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What is Christmas to you?

…..a time for giving
…..spending time with your family and loved ones

……time for partying

……time to reaquaint oneself with God

……time to reflect back on the year that has just gone by

To me, Christmas was never a very significant time of the year as I grew up a Buddhist. Also, growing up in Malaysia, where Chinese New Year and Hari Raya celebration are more felt than Christmas, well at least to me! However, this past few years since coming to the US and after knowing Chris, the meaning of Christmas has changed for me. For one, we have been putting up Christmas tree at our home the past 3 years and on Christmas day, out of nowhere, there would be presents under the Christmas tree for each one of us. Would it be any different this year? (Hint! Hint!) Haha…..another ritual that we do is to go to church on Christmas morning to attend masses. It’s nice to see everyone in a Christmas mood, all dressed up in their best suits. Best of all is the Christmas carols that is sung. They sound a lot more familiar to me than the usual hymns.
This year Christmas will be different for me as I have the whole family here with me. When I said whole family, I meant the whole family.

We have dad, mum, sis, sis’ friend, ah boy, Chris, me and Zoey. Normally, it’s just the three of us. But this year, my parents have decided to forgo the warm and humid weather of Malaysia to be with us in this cold and windy winter.

I must admit that December is never the best time for me. I always feel the most depressed during this month because it’s so cold that you feel like being in bed under the covers most of the time. Moreover, it gets dark early outside.

This year, I’m not going to complain about the cold weather or having to work during Christmas week. I’ll just rejoice in the fact that my family is here with me and appreciate the time we have together. Family reunions like this are difficult to come by especially when we have all grown up and move away from home.

Merry Christmas everyone and may you all rejoice in everything you have and appreciate the people in your lives. Now, off to open my presents!

National Christmas Tree

What is the National Christmas Tree, one might ask. In the United States, a large tree near the White House is decorated as the National Christmas Tree. The grand illumination of the Christmas lights on the tree by the President of the United States early in the Christmas season is an annual televised event and a month-long festivities known as the Pageant of Peace. Nearby smaller trees and other decorations leading up to the National Christmas Tree are referred to as the Pathway to Peace. (source: Wikipedia)

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is just one part of what has become a major event at the White House — the Christmas Pageant of Peace first established in 1954). Activities include featured guest performers, strolling costumed entertainers, and more than 50 volunteer choirs, gospel groups, bell ringers, and cloggers providing live musical performances.

What once was a single Christmas tree, now includes a main tree with 56 smaller trees – one for each state, territory, and the District of Columbia — lining the Pathway of Peace. (source: about.com)

On Dec 6th, President Bush and the First Lady led a countdown to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree to mark the beginning of this sharing season.
Hmmm….it’s time to put up my own Christmas Tree too.

My own Thanksgiving Turkey!

I made my first own thanksgiving turkey this year. A friend of ours came from Ventura on thanksgiving evening planning to buy an already cooked turkey. Unfortunately, all the cooked turkeys have been sold out at Vons. What’s up with that? I would think that they would have made more for last minute people like us.
Anyways….he bought a frozen 10 pound turkey instead. Initially, he had no idea that it took 3 to 4 days to thaw a turkey.
Well, I took the turkey and soak it in the sink to thaw it. It’s suppose to take about 8 hours that way. We didn’t get to cook the turkey until Saturday morning though. First, we brined the turkey overnight. Brining adds moisture and flavor to poultry and helps to keep it from drying out. Add 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of honey to 1 gallon of water. The honey is to counteract the flavor of the salt and to maintain the flavor of the turkey. I also added 5 pieces of bay leaves and a handful of black peppercorn. Boil the ingredients with the water and wait till it cool before soaking the turkey in. You do not want a half cook turkey. You need to find a huge enough pot or bucket to fit the entire turkey. We didn’t have a huge enough bucket so we had to use one of the waste paper bin instead. Haha…of course, we cleaned it out first!
The next day, remove the turkey from the bucket and pat dry to remove the salt from the surface of the turkey. We put 5 to 6 stalk of rosemary and sage in the cavity. That was probably not enough as we did not taste much of the herbs in the turkey. Before you bake the turkey, put some oil on the surface of the turkey and wrap it with foil to maintain the juice. It also takes a shorter time to bake that way. Turn up the oven to 450F and bake for 2 hours or until the thickest part of the turkey registers 175F. If you did not cover the turkey with foil, set the oven to 325F and cook for 2 1/2 hours. And voila…..you have yourself a deliciously cooked turkey!
Now, for the gravy. Take the giblet, neck, heart and liver and chop them into small pieces. Stir-fry with onions, celery and carrots and a pinch of salt. Not too much salt coz’ you will be taking the dripping from the turkey later and add it into the gravy. Next, pour water into the pan until it covers all of the ingredients. You can add chicken stock to add flavor. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Lastly, take the drippings from the turkey and add it to 2 tablespoons of flour. Mix thoroughly and pour into gravy to thicken it.
To summarise the whole process:

