Saturday, 31 December 2011


Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream.


We are told from childhood onward the everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it's still there.
 ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

As 2011 draws to a close and we head towards a new year, may we all have the courage to chase our personal calling, digging up what we may have buried for far too long.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Freecycle . . . revisited

I have on several occasions extolled about the virtues of Freecycle (see here and here too) but I think today, I got the most exciting and amazing Freecycle item yet.

And if you're wondering what it is? It's an Ashford spinning wheel, used to make yarn (yes, the knitting kind) out of fibres.

I had been thinking of learning how to spin in a while now but have never gotten around to starting or purchasing a spinning wheel. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it on offer on Freecycle this morning, and nearly passed out from excitement when I was told it was still available, and at a place only about 30 minutes drive away!

The spinning wheel is rather dusty (the lady bought it in 1989 - 1989! - used it for a while and then kept in storage ever since) and it needs to be put together like an Ikea furniture, with an allen key and everything. I have been assured that even though it is in pieces, it still works and isn't broken. But hey, I got myself a spinning wheel.

I am so excited! Best Christmas present ever! Ok, maybe not ever, but it's certainly at the top of the list! And look how stylish I'll be spinning yarn in the future!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Managed to catch The Day the Earth Stood Still last night and while it wasn't the best movie in the world, it still kept my attention and got me thinking. Enough to actually write about it.

From what I can gather, the movie is actually a remake of of a 1951 film, which was an adaption from the 1940 short story, Farewell to the Master.

It started off as one of the natural calamities Armageddon-type show, but soon became a sci-fi Armageddon-type show. Unfortunately, while I didn't mind it, we immediately lost my housemate who didn't like sci-fi/alien shows (and felt thoroughly deceived).

You can read the plot here.


What really struck me about the movie isn't the strong storyline (which there isn't much) or the fantastic acting (it was ok, and well, one can't fault it much when an eye-candy like Keanu Reeves is involved) but just how reminiscent it is to the story of Jesus.

I suppose you could argue that in the end, almost all stories are like the Christian story, Good versus bad. Redemption. Grace. Forgiveness. Sacrifice.

But it was still interesting how the alien Kiaatu is "born", somewhat immaculate and somewhat like another being taking on human form, so that he can communicate better with humans. (When Helen asks Kiaatu what his original form is like, he replies "it will only scare you", somewhat akin to how humans cannot "withstand" the glory of God.)

Humans are all too willing to conclude that because the alien is more powerful and unknown, it is therefore malevolent and must be destroyed (the first thing they do when he emerges from his "spaceship" is shoot him).

It's a great statement on human nature, of how we fear things we don't know and instead of seeking to understand it, decide to eliminate the perceived "threat". But it's also reminiscent of Jesus' life - misunderstood, persecuted, eventually killed.

Oh, and somewhere in the movie, Kiaatu walks on water and raises the dead to life as well.

I suppose the main difference between this movie and the Christian story is the reason why Kiaatu is here. Jesus came to save the human race. Kiaatu came to save the earth from the humans.

And yet, there is something that Kiaatu said that resonated with the environment lover in me:
If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives. There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos that are capable of supporting complex life. This one can't be allowed to perish. We've watched, we've waited and hoped that you *would* change. It's reached the tipping point. We have to act. We'll undo the damage you've done and give the Earth a chance to begin again. 
This isn't about climate change (ok, maybe it is a little), but more about the fact that by our very actions, we are destroying the earth. If there really were guardians of Earth out there, how would they perceive us?

One last similarity between the movie and the Christian story? Kiaatu falls in love with the human race, realises they aren't so bad after all, and sacrifices himself to save them. In the hopes and belief that they will change for the better.

The movie implies that it is only Kiaatu's human body that "dies", but not Kiaatu himself. Instead, he rises above earth in his spaceship and returns home.

Somewhat like another guy I know, this one real and not fictional, whose human body was killed, but who was resurrected and whose reason for dying was to sacrifice himself for our sins, granting us a second chance at life and an amazing opportunity at life everlasting and filled with hope.

By the way, my all time favourite scene in the movie? When Helen had her back turned and an army guy swoops down behind her from a helicopter, engulfs her in this ginormous bear hug and both of them are winched back into the helicopter, way above the tree lines. The retrieved Helen ends up seated in the helicopter, a bewildered look on her face.

I'm not doing much justice describing it, you have to watch it to enjoy it. I loved it so much, I watched it about four times, and laughed out loud every time.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

She's perfect!

I've just started using Facebook's Timeline and it has been interesting looking at posts I've made from way back in 2007.

Most of them are pretty mundane "I'm going to the gym", "I'm hungry" kind of stuff. But there were some not too pleasant whinging about people or life as well.

One of the thing that Timeline does when you start using it is give you a seven-day grace to go through your old posts and decide what you want to show and what you want to delete. So I ended up deleting all the negative not-so-nice posts.

But it got me thinking about our online persona. If you're anything like me, things that are online never accidentally land there. There is a specific reason why they're there. And the sad, nasty or truly private stuff will never see the light of day.

