishes before my eyes.

I made several calls to all other sayang mamas and they were all quite amused by their mama's excitement over her new toy.

Doesn't take a lot to make me all excited, does it?

A call finally came through that new toy of mine with a ringtone so sweet to the ear. I had to refrain myself from answering ala Mrs Bouquet, "Hello, yes, this is me answering my new slimline Blackberry Curve with its wide screen and oh so very small typepad!"

It was just as well I didn't for the call came from a very significant member of the surau. It must be quite an important phonecall - a serious one, I gathered.

It was a request and once again, I couldn't contain my excitement. Someone actually remembered something that I cooked and during this Ramadhan, the craving for my special dish was getting to her. I felt quite elated actually and promised to make and bring the dish for that evening's morey, after Terawikh. I despatched the other half to get the necessary things and after the preparation for iftar, I proceeded to make this special dish. And for those of you who are interested, read carefully as this can really change your culinary experience.

Carefully open the can of chickpeas and drain them in a sieve.
Slice onions and some dried chillies.
Heat the oil and throw in the sliced onions, dried chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Then pour in the chickpeas. Just add a little salt.

There - all of 10 minutes flat!

I just love it. People at the surau bring other interesting dishes which require more culinary feat than opening cans. They kneed and roll doughs for karipap pusing, slave over steamers and ovens to produce tepung pelita or seri muka and I whipped out something from a can.

Well, as I am sharing the dish with others and I am not boasting, do I get my hassanah back, my precious sayang mama?

Health warning - this dish is best eaten after terawikh. Chickpeas is known to affect the digestive system in a way that it can affect your wuduk and others around you.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Antara Menjala dan Mengaip/Menyekaip

The problem with having a lot of time before iftar is that I tend to contemplate menus and recipes in my head; things that are undoables. My culinary skills, if you can call it that, are limited to lamb/chicken curry, ayam masak merah (with peas), lamb masak kicap. Anything other than that, my children's eyes will light up and they'd be asking whether there are special guests for dinner.

And t doesnt help that I have a husband whose idea of a menu is: ikutlah and apa-apalah. Apa-apalah is not easy and even Google cant help me.

So, yesterday, I was entertaining thoughts of stretching that skill with the help of the internet, of course. I promptly googled "How to make Roti Jala" and in my head I could almost hear Mak say "Tu laa, masa orang masak, depa dok kat depan, hayun kaki ataih nduai (swing)!"

Bless Google for not nagging at me but it came up with several suggestions and I picked one. Scribbled the recipe into a notebook and was about to senteng lengan tangan to start with the task when I heard the familiar tone of the SMS. It was Lilah, asking for a family conference via skype. Looking at the time, I knew they've had their Iftar and must have just returned from terawikh from the nearby mosque.

"Jom skype. Semua ada," she said.

"Nanti sat, nak buat roti jala," I replied hoping to impress her.

So, it was with that that I started to make the adunan for roti jala. This recipe required me to whisk egg, santan and water together before sifting in the flour - even then, I managed to get them all lumpy and had to sieve it to make it look right. So I left it to stand for a while as it was still early to menjala and went on to Skype.

As expected the whole family was there, munching before the screen! That was the idea, to tease and show off to me from thousands of miles away! Well, that's what we used to do growing up. We have not changed. We teased and bantered around the table, and sometimes reduced each other to tears.

Yesterday, little Yaya fasted until 12 o'clock. She is only 5. But her 12 year old sister, Iman, couldn't fast as she was ill. So her mum made Iman hot milo and started feeding her in front of Yaya. Yaya turned away and said, "Jangan tunjuk kat Yaya, nanti Yaya tak tahan". At which point she put on her famous muka sedih drama minggu ini.

That provoked Wani to tease her and she cried. Well, I missed all that fun or else I'd tease her even more! I saw them milling around eating and eating. I wish I could have stayed for Ramadhan, but I couldn't.

Back to my Roti Jala as it was nearly six pm London time. There was a temporary snag as I couldn't locate the plastic container for Roti Jala that my friend had posted all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah. After hunting for it, I finally found it among numerous plastic take away containers evidents of numerous take aways, of course.

