Does common sense still exist?

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Credit: billmullins.wordpress.com

Today, I asked someone to help me ship a couple of fragile items out. She said she didn’t know how to do that, so I explained it to her.

“Put them them in a box and tape it up using packing tape. Make sure you wrap them with bubble wrap first because they’re glass and are breakable,” I explained.

She replied, “Okay, sure. But I put them in a box first and then bubble wrap them, right?”

“Huh?!” I didn’t quite understand her question. “What do you mean put them in a box first?”

“I mean, put them in the box, and then bubble wrap the box.”

You’re kidding, right? Who does that? I was speechless for a few seconds because I thought she was pulling my leg. “No,” I replied after determining that she was indeed serious. “You wrap them with bubble wrap first, and then you put them in the box.”

She was quite persistent. “No, I think I should pack them in the box and bubble wrap the box after. That’s what I did when I shipped out the mug last time.”

I was bewildered. I had hoped she was kidding, but she wasn’t. What a conversation to have on a Thursday afternoon. It was my amusement for the day.

Once upon a time when I worked in HR, we introduced online pay statement, where employees could choose to have both their pay stubs and T4 online, or just their pay stubs. At the end of that first year, an employee asked me where her T4 was. I checked the system and as it turned out, she had chosen to have it available online, which meant she wouldn’t get a printed copy. I explained this to her and off she went to print it off.

She came to me that same afternoon, freaking out. She explained that she had printed it, and because we didn’t have a secure printer at work at the time, her T4 came out, free for viewing by whoever was at the printer. Luckily she went to the printer immediately so I don’t think anyone got to her T4 before she did. But she was fuming. She asked why the T4 was printed just like that, and why it wasn’t in a sealed envelope.

This was another “huh” moment for me. I had to explain to her that the printer can’t possible pick up her printed T4, stuff it in an envelope and seal it.

Seriously guys? Did you leave your common sense behind somewhere?

Have you ever come across a similar situation? If so, please share it as I can never get enough laughter in a day :).

Daily prompt: prize possession – my beloved and loyal bolster

Describe an item you were incredibly attached to as a child. What became of it?

Some kids like soft, cuddly blankets or huggable stuffed teddy bears. I liked my baby bolsters, or “guling” as we Indonesians call this cylindrical pillow. My grandma made two for me when I was a baby. She took some leftover fabric and stuffed them with cotton. I absolutely loved them and could not, or rather refused, to sleep without them.

The bolsters eventually flattened and in an attempt to salvage them, I asked my grandma to re-stuff them for me, but one at a time. Because god knows I couldn’t sleep with both of them gone. Sadly, the cotton inside had sort of “melted” into the fabric and it was such a mess that my grandma decided to get rid of it and made me a brand new one out of brand new fabric. She thought this would make me happy but it did the opposite. I was heart broken. My beloved bolster was gone. So I decided to keep the other one flat and begged her and my parents to leave it alone and to never touch it.

So now I have my fluffy bolster that still looks like a bolster, and my flat one that just looks like a piece of fabric. And kid you not, I still have both of them and still sleep with them in my grown up, king size tempurepedic bed. My flat bolster brings me comfort and for some unexplainable reason, I sleep better with it.

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My friends used to make fun of me, and if they find out (which they will through this blog post) that I still have this “piece of cloth” as they called it, I’m sure they would laugh in my face. It’s okay though, because if my friends can’t make fun of me, then who can, right? I’m just thrilled that I’ve managed to keep my flat bolster around for so long. It brings me so much comfort, maybe because as a baby it used to soothe me or made me feel safe. Not really sure since I don’t have memories as a baby. I mean, who does anyway? And why does it matter? All I know is this flat bolster is the one prize possession I will never ever let go.

Only in Indonesia

First thought that popped into my head when we arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia was….”culture shock”.

I know, strange for me to think so considering I was born in Jakarta and lived the first 10 years of my live in Jakarta, Bengkulu and Banjarmasin. That’s three different Indonesian islands I lived in, each with its own dialect and twist on food.

But growing up in the Westernized culture of Canada, it was easy to forget what life was like back in Indonesia. During our trip, I saw things that made me go, “huh?” Only in Indonesia!

I was fast asleep in the car from major jet lag when the car stopped at a railroad track. What hubby saw blew his mind away that he nudged me while at the same time taking the camera out from his cargo pocket, “Astrid, wake up! You’ve gotta see this. Holy shit this is crazy!”

