31 December 2009

Chicken Salad For The Soul

Mr. B. was upset tonight. He wanted to make chicken salad for New Year's Eve but could not find any potatoes from any supermarkets he went to.

"Relax, Mr. B. You can look for potatoes tomorrow!" I told him.

"But I want my chicken salad tonight!" he answered.

I found out that chicken salad on New Year's Eve has a special meaning to Mr. B. When he was a little boy, his mother would make a huge batch of this to celebrate the ocassion. The house would also smell of barbecued meat and chicken. Mr. B. remembered eating a lot of these skewered charcoal-broiled meat as they cook. Cheddar cheese in red ball of wax will always be present. Sometimes, there would be honey glazed ham (the whole ham!) where Mr. B. would peel and enjoy the sweet sugar coating. Most importantly, the chicken salad. Mr. B. remembered the creamy goodness accented by the crunch and tang of apple bits. He loved it especially on New Year's Day when he could top a piece of toast with it.

The recipe, I discovered, was quite simple. Nothing fancy. But now that his mom lives across the seas, I guess Mr. B. longs for home cooking, for the wonderful memory of his boyhood and for that mouthwatering chicken salad for his soul.

Mommy's Chicken Salad

Chicken breast - boiled and shredded
Carrots - boiled and diced
Potatoes - boiled and diced
Apples - peeled and diced
Pineapple - tidbits in can (discard juice)
Real mayonaise - 1 or 2 jars
2 tbsp pickle relish (sweet) - optional

Mix everything together and enjoy.

28 December 2009

Back To Square One

Like I am not confused enough about the exact date of Jesus' birthday, I am now trying to figure out the exact date of the New Year! Firstly, I found that different cultures celebrate New Year on different days depending of the calendar used. It could be Gregorian, Hijri, Juche or anything based on the sun, the moon or a combination of the sun and the moon.

The way this day is celebrated is just as complex as the day humans choose to celebrate. Mostly, they light fireworks on the tallest building they can find. If they don't have one, they light up a bridge or a large ferris wheel. Some would just drop crystal balls, or fire cannons, or throw water at each other or burn effigies. But there some things common among all humans. On the eve of the New Year, they eat lots of food, drink lots of alcohol and make lots of noise.

I want to be more scientific. For me, New Year is when the Earth revolves around the Sun once and is back in the same place. That said, I find humans strange. They celebrate the fact that they are back to where they all started - to square one. Imagine I set out to travel from Point A to Point B. I should be celebrating when I reach Point B because that means I have accomplished something or reached a milestone. But if I just make a round ending up in Point A again, what is there to celebrate about? What is there to happy about not advancing any further then where one started?

I have to go ask Mr. B. about this one.

25 December 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus

"I am so confused." I told Mr. B. tonight after he came back from dinner with a small group of friends to celebrate Christmas Eve. "I just read that Jesus was not actually born on the 25th of December."

"Yeah? What else have you read?" he asked.

"That his real birth date should have been spring or summer, and that the commemoration was moved to replace an ancient Roman festival."

"You probably also read about a lot of conflicting stories, too."

"Yes. Theologians, scholars, historians all have different views and opinions about it - the time, the place, the entire circumstance of Jesus' birth. Do you know which one to believe in?" I inquired.

"No, I don't know." Mr. B. answered. "I don't have to know and I don't think anyone will ever know what the real story was."

"Then why is everyone partying tonight?" I got even more confused. "Why are they celebrating something they don't fully understand?"

"A lot of people don't understand. They don't get it."

"I don't get it too, Mr. B." I said.

"All I know is this - Jesus was born. In his lifetime, he preached about love. In his death, his message spread across the earth. Does it really matter what those theologians, scholars and historians say? The most important thing is the message he bought to the world. The message of love and peace. The exact date of his birth doesn't matter. What matters is that humans decided to pick one day in a year to celebrate his birth, to commemorate the wondrous message he brought."

"So it's not about party and food? and gifts? and snow? and Santa and his reindeers?"

"Never. It has always been about his message. If the world, or at least part of the world can come together for just one day in a year to live Jesus' message of loving and caring and reaching out to others, isn't that great enough? Wouldn't it be a better world? Even for just a day? " he explained.