It's the mundane, the amusing or the "perfect" that we tend to see. How we treat our Facebook pages/blogs are exactly like how photos of models get airbrushed before they get published in magazines. It's not . . . real.

And yet, it has a tendency for us to feel inadequate or imperfect when we look at other people's lives, when we stalk their Facebook pages, to see them so happy, so content, having so much fun. But it's not real and all it does is give us this feeling of inaptness and dissatisfaction.

I'm not saying social media's bad. I still like stalking my Facebook friends (tee hee!). I'm just trying to remind myself that I really have no need to compare it to others or desire what I feel I don't have.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


How easy do you find it to offer help to someone?

What about asking someone for help?

When a friend calls me up for "a favour" or even when I see a perfect stranger struggling, I don't generally have a problem offering assistance. I don't see it as an issue, and one really does get some sort of warm fuzzies when you've done that good deed for the day.

But when it comes to asking for help, life isn't quite so rosy.

I hate asking friends for favours. I feel like I'm encroaching on their time. I feel like I'm being a burden. I feel like I'm being difficult. I feel like I'm inconveniencing them.

I just hate asking for help.

And yet, one cannot go through life without ever asking for help. And perhaps I need to give my friends the credit that when I do ask them for help, they don't think about the trouble they have to go through. Instead, they simply want to help because that's the kind of people they are.

The Bible says, "You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand" (Galatians 6:2).

If every one of us were self-sufficient, how in the world are we ever going to offer anyone a helping hand?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


This is an appeal to anyone who is in possession of the Macquarie Dictionary.

If you can find the definition for the word "alumni" or "alumnus", can you kindly tell me which page it is on?

For the life of me (and three others), I cannot find the word any where in my Mac Dictionary.

Does the word not exist? Is it not really a word? Considering I've graduated from uni and have always thought of myself as an alumni, what am I now?

Going through an identity crisis?

p/s: And don't be a smarty-pants by giving me the definition of "alumni". I know what it means. I just want to find it in my dictionary.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tangerine Tango

Pantone has announced their colour of the year for 2012. I actually find it worthy to blog about not because I'm a colour nerd, but simply because I'm partial to orange.

So I bring you Tangerine Tango, the 2012 Pantone Colour of the Year. "Tangerine Tango, a spirited reddish orange, continues to provide the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward."

I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to incorporate the colour into my life next year, or if it will even feature much. I'm just glad orange finally gets a mention. It's a colour that doesn't feature very much in everyday items (why isn't my favourite colour pink?!) and so I always get extremely pleased when it shows up some where.

And "spirited", "energy boost", "move forward" . . . these are all words I could use as this year draws to a close and we head towards 2012.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Always read before you publish

Thank goodness I have an editor too. Otherwise, this might have gotten through:

"It is from Noah and his family that the entire human race has descended. Evidence for this global catastrophe can be seen in the geological strata . . ."

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A reminder

"Many of us are inundated with the Internet, whether or not we carry it around with us. It’s not all bad, of course. But even the good aspects of the Internet can lead us to unhealthy patterns. The gift of connection from sites like Facebook and Twitter can lead to comparisons, judgment and self-centeredness. At their worst, these phantoms of true connection makes us more lonely, not less.

Or, if you’re like me, you’re addicted to creative blogs and sites like Pinterest. But even these can lead me to discontent and greed, making me wish I had more stuff or money, or was a better mom, or wife, or cook, or could craft memorable Christmas gifts out of vintage lace tablecloths and tree bark.

The Internet gives us a lot: information, communication, entertainment and creativity. But it also robs us of the precious gift of time and true relationships. Real creativity and inspiration usually find us when we step out of the technological haze and engage with God, creation and those around us"

Taken from Relevant magazine's "When Everyday Habits Turn Deadly", by Bonnie McMaken

Friday, 11 November 2011

The art of levitating

I'm still not quite sure how she does it but I'm duly impressed.

Yowayowa takes self-portraits of her levitating and while I'm pretty sure she doesn't actually know how to levitate, the technique she uses to show her doing ordinary things while levitating leaves me stumped.

It just looks so . . . effortless.

Am pretty sure a more knowledgeable camera person than myself would figure this out in seconds, but I continue to remain awed.

Also, I like what she says, "yowayowa is a Japanese term meaning "weak" or "feeble." Since I'm yowayowa, it's really heavy to carry SLR cameras around."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Depression: the Deadly Killer

Published in Signs of the Times, November 2011.

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

Help fight depression! 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Lateral thinking, people

The saga of my name continues.

Phone operator: "What's your name again?"

Me: "Melody. Like in music?"

Operator: "How do you spell it?"

Me: "M-e-l-o-d-y"

Operator: "M-u . . . wait, what? How do you spell it?"

Me: "M-e-l-o-d-y"

Operator: "Oh, Melody! That's nothing like music!"

Me: *facepalm*

Monday, 7 November 2011


It's amazing how things work out for the best even when you first perceive it as somewhat of a disaster.

It all started when I was deemed less important than refreshments. We had organised a work function in New Zealand last week that I was meant to attend. However, our budget was such that we couldn't afford refreshments. It would have been fine because the function was such that refreshments weren't particularly necessary.

