Harvesting Dilemma

Another post about tomatoes. No, not the Sarah Palin kind. That, my friends, would be a tomato-head.(I still cannot believe how McCain can call everyone ‘my friend’, when you know very well he doesn’t mean it)

Anyway, I digress.

Fall is here and the temperature has been err…falling. It was a freaky 8 degrees at midday today, which left me only to wonder what it would be like in late December, this year. But that aside, I, as a true-blue wannabe balcony gardener, is more worried about my plants than whether I do have the latest Fall fashion. Ok, I take that back. That didn’t sound very convincing.

The plants, especially the fruiting ones – need a strategy. It seems that the extraordinaryly not-so-warm Summer this year took its toll on tomato plants. They refuse to go red by this time of the year, and while I know mine is a tad too under-hormonised, I heard the same problem has been occuring on other people’s gardens too. And these people are veterans. They ain’t no wannabes like me.

So since the temperature has been falling, I know the 5 tomatoes hanging out at Tomajoyah Momok is not going to ripe anytime soon, or later. My best bet is to pick them, store them in a paper bag, and let them ripe in it. Many people do that. As a wannabe, I just follow.

Then 2 mornings ago, as I was diligently watering my plants at the balcony – I saw 2 new tomatoes coming out of Tomajoyah Momok. I was stumped, because I am not expecting any new birth at this time of the year. I also thought that the timing was so off, there is no way the fruit can ripen in 80 days – which will be around mid January. Even if they do, they would be shrivelled, frozen tomatoes by then!

But the new tomatoes are commanding so much pity from me of their will to live, that I didn’t have the heart to not only pick them off the plant, but also the rest of their 5 bigger siblings. So now, thanks to me animating characters into green, stocky things – I don’t have the will to pick the tomatoes to ripe them out in paper bags. Such a simple decision to make, but oh so difficult.

What I DO know is that there will be no more tomato plants next summer. I’ll be doing pumpkins instead.

Hosting headache

Raya or Eid in Vancouver is pretty something. For the next 4 weekends, we have house after house that we are invited to, thanks to the vibrant Malay community here. And these invites are not the come-sit-down-and-have-dinner with us types, these are the full-on, everyone wears samping and songkok, buffet with 10 dishes kind. You will end up seeing the same people week after week, and often, the Syawal month is the one month that we see each other most often – before everyone has to get back to the usual grind.

So this year, DH and I didn’t get into much discussion if we will be hosting. Like what we did last year. We managed to squeeze 60 people into a 900 sq feet space last year. We did the smart thing by catering from everyone’s favourite restaurant – Ma’s , which by far, I dare to admit is the best Chinese-Muslim restaurant in the world! No kidding. We had Planet Earth on the DVD, and in between gasps of gossips, there were gasps at the aerial shot of running bulls across the fields. Everyone was happy with the food and the company. We were exhausted.

We have not really decided if we are hosting that big do again this year. Our main excuse has been the absence of Mr Ma. You see, he has gone back to Hong Kong to be with his family and manage his other halal restaurant in Kowloon. We are now thus deprived of a guaranteed winner in our attempt to serve people. We thought – no Mr Ma, so no hosting this year. Until we get asked incessantly last night at 3 different houses.

“Set a date, yet?”


“Everyone is asking – when is your place going to be?”


“Are we invited to your place this year?”

OR the very classic,

*on his way out of one of the houses, when asked he was going – he said* – “I am going to 41st and Dunbar!” (thats OUR place).

So that got DH and I into a discussion somewhat. Should we host or not? More importantly, where do we cater from this time? We thought of Nam, a famed vegetarian restaurant which is apparently a hot spot among Vancouverites. We also thought of East is East, an Afghani-Indian fusion place. Then there’s always Mex Burrito, a Mexican joint. What we know for sure, we cannot serve Malay food. These guys are super cooks.

And so the hosting headache will begin. I will have to start making calls to these restaurants this week to find out what their rates are etc, and also pick a date.

Ode to Bibiks

This year’s Eid was a busy one for me. The usual waiting game was exciting, as half of Vancouver celebrated Eid on Tuesday, following the global-sighting method (when the crescent is sighted in another location, often in Saudi). The rest of us, who followed the local-sighting method (that is, when the crescent is sighted in Vancouver) celebrated on Wednesday.

I recalled how that Tuesday evening was. I on my laptop, right after iftar – twiddling my thumb. DH was on the sofa in the study with me, twidding HIS thumb on his cell. He was texting his cousin and asking when, when when, while I was refreshing the www.bcmuslims.com every 2 seconds. Yes, we were anxious. Why? Because we had invited about 15 friends over to our place on Eid night for some feasting – and we NEED to know when Eid is.

