Goodbye...farewell and thank you

We started Grace Notes since year 2006 and we have been assembling to rehearse and gathering to minister to others in music and songs for 14 years. 

And we are so extremely grateful and thankful to Chinese Methodist (Cantonese) Church Kuala Lumpur for their generosity and grace in providing a place for us to practice and rehearse all these years

But it is time to say goodbye...

...the church will be undergoing renovation work and so we looked for a new place for our rehearsals and again by God's providence, we have been offered a place. 

With that, we will be moving and today is our final rehearsal in this location. 

I must say, some of us are indeed very sad to go.

Goodbye...and thank you.


Should we eat fast-food burgers?

I gave up on eating in McDonald's several years ago and I have not eaten fast-food burgers in quite a long time.

This was after I watched was it a documentary or a MOOC about food where they did a time lapse video on a homemade burger next to a fast-food one. The latter remained unchanged whilst the homemade one bloomed in white coloured mould pretty quickly. 

Until a Burger King joint opened at my workplace. I accompanied my colleagues there and soon enough I was eating it too.

I don't know but Burger King burgers seem to taste much better than McDonald's. And they seem more "real"? I may be wrong but it does feel that way to me.

And what more, its current promotional deal with TNG is very attractive. Today I chowed down a Triple Whopper, yes triple!, fries and a Coke for just RM9.88.

But I wondered if I should avoid it like I avoided McDonald's and so I went hunting for some information and found this very interesting article on the All-American Burger Experiment.

This is where they put seven burgers from seven different fast-food chains in separate glass jars for a month, and watch how and if they go bad. 

And the results?

The thumbnail picture you see above consists of the McDonald's cheeseburger on the left and the Burger King version on the right. 

Of all seven burgers, the Burger King one was the only one that was all covered in mould at the end of 30 days. 

And the McDonald's one? It was the only one that did not change its appearance. 

I was right after all.


I need a really good book!

I have been doing considerably well in reading.

Until last year, for I only read 9 books! 

That is so few compared to the 30 to 50 over books I have read per year in the past years.

I hope for a comeback in 2020.


So far so good! We are only halfway through January and I have already read 6 books, and quite good reads all of them. 

I wanted to keep the ball rolling but I wanted something fun. The 6 books were pretty serious and heavy ones at that. 

So I needed something lighter but it has to be really good. 

What should it be?

I scrolled through the books I have and then voilà! 

I found it!

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

What could be better than Tolkien's The Hobbit?!

The only problem, though small, is that I don't have the ebook version. 

When I started reading again from year 2011, it was ebooks that got me a back into serious reading. I have never read a print book ever since. And I got so used to ebooks--the convenience, mobility and versatility--that I'd now prefer an ebook anytime. 

Alright, I'm mistaken. Now that I checked into my records, I did read The Hobbit in 2013, a printed copy. 

And so I'm doing it again this year, reading my printed copy of The Hobbit

I'm now at page 28 and I'm loving it.


Very good replacement sofa covers

I have had my sofas for many years now and I know I have to change them already, until I saw this in Facebook, and with a 65% discount too.

When I watched the accompanying video, I like what I saw.

And so I checked out the prices...

...and it's going to cost me $58 + $49 for a quad and a triple, which will come to at least RM450 not including shipping. 

A triple sofa cover in Ikea will cost about that if not more and I thought maybe it could work. But to make sure, I went online to check out if there were any reviews of the product. 

But what I found was that these sofa covers are available in Shopee too! And at a fraction of the price. Notice that they used the same picture too.

I order a quad for RM64 ($15) and a triple for RM54 ($13), which brings it to only RM118 ($28) with free shipping. 

I fitted them on this morning and it is very good, for the price I paid. 

Take a look at my double sofa that needed a triple size cover. 

Not bad, eh? 

I'm happy. Now we can continue using our old sofas for a little while more.