However, some of our NZ counterparts thought otherwise and believed they were crucial. So in order to make up for the shortfall, my budget was axed (I volunteered the idea) and I had to stay in Australia so that however much it might cost to fly me to NZ could make up for part of the costs of refreshments.

I wasn't particularly upset about it by any means. I didn't think my part in NZ was crucial, and if it meant saving a few bucks to help what was obviously an important thing, I was happy to not go. I just thought it funny to declare, "I was chosen over drinks."

Anyway, it turned out to be a bigger blessing than I could ever ask for. I was due to fly out on a Friday, but I started a series of event on Thursday that required me to be in Australia on Friday. If I had left that day, what I had started may not have been accomplished, which would not have been very pleasant.

Also, on Sunday, the day I was supposed to fly back from NZ, this happened. Qantas grounded all their flights. Who knows when I would have been able to return to Australia if I had gone to NZ. Who knows what would have happened to the project that I started on Thursday if I weren't back in Australia on Monday.

From my Christian point of view, I can only attribute it to God. I had prayed fervently about this project that I had started on Thursday. I was way out of my depth with it and had asked God for all His guidance and help.

I think he's answering my prayers.

My project hasn't finished and I've been rather stressed over the last two weeks, but while there is a sense of nervousness, there is the knowledge that in the end, it's all going to work out because He's in charge.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Mokies (mo-cookies)

I found what I was looking for!

Made a test batch using a shortbread recipe and I'm really quite pleased with the result.

The main problem I had with the recipe was that the dough was a little too crumbly, making it a little difficult to ensure the mo stayed intact when you cut out the shapes. The instructions said to refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes before cutting them but I reckon while it was good advice, I probably should have waited a few minutes after taking it out of the fridge before I cut it. That would give it time to soften up a little, which made it just that tad easier to separate from the cutter without breaking.

The recipe also said to roll the batter out till about 3mm thick, but I reckon it worked a lot better when it was a bit thicker. The mo shape stayed more intact when cut and it was also easier to stamp the pattern on the dough.

However, all isn't lost even if the mo breaks into half. Simply try to smooth the break together, pop it into the oven and viola! The break disappears.

These will work out great for Movember fundraising efforts.

And now we're mo twins!

Help support the Movember cause - donate at

Recipe here.

Friday, 21 October 2011


It's that time of the year again where men find a convenient excuse to not shave and end up all fuzzy looking. Movember is almost upon us and the mo' bros and mo' sis will be out in force, helping to raise funds and awareness on men's health.

Don't misunderstand the somewhat ironic tone of my voice. I have no problems with the movement or what it stands for at all. What with my dad falling victim to cancer (granted, bone cancer is not a uniquely men's issue) and D's dad being diagnosed with prostate cancer not too long ago, the issue is dear to me heart.

In fact, I support the movement so much that I'm contemplating getting myself one of these moustache cookie cutters and baking a few mo'kies and maybe selling them for Movember.

My main problem with this business is that my man got into the whole thing with much enthusiasm last Movember, and may have forgotten the point of it is to shave it all off when December comes around. So I've essentially been dating a gnome for the last 12 months.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Foot in . . .

It's true. Your brain really does register what you want to see, not what is actually there.

Was editing an article entitled Your foot in His hand but throughout the entire process, the understanding that I got from the title was Your foot in His mouth.

It wasn't only after a few minutes, when I'm almost done editing the article, that I realised my understanding of the article is actually very different from what was actually there.

How careful are you when you read things? Do you truly understand what they're supposed to mean?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Peanut butter cupcakes

It's been a while since my last forays into cupcakes but with a friend's birthday party coming up, I thought it was a good excuse to give it a go again.

I was having a hankering for peanut butter (and also trying to finish up my numerous half-eaten jars of peanut butter in the pantry) that I decided to modify a recipe I had for chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. Basically, I went without the chocolate and added a rather generous teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (I love this thing - it makes your cupcakes turn out with little black flakes of vanilla and smells amazing).

I made sure to avoid filling the papers too much with batter this time and I think they turned out quite well! I love the taste of the cupcakes. So much so that I think I will use this recipe again.

My forays into icing were not quite so successful (again) however:

I had bought this cake decoration kit a while back and the initial plan was to do like an ice-cream swirly thing on top. Unfortunately, my combination of lemon juice and icing sugar was just a bit too conservative and I ended up with this really thick paste that made it rather difficult to squeeze through the tube.

Then I overcompensated and made it a little too runny so in the end, I simply smeared some icing on top of the cake, sprinkled some coloured sprinkles and called it quits.

I love the taste of the zingy icing. I'm not sure I like how it looks. Oh well. Next time.

Recipe: modified from Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, from Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman.

Friday, 14 October 2011


This picture makes me happy and no, it's got nothing to do with that rather delighted child.

Giraffes are probably one of my favourite animals in the world. My other favourites are alpacas, and I think I can see why I like them too, in a long-necked, owner of soft, warm and luscious yarn kind of way.

In all honesty, I don't know much about giraffes. It's not their amazing sense of loyalty (are they loyal?) or their strength (fancy a giraffe ploughing anyone?) that appeals to me. Heck, I don't even know if they actually "talk" like how cats meow and sheep baa. In a completely superficial way, I will admit I like giraffes simply because of the way they look.