So when the news came in that Eid fell on Wednesday, I was literally jumping for joy! I did. And we even broke into some awfully dreadful Raya songs. I was just too happy to switch the lampu lap-lip on, which by the way had me driving to FOUR blinking stores ALL over Richmond to find, only to have me find them in a little store in Kerrisdale near where we live! Should have known better. Sigh.

Anyway, the Eid party at our place was wonderful. We really had a great time and lots of feasting. The only thing I did not do was to take a lot of pictures:(

But the most pertinent experience for me this Eid is actually in memory of the Bibiks. I was breaking my back cooking a feast, and I suddenly recalled how convenient and easy it was for me in SG during Eid – when all the Bibiks help with the preps.They peel the onions, cut the meat, clean the house, iron the curtains, get the Eid outfits ready, serve the guests…it goes on and on. I realised that I am now somewhat a Bibik during Eid – missing family AND having to cook and clean at the same time. I was somewhat in their boat, and could really feel how it must have been for them.

I really respect their toil for a better life, slogging their way in a tiny, affluent island called Singapore. I had a new appreciation for all the Bibiks in my life, I was very fortunate to have them. It is strange that this year’s Eid they were so much in my memory – and I hope my nieces and nephews who are lurkers here (yes I KNOW you guys are reading this!) appreciate all the hard work their Bibiks put up for them during Eid (and all the other days).

During Eid especially, they are missing their family and crying quietly.Yet still serve their duties. Now that’s what I call sacrifice.I have so much to learn from them.

NB : “Bibik” is a term of endearment that most Malay families in SG used to address their domestic helpers, who are mostly Indonesians.

Forgetting the reality checks

Sometimes I get chills reading the title of this blog. Still thinking. Stiiiilllll thhiiinnnkiiinggg. I wonder sometimes what is keeping my mind still thinking, or if my mind has reached a certain stillness that none of your demons can talk you out of something. Either way its a mystery. Either way, I like it.

So that Palin lady has been keeping me glued to CNN in my moments of forgetfulness. It is indeed Ramadan and the US Presidential Elections should not be a must-watch.

I remember feeling incredibly insulted when McCain announced Palin as his VP candidate, because it was a transparent move for the Republicans to charm Hillary’s supporters. How dare he thought that women will vote for him just because he has a woman on his ticket. I would vote for a woman because she IS capable, thank you, and not because she has a uterus. And as my mind ramble and co-analyse the politics with the oh-so-overkilled panel on CNN, I realise that indeed…I am not American. I can influence my American friends on who to vote, but alas I am not the one casting the ballot. Talk abt a case of tak sedar diri. Reality check #1.

This past weeks I have been connecting with old school friends, one of whom is in Vancouver and I haven’t seen for at least 16 yrs. It was a blast…and the chain of hooking up with old friends began from there. One of them was raving and raving on how he admire how much my supposed cool factor (if it ever exist!) went many notches up in his books after he found out the places I have travelled to, often alone. And just when I was about to believe him, I found out that he was piloting the rescue helicopter for RSAF – evacuating Katrina victims. Hahahah serves me right. I think it is pretty obvious WHO the cooler dude/dudette is here.Reality check #2. I am so proud of him. (I still cannot believe we used to perform a dance to Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth on stage in school. Totally oh-biang)

There are a few deadlines to rush these next few days. I know there will be moments I’d forget to retreat internally in between the hassles. To be in a place where there is absolute calmness for worship.

Note to self: Keep thinking, but keep still.

Dancing Matt

The baby in DH’s office just twittered that he just danced with Matt today. He is at a conference in Seattle, which DH did not go to.

I wonder if DH would dance with Matt if he was there.
I know I would !!

( I still tear up watching this. Such simple manifestation of how much we all have in common as humans. Peace, joy and humanity. Good on ya, Matt! )

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Song: Praan
Sung By: Palbasha Siddique
Music By: Gary Schyman
Lyrics from:Rabindranath Tagore’s Poem of the same title (translation below)

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

The mis-Intuition of Intuit

Intuit did it again. Yes, that giant accounting software company. While their product has served me well, every year their departments never fail to provide a farce for me. Last year, it was the call centre people, this year – it is the marketing flock. Here’s what happen.

I am currently paying a subscription of about $37 a month for their accounting and payroll product. That totals to about $400 a year. The accounting software industry works by yearly renewal. Every year, you have to purchase their new version because of annual changes in tax tables. So this year, I am using the 2008 version – next year in Jan, I have to subscribe to the 2009 version etc.

Then yesterday, an Intuit marketing guy called and enthusiastically offered a ‘great deal’ where if I subscribe to another product – the Support Plan (basically, thats a Help function call centre) for $19 a month, I will get the 2009 version FREE. Now any basic logic will ring these numbers for you – the fact that I will save $400 next year since the 2009 version is ‘free’. I asked him what he meant, and he said…’You will get the 2009 version FREE’.