Book Review: Jesus, Continued... by JD Greear

Jesus , Continued... why the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you
by J.D. Greear

I read JD Greear's Not God Enough, Why Your Small God Lead to Big Problems in October 2018 and I like his writing so much I am looking forward to reading this one: Jesus, Continued...Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You.

And he did not disappoint. It is an excellent book about how one can and should work with God, not for God, through the Holy Spirit.

He captured me right from the very beginning:

A few years ago a young man sat in my office feeling deeply frustrated with his faith. Although he knew a lot of truths about God, he sensed very little relationship with God--at least, not the dynamic relationship he wanted. God seemed distant.
It seemed that everything God had done, he had done in the past: he created the world, died on the cross, and then inspired a Bible to tell us about it. then he gave us a mission and left through the clouds. God seemed like a busy teacher who had given an assignment and then stepped out of the room, leaving his students to get it done on their own.
So this guy busy at work, trying faithfully to learn the lessons, follow the instructions, and complete the assignments. He had a "relationship with God" in the sense that he prayed about his problems and tried hard to trust that God was working somewhere, somehow, to help him. Yet he lacked any vibrant interaction with that God.
This was exactly what I felt myself. The trying, the doing, and the striving to obey God seemed distant and as much as I wanted to build a relationship with God, I find it difficult to relate to him in a closer and more meaningful way. Yes, I read the Bible, I pray, I believe, but I knew it had to be more real than what I am feeling then.

Greear reminds us that Jesus told his disciples that he had to go: "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7 ESV

Greear said, "Do you consider your connection to the Holy Spirit so strong and real that you regard his presence in you to be a better advantage than even Jesus himself beside you?"

And that I found is the "best kept secret" though it is never a secret. The Holy Spirit is already in us when we received Jesus into our lives, and we have the power of the Almighty God in us to do the things he commissioned us to do.

And we have the Spirit already in us to enable us to build the very relationship that we yearn to have with him. 

There is also a chapter in there about prayer that I really appreciate. Greear reminded me that God wants me to seek him through persistent, faith-filled prayer. And that is one thing I lacked. I was not persistent enough. I thought I shouldn't need to "remind" God all the time, but that is exactly what God is asking us to do!

Remember the parable about the person who knocked on his neighbour's door for supplies at midnight until the neighbour had to open the door and attend to him? So from now on, I am going to keep asking until God opens the door, but of course if it is in his will and desire to do so...

...but I am gonna to keep on knockin'!


Happy Birthday Mom!

Two pretty girls: my niece and my mom

Happy birthday Mom! Thanks for everything especially your care and your love for us which is in leaps and bounds. Where would we be without you?!!! I love you!


Throwback #1: Air Fried Pavakka Bitter Gourd

I just had dinner in my neighborhood mamak store which by the way took 3 long months in renovations, and now they are back in business. 

One of the old-timer waiter was so happy to see me again, and I have to say I feel the same. They have been closed for way too long.

I had my favourite fried vegetable: fried bitter gourd or pavakka and it reminded me of an old blogpost I have written way back in 2016.

Air Fried Pavakka (Bitter Gourd)

I have posted the recipe here and reading it again I think it's time I buy some bitter gourd, slice it up and pop it into my air fryer again. 

A dry crispy plate of pavakka...yummy


Feels like I just attended a kpop concert

I had a long and full day today with back to back meetings and discussions and it is a good day. However, I had to find some time to think through a proposal deck, through the storyboard on how to present it to management. 

I needed a place quiet enough to sit down and think without anyone disturbing me and so I took the lift down a few floors and walked to Starbucks.

But it is no longer quiet. It sounds like I am in a kpop concert. Starbucks's neighbour has undergone massive renovations and the new outlet now plays their music at maximum volume. 

I got my Chamomile Tea--since I better not take in any caffeine at this time of the day--took my seat and tried to concentrate. 

It was not ideal but it was a productive hour in spite of the loud music. I was quite happy about the results of my thinking. 