Brining

1 cup salt
1 cup honey
1 handful black peppercorn
1 TBS bay leaves

Turkey cavity

2 TBS rosemary
2 TBS sage

Turkey Gravy

1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery, chopped
1/4 tsp of salt
2 TBS flour

I think the turkey was quite successful on this first attempt. It was a little too salty for me but Chris said it was just right. Well….if he says it’s good, it must be good coz’ he doesn’t always say so. Haha….Anyways…I hope you all had a great thanksgiving and a good turkey meal!
Oh, last but not least, I forgot to give credit to my friend, Carolyn for this great recipe. It was also her first attempt at making the turkey and it was also a success.

Zoey’s World

Zoey Yong Zhiyi came into this world on August 23rd 2005. Her arrival was witnessed by papa, Chris and popo. The moment I set eyes on Zoey, I had tears in my eyes. Everyone commented that she had a lot of hair and the color is black as charcoal. Zoey is a very good baby that never cried much. From the moment she was born, she was very observant. When you carry her in your arms, she would look intensely at you, as if trying to memorise every line and curve on your face. She has this look of alertness in her. They say that all babies are the same but somehow, looking at your own is very different. You see the little details on her face and on her limbs. Zoey has my eyes, in my opinion (although most people say her eyes looks like her papas’). She has papas’ nose, no doubt about that and her mouth, hmmm….looks kinda like my brother’s. Haha….her chin looks like her paternal popo and her hair, I guess the blackness resembles mine although the texture is definetely much softer than mine. Her left fourth toe is kinda crooked. Hmmm…wonder what happened there during the formation. Anyhow…that’s her trademark! OK….I’ll not go into more details coz’ she wouldn’t like that next time when she grows up and everyone reads about her. Haha….yeah right, not like my blog has 10000 visitors or anyting close to that.
Anyways…..she has grown to be a very good girl, who likes to help mama and papa a lot doing household chores. Her favorite cartoon is Barney and she likes to sing and dance a lot.
To my little girl, thank you for making my life fulfilled.

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Thanksgiving Day is a traditional North American holiday to give thanks after the harvesting season. It is celebrated on the fourth Thrusday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada. It is a very significant holiday where families get together for a meal with turkeys and stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. Because of the large size of the US, families hardly meet up with each other but Thanksgiving is the time where everyone will make the effort to travel and meet up with the entire family.
For me, who grew up in Malaysia and never knew about Thanksgiving until I arrived here in the US, we would normally buy an already cooked turkey from Vons with some mashed potato and soup. And that’s our thanksgiving dinner. However, for those who like the challenge of making your own turkey, this is a recipe that I found on the net. Good luck on the turkey!
Here’s a little tip on thawing your turkey. The best way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. Mind you, it takes about 3 days to thaw an average 16 lbs turkey in the refrigerator, so maybe you want to start thawing your turkey today!
If you forgot to put your turkey in the refrigerator to thaw, you can put the turkey in a sink filled with cold water. This will take 8 hours to thaw your turkey.

Roast Turkey with Herbal Rub

1 13-Pound WHOLE TURKEY fresh or thawed
1 Medium onion quartered
1 lemon quartered
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
1 Teaspoon dried thyme
1 Teaspoon dried tarragon
1 Tablespoon dried rosemary
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey and reserve for broth.
Rinse turkey with cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place onion and lemon quarters in neck and body cavities.
In a small bowl, mix oil with herbs, salt and pepper. With your finger tips, gently loosen skin from the breast without pulling off the skin.
Place 1 tablespoon of herb mixture under skin; replace skin. Rub cavities and outside of turkey with remaining herb mixture.
Secure the neck skin to the back with skewers. Fold wings under back of turkey. Place legs in tucked position. May be prepared to this point, covered and refrigerated for several hours.
Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large shallow (no more than 2-1/2 inches) deep roasting pan. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful it does not touch the bone.
Cover bird with a loose tent of foil. Roast turkey in a preheated 325 degree F. oven for about 2-1/2 hours. Remove foil and baste bird with pan juices. Continue to roast for about another hour until meat thermometer registers 180 degrees F. in the thigh.
Remove turkey from oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Transfer to a large platter and serve with gravy.

Note: Yields 18 servings at 6 ounces per portion

Deadline due!