Then my ‘editing tyrant’ self (this is a name that DH endowed me with. He thinks I am an editing tyrant during post-production. NOT ! (nb to WanSan: stop smirking) decided to ‘edit’ what the guy just said 🙂 I asked him how much will I be paying next year in Jan 2009 – and he said, “Oh mam, as I mentioned you will get the 2009 version FREE. You will be paying $37 + $19 a month.”

Hello?!! Did you just say what you said??! I asked him the question again, and like a true marketing robot who memorised product briefings and sales scripts religiously without making sense in their own heads, he repeated the same lines. Now at this point I was so tempted to say no thanks and hang up. But I didn’t. There was something youthful in the guy’s voice, and my sisterly instinct kicked in. I NEEDED to tell him what was wrong with the briefings he has been given. Blame it on my kepo instinct too.

I told him, if I don’t subscribe to the new product he is selling – I will be paying $400 next year for my 2009 version ($37 x 12). If I subscribe to the new product, I will be paying, and I am quoting him -($37 + $19) x 12. Thats $672 for me to get a 2009 version AND the so-called Support Plan. In other words, I will still be paying for my 2009 version. So how could they say the 2009 version is FREE?

The guy was silent for a few moments. And then harriedly offered to email me the Terms and Conditions, ‘so you can understand the offer better’. He did email me , and I read it. And trust me, it was full of marketing smoke.

So here’s what I don’t understand. Intuit sells accounting software. They jolly-well know that people who used their products are basically, those who analyse and breathe costs. So hiring marketing goons to craft such marketing goofs, is a joke and errr…not very smart.

Surely they can afford to hire marketing pros who can smoke better? Grrrr.

Protecting The Treasures

Today is the day that I killed. ALL of them…and I spared no one.
I didn’t know I had a ruthless energy in me. It was wicked. I didn’t even bat an eyelid or think twice about the mass murder. In fact, I couldn’t wait for my online language class to end just so that I could start the deed. While a classmate of mine, halfway across the world, was busy reading out answers to an exercise, my eyes were fixed on the plants just outside my window. “I’ll KILL you. ALL of you!”, I chanted.

Those damn Aphids. And in between, I discover Spider Mites too. They have been infesting Tomajoyah Momok and also the miniature rose bushes that Mak planted while she was here. And slowly, the Aphids have made their way to the purple Petunias and the Gerbera Daisies too. There were so many of them…small, tiny and green. So it took a lot of squinting for me to see them.

So I finally bought my bottle of insecticide yesterday and read the instructions diligently. It says the best time to kill the pests is in the early morning. What ?? I had to wait ?? Man, I feel like dousing the plants with it there and then. Better still, soak the entire plant in the insecticide.

You see…I am VERY protective of Tomajoyah Momok now that it is the ONLY tomato plant that hasn’t been a victim to any accidents. Fazimato has its head chopped off…so she had lost a few potential fruits. She is only bearing a grand total of FOUR yellow LemonBoy tomatoes now.

TomatoMinah Zanne, the Cherry tomato, is now regrowing and slowly building its repertoire. It had a bumper crop before the wind toppled its pot on one freaky-Vancouver-weather day and broke all the stems into pieces . All of its bumper crop (except for 2) were sacrificed.

So whats left ‘original’ is the Beefsteak tomato variety that is Tomajoyah Momok.

Last week, when I first saw the Aphids crawling on it mercilessly, I was soooooo mad like a mother hen would when she sees a fox approacing her chicks! I was determined to scare the Aphids away…and I saw a ladybug too making its way into the plants. Since the ladybug feeds on the Aphids…I thought fine, nature will take care of things.

Then one fine morning, Busu walked into my room and proudly proclaimed,” Ah Uja…Busu dah bunuh dah kumbang tu!” (translate: Uja, I have killed that ladybug for you). I was dumbfounded. There goes my natural-born killer of Aphids.

And so I researched and comtemplated between buying some ladybugs from the nursery, or getting me some insecticide and spray them all. No doubt, and I am not proud of it, my impatience dictated the latter. I couldn’t just wait to see Tomajoyah Momok destroyed. I didn’t want to wait for the ladybugs to do its thing. They are not exactly fast either. I think I see them staying still more than they move. I NEED at least ONE of my tomato plants to flourish in its original state. And so the killing began this morning.

Good riddance, Aphids. See you no more.

They went up a glacier

Yes they did. And crossed a mountain’s twin peak with little huff and puff.

All of the more than 70 years of hard work, pulling through tough times, raising a total of 10 kids and many more trials – manifested majestically when they decided to trough the twin peaks of Mount Sulphur and ride the snowcoach just so they can walk on Athabasca Glacier. Both are in the Canadian Rockies.