I remember Mak doing the cone-like thingy from banana leaves, for Roti Jala and that worked like magic. The plastic container is the best alternative that I have in the absence of banana leaves and after a few attempts, the Roti jala came out, errr, okay. They were not brilliant, with some coming out like lempeng, but they complement the lamb curry that I made earlier. Aaah, it was a good day. I can now join in the conversation with the ladies after terawikh and regale them with the story of my roti jala making feat!

Kak Teh's other culinary attempts:
Fishing my way to his heart
Of buah ulu or baulu and such likes
Ayam Golek
Sardine Rolls

Saturday, 22 August 2009

While waiting.....

It is less then two hours to go and I have already done the chicken curry the way the sayang mamas like it and I have prepared the mackerels and the sambal, but it is too early to fry them. The house is so quiet, which is quite unusual as it is a Saturday.

Earlier, sayang mama number three phoned from work and he sounded very happy. Apparently, his workplace (a big departmental store) has provided a prayer room for Muslim staff, which is quite a development, I think. Before this he used to pray in the store room.

It is quite encouraging to know that these days, in spite of what we hear about the growing intolerance in some quarters, there are still people who are willing to make a difference.

It seems not too long ago that I was having a conversation with Taufiq, then only 7 and sitting on the worktop while I prepared food for Iftar. There were trying times for him especially when he could smell the food and the half an hour to go seemed like hours. He’d cry and burst out in anger at his siblings making fun of him. It was there in the kitchen that I told him what fasting is all about. It is not just about not eating but also about taming the temper. Surprisingly, at that tender age, he understood.

It became easier after that. He’d come home and regale us stories about what went on among those who fast in school. The headteacher had kindly provided a room for them to pray and there was almost always confusion during prayer times as everyone wanted to lead the prayer. There were arguments too about the number of rakaats. The headteacher then decided to take matters into his own hands and invited a parent a day to lead them, which I think was a very good move.

During his secondary years, Taufiq would stop at the local mosque to pray before coming home. His non Muslim friends would wait outside the mosque while he prayed and just before Ramadhan, three of them converted. And when the school decided that Muslim students could not longer go for Friday prayers because some inevitably go awol, Taufiq pleaded with the teacher to provide a room for prayers. We saw how Taufiq grew up and mature before our eyes. Come Friday, he’d prepare the khutbah for his small congregation. My sayang mama has really grown up.

While I am waiting to fry the mackerels, another thing about other sayang mamas comes to mind.

Since coming back from Malaysia, we have been trying to put on a brave face, when in actual fact, we are hurting inside. When we left for Malaysia, our two other sayang mamas, Tabby and Kissinger, merajuk and left home. We kept receiving sms’es that they were not back. I had sleepless nights wondering what had happened to them. I remember saying goodbye to Tabby; he was sitting upright on the bed and I cried, prompting the children to say that I was sadder leaving the cats then leaving them.

Tabby looked confused and he didn’t even follow us to the car. To this day, it would be about a month since we last saw him. My husband had gone out searching, calling out for him, but to no avail. I have included him in my prayers; to please keep him save and send him back to us. Some years ago when AG was back in Malaysia during Ramadhan, it was Tabby who woke up up, for sahur pulling at our duvet.

Yesterday, as we were preparing for maghrib, I saw Kissinger! He was lurking outside, unsure whether he would come in through the flap. When I shouted out his name, he knew we are back and dashed through the catflap. After we did our prayers, he just jumped on to our laps and started kissing us.

If only Kissinger could talk and tell us where Tabby is, and whether Tabby is alright. If only Kissinger would go and tell him that we are back and missing him. Please come back Tabby, everything is forgiven!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Selamat berpuasa

Throughout the day yesterday, I kept getting calls and sms asking me when Ramadan is going to start. I wasn't sure, was my reply. Well, not until yesterday evening when I got another sms confirming that it's Saturday.

Just as well because both AG and I had just done our shopping at ASDA. I know the men at Goodies, our local halal butcher, are not going to like it but ASDA now has a wonderful halal meat centre and I can get most things in one shopping trip. So, for now its two lamb shoulders, three chickens; small pieces in three bags, some mince meat and two whole chickens for roasting. And yes, lots of mackerals in three separate bags, plus a lot more to replenish everything that has been used up during our three week trip back to Malaysia.

