Happy Birthday to The Engineer!

Sometimes I sit back and look at what I am doing, and I am just amazed that this is really my life.  For example, last week I was sitting in a comfortable black leather chair while someone massaged my swollen feet and gave me a pedicure.  While I did this, someone else was at my house cleaning.  On this particular day I didn’t, but I could have followed the pedicure with a leisurely swim and a coffee with a friend.  It is really quite perfect for this late stage of pregnancy, and the reason I can be doing this is all thanks to this guy:

My Engineer

The Engineer is pretty much the raddest dude I know, and today is his 31st birthday.  So I’m going to make it all about him.  Even today, he is at work while I coffee with friends, and cruise around (although I did get up bright and early to make him breakfast, and plan to make him dinner AND dessert later).

But it’s not just the fact that he goes out to bring home the bacon while I live a life of leisure that I appreciate, far from it.  In fact, that’s one of the least important things to me.  The reason I am really thankful for him is that this guy is a great supporter/team mate/life partner.  He is helpful, understanding, and always willing to go the extra mile.  Nothing is too much trouble.

During the first trimester of my pregnancy, he did almost all the cooking, more than half the chores, and still went to work.  I did… nothing! But even so, he never once made me feel bad for that.  He just saw that he needed to help out, and he did.  No fuss, no drama.  (I may or may not have created some drama, but I wouldn’t want to lay the blame anywhere near him for that.  Pregnancy hormones are a much more appropriate direction to point that finger.)

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And on top of that, he’s funny and fun, and just a great person to live with.  I should know, I’ve been doing it for ten years now!  He is relaxed and easygoing, and is always willing to give new things a try.  He takes a while to get to know, but I’ve crossed that bridge, and I know for sure that he’s going to be a wonderful dad.  I am excited to share the next ten years with him and see where they take us.

(In case anyone thinks this is getting a bit sappy:  Firstly, you’re right, but at least I don’t do it too often… right? Secondly, I am not pretending that he’s a paragon of perfection.  He has been known to let off some noxious gases, occasionally even in bed. And he takes about five times as long as the normal person to eat a meal (unless he’s really hungry, in which case it’s gone in seconds).  But really, I can promise you that the above is not a lie or an exaggeration.  Far from it.)

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So today I want to say a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favourite of gentlemen and wish him all the best as he learns to deal with a new baby and a somewhat crazy wife in the coming weeks and months. It’s going to be an adventure, but I can’t imagine anyone better to go on that adventure with.

I love you, dude.

Happy Birthday.

 

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“Weekly” Challenge 19: Chicken Floss

Now that I’m back in a bit of a blog-flow, I wanted to keep up with my favourite blog series – the “weekly” challenges.  And this week’s challenge is one that has been in our minds since the very beginning.  It’s an item from a local bakery, which has all sorts of weird and wonderful creations.  But for our first challenge, we decided to go with the sardine donut (which is a bit weirder), and it’s taken all this time to get to the next item from Lof.  This time it was chicken floss.

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This week’s challenge: chicken floss

You can get chicken floss (which is basically dried, shredded chicken) on lots of different bakery items.  We chose a fairly plain bun, so that the chicken floss was the star.  And once we had it, there was nothing left to do but bring it home and give it a go.

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Cutting into it, there was more chicken floss than we expected.  But it was basically pretty similar to how it looked on the shelf.  The topping made a bit of a mess, but that didn’t scare us off.

The Engineer was first to give it a go.

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And then it was my turn.

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We both thought it was okay.  Slightly spicy, and held on with a nice buttery spread.  The bun itself was pleasingly un-sweet (which is a nice change for local breads), and it was actually nicer than some of the other items we’ve tried from the bakery that didn’t count as a “challenge”.  It basically tasted like what you would imagine from dried chicken on a buttery bun.  Slightly weird, but not really unpleasant.  I even had a second piece (although I have to admit we didn’t bother finishing the whole thing).  So if you come across some chicken floss (or any other meat floss) in your travels – don’t be too scared of it.  You might not want to eat it every day, but I doubt you’ll have to hold your nose and close your eyes to get it down.

