Kueh kapit stories.

Kueh kapit session 2014

When I was growing up, Chinese New Year didn’t just mean getting tons of red packets or angpaus. It also meant preparing the home and goodie table with cookies and other homemade items. Some of the yummy items were tedious to prepare and required either hours of prepwork or cooking. But my mother was fixed on making them herself and it was mostly because buying these goodies were expensive. At RM24 for a tin of 100 pieces of kuih kapit, we would easily spent RM100 for four tins just for this year’s open house.

I didn’t understand the importance of making things myself. After all, there are plenty of people selling these cookies and all just before Chinese New Year. At least that is the case if you are still living in Malaysia. When I got married and moved overseas, even buying decorations or cookies became difficult. And that was when I understood why my parents made me help out during prepwork for festive occasions.

I started to make my own cookies and roped in my hubby to help out. The first year in Switzerland, I made pineapple tarts, chocolate almond cookies, and cooked my own reunion dinner meals. The hubby helped with the preparation of the pineapple tarts and I made him open up ALL the windows and doors at midnight in the middle of a very cold winter season. Oh, till today, he still teases me about the stir fried noodles that I made for reunion dinner which we later ate for three days…

Then I got pregnant.

Suddenly who I am, what I did as a child became important because while my children are French, part of them is Malaysian-Chinese. I wanted them to experience what I experienced as a child – the traditions, the merriment, the practices and yes, even the food & experiences that come along with it.

Kuih kapit, pineapple tarts, these are festive foods that are important to me because they remind me of my family, especially my mother. The recipes are a secret, much to the disappointment of some of my friends – family heirloom is what my mother calls them as she inherited them from her mother and my grandmother. I remember the many hours of prepwork in the kitchen that is peppered with gossip and chatter as well as laughter. There is no way you can sit in front of the kueh kapit mold and fire for five hours without talking to the person opposite you or the one folding. It’s just not possible. It is a way to build relationships, cement ties as well as for children to learn a thing or two about a skill. Even folding these little crispy cookies (kueh kapit) is a work of art – fold too thin that it’ll take forever to fill up a tin. You need to fold them in such a way that the blemishes and imperfections are hidden. Of course you also need some self-control and not eat these as they are folded!

I started off as a folder and it took about five years or rather five Chinese New Years before I finally moved up to the “prestigious” position of mold handler. Even then, I was only given four molds to handle. Being a mold handler meant that I would be expected to help out with the prepwork and this means access to the coveted family recipe! It was only in 2007 that I was allowed to take on the 8-9 molds which is the max if two people were in charge of the molds (we had only 16 molds then). After that I got married so my mum packed up the molds for storage, gave away the pit and that was the end of it…for the next couple of years that is.

So when my son and daughter joined us yesterday for their first exposure to kueh kapit (my daughter next to my sis-in-law as she folded the loveletters and my son in the kitchen beating the eggs with the sugar), I am reminded fondly that some things – tedious and time-consuming – are worth the effort and time. My mum joked about me inheriting the kueh kapit molds (we have about 20 of them) and making some during winter in France if we do go back… That should be interesting.

As my mum gets older, chances of her being the major domo in charge will lessen since it’ll get harder for her to sit for long hours. This year, the test was to see if I could lead the charge with her on a supervisory level. It would seem that kueh kapit making in my family is very much an apprenticeship of some sorts. You can’t just jump into the role as and when you like. I reckon Mum will still have a big say next year and my kids will help out in one way of another but you’ll see some signs that soon, she’ll make way and allow the tradition to be passed on to my children.

Perhaps in time, they’ll have their own stories to tell…

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Dance & music lessons?

I’ve been toying with the idea of enrolling Eva for dance or music lessons for a while now. I remember her being very interested in dance as a toddler and then as she got older, well, it became more obvious that she had this love for dance.

That’s one of her performances during a school concert and just yesterday, when I sat down with her teacher for a year-end conference, I decided after that to start hunting for a dance school just for her. “She loves dancing and responds very well to instructions.” This is no mean feat, especially when you consider that she joined her class in August and didn’t have a long time to prepare for the performance.

I could explore the other option which is music but I think we’ll give music a go first and see how that works out.

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Music lessons for kids?

I cannot believe that I haven’t blogged here in quite a while.

You could say that life has completely taken over things! The kids’ toys arrived and with it, came Eva’s guitar. Made me miss strumming some tunes to my dad’s old (classical) guitar. Then a random hunt on the internet for guitars light up a bulb in my head.