I know I should have brought back some ikan bilis and ikan kering but I was so worried that they'd be confiscated by the customs. They are very strict these days and I 've heard friends being fined and made to sign agreements not to bring in fish, meat, honey or cheese. But I truly love ikan bilis from Malaysia, so fine and so clean. Sambal tumis ikan bilis with nasi lemak would be so heavenly!

Anyway, yes, I was getting into the mood of Ramadhan yesterday; stocking food and already mentally planning about what to cook for iftar and sahur.

This morning, I blended garlic, ginger and onions and put them in bottles and stacked them in the fridge. Senang nak masak, kan?

I remember Mak used to make telur masin weeks before Ramadhan. That seemed to be a must on the table when we broke our fast. I have never acquired the taste for telur asin. And so I don't really miss it that much. I do love ikan kering - the ones that's moist and when fried with sliced onions and chillies, you can just eat it with rice. You dont need any other dishes.

And Mak used to boil sugar for air sirap. We'd have bottles and bottles of those red syrup lined up on the shelves. They'd look at us tantalisingly as the time ticked very slowly before iftar time.

AG bought a packet of buah kurma. That will last for about two weeks and then we'll get somemore. I love those very succulent ones - but that cost a bomb.

I know that tonight, the main compulsory dish will be bubur lambuk or kanji as we used to call it in Kedah. The children just love bubur lambuk and if that is the only thing that they eat, I am sure they wouldn't mind. I wouldnt mind either, it is quite filling.

Sahur for us will be around 3am. For the past week, we had been waking up at 3 am as were were still jetlagged. Waking up the children is going to be another feat. Most of them will not want to eat and would prefer just a glass of water and then wake up for subuh.

Tomorrow, our first day of Ramadhan, we will break our fast at 2014 and from then onwards the day will get shorter by 2 minutes. Quite a long stretch, eh? Insyaallah, we can do it. There was one year when we fasted until 9 pm. That was a very long summer.

So, let me wish my readers "Selamat berpuasa dan semoga mendapat keberkataan di dalam bulan yang mulia ini"

I am also taking this opportunity to tell my readers that my youngest sayang mama has got his A level results and will be starting University next month, reading History. Alhamdulillah!

My other Ramadhan stories:
The Journey
Three Ramadhan Stories
How do I wake you up, let me count the ways
Of Mak and Ramadhan
Memories of Pak this Ramadhan
One Iftar, One Ramadhan
Cerita Ceriti Bulan Puasa

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Letting off Lat

The letter was written on 4th March 1980 and twenty-nine years later it found its way to page 94 of "Lat the Early Series" published by the NST. It was a letter written by my other half to Lat reminding him in a light hearted way the £13.89 that was long overdue for the cleaning of the apartment in which he stayed during his visit to London.

Judging from the letters published in his latest book sold during the launch of the IMalaysia Exhibition at the Bangsar Shopping Centre, the much loved cartoonist never threw away anything – letters from old classmates to fans from far and near were all carefully kept. He knew they would make good reading one day.

Datuk Lat with AG and Zainul Ariffin, NST GME

So there was a lot of ribbing and banter when we met up a few minutes before Tun M, the man who Lat religiously caricatured, arrived. Tun M , who was given the honour to launch the exhibition said Lat had made his nose a few mm bigger and jokingly demanded 10 sens for every caricature that is published.

When the time came for book signing, Lat was in top form. He spent a lot of time with each and everyone who came up to him for his famous signature, inspite of the discomfort he was feeling after an eye operation. We stood in line patiently for him to sign near the published letter. True to form, he wrote the word “Beres!” and a cartoon of his gleeful self, seemingly relieved of the burden of hutang!

It was interesting to note that many VIPs and celebrities who had been caricatured by Lat, turned up at the event. I managed to catch a few.

Errr....who is this??

More ramblings on Datuk Lat here:

Congratulations Datuk Lat
Lat 41 years LATer

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A (long and winding) Culinary Journey

Hunger does things to your mind. We've been airborne for almost 7 hours and the last meal of chicken briyani served by the Air Asia stewardess, is a memory fast fading as my brain is now sending urgent messages to my stomach which has been somewhat spoilt by the unusual eating habits of the past three weeks. I had not only devoured the surprisingly delicious briyani but also the lasagne that my husband pre ordered. And now I am hungry again.