This was a pretty easy week, really.  But don’t worry – our next challenge we will step it up a little.  I’ll give you a clue: It’s already waiting in the freezer, and it’s a bit of a combo of two previous challenges.

A realisation

Not long after I got pregnant, I started a huge spreadsheet of all the things we needed to buy and do for the baby.  I searched the internet for lists and ideas.  The Engineer vetoed the things that were maybe a little over the top (we probably didn’t really need a bath thermometer when our hot water is usually warm at best, and maybe we didn’t need four different kinds of baby carrier straight away).  I asked my experienced older sister for advice on what we had missed.  And eventually we had a list of 80 or so items, plus a more specific list of clothing.

We worked through the list slowly.  We scoped out the (very limited number of) baby shops here, and looked at the department stores.  We decided what needed to be bought online, and took into account the (sometimes excessive) shipping time.  I took it to New Zealand with me to make sure I was buying the right stuff.  I kept track of what was sorted and what was still needed, and checked from time to time.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a panic that the baby was due in 5 weeks, and there was still so much that wasn’t organised (plus a parcel ordered over a month ago still hadn’t arrived!)  So I looked at the list once again.  About twenty items were still completely not-organised.  How were we going to sort out a quarter of our preparation when the baby could arrive in under a month? Why hadn’t I been more organised earlier? How were we going to get anything from overseas at this late stage?

The Engineer came home to a fairly stressed out wife, dragged me away from the spreadsheet, and made me a cup of tea.  And as we discussed it (side note: two heads are usually better than one for this kind of thing) I came to a realisation:

We don’t need to have everything sorted out in advance.

Not every decision needs to be made before the baby arrives.  We can see what happens, and work it out as we go.  In fact, even with all the preparation in the world, that is probably the only way.  And better to go without something for a couple of days than to have a house full of things we never used.

So we reviewed the list again, and next to nearly half the items, I wrote “See if we need it”.  Rather than anticipating issues and preparing for them in advance, we can wait and solve them if they arise.  So simple, but it was a bit of a revelation to my slightly frazzled mind.

For a couple more, we decided on simple solutions.  For example, I had been worrying a little about a nappy bucket (how big did we need? where was the best place for it? did we need to soak them? etc. etc.) and this was why it was still not sorted.  We thought about it, and decided to get two cheap lidded buckets.  They can be used wet or dry, we can have them in useful spots, and two should be big enough to hold a couple of days worth.  And if they don’t suit our needs, we can find something else, and we haven’t wasted much money.

By doing this, our list was less than half as long, and suddenly felt a lot more manageable.

The experience reminded me of preparing for our move to Brunei.  In fact, there are a lot of ways that a first international move and a first baby are the same.  Both hold so very many unknowns, both require preparation, both are kinda a big deal, and most people want to go into both prepared.  But because of those unknowns, it is often better to skip some of the preparation, and work on just being open to the experience.  There is only so much you can find out in advance, even with the wonders of the internet.

I tried so hard to anticipate what I would need and want in a country I had no experience of.  I packed up my cases with clothes from New Zealand that I thought would be suitable.  Some were great, but I ended up with long skirts and dresses and sandals that have barely been worn.  Instead, I live in some cheap yoga-type pants that I bought here and my jandals (/flip flops/thongs/slippers).   We brought hiking and camping gear, but found that the heat and the pregnancy and various other things have rendered that fairly useless too (plus it takes up precious storage space).

Don’t get me wrong, some of the things we packed have been wonderful.  I am so glad we put in two sets of lovely fancy cotton sheets – high thread count cotton is something we love, and is hard to get here.  And our fairly crap selection of kitchenware is made a whole lot more tolerable with the addition of our two very expensive and wonderful knives from home.  You win some, you lose some, I suppose!  I am definitely not advocating coming with nothing.