The common use of orange and yellow to depict them is enough to win me over. Not to mention the crazy long neck. The strange splits that they have to do so that they can get close enough to the water to drink. The two horn things at the top of their heads. The random splotches of brown on a yellow skin. And that weird blue tongue.

I ♥ giraffes. Just thought I'd put it out there.

And isn't the artwork just gorgeous? You can get it as a wall decal or a t-shirt. Brilliant.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Because of the different-ness in my name, I often have to give people instructions on how to spell it.

"Melody as in music"

"Tan as in sun-tan"

That usually works . . . until today.

Me: "My last name is Tan. Like in sun-tan."

Girl on phone: "So, the last name is sun-tan?"

Who in the world has sun-tan as their last name?!?!?!??!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

S'mores cupcakes

I first had a s'more a few years back at a friend's place and true to its name, I really wanted some more, so I really couldn't pass up the idea of a s'more cupcake. I suppose I was more curious than anything as to how a s'more cupcake would turn out.

Think it might be all in the icing. The cake itself and finding chunks of chocolate (I used a block of Cadbury's chocolate) in every other bite was absolutely amazing, but as can be seen in picture above, my icing was a bit of a failure.

For reasons that still eludes me, my icing ended up being extremely running, which was nowhere near the marshmallow icing that it called for. It was full of golden syrup, which made it really sweet (in a good way), but the liquid nature made it a little hard to eat without making a mess.

Maybe I'll try the icing again one day, but probably not some time soon.

S'mores cupcakes cooling the evening before
(with a brownie for company)
And I also realised that I should perhaps invest in a better camera than just relying on the camera on my mobile.

Recipe: S'mores Cupcakes, from Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Just keep walking

I've just recently started the 10,000 steps challenge as part of work and am starting to discover just how sedentary my lifestyle is.

Day 1: Logged 8000 steps, but only because I went on a 50 minutes walk in the evening to boost my step count.

Day 2: Only logged a paltry 5000 steps. Luckily, it was gym night, so after 40 minutes of hard going on the cross training, I ended the day with 12000 steps.

Day 3: 6000 steps. No walk, no gym, just a normal couch potato day.

It's currently 5pm and I have only logged 4500 steps. I don't really have the motivation to go to the gym today, but looking at the number of steps, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I should.

It's funny how when you've actually set a goal, you have this insatiable urge to achieve it. Now that I actually have this target of 10,000 steps a day, I find myself more willing to walk around the office. In fact, finding various excuses of things that I need to get done that requires me to walk.

Or maybe I'm just realising how inactive I am and that I perhaps need to move more for the sake of my health.

And yet, I'm so sedentary that I still cannot hit my target without the help of some planned physical exercise!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Three reasons why I love spring

  1. It promises the arrival of summer (read: warmth).
  2. I don't have to leave the office in the dark.
  3. All the pretty flowers that start to bloom . . .
. . . hmm . . . flowers . . . pollen . . .

And for the one big reason why I would rather we skipped spring and went straight to summer? Runny noses and itchy eyes.

Oh hayfever, how I wish you and Spring weren't such good friends.

Why do they call it hayfever anyway?

I guess hay may have something to do with its historical origins, but fever? The only thing warm about me during a hayfever attack are my nose and eyes from all that friction of rubbing them!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Change . . . and Facebook

So those with Facebook accounts would have noticed some changes recently. No, this is not a post about whether the changes are good or bad, but about the reaction that Facebook receives whenever it makes a change. Two words:

Facebook Sucks.

Having been an early-ish adopter of Facebook, I have seen the social network site go through numerous changes over the last years. Yes, some of them were a little dubious. Others were simply . . . different.

And it seems that that's precisely what gets everybody heated up. "Why can't Facebook keep things the way it was before?"; "This new [insert appropriate feature] is so stupid. I preferred the old feature" and "Stop changing, Facebook" are the common complaints that pop up all over Facebook and the rest of the internet whenever something new happens.

But seriously, are the changes really that bad? Or is it the change in itself that's bad?

Yes, making a change requires us to change in response. But isn't that something to be embraced? It keeps things fresh and in the process, we might end up discovering something new!

The thing about these changes and the response is that after a month or so, the kerfuffle dies down, everybody lives with the current situation until the next change comes along and it starts all over again.

What about simply taking the change in your stride instead of wasting your energy complaining about it?

And if you really think Facebook sucks, why are you still on Facebook?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

It's a rap

Even if you don't believe in Christianity, I reckon this video may be of interest purely from its editorial point of view. And I have a weakness for cool raps that I can actually understand.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Josh Cunningham: Singing a New Song

Published in Signs of the Times, August 2011.

pdf available.

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

East Africa Drought

I am ashamed to say that life has gotten so hectic lately that I have failed to keep up with what's happening around the world. Thankfully, exercising on the cross-trainer at the gym gives me some opportunity to catch up a little bit on my news and that was when I came across this rather sad piece yesterday.

Africa is in strife. Again.