While waiting for Pak Nasser's nasi lemak as promised in the menu tucked in the seat pocket in front on me, my mind does its cruel trick dredging up memories of culinary delights that we had been spoilt with during the last trip. Going back to my own home cooked food does not seem a very attractive prospect.

Now let's see what the stomach had been subjected to lately.
(I am continuing this piece after a sorry excuse of a meal, which I ransacked in the kitchen. Sharing the milk with Snowbell, I had my very early morning tea with milk and cereals. Now I long for those dangai and pulut sambal from that stall at the junction of Bukit Pinang)

Just soon after landing at LCCT, we were taken to a corner lot restaurant somewhere near Bangi that boasts all kinds of soup - and one that is making me drool all over the keyboard now is soup keting. I should have taken pictures of the soup, but common courtesy demanded that I exchange niceties with my siblings and siblings in law who had taken the trouble to fetch us at the airport. I chose not to ask what keting is but proceeded to eat it with the enthusiasm of one deprived of food for a whole month. Be warned, soup keting in all its delight has hidden explosives in the form of finely cut chilli padi. That not withstanding, I finished a whole bowl before proceeding to wipe clean the platter of mixed satay before me. Simply yummy. The hubby, jetlag setting in at quite a speed, chose mee hailam but regretted it almost immediately. He was not very impressed.

There was certainly something in the air during this trip, and it was unmistakably durian. It seemed to be durian galore everywhere - five or six for 10 ringgit and I went crazy. We made a visit to the pasar tani where I bought lemang and on the way back bought several durians. Suffice to say that was not the first durian binge in three weeks.

Looming large in my mind right now are butter crabs at the seafood heaven near Vistana Hotel. I think the place is called Hokaido. Jijah and Isa, knowing my penchant with things crustacean, took us there for supper. There were also lala and crab sambal. The proverbial “Mak Mentua lalu di belakang pun tak sedar” was quite apt here.

You can trust Jijah to find the best food in town. She has the nose for it. One fine afternoon, she and husband Isa took us to Aunty Aini’s, a kampong food haven tucked away in Kampung Chelet, Nilai. The kampung style setting puts you in the mood for good old kampung food. There were ulams and masak lemak and soup tulang – the most delicious I had ever tasted. I have never been one for ulams and masak lemak and left it to hubby to finish them. And I must add that proprieters of De Chenge as reported by Puteri Kama in her entry here, could learn a thing or two about customer relations. Both Aunty Aini and husband were so friendly and even had time to sit down and chit chat with us.

With Jijah, I took a sentimental journey back to Alor Setar, starting out at about 5 am to catch the 07.15 Air Asia flight. We both grew up in Alor Setar but after the first few months of Primary One together at the SAS, we were separated, only to meet up again after Pak was transferred back from Yan to Alor Setar. We continued our friendship that took us to most of the fine eateries Alor Setar could offer, and to some of the most wonderful gerais our trusty old bike could take us.

The main aim of the journey was to visit Kak who had just been discharged from hospital after a knee op, but of course dear siblings of mine exiled in Bangi would not hear of a visit back to Alor Setar without a pilgrimage to their dearly beloved adopted uncles, namely Abu of the famed mee Abu and Zakaria of Laksa Teluk Kecai.

I had to draw a line or else the list would extend to Shariff of Mee Shariff and Pak Musa famous for his Mee Soup. With Abang at the wheels, and Kak with her walking aid, we proceeded with our culinary adventure in Alor Setar, starting with the famous Pumpong restaurant. I was glad to note that they have done well enough to take another unit to accommodate their ever increasing customers.

I should have been given a mask to wear before I chose the food. It has nothing to do with swine flue but I fear I was going to dribble right into the big pots of wonderful food. I settled for sup pucuk and kari perut, while Kak, abang and Jijah, (the braver ones) enjoyed their ulams and sambal very much. By now you would have guessed that I try to avoid things sambal and spicy.

The next stop was Teluk Kecai. The drive there was indeed a drive down memory lane. I remember those long cycle rides in the heat for a bowl of Laksa Teluk Kecai. When we arrived, there were already stacks of ready packed kuah laksa. The owner knows that people come from near and far to take them back. We took two kilos back and while waiting, succumbed to the lure of ice kacang much talked about amongst my siblings.