I opened my eyes. Annoyed at having my much needed sleep interrupted, I turned to him and gave him a silent “this better be good” look. And boy was it ever good.

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There were people – lots of them – standing and sitting on top of the train. That’s right, not inside but on top. My cousin explained that these people can’t afford to take the train so they jump on the train to catch a free ride. Unbelievable. Only in Indonesia.

The traffic is absolutely insane. It’s 100x worse than Toronto traffic and no one follows the rules of the roads. It was so chaotic that I cringed every time a motorcycle or a car or a bus zoomed past us. And trust me, that happened often. Like every second we were on the road. I thought for sure we’d get into an accident. But the amazing thing is, I did not see even one single accident. Due to the insane traffic, the fastest way to get around is by motorcycle. Everyone rides them – kids, adults, men, women, professionals, maids. If you’re in a motorcycle you can zig zag in between the cars. Again, not something we’re used to seeing in Canada. We might see two or three at a time in the summer but in Indonesia, there were at least 20 of them at any given time. Only in Indonesia.

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While visiting my grandma’s brother, we drove by a house. It was an ordinary house except for the monkey that was chained outside of the gate, sitting on a small covered platform. The monkey is used as some sort of alarm. Only in Indonesia.

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Since we’re on the topic of monkeys, the cruelest thing we saw were monkeys on the side of the street. Not only were these monkeys on a leash, they had on clothing and a mask. Their owners use these monkeys as a tourist attraction to make money. Similar to what you would see in an all inclusive resort, where locals walk around with a monkey, parrot or snake for tourists to take pictures with. But imagine this – it’s 40 degrees Celsius outside and the monkeys are dressed in a costume of some sort wearing a face mask! Yes, I do have pictures but I’ve decided not to post them due to the wrongness of it. Only in Indonesia.

On a more positive note, the food in Indonesia is to die for. You don’t even have to leave your driveway to get food. Food comes to you. Here’s a picture of a guy selling congee. Only in Indonesia.

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At the end of our first week, we were off to Manila, Philippines for the weekend to visit friends who just moved there. Then from Manila we went straight to Bali for 5 days, which was too short in my opinion. Only in Bali would you see two monkeys sleeping and cuddling with each other at a restaurant out in the open! No cage, no special room. Just in the restaurant. Only in Indonesia.

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Bali is known for its monkeys though, so I guess that’s pretty normal there. When we went to Ulu Watu temple, we saw more monkeys of course. They roamed on the streets just like stray cats. Only in Indonesia.

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Ahh, I love reminiscing about our trip to Indonesia. This is why I love traveling. It makes me see how life is like in other parts of the world and how different it is from Canada. What a refreshing way to view the world.

Daily prompt: five a day – chocolates or no chocolates?

Daily Prompt: Five a Day

You’ve been exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?

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When I saw this question I thought it would be an easy one to answer, but as I started to make my list it got longer and longer. Do I choose indulgence food or nutritious food? How long am I going to be stuck on the island for? Do I ask for chips and chocolates? How about water?

Finally, I narrowed it down by each food group. The only food group that didn’t make the list is dairy. I can live without dairy products and I’d rather have more protein if I’m going to be stuck on an island. I was going to add some type of veggie on the list, but I assume an island will have a lot of leafy plants, some of which I hope are edible. The first thing that popped into my head was rice, so that made the first on the list. Humans need water to live, but I figured watermelon has a lot of water content so I can get my vitamins and water in one shot. Sadly, as much as I would’ve liked to ask for chocolates, that did not make the list. Maybe I can sneak some in?

  1. Rice for carbs
  2. Eggs for protein
  3. Steak for protein
  4. Lobster for protein and omega-3
  5. Watermelon for vitamins and hydration

So that’s my request. The decision wasn’t as easy as I had thought, but I made up my mind. I can’t believe I didn’t include chocolates though! Arghh should I scrap the eggs or rice for chocolates?

What do you think? What would you do if you were in my shoes?

Weekly photo challenge: a day in my life – cats, food, cats, food and more cats

My cat, Puzzle, had been digging for gold again (aka toy mice) and this is what I woke up to on Tuesday:

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All Puzzle ever wants to do is play all day from morning to night. So I start my day off by playing with her before heading to work.

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It’s so sad, really. When we’re ready to leave the condo, she sits in front of the front door stopping us from going. We have to throw one of her toys away from the door and she goes running for it. Then we quickly sneak out before she figures out what’s going on. It’s heart breaking.