But if I could do it all again, I would certainly pack even less than we did (we brought two suitcases each) and use the money saved to take a shopping trip to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore when we had more of an idea what we would ACTUALLY want/need and what was available in Brunei.  And I’m trying to have a similar attitude when it comes to the baby.  Get a few things in advance, but don’t spend too much time trying to work out what might happen.

Basically, I need to do less anticipating problems, and more open-minded living in the moment (and I suspect there a few others out there are in the same boat).  Because worrying often turns out to be a waste of time, and what you find in the moment can be quite beautiful.

Gorgeous Brunei sunset.  Something I didn't anticipate, and definitely not a problem!

Gorgeous Brunei sunset. Something I didn’t anticipate, and definitely not a problem!

(PS – that parcel I was worried about? Arrived yesterday, in tonnes of time.  No need for stress.)

 

 

 

What has been happening?

Over the last few months (really nearly a year!), I have been pretty slack on the blogging front.  It’s not that I don’t have time.  It’s often that I don’t have a lot of energy.  But mostly there’s no real reason.  I’ve just been doing other stuff.  However, this week we have an amah (local word for maid) starting.  This means I have to be home and not in bed three mornings a week.  And what better way to use that time than to get back into the blogging habit.

As with any period of absence, a lot has been happening between posts.  Some things will get their own individual posts later, but some things are not interesting enough for that, but are still worth sharing.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • We took a trip to Kuala Lumpur.  It was our first trip there, and I basically couldn’t handle the heat at all.  So we stuck mostly to malls and the hotel room.  I ate too much pizza, and definitely need to go back there when not in early pregnancy to explore some of the more interesting bits.

    Hanging with a mad crab at the KL Aquarium

    Hanging with a mad crab at the KL Aquarium

  • We went to Thailand for Christmas.  After an unfortunate series of events, my parents had to cancel their planned visit.  We still wanted to hang with family, so we headed to the nearest qualifier, and had Christmas with my sister in an apartment in Chiang Mai.  We played lots of board games, ate great food, and even did a little bit of touristing.

    Dancing weirdly at the rather glorious White Temple in Chiang Rai

    Dancing weirdly at the rather glorious White Temple in Chiang Rai

  • We continued to explore Brunei, and did quite a bit of walking once I felt a bit better.

    On a walk at the Kuala Belait mosque.

    On a walk at the Kuala Belait mosque.

  •   We had a weekend at the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort in Miri.  We walked and explored a little, swam a little, ate quite a lot, and relaxed.  It was lovely, if a little run down…

    Selfies on the balcony.

    Selfies on the balcony.

  • I went HOME.  I whizzed around New Zealand, and visited family and friends.  I ate delicious food, and did lots of shopping for me and the baby (and a little bit for The Engineer).  I was there for two weeks and it was nowhere near long enough.

    The weather was pretty nice too.  And the scenery.  I love New Zealand.

    The weather was pretty nice too. And the scenery. I love New Zealand.

  • We took a trip to Kota Kinabalu (our first time there too).  We explored the city, and then headed out to Gaya Island Resort where we had an amazingly relaxing and luxurious three days.  It was the most expensive place we’ve ever stayed, but worth every penny for a last chance to do nothing but sit by a pool and relax in beautiful surroundings.

    I am not usually a resort person, but I have to admit it was pretty amazing.

    I am not usually a resort person, but I have to admit it was pretty amazing.

  • We got organised for this baby to arrive.  We bought curtains and baby baths and tiny clothes.  We had lots of appointments.  I got fatter and fatter.  We hired a maid.  We started learning about labour and birth and newborn care.  We freaked out a little, but also got very excited!
  • My parents rescheduled the failed Christmas visit, and came to see us in early June.  We ticked off most of the Brunei guidebook, and then basically just relaxed and chatted and watched Michael Palin travel documentaries for a week.  It was lovely to see them, even if I wasn’t able to drag my giant self out as much as I would have liked!
  • I tried to keep up the exercise.  I have been doing yoga, swimming with some lovely ladies, and walking occasionally when the weather allows.