Sms’es were coming thick and fast from a certain location in Bangi. It goes something like this:

Pipi kak Teh memang gebu,
Jangan lupa Mee rebus Abu.

To which I replied:
Makan kari dengan roti nan,
Kami sedang dalam perjalanan.

And with several kilos of laksa teluk kecai safely tucked in the boot of Abang’s car, we made the journey to Jalan Day or now known as Jalan Sultanah. Mee Abu is indeed compulsory stop. Long tiring journeys from Bangi are often spurred on by visions of mee rebus Abu at the end of the drive. While waiting for my mee goreng (simply, simply awesome and Naz, stop drooling!) I saw the rojak man! With husband a few hundred miles away, I knew there’s no one to stop me. There and then, I gave in to the evil temptation of sengkuang calit with generous sprinkle of kacang goreng. I couldn’t take pix of the sengkuang calit as that's such a damning evidence of my giving in to temptation.

To say both Jijah and I were nervous during the flight back was an understatement. Two trolleys of kuah laksa teluk kecai and kuah mee rebus were rollicking in the overhead compartments of the plane during that one-hour flight. Any moment at all, the passengers below could have a mixed shower of kuah mee rebus and laksa teluk kecai raining on them. But thank God, not a drop spilled!

Another compulsory visit is to Rebung. During the first visit, Chef Mail kindly made his famous lempeng – I had eight in all. We returned the next day with two friends from Brazil. They simply loved the asam pedas, masak lemak and goreng pisang and popia. (Excuse me, while I wipe the drool!) I had several helpings of mee kari. My last visit to Rebung was just before we left for home. NanaDJ was there with some of my closest friends, Ani, Lia and Jijah. Chef Mail later joined us.

Having chefs as friends are not good for the waistline. A very short trip to Jakarta introduced me to all kinds of culinary delights. With Chef Wan as traveling companion, you end up not just eating a lot but also learning about the food. On arrival, we had snacks at a café-cum bookshop adjoining the Kempinski apartments where we stayed. The name just escapes me but the fusion food served was just out of this world. After that we had tea at the Hyatt, before going for coffee tasting at the Dharmawangsa Hotel. I had pandan coffee and couldn’t sleep the whole night. The next day, after a riot of a morning battling the macet and panic buying of tudungs and telekungs at Tanah Abang, we braved our way to Ampero for Padang food. Wan ate until he was going to burst, wiping almost everything on the plates before us. I enjoyed the fried chicken with some sort of rendang sprinkled on them. And the sambal kerang was simply awesome too. I know I am repeating myself but everything was simply awesome.

More Indonesian food were in store for us when Pok Ku and Cik Gu Razak treated us to similar dishes at the Nogori restaurant in Amcorp Mall. And then more when Pak Samad Said and wife Shidah took us for lunch at the Sundanese restaurant KLCC.

Suffice to say it wasn’t just the luggage that was access in weight.

It would be unfair not to mention mee bandung at Yusof Haslam’s (spare the white pepper please), laksa johor at Bangi Kopi Tiam (too watery) and prawn noodle at Little Penang. The last night, we had Char Koay Teow at Penang Village, Alamanda. You guessed it, its just awesome.

Reading through this, (if you had not given up already), you’d probably think that I had not spend time eating with Mak at all. But you’re wrong. Some of the most memorable culinary experience was eating rice with kicap and ikan goreng, crisply fried by Bibik. I ate with Mak early in the mornings as she had her lunch her early. I’d sort out the fish for her, taking out the bones and put them in her plate. She loves eating fish with sambal belacan and also asam pedas. Just as soon as I washed my hands, Mak would insist I eat again, as she had forgotten that I had just eaten with her. There were days when her appetite was good, but most of the time, I’d have to cajole her to eat.

And last but not least, the promised Nasi Lemak Pak Nasser on the London bound Air Asia flight – simply awesome!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Moments to treasure

That I lead a nomadic life every time I come home is not much of a surprise to anyone. To date, there are two suitcases and several plastic bags with snacks at Lilah's in Bangi, more carrier bags with books and gifts, a few change of clothes and a husband in Gombak and a bag at Ajie's with contents spilling on to the floor. I have a toothbrush and several small (err perhaps not so) things in a bag that I carry around with me. My mind vacillates from being here with Mak and three children and five cats in London, a daughter in Cairo and the hubby in Gombak. It is quite tiring actually: this mental and physical journey.