Last Tuesday, I met up with a friend for lunch at Union Social. This place gets so crazy packed that we could never get a seat. So this time I was smart and made a reservation. Not sure why we never thought to do that before. Duh. Here’s what I had and man am I glad I finally got to eat here.

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I love food but I’m not much of a cook. But on Wednesday I felt like being creative and so I made tacos for dinner. Not just any ordinary tacos though. I browned the ground pork with taco seasoning, hoisin sauce, Korean dipping sauce and cilantro. Instead of salad and diced tomatoes, I made a concoction of Asian pears and cabbage mixed with fish sauce and sriracha hot sauce. Then I mixed broccoli slaw with sesame seeds and sesame oil. And voila – Korean tacos!

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While I was busy being domestic, Puzzle kept me company.

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At night, I wind down by watching tv and hanging out with hubby, Puzzle and my princess Nikki. Nik is 14 years old and just wants to spend her time snuggling with us. Puzzle, on the other hand, won’t leave Nikki alone. She constantly tries to play with her which annoys Nikki. So I spend some time in the evening paying with Puzzle, allowing her to let her pent up energy out. Otherwise she will jump on the tv in an effort to get our attention.
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And that, my friends, is what a typical day looks like for me. Cats, food, cats, food and more cats!

What’s your day like? I would love to hear about it, so please share away 🙂

Voices

I can hear death calling me but I say nothing. I’m tired. Tired of banging my now-bruised hands against the walls of the box that constrain me. Tired of not being able to move or see. My screams for help have gone unheard. Hope and sanity have left with the feeling in my body and mind.

I have no concept of time. Day or night, it’s all the same. A darkness and an evil coldness that numb my existence.

Death’s voices sound closer than ever. My time has come. I start to float deeper away, my mind no longer present.

A warm breeze brushes my arms. I open my eyes to a delightful brightness. The ground beneath me is no longer hard and unforgiving. The soft prickles of grass gently tickle my back and joy sweeps over me. I am free! I carefully sit up to find myself in some kind of garden.

“Are you ready to come home, Katie?” A strange but beautiful voice asks, startling me. I am lost for words as I stare at the voice’s angelic face. Speechless, I nod. As gravity pulls me down my heart thumps furiously.

I gasp for air when my body hits the ground.

“She’s breathing!” shouts the voice next to me. “Katie! Katie, can you hear us?”

My eyes pop open. I’m surrounded by strangers telling me that everything will be okay. I turn my head to see a pile of dirt and coffin beside me and I let out a whimper of relief. 

My predator failed to box me in

Adventure in Costa Rica with a horse named Kicker

When I was little I used to read a book series about a girl who got struck by lightning. But that’s not what fascinated me about the story, it was that she had a horse and knew how to ride them. I used to dream of someday being a jockey, possibly even own one. I dreamt of riding my horse down Rathburn to my best friend’s house, much to the envious looks of passerbys. Forget bicycles, motorcycles or cars. I wanted a horse.

I never did get a horse (surprise, surprise) and my fascination with horses was quickly replaced by hanging out at Square One, Falafel’s and Mikey’s (a billiard “dump”). But one day, a friend called me and asked me if I would be interested in going horse back riding as he was organizing a group outing. Are you kidding me? Of course I was! He didn’t know how much I loved horses or anything so it was pure coincidental. And so off we went to some ranch in burlington for our very first horseback riding experience. It was a bit cheesy since the horses trotted along a very short and narrow trail so slowly that a turtle could’ve easily passed us. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was, I rode a horse! Happy dance, happy dance! I still remember her, Peaches. She was a cream coloured beauty who I quickly got attached too during the 15 minute ride. I got my fill and I was good.

Fast forward years later.

Hubby and I went on a full-day excursion in Costa Rica that started off with a mud bath in the hot springs, followed by a 45-minute horseback ride up the mountains before ending the day zip lining down 10 lines. Yes, that’s right, horseback riding! Imagine my excitement. At first, they gave me a really big horse, my feet couldn’t even reach the stirrups, so I asked for a smaller horse. The guide reluctantly brought one out for me (apparently the last horse they had). At first, I wasn’t sure why he didn’t want to give me the smaller horse, but I soon found out.