And that pretty much brings us to now.  The Engineer is going through a busy spell at work.  I am packing hospital bags, and getting organised and relaxing.  We are buying a second car.  The Engineer is no longer allowed to take off shore visits, and will soon have to take his phone off silent for all day meetings.  We know that this baby could make an appearance at any time (although I still think I’m going to go right to the bitter end).  Our life right now is both fairly boring and extremely exciting.

 

“Weekly” Challenge 18: Durian

It’s pretty stupid calling it a weekly challenge at this point, considering that it has been more than 6 months since the last one.  But hey, I’ve got a series going, even if it’s inconsistent, so I’m sticking with it, with added quote marks to indicate that I know it’s not so much accurate!

Anyway, today’s post is about a challenge we actually completed ages ago, but that I totally forgot to post.  We’re coming into durian season again here.  The supermarket is getting a bit smelly, and the smell reminded me that at the end of last durian season we tried this famous fruit.

If you’ve ever lived in or visited South East Asia, you are very likely familiar with durian.  But if you’re not, durian is:

regarded by many people in southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, strong odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk(Wikipedia)

The smell is intense.  So intense that malls, hotels, and all sorts of other places around Asia ban them entirely.  People seem to smell it differently, and it has been described as ” rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage”.  The Engineer picks up the turpentine/gasoliney smells.  I, on the other hand, definitely get the rotten onions.  Lovely.

The soft flesh is (apparently) a rich custard with an amazing flavour.  But as you will see, I am not convinced!

We were not game to purchase a whole durian.  They are huge, and expensive.   So we don’t have a picture of our own.  But the internet has come through for us with this great shot of the thorny beast:

Durian: the king of fruits.  (Photo credit: Hafiz Issadeen)

Durian: the king of fruits. (Photo credit: Hafiz Issadeen)

Instead we bought a small portion of the durian flesh from the supermarket, tried not to totally stink out our car, brought it home and dubiously cracked open the small packet.  We were left with this (plus a bit more, but this was more than enough):

A very small portion of a rather scary fruit

A very small portion of a rather scary fruit

 

We took a small piece, and one by one we tried it.  I bravely went first.  After a quick sniff, I was not convinced I wanted to, but for the sake of the blog, I persevered and got it in my mouth.

Not impressed...

Not impressed…

As you can see.  I did not love it.  In fact, I was rather toddler like in my extreme distaste, and I was not afraid to show it.  I am proud to say that I did not spit it out.

The Engineer was next.  He was a little more brave, more stoic (as usual), and a little less expressive.  But he was also less than enamoured with his first taste of durian.  After trying and not hating durian chips, I think he was expecting something more pleasant.  But the real thing just doesn’t compare!

 

A little less expressive, but also not impressed!

A little less expressive, but also not impressed!

The problem with writing this post is that the taste is virtually impossible to describe.  I would love to give a good wine-label type description of its flavour, with notes and hints and all, but all I can really say is that it doesn’t taste as bad as it smells, as seems to have been the case in many of our challenges (see dried cuttlefish, century egg).  It’s a bit sickly sweet, like a jack fruit.  But with some other weird and wacky flavours that make it rather less nice (and I am not a big fan of jackfruit!)  It is possible that we got a dud one – we had no idea how to pick – but after that first taste, it will be a while before we’re back.

Basically, if you want to understand durian, you will just have to come to Asia and try it yourself!  If you can, I would recommend finding someone local to help you select a good version. It might help!  (though I also suspect that even the good version would not be my bag).

Writing this has also given me a great idea.  You may have seen Pucker – a great compilation of kids trying lemons for the first time (if not, here it is).

What about babies trying durian?  Or even adults?  If our facials are anything to go by, you might get some good expressions!

 

Hopefully this is the start of a renewed interest in writing this blog.  But with the wee one due to arrive in less than a month, I am making no guarantees. I have got a couple more challenges up my sleeve though before the big challenge of parenthood begins.  So we will see!