Two weeks have flown past and many a dish craved for in the cooler climes of London have been consumed, many moments spent with family members, friends old and new have been captured and stored in the hard drive of the memory to be savoured later. There are so many wonderful moments that I am struggling to write this entry as words failed me.

There are unforgettable moments with Mak. After the end of a long three-day seminar, I plonked myself on the sofa. She came several times to ask me where I was going to sleep. I signalled that I'd make my way upstairs soon. When I woke up, she had covered me with a blanket, and had taken the other sofa near me, sleeping peacefully, with me on one side and her youngest son, my brother, occupying the other sofa.

Alhamdulillah Mak is fine; except for her coughs that wake her up at nights and render her breathless at times. She is happiest on days that I spent lounging lazily in my kaftan in the front room. She repeatedly asks questions about the children, asks me to eat again and again even when she had seen me eating at the dinning table.

During one weekend when Lilah took her back to her house, I slept on the floor while she slept on the single bed. She got my beddings ready and we talked until I could hear her soft snores and light breathing. I rubbed her back and she said; "Now there's only skin and bones".

When she sees me packing my bags, or putting on my tudung, Mak would ask questions that a child would: where are you going?

One morning, I woke up late after a whole night of writing a long overdue piece for a magazine. I found her upset and almost in tears as she couldn't find me anywhere in the front room. She thought I had gone back to London without saying goodbye.

But all in all, I am happy that Mak is okay. She still has her wit about her and never loses any opportunity to tease or joke. Yesterday, as I was leaving to get my MYCard done, I told her that I was going to do my passport (It is easier to say passport than Mycard, I thought). She retorted, "Masa balik dulu tak dak paspot ka?"

The three day motivation seminar which I managed to squeeze in during this short trip inevitably managed to unearth a few deep-seated insecurities and touched raw nerves. There were moments of reflections, moments of self doubts and moments of realisations. But there was also a moment that I will always treasure. I caught sight of someone familiar in the crowd in the huge hall of PICC, approached her and didn't regret the bold move. There, on the second day of the seminar, I met up face to face with the lovely Ida Hariati. We sang the Chahaya Salawat in the darkened hall, holding hands and tears flowing freely down our cheeks and we prayed together in the surau .

Throughout the three day seminar, three wonderful young girls kept me company and offered me their friendship. I am most grateful to all of you, Mas, Lina and Sue. Let's keep in touch!

My homecomings are usually not complete without a reunion with my childhood friends but this time, something is definitely different and something is definitely missing. As fate would have it, the big C is taking its toll on my dear friend M. L is holidaying in Europe so there's only A and I making our rounds. No more meeting up at cafes and restaurants, or giggling and singing in carparks or the changing room. Our meetings are more sober in nature. M was too weak to leave the house. She was at times in pain and all we could do was hold her hand. There was a moment when I had to take refuge in the kitchen where I let out a huge sob so she couldn't hear me or see my tears. I remember those childhood years together - yes, we've had some wonderful moments. That evening we visited her, it was Nisfu Syaaban and we did the prayer together, led by my husband. After that, she expressed her wish to come out with us, just like the good old days.

It was all I could do to control my tears as both A and I helped her to the car and to Bangi Kopitiam. That she was in pain was quite obvious but she wanted this moment with us. The Café's catchword defined that moment for us: A Cup of Coffee with Friendship and Memories.

Another evening that is bound to remain forever with me is that evening at Lake Club. Thank you Puteri Kamaliah and Pak Abu for bringing together so many wonderful people. It was great meeting up with ex colleagues and newfound friends on the net. When we got home that night, courtesy of taxi driver MA with fellow passengers Iain and Anak SiHamid, we stayed up past our bedtime, still looking at the photos we had taken that evening. Thank you everyone.

Remember the entry on cringe moments? Well, I had one such moment that evening. Arriving at the venue, after the hug hug and kiss kiss with those already present, I sat myself down at the table, looked squarely at my companion's face and asked her, "Where's Puteri?"

That's the moment when I really wanted the floor to open up under me.