"I see. Can I say happy birthday to him today?"

"Today is as good as any other day, as long as you remember him and what he stood for."

"I understand now, Mr. B. Can I light the candle in our Nativity this year?"


20 December 2009

My Gift To You

Mr. B. was busy wrapping Christmas presents laid out on the table last night. He was still working on them when I woke up at 3.00 in the morning.

"Why do you prepare so many presents for Christmas, Mr. B.?" I asked him hardly able to open my eyes.

"Because there are many people to give presents to," he answered sipping tea to keep him awake. "These are for the people I work with, those are for my close friends, then I got some for my nephews and nieces which I can wrap later."

"I already got my present from D. It's a reindeer horn." I said happily.

"That's great!"

"Didn't you say that Christmas is Jesus' birthday?" I asked.

"Well, yes and no. It's the day set aside to remember his birth, the exact date is really unknown." Mr. B. explained patiently.

"If it is His birthday, why are you giving gifts to other people instead of Him. Isn't that strange?" I inquired.

"It is a tradition. You go out of your way to buy something nice, Wrap it. Write a nice greeting card and give it to someone to make this person happy." he explained.

"So by making other people happy you are also making Jesus happy?" I still don't quite understand.

"I guess so." Mr. B. said as his continued tagging each gift with the recipient's name. "Well, I sure hope so..." he added.

"On my birthday, I want you to please give ME my gift. Don't give it to someone else. I won't be happy if you give it to someone else." I said walking away.

19 December 2009

10,000 Beckers

"I have a great idea this Christmas!" Mr. B. said excitingly. "I am going to make 10,000 teddy bears to your likeness, exactly like you. I will sell them for charity and raise 1 million dollars. But the donors will not get the teddy bears. They will be given to orphans! So 10,000 orphans will have their own Beckers this Christmas. And the donors will be very glad to know that they make 10,000 children happy this holidays! Plus, you get to promote your blog! Isn't that a great idea??"

I gave him a strange look. "That was MY idea. Besides, I don't think that will happen, Mr. B."
"Why not? I think it's a great way to celebrate Christmas! Making children happy!"

"You will be sued for trademark infringement, Mr. B." I said dryly.

"I will be?" he said giving me a puzzled look.

"Big time, Mr. B."

"Maybe I can change the look a little bit, say..."

"Trademark infringement." I interrupted.

"Okay, how about printing your picture in 10,000 t-shirts!"

"Illegal use of image."

"Really? That bad? Or maybe I can take you to the orphanage and you can sing songs for the children and make them happy this Christmas?"

"Music copyright. You need permission for public performance."

"Oh.... what about you lip-synching?"

"Worse. Illegal public broadcast of a copyrighted material."

"I give up!" Mr. B. declared. "I will just print t-shirt with your blog address and sell them for charity."

"Then you will have to ask MY permission."


13 December 2009

Give Me A Break!

As promised, Mr. B. and D. took me to a tour around the city over the weekend just to do something different. They booked a hotel room and checked-in after lunch. It was a very nice room with a large comfy bed.

After leaving our bags, Mr. B. took me to the place where he works. I didn't like it that much but he let me sit on his desk and pretend that I am working (why I would like to do that, I don't know). After spending a bit of time there, we went to this fabulous dimsum dinner where we had dumplings, spring rolls, tofu casserole and fried rice. Yummy!

When we were all full, we went to this shopping mall with a huge round globe. Mr. B. said we should shop for a bit because we were waiting for the 9.30 screening of the movie 2012. We had fun looking around for bargains although Mr. B. and D. didn't buy anything.

The movie 2012 was entertaining. I liked the special effects a lot. It's kinda scary to think how the world would end but it's only a movie. By the time we finished watching, it was already past midnight so we went back to the hotel to rest. Mr. B. bought ice cream bar to eat.
The next morning, we had a big, big breakfast at the hotel coffee shop. Mr. B. had congee and condiments plus an egg. D. had a combination of Eastern and Western style breakfast plus a large omelette with everything in it! We were so full we didn't have lunch!