Yes, it happens way too often and it can be quite demoralising. I guess more for them than for us, considering they're living through it. But it just makes me sad that no matter how hard (or little?) we try to help, it still doesn't seem to make a difference.

But this doesn't mean we should stop helping. No indeed. Coz if we did, then they wouldn't even get that little bit of help. I'd like to believe that it's simply about helping, not about the quantity. So even if it means helping only one person, it's still helping that one person.

Anyway, the latest is that Kenya and Somalia are in drought and people are starving to death. From what I heard, it's the worst food shortage they've faced in 60 years. Which probably makes it on an even worse scale than in the 1980s when your parents started saying, "Don't waste food, there are starving children in Ethiopia."

It's bad. People are hungry. They are going to aid organisations for help but these aid organisations are not equipped enough to help the overwhelming number of people.

Will you help?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Why I'm a chick and I do NOT dig Bruno Mars' Marry You*

Have you heard the lyrics?

I mean, really listen to it, besides the part where he's crooning "I want to marry yoooooou" to wedding bells chiming in the background?

This is the guy who wants to marry this girl because:
  1. He's looking for "something dumb to do"
  2. He's proposing getting married at a dinky chapel because then "no one will know"
  3. Oh, they both happen to be "trashed"
  4. And what's this about "If we wake up and you wanna break up that’s cool"?!?!
Bruno Mars might as well have just sung "You wanna have a one night stand"? It's just about as unromantic as that!

But the sad thing's got a rather catchy tune...*walks off humming*

*This blog has largely been inspired by the fact that every time I hear Marry You on the radio, the DJ almost always preface it by "All the girls love this song..." or something along those lines.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Now this is what I call a truly quick knit. And the best bit? I pretty much made up the pattern. It's a really simply pattern, but considering I had never done pattern designing before, I'm pleased that it didn't turn out looking stupid.

Well, ok, not stupid in the "it looks munted" kind of way. I'm not going to debate the other kind of stupid.

It basically involved doing some ribbing at the start (knitting in the round), doing some stockinette stitches for a while, and then doing some basic decreases and finishing with an i-cord. Viola!

I was going for gnome. But I think it kinda looks gumnut-ish too.

Pattern here.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Brother Beanie

This was in theory meant to be a pretty quick knit. All I really had to do was knit a few rows of garter stitches in the round, move on to stockinette and then proceed to decrease. The ear flaps are then added afterwards.

However, there were a few hiccups:
  1. Between uni and work, I was finding it really hard to garner up enough motivation to finish it. So what would have taken a couple of weeks at the most ended up taking a couple of months.
  2. My DPns were not quite long enough to hold all the stitches, so it was quite fiddly trying to ensure the stitches didn't fall off while I was knitting (a few did fall off in the end, I simply tied knots on the inside to ensure they didn't unravel).
  3. I misread the pattern somehow when I finally had some holidays from uni and was visiting D's sister's family in Tassie. Our flight home was delayed because of the Chilean ash cloud. Luckily, we were flying Virgin, so we had no flight cancellation, only a delay because of some heavy fog cover, which meant ample knitting time. As a result of misreading the pattern however, I ended up knitting more rows than needed (the time I took to knit up those extra unwanted rows could probably have been used to finish it).
  4. I didn't realise I had misread the pattern while on a long car ride and continued to add to the rows. It wasn't until a friend mentioned that the beanie looked like it was complete that I decided to take a long hard look at the beanie and that was when I discovered it was simply going to be ginormous. And so began the joyful task of unpicking.
I finally got there however, and through no deliberate intention, have made a "Rasta" beanie, according to both the brother and D.

So discounting the mistakes and the fact that the beanie may be a touch too big circumference-wise, it was a really easy and quick knit. I can definitely see myself making more of these beanies.

"Kim's Hats" pattern from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Paradise No More?

Article written as part of a subject for my Master of Publishing course.

pdf available.

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

If you prefer not to download the pdf, article text is as follows:

Paradise No More?

Before Muhammad founded Islam, he lived with a Bedouin family in the desert, folks who had long ago associated verdant oases with paradise. That idea remained with Muhammad and green has become Islam’s traditional colour, a promise of blessings and happiness. But is trouble brewing in paradise?

The global debate is rife and often negative when it comes to discussions about what rights Muslim women have. This is fuelled by frequent media reports on stories such as women as young as 12 who are forced to marry their first cousins and the strict sharia laws that support “honour killing” for women who defy the tight rein husbands, fathers and brothers have over them.

And the perception is not only that Muslim women have no rights, but also that they willingly choose to relinquish them. As politician Bronwyn Bishop puts it in a 2005 interview with ABC radio, “Some people are comfortable in a position of being a slave. Some people can’t deal with the choices that freedom offers.”

How can all of that be called paradise?

“Don’t wear the hijab”

Surprisingly, the idea that Islam is a religion that restricts women is preposterous to many young Muslim women in Australia. “Why would someone accept to be oppressed?” asks Sydney University law student Ruveyda Ozturk, whose father is an imam (an Islamic spiritual leader).