Back in my school days, I used to listen to Japanese songs when I study. I didn't understand the songs and so it wasn't a distraction but it did help me concentrate. I don't understand much of the Korean songs either, but just that it's just too loud.

Looks like I need to find another quieter place to think, unless the mall do something about it. 


TNG eWallet went berserk today

I wanted to buy some stuff from Watson's during lunch today but I didn't bring much money with me and so I thought I'd use my TNG eWallet.

However I only had about RM70 in it and so I had to top it up. But it tells me that connection is bad and it kept asking me to retry. I have no idea how many times I did that, and before I knew it I had RM670 in my eWallet!

I hope it stops there and I don't wake up tommorow morning with the connections improved to have RM4000 in it. 

On top of that, 5 minutes after paying for my purchases and leaving Watson's with the stuff I bought, the payment was cancelled and I got the RM110 back. What?

I walked back to Watson's in the evening to report the matter but the problem is not solved. 

Nothing like that will ever happen with cash and credit cards. 

I could not talk to anyone from TNG and the email I sent is still sitting there without any replies. This is not a good thing. For a financial service provider, they cannot remove the human side of service, like we can still call in and talk to a banker because money is involved here. 


After so many years of iPhones, this is a very frustrating phone to use

Some of you would know that I have always been an Apple person since I owned the iPhone 3G in 2009; followed by the 4 (2011), 4S (2012), 5S (2013) and 6S (2016). 

I even became the go-to-person among my friends when they need help on Apple and iOS stuff. I don't know why but I suppose I always make myself available to help them and I'd always try to figure things out for them. 

It all changed when I started to use the Razer Phone 2 and Android in 2019, when I run into so many problems I can't solve.

Maybe it's more the phone than Android. 

Android is alright. I find it hard to compare between iOS and Android because one is simpler and more intuitive while the other is more accessible and practical. I don't mind using one or the other now that I have used both. 

The problem I think is my phone. 

I keep having problems with it. My latest problem is that I have now lost access to my Internal Storage if I use the native Files app. I can no longer move my files to my Internal Storage because I can't get to it.

I wrote to Razer for help and I just got a reply to factory reset my phone. I don't know. I don't want to do that afraid that I will lose my stuff. I have never needed to factory reset any of my iPhones before. 

So now to move my files around, and particularly my photos, I am using three, yes three, apps. Google Go as a gallery app (yup, believe it or not, the Razer Phone 2 does NOT have a native gallery app to view photos), File Manager by Xiaomi to move my files and photos around and Files by Google to easily view where all the files are. 

That's too many and I'm bound to ditch one. So far File Manager by Xiaomi looks good except that all the icons and thumbnails are so small. I am sure the designers of the app are all in their 20s who do not realise some of their users would need a magnifying glass to use their app.

Let me go buy one now...


Update: ah, I found the solution! I fixed it and in a way where the Razer people should know since it's their product! And not ask me to unnecessary factory reset my phone!!! 

Equip Music Ministry Conference 2020 Day 2

It is good Day 2 which began with a sermon by Philip Percival on 1 Corinthians 14: Singing in Mind and Spirit. The takeaway from the session is that singing is a ministry of the edifying word and when we think about what our giftings are, it will work better if we look at our church and see what needs to be done and do it. And in our song leading, it is an act of engaging the church with Christ.

After which the Emu Team gave us a Church Music Masterclass which was very helpful to me. I learnt about harmonic and rhythmic layering and a bit on texture and how to work all the vocals and instruments together to engage the congregation worship in music and songs. 

The electives I took today were Songleading and The Ministry of Sound. There were good sessions but too brief to cover everything. 

It's a good conference though I wished I was able to also attend the other electives as well.


Equip Music Ministry Conference 2020 Day 1

I signed up for the Equip Music Ministry Conference 2020 and headed to Heritage Center today. It is a Friday and I expected that traffic will be bad and so I started quite early.