Saddling up

Saddling up

We were all trotting across a wild field minding our own business when my horse decided he didn’t want to be one of the last ones, so he started galloping and pushing the other horses out of the way. Then he kicked the horse in front of me. Oh boy. What did I get myself into? That was when I found out his name meant “kicker” in Spanish. Light bulb went off! So that was why the guide initially gave me the bigger, apparently much gentler horse. Ding ding ding! I didn’t mind though, it made the ride very entertaining and fun. I didn’t want to go too slow, and Kicker made sure we didn’t. We galloped and kicked the other horses all the way to the top of the mountains, with me constantly apologizing to all the other riders. I did learn to control him a little bit by using the reins, petting him and changing his name (at least temporarily) to “good boy”.

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"Good boy, Kicker!"

“Good boy, Kicker!”

That was a really fun day, one I will never forget. I got to ride a horse named Kicker, what more could I have asked for?

How about you? What was a really fun day for you? And did you ever dream of owning a horse? Or maybe it was something else – a monkey, an elephant or maybe a tiger?

Zantac: my life saver

Okay, maybe not my “life” saver but more like “lifestyle”. I first reacted to alcohol on my 5th anniversary dinner date with hubby. I took a couple sips of my Riesling while waiting for our main course to be served, and not long after my ears started to feel hot. Then I felt the heat move slowly towards my face and hubby told me to go look at myself in the mirror. What I saw totally freaked me out. I had blotches of red spots on my face, neck and ears and the redness kept spreading.

It just kept getting hotter. We were at Milestones by YD Square and there’s a Shoppers Drug Mart at the lower level. So I left hubby in the restaurant while I ran downstairs to talk to the pharmacist. “What the hell is wrong with me?” I asked her, completely freaking out. I told her I had wine and some white sauce that came with my scallop appetizers. She said, “It looks like you’re allergic to alcohol. You’ve got hives. Take 2 Benadryls now.” Darn, I was hoping it was the white sauce.

So I bought Benadryl, ran back up to Milestones and took 2. Within 5 minutes I felt better. I was so thankful at that very moment for the life we have in downtown Toronto. Thankful that there’s an SDM on the lower level of where we were having dinner. I was able to continue our anniversary date like nothing had happened.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she said this is common amongst Asians. It’s called Asian Flush. Seriously, how did I just suddenly develop Asian Flush? Through Google, I found out that the reason Asians get this reaction to alcohol is that we lack an enzyme called ALDH2, which helps break down the poisonous byproduct of alcohol. As for why I just got it now, is still unknown. I must have had this enzyme once upon a time, but somehow lost it.

My friend told me to take Zantac. Yup, zantac, the antacid. I figured, why not, it doesn’t hurt to try. And oh what a miracle zantac is. When I got that reaction the first time I was so upset. I thought it meant I could never drink alcohol ever again! How horrible would that be? That’s like almost as bad as being allergic to chocolates, which I’m not, thank god!

A couple of weeks ago, I was cooking with wine and decided to have a glass. I forgot to take my zantac and only after 2 sips, I started to get really hot. I felt the heat spread from my ears to my face and it seriously felt like my face was on fire. I immediately took 2 Benadryls and splashed my face with cold water. The cold water didn’t help and the Benadryl took longer to kick in this time around. I ended up with an icepack on my face. That’s how hot it got.

Well, lesson learned. I’ll never forget my zantac again. Zantac, zantac, my life saver. Because of it I can still drink my wine. Oh what would I do without my wine?  I mean, I’d be okay if my face just turns red. But it’s not the redness I’m worried about. It’s the fact that my face feels like it’s on fire.

Zantac apparently has H2 blockers and this is what helps alleviate the symptoms of Asian Flush. I don’t know what these H2 blockers do and I don’t know what the long-term side effects are for taking zantac, but I don’t drink enough to worry about it too much. For now, I’m just grateful there’s something to prevent me from getting that awful reaction when I drink alcohol.

Nutrition Label explained

My company has a Health & Wellness Committee and occassionally they hold seminars or educational booths. A while ago, they held a seminar on “Guide to Grocery Shopping” and I finally learned how to read the ever so confusing Nutrition Label.

Nutrition Label

Courtesy of Health Canada, Food & Nutrition section

So here’s the deal.

  1. Reference Portion. This section refers to the amount that the nutrition label refers to. In the image above, it’s “per 3/4 cup (175 g)”. Compare this to the amount you actually eat. If you eat 1.5 cups, then you need to double the amounts listed on the label.
  2. % Daily Value. This is the proportion by which your daily needs are met by consuming a reference portion of the food.