22-year-old Ozturk, who was born in Turkey and moved to Australia with her family when she was 10, believes that any woman who actually understands the teachings of Islam will never find it oppressive. “[Oppression] definitely doesn’t form the religion itself. I really haven’t felt that kind of oppression at any stage when it comes to my family,” she says.

Rahil Ansari, 24, agrees. Although raised in a family with a Muslim background, Ansari only chose to practice Islam eight years ago and cites this ability to choose her religion and who she married as examples of the kind of freedom that Muslim women experience.

“My dad had a big issue the day I decided to wear the scarf. He almost gave me a lecture as to why I shouldn’t be wearing it,” Ansari says of the hijab, a symbol used by many to prove that Muslim women are forced to do things against their will.

Hidden agendas

As Waleed Aly, author of People Like Us: How Arrogance is Dividing Islam and the West, suggests, the current Western fixation on and perhaps exaggeration about the oppression of Muslim women is a political issue. And it started, he argues, when America needed ammunition for justifying their “War on Terror”. The need to ensure the rights of women in Afghanistan was a convenient excuse, considering Western politicians show little concern about “child sex slavery in Thailand, dowry burnings in India, or the selective abortion of females that occurs throughout the world”.

Of course, the idea that Muslim men clutch the rights of their female counterparts with a deathlike grip is not without some justification, as seen in the laws passed by the Taliban while in power in Afghanistan. Women were not allowed to work, be educated or even walk the streets freely without donning a burqa and accompanied by a male blood relative, and public executions and flogging of women were common.

However, “the patriarchal elements within Muslim communities are…sociological rather than theological,” says Dr Shakira Hussein, a postdoctoral researcher specialising in issues surrounding Islam and gender at the University of Melbourne.

“Some things are being done in the name of a particular version of Islam but I don’t think it’s the religion that generates that…the patriarchal readings of Islam are not inherent to it.”

Ansari, who was born in Afghanistan, agrees. “There’s a verse in the Koran, it says ‘there is no compulsion in religion’. That pretty much tells you that you can't oppress someone and you can’t make someone do something that they don’t want to do,” she says. The Taliban, she believes, is an extreme example of what the religion would be, if interpreted wrongly.

“It boils your blood when you think of some of the stuff [the extremists] say. Where did they get these teachings from? Are we reading the same book?”

Women’s playground

The Koran, according to Ozturk, does put certain restrictions on females that could be seen as oppressive, especially if taken from a Western point of view – Muslim women are not allowed to date (by a Western definition) and are required to dress modestly.

“If your parents tell you not to have a boyfriend, it doesn’t mean they’re oppressing you in an Islamic sense,” Ozturk says. “I don’t see it as a form of oppression but as a way of instilling in you the right values and standards so that you are able to observe your faith.”

Ozturk agrees that this prescription of what one should do or wear can be a form of oppression if done in the extreme. But she also believes that in general, Muslim women are not voiceless puppets and are in fact held in high regard within their community.

So while it’s usually Muslim men who dominate discussions on Islam matters, the female interest is present because of the woman’s “important position as the head of the family in the household” and the influence that she wields.

This lack of female representation in the leadership context is of concern to Hussein. While many organisations may have formed to address the needs of Muslim women, she sees it as a form of “rather than let the girls in to play with the big boys, let’s give them a little playground of their own”.

But this playground is, Hussein admits, not without its benefits. As she speaks to the Muslim women involved in such organisations, she discovers that often they are able to adopt better strategies to address issues that affect women than if it were left to the men.

“In my life and in my experiences as being a Muslim, I have never felt that my voice hasn’t been heard. When we’re making decisions, we do them in consultation with all of us,” says Ansari, who works with both Muslim men and women in her work in the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, an organisation that tries to increase awareness of the Muslim community, its religion and culture.


“If you were to understand the religion, understand the wisdom behind why people practice it the way they do, and why people instil the values that they instil within their lives, then you realise that it’s normal, it’s acceptable and it actually means a valuable lifestyle for these people,” Ozturk says. “Even though from a Western approach, it might not seem like that in the first instance.”

Hussein, Ozturk and Ansari, all intelligent, assertive and successful women in their own right, are quick to point out that they would not be Muslim if the religion were indeed oppressive to women. In fact, Ansari says, “My religion empowers me as a woman. It’s like a divine right to be here. God has commanded me to do certain things and it makes you feel empowered [knowing that]”.

And so Islam still holds the promises of blessings and happiness that Muhammad taught. Islam is still a pathway to paradise for all those who follow it. The question is, when outsiders look at Islam, whose interpretation and whose cultural context are they doing it through?

“There is no oppression…but when you lack a conversation [with Muslims], you’re open for all sorts of misunderstandings and misinterpretations,” Ozturk says.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Jessica Rowe on Love, Wisdom and Motherhood

Published in Signs of the Times, May 2011.

pdf available.

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

First cookies

It was a natural progression - after all the cupcakes I was baking, I had to attempt cookies (in January this year, I'm only talking about it now). But no, these weren't going to be your normal choc chip cookies, they had to be choc chunk cookies.

The main reason why I used chunks of Cadbury's milk chocolate (and white chocolate. Yum!) had more to do with economy than anything. On special, they actually cost less than choc chips. And so I cut up two blocks of chocolate and mixed them into the batter. Utter decadence. Mmmm.