I signed up for these electives, the first two for today and the other two tomorrow:
1. How Do I Know If I Have Really Worshipped?
2. Songwriting
3. Song Leading
4. The Ministry of Sound

The conference began with a sermon by Rev Ong Meng Chai on True Worship based on John 4:1-26 and Mark 7:1-8. It is a good sermon that highlights on 3 characteristics of true worship. And if we have not worshipped in all 3 of these, we have worshipped in vain. And it also important to know that when there is true worship, there is also false worship.

Firstly, it's rational. It engages the mind, the intellect and understanding. Next, it's spiritual and not tied to any location. He warns us also not to think that spiritual is all touchy and feely but that the Spirit himself is the Spirit of truth and so it's back to the first point of being rational. And finally, it's moral. This is when Jesus asked the Samaritan woman in John 4 about her husband, which she had 5 and the man she is with now is not even her husband. Worship is a soul searching exercise, we are to repent and set our lives right in Christ. 

We then had a teaching session by Rev Andrew Cheah on what worship and church is. He spent a lot of time on Bible verses showing us how the Bible uses the word worship in 4 different ways (proskuneo, latria/latreuo, leitourgeo and sebaomai). In conclusion, the Bible stresses that worship is Gospel-centered, it's all encompassing in our lives in relation to God and in using music to help and love each other in church. 

The one thing I am not sure though is his interpretation of Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (ESV). He said that we are to sing songs to minister to each other in church but from the verse, I see that the "one another" refers to only teaching and admonishing, while singing is to God alone. I don't know. This is something I need to read up on.

For my elective, I was looking forward to the session on How Do I Know If I Have Really Worshipped? because as a worshipper, I have not always felt that I have worshipped. And as a worship leader, what do I need to look out for to lead and teach the congregation to really and fully worship the only true God. But the session was not as I had expected. The speaker spent all his time on the externals, like atmosphere and presentation and instruments, etc. I now need to do some reading and thinking to answer the question that they have stirred up in me. 

My final elective for the day is songwriting. I have not been trained on this before even though I have co-written two songs for weddings and so I had a good learning curve on this one. There is a lot to read up on, too many technical terms I need to check out. I found an online course on songwriting from Berklee College of Music and I might just sign up and attend. 

Oh, there is now even more to do in 2020 and it's just the second week!

But it's a good day of fellowship, of music and songs, of worship and adoration of the great Yahweh.


Losing weight!

I began to seriously work on losing some weight back in September 2016 and I reached my desired weight goal in July 2017, losing 10 kilos in 10 months.

I did it by using the FitnessPal app, religiously inputting my food intake everyday.

I limitted myself to 1000 to 1200 calories a day but I don't really deprive myself of the food that I want to have. If I really want to eat something that is higher in calories, I will eat in smaller portions and will have lesser to eat in calories for the day. It's like a daily budget I have. 

It worked for me because I don't feel deprived. 

But after reaching my goal, I had some struggles trying to maintain it and I did gain back 2 kilos. 

But I wasn't going to give up. 

I knew I had to change my strategy since my body must have gotten used to my eating behaviour. And since I didn't do anything extreme--I eat like I always do, just in smaller portions--I was able to maintain my eating lifestyle, except that I found it very hard to maintain let alone lose more weight. 

Then I decided to skip breakfast. 

I know. I know. You may be the one who'd be the first to tell me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But my response to you will be, "says who?" 

The thing is I don't feel hungry at all in the morning. And it's the most inconvenient meal. And I feel fine just having a good lunch and dinner. 

So I did that for several months and all is good. 

Then I notice my husband skipping dinner sometimes. And I must say, I sometimes get quite lazy to eat at night. I usually get home too tired and late to cook. 

So I began to skip dinner once in awhile. And I feel fine.

It was only until recently that I realised that I have inadvertently started practicing intermittent fasting without knowing it. Haha.

So I read up on it and did a bit of research. I know there are proponents and opponents. But what I do is to listen to my body. If I really feel very hungry and if I feel that I must eat, I would. I don't force myself. 