After coming back home and leaving our bags, we went shopping again! Mr. B. bought a lot of stuff which he said are Christmas presents for the people in the farm. He also bought a new frying pan for himself. Because we have been quite tired walking around, Mr. B. and D. decided to have a foot massage, which I didn't not do because I don't want anyone touching my paws (feet). Dinner was roasted pork and cream of corn soup. We also went by the supermarket to buy some groceries.

We all came home exhausted. So this is what humans do on weekends. It was fun for me. I hope Mr. B. can find time to do it more often. I have added some photos taken from this weekend in the slideshow to remind me of the good times we all had.
Photo credit : Patrick Beckers

12 December 2009

Sweet Hallmark Memories

"What are you writing, Mr. B.?"

"Christmas cards. I need to mail them tomorrow so they make it before Christmas Day!" he answered without looking up, carefully writing, doodling, placing stickers on elaborate, glittering cards he had on the table.

"Why not just send them online? It's easier and faster, no?"

"That is so not sincere! I still prefer the good old fashion Christmas cards. I think people will appreciate that you take the time and effort to buy them, write them and go to the post office to mail them!" he said showing me this 3-dimensional card with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus costumes he plans to send to his mom and dad. "Nice, huh?"

"Do you get them too, Mr. B.?"

"Oh yes of course! Birthday cards, Christmas cards, Thank you cards. I never throw them away."

"Never? Really?"

"Well, I throw the envelopes away after I cut out the stamps because I collect them. But I keep the cards. Somewhere, I believe. I like reading them again after a while."

"So humans write greeting cards because they are so far away from each other?"

"Not really. They write cards for any occasions, regardless of the distance. It is a very sweet gesture." he said.

I never wrote a card in my life ever. Perhaps I should buy one and mail it back to Mr. B. I am sure he will be surprise to find my card. I will write how much I appreciate him for taking care of me. Maybe I should also send out cards to everyone who reads my blog... but I wouldn't know where to mail them.

Oh well, I will find a way, I'm sure.

Video: Richard Tan singing No One Throws Away Memories

09 December 2009

Christmas, Actually

Every Christmas Day for the last few years, Mr. B. made it a tradition to watch Love, Actually - a British romantic-comedy by director Richard Curtis from 2003.

What's not to love? The movie has an ensemble cast with Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth and many more. It has great songs in the soundtrack (Joni Mitchell's updated Both Sides Now for one). It has about 10 different stories interwoven against the Christmas backdrop. It is funny, warmth and touching. Most of all, it's the ending of the movie. Love, Actually ends with a montage of anonymous persons greeting their arriving loved ones at the Heathrow Airport that slowly enlarges and fills the screen, eventually forming the shape of a heart - all these while the Beach Boys song God Only Knows plays in the background - perfect for a heartwarming occasion like Christmas, actually.

I am looking forward to it this year when Mr. B., D. and I would just snuggle up and watch this movie again.

03 December 2009

All There Is

Mr. B. looks a bit melancholic tonight. He said he didn't sleep well yesterday. Too much in his mind he said. I did observe that he looked quite sad after talking to D. on the phone last night. Maybe it was about what they talked about.

"I am at that stage of my life, Becker." he said in all seriousness.

"What stage?" I asked noting that he just called me "Becker" instead of the usual cheerful "Beck-Beck".

"That stage where insurance companies do not want to insure you and banks won't give you loans anymore." he said.

"Why is that?" not understanding what he was refering to.

"What if this is all there is, Becker?" he answered without really answering my question. "What if my present job would be my last? That I won't be able to buy my dream house? That I won't ever be thin and healthy? That I won't be able to visit all the places I wanted to go to? That I would grow too old to work and won't be able to support myself in my old age? That I won't have anything and be anyone else except for who I am and what I have right now?"

Wow. That was a little bit too much for my little brain but I tried to understand what he just said.

"But, Mr. B., nothing is wrong with your job now, nothing is wrong with this apartment and nothing is wrong with your life!" I tried to reason.

"Yeah but this will be all there is. Nothing more. Done." he replied.
"You're just getting old." I tried to sound happy as I hug him. "There's nothing wrong with that."

As we hugged for a long time right there in the middle of the living room, I wished I have some kind of power to help Mr. B. To say or do something to reverse everything and make everything okay to him again. To calm his heart and his mind.

He is just getting old, I keep telling myself. That is all there is to it.


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