After about 15 minutes...

Turns out generous amount of cookie batter on baking tray becomes ginormous-sized cookies when baked. And experienced bakers would know this, but I learned it the hard (no pun intended!) way - cookies become harder after they've been taken out of the oven and cooled.
So if you like soft, chewy cookies, don't take them out of the oven when they've reached the right consistency. Do it before. Naturally, these cookies were a little on the crispy side. But I know for next time - less than 10 minutes it is!

I would share the recipe, except I took it off the net and have no idea where to find it again (I did write it down in my recipe book, silly. I just can't hyperlink it). But it's a typical cookie recipe and if you really want it, let me know and I'll send it to you.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Marble cupcakes

This was meant to be a black and white, vanilla and chocolate, marble cupcake, but I decided to make it red (with vanilla bean paste) and brown (with Cadbury's hot chocolate). This was a more complex recipe, actually requiring me to separate egg yolks and egg whites and involved a lot more intense beating.

The recipe made 16 cupcakes but I didn't realise that only until I scooped all the batter into 12 moulds and put it into the oven. Unsurprisingly, they ended up more like muffins than cupcakes.

I drizzled icing sugar over the top and scattered pastel sprinkles on them. They're still pretty, but I suppose they're not cupcakes per se.

Recipe: Black & White Cupcakes, from Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Friday night chocolate cupcakes

This was actually done in November last year. My first foray into cupcake making with a fairly easy cake recipe.

The topping was a little tricky, since it involved double boiling chocolate (did you know that chocolate can burn and therefore become crumbly and not gooey?). Incredibly decadent chocolaty goodness.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Another epic project - took me about nine months to finish this. It wasn't a particularly difficult pattern, considering it's mostly stocking stitch. I did modify the pattern so that the only seaming I had to do was to sew the sleeves on to the jacket. Actually enjoyed doing the modifications!

Gave it yellow trimmings because I had spare yarn but mainly because I thought a plain white jacket too boring.

The entire thing may actually be just a tad too big because my gauge was completely off since I was using replacement yarn, but love love love the super long sleeves, which I am almost always never able to get with store-bought clothes.

Pattern from Simply Knitting 6, September 2005.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Love, Kirsten


Published in Adventist Book Centre catalogue, 2 April 2011.

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Matters of the Heart

Published in Record, 2 April 2011.  

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Being Lily Bragge

Published in Signs of the Times, April 2011.  

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Would you stop?

We were driving along Centenary Drive yesterday evening on the left most lane when I saw a man walking ahead of me, in the same direction as the traffic.

He was in my lane (like a car would, except he isn't one or was in one) and completely oblivious to the other cars whizzing past him at 80km/h speeds in the other two lanes (it was peak hour). I overtook him somewhat cautiously, but had to stop at the lights a short distance down the road. That was when he overtook me.

We contemplated winding down the windows to ask if he was alright, but he looked like he was on a mission. By some miracle, cars missed him when he walked across the intersection.

He kept on walking, the lights turned green for me. It didn't take long for me to catch up to him and this time, there was no way I could overtake him as he was in the middle of the lane, and cars in the other two lanes were not letting up.

We were starting to get concerned. Memories of the F3 debacle came to mind.

So I put my hazard lights on, stopped the car and Daniel got out. He ran to the man, who was still walking, while I got the car moving again, trailing behind them with my hazard lights still on.

A car agitatedly beeped at the man/me and I could see that there was a huge line of cars behind me. While Daniel walked with the man trying to find out his circumstance and get him to a safer spot up on the curb, out of the line of the traffic, cars from behind me started pulling out.

As they freed themselves from their delay, I could hear them floor the accelerator hardly, speeding off to wherever they were going. Some even pulled back into the lane in front of Daniel and the man, but  leaving very little gap. It was reckless, it was dangerous, it was an act of frustration.

During the entire debacle, which lasted no more than ten minutes, not one car slowed down. No one even tried to attempt to find out what was wrong, no one tried to ensure the safety of humans on a road full of speeding cars. Instead, all I sensed was frustration and annoyance, as drivers made a point of accelerating loudly and overtaking dangerously.

I didn't look at the drivers. I was too worried for Daniel out there with that man. I wonder if perhaps there were rude gestures from the other drivers.

I honestly don't know what would have been the right thing to do. By me slowing down, I held up traffic. It was dangerous and I recognise that I was probably being a hazard to other drivers. But what was the alternative? To drive off and leave the man to walk the lane alone?

If my car got hit, I would/might/possibly survive in the "protection" of my car. If the man got hit, what chance does he have?

I truly do not know. All I know was I was concerned and yet I felt really bad for holding up traffic. I didn't know which action to choose.

Daniel didn't end up convincing the man to get on to the curb - he started to get aggressive and Daniel came back to the car to avoid a violent confrontation. We called the police who said they would send a car to check it out, and during the phone call, the man stepped on to the curb and decided to have a cigarette.

He looked like he had no intentions to leave the curb, we knew a police car was coming, and so we left.

We left the obviously unstable man there on the side of the road, smoking a cigarette.