I have been to both the glacier and the mountain a few times, but was never drawn to go up to the glacier nor walk the hundreds of steps to cross the two peaks. I am happy to be at the foot of the glacier, thank you, camera in hand. I am well-geared with Sordel snowboots and all, but no, no mountain or glacier will make me walk up, or down, or any way you want me to. I’ll roll my body on the ice at the foot of the glacier voluntarily (which I did last year!) but not to go up to its middle peak.

But, alas, the neneks did it. Mak and Busu showed me, in style, what azam means. They didn’t bat an eyelid about taking the snowcoach up the very glacier that sits on the massive Columbia Icefield, feeding 3 oceans! And they didn’t show a single strand of wanting to turn back when the steps crossing the twin peaks were becoming more and more treacherous, and tough on the breathing. Oh the embarassment for me!
All in all, you can tell they had an ahem…adventurous stay in their one-month in Canada.

Speaking of which, my Tomato Project faced a tough challenge half way through their stay. One of the plants, whom I named Tomato MInah Zanne fell from the ledge due to high winds and its long stems broke into many pieces! I nearly cried when I saw it because the plant was already yielding a lot of tiny fruits. I was also speechless as to how I will tell the story to my friend, NS, whom the plant was named after. To make it matters worse, the plant fell on top of another tomato plant, the Fazimato. The hit was so hard that Fazimato’s head was literally chopped off.

So as I as picking up the broken tomato stems and putting them into the garbage bag, Mak insisted that replant a few of the stems into a new pot. One of them has 2 small fruits on it, ‘Cucuk ajer…baca Bismillah. Insya’allah dia bertunas balik..” She must have seen the sadness in my eyes as the tomato project was one way I wanted to impress her initially with.

Two weeks passed, and the botak stems were showing signs of life. Small leaves sprouted and I watched in amazement how TomatoMinah Zanne literally came back from the dead!

And here’s the treat. The 2 fruits that were left on one the stem ripened just in time on the very day Mak and Busu were due to leave for Singapore. They picked it, and ate it.
And my entire Tomato Project came to a sweet close.

Someone else’s language

There is something energetic about sitting for class at 6 am in the morning, 2 days a week. A tutor with a crisp English accent,a lecturer who is so systematic and gentle and classmates who are ever-so-cheerful, regardless of what the time is wherever they are. Other than our Tafsir classes at Zawiyah Foundation, this new one is something I look forward to as well.

Learning another language is a challenge at this age – and this particular language that DH and I are learning at Sunnipath Academy has almost reverse rules to Malay and English. But we are determined, so we’ll see how far we can go. I have been very impressed with the quality of the teachers and how the academy is run. You should really check it out.

Talking about someone else’s language, have you ever thought that the voices talking to you in your head is a language that needs to be broken down and tamed? I recently came to this, thanks to trying to live a life of ‘spending the day in syukr (gratefulness) and spending your nights in dzikr (rememberence)‘. We were taught recently that God has made set out the purpose of life so simply and eloquently, but it is us who confuse it with our wants and our nafs (desires).

Which brings me to the point that our nafs is a language on its own. I have been trying to tame it – and my first stop is the pumping music in the car. It is hard to be in the state of syukr and gratefulness while you are driving, when there your heart is singing to the melody of the song instead of being still. I need to be still internally to reflect and consequently, be thankful.But when my heart is singing away….it is simply a noisy heart. My nafs want to listen to music almost in an instant when I get into the car, and when I do hear it – it literally feels good. That’s years of my nafs training ME that music soothes my soul. How on earth did my nafs rule over my own state of stillness, which is our best state? Freaking scary.

I am trying to reverse that, simply because I want to be still. It is uncanny that this blog was named Still Thinking even before I acquire this knowledge about the importance of having stillness in your heart. At that time, I wanted to play with the paradox of me still thinking about things around me and reflecting, and the state of not moving your thoughts beyond what is already there.

Back to training the nafs. So out of this little internal jihad, I had to psychoanalyse and break down HOW my nafs speak to me. You have to know the enemy, kan? Man, did I discover what a language it is! I had spent 30 over years of my life helping it to develop its own language. It does not speak to me, it SHOUTS. It sounds more familiar than my own mother tongue.

So now, to manage it (just like the new language I am learning at Sunnipath) I have to break down the language so I can manage it. I literally had to re-program the level of noise it creates, and that is a challenge.

I know I am talking metaphysics here…..but I think most of us have been giving our nafs too much room to develop :), to the point that it is its own language in our psyche. I just want to share what I discovered. Try sitting still and not have music, visual stimulus around you. Better still, face a wall and try to be quiet and be completely still inside. Then listen to what your heart is talking/thinking about – you’ll have an idea of how ‘noisy’ your heart is cause your nafs are too busy having a party, shouting and screaming away.

Food for thought, eh?