When can one start teaching music to kids?

Eva seems to be fascinated with the guitar and piano while Noah looks to be quite keen on drums (he enjoys banging chopsticks on the table). I’d think 4 years old would be rather young for the piano but I know that there are kids who are already in piano classes at this age as well as violin. Hm.

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Music for the kids too?

Now that we’re starting to seriously “homeschool” (it feels weird saying this because I don’t really think that I’m homeschooling Eva) the kids, I am really thinking about getting a piano…just to expose the kids to something else other than the radio, or CDs.

One issue would be where to place the piano as the playroom is currently packed with toys, books and my office as well as the sofa bed; the playroom doubles as a guest room. The other is cost. We have budget set aside to spruce up the playroom with extra shelving but that’s about it. A piano or any other musical gadget is a luxury so I reckon we’ll have to look for other alternatives like secondhand instruments instead OR other cheaper instruments.

Hai…if only it were easy to strike the lottery.

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{ 34°C }

Bees busy buzzing!

We are seriously seeing some high temperatures this week – all hovering around 34-35°C. While it wouldn’t have been an issue in Dole, currently, the entire family is spending a few weeks semi-house-sitting for my mother-in-law. Nil calls me “Mabel’s self-imposed vacation”.

That means I spend less than two hours on the Internet each day, juggling assignments on precision instruments, emails and Facebook. I didn’t have time to pack my knitting or spinning so I’m left with just reading. It isn’t a bad thing at all. It has been quite a while since I last read anything and the environment here is good – garden, some breeze…

It has been good playing catch-up with some titles especially Christian titles by Max Lucado so much so that I ordered a few more titles via Book Depository. With any luck, I should have fresh titles to digest by this weekend.

Hopefully Nil is taking care of my plants and making sure that the house in Dole is still in relatively good shape. In the meantime, I’m hoping (and praying) for cooler weather. The following week looks to be cool so it’s just one more day to go.

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How do you find time…

…to squeeze in blogging reviews, cooking, cleaning, hobbies, soapmaking and well, handling a cranky baby whom I swear has been replaced by baby gremlins?

(This take on gremlins is basically from soap – soap gremlins is something we used to describe soaps that don’t turn out quite well, are fugly or just simply weird-looking.)

Not that my son is weird looking or fugly. It’s just that he’s cranky all the time. I don’t know for sure if it’s the teething or the eczema although I must say that the eczema is starting to clear s.l.o.w.l.y.

*sigh*

Baby gremlins, PLEASE bring my mild mannered, sleep-in-his-crib son back!

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The little man!

06mth_03

That’s the little man in his newest toy – a Leapfrog exersaucer. He’s still a little bit small for it – or rather he doesn’t really know what to do with it, hence the face, but I reckon if given time, he’ll be busy going at it for minutes on end.

Or at least I hope so.

He has been rather difficult to deal with and for the past couple of weeks, Nil and I have living on the edge every day and night. For him, it’s mostly the nights but for me, the days are awful because he never seemed to want to nap alone or out of his stroller. This leaves me with very little time for anything else. Bathing and washing my hair is a challenge; forget about body scrubs – I can never enjoy them.

Part of me is hoping that this crazy phase will come to an end. The other part of me is wondering tho…

Where did all that time went to? How did this little fella grow up this fast?

Hm.

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Unglue?

When one has a sticky, clingy baby, hobbies like soapmaking and whipping up frostings have to wait till one gets help.

One has to deal with the serious lack of sleep during the night and plenty of hours of dealing with a crying/fussy baby during the day. Yes, Noah is in one of those moods. Apart from dealing with eczema, poor him has to deal with teething (I see a lone tooth coming out) AND separation anxiety! I can’t be away in another room for too long lest he goes bonkers and start to cry and at times, it seems as if he needs to be attached to me at all times.

I have resorted to using the ring sling at home despite his eczema – he can get a bit tad warm, resulting in mild flare-up at times. He sleeps better and easily but this also means that I am unable to do anything else but sit in front of the computer (although I don’t always have time to work on reviews for things like www.compostbins.com and the like), TV or do some knitting and reading. The other option would be to go for a walk in the stroller – he always falls asleep in the stroller and nearly instantly too! – but that isn’t exactly ideal at night or when it rains.

I must admit that Eva made life very easy for us so much so that this time around, even Nil feels challenged at times trying to deal with a baby who hardly smiles or laughs except on some days! I sincerely hope that it’s just a phase…

Oh please, just let it be a phase!

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