You can make healthy choices by looking for the following nutrients:

  1. Fibre – more than 15% of daily value.
  2. Vitamins – more than 15% of daily value.
  3. Fat – less than 5% of daily value.
  4. Sodium – less than 5% of daily value.

When looking at the Nutrition Label, you should also look at the Ingredients list. They go hand in hand, especially when trying to determine if the amount of sugar listed is okay or not.

For example, the nutrition label states 24 g of sugar. Is that good or bad? It really depends on where that sugar is coming from. 24 g does seem high, but if it’s coming from 100% real fruits vs. added sugar, then it’s sugar that is better to consume. That’s why it’s important to check the ingredients list.

Another tip is to know that ingredients are listed in decreasing order quantity, with the most used ingredient listed first. So if added sugar is listed as the first 3 ingredients, you might want to avoid this.

I used to think that nutrition labels are super confusing. I mean, how do you know what the numbers even mean, right? Well, the tips I got from the seminar, which I’ve shared with you above, is a good start.

Try it! Pick up anything in your pantry or fridge – canned tomatoes, canned tuna, granola bar, apple juice – and see if you can decipher the label.

My cats are spoiled and so am I

Yesterday, I came home from work to find Nikki’s now dried-out breakfast still in her bowl. She had only eaten half, maybe less of her breakfast and now it was time for dinner. Since her breakfast had been sitting out all day and probably had spoilt, I threw it out.

My cats don’t know how good they have it, having a roof over their heads, warm blankets to sleep on, clean, fresh water and of course, never knowing what it’s like to starve like so many stray cats out there.

We have a lot of stray cats here, in Toronto. But we also have a lot of cat rescue organizations who take them in and try to find forever homes for them. There are also kind people out there who may not be able to adopt them, but will feed them whenever they can.

Contrast this to the stray cats in Jakarta, Indonesia, where hubby and I spent almost a month this past summer. What I learned, is that people hate cats in Jakarta. Cats are viewed as dirty, evil pests that carry diseases. The cats there will steal food when there’s an opportunity to do so. They won’t hesitate to snatch food off the table and run off with it into the streets. They hover around peoples’ homes hoping that the owner of the home would be kind enough to feed them. But they never get fed, instead, they get shooed away. They are hated animals.

Being a cat lover, seeing how they are treated there saddens me. To me, these cats are just trying to survive. They’re much skinnier and smaller than the cats in Canada, evident of their malnourishment and lack of love.

My very first encounter with a cat was when my family and I still lived in Indonesia. While I grew up with dogs, it was this white cat who came around every day who stole my heart. We fed her daily and even let her in the house, to the horror of our maid at the time. She, like most people in Jakarta, hated cats. We named the cat “Bule”, which is a term used for “white skin”. She ended up giving birth to three of the cutest kittens.

One day, Bule caught a mouse in our house. A mouse in Jakarta is really the size of a rat here. Big and nasty, not like one of those cute ones you see at the pet store here. Bule had the mouse in her mouth, and our maid freaked out. She took a broom and started hitting Bule with it, calling her names, despite my pleads to stop. Bule ran out of the house. She came home hours later looking extremely sad. I was too young then to know any better, but now that I think about it, she may have been in a lot of pain. Since this was now night time, we had the front door closed. She begged for us let her out, and we did. I still remember her walking out that door as if her spirits had been lifted out of her. She walked so slowly, so painfully. I told her I loved her as I watched her walk away, thinking that she would come back later, like she did every day. But this time, she never came back and I lost Bule forever.

As I fed Nikki and Puzzle their dinner last night, I threatened them, “If you don’t eat all your food I’m going to ship you to Indonesia.” Of course, I was joking. I won’t even let them out of the home for fear they might get hurt or lost and never find their way back to me, let alone ship them to another country where they’ll end up being hated and chased away.

So to Nikki and Puzzle, and other indoor cats out there – please eat all your food and stop being so picky!

Puzzle on her scratching post

On a more serious note, this is more of a reminder for me of how blessed I truly am. I’m guilty of having wasted food myself, many times over. I’m guilty of taking my life for granted. But just like Nikki and Puzzle, I have a roof over my head, I’ve never had to beg for food and I don’t know what it’s like to starve constantly. I am thankful for what I have.

Happy thanksgiving everyone!

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