And since July 2017, not only have I maintained, I have lost 2.3 more kilos logging in at my lowest today.

I don't have to lose anymore. It will be ideal just to maintain it between plus one and minus one of my desired weight. 

But the danger I have seen with many who successfully lose a lot of weight is that it is never enough. Once you've reached your goal, you'd set a new goal and once you reach that, you'd be greedy and want to lose even more. 

We must stop somewhere. 

We must admit that we look good with a little bit of fat in us. Just a little bit... you'll look much better, younger and healthier. 



Do you know what this is?

It's jujubes, what becomes red dates when they are dried up. I have not seen it before, have you? It was selling in the supermarket today and so I bought some to try it out. 

Surprisingly, there is not much of a taste to it but it's still good and crunchy. 

But how does it turn dark red?


Projects for the new year!

I have said before that I have stopped making new year resolutions because I will never keep them, and that I will have projects instead.

I know. I know. Call a spade a spade. But humour me. I will have my projects for the year. 

I started it back in 2016, continued it in 2017 and 2018. Missed 2019 and so now it's 2020.

Looking back at Project 2016:
1. Cooking - never lasted even a few months.
2. Knitting - haha...what was I even thinking, I gave up before I even started though I did purchase all the materials.
3. SketchNotes - been-there-done-that kinda deal but it was fun though.

And for Project 2017:
1. Reading - met my book challenge of 20 books in the year.
2. Join a technical choral group - I auditioned for one, got through but after one session, it wasn't what I had expected.
3. Learn a new language - started learning Korean and also to improve my Mandarin.

And as for Project 2018:
1. Reading - I did better completing 33 books out of my 25-book challenge.
2. Language - very disciplined with my Korean though I slacked on my Mandarin.
3. Lose weight - met my weight goal, woohoo! and was able to even go slightly beyond that.

I didn't make any list for Project 2019 but perhaps I do have the same ones:
1. Reading - for the first time since I started my annual book challenge in 2012, this is the year that I failed. I only read 9 books.
2. Language - good going but my strategy wasn't working as well as I expected. 
3. Maintain my weight - success!

And now Project 2020. When I looked at year 2019, I realised that I had wasted a lot of time on a lot of useless stuff. And with that, I have decided to reclaim my time that is to be wasted if I don't change. So my projects for 2020 will be these:
1. Reading - a 30-book challenge. I've just finished one book. Slowing down a bit right now since I'm catching up on my travelogue. Looking forward to getting back into the roll.
2. Writing - get back to blogging again and put my many thoughts into words, and hope it blesses others.
3. New Testament in One Year - I signed up for a communal reading of the NT with friends at church.
4. Exercise - I usually just have 3 but I'm adding one more. I hope to get this much needed thing going. 

Crossing my fingers!


Reading the Bible in a Year

My church has started a very good communal practice: sign up to read Scripture together as a church. 

We have four tracks to choose to take part in:

1. The Old Testament and New Testament in One Year with D.A. Carson's For the Love of God via the YouVersion Bible app.

2. The New Testament in One Year with The Bible Project via the YouVersion Bible app.

3. Table Talk by Martin Luther printed or online. 

4. I can't remember what the fourth plan is. It's a light version of an introduction to the Bible and a reading of Galatians in 6 days. 

My hubby and I both chose Option 2. I was contemplating to choose Option 1 but I thought I had better not over commit myself. Reading 4 long passages and one D.A. Carson devotional per day is no joke. 

So I am glad I picked NT in a Year by The Bible Project. And their videos are very well done. I am very impressed with their introduction video to the New Testament.

Check it out here.


I went to Seoul

I went to Seoul for a holiday last week, and I must say, it's the best trip I had, ever. 