I’ve got a deadline due in two weeks for an assignment that I’ve been working for over a month. And guess what?? At today’s meeting, my boss tells me that they are changing the specs. What does this mean for me? My one month worth of work goes down the drain and I have to redo the design again with two weeks left. Hmmm…..have you ever found yourself in this kind of situation before? What do you do?
First, I need to b**ch about it first. Once that’s out of my system, then I can think clearly and start evaluating if the change in specs makes sense or if it’s impossible to meet. Sometimes, as designers, you can’t just take whatever management throws at you. If it’s not possible to meet that specs based on the limitation of the technology or for whatever reasons, we must sound it to them.
Then, I would assess the amount of work involved and the required time to make those changes. If I find that I do need more time to implement the changes, then I’ll need to talk to my boss to extend my deadline.
However, management should be pro-active in defining the specs early on and not just push designers to jump start on the design asap so we can rush for the deadline. Decisions on the specs and what kind of devices are we using for the design should all be defined early on in the project before we start designing. It is more efficient this way. Of course, along the way, there is always specs changes but at least they are not major ones. However, most of the time, we are always designing without the specs well-defined. It’s all part of the process.
Anyways…..after all this b**ching about it, I realised that it’s not much work after all, changing my design. Haha….the specs have been relaxed, which makes it easier for me and there are no major disruption. I’m still able to meet my 2 weeks deadline. Woohoo!

OK….workstation’s down. Can’t run my simulation. Yay….this gives me some time to blog. Hehe….the stock market these 2 weeks has been crazy. Can almost “tiu keng” (hang myself). Really, the stock market is not for the weak hearts. You must be able to take it when you see your “money” reduced by 10, then 20 over percent. And then close your eyes and pray that it will go back up again!
I have actually made quite a handsome profit the last month only to lose it all again last week. Still not very good at protecting my profits. Hmm….so what is the best way to battle out this low period?

DJIA for the month of Oct 2007

The most important thing in investing in stock market is you must have reserves. It’s similar to having savings so that on rainy days, you can use this savings until the storm is over. It’s a common mistake for most inexperience investors (like yours truly) to not have reserves. In stock market terms, reserves means you must have cash at hand. Do not put all your cash into stocks, so that at bad times like this, you can use those cash to buy in at much lower prices. However, if you have used up all your reserves (meaning lock them all into stocks), then when the stock market goes down, the value of your stock will definitely go down with it but you do not have money to buy back the stocks at cheaper price. Make sense? That is assuming that you are holding on to your stocks and waiting for it to go up in value again. I think a 20% reserve of your total investment is a good practice. The only problem is small investors like us who don’t even have much capital to start with, you want to fully maximise your profits by dumping all of your investments into stock. That’s a very dangerous thing to do and I strongly urge those starting out to have good investing habits from the beginning and also the discipline if you want to play the stock market. If not, you would end up losing money only. Just assume you have 20% less cash to invest in the stock market. It’s like putting 20% of your pay every month into 401k. You just have 20% less to spend.
Now, another method is you could sell a portion of your stocks first, say one third or half of the stocks that you are holding and then buy them back at a lower price. This is call stop loss. I think stop loss is another good practice to have. I am not very disciplined in this, I must say. Let’s say you bought 10 stocks of ABC at $20 and if the stock price goes down by 10%, you want to sell half of it. Therefore, you put a “sell – stop limit” of 5 ABC shares at $18. That way, once the stock falls below $18, half of your stock would be sold ($18 x 5 = $90) and you can pick it up again at a lower price, say $15 ($90/$15 = 6 stocks). So, now I’m sure you can do the math. Initially, you had $200 worth of stock and 10 shares of ABC. At the end of it, you have $165 in stock and 11 shares. Compare this to if you just hold and did nothing. You would have ended up with $150 (10 shares x $15) and 10 shares of ABC. So, you can see the difference, you not only saved $15 ($165-$150) but you also purchased another extra share. Stop loss, if put to use can be very beneficial. Unfortunately, the difficult part is, you don’t know when the market is going up or going down. There are signs and indicators that you can use to predict the trend, which I will elaborate more next time.
Now, you must be thinking, why should I take advise from a someone who’s not even good at the game, who’s losing money? Well, let me tell you this, you must lose first in order to win. When you know the pits and falls of the game, you will know not to thread on it again and then that’s when you start winning! In everything we do, it’s the same principle. You have to fail in order to succeed. It’s part of the stepping stone to success. Of course, when you lose, don’t lose all of your money la. Start out small, take it as if you are paying tuition fee to learn the tricks of the game. Good luck to you all! Back to my deflated portfolio. Boohoo… :-(

~~~~Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it. – Warren Buffet ~~~~

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