My conscience still pricks me for leaving him there.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Racing Christianity

Published in Signs of the Times, March 2011.

And if you're interested, my (almost) complete writing portfolio can be found here

Friday, 11 February 2011

Killing Spiders

The death of arachnids (or their imprisonment in glass jars, or eviction through open windows at the end of a mop handle) is a two-person job. One person has to freak out so the other is forced into taking action, jabbing brooms and dustpans at the creepy crawly while making soothing noises at their less-together partner and talking in calming tones about how the eight-legged beastie is probably more frightened of them than they are of it. This is the dichotomy of spider killing. One wuss and one hero. And it doesn't even need a guy to save the day - Aussie ladies are plenty good at dispatching insects of all kinds. It just helps to have an adoring audience. Without a partner, I'm forced to take both roles. Whimpering while trying to convince myself I'm brave enough to duel with that massive huntsman on my own. Also, there is no one to savour victory with afterwards. Which is why I sometimes high-five myself.

Pui Pui Tam, Frankie magazine (Sep/Oct 2010)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

I'm sorry

I'm sorry it angers you that I go against the grain
I'm sorry that it even causes you to look at me with disdain
I'm sorry I stand up for what I believe
I'm sorry you think me naive
I'm sorry I've chosen to stand out from the crowd
I'm sorry I would rather be ethical
I'm sorry I care and try to make a difference
I'm sorry I'm not a lemming

I'm sorry I believe we should recycle
I'm sorry I choose to treat animals humanely
I'm sorry I like to look to the bigger world
I'm sorry I feel we need to treat others with respect

I'm sorry my integrity frustrates you
I'm sorry my intellect scares you
I'm sorry that I'm above you
I'm sorry, well, actually, I'm not sorry

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Accepting "no"

Over the years, I've come across a plethora of self-help articles that dwell on the fact that our lives will be so much better if we just learned how to say "no".

We will be less stressed because we haven't agreed to do something we didn't really want to. We will have more time for ourselves because we're not saying yes to favours that we really don't need to.

While it is true that we do need to learn how to be more assertive, I wonder if it has also caused us to become more self-absorbed. But not only that, with a larger number of people saying "no", perhaps we actually need an increasing number of self-help articles that teach us how to accept it when someone says "no".

We are so used to people agreeing and saying "yes" that when someone tells us "no", we find it extremely difficult to accept. Especially when it comes to agreeing to do something that we think is the best thing since sliced bread.

You don't want to come with me to jump out of an aeroplane at 14,000 feet wearing only the clothes on your back and a parachute?

How could you say no to my extremely tasty, artery-blocking, quadruple cheese pizza?

Why aren't you agreeing to mow my extremely neglected backyard for me on your only day off?

I've just painted this awesome piece of artwork. Why won't you display it in your gallery?

I think there are times when we need to learn to humbly accept "no" for an answer, instead of pushing our own agendas. People are entitled to say "no" when they want, no matter how ridiculous it may be for them not to say "yes". We shouldn't question their sanity, their judgement or their intelligence.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Crazy? Me?

I read a quote from a friend once that I thought was rather accurate:
On the road, everyone driving slower than me is an idiot and everyone driving faster is a maniac. (not verbatim)

Unfortunately, I have to admit I'm a little like this. But the thing is, that kind of reference doesn't actually simply apply to driving. Most of the times, our normality reference is well, ourselves.

So if I feel cold/hot and nobody else does, there's something wrong with them. (This actually happened to me last week when I was recovering from the flu. Because I didn't feel cold, the person who did instantly assumed it was because I had a fever. I did not.)

If I like the colour orange, the person who finds it hideous has no taste.

If I like eating a certain type of food, the person who avoids it is either unadventurous, a frog in a well, or is boring.

If I believe something is right, everyone else who doesn't agree is most definitely wrong.

Basically, everyone is crazy but me.

But how true is that? Does a crazy person actually know they're crazy? Do I have to compare everything to what I would do or to how I see the world?

Life and opinions are a lot more subjective than that. Perhaps it would do us some good to realise we're not the normality reference before we start labelling others.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Travellers and stayers

I have a theory - that in this world, there are two kinds of people: the travellers and the stayers.

I'm not talking about overseas holidays or the willingness to get into a car and go from point A to point B. Well, maybe to a certain extent I am, but I'm talking slightly more generally than that.

In my experience, I've always been a traveller. Growing up, I would often be the one who would go over to a friend's place after school to hang out, perhaps even have sleepovers. Friends do come over to my place too, but I'm racking my brain to recall if I have ever had any friends stay over at my place. For some reason, I was always the one sleeping over at someone's.

Now that I've done a little bit of travel, lived in a couple of countries and made a number of overseas friends, this traveller and stayer thing is somewhat holding true again.

More often than not, I would be the one travelling overseas to visit my friends. I have had a couple of friends travel to visit me, but that number is certainly few and far between.

For some strange reason, traveller me has managed to obtain for herself a circle of friends who are mostly stayers. People who are wonderfully warm, welcoming and hospitable in their own places, and who don't see it necessary to be a traveller.

It's not a bad thing. It's just an interesting trend.
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