It was a good trip because:

1. I went solo. Not that I don't like traveling with family and friends. I do, just that by being a solo traveler, it's a different experience. And I can do whatever I want and go wherever I want. The thing is I am not a planner and so I don't really plan my trips. I do have a rough plan but every night before I go to bed, I would then decide what to do the next day. So being a solo traveler makes it much easier in that sense.

2. I stayed in a hostel. Which I can only do as a solo traveler. It was my first time and I really like the experience meeting other people. Except that I only managed to meet and make friends with one person from Taipei. We went for lunch once and she was very helpful in directing me to the right supermarket to shop for things home. 

3. It was a very reflective trip. Before going on the trip, I read an article about the 16-type personality and their traveling preference. Check it out here. I am an INFP, and it says that I am an imaginative traveler. When I travel, I am not just seeing new lands or meeting new people. Rather, I'm telling myself a story inside my mind--one that educates, inspires and revitalizes me, every step of the way. Travel isn't about being in the moment; it's about reflecting upon the moment and coming to understand what it has taught me. This really hit the nail in the head for me and with that, I reflected on the day every evening before I went to bed. It was very fulfilling.

4. I finally met my Korean friends. I got to know them from a language app one and a half years ago. So far, we've texted and chatted on and off, sharing about life and work, helping each other with our language learning. And now I finally got to meet them and we were really like old friends. They were also such excellent hosts and brought me around the city to so many places. 고마워 선영, 형래, 완용. 보고 싶어요. 정말!!!

5. I actually like winter! The decision to travel to Seoul was a last minute impromptu one and quite a few people were so worried for me afraid that I'd freeze in that city. The only person who was nonchalant and not worried about it at all was my husband! I should have listened to him and not stress myself up so much before the trip. When in Seoul, 형래 Heongrae and 완용 Wanyong bought me a padded coat, a pair of gloves and a cashmere scarf to keep me warm and God bless them, I felt so warmed up when dressed with enough layers and so warmed up in the heart as well. The weather was cold in the range of 0 to 5 degrees C and it even went down to -10 degrees C one bright morning. But I do like being bundled up warmly in the cold weather. 

6. And of course, Seoul is an awesome place. I was there 8 days and 8 days is not even enough to really see the city. There are so many places I have not been to. In the next trip then! Yipee!

As in my practice, I do do a daily blogging about my travel and I will do the same for this trip, though it will be back dated. 

So look out for it as I share with you my reflections as well as traveling tips in case you'd want to go to Seoul yourself. 


Update (Sat, 11 Jan 2020) took me 7 days to complete writing all my 8 days of travel to Seoul. But I am glad I did it. It's like traveling all over again but this time in reflection in my memories and they are indeed beautiful memories with friends. Here you go, every of my 8 days in Seoul:

Peanut Cookies!!!

It's the Chinese New Year again! And I was at my good friend's house today making peanut cookies.

It all started a few years ago when she brought the cookies she made with her mom to the office as a treat for us. The moment I popped one into my mouth, I was in total nostalgia. It really brought me back to the good old days when my late grandmother made these exact cookies. They tasted the same. Really.

And since then, I have been looking forward to the Chinese New Year to eat these very cookies. 

I went to her house last year and since then I've made good friends with her family. I've been there several times both to learn and to make peanut cookies and butter cookies. Her mom called me her extra hands to help her with the cookie making, but they also have been so gracious to allow me to make cookies for myself there in their home.

This is a community activity I will never do at home alone. So I'm really grateful for being able to experience the warmth and camaraderie of making cookies with her family.

Thanks Wee Yin. And thanks for helping me remember my grandmother fondly. I really miss her after these 18 years since she was gone. 


Back to Work 2020

I had a very, very good year-end break and I am glad I took my hubby's advice to go travel and it was one of the best year-end break I ever had.

And now I'm back at work. My mom did ask me why I didn't just take the Friday off too and start work on Monday. It's a long story but here I am back at work. Which is a good thing too because I can take a slower Friday to catch up and reorient myself back to work. 

Monday is going to be a killer.